Almost a Decade: Reminiscing and Reflecting
“For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
– Frodo (JRR Tolkien, The Return of the King)
Obviously, it’s not the end of all things. It’s not even really the end of WoW or raiding for me yet. But since the second my last raid ends, I’ll be unplugging my computer, putting it into a box and putting the box in my car to be driven to my storage unit, I’m getting my cheesy writing (or emotional exhibitionism, if you look at it like that) out of the way.
I do think of myself as mainly retired from raiding. I got my Herroic Garrosh kill. Even though it’s only on 10s (not that there’s anything wrong with 10s – I’m just a 25s raider), asking for anything more would just be greedy. Cadenza has resumed 25s raiding and there is a small chance we might get the 25s kill before I leave, but I try not to get my hopes up. Right now I’m just concentrating on enjoying my last month of modern conveniences and, as you’d have it, the last few weeks with the guild (and with Ben, Arielle and Ed – our incomplete yet still wonderful Challenge Mode team) have been some of the happiest in my WoW life.
On Twitter every now and again, you get the haters who whine about long winded people leaving the game. “Just shut and leave already!” They tweet and retweet over and over.
But you know what? This has been almost 10 years of my life. This has been almost one third of my life. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want on my blog. So I’m going to write and write about my last days of WoW and THERES NOTHING THE HATERS CAN DO ABOUT IT.
Where I was when I got sorta serious about WoW
I don’t remember that I’ve ever really written about it before, because it’s something that I don’t really like to write about (I’m goofy, happy writer not a sad, sad, sad one) but just before I got serious about WoW, I was struggling with an unexpected and totally disproportionate case of Reverse Culture Shock (or Return/Re-Entry/Own-Culture Shock – I don’t think it’s an official condition so it doesn’t have an official name or definition).
I had done a semester abroad at Humboldt State University, which is a hippy-ish school in the middle of California’s redwood forest. You wouldn’t think that California would be a huge culture shift for a French Canadian, but because the school was so isolated, some very tight knit communities formed within it and, for the first time of my life, I was part of one. There were about 30 of us who became family for a few months. We spent all our free time together, supported each other and became a very communal group of people. For someone who’s generally happiest alone, in a small room, with the door closed, discovering the joys of communal living and discovering that I actually liked it, were a huge revelation.
When I got back home to my small room, alone with the door closed, I couldn’t readjust. I hate self pity so I’ll spare you most of the gory details (most of them are pretty humiliating anyway) and insist on the parts that tie into WoW. The first was that the grief from losing my foreign student family made the reverse culture shock all that much harder. I usually handle loss pretty well (I am, after all, the girl who moves across the continent every few years) but that one, I couldn’t accept. The second was that for about two years, I fumbled around blindly, trying to find that feeling of community again.
I found scraps of it at the autism camp I started working at (just saying – when you’re lost and scared, there’s no better therapy than working at an autism camp), I found scraps of it with the new friends I made at my new university, I found scraps of it when I got accepted to pharmacy school. But I found a huge, freaking chunk of it with my first committed WoW guild, Whitefalcons.
The Whitefalcons/Red Tear Years
It’s funny how what you’re looking for tends to be found in the most unexpected places.
I was desperately trying to find that communal feeling at school since the first place I had experienced it was in a school setting. I was frustrated and discouraged that my forceful “WE ALL NEED TO BE FAMILY RIGHT NOW” wasn’t working. During my failures, however, I did meet a guy that I dated for a few months and I convinced him to start playing WoW.
Since that guy was far more outgoing than me, he found a guild that seemed like a happy place. I was mainly guildless (I did go through a few levelling guilds that I had zero attachments to – I can’t even remember their names) so I asked if I could join. They said yes and, to my greatest surprise, I really liked them.
I didn’t make the connection to my searching for community at the time, in fact, I didn’t even make the connection until I was writing this post in my head yesterday. Back then, I was dead set on finding a physical community, but in retrospect, my WoW guilds filled that gaping hole in my life, which kinda explains the extreme attachment I’ve had to certain guilds as well as my embarrassingly explosive reactions when things didn’t go the way I wanted.
