A cage is only as small as the reach of your mind
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 April 2013, 7:00 am
My post the other day about quests received an interesting comment:
Such is the sorry state of our virtual world of Azeroth now. I have a pandaren level 10 stuck forever on the back of a turtle because she can't bring herself to help the Tauren invaders just because some mad old fool asked her to. She wants to go and heal the humans who are engaged nearby in a fight with her enemy, the lizard-men; but in their infinite wisdom, the gods have changed the nature of the medical supplies she can see on the ground, so that her fingers pass through them as she tries to pick them up.

When the world we explore is nothing but a backdrop for a series of quests, that are themselves nothing more than a meaningless series of button-clicks required for our guaranteed reward, our virtual world is gone, replaced by a games lobby and an internet chat tool; and then we may as well be on Facebook instead.

 I may be placing too much emphasis on the presence of the word "now", but its use suggests that something has changed.  In my reply I note that in terms of the game itself, almost nothing is different.  If anything the world is a little bit more interactive.  The quests which currently act as gates in the form of phasing once acted as gates in the form of prerequisites (and are still prerequisites).  The change is visual, but that's all that changed: it became more visible.

I could chalk this up to the usual blend of nostalgia and burnout, with a dose of old-fashioned Perpetual Downfall of Society.  That last one is, as I suggested, not new.  Just the other day I had to tell off an old man who attacked my generation, pointing out that PDS is nothing new: from the moment we invented the written word our memories have suffered, as if a single cognitive measure, taken in isolation, matters.  I refrained from throwing some Camus at his Dante because I had to get to work.  My point is that I think people take a sort of comfort in thinking that they were the correct generation, smarter than the ignorant previous and smarter than the impaired next.  This requires one to interpret old change as good and new change as bad, and to generally misinterpret and disregard anything that is new and good, or even old and good but retained by the next generation.

In the beginning Azeroth was a vast world.  It seemed limitless.  Now it does not.  This was not a matter of size; it has grown larger since then.  Nor can I attribute it entirely to transportation changes, for while faster travel reduces the perceived size, the actual land area to discover remains intact.  I could go anywhere (with frequent death) and do anything I could think of.

That last part is the key: anything I could think of.  Early on I did not imagine what else I could want to do in this world.  I'd done only a tiny fraction of what I could.  This had two effects.  One was that I had not run into a limit yet.  The other was that I could not imagine a limit.  I did not imagine that the sky ended, that the quests ended, that the raids could all be done.  These were all true, but since I did not know them and did not even imagine them, they were irrelevant.  I was running the infinite distance of a circular path.

Since then I've learned and my behavior has changed.  I do not run in circular paths.  I run out, find the edge, map it out, and then fill it in.  This means that very early on my mind has already filled the size of the world, so that all that can happen after are details, with nothing big to be revealed.  In my mind it looks like two strategies for filling in a circle.  Both start at the center.  One draws a line out to the edge and now the radius is known.  It then spirals inward, knowing exactly where it is headed.  The other starts the spiral at the center.  It will cover the same area, but it will do so not knowing where the edge is, what the limits are, until it reaches them.

This is part of why I like new genres of games (that is, when I can pull myself away from habit).  I don't know the limits.  I don't even know if it is a circle, so I cannot easily dart out to the edge and cut it off.  My meta-gaming is temporarily disabled and I regress to a simpler state of simply playing the game.  Eventually I may start to figure it out and move to the different fun of meta-gaming, but not yet.  It's a two-for-one deal with a new genre or significantly new game.  I haven't yet made rules for myself, so I get to break them.

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