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Heart Story: One player's quest for iconic affection

The first character I ever made in WoW was a rogue named Lockette. She was an adorable little gnome with green pigtails who I played for 5 minutes while my boyfriend (who'd left himself logged in on the character selection screen) was in the shower. I don't recall much of what I did in the game during those few minutes, but I remember being fascinated by the sight of my character's footsteps on the snowy terrain of Dun Morogh.

Looking back on it now, I know it probably sounds like a strange thing to be impressed by, but my gaming experience at that time was limited to sprite RPGs that didn't have those kinds of little details. I wasn't used to being able to affect the environment of a game. So I ran in circles, squiggles, and zigzags, then finally made a small effort at drawing something simple: a heart. That's when I realized the prints fade quite quickly.

A quest is born

Months later while my boyfriend was studying abroad for a month, I decided to get a copy of the game for myself so we could play together when he got back. I spent each day working on my character in preparation for his return, but I was such a noob, I didn't get very far. I got lost endlessly, even when I read every word of every quest. I couldn't handle more than one mob at once and often lost my corpse on the sides of cliffs trying to get away. Despite this, by the time my boyfriend got back, I figured I had a pretty good grasp of the game and was excited to show him my progress: a level 16 night elf druid. He wasn't impressed -- something about rolling a dirty Alliance on the wrong server.

After we sorted through the server mishap, my boyfriend and I started playing together, and my understanding of the game changed dramatically. I got better quickly, but I started to realize how different it all was when you play with other people. When you play alone, you're playing on your schedule and nothing really feels like downtime. Once you start playing with other people, you're always waiting to do stuff -- either waiting for a gryphon to land, a boat to arrive, or a group to assemble. My boyfriend was always good at spending that time constructively, sorting through his bags so he would know exactly what to sell or bank when we got back to town. I, on the other hand, wasted all that time trying out emotes, hopping on things, and spinning in circles. When the terrain was right, though, I'd spend the whole time trying to draw shapes in the sand or snow. I wonder now if he ever realized exactly what I was doing (other than ensuring that I'd take an eternity to get what I needed when we stopped in town), because I never told him ... I was trying to draw him a heart.

I could never seem to get it perfect, though. Either the shape would be wrong, or I couldn't meet the two ends of the outline because the beginning would already be fading. I was so determined for no other reason but my affection for him, and I couldn't wait until I finally did it so I could tell him to look over, so he'd immediately understand it all. We broke up a couple of years later, before I ever could.

The quest continues

After the split, I got into raiding, which gave me lots more time to stand around waiting for people. I found myself, for whatever reason -- probably habit -- still trying in vain to draw the heart. With all the snow in Wrath, there was plenty of canvas to work on, and I worked at it more and more. I tried using things like Swiftness Potions, Body and Soul, and other items to try increase my movement speed, but it was to no avail; increasing my speed just screwed up the precision of my movements, and I'd end up with oblong hearts or ones that didn't meet at the bottom. Eventually I realized that there was no way to make a heart of the dimensions I wanted by myself. So after five years of trying to make a stupid heart with stupid digital footprints, I gave up.

At least, I thought I had.

I just didn't expect I'd ever find the opportunity to share something like that ... But I also didn't expect the whisper from the guildmate who never hung out after raid, nor the seven-hour conversation that followed. I didn't expect those seven-hour conversations to repeat themselves again and again. I certainly didn't expect the Partially Digested Weeds in my inbox, nor the feelings that accompanied them. And though I'm smart enough to not expect anything more from any of it, I never expected a day to come when I'd trust someone enough to say, "So there is this really stupid thing I've always wanted to do in game ... "


Happy Valentine's Day.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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