***Please note: anything in [ ] was a footnote in my word processing document.***
Toxickitteh (Tasha) met me thanks to Selky. It must’ve been around Halloween because she remembers meeting me in a zone called Nagrand, a vast rolling landscape with floating islands all over the place, and steep mountains lining the fringes. I was flying around the mountains on a broomstick, landing frequently to kill big purply ogres for netherweave cloth, in the process of leveling tailoring, one of the many crafting professions available in MMOs.
Crafting is somewhat like having a job in the online gaming community, with the goal of being able to make high quality gear, weapons, and other useful items that make you stronger in battle. You don’t need to level professions, since you can piggyback off of other people’s hard work, for a hefty price, but it’s worth the effort to become a skillful tailor, blacksmith, enchanter, etc. yourself.
Killing monster after monster for specific items is called farming. I find farming ore and herbs relaxing, when I just want to log onto the game and chat with people, and not much more. Farming requires little more than patience and persistence, and minding a circular mini map in the upper righthand corner of your screen for gold dots. I lovingly call this kind of farming “gold dot fever,” and have even improvised lyrics for a parody of “Cabin Fever” from the movie “Muppet Treasure Island.”
I’ve got gold gold dot fever.
I’ve got it really bad.
I’ve got gold dot fever.
Every last node must be had!
While I was committing mass murder of cloth-bearing ogres, two Druids in flight form dropped in on me. [Flight form: big purple ravens with sting necklaces.] Why at this particular time? Because Selky had told Tasha, “There’s someone I want you to meet.” None of us remember the exact details of the meeting beyond that, but I set aside farming to PvP with them. And when you’re a mage being healed by two Resto (short for Restoration, the healing specialization) Druids, you make a lot of things go boom before you die, especially if you’re a gnome.
Gnomes have an easy time of finding hiding places. I’ve hid behind stumps, in bushes, behind allies, and even inside an ally’s robes. Seriously. Gaming physics insists two solid objects can occupy the same space, unless one of the objects has been programmed so players can’t travel through it, like buildings and terrain. So, when midget me is presented with the opportunity, I hide and snipe. Call me a coward all you want. Mages aren’t built for melee combat.
I didn’t get to know Tasha well until years later. She’s been one of my gaming friends who’s always been there and I enjoyed spending time with, but I never took the time to really get to know. I was also hyper focused on Reggie at the time, on top of work and school. All I knew at the time was that Selky called her Pet, and in return Tasha called her Mistress, and she happily chatted away with me on Vent.
* * *
One day I PvPed not only with Selky and Tasha, but also Reggie and a few of his guildies from when he was in Elysium. We were all on Elysium’s vent and it was closing in on raid time, so Reggie and crew had to stop PvPing so they’d be punctual. Selky and Tasha left Vent and I decided I should follow suit, since I wasn’t in Elysium, nor was I raiding with them. I didn’t want to interfere.
“Alright, I think I should leave Vent now.”
“Naw,” one of Reggie’s guildies said. “You can stay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it. Just don’t talk if the officers or raid leaders are talking, or if we’re in the middle of a boss fight.”
I could do that. Since I’d just met that guildie and they’d all enjoyed my company while PvPing, I decided to stay on Vent, even though the thought made my heart pound. I wasn’t part of the raid. I didn’t belong in Vent with them. However, curiosity got the best of me and I stay logged in.
I listened in while the raid collected itself and people gathered at the entrance in game. Some lady was running the show and started explaining a boss fight. At the end she said, “Did everyone understand everything I said?”
Feeling like having a little fun, I said, “No.”
“What part do you need me to go back over?” she said patiently.
“Everything. I’m so short, all of it went over my head.”
A moment of confused silence followed. “Who are you?”
“I’m the midget of doom! Fear me!”
“Who the fuck are you? You’re not in the raid. Get out of my vent, you little piece of—!”
I think I got booted from Vent before I could tab out of WoW to dodge out the voice chat program.
“Smooooooth,” Reggie said to me in a whisper in game.
“I think I made her mad,” I whispered back.
“She’s still ranting about you on Vent.”
“Lol.” I don’t remember the rest of the exchange, other than the guilty pleasure of catching someone off-guard like that. I also have a faint recollection of trying to apologize to her later on, so she’d un-ban me from Elysium’s Vent but her reaction and what she might’ve said are beyond my recollection.
* * *
Tasha grew up all over the U.S. since her father was in the military, but mostly in Nebraska and Michigan, and the best friends she had came from Takoma, Washington. When she and family moved to Nebraska, she became the outsider and her peers abused her both verbally and physically. And since it was a small town, everyone joined in on it. It was their unending hazing ritual for black sheep her to gain acceptance. She had to conform or receive abuse.
Her family moved to Nebraska because her grandfather had passed away, but then they moved to Michigan because her aunt had gotten into a serious car accident. The move excited Tasha at first. Not only was she being presented with the chance to make new friends, she’d also be around extended family. She thought she’d be welcomed by family but only a couple cared and the rest seemed indifferent. Since Tasha was only 11 at the time, she admits she may not have understood them well.
At age 13, she went to her cousin’s house in Hillsdale to play Diablo. The graphics were “intense” back then on Windows 98. Tasha was enthralled by it, swiftly getting addicted to killing evil creatures and progressing through levels. Oh, the endless slaughter!
Her mother finally got her a computer to meet Tasha’s schooling needs, and at age 16 she bought Diablo II, along with the expansion. That’s when she met Stewie, her first gaming pal, whom she’s still in contact with. He was a real humorous teenager who played an Amazonian named something along the lines of “Tits.” Tasha found this exceptionally funny because, like me, she encountered many boys who didn’t believe girls played video games. Stewie readily accepted Tasha for who she insisted she was, but he’d playfully tease her about it.
Tasha played less and less because her dialup connection couldn’t keep up with the updates, but they reunited in WoW thanks to her brother, who’d never touched PC games before. He was a hardcore Playstation fan. However, when he met someone who was into WoW, he tried to play it on their dinosaur of a computer, bought a new computer that could handle it, was foiled by dialup, and then finally piggybacked off of a neighbor with wireless broadband. Voila! Good riddance, lagfest. [“Fest” appearing at the end of a word translates to “a lot of.” Lagfest = a lot of lag.]
She and her brother ended up on the server called Thrall and Tasha joined a guild called Torrent, which was where she met our mutual friend Selky, who became Tasha’s mentor in all things Druid. Thanks to Selky, Tasha got to know me and Reggie, but when he and I played a lot less to focus on college, and Selky disappeared for a while thanks to computer troubles, Tasha ended up spending more time with Stewie again, who was a hardcore PvPer on Destromath. Since she wasn’t very good at PvP, they ended up just spending time chatting in-game, or through Blizzard’s Real ID chat system while playing Diablo and Starcraft games, since Tasha retired from WoW to focus on college.
Essentially, online video games have become a portal to new beginnings. Since Tasha grew up getting bullied and picked on so much, online game became a safe haven where the computer screen became not only a shield from idiots, but also a portal to true friends. Online games have helped her find acceptance in a thriving community.
As of the time of writing this book Tasha now lives in Ohio, going to college to become a certified phlebotomy technician at Northwestern State Community college, while working part time at a factory. Not all her coworkers understand her joy and enthusiasm for online gaming, but it’s only the ones who’ve never played video games or tried to understand the online gaming community.