I just found out that my best friend for the last almost 30 years had died, from complications due to surgery. Dave Hines was more than a friend to me, he was a brother, someone I had talked with online or off at least every other day or more since I knew him.
We met in a funny kind of way. Back in High School, in the old BBS days (pre-internet), we both were visiting the same message forums (at the time, forums were handled over email). We were both commenting in several forums, the one we frequently would talk on was “Intelligent Conversation”, which was typically anything but what the title proclaimed. Now, back in those days, email was not instantaneous. It took a while. There was no central network linking all the servers. They all worked basically on dial-up. The BBS systems were essentially, for the most part, computers inside people’s houses, and at night they would dial up the next higher server, and transfer all the collected day’s mail to that server, in what was called a “hop”. To email someone across the country, it could take anywhere from 7 to 10 hops. Each hop was 1 night, so email was a bit on the slow side.
However, Dave (who I knew as “Wizard” at the time) and I would be able to interact immediately. Much to the annoyance of literally every single other person on that forum (In fact, there were petitions to the operators of the forums to change the name from “Intelligent Conversation” to “The DarkHelm & Wizard Show” because of how much we would go back and forth. And it wouldn’t be truly exciting or complex messages. An old favorite of ours that we would regularly reference would be a joke involving “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland. We both had talked about having been there and on that ride, and Dave had responded with “Tick” as a message. I would reply with “Tock”. And then it would be repeated. About 20 or so times, so that soon people were seeing something along the lines of:
> > > > > > > Wizard:
> > > > > > > Tick
> > > > > > DarkHelm:
> > > > > > Tock
> > > > > Wizard:
> > > > > Tick
> > > > DarkHelm:
> > > > Tock
> > > Wizard:
> > > Tick
> > DarkHelm:
> > Tock
Much to the annoyance of others. It didn’t take long for us to think “wow, he responds right away”, which led to “we must be using the same BBS server.” Which then led to finding out we were, we were living in the same town, and even more, we were living like 2 blocks from each other. So I dropped in for a visit one day, and surprised him. The first of may days I had dropped in to his house, and hung out, The people on Intelligent Conversations appreciated it, because our banter had moved away from spamming their inboxes. However his mother would tease that it annoyed her (but she would laugh at it all the same).
We had a great many “inside jokes”, that were typically things where we would reference something from pop culture, which then through wordplay would reference another thing, and another, and another, leading to nothing but confusion for those who were around us, which we also found to be quite comical as well. I remember many a day spent playing video games over at his house, typically computer games where we would do crazy, dump, and unexpected things in the game.
I remember vividly playing the old game Falcon 3.0 on his grandfather’s two computers, and at the start of the mission I had turned around and started flying away from the mission. He said “get back here!” and started chasing me. Then, despite the fact we literally were like 1.5 feet from each other in real life, I quoted a line from Weird Al’s “Jurassic Park” in a text message in the game, and he responded with another line from the song. We did almost the entire song when the game pronounced that our mission was complete and a success. Despite the fact we had absolutely nothing to do with it, and it was our AI wingmen that did the whole thing. We instead had found our home town of Lompoc (well, Vandenberg AFB) and were flying our F-16s over it. We had completely ignored the mission we were supposed to have been doing (a training mission).
Another time, he had the game “America’s Army” and we tried it out. I had just been through Basic Training and AIT, and so we thought it would be fitting. The very fist thing you do is a firing range in that game, to learn the game and how to use the controls. My first action was to shoot the drill sergeant who was standing next to me in the game in the head, which meant that immediately the game was over and it let me know I was court marshalled and now in Ft. Levenworth (military prison). Well, we thought this was fun enough, so we tried killing other people right away, to the same result. This happened enough that after a while we just referred to the game as the military Murder Simulator. And he would often let me know that there are supposedly people who actually played the game for more than just killing their sergeants.
On consoles, we often played sports games. A genre he personally enjoyed, despite my hesitancy for anything related to sports (to this day, almost everything I know about sports comes from playing these games with Dave). Wrestling, Football, Racing, you name it, we played them. And usually would go way off-script on them. There was a football game where for one team, the running back was so ridiculously faster than literally anyone else in the game, that we would play that team, with him s the QB and me as the RB, and he handed me the ball, and then I would run around the edge of the field, with both teams chasing me, and do like five or six full laps before a touchdown. With us laughing the whole time.
In wrestling games, Dave kept trying to tell me that the purpose of wrestling should not be to attempt to kill or permanently injure my opponents. We had funny tricks we did, like tricking the AI into stupid actions, like “Help Your Friend”, which one of us would pin an opponent, his teammate would come in to break it up (tag-team), and if timed right, the one pinning would get up right at the right time for the pinned opponent’s friend to elbow-drop him. Or breaking the AI with what we called “Super Happy Fun Slide” where one would jump off the top ropes to land on an opponent, while the other would climb up and immediately do the same thing, over and over. The AI had no way to determine what to do, so the tag-team partner would just spaz out and do nothing while we effectively killed the one in the ring. Racing games often resulted in one or both of us running backwards on the track, to see if we could make the biggest wrecks. Cooperative games usually were full of all kinds of backstabbing shenanigans. No game was safe from the DarkHelm and Wizard “treatment”. The “Mutant League” games were favorites of ours, as apparently the developers had made the game specifically to cater to our style of playing.
