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Jibbie

February 27, 2011

Jibbie is the name of a character I played Warcraft with back when I played all the time, when I was good, and when the community of Warcraft players was my community.

I first met her when we were starting a raid, a group of ten players working together to defeat the biggest, baddest monsters the game had to offer.

“Can I tell you something, Evita?” she said to me in a whisper.

“Go for it!”

“You’re my hero!”

“Aw, shucks, that’s so nice. But we haven’t even started yet.”

“I know, but you’re famous and you’re the best tank on the server, and you’re a girl! A GIRL!”

“Wow! Thanks! I don’t think I’m the best tank on the server, but I do try to be the best tank I can be — but did you ever hear about the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead?  When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horribad and wiped the raid a lot. That’s me! So please temper your expectations, but I won’t let you die if I can help it.”

I was a tank, and it was my job to protect the healers. Jibbie was a priest, a healer, and she was a great player, and one of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met. She hailed from somewhere in Alabama, I believe, from one of those communities that attracts graduate students in language and linguistics, and the way she used language was singularly wonderful.

It’s hard to distill the sweetness that was talking to Jibbie over vent, but the example that shines out the most is this one:  We were running a dungeon called The Culling of Stratholme, in heroic mode. In Culling of Stratholme, the players, five of us, run around a city that has been overrun by bad guys, hunting down packs of roving demons while being attacked by hordes of the undead. Of the five players, one player, the tank (me), tries to keep the attention of the demons and hordes of undead while the DPS (damage per second) players kill off the monsters and the healer (Jibbie) keeps everyone alive. In theory the DPS is supposed to kill off the undead hordes and the tank is supposed to keep them off the healer, but the game is hard, and our gear wasn’t that great for the game content we were playing, and I died and then Jibbie died, and then everyone died, and, because we were all friends, we were laughing, which in a game famous for nerds raging at either over our nerd headphones, is a rare treat.

Instead, Jibbie said, “Evie, I’m sorry, but I had zombies all over me like flies on molasses pie.”

Zombies all over me like flies on molasses pie.

That was Jibbie.

She was one of the best.

It goes back to my premise that the best Warcraft players are the people who play all the time, and so it is surprisingly hard to find people to play with, because the best players, the people who log eight or more hours every day playing computer games, frequently lack other life skills and are therefore not so much fun to play with, despite being very good at playing computer games.

It’s the question you don’t ask: What the hell is wrong with your real life that you play Warcraft all the time? It’s taboo, because we all understand tacitly that we’re here to escape problems, and no one wants to talk about ours, and besides, why ask questions to which you don’t want to know the answer.

People wondered it about me, and my standard response was that I was stuck at home with a three-year-old and a one-year-old and “OMG my kid just brought a truckload of dirt in from the back yard and dumped it on the living room rug,” or “Why does my kid like to stomp on cherry tomatoes?” and that answered the question for most people about why I played Warcraft all the time, so they never wondered, and no one knew the reason I played Warcraft all the time was that I had cancer until someone figured it out, and then everyone knew, but by then it was almost over, and I knew I was going to make it, so I didn’t care.

I didn’t find out about Jibbie until hers got so bad that she had to stop playing. She knew about me, because I told her. “I’m going offline for several weeks,” I said.

“Oh, why?”

“Surgery. It’s a drag.”

“OMG is everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just another round of breast reconstruction. You know I had a bilateral mastectomy.”

Silence. Then, “R U OK?”

“Yeah, the whole treatment worked, it’s just reconstruction. I mean, it’s major surgery, but overall, good news.”

“That is a very personal thing. Thank you for confiding in me,” said Jibbie.

We played together for a very long time, then I went offline for a while, and when I came back, she wasn’t on much.

I asked our guild leader. “WTF is up with Jibbie. She should be online.”  Jibbie was a very dedicated player, the kind of dedication that involves setting her alarm clock to wake her up every hour for two weeks during the seasonal events so that she could complete the necessary achievements toward earning the Violet Drake, a spectacular purple flying mount that lets you fly really fast.

“She’s doing RL stuff,” he told me. That’s Warcraft terms for real life stuff, usually good news that means “I have a job” or “I have a girlfriend” or “I have resolved my issues enough that I no longer need to play Warcraft all the time.”

Later on, I asked our guild leader, “When is Jibbie coming back?” and he said, “I’m not sure, evidently chemo is really kicking her ass.”

“Oh, shit,” I said, and I meant it, and I added Jibbie to the list of people I know who have cancer, and whom I pray for every day.

We played sometimes with someone who knew her IRL, in real life, so we got updates.

“She’s doing bettter.”

“She’s in the hospital.”

“She got a horse and isn’t playing WoW because she spends all her time riding her horse.”

“She says hi, and she loves you all and misses you.”

Then, a whisper, an ingame personal message from one person to another. “I have bad news.”

“Jibbie?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit.”

“When?”

“Yesterday afternoon.”

“Shit.”

I flew over to Dalaran, the hub of the old expansion, now deserted except for a few players leveling new toons, and sat Evita down next to Caylee Dak, and cried for a long time.

There wasn’t anything else to do.

Jibbie was a healer and Evita was a tank, and the most important thing a tank can do is to keep the healer alive, but life isn’t a computer game. In real life, there is no run from the graveyard back to where your corpse is lying on the ground, a testament to all who see it that you played badly, that the monsters got you. Jibbie and I both got the damage over time effect that is cancer, and I could tank my own, but I couldn’t tank Jibbie’s, and it killed her. It had nothing to do with playing badly or well, because real life is not a computer game.

I didn’t even know Jibbie’s real name — I still don’t. Jibbie was enormously protective of her privacy.

Nevertheless, she was my friend, and her death hit me very hard.

The Warcraft community is a funny place. We only see snapshots of each other’s lives, but when you stand toe-to-toe fighting monsters alongside someone for a year or two, you get to know them pretty well.

I wish I’d had a chance to get to know Jibbie better. I know that for the years we played together, she made my life a much richer place. And I know she enjoyed my friendship as well, because she sent me a note once, telling me so.

That’s the kind of person she was.

She never did get her Violet Drake.

From → Warcraft

5 Comments
  1. Dances with Reaper Dancer permalink

    /cry

  2. I am so sorry for your loss.

  3. Gale permalink

    So sorry.

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