So I spoke of my years up through high school. But I am almost thirty five years old, and I have lived a bit since those days. Although I have truly had many years past then, I have existed in a haze of depression and fantasy indulgence for a good amount of that time. I have moved past some of the worst of those obsessions and hope for changes that will be more constructive to my life. But I will leave those explanations for another day and continue my geek cred post with those remaining years past those of my youth.
When high school ended, I like many other kids when away to college. For the next year I found my new home to be Morgantown, West Virginia and more specifically West Virginia University. It was over five hundred miles away from my New England hometown, had a football team I loved, and so much natural beauty touch my soul. I majored in girls, parties, drinking, and oh yes we must not forget Engineering. It seems odd to this day that I chose that major. Though perhaps not with the way I excelled in math and my technical drawing classes.
My year at WVU was fun, exciting, and took me out of a shell I had lived in. Though I cannot say that I was as studious as I should had been; not in the least. I quickly became the computer expert in my dorm and gained many friends through those first requests for help. Without the quiet demeanor I had in high school or the nerdy edge that comes with some computer people (especially in those days); I caught many dates and late night… adventures through some of those connections. But I guess I did not write this blog to talk about my college exploits, so I will leave that for you to fill in.
While I have told you that I have always been a natural with computers, I should explain a few things that make me laugh at that point. Especially after what I have just said about becoming the computer expert within my dorm. Yes! I did own a Tandy 1000 EX, but that was the first and only computer that I owned until I moved into college. Computers were excessively expensive back then, and some would argue they remain still today (not I though). My parents were both blue collar workers (and one eventually on disability), and did not have the ability to buy me all those luxuries. So for the years after that Tandy, I used computers mainly through friends and school. My next computer did not come until I was leaving for college, my uncle and aunt decided that they would co-sign a credit card from an electronics store for me. With that they paid for most of the computer and let me put some on the card as well. I only had it out of the box one day before leaving for college, but I loved it and spent many late nights wasting hours on it for years to come.
That computer was a Compaq Presario 4704. It had a 133 MHz Pentium processor, 1.6 Gig Hard drive, 8 MB of Ram, and Windows 95. I cannot say it was the best or brightest computer for that year; but it would had been top of the line for a production computer then. Through that computer, I started learning how to work on hardware. It began with the need of an Ethernet card, to be able to access the college network. I quickly bought that and installed it without much issue. I later helped the installation of many more that year, making a few bucks (from the guys) and other things as well. Since that computer, I have never gone without one and eventually never gone without several at hand.
With that new beautiful piece of equipment, I journeyed into a new world of computer games. Diablo was my first adventure into online gaming, and one I quickly came to enjoy. I must now admit that I eventually became an asshole on that game, I would PK (player kill; griefing) anyone and anything. I had entire guilds hunting me mainly because I was one of those cheating bastards that could get around a few of the mods that kept players from being PKed. I do not know why I enjoyed it so, but in years to come my PKing become somewhat more honorable on other games.
I started MUDing (Multi-User Dungeon; text based gaming) that year as well. A friend from high school led me to his MUD, and I took it up with a passion as well. Eventually I started building areas for that game. I took it upon myself to make the biggest area I had seen, and to my horror that area was junked by the implementers of the game out of spite for leaving their game for another. Building was a kin to writing for me, allowing me to build adventures for others to experience and enjoy. I believe text based games are still underrated, and offer so much for people to experience. If you have yet to experience one, go try one out and see what they are like. I support one such game today, though I am sure others are just as great: http://www.kotl.org (Telnet to kotl.org:2222)
The biggest gaming change for me in Morgantown was the lack of Dungeons and Dragons games. The majority of people I spoke to played GURPS, and while I had played the system in the past… I did not like it. But to my surprise the other thing that was popular was live action role playing. They played Mind’s Eye Theatre based off of White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe, which if you’ve been reading, I had loved. So I delved into live action to fill my need for role playing, and can still say it was one of the best experiences I had with gaming. We played on the streets of Morgantown, and caught many odd looks to be sure. The experience is not one I had captured past that year, but will be one I still admire.
Before my year at that college was over, I had finally gathered a group of D&D gamers. It took what I consider an excessive amount of work on my part. I from the second month of college there began to put up gaming flyers all over college and in parts of the town. Each flyer eventually had the tags removed or went missing themselves, but I would get no calls or emails. It was not until the last months of school within the spring semester when interest was shown and by then school was almost to an end.
After that first year, I was unable to go back to WVU. I began to work full time, and tried community college for a time. I eventually landed a job with a major telecom company that was expanding itself. Specifically I landed a job in their new internet department, working as a technical support agent supporting dialup and DSL customers. The best part to that job, was that I ended up on third shift working with a small overnight crew.
I assume you must be wondering why I would think that would be a benefit? After all third shift is a life sucking hole which causing most people to have issues eventually. It was the team of people that I ended up with, I believe there were eight of us on that shift when I started and since the work days overlapped we always had at least six at a time in house. Out of those people, at least four were self-proclaimed hackers who loved UNIX and Linux with a passion, would code all night long, and spend hours doing things in external shell accounts and making printouts of nonsensical data (for those not in the know). The other four members of the team, including myself with gamers, all computer gamers (well the hackers too), at least three role players, and all around online/computer junkies. I learned a lot from those people, am still in touch with a few, and still hold one as one of my best friends to this day.
The job required a medium amount of computer knowledge to start. But with such influences around me I began to feed on knowledge with a frenzy. While there I acquired an A + certification, and a Networking + certification. I learned a lot about UNIX and Linux, and began my studies for a CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate). The design of websites also became in my view, and I learned HTML and a little more coding (I had learned some C and C++ in high school and college). Let us just say that I became quite proficient in many aspects of computers. But as time went on after leaving that job behind, much of that knowledge as faded like distant memories.
I bought my first domain in those years, and it is currently pointed at this blog; for I have not used it in years (http://www.darkreality.com). That site was my first big step past a fortunecity or anglefire website that I had used in the past for fun things. Darkreality.com started as a place for people to post stories, poetry, music, art, or anything creatively inclined with a darker (gothic, metal, edgy) foundation. That was my goal at least, to bring people together and have a place for sharing that material. The site was a hit! To my great surprise and delight, I had thousands of hits and hundreds of people giving material. I had at least two music labels asking for me to write reviews and post songs from their bands; after which they sent me free cd’s to do so. And one book publisher wanting the same for a soon to be released book. Let us just say that I was overwhelmed with the amount of material and response; I did not have the resources or skill to bring that site to the level at which it was climbing. If I had only sought out help in that endeavor. That is still one of the biggest disappointments of my past, especially now knowing I could had made a living off of that site.
My work friends and I founded our main gaming group during those years. That group has been gaming (not with the same people other than us two) for about twelve years now, we rotate game masters every year or two to give others a chance to play. While I do have other groups and have played in many other games; that one brings me the most joy out of all of them. Perhaps it is because I helped found the game and am the one who actively searching for players when others leave.
The other passion that I quickly picked up; once my college pursuits were over, was reading again. For the first time ever, I read with delight and enjoyment! I just could not get enough and I still cannot to this day. Soon I found two of my favorite authors, Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin. I found that I liked long epic stories and searched out more, and found a weakness within myself; I could not stop reading a series that I liked, and had to have each book that followed. Since those years, I have read hundreds if not more books. I have found that I mainly enjoy fantasy, but am willing to try science fiction titles as well. On occasion I have ventured out into historical fiction titles or other fiction that seems almost historical like that of Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian. So I became addicted to a new form of fiction, and one I will never give up completely.