Thursday, March 11, 2010

He's Dead, Jim....

With all due respect to Dr. Leonard McCoy, we are all eventually going to die.  How, when and where are unlikely to be of our choosing.  I bring this up because it became an interesting part of our class today when we watched the South Park episode that revolves around the kid's involvement in World of Warcraft.  Yes... my class it just completely that cool.  Jealous much?

So in this episode, the kid's characters keep getting killed by this uber tough mostly naked warrior.  In fact, he kills everyone in the game, including the admins, forcing the kids to have to beef up their characters using a serious grind:  hide out in the forest where the bad man couldn't find them, and kill all the boars for 2 xp... over... and over... and over again... mmmmmmmmmmmmm, pork, the other white meat.  But it was the reaction to "dying" in the game that was funniest.  All the blizzard employees, all the kids, and one of the kids' parents were horrified that they would die... die... die!!! How terrible!!!  We must not let this happen!!!!  Get out the sword of uber kick ass!!!!

Here we have all the stereotypes of the gaming world rolled up into a little ball:  the gamer as a hero; the hero who in real life is actually a fat, pimply, disgusting slob with no life; the ramifications of griefing in games and how it can turn something intended to be pleasurable into something that's not; the grind of gaining levels doing the same thing over and over again ad nauseam, which reduces something fun to something that is dull and boring and all too much like the way we go through much of the rest of our life.  The inability of game companies to seem to recognize how to balance the needs of one type of player with another.

I have recognized in my advanced old age that all these traits are part of who I am  (other then the fat, pimply thing of course... I'm devastatingly handsome as anyone can tell you).  But recognition of them has led to a reduction of the symptoms to some degree.  I play City of Heroes from time to time, but always take long breaks from it, and almost never these days play for more then an hour or so at a time in a day.  I have yet to max out my first character (though I'm darn close to that level 50 I'm striving for) even though I've had my account since the day it was released.  When I was younger I was the gamer hero, playing for hours and days, relegated to sleeping on the couch by a girlfriend who failed to understand my obsession (rightly so I have to admit in hindsight). And I took my death in games much too seriously, growing angry and frustrated at the failures, and righteously indignant if it occurred at the hands of another player.

But death...  right now I know it all too well in its real form, not the mocking satirical death presented by the show.  My wife's grandmother passed away earlier this week, which has been hard on her family.  And my oldest brother has been diagnosed with lung cancer, possibly bone cancer as well and possibly a very rare kind.  His prognosis is not good, and I'm faced with the possibility that, after all these many years, someone near and dear to me might die in the very near future.  I hope for the best... but I still feel some dread in the background, the thought of losing someone I grew up with and who has been an integral part of my life.  I've never lost anyone close to me before, not in the permanent, forever way that death brings.  Death by neglecting relationships is a whole different issue of course.

For me... how can I take death in a game too seriously when faced with that?  Now let's go put on our red shirts and see what happens during the away mission.  Energize, Scotty...

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