Missus Raroo Says Logo[Missus Raroo heads down memory lane with a look at the Sega Dreamcast's beloved Phantasy Star Online in honor of its ten year birthday. If it wasn't for Phantasy Star Online, the Raroos might not be married with kids today! Mister Raroo contributed illustrations, making this a true husband and wife team effort.]

A Whole New World

Time flies! Mister Raroo just informed me that we recently passed the tenth anniversary of Phantasy Star Online’s release. This, then, also marks ten years from when we were deep in the courting phase of our relationship, meeting up for virtual “dates” in the world of Ragol. Before you jump to any conclusions that we met online, please know that our love story did not have any game-related roots.

We actually met in a teacher education course when we were both working toward our credentials. Our professor grouped us in teams to discuss children’s books and we bonded over the literary work: Shaq and the Beanstalk.

I honestly can’t remember when I figured out that Mister Raroo was a gamer. I was such a complete non-gamer, having been raised in a household without video game systems of any sort, that the concept of gaming and gamers did not even exist for me.

So how exactly did I go from being a gaming virgin to meeting up nightly to down some monsters in the forests and caves of PSO? Part of it had to do with the fact that I fell into the trappings of young love, eager to show interest in the hobbies of my boyfriend. I like to think I wasn’t too pathetic about it since it wasn’t like I pretended to have any firsthand knowledge—I was simply open to learning about games. Furthermore, it wasn’t like I blindly fell for all of Mister Raroo’s interests. I never, for instance, became a metalhead even though the Raroo likes to rock.

All the same, as an empty vessel, Mister Raroo quickly educated me about video game systems from the then-current Dreamcast and Neo Geo Pocket Color to older systems like the NES and Sega Saturn. If you have ever noticed Mister Raroo’s enthusiasm about video games bleed through in his writing, you can only imagine how powerful it comes across in person.

The Best Ever!

While not made of salesman stock, he is passionate when he believes in something, and he has a way of convincing you that it is indeed the “best thing ever.” With my self-admitted naiveté, I fell for that line more than once in our early years. When he told me multiple times that “The Dreamcast is the best system ever,” I was swayed into bidding on one off of eBay. Being new to games, I was at first drawn to Raroo-recommended games with cute, colorful graphics such as Chu Chu Rocket! and Space Channel 5.

While Mister Raroo would do his best to convince me that Chu Chu Rocket! was the best game ever, I decided it was much too hard for me, because I’m not good at keeping up with the frenetic pace. Similarly, while he tried to convince me that Space Channel 5 was also the best game ever, I realized that I unfortunately have no rhythm. Both of these games were certainly girl-friendly in appearance, but they weren’t matches for me. It wasn’t until Mister Raroo bought me Phantasy Star Online for Valentine’s Day of 2001 that I discovered my true gaming affinity was for dungeon crawls and role playing games.

Back in the Day

For any of you younger gamers out there, you have to realize that online gaming a decade ago was much different from the online gaming of today. Back in those days, we played online with one another via a high tech 56K modem connection. While some of you may scoff at the primitive connectivity, there was certainly a charming innocence to the online experiences that we participated in back then.

Mister Raroo would log in from his mom’s home where he lived while I logged in from my parents’ home where I lived. We would meet up in a lobby as “Jeurja,” a Ranger with a giant green afro and “Akemi,” a smaller statured Ranger with pink pigtails. Many times we would also meet up with Mister Raroo’s online friend “substance j,” and together the three of us would venture out on missions to slay everything from the annoying Rag Rappies to the overshadowing Dragon.

Since there wasn’t voice chatting, we typed messages back and forth using our Dreamcast keyboards. Some of the messages we would share in speech bubbles with all players in our party, but even more fun were the times Mister Raroo and I would exchange private messages unbeknownst to the others.

Private messaging came in handy especially when we ended up playing with a random fourth player who had less-than-gentlemanly manners. One easy indication of a player’s character, for instance, is how they handle the loot held within the treasure boxes scattered across the game world. Mister Raroo and I always felt it was good manners to try to equitably share in the items that we came across. If there were four boxes that each contained in-game currency meseta and other items, it made sense that each player would get some.

But, of course, there are always people out there who believe it’s “all about me.” They would run ahead of the group, shoot up the boxes, and quickly snatch up all of the money and items without pause. At times like this, Mister Raroo and I would certainly start privately messaging about that fourth player. I can remember us corroborating our stories to quit playing just so that we could disband the party and then log on again in avoidance of the greedy hog of the day.

In an even worse case, we once got stuck with a plain old bully who had no patience for playing with a “little girl” like me. At that point, Mister Raroo’s chivalrous nature came to surface as he stood up for me, green afro held high and all.

Papa Bear RarooIt was early evidence of what I’ve come to call his Papa Bear side--Mister Raroo is a peaceful teddy bear in most cases, but if anyone ever dares to mess with his family, Papa Bear comes out and he is fierce. He not only stood up to bullies in the virtual world of PSO, but has been known to transform into Papa Bear in the real world as well. Just ask the homeless guy who made the mistake of sexually harassing me while we were at the dog park one day!

Of course, in the case of PSO, it is ridiculous when you remember that it’s not as if we were confronted with the bully face-to-face in a park filled with live dogs, but we were instead standing in a virtual forest filled with virtual wolves. And, instead of puffing up his chest in real life, Mister Raroo could impress his superiority only by flaunting his virtual armaments.

The Further Adventures

Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, a decade since Mister Raroo first presented me with my very own copy of Phantasy Star Online, we should celebrate the occasion by powering on the old Dreamcast once again. It’ll be like time traveling to the younger, more carefree versions of ourselves, to a time in our lives when we could spend hours a night meeting up in an imaginary world where we embarked on adventures and had the power to slay monsters without worrying about getting our kids to sleep or balancing our bank accounts.

Then again, even though we may not have the luxury to venture to Ragol each night, we still team up daily to tackle a couple of other monsters, namely our two little kids. Actually, calling them monsters doesn’t feel quite right. I guess I’d like to think of them instead as two Rangers-in-training that have arrived in our lives to complete our party. Adventure awaits!

Adventure Awaits!

[Missus Raroo doesn't consider herself to be a "real" gamer, but between listening to her husband excitedly talk about games on a regular basis and trying her hand at a select few titles herself, she knows a thing or two about video games. She served as the co-editor-in-chief of the Game Time With Mister Raroo print zine and was called the "heart and soul" of the publication by readers. She lives in El Cajon, CA with her husband, son, daughter, and pets. You may reach Missus Raroo at koopaboo@yahoo.com. For all your Game Time With Mister Raroo needs, visit Club Raroo!]