(2 of 2)
In a fragmenting society that spends ever more time at home, EverQuest offers families a way of staying together by slaying together. Just ask the Dituris. Denise (a.k.a. Lorelahna) and her husband Gary (the warrior Tytanyum) once joined a guild with their best friends Bill and Cindy (Jarryth and Lilyenya). They still talk about the time the four of them stayed up in shifts all night (EverQuest runs in real time), waiting to attack a particularly brutal MOB, finally slaying him at 6 a.m.
Later, through an EverQuesting single mom in Palm Springs, Calif., the Dituris networked into the 50-member Dark Fury Guild. Online quests soon became the basis for real-life soirees. "Believe it or not, EverQuest has become the center of our social life," says Gary. "People say it's expensive, but it's like a club--and you'd pay at least $12.95 a month in club dues."
At times EverQuest might seem like nothing more than a vast Internet chat room with nice graphics. But there's something about this particular chat room that opens lines of communication--even among parents and kids. Gary Dituri says he has learned more in the past 18 months about his son Derrick, who plays a rogue to Gary's warrior, than he did in Derrick's first 15 years. Gary and Denise choose less advanced characters for themselves when they interact with their daughters Dayna, 13, and Demitria, 10. An unorthodox method of child rearing, to be sure, but hardly worse than parking the kids in front of the TV. "It's not just watching cartoons," says EverQuest producer Rod Humble. "It's an exercise of the mind."
That exercise will get somewhat more strenuous with EverQuest II, due for release in the fall of 2003. The sequel is set in a new age--the Age of Destiny--in which players' quests directly affect the structure of the game, changing the plot line on a month-by-month basis. Tolkien labored for years to work out the narrative of his Middle Earth; the legend of Norrath will expand of its own accord. And next March, taking a leaf out of the playbook of Star Wars creator George Lucas, the company will release a prequel--not on PC but on the more kid-friendly PlayStation 2. Watch out: Norrath may be coming soon to a dinner-table conversation near you.