Archive for August, 2009

One Week Left

We’re one week in on the great Arthas Novel Giveaway contest, and there is one week left!  Hundreds of article hits thanks to what I’ll call the Big Bear Bump* (many thanks, BBB!), and um… not as many entries.  If you’re interested in getting your hands on a very lightly used (read once, Mint condition) Arthas: Rise of the Lich King hardbound novel, there’s still time.

Besides, who doesn’t like sounding off and offering an opinion of what someone else should do in World of Warcraft?

*Here it is, the Big Bear Bump (more traffic in a day than I usually see in a week… I’m glad that the word got out, and by all means, if anyone else knows of a good place where there might be interest in a free Arthas novel, link ‘em in; the more the merrier):

Big Bear Bump

Big Bear Bump

Oh, and no, that’s not a desperate plea for more attention for the blog on the whole, even though I could get snarky about the recent Tobold “commentgate” kerfluffle.  Yes, I’d love to see more entries for the contest, but this blog is first and foremost just a bunch of tish tosh, and any reader beyond me is a bonus.  I’m glad to get some great comments here and there, but this is far from a day job or popularity contest.

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Pretty purple epic loot does nothing for me.

This is part of why:  Obsidian Hatchling

Note two key nuggets of information:

One, the Rarity is “Very rare”, kindly noted in pretty purple text.

Two, the cost and supply: “50gold (unlimited supply)”

To be completely fair, it is possible that something with unlimited supply could be very rare, if not many people are actually buying it.  That said, since gold is also itself unlimited (OK, throttled by time and per-character carrying capacity, but practically unlimited), there isn’t much of a limit to how many of these critters can be in the world.  I must admit, I’d love to see an Obsidian Hatchling swarm crash a server somewhere.  Yes, you can only have one per player active at a time, but the mental image of these little guys Zerging through a capital city just makes me chuckle.

Calling them “Very rare” is a bit disingenuous, and is likely more of an arbitrary selling point, rather than any reflection of accurate valuation or representation.  Perhaps it could be cynically noted that savvy customers already know this, but I can’t help but feel that something has been lost in the callous marketing.

“Rarity” in WoW is a better measure of the time investment than actual rarity.

It’s ultimately not a big deal, and I’m certainly nitpicking the nomenclature (something I’m no stranger to, considering my stringent objection to “black holes” in the most recent Star Trek movie), but it’s one measure of how sales and presentation are rather… flexible… in their interpretation of reality.  (It’s also why you need to do your homework when shopping or listening to those who are selling, and why Big Brotherish information peddlers are less than informative.)  The game goes out of its way to make everyone feel Super, which ultimately, undermines the point of being Super.  (Cue Syndrome evil laugh.)

True rarity just wouldn’t sit well with the current crop of MMO designs, for better or worse.  That’s not  “bad design”, just unappealing for some, and underwhelming for those looking for a little more meaning in their entertainment.  (Not everyone, to be sure.)  It falls into the same taboo realm as basing advancement on player skill, and really would be a niche design tenet.

To be fair, I’m not terribly concerned with true rarity, either.  If I’ve achieved something in the game, it’s a goal I’ve set for *myself*, and I don’t particularly care if it’s something that has been done before by someone else.  I don’t care for the pride and preening aspects of these things, either.  As a wise man once said:

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109-10.)  *Cited here: “Beware of Pride”*

At any rate, this is why I have a hard time getting worked up about gear in modern MMOs, or about “Achievements” that anyone with enough time (and OCD) can do.  It’s all about time and perception, and I have neither the time nor the delusion that these “epic rares” are all that epic (in anything but the grind to get them) or all that rare, and with the “Im speshul, yur not” and “true uniqueness” aspects removed, all these things are is indicators of how much time I’ve spent.  I choose to spend my time elsewhere.  (Yes, some things are vaguely skill based, inasmuch as they require raiding skill or social (asocial?) skills to manipulate a guild to do your bidding, but by and large, time is the biggest factor by far.)

By extension, it’s also why I can’t get worked up about playing these MMO things all that much in the first place, at least not long-term.  It’s fun to see your numbers go up and watch merely mortal mobs melt under your maleficent ministrations, but when it comes to feeling special as part of the game world, well… we’re all just heroes in our own minds.  Some of us play that role better than others (maybe because we have to to enjoy ourselves in a world of clones), but in the end, what do we have to show for it?

