And Who are you Again?
Now this email was not some sort of strange "Hey, nice to see you again" message. Although truth be told, this person did have the kind of sense of humor that might find such a thing amusing. But no, this was simply a case of a bit of malware probably getting into one of their accounts and sending out spam to everyone in their address book. The actual email was an invitation to join some weight loss program with a new "miracle drug" plan. So yeah, this was not an intentional contact on this person's part. It was certainly no attempt to get back in touch with someone after three years. And sitting there reading the "email," I knew that. I knew it wasn't anything more than what it was. But even still, it "bothered" me.
Shaped and Reshaped
It bothered me because it made me think about all the choices I made in terms of the games I choose to play and who I choose to play them with. It made me think about why I find myself hopping from game to game and why I have no in-game friends or a community to call myself a part of. It made me think about why I continue to play "massively multiplayer" online games when I play them almost entirely by myself. Seeing this email from a person I never expected to hear from again brought to mind all the things I had "lost" over the years in terms of social contacts, acquaintances, and yes genuine friendships. The email itself may have been meaningless, but the name attached to it was anything but. And now I find myself asking the question, "How did I get here?"
The simple answer is that somewhere along the line, I became afraid. I think back to my early days playing Guild Wars and then World of Warcraft. I wasn't afraid to "put myself out there." I'd ask for groups in chat, I'd respond to requests from others, I'd talk to people I ran into doing quests, etc. These days? I never do such things. My idea of "asking for a group" is queuing up in the dungeon finder and waiting my turn. I ignore people in chat looking for help with quests or wanting a group for something. And I certainly wouldn't respond to a random guild invitation... like the one I got many years ago in WoW that set me down my path in that game for years by introducing me to my first in-game friends. Somewhere along the road, I became filled with fear. Fear that my performance would be adversely judged. Fear that I would not meet someone else's expectations. Fear that the friend I make today will abandon me tomorrow.
And if you read my blog in its previous incarnation, you might recall that I have tried to get over this fear. First in Star Wars: The Old Republic and then again in The Secret World, I tried to put myself out there. I posted character bios and background stories. I made posts on the official forums for both games trying to be honest about the kind of guild or group of players I was looking for. I tried to be more outgoing inside the games themselves, actively looking for groups and helping those in need. But nothing much came from my efforts, which in the end only served to make me more fearful. I play four "AAA" MMO titles, and my friend list in each of those games is entirely empty. Not a single person sees me come and go from any of the games that I play... and truth be told, that is the real reason I am a "vagabond." I have no ties to bind me anywhere I go.
For many people that would be just fine. Again depending on what statistic you want to quote, the vast majority of MMO players are very similar in that they mostly play alone. But there is a difference between playing "mostly" alone and truly being alone. Most of those "solo" players still have friends, people they know, people they chat with, even if they don't play together all the time in the sense of raiding, or dungeons, or PvP, etc. But I don't even have that. I play in solitude and I play in silence. Heck the only way I know I'm playing an MMO at all most of the time is when I head back to town and the trolls start another round of "anal" spam in whatever universal chat channels the game provides. And that does not make me happy. I got into MMO's because of the social aspect, and over the years I have lost that entirely.
I need to get it back. I know you can't "reclaim" the past. WoW will never be the game it was, no matter how much many of its current and former players wish it would be. Similarly I cannot get back the friends I have lost. They were lost due just as much to my choices and my actions as they were to decisions that they made. And in many cases, unfortunately, I doubt most of them would be happy to "see" me again anyway... even the sender of the bit of spam that was the cause of all this introspection. But that doesn't mean I can't find new friends or establish new relationships. I just need to find a way to do it. And I just wish I knew how.
Well anyway... if you're still with me after that little "sob story," I've got a follow up piece on my recent interest in online card games coming later this week as well as my latest attempt to "fall in love" with The Secret World............ again.