Almost 10 years later and I still find myself returning back to the World of Warcraft.
If you're not a gamer, you probably don't care. If you do care, I'm assuming your intrigue stems from my outward appearance and lack of disheveled clothing, mustard stains near the collar, and unbrushed teeth. At 24 years old, I look nothing like the once reclusive hermit who much preferred spending Friday nights face-shoveling Chinese food while screaming, "THE ALLIANCE MUST DIE!" into my $20 Best Buy headset.
Yet at the core, I still find myself doing what gamers do, saying gamer things. I refer to my tasks at work as "quests," I trick myself into working late hours by drawing parallels to the glory days of WoW—how I once stayed up for 72 hours straight in Alterac Valley just because I wanted to hit Exalted with the Frostwolf Clan. I patiently listen to attractive girls spill their drama over dinner, and then, without any better all-encompassing response, I say, "GG." They tilt their head, confused. I have to explain myself. "GG means Good Game." They still don't get it. "You win, Good Game. Get it?" They nod, kind of. I am now forced to admit that I was once a gamer, that these little abbreviations mean something to me. They laugh, giggle, bite their lip a little bit, "Oooo, a gamer..." They think this is foreplay—we're foreplaying right now. They find my "nerd side" wildly attractive since nothing about my appearance actually portrays a nerd, meaning worst-case scenario, we bring a vibrating Xbox controller into bed. They play along. "Dating a nerd is kinky," they say. We're having so much fun. She wants to know more about the female Night Elves—"Can I be a bad Night Elf?" I patiently explain there are no "bad" Night Elves. All Night Elves are bad. Because all Night Elves are on the Alliance.
"I want to be on the Alliance," she says, reaching under the table and grazing her pointer finger along the inside of my jeans.
My head falls into my hands, frustrated. "No, you can't be on the Alliance. The Alliance are a bunch of immature twelve year olds with no friends. We're on the Horde."
She doesn't understand.
When I returned to the game back in 2010, all my dreams and aspirations of becoming a professional gamer resurfaced. In a matter of months, I reclaimed my spot among the top tier players, and my daily reality was quickly defined by my World of Warcraft schedule. The reason for my success over the years was because I treated the game like a sport, not a hobby, and in doing so, I learned that if I wanted to reach my full potential, I would need to seek out a teacher.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. My return to the game happened right as I had begun to make friends in the gym, whereupon a bodybuilding mentor had presented himself as a willing teacher. I was forced to make a choice, knowing I would never truly succeed at either if I attempted to do both, so I quit gaming for good and took up bodybuilding instead.
As a farewell to the community, I pulled together some of my recent video footage and put together a quick and final PvP Video, as a testament to my adventures. It was my way of saying goodbye, not just to my friends, but to the game and that part of myself—the kid who was afraid of ever stepping out from behind the keyboard and letting the world see the boy behind the character.
In the final scenes of the video, as I paid homage to my closest friends, I nodded towards a fellow Mage whom I had begun to study during my comeback months. His name was Cartoonz. He was brilliantly talented at playing the game, and had become a sort of YouTube sensation within the World of Warcraft community. Had bodybuilding not presented itself, he was my first choice as a teacher, and I had intended on reaching out to him in hopes of learning how to play at the national level, once again.
With a strong social media presence, I tweeted him the video and told him to check it out.
He tweeted back.
He looked me up on Instagram and saw that I had started bodybuilding. He inquired as to whether I would be willing to teach him what I knew.
We exchanged emails.
Two years later, and here he is in Chicago.
Growing up, I was told, quite adamantly in fact, that you can't make friends over the Internet. I was told that I was wasting my life spending hours upon hours playing video games. I was told that in 10 years, I would look back and regret all those afternoons I stayed inside, screaming at my computer, collecting digital items in a fantasy world. I was told that World of Warcraft was nothing but a waste of time.
Doesn't look like a waste of time to me.