Had I known that trying to write something that I thought would be short and sweet would begin with me tearing up and pouring out hidden emotions, I would have picked a different topic.
But now the memory is open, and I have to write this.
“Harrey”, Classic World of Warcraft will not be the same without you.
It was January 2006, the midpoint of seventh grade, and we weren’t friends just yet. During our grade’s lunch period, the usual table I sat at had been overtaken and my (in every meaning of the word) outcast group of friends were sitting close to the food lineup area, where you and your friends always sat.
You overhead a friend and I talking about Runescape, and how I would not be going back to Runescape because in Warcraft I didn’t lose my gear when I died…that and my mum said I could only have one monthly subscription game at a time. I wish I could recall how the conversation started, but we went from being complete strangers to fast friends, hanging out at your place several times per week to play. (It helped that both our mums knew each other prior as your sister and my sister were in the same Girl Scout group at school where our mums volunteered.)
We always had that garage freezer microwave pizza, tasteless and overcooked, and we would take it and hide away in the crammed spare room next to the kitchen where the computers, printers, and router was. You would sit at one of your families computers and I would sit at the other one next to it. Sometimes one or two of your WoW playing cousins would come over with their super-fast, shiny, LED, Dell XPS laptops, and we’d all somehow fit in that room. When the South Park “Make Love Not Warcraft” episode came out we watched it live, and then several times after that as we kept on grinding to 60.
When we needed gold, we each pitched in $10 and split a whole 500 gold!
When we needed characters leveled, you showed me how to bot (that orange and white UI is all I can remember).
If we were losing Warsong Gulch, never fear! You had a movement speed hack!
Of course, you beat me to level 60 on your night elf rogue, by almost half a year, but I still got to experience your first raid bosses with you…until eventually all the exploits caught up, and your purple-haired-AQ-geared rogue was gone. I can’t speak to what it means about what our friendship was, but this was where our friendship began to wane. We hung out a few more times and you started leveling another rogue, but the interest was dead. All the frozen pizza and DDR in the world couldn’t replace the hours you had sunk into that character, and the drive to do it again was gone.
By this time ninth grade had rolled around our social circles changed and had made a significant impact on our lives. Looking back on it, I know I might not have been able to change how things ended up, but I regret to the fiber of my being not questioning you at the basketball court that one day, when you asked me to steal you some opiates from my house.
Addiction is a pain and a sickness.
It twists your brain, changes who you are, and tries to put a distance between you and anything else that is not your next hit, next dose, next high. In our early teens those rushes came in the harmless form of ganking in Stranglethorn Vale, winning Alterac Valley, killing the first boss of Blackwing Lair, running away from the cops at the playground for who remember what.
The insane hours we spent playing World of Warcraft were absolutely warning signs that:
- We loved Warcraft.
- The grind was real.
- We had addictive personalities.
As I bite my lip and squint my eyes to hold back tears, I can understand only now that you asking me that day was not just asking for pills, but asking for help. We had braved the Fargodeep Mine and defeated Bloodfish at Jerod’s landing, but we did through the help of each other, the silent and unquestioned agreement that our party of two worked together.
We were young, we were dumb, and I should have told my parents.
I should have told your parents. I should have not been scared to ask “why do you need these”, “what do they do”, “why can’t you get them”. I remember walking off the court and back to my house. I remember coming back and handing them to you wrapped in a piece of lined paper, six white little tablets bunched up, and a sick feeling in my stomach that said this was wrong, but not enough brain in my head to understand why.
Months passed by after that and we stopped talking. We had gym class together and you and another gentlemen were very open about the things you were trying, and again I knew it meant something was wrong, but I didn’t know enough to do anything about it. Then one day you stopped showing up to class.
We weren’t friends at the time so I can’t say when it happened, but eventually you did come back to school. In the time you were gone you were given help and got clean. One addiction was swapped for another, in the form of physical fitness. Your life was good, and clean, and wholesome. Yes there were struggles, but you were open and clearly asked for help because through the grapevine my parents heard about what was going on with you, in far more detail than I did. (Mum’s talk!)
And then a few years later, after what I can only imagine were daily battles, you were struck by a car, breaking several of your vertebrae.
Opiates were reintroduced to your life to manage pain, and your biggest struggle came with it.
Last year, the struggle became too much and you ended the pain you had fought with for so long.
So, what’s my point?
Am I saying that I will be refusing to play Classic WoW? Heck no.
Am I saying World of Warcraft is a gateway drug? Nope (Maybe a little!)
Am I saying that World of Warcraft kills? Only brain cells
Am I saying for you to look after your friends, to pay attention to more than just what we do but also why we do it, and to understand its okay to ask for help? Absolutely.
World of Warcraft has been a part of my life for almost a decade and a half now, and both the hills and valleys, the triumphs and failures, the happy and the sad, of this time enduring game can be lined up with the same in real life and back. As MadSeasonShow said in his recent video: “It’s not living in the past, it’s acknowledging & appreciating important moments in your life that shaped who you are today, & who you’ll be in the future.”
Harrey, I wish I could have been a better friend, I wish there had existed a cure for your pain, and I wish you were here.