Are you really a rarity, a sparkling snowflake in a world of me-too caped heroes?  (Sadly, my Death Knight is no longer the only Sendoku.)

Somehow, I can’t make myself any more interested in being a level 80 Druid (or whatever) any more than I want to be an 80 year old Cube Jockey dual specced into Paperwork and Maintenance.  The journey itself has its share of great moments, certainly, but the destination is rather underwhelming, including the epics you have to show for it.  Perhaps a whirlwind spin through the Cataclysm will be fun, but like any good vacation spot, it’s not somewhere I’d really want to call home, or build a self image around.

tl;dr version, I’m still an Explorer, not an Achiever.  This applies to gear and loot as well as Achievements.

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The prince formerly known as Arthas obviously has issues.  Even as the Big Bad Lich King, he’s playing second fiddle to Deathwing in the recent WoW buzz about Cataclysm.  (I mean, really, which is cooler, a dragon the size of a skyscraper who can crack the earth itself, or a fallen undeadish prince with identity issues and virtual feuds with Ozzy Osbourne?)  Is it any wonder why he might be feeling a little lonely and ignored?

Arthas needs some TLC.

As you might remember, I got my grubby little hands on a copy of his biography, Arthas, Rise of the Lich King, which wound up bring a pretty good read, even though the titular character isn’t my cup of tea.  So, it’s far past time I pass it along to someone else who might want to give it a whirl.  I’m sure the prince himself would approve of spreading his message of death, doom and destruction, at any rate.

So, in the fine tradition of bloggish contests established by none other than the one and only Big Bear, I’m going to try a little something other than drawing a name out of a hat to find a new home for this lovely, er, brooding hardbound novel.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on this very lightly used book (I read it once and have taken very good care of it), all you have to do is engage in a little exercise and cross your fingers.

I want you to convert me.

Show me what class and race I should play World of Warcraft with.

With a hundred words or less and at least one screenshot (and up to three), or concept art, as the case may be, make your case about what I should be playing when Cataclysm comes knocking.  Whether it’s a Worgen Druid, a Blood Elf Warrior or plain old Gnome Warlock, anything goes.  What do you think I should play as?  (Assume I’d be starting it from scratch, with no fairy godmother twinking me.)

Pretty much anything goes, from snarky “you should be a Human Mage because you’re a bloviating windbag” to thoughtful “you like X so you should play as Y”.  A caveat, though:  sex doesn’t sell around here, and neither does profanity.

Please send your text and graphics to my bloggish email, silverwings.art at gmail.  I’ll take entries for the next, oh… two weeks or so, so if you get your entries in before 11:59 PM (Blizzard standard time) on September 8th, you’re set.  I’ll run things through my Judging Grinder of Doom and post a winner hopefully by the end of that week.  (I’ll contact the lucky one for mailing information at that time, so don’t sweat sending any of that sort of thing with your entry.)

I reserve the right to do something nice for any entry that I find particularly notable.  (Which usually means doing some sort of art, as might be noted in my Mini Portfolio.)  It’s not guaranteed, and it may take a lower priority after other art projects I have going, but I do enjoy crafting the occasional bit of WoW fan art.

I also reserve the right to post the winners and notable entries, but if you object to public display of your brilliance, just let me know in your entry and I’ll keep your work under wraps.  (It won’t affect the judging.)

Tally ho, then, and good luck!

Oh, and if nobody enters, well… I’ll find a way to break the news to Arthas.  (And in fact, if you don’t want the book, feel free to send along a consolation note to the prince.  I’m sure it’ll brighten his day.)

Edited to add:

Mama Druid asked a good question down there in the comments:

Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over?

To which I answered:

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”.

So don’t sweat it; this contest is all about the entries.  Make your case for what I should play, and that will be enough.  Though, if I do wind up playing it later, I’ll be sure to credit you and write some articles on it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by. Would you play if the winning argument, well, wins you over? :)

Since I haven’t the time to compose an appropriate entry, I’ll quickly suggest to you a male Troll Druid.

