worlds from home...

An Example in Creative Immersion

In Character Development, Written by Tiffany on March 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Aellen, and her pet Nagini

Slowly but surely, I’m becoming a World of Warcraft addict.
The signs of this progression are not my lack of friends, my disinterest in other activities, or my continual absence from school or work.

Nevertheless, I’m convinced of my impending, perhaps existing, addiction. I’m convinced for the same reason I was convinced of my addiction to Changeling: The Lost, my addiction to X-men, and my addiction to Teen Titans.

I can’t stop thinking about my character.

This happens to me quite frequently, actually. I’ll find a fictional world I’m drawn to, learn enough about it to maneuver, and eventually begin to work on a character. Almost effortlessly, this character will begin to take over my life. The storyline, the world, and the other characters are interesting and engaging, but what keeps me coming back is the growth and development of the character I’ve bonded with. This has acted itself out in fan fiction, in tabletop games and in my own original works. In all honesty, this same process is what drew to the Homebrew to begin with.

I wouldn’t find it odd that this process has begun anew in World of Warcraft, except that it has never taken place in a video game before. Which is rather strange, because this is not the first RPG I’ve played. Though I’ve spent hours on games set in worlds such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, X-men, and Harry Potter, I’ve never been so drawn to my virtual character that I’ve begun laying out backgrounds, motivations, reactions, etc. Certainly not to the point where I began imagining alternate scenarios, correcting the reactions scripted by the game creator and rewriting parts of the game storyline to fall more closely with the true actions of my character.

But more than make this experience enthralling, intimately sharing this character’s world helps me to better understand the core of her being. Each hour spent in game is an step towards understanding the forces upending my character’s world.

Aellen, my character, is fiercely loyal to her queen, Sylvanas Windrunner, but her sense of loyalty is beginning to waver in the face of misgivings about certain actions taken by The Forsaken. Her continued allegiance to The Forsaken, from my understanding, hinges greatly on whether Sylvanas’ actions match Aellen’s conception of moral behavior. The recent cataclysm seems nothing compared with the looming disaster I sense in Aellen’s future.

And because the growing sense of anxiety in Aellen is captivating, I find myself wanting to come back again and again to find out how my character will be shaped by the events unfolding in Azeroth. This, in turn, also makes me eager to begin new characters, to write more with my newfound knowledge, and to create worlds and stories that draw people just as completely as my own personal drama within World of Warcraft.

Honestly, I wish that I had done it sooner. I have enjoyed playing video games in the past, but never with such immersion. The extra dimension added by personifying my undead hunter has made this gaming experience one of the best I’ve had within the genre.

The game developers at Blizzard are good storytellers, it’s true. And I would not have had an easy time creating Aellen without their backdrop and stimulation. But still, I could have been doing this sooner. I could have been doing this every time I sat down to play a video game.

Sometimes the dedication of a team of talented writers and graphic designers is not enough to perfectly exercise your imagination. You can make do with the story already packaged. But you may find the experience, both in and out of the game, infinitely enhanced if you bring your own.


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