I’m new to the scene. When I bought my laptop in the summer of 2011, I knew graphics didn’t matter. How much graphic power does Microsoft Word really need? Does it play YouTube videos? Those were my only concerns. I didn’t see myself playing any PC games, much less high-end titles.
I played a few PC games during the early 2000’s while I was in college. Most of the games I played were plagued with errors, bugs, and other funky problems. The game I enjoyed most had a habit of crashing in the most annoying way: no error message, no warning; it just disappeared. Gaming was mostly a frustrating experience, and I questioned whether PC games would ever take off compared to consoles.
Last year, I randomly discovered Star Trek Online. It’s been around for years, but since I stopped playing PC games, I fell out of touch with what was going on. I never had any interest in World of Warcraft, but I grew up on Star Trek, so I was intrigued. I did my research, watched a few YouTube videos, and decided to sign up. Why not? It was free.
Within about an hour of signing up for a new account and designing my character (he looks like me, but skinnier), I was the captain of my very own ship. It was tiny, but it was mine. Not only that, I could explore anywhere in the Star Trek universe. No linear “go here, do that” missions, unless I wanted to do those. But I didn’t have to. Do you know how many summer afternoons I spent sitting on a bench at Earth Spacedock, amazed at watching the people (other human players) buzzing about, handling their errands before returning to space? I sat for hours, not playing, just taking part in the scene.
The U.S.S. Consensus is my current flagship. It has a crew of 1,000. Here it is over the northern U.S.
Before long, I joined a fleet. A fleet is a group of up to 500 players who align themselves and work together to meet common goals. Chatting with the fleet gave me an avenue to ask basic questions about the game. Fleet members went on missions together. We donated the resources we earned towards big projects to help improve our facilities. I spent much of my time working on improving our embassy, because I loved the idea of diplomacy and having a beautiful space to negotiate with alien races. While I was working on graduate school work, I would find a quiet place to sit in the game, and let the background sounds keep me focused. I split my time between a large arm chair near the embassy aquarium and the lounge across from the conference room on our starbase.
Being part of the fleet has given me a purpose greater than myself, and I now feel obligated to contribute my portion to the fleet, as well as attending social events and meetings. I also manage the crew of my own ship, as well as its equipment and supplies, and the other ships I own as well. It’s also so much fun! This feeling of intense camaraderie among a select group of people around a shared purpose is exactly what I want to create in my school next year. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to do that.
Maybe I’ll sit in the cargo bay and think about it for a while.