My Inability to Commit: Keeping My Distance From The Old Republic

There is no other universe that I cherish more than that of Star Wars. From the hippie-dippie Jedi to the skilled stalkers of the Bounty Hunters Guild, Star Wars has been a constant in my life. It has provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment, spurred creativity and brought me closer to certain family members. It has also caused me great pain. The death of Qui-Gon Jinn, of Yoda, and the lack of a death for Jar Jar Binks, have all caused me moments of sadness and, in Yoda’s voice,”Suffering.” One Star Wars related experience, in particular, had a double impact.

One thing that has been on par and now surpassed my love of Star Wars has been PC gaming. When the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game Star Wars Galaxies released in June 2003 I was just getting ready to start my last semester of undergrad and had been anticipating its release. What a perfect game for me to get lost in during the summer before my last semester? Well, it wasn’t. It was a disappointment. I played very little during the free month provided with its purchase. I never played it again. Like Obi Wan on the Death Star it disappeared. Occasionally, like the force, it would whisper to me through news bits on gaming websites. I’d even listen, on occasions, to a podcast that reviewed add-on content, but I never committed to it again.

When news of a new Star Wars MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic) first started making its rounds I was vaguely interested but mostly brushed it away like a juvenile Bogwing. As more info came out about The Old Republic [TOR] the more interested I became. When BioWare was named the developer of the new MMO, my Jedi senses raised the hairs on my arms. I had been fooled once before by the Lucas hype machine so I still didn’t commit. This time I would wait for the reviews and make an educated decision, not rush rashly towards a choice like some kind of scruffy nerf herder.

Well the reviews are out, and they have been spectacular. I must admit I was hoping  that they weren’t. I was hoping for poor reviews and an easy excuse for me not to commit. I was wanting the Death Star to win this one, by blowing away my desires to play, but with Jedi Masters like those at BioWare, I new this games destiny was greatness. Now it really pains me not to commit, not to play and not enjoy a universe that I consider almost family.

My fear? This game will take too much of my time. This is a worry I’ve never had, for any game. I would actually welcome such a fear for most games and then follow it up with a purchase. Not this one. I am actually hesitant to commit. I am fearful of the amount of time I would invest into this game. Will I eventually change my thought process and hyper jump into the TOR universe? One thing keeps repeating in my head as I continue to fear this purchase, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” I would hate to end up suffering but I hate monthly subscription fees even more.

Pressure Cooker: Gaming ingredients for better games and life.

Luke, flying in the Death Star trench, has to make an impossible shot to destroy the first Death Star. John McClane, with a gun taped to his back, has to drop Hans Gruber and another henchmen, all while his movie wife is positioned between them. Pressure situations in movies have been around since movies started and it helped make them a medium in demand. Video games have been creating tense moments, like the ones mentioned above, for a while now and gamers are taking notice and wanting more.

We may try to avoid this tense situations in life but with games, we search them out. Nothing immerses you into a game more than drama, especially drama connected to life or death. Games are creating stories on par with movies but at a much more immersive level, since you are the actor and you are playing out the script.

In Skyrim, I am a sneaky archer where each shot counts (because my frail elf body can’t stand up to a full frontal assault), so each encounter is a moment of truth, of life and death. With the added game unlock mechanic that lets archers slow time while zoomed in, the level of drama is increased and drawn out.

“Your first arrow hits the nearest target but three other bandits are on the move and closing in. So you slow time, breathe and loose each arrow… that could be your last. Just as the last bandit gets out the final words to his sentence of, “You never should have came here!” you drop him to the floor with an arrow to his head, his momentum carries him, sliding, to your feet.”

Moments like the ones above draw you into the game play and the overall story much more so than movie does. A movie lets you view the action, the life or death scenario, but it doesn’t allow you to “direct” it yourself. A game also provides you with a direct reward to your efforts you’ve put forth. The resulting death of the bandits may reward you with a successful completion of an assassination quest or you may find some valuable loot further inside the bandit hideout… or both.

What are the results of a gamer seeking, overcoming and being directly rewarded by     successfully surviving such a tense encounter? Does a gamer become more able to handle stressful situations in his real life? Is he more disappointed when his efforts go unrewarded in a dramatic experience? Would work, that provides proper rewards to stressful situations, create better workers and better efficiency?

One thing I can say with authority is a game that provides high stakes, immersive, game play that then rewards the gamer with the appropriate amount of reward/success is a good game. It is also a game that will keep the gamer coming back for more. How can this knowledge be transferred to other aspects of our lives and improve it?

If you are interested in the effects of gaming on life and how it can help shape us (and society) for the better, please check out Jane McGonigals’s REALITY IS BROKEN: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.