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The Good Ending

Sean Sands | 25 Dec 2007 11:33
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My brother is an avid World of Warcraft player, but the kind that spends as much time day-trading in the auction house as he does questing in the wilderness. Being a virtual entrepreneur, he obviously suggested I sell my character. He cursed at me when I told him I was just going to delete it.

Undaunted, I set a death date, circled it on the calendar and decided to try and get some closure. I began operating from a death wish list, finishing off the things I'd always wanted to try, like a dying man with time enough to finally take that skydiving trip.

At first, the kill date loomed on the calendar, and I knew a great many things would have to go undone. Then, an interesting thing started to happen. The closer I came to this end date and the more I met my finite goals, the more I began to feel like I was finishing the game. By creating some sense of an impending closure, like any single-player game, I was creating the narrative of my character's life and death. With a timer on the clock instead of an endless treadmill, I was coming to terms with the game ending. I wasn't killing off my character. I was finishing World of Warcraft, just like I might finish Halo 3 or BioShock.

On the last day of my character's life he did a great many stupid things. He flew his epic mount high above the Hellfire Peninsula and then leapt off to see how long it'd take to fall. He tried to see how long he could solo a Fel Reaver. He rode his epic mount into Stormwind to see how far he could get before being slaughtered at the feet of some rather startled Alliance characters. He jumped into the lava near the entrance to the Molten Core just because it was there. I'd like to tell you I've never had more fun playing the game, but then I'd be lying. Mostly, I was just stalling.

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Finally, I traveled to Thunder Bluff, a grim homecoming, and began unceremoniously destroying armor I had come to prize. I could have simply deleted the character to the same effect, but I felt like I needed a clean break both within the world as well as without, and seeing the prompts come up, which may as well have said, "Are you crazy?!" infused the moment with the sense of finality I was seeking. Here went 40 hours of dungeon crawling, there went the fruits of countless hours of PvP, these artificial items I had coveted were a This is Your Life of wasted days. The reality of the time I spent in-game settled on me with less weight than I had thought it would. I gave my stashes of cloth, money, leather and elemental motes to guild mates, who thought I was nuts.

Then, when everything that once had meaning was gone, I bid farewell, logged out and set to the task of deleting the character.

This was the moment when I knew I could have my cake and eat it, too. I could save the character and write this article, knowing now, after stripping it naked and casting all its possessions to the void, how it would feel to actually go through with this murderous deed. I hesitated as the prompt begged my confirmation. I could leave the character, disappear for a few weeks, write this article and then go back to begin amassing my wealth anew. Certainly I had done enough by deleting all my gear. It seemed plausible, even desirable to throw everything away to see if I could gather it all back. I typed the delete confirmation, and paused again. This was the equivalent of stashing the cigarettes in a plastic bag in the toilet bowl, just in case; hiding a half-full bottle of whiskey in a shoebox at the back of the closet, just in case. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, that sensation was no easier to overcome than it was when I quit my other vices. All I had to do was press the Enter key.

Sean Sands is a freelance writer, one of the co-founder of Gamerswithjobs.com and runs a small graphic design business with his wife near Minneapolis. When not writing about gaming, he can often be found playing video games and pretending to call it work.

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