Real Life v Metaverse: which do you prefer? Thursday, Jul 30 2009 

/afk with Real Life

I started this blog with the best of intentions, hoping to publish three to four pieces of content each week. Some of it short, trivial and fun (like the Postcards series) and others a bit more reflective on gaming in general.

However, RL (real life) has a way of intruding.

The wife caught one of those nasty flu viruses and the bub decided she didn’t want to sleep much. Work was also incredibly busy, with numerous budget and staff issues to attend too. The life of middle management is never dull. Well, it is dull. Just busy. It was I’d like to call WFH (week from hell). As far as metaverse activities where concerned, the best I could do was hold my Wednesday 9.30 Naxx raid spot.

So, now that the worst of the virus and sleep issues have passed, back to blogging.

Real Life v Metaverse: which do you prefer?

The whole last week made me think about the artificial split between “real life” and the metaverse gamers such as myself inhabit. MMO gamers are part human, part game accessory (transhuman as the more trendy part of sociology would have it) . We’re plugged into a virtual reality via a game client, which most of us customise via add-on programs to handle a data rich environment.

Compound this with the head sets we wear to participate in game chat (i.e. Vent) and we look like day traders or fighter pilots. We’re mean, lean metaverse fighting machines… and yet at the same time we live in the world of jobs, spouses, children and families.

Both can be demanding.

Committing to raiding is almost a life style choice. It requires an understanding of your class, boss fights and how to best work in a group. Research outside the game world can take hours per week. At the same time, I’m a father, husband and senior professional. These aren’t light personal commitments. How does one do justice to the other? What comes first?

Obviously RL does. It’s part of the tacit, unspoken code of all gamers. Raids can wait. The boss will respawn every week, and you can go back and kill him/her/them next week. My guild explicity states that RL always comes first.

However, during the WFH experience I experienced a moment that I’m sure any gamer/raider has felt:

“Gosh, I wish all I had to worry about was raiding. To hell with everything and everyone else!”

That fantasy of living in a small, remote shack with a kick arse web connection danced across my mind. I could grow my own vegetables, live a simple life and raid, write and blog.

“Perchance to dream…”

/sigh

But of course such fantasy life is not possible. But it did make me ask the question: “Where would I live? In the real world, or by magic I could live in Azeroth/Middle Earth/Earth Sea/Generic Fantasy World?”

Part of the attraction, which I may have already mentioned in passing, is the escapism that MMO’s and the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre’s offer. Playing the part of the hero is very attractive. In RL most of don’t feel that we are in control of our lives. Bad jobs, bad marriages, the stress of maintaining a mortgage. The world itself seems too much to deal with: terrorism, global warming, the global financial crisis.

All of it seems too damn hard. Most of it can’t be controlled by the individual. Your choices seem so limited. What difference can you make anyway?

So why wouldn’t the chance to play the part of a hero in a small community (i.e your “Guild”) not appear to be more attractive.

Running a dungeon with guild mates, downing a boss and healing your friends offers instant gratification, recognition and respect. You can see the difference you make. People will thank you for the part you play. You feel far more in control of this part of the “world”.

So dear reader(s): which do you prefer?

RL or that corner of the metaverse you’ve managed to call home?

RL/Metaverse Dualism: time to end the dichotomy?

The conclusion that I’ve come to over the years is that for some of us both RL and our place in the metaverse are equally important. I like to think I’m committed to my career, friendships, family and relationships as  any “normal” person. But the guild I belong too in WoW, and the people associated with that guild are also important in ways those outside the MMO community can’t understand.

I’ve been in my guild, Mortal Wombat, just shy of four years now. I joined not too long after the launch of WoW. I was an officer from the start and have continued to hold that role. I helped recruit, build a new web site and have acted temporary Guild Leader on more than one occasion. The guild has experienced it’s fair share of “drama”, but I’ve stuck with both the game and the same guild. I’ve developed a couple of very good, genuine friendships over the years (/waves at my dear friend).

