The Think Tank: What got you started in MMOs?

Shawn Schuster
S. Schuster|05.16.13

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The Think Tank: What got you started in MMOs?
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
Can you remember your first MMO buying experience? What series of events led to your interest in massively multiplayer gaming? What made you finally accept that paying monthly for a game is a thing that's OK? Or did you wade through countless free-to-play games before finding one that suited you?

As the guys and gals you turn to each day for your MMOs news, the team at Massively has a solid history with this genre. So I dug a bit deeper to get those stories from a few members of the team. Feel free to leave your own MMO origins story in the comments below as you enjoy our own after the jump.
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
I was mostly a bookworm rather than a gamer as a kid, but games were a natural extension of my quest for escapism. I went from Atari to PC, mostly skipping the Nintendo generation and jumping right to 4X and space exploration games like Master of Orion, Starflight 2, and Nomad. Then I got into Myst clones (Lighthouse will forever cause me nightmares), then RPGs with Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, and then one day in September 1997, the local games store stocked this weird thing called Ultima Online. "It has thousands of other players online at the same time. And dragons," my boyfriend (now husband) said to me. "Looks stupid," I replied, nose in the air. "I'm getting it," he said, out-contrarying me. That night I got on his account and rolled a character who specialized in tailoring (and by tailoring, I mean dyeing other people's clothes for tips) and exactly one half of the bard skills required to do anything other than make sad tambourine noises at the bank. And it was glorious.

A few weeks later, he had to buy himself another box because I had taken over his. :D
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
My dad has always been in IT. This meant that we always had a lot of computers around our house, and from the age of 11, my brother and I had our own PCs. My dad taught me to play first-person shooters instead of how to ride a bike. And for a long time, that is all I played. I used to be quite good at them when I played them daily.

I remember the first adventure I had was a game called Day of the Tentacle. It showed me a very different type of gameplay, something I hadn't seen before, and I loved it! I played The Fate of Atlantis and then my favourite one, Loom. I loved the adventure aspect, but I also hated that I couldn't roam around and go where I wanted. There was a very linear line that was followed in point-and-click adventure games. That's when I came across EverQuest. In a giant box.

It promised me huge adventures with a character that I could create and customize. That screamed to me! I begged my mum to buy it for me and to pay the monthly subscription fee (which she was none too pleased about), and I played for some time. It was very complicated for me, but I trudged through it. Other games came around -- World of Warcraft and the like -- but none of them really grabbed my attention. But then The Matrix Online came around, and that was the beginning of the beginning for me. That game has hooked me on MMOs quite likely for the rest of my life, and I can't thank it enough!
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
I started gaming as a wee lad on my dad's Apple II (yay Sundog!) and have been hooked on RPGs, simulators, and shooters ever since. I stumbled across UO in college and dabbled in it for a few weeks over a quarter break, but I didn't pick up MMOs again until 2001 and Anarchy Online. While not technically my first, it was the first one that I played for an appreciable length of time.

I've played very nearly every one since, with six years of my gaming life (happily) lost to Star Wars Galaxies. I'm still working through the backlog, though, as I basically missed six years worth of awesome offline games as a result.
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
Although I wasn't aware of MUDs in college (to my shame), I did become fascinated with online roleplaying with BBSes in high school. I stayed far away from MMOs when they first started rolling out due to a friend becoming way too addicted to EverQuest. Still, I'd pick up a box at the store every now and then and speculate about trying it out. While I dabbled in Anarchy Online when it first came out, my MMO career really took off when City of Heroes launched. Shortly thereafter came World of Warcraft, and I was completely hooked.
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
Although not MMOs, gaming for me started with Super Pong (we had one!) and then Atari 2600 (which I still have and can play), but all that got tossed aside for school and sports. I never even knew about MMOs until many years later. And I actually had two starts in MMOs -- both involved moving.

My soft launch into MMOs came when an important part of my life moved far away. At that same time, The Sims Online offered beta access, and as neither of us could afford major long-distance telephone calls, we just went into the game to talk for free for weeks! I also built a really cool castle. But the game didn't really hold my attention, and I actually hated looking at a big map and not being able to see the places in-between the different houses.

My hard launch happened when I moved across the country away from my tabletop gaming buddies, some of whom were close co-workers. I missed hanging out with them, and ended up becoming ill shortly after moving, so I was cooped up in my house and bored. At that point I bought Star Wars Galaxies for someone, who then encouraged me to make a character on his account just to see the customization available. I did (oh, it took many hours, LOL), and found that one of my tabletops buddies, who was a major Star Wars fan, was actually in the game. So I logged in my little Twi'lek dancer and set off to hang out with him. Different than book and movies, I was suddenly watching stories unfold around me that were unpredictable, yet I could participate in and influence. The game immersed me so much it actually elicited feelings when playing, from being wound tight while being escorted through dangerous territory to wonder and an adrenalin rush as I ran through the wilds between cities on Naboo. I was more than smitten, I was hooked! I reveled in the exploration and the storytelling. Needless to say, the owner had to go buy another account!

From that point on, MMOs have been a staple as both entertainment and a creative outlet. Oh, and now work! Life is good.
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
I was hooked on video games since the day my father brought home the Atari 2600 (and yes, I know I'm old). In my youth, I wasn't picky and would play almost anything. That said, I always did have a penchant for fantasy-themed games. When I was around 10 years old, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and my friends and I would spend many afternoons rolling dice and pretending we were thwarting dragons in imaginary lands.

In a way, I was born to be an MMO player. I enjoyed RPG video games, but I was equally passionate about cooperating with friends during pen and paper campaigns. So when Ultima Online finally rolled around and merged a fantasy roleplaying game and the ability to play with friends, I knew I was in trouble. While UO didn't grip me as much as I thought it would, I knew that it was only a matter of time. My friends and I all jumped into EverQuest, and again, I felt it was close to what I was looking for. But I lost interest before hitting level cap. When I got into the World of Warcraft beta, I knew that was the game. I made a website and wrote a review of my experiences testing the game, and I showed it to my friends and family. When WoW finally came out, a group of nine of us (including my father) all jumped in and got immediately hooked. We raided and ran a guild together for seven amazing years, and I believe I will play MMOs for the rest of my life.
The Think Tank What got you started in MMOs
I've always loved the human interaction in tabletop gaming, and when I discovered multiplayer gaming over the internet with the BBS classic Legend of the Red Dragon in the early '90s, I was hooked. A friend and I tried playing a multiplayer MechWarrior game over my Commodore 64's 1200 baum modem a few years earlier, but it was like a slide show in slow motion, so I'm not sure that even counts as "multiplayer," and certainly not massively multiplayer. I moved on to MUDs in the mid '90s, but mostly for the "chat" aspect.

During the birth of MMOs in the late '90s, I was having some family issues that prevented me from gaming at all, but I remember standing in Media Play, staring longingly at the Motor City Online box, wishing I could afford to pay $15 a month for a video game on top of the box price. That was unheard of to me at that time, though. So I waited until the Guild Wars buy-to-play train launched in 2005. I loved the game so much that I created a podcast and fansite about it and immersed myself in the game through every waking hour that didn't involve my day job.

Lord of the Rings Online opened me up to the awesomeness of other MMOs in 2007, then Tabula Rasa became the first game that I actually played more than Guild Wars, so I made a podcast and fansite about that, too! From there, I've just been having fun trying out every new MMO I can get my hands on, and free-to-play has made that a much easier (although sometimes more difficult) process.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.
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