June 28, 2004

Meditations on the Day

Last Day of Prelude
Posted by Hello

"Lineage II: the Chaotic Chronicle", is slated to be released in fourteen installments (called "Chronicles", of course). The first Chronicle, "Harbingers of War", starts in about 12 hours. Between the end of "Prelude" and the beginning of "Harbingers" is a day of server resets, downloading the new client, etc. A day of meditation as it were.

The picture above, my current desktop, is a picture of Nightfall and her pet wolf Eagle at the point where I logged off. She is now level 25, while Eagle has managed to achieve level 16. It is very difficult to increase the level of a pet wolf, so I am quite satisfied with 16. Level 25 is not a stunning achievement for two months of game time, but I also spent dozens, and maybe even hundreds of hours experimenting with other characters. Each character has their own unique characteristics, their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and yet, the game is clearly designed so that each character will fulfill a particular role in both the individual team they belong to, and the world as a whole. Nightfall, for example, is a Dark Wizard. Her primary role is to damage enemy monsters and players through a variety of very effective spells, or to summon a special creature and send that creature into battle in support of her team. She can also be effective on her own, which is how I spend most of my game time.

A fair question to ask is what I get out of this game, and that is why I have spent my day pondering this question. I love this game for many, many reasons, but mostly for the quality of the graphics. I love watching the game. I have used a program called FRAPS to make dozens of video captures of the game. With my trusty Flasher screensaver, all of these videos display in random order whenever my computer is idle, so even when I am not playing Lineage II, I can enjoy the sounds and sights of this incredible world. I have videos of almost every character I have ever created (since downloading FRAPS halfway through the Japan Open Beta), so even when I only play one character (such as my focus on Nightfall in recent weeks), I can revisit some of my earlier triumphs and failures. I deeply love this game. Calling it my "obsession" would be putting it mildly.

Don't get me wrong. I know it is only a game. I don't get angry, depressed, or stressed out when things are not going my way. Because I know it is only a game, my failures and mistakes are completely unimportant while my successes can leave me smiling for days on end. It is, by far, the most entertaining pastime I have ever experimented with. It is more fun than playing either a board game or a video game, it is more rewarding than either writing or reading stories and novels, it is more satisfying than eating a dozen donuts and washing them down with the finest Chocolate Macadamia Nut Kona coffee. It fills the empty hours of my life with more good times than wine, women and song ever hoped to provide.

Graphics are what drew me in, gameplay is what keeps me there.

Let me draw a parallel. If I spend 40 hours a week teaching (which would drive anyone insane), what do I have to show for it? Money, and a lot of it. But what happens to all that money? It pays the rent, it feeds my family, it puts clothes on my kid's backs, sends my wife to a hot spring with her friends, and if I'm lucky, buys me a night on the town. I'm sorry, but none of these things really please me. At the end of the week my life on the whole has not improved one bit. I am still poor, stuck in a dirty, crowded city, and come Monday, it's back to work and do it all over again. Does life in the modern world really please people? Are other men as content as they appear with nothing more than forty years of working to make others rich and your family fed and clothed? I'm sorry, but this is not my idea of a good life. I need to feel like I have made some kind of difference in the world around me, and in my own place in it. Real life leaves me hollow and exhausted both emotionally and physically. I hate my reality and the small pleasures of seeing my family (who generally treat me like furniture) clothed and fed are no pleasures at all. I am a wage slave and what slave ever felt content?

Now, if I spend ten hours a week playing Lineage II, at the end of the week Nightfall has a better weapon, has moved into a better hunting area, has gained a good bit of gold, and I'll have met hundreds of new people from all over the world. I'll have taken her through new and marvelous countryside with bright sun, singing birds, gentle breezes, a harvest moon like nothing the real world could ever provide, and together we'll have defeated countless monsters and probably a few really nasty people. Ten hours with Nightfall and I feel like a hero. Forty hours of work and I feel like a slave.

Is it really so surprising that I prefer the world of Lineage II?