I, like thousands of others, just had a really interesting post from Wow.com drop into my feed reader. The Breakfast Topic is generally something they post to bring about a bit of discussion. Most days I simply skim over it, but todays post about real life cataclysms kinda hit close to home.
I’ll briefly recap for the one person out there that may actually follow my ramblings and yet not read Wow.com. The post was about how at times the game can reflect the suffering in the real world, and yet at the same time be a refuge from that suffering. If you have not read it, go check it out. It’s worth your time.
Be advised, this post is not so much about Wow as it is about my personal experiences and those of my family. If you choose to read on do so knowing that. Also know that this is my life I talk about today, not just the game. If you choose to comment please keep that in mind.
A little over three years ago… has it really only been that long?
Life was a lot different back then. So was I.
I was talking to a friend of mine from work about the game that he played. He was far from pushy about it, but got across the basics of the game. I picked up a copy and started goofing off with it, not realising where it would lead me.
Have you ever noticed how the smallest things seem to loom with importance when looked back upon through the lens of experience?
I was bored, all the shows I cared to watch were in reruns, and I picked up a game to amuse myself. I had no idea where that path would take me. I still don’t know where it will end, we shall see.
Slowly as I played the game I made friends online. Starting with the coworker who had introduced me to the game and moving on to guild mates. I have made some very good friends in Wow, and honestly I don’t know how I could have dealt with the next few years without both their support and the separate reality that is Azeroth.
About six months after I started playing, shortly after The Burning Crusade my mother made a mistake. She was living on her own after the death of my dad and doing relatively well. My family and I visited often, and when we were not there we were on the phone. She never went more than six or eight hours without someone either calling or stopping by.
The doctor said that is probably what saved her life.
One day I called to see if she would like to go out to dinner with us, as we often did back then. When she did not answer we waited a few minutes and called again. When she did not pick up that time we just hopped in the car and headed over, figuring she was napping.
When we arrived I saw what no one really ever wants to see… mom on the kitchen floor laying in a puddle of spilt orange juice, the refrigerator door hanging open.
Mom was diabetic, badly so. Somewhere in the afternoon she had made a mistake with her insulin and diet, Taking her shot and then falling asleep before she ate.
She never did remember what happened. I can only assume she awoke on the couch realising that her sugar was low and tried to get some orange juice into her system before it was too late. She lost that race.
Had we not stopped in when we did she would have ben gone that day.
When she got out of the hospital a bit over a month later she moved in with us. I learned way more about diabetes during the next two years than most folks learn in their lifetime. I also learned about other things like Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain management, and drug side effects and interactions.
For two long years my family and I watched her slowly come unglued as her health failed. We spend countless hours with the doctors working to make things better. Even the doctors eventually said all we could do is keep her comfortable until the end comes.
By all rights we could have simply put her into a nursing home and awaited the inevitable call. Most folks would have, especially towards the end.
We could have, but we didn’t. As long as the doctors who were monitoring things said we could still handle it at home we did. As long as they are able a family takes care of their own, thats just how it works. Anything else is so foreign to me that it doesn’t even register.
Watching it all happen was, shall we say, less than pleasant.
During one of her stays in the hospital, a bit over two years after moving in with us, the call came. My brother and I needed to be there… like now. We made it there just as she finally was too tired to keep fighting and passed away.
During those two years I found refuge in the game. I could log in any time day or night and know that everything would be right where I left it. I might be up at three in the morning farming primals, I might be pugging my way through Shattered Halls, I might just be sitting in Shattrah watching the trade chat trolls banter back and forth.
Escaping into a virtual world could not make the pain go away, but it could make it slip to the back of my mind for a little while. It was never completely gone, but for a little while I could slip away to a place where things were easier.
It was a place I could go and have fun relaxing with friends, while still being home if I was needed.
Friends that sat up talking to me all night long when things were so bad I could not sleep.
Friends that said not a word when I left with no more than a quick “Afk” before I vanished, sometimes for days. No matter what we were doing in Azeroth I could walk away and it was understood.
Friends that in some cases I have now met in real life and talk with more out of the game than inside it.
The friends I made in that virtual world are just as real as those I have made anywhere else.
Many, many a long night I sat up with them, one ear on vent and the other ear listening. Waiting for any change in her ragged breathing, or a call to come help her.
The world of Azeroth may not be real, but the people there most certainly are. During my own personal cataclysm it was a refuge. A place I could go where I could still have control. A place where things made sense and the reward always came if you finished the quest. The quest giver never said “sorry, you did everything right and it still didn’t matter”.
A lot has changed in the year and a half she has been gone. I don’t play nearly as much anymore. Most of the friends I had then are scattered across different servers. Some have quit the game entirely, some just want different things from the game than I do now.
One thing I have learned though, is when things were really bad one of the things that kept me sane was Warcraft and its virtual world. I could log in, if only for a while, and take a mental vacation there.
Almost as though, before it all happened, my friend had sent a touristy postcard saying “Escape to Azeroth”.