Friday, November 13, 2009

Decades of Digital Decadence

Before I started writing this article, I sat in my office getting paid pondering my life as a gamer. It has been over 25 years since I had first felt the cold, hard plastic of a controller resting in my hands. I had also started thinking of how many hours of my precious life had been leached away by the multiple "idiot-boxes" owned throughout the years. Then it occurred to me that I was starting to think like those I hate… adults. I honestly do not care that I am considered an adult by society, though that is debatable depending on whom you speak with. I have and shall always consider myself that little, ginger brat picking up his first controller, eyes wide and bugged out with my mouth slightly agape. Maybe a little drool was starting to gather at the corner of my mouth. Who knows? I was gaming!

My first experience with role-playing games goes back to that first gold cartridge that a lot of us knew so well. I am of course speaking of The Legend of Zelda. I became so familiar with this game because my parents refused to buy it for me at first. Their reasoning was I had four other games that I could play, and would not waste money on others. They absolutely would not accept my argument that Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt only counted as one game seeing how it was only one cartridge. Blasphemers to this day in my eyes.


So I was stuck renting the game every weekend with my allowance. I prayed and hoped every Friday on the way to and from the rental store that no one had deleted my save. Some weekends the gods of gaming rained their blessings upon me and others laughed from the heights as I had to grudgingly start over on a new game. I persevered however and was able to eventually defeat the game within the rental period. My parents ended up getting me the game for Christmas, but it was a moot point by that time even though I did wear the gold off the cartridge playing it repeatedly.

There were other RPGs I played and enjoyed on the NES such as Destiny of the Emperor, the Dragon Warrior series and Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. There are others of course, but I'm writing an article not a novella so I will move on to the next generation of consoles.

When the Super Nintendo came out in late 1991, I was instantly pining after getting one. It was released near the holiday season, so my parents never heard the end of how much fun I would have if I could get one. The problem was that my father's best friend had bought his son a Sega Genesis. This was a big problem as good ol' dad and his buddy always did things together. So I can honestly say that I wasn't shocked when I found that "Santa" had left me a Sega Genesis on Christmas morning.

The Phantasy Star series was the first major RPG I picked up on the Genesis and I became a fanboy immediately. These games led to the war against my friend and the Final Fantasy series on SNES that would not abate until I was able to save up enough money a couple summers later to buy my own SNES. To say I didn't love Final Fantasy is like saying death knights are cool guys with a bad rap. I played every SquareSoft game that came out on the SNES.

At first, I was leery to buy the Playstation because of the whole SegaCD fiasco, but was glad I did. While it didn't have really any RPGs at launch or soon thereafter, it did have a solid line up of other genres. Upon picking up Resident Evil, I soon found I was enthralled by the Survival Horror genre. I will say with no certain amount of pride that I was indeed a master at that game. Being a noob, I didn't pick up a memory card when I bought the game and console with my paycheck. I didn't have enough left over after putting gas in my Jeep and buying beer, so again I was forced to play the game from the beginning each time. I ended up being able to finish the Jill story in one hour and 17 minutes with no saves. Oh, the power… it felt good!

How YOU doin'!?

It was also around this time that I started picking up more and more on playing MUDs. I pretty much followed Triv's lead on which ones to play as I didn't care much, I just wanted to play. The first, RavensMUD, was a disappointing PVP MUD that ended with me almost punching my monitor after getting ganked repeatedly. Don't get me wrong I like me some PVP, but this MUD allowed looting of the players corpses that you had killed. This will lead to anger no matter how levelheaded you think yourself. Note: I am not levelheaded.

There were a few others that we tried but never got into and none of which were memorable enough that I remember a name, but then we found Land of Ruins. Man, let me tell you that I had a sordid love affair with that MUD. On and off again over eight years, whether it was me leaving the game or the server being shut down, we always ended up finding each other. Eventually though, it was terminated and now only exists in the dusty shelves in my head. I still wouldn't mind going back if it was still out there…

One of the above mentioned departures from Ruins was when Final Fantasy 7 released to North America. This game… I don't know what it was about it, but I played it non-stop when it came out. Non. Stop. I left no stone unturned in that game. There was no secret safe from me!

I dropped out of the gaming scene for a bit as I got myself moved out of the parent's domicile and out in the "real" world. I had six roommates, a job with a metric shit ton of OT and a lot of drinking to do. It wasn't until I made the switch from busting my back loading Pepsi delivery trucks to supporting Hewlett Packard consumer products that I got back into gaming. This time it was full on PC gaming.

A few of my work friends religiously played Counter Strike and I fell into that like a crack addict finding a pound of crack. It consumed me to the point that my friends started actively trying to force me away from the computer to hang out. To them, I was wasting my time and like my parents before them, they could understand the subtleties of being a gamer. I had some damned terrorists to kill!

Soon after though, they had more of a reason to hate me. My evil, vile cousin (Triv) introduced me to the online world of Diablo II. I had played Warcraft I and II previously as well both Diablo games, but none of which I played online. I ended up rolling a few different characters in Diablo II, and how I do reminisce about my bowazon and MF barbarian some days.

As for MMOs, I had never tried any until I decided to give Ultima Online a shot. I started playing this in 2003, so it was pretty late in the games life that I go into it. A friend of mine had recommended it, so I went ahead and got rolling with it. I don't really remember much aside from being seriously disappointed with game, and was further turned off by the fact I didn't realize I was still paying the subscription fee for a few months afte I quit. It was then I decided to swear off all subscription based online games.

I faded out from the gaming scene for a bit after this time due to real life deciding that I should pay more attention to it, the selfish thing it is. That and the girl I was living with hated it when I would sit and MUD for hours on end. It wasn't until I moved to Seattle that I got back into gaming full force, albeit console gaming. So for the last few years I have been drilling away on my Xbox 360 (on my 5th one... shoddy hardware) and didn't even own a desktop PC for that period.

It was because of another Xbox failing that I entered the WoW world. Being seriously bored on a Sunday with no means of entertainment, I had installed Civilization 2 on my laptop. Upon hearing this, Triv managed to convince me that it would be a good idea to download WoW and roll a character. Did I mention he was once a used car salesman? Well it is true, and I'm sure that at the time he made me think it was my own idea to install WoW. Six months later I am glad he did in a way. Sure I have burned away a lot of time playing the game, but it is only time that I would have spent gaming elsewhere.


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