Virtually there

Todays entry was sparked by a story from WoW Insider, one of many sites which features in my RSS feeds. The column, from Azeroth Interrupted, tells a story of two brothers who are using the WoW universe to reunite and learn about what has happened in the many years that they have been seperated.

This got me to thinking of my own WoW interactions (I use that word because it scares me less than the ‘addiction’ word 🙂 ). I’ve been playing for little over a year now and have made many friends, some of them quite close and most of them I’ve never met in real life. My collegue Karen started around that same time as me (in fact, she babysat me through the Night-Elf starting zone and explained the acronyms that everyone was using) and we are both Guild Masters (well GM2’s) in our guild Searing Sun (Guild Site / Armory Profile). It’s been loads of fun and we’ve even got my wife to play after much initial reluctance – and now she’s loving it! (and hating it, pretty standard feelings for most WoW players I think). Anyway, on the back of this ‘getting to know each other’ story, I started reflecting on the relationships that I’ve made in the game. There was the husband and wife team who invited me to their guild whose marrage since dissolved (along with the guild), there was the annoying twink guy who bugs my banker toon whenever I log in to check my auctions with continual duel requests, and there’s my other family – the people in my (our) guild. Things in our World of Warcraft guild have taken a turn of late, and I too must admit to starting to become disengaged once more…

Backtracking a little for context, WoW is a game which used to have a level cap at 60 (i.e. you could get to Level 60 and that was it, no more levels for you – go kill some super l33t monsters to get awesome gear so you can… kill some more super l33t monsters).
At this point a number of our high level players branched off to for an ‘Elite’ guild so those characters could focus on end-game raiding. Things get pretty serious in these kinds of guilds as people are solely focussed on gear and, due to the difficulty of the monsters you must now face, mistakes by anyone can kill the whole party. We stayed in our guild, happily helping out the lower levels get to 60, and building our own alts (other characters). Then came the release of the Burning Crusade, with a level cap of 70 and a whole new world to explore and better gear to get. The ‘Elite’ guild had imploded by this stage due to a number of reasons, but mainly due to the personality issues between the members of the guild, some who were taking things too seriously, some who just wanted to enjoy their game. These guild members all went off to join other guilds, and we got a number of them returning ‘home’ to us. With their experience and drive, we all started heading to 70, then trying to get the reputation and quests needed so we could all head to the big scary end game zones (where the cool gear drops). We found ourselves getting ‘too serious’ and we’d lost the culture of assistance which we’d previously been so proud of. Our guild master (mistress?) pulled the plug on the drive toward raiding, asking us to focus on recovering our previous culture. Interestingly, the week after she did this we started getting a large number of new recruits, I started back on leveling up my priest alongside my wife (who also plays) and all was well… almost.
The people who were looking forward to raiding (and I count myself amonst that number) started to leave, unrelated reasons of course, we lost our main tank (MT) and main healer (MH) to another guild on another server where they were going to meet up with their friends from school, our Raid Leader soon followed them, others left for raiding guilds within our own server. The interesting thing was, by and large, most of them left one or more of their alts in our guild, so they could come back and say hi. Our raid leader even went so far as to create an identical character to the one who had left, albeit without the level 70ishness and the funky gear 🙂

And now, on our guilds forum is a posting from our guild master – she too has left the server to follow her friends. She has been the rock on which the guild has been built and the glue which has held it together. Following her announcment, we lost 2 more of our high level players to the same server and it will be interesting to watch and see how the guild reacts to the news over the next few weeks and months. It’s with a heavy heart that I watch the changes which are happening to my group of close, but virtual friends – What started out as an investigation into the psyche of MMOGs and the people who play them has almost become a lifestyle. I am missing the people who have left already and am tempted, if they don’t plan on playing their alts too often, to start looking for a new home myself – time will tell, we’ll wait and see.