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Do You Remember TAERA?

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Do you remember Taera, whose real life name was Laura Genender? The ferocious gamer. The community manager for MMORPG for four years. The author of articles for The Escapist and Gamersinfo.net. The associate community manager for CCP's EVE Onlne from July, 2008 until her sudden death in August, 2008.  You might remember her sense of humor. Her late-night ramblings about space pizza. The songs she made up and sang, such Flying My Spaceship. The jokes she cracked and the lengths she went to in order to make people laugh.

I am Carla Linn, Laura's mother. When she was growing up I gave her a hard time about the amount of time she spent playing MMORPGs. I thought she was addicted to them, that they would ruin her life. Little did I know how important a part of her life they would be, that she would become a ferocious and respected gamer, and her career would be in the MMORPG industry where she was considered a rising star. The extent to which I was wrong about her chosen past-time was demonstrated by the response to her death. If today's technology had been available when Laura died, news of her death would have gone viral. Even so, news of her death became an internet phenomenon.  A Google search of her name produced almost 200,000 hits. One of the thousands of posts about her was "Who was Laura Genender, the woman, the myth, the legend?" Quite a question to ask about a twenty-two year old.

Her friends and business associates created four permanent online memorials to her. You can visit one of them at www.mmorpg.com/showfeature.cfm/loadfeaataure/2131. I spent countless hours reading the comments posted, the articles about her by reporters in the online game industry, articles Laura wrote and discussions she moderated that were still online, and reading the numerous journals she left behind.

Laura was my only child. There are no words to describe how painful her death was for me. I was in shock for the first year. Then I began writing a book about her life. My intent was to create a tribute to her.  After five years the book is finally finished. Along the way, I realized it is more than just about Laura's life. It sheds insight into why so many teenagers and young adults are dying young. Part of the answer can be found in universal issues such as being bullied at school, having an alcoholic parent, having a parent who is verbally abusive, having a controlling parent, being part of a dysfunctional family, and being involved in a love triangle—all of which Laura experienced.

Despite these challenges, Laura grew up into an independent young woman who appeared to have a brilliant future ahead of her in an industry that is traditionally male. The book describes what it was like to be a female who was both a serious gamer and who worked in the industry.

Laura had many positive things happening her life, such as her new job with CCP. She was also making plans for the future. Two weeks before her death, she asked me to send her riding boots to her because she had found a nearby barn where she could take lessons. A week before her death, she placed an ad on Craig's list for a Latin and ballroom dancing partner, and she  signed up for a pool party in the apartment complex where she lived. The weekend before her death, she hosted her first dinner party. The night before her death, she spent an hour on the phone with her college advisor. He said she had never seemed happier. The day of her death she picked her passport photos for an upcoming trip to Iceland, the headquarters of CCP. She was excited about the trip.

The one thing in her life that wasn't going well was that for two years, she had been in love with a man who was living with another woman. For the last several months, he had been telling Laura that that he was working on breaking up with her, and that it would happen soon. Unfortunately, his actions didn't match his words. With no change in sight, Laura either staged a suicide attempt to get his attention and it went terribly wrong, or she intentionally committed suicide.

I have struggled with understanding which scenario it was—did Laura intend to die or not? Finally I have realized that it doesn't matter. She is gone, whether she meant to or not. As the family of Robin Williams said after his recent suicide, It is my hope that she will be remembered for how she lived, not how she died.

My book about Laura's real life and online life was just published. The title is A Roller Coaster Ride is Short (a line from one of the many poems Laura wrote.)

As you accompany Laura on her short journey through life, you will laugh and you will cry. You will feel anger and you will feel admiration. You know the ending before you begin. What you don't know is "Why?"

I also compiled a selection of her poetry and published it until the title My Life Through Poetry. Laura is credited as the author. Both books are available on Amazon in print and as E-books. I hope to use proceeds from both books to fund a scholarship for a girl who wants to work in the online game industry. I know that would have pleased Laura.

By Carla (Genender) Linn www.carlalinn.com


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