The End of an Era

[All names are pseudonyms, and often they are shortened pseudonyms at that. This is largely on purpose, as privacy matters.]

7 years ago, in a hotel room at GenCon, a friend of mine introduced me to City of Heroes. Paladin had been trying unsuccessfully to get me to buy and play the game, and I had resisted based solely on “I have enough games, and I don’t need to pay a monthly fee to play them.” But in that hotel room he did what all good drug-dealers do, and offered me the first taste for free by letting me create a character on his account and explore the game world. I was hooked.

Today, NCSoft announced that they would be shutting down City of Heroes at the end of November.

Over those 7 years, City of Heroes has had a major impact on my life. No, I’m not talking about hours wasted that could have been spent doing something productive, though there were certainly plenty of those. At first, I tended to limit myself to teaming with just people I knew in real life… but even that led to expanded friendships. Shad and I had had an adversarial relationship for a decade– acquaintances who didn’t really like each other but put up with each other at social events when we had to. Only it turns out that in that decade, we had both grown up and mellowed out, and once we started politely chatting to each other in game, we realized we didn’t hate each other anymore. Now, he’s someone I actually consider a friend, though I confess that I have been “meaning to call” for far too long. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Eventually, those teams expanded as one or more of us joined random teams and found players we liked. (This was frequently Paladin, frankly.) Chief among them was Dood, who dragged us kicking and screaming into a chat channel full of awesome people. There, I met Tal, Dire, Tian, Hobo, TKat and Shiden. (There are others, too, but it’s late and their names don’t reduce down as well.)

TKat and Shiden became close enough friends that they came out to visit for a large social event I hosted, and I routinely visit them. During one of my visits, I met a co-worker of TKat’s named Cyrano. Cyrano and I hit it off. Through him, I met RNeko and PEMTEK. Through PEMTEK, I met DKitty. All of them are now real-life, offline friends. All of them I ultimately met through City of Heroes, even though some of them never played a day of City of Heroes in their lives.

Unsurprisingly, the chat channels on City of Heroes right now are filled with people reminiscing. For many of them, their favorite memories are of the first time they saw a game feature– one of CoH’s strong points is the gorgeous graphics.

For me, my memories are all of people. I can’t remember the first time I saw one of my characters flying in a cape, though I do recall a bunch of us spending a lot of time in a mission with a rave theme, bouncing around and watching the capes flutter. I remember the first time we did certain Task Forces, not because of the Task Force itself but because we were unprepared for the new challenge and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to beat it. I remember the scorn that bled out from Ryan (who spent 7 years on a “don’t call me by my chat handle” kick, and thus gets to have an actual name) when he showed us how to do it, and it turned out to be pretty simple if you actually read all the mission text. I remember the night a group of us tackled one of TKat’s harder missions, and ended up dying repeatedly… and how it became a war of stubbornness, in which we just kept dying and resurrecting until we wore everything down and beat the stupid thing. I remember carefully collecting addresses to pass a card around for everyone to sign, in order to cheer up one of our number who was going through a rough time.

And I remember the night we learned we had lost one of our own, claimed by a heart attack while at his computer. He had introduced his step-son to us, who woefully told us what had happened. My eyes still tear up at the thought of never talking to him again.

Nothing lasts forever, and I always knew that there would come a day in which there would be no City of Heroes. I just didn’t realize it would be so soon. I often tell Paladin that it’s all his fault, but the truth of it is that I wouldn’t change a bit of it for the world. Well, except the ending– I’d move that out a few more years.