Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Joys of being a Gamer Geek

Or... Thank Gawd for small mercies.

So I sit here elated. I have not been this elated for a good 7 years.  Why Drew, are you elated, you ask?

I got accepted into the beta for RIFT: Planes Of Telara !

Now you are probably wondering also, ok what's the big deal... Why does this even matter to you when the world slowly rots, when you are STILL unemployed, and when the days seem to zip by with no real sense of accomplishment?

Well... RIFT, is a MMORPG. A massively, multiplayer, online, role playing game. I LIVE for these. Why I have no idea... Maybe I have some kind of escapist thing going on, or maybe since I have an addictive personality, this is my kind of crack. Whatever the case, I am looking forward to this beta in a way I have not looked forward to a game for all of seven years. I feel like Codex! More on her later.

Seven years ago, I joined my first TRUE MMORPG... a title by the name of Star Wars Galaxies. SWG, as it is called, was an eye opener for me at a time when I really needed it. I had just gotten out of a nasty divorce, and found myself on my own in a strange land NW of Pittsburgh, wondering why I had ever left Florida to come here. I had nothing to do to occupy my time except dwell on all the evil thoughts of the divorce, and the things I could have, would have, or should have done. I had always been a Star Wars fan since I was a little kid, having cut my teeth first on Empire Strikes Back, before actually seeing A New Hope. When I first perused their website I was intrigued... The chance to live MY story in the Star Wars universe! Wow! I could run toe to toe with the likes of Vader, Solo, even Mr. Fett! I was intoxicated with the possibility... so much so that I promptly ordered the special collector's edition the moment it became available for pre-order. A week and a half later, I was logging in for the first time as Druu Scandana, into Theed Spaceport, awestruck with the world that unveiled itself around me in rich color and glorious, John Williams sound. I was in essence, living my childhood fantasy. I was now OFFICIALLY a character in the Star Wars universe!

As time went on I found myself more and more immersed in that "galaxy, far far away", and it was indeed therapeutic. I had all but forgotten my attachment to my ex wife, and gave her the space she needed to rebuild her life as  I rebuilt mine, I found a common bond with my son, who loved watching Daddy run from big animals "RUN DADDY RUN!!!!", and I started to meet awesome online people and got into this thing called a guild. Who knew guilds existed?!! A group of real people who band together for a greater good in game, and actually have FUN at it! Amazing! I did not know it was possible, but sure enough I was soon inducted into SANCT (Sanctuary Of Hope) guild, and started making some real friends online!

I can see you now... You are saying... Whoa whoa whoa... Stop a sec Drew... REAL FRIENDS??? ONLINE?

Yup. See to the majority of the world, gamers are a subculture of nerds and geeks, with no life.We apparently were the ones you used to give wedgies to in high school, or steal our lunch money in elementary school. This is NOT entirely accurate.... (I for one, have never had a wedgie... and I used to DO the lunch money stealing!)

The people I have met online come from such varied backgrounds that it is hard to pigeonhole what a true "Gamer Geek" is! I have known State Troopers, active duty Army Sergeants, Nurses, Lawyers, Fashion Models, Teachers, High School students, the list goes on and on! Pretty much all elements of humanity come together under the banner of XYZ game, to have fun, to socialize, to achieve virtual goals that result in REAL memories of great times. It is a community without equal. So when I say I have found REAL friends in the gaming community, you better believe the people I count as friends have gone beyond "Let's group up and kill this boss monster", and have become, "How're your husband and kids doing today?" It is a really good feeling to have met such amazing people, all because we have a common bond of loving Star Wars.

A perfect example of the dynamic of a guild is the infamous web tv show of the same name- The Guild! Created by (in my opinion) the ultimate Geek Goddess, Felicia Day (better known to viewers as the super nerdy yet insanely gorgeous "Codex"), this brilliant tv show is a must watch for ALL gamer types. There is so much in there that cuts to the heart of what it is like to be a gamer, and to experience the social networking and dare I say, family, that is a guild. Aside from the fact that I would just about worship Felicia Day's character, this show puts into sharp relief what my life has been like for the last 7 years, through Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest II, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Lord of The Rings Online, Rappelz, and now soon to be RIFT- Planes Of Telara. Truth be told I'd probably worship Felicia herself too, but she'd probably tell me to get off the floor, and then she'd get beet red. Nevertheless, Codex is my idol. She defines who I am, and who a lot of people I know are in the virtual community. I cannot recommend that show enough! Once you watch it, you too will be hooked.

