In Slash Yell, this week I explore the death of a game.  

It’s a situation we will all face at some point in the future–some of us will have (or have had) the misfortune of experiencing it again and again–the death of our game.  MMOs are unique in the gaming space because they are, down a to a one, transitory.  One of the things that makes MMOs so special is also that thing that causes us the most pain.  Any other games that you buy you have the disk, all the game content–you can pick it up and play whenever you’d like even if the company is long long gone.

MMOs aren’t like that though.  If the company goes under, the world disappears forever.  There’s virtually no getting it back, though the possibility of it resurrecting is there its just not very probable.  People, myself included, fall in love with these games, and our digital homes become just that — a home.  But more than the loss of a game world, I think we lose part of ourselves as well.  In essence, the death of a game is a bit like the death of little piece of yourself.

For those of you who missed my earlier post, Glitch, a browser based MMO, is closing it’s doors in about a month.  I’m lucky in that this is the first MMO I’ve actively played that has planned to close down.  I wasn’t the highest level, but I did play a fair amount and I really enjoyed it.  It’s sad to see it go.  In fact, it’s much sadder than I expected it to be.

In my graduate work, I wrote about how we, as players, interact with our avatars in virtual worlds.  One of the things I wrote about was the idea of the avatar in MMOs as an extension of ourselves — or the Self (with the capital S for those of the psychoanalytical background).  Keep in mind, this is different from Role-playing.  I think of this as a universal extension of ourselves, whether you explicitly role-play in game or not.  But, more than just the avatar, the game itself affects our relationship with the avatar, and our perceptions of who we are.

I play a lot of different games, but I don’t have the same relationship with my avatar in WoW as I do in Glitch.  They are different.  In a really broad sense, I’m not the same person when I’m playing WoW as when I’m playing Glitch.  Without getting too theoretical, who we are and who we see ourselves to be is influenced by games like Glitch.  When you take away the game, it changes who we are–we lose that experience of what it’s like to be a Glitchen, and we can never get it back.

We take all the pictures we can to remember what it was like to be a Glitch, what it felt like in that game.  Even moving to a new game it won’t be the same, even if the whole community moved.  Even if Glitch came back, it wouldn’t be the same.  We’ve lost part of our identity with the death of the game.  A piece of who we are is now irrevocably gone.

I think it’s important to mention that it’s not the time that’s “lost,” or grief over the loss of the money or effort into the game.  Games like Glitch are labors of love for those who play them.  Yes, they lost out on time and money, but it’s what’s inside that really counts for those players.  To experience this, you only need to listen to global chat to see the end of the world is all that anyone is talking about.  People are giving away things in-game that took weeks if not months of work to get to, just to let other people experience them for a bit before the game goes away.

People keep on going as if their efforts in game will be rewarded long-term, even though they know they won’t be.  They try for achievements, get trophies–hell, I even spent a few hours “cleaning” my house, which had my stuff scattered all over it (much like IRL house).  I wanted everything to be perfect for the end of the all things.  I spent time re-decorating, rearranging getting everything exactly as I wanted it.

Then, I took screenshots.  Lots and lots of screenshots.  Just to remember what it was I had, and had no more.  To remember who I was as a Glitchen, what that meant to me as a whole person, and who I was after the fact.  In the end, that’s all I can do.  Sit and wait with the rest of the game.

Seeking a friend for the end of the world.  

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