It was a crappy, grey, rainy day in January, 2005. I was in New York visiting my then-boyfriend, on my the week of break left before my final semester of grad school started back home in Boston. Although I had the luxury of a student schedule, he had to go to work, leaving me to entertain myself for the day.
While he ran around the room getting dressed, he swooped by his PC and turned it on. "I just got this game," he said. "I'm pretty sure you'll like it."
Dubiously, I peered over his shoulder. "EverQuest?" I said. "I mean, seriously? You know I don't do the whole online gaming thing. Never have."
"EverQuest II," he said, "not the first one. It's new. And you should seriously try it," he replied. "I think it's right up your alley. Give it a chance, at least?" And with that he dashed off to the subway, running late.
Still in the t-shirt I'd slept in, with my hair a mess and blinking sleepily through my glasses, I plopped myself into his desk chair and launched the game. He'd left his username and password scribbled for me on the back of something he probably should have taken with him. I rolled my eyes and logged in.
And then that theme played. That clear French horn, ringing as only brass can. He'd known, I realised, that the music alone would carry me as far as character creation. I was a horn player, and had been for 15 years. I figured: anything that opened so pleasantly, with a theme I approved that much of, couldn't be all bad. So I created a character... and didn't get up from that chair until he came back that evening.
By fall 2006, the boyfriend and I had broken up. But I kept the city — New York was my home, for a few years — and I kept the game, playing regularly until 2009 and intermittently through 2010.
EverQuest II isn't my favourite game of all time, nor does it have my favourite score of all time. But every time I hear that theme, every time that soaring horn opens up into those brass chords fifteen seconds in, part of me feels like I'm coming home. An MMO changes all the time, but through all the years, all the patches, and all the thematic upheaval that the digital world went through, every time I'd hear the theme start up I'd settle back and relax.
If my life had a soundtrack, this would represent three years' worth in my 20s. EQ2 had its problems, but music was never among them.