What is love, anyway? It’s an age-old question, pondered by greater minds than my own. But my recent experiences have given me my own perspective on a subject that often defies explanation.
We all understand typical notions of romance, courtship, dating, and relationships. Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, or girl meets girl), face to face. An attraction is formed, sometimes based on physical characteristics, sometimes on personality, sometimes on a combination of the two. After the initial attraction, the couple goes on to get to know each other better by dating, and after some time decides whether or not they’re compatible emotionally, intellectually, etc. Even if, initially, there seems to be true compatibility, it doesn’t always last. People change. The looks that attracted you might disappear. Or maybe they were projecting a persona that was not the real them in order to keep their relationship going. It is possible to spend years with another person and not really know them. You can be in a traditional relationship and still feel very much alone because there’s no deeper connection.
It is, then, quite surprising that, despite the frequent failures of traditional relationships, people would still cast a skeptical eye upon “online romance”. I’m not talking about using dating sites to purposefully find a mate. I mean when two people share a common interest or activity, like a particular game or social media site, they become friends online, and an attraction forms between them, many times with no real knowledge of physical appearance. Given the high failure rate of traditional relationships that start with physical nearness but end with incompatibilities, you would think that such “internet dating” would gain more mainstream acceptance. Yet it’s often mocked and ridiculed. I see people jokingly refer to Twitter crushes, or smirk about “fake internet love”. Technology is isolating us, they say. Put down your computers or phones and talk to real people, they say. A virtual relationship isn’t the “real” thing, they say.
Why should this be? That we’re even capable of falling in love with someone based on their personality, sense of humor, intelligence, or affection seems inherently more significant than dating someone just because they’re “cute”. The attachment that develops via an online relationship is no less real than a more traditional relationship, and I would hold that the bond can be deeper, more honest, and more true. It isn’t contingent on the possibility of wooing someone into having sex, it isn’t tainted by the shallowness of physical attraction. In my opinion, and now in my own personal experience, love that develops through an internet romance can be the love of your life because it has developed for all the right reasons, not all the wrong ones.
Add common interests to that, and you’ve really got the basis for a relationship worth having. My own, very “real” boyfriend came from my interaction with the WoW/Twitter community. We share interests (gaming), a similar sense of humor (or at least an appreciation of each other’s humor), and discovered, via text and Skype conversations, that we share similar views on life, love, and happiness. He lives on the opposite side of the country from me. But technology brought us together, and allowed us to develop a real relationship without any outside pressures. We were “friends” for a while before I realized I had formed a more romantic attachment to him and found the nerve to tell him how I felt about him. We were an “online couple” for 3 1/2 months before we finally met face to face. At our initial meeting, no time was lost getting to know each other; by this point, we were already well acquainted. That meeting didn’t make our relationship finally “real”. It just cemented what we already knew to be true. And it has strengthened our commitment not only to each other, but to one day eliminate that distance so that technology is no longer necessary to continue our relationship. But I’ll never forget the gift that technology gave me: my own true love.
Love can be anywhere. It can be found right next to you at a party, or online in an internet chat room. It doesn’t matter where you find it, just that you do find it at all. Don’t let friends, family, or society dictate to you where you should find yours, or you could miss out on the chance of a lifetime, and miss out on someone who could be the love of your life.
Happily ever after…
I’ve played video games ever since there were video games to be played. I remember Pong. I used to live to go to Pizza Hut (back when they had sit-down restaurants) so I could play Pac Man. Spy Hunter at the 7-11 near my high school was a favorite lunch break pastime. I had a Nintendo 64. I bought an Xbox. You get the picture.
In 2004, I had gotten into an arcade game called Derby Owners Club (Sega), where 8 people sit at individual consoles and race horses against each other on a big screen placed in front (see some photos in the gallery). It was a competitive game, and there were ranked players and seeded tournaments when the game was in its heyday. Players bred the “horses” over several generations, stored on magnetic game cards that could be used in any DOC machine. Special horses called “jackpots” were specially trained and kept as tournament racehorses. I had gotten quite good at it, and at one point, out of over 400 ranked racers, I cracked the top 20 and was the top active female racer in the country. I won two tournaments, and placed in a few others. But, like any competitive game, there was a lot of petty drama, and then someone cracked the code to re-write horse cards with maximum stats. These “juiced” horses were sold all over eBay, tournament horses had to be scanned for above “natural” stats, and a lot of the fun got sucked out of the game.
At the peak of my racing “career”, I had heard about World of Warcraft, but it sounded to me like a kid’s game. Then I spotted an article in a business magazine which spoke of the new ways in which people were networking outside of traditional venues. One of these “networking resources” was none other than World of Warcraft. I was intrigued. Being ambitious and also being horrible at golf, I thought that this might be a more fun way to get to meet people that could prove to be helpful for my career. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a grand adventure.
