As an aside: someone once said, “No autobiography is worth reading.” And he meant it. Cynical as I am, I’d be tempted to agree and go around quoting him all the time, except that Benvenuto Cellini’s Vita is one of the most interesting pieces of literature I’ve ever read.
Go get a copy. Read it. Now.
Anyway, my story.
When I was about twelve I got a video game based on a really cheesy series of Fantasy novels (the Forgotten Realms, for those of you who know enough to know). No, Daniel, this isn’t “Pool of Radiance,” this is “Secret of the Silver Blades.” Believe it or not, my interest in “Secret of the Silver Blades” was worse than the “Pool of Radiance.”
Yeah. Just the names convey the cheese factor. Of course, I was twelve, and it’s not like I was hanging out with G. I. Joes or transformers or something….
Loved this game. It was awesome. I found out later it was fourth in a series (the aforementioned “Pool of Radiance” being the first). I’m certain that I invested hundreds of hours into those four games. Conceivably thousands. “Secret of the Silver Blades,” alone, certainly accounted for hundreds. It had probably been out for two or three years when I got it (which is to say, antique), and I kept playing it for at least four or five years more.
And, here’s the thing, it wasn’t a great game. Even then, I knew it wasn’t a great game. There are games that are that good, that are worth going back to. Every iteration of “Civilization” has been that good. For Toby, it’s “Sacrifice.” I understand great games. This was not one of them.
I kinda liked the story, though. And I really liked that I had figured out most of the map, and I could get anywhere, and I could get really powerful weapons.
And then I figured out how to manipulate saved games so that I could pass really awesome equipment from the end of the game, back to new characters just starting the game. Or, say I got a really awesome ring that would make a character super cool. I could duplicate it so every one of my characters (you could have five characters in the party) got two copies of it.
Then I figured out how to save a game where all the monsters were already dead, but certain events that gave huge experience rewards were untriggered. That meant you could create a new character, load him into this save game, run through the map and trigger all of these events, and gain several levels (the equivalent of, say, ten hours of actual gameplay) in a couple minutes. You could even remove the character from the party, reload that save game, add the character back in, and do it again for another several levels.
Okay, okay, I was a kid, everybody does a little bit of that. In FPS games it’s called God Mode, and basically all of them come with God Mode as an option. It’s a little bit fun.
But did I mention I did this for four or five years?
Not only that…okay, here’s where some of those hundreds of hours come from. “Secret of the Silver Blades” had this huge sprawling map, with dozens of levels, and they were all laid out on an evenly-spaced square grid, which is a way of saying it would be really easy to map out the entire game on graph paper, if you had the time and patience.
And you’re all already rolling your eyes, but there you have it. I did that. Some levels of the map are four pages across, taped together, and two pages longwise. Filled with corridors and sprawling rooms, and notes indicating key fights and triggered events and treasure caches. I did all of that. I would charge my party into a room, kill of all the monsters, then pace it out, from end to end, counting tiles so I could get the map exactly right.
I did it in pen. If I made a mistake, I started that page over, recopying what I’d already gotten down, then moving on.
Yeah, you’re with me so far.
So, when I was sixteenish, I took this whole monstrosity I’d created: the maps, the pages and pages of notes, the save game that gives you millions of free experience points, the save game with full sets of end-game equipment set for each of the different classes, the save game with nothing but tons and tons of gems, jewels, and precious metals….
And I gave it to a friend of mine as a birthday present.
Also: I really like to listen to hip-hop music and just giggle at the scope of the obscenity of it. But, I mean, not as an occasional lark. That’s basically the only music I listen to.
So, there. Between those two things, you know almost everything there is to know about me. Marvel.