This is one of the most relaxing mixes I’ve ever heard. Despite having never played the title, I throughly enjoyed this melodic journey.
The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so.
Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.
Warcraft Weekend continues, and this time we’ve been graced by one of my faovrite bloggers on the face of the internet! From The Life of Jan, it’s, well, Jan! This blogger wrote not one, not two, but three lengthy posts for Hyrule: See the Sights, Hear the Sounds. Now she’s back with another doozy, and I’ve been so excited to publish it for the world to read. After you’re done here, be sure to head over to her blog and get to know her with her recent Q&A piece!
The middle part of Warcraft Weekend and the next chapter of The Games That Define Us begins now!
– Matthew, Normal Happenings
For pieces of the heart…
Game: World of Warcraft
Release Date: November 23, 2004
It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.
I was just a naive, impressionable 14 year old girl when World of Warcraft was released in the US, in late 2004. At the time, I was a quiet, nerdy band geek, with few friends, and far too many active game files on The Sims 2. Although I owned a handful of GameBoys, as well as my trusty, well-worn N64, and played a handful of various games on a regular basis (The Sims, Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, Pokemon, and DDR mostly), I hardly considered myself a “gamer” at the time. Most of the friends that I did have were pretty hardcore when it came to both console and PC gaming, and I just didn’t get it. Maybe it had something to do with how they enjoyed torturing me whenever we played together, usually by killing me over and over in Halo 2, or some other shooter game, and it definitely wasn’t fun for me. Aside from a few, select franchises, not many other games had really been able to interest me, or hold my attention, and I couldn’t understand how people could get so consumed by them, and act so competitively.
At the time of World of Warcraft‘s release, I was dating a boy who was definitely what the world would consider a “gamer“. Of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible, because he was a great guy, but he definitely fit a lot of those all-too-familiar stereotypes that come to mind when you say the word “gamer”. In early 2005, when World of Warcraft had been out for a couple of months, my then boyfriend convinced me to make a character on his account (yes, we were ignorant 15 year olds, and hadn’t really paid much attention to the rules in the ToS). I was hesitant at first, because I was the type of person who absolutely abhorred being embarrassed in video games by my friends, and didn’t want this to be a more fantastical version of us playing Halo together. However, my anxiety was eased slightly once I saw all of the customization options, which was always (and still is) something that I loved in the games that I played.
The first character that I ever made was a Night Elf druid, simply because of how beautiful they were. I named her “Deuxfois”. I had no idea what the name meant, just that it was French, and sounded cool, which was all that really mattered to my 15 year old self. I’m pretty sure I used Google translate, or Babelfish, to come up with it. My boyfriend was an Undead Mage, and you better believe that he gave me a hard time about choosing an Alliance character, especially since I had to be on a different server than him, since this was back in the Vanilla WoW days, when you could only play one faction per realm. My first experience in the game was cowering in fear over the idea of killing a very small, very non confrontational boar. I just stood there, totally frozen, and freaking out, while my boyfriend cheered me on to just go up to it and give it a good whack. It took awhile, but that’s exactly what I did. I felt like a total badass. While I would later abandon my little Night Elf, and reroll as a Troll shaman on my boyfriend’s realm, I made many, many other druids later down the road. Little did I know at the time, my small victory over that innocent, passive boar would be the start of an incredible, 10-year long adventure in Azeroth.
High school was hard for me. I struggled with anxiety and depression, had a rough home life, and didn’t have many friends. I experienced trauma, breakups, teenage drama, and all sorts of hardships that would normally have been very difficult for me to get through alone. Only, I wasn’t completely alone. You see, during those four years of high school that I struggled through, I kept playing World of Warcraft. I not only played the game, but I loved it, and I was good at it. I had managed to come out of my shell, and express myself in ways that I hadn’t been able to do before, and it changed me in some pretty obvious ways. My confidence and self-esteem had increased, and I began making friends from all across the country, and beyond. Every night, I was surrounded by these amazing, supportive, like minded people, who I could talk to about anything and everything, while we explored this beautiful, exciting, online world together. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel completely alone.
