There are hard things going on right now. The end of school coming up, my mother about to have serious surgery, either of those would be enough. But there are two. I am coping as best I can, and getting better at coping every day. Taking on more and more responsibility. Listening to the cricket in my head. (I let my conscience be my guide, occasionally.) I’m doing homework, writing, reading, knitting, and I have a new activity to add to the roster.
I’m playing a computer game.
This, in itself, is not completely out of the ordinary for me. I have been known to play The Sims 2 for way too long at a stretch. I used to play platformers, and first-person shooters, until I realized that they scared me. But the game I’m playing is the acme of all fantasy epics. It involves controlling multiple characters, using strategy more complex than, “Go here, shoot a bunch of guys, get lost, forget why you’re there, go somewhere else, shoot more guys.”
In this game, the strategy usually is, “Go here. *pause* Give everyone commands. *unpause* OH GOD OH GOD OGRES! *pausepausepause* Heal! *unpause* Oh, damn. I’m dead. *reload* Go here. Again.”
Dragon Age: Origins. Wooo.
To be fair to myself, I am getting better. It’s taken most of the game, but I can fight most battles without constant nannying. My gaming companion is the same person who is my companion for most other things these days: my boyfriend, here called Charlie. Charlie loves video games with a passion I reserve for nineteenth-century novels. We get on well while we’re playing, as long as I don’t start snapping at him for having a harsh tone in his voice while giving me instructions so as to avoid Death by Ogre. When that happens, I keep in mind that the pixelated avatar of the love of his life is at the brink of demise (again) and that this is necessarily an emotionally charged situation for him. (Though we’ve been playing for months and you’d think he’d be used to it by now. But no. Such is love.) It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
When I say “we” have been playing for months, I mean that our method of gaming is as follows: I drive the characters and do all the in-game work. He sits by with walkthroughs, wikis, and forum posts, reading about the game and the stuff and telling me where to go when I get stuck or unreasonably nervous. (Those two last bits happen often.) This means we need to be in the same place with a bunch of free time, and that doesn’t happen often. I think we get through maybe… six to ten hours of gameplay a weekend, and that means we’ve been at this for over two months. Dragon Age is a loooong game. I think it’s going to ruin me for shorter fair. I like long stories. I get more invested in them. I’m also reading Vanity Fair right now. Have I mentioned my idea for a nineteenth century RPG? There must be a market for it! As well, an FPS in which you control Jane Austen, and she has a flame thrower. What? I would play it all the time. Don’t look at me like that.
I love playing this game. The world is rich, the story is immersive, the character I’m playing looks a lot like me, and it’s a shared experience. I suppose that’s what draws people to MMORPGs, with thousands, even millions of other players. But I like playing a single-player game with someone else there. It’s a collaborative effort, the way we play, and I like that.
This is all for now. I’m tired, and I’ve babbled about this quite enough already. But I’m right at the end of the story, and it’s been on my mind. The real and the fantastical intersect more often that you think, if you let them. For me, that junction is one of the things keeping me sane right now. When real things are in chaos, building something imaginary can be a lifesaver.