Monday Musings: My Life As A Superhero

As I’ve mentioned before, I play City of Heroes and am a DJ for The Cape Radio, which caters to players of that game on the Virtue server. I’ve been doing this for the past eight years, so when a friend sent me a text telling me that they had announced the closing of Paragon Studios and that the game would be shut down before the end of the year, I was in total shock.  We knew the game wouldn’t last forever, but on Thursday they were handing out codes for a new aura and they just released a new power set on August 21st, so there were no signs this was coming so abruptly.

Since then, we’ve been gathering in game, on Facebook, on various forums, and consoling each other in our grief.  Because we ARE grieving.  For many who play this game, it is a home, a place where they can be themselves, a place where they can find their friends.  We feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us.  One person likened it to watching your house burn down, knowing there’s nothing you can do to save it, but still trying to run in and pull out as many of your precious possessions as possible.  We’re taking screenshots and videos, sending notes and tells to those we don’t have contact with outside the game yet, watching DJ Zero actually move around (he’s been floating frozen in the same spot for years, but suddenly is just standing there, going through the idle poses like a normal character, which is surely a sign of the apocalypse).  We’re running our favorite missions one last time, trying to get through the ones we never got to, giving away all the enhancements and salvage we’ve been hoarding to someone who might be able to use them in these final days.

And we’re remembering, and writing down everything this game has meant to us.

In 2004, everyone thought I had a pretty good life.  I was married, lived in a nice house, drove a nice SUV, went out to eat several times a week, and was involved in several bands.  I had just started going back to college and rediscovered my love of Theatre.  I smiled and laughed and seemed to be pretty happy.  But inside, I was anything but.  I had been living this lie for so long that I no longer knew who I really was, what I really wanted, why I was even bothering.  The mask I wore had become permanently attached.

When I began playing City of Heroes, it was just a fun game, a way to escape my reality for a few hours and be someone else.  But as I got involved with the community, as I got to know other players both in and out of game, I found people who encouraged my creativity, who helped me to explore various aspects of my personality, who listened and let me cry on their shoulder.  I found people who cared about some strange girl on the opposite side of the country, or even in a completely different country.  People who wanted to get to know the person on the inside, who looked past the fake smile and cheerleader persona to see the scared, lost and lonely girl huddled in the corner of my brain.

As I put on the mask of my superhero persona, I learned to free myself from the mask I’d worn for so many years.

Each character I created had a piece of me, but none more so than One Hit Wonder.  She was my best self, the me that I wanted to be.  When my marriage fell apart, as it was inevitable it would, my then-husband tried to tell me that I wasn’t my character.  But he was wrong.  I used Wondie to explore my own personality, to learn who I really was, and over time, I became her, and she became me.  No, I can’t control fire, I don’t have twin daughters, and I never had a record deal, but the personality, the who Wondie is deep down inside, that’s all me.

In 2005 I got a divorce and moved to the other side of the country.  I lost track of many of my City of Heroes friends as I didn’t have internet access for some time.  In 2006 I picked up the game again, and was amazed to see characters run by, stop, then turn around and throw their arms around me.  People remembered me, actually missed me, and were so happy to see me again.  I felt like I’d come home.

As I reconnected with old friends, and met new ones, I developed some very important relationships.  Obviously, I found someone who convinced me to give marriage another try. 😛  But two others that stand out are the ones I asked to be my Best Man and Maid of Honor at my wedding.  Even though they both live around 800 miles away from me, they didn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to be there that day, to stand by my side and share one of the most special days of my life.  And they both know, if they need me to stand by their side for anything, I’ll jump in my car and drive through the seven states it takes to get to them.  And to think, I never would have met them if I’d decided not to play this game.

City of Heroes has an amazing community.  No other game I’ve played has made me feel more at home, and it’s hard for me to think of any other place to call my home.  There’s lots of speculation about what game we’re all going to move to, but none of them feel like they “fit” just right, because none of them are City of Heroes.  These aren’t just a bunch of gamers running around bashing the bad guy pixels, this is a family.  That’s what I’m going to miss the most about not being able to log in to City of Heroes, my family.

Feel free to share your story in the comments here, on the forums at The Cape Radio, or over at the new effort to keep everyone together at City of Heroes Forever.  And keep in touch, please.  I love you all, and would hate to lose track of you again.

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