This morning, I awoke to a bit of a shock. As usual, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed to see what my European friends had posted while I was in dreamland when I started seeing farewells and well-wishes to one of my favorite fellow LOTRO players, Whiteberry (If you’ll remember, Whiteberry was a guest on my podcast last month). I started feverishly scrolling back on the timeline to figure out what was going on. Finally, I reached the original source of the conversation, a post in which Whiteberry announced her departure from LOTRO and all related projects, said her farewells, and listed the reasons for her decision for those of us who cared to know.
Of course, in video games, even those with persistent worlds and communities, anybody is free to leave at any time. However, it still comes as a shock when someone or something you’ve always known or associated with a specific game takes another path. For LOTRO players, many experienced this in the summer of 2013 when CSTM shut down. In my conversation with Merric and Goldenstar last month, it became very clear that despite their interest in the game waning, they continued for quite a long time out of a love for and feeling of obligation to the community. These two examples have forced me to reflect on my own motivations for becoming involved in the community, and whether those motivations are in danger of changing over time.
I’ve always asserted that any community involvement that I’m associated with is strictly for my own enjoyment. That sounds extremely selfish, but it’s the honest truth. I’ve already got a job, so I don’t need another one of those. I’m fortunate enough to have a good family, so as much as I enjoy my interactions with other players (which I do enjoy, very much), if I walked away from all online communities tomorrow, my social life would not be in shambles. I happen to have a faith-based purpose, so my “reason for being” is also not tied to the success or failure of any specific online property. See now? I’ve gone and broken my rule about not talking about religion or politics using my gaming persona. The bottom line is, this is all a hobby for me, and if I hold true to that, I could, in fact, walk away tomorrow. I have that freedom.
However, it’s not really that simple, is it? Especially if your hobby is wildly successful at building a good community. Eventually, with enough success comes a certain level of expectation from those with whom you’ve built relationships (albeit, online relationships, in most cases). I think this is where CSTM found themselves last year. When I asked them about the one thing they missed about the site, they answered in unison “community”. Community is something that stays with you. We were created to be social beings, and as many gamers are introverts, this advent of online communities presents a great opportunity to a) have something in common to share with others and b) have the tools at our disposal to participate with others in something larger than ourselves as a collective, all from the safety of our own bedroom/office/den. That’s why we feel such a loss when a Whiteberry or a Merric and Goldenstar leave our little online families.
Will I be able to walk away when the time comes? It remains to be seen. I suppose at this point, I’m holding on to the hope that gamers never really “leave”, they just change focus. Even so, as we all tend to change our foci to something different (that is, the entire community doesn’t all pick up and move to a new game together), the community is never really the same. It’s ever-changing. Like life, new people enter, old friends fade away. But the community, or a community, is always there. At the risk of trying to enter the human psyche – something I am decidedly unqualified to do, I suppose that’s why we do it. Impermanent beings trying to be a part of something permanent. I’m speaking of community in general, as specific communities will fade.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” – JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring
At any rate, I plan to make my time here worthwhile.
#community #lotro #involvement
Featured image by Hug it Forward on Flickr