Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Neani’s World of WarCraft posts have persuaded me that it is time for another game post. Aya Silkrose reached 60 the other day, which is a funny place to be in. On the one hand, my beloved Aya is now a legendary hero. She will (subject to respeccing) never again pay for training costs. She can (subject to a sufficient number of devilsaurs making the supreme sacrifice) ride a swift frostsaber. There is (subject to class limitations) no armor she cannot wear; no weapon she cannot wield. When she passes, the vast majority of Azeroth’s population simply hopes that she doesn’t feel like using them for mace practice.

On the other hand, as I have just discovered, Aya is at the very bottom of the legendary hero totem pole. She is Lynceus in in a world full of Achilleses and Heracleses. She doesn’t have her wildheart set; she has barely reached the rank of private. Most of her gear is blue—but not all. She may be able to ride a swift frostsaber, but she actually rides a striped frostsaber. Having exempted herself by supreme effort from the onerous burden of improving herself through training costs, she has consigned herself to the onerous burden of improving herself questing for ever more fantastic equipment.

Did I say questing? I meant grinding. Once a character has reached 60, the only real way to increase in power (which, for some reason, is the singular obsession of all Azerothians not obsessed with standing in one place or endlessly pacing their path of choice) is through acquiring ever more powerful armor or weapons. Now, I have no problem with that. I derive an absurd amount of pleasure from increasing my chance to get a critical hit by 1%. What I wanted to talk about is the aesthetics of this mechanic.

Now, I don't mind power level being tied to gear, especially since most of the gear (even though it has quantifiable stats) is not obviously magical. That's good. Fantasy is rife with the concept of the magical weapon, and I don’t mean magical in the sense of weapons that have some clear magical effect, such as Mjollnir. What fantasy is really rife with are weapons and armor that make the hero better in some mysterious sense: Achilles’ armor, Odysseus’ bow, Excalibur. Aesthetically speaking, the gear in World of WarCraft is excellent.

The way you get that gear is, sadly, highly stupid. The only realistic way to get better gear once you have hit level 60 is to run instance after instance or play battleground after battleground. Now it's sort of okay with me to fight for Warsong Gulch or Alterac Valley over and over again. Those are places that are supposed to be highly contested. But instances are another story. Honestly, how many times can we kill Baron Rivendare before the suspension of disbelief (already in a highly suspended state to begin with) breaks down? Moreover, instances are supposed to be fantastical, key places in Azeroth's war-torn history. Running them over and over again hoping that Baron Rivendare drops a wildheart kilt cheapens them.

What I really want in exchange, I suppose, is fewer high-end drops and more high-end quest rewards. I don't care so much care if the quests are hard, or if you have to run many of them in raids. I wouldn't even care if there were a whole host of raid quests in, say, Stratholme, and if people just happened to kill Baron Rivendare fifty million times while doing them. What I object to is the aesthetics of a game design that effectively makes killing Baron Rivendare fifty million times your objective.

Which isn't to say that I'm not going to kill him until he drops my wildheart kilt. Stupid death knights. What does he want with a druid skirt anyway?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Now that my family has seen it, I can finally discuss Wardrobe in slightly more detail. Perhaps not much more detail, since I don't know how much of the detail with which I could discuss it is blogworthy. What is blogworthy, I think, is my favorite part of the film: the way people react to the Pevensies. It starts with Mrs. Beaver, who sees four children from Finchley and reacts like she's seen four nobles from Camelot. It moves to the fox, who treats them like royalty without a second thought. And then to Father Christmas, whom the children ought to be in awe of but who is in awe of them. And then Aslan's army, and finally Oreius - when Peter asks him, "Are you with me?" he says, "To the death" in a tone of voice that says of course I am. Where else would I be?

There is more going on here then Narnians believing in a prophecy or believing in what these kids can do. This is Narnians seeing who these kids are. When Edmund says, "Aslan believed you could - and so do I," he isn't saying, "Aslan and I think the odds are good you can pull this off." He's saying, "Aslan knows who you are better than you know yourself, and I'm starting to see as he does." My favorite scene in this movie is when the children are walking through Aslan's camp, past fauns and centaurs and leopards and all manner of warlike creatures, and as they pass the army hushes and looks at them. "Why are they all staring at us?" Susan asks. Not because they think the children look funny. Not because their future monarchs are passing. Because their monarchs are passing.

This theme of seeing people as they really are - seeing with the Father's eyes, to use Amy Grant's phrase - is for me one of the most inspiring parts of Christendom. It is a theme that Lewis clearly found inspiring as well (and I am not thinking of the Chronicles now, but his nonfiction works). It is true, as the Duelist said, that Peter looks ridiculous for virtually the entire movie. He's supposed to. Not only are we being shown that he, like us, is more than he has become (to use Mufasa's phrase). We are being invited to see Peter, and all the children, with different eyes. We too look ridiculous - but if you or I met Alaen Kerona or Kekrones Mikhail or any of the other warlike asil and asked them, "Are you with me?" they would respond with the same puzzled look as Oreius did - "To the death." (I don't know if angels can die, but asil can. You get the metaphor).

Following that, a few brief updates about New Year's. The New Year's Eve Ball was enjoyable, although not quite what I was expecting. I got a several good dances out of it, though, and a nifty new vest (too bad Serenity came out before I got the vest - oh well). Unexpected pleasure of the evening: dancing with White Jade, who apparently now lives in Tennessee studying to be a vetrinarian (that explains why I haven't seen her around).

It was good to see Esther Selene again - not just fun (which it was), but good. Even if I didn't get to dance with her. That's okay, though, because I got to worship with her instead. That always was my favorite activity to do with her, even more than dancing.

The highlight of New Year's, though, was seeing Peter Pan all by myself in my new favorite movie-viewing location. Peter Pan (the 2003 version, now) probably goes up on my video shelf along with Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and Moulin Rouge in the Romantic and Inspiring Movies category. There's so much in that film about growing up and manhood and love and romance, it just thrills me (and makes me cry - I was crying for a third to half of the movie). There are many good lines from that movie, but here is one that I had not noticed before. Wendy is speaking to Hook about why Peter brought her to Neverland:

Wendy: He liked my stories.
Hook: What stories?
Wendy: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty.
Hook: (confused) Love stories?
Wendy: Adventures! In which good triumphs over evil!

Tell it like it is, Wendy. Tell it like it is.