Anyway, Whitefalcons was composed of a handful of guys (Vector, Scout, Webby, Amar, Bone, Noldor, Stony where those who were around most), most of whom were considerably older than me. Whitefalcons raided with another, larger guild, Red Tear, with whom they eventually merged. Since most of Red Tear was also about 15 years older than me and I was pretty young at the time, I cheerfully gained a lot of uncles. (And the few members who were close to me in age became dear friends.)
My very first raid was Gruuls and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was absolutely awful when I started. You know that healer in heroic 5s who shows up with mismatched healing and dps gear, some of which isn’t even intended for their class? That was me. I didn’t know anything about addons, stats (better gear just has more armor, right?) or rotations. I cringe so bad when I think of it.
They were patient with me. Jojo, the other holy pally, gently nudged me in the right direction. Scar-my-favorite-priesty-forever, whom I swear was a living WoW encyclopedia, patiently explained WoW truth after WoW truth to me. It was also Scar who educated me when I decided to explore tanking (exploration that did not lead to a very fruitful discovery). The rest of the guild humoured me as a I went from clueless n00b to super annoying know-it-all (“I READ IT ON A BLOG SO IT MUST BE TRUE AND ITS THE ONLY WAY TO DO THINGS OF COURSE” Yep. My shame haunts me to this day.)
Eventually I outgrew Red Tear’s patient raiding ways. I became so annoying that I started getting excluded from non-official raid activities (Me! The most dedicated and obsessive of all players! Why would they do such a thing, I don’t even!) and I realized that it was time to move on.
And here is the juicy story I’ve only ever hinted at on the blog (at least to my memory). The night I left, my supposed-to-be last official raid, I lost it. I mean, I really, really lost it.
I was hoping we’d do a fun 25s run, but a lot of people didn’t want to raid so we ended up downsizing to 10s. Now I know I can be dramatic. I was especially dramatic back then. But what happened shocked even me.
I just totally lost my shit. Freaked out. Panicked. Whispered people, begging them to… dammit, I don’t even remember what I was begging for. I /gquit and spent the rest of the night in some sobbing hazy mess.
It took like 6 years for me to make the connection, but my guess was that it triggered those Reverse Culture Shock and that huge grief feelings. I had found that communal feeling I had been aching for, and now that I had finally become more stable in my non-WoW life, I was putting myself through it all over again.
I’ve had very little contact with Red Tear since. There are a few people I’m still occasionally in touch with (I talked to Lala for a bit awhile ago, I participated in a set of group emails with a few people, I’m friends with some on Facebook, I had lunch with Vector last time I was in his city, Nunu stopped by the blog once to say hi and I’ve hung out with Scar a few times <33333 Scar.), but mostly I'm still too embarrassed about my meltdown to even consider having an alt in the guild. Even if, you know, I had time to have alts in guilds.
The Conquest Brohood (Where girls can be bros too)
After Red Tear, I moved to Conquest. They were a few steps up in terms of raiding seriousness and I was overjoyed at finally getting put in my place. I was learning all over again and, to my greatest joy (or maybe it was just relief), found that communal feeling again.
I feel that I don’t need to write too much about my time in Conquest since I’ve already pretty much written a collection of short stories on the topic. It’s called The Bossy Pally blog.
But like with Red Tear, I eventually moved in a different direction than the guild. Like with Red Tear, I tried to cling to the ripping seams holding me in. I got annoying again. Some of the more vocal guildies were, um, you know, vocal about my annoyness.
Because I was happy with the progression, I didn’t want to leave. But I was frustrated with the weakening leadership at the time. Not a slight against Matt, of course. I’ve been totally unfair to Matt over the years, for which I’m sincerely sorry. There were a lot of changes and a lot of sorting things out within the guild and I craved a tighter leash. I expressed it in all the wrong ways (again, embarrassing details which I will spare myself of telling).
So again, I left my communal family (which, by then, was not my communal family anymore), with slightly more dignity than I left Red Tear. And while I wasn’t as noisy as when leaving Red Tear, it was just as rough, if not more. With Red Tear, I lost my uncles, with Conquest, I lost my brothers. For months, when I’d think about my last few weeks in Conquest, rage would bubble up. It took every strand of my self control to not write explicit blog posts about it. (And if you’re wondering, I’m very happy now that I left most of it off the blog. When I eventually made peace, I was glad those bridges were still cross-able.)