In early 2008 the guild went through a profound crises as the then guild leader went into melt down and drove away most of the membership. A couple of us stuck around and helped rebuild it. Now, the guild is the strongest it’s ever been with two raid teams, a permanent roster of raiders and a “Naxx 25 man” about to start up.

It takes a village to make a guild

The experience of early 2008 was intense, as intense as a crisis I’ve felt in RL. I lost many “friends” during that time, people I’d gamed with for almost two years simply vanished. I felt genuine grief. However both myself and the new guild leader threw ourselves into rebuilding the guild. We did so, and the reformed guild is the basis the thriving community that exists today. I feel intensely proud of that achievement. The hard work paid off. I look at Mortal Wombat and think “I helped build this”.

Myself and others put these peole together. We built this website. We run our raids. We’ve been going strong for four years now.

/smiles

Now that I’ve entered the world of raiding, the respect of my fellow guildies is important. I’m keen to show I have what it “takes” in terms of commitment and effectiveness in my role of damage dealer (Retribution Paladin). We have some increadible tanks, healers and damage dealers in our raid teams. Getting a private tell form one of them saying “Great job” or “Good job Aug” makes me feel proud.

The best analogy for a truly successful guild is that of the “village”.

A small community, whose members are known to each other. Some you know better than others. Others are new, but are welcomed with open arms. Some of them leave, and are truly missed. Some are “expelled” for disrupting the life of the community.

In last nights Naxxramas raid the effectiveness of the team really began to show it self. It’s only the second week, and we’re starting to one shot bosses (i.e. we kill the boss on the first attempt without everyone in the raid group dying). After the final boss went down we congradualted ourselves on how much we had improved, even in that short period of time.

You could feel the pride within the group, the sense that we were growing together.

So where would I live: RL or Metaverse?

I choose both worlds.

I don’t see the need to draw a distinction anymore.

Friendships and relationships in the real world can be as fleeting or as deep as those in the metaverse. I enjoy the feeling of respect from friends, professional peers and guild mates. If I make a commitment to raid a certain night, it’s not simply because I want to “chase the purples” or see end game content.

I come because I’ve told the people in my community I’ll be there, and that they can rely on me. I’ll come hoping to demonstrate my willingness to learn and become an effective member of the raid team.

Yep, I choose both worlds.

The challenge, or the art, is in balancing both of these.

Fear and trembling: getting ready for Naxx raiding Tuesday, Jul 21 2009 

OK, I’m well behind the experience curve as far as WoW raiding goes.

I’ll be making the transition from casual player to hardcore, leet, uber-paladin when I step into Naxxramas this week.

Reading the boss strategies, getting my potions and consumables from the Auction House. Got me Vent head set good and ready.

Raiding was always the thing every one else did. Now I’m going to experience the fabled end game.

Here I go…!!!!!!

Ready, set... Naxx!

Ready, set... Naxx!

Postcards: How hard is it to find a good book guys? Monday, Jul 20 2009 

Hi all, Augusteena here!

When I go on holidays I need something light to read. Normally I carry the “Life of Sigmar” with me everywhere as it helps me heal. But, really, who doesn’t want something lighter to read! Luckily books are can be found lying around Nordland, thanks the locals either being dead or having run off. Problem is it’s not exactly holiday reading. I mean, “War and Priest: my life as a Warrior Priest” and “Demon Summing for Dummies” ain’t exactly light reading. Oh well, shall keep looking!

Hugs!

XOXO

So many choices! All sooooooo dull!

So many choices! All sooooooo dull!

Want to be a hero in an MMO? Be that person. Monday, Jul 20 2009 

Hero with a thousand faces
One of the great promises MMOs make to players is the chance to be a hero. You’re the knight in shining armour, the ONE who makes a difference. Typically you arrive at a village to see a question mark or icon above an NPC.

