The rest, they say, is history....
Since that time, my life has been changed dramatically, setting me on a path that would end up with me being a huge gamer geek, and tech guru of sorts. The by-product of this is of course, being labelled a geek or a nerd for most of my life, a moniker diluted by the "cool factor" of being a working rock musician. In essence, I have thus far lived a life that makes me unique... just like everyone else.
It's hard to say when EXACTLY I got into gaming... Perhaps it was when I first played Karateka on the Apple, or maybe it was the Pong game my dad bought for us one xmas, but one thing is clear. I have had a love affair with gaming since those mist enshrouded times in my past, and through said gaming I have learned a lot more about the human experience, albeit encased in the virtual one. Apparently we are a lot alike, us gamers. We are all at heart social beings, reaching out through this medium to form connections, even briefly to other people we have never met. We judge people based on their virtual actions (or lack thereof in some cases), and we discover a diaspora of psychological conditions in the people we choose to game with, even for a hot second.
It can be staggering at times, and I have to admit that there are often moments where in games that I play, ESPECIALLY MMORPGs, I opt to travel solo through the pixellated world... the hermit with +10 to dexterity armor. I have come to learn that for the broad cross-section of people who play games, in particular MMORPG games, we seem to fall somewhere in the three categories I am about to discuss below:
The lone wolves, the socialites, and the outcasts.
The Lone Wolf-
I walk alone... If you see me, it's once in a blue moon... Don't get attached, because I will be gone again really soon.
Lately I have found myself falling into this category. Perhaps it is because age and cynicism has pushed me to this point, or maybe I am just getting tired of the interaction. The irony of this is, if the latter is true... I should NOT be playing MMORPGs at all. I'd probably be better off playing single player RPGs. The reality of it is that, there are games out and games coming out now that cater to the lone wolf "crowd", allowing massive worlds for us to explore solo, and a plethora of content to rise up the levels, and experience MOST of what the game itself has to offer. This is a good thing! In my short time playing Guild Wars (since late June/early July), I have to say that I have had such a blast playing through the campaigns, and even more fun being able to group with my own alts and push the stories ever further. It may well be an altaholic's dream, as I wrote in an earlier blog! For those of us who are lone wolves, we KNOW there are many others in the world, but we often choose to distance ourselves, because nine times out of ten, the story and the exploration of the world the devs have made for us is more important than making friends and hanging out in xyz city.
In Rift, some of my fondest moments WERE being on top of a mountain no one had the cajones to climb, and finding a cairn full of elite items just for me. I explored so much of that map that I had the very edges filled in, and a screenshot of it shows as a chronicle of the places I have been, the monsters I have fought, and the things I have seen. For a lone wolf, the journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination... This is something I resonate with in real life as well, when I go into hermit mode to shut off the world... and simply BE. Friends and family hate when I do so, but were it not for those moments, I might have lost my sanity decades ago. As Guild Wars 2 slowly plods along to inevitable beta and release, the promise of a vast world to explore solo opens up to me once more, and I have to admit... I am excited to see Tyria, 250 years later.
I am defined not only by who I am, or what I do, but by the company I choose to keep.
Any good guild leader is part socialite. The entire basis of guilds in games is the coming together of like minds for the express purpose of gaming together and experiencing what the virtual world has to offer en masse. Guilds come in all shapes and sizes; ranging from the close knit, real life family that plays together, to the 200+ juggernauts of pvp, pve, and raid nights. As I have stated in past blogs, I used to run one of the latter types of guilds. Sanctuary of Hope, formerly of the Naritus server on Star Wars Galaxies (SWG), was well known for its helpful people, its strong Imperial presence, and its ability to get the job done, and have an amazingly fun time in doing so. As a matter of fact, were it NOT for Sanctuary, and the guild I joined after Naritus died- FEAR, I would not have met most of the people on my Facebook, and Twitter friends lists. Some of these folks I have even met in person, and had the pleasure of running around in RL with! One of whom I even fell in love with, though that story had a tragic end, in her death years later.
