Posted by Dana Lynne Abeln @CaptainMarvel
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Dana Lynne Abeln

Community. Belonging. Family. These are the keys to survival in real life and in the digital one. There are many great games out there, but they never quite feel as homey or as welcoming as a good online game. It's far more rewarding to beat a boss with a friend than by yourself. That's where a game like Blizzard's World of Warcraft comes in.

Blizzard has a fantastic online community and many of its games are structured around completing tasks as a team. But there's something more to Blizzard's community. It creates lifelong friendships, and some relationships go even deeper than that.

I'm a nerd. I don't know about you, but being a nerd in high school meant not having a lot of friends who shared your peculiar interests — especially since I'm also a girl. Life got pretty lonely sometimes, and gaming was one of my few outlets. But it was also a passion.

As with all passions, I wanted to share my accomplishments with my close friends. Unfortunately, they never knew what I was talking about and often just wrote me off when I'd excitedly explain to them how I kicked butt in the arena or took down a particular boss. Eventually they'd just give up and I'd go back to feeling lonely and misunderstood.

My character was Xena, Warrior Princess.
My character was Xena, Warrior Princess.

The Guild

World of Warcraft has guilds, which are loose families of players who tackle the game's challenges and hang out in a chatroom together.

I remember the first time I joined a guild. Suddenly, I had a slew of people who could help me with quests or answer questions about something I was having a difficult time understanding. I had people who I could easily trade with for a better deal than I could with some BK Randy (bad kid random). And every time I leveled up, I'd have someone shoot me a "congrats!"

Eventually it got to the point that on our downtime between battles, we'd start talking about more personal things and getting to know each other on a real-life basis. To me, that was the real treasure that I took from this game. Something happened that I didn't expect: I made lasting relationships with people who were just like me.

The guild.
The guild.

The sense of closeness you share with the people you play WoW with is much like what I imagine a wolf pack must feel like. These people knew me better than most of my own family members. I would even say that it is better than meeting someone on a dating app!

We found love in a nerdy place.
We found love in a nerdy place.

Not only did I meet my eventual boyfriend on WoW, but I met some of my guild mates in real life, too. Some people might caution that meeting strangers from an online community is dangerous, but I truly knew these people. I had their Facebook profiles and their phone numbers.

I had probably spoken to their significant others at some point, begging them to let my "guildy" play just a little longer until we could finish a certain boss fight. I congratulated one guild member when they had a baby and was invited to another's wedding.

These were some of the best times I had in my life and some of the best relationships I've ever had. We've remained good friends, even though it's been a few years since I played WoW, and none of my guildies still play due to, well — life. But we all still keep in contact.

Every now and then we'll hit each other up to play a game because we became more than just a guild. We evolved into a family.

- Illustrations by Sarah Schnau