I've mentioned once or twice on this blog that for several years my brothers and I have played an online, text-based, strategy war game called Dominion. Over the years the player-base has continued to shrink, and attempts to revitalize it were of no avail. Today, the game's creator and administrator Ross officially announced that the game is shutting down. Round 74, which just completed, will be the final round of Dominion ever played.
I know 74 rounds may not sound long on the surface, but each round lasted for 50 days (with a few days off in between rounds), so when you crunch those numbers you'll see that those who came to the game in its early days have been playing it for quite a while. Personally I played my first round about 8 years ago, and though I've taken breaks from play I've been a relatively consistent member of the community since then.
And that community, that's what really stood out about the game. Because of its slow and cooperative nature, its simple and accessible message board, and its relatively selective appeal the game developed a very familiar and interconnected community of players from around the world. In its final rounds, the total player-base was down to just a few hundred people, so unlike bigger games the majority of the active players and message board participants actually recognized one another on an individual basis. And on top of that, players could form packs before each round, with up to 6 individuals working together, so most of us came to know several other people much better through the close and continuous interaction that packing brought with it. Many of us have become friends on Facebook, met up in real life, or more. And we've all shared hours of conversation with numerous other players, based originally around shared experiences within the game, but growing into genuine exchanges of ideas and beliefs from our own personal lives. One girl, who my brother knew in college, actually met her current husband through Dominion (interestingly he was roommates with one of my brother's pack-mates). Several others have dated other players, or visited them in foreign countries.
It's hard to convey what a sense of loss comes with the end of this game. I've spent thousands of hours over the better part of a decade talking about it, playing it, developing strategies, conversing on the message boards, browsing through Valhalla (the player history rankings), reading the wiki, or talking to other players on irc, Yahoo IM, or Facebook. The game had its own lexicon, its own running jokes, and its own shared history. Talking about those dirty, cheating BGs, or laughing about rainbow builds and scary chickens, or the traditional "DE are overpowered" thread at the start of every round are all little things that mean nothing to the rest of the world but were part of the everyday life of those few who shared in this little adventure. While I'm sure I'll still communicate from time to time with some of those other people, the pillar of our community no longer stands. And the gameplay itself is no longer there. No more time spent deciding how many diamond mines to build. No more logging in at 3am to make sure I had Ares Call and Midas Touch active. No more panicking about last-minute spec-pumps from that huge troll in Realm #39. It's all over now, and I'm going to miss it.
Now I realize that most of you reading this are probably thinking "Woah dude, it's just a game. Getting a little obsessive, don't you think?" It's true, Dominion was only a game. And it's possible that I am being a little obsessive. But it was a game that occupied a special little part of my life for years, and I know for a fact that there are other people who feel exactly the same way I do about it. Now that it's gone it feels like moving away from all the people you know in your old town and from the house that, though inanimate, has become a very real part of your life. I guess right now I'm in that stage where you walk around in the empty shell, all the furniture now packed up and gone, and say goodbye one last time to that kitchen cupboard you always seemed to bang your head into. Goodbye Dominion, and seRiously... thanks for all the memories.