Bloggy Xmas Day 7: Community and Me

Sitting down to write this, I can’t help but wonder why on Earth I signed up to write about community and gaming. I’m pretty introverted, so the idea that I might have anything to say about being a part of any community seems laughable. And to top it off, I don’t much like the Christmas season, either.

But the nature of community compels me to write anyway. Despite my own anti-social nature, I still feel like I’m a part of a gaming community–a collection of people who share a common enjoyment of gaming, particularly the online multiplayer variety.

If it weren’t for the existence of the gaming community, I would probably feel like an ostracized weirdo (more so than usual). I say that because I know almost nobody in real life who plays any kind of computer games other than puzzle or card games on Facebook. Most people I know in real life that are my age or above (cough 44 cough) find online multiplayer gaming to be an oddity that only strange people do. (Or at least that’s my perception.) Their only experience of it comes from whatever they hear on the news, which is rarely good. It’s not something they think that normal, healthy, well-adjusted adults would get involved in. As adults, if we are to play any kind of game with a group of people, it is generally expected that we are going to be in a room interacting with other people, without any need for computers.

(It’s a totally different story with the real life people I know under 40, though. For people in their twenties or thirties, playing online games seems to be a perfectly normal part of everyday life. I’m envious of younger generations for that.)

I first discovered the gaming community around 1996 or 1997, when I ventured onto the Internet to play Quake. In those days, people used dial-up modems to play games, and we envied and hated anyone who played from a college campus or work environment with a high-speed connection. I spent a ridiculous amount of money for an ISDN line to my rural house so that I could get better pings in Quake. For about a year, I had to dial into a number that wasn’t local, so my phone bills were hundreds of dollars every month.

It was worth it because I felt like a contributing member of a team where my skills were useful, and more importantly I felt like it was normal to play games with people scattered all over the country and the world. There were no judgments and everybody was an equal. I got involved in a “clan” that sprung up on a server that I played on frequently. We played in matches and tournaments, and won a fair number of them. (Back then, you didn’t get anything for winning a tournament except a pat on the back, but it was still great fun.) We also played Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call, which is where my love for MMORPGs started.

Between 2000 and 2006, real life started to intrude on my gaming and I drifted away from the online world, spending most of my time on single-player games. Then I saw that infamous Make Love, Not Warcraft episode of South Park, nostalgia overpowered me, and I dug out a demo CD of World of Warcraft that I’d had laying around for about a year. Since then I’ve played almost every major MMO that’s come out, at least for a little while.

My community involvement is different now than it was before 2000, though. I’m not involved in any guilds or clans anymore, so I don’t have much direct interaction with other gamers. (As I said, I don’t really know any other gamers in real life, except maybe my niece, but I don’t see her very often, and honestly it’s a bit weird for me when online worlds and real-life words collide.) Sometimes I think I should get more involved, and every now and then I join a guild in a game that I really like, but as an introvert, it’s a pretty major commitment for me. After spending all day at work interacting with other people, most nights I don’t want to socialize any more than I have to.

Still, I feel like I need to maintain some connection to the community, and that’s one of the reasons I write a gaming blog. For one thing, I like to write, and for another, I enjoy reading other bloggers’ adventures in the gaming world. It helps me to understand that it’s not weird to play games online, and it keeps me grounded in what can be a challenging world. And if I get that from other blogs, maybe someone, somewhere will get the same from my blog. It’s one small way that I can give back to a community that has been a big part of my adult life.

Merry Bloggy Xmas everyone! (Don’t forget to lock your doors so Santa doesn’t get you.)

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