I started to follow news releases about Star Trek Online from Cryptic Studios the moment I found out the game would not be based on the re-booted franchise of J.J. Abrams' film but would actually be set in what most Trekkies refer to as the "Prime Universe," the timeline in which all of the television series were set.
I'm not going to lie to you -- I'm a huge Trekkie. I support fan-made productions; I own every episode! I own reference books, technical manuals, Klingon Language books, action figures, and posters. I read Trek novels, attend conventions, write fan-fiction, and belong to several Trek community forums. I've written a blog and columns and opinion pieces for numerous Trek-related and general science-fiction sites. So at the beginning, I thought that STO would be just another avenue for me to express my fandom without having to worry too much about having the manual dexterity to wield a console controller.
It ended up being quite a bit more for me, however, and here's why.
I've rarely feared letting my Trek-freak-flag fly. When a person outs herself as a Trekkie, she must be mentally prepared for the inevitable abuse that comes with it. By the time STO was released in February, 2010, I had already happily purchased my lifetime subscription and a new computer with (I have now come to realize) the very basics necessary to play the game.
I experienced a bit of shock from the computer salesman, who at first thought I was buying a computer so my son could play the game. I took a bit of pride in knowing the crow he was forced to eat was caused by my clarification that middle-aged women like Star Trek, even women like me who have no children.
Hmm, maybe that's why my graphics card ended up sucking. Who knows?
I knew who she'd be long before I began to fiddle with the character creator tool. She was a figment of my own imagination, one that was the focus of one of my fictional tales set in a time period only three years different from that of the game. STO had given me a gift I never thought I'd ever realize, and that was the ability to paint a picture of a fictional character I had created without having any talent for art.
Then I started to actually play the game.
I was horrible -- absolutely, unreservedly horrible! I had never before played a computer game that required more than a simple mouse-click. The last PC game I played before STO was King's Quest VII. Beth walked into walls; her ship got stuck in asteroids; she was easy Klingon prey; and she died, a lot, and usually in large, horrendous explosions.
Because I was so bad at computer games, I never played them in the past, so how I kept from just chucking it all in after the first couple of months of playing STO I credit solely to the reason I continue to play this game -- and that's the people I've met because of it.
At the beginning, I was pretty much a loner. It's an easy game to play casually and as a solo player. Although I loved (and continue to love) open-teaming and had made a few acquaintances, the thought of joining a fleet had never crossed my mind. Then I met a man on the forums who messaged me about our shared opinion regarding the threatened implementation of a death penalty into STO.
While the controversy surrounding the issue died out, my friendship with this person only strengthened over time. He invited me to my first fleet, Sanctuary of Wanderhome, a fleet that subsequently departed the game en masse when RIFT hit the market. When SoW left, many of us who had no interest in a fantasy game moved on to another more casual fleet, Caspian Division, and we've been there ever since. It's the fine, wonderful, loving people who cause me to love and play this game.
We've weathered content droughts and Borg Invasions in-game as well as shared grief and joy in our personal lives. At my fleetmates' prodding, I continued to write my blog and would try to mention STO in my column at Airlock Alpha as often as my editor would allow. It was a fleetmate who initially asked me to participate in my first podcast, which focuses on STOs Foundry.
Over the past two years, thankfully, I've gotten much better at playing the game. Now I only run into walls when I'm laughing too hard at something said by a fleetmate over Ventrilo.
There aren't many days I don't celebrate the ideal of IDIC (the Vulcan philosophy of Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations) just by talking to my fleetmates or even with strangers in the local chat. We may vocalize our displeasure to each other about ship nacelle size or the "canonicity" of a uniform belt or a weapon's beam color, but when it comes down to brass tacks, we're all just a bunch of gamer-Trekkies, and we'll always argue about crap like that -- but only because we love it so much.
I play STO, and I will continue to play STO because the game gives me more than what I bargained for... and that's community.
Live long and prosper, everyone!
There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.