“Say there <Your Name Here>, our village is under attack by an army of undead ghouls! Would you be as kind as to enter yonder forest and slay them for us? In return I shall give you the Mighty Sword of Mightiness…”

And off you go into the forest, slay the requisite number of ghouls and “turn in” your quest for money, experience points (XP) and/or a item of supposed great worth. There can be nothing more satisfying than saving a village and stopping “evil” right?

Surely this is an important victory over the forces of Destruction/Chaos/Unspeakable Evil?

MMOs suggest that through our actions, we have changed “the world”. It’s central to the narrative of your characters journey within the game. It is the very definition of being a hero; the world is a stage, our actions are larger than life.

As you turn from the NPC to hit the road and find even more villages and kittens to save you hear the same NPC ask a new would be hero…

Say there <Their Name Here>, our village is under attack by an army of undead ghouls! Would you be as kind as to…”

Whaaaaa?

WoWScrnShot_072009_215425

Didn’t you just slay those same ghouls? Didn’t you just get the personal thanks of the village elder? Didn’t he give you a special reward?

Persistent games worlds are by their very nature static
Of course veteran MMO players well understand the underlying mechanics that drive these quests, and that with thousands – if not millions – of gamers playing following the well trodden path as them, there is no way to make each of their journeys unique. Time, development costs and the constraints of technology force players and developers into building and experiencing what are static worlds: in game parlance “theme parks”.

Each quest is a ride, and players are free to ride it again and again, and WoW is often cited as the pinnacle of the theme park MMO experience.

However most players are acutely aware of the façade: they know that in the end their actions mean nothing. The same NPC will ask thousands of players to complete the same task.

Make me a hero! Please!

In response to this disappointment, or disenchantment, players and commentators are increasingly asking developers to “make them feel like a hero”. They want the world to change in accordance with their actions.

Developers now have a heavy burden: making each one of their thousands of players feel unique and special. Blizzard has started this process already in their utilising phasing technology. Players completing a quest chain will see the world differently to those who don’t.

Ultimately, this is good as far as the development of story telling in games and enriches the player’s experience.

But ultimately, a developer can’t make you a hero. You have to be one. Slaying a Boss, gaining an epic weapon or killing ten thousand ghouls don’t make a hero. These take time, persistence or skill. Or simply grinding until you achieve the goal you want.

What makes a hero?
What does it mean to be a hero in an MMO when there are thousands, if not millions, of others completing the same journey as you?

To me it depends on how you define “hero”.

Heroes are defined by their actions, and the impact they make on other individuals. In an MMO, the AI controlled NPC does not care if you kill the dragon. It’s a scripted event. The ones that do care are other players. These are your guild mates, or the people you randomly group with in PuGs (Pick up Groups).

Ask any MMO player what there most memorable game experience is and it’s not the monsters they killed or NPC they saved. It’s the great grouping experience where everyone pulled their weight.

It’s the tank that holds aggro and keeps everyone alive.

It’s the healer who keeps everyone in the group up during the most intense boss fights.

It’s the high level player who spends hours running their guild mate through low level content.

It’s the people who give you gear, gold or help without expecting anything in return.

Not “heroic” in the sense of slaying a dragon.

But it’s these actions that make a real difference.

So, next time you ask a game developer to make you feel like a hero, remember you already have that choice. Hero’s act; they make a difference.

Want to be a hero? Be that person.

Postcards: death takes a holiday Friday, Jul 17 2009 

In conjunciton to Augusteena’s postcards from Warhammer, Augustblade the Draeni Death Knight is currently touring Azeroth and Outlands. First in his regular series of updates as he tours this corner of the metaverse.

WoWScrnShot_053109_195231

The journey of self discovery begins!

Dear Comrades of the Ebon Hold,

Death means nothing to us.. but even a Death Knight needs to take a holiday!

