In the Beginning was the Logos

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."
The Second Coming -- William Butler Yeats

I'm alone.

In the dark of the basement, blue screens shadow the room with cold, cold light. Sound echoes off the concrete floor. The vast wasteland of game hours remain a solitary excursion into other worlds.

But the silver cord is ambrosia and jacob's ladder both. It runs from machine to router, to yellow cord, to the mysterious black box which massages the spirit with arcane incantations before passing it to the white plate on the wall. From there, more strange than alchemy, it becomes spiritus mundi.

And then I'm not alone.

---
It's some months after 9/11, perhaps nearly a year. I have become insular. I have fled the city with wife and family. I work from home. I have family and friends and fresh air and trees.

I am a beta tester for Star Wars Galaxies. It is a beta I begged my way into, cajoling every member of the industry with whom I had any contact. Eventually I hit paydirt.

I arrive in the desert, confused. I go walkabout. I fight. I break up a quaint imperial guardpost. I need rest, so I wander aimlessly, looking for a likely spot. The sun is setting over the dunes. The music speaks directly to the lizard part of my brain that embraces stimulus, bypassing conscious distraction, and lulling me into a sense of warm nostalgia. I see a man sitting by a fire. He invites me to sit down.

I tell the story of my first day. He tells me stories of his weeks.

We become friends. Time passes. I grow stronger.

Word spreads that one of the original family members, Nathan Larkins aka Moraj, has died in a car crash. I don't know him. I don't think I've ever met him in-world. But my friend does, and again, on a different night, in a different place, we sit by a campfire and tell stories. Some time later, the developers plant a flag in his honor near the original spawn point. I visit it alone one night. I feel scooped out clean like a Halloween pumpkin--glowing orange but empty, waxy and false.

As a group, as a community, we love the world. Our complaints to the gods are only ever offered out of an unjustifiable love for the mystery that Star Wars has left in our brains as children of the '60s (perhaps the 70s). We want it to be perfect. We want it to reflect the visions in our heads. Oddly, as the legion of citizens expands, the community grows even closer. There is a sense that anyone you meet is connected. If they are lost, you lead them. If they are in trouble, you come to their aid. If they need an ear, you listen.

It's June of 2003, the game is about to go retail, and thus, the beta has to end. Word spreads that there will be (as there usually is) an end-of-beta celebration. It is, fittingly, to be at Moraj's memorial. That same flag out in the barrens where I'd spent 10 minutes of disconnected reflection. An otherwise empty location, it features a hill on which one can sit and watch the sunset.

So we sit there, my friends and I, quiet witnesses to the end of the world. One by one, people join us. One by one, they sit on the hill. We set off fireworks. People dance and play music. There are duels. But mostly, there are stories. At some point in the evening, I weep. No, not for this faceless stranger who'd shared this new world, but for the emptiness that I know the next morning would bring.

I will buy retail, play for a few months. But the world will become sprawling, crowded, and insane. The initial self-satisfied ego of helping newbies will wear off, and I will move on. So will most of us. The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

The genesis of worlds is different than meatspace. A new world is small. The inhabitants are there not by chance, war lust or greed, but out of love. Those early pilgrims, Adams and Eves all, endure hardship, experience the first fruit of the tree, and become family.

I never met a single person from that genesis again. There's not one I still play with online today. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. At the time, they were as close to me as any family. And with a moment's inattention, they were gone.

Comments

Good article Rabbit...

Yeah, so true how the mass hordes can come into a game and stomp the hell out of everything.
Good piece.

Good article, thanks.

One minor nitpick:

But the silver cord is both ambrosia and jacob's ladder both.

Deliberate or oversight?

I have no idea what you're talking about!! I never wrote anything like that!! You couldn't possibly suggesting that my otherwise KumBayArific article has some sort of technical FLAW?

((Thanks. All praise be to the edit button.))

Another gem, rabbit.

I've avoided modern MMOs because of my horrendous addiction to MUDs back in the pre-AOL days of the internet. In retrospect, I think that a large part of my fascination with those games was due to the sort of small and passionate communities that you describe in your article. I suppose that's part of my fascination with GWJ as well, come to think of it.

At first glance I thought the article was "In the Beginning was the Legos"

I especially like the line

I tell the story of my first day. He tells me stories of his weeks.

Good article, but depressingly devoid of small colorful blocks of plastic =).

Fantastic article. Really makes you think about what an online community is and how it differs so vastly from real life. No ties, no responsibilities, no long-term emotional attachments. One minute your family, the next a stranger.

