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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

When a character gets caught in a web of memories


In honour of ARPil, Pizzamaid wrote about her beloved World of Warcraft character Alicara and how negative game experiences made her disband her. My first thought was "I would never do that". I've had my share of stress and drama in MMOs, but I perceive them separately from my characters. My characters represent parts of me, but the quarrels were with me, not them. But then I remembered my rune-keeper in Lord of the Rings Online, Ravalinde.

Ravalinde was the second character I rolled - in any MMO, ever. Before her, I had played my lore-master Ravanel exclusively for three years and had never felt the urge to play another character. We are writing at the time I was getting more involved with the social aspect of the game, got into raiding and had tremendous fun at it. I wanted to share this experience with my boyfriend at the time and helped him roll a character, a hunter. To be able to spend time together in-game I created my first ever alt to level up with him. You've guessed it: my rune-keeper Ravalinde.


This is one of the first pictures of my rune-keeper. I was looking for the very first one, in which I'm in the same field, questing harmoniously with the hunter boyfriend, but it's gone. My screenshot collection is very organized, so I must have thrown it away to protect myself from bumping into it - the digital equivalent of tearing a photo to parts. It obviously didn't work, because I still remember the photo.

The boyfriend was terrible at playing LotRO, a true incarnation of the huntard stereotype. But it did not matter. We were leveling all the way to level 65 together and we had fun, for a while. (Later, when we had reached level cap and he couldn't keep up, he got frustrated. Having your girlfriend beating you at gaming isn't for everyone.)

The relationship didn't last. It was no easy breakup: he was my first boyfriend, we'd been together for four years and I really had wanted it to work. Nasty things were told behind my back, I lost a friend, that kind of thing. It was a traumatic experience and was totally done with it all, wanted to move on.

A proud Ravalinde in her Tower of Orthanc gear

But I did still have my rune-keeper at level cap. And there were moments in which the raid group already had a lore-master (you generally don't want two in a raid) or my lore-master was locked for a raid they wanted to do a second time. Besides, I had gotten pretty fond of the rune-keeper, its healing line in particular. So I kept playing Ravalinde for raids.

Eventually, no new endgame was added to the game and my kinship moved over to Star Wars: the Old Republic.

The current level cap is level 100; Ravalinde still sits at level 75. I seldom log her and if I do, it's just to craft something - she's my best guilded tailor. My excuse is that she's going to stay that level for nostalgia raids. The problem is that the level 75 raid is the Tower of Orthanc, and it isn't particularly good. It is not going to happen anytime soon. Meanwhile, I miss playing rune-keeper.

I'm planning to level another character to 75, then level Ravalinde to 100 so she can do group stuff again. I don't know which character will take her place and I have other characters to level first, so it'll probably be a while, but I want to do it. It's been years and there's no sense in living in the past. I love my character, the little stories I've made up about her and the class too much for that. But like in a photo album full of happy memories save for one photo that hurts when you look at it, Ravalinde will always carry that one fact with her, that I created her for him all those years ago.

13 comments :

  1. I guess I just have a more self-destructive tendency because if I a character isn't working out for me, for whatever reason, I will delete them without a second thought. Granted they usually don't get played that much to begin with so that isn't a big loss.

    Heck, there was even one time in Lineage 2 where I decided to quit the game, gave all the stuff I had (which wasn't much since I always sucked at making money in that game) to clan mates and then deleted the character. My excuses were that I wanted to spend more time for studies and such. It never happened and I think it wasn't even a year later when I felt like playing the game again just to spend some time with the people I met there. The game was still crap though. :p

    The only exception to the rule was that character I mentioned in the comments of the Pizza Maid post. It was the only one I didn't delete, instead I just changed his name, race and class. There was too much emotional baggage with him but also too many things I accomplished with him that would be hard or impossible to get again if I were to make a new one. So that was my attempt to salvage the character though I don't think it worked that much since the character still got pretty neglected.

    Thanks for sharing your story and now I am curious about what attracted you to LotRO. I think you mentioned it was because you really loved Lord of the Rings Online and the thought of inhabiting it virtual form was what attracted you to the game? Was there something more than that? Am I forgetting a post where you explained it in more detail?

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  2. I can definitely relate to this. I've kept almost every WoW alt I've created, even though I don't log into many for nostalgia reasons. I guess a part of me just plain doesn't want to see them again , and another part of me feels I have no reason to log on to them because the friends (and old romantic flames) aren't there for me to play with anymore.

    I also used to let my little brother play on my account before he died. Every now and then I log into his favorite character and just cry. I definitely agree that there's no point in living in the past but it's totally understandable that you might not want to pull up old memories:/

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    1. I read what you wrote and got tears in my eyes. As you know, my father died in January and all the things that were his, even if just a paper with notes in his illegible handwriting, they bring me closer to him yet also makes me hurt so much because it rubs in that he's not there anymore. If I had a game character like that, it would make me feel the same. I just start crying again when writing this because it's just so sad. *big hugs*

      From a more scientific point of view (trying to shut the feelings off now, archaeologist's glasses on), this is quite interesting. In material culture studies, people speak of objects having 'agency', for instance the power to invoke memories and feelings. It seems that our minds categorizes our beloved pixels (and attached associated feelings) in the same way.

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  3. I've definitely had that happen to me with quite a few characters! However, in the long run I've always been very good at "reclaiming" them.

    For example I made a World of Warcraft character to introduce my then-boyfriend to the game... and we made a terrible team. He would do all the things that annoy me in group play, such as run ahead in a dungeon and pull things even though he was the healer! We were just a bad match, lol. You can bet that character got banished into a corner once we broke up.

    Yet when I had to think of the char's name for this comment, actually the first thing that came to mind was: "Oh yeah, the one that I levelled through the revamped Cataclysm Felwood and Winterspring and who found an oozling pet in a cave!"

