For whatever reason MMOs, like ships and girlfriends, are female. Maybe we have more personality, or maybe we just have better clothes. Either way, here’s a quick and vaguely chronological retrospective of the major games I’ve played over the past decade and a bit, filtered through the lens of past relationships. E3 may be just around the corner, but today I’m looking back.
Asheron’s Call (2000) – My first great MMO love, the one I will never forget. We were young, we didn’t have a clue, and we had a blast. Sure, she was a little hard-edged and triangular in places and she kept trying to introduce you to these ravening three-legged landsharks, but she certainly knew how to have fun. We didn’t so much break up as drift apart; when I ran into her a few years back, it was sad to see how much she’d aged. But I’ll always remember her as she was when we first met. I did try dating her younger sister for a short while, but we had… communication issues.
Dark Age of Camelot (2002) – The one that got away. We went out on a couple of dates and they were great, but for some reason we never did end up going out for any length of time. A shame, that, because she seemed pretty cool and I sure would have liked getting to know her better.
Star Wars Galaxies (2003) – Ah, she of the weird yet fascinating tentacle-things on either side of her head (yes, I know what they’re called) and the excessively hirsute friends; as it turned out, she was actually pretty normal. We got on like a planet on fire right from the start, even though I had to walk across what seemed like entire continents just to get to her (this was before I got a car or even a kaadu to ride). We helped build cities in exotic places and danced all night with the locals.
But then, from one day to the next, she was all about “unlocking her true potential” and suddenly she had no time for me anymore; she only wanted me for my holocron. I’m just glad we split up before she had that totally unnecessary makeover (both of them). We got back together for a while a couple of years back and it was more fun than I expected, but she really wasn’t the same person anymore.
City of Heroes (2004) – Oh, she packed a punch that one. It took me six hours just to decide what to wear the first time we went on a date! For a few months we had a blast (literally, in some cases). After a while, though, our dates started to feel as though we were always going to the same place and doing the same old thing. Her friends were great and all, but as it turned out it just wasn’t enough. We still meet up from time to time; she even introduced me to her evil twin, which was interesting, but in the end they weren’t all that different from each other.
World of Warcraft (2004) – We’ll get back to her.
EverQuest II (2005) – A friend set me up with this one, telling me she was into arts and crafts and stuff and that I’d like her if I only gave her a chance. I was doubtful, I’ll admit, but my friend was right. For months we were inseparable, even though she was overly brown to look at and occasionally made me overheat. She had issues, lots of invisible walls that just couldn’t be breached, but then who doesn’t? And then I had an affair…
I went back to her in 2009, hat and flowers in hand, and she graciously forgave me. No recriminations, no complaints, just the comfort of someone compatible and known. She’d redecorated and expanded quite a bit since we’d last been together, and for a year or so I didn’t so much as look at anyone else. But I have a roving eye; I’m a cad that way.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (2006) – It’s shameful to admit, but I had my eye on her even while I was still with EQ2. All I’d seen were photos and some posts, but she promised to be so different from everyone else that I just couldn’t help myself. Soon I too was writing paeans to her beauty and complexity. We went out in secret for a few months, and though it started well it didn’t take long for me to see that there were cracks in the façade. By the time she finally came out in public, I was already wondering what it was I saw in her. My “could’ve been” relationship: fun, frustrating at times, and it’s probably a good thing we weren’t together for long enough to get to the abuse-hurling stage.
Lord of the Rings Online (2007) – Unlike most, perhaps, I’m never keen to date someone famous: the expectations are just too high. But LOTRO turned out to be quite as ravishing as her pictures claimed, though she could be slow and clunky to get on with. We courted some in 2007, but we didn’t really click back then. I ran into her last year when she had this free party and we hooked up again for a few months. She still looks amazing and we have a great deal in common, and yet for some reason we both decided it just wasn’t going to be. It’s a shame, because I love her family and its history to bits.
Warhammer Online (2008) – Another secret relationship. I can’t even remember how she showed up on my radar, but suddenly she was all I could see. She was different from the start, more fight club than internet dragons, and although she was riddled with issues she was alluring and addictive. There’s nothing quite like mashing an axe through someone else’s skull, and it’s even better when you do it with friends (or to them). But this relationship, too, was doomed, even if at the start it seemed like we’d be together forever.
The breakup with Warhammer marked the onset of my midlife crisis, I think. For a while I wandered from one old girlfriend to the next: SWG for half a year, WoW for a couple of tepid months, back to EQ2 and finally to LOTRO again.
Oh, I forgot to mention a couple of short but torrid affairs with EVE; we’ve had this on-again, off-again thing going since 2003 or 2004. I took her out a few times, she took me out a time or two, but while we really want to like each other I just don’t think we’re compatible for more than brief flings. She’s just a bit too spiky for me: every now and then she’ll turn around and kick my ass, or ambush me by the door when I come in, and although I know it’s not personal, it’s not really my thing.
And last but not least, World of Warcraft. We’ve gone out three times all told, and in fact we’re back together as I write this. She’s open, expansive, so easy to get on with – and cute, too, in her own way. We have a lot of friends in common. But while we always find things to do together, I have this weird feeling she’s a bit shallow underneath it all. She’s all about the stuff, and I’m really only pretending to be interested in it at this point.
I can tell it’s going downhill. I’m already looking over her shoulder at this new girl that’s about to move in – The Secret World, maybe you’ve heard of her? If you have, be warned: I saw her first!