I am no warrior (and other role playing observations)

When my friend Riekie (from Clouded Marbles) visited in January, she brought along her notebook (laptop) so she could play her favourite online role-playing game during any downtime. Riekie plays one of the MMORP games online (you can read her post about them here). Looking over her shoulder one evening, I asked her to show me how the game worked. She looked mildly shocked. She says she can still remember me telling her years ago, that as a computer programmer, the last thing I wanted to do in  my spare time was play computer games (most of the computer programmers I’ve met don’t play computer games). Riekie was quite happy to show me around, and again surprised when I said I wanted to load the game on my computer and give it a try. She thinks that I was drawn in by the characters in the game, but it was really the amazing world that the designers had created which had me fascinated and wanting to find out more.

Maybe I hadn’t ever played computer games because in real life I have co-ordination problems? Initially I made my character run into the nearest wall or tree with alarming frequency, necessitating a visit to the nearest “armour and weapon repair person”. This was before I even left the city (a peaceful place where you can wander around without getting attacked) or fought my first battle! Eventually I began to get a handle on the controls – the computer mouse and some key-strokes – and could venture out of the city and take on the world outside.

So in the three weeks that I’ve been logging into the game I’ve made a few observations:

1) The characters must have been created for and/or by young males. Female characters are tall and lithe with big chests (which they display unprotected even in battle), long legs and skimpy costumes. “Combat boots” have alarmingly high heels. This of course has been done before in film. Think of Keira Knightley’s costume in King Arthur – see photo here. Although some of the non-playing female characters (supporting characters) are more demure, the lady banker dresses like a hooker! Maybe the game designers’ comment on the current banking crisis? 🙂

Male warriors are handsome, well-built and fierce. And have proper armour!

My character in her nifty little fighting costume. The armour definitely has to have magical powers to keep me safe during battle! The only really serious part of this get-up is my sword.

Check out those high-heeled winged boots! The cut-outs in the costume sure make it easy for anyone to stab my vital organs. Doesn't this remind you of Keira Knightley's costume in the film King Arthur?

2. The world that has been created in this game is amazing and multi-dimensional. There are a host of different regions and environments – farmlands, swamps, deserts, forests, caves, dungeons and cities – which are very realistic. Another world for me to dream about – and I already have. Wind causes ripples in water, reeds and grasses sway in the breeze and sunbeams penetrate the forest canopy. Running (these characters don’t go for gentle strolls) through this world feels like you are really there. As an ecologist in a former career, this all fascinates me in its realism. Although there are some obvious mistakes – like seaweed in a freshwater lake.

3. The graphics are really awesome. The character movements are complex and respond to their environment. They kick up dust running over sand, and splash water running through the swamps. Once the Mobs (monsters) become aware of your presence, they attack and other Mobs are sure to notice and join in the fight. So the interactive nature of the game isn’t restricted to the players, but extends to your environment and to the Mobs.

4. There is this interesting mix between ancient scenery and ancient architecture, and more futuristic aspects. My character is from the Paladin class – warriors dating back to the Middle Ages in the real world. Although from paintings I’ve seen, the paladins were male and definitely not as sexy! The city is of a mixture of architecture, some of it distinctly Roman looking. The functions that the non-playing characters fill are very Medieval in nature – there are blacksmiths, alchemists, armorers and other craftsmen. All the functions you would expect to see in a Medieval city. And there are mystical characters that remind one of Middle Earth (from Lord of the Rings). Then on the opposite end, the teleporters which allow the characters to travel with lightening speed between the various regions.

5. All the characters fight – even the wizards and the clerics/healers – with varying degrees of brute force, fighting skills and magical powers. There are no peaceful jobs like “explorer” or “ecological researcher” to apply for! Which lead me to my biggest revelation . . .

6. I am no warrior. No huge surprise there. In real life I shy away from conflict and confrontation. Initially I kept getting “killed”. So my “strategy” was to take along a more experienced player who essentially fought my battles for me, while I concentrated on not being attacked from behind and on just staying alive. Thanks to Riekie and her mother (yes, she plays too and is an awesome warrior who takes no prisoners!), for their patience and help. My fighting skills have improved somewhat but rather than being a gung-ho warrior, I use subversive tactics to undermine the opposition, and am not above running away when things get too hot for me to handle! There is no way I’m going to heed a call to battle in one of the “Relic Wars” where thousands of players from different nations (in the game) clash on the battlefield.

