MMO games have lots of group activities and people play together for a long time because it takes months (sometimes years) to fully develop your online character. PvP means you fight (mostly) against other players who tend to be smarter, or at least less predictable, than playing against the computer.
Trisha and I go by different versions of Tink and Mort (Tinkerhell, Tinkehellion, Tinkerhellyeah, Mortrisha, Mortadella, Mortgasm) The game itself is just ok, but we we play because we’ve become a part of that community.
Tinkerhell (Trish’s main character) really leaned on the community when she left her job last fall. It took the place of the office water-cooler chat and gave her someone other than me to talk to. (I don’t know why she would need or want someone other than me to talk to, but she says it’s important, so I humor her.)
If you know Trish at all, you know she is charismatic in a subtle way. She is always surrounded by people, but is never the center of attention. Trish took to the online gaming world easily, and in the process became a damn good player and teammate.
Don’t think that everyone is nice online. The Interweb provides a cover of anonymity that encourages behavior we wouldn’t accept in real life. And the majority of the game-players are 15-25 males that put a lot of youthful energy and emotion into the game. There is relentless competitiveness, bragging, and nerd-rage. There is also a lot of young-boy sensitivity, insecurity and douch-baggery.
Jokes tend to be crude, and topics quickly shift to sex. Girls are welcome, cherished, even loved, but they get (mostly) the same treatment as the boys. Trish, very tough and always crude, fits in perfectly.
Pink for Tink helps Trish cope
Seeing Trish come out of the mammogram room crying is one of those moments in life that is permanently impressed in my memory. Cancer for the second time is less shocking, but more heartbreaking, especially after she passed the 5-year mark that was supposed to signal ‘all-clear.’
It’s understandable. Do you know how freaking hard it is to reach out and tell people you have cancer? It’s such a heavy and they don’t expect it. And if you are self-reliant like Trisha, you don’t want to ‘burden’ people.
So this time I did it. I called every parent, relative and close friend to let them know she had cancer and needed their support. Trish cried at the outpouring of love from her close friends and family. Within minutes she got calls. Facebook was so filled with messages she couldn’t keep up. And the next morning, I told our gamer friends online in a post on the forum boards.
My intent was just to let a few of our gamer friends know that we would be playing sporadically, and to get a few well-wishes from our close associates. Boy were we both in for a surprise. By mid-day the number of responses from people was over a two hundred, with a thousand views. The tone was supportive and caring, not what one would expect from the hardcore gamer demographic. Here are a few sample posts.
And it grew beyond that. Our buddy Sparkkee had the idea to dye his armor pink, and I called it ‘Pink for Tink’. It caught on, like a virus. By the next day hundreds of people were walking around in-game wearing (often ridiculous looking) pink armor for Trish.
Even more amazingly, the opposing side (remember it’s a PvP game where we fight each other) started dying their armor pink and naming themselves ‘Pink for Tink’ too!
By this point, Trish would burst into tears every time she logged on to play the game. One sort of expects close friends and family to express support, but to have strangers (including your ‘enemies’) stand behind you in solidarity is touching in a very different way.
Folks suggested that we take a group photo, which seems easy enough. But getting a bunch of ADD, stoned gamers that drink too much coffee and Redbull to organize and do something together at the same time is an impossible feat. And how could we ever get both sides together peacefully? It was worth a try, so I put out the announcement all day on the boards and in-game. Our guild Silent Reign, took a group photo and that took an hour in itself!
I tried to lower Tink’s expectations because I didn’t think more than a few would show up. And even if a group did show up, the most likely outcome would be they kill each other before we could take the picture.
The tension grew as we tried to get Tinkerhell to the spot (she was late.) People were moving around menacingly, and there were a few ‘accidental’ deaths. But the temporary truce, in support of Tinkerhell’s fight against breast cancer, held long enough to get a picture. They even waited until she gave the signal to fight!
And it was a hilarious fight. Spells, explosions, and bombs burst everywhere in mass (virtual) carnage. Destruction won, but everyone had a blast.
It was really healthy for the server to unite, albeit briefly, in support of one of it’s own. Online communities are fragile without the face-to-face contact that glues traditional groups. The Badlands community isn’t typical. People posted you-tube video of the event like this and this. Pong featured the Pink for Tink event in his hilarious newsletter. In 10 years of online gaming, I’ve never seen anything like this happen.
And it meant a ton to Tink. She was still reeling from the news, and the huge show of support helped her get through the terrible week. Tinkerhell and Mort send appreciation and gratitude to our friends and enemies on Badlands.
For the truly curious, there are some great tidbits of stuff here in the destro region chat during the event.