Five Years Since City Of Heroes Shutdown, I’m Still Pissed

Free Bird
Free Bird means the world to me. Player.One

On Nov. 30 2012, NCSoft shut down City Of Heroes and City Of Villains, the MMO where you could be the super-powered deity of your dreams. It’s been half a decade and devotees to Sister Psyche, Manticore and the rest of the Freedom Force are still livid at the Korean developer for ending a popular game with a vibrant community.

Countless Facebook groups and Reddit posts litter the web as from fans all over the multiverse are still making a fuss. There have been other superhero MMOs, like DC Universe Online, that have attempted to capture the same magic as COH, but none of them have ever come close. Cryptic Studios created a beautiful world where you can put any cape, cowl or vampire bat head on the avatar you want to be. You could fly around, dispensing hordes of outlaws stealing purses, leap tall buildings with a single bound, super speed your way across toxic sewers and gorgeous vistas or just teleport (but only 20 feet at a time). Some of the most devoted fans with are even trying to bring the best superhero MMO back from the dead with remakes like City Of Titans and The Paragon Project, but none have made it out of Alpha.

For eight long years, I spent every waking moment logged into that game. In middle school, I was the awkward kid who only wore sweatpants and made his own trading cards. During the day, I was picked last for kickball, but after the bell rang and Pat the cranky bus driver dropped me off on my front step, it was time to play. The computer was originally in my room, but after nearly failing a few math tests to spend as much time knocking on virtual doors during the Halloween event, trick or treating in Dark Astoria, my mom moved it to the basement. There was no heat in there, so I had to wear my big jacket while I moved my fingers fast enough to avoid frostbite.

I tend to get a bit bitter around this time of year, and Facebook memories of a time when Steve didn’t have responsibilities don’t help. I remember Free Bird, my most-beloved heroic champion in City of Heroes. I even created a full backstory:

Experimented on by The Council (think Nazis, but with less brand awareness), they tortured a poor scientist in order to create a new super soldier. He gained six-pack abs, but his skin turned grey and out of his back sprouted giant wings. Somehow — I was in middle school when I wrote this — the scientist managed to escape and realized his purpose was to fight for the citizens of Paragon City. Donning a bright blue spandex suit, white hooked gloves and a hairdo straight out of a Twisted Sister cover band, he became Free Bird and fought the alien hordes of the Rikti, battled a giant kraken at Independence Port and even rescued a damsel or two.

I was so consumed by City of Heroes  that it got to a point where I’d feign sickness, claim some imaginary ailment was going to kill me, just so I could join a supergroup with random players online. This was a time without voice coms or microphones, before toxicity took over online gaming. Nobody saw me as the nebbishy little twerp who didn’t know jeans could be comfortable — they saw Free Bird, a level 50 Sonic Defender who could keep buffs up in nearly every fight. I was an equal to total strangers, a feeling I’ve never been able to replicate in League Of Legends or Overwatch.

city of heroes
The fans of City Of Heroes will never forgive. Photo: City Of Heroes fan page via Facebook

I don’t think I’ll ever stop being salty about the closure of City Of Heroes. Last April at PAX East, I sat in a room with developers of the now defunct Master X Master MOBA that showed off the inclusion of COH’s Statesman. To them, it was an homage to a classic NCSoft property, but to me, it felt like a slap in the face to every fan who’s begged, sent emails or Twitter DMs to NCSoft for the Statesman to wave the flag one more time.


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