With this tier of raiding coming to a close I've come to the realization that the people from my original raid team, the first one I connected with, the first one I was a regular with, are all gone. It happens to us all in the game if we play long enough. Even if it is a video game it is a team sport of sorts and you remember your first regular team.
It is like a snapshot of the mind and I can see it as clear as day. Us, as a group, smiling and standing there together victorious over some big baddie we worked so hard to defeat. The team picture of me with my first regular raid team. I might have raided some before them and lots after them, but that team picture remains clear in my mind. The first team I fit in with. The first team I raided with on a regular basis.
And now here we are in the first raid tier without even one of them as a part timer joining me at any given point. It is really rare for anyone to stay with the original people they raided with as long as I have but it is not hard to understand how that happened. When I moved, most of them moved with me, and when wrath was coming to a close we all found ourselves back in the same place together again to rekindle what we had earlier.
So even if there had been changes over the years in peoples ability to play time wise or skill wise or even class wise as some changed the class they wished to play and there were times we changed guilds or were even in different guilds that first real team I was in stayed friends and stayed together, even when apart.
With T14 coming to an end I face the realization that not once this entire expansion have I raided with any of those other 9 people. Even at that I think that only three of those original 9 even have a 90 now and only one of those original 9 would even consider being a back up if we needed them and even he has been away for an extended period due to real life issues.
We lost them all during cataclysm at some point. Perhaps that is one of the reason I think cataclysm is the worst expansion ever, because it destroyed what I had. They were basically a group of mostly vanilla players, some even beta version vanilla players and they all disappeared at some point last expansion. We lost some to rift, a couple to starcraft and a few to just getting busy and not being able to play for real life reasons or really disliking the turn the game had taken. Whatever their reasons might be, they're all gone now.
So this week in what will probably be the last raid week of this raid tier I stood there in a room in game with 9 other people whom I have become close with and have raided with for a while now and somehow I felt alone.
Knowing this cycle has come to an end and never once being able to raid with any of the people I started raiding with left me feel as if something was missing. They were the ones who took me in when I knew nothing and they were all veterans. The ones that taught me just the same way I teach people now. The first friends I made in game were all gone and even surrounded by new friends I had made it just felt as if something was missing, as if I lost something, as if I were alone.
It is the end of the age of innocence for me. The last mentor, so to speak, was gone. Not once did I have them to to fall back on. It was all on me this time. I was the old timer. Even if there are some people in my current raid team that are vanilla players and have played longer then I, they are new to this crew, my crew. I am now the elder. I am now what those 9 people were once to me.
It is human nature to look back and remember first times for everything in life. You will fondly remember those things and it is the reason most people like to see things with rose tinted glasses as the expression goes. This isn't a case of that however, at least I do not think it is.
I am not thinking about how how much better it was, or even saying it was, I am just thinking about how that was the time I first fell in love with the game and realizing that while the game has changed immensely over the past years so have I and the people I play with. Not a case of better back then, just a case of me being a different person then and knowing that I will never be that person again. You can't have another first time, there is no such thing as falling in love again even if generations of poets and romantics will argue otherwise.
A day comes in all our gaming lives where we feel as if a torch has been passed and even if I have been a raid leader for around about 3 years now I was still always "the new guy" and suddenly, just like that, a raid tier finishes and those people that made me the new guy are gone and I am now "the old timer". Yeah, just like that, just that simple.
They might all be gone, the ones I started with and the ones that taught me how to be the player I am today, but they will always be there as a part of me. Maybe the day will come when they come back, this is warcraft after all, no one ever leaves, they just take breaks. The time might come when they come back and they will be welcomed as if they never left because it is about the friendships that we made, not about raiding or progression or anything like that, that is just what brought us together. Our friendship were forge because of what they were, not what we did.
I've been part of many guilds in my time, even a few on the server I am talking about, but none ever felt like family except this one. I've been a part of guilds that were designed around trying to be close knit and ones that were just leveling factories. I've been in guilds with better progression and worse. I've been in horde side and alliance side. But this one, this is the one I fit with. Not sure why or how, it just fit, and that is an exceptional thing to be able to say because not many ever really find a place like that. Somewhere along the line, no matter what ever happened and when I decide to move on myself, I will always remember that first team I connected with because when it all comes to an end, in a game like this, it is the connections you make that you will remember for ever, even if they're all gone now.
I can almost picture my character going home after raiding last night knowing it would be the last time against these particular bosses knowing that soon he will be moving along to a new set of challenges and thinking about his past companions. Sitting down at his desk and pouring a glass of the finest dwarven whiskey he could get his hands on and putting his feet up on his desk while looking at the group photo taken when he first met these wonderful wonderful people and raising the glass to them to make a toast.
To absent friends.