Thursday, April 8, 2021

Enriching a Life Well Lived

The arts are what makes life worth living. You’ve got food, you’ve got shelter, yeah. But the things that make you laugh, make you cry, make you connect – make you love are communicated through the arts. They aren’t extras. 

--Barack Obama

The idea of taking up art as a calling, a profession, is a mirage. Art enriches life. It makes life worth living. But to make a living at it—that idea is incompatible with making art.

--John Sloan (Yes, he was an artist. Go figure.)


As part of the Vanilla/Classic WoW quest chain for Tirion Fordring, he sends you into Stratholme to find a painting his family sat for years ago. The reason is to remind Tirion's son, who has effectively been turned into a cultist by the Scarlet Crusade, of his family's past life and what honor truly stands for. The questline is a tragic one, but for me it's notable because the focus of one particular quest is on an object of art. 

There are a few quests that require you to fetch and retrieve a book, and there's a notable quest that involves a flute in Felwood, but far and away the arts aren't found in the Azeroth a player interacts with. Sure, there's the background music at inns and other locations, paintings on the walls, and other reference pieces, but almost literally nothing interactive. Unlike LOTRO, a player can't learn a musical instrument --or play a class that uses music as its magic-- and unlike Elder Scrolls Online or SWTOR (or many other MMOs) you can't purchase a house and decorate it as you please. The most you can do is transmog (in Retail) or take up some of your precious bag space for a roleplaying or hangout outfit.*

It is not a controversial statement to say that when WoW was designed, the arts weren't exactly high on everybody's mind.

I completely understand the whys of that, because when you're creating a game of epic fantasy you're more concerned about a lot of other things (like making sure mechanics actually work) than how the arts impact the denizens of the game world. That being said, given the dedicated art department that Blizz has for WoW and its other games, especially for the look and feel of a specific class, race, zone, or whatnot, you'd think that there would be advocates for the art that a player has input on.


I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

--"Mission" by Rush, from Hold Your Fire

The reason why I'm so passionate about the arts and MMOs is because art inspires me. I love to read RPG materials, not just for the game rules/settings/adventures, but because the art inside the books stirs a desire in me to do more and be more than just a character playing a game. I'm one of those people who has to have music on at all times, no matter the genre**, because music is the backdrop of my narrative life. About the only times I don't have music on at work are when things get so serious that I have to devote all of my resources to something. Or, as one of the mini-Reds once told me, "Dad, when you turn off your music, put in earplugs, and hunch over your laptop, that's when we know shit has just hit the fan."

But the arts are what I truly enjoy in life.*** Sure, I love sports, especially college basketball, and I enjoy building things,

I built these last Fall for my wife's old
80's era all-in-one stereo. Replacing the crappy
old speakers that came with the system was
like night and day.

but I don't have the talent or time to devote to the arts. I can wander museums and look at the art, but I can't paint or sculpt. I can immerse myself in music, but I can't play worth a damn. Acting? No thanks; I listen to voice actors and watch plays/shows/movies and think "I can't do that. I can't fake emotions like that. Hell, I get embarrassed role playing in pencil-and-paper RPGs." 

And the Great American Novel this blog ain't. (Just sayin'. Doesn't hurt my feelings any, because I recognize my limitations and work within them.)


Art also provides a starting point for a player as well. It presents a new player --who may be uncertain about wanting to play-- with the ability to say "You're welcome at the table; you can play someone who looks like you."

If I'm in a fight, I want this guy on my side.
From the D&D 5e Players Handbook.

Or they can give you a sense of what a player can do.

I never realized it before, but the female
Halfling here bears a vague resemblance to
Anna Kendrick. Or maybe I need more sleep.
From D&D 5e Players Handbook.

And yes, there's the eye candy art as well.

What, you thought I was going to
use Seoni? Geralt works fine, you know.
Besides, Geralt is one of those people who
I think of when I say "I'm not gay, but...."
From The Witcher trilogy.

People draw fan art of their favorite characters, their toons, or even scenes from a gaming session all the time. And if I tried posting some here, I'd have a real problem picking a representative sample from the tons of fan art available. Perusing Deviantart alone can suck hours of your time. But if you ever watch Critical Role, you'll note during their breaks the fan art they post... Oh the fan art.


