It wasn't long after I began playing EverQuest, seventeen years ago this November, that I stumbled upon a community-organized event. Not specifically something by or for the then-substantial role-playing community, although there were many of those; something looser, more inclusive, with which anyone could join, in or out of character.
The one I remember most vividly from those very early days was Talent Contest held on The Stage, an open-air theater on the west side of the much-missed original Freeport. Mrs Bhagpuss and I just happened to be passing by when we heard the event being announced in /ooc so we went to see what was happening.
We ended up sitting on the dusty Freeport ground for a couple of hours, watching mostly inept and amateurish performers take the stage to recite poetry or act out barely comprehensible skits. It felt like being in a true alternate reality. It was magical.
Over the years I've seen countless similar community events, from ad hoc improvs that drew a crowd
to huge, organized extravaganzas that took weeks of planning and were trailed across the interwebs months in advance. There have been mass protests and sit-ins, marches for and against all kinds of causes or outrages, demonstrations and celebrations of every stripe and kind.
The best community events, though, are always the ones you just happen upon. I was in Citadel sorting through my banks as usual on Sunday when
someone in guild chat mentioned they'd just seen a whole load of
Quaggans marching through Lions Arch.
Quaggan Parades are a thing in GW2 and have been for a while. If you google you'll find a whole load of links to YouTube videos going back several years. Here's a small and annoying one from 2013 or a somewhat larger, better-organized and certainly better-shot version from the year after.
I can't say I've ever shared the widespread affection for Quaggans. I prefer to make jokes about their culinary potential rather than coo over their supposed cuteness but it can't be denied that to catch a whole gaggle of Quaggies toddling along is a bit of cultural milestone in Tyria. Kind of like naked gnome races in EverQuest and about as ethnically sensitive.
It took a bit of effort to find the amphibian posse. The first instance of LA didn't have them so I whispered my guildmate, partied up with him and zapped across to his map, where I found the Quaggan horde trundling through the east side of the city.
Arriving in a rush I hadn't thought to grab my own Endless Quaggan Tonic from the bank, where it waits, hopelessly, not having seen use for a very long time if, indeed, ever. Even if I'd had one on me I still wouldn't have blended in because I only have the Black and Blue versions and almost every Quaggan in this particular parade was red.
It was a very well-organized event, with two Commanders leading the way and everyone following at walking pace. Large turnout too. There was some mention of charity involvement but in the fifteen minutes or so that I spent following the Quaggs no-one rattled a bucket or linked to a website so I remain none the wiser on what we were supposedly supporting.
Eventually the conga line arrived at the portal to Lornar's Pass and all the Quaggans passed through into the snowfields beyond, where, in a marvelous piece of theater, most of them turned blue. We all hung around for a few minutes while the organizers started to sort out advanced parties of non-Quaggans to head out along the proposed route and clear it of hostiles.
Around then I made my excuses and left. A parade is one thing but this was starting to look like a recreation of the Long March. How many Quaggans made it and where they eventually made it to is going to have to remain a mystery.
This minor, meaningless, serendipitous happenstance is a very small example of what's spoiled offline RPGs for me forever. No matter how brilliantly written and realized, no matter how finely-tuned the AI, with current technology there is simply no chance that you'll ever experience anything like this in any virtual world that isn't populated at least in part by other people.
Maybe one day we'll have algorithms or even sentient AIs that can provide the same level of found fun-making on the fly although the recent example of No Man's Sky suggests that day could be a long time coming. In the mean time I'll just carry on enjoying every new online gaming day as it comes - freighted with the unexpected courtesy of my fellow players.