Deciding to fish or cut bait. Jonesing for MMORPGs.

I haven’t played Everquest in over six years.  I’m not sure why I’m jonesing for it so hard tonight.  I logged onto my old Sony Station account and was able to pull up all my old characters.  It’s crazy — looking through them — being flooded with memories of the days, weeks and months I was immersed into that game.

I’m an old pen and paper gamer from way back — before Dungeons and Dragons had any hard bound books — back around 1978 for those of you keeping score at home.  That’s when I tell into gaming with a  passion.

I read source books with a fervor.  No matter the game.  Gamma World, Boot Hill, Traveller, Top Secret.  Most of them I never played.  I just loved to see how the adventures were put together.  How the authors built the world, constructed the reality on those thin pages.  I dreamed of growing up and writing for TSR one day.

When Everquest went live, it was like being in seventh grade all over again, me and the guys, Ed, Ted, Jeff and Tony huddled in one of our bedrooms rolling dice, trying desperately to kill that final kobold so we could get our treasure and upgrade to a better set of gear.  It was heaven.  It was the essence of writing.

Everquest upped the ante.  I was back into that golly-gee world of roleplaying only way beyond our wildest dreams.  I could see my character running around on my computer.  I could talk to other people, people from all over the world, and I could have adventures.  For a few years I sank into that world with a vengeance.

Now, I didn’t neglect my family, lose my job, or anything like that.  But when I had free time, I sacrificed it to Everquest.

I finally gave it up in 2005.  I toyed with Star Wars online, which frankly sucked, then switched to Everquest 2 for a while, but none of them had the magic of the original Everquest.   Not even Everquest.  They’d changed the game so much, it had lost the magic for me.  It was a place for raiders and hard-core gamers.  The content shifted, the stories began to fail me.  I lost the illusion.

See, the games are about story for me.  About peeling back the layers and getting to the heart of the tale.  I love seeing my characters evolve, getting better, more skilled.  I like the excitement of going to a new zone and seeing something I’d never seen before, learning my way around the obvious dangers, and finding the not-so-obvious.  It was thrilling.

I gave it up in the end because I wanted to write my own stories even more.  I cut a deal with myself that if I put the twenty hours or so a week I was gaming into my fiction, that one day I’d sell enough books to quit my day job.

Then, I could do both — game and write.  It would be the best of both worlds.  So I gave up the online games.  I abandoned that world that had begun to lose its luster and dove into my own career as a story teller.

And within a year I’d started selling short stories.  One here and there, nothing to quit my day job over.  Enough to get a taste for success.

Then in December 2008  I sold Black Blade Blues.  I was on the path.  I still missed my friends and the adventure of online gaming.  I missed the various characters and personalities I created for that world.

That was when I cut my real teeth on creating characters.  I practiced the distinctive voices between each, came up with detailed backgrounds, storylines.  Even names.  Bravado Desperado the wood-elf bard, Bone Daddy, the gnome necromancer, Seditious Intent, the human thief.  Virul Infection the dark elf shadow knight, Gnostic Boombostic the gnome wizard and Medico Bandaidico the dwarf cleric.

I reveled in creating the perfect name for each of them, one that would signal to the other gamers just who this individual was.

And now I’ve delivered the third novel in my Sarah Beauhall series.  I’ve taken the real world, mashed it around with Norse mythology and all my love and experience from gaming to create a series that is getting some interesting attention in the world.

As we speak, on another open window on this computer, is the in-work outline for the fourth Sarah book.  I’ve abandoned it for the moment so I could put these words down.  Purge the memories and the what-ifs for a bit longer.

Because, I haven’t left that world, not really.  Building a novel career is like leveling characters.  You don’t move up fast. It’s the slow and steady grinding that wins the game.  Show up, put down the words, get them in front of readers and let the magic happen.  If you put more time in, you produce more words.  The more words you produce, the better they are.  The more skill you gather, the more adept you are at your chosen character class — author.

I’m not quitting my day job any time soon, so the online gaming is still on hold.  But I’m creating story, trying to bottle the magic I felt the first time I logged into the amazing pixilated world of Everquest.

And maybe, if you read one of my stories, you’ll feel some of that magic.  I certainly hope so.

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Comments

  • [...] Deciding to fish or cut bait. Jonesing for MMORPGs. — Urban Fantasy author J.A. Pitts on why he used to game obsessively, and why he doesn’t any more. I could have written this same post, except that I quit RPGs before MMORPGs came along. As I’ve said before, if Everquest or World of Warcraft had existed in my teens or twenties, I wouldn’t have a writing career today. I’d be an umpteenth level wizard-thief or whatever instead of an author. And I continue to wonder how many voices never came to being in SF/F because they chose the rewards of a collaborative, immersive gaming environment over hours, days and years alone at the keyboard. Who knows what stories we’ll never read? [...]

  • I completely relate to this. I started playing D&D around the same time you did, it sounds like, and while I enjoyed playing I soon found DMing more satisfying. I DMed to create stories for people, and that was true for, wow, a quarter-century. Not that I am working on my own writing career I try to take all of the energy I put into that and shunt it into my craft. I STILL get sidetracked by some electronic games (like the current FB D&D game), but I get much more satisfaction out of writing. The one thing I do miss is the interaction of other people enriching the story, but all that can replace that is more writing.

    Thanks for writing this!

  • Played tabletop through my first sons early teens. You can’t replace an activity your teenage kid and his friends will sit down and do with you. Now I am also slaving away at the loneliness of the page. With the advent of epublishing it remains to be seen how long writing and publishing remain respectable. It is possible they will become as self indulgent as gaming is now.

  • Now that I write, I give myself less time for RPGs, but I never quit. Sharing worlds, playing with ideas, having other people interact with my stories in completely unexpected ways: that’s my creative recharge. I crave it. In the solitary world of the writer, a focused way to hang out, talk, share, laugh, and be shocked is vital to me.

    I want to be one of those white-haired women I used to admire at GenCon, laughing and gaming away and discarding the stereotype of what it meant to be old and entrenched. If I’m doing that while contemplating the psychology underpinning my next thriller, all the better :-)

    I never got into MMORPG gaming–the story was always too secondary for me and too hard to believe. Also, the time-sink was obviously horrible. My husband went down that road briefly, and we both learned it wasn’t something either of us wanted.

    I’m glad you found your balance, so we can enjoy your stories :-) But I hope someday to sit across a gaming table from you, grin and say, “The world beckons. What’s Bravado doing this morning?”

    –simone

  • [...] Like J.A. Pitts, I mostly gave up gaming to focus on writing. [...]

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Uruz

The wild ox; strength and power.

Ansuz

Creativity; words, music, and art.

Othala

The troll cross; wealth and prosperity.

Sowilo

The sun; energy, honor, guidance.

Fehu

Personally earned or lucky wealth and prosperity.

Jera

The harvest; patience and promise.

Raidho

The chariot; journey and travel.

Note: This is not the real book cover.