But what does gaming do for me exactly, you might ask?

Well as mentioned above, the first benefit was helping me to get over my ex wife. Let's face it, prior to SWG I was getting pretty obsessive and downright stalker-ish with her. Definitely NOT me... So by immersing myself in guild and game, I was able to break that spell and actually get on with life, even if life was mainly virtual. I may even go so far as to say, that anytime I have felt stressed, or otherwise depressed, I have used the virtual realm to get out frustrations, to talk through problems, to get time to "think", and usually come out of a gaming session feeling better about myself and about my life. Granted, problems do NOT just disappear because you are on Dantooine, or in Thundering Steppes, and at no time is this more evident than when one simply "forgets" to pay one's telephone or electric bill that week, and suddenly one is thrust into that often embarrassing situation of Game Withdrawal... oops. It happens... key is to work with it, or at least call to make payment arrangements in time. (I am still trying to master that lesson).

Do not get me wrong though, it has not all been rosy for me in these virtual worlds. For starters, not everyone subscribed to the family environment of the Sanctuary Of Hope guild... and those who did not, did their best to try and tear the guild apart, or even to discredit long time members in standing. It is that kind of drama I loathe, and it has taken its toll on many victims over the years, before and even after I took the reins of the guild (more like was thrust the reins). Names like Anneke Rose, Shyloh, and Rhoda Rambala come to mind, as people who brought a lot to the game, but were eventually ostracized simply for being who they are. The other major thing was, over the 7 years Star Wars Galaxies has been out there have been two critical changes, fundamental changes to the game that caused a lot of disillusionment and canceled subscriptions from members of my former guild. It came to a head a couple years ago when our server was closed down, and as the last SANCT standing, I migrated my "toons" (characters) over to a new server, only to find the same steady decline in active players, and a guild that reminded me a little TOO much of the old days of the guild I loved and even presided over for a couple of years. The heartache was becoming too much to bear, and I still to this day see a steady decline for SWG that may eventually lead to its being closed down alltogether as soon as a suitable Star Wars MMO replacement hits the streets. It was no wonder that other, more seductive MMORPG's such as Everquest II flirted with me and got me to commit to them in a forbidden relationship that only worsened my marriage to SWG. Let me tell you boy that Everquest, aka Evercrack, is a difficult mistress to turn down. Her ways are far more seductive than any flesh and blood woman I have met thus far in my 40 years of existence.

... And we won't even begin to discuss my constant battle to make a profit on Second Life... You can go HERE for that story.

Now while I cannot speak for anyone else, I have always been under the firm belief that if there is life on the other side of death, it should be a world of our imagining... Which is probably the only rational reason why some would condemn themselves to a "Hell" for the guilt they wrestled with in their lives. For me, my other side is more than likely pixelated... in sharp resolution, with photoreal skins, and endless questing and powerups. I'd probably have to go with the role I have in this life's gaming... the cleric with a little bit of the rogue thrown in for good measure. I exist to heal others, but can throw out some decent DPS myself (And kudos to you if you even understand a word of what I just said). When my time in the light is over, I hope to meet the grand game architect and ask for a couple rounds in that instance called afterworld... and we'll see if all this practice I am getting in this world may pay off...

Till then, I plan on beta testing RIFT, and hoping it is the game I have been waiting for that will take the place of SWG (which has changed so much since 7 years ago, so as to be a totally different game today). Ok, so I still do not have an actual PAYING job (Other than what I am doing in Second Life.), and let's face it... I don't actually have a steady girlfriend (well none closer to me than 900 miles or so), but thank Gawd for small mercy! Another MMO is coming out, and I get to be on the cutting edge helping them polish it for public release. That is an incredible honor and something I do cherish. Just don't ask me to talk about it though... I'm under an NDA (non disclosure agreement). I can still brag about it though! I got a beta key and youuuu don't. nyah nyah!

There that felt better...

Now if only I could figure out how to translate my love of gaming to something that actually PAYS ME MONEY! Hmmmm...... Or maybe Felicia is hiring on the set of The Guild? hee hee. Probably would mean I would have to move from Pittsburgh though... sigh.... maybe if there was a wedding ring involved. Nah probably would not work out... besides, I am still holding out for India...

Oh well, there's always game.

Game on people!

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