I’m afraid to parrot what a few people have said already, but regardless of whether I submit the most original story or not it felt good to get this down on paper.
My introduction to BattleTech was the culmination of a few acts of generosity. I loved videogames as a child, but it was a long-distance relationship. As a single parent struggling just to keep the roof over our heads, buying a computer or a console for her kid wasn’t really an option for my mother. So I cherished every minute I spent at my cousin’s house/computer chair, and took every excuse I could to sneak off to see friends who had a console or three. (Sure, my cousin and friends were great people, but could they really compare to a fox in a star fighter, or the majesty of green blobs smashing into pink blobs? [er, “Orcs” and “Humans”.])
And then, on the eve of my fourteenth birthday, a friend of my mother’s showed up at our door. His company was downsizing and had tossed a few of their PCs to the curb. This thing was a rust bucket: it chugged just loading the OS, it kept trying to establish a connection to the office network and refusing to continue until I provided a password I did not possess. I was undeterred. In front of me was the object of my dreams, and I was not about to let things like “this thing won’t be able to run Pong, let alone the games you want” or “you don’t actually have access to it” to slow me down. I’d befriended some older nerds at my local card/comic book store, and with their help and a few components they had lying around, I had myself a working (for certain definitions of “working”) gaming computer.
Of course, I had no games yet. This hadn’t entered my mind quite yet, but by stroke of luck the guy living upstairs from us worked in the industry (I think he was a games journalist, but as a young introvert I wasn’t exactly ‘good’ at ‘dealing with most humans’ so I don’t actually know). He got a bunch of games sent to him and was more than happy to share his love of the hobby by leaving disks in our mailbox.
I was giddy with excitement when my mother handed me the first batch. I don’t even remember what else was there, just that one image captivated me. A giant, two-legged robot firing lasers. Sure, that concept is basically the corniest one imaginable, but god damn did it look awesome. Mechwarrior 4.
Vengeance. (Ok give me a break I was 14! :P)
I don’t know how many hours were devoted to that game. From the tragic intro with fake John Travolta to a young man in pain over his estranged father (BOYS DON’T CRY OK, IT WAS FINE), I was hopelessly hooked before I even dropped into the cockpit. To then pilot that first Shadow Cat was magical. It felt unlike any other game I’d ever heard about. I loved (and still do) strategy games and simulation games, but they feel like distant worlds only abstractly interacted with; first person shooters, on the other hand, usually feel like you’re being dragged around by a floating, psychopathic gun. Piloting a mech was such a visceral experience, and each chassis had its own personality: seeing a Raven flit about on the horizon, getting smashed in the face by your first Uziel double-PPC shot, watching the inexorable advance of an Awesome.
I could go on forever about how that game makes me feel. I’ve liberated Kentares IV countless times, agonized over saving my sister or doing what needed to be done to push the invaders off our world, and in this personal story felt like a part of an infinitely larger whole, a galaxy in flames. For all that it can be trashy wish-fulfilment fantasy, BattleTech is a magical place filled with moments of unrestrained humanity: the hope, fear, loss and determination that make us amazing, horrific, endlessly contradictory beings.
And now I can only laugh at how things have a tendency to come full circle. I’ve got my own kid now. She and her mother weren’t much into gaming when we came into each other’s lives. I’ve been a bad influence, I guess. Our cupboards are filled with boardgames, now, and suddenly they’ve gone from playing Candy Crush and Hey Day to being quite interested in what’s going on my computer screen. Hell, not long ago they watched me play XCOM and have insisted on started their own campaign. That’s beyond anything I would have imagined!
So while I’ve been following BattleTech’s development since I first heard Harebrained announce it, all of a sudden it’s resonating that much more. I’d like nothing more than to introduce the two loves of my life to a world that enchanted me long ago and continues to draw me back. Noticing the poetry of life as I write this, my stepdaughter happens to be 14 herself. Fifty bucks doesn’t seem like much in exchange for that experience, but I’ll be quite honest and say I don’t have it at the moment. As a spoiler warning for anyone without them, kids are the foremost experts at finding new and inventive ways to make money you thought you had go up in smoke! (That is written 90% in jest…) So when I saw this post, I knew I had to stop lurking around Waypoint and try my luck. Regardless of who gets it, I just wanted to thank Quak0r for both his generosity and for the topic of the contest. Just this trip down memory lane has been quite the gift!
Edit: After re-reading my post, I don’t want that last part to seem like a guilt-trip. I’ll pick up the game eventually, as I’m sure it’ll be on sale after a year or so. I was just sharing my situation!