The Power Of: Might and Magic VI
Welcome to GamersSchmamers.com! This first week we’d like to introduce ourselves to you and what better way for you to get to know us than by knowing the most formative games we’ve ever played? Whether it pushed us to be better people, or fixed our relationships, this week you’re going to get to know us a bit more intimately.
After the third time I chased my brother around the yard with a wooden baseball bat in my hands, my dad gave us both a pair of boxing gloves. He didn’t teach us how to box properly, or insist that we take up classes to learn, his only rule was that when we wanted to hit each other we wore the boxing gloves. And we hit each other. A lot. We would go to school with bruises running up and down our arms and chests from all the time we pummeled each other for hours on end in the front yard, our irrational anger for each other sparked by something as silly as one of us telling the other they didn’t do a math problem properly. Despite our father’s best efforts, including letting us indulge in the violence with his gift of boxing gloves, my brother and I just grew more and more antagonistic toward each other. I couldn’t have explained it to you then, but remembering my father’s face when we fought pains me for how scared he was for us. He expected one or the other of us to seriously injure, if not cripple, the other.
With that specter looming over our heads, we went to New Mexico for summer vacation to visit my grandparents. Usually this was something my brother and I gleefully anticipated, we got a ridiculous allowance that we could spend freely, we took trips to cool places, we got to eat Eggo minis every morning, and watch cable TV all night. But this year we couldn’t even agree to watch Dexter’s Laboratory together.
It was probably this mutual animosity that drove me to our grandmother’s computer. It was upstairs in the spare bedroom neither one of us slept in, and it was just powerful enough to play games. There was some old sci-fi flight simulator that came with the machine, and not much else though. But it was enough to distract me from the seething anger I held for my brother and that was fine with me.
Some random day during that vacation we were out and about in Albuquerque and we came across a used video game store. Bored with Generic Sci-Fi Flightsim 2.0 I pleaded with my grandfather to take us there, and in his infinite pleasantness he agreed and let us run wild. This was when you could buy PC games on discs, and before DRM made reselling games a moot point, so I was in paradise. There were row after row of games I’d never heard of, with themes and ideas I had never dared dream could be in games. One game immediately caught my attention and never let go, though.
Maybe it was because it was just a simple disc with no manual or box, maybe it was because it was only twenty dollars, but that game called to me. My brother told me it wasn’t going to be any fun, that it was worthless and I should just get another flight sim. Which meant that I did what any sane brother would do, flipped him off and bought Might and Magic VI anyway.
When we got back home it was a race to see who could get on the computer first; he didn’t even want to play the game he just wanted to prevent me from playing it first. And my brother always had speed over me. He beat me to the computer and spent the rest of the day browsing the (AOL) internet.
I seethed. I plotted destroying his things, ripping up his books. Surprisingly this is all I did. Dinner rolled around and he was asked to play cribbage with my grandfather after dinner, which left me free access to the computer. With shaking hands I put the disc in the computer and installed the game, with absolutely no idea what to expect.
I was blown away by Might and Magic VI immediately.
There were dragons, and demons, and my own party to customize! I got to give them spells and armor types and they could get better at buying and selling and what the hell does bodybuilding do and why would I want to use it? I made my party and was unceremoniously dumped into the world of Might and Magic VI. I loved every second of it. We fought goblins, saved little kids, looted treasure chests, died, died again, and died once more. My brother eventually came upstairs, to give me a hard time no doubt, but when he came into the room he just stopped and looked at the monitor.
Then he sat down.
He silently watched as I played. He’d ask a question every now and then, not like the arrogant older brother I’d come to know over the past year, but as an interested observer. He’d offer friendly advice on where I should go. Despite resenting it at first, I found myself listening to his suggestions. He wasn’t being an asshole about it, and if I ignored his advice he didn’t mock me or get angry even when it didn’t pan out properly. There was something about that game and that world that sucked us in so completely that we forgot that the other was our hated foe.
We played until the sun came up. Went to sleep. Got up and did it again. Eventually he made his own party and it was my turn to sit next to him and offer advice. Making sure that he didn’t cast Armageddon ‘just to see what it did’ in the town full of heroic knights, and laughing at the awful puns the game tossed at us. The rest of our summer was spent glued to that computer as we dug deeper into the secrets of Might and Magic VI, getting ever more powerful and coming closer to beating the game and becoming heroes of the land. Sometimes when we were stuck we would look up strategy guides, the first time either one of us had cared enough about a game to actually go outside of it to find information. Until we found a control guide in one of those FAQs, we didn’t even know that you could cast a spell or shoot an arrow. We just assumed that you had to use your magic until you were out of mana and only then could you use your bow and arrow.
But for the first time I can remember we stopped acting like enemies, and started acting like brothers.
Might and Magic VI made us sit in a room and work toward something we both cared about. So enthralled in the world we were that we stopped seeing each other as the brother we so despised, and began to see each other as companions on a long and difficult quest.
When we came out of Might and Magic VI’s world it was impossible for us to see each other the same as we had before. We had traveled to distant lands, fought epic foes, and mourned the loss of comrades. In the face of all that, made up as it was, why even bother getting upset that he took the last waffle? Did it really matter that I didn’t like Lord of the Rings as much as he did?
I still can’t remember if we beat Might and Magic VI. But it doesn’t matter.
Because I remember coming home from that vacation smiling. I remember my brother and I talking about all the cool things we did in Might and Magic VI and eagerly waiting for the release of Might and Magic VII. Our father was smiling in a way I’ve only seen on his face once since, as my brother walked down the aisle with his wife.
Most of all, I remember us throwing our boxing gloves away.