Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. But when you’re 17, flunking calculus, chemistry, and barely making it to class because you’re so tired from mudding all night, you tell yourself that this is what makes you happy. Plus it pisses off your parents, so you keep doing it. That’s what I did for seven years. Why am I telling you all of this and then encouraging you to play a game without graphics? I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t get so addicted to Dark and Shattered Lands. I like to attribute my success in life to my insane typing skills.
MUDs have evolved into the MMOs you see today, but there’s something about a text-based game that requires… an imagination. You’re not just staring at a sexy half-elf that you just created. You are creating that sexy or not-so-sexy character with your words. You give your character a backstory, a personality, a ridiculous name that no one can pronounce, like Koriynthisa Ar’dyliathanasa (OK I made that up. Meanwhile I was using Laurana, Amberle, and Kitiara…don’t judge me, I know I’m not original). Typing is the key to survival (well, aliases and scripts help too).
Dark and Shattered Lands is based loosely around the Dragonlance Saga, which I read feverishly in my teens, and it’s still available for you to play. Everything in the world is created by the people you are actively playing with. DSL was one of the more popular MUDs in its heyday. There were conventions where people from all over the world would flock to Texas to meet the person they’ve been PKilling (player killing) over and over again. Romances would start, relationships would unravel, drama would inevitably ensue. There would be drama. Oh, so much drama.
I like to think that this helped me develop some people skills. I know, I know, I was actually a basement dweller who rarely saw the light of day, but I feel like running a clan and getting clanmates to unite and defeat the enemy is not so different than being Editor in Chief of GamesRadar. Plus, knowing how to deal with a room of stinking ogres, right? The problem was that I can’t play any online game casually. It’s like living a second life. In DSL, you can choose to join a Kingdom or a Clan, you can rise through the ranks. Earn a title. Be a leader. Coordinate weddings and then murder everyone at the reception. Well, I didn’t actually do that, but I do remember barging in on a ceremony and trying to kill the groom with my clanmates. I forget the reason; I’m sure he deserved it.
What I loved most was coordinating PKill sprees with my friends (in real life and not), and try to ambush the other warring clans while they were out leveling or hunting for gear. Sometimes, they’d just be waiting outside the door to you clan hall so you tell your troops via your clan channel to come back to base and prepare an attack. There are plenty of classes to choose from and some were clan specific. I was partial to casters since they always had fun spells. “cast dispel, cast heat metal, get all, north,” would be scripted so you can run out, remove someone’s protective spells, cast heat metal to make them drop their stuff, grab it and run back into your safe hall. Good times. While I loved playing DSL until the wee hours of the morning, all this took up so much time. I was sleeping 3 to 4 hours a night and somehow still managed to show up to class (and then promptly take naps in the back of the room).
When I finally decided to quit because it was consuming my life, I looked back and realized that while I could have been much more productive, I was at least not doing drugs. I’m sure that with so many MMOs on the market, the appeal of a text-based game is limited. But hey, it allowed me to be creative, spend time with my friends (who also got addicted, I’m so, so, sorry), and let my imagination run wild.
Want to shoot a guy in the nuts and kick his head off? Play Bulletstorm
Looking for stuff to play outside of the stuff we already tell you to play on a daily basis? You’re in luck! Every Saturday we’ll recommend an older game for you to check out, complete with a story on how we found the game and why we recommend you play it.