So am I going to become addicted to role-playing games? Probably not. I don’t have the concentration levels required to become a serious gamer, and can only play for short periods at a time. Also, I’m not fond of all the fighting. Although I have to say that Riekie chose a game which doesn’t show all the blood and gore. For example, if my character kills something it literally “sees stars” and just keels over. When a player from the warlock/wizard class kills something, it changes into a bunny which hops away.

Riekie says she finds playing takes her mind off things and she relaxes. I just get tense every time something attacks me . . . I do however enjoy going on quests with Riekie, and it’s something that we as friends can do together.

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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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33 Comments on “I am no warrior (and other role playing observations)”

  1. February 2, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Quite a few years ago I got into playing Diablo, which was a great way to relax after a hard day dealing with people—charge up the barbarian, charge at the nearest monsters, argh, ugh, whack, gurgle! Lots of fun and a decent storyline to hold it all together.

    Then I got into Second Life, which is not a game but a platform, and became fascinated with its potential (I’m a graphic designer, so having building and scripting tools to create my own environment was a big plus). It’s not as flashy as many of the gaming worlds for technical reasons relating to the fact that the environments created by users are persistent when they’re not online, but it’s a very cool place.

    Recently I have tried Dragon Age (not online). I found it fascinating—not only had the graphics improved drastically since my Diablo days, so had the gameplay. As you move through the environment and story, you meet and interact with other characters (Non-Playing Characterss, of course, as it’s not online) and are given choices in your responses to them. The game play and to some degree the plot changes based on your responses. The NPCs are run by an AI that changes THEIR responses based on your behaviour. One of your stats relates to whether others see you favourably or not—if those who have joined your party don’t, they may leave your party or even try to kill you. So you pretty much have to choose a consistent character alignment (good/evil, lawful/chaotic etc.) and then think strategically about your behaviour with regard to other characters. It actually does a pretty good (if seriously simplified) integration of human personality and behaviour into the gameplay.

    WRT your points:

    #6: I’m not much of a warrior either, though some of that comes down to the quality of my (very old) video card. It’s one of the reasons I prefer playing offline—I can keep trying and retrying and not feel utterly incompetent.

    #1: Yes. Yes. YES. AARGH! somewhere I ran across articles discussing this at length and in very funny detail. I’ll see if I can find them.

    • February 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      I find this role-playing game interesting, but certainly not relaxing! If I need to de-stress, a walk with my camera and the dog does a better job.

      Dragon Age sounds like a “Survivor” type game: outwit, outlast, outplay.

      Thanks for leaving such an interesting comment! I didn’t know whether any of my readers would identify with this post, but it’s brought some of the people who rarely comment out of hiding.:-)

  2. February 2, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I don’t think I’ll ever get over the “shock” of you playing computer games! 😉 And I’m amazed at how fast you’ve picked up on things. Even coming from a previous game experience it took me some time to catch up. Must be because I’m not an honest to goodness serious gamer myself.

    Love your observations about the game – and I’m with you on the female character designs. At least the little Prans are decently dressed most of the time.

    As for your warrior-doubt, I subscribe to the Afrikaans saying “liewer bang Jan as dooie Jan”. It’s all about strategy and you can always fight another day. 😉

    I’m soo glad you actually like spending time in Aika!

    • February 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      The only reason I got going so quickly is that you helped me initially. It would have taken me ages to figure out how everything worked on my own, and I may have given up on it.

      As I told you the other day, after reading up on the Aika Wiki about my character, I found out that Paladins are not supposed to be serious warriors, but act as decoys and let the “big boys and girls” tackle the serious Mobs! So it’s not all my fault . . . 😉 I suspect that the game designers hadn’t expected a lot of people to play on their own, but rather as part of guilds etc. So that the Paladins would always have stronger characters around to protect them, and do the “real” fighting.

