Richard Garriott (also known as Lord British) is - ultimately - directly responsible for who I am. This leads directly to the question of how did this son of an astronaut, and video-game luminary affect me so profoundly.
When I was young, I was a bitch. I don't mean that in the respectful and complimentary way that is so commonly in use in my country. I mean that in the uncaring, thoughtless and unpleasant way. What little memory I have remaining to me of my past does causes me to shy away from the memories of those times that I do have. Those scraps of memory sometimes keep me awake at night - tossing and turning, unable to ever quite free myself from the shame of being the person I once was.
You see, one day, I woke up, and realised it. Not woke up from sleeping - though it felt that way. I woke up to myself. Like I'd been dreaming all my life. Suddenly I was awake. In charge. Appalled. I'd treated people as things. As objects. I was suddenly ashamed of myself, of what I was, and of the choices I was making in my life.
I didn't understand people. I didn't understand how they felt, or what motivated them, or what they were thinking, or how my actions and words interacted with them. I didn't actually realise that at the time, but I knew I was screwed up at some level and that I couldn't rely on my internal, subjective framework to guide my choices.
I was playing Ultima IV at the time - and the answer was right in front of me. The Britannian Virtues were simple, straightforward, obvious, and sufficiently objective. Not quite the Eightfold Path of Buddhism - which some might view as a little subjective and abstract, but a simple set of virtues that one could measure one's choices against.
[Interestingly, the Gargoyle Virtues or the Ophidian Virtues are no less valid or complete in and of themselves, and worth the look. I cannot say that I've been entirely untouched by them.]
So, there I was. I knew I was unhappy with myself - with who I was and with what I had done. I had an idea about what I wanted to be; and Richard had so propitiously provided me with a map.
I had made foul and shameful choices. I resolved to make better ones.
And I failed, and I failed, and I failed. For more than a decade, I failed more often than I succeeded.
I never stopped trying. I still try every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every choice.
Some time during that process I became something like the person I wanted to be. Where my instincts began to choose right more often than wrong, with less need for assessment and reflection before choosing. Startle me and I'll probably react the right way - the way in accordance with the virtues I choose to live by.
Not always. I still make errors.
But I'm not the selfish, thoughtless bitch anymore. I (dimly) remember being that person in the remaining fragments of my mostly erased past, however it's clear to me that I am not that person anymore. I cannot say when it was left behind, but I'm glad of it.
Richard Garriott - you changed my world. You changed my life. You allowed me to do these things, by giving me a guide, and showing me what it meant to live a practical life of virtue.
The one time you and I have exchanged words was one of the times that I failed myself. I failed to tell you how much you changed my life.
You gave me myself.