Around last night, I sent out an email to the hosts of Ravenwood Radio, expressing praise for them and my perception about their influences as players and as drivers of the show. While writing, part of my subconscious clicked off in my head, opening an unseen window that I failed to recognize in all of my years with online multiplayers. The result was the following phrase that I shared with them: "It has always been our peers, and not necessarily the creators [of the game], who keep us coming back for more..."
This is all too familiar to me, especially with the temporary but arbitrary loss of an in-game friend. By that, I mean there will be a time when Scarlet Deathblood (real first name: Missy) returns, but with her circumstances, there is no telling or reasonable estimate of when she'd be back. But after I heard the very first and last voicemail from her ever since the beginning of February 2010, the mild euphoria and excitement I once had for Wizard101 seemed to dissipate for the following weeks.
I started playing back in early December 2009, so I admit I am moderately new; however, with a really great mentor (Ronan Dawn), I've been caught up on the history and mechanics of the game in the sense that I understand that KingsIsle has had some loss of a fan base due to infringement on their promise to keep Dragonblades for Beta testers, and that old, imbalanced Crown armor was available in the past. Anyway, having played for two full months before Missy was dragged away, there was still a vast area of Wizard101 that I had yet to touch on. I initially expected that with all the content that was unexplored, that I could carry on and venture normally.
I was more than wrong. A few days after her forced disappearance, the daily tasks of checking for game updates, logging on, and even refilling potions began to feel like unnecessary chores. I remember sitting still in my chair one night, not even touching the keyboard or mouse, looking at my poorly dressed Thaumaturge, and slowly surveyed his surroundings, wondering what I was still doing here. I had lost a close companion and partner. When someone farms with you without limit, hesitation, regret, or wavering patience for as long as you have faith in the next farm's results, they become like an extended sibling, if not best friend. Even the updates that brought us the Wing Mounts and Crown Armor Sets could not shake as much enthusiasm as I would have liked back into me.
So what kept me here? I think we'll have to rephrase that question and replace "what" to "who". And it wasn't just one person, but it was a number of significant people whom Scarlet and I knew mutually or that I knew exclusively. Cheryl Fire, Ronan Dawn, Allan Spiritrider, Eric Frostwalker, Ronan Storyglade, Iridian Stormweaver, just to name the few and great. Had I not had these great friends, it honestly wouldn't have mattered if Celestia was released as early as March. When there is no one close to you to share the excitement you get when finding the loot you pursued endlessly, or wallow in necessary silence after a loss (like a global reset), these multiplayer games become just a visual embodiment of a rowdy chatroom, and not necessarily a "great game" anymore. Don't get me wrong; KingsIsle's work is truly a masterpiece, but without people you can play with and trust and have fun with, you're better off with getting Fallout 3 and an Xbox for a one-time pay-to-play deal.
This thought will be expanded into a broader area in the next post: "The Power of the Community." So until then, share your thoughts, comments, experiences, and/or questions on the importance of in-game friendship to you.