A Long Road to Nowhere

By Merriandra Eldaronde

When I first started playing EverQuest, I never expected to become enthralled with the concept of an online role-playing game. Sure, I had dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons, but I always preferred to write a new storyline instead of getting wrapped up in someone else’s game.  So, when I first sat down at my then-boyfriend’s computer and tentatively steered my newborn elf right off the edge of the platform in Kelethin, I was sure that the game would be another passing obsession for my boyfriend, and maybe I’d try to play, to make him happy, for a while, anyhow.

Fast forward nearly three years. Yes, the game got old for my boyfriend, my not nearly as quickly as I had assumed. (You know what they say about “assume”? Err, well, if not, I’m not going to repeat it here, since this is definitely a PG site and I don’t want to be crass. Ask me some other time.)  Anyway, for the first two and a half years of our journey into the realm of Norrath, my boyfriend and I had been moving along completely different courses. It was almost the same as if one of us had been working days, and the other nights. Or maybe a more accurate comparison would be something like: he was the movie star, and I was a makeup artist. Or, better yet, he went on a safari to Africa while I went after the neighbor’s cat with the garden hose.

My boyfriend excelled in everything he chose to do in-game. He was one of the first rangers to reach level 50. He never had trouble finding a group, and he joined the guilds that I would eventually join, except he joined them months before I even bothered applying. It was unbecoming, I know, but I pouted. I whined. I remember wishing that I had started my character on the same day, at the same time, and that I had made the same choices. Only now, in retrospect, I’m glad I found my own niche, even if it was never a comfortable fit.

I certainly took a more long-and-winding-road approach: the journey was half the fun, but I still kept asking “are we there yet”? I think my then-boyfriend reached fifty at least six months before I did. I was always struggling to get that last level before the next expansion. I also exhibited the distinct signs of a split personality. I relished the time that I spent playing my bard, Lyralyrana Istarae. I reveled in completed quests, guild raids, levels gained. I enjoyed dropping guildmates out of a clear blue sky when I lagged. Well, no, I didn’t enjoy killing them, but it was funny when they had three hit points left. After all, lag was a function of the servers and the connection, neither of which I could control.

I also was bound to service in the Guide program. Merriandra Eldaronde started out as an apprentice guide, a Wood Elf bard, and evolved into a Senior Guide who scheduled events, trained apprentices, wrote poetry, sat down and practiced role-play with certain segments of the server population when possible, loved quests, and was trapped inside a Dark Elf’s skin, condemned to evil by the machinations of a gnome necromancer.

For a while, I had the highest level “play server” character of any of the guides on my server. I was also caught, higher level than some of my oldest and dearest friends in game, but falling further and further behind my significant other. I wish I had listened to my heart, then, always. I should never have left the path I had chosen: I found that the road to the top was more like a treadmill. I couldn’t be a guide and a friend and a hardcore gamer, it seemed.  I chose to try and emulate the hardcore gamers with whom my significant other raided, and joked, and ground out “xp” until the wee hours of the morning. I should have known it wouldn’t work. Why? Let me explain.

There were three reasons that I could never be a hardcore gamer: an innate sense of responsibility, the war between my competitive nature and my maternal instincts, and my inability to focus on repetitive tasks. I tried, for nearly half a year, to gain access to that holy grail of my play server: the uber guild, the guild that defined the end-game. I almost made it. My rite of passage into hardcore gamer-hood was nixed by a simple statement: “She isn’t dedicated enough.”

I had kept my role as guide, and fooled myself into thinking that if I gave 75% to everything I did, I could still manage, since 225% was less effort, after all, than 300%. Player, guide, and friend: my friends had fallen away as I leveled, or disappeared from the server when they needed me. I disappeared to guide, and, gradually, I also found myself disappearing from the online realms altogether: real life needed my attention.

The question posed this month in Tuesday’s Takes has been: “Hardcore versus casual, how do YOU play, and do you feel the game will accommodate your play style?” The answer, in my case, is that I don’t really fit either category, nor do I represent the “core gamer”, as defined by Brad McQuaid in discussing Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. With my current employment, there may be a month, or months, when I can scarcely log on to chat, and then there will be long, unbroken days when I could play, if I chose to, if the game was able to fascinate me in the way that Everquest wrapped its tendrils around my wrists and never truly let go.

Do I think that there is a role for me to fill in Telon? Of course. Is this the game in which I finally find the balance between wanting to write my own story and wanting to play someone else’s game? Maybe. Will I chase my husband’s ghost up the advancement ladder? No. I’ve learned my lesson. Sometimes it’s better to follow a road of your own choosing and end up with your friends, in the middle of nowhere, than to follow the dust kicked up by the masses as they race up the mountain peak, and jump out, down, into the end of the world.


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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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