This past weekend was very special to me, as my husband and I celebrated our third anniversary. On Saturday we put the baby in the car, loaded up with blankets, snacks and drinks, then drove down to the local drive-in theater for our first night out on the town together in months. We ate hotdogs and drank strawberry shakes, watched Disney Pixar’s Brave and The Avengers our of the back of the SUV, and as we basked in the warmth of a beautiful June summer night we also reminisced about our last three years as a married couple. Just three short years, but then oh so much has happened since.
This was also the weekend I finally caught up to all my blog posts in my reader. In doing so, I had the pleasure of discovering an awesome blog as well as stumbling upon a mini-phenomenon called “All the ways World of Warcraft changed me.” It was interesting to say the least, reading all the earnest responses from bloggers who have revealed how their lives as gamers have changed since coming in contact with WoW.
It’s because WoW has changed me too, all right. Would you believe it has changed my entire life?
It’s funny, because my husband and I still talk about this very subject sometimes. As some of my readers know, the two of us met in WoW, so the game has remained important to me not only because it has changed the way I think about and look at MMOs, but it also has had an unquestionable impact on my personal life. I would like to share our story here.
It was November of 2007. My studies in occupational therapy and work in the Alzheimer’s ward and palliative care at the local hospital had led me to enter a period of deep depression and anxiety. At the time I was also living with a guy with whom I was involved in an emotionally bankrupt relationship, and I knew it. Add to that the dispiriting dark days of a blustery Canadian winter, and you could say I was in a very bad place.
Back then, one of the few joys I had to look forward to the end of each day was playing WoW. It was the perfect escape, a way I could relax each night. In Azeroth, I could almost forget all my worries and doubts.
I played a feral druid, main tanking and co-leading raids with the best mage in our guild, who also happened to be a very nice man. Amidst the many hours discussing boss fight strategies, figuring out our DKP loot system and wrangling guildies to fill our raid rosters, somewhere along the way we had become good friends. On our nights off, we quested together, doing those dreaded dailies which I hated even then as much as I do now. Still, the mage’s good humor and cheerful company always made them more tolerable.
A couple months later, the life I was living became increasingly more dreary, and I think something in me finally just snapped. One horrible day after a bad experience at the hospital, I suffered a severe nervous breakdown. As a result, I had to quit my work and studies and ended up staying overseas with my parents for a month, in order to recover.
It was not the restful vacation I had in mind, and things only got worse. My mom and dad treated my visit as an intervention; out of love, they tried to help without truly understanding, and in their misguided attempts heaped an unbearable amount of pressure upon me. One day, that dead-end relationship I was in also finally imploded, spectacularly. My ex threw a savage fit, took his destructive anger out on our place that we shared, and wrote me a letter threatening to hurt himself. My parents, concerned for my safety, told me I wasn’t to return to my apartment, not if he was going to be there. And so that’s how I also became jobless, boyfriendless, and homeless, all in the span of a few short weeks.
Meanwhile, I was still halfway around the world, away from familiar comforts, feeling all alone, depressed, and helpless to do anything about it. There were days where I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and never wake up.
At that point, I’m afraid not even WoW could lift my spirits. But my good friend the mage did. We would log onto WoW but would not play. His character idled on the top of Shattrath with mine while he did nothing but listen to me on Vent as I ranted, whined, and cried, basically unloading all the stresses that had been plaguing me for the last few months. Because of the time difference, sometimes these conversations would last long into the night, but he would always stay up to make sure I was going to be all right.
I think it shocked me afterwards, that despite knowing each other so well after hundreds of hours spent in-game together he was still all but a stranger I’d never met, and yet he was so patient and kind just as a good friend should be. When I got better, I realized that throughout that whole ordeal he was there for me, and supported me emotionally at a time when that was all I ever really wanted and needed.
I don’t exactly remember when I first fell in love with him, but I do know that that was the moment I finally admitted to myself how I felt. It took another while to finally muster up the courage to admit it to him. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, knowing that if I screwed things up I could stand to lose not only our friendship, but also the enjoyment of a game in which I have had so many fond memories and fun times. After all that had happened, playing WoW with him remained a diversion I could count on when everything else had come apart, so what if that was gone too?
Well, not to draw out the suspense, but obviously you know how things turned out. My husband told me later that he himself had felt the same way about me for a long time, but played the gentleman and said nothing, knowing I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and was in a fragile state. Also, a part of him could scarcely dare to hope that his feelings would be requited. If he ever suspected I felt the same way for him, he never let on, wanting to let me be the one to act upon my feelings in my own time, on my own terms. In response, I told him if he could’ve given me just even the tiniest hint of how he felt, he could have saved me a ton of sleepless nights.
The two of us met for the first time in Toronto in February 2008. A year after that, we were engaged. Another year after that, we were married and finalizing my immigration papers to join him in the United States. Yet another year after that, I had packed up everything I owned and moved across the border to settle into the house we bought together. And finally, earlier this year, almost exactly four years to the day since I first met my friend the mage face-to-face, our beautiful daughter was born.
All this, because of a very special MMO. To some it may be just a game, but personally I know things would have been very different for me right now if it weren’t for WoW. I would not have my family. I would probably have gone back to healthcare and had a different job. I would have never left my home country. I probably would not be so happy. I look back now and can’t help but think that the day I opened my WoW account and created my druid and joined that guild must have been a true watershed moment. My life was changed forever and it would never be the same again.
Today, the two of us don’t play WoW anymore, but the game and our characters still hold a special place in our hearts. A mage and druid, now husband and wife. We remain avid gamers, continuing to play MMOs as a couple, all the while honoring our (*sigh*) spousal leveling contract.
Partners in-game, partners in life. When I was at my lowest, he helped me get better, and continues to heal me still — and yes, pun absolutely intended.
Gaming is happiness.
Here’s to many more years of both, babe.