Some of you may already know this story. It’s about how I got into gaming, my birthday, and a little video game called Dragon Age: Origins.
Several years ago, I was having a quiet birthday in San Francisco. I went to Amoeba Records with my sister, and I’m pretty sure she bought me a CD. On the walk home, I remembered that I had a video game sitting on my shelf which I hadn’t played yet: Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins. I knew it had a great story and looked really cool from videos I had seen of it online. Though I didn’t really play video games, my sister and I had been wanting to start a gaming night once a week, figuring it would be a fun skill to learn so we could have people over to game, etc. Dragon Age: Origins seemed like a good one to pick up. But after collecting dust on my shelf for a few months, the poor game was probably getting a complex.
Having nothing to do for the next few hours but the whole day off for my birthday, I went home and popped it in my Xbox 360. I chose the origin story and class for my character — she was a redheaded human noble rogue, with (for some reason) yellow eyeshadow that I still remember from all those scenes in which she flirted with Alistair.
I played through the human noble origin story that day, and it totally shook me up. I remember I had a mabari war hound — a big, fighting dog who is also the sweetest “pet” in the world — and I fought rats in the kitchen and I flirted with some dude who was visiting the castle and then the palace was attacked and I lost my father. It’s this gut-wrenching scene that felt personal, not only because the storytelling is so good but also because of my own personal history losing my dad.
And then the rest of the game happened. I couldn’t stop playing. Usually I played for hours on Friday nights, with a couple of beers and my feet propped up on the couch. It was how I ended my work week, and it was glorious.
I still vividly remember the moment that my character, standing on a precipice in the Deep Roads with blood on her face from a recent battle, was given the most romantic, swooping kiss from her love interest Alistair. I know it’s just a video game, but it was a moment that totally took my breath away and made me realize how amazing games can be. How immersive. How emotional. How they can transport you somewhere else and let you be anyone. It was a whole new kind of storytelling for me.
Dragon Age: Origins really made me fall in love with video games, and it has a special place on my shelf now for that reason. Without it, I wouldn’t have this blog right now. I wouldn’t have my current job, either. Gaming changed my life, and I can trace it back to that first playthrough and the first time I ever started it up on my birthday years ago.
Now, I try to play at least a little bit of the game every year on my birthday. Sometimes I start a brand new playthrough that I finish — but at the very least, I have to experience those first moments of the game in one of the amazing origin stories. You can read one of my playthroughs (from a couple of years ago) here on my blog. And if you like RPGs and haven’t played it yet, I highly recommend it. =)