Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

Confessions of a Game-oholic

Hi, my name is Corey Cole. I’m a game-oholic. I’ve been clean for two weeks now.

You see, I have a dark secret. I’m a recovering game addict. It isn’t safe to let certain types of games in my house. I have a sneaking suspicion that “certain type” might be any game I find fun. Or that I can “zone out” with – Solitaire, I’m talking to you.

I’m not quite sure when my addiction first surfaced. I spent my childhood playing board games, and my teenage years behind a chess board. But I also rode my bike, read a lot, and even watched TV. Games were just a part of my life.

The Gateway Game – Bridging the Gap

ChessNow chess is a well-known gateway drug. For me, chess led to bridge, a card game even more addictive. Stories abound of promising students who dropped out of school to “study” bridge. I began spending evenings at the bridge club, often followed by long sessions at the pub to discuss the deals we just played.

I often spent even later nights haunting the computer facilities at UCSB. That was partly because the turnaround time was better at night, but it was also so that I could play. UCSB had a PLATO terminal linked to the University of Illinois, and I devoted many nights to playing Spasim, Empire, Airfight, DND, Moonwar, and others. I even tried my hand at writing a couple of game “lessons”.

Addiction or dedication? You decide. Programming was a game to me too. Somehow I managed to graduate with a degree in mathematics, although it was really a thinly-veiled computer science degree.

Dragged Into the Dungeon

My first job out of school involved a lot of travel. I installed and customized software for banks in Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis. My game- and turnaround-driven University habits served me well, as the banks were much happier to have their software maintained at night while their normal operations were closed.

D&DBut temptation awaited in the streets of Chicago. It was there that I innocently responded to an announcement about a new type of game, a “role-playing” game called Dungeons & Dragons. D&D was completely different from any game I had ever played, because each game was a story-telling collaboration between the dungeon master and the players. The combination of creative play and the random rewards from rolling dice captured my imagination. I soon became involved with two weekly campaigns, and played every chance I could get.

You could say that most of my life since University came out of that first encounter with paper role-playing games.

Con Artistry

When I returned to Los Angeles, my Mom showed me an advertisement for a nearby science fiction convention. I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction stories, but it was the mention of “gaming” that caught my eye. I’d heard that people frequently played D&D at SF Cons. I knew I had found a new home when I heard other people in the registration line talking about their characters and their exploits. They were not impressed that I had a fourth level Cleric.

I soon started up my own D&D campaign, and one of the players introduced me to some other games in town. Soon I was pulling all-nighters at CalTech every Friday and Sunday. At least once, I drove directly from the game to work Monday morning.

I became so obsessed with D&D that I wrote to TSR to tell them about a database program I had created to help dungeon masters generate “random but appropriate” encounters and treasure. I told TSR that D&D had taken over my life and they owed me a job.

You can imagine how well they responded to that!

Addiction? Um, yeah, no longer a question. I had to quit my programming job when they refused to let me become a part-time employee so that I would have more time for gaming.

D&D led me to conventions, and writing my own game scenarios, both of which led to meeting Lori. I’m not sure whether she was an addict at the time, but she loved playing D&D and later spent more time at it than I did.

Rolled Doubles, Move Again

I moved up to San Jose partly because Lori wanted to be closer to relatives in San Francisco, and partly because it was the center of the burgeoning computer and video gaming universe. I didn’t find a game job there, but we made lots of friends with other gamers and played D&D several nights a week.

Dungeon MasterSome other nights I “worked late”, which mostly meant playing Rogue on the office mainframe. Or Wizardry on an Apple II. Or Dungeon Master on the Atari ST I was using to develop desktop publishing software.

My gaming and Con connections led to the next move. A gaming friend did animation work for Sierra. When she found out that Ken Williams was looking for a “champion tournament-level dungeon master” to create a new role-playing game for Sierra, Carolly thought of us and introduced us to Ken. Sierra had published Ultima II, but Lord British decided to start his own company for the sequels.

Here was my chance to turn my gaming addiction into actual paying work! The pay was horrible (I took a 40% cut from what I was making in San Jose), but these were games! I abandoned the desktop publishing project, and Lori and I moved to Oakhurst.

There was one strange thing about working for Sierra – Almost nobody there played games. I had little choice but to actually do work. Well, actually I was already in the habit of working 50 hour weeks as a programmer – That was the norm in San Jose as well as in Oakhurst. There just weren’t many distractions to keep me from doing it. Except maybe for bowling, or bridge, or raising a two-year-old. Piece of cake compared to playing D&D until the sun comes up.

Heroes and Anti-Heroes

Ironically, the most game-free period of my live was the first six years I spent making games at Sierra. It makes sense – programming and designing games is a lot like playing them. The only difference is that the rewards for good play and the penalties for bad play hit harder.

