I was out at Best Buy with my husband a few weeks ago, looking at various computer- and video game-related items for sale when he made the comment: “You’re not really a gamer anymore.”
I have this strange personality quirk where I have a delayed reaction to things that are upsetting. I can’t even tell something is bothering me, but I get really quiet and sort of wander away. We were at the mall and I just didn’t want to be out anymore. I just wanted to go home. Back home, I felt disquieted and had to have some quiet time where I sat and asked myself: “What’s bothering you?”
I’m not sure when this weirdness began, but it probably has something to do with getting older and being more sensitive to (and considerate of) the feelings of other people. In my misguided youth I was a typical Aries with a lightning-quick temper that erupted like a volcano. I was over it just as quickly, but there was always the fallout of hurt feelings or my own embarrassment to deal with afterward.
After sitting with my uncomfortable feelings for a while, I came to the conclusion that it was my husband’s observation that was causing me angst, and for some reason it made me feel like I’d lost some geek status points. I’ve been a gamer since 1996, when my first husband bought our first PC. Wait, back that up. I’ve been a gamer since the age of 12, when my dad took me to video arcades in the 80s. I hoarded my quarters, and even though I was never very good at anything but Q-bert , I still loved the experience. When the first Atari systems came out, he bought me one (for Christmas, I assume), and within months I was the queen of Space Invaders and Asteroids.
My friends across the street had Missile Command and started rolling the score, so I attacked that next until I was doing the same. I also had some interesting games like Maze Mania, which timed your little square “person” through (I think) four maps with four difficulty progressions. First difficulty level showed the entire maze. The second blinked the maze out for a second or two, but was mostly visible. The third difficulty level probably had a one-second to 5-second visibility-to-invisibility ratio (mostly invisible), and in the fourth the maze was completely invisible. I played the hell out of that game, amazing all my friends by completing the invisible mazes in record times.
I also had the one that a few of my geek friends still remember – Adventure. Like in Maze Mania, the person (a knight) was a little square that carried an sword (that looked like an arrow). Bats could steal your sword, or key, or whatever you were carrying, and they were not restricted to areas. They could fly over (through?) walls – and so could the DRAGONS. Each of the three dragons each came with a convenient square hole in their bellies, just right for my knight.
These guys were seriously terrifying, even if you *did* have a sword.
I was heading for high school when my Atari died, so my gaming days were over. I played a little Kid Icarus with my little brother, as well as some Super Mario Bros, but basically I had bought into the fact that I was too old for that stuff anymore. I still indulged in my usually geeky pursuits – reading (mostly fantasy), drawing, and (eternally) daydreaming. High school was soul-crushing, in large part because it was for college prep and if you didn’t go to college and have a real career, house, marriage, kids, etc., then you were a failure. Actually, the college and career were the important parts.
Video games were completely off my radar until 1996, when my then-husband insisted we needed a home PC. He also brought home Mechwarrior 2, on a friend’s recommendation. I watched him play a little on his own, then play some with his friends. I watched from the kitchen like a little kid watching the adult party.
ZOMG! Giant battle robots! It was love at first sight.
When he was at work and the kids were at school, I fired up that sucker and blasted the speakers so I could hear the nuclear reactor come online. Then I proceeded to die, die, and die some more, because I sucked. Finally I beat the game on easy, then medium. I attempted hard, but gave up. Later I learned that the game cheats – endless PPC fire from the AI mechs that never overheat? Come on!
Mech2 started me down the road to other mech games, but also Quake, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and finally to RPGs. I’m a terrible shot. Can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Enter World of Warcraft, which had been going strong for quite a while before I joined. Current husband (and then-boyfriend) and I started playing together with a couple of his friends shortly after the launch of Burning Crusade. There, I discovered my inner paladin. To this day, no matter what I’m playing, it’s a WoW paladin type – something tanky that can take a beating, heal up, and move on.
From WoW we moved to Rift, Minecraft, The Secret World, and EQ Landmark. Landmark is a beta that I let him talk me into buying for $100. I like questing and exploring, and just got bored with it. Honestly, after WoW, nothing really held my attention as well. I had become steeped in Warcraft lore, so it was a genuine thrill to come upon characters that I’d read about in the books. When I went to Dalaran, I was so excited to see Rhonin and Vereesa Windrunner – and kind of sad that I was a Blood Elf that they didn’t care for much. And to that I say: FOR THE HORDE!!!!
With that background, and having proudly defined myself as a girl gamer for nearly 20 years, my husband’s observation was hard to hear. However, in my quiet time of introspection, I realized that never once had I said that I wanted to be a gamer when I grew up – but I did want to be a writer. When I was fourteen and devouring every book I could get my hands on, I wanted to be like those authors. I wanted to write, and tell stories, and share them with people.
Yes, video games are fun, but they exist in a digital realm and left me nothing real to show for all the hours of this precious life that I put into them. Not so for the hours that I’ve spent writing, researching, planning, editing, and publishing. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but what I can say that every moment has been worth the effort. For the past five years, writing has been my focus, and I don’t regret one second of it. Whether I become famous or not, whether I make any money or not – that is all irrelevant. My stories are my legacy, my gift to my children and the world. So it’s okay that I’m not a girl gamer anymore – because I’m a writer, and seeing my books in print is my dream come true.