Even before the pandemic, I wasn’t the most social person. Having been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome from a young age, it was pretty clear I was never going to be the life of the party; But when it came to gaming, I’ve always felt right at home. When I wasn’t able to talk to people in my real life, I often found comfort in the fantastic worlds in video games, one of the earliest being World of Warcraft (WoW for short).
Having last played over 10 years ago, I was more than a little rusty when I decided to return after a very long hiatus. But thanks to a certain pandemic, I found myself like many others trapped in my own four walls, having little to no interaction with anyone. So, I decided to take a dip back into the world of Azeroth in an attempt to keep myself sane, and frankly, it's one of the best decisions I’ve made in a very long time.
It was a joy to return to a game I loved so much in my younger years. Every system had been revamped or reworked, the amount of content I had to play was overwhelming and I was eager to try it all. But more importantly, it gave me something that had been ripped away thanks to a certain pandemic rolling into town: A sense of community, and thanks to COVID, it’s become clear to me just how important that is.
Where games like World of Warcraft have always shined was in the huge communities they create. Players of all backgrounds, creeds, and corners of the world come together with a love for the game. I’ve often found myself chatting away with random players as we await our next dungeon run, and it's in those simple, silly interactions and gestures where truly great friendships are made. It’s also one of the many ways that showcase how important games have become in our lives, especially in 2020.
I came to this revelation late one evening. Having spent a few hours playing with my brother, who I had not seen in over a year thanks to the pandemic, we returned to our main city to the sight of dozens of players riding giant frogs. Any reason? No, it was just for the fun of it, so naturally, we joined in.
But it was during moments like this where I began to appreciate a game like WoW, and the gaming community for that matter, in a far more meaningful way. Even though you may never meet these people, the common interests you share can lead to some great conversations that may only last a moment, but in desperate times it can be just what someone needs. I can say from personal experience, that after coming back to WoW I’ve met some truly genuine and interesting people I'd never met otherwise who made being stuck in my room not as lonely as it could have been.
It’s not just WoW either, whether it’s an online game, single-player, fans of a franchise, cosplayer or completely unrelated to gaming, having a sense of belonging is something many people struggled with during the pandemic. But where it wasn’t possible to have that in my day to day life, gaming helped anchor me to reality in what was undoubtedly one of the hardest years of my life, as it was for many others.
Now I hate it when executives stand on stage and spout this stuff during an E3 showcase, but If I’ve learnt anything from this pandemic, it’s just how important communities are; what’s more, just how glad I am to be part of the gaming community. If not for games like WoW, I honestly couldn’t say what I would have done with myself over the last year. Despite all the trials and tribulations, video games and the communities I found in them helped me survive the carnage of 2020, and much like other difficult situations in my life, I now feel more than ever glad to have them in my life.