Saturday, March 21, 2009

Haunted by the Past

I have now played through the transformative moment for the Death Knights (called DKs in the game) where they turn away from the dark side and embrace the light.  How this happens is not as interesting to me as how the past follows the DKs in the game.  Initially, when they enter any city the citizens throw things at them, spit on them, call them names, taunt them because of their shameful past.  Eventually this stops as the DK starts to work for the "good."   The game goes on just as it would for any other high level character, for the most part, except that the DK character has a very swift horse, exceptional (blue) armor and a very cool way to zoom back to her home no matter where she is in the world.   She could almost forget that she was ever working for the evil one.  And it seems as if the game wants you to forget.  But I can't.

I feel ashamed when I play the DK character.  I remember only too well what that character did. Although the character has a swifter mount and way cooler armor than any of my other characters, it feels to me that the armor and mount was not earned in an honorable way, so I have mixed feelings about it.  The DK is still profiting from her evil (she hasn't given away the mount or the armor),  just like those CEOs who in the recent news have received huge bonuses for plunging the stock market into the abyss, so she, like them, is still to be despised.  

I haven't deleted the DK character, but I haven't played it for while.  I've chosen to create another character, a Troll Priest, who has weak armor, a slow, lolling gait, and skills that focus on healing.  She's very slow, and has to use her skills at healing herself to survive in any fight. She has to be more resourceful than a DK and can avoid fights by screaming at attackers and scaring them away so that she can run away.  And I am leisurely playing that character for now.

I just returned (in real life) from southern Mexico  where I travelled for two weeks on a delayed honeymoon with my husband (more about this in a future post).  I rarely thought about WoW; the landscape of the Sierra Madres and the culture of Mexico was so compelling I didn't have much time or desire to think of anything else, especially a fantasy landscape.  But I picked it up again when I returned.  Television has become so boring to me; except for the news I could happily never watch another TV show, but my husband does like to watch TV for a couple hours each night before going to bed.  So while he's watching TV, I'll play this game for R&R, unless I have papers to grade or books to read for the classes I'm teaching.  

We had the poet Alicia Ostriker, someone I've known personally for about 20 years,  to visit at Chatham last week, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to catch up with her.  We had engough time talking that I began to tell her a little bit about my playing of this game and my desire to write a book or series of essays related to the playing of the game.  She seemed to agree that the experiences were interesting, but at one point asked  "So are you addicted to this game?"  

Of course I said no.  I play about an hour a day, I said.  But this reminds me of the alcoholic who says she isn't an alcoholic, only has two drinks a day (forgetting to mention the times she has three or four or sometimes passes out).  Sometimes I play more than an hour, especially on the weekends.  And I think about it a lot, although in all honesty I am obsessive about anything I plan to write about seriously, so this is no different.  But the real truth is that I have thought a lot about addiction;  I've written about drug and alcohol addiction extensively in my poetry and essays (both my brothers, my aunt and father died early of drugs or alcohol), and I have thought all along playing this game that it would be useful for me to explore why and how video game addiction occurs, and to try to write about it.  Since I came close myself to falling to the same addictions my father and brothers fell to, but survived to tell about it, I figured I might have the strength to survive this and write in a compassionate way about the desire to play these games such that those of use who don't play (and especially mothers and fathers) have a first-hand account from someone who's been there.  

But just as I'm haunted by the past actions of the DK figure, I'm haunted by my own past and the past of my brothers and father.  I feel that darkness in my fingers when I move my characters around the screen, when I furtively look at the clock to see how long I've been playing, when I rush upstairs to play after work or when Teake leaves to go to the store.  I'm playing with fire, and my fingers know it.

1 comment:

  1. this is getting very interesting, Sheryl.

    As i've said before, i am very interested in the *outcome* of your research. i just hope you are not like Madame Curie who endured harm to herself while advancing science for the rest of us. i hope i'm not to bold when i ask: when will you be done with the research?