The lights are on
Power Member - Level 7
This series is about those moments in games that ask us to not just think, but act, and claim full ownership of the consequences of our decisions, as well as the lessons we may or may not learn. This is dedicated to the games that ask more of us as gamers.
Today, the tale of the hardest moment I've ever had while playing a game. When online life reaches out into the "real" one though, the good and bad times are all the sweeter and harder together understandably. Forgive some of the exposition, but I feel it may be needed to understand why the impact was so deep.
Myst Online: Uru Live played with a big idea even in it's name. In the fictional language of its universe, an Uru was a "great gathering," but it was a running joke that when you play Uru, "You are you."
If you'd like to know more about the concept and story behind the game, please check out the intro of one of my prior posts, "Not Even in Death."
To this day, it has remained the only MMO I have never, not once, had a problem with another player. One could point to the structure of the game being the reason: there were no levels, no combat, no accumulation of wealth. Competition was reserved to small games of "Ayoheek", races up the Maintainer's Wall, and scavenger hunts for markers. "Neighborhoods" tracked scores to see which was "winning" in contributions to what was ultimately the shared goal of restoring the life in the cavern lake. Progress was measured entirely in knowledge, and the only way to so much as show off was to share that knowledge. All in all though, there was an overwhelming silent acknowledgement of something among Uru's players that I so often see lacking in many MMOs: it may just be a game, but you're playing it with real people.
One day in the city, I ran into a woman named Pepsi. She had her name changed to Pehpsee soon after due to the Terms of Service, something even she laughed about later. The Maintainer's Wall had only just been opened to the public, and she was quite excited to show people how it worked. I was more then eager to join her. Despite the struggle against glitches, we had a blast of a time, bending the other's brains with vertical mazes, and scrambling to solve the other's first in a race. I never knew until much, much later just how special these moments were to her; climbing, running, and exploring when behind the screen she was confined to a wheel chair.
The community stayed pretty close through two cancelations. Most of them knew each other long before the servers even went online, having sought one another out in the days when Myst was still a single player experience but still finding ways to share their journey. Through one of the larger forums, I'd happened upon a man that went by CAGrayWolf. He was renowned for his extensive collection of memorabilia, and I'd contacted him about it. I was only 14 at the time, but was seeking to make my own recreation of the outfit worn by one of the main characters of Riven: The Sequel to Myst and learned he owned one of the very rare replicas of that very outfit. I'd asked if he could possibly send me a few pictures to use as a reference for the embroidery. He sent many. High resolution too. Made sure to zoom in on some of the densest clusters of embroidery as well so I could even identify what stitch would be best.
The Uru servers were eventually brought back online by the developers themselves, the game made a free download, and to this day the servers are maintained solely through donations. When this reopening of the cavern of D'ni was first celebrated, I tore into it with both old and new faces. While walking the streets of the city of Ae'gura, with a new friend whom was old to the game, and an old friend taking her very first trip, I brought up the idea of taking her to see the Kahlo Pub. After picking our way over the rubble though, we came upon something I didn't expect. There were a few things I was seeing for the first time, having missed quite a bit while the game was still being hosted by Gametap, and I didn't recognize the contraption at the pub's front door that was displaying a constant rotation of names. I was especially curious when two screen names I recognized came up: CAGrayWolf and Pehpsee. Even more so when they were accompanied by their real full names… David Sweeny, and Janet Burress.
"What's this for?" My new friend Kaelri had had more consistent access to the game in the past, and knew more about the additions that had been made since the Ubisoft days.
"That's the memorial."
In character, it was erected by the D'ni Restoration Council to commemorate explorers that have died during the Cavern restoration efforts, with the names of several fictional characters gracing it whom were killed within the confines of the storyline. The developer, Cyanworlds, then began adding the names of players and fans that have passed away when asked by their friends and family.
I never would have known without a trip through Ae'gura to the Kahlo Pub.
Technology is a big part of my life, and when I think about it, I don't think I'd be quite who I am today if that community hadn't taken in that plucky kid I used to be so openly. They were the first forum I'd ever joined, but wouldn't be the last. The first MMO I'd ever played, and set the bar so high no community has ever surpassed it. I wasn't always the best at keeping in touch, but those people and their kindness stuck with me. I still talk intermittently with some of them, roughly 9 years later.
Thank you Cyanworlds. And thank you Pepsi and Wolfie.