There was a side-scrolling adventure series we both enjoyed, the first game in it called “The Legend of Kyrandia”. The game had an annoying copy-protection system, which would randomly put up a small window that said “On page 5, paragraph 2, sentence 1, what is the 5th word in the manual” and expected that you would look up the user manual, find the word, and then you enter it. The game would not work until you did this. I got fed up with it, and used a hex editor to change every question for the copy protection to “Press a 1 and then <Enter> to continue.” I changed all the answers to literally just the number 1. If you didn’t follow the directions, it would then say “That was not a 1. Please try again.” We then both found the credits at the end of the game, and rewrote them into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of banter, back and forth, making fun of the entire game. We also rewrote all the text in the game to silly things. Changing the main villain, the court jester Malcom, to be extra dumb. We had every line he said start with “Duheeheehaha!” and then whatever we wanted him to say. Painstakingly, we rewrote the text of the entire game, and both of us played that version several times. The word “Duheeheehaha” ended up being a frequent one we would use whenever someone did something extra dumb.
We both had a longstanding love of all things Weird Al and Dr Dimento. These were often the tapes/CDs we would play when hanging out. We both watched all the “Al TV” shows that had come on MTV, and pretty much any of Weird Al or other novelty songs (from Dr Dimento) we would freely reference and joke about day to day. We used to play several Roleplaying Games, one time when we were making a character for him for one of my homebrew settings, I was really into Dragonlance, and was explaining what a Kender was. He wanted to make one, called the character “Sapsinger Tanglebeard”. explaining that he had been experimented on by a mad wizard which resulted in him having a beard. After he was done making his character, we noticed he forgot to buy clothes for Sapsinger. And in the highest falsetto voice he could muster, he proclaimed “I’m a Naked KENDER!” Which, after we both stopped laughing, essentially became Sapsinger’s telltale battlecry.
There had, over the years, been several, several shared trips to Disneyland. We both knew the place inside and out, and sometimes would spend at least part of the trip trying to lose the other one, and failing spectacularly. We would often joke around on the rides. Pretending to be tour guides on things like the Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones. And inevitably would end up hitting the full Disneyland mountain range. The one time I can remember us going to California Adventure, we were stuck on the water raft ride, as they had a technical problem with being able to get us off the ride. We went around the ride 3 times (with his mother), and as we passed the people waiting to get on the second time around, we were shouting “Help, get us off this thing! They are holding us hostage!” to much laughter.
The last Disneyland trip was when I had dragged him to BlizzCon in 2007. I had been into World of Warcraft, basically from its inception. He resisted it, and didn’t really want to be bothered. But, his love of Disneyland was such that he came with me to BlizzCon (I had been to the first one in 2005 too). And, he got his first taste of WoW: Playing a newbie Blood Elf in Eversong Woods. He was hooked. And when we had gotten back, he started playing WoW. But he had to wait until WoW: The Burning Crusade was released months later to finally play the same thing he did at BlizzCon.
We had both made new characters with TBC launched. Him, he made a human warlock, named Boffo (his current online handle/name). And I made my dwarf hunter named Sorlina. We would quest and adventure together, eventually getting high enough to get into Outland with the two. I had previously finished the Horde side of the Outland quests with my orc hunter Oguler. As we adventured, Sorlina had been using guns exclusively up to that point, but had gotten a nice crossbow in Hellfire Peninsula. Unfortunately, as there still was weapon skills in the game in TBC, her weapon skill for crossbows was 0. But no worries, with Boffo, his pet (he lovingly named “Jerkface” because of the insults he would say whenever Dave tried making it attack things, summoned it, etc), and Sorlina’s pet boar “Nybbles” (which I named because it had armor that made it look cybernetic). So I equipped the crossbow and started using it. We discovered to great comic effect, that whenever Sorlina’s weapon skill failed (which was quite often for a while), she unerringly would shoot one of three targets: Nybbles’ head, Jerkface’s head, or Boffo’s head. Soon (very soon), all three of them resembled a pincushion, with multiple crossbow bolts sticking out of their respective heads. Until Sorlina finally got enough skill for that to no longer happen.
Eventually, we had both gotten to level 70. We tried out some PvP — battlegrounds, working side-by-side usually trying to make light of the whole thing, or in an Arena match as a 2v2 team. I had switched Sorlina into being something unexpected at the time — a melee hunter. I split my talent points across two trees (survival and marksmanship), and focused on melee abilities, which were neglected by most hunters, as the hunter was primarily a ranged combatant, but had a weakness at the time — at 10′ or less from the hunter, no ranged abilities worked. This deadzone was what people anticipated in PvP against a hunter, and would exploit. But the way I rigged up Sorlina, I would exploit them instead, and hit for surprising effect, usually upsetting the PvP battle. Eventually, Blizzard basically rendered this technique useless, not allowing for talents to be split up between two disciplines and the such. However, later in Legion, they apparently decided such a thing was a cool idea after all, and they transformed the survival hunter into a melee hunter.
Meanwhile, we both had frequented multiple message forums over the years. We were still heckling each other frequently and making general nuisances of ourselves to anyone else who happened to be there. Our antics never really stopped, they just evolved over time. The numbers of inside jokes we had were expanding, and it became a game to see who could stump the other one first with 5 or 6 level deep wordplay references. For a few years, we were roommates until I had gotten involved with June, my wife. Unfortunately we were at odds with each other for a couple years over the whole thing, but we eventually made up, forgave each other, and resumed our friendship. We would regularly communicate over some messaging system or another. Sometimes would use two or three simultaneously to hold a conversation. Just because.
Dave was my longest, best friend and he will be sorely missed. At least I had gotten a brief chance to talk to him last week when he was in the hospital. Concerned that I hadn’t heard from him for a week, I tracked him down and the hospital let him talk. All he said was “Cliff Hill? We’ll have to talk about this later.” slurring his speech like he was on some kind of medication. That’s the last thing I heard from him. We both had similar political views, and we had no problems talking religion, despite being from two quite different denominations (he was Nazarene, I am Confessional Lutheran). Despite the occasional talking of something serious, most of the time we just joked back and forth. I will miss his humorous banter the most, I believe. He was often a very positive, and happy person. That’s how I will remember him.