In July of 2006, I downloaded the game and rolled my very first character. Because I had seen the game trailer, and because I am an animal lover, I decided to roll a night elf druid so I could shapeshift into a kitty. It had to be Alliance. I didn’t think that being Horde was all that cool, and the races were all aesthetically unpleasing at that time. I figured that if I was going to roll a fantasy character, it was going to look beautiful. As I customized her appearance, I pondered what I was going to call her. I thought about mythical sounding names, but it all seemed silly and pretentious. And then it struck me: why not call her my childhood nickname? Thus Lilu was born on the Anvilmar server.
The journey from level 1 to 60 took almost a year. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I wasn’t about to read the forums or any guides to find out. Quests took forever because I was always lost, yet I had the most amazing time roaming the wondrous forests of Ashenvale, listening to the music of that zone, feeling genuinely transported to another world. It was magic. Pure magic. I made friends in game, and spent a ridiculous amount of time with other lowbies in Astranaar PvP-ing with Hordies who usually one-shot us. We’d cheerfully come back, get our corpses, and do it again. I equipped any piece of armor I managed to obtain, regardless of stats. I thought all my stats needed to be even, anyway. I had seen epic purple gear, but I figured I’d never, ever, ever be skilled or lucky enough to ever get something like that. I chose Moonkin form from my talent tree because I liked the boomkin dance. In short, I was a complete and utter noob.
Just prior to the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, I met a warrior tank named Colon in the guild Genos. I kept running into him doing 5-mans, and he saw how hopeless I was. Maybe it was because I was a girl that he decided to help me out, but he started teaching me how to properly play my toon. I learned about dungeon mechanics and line of sight pulls, how to wait for the tank to grab aggro, when to use what abilities, what stats to start gearing for. I suddenly realized what I had been missing. I hit level 60 just a few days before BC, and ran my first Molten Core. And all of a sudden, endgame seemed possible.
From there, it blossomed. I learned about my class by reading forums and guides. I started raiding regularly. Myself and many members of Genos server transferred to Terokkar and formed a new guild, Short Bus Allstars. We were raiding Karazhan at the time, but looking back, we really sucked. It took us forever to clear content. People were irresponsible about showing up or being prepared, there were tons of AFKs during the raids, and we’d be lucky to get a couple bosses down in a 3 hour night. I wanted more from endgame, or so I thought. So I left to join THE raiding guild of Terokkar at the time, Decadence. All of a sudden, I’m stepping it up in Black Temple, Serpentshrine Caverns, and the Battle for Mount Hyjal. It was exciting to be a progression raider. The only problem was many of my guildmates. See, what I didn’t realize was that I had entered a snakepit of elitism. There wasn’t much else going on with the Terokkar server, so several of these players really started to think they walked on water. They would insult and berate other players. They would pose outside the bank in a row on their Amani Warbears. They were, quite honestly, obnoxious douchebags. The loot just wasn’t worth putting up with the attitudes. I had a real life and a career, I knew what was important in life, and pixelated crap at the expense of being a decent person to fellow WoW players just wasn’t that serious.
I bounced around for a while, looking for a guild to join, but Terokkar was dying. When Wrath of the Lich King was released, I server transferred to Hyjal, and there found one of the most amazing guild experiences in my WoW life. The guild was called Jechaiyeth, and it was a progression guild, but it was done right. There were rules about language and behavior. Raids were organized, people had to treat each other civilly even when things weren’t going well, and the environment was conducive to fun, learning, and progressing through endgame dungeon content. It was almost too good to be true. And in the end, it was. The guild masters were a husband and wife team. Unfortunately, their personal lives, including a nasty break up, disintegrated the guild. A group of guildies, myself included, kept our team together so we could down the Lich King, but after that achievement, we went our separate ways.
Cataclysm was sort of my burnout point with WoW. I raided bits and pieces of it with various groups, but my interest was waning. I picked up Star Wars: The Old Republic and played that for a while, but despite my love for the Star Wars genre, I couldn’t really get into the game. However, as I was learning SWTOR, I got into listening to game-related podcasts. It occurred to me that there must be WoW-related podcasts, too, and I started to search some out. I found The Instance first (doesn’t everybody), but that led me on to the Convert to Raid podcast. I really enjoyed the format and became a regular listener. In the beginning of 2013, when Convert to Raid announced they’d be forming a guild on Alliance side, Aerie Peak US, it sounded like the ideal community that I had been looking for since I had left Jechaiyeth. I put in a server transfer, joined the guild, and enjoyed it so much that I brought all my high-level Alliance alts with me. This is where the bulk of my characters reside today.
It has been a long journey since I first downloaded and installed this game back in the summer of 2006. I can credit World of Warcraft with helping me buy a house (I was so obsessed I never went out, so I stopped wasting money and saved a lot of dough). A lot of people I met in various guilds are still my friends today, some electronically, some in real life. I’ve spent the equivalent of a year’s time, 24/7, on this game, but I don’t regret a single minute. Because of World of Warcraft, I have become part of an amazing online community, both in game and in social networking venues such as Twitter. I met an amazing man because this. World of Warcraft may just be a game, but it’s also a gateway to an incredible experience, and I’m glad that I chose to walk this path.