We read to know we are not alone.

Zoso wrote to me at work this morning – I’m offline in the evening at the moment for reasons that I’m sure I’ll go into in a meandering and flannelling fashion sometime soon – huzzahing the fact that we’re both set for a rhino riding rampage in Age of Conan should we ever reach the heady level of the forties in said game. He also mentioned, however, that we would at least have our bonus order belts for extra carrying capacity in the meantime; apparently you get a free belt in lieu of the mount which you can’t use until level forty. This was news to me, and I realised that I’d not fully read the deal before making my order for the game, I’d just skimmed it and hit purchase.

And now I worry that I’m speed reading various things in real life as though they were quest texts, and I wonder what sort of trouble that could get me into in the future:

You are purchasing blah blah blah Conan blah blah rhino blah blah blah blah blah early access blah blah. Blah blah blah 24 pounds blah. Blah. Blah blah blah.

Yes, yes, yes. Whatever. 24 pounds, rhino, early access. It’s all there, just let me purchase the thing already. Click. Click. Done.

<Two months later>

%ding dong%

Me: “Hello?”

Delivery Man: “Good morning sir, a delivery for you.”

Me: <Looks at delivery note> “Hmm, there seems to have been sort of mistake.”

Delivery Man: “Sir?”

Me: “Well, it’s just that this seems to be a delivery note for a female African black rhino implausibly called Conan, an artificial insemination kit and twenty four pounds of black rhino semen.”

Delivery Man: “That’s right, sir. One rhino and an ‘early access’ insemination kit. Starting a breeding program are we sir?”

Me: “I… really didn’t read that order properly, did I?”

<Another delivery man arrives>

Delivery Man 2: “Morning, sir. Just sign here for your order of a warhammer on a line, an aged Nganasan shaman and twelve dismembered heads.”

Me: “Oh dear.”

I don’t think that it’s necessarily conditioning on the part of MMOs that has caused this, because I understand that there are plenty of people out there who play MMOs and read the quest text in full, and that these people are still able to lead fulfilling and healthy lives. I think, in fact, that my altitus is as much to blame as anything, what with constantly rolling new characters and repeating old content, one generally begins to accept quests automatically because they’ve been experienced before. This is habit forming, though, and eventually you begin to see every set of quest text as an overly lengthy interruption to your game-play, even if reading that text would take only a matter of tens of seconds. It’s often a false economy though, even with the excellent quest trackers in modern MMOs, the quest text is usually there to explain where you are required to go, and what it is that you have to kill ten of this time. So you end-up revisiting the quest text, skimming it to find the pertinent information, and wasting more time than if you’d just read it all in the first place. Alas, the habit is formed, and it is a strong one: text is your enemy and must be ignored at all costs!

The problems lies with the fact that it translates too easily into the real world; it crosses that ineffable boundary between fantasy and reality and haunts your ways, like when you’ve just woken from a dream and have yet to shake it off as the fictional creation of your subconscious. Of course, you soon realise that there is not, in fact, a giant space octopus with tentacles made of creamy pasta and a single fulgurating eye of pure topaz trying to steal the collection of George Clooneys from under your bed.

I’m sure you can relate to the experience now, because even if you don’t skip the quest text, I think we’ve all had that dream.