METRO TORONTO, Canada—When my sister Mikayla and I were about 11 and 12 years old in 2008, the internet still had advertisements that ran on Macromedia Flash (the design software was phased out in 2021). We kept seeing one ad for a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) called Mabinogi by Korean developer Nexon.
We were impressed by the anime-style graphics of Mabinogi and by the touted freedom to be what you wanted to be. It was a popular selling point for other MMORPGs of the time as well. Very easy to download, install, and make accounts that kids can do in a day.
Soon, we were hooked by the gameplay. Unlike modern games, it was quite clunky, and is still considered clunky today. But the storyline of the non-playable characters, plus the idea of not exactly being the hero or villain, made it very innovative at the time.
The gameplay could be gruelling and long, but it more than made up for it in the art, environments, and not being locked into specific roles, such as the Warrior, Archer, Mage, Gunslinger and Alchemist.
Mabinogi is a game that can take years to play, but the rewards for staying in it are plentiful.
For those who did not like combative video games, there was a wide variety of things to do that did not involve fighting. You could sell items at the Auction House, become a Master Chef, collect clothes, and win in fashion shows. There were a lot of fun events every month to keep things fresh, and even pets that cost real money to buy.
In sum, Mabinogi was a staple of our childhood. While it is not as popular now as it was back then, we still return to the game for the memories, fun, and freedom to do and be anything.
‘Sea of Thieves’
Recently, around the time the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Mikayla became very interested in a pirate game developed by Rare known as “Sea of Thieves.” I was into it a little bit later, and our friends joined as well.
In Sea of Thieves, you play the stereotypical pirate, collecting treasure and plundering other ships for their treasures. There are separate factions in which you can embark on your quests and tasks: The Gold Hoarders help you find buried treasure, the Merchant Alliance trades valuable goods for coin, and the Order of Souls fights skeleton pirates and collect their skulls for money. There are many other factions not listed here.
During actual gameplay, players can own a ship and design them to their heart’s content if they have enough money. Players can invite their friends to join their ship and be part of the crew, so they all get a share of the gold. Players can sword-fight, shoot pistols, and play instruments on the seven seas.
There are also story quests outside the chaos of fighting other players that offer great rewards. Even just playing the game is its own reward, as staying online and sailing on the sea every game season grants you rewards as well, including ship decorations, weapon skins and clothing.
You can dress your pirate in a wide variety of clothes and styles fashioned out of garments from the Golden Age of Piracy. You can make your pirate look poor, rich, or anything in between.
All in all, Sea of Thieves is a game that properly simulates the life of a true pirate.
Our passion and enjoyment for cosplay came from our love for anime, or Japanese cartoons. Our older sister Simone introduced us to anime long ago.
Cosplay, or costume play, is a subculture of anime and involves dressing up as your favorite character from a Japanese anime. The subculture is so popular worldwide that people can look like characters from western cartoons, video games, comics, books and even movies.
When a new TV show or video game comes out, passionate cosplayers are quick to create an elegant costume of their favorite character. Some even enter cosplay fashion shows, do cosplay skits with their friends, or just have fun dressing up.
Mikayla and I had pretty much the same interests growing up, so it was very easy for us to get into cosplaying. We had always wished to get our own sewing machine, and we eventually did, thanks to our mom. We hand-sewed various costumes from our favorite video games and comics at the time, and met some interesting people doing so. We even have a lot of old fabric that cannot be used in the basement, which we are now cleaning up.
While I do not cosplay anime or video game characters that much anymore, I have recently gotten into dressing up as a Medieval character—as a Renaissance Fairy, for example—and live-action role-playing (or LARPing).
LARPing is like cosplaying, except you create a character that you are meant to embody and fight as. An example of a LARP is Bicolline, a fully immersive, medieval fantasy experience in Quebec, where you live in a Medieval town as a medieval person. You can join guilds, fight in wars, roleplay, trade, and interact with others.
I plan on learning French in order to understand the game better and talk with others at Bicolline, though there are many who speak English there as well. Mikayla and I hope to attend next year.
Cosplaying was our gateway to a world of role-playing games, and I will always look back to it fondly.
Francesca Bandayrel is a 2D artist and animator who had worked in such shows as “Looney Tunes Cartoons”, “Green Eggs & Ham: The Second Serving” and “Luna, Chip & Inkie: Adventure Rangers Go.” She is based in Mississauga City and lives with her Filipino Canadian parents and sisters. —Ed.