Thursday 20 January 2011

A hero is someone who rebels or seems to rebel against the facts of existence.

Being a hero is difficult enough. Being a hero in an MMO isn’t even well defined. It’s a testament to the ingrained Skinner box training imprinted on the player population of today that few people seem to take a step back from their desperate desire to improve their character’s power level to heroic proportions, be it through gear or levels, to consider the fact that no matter how powerful the character becomes, no matter how heroic their deeds, there will always exist a sounder of boars whose members can parry -PARRY- that character’s sword attack and return a significant amount of damage in kind, penetrating through plate armour and shields no less. I sometimes wonder if the increasingly ludicrous armour in World of Warcraft isn’t a response to this, a sort of escalating proliferation of armaments, an MMO-based ersatz for the Cold War. As the Red’s boars grow in strength, so the armour of World of Warcraft’s military grows in size; they create bigger and better boars, we create yet bigger and better shoulderpads.

It still baffles me when wildlife repeatedly parries my attacks in an MMO, to my mind it reinforces the image that this isn’t a virtual world to be inhabited and explored, it’s simply an intransigent arcade game with delusions of persistence. It’s the Matrix reveal, stripping away the last vestiges of reality presented by the virtual construct:

“Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?

Do you think that’s a boar you’re fighting now?”

Suddenly it’s not a boar, it’s LootObject1074. And as the walls of the Matrix fall down around me, I see LootObject1074’s stats as glowing green MMOglyphs tumbling across the outline of its polygonal mesh, and note with frustration that the architects of the world couldn’t even be bothered to set its parry chance to zero. What does the boar parry with? Its head? A foreleg? Because I hate to break it to people, but the fundamental idea behind a sword or axe is to go through unprotected legs and heads like a hot knife through a leg or head. It’s a pretty basic tenet of the design, Sword Design 101 if you will.

“So class, who can tell me the basic theory of sword design? Yes, Béchamel.”

“Ah, as an object to wave about as a substitute penis in front of strangers in order to prove what a Big One you have, sir?”

“No, that’s important, but a secondary consideration at best. Hollandaise?”

“Sir, primarily they’re designed to act as a portable cantilever on which one can balance hors d’oeuvre should an unlawful butlers’ strike be declared during a royal masquerade.”

“See me after class, Hollandaise. Anyone? No?”

Or maybe boars do have some special evolutionary design that allows their limbs to defend against powerfully swung cutting implements. It would make the butcher profession a bit of a dangerous daredevil affair though, would it?

“In local news: butcher injuries remain high with a further fifteen butchers suffering varying levels of cuts and abrasions today as their cleavers were deflected by boar carcasses as they attempted to carve them up. Three butchers were taken to hospital with serious wounds, but were reported by their doctors to be in a stable condition.”

Let’s face it, based upon the number of boars that are killed each day by adventurers in your average MMO, you would expect the species to be extinct roughly minus seventeen seconds after the servers were opened; the sheer tooth-snarled expectation of the players waiting for the MMO to release would be enough to wipe out most of the wildlife in the game, an intangible wave of power, like an electromagnetic pulse in an AIBO factory. The fact that boars continue to exist would seem to indicate that they have followed a path of extreme accelerated evolution to counter that porcine extinction event known as Player Characters. The ability to block and parry sword blows was the first stage, but the real breakthrough was when a seventeenth century boar philosopher released his meditations on the existence of the self, resulting in the famous paraphrased realisation “I oink, therefore I ham” and the invention of a form of reincarnation called Spontaneous Awareness of Why Not. The argument for SPAWN goes something like this:

A boar is killed by an adventurer.
“Oh bum” says the boar, “that really is rather inconvenient”.
“But hang on” it continues, “if I’m dead, then who is thinking these thoughts?”
After giving it some serious consideration the boar decides that it must be itself who is doing the thinking.
“But if I’m thinking these thoughts then I must exist,” the boar continues to muse, “and since I have always existed as a boar, then I should really be a boar. I mean, why not?”
At which point the fully formed boar promptly pops back into the world from out of thin air.

This rapid evolution of boars would normally be cause for concern among adventurers in MMOs. Being that boars have already developed martial prowess beyond what would be considered reasonable, or even probable, and that the boars have also evolved the ability to spontaneously reincarnate at will, and are thus immortal beings akin to demigods, one would assume that they are destined to rule all the lands upon which they roam. Thankfully boars are also blessed with a very short memory, leaving them unable to do anything much other than defend themselves against assailants and form short philosophical theories. This is why you always see groups of boars standing around in the middle of fields, apparently deep in thought and not doing an awful lot; it is also why, when chased by an angry boar, a player merely has to keep running in a straight line and wait for the boar to realise that it has forgotten whether it left the iron on before it left home, whereupon it turns around and dashes back to make sure its house isn’t on fire, only to reach where it was and realise that it had forgotten that it didn’t own an iron, or a house. It is generally aware that it has now forgotten something else that it was doing prior to looking for a non-existent iron, but it quickly forgets this too, at which point it is usually distracted by thoughts on phenomenological ontology.

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