• Trolls are the least played race. Why, I do not know. Their lore is fascinating. Don’t let them become extinct!

• Male trolls are very entertaining. Their laugh, their dance, their myriad of hair/face paint/tusk combos… the male troll is just a fun loving guy. Besides, something’s gone wrong with the creation process for female trolls. Somehow 95% of them end up with the same face! I would stay away from that voodoo if I were you.

• Druid. I might be a bit biased, but with the druid class you can experience any component of the holy trinity with a mere respec and gear change. An added bonus is you have options with the dps third: melee or spellcaster. No other class can make the same claim.

I think I just talked myself into making a male Troll Druid of my own!


Wait, the Mama Druid? The one who had such awesome naming articles, but whose blog fell off the ‘net? If so, good to see you! If not, well… hello!

To answer the question, well… how about a solid “maybe”. I would *like* to, but finances might get in the way. If I have to buy the original WoW, TBC, Wrath *and* Cataclysm to get to play the winner’s suggestion, well, that’s an uphill battle. If I can just buy the base game and go to town, well, maybe $20 is worth playing WoW for a month to get a couple of articles and loads of screenshots out of it, right?

That said, whether or not I will actually wind up playing the winner’s suggestion is completely irrelevant for the judging. It might make for some fun articles, to be sure, watching me struggle with something I’m unfamiliar with, but for the sake of getting this Arthas novel a new home, let’s just leave it at “that would be a fun follow up”

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So you want permadeath in your game, hm?  OK, try this one on for size:

The Graveyard

Not only is the Granny’s death permanent, but it’s so hardcore that you have to buy the game to get the ability for her to die.  The demo just lets her linger on, alive as can be.

Or, you could always play Passage, another game where the hero will die, and his wife will die before him.

Or, if your tastes run to the Goth “life is terrible, kill me now” end of the spectrum, you could always try this little beastie that’s been making the rounds:

The Path

That one is disturbing, actually.  Your goal is to kill your characters.  In fact, if you do what you’re told and just go to Granny’s house, you are told in no unclear terms that you failed.  I guess it’s better than slitting your own wrists, but it’s certainly a new spin on the whole “The Evil We Pretend To Do” article.  It’s also interesting to me that game mechanics (“you failed!” and putting almost all of the dev work into the disobedient paths) can be used to make people try to kill these characters in rather horrible ways.  It is designed to make the player do very bad things, and to mess with your head.  (If this is what it is to be a Goth, I’ll pass, thanks.)

Call it a funhouse mirror or a “look into the Abyss” moment (which can have value, but only as warnings to illustrate what not to do), but this is exactly the sort of game that gives the industry a bad reputation.  (And movies that do the same thing, and books and so on; it’s not just games.)

Perhaps The Path is a deconstruction of the notion that games always let gamers be the hero, perhaps it’s a study on motivations, perhaps it’s a reminder that fairy tales in their original form were far from family friendly, I don’t know.  I do give it one thing, though:  The Path makes death more than just “killing monsters”, more than just a reason to restart at a checkpoint.  It does something to those who play it, by design.  Death matters, in all of its terrible implications and unfortunate connotations.  Making players be the instrument of that death (and events preceding it) illustrates the power of games as a medium.

I do think that power is abused in The Path.  Thankfully, Passage invites a more nuanced, less bleak set of musing on death.  I suspect that The Graveyard is similarly low-key.

Still, when MMO devs or “armchair designers” talk about using permadeath to make their world more interesting, or making players “respect the world”… I suspect that the nuances of death that this trio of games dig into are somewhat removed from what is being proposed.  While I have no use for The Path and the treatment of death in Passage (and maybe The Graveyard) is far too subtle for use in a sledgehammer MMO world (at least as a major mechanic), I think that far too often, the implications of “permadeath” in design lean too strongly in the direction of mechanics and trying to punish the player (to make victory sweeter or maybe just make people play more) rather than really trying to understand death itself.

I’ll turn it around, then.  Game designers, respect death more than you do, even those of you who call for permadeath in your games.  It’s not merely a punishment mechanic, it’s not something to toy with in an attempt to appear “dark and romantic”, it’s not Ozzy Osbourne killing chickens and rocking out with the Undead.  Caricaturing death does have value on occasion, but if games are to be more than vapid consumer fluff, a nuanced understanding of the implications of death will be part of it, and that will go far beyond the “wicked cool” heavy metal and demonic iconography, far beyond pithy murder and genocide simulators.

