(e-mails by Faline)
Hail and Greetings Mayshark,
I would love to talk about EQ, and I have quite a tale to tell about it. It has merged over into my real life also, I have met several other people who play since starting. I have a 26th level Magician character named Faline Elem'Adepti on the Mithaniel Marr server. If you would like to talk, or e-mail about it, please let me know.
Im not sure its them when they first walk in, Margaret and her mother. They might be anyone else here in the neighborhood blues bar, dropping by for a Friday happy hour beer and cigarette. After a few minutes, we figure out who each other are and sit down at a table together. Margarets a slim, striking blonde woman in a black top with spaghetti straps and blue jeans, smoking deliberately and drinking a brown-glass bottle of Bass. Her mothers name is Cecelia and she's drinking Woodchuck Dark Cider, which she discovers she likes; she tells Margaret to write down the name so she can remember it.
Were here to talk about EverQuest. Its a computer game.
Ive heard there are people who play EverQuest obsessively, who give up their real lives for the three-dimensional digital landscape of an invented planet named Norrath. Even in the dungeons-and-dice gamer subculture, the members of which think nothing of spending hours dragon-slaying and spell-casting, EverQuest is viewed with some trepidation. "NeverRest," they call it. "I stay away from that stuff," one gamer tells me, the way a habitual dope-smoker might talk about heroin. (Another nickname is "EverSmack.")
Still, when I went to find EverQuest players, I didnt expect to find Margaret.
Or Faline. Heres what Margaret has to say about Faline: "Shes a high elf, tall and thin, long blonde hair. Shes got a really, really amazing green robe right now. It was actually a wedding present, but I got to keep it, it was from Onyx."
Onyx is well, that's getting ahead of the story. Back to Faline: "Shes supposed to be this uppity high elf, but she doesnt act that way at all. She hangs out with pickpockets and rogues."
Musicians are hauling instruments up the stairs at the blues club. Its a band from Memphis that jammed with the Rolling Stones a few months ago. Margaret keeps smoking. She gets another round of beers. She likes blues, she says. The conversation shifts back to EverQuest, which Margaret calls EQ.
OK here goes my tale. I want to start by saying that playing EQ is an experience unlike any other I have ever had. The extent to which the game has been merged with my real life is uncanny, and I never could have imagined it when I purchased EQ. I bought the game about two weeks after it came out. I first created a character on the Bristlebane server, but soon switched to Mithaniel Marr because some of my friends were playing there. The character I created there is a female high elven Magician by the name of Faline.
Let me tell you a little about how the game works. You start by creating your character, choosing from 12 races and 14 classes, then adding extra skill points, similar to D&D. You choose your Deity, and starting place if applicable (some have no choice) and you are then dropped into the world. It doesn't take very long to familiarize yourself with the controls, and then off you go. Now you are in Norrath, and you must survive. The first thing you are given to do is a quest to find your guild house, and turn in a letter, in order to get your starting tunic or robe. Once you have done that, well, you can do whatever you want.
I just want to add one more thing. For some reason, society has the idea that everyone who role-plays is a "nerd" in the traditional sense. This is just NOT true! I am a 26-year-old attractive female, and pretty much everyone else I know or have met has been around my age, and very normal looking. I have met no skinny geeks with black, taped glasses, or anything of the sort.
"I was a very different person in high school than I am now," Margaret is saying. She was shy, she says, "scared of people." She hated sports, the whole athlete mindset, but she liked the idea of competition. So she had games.
The whole family played games, Cecelia addsboard games and card games and so forth. (If you're wondering, Cecelia is not an EverQuest player. She's mostly here tonight because like any good mother she's a little worried about her daughter meeting strange reporters in smoky bars.) Margaret, who grew up with computers, went digital with her gaming at a young age. She never played Dungeons & Dragons itself, but she loved the early text-only adventures that let you wander around fantasy worlds. "I did those constantly, I made extensive maps and everything," she says. When online bulletin board services started, she used to dial up to them, socializing with the first wave of virtual friends and playing games like Usurper. The first Internet game she remembers playing was Magic, the Gathering, the cyberspace complement to the still popular Magic card game.
EverQuest came on the market in March of '99. Margaret had read about it and was excited to play. Cecillia speculates, somewhat to her daughter's annoyance, that Margaret was bored following her brother's recent move to the Southwest. In any event, the two women agree that when Margaret first logged on, it started something close to an obsession.
"I've actually kind of gotten out of the addict stage," Margaret says, nodding. "I was a pretty intense addict when it was first out." She notes that her Internet service provider automatically kicks her offline after 10 hours of continuous access. That happened more than once.
"I was kind of worried," Cecelia says. "So was my best girlfriend. It seemed like she was giving up her life to it."
But the reality, if that's the right word, is more complicated.
Next: Into Faline's Lair