Method Gamers

Method Gamers
Quest for Glory

John Walker | 31 Jan 2006 11:05
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There are conventions in media we become perfectly used to, despite their having no place in reality. If we watch a movie, and someone is given CPR in the street, on the beach or dangling on a rope from a hot air balloon, we know they'll come back to life. Nevermind that CPR merely sustains things until proper medical equipment arrives - we know, and accept, that with a couple of compressions and a few puffs in the mouth, they'll be up and about and back to shooting zombies in a couple of minutes.

All romantic comedies will end in life-lasting true love, and all soap operas will have a 100% relationship failure rate. All cops will announce, "There's no time for back up!" when they arrive at the scene of a crime, before being asked to hand in their gun and badge to the furious captain (what with the governor being in town) on a weekly basis. All aliens are bipedal, and of all the languages spoken on Earth, choose English. Shopping bags always contain a long stick of French bread. And if you bump into someone of the opposite sex carrying a large stack of files, you will fall in love while picking them up. These are truths.

Conventions require time. Videogames have finally reached an age where such imaginary stalwarts are becoming firmly established, most especially within roleplaying games.

The distinguishing feature of such behaviors is we don't stop to question them until they're starkly pointed out. We accept them, unconsciously suspending our disbelief, only noticing when some smart-ass comes along and says, "Why is it when men disguise themselves as women, they suddenly gain super-strength?" So tell me, why is it in every RPG I've ever played, complete strangers are perfectly happy to walk up to me and entrust their very most intimate and important needs to my charge?

Arriving in a new town for the very first time, dressed in a confused mishmash of brown leggings, a priestly robe, chain mail jerkin, leather gloves, three magic rings, a large amulet necklace and a pointed wizard's hat, any number of distraught mothers will approach me and beg that I find their missing children/husbands/swords. Perhaps, I might be walking around naked but for the scrap of cloth protecting my decency and a fine pair of kobold-hide boots, but this won't prevent the local baker from requesting that I take a magic cake to his colleague in a neighbouring town, or the grumpy old codger from barking at me that I should clear his basement of vampiric rats.

What are they thinking? Do they ask just anyone who walks past, and I'm the only one daft enough to stop and listen? And when, exactly, was the last time someone accosted you in the street and asked you to complete a quest for them?

I decided to put this to the test.

The plan: To take to the streets, dressed as a wizard, with a quest for the good peoples of Bath, England. Would they really help out a stranger with a strange beard? Would they even stop to listen? Is there any truth to this convention we've otherwise entirely accepted?

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