Dropped From the Game
Every Saturday morning, I wake up before everyone else and play video games. It’s my hour or two of “me” time.
I always start out with the same game, a group game that I’ve been playing for years with the same women. I don’t know these women in the face-to-face world, and I only know them by their avatars, not their full names. But we’ve been playing this game together for years and usually casually chat during tasks.
They’re like bulletin board friends.
On Saturday morning, I sat down with my coffee and opened the game. I was greeted by a single message. I had been kicked out of the group.
I stared at it for the longest time. You can’t play the game without a group.
I didn’t really feel like playing any video games after that. I ended up cleaning instead because it was something within my control. I scrubbed down surfaces and washed sheets and vacuumed the floor. I sat by myself and cried for a bit because it felt like middle school. I had no clue what I had done wrong; all I knew was that, without warning, I was no longer welcome at the lunch table.
I applied to join my old group, mostly because I wanted an explanation. And… everyone acted excited that I was back, but they admitted that it hadn’t been an accident. They dropped me because they didn’t think I pulled my weight with the group tasks. No hard feelings, right, Mel, we just really want to win.
But there are hard feelings. I have hard feelings right now; messy, conflicted, really hurt feelings, especially since I know it’s only a game. You can get upset about the loss of a real friendship, right? You can’t really get upset about a game.
This is what I know. I can focus on single player games; I tend to enjoy them more anyway. I may have dedicated years to playing with these women, but they don’t even really know me, so how could it be personal? Plus, they’re right, I’m not going to pull my weight. They play daily, I play once a week. They’ve always told me this wasn’t a problem, but clearly it is. This game will cease to be fun if I try to keep their pace.
And yet, I think they forget that there is a very real person on the other end of that avatar. It’s something I think we see forgotten daily online — from Twitter to the comment box — that there are very real people on the other side of these social media accounts and blogs. They didn’t think about how I was going to wake up on a Saturday morning and see that the people I’ve been playing with for years dumped me without an explanation.
They put playing the game before the humans playing the game.
Maybe they should. After all, it’s a game, and the point of the game is to win. If they don’t think I’m doing enough to help them win, I probably shouldn’t play with them. And we clearly have different feelings about winning; I enjoy being part of a long-standing group, even if we never win. And they would rather have a group that wins than the community that comes with the group. Everyone is allowed to approach games differently.
The game is no longer fun; no longer something I look forward to playing. My stomach knots as I look at the icon, wondering if I’ll open the game again and see that I’ve been dropped a second time.
It’s okay. It’s just a game. If I’m not enjoying myself, I should drop it.
It’s just that I used to like it very very much.
After I wrote this post, I logged into the game and said goodbye to everyone. My finger hovered over the delete button for a moment. And then I took a deep breath, confirmed my choice, and closed the game.
I don’t have regrets, but I don’t feel good about saying goodbye to that game; those players.