This past Friday’s Breakfast Topic over at WoW Insider struck me with a rather stunning realization: I’ve been gaming since I was about five or six, thanks in large part to my brother.
That’s nearly nineteen years of gaming. And counting.
My brother, who is a month shy of being nine years my elder, was a teenager when computers started becoming a major part of people’s home lives. I mean tower computers were a major breakthrough and the big new things at the time. We still had the ginormous monitor and the printer that only used paper with those holey perforated edges on both sides. Oh, and let’s not forget 3.5in floppy disks and the disks that required that special slot with the lock you flipped down. But, in addition to all of that, our top of the line computer at the time had a CD DRIVE. Boy, was that a big deal.
So, where did little Toriah get her start in all this? Well, since my brother was into computer games, it was only natural that I would be, too. Sibling worship and all that. Add to that a very active imagination that glorified sharpshooting special agents of James Bond and Tom Clancy fame, and you have the makings of a girl well on her way to Marksmanville. But I get ahead of myself.
It all begins with a space simulator called Privateer. I vaguely remember playing Kings Quest (I think it was VIII, but I can’t be sure), but that really wasn’t the one that captured my interest.
Privateer was an off-shoot of the Wing Commander series. You fought pirates, made nice with the space cops, saved merchants, and tried to preserve human territories in space against a cat-like alien race called the Kilrathi. But, on top of all that, there’s a big mystery to uncover: an ancient alien thing that no one seems to know about, yet it’s menacing ships everywhere and has a particular interest in the protagonist.
In addition to the main campaign, there were two other associated games I remember. There was the expansion Righteous Fire where you got to defeat a sect of religious zealots. The other was Privateer: Armada where two players went head-to-head as humans vs. Kilrathi. (This is also where I originally learned the word “armada.” Yes, I admit, I got excited in history class when I heard we were going to learn about the “armada”… The Spanish Armada, that is.)
I was always the Kilrathi. Older sibling privileges meant my brother got to be the “good guys.” Figures.
Privateer made a flygirl out of me, a daring, sharpshooting ace among the stars. I’d always been interested in astronomy. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family. Stargate: SG-1 is still one of my favorite things to watch, even if they’re reruns. So, when something’s threatening the galaxy and there’s only one starship between the bad guy and our total annihilation, you bet I’m going to be the first one in the pilot’s seat.
The “grand sci-fi adventure” theme rules the majority of my video gaming. I freaked out at Half-Life then learned to relish smashing interdimensional monsters with a crowbar. Tachyon: The Fringe let me fly against bad guys again and had Bruce Campbell as the protagonist (which is entertaining in its own rights). I cheered for Jim Raynor and cried for Tassadar in Starcraft. I preferred stealth and sniper rifle headshots over the BFG in Quake 3 and Quake Arena.
This whole medieval fantasy aspect didn’t occur to me until Diablo. Sure, I played Magic: The Gathering, thanks, again, to my brother. I knew of the King Arthur legend (I was too young to have read The Lord of the Rings at that point in life). But that was the extent of it, really. Heck, I didn’t know the whole Warcraft thing existed until I heard “WoW” floating around as the next big thing in video gaming in 2004-2005. That’s about three-quarters into my gaming life!
And, of course, being the snooty “I’m too cool for the popular stuff” type at the time, I dismissed WoW as being a fad. In fact, because I’d played and heard of Starcraft before Warcraft, I completely thought the latter was supposed to be some shoddy knockoff of the former.
Pretty sure if the Me of today could go back and talk to teenaged Me of then, there’d be some serious conflict. Imagine my surprise when I got sucked into WoW and found out there had been years of lore that the game was built upon. This game company that I pretty much revered started with Warcraft! Before there was Diablo, before there was Starcraft… There was Warcraft. Talk about egg on my face.
So… How does an interstellar flygirl turned demon-smashing hero end up as a blood elf huntress, especially in a game she ridiculed for months upon hearing about it?
It started with freshman year of college in early 2006. The first quarter there taught me I didn’t exactly mix well with the rest of the people in the dorm building. With a job and full load of classes, I was busy as it was. I borrowed Diablo II from a friend and installed it on my laptop for “downtime and relaxation purposes.” I needed a hobby to keep me from going insane amidst term papers and research projects.
When Diablo II was actually new, my brother had moved out of the house around then, taking his glorious computer with him. I didn’t get a chance to play at all! College and being away from Mom’s 24/7 gaze was a perfect opportunity to catch up on any gaming I’d missed.
I got so sucked into playing my bow-and-arrow Amazon that I played the game in various iterations and difficulties well into summer. Before I embarked on my next year of classes in the fall, my then-boyfriend’s brother and dad were trying to get us into playing WoW with them. He caved first, then said to me, “You know, if you like Diablo so much, you really oughta try WoW.”
So I did, cautiously. I chose a human warlock— since it’s a fantasy game and I should be trying to fire magic at stuff and wanted to try out something other than shooting projectiles at monsters. Let’s pretend to be Merlin instead of Legolas.
The warlock lasted me a lot longer than my sorceress in Diablo II ever did. I loved Big Blue, laughed at my imp. Got the lock to 70 and was active in PvP, since my guild had imploded at TBC’s launch. With little else to do aside from weekly arena matches and getting the latest resilience gear, I gladly rolled something on the server where then-boyfriend’s brother and dad had their Horde toons.
Thus, Toriah was born.
I went back to my roots of using anything that would shoot: bow, gun, crossbow, plasma cannon, sniper rifle. And I never looked back. No matter how many alts I create, and how much I enjoy playing them, I will always be the quick, agile girl in the shadows with the projectile weapon in spirit.
My poor lock, in case you’re wondering, is lost to the nether and is honored by my car. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that Kirana the human warlock is simply no more.
So, those are my gaming roots. I’ve since returned to my “grand sci-fi adventure” leanings with the Mass Effect series that I keep talking about and, I’m sure, everyone on my social networks and in guild chat are tired of hearing me go on about.
Want to share your own gaming roots story? Send it my way or leave it in the comments section!