Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Small Worlds

I was on SWTOR the other day, playing around with a new Jedi Shadow, when I finished up Taris and returned to the ship. There I had my latest conversation with Qyzen, and I was reminded once again about how intertwined the characters in the SWTOR universe are.

You might remember the conversation, about Qyzen and his rancor trophy. You might even remember how important the trophy meant to Qyzen. But do you remember who he worked with back then?

Qyzen mentioned it in passing, almost an offhand remark: Braden.

As in, Braden the NPC at the beginning of the Bounty Hunter story.

The more I play SWTOR, the more I'm surprised by the entanglements that the PCs, the primary NPCs, and their companions have. I realize this is by design, but Bioware didn't have to do this. They could just as easily had 8 class stories that were completely disconnected from the others, but these little intersections serve a larger purpose: that everything the PCs do is connected with each other. They are, to borrow a term from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, ta'veren.


But I had another case of Deja Vu when my wife and I watched an ESPN 30 For 30 documentary about Ric Flair the other day.*

No, really.

I suppose you'd never guess by my writing that in my teen years in the 80s I followed professional wrestling.** While I realize that some people had their older siblings or their friends get them interested in the (so-called) "soap opera for guys", my father was the one who introduced me to pro wrestling. When he was a boy in the 50s and early 60s, he used to ride bikes with his friends to the Cincinnati Gardens to watch wrestling there***, and he developed a love for the sport. Even though he and I would mainly talk about college basketball, I hadn't realized that he'd kept up with pro wrestling all through the years until I was cleaning up his old Mac after he passed away and discovered the WWE link at the top of his favorites.

Watching the documentary, titled "Nature Boy", was a chance to get back in touch with my youth. I'd not followed wrestling since my time at college, and the over the top drama and plotlines couldn't help but make me chuckle.****

Yes, pro wrestling certainly earns its moniker of being a "soap opera for guys". The obnoxious boasting from the wrestlers, the choreographed moves, and the so-called drama of the production was something you simply couldn't take seriously. However, as I watched the documentary from a vantage point of almost 30 years removed from following the sport, I realized just how much the pro wrestling world had impacted the design of some of these newer MMOs.

For example, here's a pic from TERA Online:

Complete with championship belt.

And now contrast it with a few classic pro wrestling stills:

The Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair.
"Wooooooooo!!" indeed.

Randy "Macho Man" Savage on the left
and Hulk Hogan on the right. If this doesn't
scream "protect the princess, boys!"
I don't know what does. From reddit, but a
version of this is on

But a larger influence is found from the world of women's pro wrestling.

Yes, that is a thing.

When I was in college, there was GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, that hoped to capitalize on the popularity of the WWF and WCW, but was frequently relegated to Midnight on Saturday nights. But the WWE has spent a while now promoting women's wrestling, which includes Ric Flair's daughter, Charlotte:
Her dad used to enter the ring wearing
a cape/robe of his own. (From

And a couple of other pics:

From (No, not a World of Warcraft
site. Just sayin'.)

Now, the reason why I point to pro wrestling versus Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is that the MMA clothing is strictly practical in nature, whereas the influence of pro wrestling's undeniably sexed up outfits can be seen in ArcheAge:

My short lived Warborn. Alas that ArcheAge
has a two character limit for non-subs.

And in TERA Online:

My Castanic. What is it about "devil" characters
that people find so appealing? I suppose you could
even throw Draenei into that mix, even though
they never were corrupted.

It feels... odd... looking at pro wrestling and seeing MMOs instead. In its own way, the plotlines in pro wrestling is analogous to these newer MMOs, where story isn't quite as important as bashing people, looking good, and preening like an alpha. But I shouldn't be surprised, because pro wrestling is pop culture, and MMOs do reflect pop culture. Sure, other MMOs may not reflect it as obviously as WoW does with its quirky names and questlines, but pop culture does extend a long shadow over MMOs (and video games in general).

We may think we're playing games that are immune to or isolated from what we consider to be the larger world, but we're not. The larger world does provide at least a subconscious influence on our smaller gaming worlds, and we should pay attention to that influence. MMOs and other games (video and otherwise) reflect their times.

Even if those times include eyebrow raising wrestling outfits.

*To be perfectly honest, my wife set the DVR to record it, not me. I wasn't so sure whether I wanted to watch it, but I figured "oh hell, why not."

**More World Championship Wrestling than what was then known as the World Wrestling Federation (now called World Wrestling Entertainment, after a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund forced a name change). As one person in the documentary put it, the WCW was for more blue collar people who loved to watch wrestling, and the WWF was geared toward kids and teens.They operated in two completely different circles.

***As well as watch the NBA team the Cincinnati Royals, whose most famous player was Oscar Roberston. Oscar, known as The Big O, was one of the greatest players of his generation and one of the all time greats of basketball. Given that The Big O's career overlapped that of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, "Doctor J" Julius Erving, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, that's saying quite a bit. The Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City in 1971 and were renamed the Kings, and in 1985 they moved to their current location in Sacramento. For the rest of his days, my father was mad at the Royals management who basically sold off the team's best players and then used the plummeting attendance as an excuse to move.

****Okay, I guess I ought to confess one other item: during my Sophomore year at college, I got hooked on the NBC daytime soap opera Days of our Lives. (I blame my roommate at the time, who was hooked on it before me.) So, for several months I would take my lunchtime break and pull up a chair by a television set around campus to watch Days. After about 5 months' worth of shows, however, I just threw up my hands and said that the plot was way too over the top for me to find remotely enjoyable. Still, it does give me an appreciation of how much work and acting skill to keep the show going every week out of the year.

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