Finding Love in Britannia

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.

Sacrifice Shrine

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.

Entrance to Ice Dungeon.

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.

Photos from our 2003 wedding

In April, we celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.

Jason and myself today.

That’s my story. What about you? Did you meet a spouse or significant other online?

Xbox To The Rescue. Microsoft To Acquire the Troubled Activision Blizzard.

“Holy Crap! Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard!” I screamed out loud to my daughter as she ate her breakfast before school. She did not share my enthusiasm and was annoyed that I yelled over her cartoons.

I could not believe these words when I read them. I had to read several other sources, including Phil Spencer’s blog post, before it really hit me. I don’t know about you, but I have been skeptical about purchasing recent Activision Blizzard games due to current controversies. Maybe, just maybe, Xbox is the Super Hero Activision Blizzard needs right now. 

Here is the breakdown

Head of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, has revealed that Microsoft agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard via the Xbox Wire blog. Activision Blizzard is the publisher for some truly massive franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo.

This surprise move by Microsoft comes less than a year after the acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media in March of 2021 for $7.5 billion. When the ink dries, all Activision Blizzard games and properties will be under the umbrella of Microsoft and Xbox Game Studios.

“Holy Moly” were my words as I retweeted Phil Spencer's Tweet. And here I was thinking the Bethesda purchase was huge.

Until this transaction closes, Activision Blizzard and Microsoft Gaming will continue to operate independently. Once the deal is complete, the Activision Blizzard business will report to me as CEO, Microsoft Gaming,” says Spencer.

Meaning effectively, after the deal has been finalized, Spencer will oversee all of Activision Blizzard's games. This may allow many to breathe a sigh of relief. Hopefully, it will turn things around for what was a lot of negativity for the publishing giant and their CEO Bobby Kotick due to allegations of sexual harassment. Spencer had recently stated that Xbox was reevaluating its relationship with Activision Blizzard. Who knew this is what he meant?

To The Rescue

Given the state of Activision Blizzard’s public view, this makes me wonder if a deal like this would have ever happened otherwise? Is Microsoft bailing them out or saving them from themselves?

I see this as both. Activision Blizzard is in trouble, their stock is down, and they are experiencing a lot of negativity. I feel Microsoft stepping in can help Activision Blizzard from being their own worst enemy and clean up their mess.

With the stocks down, this is a good time for Microsoft to get ahold of some of the largest IPs in gaming and keep them from falling prey to the potential Mount Doom of death they may be facing.

Personally, I hope this creates a better culture for the employees at Activision Blizzard. There are hundreds if not thousands of passionate employees across Activision Blizzard creating incredible experiences. After reading about employee walkouts and employee layoffs, I had lost some faith in the company responsible for some of my favorite games. It brought me to the point of questioning whether or not to buy games from the publisher. At the same time, I wanted to support the people pouring their souls into making the games.

Phil Spencer has brought tremendous change to Xbox and its brand since he took over as head of Xbox in 2014. You cannot deny that Xbox has come a long way since then, and Game Pass now has over 25 million subscribers, which will now include Activision Blizzard games. Phil Spencer and his team at Microsoft will ideally bring about a massive culture change to Activision Blizzard and create a better, more positive work environment for its employees.

Whether you like it or not, Xbox is on a roll right now, and Game Pass is crushing it. You can read our Head Soup Man Drew Lewis’s article Pop-Culture Predictions #1, where he discusses why he believes the Xbox will outsell the PS5 in 2022. This big news may be the nail in that coffin.

All of the major IPs that will come under Xbox

“Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog.” - Phil Spencer.

The deal will be for $68.7 billion, according to The Verge. Purchases of this size take time, and Microsoft does not expect it to finalize until the end of the fiscal year 2023. Possibly as early as July, Activision Blizzard will start reporting to Xbox, so we may have a while to wait before we see Game Pass full of CODs.

Including last year's grab of Bethesda, I see this as a move on Microsoft's part in an attempt to be the largest western developer in the world, much like Sony and its dominance on the Eastern market.

Are you excited by this news? Or do you see this as the beginning of a Blade Runner style dystopian and cyberpunk future?

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