Philosophical thoughts on endings and beginnings

These days I feel as if I am perched on some kind of virtual bungee cord platform, all harnessed in to leap off into the abyss, but I am in a holding pattern because there are some last-minute safety checks and wind adjustments to be made. I am ready, I’ve made the decision to do this, but the hold gives me a little too much time to rethink it all, to look behind me rather too fondly and to start to worry too much about what could go wrong as soon as I leap off the platform.

Draenor is, for all practical purposes, behind us, and we are about to hurtle into Legion. But just now we are stuck on the platform, balanced on our own little fulcrum in time. Was Draenor really so bad after all? Wouldn’t it be comforting to be back there, raking in the gold from garrisons, raiding in familiar places made easier by nerfs and gear we worked for months to get? Will Legion be as much fun as we hope it will be, will it give us the rush of excitement we sought when we plunked our money down? Or will it turn into one of those Really Bad Ideas we seem to come up with far too often?

As life moments go, changes to a game — even major changes to it — are very small potatoes indeed, tiny blips in a specialized environment. But one of the reasons games, especially the MMO genre, appeal to humans is that sometimes they allow us to better frame the complexities of real life — and indeed of ourselves — in smaller, more easily understood chunks. Are we idealists who believe in a good versus evil world (Alliance-centered), or do we have a more nuanced vision where people are neither entirely good or evil, they just are (Horde-centered). Even if we know we are idealists, do we play Horde characters because we want more nuance in our lives? If we are Horde-type realists, do we play Alliance characters because we long for a more binary view of the world?

In real life, we often find ourselves teetering on the point of a time fulcrum. Just one tiny move will tip our lives forever in a certain direction and nothing will ever be the same again. No matter how much we may want to make that move, for a brief moment we hold our breaths and look at what will be left behind. Hearts racing, we pause in equilibrium before taking that courageous leap. We do not always have the chance to realize when we are at such tipping points in our lives, sometimes we can only see them after they have passed. But when we do have the chance, we should savor the experience, we should allow ourselves to be exhilarated both by the looking back and the looking forward.

Like scattered leaves
Slowed in midfall
Into the streams

Of fast running rivers
Of choice and chance
And time stops here on the delta
While they dance, while they dance …

From Crosby, Stills and Nash — “Delta”

The impending Legion expansion in WoW, of course, does not even register on life’s Richter scale. But like a good game should, it has led me to think more clearly about some of the most ephemeral moments of the human experience.

On that note, let the weekend begin.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

3 Responses to Philosophical thoughts on endings and beginnings

  1. Well written, I enjoyed this piece very much.
    I think it is fear (in a very tame sense) mixed with anticipation. I wonder, for example, that with all the new systems, scaling, tuning and balancing, design and all that has gone into our future Legion: what if it turns out to be “pretty but bland”?
    Mind if I tell a story and take up your comment space? Once upon a time, I was designing lights for a choreographer. It was a beautiful piece and I enforced it with beautiful lighting; lovely colors, gentle transitions, accenting the music changes with cross fades. We opened the show to success. However, we took the show to a new venue and the choreographer said, “it’s lovely, you did a great job but I made a mistake and the choreography is too safe, to predictable, too pretty. I can’t change the dancers — we must work together to use your lights to give this piece an edge, some humor, some relief.” Which I gladly did, once I understood his take. The point being that we as craftsmen knew exactly how to echo the design concept in our work but we did it so finely that the work was … bland!

    • Fiannor says:

      Interesting story, thanks for relating it. It is true that in any environment we tend to notice only those things that seem out of place or slightly “off” from the rest of the setting. This is a species adaptation that has served humans well for purposes of survival, and we are very, very good at it. But as you point out, when survival is not the issue, this human trait becomes a problem for the artist who wants to engage his audience and focus their interest yet still maintain a sense of unity, cohesion, and flow.

      The same, obviously, is true of game developers who are after all giving us extremely complex art. In the case of Legion, I think I will be optimistic that we will have plenty of “out of place” (and therefore “interesting”) focal points simply because Blizz has shown themselves to be mediocre at best when it comes to end-to-end project management. (!!)

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