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“He is as Autumn shadows, stealing soundlessly beneath the vaulted arches of the Moon-burnt sky, the deadly promise of a winter’s blade in the dark watches of the night. Relentlessly he pursues Her. Defiantly he loves Her.”

Keredh Windryder, Ranger

Gaming is either something you get or something you don’t.

For some of us, the prospect of immersing ourselves in the LCD glow of a world constructed from bits and bytes sets our pulses racing. Our imaginations can spend all day rehearsing the moment we turn the lights off and sit down to lead our friends and guild-mates into battle.

For the rest, the prospect leaves them cold. The world of the geek gamer is a dark and alien place, strewn with the detritus of a life lived online:  cans of coke, empty coffee mugs with a crusted sediment deep inside, discarded crisp packets and sweet wrappers – and the musty – occasionally rancid – smell of immobile, sleepless concentration.

I suspect most of my family, friends and colleagues fall into this latter category, bemused at the hours of life that Em and I can spend in these virtual worlds, each with its own lexicon, politics and social mores.

Computer gaming, though, has been a huge part of my life for almost thirty years.

As technology has developed, so the boundaries between real life and virtual life have shifted and blurred. Sometimes this has had catastrophic personal consequences – and on other occasions it has resulted in moments of sheer serendipity. I can honestly say that gaming, specifically the two incarnations of Everquest, has impacted my life in far more significant ways than I could have ever envisaged.

More on that another time, perhaps.

So it was today, sitting at work, that I felt a familiar ache. A longing for a place I know better than the back of my hand. A place that most script kiddies and World of Warcraft fanbois have never known – but a place that makes Azeroth look as exciting as Tellytubby land.

Norrath.

Sony’s Everquest is the Great Granddaddy of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs). Everquest 2 is its electrifying reinvention.

On and off for the last seven years, Everquest (Everquest 2 for me these days) has been a way of escaping from the stresses and strains of an exhausting day. But how did I reach a point in life where I can see a point to investing hours in the development, customisation and manipulation of a virtual avatar, a wood-elf ranger that specialises in striking down his enemies with a blow from the shadows or a bow-strike inflicting massive damage from afar? (And believe me,  I can!)

That is a story that takes me from Mazogs on the ZX-81 in 1982, to Sentinel of Fate, the latest EQ2 expansion, in 2010. In an occasional series of pieces in the coming weeks I will explore that story. I want to reflect on the friendships forged in huddled hours around the screen – and remember the computers and the games that have given me so many fond memories.

In the meantime, take a look at where it started in 1982:

And see where that story is now in 2010:

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