One of the main reasons that the gay marriage movement has gained so much ground in recent years has been attributed to people being able to put a face on gay marriage, which makes it much more difficult for people to deny others that right when they know someone who is in a similar situation. When it’s your uncle, your neighbor, your boss, something like that really hits home for you and it affects you in ways that it otherwise wouldn’t.
The same goes for a charity that you’re trying to raise money for. If you have lost someone to HIV or breast cancer, chances are that you will be even more passionate about fund raising for that particular cause and you may possibly even participate in events to do your part so that the very same thing doesn’t happen to someone else.
I remember when the news that Blizzard had lost 600,000 subscribers had been released and people began absorbing and discussing it. It didn’t really hit me. I was firmly in the “Oh, it’s just 600,000 people. We’re going to be fine” camp. I didn’t have a personal stake in it, really. Those were just numbers to me.
Shortly after, we learned that the cross realm Dungeon Finder was going to be implemented. I remember posting something on my Facebook about this, hoping that the one third of my friends list who I met through WoW or who I know play WoW might be interested in queueing up with me sometime. Instead of seeing the expected responses of “Sure, hit me up!” I was sad to see a string of “Gosh, I would if I still played the game,” type responses.
Suddenly, those 600,000 people had names. They had faces. I knew them. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They couldn’t all have quit the game. Could they? The most surprising response came from one of my ex-boyfriends, whom I had actually met through the game and had even moved out of state to be with. He was as firmly engrossed in World of Warcraft as anybody else. He was one of the first PVP Gladiators, had the “Insane” title, and had repeatedly been asked to participate in Beta testing. In fact, one of the many reasons that we broke up was because of the game.
I remember the night that we broke up, when I told him that I needed a life outside of the game and when he replied that he couldn’t give me one. That guy was now in nursing school and had been so busy discovering life that his 10 man team (the members of which he handpicked himself) didn’t even manage to finish clearing any of the T11 content on normal mode. Of course, I was happy for him. But it still blew my mind. He was the last person I would have expected to join the ranks of the 600,000 who quit World of Warcraft for whatever reason. And here I was, still playing.
Then word came that another 300,000 had quit. It affected me a bit more because I was one of them now. I knew why people were leaving the game. Because I was doing it, too. Even then, people were still brushing it off as a modest loss and it was no big deal.
Today, I read a blog post from Borsk that literally took my breath away. In it, he mentions that his guild, which had weathered many storms and overcame many challenges along the way had finally decided that their last raid together would in fact be their last. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Here was someone else, who I thought would be one of the last to stick it out and show us all that World of Warcraft was worth staying around for, who might even be enough to lure some of us back into things and he was saying goodbye, too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re losing people. Let me stress that. We are losing people. We’re losing loved ones. We’re saying goodbye to friendships and memories and ties that we have formed with one another. It’s more than just lost revenue and subscription numbers. It’s not just a lump sum that we can shave off the top of a quarterly report and write off so easily. These people have names and they have made contributions to the game and to the community. I think that’s something that we tend to forget about when we’re thinking about things like this. It doesn’t seem real, otherwise. When you can rationalize it away, when you can convince yourself that it doesn’t affect you and it would never happen to you, it becomes easier to deal with it and to dismiss.
What people don’t understand is how difficult it is to get to that point, to know that it’s over, and to know that you have to finally do something about it. It’s a very hard thing to have to go through. You might make an attempt to stay in touch and to try and keep things as close to the way they were as possible, but not everybody succeeds. Think about how many people you have seen leave the game through the years and that you still remain in touch with. If you’re anything like me, you can probably count the number of people on one hand and still have fingers left over.
I just want people to remember that, the next time the topic of people leaving the game comes up again. There is real loss happening here, that goes beyond income and bragging rights. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s harder to admit that it’s really over.