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Here to There…There to Here

April 16, 2010

Emmet was listening to a 1Up podcast tonight. My eyes glazed over for most of it until the chick mentioned King’s Quest. Then Emmet and I launched into a half hour trip down memory lane and grabbed all the old CDs off the shelf.

I don’t have a steady relationship with video games. My introduction to them was rocky and I had limited access to games or consoles growing up. Mostly I played little handheld games: my beloved Wheel of Fortune, my mom’s Simon game, and my Grandmother’s Yahtzee.

Formative Years

First was the black and green Sesame Street game on the giant black floppy disks. Then came Math Blaster.

As a child, we had an old..old..Nintendo Entertainment System. Remember the massive cartridges? I’m not sure I ever got beyond the first three levels of Mario Brothers, but I was good at Duck Hunt. My mom rocked at Castlevania. I remember watching her play for hours.

A neighbor had a Super Nintendo and later a Nintendo 64, where I caught a glimpse of Donkey Kong and Lion King, but was never competent at either.

Another neighbor had a Playstation, where I caught glimpses of Spyro and was only capable enough to play a dirtbike racing game. (When Emmet got his PS3, I made him get an early version of Spyro for me.)

Yet another neighbor had a ton of systems. I couldn’t even name them all. All I remember is being dizzy while kicking around with Sonic and then going into the other room to chase lemondrops around Oz with Dorothy or escape rolling lava with Genie and Aladdin. Also, they had a nifty Amazon nature adventure game on the downstairs PC.

The problem with childhood neighbors is that they don’t like being taken advantage of. So I only ever got to play the games (or watch others play them) for ten minutes at a time.

My Grandfather, however, was more than happy for me to sit in the corner and let me play video games and stay out of trouble. Maybe Tomb Raider wasn’t the best idea. And to this day I hate Rayman, but love Lemmings.

I also played Barbie Horse Adventures. Hey, it was good for what it was. My Grandmother cured me of this game by buying me a real horse.

Middle Years

My Grandmother also gave me the PC game gem of my childhood – King’s Quest. Finally a game that I could play on the PC at home and didn’t need a console. From tiny little pixel man to full-fledged Princeless Bride, I saw every version of that game that I could get my hands on. Sierra was my childhood sweetheart. It gave me King’s Quest, pinball games, bass fishing games, and more. I played Lords of Magic until I went to college, and I’d be tempted to install it and do a campaign again. I wish I’d gotten Caesar III – I played the demo obsessively. She probably would have gotten me into EverQuest too because she wanted to play it, but she changed her mind because she didn’t want to pay a subscription.

My mom bought a hefty gameboy with a cool clear case and we played Tetris competitively until Pokemon came out. My Grandmother was astounded at how obediently I woke up for school and did my chores so that I could earn play time. Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, and Silver were fiercely divided between my sister, my mother, and myself, and we each cried a little inside when another deleted our saved game to begin their own experience. I’m still jealous that my sister got a color gameboy and I never did.

I slowly graduated into EA and discovered SimTown, SimAnt, SimSafari, and a dozen other simulation games that came in a value pack. The original Sims came next. I played the original, bare-bones version forever until an online buddy bought me a Deluxe Edition and Making Magic expansion set and mailed it to me for my birthday. ❤ Hackney!

At some point I graduated to two odd exploration-puzzle games around the time Myst came out. The first was Titanic. The second was Beyond Atlantis II. Both frustrated the hell out of me. I didn’t have the video game logic to navigate them and constantly had to look up guides to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do. When the Titanic finally sunk, the images of people falling into the water and their dying screams were way too much for me. I cried, had nightmares for a week, and deleted the game. I got rid of it and never played it again. Beyond Atlantis was fun, confusing, and had some surprisingly adult themes. I kept playing, but remember thinking, “Hm…this isn’t quite appropriate.”

Recent Years

In high school, someone gave me their copy of Sims2 after their brother trashed their computer, and thus they no longer had a computer to play it with. I played that and my collection of older games until I got to college – although most of my “gaming” at that point were text-based online roleplaying forums.

Emmet was still on the other side of the country and he found nifty free games that we could download and play together. I tried my first free MMO Eudomons with him with disastrous, tear-streaked results when I simply didn’t get it. No amount of his protective effort could keep me alive or explain why this sort of game was appealing. But it was fun to spend time with him and the games were free – even if poorly developed and oft’ unfinished. I think we just ended up playing a single-player pirate exploration game and talking about it.

The Sims2 became a surprising bonding experience with a buddy in college and earned me free access to Sims2 expansion packs. It was about the same time that Emmet moved down to be near me, and it’s a miracle that he, Sindarella, and I didn’t fail our summer finals as we re-created our dorms into the Sims and were busy making THEM study for exams.

Sind let me borrow his Civilization games, which led to me finding free demos I could download for Rise of Nations. I still play them. Maybe I should someday return Sind’s copy…but only if he asks for it back. Oh how many ways I can build and destroy the world! And if the world isn’t enough, Emmet found Galactic Civilizations for me.

