A Game of Friends

“We need a new game to bants on!”

“Remember when we [Fun Thing] from [Previous Expansion]?”

“I miss gaming with you.”

Over the years and across North America, my closest friends have always been Warcraft players. Expansion to expansion, coast to coast, or a guildie I have never met in person, the physical distance between us was meaningless.

I had an incredibly active social life filled with incredible friends…until Battle for Azeroth.

Between the numerous group chat’s, individual messages, Skype calls, texts, and phone calls (phone calls in 2019?), I talk to a dozen or people I would consider a close friend on a daily basis, and the above three quotes are constantly coming back over and over in conversation.

Video games are (for the most part) accepted as being part of day-to-day living as much was watching TV used to be; “Streaming” is a full time job that can pay the bills! There are competitive e-sport leagues with massive prize pools and sponsorships as well as stadium viewing and TV spots with color commentary, pre and post game review, and celebrity appearances. Things like being esteemed in a video game community, a player of high-skill, or someone with dedicated weekly time slots to play the game with others are now just parts of life.

Ten years ago gaming I thought gaming was a small part of my social life. I saw people at school, I talked to friends during swim team events or at after school ultimate frisbee, I would hangout with my closest friend every weekend. To the introverted-family-stress-ridden-depressed-overeating-undisciplined me, that was as much socializing as I could handle. At the time, very few people around me considered me as having a “social life”. Being a social high school kid qualified as having a large friend group, constantly doing in-person activities outside of school, and definitely not playing World of Wacraft everyday.

“If you are only friends because of World of Warcraft, maybe you weren’t that good of friends to begin with.”

Damn dude, that’s deep. I’ll have to let all my work friends know that seeing them outside of work doesn’t count. And getting drinks with the team after the game doesn’t count either, right? Dang, I also should probably let my dad know that talking to him on the phone everyday isn’t healthy and it’s time to let go.

My personality and priorities changed over the years, but I’ve never been too far from World of Warcraft and a quick whisper from a good friend. (Hell even my high school best friend asked me to be his best man over a random game of Hearthstone, and in my best man speech I talked about how the game helped us keep contact throughout the years.) From the tail-end of Mists of Pandaria up to a few months after the launch of Battle for Azeroth my friends list always was always alight with Battle.Net toasts of friends logging on and off for the day. Getting a group of five, ten, and sometimes twenty of us together to do something in-game was always possible.

A great Friday night could be spent online blaring Girls on the Dancefloor dive bombing into Seething Shore, or forgetting which faction you are and dropping flags in Warsong Gulch, or role playing as border patrol in Stranglethorn Vale and clearing out the opposite faction. Some of the best weekend afternoons involved hours of transmog runs, sitting in Discord talking about each others week. A friend and I would regularly have “Coffee Chats” every three to four weeks to catch up, before I moved away. Thankfully, we both had active subscriptions and were able to replace the distance between us by adding leveling to our coffee chats. Another friend and I scheduled Sunday mornings to practice Arena play and made many friends along the way.

And for nearly all of Legion I had the opportunity to be a Guild Master of a group of the most lovable idiots that could ever stand each other (for about 5 minutes). It sounds wild to put into writing and hear myself say it, but for all the trials and tribulations that came with leading, organizing, and working together with everyone in the guild, and the real life experiences (both positive and negative) it accompanied, it created memories for me that I will never forget. I loved the people I played World of Warcraft with, and I still do.

Being an adult and having friends is tough. It requires time, it requires effort, and it requires care. Distance, time, hobbies, interests, future plans, careers, world views, all things that impact how we choose the company we keep. And they can change, and often do. Some group chats form smaller chats, some run silent altogether. Discord servers that once were once overloaded with memes and funny articles go dark, the last comment months ago. The members are as online, but no one is talking. Everyone is playing different games, watching different streams, or just simply forgot they had Discord installed and haven’t used it for anything since quitting WoW. Battle.Net friends list begin to shrink as people don’t log on.

World of Warcraft was the catalyst for our friendship and Battle for Azeroth broke these connections. The amusement park style game of running the same 10 second content over and over and over for gear you far out-levelled to complete the daily for a chance that the best-in-slot-only-comes-up-once-every-four-months titanforges higher than your current trinket is not fun. Endless content is not endlessly fun. There’s no in-game threat, no reason to be social, no reason to keep playing. Battle for Azeroth is not an MMORPG, its the most beautiful State Fair you’ve ever seen. The 4-foot tall stuffed Pikachu can all be yours for $20, or you can waste a 4 hours throwing darts at the ballons trying to get 3 confetti filled balloons in row. And if you’re super lucky, the 4-foot tall Pikachu will actually be 12-feet, you’ll just have to wait and see if the carnie hands you one from behind the stall.

Friendships take time to cultivate and give meaning to.

Friendship is not something you can keep up by doing your daily quest of sharing memes in chat. It doesn’t reset every week and allow you to fix what you messed up the week before. There is no visible reputation bar telling you whether you are pushing someone away or pulling them in loser. Questhelper is turned off, DBM is removed, and your gear doesn’t matter.

Friendship is the longest chain quest of your life. You have to talk to people to find out where to go for the next part. Some zones might be harder for you and require a friend to make through. Parts of the quest may even send you back to the beginning to pick up something you forgot when you left the zone the first time.

I talk to all these friends monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, but I miss being able to share the feeling of a challenge, growth, working towards a common goal, and teamwork that World of Warcraft used to be able to provide us.

I hope Classic Warcraft brings back classic friendship.

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