It was 2002. I was barely 14. I was completely submerged in the hot, humidity of an Alabama summer and needed something inside to keep me entertained.
I had already played Everquest a number of times. I had first started a little bit after the game’s first expansion, Kunark, had arrived, but I never got very far. I loved every minute of playing even though I never had any clue what I was really supposed to be doing. I was caught in and endless loop of 1 through about 25 because I would either get bored of my character or I would have too much trouble finding groups.
But that was okay – after all, I loved Crushbone. All of my fondest Everquest memories take place in Crushbone Keep and I remember this particular return to the game primarily because I had mastered the art of grinding in Crushbone in my prior stint. This time, I would get to enjoy it.
At the same time, I was a young, impressionable kid with limited taste in music. Particularly popular at the time, Maroon 5 had just launched their first major album (and really their careers) with Songs About Jane. Even though their style of music isn’t my thing anymore, I fondly remember utilizing the really innovative MP3 player that had been added to EQ’s interface to replay that one album over and over as I grinded away.
Everquest had fantastic music in its own right, but I have found that grinding needs its own sort of soundtrack. Often, I prefer things that are light but very catchy with just the right hint of pumping you up. Maroon 5’s ‘Harder to Breathe’ was that perfect blend.
As I was moving from Orc Centurion to Orc Legionnaire to the zone entrance to avoid D’Vinn, I liked to imagine that things were getting ‘harder to breathe’ for the orcs I hadn’t slaughtered yet. After all, here I am a lowly nobody running around their only true refuge and home in the area committing mass genocide in order to collect their clothes for the people back home. I was a Robin Hood if Robin Hood stole belts and shoulder pads without any real knowledge of why one person wanted so many so badly.Even to this day, when I hear ‘Harder to Breathe’ or really any Maroon 5, I am suddenly rushed back to Crushbone Keep, going on a murderous rampage yet again in my mind.
Nostalgia is a very powerful connection. Where as many of us can look back at the old days as MMO vets, my specific connection between a 2000ies rock band and a single dungeon from a classic game is a far more unique tie. Despite the sadness I may get when I can’t slaughter orcs anymore while to ‘Harder to Breathe’ plays on the radio, the song conjures up more joy than despair. It is my own strange nostalgia and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.