Coded red.

Saturday 19 May 2001

Carried away

Pic of the day: I once had an e-mail from a female reader (now ex-reader, I suppose) who expressed worry that an earlier carry pic here was "scary". Actually that was the "Daggerfall firemen" picture, which I thought was kind of funny. Then again I am not female. (Although I am not sure how well this shows in the above picture...) Eventually I made my own scary Daggerfall carry picture, blending RPG and reality[2] the way they blend in my dreams. OK, not exactly - in the dreams I am only carried away figuratively, not literally. It is still scary while it lasts ...

Scary RPG dreams

or "the dark side of fun & games". I was unsure of what color to assign to this one, yellow or red. But I don't think children should read this one right before bedtime at least. (Nor should they play Daggerfall right before bedtime, as you will see further down.) Uhm, and I guess the picture may be kind of erotic ... if you're a bondage domination perv[1], that is. I don't think your children are that, but it is just as well they don't become such with my help.


I really like the roleplaying game Daggerfall. It gives an unusual sense of freedom, for a computer role playing game. You can determine so many things about your character, both before you start and throughout your career. And there is really no forced end to the game - you can continue to play until you feel like retiring. The character will eventually not grow more powerful, but to be honest I have always retired before that level. Long before that level, as far as I can recall. The first part of a character's life is generally the most interesting, in my experience. Perhaps because it is most similar to real life. Well, apart from the fighting for your life part, I am thankful to say.

There is however a dubious side effect to playing so much, and particularly when playing a newbie character. It is scary. The game has a strong "being there" effect. True, the graphics are blocky, but they are so in a consistent way. And when you play, you usually move about, and this makes the graphics blur. Evidently they are designed so that they look more realistic while moving. Add the sound effects, and you get an immersion that is not quite real but like being dumped in another world. A more scary world, at least for those of us who feel reasonably safe in the real world.

OK, I guess some of you would be reluctant to venture outdoors at night in Real Life too, particularly if you live in the city. There is always the remote chance that someone may leap out of the shadows. No werewolves, though. (Not that it always makes a difference, I guess.) Be that as it may, I have made it a rule to NOT play Daggerfall after midnight, as I tend to be extremely jumpy. Debate in the newsgroup has repeatedly shown that it is not just me: Many adults are scared "out of their skin" when in the middle of the night they unexpectedly hear a sound behind them.

And then there are the dreams. They happen occasionally, not very often. And I don't mean the dreams in Daggerfall, though they are rare too, and momentous. I mean the dreams about Daggerfall. I have not found a pattern until recently; now I suspect that they show up when I am playing a newbie character. Both because the Daggerlife of a newbie is dangerous (little combat skill, poor equipment, little or no magic) and because I identify with the newbie character (I don't have powerful spells or mithril armor in the real world either) and finally because the experience is new and fresh. After a while it gets more routine. I think flying helps: Once you can fly at will, you feel kind of "on top of things". Not quite unexpected that. :)


The Daggerdream varies slightly from time to time, but there is one fixture for me. The Thief. Actually there are several subclasses but they all dress the same, in shades of green and with a green hood that leaves their face almost completely in the dark. The face that is almost not there is the most terrifying thing. The dream starts abruptly, or there is a sharp transition from the previous dream. It may come early in the night. (The other night it started almost as soon as I fell asleep.) I always recognize the Thief at some distance. There is usually just one, or rarely up to three. Usually it takes me a moment to recognize that shape and know that it is the faceless enemy. And then I know fear.

It is not quite the terror of nightmares. I almost never have nightmares, except sometimes in a fever. Something about the way my brain is wired, I suspect. Some people have them all their lives, while others have them as children, and perhaps some not at all. I don't really have nightmares, but sometimes I have dreams that are scary enough that when I wake up, I wait until the connection is closed before I allow myself to sleep again. Don't know about you, but I seem to have ... a stream of dreamworlds? There is kind of like a veil or a hanging curtain of shadow between my bed and the dreamworlds. And on the other side of the curtain the dreamworld stays when I pull back. It is still there, and I can return to it. Sometimes I do that with pleasant dreams, sometimes I try but cannot. With these dreams, I prefer not to. It is not complete frozen terror. But it is sinister, dark, risky, creepy. I know fear - not quite enough to panic me but enough to make me quite uncomfortable.

At the same time, there is typically a grim determination. This may be something that carries over from when I play the game. I rarely venture into dangerous areas without proper equipment or magic, because I take the death of my character very personally. It always gives me a kind of physical shock when my character dies, along with the feeling of sadness and failure. I avoid it whenever possible, and prefer that my character never ever meets the Raven.

I don't dream lucid dreams, that is, dreams where my conscious I is in control. I do not want to. I feel that I need to escape from the responsibility of being me, from the morality. I have enough to answer for, more than enough, with my waking life. So I am carried along by the dream, until such a time that I either eliminate the threat or the fear is strong enough to wake me up.


Ack. I launched into a long scientific explanation of dreams here, which I had to delete. Every thing in its own time! The short of it is this: Dreams tie our memories together in new and perhaps random ways. So it is not surprising that eventually our role playing games are tied to the rest of our lives. I suppose this also happens to other things that fill our minds: Stuff we read, movies we watch, fantasies (for those who have such...) All of it is eventually connected. In sane people this does not lead to buying a broadsword and going down into the subway dungeons to kill the orcs there. But it still gives food for thought.

"What fills your interests today becomes part of your spirit tomorrow". (Saying among certain mystics who probably don't want to be mentioned in this entry.)

[1]: I mean this in the most non judgemental way, of course. I am aware that dreams or fantasies of bondage / domination etc are very widespread. But the combination of sexuality with even implied violence or constraint is still something that warrants a long talk with a health professional, just in case. (But that's another long story, isn't it?)

[2]: Here's how I made the picture, for your curiosty. I set the camera to auto, and draped myself over the back of an old stuffy chair. Then I took this Daggerfall screenshot, cut the arm, cut and pasted the parts of me that showed in the picture, and replaced the arm at a different angle. Smoothed the blocky Daggerfall textures slightly to blend better with the real world. One of my better editing works, if I may say so.

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