Saturday, November 19, 2011

When I Live My Dream

Actually, the 1960s pretty much was an MMO...

Okay, this is getting a little recursive, but SynCaine linked something Loque Nohak said in a comment on Tobold's blog the other day that got me thinking.

The relevant part is "coming from WoW it seems I’ve been playing a videogame for small children". It tied in with a conversation I had with a friend recently about the movie version of "We've Got To Talk About Kevin". My friend had been to see it and didn't rate it all that highly. I was saying that I'd heard good things about it, but I wasn't really interested in going to see it because I feel like I'm about done with being "challenged" by entertainment.

Bring it on, bad guy!
From my early teens right through to my early forties I probably wouldn't have said that, or felt it. I'd have been much more likely to search out amusements that stretched me at least a little, that made me think, even shook me up some. Even if I hadn't wanted the experience I'd at least have felt it would be good for me.

I didn't really notice when I stopped feeling that way. Maybe it happened when I started playing Everquest . Maybe it was already happening and that's why I connected so strongly with MMOs when I found them. Either way, I think it must have happened around about the same time, a dozen or so years ago.

I bet it's not that deep
In many ways playing MMOs is an unchallenging activity. It mostly involves you sitting in a chair and pressing some buttons. You do have to be literate; MMOs use an enormous amount of text. But playing MMOs is certainly something a fairly young child can do. If MMOs had been around when I was a child, though, I'm not at all sure I would have been interested.

I was a happy child, by and large. Much of my childhood consisted of roaming around the countryside, alone or with my cousin, often with a gang of kids. We were always exploring. We found small caves and ruined buildings, waded across rivers to islands, spent countless hours in the woods, climbing trees and building dens. We hunted (for animals to catch alive and bring home and try to keep as pets). We had fights and played games and made friends and enemies.

Middle Earth - about a mile from my house
I grew up not very far from the parts of England Tolkien had in mind when he thought up the Shire and my favorite parts of most MMOs are the little starting towns and villages and the countryside around them. Those places tend to look a lot like where I grew up and my characters' lives in MMOs sometimes do seem remarkably similar to my life as a child.

So, calling an MMO "a videogame for small children" doesn't seem like that much of a criticism to me. As I get older I find that I appreciate more and more those things that bring back to me what life was like when I was very young. I've been an adult a long time and it's not really all that when you get down to it, is it? On balance I reckon I could have done with being a child for longer. MMOs help with that.

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