I blame it all on Jojo the lich.
I was introduced to the world of multiplayer online gaming in 1995 by a college friend who enthralled me with tales of her adventures in a world called StrangeMUD. Late nights after studying, I would watch her rapid-fire typing, shrieks of glee and dismay as this or that mob ANNIHILATED! or EVISCERATED! her character, a warrior/mage lich, in battle. Eventually I would join her for 5-hour gaming sessions in the university computer lab with several other friends, slaying foes in such whimsical areas as Sesame Street, Wonderland, Ancient Rome, or the Stairway to Heaven.
It was through StrangeMUD that I learned what it meant to be addicted to a game, to log in to see my friends and find hours suddenly gone from my evening. It was also here that I developed my predominant play style: as a paladin hybrid it was relatively comfortable for me to solo most areas by myself, with occasional grouping for elite areas. More often than not I logged in for social reasons – the community was small enough to have an active global chat in which discussions of politics did not erupt into flame wars. Auctions took place on an automated public channel and could be participated in anywhere in the game world; Madlibs were a similarly automated channel to which anyone could contribute as well. Even while playing technically “alone”, I never felt lonely in the game world, as everyone in the close-knit community was a mere whisper and recall spell away.
Sure, there were no quests outside of special events held by the Imms from time to time, and levels had to be gained by wandering the world (or visiting a few favorite haunts) and killing mobs for hours. Sure, there were corpse runs and mobs that corpse-looted, mobs that would track you once they’d killed you and had to be taken down before you could re-enter the game world. Sure, there were Death Traps(tm) that insta-killed you in dramatic ways and caused you to lose whatever loot you were wearing or carrying, with no hope of retrieval. I remember all of those times, and not all of them fondly.
But mostly, I learned back then that I gamed for the people, and secondarily for the experiences I had with them. My friend and I left StrangeMUD after a couple of years for a variety of reasons, one being that we needed to refocus on our studies. I’ve returned, from time to time, to create a new character and run around the place I called home for so long, but the population has moved on, and none of my friends play any longer – it just isn’t the same. So, I suppose I’ve been looking to recreate that experience ever since. It is common knowledge by now, isn’t it, that you never forget your “first?”
Tomorrow: Addiction, Subscription, Guild Wars, and the Single-Player Experience