Stranger in the same land


Any gamer who has created and played the same character for any length of time will tell of the attachment they have for it, they can't help but get invested emotionally.

Be it Dungeons and Dragons or its more modern online equivalents, the ability to take control of, and ostensibly become, another "person" and escape to another world - albeit temporarily - is an attractive proposition.

Normally you will only ever see things from one side: it's you versus the world and everything it can throw at you but World of Warcraft broke with this convention allowing you to play from either side. Alliance or Horde.

The difference is that each side are "heroes" fighting for the survival of their people and just happen to be at war with the other guys. It's a classic example of the "red v blue" gaming paradigm: each with their own perspective and convinced of the righteousness of their cause.

This was obviously something Duncan Jones was keen to reflect and portray in the Warcraft movie: the characters were just trying to live their lives whatever side they were on; Alliance or Horde.

He deliberately didn't want the Orcs seen as the bad guys.

The switch

This attachment creates an allegiance to your chosen faction and switching from the Alliance to the Horde was something I swore I'd never do.

Until I did!

I didn't just start a new character but transferred the one I had been playing, developing, and become invested in for so long.

For years.

It may sound crazy, and you may be thinking "it's only a game" but the shift is like moving to a different city, changing jobs and losing contact with everyone you know all at the same time.

The disorientation is more than tangible.

The landscape is familiar but the view is from a completely different perspective. The landmarks are there but your old haunts are forbidden just as other areas, long out of bounds, suddenly open up.

It is like waking up in a parallel world - the same yet not the same.

There is a cognitive dissonance at play where the identity you have built for so long, its loyalties and allegiances, are instantly diametrically opposed to the person you have become.

Now that you have awoken it is almost as though you are fighting through the fog of amnesia, trying to remember who you are; trying to rebuild your sense of identity: fragments appear and pieces of the jigsaw gradually fit together as you explore.

You meet characters that act as though they have known you since the beginning, but you have no clue who they are or where you met. You feel the constant urge to apologise, to say that you just don't remember but have to accept as fact that this is your life now and, for all intents and purposes, always has been.

That old you no longer exists, never did.