Thursday, April 10, 2008

Guild Wars: Had To Do It

Had to do it. Had to. Had to go. Couldn't not. It was like an invitation to a wedding for one of those friends whose path through life took a sharp turn from your own some time ago. An obligation you're not sure you should have, let alone honor, but one which you - nonetheless - still feel bound by. So, you grit your teeth and put up with everything that goes with it, even though you'd honestly rather not, because, sometimes, that's what it takes to be human - to put someone else's need to feel loved and accepted above your own, if only for a brief while.

I'm talking, of course, about the Farewell to Gaile event that was held over the weekend.

I've put off writing about it because, honestly, I found it to be pretty underwhelming and I didn't want to be spoiling someone else's moment with my complaining. I knew going in that there wouldn't be much for me to enjoy. No festival mask, no interesting new mini-games offered up for a few days of whirlwind fun, just a bit of Simon Says with some scripted bots and a chance to inflate a title that I don't even care about.

And, as expected, as my chosen district crawled with players and their mini-pets it turned into from a celebration into a lag fest. I thought I'd been smart by picking one in the middle of the list, one that people wouldn't flock to but it still slowed to a crawl as people clustered together, dancing and shooting off their party favors making my attempts to follow along with the prompts more like blind stabs from someone who'd lost their sense of inner balance.

I tried to take a bunch of pictures but, you know what? I deleted them all since there really wasn't all that much to it. Just a window a few minutes long to pump up the new Party Animal track. At least it was a chance to empty out some of my junk from storage and free up a few more slots.

Although, I have to say, some of the scripted lines were brilliant ("I roll up to the Xunlai, my account at maximum. You could call me King Jalis by the way I drop platinum." It takes a certain type of mad genius to come up with that. My kind of mad genius.) and the frog effects on the sparklers and fireworks were a nice little touch.

But, no, this weekend wasn't about the 100 odd points I now have in yet another worthless fluff track. Instead, it was about Gaile.

More precisely, about the community paying its respects, confirming its gratitude, to someone who's worked so long and so tirelessly on its behalf. Gaile isn't quite gone but her moving on is as good a time as any to reflect on just what she's done over the years with bittersweet fondness.

While I've had my run-ins with her, I'll refrain from rehashing those things that are truly better off left in the past. I've always respected Gaile even if I never quite liked her (It's one of those mutual things where I didn't like her because I was sure she didn't like me. I have no idea where I picked up that impression but it's always lingered and, perhaps, unfairly colored my perception.). She had a grueling job riding herd on the mangy collection of ingrates and crusaders - zealots with their pet causes and an inflated sense of their own privilege - who call themselves the Guild Wars community for the longest time.

But, not, I'd think, a thankless one. Because even way back when we all knew just how hard she worked and just how good she was at her job. Gaile was part of the community, the ever-present figure watching over our shoulders. Helpful, friendly, but always ready to be firm when it was called for. The early days that I remember so fondly just wouldn't have been the same without her.

That's why, out of all the choices I had for faces when I activated my nearly forgotten account and logged on for the first time in ages just to stand around for a few minutes waggling my avatar in some kind of poorly choreographed puppet show, I picked my first - my eponymous Warrior, the first character I'd ever created and the last one I'll ever delete. And out of all the destinations I went to the place it all started for me, Lion's Arch. Not the Khylo of the E34E, that had been wiped out long before it had been rebranded Ascalon City. Paved over by wave after wave of changes to the game and its environs until all it's lost all the landmarks that once made it familiar to me. But LA was, when I joined the test (Back when it was still the player-named Hakewood), where every character you made started out. And although it, too, has changed (I don't, for example, remember any gulls flying around in the air. Those came later, part of a change I had long dreamed of to add more life and vibrancy to the various lobbies by adding that smallest touch of motion. A minor addition, hardly the most important and certainly one long forgotten among all the other causes and concerns I've had over the years - but one that I had and, I hope, suggested all those many years ago. I might even have never bothered to share it, I had so many ideas back then that I never fleshed out for lack of time or interest and I can't recall whether I pitched a fit on the alpha boards about it or not. But it's still nice to see that it was one of the ones that I had right.) the vistas have remained the same. There's still the same ornate, arching towers in the distance, promising mystery and adventure to come with their ancient grace, that I remember slowly loading into that first time. Lion's Arch was where it began for me because being there it felt like I finally belonged.

And Gaile, ever-present, tirelessly helpful Gaile was one of those people who welcomed me in and made me feel like I had been there all along. Whether it was hanging around town or rushing through some press event or another or even just crashing down on the boards, Gaile was an intrinsic part of that whole scene.

It felt only too right, then, to spend a few brief moments, pouring out my rockets and glowing flares, like someone tipping out a bit of liquor to a fallen friend. Because those days are gone. And never coming back. And with Gaile leaving it means they never can be. So many things have happened, so much time has passed since then, but it's still worth it, to me, to celebrate what was once so right.

So, like all partings, it was a bittersweet affair. A chance to remember, to pay homage to those fleeting ghosts of feelings and emotions haunting our minds from the past. Sad, because we know they'll slip even further away, following that person into some place far from our reach. For me, that's how it is. A farewell party is just a wake for that part of your life that's well and truly over now.

Though it's also sweet because every leaving brings a chance for new greetings. It's hard to be too sad because that person is moving on. To something new, maybe even something better even as they leave a hole behind. But that hole can be filled in time, by someone new. Like Brinstar, who's stepping into the shoes that Gaile leaves behind - big ones to be sure but at least they'll be filled by someone who's been a part of the community for a while now. It's one of those bits of news where I knew about all the pieces but never quite managed to put them together. But, since this is a post about Gaile and the day we said good-bye to her, that's a non-surprise I'll leave for another time.

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