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I wish I had gotten into MMOs in the ’90s

I don’t live my life in a perpetual state of regret, but my propensity to reroll characters in games to try to play them better this time around trickles into the odd daydream that I have about doing the same in life. And what’s bounced around my head lately is the thought that I really should’ve gotten into the online RPG community much earlier than I did.

I know what you’re thinking — of course I’d say that because I love these games now and feel like I missed out on some formative years. But that’s not where my head is going with this thought experiment.

Rather, I think back to how life used to be and remember about a half-decade of soul-crushing loneliness. In college, I had a lot of great friends and what I felt was a fulfilling social life. But that all came to an end when everyone in my class graduated and I no longer could walk down the dorm hall to see them. From 1999 to 2004, I was pretty much on my own navigating the start of my career and living on my own.

And as an introvert, that wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I like the solitude and freedom, and I had a bit of online social connections with fellow movie reviewers. But it really wasn’t enough, and I didn’t find anyone in my local area to forge new friendships with.

Looking back, the really obvious solution would’ve been to connect with guilds in various MMOs — except that I wasn’t playing them until about 2003. It wouldn’t have been a perfect solution, but I really could’ve used people to talk with and form friendships with, and MMOs are great for that. Sure, I would’ve had to pick between a limited selection of games, but considering that it all had that novelty of newness, why not?

Anyway, it’s a moot point — life turned out as it did, and I am more than socially satisfied in my life at present without feeling lonely. I just feel bad for younger me that had to struggle through that period when there was a fun option that I didn’t take because EverQuest and the like looked too daunting.

5 thoughts on “I wish I had gotten into MMOs in the ’90s

  1. MMOs in the 90s were stupid expensive to play — I must have spent hundreds of dollars on Island of Kesmai, and I metered my time to the minute on that. I think GEnie’s MMOs were cheaper, but I could barely afford CompuServe as it was, and GEnie would just be too much. There was another MMO I played around that time on a cheaper timesharing service called Delphi that was played on a hex grid that I liked.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I guess those were 80s MMOs. 90s were more MUDs and MUSHes — I was deep into PernMUSH back then. And definitely, the MUD scene birthed many MMOs and launched many careers, but Ultima Online and EverQuest reset MMO expectations and those were near the tail end of the 90s so I don’t think you missed much.

  2. Rereading your post, it’s clear you meant specifically the post-UO, pre-WOW time period, so for that, I got nothing. EverQuest changed my life and I made there friends I still have today.

  3. In the late 90s, I started on MUDs first and then moved into UO (and dabbled a tiny bit in EQ). I was never very social in the early MMOs – if anything the free for all PVP in UO taught me to fear other players on the map, which carried over into fear of grouping that has taken a long time to finally break (thank you FFXIV). But the open world sandbox feel of UO being one of my first major online games – I’ll never recreate that, I don’t think.

    Still, wherever you started your journey was right for you. UO and early EQ weren’t for everyone, that’s for sure! Coming from a MUD environment, it was a huge step up just to have graphics for me – and that wonder that that avatar over there was a real player somewhere else in the world… is one of those things that can only be lived once.

  4. I almost got into MUDs in the mid 1990s – my two closest friends played them a bunch, but I was focused on making a new life in a new city and didn’t want to get sucked into a huge time-sync hobby. For the same reason I resisted Everquest entirely and it was only WoW (and one of those two same friends) that finally drew me into the MMORPG space much later in 2007. I do kind of regret never seeing the pre-social media aspects of MMORPGs, but there’s no turning back that praticular clock…

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