Saturday, February 23, 2013

Have at you!

I accidentally started playing Dragon Age: Origins shortly after the new year, and now I'm a Level 13 Rogue with a demon on my back. I've been playing most nights before bed for a couple of weeks, and the lack of sleep is beginning to show. So far I've managed to resist questing before breakfast on workdays.

"I am Tater of the Grey Wardens, and I have come to save your land."  I try to give my characters silly names whenever possible. It pays off in the dialog throughout the game.
Third person role-playing games like DAO have fallen out of favor in the last few years, and virtually all big studio releases (including this game's sequel) now feature some variation of the first-person shooter style originally popularized with DOOM.* There is a bit of a learning curve, and it took a while to really get into this one. I had forgotten how much I liked these games, so my first few of weeks playing an hour every few days lulled me into a false sense of self control.

Battles involve carefully telling each character in my little group what to do next, letting the action run for a few frames, pausing the game, drinking a few potions, and doing it all again. It's a bit like stop motion animation. The world in this game is vast, and I'm probably less than halfway through. Biscuit lost interest in playing RPG's that are not Fallout some time ago, but she does seem to enjoy watching. And she's a good strategist, so her help is most welcome.

Fighting evil is messy business, isn't it boy?
The chemical rush one receives from beheading a darkspawn or setting an evil mage on fire is apparently chemically indistinguishable from the one delivered by being punched in the face, though considerably less intense. This particular adrenaline cocktail is known to be "habit-forming" as they used to say, but the game version has the distinct advantage of being pain-free. And we know that game-based training increases retention. So, while it may look like I'm wasting endless hours repeating the same silly actions, I am actually staying in fighting trim. Not physically of course, but if I am ever attacked by a legion of fire demons I will have my head on straight. Or I'm indulging an addiction. You say tomato...

Whatever the neurochemical truth, it is refreshing to trade the stresses and constraints of the real world for the stresses and constraints of a fantasy adventure for a few hours. I will be through it in a couple more weeks, and then I can spend a few months drying out and getting the bloodstains out of my armor. But right now you must excuse me. There is a considerable amount of rescuing and slaying that needs doing.

*This is not an improvement. It is an example of the "mcdonaldization" of the game business, resulting in all major games being essentially the same. The biggest differences are the scenery and the costumes.


  1. i haven't let myself get too far into online gaming... i showed an early addictive trait with the Apple II+-based Ultima II (remember when we had to type text? HA!) and am afraid i would never surface in real life again...

    It does give me hope for my potential old age. When my body gives out, and i can no longer play with my real toys, like the motorcycle and horses, i could comfortably replace that with an imaginary adventure world. So long as my damn eyes don't give out on me!

    1. I got a DOS simulator a couple of years ago so that I could play Zork again. I was having problems with the eyes until my eye doctor told me to get a pair of really weak reading glasses. Works like a charm

  2. Online gaming is something I just cannot bring myself to do - because I would never stop. Never. I wouldn't sleep. I wouldn't go to work. I wouldn't see my friends. It would be terrible.

    1. This is one of the last good single player RPG's. I've resisted online gaming myself, other than a little experimentation in college. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when that's the only option, which will not be long.