My brother Erik gave me a copy of the novel Ready Player One for my birthday back in June, and since it’s his birthday today, thought I would wish him happy birthday and thank him for that trip down memory lane. So much of our early days were spent in these fantasy worlds. I remember picking up copies of the super-sized Fantastic Four and The Hulk at the PX on the army base in Germany, and later moving on to Weird War and Sgt. Rock, Tales of Mystery, and Tales from the Crypt . Erik kept up with everything too, and made the great discovery of The X-Men (I think we were both in love with Jean Grey there for awhile) and The Micronauts when we had moved back to California. We started out, probably with Raggedy Andy and later The Magical Land of Noom books, but later of course on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and later, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and ultimately Dungeons & Dragons up through a good chunk of the Dragonlance series. We were both hooked in our own ways on these worlds, me more in the tabletop realm, and Erik taking to video games like a fish to water. It seems we were in great company, though, but books like Ready Player One, amazing in its own delving into video game lore, only scratched the surface of all the stuff we were interested in.
Erik was always more of a video gamer than I was, and, where I only scratched the surface of the Ultima and Wizardry series, he explored and solved the entire games. I remember one night playing Ultima to 1 am or so on the morning with my friend Mark, until mom finally kicked us off the computer and Mark out the door. I never quite picked it up the same way after that, but Erik kept at it, piece by piece on his own, and made it all the way through. By the time Ultima Online appeared, I had moved on to college and missed out on a lot of the early days of the MMORPG games. He continued on with Dark Age of Camelot, and later found home in World of Warcraft. I think he passed on EverQuest, but not completely sure on that score.
I think it was years later, when I had some time to look back on my love of video games that I returned to Myst and Diablo II. At the time, my brother lived in San Francisco, I was in Boston, and I had good friends in Salem and Millis – my old friends were pretty spread out, and we said, hey, it would be fun to try this online thing and group up again. We figured out the whole online setup, and for a good while we were playing Diablo II together – Erik leading us noobs, knowing the best way through.
A bit more time passed, and I finally got the World of Warcraft bug, and for a couple years, we’d group up on weekends, running old dungeons (I got in late – Wrath of the Lich King days), and generally having a blast. Now we had Ventrilo and could chat and joke away as we mowed through the monsters. I still to this day am amazed at the camaraderie that could be formed at such distances, and just the feeling of respect and admiration for my brother who knew these places so well.
So Ready Player One was something of a love story to these games, these worlds. Joust, Pac Man, Wizardy, Asteroids, the Tomb of Horrors module in D&D (that was a cruel first dungeon, Gary Gygax), Tron, Wargames, Zork/Adventure (I think Adventure was our very first computer game, followed closely by Wizardy). The novel is a lot of fun, but I think the thing it does do pretty nicely by the end of it all, is recognize it’s the people on the other screen – us – that makes all those games worthwhile. So here’s to you: Erik, Alan, Eric H., Brad, George S., Dave S., Bill, Steve, Pete, Mark B., Darrin, Dan, Dave N., Mark S., George, Virgil, Dave H., Pete M., Scott, Ted, Jon, Rob.
And, a big happy birthday to my brother Erik. Love ya.