Meeting Quake on a train and what transpired there

Quake cover art © id Software (source)

“I seriously want to play Quake, or DOOM, or something computer related that involves shooting aliens into bloody masses.”

— my journal, 18 July 1996

********************

Hey…Quake! I mean…oh…um sorry, but I never expected to see, uh…I…I just wanted…ah, is anyone sitting here?  Mind if I…?  Thanks.  If only this thing would arrive on time for once, right?  Hmmm?  I look like…?  Oh, I get that a lot; but no, we’ve never met — you don’t know me.  But I know youor, at least, I knew you. I met you a long time ago…sixteen years, if my math’s correct.  I kept you in my calendar for a long time, but our paths never really crossed at the right place or the right time. ’96 was a weird year for me.  I took a lot of new chances, headed out on new ventures, and video games just weren’t a high priority then.

I don’t blame you for looking so surprised.  You know as well as I that after playing DOOM and DOOM II I was sincerely ready to buy into the Quake lifestyle.  I loved those games to a fault.  I’m certain that I was meant to play those games as I have no idea how they ended up in my house — my parents surely didn’t condone all the virtual bloodshed! And yet, there they were, and there I was in the hot seat as the space marine ready to save the world from the demons of Hell.

In 1996, I was truly, and I mean truly excited about the release of Quake.  I know you saw that. I was one seriously amped customer waiting to spend a little cash for a whole lotta shoot-’em-up fun.  For the longest time I kept a Quake ad in my 1996 journal.  I lost the ad several years ago but the memory of it remains as strong as ever.  It contained an image of your signature “Q,” a couple screenshots, multiple accolades, and everlasting promises of greatness. Everyone was certain you were going to be the best first person shooter of the year…possibly the best FPS ever up to that point.  Your improved graphics, movement, and physics were leaps and bounds beyond what we had know then.  People still talk of the Quake engine even today!  And…okay, okay, enough with the praise — but you shouldn’t be so humble; you deserve it.  Anyway…why didn’t I rush out to buy you that June?  I don’t want to offer any excuses, but I think I had a couple decent reasons.

First, I didn’t have my own computer — I had access to them at home and at my school.  That  summer I had a job at a local theater which was on a college campus, and we all had access to the college’s computer lab. But the machines in there could barely handle the blossoming internet, not that I would have been allowed to install a game, but still.  Second, as I already mentioned, the timing didn’t work.  You came out around the same time that I moved away for that job.  I was excited in all kinds of ways but gaming took a back seat to work and other deviations that summer.

But what about winter break?  If I was so “hardcore,” why didn’t I save up my pennies and buy you then?  Hmm, yeah, I don’t have an answer, but you’re right.  I had lots of later chances to enter into the Quake universe and I didn’t jump on a single one.  My time with games was in flux then – last year of college, permanently moving away from home, meeting new people and making a new life.  And my “new” “little” laptop could just barely run Windows 95; it was hardly powerful enough to handle your state-of-the-art engine.  Plus, I’ll admit it, I was kinda though not purposefully moving away from dark games, from first-person-shooters.  My DOOM and DOOM II years were not necessarily the most happy, and I think I was able to take out some of my pain on those demons.  By the time you came along, Quake represented both a progression and regression.  Not that you symbolized some sort of path towards evil…not at all.  I just wasn’t that same DOOM player, that same “angry” player.

Now, I know that with games it’s never too late…so could we…maybe…set a time to meet in the future?  I know, I know, that’s really vague, but see…thing is, I gotta get back to DOOM 3, which I think needs to happen fir…huh?  You’re better than DOOM 3?  Well look who’s all not modest now!  Okay, you’re probably right in a sense, but I already promised DOOM 3 that I’d at least make an effort to play.  I really need to work things out there first.  You get it, right?

Look, I’ve already taken up enough of your time, and my stop is next.  Good luck with everything, your sequels,  Quakecon, and all that.  Totally appreciate the chat — it was good to get all this off my chest after so many years.  Until we meet again…and we will meet again.

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