Tuesday’s Takes: That’s Entertainment
I seriously doubt that there are very many of us who go through a day without a bit of entertainment. It may be as simple as listening to the radio, surfing the Net, or
watching the TV, but at some point during our busy days, we do look for a means to relax. Presumably the same would hold true for individuals existing in a fantasy world, such as the characters played in any number of fantasy-oriented MMORPGs. Quite simply, one would think there would be more to a character’s life than slaying monsters and seeking treasure.
Sadly, it seems to me that in most MMORPGs there is very little to be had in the way of entertainment for the characters themselves. In some ways, I find this odd. From my days playing pen and paper games, I seem to recall that we would sometimes have games within the RPGs themselves. This was especially true when we played Boot Hill, TSR’s old Wild West game. It was not unusual for an actual poker game to take place as the characters were playing poker! Of course, in our D&D and other fantasy RPGs it was not unusual for characters to participate in tournaments (I played a cavalier once who was a champion at jousting) and archery contests. There were also the typical wandering troubadours to provide the characters with song, arm wrestling contests, and so on. Beyond pen and paper RPGs, I also recall that there have been games within some of the old console games. Both Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX included card games which occurred as part of their plots.
It seems to me that even as various forms of entertainment existed in the fantasy worlds of the old pen and paper RPGs, and have sometimes even turned up in console games, then they should be a part of MMORPGs as well. That having been said, the question remains, “What sort of entertainments should exist in a fantasy oriented MMORPG such as Vanguard: Saga of Heroes?” My own thought is that in a world which promises to be roughly equivalent to our own medieval era, the entertainments should be roughly equivalent to those that existed in our own Middle Ages.
The predominant stereotype of medieval entertainment seems to have always been wandering minstrels and court jesters. Certainly, there is some truth to this stereotype. Minstrels were indeed a part of the medieval landscape and some, such as Arnaut Daniel and Konrad von Würzburg, even gained a fair degree of fame in their time. As to jesters, they often formed the entourage of kings and queens. Although this was during the Renaissance rather than the Middle Ages, Henry VIII employed a jester named Will Sommers . Within the Bard class in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, it seems to me that player characters could actually assume the role of minstrels or even jesters, entertaining the populace when they are off slaying monsters and retrieving treasure.
Of course, there is more to entertainment than songs and comedy. Most of us grew up playing various games, whether chess or Monopoly. As might be expected, games were very much a part of medieval life. Forms of backgammon apparently go back to ancient Mesopotamia. The game was known as tabula amongst the ancient Romans. Backgammon was known during the Anglo-Saxon era in England, although it would be through the Crusades that backgammon would become one of the most popular games of all time. Chess, which apparently originated in ancient Iran, had made its way to Europe by the Middle Ages. It was played in Spain as early as the 10th century. Forms of draughts or checkers were also being played in Spain as early as the 13th century. Although largely forgotten now, hnefatafl was a game popular among the Norse during the Viking era. It was so popular that it would eventually spread from Scandinavia to England, Germany, Ireland, and Wales. Another game popular with the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxon peoples of England was Nine Men’s Morris.
There were other games beyond board games played in medieval Europe, as well. Darts, so much a part of life in British pubs and American bars, began in medieval England. “Shooting craps” or rolling dice was as popular in the Middle Ages as it is now. Indeed, apparently cheating existed even then: archaeologists have found dice from the Viking era that were actually loaded!
As to sports, hard as it may be to imagine, versions of bowling existed as early as the Middle Ages. The game was so popular that in the 14th century, King Edward III of England had to ban his troops from bowling! Forms of football (otherwise known to Americans as soccer….) apparently existed as early as the Anglo-Saxon era in England. Tennis also existed as early as the days of Chaucer, and is even referred to his poem Troilus and Criseyde. Of course, there were also the tournaments, at which knights would face off against each other with sword and lance. And even back then, horse racing was a popular pastime.
Even if one simply looks to the medieval era for possible entertainments in a MMORPG, it seems that he or she would have a wide range of choices. And while I am no expert at computer code or creating MMORPGs, I suspect it would be easy enough to place such games as hnefatafl, dice, or even football within, say, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Of course, I guess some people might question the need for such games within a game. My thought is that these games would give individuals something to do beyond slaying creatures, fashioning provisions, or going on quests. Let’s face it, in real life even the bravest warrior would want to sit down to a pleasant game of checkers at some point. Even the most devoted cleric would want to have some down time when her or she could simply relax with some ale and listen to a minstrel perform. I might add that, for those who take their role-playing seriously, it could also add some dimension to player characters. After all, a player could boast not only that his or her character was a powerful shaman, but a champion chess player as well!
I don’t know if MMORPGs will ever seek to incorporate various entertainments, at least on a large scale. That having been said, I could argue that it might be a very good idea.
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