Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
New England Gamer
November 2011

The Warrior's Way

My wife and I repeated a common argument a few nights ago.

I had just brought home a copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and was running through the process of creating my character.

"What do you think you're going to make this one?" She asked.

I shrugged, "Probably a warrior."

She rolled her eyes. "You always play a warrior! It's so boring!"

"I guess I could be an assassin or something." I offered.

"Why don't you be a mage?" She asked.

This time my eyes rolled. "I hate playing as a mage."

"But it's so awesome!" She insisted.

"Sure," I replied. "Running around with a staff and dressed in a bunch of robes is awesome."

"I'd like to see what your stupid warrior would be able to do when I summon a firestorm!"

"Let's see you cast any spells with my axe stuck in your skull!" I retorted.

Blowing a raspberry at me (which I returned in kind), she returned to her computer where I could hear the thundering of magic spells devastating her virtual foes. Breathing a chuckle I turned back to Skyrim, spending the first hours of my time with Bethesda Softworks' latest epic outfitting my character as a warrior. My wife, rising to get a drink a little while later, stopped to watch me for a moment. Seeing my character jogging through the wilderness battle axe in hand, she offered one final eye roll.

She isn't wrong. As much as I might insult the robes and staff get-up of the typical wizard, one of her mages could probably total my beloved warriors. Magic users in fantasy gaming are generally where the firepower is at. It's not hard to understand why. A similar equivalent would be explaining why someone with a gun would have an advantage over someone with a knife. Range, firepower; ask any number of knights at the dawn of gun-driven warfare how effective their armor was against bullets. The fact that it was shiny probably did little to stave off death.

Comparing the abilities of the typical mage, however, to mere firearms would be doing them a disservice. Most mages in video games can attain control over the sorts of forces most religions would equate with gods. Bullets? They're small fries when you compare them to the ability to shoot lightning from your fingertips, summon zombies to do your bidding, or, as my wife so likes to cite, call down storms straight out of Revelation to pummel your foes into submission. My battle axe might look cooler than that dorky staff and those goofy robes, but it can't really compare to the fantasy equivalent of an artillery section.

And yet, inevitably, I go with the warrior.

It's a habit that's caused me trouble on occasion. I didn't learn until after I beat Demon's Souls that plowing through it as a warrior makes the game much more difficult. And even now, as I play through its spiritual sequel Dark Souls, I'm walking the same path; jumping into the fray sword drawn and screaming a war cry when I might be better off sniping my foes with a well placed spell.

You can blame it on the none-too-complex psychology that drives a lot of my insecurities. I, like many other nerds born before nerds became more socially acceptable, have something of an inferiority complex. I'll admit readily that I harbor some resentment toward athletes. Some of this comes from the fact that I spent a good long while playing the butt of many a jock's joke. More of it comes from my never being able to understand why society so thoroughly reveres people for skills that are often useless outside of recreation. Should I be impressed that you can throw a ball really well? Why are you making millions of dollars for it?

The more honest answer however comes from the fact that they possess something that I never have: physical prowess. In high school I was clumsy, scrawny and utterly unintimidating. I've filled out (as my Gran would call it) since then. I graduated high school at six feet and weighing one hundred and forty pounds. Six years later I'm pushing two hundred. A portion of that (more than I'd like) is fat, but some of it is muscle. But I'm still clumsy, and by all accounts still unintimidating.

It's something I hate. I'm not a violent person, and I'm not interested in getting into bar fights or anything like that. I would just like to walk into a room and not have it be a forgone conclusion that most of the people could kick my butt. Because when it comes down to it, no matter how smart or good at something you are, there's always a certain level of respect withheld if someone thinks they can beat you up. That lack of respect and the uneasiness that comes with it is something that is ever present for me.

As much as I grumble about it when my wife wakes me in the wee hours to check on some bump in the night, a part of me secretly relishes it. It means she trusts me to protect her if that thump, that was probably the cat jumping on the washing machine, turns out to be a killer waiting in the shadows.

Granted, all of this could just be an issue of self-consciousness. I haven't ever actually been a fight before so who knows? Maybe I'm actually Bruce Lee reincarnated. That said, the feelings that rise from this personal insecurity are very real and definitely leak into my gaming habits. I like to play the warrior because it's the one chance for me to take on a role that is absolutely foreign to me. A mage? That's just the nerd of fantasy fiction, and while they might be able to manipulate nature they're still just a skinny dude in a robe once their mana runs out.

A lot of people dislike God of War because their protagonist Kratos is probably one of the most unlikable figures in video games. If you were to dissect the layers of his character they would all be firmly grounded in rage, arrogance and a total lack of empathy for others. He spends the majority of his story pursuing "revenge" on people whose crimes against him can generally be summed up as trying to stop him from murdering everyone around him. I find this to be part of what makes him fun. His attitude adheres to the age-old adage "might makes right." I've never known what that feels like in reality. Perhaps, I'm better off for that, but it's still nice to pretend sometimes.

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