There are periods of my life I associate with Ali. They’re often not the good ones, but he’s always been there when I needed him.

I’ve known Ali for nearly 12 years. He was always there for me when I was depressed and in a new city with almost no friends. We spent a lot of time together when I was broke and couldn’t afford to go out more than once or twice a month. We haven’t seen as much of each other in the years since – but we still occasionally hang out.

In fact, I can quantify exactly how much time Ali and I have spent together: 76 days, five hours, and 38 minutes. And it’s never been boring: together Ali and I have killed a king of the undead, taken down a dragon threatening the future of the world, repelled an orc invasion, and imprisoned a demon lord.

Ali is Aliandor, a Level 120 human mage, and my main account on the world’s most successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game: World of Warcraft (WoW).

On one hand he is nothing more than a data file, likely well under 100kb, sitting on Blizzard’s server, entirely lacking in sentience, and one backup failure away from accidental deletion. And while I know that, there’s much more about Ali that I can’t separate: what we’ve done in the game, who we’ve met through it, and the moments where controlling Aliandor was the backdrop to moments in my real life.

I’ve spent more than 1,800 hours of my life with this character, over more than a decade – that’s more than almost all of my real-world friends. Is it so strange to be attached to that collection of pixels?

The shallowest level of my connection to Ali comes from the gameplay itself: WoW is known as a fairly well-written game, but in reality, because each expansion runs for 18 months, with incremental updates to the game and its plot, much of the interest in its storyline comes because you have known the characters for so long.

If a franchise like Red Dead Redemption is gaming’s answer to a blockbuster movie, then WoW is its answer to soap operas; a soap opera that your character is an integral part of. Leading AI characters know Ali’s name, have promoted him to general, and reminisce over past campaigns with him. There’s nothing to better immerse someone into a plot – …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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Ali is my in-game avatar. And I’ve spent more time with him than most of my real friends

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