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When I think about my first Online Gaming experience, I can't pinpoint one game or even a specific period of my life. I used to browse the internet semi-randomly. At some point, I discovered emulation & downloaded ROMs. At another point, I started taking part in forums. At some point, I tried a few games online.
I don't remember which was the first game... I remember two games I played online in my late teens. Digimon RPG, the Korean Digimon title which I played before the release of its English version Digimon Battle. The other game is Yu-Gi-Oh Power of Chaos, which is technically a local multiplayer, but I came across a technology that made Online Play possible!
Yu-Gi-Oh's Joey the Passion was the first Yu-Gi-Oh video game I play in Multiplayer. (Not counting the PS1 game since it plays differently.) I have fond memories with this series as I explained in this article long ago:
So, when I played Yu-Gi-Oh Trilogy especially Joey the Passion, I made sure to not use the "get all the cards" hack. That's what made me enjoy playing the game. Each win felt special because I worked for it and got a reward for it.
The other players might have found the best decks that could be built in the game. But I enjoyed building the best decks I could afford with my playstyle.
What I omitted from there is that I had that discussion with some of the players I used to play within the virtual LAN network. He was keen on helping me build better decks. I think I met him in a special forum about the game with its own leaderboard but I forgot the name.
Digimon RPG/Battle Online was a typical 2D MMORPG with Digimon. When it was around, it was the closest thing to a Pokemon MMO... The game was in Korean, and I don't remember how I heard about it, or why I decided to try it. (Maybe I was too much into Digimon at the time?)
I remember how hard it was to get an account in it: It used a strange system, you had to use your Korean ID to register. I did follow a guide, my English wasn't very good and I couldn't (and still can't) speak Korean. I managed to make an account. (My current self feels sorry for the owner of the random KSSN I used.) The game ran slow on my PC at the time but it was an amazing experience for my teenage self and my brother, who was with me in the whole process!
We did follow a guide to understanding what we were doing with the game. We couldn't catch a Digimon since the catching rates were insanely low, so we learned how to trade items despite the language barrier. (Many people in the server spoke English though.)
One of the reasons I believe this wasn't the first MMO I played is the fact that I don't remember suffering through the tutorial despite not knowing the language. Even with a guide, older MMOs were known for their user unfriendliness. I can't remember what game I could've played before it...
As far as I know, this Digimon RPG is discontinued and can't be played anymore. It's expected for all MMOs to die one day... It's a bittersweet feeling. At least I'm grateful