Friday, October 19, 2012

Merry Christmas, Hobbiton!

I loathe seasonal content.

I don't want to hear Galadriel singing Christmas carols. I don't want Santa to visit me in my spaceship. No, the easter bunny should not be paying a visit to Azeroth. Neither should goblins and ghosts start plaguing the inhabitants of any scifi game on all-hallows' eve.

The main point of a virtual world is escapism. Yes, i know that's not the point of it for the average joe who just logs in so he can mindlessly farm some loot because he wants to make himself feel big, but then again the average player these days doesn't even know what he's playing. He has no sense for the game itself or its setting and treats it as only an extension of his instinct-driven scramble for social standing. Hey, while we're at it, let's just fill middle-earth with anything and everything that might draw a new customer for a day or two, no matter that it disgusts others into quitting permanently. Let's all paint our bellies with our favorite hobbit football teams' colors and dance the macarena while singing 'who let the dogs out'. Idiots!

There are ways to mark the passage of time while still maintaining the internal logic of an imaginary world and its separation from our pile of trash of a human society. These hinge on divesting virtual worlds of any lingering ties to real-world events. For one thing, a persistent world should hold its own circadian rhythm. Whether a day in the game lasts five minutes of real world time or five hours, this could easily be translated to an imaginary calendar. The passing of seasons could hold different meanings in different parts of the game world. The frozen north could bathe its vikings in perpetual daylight while monsoons flood the panther-peoples' jungle cities.

As part of this new calendar, there would be plenty of opportunities to come up with celebrations. Major player events could even be commemorated, say by marking the day when such-and-such player managed to summon Sobek to smite his enemies and conquer their cities. Equinoxes and harvest celebrations, herd migrations and elven star-worship could all supply endless fabricated variations in atmosphere through seasonal content marked on an in-game calendar without resorting to pandering to real-world religious institutions or consumer-culture fads.

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