When I was a junior in high school, I met a boy on World of Warcraft. We were in the same guild together, and people often confused us for one another, because our names were so similar. One night, we got to talking about how funny it was that people were always confusing us, which turned into talking about other games we like to play, and then into more personal subject matter. He changed my life entirely. We spent hours and hours a day talking about life, our families, school, the trials and tribulations of being teenagers, bad relationships, trauma, and everything else in our lives. After a short while, we started texting, then talking on the phone for hours on end. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, I found myself completely in love with this boy who I had never even met. He encouraged me to embrace life, and be the best version of myself. He made me feel like I was worthy of love, and friendship, and compassion. By the end of my senior year, we were applying for colleges together, which was something that I never saw myself doing. After graduation, I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my old life, hopped on a plane, and flew to Missouri to stay with him and his family for an entire week, before driving up to Newfoundland, Canada to start school. We had it all planned out, and looked forward to taking on the world together.
Unfortunately, our life together was not all sunshine and rainbows, and I have no one to blame for that by myself. While at college, I continued to play World of Warcraft, while he chose to stop, so he could focus on school. While our relationship was okay for the most part, I spent many days, and many very late nights, playing online. I skipped classes, slept through alarms because I had fallen asleep at 3:00 a.m., and spent a lot of time in my room, instead of going to social functions, getting a job, or making friends. He excelled at all of the things that I found myself failing horribly at. I distanced myself from real life, and I totally immersed myself in this online world, despite the negative impact that it was having on my real life, and how neglectful I was becoming. By the end of the school year, despite being a straight A student in high school, I was nearly failing all of my classes, and my GPA was horrifyingly low. But I kept playing. Because of my grades, and the fact that I was now completely broke, I ended up dropping out of college, moving back to the US, and moving in with a friend, who I had also met online. My boyfriend and I eventually broke up, and I found myself starting over again.
The years kind of blurred together for a while after that. Although I kept playing World of Warcraft after I left school, there were long periods of time where I struggled financially to pay my rent and my bills, which of course meant I couldn’t afford to play the game either. I had to stop logging in for stretches of several months at a time. My real life was an absolute trainwreck, and everything was fall apart around me, and that bled into my escape. Even when I was fortunate enough to be able to afford my monthly subscription, I often felt that logging in had become more of a chore, rather than a way to escape from the struggles of my reality, which was becoming harder and harder to escape from. By this time, so many of my original friends from the game had moved on with their lives, either quitting the game entirely, or moving to different realms to pursuit new ventures. I had a hard time finding a new place that I fit in, and new friends that I could talk to. I bounced around from realm to realm, from guild to guild, switching back and forth between factions, and leveling up character after character. I had a certain pride, as well as a kind of shame, in how many characters I had managed to level up, but it all felt overwhelmingly pointless with no one to enjoy the game with. I raided, I collected, and I farmed, but it was a very lonely way to spend my life. I felt myself growing more and more isolated, both in the online community, and in real life. I dealt with depression, as well as intrusive thoughts, and felt like there was no place I could turn to to escape my demons anymore.
I struggled with this for several years.
Then, in early 2012, I decided that if I couldn’t find somewhere that I belonged, then I would create a place instead. On February 2, 2012, I published my very first episode of the Something Suggestive podcast. Armed with only a borrowed headset, a hand-me-down computer, some free recording and editing software, and a few other World of Warcraft podcasts as inspiration, I began dedicating all of my free time, and most of my energy, to producing podcast content that was informative, entertaining, and witty. Within a few episodes, I was receiving emails, tweets, and whispers from people in the community who appreciated my show, and wanted to talk to me, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a warmth growing inside of me that I thought I had lost for good.
I hosted the Something Suggestive podcast for a little over a year. During that time, I made friends and connections with people who are still in my life today, with whom I can’t imagine my life without. I interviewed prominent people in the World of Warcraft community, guest hosted on several other, popular podcasts, and created a name, and a following, for myself. I was even approached by two, wonderful people, who offered to be segment creators on my podcast, one for mounts and one for achievements, and even still today, they are two of my closest, most trusted friends, who I can’t even imagine my life without.
