Shedding the Illusion

I picked up a somewhat recent DC comics collection from the library recently. Reading it, I realized I was not sure which apocalypse it came after. For most of my life, DC Comics has been resetting its world frequently. They do a multi-year story counting down to the apocalypse, a year-long apocalypse, and then a few years of a fresh new universe before starting the next countdown. Someone once said that there were three essential stories about a hero: the origin, the death, and everything else. DC has refined that into a business model. Every cycle, you get a new origin, a new death, and a chance to play with all the best stories and villains that have come before. As with the Silver Age, where stories were repeated because readership was expected to turnover every few years, few readers will be sticking around for enough cycles to get annoyed with it. If you do? Congratulations, you are the sort of fan who will keep reading anyway, so your money is already guaranteed.

I got over this annoyance all at once. Suddenly, it did not matter, so the story could live in the moment. Whatever continuity baggage it may have acquired, your favorite version of Blue Beetle or Supergirl, whatever — you have the story in front of you, and it stands or falls on its own. Every character is now an alternate character interpretation. Everything you like or hate will be reset in a few years anyway, so it does not matter which DC universe this is. The characters may be sixty years old, but they only “exist” in the present.

This is our gaming world. Games start and they end. There is a meta-game about which League of Legends champion is overpowered or how your favorite sports team will do in the next draft, but the game and the season in front of you are what matter. You have one hour to build from nothing to a satisfying conclusion.

And, behind the veil, this is our MMO gaming world. You will come and go, and nothing you do will have mattered except to the people who experienced it. We have the illusion of persistence, but you will quit playing, just like any other game; servers will shut down and everything will be erased, just like any other game. Within your lifetime, the computer environment that ran these games will need to be emulated, because no existing computer will run your MMO without more effort than goes into playing a game off a 5.25″ floppy on your laptop. Someone will have an EQ progression server set up, and others will view them like Civil War re-enactors.

Of course what you lose in this iteration is the ability to tell several categories of meaningful or significant stories. DC’s “Cry For Justice” series, for example, was driven by the death of a major character. The person leading the “Cry” had come just back from the dead, and pretty much everyone else in the room had as well, some of them in the last year. When the Flash ran himself out of existence fighting the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, that was a powerful moment; you cannot repeat it with a half-dozen other Flashes, and it retroactively cheapens it when you resurrect the sacrificed. GW Eye of the North has a story arc that ends with a death that would be much more compelling if the son giving the eulogy had not died five times in the mission leading up to that cinematic.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Shedding the Illusion”

  1. We have the illusion of persistence, but you will quit playing, just like any other game; servers will shut down and everything will be erased, just like any other game.

    More importantly, the people that made spending 7000 hours in WoW enjoyable can grow apart and drift away. In which case, it matters not whether the world grew stale or shut down; the game is over for you just the same.

  2. What matters is the moment, the moment with your friends and the advanture. It will never last and it will be short. I enjoyed those moments and it is something hard to find.

    But once it is gone, I will not linger and move on. However, for some they continue to stay (e.g. WoW) like a ghost in the past.

    Sometimes I envie those kind of feelings they had, yet sad it haunts them.

    The song “The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony” discribed those moments perfectly.

  3. “And, behind the veil, this is our MMO gaming world. You will come and go, and nothing you do will have mattered except to the people who experienced it.”

    Is the qualifier “MMO gaming” really necessary? I refer you to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”.

    I’ve never felt that anything I do in an MMO differs in any meaningful way from anything I do outside of one. I have one life and whatever I’m doing I’m living it as fully as if I was doing any other thing.

    1. This, a million times. Why is gaming, especially MMO gaming, seen by others as a waste of time, a non-persistent activity? Why is watching TV not in the same boat? Just because reading as a hobby has been around a couple hundred years does not make it much different. Does knitting qualify even though most of the time what is being knit is some BS that no one wants?

      I feel in large part the stigmata of gaming comes largely from it being seen by “them” as a non-social activity. It is selfish even if in MMOs we are playing with people, even if we are talking about it in forums and on blogs. “They” don’t see how it is shared. That’s my two bit laymen’s hypothesis anyway.

      1. Simply because the age group for MMO gaming is based around teenage years. But some people failed to realise that those age groups from ten years ago have maturised (if this is even a word) into grown-ups.

        I personally believe it is a very social orientated activity. Just because you cannot see the person behind their avatar does not mean you are not seeing them, in their most natural and real form.

        Sometimess I believe gaming can be educational as well, since it provides an incentive for a person to open up their mind and accept whatever information is being tramsmitted in front of them. But whether the information recieved has a positive or negative effect is very mcuh depend upon the actual person.

        From gaming I learned to accept that “never judge a person by his looks”. I learned this after I met a 14 year old who is more literate amd polite then an 30 year-old adults I have met. As well as “greed will be ones demise”. I learned this from tower diving in League of Legends. Needless to say I never tower dived again unless I have the cofidence to come back out alive.

  4. If you zoom out far enough, sure, it does not matter. Keep zooming out and your entire life ‘does not matter’.

    That aside, the friends I made during WoW are still my friends today. Our ‘epic’ first defeat of Rag is still a memory we all share. When we move on to the next game, that memory does not fade or become less memorable. Joking about past guild mates or success/failure still happens.

    The applicable skills of running a guild don’t fade because I moved on to another game. Being ‘good’ at MMOs transfers from one game to another somewhat. Sure the Simon-Says parts don’t, but the approach, the mentality, the expectations, all of that does.

    If you fully ‘reset’ after every game, I’m pretty sure you are doing it wrong.

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