    I like making new memories and hate letting a good character concept go to waste! :) But I do appreciate that it becomes harder the more time you've already invested previously.

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    1. It makes me feel happy to hear you've had the same with characters - multiple even - and got through it. I hear from so many people that they just delete characters if something like this happens, but for me that would make me feel sad, angry and as if I've lost. I spend a lot of time creating a character, thinking about their background and making outfits for them, and all of that invested time makes them a part of me, silly as that may sound. Deleting that would also mean hurting myself.

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  4. You know, I've never created an MMO toon so I could play with a significant other. I did try to wrack my brain about pencil and paper RPGs, but the only girl I was really attracted to in a gaming group was already a member of the group when I was asked to join (I was introduced to her through the group). There was no need to create a character just to play with her. And I'll be honest, I was attracted to her, but I was really pining for someone else at the time; if there were signals of interest, I missed them entirely in my naturally clueless nature.

    Still, I can see how this particular toon would both cause pain and bad memories. Constant reminders of what was --and what happened-- aren't a good thing.

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    1. Now I think of it, I've created 4 characters to play with a significant other: 1) Ravalinde (as presented above); 2) Cicely the hobbit minstrel, who I rolled to play together with the first friend I made in an MMO (he was really into hobbits and I didn't have one yet); 3) Honeyberry the bounty hunter, who roams space with her counterpart Sugarberry (played by Conrad); and 4) Mareesha the commando medic, who I used to do heroic with together with Marinka (when she was new to SWTOR). I don't know if that's many. If you compare it to my total amount of characters in both games (32ish?) I don't think it's that much. It does indicate a certain fondness of the social aspects of gaming, though. Perhaps you like to play alone most of the time?

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    2. Well, my first few years of playing WoW, I tended to play at odd hours of the day (really late at night or really early in the morning) because of work and family schedules. We also only had one computer at the time, and my wife has shown absolutely no interest in MMOs (she plays Mario Kart like a boss, tho.) When I finally got around to playing more at the same time the rest of the guild I was in played, we had a spectacular flaming break-up. The second guild I joined was active through about halfway through Cataclysm, and then suddenly people began vanishing. They came back for Mists, and then they vanished after a month or two, leaving me and maybe one or two other people who'd login for well over a year.

      I have created WoW toons on other NA servers to play with fellow WoW bloggers, but it's still not the same level as playing with a significant other.

      I play with the mini-Reds from time to time, and now more frequently since I've been on LOTRO a lot (and they've not logged into SWTOR much lately), but as far as a significant other goes, not really.

      The pencil-and-paper variety of RPGs is by nature a lot more social, and I've had a regular game group that means about 10-15 times a year online to play D&D 3.0, and we've been doing that since 2001. We're more than a wee bit slow in the leveling department, as my Cleric finally reached 7th Level recently, but I don't mind. It's the getting together with friends that makes it worthwhile. Now, if only the DM wouldn't talk just to hear himself talk so much....

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    3. I should really stop replying to comments when I'm tired! Only 2 out of the 4 I listed were actually SOs, obviously. *facepalm*

      I'm sorry to hear you've had such bad luck with your guilds. If anything, it makes me appreciate the gamer group I'm part of (called Asylum) even more: we've met in LotRO and have evolved into a multi gaming guild, now we're playing SWTOR. Thankfully, we haven't had any drama in ages.

      It's a shame your SO isn't into MMOs - sharing the fun with Conrad is absolutely awesome - but playing with your children must be rewarding, too. For me, I cherish the few memories I have of playing games with my father. He was always super busy with work, so when he took the time to do something that had no use whatsoever and spent it with me, it was really special. Now I wish he had spent more time doing such things. Sigh. Life is not fair.

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  5. Love this post. I am currently around level 55 with my main LOTRO character, it's my very first MMORPG and I don't have so much time to play it, but I LOVE everything about it. I never joined a raid, because I'm more like "let's eat a pie together", since I play as a Hobbit, but I'm going to try it sooner or later. Now I just have to level up my way out of Moria... :)

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    1. LOTRO is great for Tolkien fans. The world is so colourful and well done and you can take things at your own pace. If you don't have much time to play it will indeed take a long time to get to the level cap, because the leveling is so slow. But who cares. ^^ I still remember my lore-master being so happy after a whole expansion of those depressing tunnels - I think Moria is very well done but after a while it's so much darkness. After Moria you reach the beautiful Lothlórien, though, so you have something to look forward to!

      Oh, and pie-eating hobbits are the best. I have one that is a cook. I just love walking around with a bag full of pies and handing them out to everyone when we're doing an instance. ^^

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  6. Aw Rav! I'm sorry to hear about your past boyfriend. I can't really relate game-wise because I don't play that many MMOs but I can definitely relate to keeping something for nostalgic purposes. I had a Tumblr account in middle school/high school that I used to document my life in--mostly micro blogging but it basically held my whole love story with my first boyfriend who I was together with for 3 years. To this day, I have yet to delete the account, even though that was many years and many boyfriends ago. I guess there is a seldom feeling to keeping something--even though it reminds you of something that is over--because it also reminds you of good things that used to exist too that impacted your life. Loved this post! Really pulled at my heartstrings! <3

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    1. Hi Jennifer. Don't worry about my ex, it's a long time ago. Your Tumblr account sounds like exactly the same sentiment! Like you, I try to remember the positive things. For Ravalinde that's the background story I made for her, her 'character', her outfits and the many happy memories of taking her into challenging group content and succeeding. In a way, I hope this blog post gets buried soon, so I will forget about the negative and focus on those positive things. I did want to write about it, though, because I find the phenomenon intriguing. Thanks for dropping by and your thoughtful comment, it makes me happy. ^^

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