Unfortunately, the bigger my podcast became, the more attention I got, and it certainly was not always positive. I received a lot of anonymous, harassing emails and messages, as well some pretty nasty reviews on iTunes, and encountered a handful of people whose intentions were not always kind, including a few instances of stalking, and long-term harassment. At the time, I was one of very few female, World of Warcraft podcasters, and the only solo female host that I knew of, in a time where female gamers still weren’t as widely accepted and listened to as they are now. It was hard. At one point, I was invited to join a new, growing guild by someone who I considered to be a friend. Unfortunately, I came to realise after some time that this fellow podcast creator only wanted to use me for publicity and recruitment. Whatever “friendship” we had ended pretty suddenly, publicly, and very messily, and I ended up leaving the guild, if only for the sake of my own wellbeing and sanity. I lost a lot of so-called friends after that, and my name was dragged through the mud for months.
Shortly after the fallout, I was approached by several other people in the podcast community, who told me about a large community of content creators, listeners, and friendly folks that resided together on one realm. I had heard about this community of people, and their founder, and how they used addons to communicate between the numerous sister guilds. It was definitely cool. Without giving it a second thought, I moved all of my characters to the now well-known Earthen Ring realm, and joined one of the many AIE guilds there. It was a fresh start for me, and it was one of the highlights in all of my 10 years playing World of Warcraft. I had all of my friends beside me, an incredible raid team where I was able to really hone my skills, and a support system of people who wanted to help me succeed, both online and off. I fell in love with the game all over again, and even found new things to fall in love with, like putting together awesome transmog sets, and collecting rare vanity pets. I finally felt like myself again.
Unfortunately, like so many other times in my life, all good things had to come to an end. On April 1, 2013, the final episode of Something Suggestive was posted, hosted by a close friend, and fellow content creator, instead of myself. Just days prior, I was forced to step away from my beloved podcast, and the World of Warcraft community once more, when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, after four years together. I was given no choice, and had to leave most of my belongings behind, including my computer, one of my cats. I lost my home, and four years of my life. With the loss of my relationship, came the loss of what few real life friends I had made over the previous four years, and I once again was finding myself feeling completely isolated and alone. I had moved so far away from everything familiar and comfortable to be with this man, and now it was all gone. For nearly two years, I lived without a phone or internet. I felt cut off from my online friends, my new fans, my community, and everything that I knew and loved, while living in an unfamiliar town, filled with painful memories. I felt lower than I had felt in a long time, and it was a very scary time for me. I had a lot of dark thoughts, and felt like I had very little to live for. A few weeks after moving into my own apartment, when I was just starting to feel like I could actually get a grip on my life, and try to move forward, I lost my job. And that nearly killed me.
But then, things got better, and my story was given a happy ending. After my breakup, and the loss of my job, I met a wonderful man, who treated me better than I ever thought that I deserved. Even his family welcomed me with open arms. I found a new job, that I absolutely loved, and made new friends. During my two years away from the internet and gaming, I got engaged, got pregnant, moved to a new town with the love of my life, and had a beautiful, little boy. After my son’s birth, I returned to World of Warcraft, where I received an exuberant welcome from my friends and AIE guildmates on Earthen Ring. I played casually, usually while my son napped, or late at night, and spent a lot of time farming for my guild, helping to supply the amazing raid team that I was no longer geared enough to raid with. I’ll admit, that stung a bit, but I wanted to support them. However, despite my warm reception, and the support of my friends, I never could quite get back into the game. I tried to reignite my love for pet collecting, and transmog sets, but it just didn’t click. Too much time had passed, and too much had changed in my life. So, I stepped away from World of Warcraft, one last time, on my own terms.
It has now been three years since I last logged into World of Warcraft, but I often find myself reading up on the new expansions, and all the drama and craziness that comes with them. I watch my friends tweet and post about new mounts, storylines, gear sets, and everything else. I roll my eyes at the politics of the game, and cringe at how much a video game can divide so many people, who are all just trying to escape reality, and have a little fun. I get wrapped up in the hype of BlizzCon every year, and gush over all the photos my friends post, even though I know I will never get to go myself. I retweet all the new podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and blog posts, trying to show love and support to my friends and their endeavors, the way they supported me in mine. It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.
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