This month’s Gamer Banter is “What was the game that made you a gamer?”
To be honest, I’ve been a gamer since my dad brought home a Pong system in the late 70s. Then it was the Atari 2600. The games that cemented me as a gamer were Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall. I played those games for hours on end, entire days, flipped them and kept on playing. Sure, we had dozens of games, but those are the ones that stand out. We had an NES too eventually, and we got a PC.
Over the years there have been many games. Zelda and Mario on the NES (and Pro Wresting… Starman forever!), while over on the PC it was dominated by Sierra games, from The Black Cauldron to Leisure Suit Larry through the King’s, Police, Space and Hero’s Quests, The Colonel’s Bequest, Gabriel Knight and the Manhunter games. And Doom.
Doom was a game changer. By that time I had discovered BBSs and had a group of friends online. Much like I’d once bought, with my own money, an Adlib Sound Card to play games like Loom that required better sound and a 1200 baud modem so I could get online, I bought a token ring network card and then begged my parents to let me take the PC to a friend’s house. I’d played Doom through dozens of times on my 386, but with 4 PCs in the same room, network cards and coaxial cable, suddenly we were deathmatching. We were yelling at each other across the room, taunting each other in text chat. Gaming stopped being something I did by myself and started being something I did with other people.
Sure, the BBSs had multiplayer door games, but this was different. It became a regular thing, and soon it became something we could do over the Internet.
Even so, as much as I was a gamer, I still did other things. Then along came Team Fortress for Quakeworld. See, deathmatch was fun, but it never felt quite right for me. But here came a game where not only were we on a team, but roles in that team formed. I wasn’t the best player, but I was a demon on defense. Those BBS people, we formed a clan and we played in tournaments. We played against teams in other states, in other countries. It was a new kind of social element to gaming. Deathmatch had its culture too, but it was ultra-competitive, insular, everyone was your enemy. Team Fortress fostered camaraderie. When not in a tournament match, hopping on a public server meant you worked with your team whether they were in your clan or not. It lead to a lot of respect on the battlefield.
Then came EverQuest. In some ways it was so natural to shift. From being part of a team in Team Fortress to being part of a group in EverQuest. I was comfortable with the idea that I couldn’t win on my own. I didn’t want to play alone. Groups and raids and guilds, sitting in the East Commons tunnel on Saturdays looking for deals, message boards, all of it. It was another level of social. In the Quakeworld world after tools like GameSpy came out it was easier to track down your friends, or people you’d enjoyed playing with, but in EverQuest, anyone you played with you could put on a list and look for them anytime you were on because they were always on the same server as you. And it was lasting. I’m still friends with a couple people from the TF days, but I still talk daily with a bunch of people from my EQ server.
Looking back and looking forward, the kind of gamer I am is one that enjoys active social interaction with his game. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that reads my blog as my biggest complaint about most MMOs is when they lack a good social aspect or community. My Venn diagrams summed it up pretty well I thought.
I was always a gamer, born into a gaming world, but I’d have to say that Team Fortress and EverQuest are the games that made me the gamer I am today, and the gamer I will probably be for the rest of my life.
This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part, please email him for details.
Other Gamer Banter participants:
carocat.co.uk: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Yuki-Pedia: A Tale of Two Games
gunthera1_gamer: Early Gaming Experience
Extra Guy: Ah yes, I remember it well
The Average Gamer: What Made Me a Gamer
Sivercublogger: Uncovering Lost Treasures
Master Kitty’s World: Gaming Through the Years
Gamer Unit: What was the game that made you a gamer?
Game Couch: Karateka
Next Jen: What Made Me into a Gamer