The Epic Adventure
Time for something completely different. I want to talk about Narrativism and how it relates to WoW. Narrativism is the view that stories have an important place in the world, that they teach us things so that reality doesn’t have to. I believe pretty fully that most things can be predicted based on expected outcomes; if you find the story you’re “in,” you can figure out the ending. Narrativism even acts like a religion, because, in the end, all religions are collections of stories passed down from on high. It’s a whole package, you see, and I believe it shapes the world in which we live.
There are many books, movies, and even TV shows that play on this idea. This isn’t a post about those things. It’s also not a post about trying to convince you I’m right or wrong; instead, it’s simply a post about how WoW is about more (to a few people) than just accumulation.
A lot of people recently (myself included) have been discussing the Call to Arms (this is not a discussion about that, either). I said that we shouldn’t be surprised because WoW is based on accumulation, be it levels, points, achievements, gear, or gold. However, I know that not everyone plays that way; I certainly don’t. A more careful examination of why I play brought me back to the idea of narrativism and its role in my video game life.
I have a terrible habit of not finishing games. When I figure out how a game will end and know that I can beat the game, I frequently stop playing it. I may go back months later when I’m terribly bored of WoW and play through the last bit, but sometimes I never do. To really keep me involved in a game, I have to be kept guessing and constantly feeling like I’m barely surviving.
WoW’s been good at keeping me around, though of course I’ve taken long breaks from time to time. I always come back, though, and I always want to raid. You see, it’s the narrative appeal that matters to me. Fighting through ICC to save Bolvar Fordragon, to see the evil Lich King’s end, these are the things that motivate me to raid. Seeing the impressive new boss models with their sinister look or heartbreaking situation (Valithria, for example) has always been far more important to me than getting a new piece of gear.
I’m more and more into the story of the game, you see, the narrative of it. I feel real anger about Hellscream taking over the horde (and all that followed). I am impressed by my own heroic exploits as a character. I like the story it tells about my toon, the kind of person he is (he doesn’t kill critters), and how he’s grown.
Besides the game story, the act of playing creates stories, too. Who doesn’t have a story about a heroic overcoming of odds at the last moment to down a boss? Who hasn’t had a butt-clenching loss? Who doesn’t remember the time when X did Y and everyone Z’d all over themselves? The story that comes out of the game is what makes it worth playing, and in the end, that really has nothing to do with the game itself. It has to do with the act of playing with others, sharing the experiences, be they good, bad, or hilarious.
So that’s the narrative approach, then: play. Play whatever, however, with whomever, but play. Enjoy yourself. Accumulate, yes, not just gear, but stories. Tell them. Share the frustration of that one pug, the joy at your first raid boss kill, or the tears as a game-only friend stopped playing and you lost touch. And always remember that no matter how terrible a dungeon may go, the worse the dungeon, the better the story, so grin and bear it.
Stubborn (who’ll share a story or two tomorrow)