This is one of a series called “30 Days of Video Games“, an exercise on daily writing.
Follow the link for the full list.
The fact that I don’t have to stop to think about it scares me.
It is March 1999. I am just over 2 years into a job that would define my career, the Senior Software Engineer at a web shop in San Luis Obispo. 9 months from now, I am going to leave San Luis Obispo, tail between my legs, for the Bay Area, a move marked with immense failure. A bid to move to the Washington DC area will fall through in about 6 months. My living situation will deteriorate rapidly -in July, I’ll move in with two of my best friends. In September, one of those friends and I will have an epic fight, and my life will enter a tail spin. In October, I’ll crash my car after driving about 50 miles-per-hour too fast for the dirt road it was on, and by some grace, both it & I will walk away with only superficial exterior damage. That December, I’ll leave San Luis Obispo, tears in my eyes, as I surrender everything I loved to start anew, back in the area I grew up in.
I don’t know all of this yet, of course. It is March 1999, and life is good. The company I work for is 10 other college kids like myself and we love playing video games after work. We work hard until 5pm, order up some pizza, pop open some beer or soda, and fire up Age of Empires, or Starcraft. Half-Life is being played by some, Total Annihilation by others. It is a company culture that belongs to the decade it is occurring in, the Age of the Startup. In two years, it will be out of business as we know it, as so many startups will. But it is March 1999, and life is good and the games are fun, and I am in a local computer store, looking at the new releases when the barely clad, scepter holding figure of Firiona Vie catches my eye, under the bright gold letters.
It is March 1999, and I have just purchased EverQuest.
For the first nine months, I barely play the game. I dink around, cancelling and resubbing a few times. Asheron’s Call comes out and I play that far more than EQ. Then that December comes around, and in a span faster than it seems I can blink, I am employed at my first IT job, commuting an hour every day, and bereft of friends. I turn my attention online, where I start posting and reading a forum for the comic Player vs. Player. There, I meet Token Female Gamer – and my life, though I don’t know it yet, has irrevocably changed.
TFG & I toyed with the idea of starting a guild for folks on the forum. That idea gained traction, and based off a recurring joke in the comic, we soon formed the Fourth Wall, Norrath’s premier collection of drunk characters and role-players, led by the irrepressible and oft-irresponsible Gaedan Mentheren, The Fearless Man, a legend in his own mind. My character, while never the most powerful, was always the most fun to play. With Gaedan, I found the freedom from the terrible turn my life had taken. He was a “Bard”, the quintessential “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” class. However, bards had one thing they did better than anyone else – they could run faster than any else in the world. Gaedan used that ability to explore every nook and cranny of the world, getting himself1and others into2and out of as much trouble as possible.
EverQuest was a full-on addiction. While I have real relationships that have come from the game & Fourth Wall, while 4W itself was an amazing experience3amazing & drama laden but that’s another story the game was nothing short of addiction. I played for three straight years, a slave to logging in every night, to the point of shunning so much else in my life. My weight increased, I passed many opportunities to meet new friends and let friendships slip away. I finally pried myself away from the game, in favor of others (including World of Warcraft) but in the end, it was the dispersion of friends made within the Fourth Wall, as they moved on with their lives, that finally pulled me out of my addiction. Once disengaged, I began to put myself on the path I’m on now. But it wasn’t easy. I came back time and time again, a junkie looking for one last hit. It’s safe to say, though, that video games, unlike the substances they are jokingly referred as4“EverCrack”, anyone? do not hold attention over time. EverQuest now is just a footnote – a predecessor to the game that would ultimately define its genre.
I loved playing EQ. I have incredibly fond memories of the game. Fourth Wall did some seriously fun things within the game – we took 30 level 1 pvp-flagged hobbits and had a battle royal. We took off all our gear (referred to as “being naked” though your avatar still has some basic clothes on) and raided Crushbone, a low-level zone, running around drunk5you could get famously wasted in the game, distorting your screen and making your character sway from side to side. Gaedan had some great moments as a hero, being the bard that puts himself in the center of his stories, and believing that with some self-made luck, good music and better friends, that anyone could be a legend.
Being able to run fast helped too.