“everything is this, now”

“Up or down, it seemed to us that we were always going toward something terrible that had existed before us yet had always been waiting for us, just for us. When you haven’t been in the world long, it’s hard to comprehend what disasters are at the origin of a sense of disaster: maybe you don’t even feel the need to. Adults, waiting for tomorrow, move in a present behind which is yesterday or the day before yesterday or at most last week: they don’t want to think about the rest. Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.”

Ehhh. This book is touted as a good example of the messiness yet meaningfulness of female friendships but man, if this dynamic between these two is a standard blueprint for fem friendship, that does not say great things about us. I mean, I read about the silence and the dares peppered with occasional bizzare kindnesses and I think oh yeah, sure, I knew that girl. She would beg me to come over and then would attack me and beg me not to leave until finally one day I walked back home bleeding from a slash in my cheek and my mother stood horrified in the kitchen wondering what had happened. To my immense relief I never had to hang out with the girl again, and was no longer chastised for hoping she got stung by bees. But man, I’ve had friendships like that, and they suck. Is there going to be an unguarded moment of genuine empathy in here somewhere?

I know you’re not supposed to call out your fellow women as people you don’t want to be friends with — it marks you as not that great a lady, for reasons I accept — but man, when these are the kind of fem friendships I look back on, it shouldn’t be a wonder that I’m suuuuper hesitant to get all chummy with my fellows.

Also — having just finished in audiobook form far more Jane Austen than is good for anyone, amongst whose words lives the quivering and constantly quaking-from-fear Fanny of Mansfield Park — this dynamic, the kid who’s scared of everything, dragged along by the kid who is not, just sucks. Give me a bildungsroman not written by the scared kid. And not a bully either — just the stalwart kid who goddamn survived. Because when the only stories you’re circulating are either about bullies or the scared kids that alternately cling to them or flee their shadows, how many options are you really offering? Your first decade and a half of culturally conscious life should not be able to be determined by picking the petals of a daisy. Those are terrible odds. Show people they can be something else.

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class in the clockwork city

Note: I prepared this post, but never finished it, and now that the closed beta for Summerset is out and I’m in it, it seems unwise to continue to sit on a post predicated by that upcoming release. I liked this Clockwork City quest — well, there are two referenced here, I suppose, but I mean the longer involved one below about whether one is or is not allowed to change one’s fate in a clockwork world. It interested me. Yes, even though I’m sure many kneejerk reaction was to scoff at Yet Another Game Company trying to explore Issues. It’s too easy to scoff at that, folks. Obviously no one’s going to get it right, but that doesn’t mean those who try should be shamed out of ever making the attempt. Then no one will try, and all we’ll get is tawdry linear stories of unquestioned heroism. We don’t need that. We need something better.

So yes, excerpted below are screenshots from a Clockwork City DLC quest about fate, as foretold by a creature, an automaton, crafted by the same hand that crafted the world in which the characters find themselves entrapped. These fates are predicted by analytics; data harvested by the automatons that make the city run. Clockwork City is useful for these sorts of examinations because it’s contained. All disparities are explained away by Sotha Sil’s minions as having been brought into existence to correctly mirror the world above/outside. That includes disparities in class. And this tautology, this “it’s just how it is; we’re just showing you how it is” mindset would be more troublesome if it weren’t questioned. That’s what this quest line is doing. Maybe too overtly; maybe not colored with enough shades of gray, but the questions are at least getting asked. That’s more than you can say of most games; certainly most MMOs. 

(I’m not trashing the idea of a utopia where these problems don’t exist, mind you. The need for that kind of world-building and even escapism is ever-present. But we can’t spend all our time there. We’ll never learn anything about where we are, or how to fix it.)

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Screenshot_20180326_094708.png

With ESO’s recent announcement of its next chapter DLC (chapter, mind you, the same term applied to Morrowind — so expect a lush, large world and extra content), people in my guilds started musing on what was to come, and one observant soul pointed out that a trip to Summerset Isle shouldn’t be a surprise, since it had been hinted at as recently as in a quest in the Clockwork City DLC.

Cue my guilt. First out of a desire to linger and wait until my husband could play through it with me (which hope was permanently stymied by a dead graphics card and insane prices driven up by bitcoin miners), then out of a dogged loyalty to my pvp campaign, after I finished the main plot and the emotionally compromising memory sideplot of the Clockwork City DLC, I somewhat laid it aside. Occasionally I’d go back and do some dailies, because the crows and the crow-summoning armor they give were cool, but by and large I stuck to Tamriel’s sunny shores, rather than the brassy light of Sotha Sil’s realm. I am just as bad about finishing the quests in Coldharbour, to be fair: it’s dark, dank and dreary. There is no natural light. There are no sunstars. It’s not really a place I enjoy lingering.

But my guildie’s comment intrigued me: where had this upcoming expansion been referenced, that I missed? So I padded back into the Clockwork City and began picking up quests.