Monday 1 August 2011

To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.

My week of holiday over, it’s back to the grindstone for me; as well as getting back to playing MMOs I should probably return to work too. I managed a week away without MMOs quite admirably all things considered, and the palpitations were barely noticeable by the end of the third day. I attribute this to my quick development of a survival strategy to deal with the oppressive fresh air and interminable rest and relaxation the holiday resort provided, and so I present here a few tips and tricks to avoid MMO withdrawal while being forced to experience the ghastliness that is moderate sunlight, forest scenery, and light exercise.

If you have children, make them collect things.

My three-year-old daughter has a fascination with pine cones, something which becomes somewhat of an obsession when presented with a forest packed to the canopy with conifers. I made the most of the situation by setting her tasks to collect certain numbers of pine cones and return them to me. When she returned with the correct number I would offer her the choice of a plastic sword or an item of clothing from her suitcase, the latter of which she quickly learned could be equipped in order to improve her resistance to elemental damage. If she brought me an incorrect number of pine cones, I would either ignore her entirely, or incessantly repeat the same nonsensical sentence to her until she went away and collected the correct number. As the holiday progressed I found that I could increase the complexity of the task to keep things interesting, asking her to collect only pine cones of a certain size, for example. Of course, any pine cones that she collected prior to me assigning the task were ineligible for submission. Eventually, however, pine cone collection became tiresome to us both, and so I determined to set her more challenging tasks. After the angry phone call from the petting zoo asking if I was related to the small child with the plastic sword who was attacking the pigs, I decided to stick with creatures that could be found in the surrounding forest; unfortunately she never did manage to catch a wolf, despite several nights alone in the forest searching for them. I found the trick to convincing her to undertake the more extreme tasks was a suitable reward, with access to her mother and food curiously being the best motivators, while MMO staples such as gold and ‘character building experience’ seemed not to provide any incentive at all.

Create your own Fed Ex quest

Write a letter asking the recipient if they would like a bag of obscure sweets from the place you intend to visit on holiday. Seal the letter in an envelope and address it to a friend who is not going on holiday with you. Take the letter with you on holiday, and at some point during the vacation hand it to your partner. Your partner will look at it, tell you it’s addressed to your friend back home, and that you should probably give it to them. Upon returning home give the letter to your friend, whereupon they will open the letter and tell you that, yes, they would like a bag of obscure sweets from the holiday location you just returned from. Keep the letter until the next time you return to that holiday destination, at which point you can then buy the sweets. Give the sweets to your friend upon your return: quest complete!

Don’t forget to loot everything

Be sure to wander in to every holiday villa you come across and take all the items you think you might be able to sell for a quick profit. Don’t mind any people who you may stumble across while rummaging through the place, they should ignore you. Be warned, however, that the occupants might try to tell you their life story and burden you with a tale of woe; if this looks likely, make a run for the exit, grabbing anything you can from the table by the door on the way out.
Also make sure to loot any corpses you see. Most combat seems to take place primarily on sandy beach areas where you’ll find many corpses laid out on death shrouds, being dried in the mid-morning sun ready for mummification. Usually these corpses have plenty of loot left in their bags and satchels, but don’t under any circumstances try to acquire their plate-mail bikinis: some curse binds the armour to them even in the after life, and they will rise up from the dead and immediately aggro.

Holiday mail

Don’t forget when travelling abroad that many foreign places –despite being scary and full of foreigners– still exhibit some of the basics of modern society, such as rudimentary mail systems. Be sure to look for mailboxes and take the opportunity to dance on or around them wherever you can. It’s often difficult to explain a full suit of oversized plate armour to a customs official, so it’s best to improvise an impressive legendary outfit when you reach your holiday destination: putting on a bikini and covering giant palm leaves in silver glitter then taping them to your shoulders makes an excellent approximation for epic plate armour, for example. I didn’t have time to think of any outfit ideas for females however, sorry.

Consider crafting

Find a nice open space on a nearby beach and, using a small bucket, begin building rudimentary sandcastles. Repeat this process until you have at least three hundred and fifty tiny sandcastles or you have filled the beach, whichever comes first. Once complete, quickly rake all the sandcastles back into the beach before anyone can observe your work, and then start again, only with a slightly larger bucket. For an authentic experience increase the number of sandcastles you require by a factor of 1.2 each time, and place an arbitrary restriction on the creation of each castle, such as requiring a shell for the front door, or a flag made from a near-extinct flower only found in a single isolated location three hundred miles away from your current position.

Hearthstone emulation

At the end of the holiday, simply get in the passenger seat of the car, quickly go to sleep and let your partner drive the many hundreds of miles home through nightmarish holiday traffic. When you awake, however, it will be back at your house, and it will appear from your perspective that you instantaneously transported there! Any budding Paladins may want to take a roll of bubble wrap with them in which to encase themselves before the journey.

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