Bear has had plenty of ups and downs being a part of the MMORPG community for over 15 years and has seen some things. Oh, man, the things. The good, the bad, the marriages, the divorces. In-game funerals, people showing off the most appalling behavior under the guise of anonymity and what have you. There really is no excuse for the awful behavior, and when the tear jerking sweet moments happen, it makes you thankful that you can experience something so wonderful alongside people you only know through a digital world.
Community can be damning and trying. I've seen people band together and raise sheer hell over little things that don't really matter, like what the release date is for a game that's still in the alpha stage of development. I've seen people mocked and bullied in game. I've watched people be complete assholes for no reason. Just a few days ago in World of Warcraft, I was going through Molten Core with my second 100. People weren't getting the idea of what to do (because this is what happens when you have people experiencing the zone for the first time and others are waiting until the fight to explain how thing work), and one of the tanks decided – for whatever reason – that he would pull Shazzrah and all of the mobs in the room, wipe us and then rage quit the raid. It's not hard to have patience with new people if they're willing to listen. We wiped on the first pack of core hounds, but no issues after that.
We've all seen what damage can be done at the hands of a few with GamerGate and what happened to women in gaming like Anita Sarkeesian. It's easy for me to dislike something and move on. If someone tells me that what I consider normal behavior is offensive, I don't want to lash out and turn into Super Bully because I don't think it's offensive; I use this as an opportunity to open a dialog. I like to consider myself to be empathetic, so it's not that hard for me to understand where someone is coming from, when it's a rational discussion. Unfortunately, there are too many who are quick to judge, rely on knee jerk reactions, and those who do not want to experience empathy. They make the rest of our community look bad and I honestly believe we should do what we can to ostracize this behavior. It's our community, so there's no reason why we continue to condone (yes, failing to call out poor behavior is condoning it, like it or not) assholery.
On the flip side, I've seen some truly amazing feats come from our community. There's a reason why I wanted to get into community in the first place (if you don't know me, I began volunteering in gaming communities around 2005). I can easily look through my Facebook friends list and see people I originally met through EverQuest, many of whom I am not only actual friends with to this day, but still talk to them regularly. Some, I've never met before in my life, but I've got to watch them grow up, even if it's been through digital means. Quite a few I've had the absolute pleasure of meeting. I have similar friends and relationships forged through World of Warcraft and EverQuest II. When you spend that much time working together to accomplish one goal as a whole, you can't help but get to know the people you're doing it with.
I'm in a similar situation with my current guild in World of Warcraft. Not all of us know each other, but we're all linked through real life relationships. Several people I used to work with are in the guild, as well as people they've worked with, significant others, and other real life friends. Everyone in the guild is pretty remarkable: we're all more than willing to help out one another, no matter what we're doing. Today we had a group help myself and another guild mate do Heroics for the Khadgar quest for alts. I've had the opportunity to learn fights as both a tank and a healer. I've helped others learn fights. When I wanted to switch mains, folks helped me gear up my Priest. It's pretty much the best kind of guild you could hope to be in and I consider myself really lucky. I know I probably would have gotten bored of World of Warcraft again already if I didn't have a good group of folks to play with.
Speaking of World of Warcraft, when I think of the gaming community being truly awesome, two stories from this year really stick out in my mind. Until now, I only wrote about one of them, but now I'll have the opportunity to write about both. While I know that this isn't the only subcommunity that has had really amazing reactions from the game's players, I think these two stories are really amazing examples.
Late in 2014, I wrote about Isemia, the EMT who had literally saved a depressed and suicidal teenager from killing himself by talking about World of Warcraft. As I reread my old article to make sure I get the story straight, once again, I'm sitting here weepy-eyed from strangers being so kind to others. The tale of Isemia isn't the only one I wrote about that day. While Isemia gave the mother of this suicidal person $20 to go towards purchasing World of Warcraft, as well as getting a subscription. Remember, the base game is pretty damn cheap without the latest expansion. Isemia's story ends a month later when the teen's mom showed up at his workplace, knocking on the EMT office. She came by to thank him for changing her son's life for the better. No longer was her son's life ruled by bullies at school; now he happily talked about all of the friends he had been making in Azeroth.
