Monday 12 September 2011

Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life.

There’s a carousel looping around inside my head, and as it passes each ear on its circumnavigation of the interior of my skull the faint looping echo of It’s a Small World can be heard. The carousel reflects the madness in my mind of this musical memory, sometimes LOUD, sometimes quiet, sometimes near, sometimes far, often times fast, then slow; the tune has been with me for such a time that I’m no longer sure that it’s driving me mad, but instead the extended captivity it has endured within my brain is slowly driving the song itself insane. Every now and then it makes a bid for freedom, I feel it travel downwards and catch, trying to burst forth from the back of my throat, but I hold it fast in the fear that releasing its week-long pent up energy will result in more than just my gentle vocalisation of its harmonies. The nightmare begins with a gentle humming which quickly progresses into a jaunty whistle, which is when my work colleagues start performing harmonies, and before I know it I’m in the midst of a full-on Mary Poppins-esque musical number, with people leaning out of offices to deliver lines and choruses, and yet others dancing down the aisles swishing frilly skirts and rolling top hats down their arms. It quickly degenerates from there, mimicking the pink elephants on parade from Dumbo, at which point I snap back to reality and find the song has returned to the carousel in my mind, quietly echoing its way between my ears once more – Disney’s precursor to the Rickroll.

Other than that, I returned from Disneyland relatively unscathed.

I’m on holiday in Lord of the Rings Online at the moment too. Having achieved the last of my own end-game goals –legendary weapons, mounts, relevant reputations and virtues, and crafting all now at their maximums– I’m loath to login and try to force new tasks upon myself, especially with the gnarled fingers of Mirkwood parting and the lands surrounding Isengard quickly coming into view. The new expansion is sure to offer ten more levels of boars to kill, and I wouldn’t want to burn out on the game beforehand. For the moment, then, I’m happy to perform a few daily skirmishes to keep my 1-2-3-4 keys warm, and because you can never have too many skirmish marks, especially with this season’s fabulous range of Isengardian cosmetic hats just around the corner.

The Monday static group continues on regardless, probably. The timing of the expansion is possibly a fortuitous one, with the ever starker realisation that our casual one-per-week gaggle of castaways is not really suited to much of the end game’s content, which is where the crest of the levelling wave beached us many months ago. Unfortunately, as with any group, become stranded on the end-game island without really having the tools or willingness to tackle the challenges it provides, and things inevitably start to go a bit Lord of the Flies after a while. I started painting faces on, and talking to, horse bums, and by his own report it seems as though Van Hemlock had a brief brush with conch smashing, although the only thing killed was perhaps the momentarily elevated level of hope and enthusiasm for raid content within the group. Certainly my enthusiasm has not waned for bumming around on the beach of end-game and dipping my toes in the waters surrounding it. Perhaps, as with real life castaways, such unwillingness to be productive as a group would eventually be the death of it all, but thankfully Turbine seem to turn up and build a lengthy bridge to the next desert island shortly before we all perform the MMO equivalent of putting on face paint and turning feral. Looking on the bright side, there are plenty of wild pig heads to be had in MMOs, should we want to make a sacrifice to the Beast of Raiding that haunts and torments all casual groups in MMOs. It’s still all about the companionship of others as far as I’m concerned, and I would be happy inventing new and interesting ways to make running the otherwise ‘on farm’ Grand Stair instance a challenge, as long as people were still merrily joking, discussing, gossiping, quipping, or gently mocking the group’s Captain, over Mumble.

In the meantime, outside of Monday night, I’m going to briefly slow my MMO playing in anticipation of the glut of grindy gaming goodness that will come with LotRO’s Isengard expansion. As such I’ve reignited my XBox Live account, warmed up the console, and ordered myself copies of Space Marine and Gears of War 3, because firing-up fast, furious and frantic co-op shooters always seems a suitable antipode on the gaming globe to the more plodding, ponderous and prosaic nature of the games currently found on the MMO continent.

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