At the suggestion of our resident therapist, Greaves the Ghoul, I have embarked upon an extended sojourn of the lands of Azeroth and Outlands. It would seem that I have over extended myself, and after the Battle of Lights Hope Chapel I found myself lethargic and run down. Even slaying enemies seemed a joyless task. As you may well appreciate, a Death Knight that does not enjoy the tasks of dismembering, torturing, beheading and killing is not in touch with his true self.

Greaves suggested I needed some “me time”.

My answer to which was “Phrased correctly, should you not say I need some “you” time?”

Grammar is important, and even though I understood the gist of his suggestion it is important that we pay attention to the details. Not clearly stating orders can mean life or death on the battlefield. I provided Greaves with an example: imagine ordering a battalion into battle with the command “Me charge over there!” when one means “You charge over there!”.

Greaves was emphatic at that I go on leave immediately. And so I have. I asked a ghoul to take this picture of me as I depart. I’m not sure where I will go, however go I must.

Yours in humble service etc.

Augustblade, Knight of the Ebon Blade (Esq.)

Aion beta, raiding Naxx: I must be hardcore, eh? Tuesday, Jul 14 2009 

So, I’ve signed up for the Aion beta for later this month and even pre-ordered the collectors edition.

I’m also joining a Naxx raiding team in my WoW guild.

Dear me, after three years of playing MMOs have I become “*hardcare*?

I’m so l33t it scares me 😉

The proof of my new hardcore status: downloading Aion client to get into beta event

The proof of my new hardcore status: downloading Aion client to get into beta event

Welcome to the jungle: why I hate the tropics in MMOs Saturday, Jul 11 2009 

Caution: Nerd Rage ahead

At heart I’m a warrior, a knight in shining armour. Which is why I detest tropical/jungle themed zones in MMOs.

Firstly, it just seems incongruous that knights should be gallivanting through a landscape full of palm trees, vines and gorillas.

Secondly – and more importantly – there isn’t a jungle themed zone in an MMO that does not include killing lots, and lots of the local wildlife. Yes, MMOs are about grinding PvE content. And killing ten zombies is no different than killing ten rats. But, killing ten rats seems, well… less epic.

The vast majority of quests in tropical zones are variations on “kill ten monkeys“.

“Say there young knight, would you be so kind to save our village by killing 100 panthers, 100 giant lizards and 10,000 great apes?

Kill ten monkeys

I play the plated caster classes to be the hero, not the local exterminator. If the NPCS have a problem with the wildlife, then surely they can call 1800-Kill-Ten-Monkeys. Got some undead to fight? Sure call me. Need a rogue wizard slain. That’s me.

The moment I enter a zone, and I see a lush, tropical rain forest I shudder.

Yes, I’m in nerd rage mode, so pay attention MMO developers!

Plus, PETA is after you. The defenders of all things cute and furry don’t like these quests either.

What also irks me is that text that often accompanies these quests. More often or not it reminds me of my daughters favourite story book:

“Were going on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one!
What a beautiful day,
We’re not scared!

Yes, where going on a quest, we’re going to complete a big one! What a beautiful day!

I still wake in the middle of the night screaming...

I still wake in the middle of the night screaming...

The horror, the horror.

Lets take the worst MMO zone of all time: the infamous Stranglethorn Vale. (STV).

Talk to any WoW player and say/type STV and you can predict the response. Groans or gasps of horror.

STV is an enormous, sprawling jungle themed zone that they have grind through between the mid-20 to mid-30 levels. Ten plus levels of killing thousands of animals. Quest after quest asks you to kill raptors, panthers, gorillas and six legged crocodiles. And until recently, you had to run on foot across the whole zone.

It’s so bad, even WoW’s lead designer hates the zone.

“You never want the player to think that somebody made the game. Every time they’re thinking, ‘Why is this happening?’, you have failed.”

Augustine must have spent at *least* a month in STV when levelling back in vanilla WoW days when your first mount was not available until level 40. I walked the same damn zone for a month, killing lions, tigers and bears in endless frustration and boredom. It was only the lure of getting out of their alive that kept me going!

