Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the game
I used to rock. I played a lot of video games. Let’s start before that. I didn’t really get into video games until my junior year of high school. I had never owned a console and the only game I had really played was an old D&D game by SSI called Champions of Krynn. Then my friends gave me a game called Half-Life and my life changed. Up to that point in time, all of my competing had been done on the soccer field or playing roller hockey. Now I had a way to compete with friends in my own home and I loved it. I devoured Half-Life and began searching for other games to play. My senior year of high school my friends and I enrolled in a networking class. Cisco was sponsoring a “networking academy” that would train us well enough to get our CCNA certification. Our teacher was a young guy who liked playing video games as well, so one day of the week we would play some video games in class and then every Wednesday after school, we had game day. Game day was awesome. We spent 5 hours in the computer lab, playing games on our brand new computers. It was mostly Half-Life mods because it was the golden age of HL modding. I was the one who introduced a game called Counter-Strike to a group which had been subsisting on mods like Ice Cold and Action Half-Life. Now, Counter-Strike had a whole different feel to it. You didn’t respawn right after you died, you couldn’t just run in and take the whole team by yourself. It required teamwork and caution. And I loved it.
Once I got to college, I was a veteran Counter-Strike player. I could jump onto a server and, if my team was losing, would be winning within a few rounds. My roommate, Onyx, and our dorm-mate Isometric were fiends. I, unfortunately played Counter-Strike to the detriment of the smaller things like class. So, the next year I was not in school anymore. The only thing that did was free up extra time for game playing, and it was an excellent time to play games. In November of 2001, the Xbox debuted with a little game called Halo. I was working at Seagate in their R&D department and actually took the week off so that I could play Halo since I knew that I would not be at work anyways that week. The first day we had the Xbox, some random guy walked into our room and said, “Hey, I heard you guys got an Xbox, how is it?” We invited him to play and he didn’t leave our room for a month or so. As much as I played Counter-Strike, it was a drop in the bucket compared to my Halo playing. 20 hour play sessions were not uncommon. I , unfortunately played Halo to the detriment of the smaller things like going to the bathroom, eating, personal hygiene, and blinking. That’s right, I rarely blink when I play console shooters. Now you know my secret.
We found a group of guys that lived about a block away from us and started having 16 person LAN parties every other week. The game was incredible and I was a god. We actually won the Halo National Championship that Bungie hosted at E3 that year. We won the final in 13 minutes, which is after Bungie told everyone that if the game went more than 2 hours, it would go to sudden death. We were that good. Then life happened.
I moved back to Knoxville and started working in a hospital. Having to be at work at 6 every morning kind of hurt my gaming time, but I still tried. Then I went back to school while still working full time and it suffered even more. When Halo 2 came out, I was ecstatic. Now I would get a chance to test my mettle against all challengers. The only problem was that I was no longer a hardcore gamer. I am now mediocre. I spend more time at school and work and sleeping then I do playing games. In fact, if I manage to get one evening of gaming in a week, I’m happy. And what can I say to all of those doubters out there who tell me that I suck at Halo 2? I used to be really good? Now, I’m not bad. In fact, I’m pretty good with the sniper rifle. Not as good as I used to be, but not bad. I understand how it must feel to be an old basketball coach, knowing that you could show these young whippersnappers a thing or two if only time hadn’t caught up with you. It’s a painful feeling, but one that I’ve learned to live with. Now, if I get beat like a red-headed step child, I just say “Good game.” Most people are pretty nice, and those that aren’t don’t bother me. I know that they have small penises and no friends. And so I don’t lose any sleep over being a mediocre gamer.