This week, I have discovered a new way to use WoW to enhance real life: facilitating the bonding of two long lost brothers. The story I am about to tell is true, though I have changed some of the names.
In the late 60s, my mother-in-law, whom we will call Viola, married a man (we'll call him Cletus) in Southern California and they had a son, Chris. They moved to Colorado, leaving behind all of Viola's family. When Chris was a toddler, one of Viola's sisters became critically ill and Viola returned to California to see her, possibly for the last time. (The sister did survive after many months of hospitalization.) Cletus took advantage of Viola's absence to get a divorce and gain custody of Chris. He separated mother and child and contact between them was lost.
Viola got remarried and had another son, my husband Chuck, in the mid 70's. When Chuck was old enough to understand, he was told of his half-brother. But this was a painful subject that was not brought up often by the family.
Fast forward to early last week. I received an email from Viola's other sister. It said she found Chris and was talking to him. Some clever MySpace perusing and a well worded email had finally succeeded. There were phone calls between Aunt, Grandmother and finally Mother. It really didn't hit home to Chris until his Grandmother used his father's nickname -- a name that Chris had not told anyone.
For years, Chris had wanted to contact his mother, but was prevented from doing so. Chris had no idea he had aunts and living grandparents, let alone a younger half brother. Meanwhile, Chuck wished he knew his only brother, but didn't have the information or the means to contact him.
But now what? It's one thing to want to know each other. It's another to actually accomplish the fact. The brothers felt awkward and overwhelmed and confused and many emotions that they were having trouble understanding. So while emails were exchanged between the women of the family and Chris, Chris and Chuck did not make contact. Chris felt out of focus and Chuck didn't know how to feel and neither knew how to talk to the other.
Of course, I'm a Proud Mommy and felt compelled to add Chris to my Proud Mommy Picture Distribution List. I then sent out a Proud Mommy email which just happened to have my Proud WoW Insider Columnist links attached. I quickly got a very short email from Chris -- Chris plays WoW.
I have to admit, I had entertained the possibility that Chris played WoW and I was hoping to flush him out. As soon as I had seen the picture of him with his shield, I knew he was a fellow geek. And my yarn addiction enabler had called it almost immediately. I guess an affinity for playing WoW is in the genes.
This was the connection that was needed for the brothers. The evening after receiving my email, Chris made a character on Chuck's server and they have been chatting in WoW ever since. While Chuck has been farming treants and healing groups through heroics, he has been getting to know his older brother. And while Chris has been leveling up his Blood Elf Hunter, he's been learning about the brother he never knew he had.
The fact is that none of us have the money to fly over to see him or fly him to see us. Phone calls are great, but they can also be extremely awkward. Emails are one side at a time, which is pretty slow. But for WoW players, in-game chat is a very comfortable way to become acquainted on common ground.
In just a few days time, Chris and Chuck have discovered many other things they have in common. They went quickly from hesitantly discussing mundane things to exploring their feelings and discussing their fears. Chuck went from "I don't know what to say" to filling his screen with purple whispers to and from Chris.
Without WoW, I don't know how long it would have taken the brothers to get over the awkward beginning. But with the common love of the game to lay the foundation and the ability to get to know each other while enjoying their hobby, they have bridged the gap of distance and years to become the brothers they have always wanted.
Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice, please email Robin.Torres@weblogsinc.com for a possible future column.