Now I’m sure that there are some good tropical themed zones out there, somewhere in MMO land.However, I suffer from Post-traumatic-STV-Syndrome (PTSS). Whenever I see a palm tree in the metaverse, I run screaming.

As Colonel Kurtz said: “The horror, the horror…

How many more pages of the "Green Hills of Stranglethorn" do I need?

How many more pages of the "Green Hills of Stranglethorn" do I need?

Or why I didn’t grow up to work in the pest control industryAt heart I’m a warrior, a knight in shining armour. Which is why I *detest* tropical/jungle zones in MMOs..Firstly, it just seems incongruous that knights should be gallivanting through a landscape backdrop with palm trees, vines and gorillas.

Secondly, and more importantly, there isn’t a jungle themed zone in an MMO that does not include killing lots, and lots of the local wildlife.

The vast majority of quests are variations on “kill ten monkeys“.

“Say there young knight, would you be so kind to save our village by killing 100 panthers, 100 giant lizards and great apes?

/sigh

Dear god, no!

Like I said, I play the plated caster types to be the hero, not the local exterminator. If the NPCS have a problem with the wildlife, then surely they can call 1800-Kill-ten-Rats. Got some undead to fight? Sure call me. Need a rogue wizard slain. That’s me.

The moment I enter a zone, and I see a lush, tropical rain forest I shudder.

Note to MMO designers; drop the kill ten rats quests. There a boring grind, offer no challenge and unless your a hunter/skinner class of some short its meaningless.

Yes, I’m in nerd rage mode.

Plus, PETA is after you. The defenders of all things cute and furry don’t like these quests either.

The text that often accompanies these quests often reminds me of my daughters story book:

“Were going on a bear hunt,

We’re going to catch a big one!

What a beautiful day,

We’re not scared!

Lets take the worst MMO zone of all time: the infamous Stranglethorn Vale.

The horror, the horror.

WoW players know what I’m talking about here. An enormous, sprawling jungle themed zone that they have grind through between levels 20-30. Yes, ten or more levels in the one zone. Ten levels of killing thousands of animals. Raptors, panthers, gorillas and six legged crocodile things. And until recently, you had to run form point to pint across the whole zone.

Augustine must have spent at *least* a month in STV when levelling back in vanilla WOW days when your first mount was not available until level 40. Yes, I walked the same damn zone for a month, killing lions, tigers and bears in endless frustration and boredom. It was only the lure of getting out of their alive that kept me going!

Now I’m sure that there are some good tropical themed zones out there, somewhere in MMO land.

However, I suffer from Post-traumatic-STV-Syndrome (PTSS).

Colonel Kurtz said: “The horror, the horror…

The horrors of WAR: Postcards from Augusteena Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

Note: first in the series of postcards from my WAR Warrior Priest as she tours the world of Warhammer.

Hi! Augusteena here!

Hit Nordland a few weeks back, and have to say it seems pretty quiet around here.  Must be off season, as I’ve barely seen any other tourists.  I’ve run round *heaps*, meet and killed LOTS of Chaos minions and animals. Soooo busy killing rats n’ stuff,  but still having fun! Here’s me having a quick dip at the beach after killing some Raiders. Water was cold! Brrrrrrrrrrr! Lucky the shot was not a close up – it was *cold*!

Hugs!

Taking time out from killing mobs for a quick dip in the frigid seas...

Taking time out from killing mobs for a quick dip in the frigid seas...

Hi! Augusteena again!

I’m beggining to think the locals aren’t that cosmopolitan. I grew up in Altdorf, capital of the Empire and we happily accepted all types.  As my mum used to say,  it takes all types to make all sorts right? Anyhoo – seems they have a different opinion on those who don’t share the same opinions. They tend to burn them alive. Over reacting much? Here’s me standing next to some peasant burned for something! The smell put me off bacon for like a week! Ewwwwwwwwwww!

