Monday, July 23, 2018

Get Real

After I got home from work last night (yes, on a Sunday. Poor me, eh?) I had my tea and logged on to GW2 to do my dailies. Three hours later I logged off, having done nothing but World vs World from the moment I logged in. This morning, just after ten, I logged into GW2 to do my dailies. Four hours later I logged off to have lunch, having done nothing but WvW from the moment I logged in.

World vs World isn't in a good place right now. Balance, as usual, is all to hell. Population across the board is at an all-time low, reflecting the general interest - or rather lack thereof - in the game mode. Among the people who are still playing there's a sense of fin-de-siecle recklessness. Everyone knows we're living in the end days. We just don't know the exact moment of our demise.

While we wait for ANet to iterate and reiterate on the Alliance proposal, grinding it down until they abrade every last shard of interest and enthusiasm from its imagined sheen, preparing the dull, inert husk we'll be expected to inhabit thereafter and forever, the more excitable, self-appointed community cheerleaders are running their own unofficial pre-alliance beta, stacking servers and gutting guilds as they go, leaving a trail of chaos and tears in their wake.

Matches mean nothing and haven't for months. Many would say years. World vs world has descended into self-parody, or possibly ascended into archetype. Those NPCs who talk about the endless wars in the Mists, the battles without purpose or glory or end, the eternal Valhalla of the not-yet dead? It turns out they were on the money all along.

Conversations with people you don't know about things you don't understand. #VirtuallLife.

As I was driving back from the shops before I started playing this morning I heard a brief snatch of a radio program angsting over screen-time for children. An Expert opined that parents need to provide exciting alternatives to convince their addicted offspring that there are more exciting prospects in gaming (yes, in gaming - the goal was merely to move to more rewarding gaming options, not away from the games themselves, let alone the screens) than winning another battle royale in Fortnite.

Are there, though? Really? Are you sure about that?

Raph Koster, someone who gives every indication of being exhausted by the way the world has turned, is quoted by Massively:OP as saying (on Twitter, naturally, because where else does one go for philosophical insight these days?)

“Certainly no one has ever accused me of being non-passionate about online worlds or non-innovative with MMOs… and yet I don’t enjoy most of them these days. My inspirations for better ones mostly comes from outside what has become a stagnant field…”
 M:OP spins that into a discussion document. I did comment. I said I liked MMOs, still like them, can't see why I shouldn't. I didn't add that I wished people who didn't like them would just bugger off and find something they do like instead. But I thought it.

Zubon, in a much more thought-provoking post, which will see far less attention, takes aim at permanence. Waxing unusually poetic, he concludes:

"Your parents tell you to be careful what you post online, because the internet is forever. Maybe some of your data is archived forever, but much of it is as lasting as a fallen leaf. It grew. It changed colors. It feel beautifully and perhaps unseen. In the spring it was dust, new mulch for new growth."

I commented there, too. "Same as everything else, then", I said.

Really, what do people expect? This is Existentialsm 101, isn't it? We're here, we do stuff, we die. Nothing matters except that we make it matter. Our experience defines us and we define it.

Existentialism is a little out of fashion, you'd think. That was the 1950s, wasn't it? The 1960s. It helped if you were French. Sartre, de Beauvoir, la Nouvelle Vague...

Everyone needs a purpose in life.

Then, authenticity is the defining trope of existentialism, isn't it? And what's the defining trope of the foremost philosophy in popular culture (Western) of the last decade? (That's Hipsterism in case you don't have your schedule to hand). Why, Authenticity. Of course it is.

Can the virtual be authentic? Is your online experience as experiential as your offline? Are your Facebook friends real friends? These are the burning questions of the day.

How much does it matter that things matter for it to matter that they matter to you? If Stonemist Castle changes hands outside your time zone does it make a sound? If I spend two hours building arrowcarts and escorting yaks to take our spare Hills (the one we keep on on SBI's borderland) to T3, then log off and never think of it again, have I been dilligent and productive or self-indulgent and childish?

I dunno. Don't look at me, I majored in English not Ethics. I just know that I did what I wanted to do and I don't regret a minute of it.

When the time comes - and let's hope it doesn't come any time soon - I hope I can say with my last breath "I wish I'd played more video games". Maybe "I wish I'd played more world vs world".


  1. These days my criteria for whether a game -- or any life experience, really -- is worth my time is, "Will this make a good memory?"

    I stopped playing Heroes of the Storm because I realized I'd been playing it almost every day for about two years, and while I'd enjoyed myself all that time, I could count on one hand the number of happy memories I have of the game and have enough fingers left over to comfortably hold a coffee mug. I regret spending so much time on that game.

    On the other hand, I have so many happy memories of playing TSW I could spend a whole day talking about them. I don't regret a minute of the time I spent in that game.

    You can apply the same philosophy to anything, really. A few weeks ago I went to a Chvrches concert, and as much as I enjoyed myself in the moment, I think what really makes it worth the time and money is the way I'll be able to revisit that moment in my memory every time I listen to Forever.

    1. I tend to agree with that but keeping a blog has really brought it home to me how very little I do actually remember, even when it's something that apparently made a big impact on me at the time. This blog is chock full of posts where I go on at length about something I seemed to believe at the time was important or exciting or memorable but which I can now scarcely even recall when I read my own words.

      It's not just gaming, either. I used to have a selection of anecdotes about my life, going back decades, which I would bring out at opportune moments. I used to think of each retelling as polishing the memory like a semi-precious stone. Then one day I decided I was becoming a bore with my old stories so I made a deliberate decision to stop repeating them. I was largely sucessful but the result is that now, when I try to remember those anecdotes, I can't recall how they go. Memories are like skills, you have to practice them.

  2. The people who don't like what MMORPGs are now will be the people who try to change what they can be going forward.
    I go back and forth on how appealing an idea that is.

    1. I kind of cleave to the idea that it's ok to look to the future without feeling you have to deny the past.


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