It was the autumn of ’96. We had just moved thirty miles away from our hometown, and my quiet eleven year old son, Keith, had yet to make any friends. His first days in a new school proved fruitless, and I watched crestfallen as this bright, creative kid solemnly spent his afternoons alone in front of the TV. But one day, something changed. My son got off the bus, raced into the house, grabbed his deck of Magic the Gathering cards and darted back out the door, shouting only that he had met some kid who played.
That kid, it turned out, lived just a block away from us, and his name was Christopher Batarlis.
Chris was the kind of kid who filled up a room with his larger-than-life personality. He wasn’t a kid, he was a full-blown television show…complete with actors, commentators and sound effects, and my son came alive in his presence. The first time I met Chris, he walked into our house with a wide grin on his cherubic face and an enormous boxed game under his arm. The box was so old it was falling apart, its lid barely held together by yellowing pieces of tape. “It was in someone’s garbage,” he proudly told us, the pure excitement of having found it for free apparent in his voice.
The boys shared a love of board games and gaming in general, and they quickly became best friends. My concrete block basement was cold and held only a large folding table and some chairs, but over the next few years it was transformed into a portal to another world, as the boys found and played every board and card game out there. New and old, they tore through them. Some were played again and again, others were tossed aside, and still others sat stacked unopened on the floor waiting to be played.
From upstairs, I could hear them reading the instructions. I could hear their dice roll, their shouts, their sudden bursts of laughter, their role playing and their arguments. I could hear them methodically working out difficult encounters and discussing various avenues of progression, and I could hear them dream of the ultimate game. Long, in-depth conversations that started with ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…?’
When the boys got older, we would spend entire weekends at gaming conventions, attending all the demo games and playing a wide variety of board games, war games, LARPs and RPGs, and Chris dived into every one of them with equal energy and enthusiasm. It was crystal clear, even way back then, where his passion lied.
Life led the boys in different directions after high school ended and I didn’t see Chris for a while, but he was one of my facebook friends so I kept an eye on his life. His feed proved nothing had changed. It was pictures of him and his friends playing games or snap shots of games in progress, and it continued that way past his college years and into his adulthood. So when I heard Chris was working on his own game, I knew it was bound to be epic.
Everything Epic’s Secrets of the Lost Tomb isn’t just some gamers who made a game. It’s the lifelong dream of that devoted kid who sat down in my basement. It’s decades of first hand knowledge of what makes a player excited. And it’s flying off the shelves for that same reason. This game has all the fun elements a kid can imagine combined with the lifetime experience of a hardcore gamer, put together by a guy who’s still as theatrical and boisterous as ever. Be sure to check it out! Secrets of the Lost Tomb