The Day After

The Day After
Every Game Is the End of the World

Nick Halme | 15 Jun 2010 12:14
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When I entered World of Warcraft with my high school friends, it changed the way the world worked. We had entered high school as a group of misfits, the remainder from a split during our transition from middle school. After two years of being the big kids, we were now the runts, and half our social circle was across town. We had lost our muscle, both physically and mentally, and we had to rethink our position.

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But once we discovered WoW, things changed for us. We had something to talk about at lunch. Our group became tighter. The cooler and more thick-headed of us came out of their shells. At night, we quested together, hunted players together, raided towns and dungeons and really got to know each other. Some of us were valiant, some of us were cunning and underhanded even with friends, and some of us were absent minded. But we were all fighting the same fight, all on the same side. During the day, we talked about our nights in WoW.

This pulled us all together, but it was also a rebellion. We spit on the real world, made it jealous by meeting our alternate world in a cheap hotel in the middle of the night. We slipped back into bed with the real world and smiled and gave it a kiss. But we grinned the grin of the cheater.

We skipped classes, ignored our social status, parties, and for the most part, girls. It was nothing personal. We just knew of another place where we had control. Where, like feudal knights, we could secure our place through sheer force of will and camaraderie. A place full of chances to prove to other people what our character was made of. A very different place from the waxed, white halls of our fluorescent-lit high school, with its politics and cliques and passive aggression.

As teenagers, we amounted to nothing. As rogues and priests, we were players. Johan Huizinga posited that ever since we had the language to separate "War" and "Game" we have nonetheless gravitated towards their coalescence by labeling war as a game: a thing with rules to be won and lost. Maybe it allows us to simplify in a civilized way. Maybe when the Combat des Trente took place, an arranged battle between sixty knights, they were just putting a face to chaos by obeying the rules of their chivalry-bound game. If your world doesn't fit you, join a new world that does.

"Your appearance, your speech, everything from the career you held to the way you sneezed had to be planned and orchestrated ... Some either have the strength, or lack thereof, to accept this doctrine. Others, like myself, chose exile in a better world. That world was cyber space, and it was tailor-made for Japanese otaku."

- "Reformed" Japanese nerd from Max Brooks' World War Z.

In our societies, we can't take up the sword and shield and enter single combat. We can't go gallivanting around the countryside in search of adventure. As teenagers, we were repressed boys in a middling in-between world - no longer children and a long way from men.

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