Kisses XOXO

BBQ Heretic

BBQ Heretic

Hi, me again!

Finally! I meet some people! Gosh it was nice! We ran around, killed some Orcs, Dark Elves and little green things called “gobbos”. All good fun. Hope to do it again soon!

Big kissses! XOXO

I get my with a little help from my PuG...

I get my with a little help from my PuG...

Meet the August crew Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

Time to meet my on-line personas; the paladins, warrior priests and death knights that I choose to play (and why).

Augustine: WoW Paladin

 

Fighting the good fight, by doing daily quests...

Fighting the good fight, by doing daily quests...

 

“The paladin is a “Warrior of the Holy Light”. They uphold all that is good and true in the world and revile all that is evil and sinister — especially undead and the Burning Legion. They offer succor to the beleaguered and smite their enemies with holy fervor. They are particularly potent against undead, as these creatures threaten the goodly races and the Holy Light burns them terribly. The presence of any evil is reprehensible to the paladin, but he focuses his efforts on destroying undead and demons…”

Source: WoWWiki

Augustine was not my first WoW toon,  but after several months play became my main. Initially I started playing a warrior, as I thought that would be the easiest class to master. The mage, priest and warlock classes didn’t attract me. The paladin was a class I knew nothing about, nor could I understand how they could differ from warriors: both wore plate, both “looked” ostensibly the same. However after several months of getting my warrior up to level 38 I became frustrated: I’d never really run any instances until then and found it hard to get into groups. This was pre-Burning Crusade, back in Vanilla/Classic WoW days and I found soloing tedious as a warrior. Especially the lack of healing ability. I could handle 3-4 individual mobs easily, but anymore than that or fights against elite mobs normally resulted in (in game) death. Again, and again I’d die and face the long walk back from the Spirit Healer to resurrect.

/sigh
 
I’d also mention I was pretty casual in my play style then. I was playing a lot of other PC games at that point; Doom 3, the Total War series and a few others. I’d been in out of a few guilds, but never really found a home in any of them. Guild chat was a feature of the UI I ignored. I kept hearing about “instances” and not really knowing what they where. In the end I decided I really wasn’t enjoying the class I was playing and decided to switch.
 
“This is supposed to be an MMO…” I thought to myself “…why don’t I try the more social aspects of the game?”
 
Augustine actually begun his life as a Priest. I thought that would be class most in demand, and it was. WoW continues to suffer from a chronic shortage of healers, and I thought it was a niche I could slot into. I tried to think of an historical “priest” or theologian I could name by toon after. I considered a few, and and settled on Augustine (the fourth century theologian). And thus my fate was sealed. The problem was I enjoyed playing a squishy class even less than the warrior. I levelled the priest to about level 10 and thought “Meh, that’s it. I’m going to try one more class before I quit.”
 
Surprisingly, I didn’t choice the beginners (aka “Noobs”) favourite class/race combination of “Night Elf Hunter”.
 
So I decided to research all the classes. The more I looked at the Paladin class, the more I liked it. As a utility class, you could don armour like the warrior and throw out healing spells like a priest “Ah ha!” Paladins could do both, obviously not as well as the more specialised classes but at least I could solo, and slot myself into groups more effectively by offering to heal.
 
The idea of a “holy warrior” or “knight in shining armour” really appealed to me as well. Hence, Augustine the Priest was deleted and reborn Augustine the Paladin.
 
The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Augusteena: Warhammer Warrior Priest
 

Have book, will travel

Have book, will travel

It’s with a lot of sadness that I play Warhammer these days. What is a good game, that could have been a great game, seems to have a mature or gently declining player base. The early levels of the game are deserted. The “realm versus realm” combat that attracted me to the game – that is to say groups of players fighting it out over strategic points – is pretty much deserted except for those still playing at level cap and in the “end game”.

What’s left is your fairly average PvE experience for those leveling their characters. Indeed, I’ve been advised again and again by players in game to simply “grind to level cap” where “every one is”.

