So after putting this off for a while now, I figured it was time I pulled my finger out and actually got to writing. (As my litle brother once told me, "procrastination is like masturbation - you only end up f**king yourself")
Well I first saw Paul on a random episode of TechTalk, I forget which episode, but that information is largely irrelevant. He was still a member of RTP, and I was drawn in by the positive attitude and open policy to have folks join him when he games. I'd been a part of other gaming communities before, but not like this... not like this (apologies for bad Matrix reference). I was basically at the end of my MMO period and looking for other things to occupy my time (anyone that's played an MMO for extended an period knows what I mean). I still wanted to game with people, but was looking for something more casual because Raiding is basically a full time job that eats your free time like I eat junk food. (I didn't get this figure at a gym, that's for sure).
..... then Battlefield Fridays started to happen, and I was hooked. Some of you probably remember how absolutely atrocious I was (possibly still am) at BF4, but I didn't care, I was having a laugh with new friends, making connections, and able to be myself without the constant shadow of my Depression and Anxiety looming over my head. I'd largely accepted the fact that I was a digital entity, but as such I could be anyone, do anything, and say whatever I felt without fear of reprisal, and I NEEDED that in order to become comfortable with myself and rediscover who I even was. To those that don't know, I had almost died from a self destructive cycle of drug abuse that was fuelled by my severely diminished self worth and feeling of absolute helplessness in my own life. I felt like I was a lost cause, I felt alone, and I felt like nothing could break me out of the prison that was my own mind.
Fast forward a few years and today I'm nowhere near as active in the community as I used to be, but I'll never forget that it was the ATeam Gaming Community and everyone in it that helped me crush the despair that had all but consumed my life. I go out way more, I'm reconnecting with friends that I haven't spoken to in years, and I'd like to think that I finally know who I really am. I may not be around all the time (although I try to say hello in Discord at least once a day), and you may not even see me when you're streaming (sometimes I log in as anonymous so I can simply enjoy the show), but know that you're all family to me, and whether you realise it or not, you probably helped to save my life.
Community is more than just a few folks jumping online and blowing shit up, it's a family, and the longer you're in it, the more you realise just how important they are.