Sunday, January 29, 2006

In Medias Res

Why am I starting this now, almost a full two years since I first created the character of Frohike, back in April of 2004?

I decided upon this a few nights ago, as I paused on the bridge over the great canyon in North Gustaberg, staring at the huge waterfall that feeds it, and quietly removing my linkshell pearl for the first time in years. It was around 1AM, and I was exhausted after a long key and treasure chest hunt in Oldton Movalpolos. But the exhaustion felt different this time, greater than the immediate quest warranted. It seemed to encompass all that I had done since I began, and the recent accomplishments I had been aiming to achieve since I had decided to take my job as Warrior "all the way."

I had recently reached level 60 as Warrior. And a few days before that, I had finally aquired the Haubergeon armor, a multi-million-gil piece of equipment that took months of saving, and at the very end still required the kindess of a veteran level 75 Warrior to acquire. These were two milestones that, on many gloomy nights, I felt I would never reach. With a full-time job, a beautiful wife, and an incredible son, I just didn't have the time that this game ruthlessly requires to progress at anything faster than a glacial rate. And I was resolved to not allow my time spent in Vana'diel to impinge upon my family or the quality of my life. So I went the glacial route, giving 3-4 hours a night and trying to accomplish as much as possible and stay the course.

I was a tired Warrior, resolved to watching friends progress beyond my levels in less time, aqcuiring more gil more quickly, wearing armour I can never hope to save enough for, and never really quite understanding nor caring about the real-world commitments that kept poor Frohike in such a tired rut (you can tell them you're a Dad until you're blue in the face, but most of them are in environments where the concept of true parenthood and dedicated parenting are completely foreign, whether due to actual age or just chronic immaturity).

I was a tired Dad, resolved to wake up with his son at 6:30 AM again the next day and play with him and raise him like none of this had happened or mattered. Resigned to not being able to fully explain the weight of my in-game accomplishments to anyone in my real environment, just as I was unable to convey my pride in these same accomplishments to those who had passed these milestones in half the time in the game.

I realized I was doing this all for myself, alone, in some strange, private Sisyphean challenge. And I just stood there in the quiet thrum of the falling stream, collecting these thoughts, releasing them, remembering where I came from, and having absolutely no idea where to go next...

I wonder how philosophically peculiar this meditative moment must have been, seriously pondering and evaluating the trajectory and the meaning of a semi-virtual existence in a virtual world, one that has required more than a month's worth of cumulative real-time hours to develop; inhabiting the character, making his decisions, socializing, competing with other characters for resources, sightseeing.

In a sense, I feel I'm at an impasse with this game. I'm confronting the exhaustion of someone who is clearly not 'supposed' to progress as far as I have but doggedly continues to do so. And in another sense it seems Frohike is just poised. Ready for anything, but confused about where to begin.

And what better place to start a journal than on the verge of something?

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