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October 8, 2011

I haven’t played Warcraft for over a year. I miss it, once in a while, but I also know, as I have always known, that RL >>> WoW: real life is better than a game. But it isn’t the game I miss — it’s the community.

It’s easy to deride a community built by people who spend seven, eight, ten hours a day playing computer games: obese people with negligable grooming, living in dirty homes, people with stagnant careers and foetid family lives, surrounded by empty Hot Pocket trays, Mountain Dew cans, and crumpled Doritos bags. Surely not everyone who plays computer games, even compulsively, fits that stereotype, and yet the image is out there, and it bothers me, and not just because for a long time, I was part of that community.

The image, the stereotype bothers me because it’s mean, and it’s wrong, because what’s missing in that stereotype is kindness. Overall, I discovered, through hours and hours spent glued to a computer monitor, that the people with whom I played Warcraft were kind, in a way that I, with my super-achieving, hyper-competitive life filled with super-competitive hyper-achieving peers had not seen before. Certainly, not everyone — there are enough my-way-or-the-highway players in the game to satisfy any stereotyper. But the aspect of Warcraft that kept me coming and the thing I miss the most about the game is the kindness of the people with whom I played.

It was a kindness that allowed others to make mistakes. Warcraft is a hard game, and it’s interdependent, and even among people who are good at playing computer games, it’s easy to make mistakes: Standing in fire. Casting the wrong spell. Overlooking a monster. Falling — off a cliff, off a building, off a ledge, or a path, or a mountain; it’s not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the end. Warcraft, especially at the end of the game, when the monsters get bigger and meaner, is a tight enough game that one misclick by one person, one misstep, will easily kill an entire party. Sure, it’s frustrating, but while people did get mad, but they never got mean.

I do believe in coincidences, but in this case, I don’t think it is one. I think there is a pattern, a reason, a lesson.

In recent days, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the unlikeliest of people for the way I handled my daughter’s situation. “School was horrible for me,” they tell me. “You did the right thing.” People I never would have thought would have found themselves in the crosshairs of a mean kid, but then, I remember that you can never know the whole of someone else’s story, but only what they chose to share with you. And over and over, I heard it, especially from the kids I played Warcraft with:

School is pretty horrible. 

Yeah, I pretty much keep to myself at school.

Naw, you guys are my friends. I don’t have a lot of friends at school.

I go to school with some mean kids.

And then the rare confidences, the ones that broke my heart. I’m fat. I’m gay. I’m okay at sports, but the acne is a problem. I live in a trailer with my grandparents, and all my clothes are from Goodwill. And not just from kids, either — for years, my primary community was one of adults who, for whatever reason, and often no apparent reason, found themselves holding the short end of the stick, the butt of jokes, the target of cruelty. And so, they escaped a world where people were mean to come fight monsters along side people whose only commonality was a level of kindness I had never seen before, and don’t think I could find anywhere else.

I don’t think it’s an accident. I think people are good, most of them, and when people have been on the receiving end of cruelty, they often learn how important it is to watch their language, to look at things from the other person’s perspective, and above all, first and foremost, to consider other people’s feelings.

It’s not something I’m great at, but I do try. And now, seeing what my daughter Catherine has gone through, I’m resolved to try even harder, to choose my words carefully, to be aware of my facial expression, to not even think cruel thoughts lest I telegraph them through a glance. It’s a lesson my daughter has learned the hard way, but then, she is a kind person, much kinder, sometimes, than she lets on. And she’s moving on, making new friends, moving forward.

It’s me who’s stuck. It’s incredibly horrible and awkward for me, every time I bring my son to class, looking at the other adults who know, to one degree or another, that I pulled my kid out of our school, and why. People have been kind, especially the teachers in whose eyes I unavoidably threw mud by yanking my kid out of their classes despite the fact that they did everything right. “You gotta do what’s good for your kid,” is the  prevailing sentiment. And yes, I know I hurt people’s feelings, and I know I probably could have handled the situation better, but I did the best I could, and now, I find myself alienated, and, for the first time in a year, acutely missing the World of Warcraft.

I know I can’t renew my subscription. I don’t have time to play, and I can’t face what it would do to my regularly scheduled life if I were to spend even three hours a day slaughtering pixels. But I keep thinking of my mage, a low-level character with some best-in-game gear sitting in the bank. I’d really love to log in and go blow some stuff up. But more, I think I need a little kindness.

From → Warcraft

  1. Xesyness permalink

    Eh and here I was thinking I was mean this whole time 😛

    good times Evita, good times

  2. Since I have never been addicted to computer games I ask this sincerely. Was it (in your case)
    escapism or entertainment(i.e. reading, tv, movies, sports)?

    I have had other addictions(not to drugs, alcohol, etc), the worst being trying to make everyone’s world perfect after wasting 25yrs in love with a man I idolized more than my God and he did not, nor does now, believe in God.(otherwise a good, intelligent, kind man)(We never Before that, I wasted a lot of time thinking if I was a good, perfect wife the man I married would become a good husband and father. I think I lived in a fairy-tale world. I obviously was not turning to God for instructions. That was to come much later and in HIS time not mine. I did get back in church 12yrs ago and now
    “I get it.”

    While holding a full time job until last year, I have spent the past 25yrs being a caregiver to my mom, aunt, daughter(my only child), X-husband that I divorced in ’74 that showed up on my doorstep 4yrs ago (all are deceased), and now my 66yr old brother with mental problems. ( All were my choice except my X)
    Each of these is quite a story in itself.

    Why do I tell you all this? Especially since we have only met a time or two at ANC church. For a (incomplete) background. To say that while I was trying to make everyone’s world perfect I lost myself and who I am. How does that relate to kindness you say?

    The only reason I am sane(if I am :-D) is because of the love and kindness of the many friends God has blessed me with and put in my path. Even now, while trying to find God’s will and next adventure, I don’t kid myself that I could not do it without them or HIM.

    God Bless you and your decision for your daughter. Raising kids is the hardest and most rewarding job we will ever have. Thank heaven for kindness. My prayer is to be less judgmental and kinder to everyone.

  3. Evi, you really are amazing. Just saying. This piece means a lot to me. Thank you for writing it.

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