On the other hand, work and play often get confused in game companies. I’ve worked on a few projects where productivity came to a halt because most of the team members spent more time playing games that making them. Surprisingly, I’m not usually one of those – To me, making games is more entertaining than playing them. Game addiction was not involved when Sierra laid off half the staff and cancelled Lori’s and my contract after QG4.

During my “Sierra sabbatical” period between Quest for Glory IV and Quest for Glory V, Heroes of Might and Magic came into my life. Playing it until 3 or 4 a.m. on work nights probably contributed to losing a job in the Bay Area, but that turned out ok – It gave me the chance to return to Sierra and help finish Quest for Glory 5: Dragonfire.

I put my stack of HoMM games in a box, wrote “Pure Evil – Do Not Touch!” on it, and handed the box to a friend to store away from my sight. It was painful therapy, but it worked… for a while.

WoW – Where Did My Time Go?

After a little life disruption known as 9/11/2001, I moved on with my life and got a job creating an online poker site. The only gaming I did there was playing poker on our competitors’ sites – research, you know. I even got good enough at it that I started winning more money than I lost.

WoWAlong came World of Warcraft. The game launched in November of 2004. Every morning I could hear my boss and co-workers talking about their latest exploits on Azeroth. The game sounded like a lot of fun, but I knew that I was a game-oholic and must not try this clearly addictive game.

I actually stayed away until a fan introduced us to WoW – She had said, “This game is a lot like Quest for Glory.” Um, ok, guess we should find out what’s new in gaming.

Actually, I hated WoW at first. I’ve always had a problem with motion sickness and can’t play most first-person shooter games. WoW was just as bad – I could play for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, then it would take me an hour for the room to stop spinning. Lori played a little, and had a good time.

I felt a little left out, but it was a relief that I wasn’t going to become addicted to this game. I could get my work done and stay productive.

Then I upgraded my computer and graphics card. Suddenly the game graphics stopped being choppy. I could play and not get sick. Um, yay?

Little by little, I started spending a few hours a week in World of Warcraft. As my characters gained levels and I joined a raiding guild, WoW started eating more and more of my time. When I wasn’t playing, I was off on the Web reading strategy articles and watching videos. It isn’t easy competing with a bunch of 20-somethings when you’re 50. Ten hours a week turned into thirty, forty, and more. I was spending more time playing WoW than working.

Cold Turkey

Seven-and-a-half years later, and the Hero-U project beginning to accelerate, I finally recognized the writing on the screen for what it was. I could not continue my life as a citizen of Azeroth at the same time as following the more-than-full-time lifestyle of a game developer. On Aug. 30, 2012 I visited the World of Warcraft for the last time, and on Sept. 1, my account expired for the last time.

I look back fondly on my many memories of Azeroth, the friends I made, the bosses I conquered, and the achievements I accomplished. But they’re just memories now – I have no desire to drink from that bottle again. Thank goodness!

My name is Corey Cole. I’m a game-oholic. I’ve been clean for two weeks now. Unless you count bridge or bowling or surfing the Internet.

Ok, so maybe I’ll never be completely clean.

But one thing I can say for sure – I will never stop having fun. And I will put all my love of games into the Hero-U game. Hero-U will be fun. I know that from experience.



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  1. Corey Says:

    I’m currently reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – recommended – and starting to get a better understanding of what I look for in games and real life. It’s “Quality”. I want to do the best I can, and achieve things.

    The odd way we’re wired, I’ve been equally excited by bowling a 299 last year, and having four out of eight duplicate bridge sessions this month over 70% (normally one a YEAR would be good), as about completing a game, etc. Bridge, bowling, and WoW achievements only take a few hours. Real-life achievements are a whole lot harder. But in the long run, those are the only ones that count. Our brains just aren’t wired properly to understand that.

  2. Wayland Says:

    It wasn’t temptation to play that was hard. I knew what I needed to do. It was a sense of loss. First there was a sense of losing all my friends in ATN, folks I had spent more hours with than many of my real life friends. But also, like the end of a relationship, it’s not so much the loss of the other person but giving up the hopes and dreams of the future with that person that cuts so deep. I was never content to do it half way. I had pre-Cata Loremaster and did it all again post Cata to get the old world zones. I had almost all the pre-Cata reps and was working on my last old world one of Hydraxian Waterlords. (Which required weekly visits to MC to kill all the bosses.). So many things I wanted to accomplish but didn’t, so many things left undone. I was giving up all that and it hurt. That was what was hard, not so much being tempted. But yes, a year away and I look back and still miss some of it, more so the connections with the ATN folks than what was left undone. There are many things still unstable in my life currently, but they being addressed and not stemming from neglect due to grabbing every free minute I can for WoW. As humans we have only so much bandwidth to close the open loops in our lives and the objectives to close the open loops in WoW are much easier to define and this much more appealing to the psyche. But taking the time to examine, define objectives and close the open loops in our own lives that’s where lasting impact is made, that won’t just become obsolete by the next patch/expansion.

