Today, I did a thing I never expected I would do. I resubscribed to World of Warcraft and upgraded my 9-year-old account to the upcoming Legion expansion. As a teenager, I was very ill and spent a significant amount of time indoors, secluded and lonely. World of Warcraft marked a complete and positive change in my life and, for a time, was my almost-exclusive social interaction. We were all young (mostly college students) with time to kill and open hearts willing to make time for each other. We didn’t just raid and PvP together, we talked about new boyfriends/girlfriends, buying houses, having babies, cross-country moves, and the joys and struggles of college life. I have half a dozen real-life friends I met there, some of whom I’d already forgotten started as online friends.
When the announcement was made last year, I’d only just returned to gaming after a multi-year hiatus to pursue working full-time, graduate school, and gallivanting around the country. Gradually, through text, Facebook, and email I received comments and questions from my friends. “Are you thinking of seeing what it’s like?” “Did you hear about the new Warcraft movie?” “What server would you want to be on, if we did come back?” Others pre-ordered immediately, but I stalled.
Slowly at first, then all at once, my Battle.net friends list converted from “Diablo,” “Starcraft,” and “Overwatch” to “World of Warcraft” beside their names. And still, I stalled. I’d upgraded previous expansions, lulled back by my friends. And, although some of them were kind of fun, nothing replaced the close-knit group I had during Burning Crusade. The difficulty of the game and my expert Druid healing/tanking skills meant that I had a top-ranked primary guild and a friends list numbering in the hundreds where I worked with some of the best in the game for PvP rank and pushing content. It was a homecoming every time I logged in. Even out gathering, I rarely bumped into someone I didn’t know or a guild tag that wasn’t familiar, on both sides of the red and blue flags.
I went to see the Warcraft movie not long after opening night. I went with some geographically close real-life WoW nerds and on the same night as some not-so-geographically-close WoW nerds. It was a mostly familiar tale. It predates my WoW days, to single digits, when my cousin and I watched her dad play the old school RTS games. I was moved to appreciate the horde in a way I never had before. Although I played both sides, I’d started Alliance and mained Ally (sorry, Robyn!). And still, I stalled.
Then, two days ago, I watched the new Legion trailer.
I was puzzled by the strong emotional reaction I had. I was nearly moved to tears, although the video itself tells hardly any of the story. I realized, then, that wrapped up in these characters, and this story, is my own story. I have an emotional connection to Legion, because in my mind it is connected to all of the people Burning Crusade brought me and the story we heard together. It’s branding at it’s best, but it also feels a bit like homecoming. I’ve been here before, pondering the time commitment and the expense of a game that has disappointed me more than once. In the end, I chose to hope.
If nothing else, it’s been awhile since some of us have had a chance to catch up.