This is an excerpt from my Honors project in narrative nonfiction, “My Metagame: A Narrative Nonfiction Collection on Video Gaming Experiences.” It was also featured in my Tumblr blog, “My Metagame.”

Click. Friends list. Deathspire. Invite to party. Alexknight and ALoVera, Barbarian and Demon Hunter, glimmered against the dreary background, while Alex and I waited for something to happen. I wished I could see him. I hadn’t seen Alex in about two weeks, but I could hear his voice. Fuzzy and distant like an incomplete radio transmission, but better than the silence. He was nervous. “You’ll be fine,” I kept telling him.

Another Barbarian popped up on the screen next to Alexknight. Deathspire. His matched set of navy-plated Armor of Kings made Alex’s haphazard collection of equipment look like a K-mart clearance rack. Despite our paragon levels and over a hundred hours of logged playing time, Alex and I looked like first-level noobs compared to him. I could almost hear Alex shaking.

ALoVera: hi daddy

Deathspire: hey there kid

ALoVera: this is alex

Deathspire: hey

Alexknight: nice to meet you sir

This wasn’t exactly the introduction I wanted. But with both of them gone, it was the best we could do. First Daddy left, then Alex. Daily life became a chore. The one thing I had to look forward to was the end of the day, when Alex’s voice would glide through my headphones, and we would venture back into our Sanctuary together.

And of course, once I learned that Daddy played Diablo III as well, I couldn’t resist the urge to walk into Sanctuary with both of them. Alex agreed, happy to meet the dad that looks like me, the dad she tried to hide. But fathers all have the same effect on all boyfriends: images of shotguns on front porches. While my scrawny, brown father couldn’t fire a real shotgun if he tried, I wasn’t sure what to say to Alex other than, “Of course he’ll like you.” I knew it, but I had no proof, since mom always kept my friends confined to her side of the rift and pushed Daddy as far out of the picture as she could.

But there was Deathspire, in gorgeous, macabre high-definition, the best graphics featured in any of Blizzard’s titles. And there was Alex at my side, like he used to be every day, finally getting to meet my dad. My meat shields, watching my high-damage, low-health back as we braved the terrors of our Sanctuary. The three of us journeyed together through the hellish pits of Arreat Crater. A demon dared to hit me, and both Barbarians were on him, pounding his face into the ground. I laughed and peppered the demon with arrows.

But as soon as one demon fell, more appeared. Alex and I couldn’t hold them off, and we both died. As we respawned, Alex swore in awe as we watched Deathspire single-handedly slice through a wall of monsters.

Alexknight: how much hp do you have?

Deathspire: 9k

I looked at my health bar. I think I had about 800 hp at the time. Alex had twice as much.

Alexknight: o.o

At the end of the night, Alex told me my dad is cool. “Yeah, he’s pretty awesome,” I agreed. Forgotten birthdays, lonely visitations, and years of mom conditioning could only go so far. I’ve finally decided that I’m old enough to choose my own heroes.