Back to the desktop. My wife was due home in an hour, but I wasn't quite ready to give up yet. As if on a mission, my mouse cursor went to the games folder, and selected the small black icon with the yellow star. The game launcher flashed onto the screen, and all the baggage I'd been carrying around came right back to the surface. My mouth tightened, and as I entered my username and password I breathed a frustrated sigh.
I was returning, once again, to Star Wars Galaxies.
While the game was patching, I noticed the community manager had thoughtfully listed player-run holiday events for each server, and beneath my server name something caught my eye. My old player association (guild), a group I'd fed and clothed for months in 2004, was holding a holiday party. And they were holding it as of about 10 minutes ago. I quickly logged in to check out the festivities.
The orchestral strains of the Naboo theme rose from my speakers as my Mon Calamari tailor stood up from the couch in his palatial home. I was no longer formally a part of the PA, but apparently my presence didn't go unnoticed: I'd hardly finished getting my hotbar in order when the first private message appeared in my chat window. What I'd hoped to be a low-key zip around the galaxy was about to turn into a homecoming.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure I was ready to say hello to old friends, but after that private message, I didn't have much choice. The PA's hunt leader had just had remodeled her house with one of the new Mustafari bunkers, and I just had to see what she'd done with the fountain. With private messages scrolling up my screen, I put on the best duds I could find and set off for the starport.
As I made my way to the PA's burgeoning city. I couldn't help but reflect on planet Rori's beauty. The city was a reflection of the natural wonder the designers had envisioned for Naboo's sister satellite; the PA's architect (and mayor) loved fountains, and cascading water was everywhere. Familiar landmarks guided me toward the city's center. Just off the main square, I found myself in the first crowd I'd seen off of Tatooine in quite some time. Almost 20 people were gathered to catch up, hang out and survey the new digs the hunt leader would now be calling home.
After a long and mostly lonely night, the response I received when I pulled up on my old banger of a speeder was nothing short of jaw dropping. I'd been gone quite a long time, but I was not forgotten. Enthusiastic emotes began flooding my window, and the disconnected malaise I'd been experiencing washed away in the outpouring of goodwill. Old friends, business partners, hunting buddies and even the clique of drama queens who had forced me out of the PA in the first place were all expressing their appreciation for my return.
It was right around the time I found myself doing dance moves next to a jukebox that I realized I was smiling. A bunch of people had gone off to hunt, but there were still six or so of us left behind grooving and talking about old times. Many of them were dressed in Christmas red and green, and the theme from the Mos Eisley cantina played on. As I took a moment to look at the scene from outside myself, I realized how incredibly dorky the whole experience was, but my smile didn't dim a bit. These were people I'd never met and wasn't even that close to, but just the same, we were having something very closely approaching a Christmas party.