Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Losing Connection

This time of year is a strange time for me; I get little melancholic and a lot nostalgic. September seems to herald both beginnings and ends as the leaves change colour and the temperature cools; it's time for warm scarves and spicy cider. Classes begin and I miss the feeling of starting a new school year. Fall slips into the still-open windows while summer is ending, and the warm nights with long winding conversations outside go with it.

Every year around this time, I get the same feeling.

The itch to be around people, do something, go somewhere. Figure out what am I doing with my life. This year that feeling is particularly noticeable. The last few years I feel like I'm finally becoming myself. So much of my teen and adult life has been a cycle of "getting better" that I don't know what to do when I am well.

It's taken a long time to get where I am in terms of my health. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. Between surgeries and trying all the different medications, I retreated into World of Warcraft. For a time, all I could do was play. It was too hard to go out, my friends were all further away than I was comfortable driving. Warcraft let me sit in my room and talk to my friends online when all I was capable of was sitting upright.

All of this history with Warcraft (meeting my boyfriend, and current friends) seems to culminate with this year. In February this year I stopped raiding mythic difficulty with Apotheosis in World of Warcraft. Seven years of raiding at the highest level I could until midnight, three nights a week and I'd finally had enough. Quitting entirely was not an option so I switched to raiding in a new, more casual, raid group. While I adore the people I play with now, I do miss my remaining friends in Apotheosis. And so, I'll log in to the Apotheosis forums to check on things or to be nosy (who doesn't?), but the other day I saw something that made my heart sink.

I logged into the Apotheosis website on a whim and found that the wife of one of the guys I've known for a very long time was hospitalized (she's now recovering out of hospital). Leaving that guild, and removing myself from logging in every day and chatting online with that group of people has directly separated me from what is happening in their lives now.

To give a little background, there was a core group of people that I've been playing Warcraft with for a long time. Over the years the group trickled down to a few people. These were people I shared a lot of moments in our lives with - graduating high school, getting into university, surgery, graduation from university, meeting my boyfriend, and more. Life happens! New jobs, moving, weddings, babies - lots of things that open the door for reevaluating how you spend your time.

Now I play WoW two nights a week and I'm thinking about dropping my subscription. I've met so many people through Warcraft that it feels a little blasphemous to even consider being done completely. The problem with WoW for me is that when I played it more, I had time. And it was at a time in my life where all my friends were close and everyone I knew online was a good friend. I'm not sure if I'm nostalgic for the game or that time of my life.

All things must come to an end though, and no game company has given me those feelings of missing my friends as much as BioWare has. Mass Effect and Dragon Age are two titles where the characters are so well written that when I'm done playing them, I have to go cry under a blanket for a few hours because I miss them so much. And then I usually load up the game and start again.

This year saw the final DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition released, Trespasser picks up where the main game ended. Your companions have all come back for one last hurrah while the powers that be decide what to do with your (now) very threatening military force. I learned that these characters, most of them friends to my inquisitor, went their separate ways during this two year hiatus.

Mirroring real life, Trespasser made me long for when I could just pop by a friends dorm room at school or see Dorian lounging in his armchair as I sped by to see Leliana. At the end of Trespasser, all your companions go back to their lives while your inquisitor (depending on how you ended the game) is alone.

The DLC starts off slow as you check on each companion one by one, catching up on the last two years. There are lovely reunions, new romances blossoming and even a wedding (if you romanced certain someones). But very quickly it starts to feel like you're careening towards the end, and there's nothing left to do but walk through that last mirror and no amount of saving will stop it and I knew it was coming so why am I so sad?

The characters I love in my games are there, they always will be - but their stories are done for now. Just like in high school or university, you meet people and say you'll keep in touch but you never do. That group of people with whom I used to roam the halls or enjoy an after raid chat at 2am are gone, scattered all over the country or lost to time.

Growing apart is natural, I just wish it didn't hurt.