The way we interact with people in WoW is kind of weird when you think about it. With the implementation of the dungeon finder system, I can't really think of any other area in which you continuously meet up with complete strangers, team up to manage a task (sometimes with good results and sometimes with not so good) and then say your goodbyes only to probably never meet that person ever again. If you think about it, you've just spent an hour with someone around Europe (in my case) who after the instance he just did with you will go do other stuff in his daily life just like you. You've just grazed eachother over the internets and you will never meet again (sometimes you're glad that is so). Will you remember that run for the rest of your life? Probably not. Although that might happen of course if it was particularly horrible or awesome. In what other area of life could you have these kind of meetings? There might be some field of work that works this way, but I can't think of a good example that is similar to how we meet people in WoW, except perhaps other areas of the internet. When you study at the University you often meet people for periods of a time, do work with them, and then never again. But not in the same magnitude as in WoW. In WoW we don't just team up with new strangers once a week, but several times a day. And most importantly, it's only that once, then all those people in your group are gone forever. What really makes me sad when a blogger decides to close down shop is mostly that I'll have lost my connection to them. I've shared so many thoughts and so much time with that person (or they with me anyway) and suddenly they'll be just - gone.
Outgrowing a guild is often like outgrowing your old friend team from childhood, moving to another guild is like moving to another town. You might stay in touch with a couple of them, but mostly you'll just have fond memories of all the fun you had a couple of years ago and get on with your current life. You left for a reason. But what if you didn't leave willingly? What if the connection wasn't severed willingly, or never even got a chance to become anything?
I've left a group of friends twice in WoW, once because of choice and once because I was forced to. In the first case I had spent several years in my old guild, and therefore several years with some of its members, before I decided to switch to another guild. I do still have some alts in my old guild and we do occasionally do some heroics together, but it is far from our glory days when we raided Karazhan, Zul'Aman and even Mount Hyjal and Serpentshrine Cavern with that guild. Oh all the fun we had. I even met some of them outside of WoW. And then one day I decided to leave all that behind and start a new "life" in another guild. There were many reasons for it, but to a big part because many of the people I liked so much in my old guild had left the game so there wasn't really much left for me to miss. And fortunately I can still talk to the ones that are left on my alts. I am more sad actually about my involuntary guild break, although it really shouldn't be a big thing to me.
Back in Wrath, maybe two years from now, I leveled one of my Prot Warriors. Somewhere around level 40 I was whispered by someone who asked me if I wanted to join his guild - Nightfall. Since I was all alone on the server I didn't mind the company, he also seemed like a really nice guy. So I said yes and joined them. They turned out to be a really nice bunch, they even raided and had been around for some time as I understood it. I join tons of guilds on all my alts, and I usually don't invest much time into them. I talk to people when I am online, I ask if someone wants to do a dungeon, but that is basically it. But things were different with this guild. I became friends with some of them, even added them to friends list (and I seriously very rarely do that, although this was before RealID), and probably played that warrior more than my priest. They got completely thrilled when they found out there was an achievement that would give you the title "of the Nightfall", since it suited the guild perfectly. Before I got to 80 however, almost looking forward to maybe being able to raid with this guild as much as I liked raiding with my main guild, the guild got into trouble. For some reason, of which I still don't know, the guild master and his girlfriend, one of the officers, just stopped showing up. Completely disappeared. If I recall correctly they said they were going to be gone for some week, but then they never turned up again. At first people didn't think much of it. Even a GM needs a break sometimes. But after a while this became a problem. Without the GM around some things were just difficult to manage practically, not to mention that when there is no outspoken leader in a guild, no one really knows which way to go. After a couple of weeks of trouble, most people had finally decided that the only solution was to disband the guild (which meant leaving it since only the GM could disband it) and reform it as a new guild under new leadership. It had to be done to save the guild and the people in it, because everyone was becoming frustrated at not knowing what was going to happen and not seeing any of the regular events going up.
Eventhough I had only been in the guild for a short while, perhaps a month (if even) when the issue first arose, I did commit a lot of time and effort to trying to help the guild and to help them find a solution to the problem. I might even have been the one that came with the suggestion that the ultimate solution might have to be to disband and reform. After much discussion it was settled. They picked a date, people logged on, quit the guild and were invited into the new one, named Dusk. Everyone had agreed on the new GM and other practical business, it really seemed like they might be able to get the show on the road again. But for some reason, that never happened. Something had been lost in the transition, and we never managed to find it again. Dusk dwindled further, people stopped logging on until finally one day, I parked my warrior in Dalaran and forgot about her. Forgot about the friends I had, forgot about the fun we had had. I just didn't log onto her anymore, I didn't see a point - for some reason. And before RealID, logging on to that particular server was the only way to keep in touch, but if I had no reason to play that character it made it difficult to keep the connection.
I know when people complain about the Dungeon Finder, this is exactly what they have a problem with. Meeting people fleetingly only turn them into no-named faces which you mainly use to get to your own reward. Back in the day when you only had your own server, you often played with the same people over and over, even if you didn't know them from your guild or real life. RealID is supposed to solve this to some part. But I don't necessarily want to hand out my real name to every nice guy I meet out on the internet - mom told me that was a bad idea already when I was 4 years old, and it has stuck with me. Right now, I don't even bother with talking to people because I know that even if I find someone who's interesting, I won't ever meet them again after this dungeon (although I'm really too chatty to keep my mouth shut in dungeons, but I can see why many other people think this way). WoW is all about interaction, and promoting friendship among strangers - it is what is needed to complete the majority of the content after all.Wouldn't it be great if there was some way to add friends cross server, maybe whisper them if they want to tag along on an instance? That way I can stay in touch with people I enjoy chatting with, without necessarily wanting to be best friends forever with them.
A couple of months later I logged back on - eventhough I can't really remember why - checked my friends list and saw the names of the people I had once spent so much time chatting with, offline. It made me sad. I had once really cared about these people, then I had turned my back on them. Or had I? How much had I really invested into my alt, this other guild and these "other" people. Did I have an obligation to stick around when they didn't? I don't know, but I do know that I sometimes still feel bad about the guild Nightfall/Dusk, and I suppose this is a memento to them all, all the people I once played with and liked that I'll never meet again.