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6.20.2006

Gaming Community

tuesday's UPI column

So Here I am…

Living in a gaming community. Not Las Vegas or down the block from a tribal casino; no, my home has become a launching pad for a 21st century on-line community.

It’s not like I wasn’t warned. My husband was a gamer when I met him 30 years ago. Back then it was paper baseball. He had this box of papers and little cards. On the card were the statistics of every baseball player ever. He put them on teams and played games with dice to determine the outcomes. He could spend hours at this. It was clearly calming. I thought it was cute. I did notice that my hometown team the Cubs lost in the paper world too.

There was a brief foray into Dungeons and Dragons in the early eighties. This did not bother me. Then some guys in a garage in Berkeley invented these infernal computing machines that none of us can live without.

The nineties saw lots of computer games come and go in our house. My children were initiated into the lifestyle. They played games in which they built entire civilizations. Both of my daughters at some point in their young lives thought of world domination as a legitimate career path.

Then came MMORPG: that is, Massively Multi-player On-line Role Playing Games. In our house it is Everquest – sometimes called Evercrack. It is one of many games of this type. World-wide, 350,000 people play this one game.

It works like this. In the game there is a world, a complete world. There are oceans, continents, cities, climates and countries. This world has days and nights, weather and all the features of a natural world. It is inhabited by creatures that only live in the world, and by the hundreds of thousands of earth humans who create a character there and animate them. It is three dimensional and kind of pretty.

My family lives on the world called Norrath. It is rather medieval. They ride horses and live in castles. There are many races of people on this world; gnomes, elves, erudites etc. Norrath is filled with monsters and deadly situations of the martial variety, but in some ways it is a nicer world than this one. There is no porn on Norrath. Actually, I think that there is no sex on Norrath, despite the fact that all the inhabitants are beautiful and sexy. You fight monsters and can be killed by them, but you can’t kill other people unless they consent to a duel. There is a standard method of resurrection. There is magic, but not much in the way of religion. There are no starving children on the streets of Norrath.

Norrath lacks only two things, human touch and good food for the real belly. I can still pull my family away from the game with a good dinner.

My husband’s name is Manfred, he is a 59th level erudite wizard – I guess this is pretty powerful. He has a nice house there, if you like stone. My daughters tell me that he is liked and respected in that world just like he is in this one. He is good at crafting – making things which he gives away or sells.

Daughter number 1 is named Amaranthe, she is a level 59 swashbuckler. I never really saw myself as the mother of a swashbuckler, but life is full of surprises. I watched a lot of Erroll Flynn as a girl – I wonder if that had an effect. Amaranthe is ranked 65th out of about a 100,000 in number of quests completed. Some people’s kids rank at Stanford, mine rule in another world.

Daughter number 2 is named Ailwhin, she is a level 38 gnome/swashbuckler. She is tiny and cute, even her horse is tiny and cute. But do not let this fool you – she will cut you off at the knees if you don’t watch her.

In this world, daughter 1 lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband of 3 years. He plays too. So do members of his extended family. If I am wondering how they are, I don’t have to use a phone, I just ask someone in this house who is on-line to check with them. They have headsets and type and talk to each other in the game.

I am pretty sure that my husband spends as many hours on Norrath as he does at his earth employment. He spends a great deal of time with his daughters –more time than he ever had to spend with them when they were highschoolers at home.

At first I was a little worried about this thing. My concern was that it would become an addiction or a Borg-like connection that took a person out of human relationships and into a cyberlife that I was not part of. This has not turned out to be the case. I have been watching this phenomenon carefully. You could play this game in a way very different than you live your life. You could check your morals, ethics, and relationships and act without normal societal constraints. But they don’t – well, I am told that a few do, but they don’t do well. What I have seen my family do is build human community. They formed a guild. It has the reputation of being tolerant, friendly and powerful. They keep track of each other, in that world and this. My husband has more friends now than ever before in his life. I don’t know them mostly, but I have a lot of friends that he doesn’t know either. Sometimes I get asked to keep someone from this game world in my prayers as they, or a loved one goes through a crisis. I do not think that I have yet been asked to pray for a crisis ON Norrath; that might be my limit. Daughter 1 did use a telephonic device to call me about her new laptop that had an accident with spilled coffee – now THAT is a crisis!

The people on my life who play this games seem just as happy to see me as before. We still have things to talk about. They still care about this world. They know the difference. They care about starving children on the streets of Earth.

I have observed this world. I do not think I will join it, but I have no doubt that this is community. It is real and it is the future. If our churches are empty on Sunday morning, it may be because they are all on another world.
Comments:
i much appreciate this post. as a gamer, i am constantly having to debate with people (mostly, shall we say, people with more years spent breathing than i) why gaming isn't going to be the downfall of human civilization. it's really wonderful to hear positive things about EQ2 from someone who not only doesn't play it, but doesn't play any varity of computer\video games.

(no, majong doesn't count.)
 
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