Some events alter the course of your life so drastically that you forever after view your life as Before said event and After said event. Some of these events take place in a day, but many are much longer, for example, Before World of Warcraft and After. Or maybe that "After" is still a lingering "During".
World of Warcraft (WOW) is as close as you can get to a holodeck in this day and age. It is the most all encompassing alternate reality, escapism at it's most awesome. Where else could I ride full out on a starlit beach, on the back of a magnificent white Talbuk? And this is not merely a solo endeaver, enjoyable only on the loner's level. As a hermit I still absolutely enjoy company- I just prefer not to go anywhere to get it. In fact, as a genetically predetermined herd animal, I need social interaction. Living in a 1 room cabin can aggravate the ability to enjoy company, as there is only seating for three and 2 people already reside here. As a recluse/ herd animal, a strange situation, WOW has provided the perfect answer: it is a game for multiple players, thousands in fact, to play together, to create guilds, friends lists (and ignore lists) and general community conversation- all from the comfort of your own home. All I have to do is log on, and I am greeted by friends I've never actually seen, from all over the world. Slip on a headset and you can speak, for free, with Australians, Brits, Canadians, Americans in real time...
And it's not just a glorified chat room. By day I am meager mortal, overworked and underpaid, an extra 10 pounds holding by waist captive.. but by night, I am PRAIRIESTOMP THE MIGHTY SHAMAN. I can resurrest fallen friends, defeat towering elite monsters with a blast of ice and a swing of my two handed axe, and cook a hell of a warp burger. Seriously, good stuff. Gives you like 20 extra strength for half an hour.
Sadly, the human attention span is finite. You can only play so many games of 5 card stud before it is time to move on. WOW held me rapt for 14 months of my life, and I can't imagine what it would have been like if I had never played. And yet, the shiny has rubbed off. It was so real for me that losing it is the losing of not just a friend, but many, many friends. I logged on recently after a rather spotty attendance the last few weeks, and saw people I hadn't seen since last december. It was a bittersweet nostalgia, a glimpse of what once was an all encompasing life. I've met people I will never forget. The worst part about giving up these friends, I've realized, is that unlike people I've known over the years in the area I live, I will never run into my fellow gamers at the grocery store and be able to catch up on how they are. Once they too are completely AW, there will be no reunions, no recap of that time we all made level ones and streaked across the lower barrens... I may log on, and be an elder among babies, all my friends gone to time.
At least I have my screenshots. Forgive the crazy gamer melancholy. I have no excuse except that it was a long long week and I am tired.