Emmet also brought his Nintendo DS…which gave me access to Animal Crossing and Nintendogs. We sent sweet mails and letters in bottles all throughout the world. I also still have Lihn, a yorkie, and Maple, a welsh corgi, and I adore them greatly.

At some point, Emmet and I got into Utopia, a text-based fantasy game. We became Monarchs of separate kingdoms and set up nefarious plots. After a time, it became so involved and stressful that we razed our kingdoms and moved on. We could handle the power, but we sucked at diplomacy.

On black friday, Emmet got a PS3 and Sindarella got an X-Box. My gaming world got a little bit bigger. It started with Viva Pinata, then Mass Effect, then Oblivion (Oh god, the obsession), and Fable2. I always had trouble playing the PS3 and while I got addicted to this odd little Japanese game, Ar tonelico 2, that Emmet introduced me to on the PS2, my PS3 game time was always half-hearted.

Learning to play console games was intriguing and difficult. I had a very steep learning curve to tackle.

And then….there was WoW.

I had mixed feelings, and it was a long, sordid history that brought me to play it. To put it simply, WoW was an exploratory leap to follow Emmet. He needed a creative, virtual outlet and I didn’t want to lose him. So we dove in together.

The learning curve for console games was NOTHING compared to my handicap in WoW. It took me a day to learn how to walk, use the different chat features, and basic interface functions. It took me a week or two to stop spamming auto-attack on my warlock. Beyond that…it was a rather bloody battle of constant learning and failures. But I enjoyed it. And I stuck with it.

Since I was such a good trooper about it and making progress, Sindarella and Emmet pitched in and gave me a Collector’s Edition Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King for Christmas.

Now I’m a “pro” (thanks to the countless unpaid hours of suckers who helped me overcome my haplessness) and have dedicated months of my life and a rather tidy sum of dollars to a world of pixels that happily consumes my soul, kicks me in the ass, and laughs when I fall down.

Next stop for Domni’s gaming career?

Emmet and Sind are trying to get me into tabletop D&D and Emmet swears that we will play the Final Fantasy XIV MMO when it comes out.

Moral of the Story

Never pay for a video game if you’re a woman. With the right friends, they’ll open the doors to any world you want into and give you a copy of the key if you like it enough to stay. And they’re awesome friends for inviting you in and looking out for you – never forget that.

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3 Comments
  1. Khamrin permalink

    Interesting read since I’ve spent so much of my life sitting in front of a TV or monitor playing games. I received my Atari 2600 for Christmas when I was seven or eight. That would have been 1979 or 1980. The following summer I started with Dungeons and Dragons (good luck with the table-top game…once you get past the mechanics of the game, it really is wide open).

    It’s been a long ride, a good one, and I don’t see myself ever not gaming in some fashion. It’s one of the joys of being alive.

  2. Wow, definitely a crazy amazing travel through your gaming development. It’s really fascinating to hear how people come to the gaming preferences they have today. It’s such a small aspect of someone’s life (well. maybe not *that* small depending), and yet it can tell so much about their developmental years and growth as a person.

    THIS part makes me laugh and cringe:

    …it’s a miracle that he, Sindarella, and I didn’t fail our summer finals as we re-created our dorms into the Sims and were busy making THEM study for exams.

    In college, a guy in the dorm where we all hung out played video games obsessively. I walked into his room one day to talk to him and his roomie, and he was sitting there, skipping class, staring at his sim (who looked JUST like him), who was missing in-game work to sit and play at his digital computer. It was like seeing two mirrors facing each other and seeing the recursive pattern that leads to Nerd-Hell.

    I rebelled against starting WoW for the longest time. Hubby & I played MUDs (The ORIGINAL mmo, all text based) for years but 1) I had sworn off all things Warcraft after an ex wouldn’t acknowledge me in the same room unless I was logged into battlenet and 2) I knew how bad my game-addiction was going to end up on a game like that. Hubby agreed but finally his bro convinced us. He’s long since quit and tells us to quit too. I just tell him I warned him what would happen.

    Luckily sims-guy losing his scholarship and having to drop out of school was enough of a scary wake-up call/reminder to keep things in balance, so I make time between WoW and work to spend time with my family. But any time I sit exasperated wishing for more free time, or my head nods sleepily at my desk at work, I know I can only blame myself.

  3. Emmet permalink

    Interestingly I ended up meeting Domni indirectly through Starcraft. A guy I met while playing Starcraft led me to the forums where I ended up meeting Dom. And here we are now playing Warcraft years later, with Starcraft 2 around the corner. So go go Blizzard?

    Still I was one of the people that refused to play WoW for the longest time. In part because of my cruddy PC, and in part because I spent way too much time playing FFXI. MMOs are funny little addictive games where you’re always chasing that first high- er, experience. I’m probably lucky I never could get Everquest to run properly.

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