Friday, August 31, 2007

Electronic Friendship

This morning I took two friends to the airport, to see them off. They'd been visiting us since last Friday, and I was still heart-sick to see them go. We actually had several other people over as well, but these two were the last to leave; and now I'm all alone again.

I have never been good at making friends. In fact, I've been so bad at it that I've wondered at times if I'm damaged somehow, if perhaps I have some subtle form of autism or something that prevents me from interacting normally even with people I like and want to get to know. The past couple of years have been something of a miracle for me, then, because I've made these friends, and they are real and dear to me. There are a lot of factors that made this possible, but the key ingredient, I believe, was World of Warcraft.

I played WoW from around January of 2005 until about a month ago. Unlike many people, the entire time I played, I hung with the same group of people. They started out as a group of strangers, only a couple of whom I knew and those only because my husband played EQ with them years ago. But over the course of time, I managed to get involved in the lives of people I never knew before. I joke sometimes that I don't have a social life outside of a computer, but the truth is, I've never really had a social life before at all. Now, with my fibro pain and fatigue dragging on me on top of my basic shy and unfriendly nature, I think I would be entirely alone were it not for the universe that rests at my fingertips here.

Unfortunately, for many of the people who played WoW from the beginning, the game is growing old and stale. A lot of people have quit playing just because they're so bored, and my friends have all tended in that direction, with an added dose of jobs and school and marriages preventing them from spending time online. So everyone quit, some earlier this year and some later, but it was a cumulative effect, and by the beginning of August the guild was disbanded and people's accounts were canceled. And I was all alone again. So, my husband and I invited anyone with vacation time to spend it at our house.

Its the strangest thing, meeting someone for the first time when you've been good friends for years. After I got over the shock of looking at people straight on, the strangest thing was figuring out what name to say. Because everyone there, except for Rob's wife AJ, who never played WoW with us but was welcome anyway, had at least two names. For some people it was easy: Ted, for example, has always been Ted, through multiple character names and since before WoW existed. Jard, on the other hand, has always been Jard, and not Don, because he doesn't even look like a Don and no one even knew that was his real name for the longest time.

Almost everyone called me by my real name, also, because when we all switched servers in the beginning of 2006, I had to change my character name and no one liked typing the new one, so the old one stuck for a while and then people just started calling me whatever they wanted. The only exception was Traffa, who called me Bottle, which hasn't been my character name in a year and a half, but I kept calling him Traffa and not Raymond, so I guess it's fair.

It was a wonderful time, and now they're gone again, and I don't know what I'm going to do. Muddle along as usual, I guess. These people live all over the country, so I think the only thing to hope for is that another interesting MMO comes out soon, so I can once again meet people in a world where the barriers to interaction are low enough for me to cross.

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