For a couple years when I was in middle school, ~2003-2004, I got deep deep into this online simulation/role-playing game called NationStates, which was a stunt site originally made to promote this utterly forgettable dystopian novel that spiraled out into its own stand-alone community (it is astoundingly STILL LIVE). In NationStates you invented and governed your own country, and also joined “regions” which were further sub-communities that frequently set up entirely separate AOL/ICQ chat rooms and/or forums.
My invented country was called “Boktavia”, flew the co-opted flag of Estonia, and joined a region called “10000 Islands” (please don’t ask me why any of this happened, I have no answers). I was invested enough in the game that I successfully ran for the position of “UN Delegate” of the region, kind of an in-game moderator mechanic that granted you a lot of power over other nations (banning/kicking from the region, etc), and thus came with high status in the accompanying 10000 Islands ProBoards forum.
The forum (which is also still live) was both a place to continue and expand the role-play, but also to let bits of your IRL identity creep in to the game. I never met any other 10000 Islanders in person, nor even attempted to - though I don’t recall users ever explicitly discussing their ages, I think I knew, or at least just assumed (correctly) that I was way younger than most and that revealing myself as a middle schooler would jeopardize my confident, mature role of delegate to the United Nations, a totally real and heavy responsibility.
I stopped playing NationStates altogether shortly after this. There’s a lot of replies in this thread from other players that are supportive, but generically so - most sticking to the role-play, sending diplomatic greetings and tidings or whatever. No one really responded to the personal stuff I let trickle in: my difficulties starting high school in a new city, my grandfather dying. Maybe that’s why I moved on.
(posted Aug. 31, 2004 at 5:38p.m.):
It is with a heavy heart that I have come to the decision that it is time for me to step down from the role of UN delegate of 10000 Islands. I thank all of you for showing me such support over the past months. While this was not an easy decision to make, I felt it had to be made. Having just started high school, I feel that I will be concentrating more and more on real life from this point, and will not be able to complete my duties to the standard that I'm sure other well-qualified nations in this region would be able to do. Fear not, my resignation does not mean I am quitting NationStates. I plan to stay active just as Parthini has done, as an ambassador, assistant minister, or wherever I am needed. Like Parthini, I have missed TITO missions and plan to participate in every TITO mission I possibly can. I have seen many important events during my service as delegate- The Grub deletion crisis, the invasion of DEN, Our rise to over 600 nations, the disgrace of Naoi...unless my memory fails me, even Taco Island has been around for less time than I have been delegate. Through it all, you have all been fantastic to me, and I truly, deeply thank you for that. But it is time to give someone else a turn. My resignation will start to take effect once the Senate elections are over, and I imagine a delegate election will take place sometime in late September/early October. I ask you all to be as wonderful to the next delegate as you have been for me. Viva TITO! Viva 10000 Islands! In addition, I must ask a favor of you all. If you would offer your prayers for my grandfather who just died yesterday, I would be extremely thankful. Thank you.