On Community

I am away for the first two weeks of every August. I go back to my home town to teach at a hockey camp. We rent a cottage, generally have crappy wifi, and spend mornings and early afternoons at the rink and late afternoons and evenings on the lake.

I grew up in beautiful Cottage Country (Muskoka) in small towns. (Gravenhurst, Bala, Bracebridge). I’d call them quintessential small towns but that is probably not fair because that is all I knew, growing up. Qunitessential to me anyway. It is a joy to come back here every year and seeing some of the old faces and places is always a wonderful trip down memory lane. Not much seems to change here.

Sometimes awkwardly so, as I ran into the first girl I ever french kissed while out to dinner with my wife. I haven’t seen her in 30 years, maybe longer. It wasn’t really awkward, but a fun, cute reminder of my youth (and my subsequent improper reaction to the kiss, which is for another story. Or maybe best left untold!)

Yes, I grew up in one of those towns were people either fled the moment they could or spent their lives here completely happy. The former camp, like myself, tend to remember the good of it all and wonder if I will (or can) end up back here someday. I’ve never asked the ones who stayed if it is everything they had hoped it would be.

This short post is to one, let you know I still live! And two, participate in Blaugust, which is the ultimate current Blogging community activity. I could maybe squeeze in a short post every morning as an early riser, but I use that two hours to keep up on work instead. Something has to give on these hectic two weeks and unfortunately it is usually my blog.

My story about community is simple, but this:

Driving around this small down with my son I was able to literally name off houses as we drove past. That was David’s house. That was Chris’s house. That was where Cindy lived. In a small town, traversed by bike and foot, you just knew everyone’s house and where they lived. I could share stories about each of them and what we would do there.

My son was equally amazed and impressed, and exclaimed (somewhat disappointed, by the sound of it) that he doesn’t think he would be able to do that in our current city with his current friends 30 years from now. And in that moment together I think we both fully understood that magic of growing up in a small town. The tight, community links. Whether they still exist or not in this hyper technological society I can’t say – but it is something that is still with me. If that makes sense.

Transitioning that to gaming, I wonder if the sense of community in games has gone the similar route. EQ was a small town. UO, AC, the trailblazers. Then the players moved to small cites (WoW 2004) and finally to the giant, anonymous metropolises that we have today. And while many could not wait to escape the small town feel, and move away and “never come back to that place” many stayed. And some go back. (Hello, Project 1999).

A simple analogy that makes perfect sense to me right now, as I overlook a lake that needs jumping into, and fish to catch out of.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. That’s a good analogy and one I can’t remember seeing used before. I grew up in a village and I don’t have anything like your nostalgia for it, though. I’d live in an anonymous city any day rather than somewhere where literally everyone you meet knows who you are. It was only when I got away from that environment that I realised just how creepy it was.

    Same in MMORPGs, really. That whole idea of having a reputation you couldn’t get away from led me to change servers more than once and that was with only a handful of people actually knowing I existed. Only takes one of those people to make logging in intolerable. I like to be able to walk away from my mistakes and leave them to vanish, not have them follow me around like a bad smell.

  2. It’s a great spot – plus the breweries there are nice! My father’s side is from the west of Lake Nippissing and we just spent the long weekend up there. Town has maybe 500 people, and everyone knows everyone, even if they’ve been away for years. One of the large takeaways from my regular trips is that things take forever to change, like they were living 30 years in the past.

    There’s some strong irony that people will go to great lengths to leave a small town, only to want to return there to retire.

  3. Of course today if kids rode around on their bikes like that, someone would send Social Services after their parents!

    I too grew up in a small tend. I left due to lack of opportunity (it was a resort town so it was either be a landscaper or a restaurant worker….I did the latter for a decade before leaving) but man I miss it. Sadly it’s too expensive for me to afford to move back there, or even visit for any extended period of time.

    Anyway, enjoy your break! We’ll be here when you get back!

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