Just in case you didn’t know I am a bit of a geek. As a result this post is about something that is still near and dear to my heart that has fallen by the wayside over the last six months: video games. Particularly the epic adventure that the World of Warcraft and Everquest provided me in the MMORPG world over the last 15+ years. For those of you about to bail on this post hold tight, it won’t be a bunch of 1337 speak and other nonsense. This just might tug at the heart strings a bit. Before I do that though I have to explain why I am such a geek.
It all started with 16 bits of awesome: the Sega Genesis (SEGA!) and an old Microsoft MS-DOS flight simulator that was based on the F-117A stealth jet. I am not quite sure what got me hooked. it was either the challenge of beating a particular game, mission or the competitive side of getting the highest score… it was probably both now that I think of it. That challenge of beating a game or getting a high score was addicting. As game systems improved I graduated to a Playstation then Playstation 2. Eventually we had a home PC that ran some version of Windows where I was able to dig into Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. Gaming became my thing because it was a challenge. Not only was it a challenge but you got to play out a storyline in some digital world that you couldn’t even dream about before, but here you were acting it out. For me it was mind blowing.
At the time games came and went. Sometimes I would play Vectorman or Madden ’96 on the Sega or jump into Need For Speed on the Playstation. Computer games weren’t really my thing but I did enjoy the hell out of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans then Warcraft: Tides of Darkness but didn’t give them much thought after I had beat the campaigns. My first foray into role-playing-games (RPGs) was the Final Fantasy series, Legend of Dragoon and Star Ocean. In essence these were games that were much more than just beating a level or getting a high score. They were about a story and your actions as you played that game mattered because you played a certain role within that story. These games and story lines could take 40, 60, 80+ hours to complete depending on what you did within the game. If you picked one option over another something about the game could dynamically change. Think of it this way: instead of reading Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones you would act it out. You might be playing as Robb Stark and instead of accepting to walk into Walder Frey’s stronghold for that marriage you decline and fight him head on. The Red Wedding may have been averted but another battle must be fought.
Ok, so that got pretty nerdy but hopefully it illustrates the point. These RPGs were all about the story line and acting it out.
Then Everquest was released in 1999. I think it was my brother and my uncle who got me into the game when the Ruins of Kunark was released… anyway I was hooked. Hell, I still catch myself humming the theme song from time to time. The game was an RPG that had an immense world and hundreds or thousands of people playing it all at one time within that same world. I don’t know when these games started being called “massive multiplayer online role playing games,” or MMORPGs for short, but that was what was going on. A huge number of people playing either independently, in small groups or in large groups to carry out a story line and defeat a common foe. My love of this style of game got to probably an unhealthy point… I was trying to forego meals, friendships and parental restrictions to play. But I felt like I had a good reason…
The reason was that I wasn’t happy. I really didn’t like where I was with my own life. Keep in mind this is at the end of middle school and into high school for me so realistically this was perfectly normal, but I felt the need to escape. That is what gaming became for me. An escape. I felt like I pushed my folks to get out of St. Helena and go to the Catholic school in Napa, to get out of the small town from after which I decided to attend Gonzaga in Spokane because it was the furthest place away from home that I got into. I wanted out. I wanted to escape. Since I couldn’t as kid without running away (thought I sort of tried twice) I chose Everquest to get me out. For a decent amount of time I felt like I had no one to connect to at school or at home, but when I logged into that game I felt at home. This was largely because I was incredibly anxious and self-conscious in a bad way in social situations (something that still plagues me today but I have definitely made some progress).
In 2004 World of Warcraft (WoW) made its debut though I didn’t join the craze until March 2005 when Dire Maul was released. It took a fair amount of effort to pull me away from Everquest but I finally gave in since I had so much fun with the three Warcraft games that came before WoW. At this point I was a senior in high school and headed to college. I tumbled down the rabbit hole that was WoW and got into a group of people that would band together in a “raid” to conquer certain challenges. This meant there were roughly 40 of us all playing and working together to beat said challenges 3-4 days a week for 4-6 hours or more each of those nights. That didn’t include how much I played outside of that “required” raid time (which was a lot). There we days that I would beg my brother to play my character for me because I was scared I would get kicked out of the group for not playing when I was “supposed to.” It was a little crazy but man was it a good time that continued well through college and through 2009 when I moved back home.
As life went on the play time has steadily decreased. By 2010 or 2011 once I was in the working world it started to get pretty sporadic but the competitive gaming side of me wanted to push forward and try to be on the cutting edge as much as possible as new content was released so that if I had the chance to get back into a solid raid team I could do so without missing a beat.
Now it is 2015 and I tried to do just that. I found a new raid team of 15-25 or so folks that fit my crazy schedule. I set aside two nights a week to play from about 8pm till midnight and I was ready to rock and roll once again! However quickly found that I just didn’t care as much as I had between 1999 and 2010 or so. I wanted to push myself and become a better player but I no longer saw the point. I have too much stuff on my plate between a beautiful girlfriend, a social life outside of gaming, a full time job, full time wine label on the “side”, a new cycling hobby and lord knows what else. I have better shit to be doing that playing video games till the wee hours of the morning.
Ok good. I didn’t catch fire for typing that…
I do miss the story and the challenge of being a better player. Luckily games like Hearthstone keep me engaged and are a quick way for me to get my fix. I don’t miss feeling like I need the escape though, and that has been an amazing shift. I do miss the camaraderie of those I used to play with. I will still probably hop online every now and again to see what has changed or read about where the story has gone. I am excited to see how the new Legion expansion turns out but I will probably be reading about it rather than playing it out.
I have thought and said that, “one does not simply leave the World of Warcraft,” for a long… LONG time, but here I am doing just that. I am still going to be attending BlizzCons and checking out new games or expansions but it will probably be from more of a distance; living vicariously through a bunch of different streamers on Twitch to keep me in the loop.
Or that Warcraft movie coming out next June is going to make me eat every word about “leaving” I just typed…