I believe everyone has that geek moment when they realize they want to plunge into fiction. They see something, or they read something that makes them think to themselves “I want to to write a story.”
I had that moment in 1998. As a child of two teachers, I was not allowed to have video games. Besides the obvious fact that it would distort my mind and curve my spine, it would ruin my grades, and the noise would be too unbearable for my educating parents during their hellish report card weeks. My friends, on the other hand, filled many weekends and summer days playing on the SNES and later N64 consoles. I came over to a friends house one weekend while he was playing a new game called The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I saw this game and I realized that there existed, inside this plastic cartridge, an actual three dimensional fantasy world. I couldn’t believe that the sun and moon would rise and set throughout your time playing in this amazing world. There were multiple races with their own cultures and architecture, whom you could speak to and interact with. You could wear armor, wield swords and shields, ride horses, practice archery, fight monsters, and do generally heroic shit all the time. As far as I know, Ocarina of Time was the first truly 3D open world video game. When I went home that day I began thinking about fictional worlds in a very different way.
Two more games appeared over the following years that had a similar effect. My brother started playing something called Ultima Online. It was an online open world game, but this was much larger than Zelda, and you could play with multiple people. It was larger in scope than any single player game I had seen up until now. You could still ride horses, swing swords, and shoot bows, but you could also travel great distances, cast spells that could whisk you to the other side of the game world, forge strong armour, and wicked blades, and of course my favourite activity, alchemy and the brewing of potions. This game was huge in every way and I was bound to it for many years.
Fast forward a few more years and I discovered a series of games that had been out for awhile. I jumped in at the fourth installment of the Elder Scrolls series known as Oblivion. Playing this felt like open world games had come full circle. The initial entry into this style of game with Ocarina of Time was brilliantly done, but by the time the newer 3D Elder Scrolls games came out I realized that there was so much more that could be done with a sandbox like this.
With each game I played my mind would take mental notes, and store little ideas and inspirations away. Originally I thought, I should write a novel where I create a brilliantly detailed world using all this little ideas. Of course writing any story, even a short story, is an arduous process and I would have to hone my craft as a writer first before I could do justice to such a large concept idea. Shortly after playing Oblivion, I played another game that became the catalyst for all these creative juices sloshing amongst my grey matter.
I joined a D&D campaign for the first time in my life. Sure, I had played Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, but I had never rolled a d20 up until that point. After a year and a half long campaign, I realized that this was a hobby I was willing to invest in. A game I could devote my creativity to and that others could come and experience all those quirky ideas. I began to build worlds based around a number of fantasy themes. I started to weave plots and deceptions together into a monthly campaign. Over the years I was slowly turning into a better DM from my many failed attempts. I started enjoying more successful sessions than not, and my players were quickly becoming engrossed with the characters they played and more importantly the characters I was creating for them to interact with. I may not be a video game designer creating the next Ocarina or Skyrim, but I was certainly creating an open world experience that had been stewing in my head for years. My friends were getting to see a part of the way my mind worked, and it was all because of a pen and paper RPG.
I may devote more time into writing. I may start developing short stories at a prodigious rate one day. But the one thing I CAN do is create those adventures that turn into memories for myself and my friends. D&D isn’t a game for me, it’s become a conduit to tell stories, to speak in funny voices, to show case my crazy imagination, and to enjoy my time with friends. It has become that grand adventure we play on rainy days, and cold winter evenings. D&D is that drunken brawl in that shady bar amongst comrades and trusted allies, while your friends are actually half way across the country. It’s not the game, the edition, or the style you play in but the fun moments you have while doing it.
I will play and run this game well into my adult years. And hopefully, one day should I have my own horde of kobold spawn, I will show them what adventures they could have.