  3. Corey Says:

    Hey, it’s been two more weeks, and I’m still clean. :-) Mists of Pandaria launched a couple of days ago, and I really haven’t been tempted at all.

    Actually, I planned my gafiation (science fiction fandom slang for “getting away from it all”) so that I wouldn’t have to buy the MoP expansion. :-)

    Congrats on a year of WoW-freeness, Wayland!

  4. Wayland Says:

    Actually, nevermind, I found it in my personal journal. Oh, wow, I had forgotten how much it hurt when I quit. August 29, 2011. I’ve been WoW free for over a year now.

  5. Wayland Says:

    Wow free for…ummm Corey, do you remember when I left guild?

  6. Corey Says:

    Good for you on breaking away, James and Joseph! It’s not easy, and everyone needs to find a different way to “get back to life”. For some, it’s replacing the habit with another – hopefully more positive – one. For others, it’s making a commitment.

    The important thing to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with taking a hobby seriously. Some of our greatest mathematical and scientific discoveries were made by obsessed hobbyists. Many other great works of art are the result of obsession, and who is to say whether it’s a career or an all-consuming hobby?

    If you can look back on your life and say, “Yes, I am proud of my accomplishments,” that’s what matters in the long run. I am very proud of my accomplishments both at work and in my hobbies. Quest for Glory and Castle of Dr. Brain have stood the test of time, and I’ve done some very good work on other, less-recognized projects. I’m also proud of my bridge and bowling accomplishments.

    Could I have done more at any of these pursuits – work or hobby? Of course, but you can’t measure accomplishments that way. “Been there, done that, move on.” :-)

  7. Joseph Austin Says:

    Its easy to forget that not all addictions are chemical ones, and that habits and passions can consume us. A good indication of when something has become an addiction is that you do it compulsively regardless of whether you’re having fun. By the end of my long fanship of Neverwinter Nights, I was not only not having fun but actually worrying about the game when I wasn’t playing it. Luckily, I did a 360 and did a cold turkey of my own.

    Games sure are fun though

  8. Jeremy Murdoch Says:

    This article hits home. I struggled to overcome a slight addiction to online gaming myself. I was spending more time and money on playing a game than I was on anything else, and it finally got to the point where it was unfulfilling. My time spent with that game impacted many of my real life relationships in negative ways.

    Finally, I quit the game and searched for other things to do with my time. I spent some time making modifications for games I enjoyed, and began working on making my own games. Making games is tougher than playing them, but it is definitely more rewarding.

    I look forward to seeing the fruits of your labour.

  9. AztecMonkeyGod Says:

    I would say that I definitely have a game addiction. Fortunately, at least for the moment, I consider the idea of playing any computer games tiring.

    Well, except for the new XCOM game out next month. And maybe another playthrough of the entire QFG series (just bought them anew from Good Old Games). And I can’t wait for Hero-U to come out.

    But besides that, I’m not in the mood to game at all.

  10. Blake Says:

    You da man Corey!

    haha I’ve always steered clear of WoW as I knew it would destroy my life. I’m pretty much an Elder Scrolls addict instead modding Oblivion & Skyrim to make them as real as possible.

    That’s cool to hear you were a big HoMM fan as I pretty much grew up playing either QFG and HoMM in the 90’s. When I got tired of one I’d go play the other!

  11. James StarRunner Says:

    Yeah, I had a WoW addiction too I’m not happy to say. Lost sight of the priorities in my life. I have the board game for WoW set up right now, but I’m definately not addicted to it.

    I’m glad you pulled out though, speaking from one addict to another. I will always love my games, but I believe life should be balanced.

  12. Chad Says:

    I just re-read the Sierra portion of Steven Levy’s book “Hackers” and had forgotten that Ultima II had been published by Sierra (or was it still On-Line at that time?).

    The first time I saw a MUD, I knew it was the type of game I’d love to play and would get addicted. So I said “no” and stayed away. The same has been with Everquest and WoW. Perhaps I’ll eventually try out the WoW demo someday, but I have too many other things to do with my time…plus I like games with an ending. Also, I still have many other games on my shelves to complete. Hey, it took me a paltry 26 years to complete the first Zelda game.

    But there is always time for a good QFG game. Need to set aside some time every year for that.

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