It’s just a game. Or is it?

That’s a question that has been churning in my mind over the last few days. I have looked at it from I think every angle, trying to perceive its hidden substance, a deeper meaning, or even an obvious answer.

Why do I, a thirty-seven year old man, play a computer game like World of Warcraft? What blatant justification could there possibly be for anyone to sit for hours in front of a computer screen and immerse themselves into a fantasy world of RP and, at least for a time, forget about his RL? I can give you one such answer: Bruce Galloway.

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Bruce Galloway is my friend, and he passed away last week. He is one of the best examples I can name of the type of man you get when RP meets RL. He was firmly grounded in both, a fact that helped us become very good friends over a short seven months of gaming together. There were many other factors, of course, but it was our shared ability to RP together in game and talk to each other in RL that drew us in close. I wasn’t aware of it as it was happening, and we never took the chance to speak fully about it, much to my sorrow, but I think we both knew what was. We were just two grown men brought together by a common interest, and found out we had so much more to share and learn from each other.

It’s just a game. Or is it?

Bruce roleplayed a red headed female blood elf Shadow Priest named Milliway, and was one of the first RP contacts I met way back when our guild was still only a couple of weeks old. We grouped but a few times during those early days in and around The Ghostlands, but I well remember he was always in character. When our guild acquired a Ventrilo server, he was right in there with the rest of us, unabashed to be found out he was a male playing a female character. It was then that we fell in with a few other players / characters with whom we all felt right with, and our group grew in size and strength. One of those characters was another Priest, this one of the Holy class, and with my own Discipline-classed troll of the voodoo priest sect, together we were damn near inseparable and unbeatable.

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The knowledge of us three priests and our entire group spread quickly through the guild early on, helped more than a little by our proudly declaring the fact that we were three priests following one each of the class talent trees. We were almost always found in a group together, and hanging out in the same Vent room, just gaming and chatting and, maybe unaware to us, becoming the best of friends. As our characters developed and grew together, so did our human side, as we learned about each other’s earthly life and times.

Milliway had a much better sense of humor than I, both in game and out, and would often make me laugh out loud with some quick quip or deeply intellectual and witty comment. One specific memory, often repeated and even looked forward to, was when our gang would be strolling through some remote part of Azeroth, and Milli would suddenly spot an ore vein. In mid sentence, he would exclaim, “ooh, mithril!”, and go running off towards it, pulling us all smiling and laughing after her. One RP element to a troll is that they do enjoy laughter, and with Milliway around, my character had much to laugh about. Hearing Bruce in Vent did much to help me really get the feel of roleplaying my character, and that was a very groovy thing.

It’s just a game. Or is it?

When it came time for Milli and another of our gang to venture through the Dark Portal, we were all there. We spent perhaps a solid hour just goofing off beforehand, warm in the feeling of having friends and friendships that could turn such a mundane event into a hilarious mix of RP and utter chaos. Once on the other side, we stayed in contact, always offering to help one another, and keeping tabs in Vent on each other’s progress and adventures.

The last time we all gathered as a group was to answer a calling from Milli, who brought us together to witness her reaching level 60 in Hellfire Peninsula. In our congratulatory post to him on our guild forums, this is what he said: “I’d just like to say thanks to all my friends, and everyone that’s helped me along the way. This is the highest I’ve been in the game, and it’s been a great ride so far!”

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Bruce Galloway died on the operating table while doctors were trying to repair a tear in his aorta. A hole in his heart. I try to think maybe that was the piece of his heart he gave his family, his friends, and us, his WoW companions. He certainly shared much of himself with us during our short walk together. I hope I was as much a friend to him as he was to me, but I have my doubts. Nonetheless, each one of us, his close friends in this game, now feel as if we too have a hole in our hearts, but we also know the thankfulness that fills those same hearts for coming to know him as we do. Spirits be with you Milliway. Rest easy Bruce, until we meet again.

It’s just a game? Not on your life.

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