Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rambling: Writing and roleplaying and blaming WoW

So, I'm sitting in a Starbucks with a glass of iced tea peoplewatching through the window and typing this. And in addition to puzzling over the iPad's determination to correct "peoplewatching" to "peoples arching", I'm thinking about that writing thing.

When I was a kid I thought I was going to "be a writer." I abandoned that goal later in favor of studying to be an engineer and then working as a programmer. That was in no small part due to The Paycheck Factor. While I don't remember any time when my parents were truly unable to pay the rent or mortgage or the electric bill, they were a few weeks away from that situation a number of times. I remember small heirlooms being sold now and then, probably to buy those few weeks that got us past the payment or to the paycheck.

So when I went to college, my choice of study was very much about the paycheck--not necessarily about a big one, but certainly about a reliable one. Remember Trillian in Hitchhiker's Guide? "With a degree in Maths and another in was either that or the dole queue again on Monday." I assumed that studying English or creative writing would have the same result. I'm not at all certain that that was the right call, but there it is.

So I didn't write. Well, I didn't Write. No novels, stories, essays, poems, columns. I did write with a small w. For one thing, I spent hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours playing text-based role playing games, the ones with more writing and minimal game mechanics and game code. That isn't Writing, but the instantaneous reaction of others to what you've written does, I think, build some skills--it's rather like getting hundreds of miniature critiques in an evening.

I miss that. World of Warcraft and all its friends seem to have killed off text-based gaming--while MUSHed and MUDs and MOOs are still there, they seem to have lost critical mass. A MUSHMUDMOO needs a certain (large) number of competent and experienced players, and a smaller number of excited newbies. Some of those competent players must welcome the newbies and mentor the not-hopeless ones into becoming competent players. As critical mass was lost, that welcome went away--most competent players took their roleplay to private virtual locations that excluded the newbies, leaving the newbie-wranglers with no one but the newbies to play with.

Uh. I was talking about writing, wasn't I? All this bleebling about online roleplaying seems off topic, but it's really not. During my share of the golden age of text-based roleplaying, I was getting everything that I needed from writing. I was creating characters and situations and emotions, and building things with language. And I had an audience--I had readers. It was great. And it's gone forever. If I do write a book someday, and even get it published, I suspect that that experience may be a pale substitute.

Tea time is done. More rambling later.

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