Ancient History: Mag’s journey through the Gaming World (Part 2)

In my last blogpost, I detailed some of my formative years as a gamer. Today, I’m going to go over some of my favourite gaming memories up till the point where I began playing WoW. When I consider my exposure to various gaming genres over the years, I realise that my family- both immediate and extended- maintained a continued influence on me. Long after I was done with Knowledge Adventure and other forms of educational software, they continued to greatly affect what I played. Want some examples?

Around the time that I turned 9, I was introduced to the Heroes of Might and Magic series, developed by 3DO. If my experience as an avid fantasy reader helped to broaden the horizons of my imagination, then the Heroes series was undoubtedly instrumental in bringing that imagination to life. From the detailed artwork of a Euro-centric imagined medieval world, to the excellent game music and, most important, strategic demands of turn-based play, I was hooked. I played Heroes II, III and IV for years, and would still happily purchase and play them again if they were Macintosh compatible.

Heroes was the first game of its kind that introduced me to the concept of “god-mode”, whereby I was able to control more than a single unit or group of units at a time. Instead, a much greater emphasis was placed on long-term strategy, managing armies/resources and a more “epic” experience than would have likely been possible with individual character play.
This experience later spilled into other games that I played, such as the Command and Conquer series (they never quite measured up to my 3DO experience, but were enjoyable nonetheless), and of course: The original Warcraft and Starcraft games! I also tried applying “god-mode”-style gameplay to my more individualistic roots as well, but games like The Sims just turned out to be an eventual disappointment. Perhaps this was partly because they were too close to reality (relatively speaking!) for my tastes?

I do wish to clarify though, that Warcraft and Starcraft were not my first introduction to the Blizzard Entertainment series of franchises: That honour was reserved for Diablo I, which I first became familiar with in the summer of 1997. Diablo was also my first introduction to the dark-fantasy sub-gene- while I had played many games with “Good vs Evil” as a central theme, this was the first time that I found myself immersed in a world where evil’s effects and dominance over the game world were so visible. Undoubtedly, a large part of this was because Diablo also returned to the single-character mode of games that I had set aside till now.
While the actual gameplay behind Diablo wasn’t too interesting for me, I was captivated by the rich storyline that accompanied it. Bits of lore, a tension-filled atmosphere, and the threat of an unknown horror lurking in the shadows kept me playing. I still remember the thrill that ran through me when my character came across the Steel Tome at Level 13, and read out loud: “The armories of Hell are home to the Warlord of Blood. In his wake lay the mutilated bodies of thousands. Angels and Man alike have been cut down to fulfill his endless sacrifices to the Dark Ones who scream for one thing – blood.”
And of course, Tristram’s original theme: Never forget!

My experience with Diablo also lead to me trying another genre (First-Person Shooter) that I had remained largely uninterested in until this point: The Might and Magic series. As you might suspect they took place within the same world/verse as the Heroes series, and I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the idea of taking on the role of a group of small adventurers in the same lands that I had traipsed over on a grand scale. I began with Might and Magic 6 (VI), then progressed on to VII and VIII over the span of a few years; intermittently also experiencing my Command and Conquer days around this time.
I recall one of my greatest annoyances with the M&M series being the eventual revelation of a backstory that fused heavy elements of Science Fiction with the medieval setting that I had grown so used to. It’s probably for this reason that I avoided the first five games altogether, and why I became turned off by the replay value of the three games that I did play rather quickly. Oh well, I suppose I’ll always recall my times spent roaming Garrote Gorge quite fondly (I sincerely recommend you listen to the hyperlinked track)!

Back to Blizzard’s other series though: While I had enjoyed my time playing both Starcraft and Warcraft II, it was my purchase of Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne that truly set the stage for my eventual involvement with WoW, years later. To begin with, I hadn’t paid much attention to Warcraft lore up till this point- in part, I suspect, because I kept subconsciously comparing it to Heroes of Might and Magic, and found it lacking in the story department up till this point. The introduction of the Night Elf and Scourge factions though, were more than enough to pique my interest.
I also found the expanded backstory behind the Burning Legion and its involvement with both of the new factions to be fascinating. Looking back, it also provided Blizzard with endless opportunities and plot lines that we’ve seen developed in World of Warcraft. Perhaps most notably, close involvement with characters such as Illidan, Arthas, Kael’Thas, etc, would cement my desire to see how these stories would continue in the future. In fact, one thing that I still feel WoW got wrong was bringing back the old Alliance/Horde dynamic, since both factions (their old incarnations, anyway) were effectively shattered in Warcraft III- and rightly so. Ah, but I digress!

Warcraft III also happened to be my introduction to the concept of online gaming. While multiplayer capability had been present in many of the games I had played thus far, poor Internet connectivity and a general lack of interest in competitive/cooperative play had dimmed any enthusiasm I might have had for the concept up till this point. Around 2005 though, changing times (read: changing internet speeds) piqued my curiosity enough to try my first unofficial TFT tournament. Unsurprisingly, this also lead to my trying to compete on Diablo II’s ladder rankings and tournaments.

So there you have it: An abbreviated and highly convoluted recollection of my gaming history up until 2008. There are probably titles I’ve overemphasised in some places, and others that I’ve neglected to mention due to this post already being longer than I’d like. While I could  devote multiple future posts to my WoW history alone, I’ll probably space those out over time to avoid this blog simply becoming known as “Mag’s nostalgia corner”.

Until next time!


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