My article went on to talk about the post in the World of Warcraft subreddit where the original thread from the forums was linked to. In the comments, not only were people being incredibly supportive of Isemia, but many had similar tales of their own to share. Unlike Isemia, they weren't the ones with the $20. The were the ones who had the community reach out to them. My favorite is a fellow Azrothian who stated in guild chat that they felt suicidal. Even though this person had never met any guildmates before, they tracked this person down. Some showed up in person while others called the authorities.
Depression comes in various forms and it's more common than you think. Unfortunately, there is such a stigma surrounding mental health, that it can be hard to find the right people to talk to. If you're considering harming yourself, do know there are ways you can reach out to professionals who want to help you. If you're in the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.TALK) has been around for decades. Recently, I learned about online chat rooms such as Crisis Chat, which is similar, but an online chat (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has an online chat now, but it has narrow hours - see Crisis Chat's resource list for off-hours help). Have anxiety in regards to talking on the phone? Give them a try. While I could go on about how I feel this entire planet needs a mental health overhaul and work together to end the stigma of mental issues, this column today is about community and not the world's poor treatment of mental health issues. If you're interested in my personal journey into and out of depression (although, no one is ever truly out of it), see my column from a couple of weeks ago. Whatever you're going through, know that you're not alone in it and people like me know you're worth it.
The other aww-ish tale regarding the World of Warcraft community doing awesome things happened in a couple of different places on Reddit before the holidays. A struggling mother had posted in /r/RandomActsOfChristmas about how she really wanted to do something nice for her boy, who would otherwise have no presents for the year. Long story short, she took in children of a relative. They would receive presents, but all of the mom's monetary resources went towards food and shelter. She just wanted her boy to have something to open. While WoW certainly wasn't the majority of the post, she did mention that her son enjoyed it, but his computer wasn't functioning and couldn't even play the game (so, no subscription, which people were wondering about). Reddit, much like any other community, has some real sour tarts out there, but there are also plenty of people who want to do good things, and this story is a perfect example of it.
The post from Random Acts was also posted to the World of Warcraft subreddit. The community banded together to help this woman give her son a great Christmas, including people offering to help get her son's computer back up and running. One Redditor bought her son a new tablet. Another a World of Warcraft beanie. Little things and big things gave this kid a really rad Christmas and helped a mother be far less stressed over the holidays. I highly recommend reading this mother's story in its entirety, as well as the reaction from the World of Warcraft community. I promise you, it's a tear jerker. Unless you're some heartless bag of other organs.
I think this story touched me so much because the mother, Tonya, reminds me quite a lot of my own mom. Tonya worked long hours at a minimum wage job to scrape by and provide for her son and her wards. While I was an only child and my mom didn't take in any cousins of mine, she did have temporary guardianship of my best friend in high school. My mom worked minimum or close to minimum wage jobs her entire life. She's by far one of the most amazing people I've ever had in my life, and I'd like to imagine that Tonya is just as incredible. Sadly, I lost my mom last April, so this has been my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. I'd give anything for a $20 gift card from her just one more time and I still have the Christmas card she sent me the previous year. I received one present this year for Christmas, from someone I have only recently met. He probably had no idea how much a small gesture like that would mean to me, but it meant a lot, and this is yet another tale of how our community can be really awesome. Sometimes it's unintentional, but it's still super awesome.
I think I'll end this column here. I think I've had enough tears for the day. I'm not ashamed to admit that, either. I miss my parents dearly and am envious of people who still get to spend the holidays with theirs. I'm thankful that we have mothers like Tonya and members like Isemia in our community who help make it so awesome. Yes, all of those GamersGate boychilds crying about Meninism (yeahhhhhh, that's a real term now) need to grow up and learn that women, non-cis folk, minorities and anyone else who isn't a brave white man isn't out there to “get them” because we want to change our community to truly be as accepting and inclusive as it claims to be.