A week before I’d fly to Hawaiʻi, a new busboy friend and I trespassed our way up a path overgrown with blackberry bushes, to an abandoned gazebo overlooking Gig Harbor. I partook of eight bowls of marijuana (roughly seven more than I’d ever had before). Time passed. He then took a call from his girlfriend, who absolutely, positively, needed him right that second. So he dropped me off at home.
It’s three AM. This is the last place on Earth I want to be. In the pale orange of the buzzing streetlight, my folks’ place looks the part of the haunt it’s been. Like the cult horror flick Hausu, I’m defenseless as a Japanese schoolgirl deposited at the home of a screeching vampire auntie, who will – no doubt – jump from the shadows at any second, dragging her rough, claw-like fingernails over my throat, draining every drop so that her cat can float around in a tub of my life's blood. Just running the key into the lock makes the sound of a bonesaw. The deadbolt groans as I twist this rusty blade. Inside, every step is the wail of my witchlike captor. The door to the bedroom opens no less banshee-like, and there. I finally see the thing that’s bounced around in front of my face without being seen, for over a year of my life.
In the corner of the room, on the hardwood floor and half in the shade of a sheet metal industrial table, is the enormous specialty computer monitor. The jet-hum of my computer’s fan growls. Circling the boxy CRT is a disabused shrine of weeks-old food, at least three empty bottles of Charles Shaw, piles of wine stained, printed notes on the art of SWG artifact-finding, and, the real clincher, sickly orange, circular blotches of dried and forgotten semen. I might have stared for ten minutes, I might have stared for an hour. I lost the ability to move.
When that changed, the barest step was an alarm, announcing a year of oblivion and indiscretion. But I cleaned. Completely outside of myself, I could finally meet the gaze of the lurker. The concentration and admixture of, for instance, an ever-present fear of my parents, regret over wasting my college girlfriend’s time, the moats I'd dug to block off stable employ, the crocodiles I'd been raising therein. Everything Galaxies helped me escape. But more, I saw the abject, clear and present need to escape the escape. A few days later I'd leave for Hawaiʻi, and graduate school, with the intention of never again owning my own computer. Once there I would try to understand what had happened, how things had gone so far.
I honestly wish I’d known then what I know now: the anchoring that comes from carving out a life you want to live. That you'll fight to live. Galaxies created a community unlike anything that’s been tried in the history of gaming. I would have loved playing it clear-headed. From 2003 to 2005, SWG was a geek Shangri-La, a place now lost, of which many travelers claim knowledge but few saw in its prime. In 2005, executives at LucasArts demanded it become, “More like World of Warcraft,” so insane were they with greed at seeing WoW’s billion-dollar annual profit. Commercially understandable, but sad. It would then die, officially, when servers came down December 15, 2012.
Some compare SWG’s early days to Woodstock, a free-love experience that you just “had to be there to understand, man,” while others reminisce in the way grandpa might, recalling bygone days of trudging thirty miles through five feet of snow, staring down grizzly bears and mountain cats. The antics of people like Magni, made possible by an as-yet unparalleled depth, made Star Wars Galaxies a welcoming and wonderful place. The kind that, when I’ve fallen so far into laze, malaise, and apathy that I’ve lost even humor, I might want to visit. If I could go back in time, I’d take my twenty-two-year-old self aside, show that pretentious, arrogant child what I feel I know now – as a thirty-one-year-old, pretentious, arrogant child – on the off chance that he might have played that game reasonably, loving every second he had the privilege to be there.
Or I’d set up to play Galaxies on the desk. He wasn't using it. I just can’t forget to pack plenty of Purell.