Ok, I lied. I’ve never actually been fired. This is, instead, a story of teen creativity and friends butting heads over a shared interest.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have smart friends. Like, really smart. Some are lawyers now. One is a math professor. Suffice to say, they were all smarter than I was, since all I wanted to do at that point was skateboard, play guitar, and design video games. Nevertheless, we shared a common interest in programming (which made us extremely popular). In fact, in a true-to-Stranger-Things-nature, we were the founding members of our high school’s Computer Programming Club, along with our Eleven, who (the last I heard) is happily married with a PhD in Computer Science from Georgia Tech.

But this story isn’t about the Computer Programming Club, either. It’s a story about role-playing games.

Our love of video games extended back to Baldur’s Gate, the classic Black Isle take on Dungeons and Dragons, which our friend Hudson introduced us to around the time we first discovered gym class and japanese animation. Now, if you haven’t had a chance to play Baldur’s Gate, I highly recommend the recently released Extended Edition published by Beamdog. I never actually saw the ending of the game until 2015, when I picked it up pushed all the way through for the first time.

Despite not knowing how the story played out, it was enough to engender a lifelong appreciation for roleplaying games. I haven’t had a year out of the past five or six that I didn’t pull up to a table and act out dramatic stories of conquest and plunder with good friends. In 1999, though, we couldn’t afford fancy rule books and boxed sets of maps. Instead, we relied on imagination and argument to tell stories about gold and dragons and arcane secrets.

As was popular at the time, we spent a lot of time working on Angelfire sites for our fandoms, and none of these was more powerful or more unifying than Dragon Ball Z. If you dare, you can still find Dragon Ball Planet online. In a certain light, the fact that it’s still online is a testament to our masterful teenage systems administration. In all its glory, Dragon Ball Planet is a postcard from 2003, with stark white text and a black background, broken links to topic-specific search engines and @hotmail email addresses.

I’ve got no idea what my actual role was on the site, but I assume it had something to do with updating player stats, posting tournament results, et cetera. But I’m a creative, always looking to improve on the status quo, and I took every opportunity that I could find to polish our site (believe it or not).

My snapshot ends with the actual reason I was relieved of duty, though it’s somewhat anti-climactic. I wrote the rules for some special abilities that I believed had a place in the game- they were balanced, design-pushing, and interesting, or so I thought. The rest of the team did not agree- and in true Strange Things fashion, I was kicked off the staff in dramatic fashion.

I had forgotten all of this until Hudson sent me a link to the site, in disbelief that it was still online after all of these years. Luckily, him firing me from my first web development gig didn’t impact our friendship, and we still still find time to talk often. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to look back at how it all took off and what factors lead me to be the person I am today. I can only imagine that that group of friends had the biggest impact of all.

So, thanks guys.