I was in 8th grade at the time, a magical age where I combed my hair over to the right every morning and still clearly recalled a time when Pizza Lunchables could get you full. Stick Stickly’s career was at it’s peak on Nickelodeon and we all believed, as a nation, that he could go on to do bigger and better things. After school I would get in the car with my dad to continue my training
Every big gamer probably has one thing in common; they can tell you what it was like when they found “that” game. The game that ushered them over the line from the casual “gaming is fun” mentality to the “I can do this for hours” mentality, and most never looked back. I’m going to tell you mine. To do that, let’s take a journey back through the wheels of time to the year of our Lord, 1999.
In 1999 Bill Clinton was in trouble because he had been staining women’s dresses and I, a ripe 11 year old boy, was ushered out of the room when ever they talked about it on TV. Not that I cared, of course, because I was probably busy drawing pictures of Dragon Ball Z characters , listening to my Will Smith CD, or playing the game that introduced me into the world of party RPG’s. You see 1999 was also the year my family had gotten our first REAL computer, and I remember arguing that it must be able to play PC games; this was non-negotiable at the time. So we set off to the Gateway store (at that time owning a Gateway computer was actually cool), and we ordered our very own family computer, and yes it could play games. So a few weeks later it arrived at our house in that customary cow box of utter glory (excuse the pun) and my gaming taste buds where about to be introduced to a whole new flavor of spice, because it also came with a copy of Bioware’s Baldur’s Gate.
Once the game had been installed, I was introduced to something that I had never seen in a game before, and that was choice. If you could have taken my picture when I realized I got to create my own character by choosing gender, race, class, etc… I would have looked something like this:
I literally probably spent 45 minutes creating and recreating character’s before I even started the game. Did I want to be a dwarf, an elf, a gnome? To help you get on the edge of your proverbial seat, I’ll go ahead and tell you I picked a human warrior with blonde hair, proficient with a two-handed long sword because I had made up my mind my character was going to be unique. For real, I thought I was a friggin’ genius at the time. So my young Arian warrior set out on adventure that would have me hooked till this day. Understand that Baldur’s Gate not only gave you choice, it gave you an actual story. For once I wasn’t rescuing Princess Peach from a fat turtle with a dragon complex just because… I was thrown into a world ripe with lore, fantasy, and a story that revolved around MY character.
I won’t give you a review of the game, nor a plot analysis because this isn’t really that kind of thing. But I will tell you that as I first searched my way through Candlekeep with my childhood friend Imoen checking all the barrels for hidden gold (yes in 1999, games were still littered with morons who hid their life savings in barrels out in the middle of the street. Bad for them- good for me) I never wanted to stop. It’s a good thing I didn’t either because I was treated to one of the best plots in a video game I have encountered to this day. I ended up finding out I was one of only a few mortal descendents of the God of Murder, Bhaal, who had apparently went around the Sword Coast procreating like Charlie Sheen. I had an evil half brother Sarevok, who wanted to start a war between two regions and use the carnage to take his birthright and ascend to godhood. Only I could stop him, and I did. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like.
And now I leave you from a quote from one of the most lovable characters throughout the game, Minsc. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I’m huge!”