For many of us 80s and 90s kids we have grown up alongside the birth of the internet and with this proliferation of ideas and creative content has come a wave of virtual platforms that allow people from across the globe to interact with each other in new and exciting ways. At least, that is what we are told. However, there is a darker side to the gaming world, one that is rarely spoken of with family and friends. Games allow you to try new things, and dabble in enterprises you might never have seen yourself being a part of. And, unfortunately, the gaming realm is a dog eat dog world. You need to adapt to survive or it will consume you.
Having said all this let me now tell my tale…
Okay this one is a real confession. You are my priest and I am repenting before god at this moment. I will preface this story with the fact that I must have been no more than ten years old at the time so I can be forgiven, right? Yeah I think that’s how it works.
So, I was a World of Warcraft (WoW) player back in the day. I was obsessed. My dad bought the game when it first came out in 2004 (Jesus that was 13 years ago) and all my family, bar my mother, played the game. I was so young at the time, I didn’t really get it. For those who don’t know anything about WoW it is a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) game.
What this means is that hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people are all online at one time on various servers interacting with one another and the game world itself.
In the early days of WoW (often referred to as Vanilla) not a lot of people knew what they were doing and the game was a lot harder as there was less specialist knowledge. All I knew was that killing things got you xp and you could level up from this. I had a level 40 night elf druid which I named ‘Orcbane’. This character was the second me. I loved him like a child loved an imaginary friend. He was always there for me and me for him. We travelled Azeroth together, meeting thousands of people along the way. During my very first days of playing WoW there was a specific moment everything changed. I was level 15 at the time and had just started doing quests off the main Human city (Stormwind) in a region known as Westfall. I was really excited at this point as I had just obtained my first pair of shoulder pads, a very sort after item in those days. It was during this time I met another fellow night elf, who was around level 22 I believe, named ‘Dorgan’. He and I became friends and he helped me with quests I found too difficult.
We would talk on the ingame text chat and trade items fairly regularly. One day Dorgan contacted me saying he had just made a guild. For the layperson, a guild in WoW is basically a club or what you would call in other games a ‘clan’. Though guilds were unique in that you managed them in game, gave people ranks, and organised social events such as dungeons, raids or just a visit to a tavern to get your characters drunk. Dorgan needed 10 signatures on this guild paper to make it official and I was the first. He was very grateful and gave me 10 gold for signing which, back in those days, was a ludicrous amount of money for a level 16 character (I had levelled up by this stage). I became Dorgan’s right hand man and held the second highest rank in the guild. In fact, Dorgan specifically made several ranks below me so that I was much higher than any other member.
Over the next year we continued with our questing and trading and so on, never speaking over a microphone, just chatting in game. We had an online bond the likes of which I have never had since. We would give each other very rare items to hold on to when we ran out of space in our bank storage knowing that the other would never dream of selling them. As the game progressed we discovered that we could have our very own Guild Vault (or bank I can’t remember the specific name). We could store items in it that only exclusive members could access. We could even pump money into this vault as a kind of emergency fund so that we always had a back up in case we got hacked or were fooled by other players during a trade. We felt on top of the virtual world, even though we were nothing special. To the 10 year old me, it all seemed so big and important.
Then, one day, everything changed.
I went online to see that I, the mighty Orcbane of Azeroth, was now the Guild Master and Dorgan was nowhere to be seen. I noticed that I had a notification, somebody in-game had sent me a letter. I was still too low a level to ride a mount to get to the mail box as quickly as I could so had to make do with my ability of ‘travel form’ which turned me into a cheetah and increased my travel speed by 30% (I don’t know why I am including this bit). When I finally got to the closest mail box I saw that the letter was from Dorgan. I wish I had the savvy back then to have screenshot what he sent to me but I remember it reading something like:
You may have noticed that you are now in control of the guild. This is because I have had some issues with my account and making payments so before organising it all I wanted to give you control so that, when I return, everything is working as usual. Here is some gold for your trouble.
I will see you soon.
At first I was upset, my main man Dorgan had gone, at least that’s what it felt like. How was I to know when he would return? What was I to do now that I was in control of a guild that, realistically, only had two members? It was a difficult circumstance.
But I kept on going, I persevered. I even managed to get some new players to sign up though it was never the same.
One day, a month or so after Dorgan’s disappearance, I found myself wandering through Stormwind browsing the shops and trading at the Auction House when, suddenly, I had remembered the Guild Bank. I said to myself, “I wonder whether Dorgan kept everything?”
So, I went to investigate. And to my amazement it was still filled to the brim with unwanted resources and equipment. But that wasn’t all, in the bottom right corner of the screen I saw the largest amount of gold I had ever seen in game. One thousand gold…
For players of WoW today 1k means nothing, you can make that from a day of selling loot from questing. However, back then, during the Vanilla era, this was like winning the lottery. The ten year old me then found himself in a rather unfortunate position.
“Do I take the money and run? After all I didn’t ask to be made the guild master, but now that I am all of this is mine. No I can’t Dorgan is still coming back, I can’t steal from him!”
I was in a moral crisis no ten year old should be in (#firstworldproblems). I decided in that moment that I needed to wait, at least a bit longer. Days became weeks, weeks became months. It was some 2-3 months after discovering the guild funds that I decided it was time to make a withdrawal…
I took everything, and I mean everything. The gold, the loot, the items that I had not donated, all of it. I proceeded to sell every item making about 300 gold and then, without telling any of the members, disbanded the guild. I wanted to feel guilty but in all honesty I didn’t really care by that point. Dorgan had been gone for so long and I never thought he was coming back…
I went on a shopping spree like no other. I bought armour, weapons, collectables, a really awesome cape and invested, rather preemptively, in a horse for when I became level 40. It was heaven.
The day after this shopping spree I logged in, did a couple of quests, talked to people on the general chat and just went about my business. Then in the bottom left of the screen the following notification appeared:
[Dorgan] is now online.
My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do and knew it wouldn’t be long until he messaged me. I quickly opened my friends list and without a moments hesitation blocked poor Dorgan and removed him from my friends list forever. I am truly, to this day, very ashamed.
Dorgan, If you are out there and somehow read this: I am sorry.
There we have it, my first instalment of ‘confessions of a gamer’. If you liked it be sure to check out some of my other features and stay tuned for the next weekly post. Feel free to get involved in the comments below and tell me how I am a terrible human being!