Did you ever play Dungeons and Dragons? Oh, that was fun! When I was a teenager back in the late 80’s (cough) D &D was all the rage. It was something the “geeky” kids did after school and on weekends. The creative kids that didn’t always play sports or go out partying finally had a social outlet. There were some downsides, too. Everything was done on with a complicated dice system: roll a 6-sided dice for this, a 12 sided for that. We figured up our stats on paper and had to keep track of the items we had in our bags over the course of the days, weeks, or even months we played. We were limited to playing with gamers in our own community. You had to know the people and feel comfortable playing out detailed roles face-to-face. D & D did not take much skill, just imagination, some mathematical ability, and dumb luck.
I have played video games since the days of Pong. My favorites were games that took me adventuring and using logic to solve puzzles. The two that topped my favorites were “The Legend of Zelda” on the old NES; and the “Tomb Raider” series for Playstation. I had given up console gaming about the time my second child, a daughter, was born. I also had a new computer and was addicted to raising little pixilated people and building houses for them. I had given up fighting dragons and treasure hunting for nurturing “The Sims” on my PC.
My oldest son, Allen, had seen an episode of “South Park” that introduced him to a new game called “World of Warcraft.” When his father and I bought the software for him that Christmas, the sales clerk (another WoW-addict) told us that this would be the last game we’d ever buy for him. We liked the sound of that—the kid was always asking for about $200 worth of video games for Christmas every year. Little did I know that this would, two years later, become the game that I would give up all other games for.
I went through a divorce and fell in love with my best friend from work during those two years. He moved in with me in the fall of 2008. My ex-husband and I share custody of our three kids, and they were spending their Thanksgiving Holiday with him. I had a hard time being separated from them at first. I was used to having them around me. My kids are loud, brash, clumsy, pig-headed, and affectionate. The two youngest ones are always within arm’s reach, sitting on my lap, playing in the same room, calling for my attention from the kitchen or when they play outside. The silence was more than I could bear.
My new boyfriend, Michael, played WoW. He had updated his subscription after talking with my son about their game experiences. I had my PC and my Sims to play when he went off to Azeroth. I remember that day well. I built an apartment complex and tried unsuccessfully to get two of my Sims to become a couple. It was the last time I ever played that game.
He watched me, bemused, as I cursed at my boy Sim ignoring the girl Sim I wanted him to pair up with. “I don’t understand the object of the game. I thought you liked games like ‘Tomb Raider,’ not making your own Soap Opera.”
I tried again to explain the appeal of making people on the computer and then trying to run their lives. He listened politely, and then made the offer he’d made many times before. “Wanna play a real game? I think you’ll like it.”
H e logged off from his Warlock and went to the character screen, then stood up and offered me his chair. I sat down and he pulled the other computer chair behind me so that he could coach me along. We went through the different classes and races until I settled on a Blood Elf because I liked the way they looked. He encouraged me to try playing a Paladin because they were, as he put it, “pretty much indestructible.”
I have been told that when a future alcoholic takes their first drink, they feel as if a craving that they didn’t even know they had has been satisfied. I felt that way as I frolicked around Eversong Woods killing big orange cats and trees that had come to life. Michael explained the basic game mechanics to me and showed me how to target and attack an object. He introduced me to questing and even explained a little of the storyline to me. I had trouble keeping the buttons straight at first, but still found questing and leveling gratifying. Two hours went by without me even realizing it. I gave up his PC to allow him to return to his game, feeling sad that my turn was over. He played quietly for a little bit, deep in thought. Finally, he said, “We’ll have to get you the software and set you up your own game account. I think we’d have a great time playing together.” We made a run to Wal-Mart that very evening, and a few hours later, my Rezina was born.
The game became the same creative outlet for me that Dungeons and Dragons had been 20+ years ago. It also became a way to deaden the silence of the empty house when the kids were with their dad. It helped me cope. It also helped me draw closer to Michael as we adventured along. We learned to communicate, to compromise, and to work together as a team. We have leveled up several duos in the past two years, and are already planning our gnomes and Worgen “couples” for Cataclysm.