A World of My Own

Growing up, MMORPG’s (also known as Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) were the epitome of my childhood. The way that fictional worlds are influenced by literature was not something I figured video game script writers took into account immediately. I think that what is particularly surprising about MMO’s is that they are able to weave together stories and imagine alternate endings in the worlds they create (and it doesn’t always matter if the gamer is familiar with the work or not; it is a foundation .

Reading “Fictional Worlds in the Digital Age” by Marie-Laure Ryan allowed me to see how my interests in literature and video games tied together. Ryan recalls this cerebral experience as immersive and fundamental for our “literary pleasures”. Additionally, we have to “suspend disbelief” and any expectation that the literature is exactly the same in computer games. There can’t be the expectation of a true representation of reality, or in this case, the literature. Ryan states that this ability to be a part of how the story unfolds through character interaction is a form of “imaginative recentering”. The earliest versions (MOOs and MUDs) consisted of the creation of a fictional character where the settings were static and permanent; gamers were able to move around and interact but they couldn’t change the settings. This is similar to how a reader can interpret a story differently from someone else, but they cannot change settings such as where the story takes place or how the room looks. What newer worlds such as World of Warcraft allow is real-time interaction with other characters, which can change how the narratives of the stories play out.

If that sounds confusing, an easier example is Runescape. I remember the first time I played it was in the 6th grade. In the game, you can create a character and open doors to move further out into the world; however, before you can do all that, it requires that you complete the tutorial and learn to navigate and survive.

Once you’ve handled that, the game takes you off of Tutorial Island and places you in the fictional world of Runescape, where quests await (a quality MMO’s adopt quite well). I remember one quest that looked familiar to me from the get-go was Romeo and Juliet (spoilers ahead).

I had to go all over the town of Varrock (which is not Verona, Italy) and find objects to create the fake poison to help the star-crossed lovers. The problem with the ending of Romeo and Juliet in this case is that Romeo believes Juliet is dead and ends up with her cousin.

What is fun about Runescape is that it has different versions available online now. If a gamer wants the classic version, they can play Old School Runescape and still get similar updates as Runescape 3. The expansions are easily integrated into the world via quests, more story lines! However, this form of digital media is perhaps what is enticing to young gamers who develop gaming addictions: it is hard to negotiate between what is real and what is fiction. They become more absorbed into the guise of trying to win in this fictional world, where all it takes is countless hours on hand (537).