As a socialite, meeting people IS the game. It is the heart and soul of MMORPGs, and a chief reason why some who otherwise might be awkward in real world settings, end up forming long lasting friendships from their games. Make no bones about it folks, one of the best ways you can meet people IS to play video games such as I play. If I told you how many couples I have seen come together in RL through gaming, or how many wedding ceremonies I have performed in the games I have played, you would probably not believe me.
When I was a child I used to lead "clubs" in school. My peers would sign up to be a part of the club, we would pool money together to buy things we needed (usually toys, soccer balls, occasionally food at the restaurant near my childhood home... aka KFC. This was back when kids could actually walk into a restaurant unescorted and sit down to have lunch with no one the wiser). Little did I know that would set the pace for the virtual me becoming a guild leader, and somewhat "internet famous" for my disposition, leadership ability, charisma, et al. The sad part to being such a socialite was that it eventually left me no time to BE a lone wolf, and I had to actually divorce myself from any and all guilds, just to be able to enjoy the game I wanted to play. With SWTOR impending, and GW2 not far behind I have already made it known that I do NOT plan on joining a guild anytime soon. My friends know how and where to find me... I am only a /tell away.
I really do not care what you think of me... I'm going to do what I do, and damn the consequences. QQ moar nub, your tears sustain me.
This category is one I have rarely even entered. The outcast carries with it a stigma that is worse than even being labelled a nerd in real life. The outcast is not only someone who may or may not have been shunned in real life, but also shunned by their gaming peers... Often due to their OWN actions, or some times misinterpretations thereof. Who knows why someone chooses to grief? Is it a cry for attention; as if they were socialites who have to resort to "bad puppy syndrome" to get some of the limelight? Are they lone wolves simply due to being anti-social in RL and in game? Are they truly sociopathic individuals who have luckily chosen the best path to keep themselves out of trouble... After all, who can arrest the dude who kills you over and over at the spawn point?
Whatever the case may be... get used to seeing the outcast. EVERY MMORPG HAS THEM. Some more than others (WoW, I am looking at you). Whatever their reasons are for running against the grain, you can be sure to run into them at some point in your stay on (insert game planet name here). Does it make them intrinsically "bad people"? I am not so sure about that. In my time gaming I have actually met a couple of would be griefers; outcasts even by their own standards, whom, upon further discussions, end up being average people acting out their frustrations with the real world, in this virtual realm where no one knows their name, and will shortly forget who they are anyway. I call this kind of behavior "internet muscles". It is not exclusive to gaming. I am sure everyone who reads this has met people like this who apparently type first and think later, with the goal of stirring that hornet's nest, then sitting back and watching.
Happens every day... With the relative anonymity that can be garnered here on the web, or in game, I am not surprised that people act this way. Of course in a perfect world, we would not have to deal with it... but then, even the virtual world is not perfect. The outcast is a reminder of this. The most ironic part of it, is that often times, the outcast is a mirror of the bad in ourselves... and THAT is the part we hate to see the most.
It's easy to vilify, but it takes real talent to understand.
As I look back on my life over these (almost) 41 years, I am constantly amazed at what I have learned about people, and the venues in which I have learned it. it comes as no surprise to me to see similarities in the circles I have been in... musically, game-wise, work related, etc. In just about all aspects of life you can find people in these categories, and every single one of us is indeed unique... Just like everyone else. So where do YOU factor in? Are you a lone wolf, a socialite, an outcast, or some of all? Sound off in the comments.
By the way, I want to take a moment to give a heartfelt "THANK YOU", to my longtime idol, Steve Jobs. Were it not for you and YOUR peers, unique to say the least, I would NOT be the gamer geek I am today. May you sleep and dream in peace... and we'll see you on the other side, when our game is over. Thanks for changing my life.