  3. February 2, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I am so intrigued, Lisa – what is the name of the MMORPG that you played with Riekie? I noticed that neither of you mentioned it in your blog – perhaps deliberately? 😉

    In the days of slow old graphics cards and keyboard-based interactions, I played games like Civilisation and some of the Indiana Jones quest/games and also tried my hand at SimCity. But I wasn’t very good at all! Still, it was a lot of fun!

    Personally, I think you’re a Warrior In Training. You’re still learning how to do all that stuff that Riekie (and her mom – I think that’s totally amazing!) are doing as second-nature.

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Wow, I really hadn’t pictured you as a gamer! It’s no big secret – the game is called “Aika”. You should try it!

      You’re very kind but I think I’ll always be a warrior-in-training . . . Yes, amazing that Riekie’s mom also plays. Makes me wonder who else is behind those characters – obviously NOT just young guys.

  4. February 2, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    to me this is a scary phenomenon. to “live” so many hours of a day in a virtual world isbe just what the politicians who are stealing us blind, and leading us into wars, want. sorry to be so serious here, but it’s how i see it. continue…

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Tony!

      I think there is a huge danger in spending too much time in a virtual world, and not paying attention to what is going on in the real one. Maybe in moderation gaming can be a form of escapism, but I wonder whether the aggressive/violent nature of these games is making us (the usualy gentle souls) more aggressive in real life?

      Thank you for your comment – it’s always nice to hear a variety of views.

  5. Sarita Botha
    February 2, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Maybe I should try this too!

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

      Yes, maybe you should! You know who to come to if you need any help setting it up. And of course you have your very own in-house gaming consultant/guru! 😉

  6. GeoRomancer
    February 2, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    And I thought the skimpy costumes for the ladies (observation #1) was the genre’s most endearing attribute! Although I, too, am no fan of such games.
    Looks like it’s World of Warcraft (lovingly known as WoW) – a guy I know is an avid fan and once gave me a tour.
    The fact that so many vital organs (including some interesting ones) are exposed is all par for the course, surely – I mean, look at traditional comics, Hollywood fantasy films etc.
    Perhaps the game is of interest for females for all the reasons males like it, plus:
    – you can try on cool stuff (of the kind you could never wear in normal life) without paying (much) money or going on a serious diet
    – you can meet up with the male characters in real life (“meatspace”) and maybe “acquire” them (that’s how my chum’s ex-wife had met another WoW player and hooked up with him …)

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

      It’s no big surprise to me that you would find the skimpy costumes a plus! 😉 The game is called Aika – may be a “gentler” version of WoW.

      I find how the society is set up quite intriguing. Besides spending your hard-earned “gold” on nifty costumes etc, you have to pay to have your equipment repaired (for me a VERY regular expense!) and buy other stuff which sustains you and lets you progress in the game.

  7. February 2, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    I love that you wrote about this. I also have never had any interest in these games, but I love that you tried it and liked it. Love your “character” too!

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Got to keep my readers on their toes! I’ve learned from you in the last couple of months that it’s good to try new things. As I said I’m not likely to become a serious gamer, but it’s been an interesting experience and I’ll keep playing for as long as it amuses me.

      I always thought that these characters were called avatars, but evidently not. Not sure what the difference is? I’m getting used to my Paladin’s limitations. Apparently, she’s not as strong a warrior as some of the other character classes are.

  8. February 2, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I don’t think this is for me

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      It definitely isn’t for everyone. Until recently I’d never considered playing online role-playing games either, and I’m not a “natural” gamer.

  9. Jackie Cangro
    February 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve never played computer games unless you count the game Pong in Atari about 30 years ago! I know!
    I shy away from these role playing games because of the violence and killing, but it’s nice to know that there are options that aren’t as gory.

    I *love* your costume. 😉

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Yes, this game is definitely not gory. And if you get killed, you just get beamed back to the city, and live to fight another day! LOL

      My costume is nifty isn’t it? Definitely not practical – but very pretty! You can’t see in those images, but I’ve also won some jewellery (with magical powers) in quests which I’m wearing. Luckily for me, as the character gets more experience, the “protection factor” of the armour also increases. Which means I can fight meaner monsters.

