Note: Book canon has, on many/most games, been superseded by game canon. Game canon comes in several flavors, including "(book) canon vs playability" (CvP) and "game setting". In the case of the former, there are some elements in the books which don't translate well to cooperative roleplay. In the latter case, games generally break away from one of the books and at that point the history diverges from anything which comes later in McCaffrey's books. Unless otherwise noted, the game-related changes I mention are based on my experience in playing Pern-themed MUSHes. While there may be exceptions to some of the exceptions, I'm not likely to touch upon them if they are based in a game which I didn't play.
In 1989 I began attending SUNY Oswego, and I became politically active in the first semester. This led to my getting a very early email address, and not long thereafter discovering Usenet, an ancestor to today's web-based bulletin boards. One of the groups I gravitated toward was alt.fan.pern (AFP), since I had been lent the books over the course of the summer by blackgryphon. On AFP, along with discussing Ms. McCaffrey's books, there was also mention of something called PernMUSH. While I was intrigued by it, it seemed too complex to try to get to it, but I really wanted to try it.
In fall of 1992 a friend, Todd (Jalnar on PernMUSH) offered to help me get on. Although I put it off for a while, he finally convinced me to try it in September. I created a character named Janelle with a wonderfully twinkish (but not overdone, at that point) backstory and played for a few days... and then the game had a major crash and my character was lost. I almost gave up at that point, but in retrospect I am very happy that I decided to re-create the character.
In book canon, hatchings are completely random. Sometimes people who are expected to impress do, but to an unexpected color. Sometimes people who most think would not impress do. Sometimes a promising person stands over and over until s/he is too old to do so but never impresses.
A few games have tried to emulate this by means of random hatchings, but in the end they have either died out or switched to one of the major CvP tweaks; namely, pre-planned hatchings. In a pre-planned hatching, people who want their characters to have a chance to impress are interviewed and the people who run the hatchings pick the characters whom they think would make the best fit for their area. Usually they keep the people who will impress a secret so that candidates and spectators alike are surprised on hatching day.
Before the crash wiped out Janelle, I asked that she be considered for a hatching in one area. They very wisely decided that I was too new, and told me that my character would not be searched. The next area to have a hatching, however, was a little later, when I had had time to get used to the game and people had gotten to know me. My character, a shy twelve-turn old who was too traumatized by the murder of her family to talk, at some point met another character named Darian who was also somewhat shy, and they became friends. Darian was searched for the area, called Ista, and Janelle missed him when he went to live at Ista. Then, a few days later, Janelle was also searched.
In the books, women only impress to golds and, somewhat rarely, to greens. Many Pern players are female, as are their characters. There's no rule against playing a character of the opposite sex, and many players both male and female do, but for most it's easier to play a character of the same sex as you are. This presents a problem in that at least half of the dragons which hatch will only impress to male characters, and that females often make up three quarters or more of a candidate class. So, while at least one Pern-based game only impressed females to gold, most will impress women to gold and green, and many will impress women to blues and/or browns as well.
As candidates together, Darian and Janelle became even better friends. It seemed to take forever for the hatching day to come (another CvP tweak is that players know when the hatching will happen, even though the characters don't -- that way the players can try to make sure they'll be there when it happens), but it finally did. Darian (who became known as D'rian) impressed blue Zaveth early in the hatching. It looked pretty bad for Janelle by the time the last dragon to hatch, a blue, was looking for his match. Something startled him and he hid behind another candidate, and everyone figured that candidate would impress. Instead, the blue snuck up on Janelle and telepathically told her that he was named Lunarth.
Janelle's first words for most people on the game came in the form of the announcement of Lunarth's name, and the impression cured her of her trauma-induced muteness. Lunarth turned out to be a practical joker of a dragon who brought her even further out of her shell. As Weyrlings D'rian and Janelle necessarily spent a lot of time roleplaying together as they learned to play their dragons as players and how to care for their dragons at first and fight thread as the dragons grew older in character. The characters became close friends, although at that point it was mostly confined to the characters; we did not talk much as players. That changed after we graduated.
While Janelle became a normal rider after graduating from Weyrlinghood, D'rian opted to assist the Weyrlingmaster. This meant that he was one of the people who helped train Weyrlings to become new riders. Unfortunately, some nasty things happened during one of the classes, and D'rian was put on the spot.
One of the unfortunate problems of MUSHes are the clashes of personalities on the parts of the players. Just as in real life, some people tend to be abrasive, and/or like to argue, and/or enjoy making other people angry. One such person impressed a blue at Ista. After the person in question annoyed one too many people at Ista, the leadership decided to send her to another area. The other area agreed to accept her, but only if someone was sent along to finish her training. D'rian, without being consulted, was selected to be the trainer who left.
D'rian's player and I also hung out at a social MUSH called TooMUSH. Roleplay didn't happen there, but people would gather and chat. It was also possible to set up areas where fewer people could talk. Several other people who chatted on TooMUSH were also from PernMUSH, and when D'rian told them about how he was being forced to accompany the blue Weyrling, one of them offered to let him come to her area, called Igen, instead.
It was thus that one fateful night, whose date neither of us remembers, D'rian's dragon telepathically bespoke Lunarth, asking his rider to meet him on the beach. He was planning on saying goodbye and telling Janelle that he was transferring. Then, something incredible happened. It isn't exactly common, but when it happens, it is spectacular -- the characters took on a life of their own. It was several hours' worth of roleplay, but the end result was that Janelle realized she liked D'rian too much to let him go, and she ended up deciding to transfer with him to Igen.
Meanwhile, on TooMUSH, Andy and I created an area just for the two of us to chat. This was the point where we started to become friends as players, not just as characters. We got to know about each other personally as we talked about real life issues and such. About a year and a month after impressing together on PernMUSH we were, by unspoken assent, dating. It would be another three years until we met face to face, but that's another story.
Sep 1992: Darian and Janelle created as characters on PernMUSH
Nov 1993: Andy and I set up a room of our own on TooMUSH
Oct 1996: Andy and I finally met face-to-face in Chicago
Apr 1997: Andy proposed to me on TooMUSH (He was living in Illinois and I was in New Jersey)
Apr 1998: Andy and I were married on the 11th