My Geek Cred: Years Through High School

If I ask myself how I became addicted to fantasy, I need only to look back into my past.  I was born in 1978, within a year of the Atari 2600 game console release.  While I cannot tell you when my earliest memories of that game system where, I can say that played Pitfall nonstop and that game came out in 1982.  So that was the start, and it has been all an obsession from that point on.

In 1985, I was seven years old when Nintendo released its first game system.  Who could forget blowing into those cartridges to make them work and eventually thinking that blowing into them would make them perform better as well?  A year or two later, my parents bought me my first computer and it began to draw my time away from my Nintendo. It was a Tandy 1000 EX running DOS 2.11.  I remember the keyboard was built into the computer, and it had a side insert for the last true floppy disks; the 5.25 inch floppy’s.  So at nine years old I was mastering what I could about DOS, and then diving into computer games like The Black Cauldron, Donald Duck’s Playground, and the King’s Quest line. At the time, those games (well not Donald Duck’s Playground) seemed so complex, and amazing.

Let us just say that more gaming systems came after these, but these were my beginnings.

I began writing stories of my own creation somewhere in my preteens.  Though all I can remember of those stories, is that they usually involved a boy like me in some fantastic adventure.  In those years I had little to no sentimentality for the stories I wrote, and more likely than not they found their way into the trash after I was through with their distraction.  But I did enjoy imagining myself in others worlds, in other lives and still do to this day.

When I was in sixth grade I moved up from the Cub Scouts of America (Webelos) to become a Boy Scout. I found that my new troop played a particular game quite a bit and that game became the single most addictive hobby in my life.  The game was Dungeons and Dragons, or more specifically; TSR’s AD&D.  That was around 1989 and by the time I decided to pick up the first books of my own, we were all ready playing the newly released 2nd edition.

Dungeons and Dragons redesigned my imagination; and soon my writing included monsters, magic, and heroic deeds.  I began early on a process that would eventually annoy and delight my Game Masters for years to come.  For each and every character I created, I would write an extensive background.  It has always been my opinion that to truly grasp what it means to be a character that you are to play, you need to know where they come from, their virtues and vices.  Those backgrounds today can be beyond thirty pages long if I do not edit myself.  Though I am often forced or asked to write short backgrounds by those Game Masters that know me all too well.

In Junior High School a teacher of mine saw me writing, and inquired what I was working on.  He must had thought it was for another class, but when I explained that I was writing a story about a wizard character of mine from a D&D game; he became very interested.  I came to find out that he himself played Dungeons and Dragons, and soon enough he asked what types of books I read.  I quickly explained that I did not like reading, so outside of school assignments (and my D&D handbooks); the answer would be nothing.  That is when he gave me a book to read, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks.  After reading that book, I found that a book preceded it and another followed it (The Sword of Shannara & The Wishsong of Shannara).

You must understand at that age I had no idea that fantasy books existed.  Frankly I hated reading with a passion and never cared to look around libraries or books stores.  That was always funny to others because I wrote so much.  It had been commented on often in those years, and by that teacher along with others before him.  But while I ate those books up and was made aware of that new outlet for fantasy material; I still did not read much until after high school was over.

High school came along, my knowledge of computers grew, my writing hit its first milestone, and my role playing became a deeper obsession.  The first thing I ever hacked into was my schools network and I barely understood what I was doing.  It was the year before they made it active for the school, but I knew the administrator of the network and was able to guess how to access it.  I seemed to be a natural with computers, easily understanding and using any program that was put in front of me.

To this day, I will say that the single most useful class that I took in high school was a typing class.  Through that I left behind the pencil and threw away two finger typing for good.  As a sophomore, I took a creative writing class and took on a larger project for myself.  While others were writing movie reviews, poetry, short stories; I began my first novel.  At the end of the class, I had I believe forty something chapters and close to twenty thousand words written.  The book sucked of course, but it had what I believed at the time to be unique in fantasy.  Though not widely read myself, I knew that the hero always won in movies, and most likely in books.  But my book was to end as a tragedy, and I had killed off main characters.  Today we would call this very George R. R. Martin like, and I would say I am now a big fan; though disgruntle.

In high school I expanded my role playing social groups as well.  While my primary group was made up of people that I was in scouting with still, I found other groups of people that gamed too and joined them.  That is when I broadened my gaming resume to include GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System), and White Wolf games.  White Wolf’s, World of Darkness became a big hit between my friends and I. We could now play vampires and werewolves, and become the monsters that we had only fought till then.  That system was a masterpiece, and White Wolf marketed it brilliantly.


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