Anticipation: The Promise of Memories
Virtual Memories, Part V
Long ago and far away,
before I was involved in the world of MMOs, I would never have imagined
the emotions that could be induced by experiences in a virtual kingdom.
However, I have always had a vivid imagination, and so the concept of
the epic and fantastic were not outside the realm of my experience.
was the enjoyment of pen-and-paper RPGs, since I had been one of those
geeky girls in grade school who actually enjoyed Chess Club, belonged
to a Computer Club in 1980 (/shudder!) and hung out at the bookstore for
fun. I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons before high school.
My now-husband (then-boyfriend)
had gotten me involved in his "network gaming night" with such
multi-player classics as Blood, Carmageddon, and Quake. When he bought
an online game, where you actually had to type and interact with people
who weren't in the room, I was more than a little bit nervous. Until I
watched over his shoulder. I was fascinated by the vibrant colors, and
I think, in the end, it was a combination of the art and the music that
made me sit down at the login screen and look over my shoulder at my husband.
"What now?" I asked.
Do you remember the
first time that you entered a virtual world and found real people inhabiting
the bodies of the other avatars? Perhaps that's why the social aspects
of the games I've played have always remained important to me: without
other people, all the virtual trees in the world wouldn't create an online
community. It would be a blank slate, a piece of interactive art, an empty
tutorial. With every NPC, you know that the actions and words are preprogrammed,
and that if you observe and listen long enough, you will be able to guess
what will happen, and what the NPC might say. You can only log in to a
static world so often, even a world as full of adventure as Elder Scrolls,
without finding the actions and reactions stale.
It is much less inevitable
to find stagnancy in an online community inhabited by people from every
state and a wide variety of countries. It's very difficult for me to guess
what my co-workers and the members of my own family are going to say,
or do, from moment to moment, never mind predicting the actions of someone
in a virtual world. It's not the beach ball laying in the grass of the
front yard that makes the afternoon memorable. It was the moment when
your cousin picked up the beach ball and hit it to you that the enjoyment
This, then, is how
our memories are born. We remember the other characters who helped or
hindered us more than the action of slaying our 75th goblin. We remember
the funny jokes and songs in guild chat while waiting for the dragon to
spawn in Nagafen's lair more than we remember our equipment or our hit
points, or even the long hours of boredom while we waited.
This series, Virtual
Memories, has drawn upon some of my own experiences to take a look inside
what it is that makes an MMORPG memorable. What types of players did you
encounter? What zones or locations do you remember, and why? What events
contributed to the way you enjoyed the game? All of these questions have
been asked, and some of them have even received replies.
A concern that echoes
through many of the responses is that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes cannot
possibly replicate the "firsts" that many of us use to describe
our experiences. "Remember the first time we raided Vox?" "Remember
the first time you got on the boat to cross the Ocean of Tears?"
"Remember the first time you were beaten to a pulp by the undead
in Kithicor at night?" These experiences aren't specific to Everquest
either: I remember my first crossing into the frontier in Dark Ages of
Camelot, and I remember my first time flying a plane and getting way up
high above Rubi-Ka in Anarchy Online. Others remember landmarks and firsts
in Asheron's Call, or Ultima Online.
If we can never replicate
the thrill of those first steps into the unknown, why do we bother trying
new games and visiting new online worlds? I think that's a rhetorical
question. There is just as much hope to feel awed, amazed, stunned, and
very, very small in Telon as there has been in Norrath, or Dereth, or
It is true that we,
as gamers, will never be as unsophisticated as we were in the early days
of UO or EQ. I look at it as a progressive ladder, like my experiences
on the first day of school. My first day of high school was completely
different than my first day of kindergarten, and yet they both inspired
fear, and anticipation, and a sense that something better was just over
the horizon. Still, wherever a community of individuals, more disparate
than alike, more diverse than the United Nations, is allowed to grow,
you will find a new opportunity to remember your first day, or first weapon,
or your first companion all over again.