A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

January 28, 2009

The last few weeks have been some of the most frustrating of my WoW life. No, it’s not because of my guild. No, it’s not because of the PUG’s I’ve run in. No, it’s not because for some insane reason I leveled enchanting. The trouble is my computer. It is old. It’s graphics card is old. It can’t handle 25 man raiding.

I discovered this while tanking my guilds first attempt at heroic Naxx. Things started out fine, but while kiting Anub’Rekhan my frames per second plummeted, accompanied by paralyzing lag spikes. The rest of the evening was a nightmare. By the time we reached Maexxna, I was down to one frame per second and reduced to spamming consecrate once a minute when my screen unfroze.

We called the run early and I didn’t get much sleep that night. My wonderful husband stayed up half the night researching the problem. I play on an old MAC computer, a gift from a friend who upgraded about five years ago. My husband came to the conclusion that my graphics card was the issue. He found the best graphics card available for my computer and, since it wasn’t available in local stores, he ordered it online.

The new card arrived the day of our next raid. Of course, being a responsible, hard working member of society I was at work when UPS tried to deliver. I spent two hours chasing down the delivery truck and got home less than an hour ‘till raid time. Only once I had the new graphic card installed did I realize I was missing a connecting adaptor required to hook my monitor to the card.

A desperate on-line search revealed this connecting adaptor was not sold locally and could only be ordered online for exorbitant sums of money. Being the frugal, patient sort, I trotted over to ebay, exercised the buy out option and plunked down my gold. The guild went to Naxx and kicked around some spiders. I re-specced Ret and pugged some heroics. It was a depressing end to a frustrating day.

Over the next week I eagerly watched the mail … each day came and went with no connector. A week later it still hadn’t come and the raid formed up for heroic Naxx. Without me. Again. They pugged a tank. My raid leader is a warlock accustomed to spamming seed of corruption. My husband is a mage accustomed to blizzarding everything in sight. They are both accustomed to running with me. They died … repeatedly … while I sat in Stormwind all night and fished. I didn’t have the heart to laugh at them. My raid leader declared he wasn’t going back until I was there to tank. I felt loved … and a little guilty.

My connector arrived the next morning (go figure) and I was set to roll for the next 25 man. Things started out great. My lag issues were gone and tanking was suddenly so much easier. As we approached the first boss, things started to unravel and the world dissolved into rivers of color streaming down my screen. I tanked up through the second boss like this. By the third boss, Aleathea was nothing more than a puddle of pixels and I could barely make out shapes in the sea of colors. The raid leader called a break and I asked him to replace me. I went to bed that night more discouraged than I can ever remember.

You see, tanking 25 man raids is a dream I never though I would see become a reality. My fellow officers and I have had offers from larger guilds. We could have gone to the big leagues and been part of end-game raiding guilds. But we made a decision that our friendships and what we had built together in Brothers in Arms was more important than our desire to see end-game content. We made the choice to stay together and stay with our casual friends and, because of that, we never saw BT, or Hyjal, or Sunwell.

Now we have a chance to experience all that Wrath has to offer. Over the last few years our guild has grown up together. Players that were brand new to the game when they joined have had the time to level, to learn, to develop their skills, and we now have a core raid team strong enough to take on 25 man content, and every one of these people are long-time friends who share our values. We got here without compromising our standards for the sake of warm bodies. I am so proud of us for reaching this point, and I wanted to be there, leading the charge, as we brought this dream to reality.

I have spent hundreds of hours studying, practicing, reading guides, watching videos, preparing myself so that when this moment came I would be ready. And now, to have that chance taken away, to realize that I may be confined to heroics and 10 man content, watching from the sidelines … it was difficult. That day I wrote a post explaining about my computer issues and letting the guild know that it may not be possible for me to participate in 25 man raids.

I got a PM the next day from one of my friends. He was going to surprise me but needed to know, did I want a flat screen for my new computer? No, I wasn’t allowed to refuse his offer. He was going to buy me a new computer and that’s that. Now, did I want a flat screen or not?

I cried. And you know what? It wasn’t the fact that I was getting a new computer. It wasn’t the fact that I would be able to live my dream of tanking 25 man’s. It wasn’t the fact that this would be a tremendous help to the guild. It was the fact that this “internet friend” would do this for me. Because sometimes it gets to me, all the crap RL people give me about my on-line friends. Sometimes I’ll admit there is a part of me that wonders, these friendships that are so very real to me, are they real on the other end too or am I just kidding myself? His act of friendship silenced the voices of doubt and gave validation to my belief that friends are friends, whether you’ve met in person or not.

There have been times through the years when my husband and I have questioned whether it is worth it to GM. The hours upon hours of your life that you pour into your guild. The heartache of dealing with drama, the frustration of people who hold you responsible for their happiness, the strain of dealing with ignorant and immature players. At times leadership takes a lot of the fun out of this game and you question whether it’s worth it. It’s easy to let the frustrations pile up and lose sight of the big picture of what you have achieved, of what you have gained.

For me, there is no feeling so satisfying as that of belonging. The feeling you get when you walk in a crowded room, and know your friend has saved a seat for you. That’s what I have in my guild. When I need to talk, the vent channel is always open. When I need to relax, my friends are there to tear up an instance with me. When a raid is forming up, I know there is a spot waiting for me. In our two and a half years together, we have become a family. We have laughed and fought together. We have hurt and forgiven each other. We have made sacrifices to remain beside each other, and what we have together is worth all the struggles it took to get here.

I will never stop defending my belief that these friends we make, these relationships we develop, these communities we build are as real as anything we experience in the “real world”. The next post I write will be from my new computer. A gift from a friend I’ve never met, but whose friendship has touched my life and who is as real to me as those friends I see every day.


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