Monday, October 24, 2016

Magic Hat 10.24.16

The Day I Joined the Priesthood

I became a priest at a very young age. From 7th to 10th grade (a long time ago in my still young mind), I was highly addicted to a video game called World of Warcraft. In the game you pick a classification, which defines the kind of role you play in the game. Naturally, I chose to be a Priest and I named myself Lohan. Funnily enough, I had been watching The Parent Trap with Lindsey Lohan when I tried out the demo for the game and laughed at the prospect of ever taking this game seriously. Oh how foolish I was. I chose priest because they were primarily a Support class whose main function was healing, though they were capable of being a more Offensive character in certain situations. Priest also happened to be one of the least picked classes in the game so I thought, 'Why not?'

During the summers I would play from the moment I woke up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I'd rarely leave my desk, unless it was to cart food upstairs to my room at dinner time and the occasional bathroom break to flush out whatever horrendous junk I was abusing my young and still growing teenage body. I'm surprised I'm so tall considering how little sunlight I saw for a few years. I remember my family all celebrating my birthday while I sat upstairs in my room and played. Worst of all, I remember not showering for a week at a time because I was trying to unlock some special item for my character that I ended up replacing a few weeks later for something better. Clearly, the priesthood wasn't the healthiest life for me.

The game was addicting with its small, repetitive rewards and fantastic setting. But what was most addicting about World of Warcraft was the community of people I found within it. I was apart of a guild, a collective of people who would team-up, socialize, and interact with one another in order to progress further in the game. My guild was led by a married couple, whose real names I don’t know too this day. We only referred to each other by our character names and theirs were Dothon and Elaleeha. Dothon was an engineer of sorts and Elaleeha was a stay-at-home wife who deeply wanted to start a family of her own. I always felt the guild was her family and I felt a bit hurt when she announced to us one night that she was pregnant.

There were others like Mlenarie and Gurpin, a sixty-something year old married couple from Texas who were as in-love with each other as they were when they met in high school. There were others, some more distant, the likes of Gavaren, Mallius, Billybrew, Spartanicus, and so many others whose names are lost in the annals of my mind.

Though I was a child, the youngest in the guild, I was treated the same as everyone else. I was expected to show up for raid time promptly at 7:00 Pm on Thursdays. I was expected to interact with new members. I was expected to help raise gold for our Guild Bank so we'd always be well stocked and prepared for emergencies. In fact, I was an Alchemist in-game and one of my daily tasks was to use guild funds to mass-produce potions and re-sell them on the auction house (the game had a completely functional economy). It was as much of a job as it was a recreational activity.

I find internet spaces to really complicate typical notions of identity. The traditional self doesn't exist on the internet, clearly seen in World of Warcraft where I quite literally possessed the body of a character who was imprinted with my personality. I had the complete freedom of picking and choosing what parts of my personality I could imprint onto it. My identity was a product of my own creation and that is something that the average teenager hardly has the opportunity to experience.

It was both a liberating freedom as well as a dangerously addictive experience playing World of Warcraft. What struck the final nail into the coffin for me was entering into high school and becoming increasingly aware of how weird it was to my classmates and friends. I felt so abnormal that I canceled my subscription and completely abandoned my guild without so much as a goodbye in my sophomore year. I wasn't Lohan anymore, I was just Chris the student who struggled in his classes who was often reminded he shouldn't be in a class with other kids. I gave up a world of endless possibilities for a world that was much more intent on telling me that I had limitations. I wanted to tell my teachers I was the 4th best priest on my server, but it didn't mean anything to them.

The only thing that mattered in high school were the things that didn’t matter to me. Sometimes I miss those 12-hour World of Warcraft sessions and long nights talking over my headset with my guild, listening to stories about their lives. I miss the friendships I built in a world that never existed and I don’t know if that's a bad thing. What I do know is that one of the best parts of my childhood was being a priest in a video game and I don’t think that I should have to regret any part of it.

One of the few screenshots I still have from my time playing.
I'm the werewolf-looking guy on the right.
Yeah. I became a werewolf Priest at one point.
Good times.

- Christopher L.

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