‘Puzzle Pirates’ Is My Isometric Coronavirus Happy Place
The forgotten MMORPG has been a comfort during quarantine
In the mid-2000s, while everyone else seemed to be killing grunts as Halo’s Master Chief or grinding away hours in World of Warcraft, I was sailing the 2D seas of puzzling piracy. And now I’m back on deck.
Growing up, I was obsessed with video games but was denied a proper gaming system by my parents. I had to make do with what could run on my computer, which mostly included educational CD-ROM games and any other titles my parents deemed to have some sort of scholastic tie-in. Age of Empires II got the nod because of its rich historical nature, but RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 was a harder sell. (Its capitalist overtones conflicted with my folks’ values, I guess.)
Desperate for content, at some point I stumbled across Miniclip.com and its cache of brain-numbingly addictive, free in-browser Flash games. There, I saw an advertisement that led me to my Rosebud: Puzzle Pirates.
Launched in 2003, Puzzle Pirates is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) where players adventure through fictional Caribbean-esque archipelagos, plundering booty. In its heyday, hundreds of thousands of pirates played on a half-dozen active “oceans,” the Pirates equivalent of a server, each with their own unique sets of islands, player-created crews, and complicated alliances. I was hooked.
Pirates was almost certainly my most-played game until predictable teenage interests started to fill my time. But as Covid-19 shut down pretty much everything in my neighborhood for months, I had nothing but time on my hands once again. As a quarantined nation pivoted to the solaces of comfort foods and comfy pants, I decided it was time to return to my isometric happy place — or what was left of it. After downloading Puzzle Pirates, installing a legacy version of Java, and somehow remembering my password, I logged into my account for the first time in years.