  10. February 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I’ve never gotten into roleplaying games, partly because my coordination is pretty terrible, and partly because I suspect I’d find it far too addictive…

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      My co-ordination is also terrible – I am very bad at sports – and I still run my character into things all the time.

  11. February 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Hey Lisa. What a great and entertaining post…I must admit I am in the same boat as you- never been too keen on those kind of games. However, after reading your post, I am very intrigued and tempted to give this game a good go.

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks Rayya! I wasn’t sure whether I was straying a little too far from my usual topics. Quite frankly, if I have the choice between playing the game, or going for a walk with our dog, I’d be doing the latter. It’s much more relaxing.

  12. February 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Fascinating. I have never played computer games, though you make it sound intriguing. I’m sure I would enjoy the role playing part but not the fighting. I, too, am NO WARRIOR!

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      I don’t want to, or expect to, convert anyone who isn’t a natural gamer. I could really do with less fighting in the game. It’s more interesting to me to explore the world that the game designers have created.

  13. February 3, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Hahah! I thought I was on the wrong page when I first clicked in! Yes- easy to see how addictive these are. Glad to see your cheeks aren`t hanging out the back of your outfit…

    • February 3, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      I wasn’t sure at first whether to publish this post or not. Not my usual kind of topic. My skirt only just covers my butt cheeks though – good thing this character doesn’t do a lot of bending or sitting! 🙂

  14. February 3, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    I said I’d look for the links relating to women’s armor, here are a couple.

    A humorous take on it:

    And a serious analysis by an armorer:

    And a couple of additional comments:

    First, the critique of virtual worlds as escapist is valid BUT applies to just about everything else people do as well. People escape into books instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them. Or stamp collecting. Or whatever. Lots of people who don’t play video games and for that matter aren’t obsessive about any activities manage to ignore things they don’t want to think about. I don’t think the issue should be framed as a problem with video games, but as a problem with finding balance in one’s life, whether it’s balance between fantasy and reality, or a balance between serious and fun, or a balance between your favourite activity and everything else.

    Also, there are lots of story-based games that don’t involve gore and killing. One of the earliest and most well known is the “Myst” series, which is essentially incredibly complex puzzles strung together with an intriguing storyline and beautiful graphics. I also just read today about one called “Portal” which I thought sounded interesting: http://www.gamesradar.com/portal-is-the-most-subversive-game-ever/

    A couple of games I would recommend:

    Machinarium (http://amanita-design.net/games/machinarium.html); the makers, Amanita Designs, have some games you can play online through their website to get a taste for their approach.

    Sword and Sworcery: there is some whacking of wolves/monsters in this, but it’s definitely not gory—and it’s quirky, very different from other games I’ve seen. http://www.swordandsworcery.com/

    • February 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      Another very interesting comment! Thanks for all the links.

      I’ve had a look at the first two and that video is hilarious. The armorer’s take on fantasy armor is also very good. Your comment about escapism is so true – I hadn’t considered all the ways that we escape from reality.

      I’d like to post an edited version of your comment because I think that a lot of people may miss it.

      • February 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

        Sure, go ahead.

  15. February 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Lisa, one of the things I love about you is that you are so open-minded, and so curious about everything!! I’ve decided long, long ago that I despised video games and have never bothered to try to understand or experience them … but your post gave me a whole new perspective. With this great attitude of experiential learning –you will be young forever!

    • February 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Thank you! 🙂 I sometimes think I’m too curious about everything, and can’t concentrate on one thing for any length of time. Blogging has probably been by most constant activity – but then on my blog I jump around a lot in subject matter.

      Congrats on being Freshly Pressed the other day! 🙂

  16. Lu
    February 8, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I’m afraid that gaming just isn’t my cup of tea, at all! Sure I like to figure things out, unlock secret codes and vent frustration (on the odd occasion 😉 ) but I also prefer to be more productive about it and actually have something to show for it at the end of all that time spent on it. But, each to their own. If you find things that you enjoy doing, then I say “Have Fun!!”

    • February 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      Well, if I was as talented in the sewing/knitting/crafts department as you, I’d also not be spending any time playing computer games! 🙂

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