Experiencing Life (Or Something Virtually Like It)

There’s an excellent article a couple of issues back on The Escapist entitled World, Interrupted that explains the drudgery of massively multiplayer online games. This quote from the article in particular stood out for me.

Explaining the overwhelming part is easy: Lineage II takes over 2,000 hours or so to get to its final echelons, the level 70s. It’s not quite as ludicrous for World of Warcraft’s level 60, but nevertheless, the thousands of quests and 16,000 kills that are required to get to the later stages really do begin to weigh heavily on even the sternest gaming constitution.

And of course, therein lies the problem. Many online games today primarily focus their gameplay enjoyment on attaining individual rewards (i.e. the next level, the next better piece of armor, etc). This of course creates the carrot dangling in front of your face effect which quickly becomes tiring. Why? Because primarily from my point of view it’s no different than the "grind" in real life, where everyone seems to be striving for the next better car, next better technological gadget (i.e. cell phone, computer), or next better wardrobe. It’s almost like a crack addict looking for his next hit. After he gets it, he still has that "empty feeling" inside of him so he starts looking again for the next one.

Actually that’s one reason why I get so much enjoyment in playing what I call my "retired" character in the World of Warcraft. His name is Khorak and he’s a 38th level Alliance Human Warrior. Why "retired"? Because he doesn’t run around doing quests, trying to level up or strive to get that next fancier suit of armor. Khorak plain and simply exists for the unique experiences he encounters within the game. Therefore he just wanders the realms at leisure, bumping into other people on occasion, helps them out, chats a while and then continues on his way. I suppose you could say he’s sort of like Paladin from the television series with his "have gun, will travel" (but with Khorak it’s "have sword, will travel").

I mean but isn’t that what life should be about? Isn’t it the unique shared experiences that we have with one another that truly makes life so enjoyable in the first place (no matter how simple or grand the experience may actually be)? Therefore, instead of making individual rewards within these games the reason for enjoying them or existing within them, shouldn’t the "experience" of playing the game be the reward in itself? Or more specifically for massively multiplayer games, shouldn’t the shared experience of playing the game be the reward itself? Interestingly enough, the Escapist article does touch upon this same thought and even shares some possible insights as to how this might be achieved.

If All Else Fails, Press The Reboot Button

I’ve realized that I’m trying to do too many things on too many fronts. Therefore, I’ve pressed the reboot button on my site to revert it back to a previous layout I created for myself a while back (called HelloWorld Tribute). In addition, I’m reverting the content layout back to a "typical blog" format (with sidebar "Recent Posts", "Archives", and so on). It’s something I dislike but it will at least give me a stable content format to start designing layouts with. Besides the radical content structure I was hoping to achieve is more research than anything. I’ll throw it on the back burner until I have more time to fool around with it in the future.

WoW, I’m Going Nowhere

I’m noticing an interesting correlation between my gameplay in the World of Warcraft and the activities on my website here. When I create a new character in WoW, I really enjoy playing the character during the beginning lower levels (i.e. 1st through 10th). However, as my character progresses pass this point, something changes and the excitement quickly dies off. For example, my main character is a 57th level warrior and while I definitely enjoy meeting up with friends weekly to adventure together, the adventure itself is somewhat tedious, repetitive, and boring (primarily now due to the type of quests that appear the closer you get to 60th level). Again, if I create a new character for an evening’s gameplay though, I have a blast (even though I may be repeating quests I’ve done before). So what’s going on?

Well for some reason I’m reminded of a post I wrote a while ago that talks about the culture of startups. In a nutshell, it reveals that companies are at their best when they are just starting out because everything is usually open, loose, somewhat messy, and mistakes are expected because everything is fairly new. In other words, you don’t feel like you have this weight on your back but instead you feel like you can do and say anything because you’re more willing to take risks. However, as an established “professional” company, you have this image and history to maintain (i.e. the weight on your back). When this occurs to me, it feels like I have to live in the past being dragged slowly along by this “weight” instead of living in the present or even leaping into the future. That’s exactly how I feel about my website right now.

To be honest, I feel like dumping everything in the trash bin with this site (including my journal) and starting over. And again, to be honest, this is the type of person I am (and I think some of you who’ve known me for a while realize this). Instead of dragging along trying to hold something together with duct tape (i.e. my last attempt at trying to make some changes to the site), I like blowing things apart and rebuilding it from scratch. It doesn’t matter if I have to do this repeatedly on a daily basis, as all that matters to me is that I eventually achieve what I’m looking for. Of course, this usually drives people nuts when I do this (i.e. my wife shakes her head at me and chuckles every time I change around the layout of the office/den where I work). To others, it seems like I’m going in circles. To me, it’s like I’m exploring something new for the first time. I mean just imagine a kid smashing his beautiful LEGO castle apart, while his parents looking on in disbelief. That’s me. All the parent’s see is the accomplishment of the beautiful castle. All I see, as I smash it apart, is the vision of the next castle in my head that I’m excited to try building.

I believe it was Margaret Wheatley who said it best in her book Finding Our Way. There are “pioneers” and there are “specialists”. The pioneers explore the unknown as the vanguard to the specialists who follow behind them. Once the pioneer, as explorer, has scouted the unknown and made it fairly known (in terms of mapping the boundaries of it), the specialists come in and start building a permanent settlement within the area. As for the pioneer explorer’s whereabouts by then, well I’m sure you have a pretty good idea by now.

“Where’s the explorer? Who knows! We couldn’t keep up to him and lost him in the woods on the last ridge.”

Playing In The Sandbox

I’m going to be doing some radical experimentations with my site over the next little while to test out a concept I’ve been thinking about for some time. If things work out then I’ll make the transition fully. If they don’t then I’ll probably just revert back to my last style and design layout. During this entire time though, my journal will still be accessible at the URL below (as well as via my RSS feeds), even though it may no longer appear on my navigation bar.


Update: Things aren’t feeling "natural" with this approach, so I’m giving up on it.