Side note:  This was written not only because of my allergic reaction to the very idea of The Path, but because some friends and family have lost loved ones lately.  Death matters.  Satirizing it and trivializing it can be a coping mechanism, but I do think that the sensitivity lost to gaming (what with all of the virtual bloodletting and dark themes glorifying negativity) is something precious that we give up too lightly.  Life isn’t all rainbows and marshmallow-pooping unicorns, but neither is it a bleak emoGoth BioShocked Fallout-radiated wasteland.  You don’t need to lose a foot in a bear trap to be grateful for being able to walk, and you don’t need to induge in a stream of darkness to appreciate the light.  Put a bit religiously, you don’t have to be the Prodigal Son to turn your eye to the good things in life.  Maybe I think too much about this sort of thing, but in an industry of vapid counterculture deconstructionist thought, it’s hard for me not to take a stand against what I consider to be troubling, and deleterious to the medium.

Oh, and get off my porch.

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…but not earth shaking.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

It actually looks pretty cool.  I’ve been arguing for revitalizing the “old world” of Azeroth for a while now… almost as long as I’ve kept this blog alive.  This looks to be a smart move by Blizzard.  Though I could be snarky about elements, like the underwater stuff potentially designed to trump underwater exploration in GW2, I do think this is overall great work by Blizzard.  Time will tell how it turns out, I suppose.

They do have some guts to change the world for everyone, though.  No fancy phasing for high level characters on a whirlwind tour back through the slums, this is a real change for everyone.  I’ve also argued that changing things that way is OK for MMOs, and it’s nice to see the gorilla in the room making some significant changes.

Of course, the one change that they could have made to get me on board is one they haven’t actually embraced.  You still have to pay the sub fee, and you still have to get all of the expansions to get the most recent stuff, including the new races.  Bleh.  Blizzard, it’s the perfect time to package up the Old World and sell it as a standalone offline game.  Let the late adopters play with the old world that you’ve consigned to history.  (And those with a nostalgia kick would pick it up too.)

The concept art page is awesome, though.  It makes me want to go draw and paint, which is always a good thing.

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Hit the Dirt

So, if Gamasutra is to be believed, this “Dust 514″ thing is a new CCP (of EVE Online fame) project that introduces a “dirtside” aspect to the EVE universe, specifically for console gamers.  It’s supposed to be a part of EVE, inasmuch as the “EVE proper” players and the Dust 514 players will have effects on each other, fighting on different fronts in the same war.

That’s a different notion of MMO console/PC cross pollination than I’ve seen so far (including the Champions Online proposed console version, not unlike FFXI’s PS2 version).  If anything, it reminds me a bit of Savage, where you could be a “general” commanding troops in typical RTS form, or a “foot soldier” on the ground, executing the orders firsthand.

I like it.  It’s an interesting idea that lets the devs tailor the gameplay to the hardware and the player base.  PCs and consoles do have significant differences between them, and it’s smart to play to the strengths of each.  I’m not sure if the different sets of players will play nice, or if the intersection will be significant enough to offer some fun interactions.  Still, this looks like a pretty cool idea.

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Happy Blog Birthday, Ysharros!

Stylish Corpse

Here’s to many more years of ponderous pontification and witty writing!  (Whether bloggish or otherwise.)


In other news, a fond farewell to Saylah of Mystic Worlds.  It’s been a good ride, and I wish you well with whatever you get around to doing.


So um, yeah… go read some of their stuff already!  There’s not much going on around here at the moment.

*wanders off, whistling off tune, innocently plotting world domination*

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Rabid Vampires

I’ve not poked much fun at Twilight, mostly because it feels too much like swatting a fly with a howitzer.  Beside that, better minds than mine have taken stabs at it recently.  (Unfortunately, not with a wooden stake.)

Professor Beej – Mindless Fun

Still, when it’s lampooned effectively, I can’t help but chuckle.

