by Christian, @Falke, the AngryPanda or whatever else floats your boat
In Paragon City I could fly.
Somehow I want to end this entry after that line because it manages to say almost everything I want about City of Heroes and it’s untimely demise that needs to be said. But my beloved City deserves a few more words than that. In fact I’ll have to divide this entry into paragraphs so it won’t be one massive wall of text.
Hope is candle
Paragon has been more than a hobby or a game for me. A few years ago it was my life, at a time I had no job and no perspective and no hope for the future I dimly remembered a beta I had played two years ago for some obscure super hero MMO. It just wouldn’t run stable on the university connection I had at the time so I gave up on it but now I had a normal connection so it was time to try again. In one of the most random and best decisions I’ve made in my life I decided against buying the EU version of the game in a store and instead try to download the US version since people here do not really get what comic book heroes are about. Its simply not as much part of the culture as it is in the US.
Living in a one room apartment with the only furniture being a bed and a desk, staring at empty walls and thinking I’ll never ever get anywhere again I stepped into Atlas Park and my life changed forever. Some of the change was instant. A flash of joy in a life that I was almost ready to give up. Some came over time, things I learned or grew into. Turning me into a better person. Not a good person by any stretch but better than before. City of Heroes started a chain reaction that would improve myself and my life for years to come.
A city of heroes
If you’re not a gamer you will think no silly little video game could be that important. Let me assure you I’m 31 years old, I’ve done all the things that are supposed to make real life all that great and fuck you this place was that important. If you played MMOs you may have a tiny bit of an idea how special Paragon was but don’t kid yourself, you got no clue how unique COH was. In this world there is a whole society, from the evil marketeers, the elite powegamers, the farmers for money, the taxibots only out to help, the seedy underbelly of Pocket D that can go from painstakingly stupid to deeply disturbing the more you learn about it. The silver age super groups and their silly little worries about good names and roleplay. There’s no end to the groups in COH but for some reason in this game they didn’t just coexist. They lived together and formed a society. People were not only talking to their guilds like they do in so many other games. The roleplaying silver age hero might also be a master of builds and hang with the powergamers, he may farm for hours while no one is on and play the market in between. For each of these things he was probably a member in several global channels. After all that he may have gone for entertainment of the darker sort, quite possibly on another character or even account just so no one would know. Still this one person would know the equivalent of a dozen or more guilds in a normal game.
On my first day no less than three people came right up to me, showed me around, gave me some starting money and taught me the basics of gameplay. Why did they do this? They checked my character and saw I have no veteran badges and thus must be new. People do that in Atlas Park. Every hour of every day they just take a casual look to see if anyone is new and may need help. No shouts of noob and other crap, every new hero is a potentially positive asset to the commnity and the game as a whole.
In City of Heroes you don’t just get to play another person, a mighty paladin or crafty warlock. You get to play whoever the fuck you want. You get to do exactly what you want. And most importantly you get to wear the pants you want. The result is not only a character you invest time in and like the mechanics of. The result is a person that you made, that looks like you want, can do what you think is awesome and fun and even has the history you made up. A little but important difference between COH and other games is the box for a biography that gives you 1000 characters for a short description of your hero. You have no idea how much that does for a game. With a left click and a glance you can usually see if someone is the sort of person you want to hang out with, from self-righteous hardcore roleplayer to minimalist farmer to anything in-between, left, right, above or below.
I had just seen the Birds of Prey TV Series at the time I started playing and my first character was practically a rip-off of that version of the Huntress, “Shadefalcon”. All black leather, attitude and the ability to kick bad guys so hard they’d fly into the next room. On the first day I got to team up with a disilusioned rogue cop who dubbed me a “vigilante” a little bit that immediately made it into my bio. By week two I had been recruited into Evolution X an elite group of mutant superheroes working for the government in organized uniformed teams. In short I was part of a living breathing world and already involved in one of its many many little parts. At times the results of what people create in this game are so terrible to behold that you wish you’d have brainbleach but you can be sure that of the hundreds of heroes around you every single one looks exactly the way they think of as awesome and that’s what really made the difference.
Putting on the Cape
If you think that free-mixing subcultures from 80s cartoon themed supergroups to a secret slave-trade beside the cages of the monkey fight club are all that Paragon has to offer you couldn’t be more wrong. Global channels connecting people to form elite Taskforces, share roleplay or coordinate on the market run through the game like arteries, connecting not only characters but player accounts (even across servers) and forming the informational lifeblood of the game. Above even the global channels and those dedicated player organizing them stood those creating the fansites and sources of information. The only other game that comes even close to the available information and supporttools is World of Warcraft a juggernaut with 10 million players.
City of Heroes, one of the smallest players of the game managed to have extensive wikis, character creation tools and guides on levels other games could only dream of, all created and maintained by dedicated fans of the game. Dedicated radio stations running events, creating SG ads running life DJs for every day of the week and a charity that raised over 30 thousand dollars for sick children and veterans in the time of its existence, City of Heroes had it all. Contributing even a little bit to the things the titans our community did could make me feel like I’m part of something better. City of Heroes may not have changed the world but there is no other game out there that reaches out so far to help its players and even people who have nothing at all to do with the game at all. Being part of the City of Heroes community is a privilege even for someone as jaded and miserable as me. In Paragon City I met heroes.
Tomorrow will be the last day of City of Heroes. Part 2 and 3 will happen during the day. Next time: A tribute to some of the friends I made, acknowledgments of mistakes I made, the dark sides of the game and how it changed my real life.