The online super hero MMO game “City of Heroes” is shutting down. Much like many of my friends, I find myself very saddened by this despite the fact that I haven’t played in many years. This game has a very special place in life.
CoH wasn’t the first MMO I played, but it was the most impactful due to many circumstances which all aligned to make this particular game a very magical moment in my life. I had played some Earth and Beyond, Everquest, and WoW but CoH fell right in the sweet spot before my personal MMO bubble kind of burst. It was the most fun I ever had in an MMO. We had an awesome guild full of amazing friends, old and new. I had characters of every class, complete with full origin stories. We had a guildmate who died who most of us never met in person and yet we all felt the loss. When Andy, one of my best friends since 4th grade, got married, we had a LAN party for his bachelor party with many of our guildmates. Several guildmates built a computer out of spare parts so my wife at the time could keep playing when hers quit working.
When we moved to Austin, and were looking for jobs I set my sights on the company that published CoH. When my friend Andy soon came to Austin as well, I told him I’d seen an artist position open there. He was the first of us to get a job there. Then through him I heard that one of his co-workers was casting a play so Jess and I both auditioned and got cast in the first show ever at Richard Garriotts’s Curtain Theatre. Through that we became friends with several people who worked there which eventually led to me getting hired there as a QA tester (though not on CoH). Later, I helped Jess get a job as receptionist.
Eventually everyone moved on to other games, most going to EQ2 or WoW. After CoH, it was never the same for me. Everyone was split across different games and even different servers within the same game. I didn’t play enough to justify a monthly cost and just never felt that same magic again.
I eventually got the axe in one of the big layoff waves and spent the next 5 years as a freelance actor and musician. The company moved most of its operations to Seattle but Andy still works there as senior artist and Jess is now a lead content writer.
When I read the news of CoH “sunsetting,” I felt almost that same feeling as when you hear about the death of someone you once knew. Even though you may not have spoken to them in 20 years, you still feel the loss, like there’s something gone from this world. Just the lack of that presence and energy. Most people probably won’t understand this feeling and think to themselves that this was only a video game. However, for those of us that were there, together in Paragon City, we will undertand each other’s heartfelt eulogies and know that just as a bunch of atoms make a person, a bunch of 0’s and 1’s on a distant server somewhere can create a world of magic that brings people together and forms real, lasting impressions and relationships.