My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Videogame Memories 06 | John Mierau

Download the .mp3
Note: A few choice words lie below but were blipped from the audio.

It's kind of odd that I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer, an IT pro and-yeah, sure, world class geek-but not a gamer.

So why am I blogging about gaming? Well, I WAS a gamer. It showed up in my life at exactly the right time: my most formative years- right at the end of high school and my first year of university -and it has informed my life ever since.

My big games -now, don't laugh!- were Doom, Command & Conquer, and (ah, the memories!) Duke Nuke'em.

When I started university, a friend of mine got me my first gig in networking. It was summer, he was busy as hell with this weird new gig and he asked me to help him out.

The gig was installing network cards in a bunch of 386's for the federal government.

Back then it was a brand spanking new gig, working in IT admin. And it was a doubly wired gig, seeing as my buddy Jason went to college for Fisheries & Wildlife, before finding out on a summer job with the government that he was an idiot savant with all things computers.

A few times that summer, Jay very patiently led me through how to input scripts and plug in cards and test the network. A windows 3.11 network.

Ground floor, I tell ya!

Well I'm a slow learner, and it was probably more work fixing my mistakes than any help, but we got through it, and I was hooked on computers!

This was not the floppy-disk powered DOS computer my Dad had in his study, these puppies had hard drives and could access 'the internet'!

I was hooked on this new world. I asked for more. No, I begged and pleaded and cajoled until Jason got me a computer to set up in the hall of the place I rented, then busted up old laptops with dead pixels and dead batteries.

Then... He got me a 14.4 modem. I didn't even have my own email address and Netscape was just a painfully slow screensaver (OK with jaw-dropping possibilities) when I discovered my first true joy of the IBM clone: gaming!

That summer my wife-to-be got used to me staying up 'til all hours. I spent hours adding ram and reinstalling windows and then tweaking modem to goose a little faster data transfer.

And why? What was the key that led to what would become one of the biggest careers and passions of my life?

The Duke, baby!

Running, amped on adrenaline, through pixelated halls. Listening on my headset for telltale gunshots or movement through cheesy, looping midi music. Watching the bottom of my screen for taunts and chatter as Jay moved in for the kill--or swore his head off after I got the drop on him first!

Of course, the Duke got all the best lines:

"Damn, those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride."
"You're an inspiration for birth control."
"Uh, uh, uh, where is it?"

Before my ride on games ended, the love affair carried me through early Star Wars, Myst, and my second favorite video obsession: Unreal Tournament.

Those were heady days, oh, new-gen geeks... heady days.

And I never left the digital theme park, I just got tired of the rides. Networking an support paid all my bills for a decade. My first ongoing blog followed the beginning of the smartphone and mobile tech revolutions and of course I'm as wired as ever today.

Twitter and very real online friendships and one other thing-a dedication to my writing- have replaced the need and buzz I got off of gaming.

Because it wasn't the 'game' aspect, not the puzzler challenge of those first crude titles that hooked me: it was the communication. The head-to-head battles. Joining forces with people far in the distance to beat some ass sniping people.

It was the community.

Like a lot of you reading, I suspect, I have many meaningful interactions online. I learn online. Sometimes I work online. I'm always entertained and in so many ways I play online.

There's a lot in the way of community to fill that need in me nowadays--not the least of which is the 5-person fire-team that Is my nuke-lear family!

It's not to say I don't crave clearing a new level or taking a beautiful headshot... it's just more meaningful to me now to use the precious little time left to a family man, and provider, to write my own stories, create my own danger, my own witty comebacks, and see who gets out of *my* levels in one piece.

Duke taught me a lot. I'm putting the lessons to work somewhere else these days, but when it comes time to kick ass or chew bubblegum?

Those times, I think the Duke... And it's GAME ON!

John Mierau writes science fiction and fantasy. Ebook and podcast Stories available at, along with roundtable and interview podcasts regarding content creation, speculative fiction and anything else I choose to stick under that umbrella!


  1. John, I can't tell you how much your early career sounds like mine. I started in 8th grade setting up a token ring network, on the school computers because I got bored and had completed the basic and pascal programming assignments. I worked on people's PC all through high school, and college. One of my first gigs was helping to setup small networks. I had a short stent working as a game tester (not as much fun as it sounds when you spend three weeks testing boggle in English Spanish German and French, and then move to testing evolution) moved into supporting as/400's and pc's and have never looked back.

  2. Thanks for the comments Jeff. Cool to see the similarities! That was a great post. I just finished John's novel Enemy Lines and have really been enjoying his short stories.

  3. Many DOS games have helped influence games of today some very basic ideas are still continued in the market today. Platformers are constantly used over and over and are making a big return in many modern games. In which a lot of modern games have returned to the roots and going back to basic principles seen in many classic games. These games are now flooding mobile network app markets.

    Thanks for sharing Jeff!