…They’ve Been Around Longer Than You May Think.
When we talk about gamers, these days, some people think about kids sitting around their parents’ house, isolated, hiding from society. These people think gamers are cut off and living in a self-imposed banishment, out of the eyes and spotlight of the world.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, in many instances. At E3, I interviewed the founder of an organization called “Extra-Life”, which spends all of its energy on sick children and gaining the help of gamers across the planet to raise money to help those kids. During that interview, Jeromy pointed out that gamers are actually some of the most socially connected people in the world and he’s right.
Many of the gamers today are connected with other people across the globe in a number of ways. From all of the various social networks, to multiplayer gaming with voice chat, to message boards and email lists, a staggering number of gamers have more relationships with other gamers than most of the non-gamers I know have with other non-gamers.
This is a story about a group of people like that.
I am aware of a group of gamers who go by the name “The Musketeers” and have been around for a long, long time – Since before most people were even aware of multiplayer, online gaming. This group has, in fact, been continuously active – with no “breaks” or stoppage in gaming as a group – for 22 years.
Formed on February 23rd, 1990, the Musketeers got their start in a game called “Air Warrior” – a massively multiplayer, online, combat flight simulator. As far as my research has been able to take me it seems that Air Warrior, developed by a company called Kesmai and played on GEnie (The General Electric Network for Information Exchange), was the very first of a new type of gaming concept, which would eventually come to be known as the MMO.
With hundreds (thousands?) of people playing at once, flying simulated World War I, World War II, and Korean War era fighters and bombers in various “arenas”, the founding members of The Musketeers came together under the leadership of a pilot who went by the name Athos. Since that day, there has always been a “Muskie” flying the banner of the group (originally and currently calling themselves a squadron) in one online game or another.
So how the hell does a group of gamers stay together for over 22 years? According to the Musketeers, their secret is simple. They never admit a new player to their group without an unanimous vote from all active members. Due to this fact, new members will generally never be voted in until all of the active members have met and played with them and any hesitation on the part of a member is taken very seriously. Members of the group are regarded as family and trust each other implicitly.
And on the subject of family. The group has been around for so long that many of the members’ children have become members and actively game with the original crew which is a very impressive feat. A multi-generational group of gamers, in which some of the members were quite literally born into the “squad”. There aren’t many groups out there who can claim such a thing. The group, as a whole, has helped shape the lives of the squadron’s family members, as stated in this excerpt from a letter written to The Musketeers by the wife of one member, and mother of another:
Now, as he joins your squadron-warrior-tribe, I know, without a doubt, my son has left my arms. He has gone to join the men on their hunt. And, I, mother, see he has learned everything he needs for his own journey to manhood.
He learned it from his father’s voice and the invisible, yet always present, squadron-tribe of Musketeers, who have been teaching him all his life.
Each of you has contributed a piece of yourselves to the man my boy is becoming. You have been, and continue to be, the words of the lullaby and bedtime story he falls asleep to.
I think this excerpt perfectly captures what it takes for a group of gamers to have such a long-lived relationship and from what I can tell, The Musketeers Squadron still has a lot of life left in it. With new games being released all the time, they’ve certainly got plenty of options as far as gaming goes. They’re currently most active in a combat flight sim called “Aces High 2” but are also known to appear in World War II online, various iterations of Call of Duty, and just about any other multiplayer game where people are shooting things at one another. It seems the only thing that could stop the Musketeers would be the end of multiplayer gaming and we all hope that never comes to pass.
So if you or anyone you know is the type who thinks gamers are detached and anti-social, take a moment to think about The Musketeers and all of the other gamers out there who have built real relationships with people around the world…Yeah, so those relationships are based on games but…All relationships are based on some kind of mutual interest, aren’t they?