Yesterday, I was reading a book and learned a new word. Or rather, I read an old word used in a way that was new to me. It was “condole,” as a verb, as in “I’ve come to condole with you.” We’ve all heard “My condolences,” which is one of the things it’s socially acceptable to say to someone when they’ve suffered a loss. I wish condole was still commonly used, though, because I like that it’s active. To give someone your condolences is nice, but it’s generally passive, since you can say it and move on. When someone is dealing with grief, it’s much harder to be with them and grieve as part of an active process. It’s hard to open yourself up and experience that feeling.
Right now, everyone in the Warcraft (and MMO community) is dealing with varying degrees of feeling about the fate of Joystiq, and by extension, WoW Insider. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I have a complicated relationship with WoW Insider. I loved it unabashedly as a new player and looked up to the people I really didn’t know who wrote there. Later, I got to know some of them half as well as I would’ve liked because I did work there for a brief and important time. That time was a stepping stone to more writing, although I had to work through my own feelings after budget cuts caused them to have to lay off class columnists and other writers. It’s a strange place because I can relate to their loss but it’s not wholly my own. Even my feelings about working there weren’t simple. I used to hit the submit button with a frisson of pure terror. I read the comments on my columns with great anxiety (after having Rhidach and Vosskah tank them for me), and even now I can’t bring myself to reread the articles. Looking at them makes me queasy. Perhaps I would’ve grown more comfortable there in time, but writing for such a wide audience was stressful for me personally. “Thick skinned” isn’t really anywhere in my personal descriptors.
The loss to the Warcraft community is a more clear-cut thing, and it’s significant. Over all the years that I’ve been playing WoW, WI was special. It wasn’t like Wowhead or other sites because they didn’t have the same goals. (I could write a love letter to Wowhead and how important they are to the community as well, but that’s for another post.) Yes, ostensibly they are all “news sites” but WI had editorials and opinions. It ran features on the people who play this game that make it special, guild leadership, comics, snapshots from Azeroth, heck even baking and crafts. Sure, it would publish patch notes because patch notes are important to read. But later that week or the next, a writer would weigh in on interpreting those notes for the rest of us. What did this change mean for warriors or priests or whomever, going forward? PvP articles talked about issues in battlegrounds. WoW Insider wasn’t Elitist Jerks and it didn’t want to be. Its audience was anyone who played and loved the World of Warcraft, whether they were completely new to the game (WoW Rookie) or had been playing for many years. It included blog events, Blizzcon meetups, and a sense of cohesive community that’s hard to obtain elsewhere.
When I first took over the very dusty mage column, there was a deluge of comments welcoming me and celebrating that the column would be written again. People were so happy. The mage column itself had been made by Christian Belt into a place where people went just to joke with and be in the company of people who shared a class with them. They’d keenly felt its absence. (It had absolutely nothing to do with me). On that same column I received the following comment, which I will honestly cherish from now until I’m too senile to use a keyboard:
Christian Belt read my column and he liked it. He gave me his blessing. I’d been reading him for years, and it honestly meant so damn much to me. Which really taps into the greater feeling of loss that hangs like a pall right now over our community. I’ve seen people saying some pretty nasty things and that’s really disappointing to me. You don’t have to approve of everything WI ever did to appreciate that 1) there are people whose livelihoods have been affected by this and also 2) WI is an important part of the WoW community whether you like that it is or not. If the former doesn’t move you, the latter definitely should. We are all poorer for its absence. I’m going to miss it and everything it was over the years.
I don’t even know what I want to save from all the articles I’ve read over the years that I loved. Should I save my favourite Arcane Brilliance columns written by Mr. Belt? I saved all of my own, for resume purposes more than vanity. What about every Sunday Morning Funnies that linked to From Draenor With Love and helped our readership grow? I saved all of the ones that used my art in the header. I wish I could find the one where someone wrote that they loved Four as a character and that she’d made them understand why people might want ogres as a playable race. Will those people who followed from WoW Insider still read our comic if they aren’t reminded to every Sunday? Who will feature new WoW comics and where will people find out about them now?
It’s pretty obvious that subscriber numbers notwithstanding, the community has contracted over the years. Bloggers I loved have perhaps stopped writing or write infrequently (myself included). I haven’t made an effort to find more bloggers that I love although I’m sure they are out there writing great things. It’s inescapable. I can’t imagine many people are still following this blog since I hardly write in it at all. To me, WoW Insider felt like an anchor. No matter what was going on in the larger community they were still there, toiling away. For a brief moment I contributed to that and it was important to me.
To everyone, past and present, who wrote for or contributed to WoW Insider and made it what it was: Thank you.
To Alex Ziebart and the editors who chose to let me be a tiny part of it: Thank you.
To everyone who ever commented or cared, submitted something or linked something to their friends: Thank you. You’re what created a community that I largely took for granted, assuming it would always be there. You all have my condolences, or if you prefer – I am condoling with you, as we’ve all lost something great.