Saturday, August 23, 2014

Do Mages Dream of Digital Sheep?

So I'm in the enviable position of having at least two games (SWTOR and WOW) that I regularly play that have announced expansions to be released sometime this fall.  And I'm not going to have to wait until release day, because both of these games have developed pre-release content. Being a narrative gamer, I am promised an enormous amount of story content to look forward to.  It's almost going to be too much to stay current on both games, so I'm planning to take my time and set my own pace through the stories. 

This is marked change from where things were just three months ago, when both these same games were in the midst of content droughts and my characters were basically in drone mode.  Now, I'm definitely not a live action roleplayer.  If someone were to offer an interaction on an RP server, I wouldn't have clue what I was doing.

That being said, I like to imbue my characters with a life of their own.  As I'm playing them I take on the stance of an author and envision how the differing backgrounds and professions of my characters would affect their reactions to the events of the game.  My night elf character would have a different, much more personal response to the Siege of Orgrimmar given the incursions into Ashenvale, than my basically disinterested draenei.  My cool, aloof hunter would have a very different perspective from the frenzied shaman.

When I'm playing characters, I tend to remember my own history with them as well.  They bring with them their own personal accomplishments.  The hunter brings Molten Core raiding from a long time ago, while my resto druid carries the burden of many months of running ICC normal (in permanent tree form) while it was current. 

The character I spent many hours pushing to exalted with the Klaxxi, or searching for eggs with the Order of the Cloud Serpents, or dying repeatedly to tigers in Timeless Isle - I can still feel a memory of that frustration or triumph or teamwork even in something as transitory as a video game.

There's a part of me that smiles at this foolish indulgence, anthropomorphizing paper dolls.  I'm having fun playing a game; why not just accept that for what it is without trying to reach for something that isn't there? But another part has to grudgingly acknowledge that there is something there, whether I reach for it or not.  It's part of how I know whether a new title is for me: do I begin to feel anything for this new character I've created.

The interesting thing to me is that these characters only come alive as individuals when they are in motion.  Give them six months of inaction, or grinding dailies and the color slowly drains away from them and they become drones again. They return to their base state as game tokens. I'm moving the top hat, or the iron around the Monopoly board.

I think this is how I know when I'm getting burned out.  The characters begin to feel dead to me and I need to move on to something that feels more alive, to a world that feels more alive.  As I look forward to the fall, these slumbering characters begin to take on more color.  As I think about what I'm going to do first or which profession might be more important early, individual characters come to mind and come to life.

This is the power of storytelling for me.  This is the difference for me between a MORPG and another game of Battlefront.  I might enjoy both of them but they aren't the same.

Post twenty-three in the Blaugust challenge to post once a day for the 31 days of August.

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