Sam and Fuzzy

Sam’s comment in the first panel neatly sums up what I think of vampires and the whole “goth emo” scene, but it’s Fuzzy’s comment in the last panel really sells it for me.

*Yes, I’m still busy with the book illustration and other assorted projects, but I had to get these little silly things out of my system by foisting them off on visitors.  Lucky you.  I’ll be back to my semiserious “deep thoughts” (thanks, Ixo!) later.  I’ve got some game design to talk about next week.  Or later, depending on, well, everything.*

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UV Stretching

I work as an artist in the game industry.  My BFA degree is in Computer Animation.  I spend a lot of time creating and critiquing computer graphics.  (And yes, I wish I were working at Pixar.  More accurately, I wish they would establish a studio close to my alma mater so I could work there.)

So when I took a quick look at this:

Stickney Crater

My first reaction was “they have a little UV stretching going on there, they should fix that, it’s sloppy work”.  Of course, it’s a photograph.  (A color enhanced one, but still, that’s a mugshot of dear old Phobos.)

…maybe I really should go back and get that PhD in Astrophysics like I’ve always wanted to.  Or get back to work on those illustrations…

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Erwin Schroedinger may or may not have liked cats.  Considering his famous thought experiment, one might detect a bit of antipathy towards the critters, as he willingly thought of them in mortal peril, but then, we don’t really know until we open the box and find out.

Do we really know what Star Wars: The Old Republic will be like?  Do we really know what the next Final Fantasy will be like?  Do we know what the next blockbuster game will be that shapes the game industry?

The future is in a bit of a quantum uncertainty state, especially considering the economic stresses and a lot of shadow play behind the financial scenes.  The game industry as a whole is juggling concerns of used games, digital sales, DRM, legal wrangles, censorship, business models and economic viability, and a butterfly over in the Federal Reserve can create storms for the industry at large.

Each individual game that we don’t know about can be said to be in a similar state.  Until each one of us takes a long, hard look and observe something, can we really be sure what it is?  Perhaps most importantly, do we know what it is for us?  Observation and objectivity are kissing cousins, but in the absence of omniscience, all we have is a set of probabilities and guesstimates, measurements of trust and “weighing the options”.  Numbered “reviews” are just one shallow, biased tip of the informational iceberg that constitutes an informed purchase.

For example, I love the Valkyrie Profile games.  I played the original on a whim, since it was developed by Tri Ace, the guys behind Star Ocean: The Second Story.  (A game I picked up on sale and counted myself lucky to have done so.  It’s a great game.)  I picked up the second Valkyrie Profile (Silmeria) a year or two ago, and have enjoyed it as well.  Prowling around Goozex, I happened to notice a third game in the series, a tangential Tactical RPG for the Nintendo DS.  Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume looked interesting, since I’ve been enamored with Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre of late, so I put in a request for it, and wandered over to GameFAQS to check out the reviews and comments on the game.

It doesn’t have a lot of press exposure (a perpetual problem with the VP series), so there are just a handful of reviews.  They tend to fall into two camps, not unlike Schroedinger’s superimposed cat.  Reviewers tend to either really like the game or really dislike it.  There’s another divisive set of opinions, and it’s curious to me that they don’t perfectly intersect with the “like/dislike” split.  Some reviewers think the game is abusively hard, while others think it’s too easy.  There are very few opinions in the middle.  Some like hard tactics games, but think CotP is too easy, so they rate it poorly.  Some like easy games, but think it’s hard, so they rate it poorly.  Some like hard games and see it as hard, so they like it, and some like easy games and see it as easy, so they like it.

It’s actually a lot like genetics, with a Punnet square mapping out the probabilities of player response to the game across the two axes:  Like vs. Dislike, Hard vs. Easy.  Any given player will have their own phenotypical reaction to the game that can only be experienced firsthand, and is entirely dependent on the player.

I find this sort of review set to be more useful than a universally hailed game that nearly everyone drools over.  The smaller sample and clear delineation of opinions is more useful to me in determining my possible reaction to the game than a few hundred mini reviews worshipping something like GTA3, which I hold only in contempt (due to the subject matter rather than the structure).  Of course, clear writing and explanation of why those scores are what they are is a huge help.

