It began in a simple village. Just a few houses in a field, hardly worth calling a town, was still a lot to take in for someone who had never before set their foot in such a place. My jaw dropped as I arrived for the very first time, watching a fellow player approaching to offer his aid to the newcomer.
A fictitious world whose characters were made of real flesh and blood. It was amazing!
My first MMORPG was new and exciting and bursting at the seams with unexplored possibilities. I was absolutely captivated and immersed by it. It was a fantasy world, but because it was populated by real human beings it was also a real place, somehow. What I did actually mattered, because I was part of a community. Because when I went to bed, far too late in the morning, the world kept going even as I slept.
This kind of nostalgia, and love, is really quite common among gamers reminiscent of their first MMO. It could have been Ultima Online, Everquest or Anarchy Online. For me it was Asheron’s Call, with the quirky and enormous world of Dereth.
But it’s more than nostalgia. Sometimes I look back at the continent of Dereth and feel saddened that the genre stumbled into the territories of accessibility and growing numbers. Pick up a mainstream MMORPG today and you will be led by the nose from start to finish, each square meter of the land crafted for a spectacular tour. What was once no more than a metagame of the RPG, gaining experience points and leveling up is now designed to be the dominant motivation.
Perhaps they have transformed into great games, but they are no longer worlds. Asheron’s Call was not about racing to the end, but about participating in a living realm.
It’s likely that Dereth, and the promises it made about the future of gaming, influenced the choice of my life’s craft. I am thankful for the never fading ideas it etched into my mind, but I mourn the worlds we were promied.