by Frank “Dart” Giger
We’ve asked our resident prop-head and part time court jester to periodically honor us with his very own unique brand of sick humor laced with a touch of truth regarding the simulations world. His first installment deals with life in the Forums.
Hours each night I sat at my computer, logging into a mysterious world of characters populating a strange and fantastical world that continuously changed, with new areas opened to explore and adventure in.
I poured over each nuanced shift in the terrain, grinding away with the rest of the rats, gaining experience and avoiding the player versus player killers that brought home the meaning of the term “griefer” in a way that has to be lived to be appreciated.
Slowly, though, I worked my way through some pretty tough stuff. Ancient tomes of knowledge to decipher, with magicians countering with wards and glyphs from their own exotic pages written in languages full of characters and symbols bought at great expense — those that weren’t ruthlessly stolen from the Net rather than purchased on eBay, that is.
I quested with some of the best; sure, often they gave me only minor roles in their party, but just being part of it was reward unto itself. What grand battles — I was there during the “Great Black Dot War” (on the losing side, unfortunately), and certainly bought every companion expansion disk that was part and parcel with the MMORPG.
Some actually made money off the deal, though I never quite understood how, while others went for professions that I simply lacked the skill or interest becoming, such as “skinning” different characters and even vehicles. The community certainly had a lot of directions to go in, and truly I never found one that I was good at.
For the longest time I wished I knew just what quests and actions to perform in order to be invited into the “Beta Test Team”. Wow, those guys are just awesome, and secretive about how they manage to break into that, with vague answers about “contributing” and “special skills and knowledge” that gave them the Golden Ticket into the select world of What Is Next.
“But I can tell them what’s fun!” I’d exclaim in my hopeless text messages, to the hollow laughing that I just know was happening behind their monitors. Eventually I just gave up on it. Mostly. I still believe what they need is not someone with technical knowledge or skill, but a keen interest in having fun — and possessing the ability to not leak beta software.
I turned my attention to the more mundane. Since the quests that lead to “Beta Tester” just weren’t being unlocked to me, I grinded more or less randomly within a subset of the world.
I built up my combat skills slowly, sticking to the peripheral of the big battles and reviewing the logs of how the masters slowly sliced each other down and taking notes.
I entered gingerly, careful not to take the Grand Masters on head-to-head. It was easier to worm into the fray with a friendly wave and an occasional sucker punch that appeared to be a harmless and misdirected jab than to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. Pretty soon I knew a few bits of defensive magic, words that flowed in what appeared to be instinctive reflex rather than the idiot savant guesses that they were:
[Player X attacks with a KURT Tank chart of 190A5 performance]
Faster than a D&D first level character with a Magic Missile, I shot back…
[Dart deflects with a vague NACA reference]
[Player Y follows Dart’s attack with a crippling chart and a test flight record]
I learned quickly, you see, that if one is going to get into a fight, bring someone with you that isn’t just a first level type. Sure, I didn’t get many points for my hapless, harmless pop, but slowly I gained a tiny bit of standing simply by fighting along side (okay, okay, hiding behind) more powerful players.
Noobs to the game would sometimes ask me questions on how to best play the MMORPG, and since I had lots of time while grinding, I’d do my best. Since the virtual world and community is pretty ruthless to anything but the most subtle poseur, I was honest about my inability to be of much help.
But I shared what I could.
And then one day it happened. I got a message (in game, no less, by PM) promoting me to the next level. I was suddenly a powerful character within the kingdom.
Wow! It came as a huge surprise to me. Really. I still haven’t figured out what particular quest I survived that got me there. Maybe it was the fact that I managed to get in the middle of the huge conflagration that was the slaying of a particularity irreverent foe and came out unscathed and on speaking terms with both the Knights of the Realm and the dragon himself; maybe it was the learning of “Minglish” and the ability to translate with 95% accuracy; I’ve never asked, and they’ve never told me.
At any rate, I was now a “Mod,” a wearer of a special title and powers over mere members. I can, without supervision, edit or delete anything any member does within my home Lander within the larger world. I can still quest the rest of everyone else, but with a quiet certainty that few will call me a complete boob just for the joy of it.
Still, even within my new rank and skill, I’m at the bottom of the top. Outside of the magical limits drawn around the duchy I am charged to be a Knight for, I am powerless. Nor do not hold the power of life or death, only censure. Of the four secret forums, I have unlocked access to only one.
Back to grinding, but this time in different ways. Now I don’t just grind with rats, I am part of the wolf pack scouring for misdeeds. The quests are more complicated, as well. Defusing a stupid argument with a funny comment is the stuff of days gone by: now I am handed assignments directly from TWRTR (those who run the realm).
Write a review of hardware I bought unasked: +2 EP
Denied reviewing another bit of hardware I bought unasked: -2 EP
Write a parody of a review by the fellow that got you the -2: +5 EP
Not be able to review a bit of software for being out of town: TBD
That last one probably won’t be good, though. I’m on it, though, I swear. I just was on an endless cycle of out of town trips with the day job, darn it. I’m hoping the latest quest — to write a funnish sort of column — will pay big dividends.
Anyhow, just when I think this whole three or four years of working away at this thing might actually pay off, I read this exchange in the moderator’s forum about SimHQ being down:
Moderator: “Three days with no SimHQ. Good grief what am I going to do?”
Administrator: “Play sims!”
What? WHAT? Jim’ney Crickets, are you telling me that the flight sim stuff isn’t just part of the SimHQ MMORPG? That SimHQ isn’t in fact a MMORPG at all, but just an Internet Forum page site thingie talking about the stupid flight sim?
That all the grinding and junk in order to level up really isn’t “leveling up,” but rather just unpaid work? And that any levels gained past moderator will just mean more unpaid work?
Oh, the humanity!
No wonder my character (with password) didn’t make the hundred dollar reserve on eBay.
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More “Frank” humor, great prop-sim training and homespun wisdom can be found here on BA_Dart’s page.