I played throughout late 2008 and early 2009, stepping away from WoW to try something new. Initially I was excited; the new classes looked interesting. The art work that was more gritty than WoW’s pastel coloured cartoon aesthetic, while the chance to play more involved PvP held promise.
 
At first I loved it and thought it would be my “new game”. I played both a Witch Hunter (human) and Shadow Warrior (elf). Both where lightly armoured DPS (damage per second) classes that relied on skill and speed rather than defence. I got them both to level 20, but stopped.
 
I went back to WoW.
 
When I started playing on my Oceanic server it was humming – lots of groups, PvP action aplenty while numerous guilds were active in recruiting. Now.. nothing but the crickets and tumble weeds in the lower levels. Poor, poor Mythic (the developers). So much effort went into this MMO, only to have it misfire.
 
Balance issues (class and server population), server stability and lack lustre PvE lead to my waning interest in WAR. The player base itself has vanished – the initial 800,000 registered players collapsed to 300,000 and continues to shrink. The fanbase got rabid, and turned on the game and developers. For an MMO dependent on players fighting each other as it’s primary selling point, this is not good.
 
Eventually I stopped playing in early 2009. I’d put the game away, but recently I went back to simply experience the content and play a class I love: the Warrior Priest (WP). WPs are the near equivelent of Paladins in WoW. A plate wearing class that can specialise in healing or damage.
 
The WP is fun, and allows easy soloing. I like the underlying mechanics and hitting things with either a little or big hammer is lots of fun. /grin
 
I’ll continue to play her all the way to level cap, but as a “metaverse tourist”. As far as MMOs go, I’m an explorer and socialiser: I like seeing new content and grouping/chatting to other players. I’ll take her to level 40 (the present level cap) and see how we go from there.
 
Oh yes, the dreaded WoW Tourist. Don’t like it? Too bad. I’m paying for my subs, not you.
 
So, expect lots of “Postcards” from Augusteena as she tours this virtual world. 😉
 

Angels & Armor: welcome Friday, Jul 3 2009 

The better angels of our nature

Why this compulsion to save others, to be the hero or heroine?

Maybe it’s because our culture extols the virtues of the knight in shining armour, the altruism of guardian angels and the kindness of strangers. So it is not surprising that these archetypes manifest themselves throughout popular culture. In books, fiction, television and other media the knights tale is a common one.

Within video games, and Massive Multi-Player games (MMOs) in particular, you just don’t get to hear about the knights. You get to be one of them in a virtual world (or to borrow from Neil Stephenson, the metaverse). In these worlds you can don the armour of a knight, ride a charger into battle and fight dragons, trolls and all kinds of wicked men and women.

For various reasons videogames are dominated by the “High Fantasy” genre. Tolkien reigns supreme here, with dashes of Sir Walter Scott, Arthurian legends and medieval romances.

Even in games such as the World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest there is an echo – however faint – of the courtly romances of thirteenth century France. In game worlds, even a plumber called Mario gets to save a princess.

Central to all these virtual worlds is the concept of the quest.

St.George takes on an elite mob, hopes Blue drops

St.George takes on an elite mob, hopes Blue drops

A hero is given a task, they are faced by a challenge (a monster, a riddle, a gatekeeper to secrets) and they triumph.

A simple three act story, which MMO players re-enact again, and again every time they accept a quest from their friendly NPC and turn it in for gold, gear or “experience points”. As players we do this instinctively, without pause or reflection.

“Here is a quest, I will accept”.

And off we go to slay another virtual dragon and rescue another virtual kitten in a tree.

Virtual worlds: the good, the bad and… those who get it

MMOs can be described as a hobby.

The are fun, seductive and satisfying. The social aspects to them, of belonging to a community, and talking to like-minded people are hugely attractive. But they can be addictive and are easily dismissed by those who do not play them. As a form of entertainment they are still very much on the margins of popular culture. The stereotype of the MMO player is still very much of the overweight shut-in squatting over a computer in some rank basement.

