It’s fun to hear my 17-year-old out-nerd his friends by reminding them that he is the product of a video game. You see, his father and I met in an MMORPG.
MMORPG is now a term well known in the general gaming lexicon. With games like the newer Final Fantasy titles, EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars the Old Republic, we are not a stranger to this format anymore. But rewind back to 1998, and it was a very different story.
That's the year I was introduced to Ultima Online.
To catch up those of you who missed late-90s gaming, Ultima Online is a continuation of the original Ultima game series dating back to 1981. Creator Richard Garriott actually coined the term "MMORPG" in 1997, and he's credited with using the term "avatar" to refer to your character in an MMORPG.
The Ultima Online expansion called The Second Age had just come out when I started playing the game. I was already heavily into online chat communities at that time, so interacting with people all over the world was just made more fun by adding monsters and fun-but-limited customization of avatars.
I was quickly welcomed into a well-established guild that helped me train my different characters. We became like a tight-knit family, looking out for each other even in our various real-life adventures. We even hopped on the phone to talk to each other when text chat in the game just wasn't enough to talk something through. They were a great support system from planning a wedding to having a difficult pregnancy and even through a rocky divorce.
After my divorce in 2001, I went to broadcasting school. I took a break from the game for several months to sort out real-life stuff, as one does. I chatted with some of my guild through ICQ, but generally, we lost touch for a while. When I returned to Ultima Online in 2002, our guild had grown. That's when my long-time guild friends were quick to introduce me to Crane (Jason), a new purple-haired mage who they thought I would get along with.
I'm not sure why they thought I'd get along with him. I hated mages!
They set us up on an in-game date… to a dungeon. Romantic, right? I was wearing my best new blue armor and was carrying my best shiny mace. Every girl wants to look nice on a date. I lost all of it, though, and was left wearing ghost robes in about 3 minutes after hearing a frost spider scream. It was a great time, in spite of losing that gorgeous blue armor.
As great as I thought it was, Jason felt terrible about me losing the armor. When I logged in the next day, he had replaced it all and then some. It was all right there in my secure chest in my house in the game. He had even dyed the bag blue! He was out about a million gold replacing all that, so I felt pretty special.
Over the next three months, we were quite the item in the game. The relationship grew quickly, and we were both eager to meet each other in person. That's when I made the mistake of disclosing all this to my broadcasting school friends. They hit me with all the questions typical of meeting someone on the internet at that time:
How long have you known him? How did you meet him? Are you sure he's not crazy? He might be a serial killer.
But I was pretty certain that it would be okay. Would my Ultima guild family steer me wrong?
Jason drove from Tennessee to Indiana to take me to see Spider-Man. Hate on Maguire all you want; that’s a grand first-date flick! If I thought mages were weird in-game, I wasn't prepared to see a grown man sitting in his hotel room watching early-2000s Weather Channel, which was just… weather… all the time.
But we had a great time. The next day, we drove up to see two other guildmates who lived in the same state. In fact, that was the two that arranged our first date (er, failed dungeon crawl?) in-game. That same pair would eventually be our matron of honor and best man in our wedding a year later. Jason proposed to me at Lake Michigan while we were there for a baby shower for yet another guildmate.
In April, we celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.
That’s my story. What about you? Did you meet a spouse or significant other online?