If there is anything that can be said about a game like World of Warcraft it is that we can develop some good relationships while playing. Much like real life, those relationships are important and often give us reason to stay in the game.
I remember those players I always hope to see when I log on. It makes doing dungeons, raids, and battle grounds a bit more fun with these people. I am not sure about you, but I have taken these relationships offline and to reality.There is the inner tube I received one year for tubing in the snow. The Christmas card I get. There were the many well wishes I received from players when my wife's surgery went south (she is fine now). But, it goes without saying that these relationships, as wonderful and needed as they are do not take the place of the relationships we have in reality.
For 33 years I have had a steadfast companion - Spot, a red headed Amazon parrot, who has been with me and my family for all of those years. He died on Saturday.
My older brother hand fed Spot for a couple of months before he came to our house in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1980. We had his cage in our kitchen, which is the hub of activity in any house. Spot thrived on people and noise. Anytime we played music, had people over, conversation, and the like, he was always there making his contribution.
But, it was always music that brought him out and got him going. The louder it was played, the more excited he got.
As an Amazon, his vocabulary was not as extended as other birds. His was quite limited. As much noise as he could make, his language capacity was: "scratch Spot, "hello," "good cookie" (which he would say whenever he was hungry), among a few other (more colorful) words that I cannot mention in this column. But, he had a delightful personality. He was always up for a good laugh.
He also had some devious tricks. One of his favorites was to ask for a scratch and put his head against the cage. When someone went to scratch his head, he quickly bit the person, backed up on his perch, and would laugh and bob his head up and down. Then would repeat the same game. He often did this, too, when asking for a "good cookie."
Like any companion, they make anything we do worth doing. Be it marriage. Be it a group of musicians. Be it a game.
I assert that what makes MMO's work so well is the relationships we can develop in the game. I wrote recently about the over arching narrative that has helped make WoW so successful but, in the end, for any MMO to work out, there needs to be friendship and companions. There needs to be, what Tolkein noticed, a fellowship of sorts for people to complete any sort of epic adventure.
If you step back and take a look at how our definition of friendship has changed in the last ten years, the importance of being able to do something with people is even more important. Blizzard even reminds players of the importance of friendship in some of the tips we get when the game is loading up.
For example, "If you enjoyed playing with someone, put them on your friends list!" When I wrote about the importance of the social realm of gaming, I noted that Blizzard was making it easier to play various games on various realms and be able to at least communicate with friends we had made in previous modes. I have several friends with whom I play that are currently in the Diablo universe. With "Real ID" we can communicate and talk about what is new, the kids, and the like.
Blizzard, though reminds us of the importance of keeping things real, if you will, with another tip: "Bring your friends to Azeroth, but don't forget to go outside Azeroth with them as well." As we spend more and more time inside on our computers and change the nature of socializing, we forget the importance of seeing and being with others. Bruce Springsteen, one of our great sages of modern thought, noted in 1991 the importance of "human touch."
I take this song to mean, among other things, that we need contact, both physical and emotional, neither of which can be found online. Blizzard is right, as important as it is to have friends in Azeroth, we need to have friends outside of Azeroth. Sure, it is a catchy little gimmick to get us to bring more players into the fold, but there is a good message there.
As I finish this up, I can't help but think about the loss of a companion, one who has been with me for over 30 years. When we buried Spot in our back yard, my wife cried and realized she hasn't known me without him. I have a difficult time remembering my life without him either. I can't remember a time when I was able to enjoy some popcorn, chips, or any salty food without having to give him some, or the incessant crying for a "good cookie" that would drive any sane person nuts.
More important, though, is that his passing reminds me of the importance of companionship. Spot should remind us all of how important it is to be with others in reality. To share in adventures out there. He should remind us all that a "good cookie" can be a time for a joke to pull on the unsuspecting for a good laugh. And, in the end, that is what matters most, a shared laugh, one where your stomach hurts so much, your face turns red, and you double over trying to catch your breath.
Go well Spot. Thank you for the memories and being there.
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