Dark Tower: My Gateway to Gaming

Image from boardgamegeek.com
Image from boardgamegeek.com

When I was a kid, my parents went to the neighbors’ house to play games. In retrospect, they probably went only once – my parents weren’t big on social outings – but according to my memory, it was a regular thing for a while. They set up this game board and got the pieces out. There were these cards with little pegs and these little plastic buildings. Then there was The Tower. This tall black tower sat at the center of the game board. If that weren’t cool enough, the tower moved and played music! Keep in mind that this was before the release of NES or the Atari 7800 to living rooms around the country. This game was awesome, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word: that we owned a computerized game filled me with awe. I was in love.

Image from aeiouwhy.blogspot.com

The game’s title is, appropriately enough, Dark Tower. Each player has his or her own quadrant of the game board: his or her kingdom. The goal of the game is to claim the magic scepter from the tower (after fighting through its evil brigands, of course). To gain access to the tower, you must find three keys, each of which is found in one of the three foreign (i.e., the other players’) kingdoms. With a troop of soldiers, sacks of gold, and rations of food, you tromp around through Arisilon, Brynthia, Durnin, or Zenon until you find each key. Once you have them all, you may storm the tower, use the keys in the correct order, and fight the baddies.

With the Tower as your game master, you press buttons on it to enter where you are in your quest. Along the way, you could shop and try to haggle in the bazaar, become lost (but if you’d bought the services of a scout, this would not affect you), curse another or become cursed, or get hit with a plague (but if you’d bought the services of a healer, this would not affect you). You could explore crypts, encounter a dragon (but if you’d located the Dragonsword, you earned its haul), or find a pegasus (who could somehow transport your entourage, regardless of its size).

Image from amubleu.com
Image from amubleu.com

Although I didn’t realize it until much later in life, I’m sure Dark Tower primed me for a love of role-playing games. I was a latecomer to gaming, as I think are many women gamers. Maybe times have changed, and I hope they have, but most gamer women I’ve met got into gaming through a relationship – meaning, they are at least teenagers and maybe even adults when they first discover role-playing games. In any case, I started gaming in the early 90s with some friends from high school.

I’d known for some time that there was a pastime out there in which people got together to make up stories for themselves. It wasn’t like the made-up stories of my childhood, which consisted of my directing my friends to “pretend that…,” but these stories had rules. Maybe I’d heard of role-playing games when I was younger, and something about the subject was left behind in my brain to blossom – I certainly don’t consciously remember what I’d heard. If I encountered the subject of gaming back then, it went over my head. Gaming can seem pretty arcane when you know nothing about it and at the time, there were no big companies running public relations campaigns to lure new gamers to the table.

I think, though, something just took hold when I played Dark Tower. I craved the adventure: the risk of knowing you could lose all your soldiers (and ability to carry gold!), and everything else to a dragon, yet you had to continue your quest no matter what. It would just make the pegasus’ job of hauling you and your crew that much easier.

How about you? What do you consider your gateway into a life of gaming?


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***The views expressed above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Nerdy Minds (Magazine) as a whole. But they might.***

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