Thursday, January 19, 2006

[Essay] White Collar Workers, RPGs, and The Road Not Taken

If truth be told, I probably would have been a better computer programmer than a fiction writer had I chosen to pursue such a degree. While I'm not the best-gifted student in computer class, I did manage to do well on my own. And for a Creative Writing student, my grades in Math and Science were higher than my other subjects.

As far as careers go, I'm one of the boring types, the kind that manages to survive working in an 8 hour job, sitting down doing repetitive stuff. I actually enjoy doing the same things over and over again, from photocopying to scanning to typing (my secret is that I always think that there's a better, more efficient way of doing things, and that I'll achieve that the next time around). Unfortunately, it does not extend to transcribing interviews. =)

In retrospect, the taint of a white-collar worker was evident when I was a kid. There's actually a test you can give your kids to know if they're built for this kind of stuff. Give them an RPG and note how they play it. In your typical Squaresoft (before it was Square-Enix) RPG, people who finish the game typically do it in one of two ways. One is to finish the game as quick as possible, so that they can enjoy the story more. Levelling up and finding items is kept to a minimum. These guys aren't your minimum-wage employees. The ones you're looking for are the people who have the patience to level up their character before fighting the main boss. They'll have the best items that can be bought because of all the monsters they killed in order to get gold. Yes, I enjoyed the story as much as any other person, but I also wanted to defeat my computer opponents without using too much in-game resources, and the best way to do this was to spend loads and loads of hours killing monsters, leveling up and gaining gold in the process.

Of course these days, you have to work with a slightly different formula. Most MMORPGs tend to focus more on the leveling up rather than story (quests are designed to give players the illusion that there's some story involved), not necessarily because that's what the designers intended, but because it's kind of difficult to create an online game with a perpetual-story engine, and one that affects millions of players (saving the princess becomes less unique when there's thousands of you... and then you ask yourself, what's next?). So the creative-types feel the temptation of using bots (computer scripts/programs designed to take over your character, usually to level them up without heavy supervision in the case of MMORPGs) with their characters. To the white collar-oriented people, some of them might be baffled at this phenomena, since they'll claim that the point of playing MMORPG is to have fun, and where's the fun when it's a computer that's playing the game for you.

But MMORPGs aren't as rigid as a video game, where the only option you have is to kill, level up, get rich, and rest (repeat). It's a place for dialogue, for making a fashion statement (in terms of character equipment, items, design, and other accessories), for interacting with other players, or acting as a surrogate parent to virtual and/or real characters. The learning curve of leveling up is merely a means rather than an end.

Nonetheless, the methodical, persistent, and simply patient ones are most likely to enjoy the leveling-up system of RPGs and MMORPGs.

As for me, I'm a Humanist at heart, and while I do believe genetics and environment do play a role in molding your persona, you determine who you are by your choices. I may not have been born the most creative or talented individual in the world, but that doesn't stop me from writing (sadly, sickness will).