At any rate, even though there is a nice set of quantum probabilities for CotP, and I had a fairly good bead on where I’d sit in the Punnet square, I still had to observe firsthand what the game held before I could really know for myself what my response would be.  I found myself looking forward to what I thought the game would be, and hoping for certain specifics.  The game was in a state of quantum flux, or at least, my observation of the game was in a state of flux.  I was cautiously excited and optimistic.

Sometimes, this is the best part of gaming.

It’s interesting to me that sometimes I like that period of anticipation and imagination better than the experience of actually playing a game.  It’s certain that I have more control over my perceptions at that point, and the game is more a product of my imagination than the developers’ work.  It can be everything I dreamed it to be and more.

This is not coincidentally how game development works as well.  Devs have great ideas about what they want to do, and it’s only as the project moves on through time that the quantum states settle down… sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.  This is why the concept stage of a project can be far more exciting than the production phase.

Hype machines, like that built around SWTOR, are the game equivalent of a flux capacitor, framing the experience in such a way that people can superimpose their own wishes and aspirations on the game and get excited about it.  Even though no two people will have the same genotype, they can still get excited about what the game might be when that box is opened.  Good hype magnifies the flux, letting players rush ahead with their own imagination.  Great hype keeps the capacitor from overloading by injecting just enough stabilizing reality to keep expectations within the reach of the developers, or at least within a few percent of reality.

Of course, with all of this, reality doesn’t always comply.  It’s wise to temper expectations, since reality doesn’t usually measure up to our wishes.  This is why sometimes the heady rush of “what might be” is more exciting and fun than the mundane realizations about “how things really are“.

This is why I love being a creative sort of person.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the “what if” and “if only” aspects of life.  Then I go out and create, making imagination into reality.  It’s a nice mix of dreaming and work that I find very satisfying.

This is also why I keep wishing that games would allow players to control more things about the game, making more choices with consequences that reflect the player’s actions, rather than their reactions to dev-imposed ideas.  The reality of a tightly scripted game on rails doesn’t mesh well with the freeform expectations of many players who succumb to the hype machine.  If a game is designed to give players control and mold the game’s reality into something more closely approximating the players’ dreams, it has a chance of forging a deeper connection with the player.

Not all games can work like that, but I think that the best games will try to give players as much control as possible.  It’s why storytelling in games is more about how the player acts and reacts, and less about what the devs created.  It’s one thing to “play” through a barely interactive movie, it’s quite another to mold a game world to your whim.  (And notably, even in something like FFX or FFXII, players are given significant control over how their characters develop.  That is no mistake or coincidence, and without that control, the games would be significantly weaker as games, and may as well have been movies like Final Fantasy: Advent Children.  It’s a different sort of storytelling.  Both are certainly valid and valuable, but will scratch different itches.)

We may not be able to hold on to that “what if” Schroedinger dream state as we go through life, but the more power we have to make the most of what reality does come our way, the happier we are likely to be.  That usually just means controlling ourselves in the real world, and our reactions to events.  In games, though, where “what if” is a key component of how games work and how the narratives function, players can have extraordinary power.  It is a blessing and a curse of games, part of their unique potential and power, and it needs to be exercised carefully.

*Addendum*  I wrote this in bits and pieces, and since starting it, writing about Role Playing has rippled through those blogs that I frequent.  Wolfshead has a great article up, and Psychochild wrote another great one earlier, and even the Rampant Coyote chimes in, each linking to other ones worth reading.  This is tangential to those concerns, but some of the themes of Role Playing intersect neatly with the ideas here espoused.  Namely, player imagination and power to change the world, since those tend to be huge tools for the player interested in playing a Role within one of these MMO worlds.

I’ve actually always thought that would be the draw of these games, to be able to assume a new identity within a completely fictional world, taking part in and changing things aggording to those “what if” questions.  The reality to date has been somewhat… different, and ultimately, underwhelming in my eyes.  I’m actually not all that disappointed, since such design might have the potential to be even more distracting from the real world, and the current generation of these games is plenty deleterious as is.  Still, current MMO design is so underwhelming compared to what I imagined for the genre years ago (reading ads for Ultima Online) that I can’t help but just be less than interested in playing them much.  Designing them, now… that’s another thing entirely.

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