Because of all that, the overall lack of an artistic outlet in some MMOs can be a bit jarring at times. Some work within the limitations and create fantastic work, such as Kamalia of Kamalia et Alia and her fashion sense. Her Sunday on the Promenade series on transmog outfits alone are worth a perusal, even though I play Classic and don't have access to transmog. (Me? I'm happy when I don't select blue shirts and a blue jacket to go with my blue jeans.)

Others work with what they have, saving a set specifically for hanging around an MMO city.****

But there are times when I wish a WoW toon could make music all on their own in the same way that you can in LOTRO. The 5 PM EST band on the Gladden server still plays regularly just inside the western entrance to Bree, and it would be nice if something such as that were available on other MMOs. Or have a space of your own to decorate, like you can find in LOTRO, SWTOR, or ESO (oh boy, the options you have in ESO). 

Such as it is, we have to make do with our own efforts outside of MMOs.

Maybe I should try my hand at painting. I already had a couple of discussions with one of my fellow Mages about watercolors, and he positively geeked out on me and provided me with a ton of info to get started. I know going in I'm going to suck, but if I work at it maybe I can finally draw/paint an image I've had in my head for a while, of Card wearing regular clothing, with her nieces and nephews, heading to the pond close to the farm to go fish. Her face is relaxed; she's grinning at the nephew she has perched on her shoulders, while Carys and the others are cavorting around because they're all excited that Aunt Cardwyn is taking them on "an adventure". And perhaps in the distance, Kit and Kerisa are already there, sitting and fishing, glancing over their shoulders with amused expressions at the ruckus. It's not a "go slay the dragons" image at all, but a simple picture that reflects the humanity of a toon.

*That's not counting the pirate and other costumes people can transform into, courtesy of holiday events.

**Well, I'm not a fan of most country music, and hip hop commands my attention in a way that distracts from anything I'm working on, so I rarely listen to either. Although I will say that Cardwyn's nickname in raids is now primarily "Cardy B". And because of that I now point out that the "B" stands for "battle rez".

***Oh, for pete's sake, I do love my wife and family, so don't go there.

****I have two now: the "Vixen Set" which features the Spider-mage robe, and an "Out Dating" set, which has Card wearing an evening gown. I should make one with a full Tier set, even having helm and cloak on, just so I can look like a Mage and drum up some consumables and/or portals business. I can't remember who said it, but a friend in Classic mentioned to me about a month ago that when they wear a full T2 set they get a lot more business.


  1. The art that grows up around games is really quite wonderful stuff.

    Transmogrification has certainly been one of my major creative outlets since it was first introduced! I have a perpetual draft post called "Notebook" where I keep ideas for outfits that I would like to make later. I am glad that you enjoy my play!

    1. I may need to pick your brains for a BC oriented outfit when BC Classic drops and I want something to just wear around one of the cities. I'm going to recreate Neve and Quintalan, and I'll probably create a Draenei, too. Probably not recreating Tomakan, but I'd be amenable to creating a female Draenei instead.

      But yeah, I wish I could point to sites that have a ton of fan art that aren't called DeviantArt --because the site kind of brings its own adult oriented baggage with it-- but that's the breaks right now.

  2. Those speakers are so cool looking. Yes, my husband is all about how speakers sound while I care how they look.

    And I really love the idea of Card having a fun no stress time fishing with her relatives.


    1. They sound surprisingly good, especially for 4" speakers. Here's a link to the driver on the Parts Express website: Dayton Audio Reference Series 4" Full Range Speaker

      I'm most surprised at the amount of bass they can generate. Sure, they don't reach down to subwoofer territory, but they're not meant to be. But what they do is provide more bass than I expected for a really cheap stereo (it's the Magnavox equivalent of the Radio Shack Realistic Clarinette 124). If your husband wants to know any details about it, let me know.

      (And yes, I love the oak front with the brass screws. I thought about staining it a reddish cherry type of color, but this works.)

      And yes, the relaxation and pure joy in the moment is something that's lost on a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction related art. Too much of the fantastic is presented in F&SF styled art, and not enough mundane. For what it's worth, I can totally see the trip to the pond drawn in Calvin and Hobbes art style.