But last week, ironically the day after World Mental Health Day, I was party to a series of conversations where the wellbeing of one of our young service users was being looked after, not only by our fabulous staff, but a group of online gamers he had been engaging with. These gamers demonstrated a perception, compassion and determination to get help for their fellow gamer that I have seldom seen in churches or flesh and blood groups of friends, never mind a group of people who had never met, perhaps living alone in many cases, in disparate places, separated by seas and oceans! I don't know what game they played together, be it one of the many fantasy ones as I surmise here, a "shoot-em-up" or some sci-fi thing... I am not a gamer. If I went down that particular rabbit hole I may never emerge... But this is my tribute to that caring band...
(ps. The Night Goblin referred to is a tribute to a flesh and blood friend who historically had a long term existence as one of these creatures, reputedly...)
An improbable band
Of virtual foes
And fantasy friends
Unite with a common goal.
They suspend their conflict
And online trash talk,
Gloating as each other dies,
To rise again repeatedly,
Because one of their number
Seems to have resolved
To leave the game and log off
He had no worthwhile quest
To pursue in the unvirtual world;
No dragons to slay
Save the ones in his head.
And so this unlikely fellowship
Of hobbit, orc and night-goblin,
Vampire, dwarf and wise wizard
Sought out this troubled traveller.
Knowing only each other’s handles
They emerged from clichéd remoteness
Worried for the wellbeing
Of their friend’s fleshy avatar.
Against the backdrop of pandemic
Of both virus and mental illness
This was, for me, a hope-filled
Sign of distant socialising.