The Team Sport Year
Around the time I left Conquest, I was at a pretty intense part of pharmacy school. I couldn’t handle the 2 am bedtimes 3 times a week so I figured I’d tone down the raiding. Thespius, who was a friend of Matt’s, heard about this and asked if I wanted to raid with his 10s guild.
The funny thing about Team Sport was that they were exactly the community I’d been looking for, but their raiding style was so different from mine that I never really got that attached. They were excellent people and really, really good friends with each other (with the exception of one guy who was super weird…his heart was in the right place, I think, but he was impossible to raid with), but they were mainly friends who also raided instead of raiders who had bonded over raiding. They did want to make the transition, but I don’t think they were in the right place in their lives (with families and other commitments) for it to work.
I learned two things about myself in Team Sport:
1- I’m a 25s raider through and through. Being as shy as I am, 10s are a huge treat for me. But that’s what they are – a treat. My main course has to be 25s, or I’m still hungry.
2- I can’t stand to “raid casually”. I tried it and it didn’t work. I need more pressure and more mental stimulation. And that’s why I can’t see myself really coming back to WoW after the Epic Journey. I might level and explore the game a bit, but there are other things I want to do with my life (like, you know, have kids or take evening lessons) and casual raiding just ain’t gonna happen.
Either because I wasn’t fully recovered from leaving Conquest or because I didn’t bond as deeply with my Team Sport guildies (although I still think they’re awesome people and I have 100% respect for them), leaving them for Occasional Excellence was, you know, pretty smooth by my standards.
The Occasional Excellence… 9 months?
Occasional Excellence crashed and burned, which is a shame because I had a lot of fun with them. I finally got the tight leash I wanted, I had lots of opportunities to get involved and the progression was fantastic.
It’s hard to say if I would have gotten in the same place of despair I was in when leaving Red Tear or Conquest. The guild fell apart as I was just starting to bond with my guildies. By then, though, I was in a way different place in my life. I’d accumulated a lot more losses, which had hardened me up. I had (finally) readjusted to being on my own all the time and didn’t feel a huge need for an internet family.
The rest I’ve written plenty about recently. I went to Conquest for a little bit. Planned on being a non-raider but hated non-raiding. Didn’t like the healing lead (and again, was a little frustrated with the leadership as whole. I’m far too masochistic for Conquest, I think.) so I looked elsewhere and found Cadenza.
The Last Year and Half
I always kinda write the same thing about Cadenza: that the progression is great, that the guild structure is completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced (or even heard about), that I didn’t form overly deep bonds with anyone (other than Ed, of course) and that the lack of emotional roller coasters was relaxing.
I’ve honestly tried to write more in depth (as can be seen by the huge pile of half written posts in my draft box), but I keep feeling like it’s not my story to tell. So I try to write as an observer (after all, if you’re unusually fascinated by small group dynamics or the study of microcultures like I am, Cadenza is a super interesting topic) but then I worry that I’ll say something disrespectful (Conquest was pretty much fair game since Matt was super public about a lot of things, including guild stuff. Kith, on the other hand, is probably the most private person I’ve ever met.) or that I’ll interpret an element totally wrong (I’m more worried about being ridiculous than offending anyone, but I’m nonetheless worried). And, you know, I still want to play with these people for a few more weeks!
I don’t know how I’ll react when I finally pull the plug. I mean, I know I won’t have a meltdown because I’ve learned to savor the present instead of aiming for stupid symbolic one-time moments. I know there I won’t be feeling any deep rooted resentment because, well, I’m not angry about anything and anger takes me a lot longer than 3 weeks to cultivate. I know I won’t be lost because I have really exciting things coming up (Epic Journey, yay!!).
I will be sad, for sure. I’ve come to really enjoy the company of a number of my guildies and I feel those slow grown friendships have a lot of potential. I’ll be hopeful that some of them will keep in touch. Then I’ll be thoughtful about how far I’ve come in 10 years from that clueless little girl who lost her exchange student friends.
And then I’ll probably be distracted (and stressed) by the mountains and mountains of work I’ll still have to do before tackling the Trans-Canada Highway.Guild thoughts