Do Mouse and Keyboard equal Shield and Sword?
Photo © Razvan Tulai
Picture this: a young man, heavy armor on, helmet, a shield in his left hand and a sword in the right one, sitting in front of the castle gates, surrounded by cheering villagers and welcomed by a thankful king that’s going to proclaim the man a hero, for he has saved the entire kingdom from destruction. That is our medieval knight. Now picture this: another young man, jeans on, checkered shirt, sitting in front of his computer, surrounded by pizza cardboard boxes and soda cans, saying “Yeah, man!” while seeing on the monitor the long expected message : “Game Over”. This is our contemporary PC gamer. The two men apparently have nothing in common, but what if we take a closer look? The knight was a former villager, the youngest son of a shepherd. His family was very poor, so he decided to travel and see where destiny will lead him.
In front of the PC, our gamer witnessed a similar scene. His character, a young poor villager is standing at the beginning of a road, blackness surrounds him and has no idea where to go for sure.
The shepherd’s son was walking on the path in front of him and at some point heard a scream, somebody was calling for help. So he rushed towards the source of the sound and found a young mother and her little boy being the victims of a robbery. Bare-handed, he fights both thieves and gets back the stolen gold coins. He gives the money back to the woman and listens to her story. A story that mentions the two thieves, that work for a mean man, the exact man that would want to see the ruler of the kingdom dead , so that he himself would become king.
The graphics on the monitor show a reality-like landscape, a path and darkness. The gamer decides to click somewhere near his character. The character moves, revealing another part of the landscape. After a few clicks monsters can be seen, running in a certain direction. Gamer decides to follow the strange creatures… Soon, he can clearly see that the monsters are attacking a helpless peasant and he rolls over the mouse cursor on top of the monsters, waits for the arrow to become a sword and clicks over and over and over and over…. and over again, until the monsters are defeated and he gets a text message that explains how the peasant was attacked by a horde of deamons while trying to get back to town. The man in front of the PC also finds out that the demons are in the service of a bigger and more powerful beast that has a weird and frightful name. The beast is a menace for the peasant’s hometown and all neighboring regions.
The villager decides to escort the young mother and her son back to town. Once they arrive to her house, she offers him some gold coins and a meal.
After scrolling the whole text message, the guy in front of the computer clicks the button that says “You’ve received 30 gold pieces” and also clicks one of the the items the monsters dropped, a health potion.
The young man strolled around the town trying to see if anybody had some work for him and everywhere he went he could hear rumours regarding the evil man that wanted to become a king.
Click after click, the gamer finds out the hot spots in town : The tavern, the shops, the inn, etc. He stops and clicks on every character and carefully reads the texts about the fear that embraced the region and its inhabitant and also about the beast and its mischievous plans.
You could see by now that the stories resemble a lot and they will resemble still from this moment on: Both men will decide to help the poor people and defeat evil; They will both have to fight their way to the place where the big “boss” is hidding; In their journeys they’ll have to make decisions… A funny thing is that one of the hardest moments of choice the gamer will face is: “Do you want to be a warrior, a witch or an ogre?”. He needs to quickly decide on which of his character’s skills will he rely from now on. The real knight is left with his true skills only.; All their decisions will have a huge impact on the evolution of the story and will contribute to the final results of the voyage. On their way, the men will gather experience and step by step, inner traits of their personalities will show up. Everything culminates with the final fight, against their biggest enemy, fight which they of course, win. They are awarded many riches and privileges, but above all, they gain the respect and gratitude of the people they have defended and helped.
So, if in medieval times the journey from teenager to man may have involved a shield and a sword, could this items have been replaced in modern times by keyboard and mouse? Is the nowadays man experiencing the very same thrills and satisfaction levels as his medieval colleague? Has the traditional initiation path been changed? Can men feel more men after completing role-playing games? Is this substitute enough to raise the player’s self-esteem level?
Regarding the first questions, I answer “no”. Virtual initiation apologies do not turn boys into men, nor do they make men feel more confident, more appreciated or more valuable in the real life. Just think about teenagers or adults that ended up being socially isolated cause of their passion with computer games. So why have these games become so popular among boys and men (cause yes, most gamers are male)? Why have they switched from bragging with their hunting results to bragging about their latest scores and rankings on their favorite games? Of course, the things presented in this modest blog entry do not apply to all men, but I tend to say they apply to most gamers.
So, until certain answers to the above questions will appear, I think we can still enjoy the sight of modern knights in front of the PC or laptop.
Article by Lucia Grosaru