It appears I have been greatly misled by my dad, who misunderstood a remark Grandpa made. What Grandpa said was that he might do Crowduck with just him and Grandma next year. What Dad failed to understand was that he meant a second trip: Everyone would go, and then maybe just Grandma and Grandpa would go a month or two later. So, Crowduck is on, and it was never off in the first place!
I found out this much when I went to Oxford a couple days ago for Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa. I actually went on Christmas Eve and slept over. Uncle Joe was there, as he is every year, flying out from Oregon. Aunt Irene was also there; she (as I understand it) had come in to help Grandma and Grandpa around the house while and after Grandma was in the hospital with some sort of problem. Grandma is still a bit tender. I played a lot of pool with Uncle Joe, and, thanks to a quantity of beer, I actually gained a winning record (4-3) over him: unheard of! Christmas came. I had some stuff toward the stranger end of the spectrum this year, namely, from Grandma and Grandpa, a flashlight that you put on an elastic band over your head. However, in trying to think what possible use I could have for such a gift, I realized that it would make the perfect “headlight” for my biking forays in the dark. I also got a Swiss Army knife from Uncle Dan. And from Mom and Dad, I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, an exhaustive tool caddy (Mom got it wholesale from her job at The Hillman Group), a book called In a Far Country: The True Story of a Mission, a Marriage, a Murder, and the Remarkable Reindeer Rescue of 1898, and one other thing that I do not immediately recall. Oh yes, it was this year’s 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said calendar. This year, the Grasshoppers passed to Uncle Dave. These things have been circulating in the family for about forty years. It’s a little tin of Dutch Boy brand Fried Grasshoppers. Every year, the recipient gives them to someone else. I recall that when I gave them, I boxed them in a gradually enlarging series of boxes. I like to have a little fun.
So now to get to the real meat of this post. I try to come up with at least thing to write about that, rather than just current events, is an opinion or something. Today I ask: What good are RPGs? Not Rocket-Propelled Grenades. I mean Role-Playing Games. My most immediate beef is with one that Micah plays. It’s called RuneScape. I was surprised to learn that something called runes actually plays an important part in the game; I had figured, when he started playing, that they had found the word “rune” somewhere and decided it made a neat euphonious name for the game. Increasingly it’s become clear to me, though, that whatever they’re calling runes aren’t really runes. I think a more accurate word would be “scrolls”. That’s not my point. My point is that RPGs are really an insidious thing. For one thing, they’re not really games. A real game has a goal. The goal in RuneScape, as far as I can tell, is to “level up”. Micah currently has about five characters, and the highest is at Level 59. The point of getting a higher Level is to be more powerful, I guess. There is no endpoint to the game, nothing you have to achieve other than stare at a computer screen and navigate a bad-graphics character (whose face you never really even get to see) around a bad-graphics medieval “world”. The “world” resembles the constructs of a world you find in your dreams, where everything is scaled down except you, and you don’t have a lot of motor control over yourself. I saw Micah’s character wander across a “mountain range” whose tallest mountain was about fifty feet high and which was about an eighth of a mile long, but which was nevertheless covered in snow and inhabited by white wolves. It was enclosed by wooden fences at the borders of the property of a few farmers. Everything about the game is surreal. For example, unless you’re in, as I gather, “The Wilderness”, your character can walk right through any other character wandering around. The cities are guarded by large amounts of “guards”, but what these guards are good for is anybody’s guess, because not only do they just pointlessly wander (not guarding anything), but you can easily kill them and nobody even looks twice – not even the other guards. Once you’ve killed one, he instantaneously decomposes and youpick up his bones for some reason and bury them wherever you feel like: say, in a paved street, or in the floor of the Bank. That, as far as I can tell, is about all there is to the game. Amble aimlessly, kill guards and stuff, level up. And doing this, Micah spends at least three hours a day and usually more. (When I ask him how much RuneScape he’s played in a day, he usually claims about two hours, but clocks hailing from the Real World beg to differ.) A game that has no explicitly stated goal. Seems to me a lot like this one thing I’ve heard of called “living”. A game that simulates life! How grand! Well, the thing is, even if it were a good simulation, and it definitely isn’t, it isn’t life. All it is is a simulation. Our subject has transferred his time from the real world to this surreal 640×800 one. And he’s so caught up in the excitement of having something to do there (level up) that he doesn’t realize that the game is draining away his life. He feels successful, too, because he can quantify his results. “I leveled up! Now I’m at level 60!” Well, that’s not success. It’s nothing.
This goes for every other RPG, too, because obviously they’re all nothing.