November is a very strange month this year. One of the online games that I'm playing, City of Heroes, is going away. I'll not get into the details of why or how, but suffice to say something that's been a big influence on my writing for the past three years. I fell in with a group of people that role-play their characters, create stories around them, and try to bring them to life. They aren't perfect people nor do the people in question try to make them perfect. We built a world around these characters, breathed life into them, and let them struggle to obtain goals or personal agendas. Some grew and become more. Others fell into darker pits and never became much. Some just lived their lives; working, loving, laughing, crying. They were humans in a world filled with aliens, mutants, magicians, and super-science. Nothing was static, things changed, a boring life makes for dull writing. There are stories yet to be told, adventures to be recounted, villains to overcome, and epitaphs to be written.
People have commented that it's just a game, why be so worked up? Multiple reasons that I'm upset. There's the community of people that I've met through the game. In the past three years I've met a handful of them in real life and hung out together. Putting a face to a name and shaking their hand gives that connection a personal touch, beyond just a name on a screen. More so than that, is the motivation I got to write fiction around the characters I played, around the characters other people played [with their permission], and lending out my characters to be used in other people's fiction. I'm invested in the game or perhaps the opportunity that it gave me to write.
One of the features of the games was called Architect Entertainment, which allowed the player to create homemade missions and content. What it produced was a mixed bag of genius material and pure drek that exploited the system. Going to skip the drek and go with the good stuff. People that I hung out created stories as good as if not better than many of the story arcs produced by the developers. They spent hours writing dialogue, creating adversarial groups, and putting together a story that was fun to play. All for a handful of missions that might not last more than an hour or two, but would spur on additional stories and built up over time. We had recurring villains, insane adventures, heroic sacrifices, and a lot of laughs and drama along the way. It's something I'm going miss.
That brings me the next part. One of the people I met in game is an author. It started innocently enough with a comment someone made in a global channel about her writing. So I dropped my normal reserved shell and asked her a question on writing. Did she have an advice. First thing that came back was “Don't quit your day job”. Blew that bit of advice out of the water earlier this year, but it's good advice. Living on your writing is hard. Not everyone gets that golden contract. People struggle to get published. Sorry, tangent. We talked a bit more over the next few weeks about writing and she was encouraging. She told me to write as much as I could and give me pointers on how to improve my prose, where I was making mistakes, or being crap. Honest feedback without being condescending or rude. If not for her, I would've never written or submitted the short story “Madame” that was recently published. In the past three years, her and I have played off each other in writing fan fiction about our characters in City of Heroes. Not a week goes by where we talk about writing and improving our craft. I'm even on her short list of people that get to look at her latest creation and give feedback. That's my big takeaway from the game, I found one more person to motivate me to write and do better.
So yeah, it's not just a game. It was a doorway for me. New friends, a ton of fun play, and motivation to improve my writing. At 11:59:59pm PST on November 30th, the servers go offline. A world dies, but the characters live on in our writing and in our minds.