In the Hands of the Enemy

To the Editor: Like most people, I’d like to start off by saying that I love The Escapist.

It’s the best online mag I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and that’s not just because it’s the only one I’ve read. Well, actually it is … but it’s still the best! (So cliche). What I love most about the mag is what a lot of others seem to enjoy … the perspective presented by your writers and their grasp on the gaming world as a whole. I would have to say that my favorite read thus far would be “A Fine Fantasy” by Patrick Dugan. I was able to completely relate as Final Fantasy‘s II & III (SNES) conjure up comforting holiday memories for me as well.

Reading “In Celebration of the Inner Rogue” by Mark Wallace brought back a memory of an experience I thought was worth sharing. I’m an RP’er at heart, though not a very good one at times. Actually, when I first started out I was downright awful. At one point a friend and I were discussing the issue, as we were both facing the same dilemma, and eventually came to the conclusion that our problem was one of immersion. We just weren’t good at becoming someone else. The intent was there, but in the end we were just being ourselves and acting as guides to a character, rather than adopting their personalities as our own.

That’s when we came up with the idea of using an avatar as a tool to overcome. The idea was to visit forums and chat rooms centered around topics we knew nothing about and play a role based on a chosen avatar. We would start out small and play out parts of the opposite gender, different ethnicities, etc. Then, once we had made some noticeable progress, we would add another character trait unrepresentative of our true selves to the next role we would play.

I have to say that the process paid off for both of us. Because of the diversity of topics, roles, and the people w/ whom we would interact, we were for the most part able to overcome our obstacle. To be honest, even if this project hadn’t been a success, I would have at the very least come out knowing that I thoroughly enjoy hazing unknowns. *grin*


To the Editor: I’ve noticed that your articles have been getting increasingly shorter and less to the point, and some often have none, like that piece; “I like playing as a girl.” The guy rambles on for about three pages about how girls are more sophisticated and they’ll attract males. There is no point to this.

I think that a lot of your earlier articles have been more well-thought out. At about Issue 26, nearly one month ago, the articles began to get shorter. Before, articles might have spanned 10+ pages, such as Greg Costikyan’s “Death to The Games Industry” and, more importantly, they presented concise and insightful points. Today, articles like “The Celebration of the Inner Rogue” spanned only about three pages, with very blurred points and non-important points.

The article, “The Celebration of the Inner Rogue”, is outlined as follows (with a little objectivity, of course):

  • It begins, tells us about how the guy congratulates himself with every character victory
  • It ends, telling us about how the guy realizes the character is controlled by the guy and that he is the character and that the character is not him and how the guy adapts his character’s behaviour slowly.
  • Concluded with the obvious statement that he was the same character on/off line.
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That’s about it. Of course, without any of the entertaining and notably unnecessary filler.

Maybe it’s since you guys let writers in on writing capabilities rather than on what personal experience they have or what type of person they are. Of course, this isn’t anything that’s unexpected.

Of course, with everything, except wine, the magazine’s quality deteriorating over time.


From The Lounge: [Re: “Masks in the Woods,” by John Tynes] I agree wholeheartedly with the article – the problem game designers need to face is removing themselves from the formulaic frame of mind and thinking, “OK, how can I relate as the player?”

Many games do give you an awkward disconnect from your avatar. But when it’s executed masterfully, or even if it’s just well-done, the game instantly feels a thousand times better. Even games like Animal Crossing; it feels like your village, your house, that you are building up and decorating. You don’t say, “he got a royal couch,” you say I got a royal couch, and it looks good in my house.’

I think even the most “typical” of the high-end MMORPGs, like EverQuest, have room for this. I disagree that the game mechanics make the players unable to fully roleplay, though. Did The Escapist not have several articles about manufactured gameplay in EVE Online?

Indeed, one could argue that so-called “manufactured gameplay” is the only way to let players do what they want. That is, to create a game with a ruleset, but a – here it comes – paidia so effectively set-up that it is a sandbox. I mean, think about it – why can’t you really roleplay in Super Mario Brothers 3? You can barely even move two directions. Now think about real life, where physical games are created all the time. Most of the time, these can be done “without restrictions,” without adhering to some, “oh, we can’t trade items,” or “yeah, Earth doesn’t have pencils” rule.

EVE Online had a bunch of people deciding they wanted to do something, and even though everyone else “could” theoretically do “anything” to them (ie, the neutral outpost in space), they didn’t. Why? People underestimate trust and cooperation. These are the fundamentals of Wikipedia. Hell, these are the fundamentals of Anarchism!

Anyway – if the game isn’t too linear, I think players can always think of something. Sometimes, it is disheartening, sitting there, all looking at each other with your 3-D models, not doing much of anything, but it gets better as time goes on. At least I think.


From The Lounge: [Re: “Quest for Glory,” by John Walker] That was a brilliant experience Wizard-wise.

If I may note on an RPG convention that not many people pay attention to is that of complete strangers armed to the teeth entering a settlement. I mean, historically if a band of four warriors in full plate armor and carrying longswords and whatnot was spotted anywhere near a meek village on the countryside, the village would be evacuated way before these guys reached the village rather than the local townspeople approach them and entrust them with important quests.

This would be the modern equivalent of people wearing camouflaged uniforms and kevlar while walking into a town holding assault rifles; it would be no time before the local law enforcement approached the party to inquire as to the reason for all these equipment.

If you are anywhere near Southampton, let me know 🙂


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