And yet our world, the world of MMO players is far richer, complex and interesting than most people give credit. Call it a “sub-culture”. We are a “community”. Rather than watching localised version of “American Idol” or the usual swill of reality TV, we chose to spend our leisure time with our friends, family and guild mates in a virtual world.

The organisation that goes into planning a 25 man raid is intense. Your performance in these raids is judged, and judged harshly. The management of a guild can take many hours outside of the game. Like most guilds, my WoW guild has a website. The work that goes into maintaining this is not insignificant.

Raid time

Raid time

Relationships start in these worlds. Friends are made, and lost. As players, our experiences in Azeroth and the many other parts of the metaverse are just as rich as those of the real world. What we experience with friends online is “real”. When we lose someone from a guild, we can feel grief. When we meet someone in RL for the first time, after spending years talking to them in Vent or in guild chat, it’s a reunion as meanigful and real as welcoming home a friend who has been overseas for several years.

Friends of mine from the MMO world say we are the ones “who get it”.

This is what this Blog is about. Exploring the world of MMO players, and why we play.

What’s in a name: the meaning behind this blog’s title

Lincoln called our capacity to forgive and accept others the “the better angels of our nature”; the knight is synonymous with the suit of plated armour. Hence the name of this Blog. Yes, it’s a Blog about online games. But it’s not about min/max strategies, boss fights, content patches or dungeon runs.

There are plenty of blogs out there that do this, and will do them better then I will ever manage. I’d define myself as typical of the millions of “casual” MMO players out there who run PvE quests and do the occasional dungeon (instance if you like).

The attraction, the reason I still play MMOs, is the social aspects. Belonging to a community is a natural human desire. As to is our desire to give something of ourselves to others. In this Blog I will explore the roles we adopt in game, and what they may say about us in the “real world” (RL).

Healers, tanks, casters and damage dealers – why do you do what you do? Why that class? And what am I doing in these worlds, and why?

My nature: a priest in armour

The name of this Blog is also partly inspired by the types of avatars I play in MMO worlds. In WoW I play a Paladin (Retribution Spec), a holy warrior that deals damage. In Warhammer I play a Warrior Priest. Both wear armour, and both throw out damage and healing spells. I enjoy getting into a fight, sword or hammer swinging, fighting AI controlled mobs (1) or other players in PvP (2).

Even more so, there is nothing more satisfying than pausing between the swings of my weapon, throwing out a healing spell to a comrade in trouble, and then get back into the fight. The tension between the fight in hand, and helping others compels me to play the classes I do.

Others prefer to heal. Others prefer to stand back as casters, and coolly deliver damage from a distance. Some prefer the role of tank, the one who takes the most damage during a “boss fight”. Being in the front line, the tank directs the group to which targets, in what order and gives the command to attack.

My intiution is that our choices in game say something about us as individuals. The name of my WoW paladin is Augustine, named after the great fourth century theologian. I was profoundly moved by both his two most famous works, the Confessions and City of God.

Even though I describe myself as an atheist, there are aspects of Augustine’s writing I take to heart. His Confessions is ultimately a journey to know himself and the truth. His writings explore the same themes one finds in those other canons of the Western tradition I deeply admire and love; the central protagonists undertakes a journey, struggles and finds redemption of sorts. Whether it be through journeying to hell and back, the struggle to better understand oneself and your place in the world forms a narrative that predates the written word.

It is the narrative that appeals to my “priestly nature”; it is the part of me that has a deep reverence for those who seek answers. Struggle, and illumination.

I’m a Paladin/Warrior Priest because I see myself and both questioning and willing to fight.

(1) Mob – short for “mobiles”. In games monsters, non-player characters and other AI controlled units are referred to as mobs.

(2) PvP – Player vs. Player, game play that allows player to fight others in virtual worlds.