Friday, 12 June 2015

Before MMOs: Part 1 of 2

I recently changed the title of this blog. My main motivation was to emphasis my advancing years in mitigation of my apparent grumpiness. I'm not unusually old for an MMO player, if you played vanilla WoW at 14 you're now 25. If you played in college, well, you're in your early thirties. I played my first MMO in 2007 when I was 29. At that point I felt like I was pretty late to the game. My younger brother got me into it and I dunno if I should even thank him.

For me MMOs scratched an itch that I'd forgotten I had. Somewhere around 1985 I had a day off school because I was sick and had to go shopping at Havant Hypermarket with my Mum. They had a small book section and in it I found a book called The Forest of Doom (also on Steam). I asked my Mum to buy it for me and she did. I don't remember my Mum buying us a lot of things on the spur of the moment and I have fond memories of this, so I guess it must have been to make me feel a bit better.

This was the first fantasy book I ever owned and my introduction to roleplaying. I absolutely cherished that book and if it ever magically reappeared in a loft somewhere I would be unspeakably delighted.

At some point in the not too distant future I came into possession of D&D 3rd edition and, although I don't think I ever played a sit down game of it more than twice, I just loved reading the monster and spell descriptions. I would also have been heavily influenced by the cartoon, which would have been on UK TV in the mid-80s. What I loved most about my D&D books was inventing and equipping characters with lots of magical gear I'd never earned. Around the same time I must have read the Dragonlance Trilogy. I'm happy to say I still have those original books and re-read the first two quite recently. Since I can't have been older than 10 I do remember having odd feelings regarding Tika and being a bit distressed when Riverwind buys it. That was probably the first graphic death scene I ever read.

I then went through a slightly traumatic period in my young life when my parents decided it would be a good idea for us to move house again. For some reason they decided we should change schools first and commute for a time. However, what's never been made clear to me is why we did this a third of the way into the school year. What makes it worse was that it was a hub school and took pupils from around ten smaller schools. If I had started a few months earlier I would have been in the same situation as everyone else. So, late 1988, I was 10 and completely restarting my social life. I remember it being very hard to make friends.

In the summer of 1989, I stumbled across a copy of White Dwarf in a local newsagent. I immediately found it fascinating and the first issue I bought was White Dwarf 115. Now, I know that's never going to resurface because I remember the day I threw them all away but it would be nice to be hold that bundle of paper and know that it changed the course of my hobby interest forever.

Issue 115 was important for several reasons. Firstly it had Heroquest on the cover and a Heroquest feature inside. Secondly, it had rules for additional weapons in Space Hulk (which I knew nothing of at that time). Thirdly, it had a 2 double page spreads on a new game called Space Marine, which promised epic battles from the Horus Heresy (so it was technically W30k) and with which I was, again, immediately fascinated. Lastly, it had a section on genestealers, a "race" that I remain a massive fan of even if it did get retconned into the Tyranid vanguard.

Since the thing I enjoyed most about D&D was reading the rules you can imagine what a mine of imagination and enjoyment White Dwarf became to me. Over that summer, I remember it being hot, I cleaned out several back issues they had still on the shelves and then started buying it on an almost weekly basis. On my 12 birthday, February 1990, my Dad drove me to Brighton for the day and he bought me Space Marine and some paints. Sadly, I remember my first time in a Games Workshop as being a terrifying experience. I remember the sales assistant trying to be really helpful and that terrifying me even more. I was hooked from there. At one point I had two lever-arch folders full of rulebooks (they punched them back then) and I couldn't fit the boxes under my bed any more. The games I didn't have my friends did and there was much borrowing and lending. However, by the Summer of 1993 my interest had dwindled greatly. I probably thought, having recently turned 15, that it was time to grow up a bit.

It's worth noting that during that period, I also got my first console, the Sega Mega Drive. And I think it was probably Christmas 1993 that I played Shining Force, I don't think I even went downstairs Christmas morning I was enjoying it so much. Yup, this is definitely a period where my interests were shifting.

So that was pretty much it for me and Games Workshop until Necromunda was released in 1995.  My brother, having reached 12 had finally grown into a hobby I was quickly growing out of and I have fond memories of playing with him while back on holidays from university. Necromunda was about gang warfare and we each had our own gang.

Then that really was it. For the next ten years I had little more than a passing interest in video games even. I guess I'll make that part 2.

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