We can’t turn back now – not after we’ve gotten this far.
I stood up, making some final adjustments to my tunic, brushing off dirt and filth off the front of my chest. My trusted friends – those I had chosen to band together with on this perilous journey, picked themselves up as well and readied themselves.
We looked at each other, and nodded.
The campfire was doused out, leaving a dying trail of smoke behind as we made our way towards the entrances of the final dungeon. I’ve always wondered why It would wait there for us, with all the patience in the world. A virtuous quality that strangely found its way bound to an evil heart maybe. Doesn’t change a thing, though.
Our designated party leader approached the door, covered in vines and its ornate patterns obscured with moss and grime. He placed both his hands against the huge iron doors and took a deep breathe, during which we stepped forward and planted our hands alongside his – and we pushed.
The iron doors groaned and begun to move begrudgingly at first, then swung wide open with the gathered momentum. It came to a crashing stop as it met with the inner walls of the dungeon room, crashing. The sound echoed through the room and was abruptly drowned out by an animalistic roar, followed by numerous quick and heavy thuds as the Balrog King charged.
Cold, hard logic kicked in and we moved into defensive positions.
Group combat is rather similar to dance – the Balrog King and our group constantly switches between offensive and defensive; and even within the group itself, there are group dynamics in play that moves and sways to the atmosphere of the battle. The bloody ballroom waltz had us all enraptured in a timeless arena, in the heart of a perilous jungle. Just like we choreographed.
And then one fell; a wayward swipe by the Balrog King and an ill-timed dodge knocked our Knight out of synchrony. Everyone in the party is an absolute necessity, and so once our Knight fell, the party crumbled as the Balrog King waltzed us off our feet.
The ball ends, the lights goes out, and the Balrog King is the only one left standing. He grunts, and heads back to the deeper recesses of the dungeon. It takes two to tango, afterall.
And so it’s all over, as we lay dead on the dungeon floor, I went downstairs to the kitchen – where the loaf of bread was still warm, and for a cool glass of orange juice to wash it down.
I Fight Dragons
That was my day-to-day life during the weekends, back when I was a decade younger and life was a lot simpler. I would frequently band with a group of friends and go adventuring, lost in an electronic world of fantasy. We would take on quests and travel the world, things that were rather impossible to do when you were just an 11 years old brat.
And like all other parents, my mom had her concerns – hoping that I would spend less time on the computer and play outside instead. I loved exploring the world outside too, but the concrete jungle that is our city state easily bores. She was also worried that these violent games come to affect my emotional growth, like the TV talk shows had warned.
But I Didn’t Understand Death
Well, you just cease to exist, or something. But in video games and to the people who grew up playing them, death is just a mechanism; a punishment system that sets the player further back from the goal. We take death lightly because we usually have more than one lives, and a single life isn’t quite as significant in a video game – all it represents is a chance.
The possibility of such a manner of thinking is unimaginable for someone who has never played video games – offensive, even. Surely, when the elderly members heard my friends and I speaking of death casually, silent gasps would have went around the table. Their eyebrows would have twitched as they remarked about the immoral youth of today.
When you’re eleven, would you want to match up against foes in a battle of wits? Probably not, and you would just babble away whilst throwing a hissy-fit; because you’re eleven and mental conquest is a concept you haven’t grasped yet.
But what you can understand is destroying your foes physically. Winning by physical domination. Taking my opponent’s hitpoints down to zero and keeping your own up. That’s all there is to it.
Video Games Are Pretty Remarkable
They’re explorations of strategy and critical thinking that represent the world as numbers. The task of slaying a Balrog King seemed plausible, because the numbers seemed to match. And so we formulated strategies, communicated and learned. Maybe we won’t be transferring these skills to real life anytime soon, but it acted as a playspace where I understood my friends and myself even more. It became a platform, or medium – of sorts.
The rules are different in this world. Death as failure is an awkward concept, but it made sense in this world. We collectively understand that the violence in games, death, life and magic are ultimately metaphorical and done for its own purposes.
Understandably, it would be rather difficult for anyone outside the circle to see it. To some of them, we’re the monsters here.
But I don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Maybe the Balrog King is weaker against Holy magic?
Huh, that’d make sense.
This article took images from MagicalGameTime.com, a weblog run by Zac Gorman who draws wonderful comics that easily finds a place in your heart.