Friday, May 13, 2011

WoW Narratives

Greetings fellow WoWcrafters! The Pink Pally's world has been crazy busy the past month and not in a good way. Well, the week I spent in Orlando, FL on vacation with the hubby was great, but the mad, hectic rush of work deadlines before and after was not fun.Thankfully, the immediately time sensitive work priorities are finally complete and I can get back to regularly scheduled blogging. I'm a much happier person when I can write regularly. :)

Blogger, that means no more days-long outages that eat my drafts m'kay?

I'd like to preface today's post with a disclaimer. I'm home sick today. I don't feel well and I have medicine head. So if this is rambly and doesn't entirely make sense... well, you know why.

Earlier this week, Lani of Flavor Text Lore posted an introduction on The narrative of the player character. Now, Lani's post is more about how we, the player characters, fit into Blizzard's story narrative. However, the post got me thinking of how we interact with the game world and, more specifically, how it affects role playing in WoW.

(For anyone who wants or needs a quick review on various narrative styles -- first, second and third person as well as past tense vs. present tense -- you can check out this post over at Daily Writing Tips.)

Even if you never role play, your avatar interacts with the game world and the NPCs that populate it through quests. As Lani points out, the game world is designed to put the player character at the center of events. Which is probably why quests and emotes are written in first and second person. The problem is that Blizzard isn't exactly consistent with their narrative choice throughout our interactions. Let's look at some examples.

Bwemba is speaking in first person present tense.

Same here, first person present tense.

A role playing rule of thumb for newbies is take your behavioral ques from the NPCs around you. If the NPCs walk, you walk. If they run, you run. NPCs speak to us in first person present tense. The same way we speak to each other in the real world.

Emotes on the other hand, are another story. To us, the player-character performing them, they appear in second person present tense. /salute appears as:
The same second person sense applies in reverse action as well: "Commander Sharp salutes you with respect." And yet, what a third party observer sees, "Commander Sharp salutes Caela with respect," is in third person present tense.

Likewise, /e commands are written in third person. /e eyes the Darkspears.... appears as:
No wonder folks new to role playing, and non-native English speakers, get confused and intimidated!

There are perfectly logical reasons why Blizzard does this of course. They're putting us, the player-characters, at the center of whatever is happening. Unfortunately, it can make for some awkward narrative at times.

At least Blizzard is consistent in the use of tense. The one thing all these examples have in common, is that they're written in present tense. NPCs speak in present tense. Emotes are written in present tense. Whatever the event, its occurring right now. Not yesterday or in the past hour; not tomorrow or sometime in the next hour. Presently. That present tense aids in immersion, which is why it's so jarring to us that certain quests haven't been updated. NPCs in Northrend still talk as if we're all about to march on ICC and confront the Lich King any moment. It ruins that immersion experience. But that's another topic for another post.

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