I experienced SWG as my first MMORPG and my first few months in the game were perhaps the best gaming experience I've ever had. Until its many flaws became unavoidable, the game had a real magic. In many ways, it was able to capture the essence of Star Wars.

This is pretty much the experience I had with Everquest, back in the day. I think I started playing on the second round of beta, and I was a guide for the last leg. It was a different time.

It is strange to think how mercurial online relationships are. With the rise of voice chat, those strangers in the aether gain voices. From my one year with EQ2 I learned the real life professions, general locations and even their children's names; I even shared my cell number with my guild leader and had to explain to my wife why this strange woman was calling in the middle of the night. Now coming up on a year since I quit the game it is all fading away. I occasionally wonder if some of my old guildmates have migrated to WoW, and If I could find them, but then I remember how much better I feel when I get enough sleep.

I'm glad other folks have felt this. I truly think that online communities are like the post offices and general stores of a generation. THey're places where we make real human connections, but without a sanctity of place. That failing makes them fragile and subject to such easy dismissal.

I also think there is something about the undiscovered country. When a world (whether its solo like oblivion or massive like WoW) is first born, it's exciting and fresh, and it's easy to get into it, in a very real way. Once it goes back to just being a game, its appeal can quickly fade.

Copingsaw wrote:
Fantastic article. Really makes you think about what an online community is and how it differs so vastly from real life. No ties, no responsibilities, no long-term emotional attachments. One minute your family, the next a stranger.

Oh, I don't know, it surely depends on what kind of community we're speaking of. After all, isn't GWJ an online community? And if we're just speaking of online games, I made quite a few friends back in my MUD days that came with ties, responsibilities, and long-term emotional attachments. It defintiely did help if you met the people in real life though.

rabbit wrote:
I have no idea what you're talking about!! I never wrote anything like that!! You couldn't possibly suggesting that my otherwise KumBayArific article has some sort of technical FLAW?

Wow, I don't know what I was thinking! There's clearly no error there. MY BAD!

The Everquest early beta community was an amazing time, and not only because it was also my first MMORPG experience. I spent the first day fishing, showing a fellow new player to an area I'd found earlier and both of us completely startled and amazed when rain started to fall in the High Elf city. I think that's what I'm always trying to get back to when I go in any beta these days, I can't say I hold out much hope for a return to innocence like that.

The genesis of worlds is different than meatspace. A new world is small. The inhabitants are there not by chance, war lust or greed, but out of love. Those early pilgrims, Adams and Eves all, endure hardship, experience the first fruit of the tree, and become family.

This sums up my best MM experiences very well. The smaller, frontier community of a good beta is incomparable and sadly fragile.

It's strange to see how the poem of a mystic poet fits so nicely with the hightech culture. I supose both are suitabley disconnected from reality.

It defenitly explains my love for unofficial servers with a small crowd of intimi. Once you know each other people no longer behave like ass-hats.

Excellent article and I truly enjoyed it. It has instantly conjured many fond memores.

Sigh, if only I knew how fleeting those moments were to be. I might have taken more time to truly appreciate them. Now I must look back with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and be saddened that I doubt I will ever see the like again.

You see I have just come from reviewing the application procedures, rules and other obtuse requirements of many of the large raiding guilds on my WoW server. Rarely have I read things so utterly and instantly depressing and at times insulting. It's not that I am unable to meet the set criteria - but the fact that the criteria must exist at all. Too much greed and too little adventure for my tastes.

What a great article. I felt this way about the Internet before America Online came along.

What a really great piece. I totally feel the longing for a time past vibe.

In the Beginning was the Logos

The Prince of Nothing?

mattwier wrote:
In the Beginning was the Logos

The Prince of Nothing?


Logos is a very early philosophical concept of the source of activity and reason. A rational principal of the cosmos.

Prince of Nothing draws from a lot of old philosophy concepts.

Didn't know that. At least you got the reference. Great books, although I've had a really hard time getting into The Thousandfold Thought. It's been in my backpack for months.

And just F Y'alls I's, that title is the opening phrase of the Gospel of John.

2 points Fedaykin.

And I was always taught (and ladies and gentlemen, he's working without the google-net) that it meant "logic" and "word" depending on context (greek).

But then, I hated my 4th grade classics teacher as if she was the devil incarnate, and spent 2 years perfecting the "rubber band off the braces in the back of the head" move.

Woohoo! Points!

Yeah, most Bibles translate it as "word", but there's definitely a deeper meaning to it than what we mean by "word" in English. It does have the same root as "logic".