Now that I have a gaming blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about the blogs I’ve read through the years, and how important they were to my enjoyment of various games. Blogs helped me find my footing in my first MMOs, but even before that, they provided a sense of community around a shared love of games and virtual worlds.
Before social media, it seemed the Web was full of sites detailing players’ progression through games. Since the Internet was still in it’s relative infancy (I’m thinking late 90’s – early 00’s here), the games being documented in these blogs were typically offline-only. But the community that grew up around games was just as social — perhaps more so — than the ostensibly social MMOs of today.
Fans of the Sims regularly blogged as their characters, writing about their mostly mundane doings in Pleasantview or Strangetown. Writers would show off recent fashion choices or a major renovation, or just blog about their sim’s day. Some creators wrote lengthy fictions based on their sim families, or recorded carefully-staged machinima. You can find some of these blogs, still regularly updated, decades after the game’s release.
Yesterday, as I wrote about One Hour One Life, I felt compelled to describe several recent ‘lives’ I’d led in-game. As I started my draft, I realized that I was writing a lot about how ‘Fate’ was born to a mother who was immediately murdered, or how ‘Ed’ had ancestors who tragically decided to start a base in the desert, far from adequate food.
As I felt compelled to document these lives, I discovered that they felt noteworthy because they were unique. It is what makes perusing the OHOL family trees to reminisce about past play-throughs so strangely compelling, as well. Like OHOL lives, Sims stories are unique, and progress linearly — we can’t go back and replay.
But it’s not the same with most themepark MMOs. One player’s experience leveling through Battle for Azeroth content is basically the same as any other’s. Sure, you can choose which zones to travel through first, you can skip some quests. Gear drops differ across play-throughs. But, assuming you keep playing, you’ll basically end up in the same place.
In the Sims, or in another sandbox, characters can end up in wildly different places. The journey feels special, worth noting, whether a character ends up ruling the town from their mansion on a hill or sleeping on a park bench.
Stories Worth Telling
Absent some creativity, I’m not sure that most of these stories are really worth telling. This is why I never delved too deeply into other players’ Sims blogs, and why I cut the narrative about my characters from yesterday’s post.
But the desire to relate the unique moments in a game indicates something special about the way players connect to a game.
Even though themeparks like WoW or EQ2 have enormous quantities of lore, and player characters are enmeshed in this lore, I can rarely recall the stories my character has ‘lived’ through. It wouldn’t occur to me to blog about how my Tauren Shaman felt while questing in Stonetalon Mountains.
But I feel “Fate’s” story deeply, sparse as it is. I basically spent an hour maintaining a bunch of gooseberry bushes, and nursing a series of children through toddler-hood. There’s nothing there, really, but I keep thinking about it. At least until the next ‘life’ grabs me. The power of the story lies in what is left unwritten.
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