I love this question.  Why do I love it?  Because I’ve been playing WoW so damn long that I can’t help but feel some sort of weird “claim to fame” for keeping it a part of my life as long as I have.  It’s more than a game, and it’s something that has been with me for almost longer than I care to admit, but also something that’s affected me deeply.

I have been playing WoW for almost 9 years now.  I am 21 years old now, which means not only did I start playing when I was 12 (!) but also that I’ve played throughout the entirety of my teenage years.  Without ever letting my subscription run out.

It’s weird, when I think about it.  It’s also something I can’t really describe accurately without knowing that I’m probably being judged for what I’m saying (at least by non-WoW players).  To say WoW has had an impact on me would be an understatement, because quite frankly, I have been playing this game for more than a third of my life.  Think about that for a second.  9 of my 21 years on this earth have been spent playing the same video game.  It’s weird for me to even think about.

I have gone through junior high, high school, and now I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate program at my University.  I have lost people, both inside the game and out.  I’ve moved away from home, rented an apartment with my girlfriend, and gone through a couple different jobs.  In short, I’ve grown up.  I’ve grown up, and I’ve still played WoW through it all.

In-game, I’ve gone through server transfers, guild changes, and hours upon hours upon hours of raiding.  A lot of it has been with the same group of people I met in Vanilla, and probably an equal number of people have come and gone as well.  I moved up the ranks of my guild initially, and have been an officer since early in BC – when I was 14, mind you.

That might not seem like anything crazy, but WoW has certainly taught me leadership skills I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else.  Organize 10, 15, 25, even 40-person groups?  Coordinate times, events, schedules, etc. with everyone?  Decide on fair loot rules, how to handle drama, and everything else that comes with being in a guild for a long time?  Not a chance I would have learned half the skills I have today if not at least in part for WoW.

Outside of the game’s effect on me, knowing the same group of people this long also affects a person.  Being with the same guild members this long creates the feeling of a “family”, especially when you meet them when you’re 13 (when I first got into raiding).  I have no doubt that at least some of my sense of humor (which is probably more “adult” than it would have been otherwise) was influenced by my guildmates.  I also have no doubt that I wouldn’t have made it through certain parts of my life if not for the support I received from them.

Playing so long has also afforded me the opportunity to meet so many people from so many places.  For me, I can’t imagine a situation where I would consistently be able to hang out and get to know the kinds of people I’ve met in WoW.  From Australia to Bermuda to Singapore to you-name-it, I’ve met all kinds of folks.  And I’ve loved it.  Every bit of it.

Ask me to spew off a response to this kind of topic in person and I could go on forever, but for now, what I’m trying to say in a fairly rushed manner is this:  WoW has been with me for a very long time.  I’ve grown, the game has changed, and I’ve met all kinds of people.  No matter what though, it’s been a part of my life.

It might seem like a game to a lot of people, but I owe a great deal to my virtual family.  I honestly don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t met them.  And if I hadn’t been playing this game for so long, I wouldn’t have known them for so long.  When you’ve been playing for so long – especially when you started at 12 – the game has a huge impact on your life.  More than you can really understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself… but let me tell you, it’s a great experience.

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