MMORPG sounds like a disease, or what happens when you have a hairball, or something that you find in a drain that hasn’t been cleaned out in a very long time. What it actually means is “massively multiplayer online role-playing game”, and if you knew that, you’re as big a big dork as I am. Not only do I know what that acronym stands for, I also play one on a server. Hello, I own EverQuest, and I am a little ashamed of it. I am also slightly confused by it, a little overwhelmed, and completely addicted.
It was bound to happen–I followed your usual video game console trajectory, for a kid in my age bracket slash generation, with an Atari at ten and a Nintendo not too long after that, a Super Nintendo, a Playstation, a Playstation II. Playstation II was about where I fossilized, but Playstation II was all I ever really needed. I started off playing shooting games, because that is what Atari was good at. But via the Nintendo, I discovered role-playing games, beginning with The Legend of Zelda. RPGs are essentially stories which you are guided through, and who doesn’t want to play a story? And solve puzzles? In a story? And swing a sword? All for the story? With swords? With Zelda, I was hooked for all of time and space. Partially because I didn’t actually have the hand-eye coordination necessary to play any other type of game.
So role-playing games: I played them. To death. I’d finish one, and
then hit start again and play all the way back through to the end. The
way I’d relax, in college, would be to fire up a Final Fantasy game and
spend an entire weekend leveling up my characters–just battle after
battle after battle, hypnotising and soothing, punching buttons,
accomplishing, well, not much. But enough to keep me sitting there,
eyes glazing over, body slowly sinking into the cushions, mind gently
fizzing into nothingness. It was the best way I knew to shut down, and
in college, I needed a lot of shutting down.
My boyfriend at the time was totally down with it, though. He’d sit and
watch me play–and when I needed help with the puzzles, he’d sit there
with the hint book and the map and guide me through. I was a nerd, and
I accepted my nerdiness, and he did too, and that was a beautiful
thing. It was one of the best things about our relationship, sadly,
though one of the things that make me think of him fondly.
After I graduated, I didn’t play video games so much. There wasn’t much
time, and I had the vague sense that they were not for grown-up ladies
who were trying to have some kind of career thing and be an adult and
wear fancy adult clothes and do interesting things. I wasn’t sure I
wanted to be a nerd any more. But occasionally, I’d come back. Usually
when I was dating someone who just didn’t get the whole video game
thing, who thought they were for losers, who would be shocked to know
that I owned a console.
So of course, because I am stubborn, because I get mad when I am told I
am not allowed to do something, I would get a jones, a wild hare, the
sense that something was missing from my life, and what it was was my
video games. So I would set up the Playstation and I’d spend another of
those lost weekends leveling up, playing through a game, hour after
hour. I’d emerge a little wild-eyed and space, twitchy and slightly
mad, but remarkably relaxed in a way I never managed to match.
I’ve dated nerds who like video games, since, but no one I’ve ever sat
down and played with. He owned, say, an XBox, and I had my Playstation,
and it was all very nice and we bonded over our nerdiness, but it
wasn’t something that brought us together in any literal way, except to
understand that we were each other’s people. When I met E, and he told
me he played EverQuest, he was a little embarrassed by it. No! I said.
No, I play games! I like them! You are my people! I am a nerd! But I am
afraid of things like EverQuest, because they call it EverCrack and
doesn’t that mean that I am in trouble? No, he said. We’ll keep an eye
on you. Come play.
It took a couple of tries (a very poor computer with poor graphics
means fancy games are not fun to play) but I have finally started
playing, and sometimes we play together. There is not anything in the world much
nerdier than that, not only sitting together in the computer room, both
of us staring at computer screens, but also adventuring together in the
Magical Land of Norrath. I am addicted, as I wisely foresaw–there are little stories and big stories and little stories that are part of
big stories and a sense of an overarching story, and that you’re not
ever going to run out of things to know and do and I want to pursue all
of them. The graphics are beautiful, and blowing things up is fun, and
blowing things up together is totally romantic. No, I swear to god. Jesus, I’m a nerd.