Why A Writing Career Is Like Playing An MMO
In case you missed it, I did a piece for Fantasy-Faction earlier this month where I talk about why a writing a career is a bit like playing a MMO. A lot of people have told me they liked this article so do be sure to check it out!
For the last couple of days I’ve been wondering whether I still have the time to raid in World of Warcraft and write as well. I’m behind schedule, I have a mountain of work to do and I’m starting to question whether the extra time gained by giving up my Tuesday and Thursday evenings would resolve my problems. Probably not.
Not all my characters lend themselves to MMO characters. Just trying to think of the character classes that suit them is enough to make my head explode. But sometimes it’s a lot clearer than it is for others, and you think to yourself… I really ought to go and make that character now!
Book promotion is a busy time. It feels like since September I’ve been working my way through a list of things that needed to have been done yesterday, culminating in a couple of months of solid interviews, guest blogs and reviews. It’s been hectic but a lot of fun.
There’s still plenty of things ongoing: blog posts to write, articles that are due in, interview questions that need to be answered. But it’s not so frantic as it once was and inbetween the ongoing items I’ve found time to have a bit of R&R.
I have recently returned from two weeks holiday from the day job. When asked whether I went anywhere, I replied that “No, I had just stayed home and played games.”
“Oh, so you didn’t do anything then?” they say.
This annoys me slightly. Just because I was playing videogames, doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing anything. In fact, I’d specifically taken the holiday then so I could play videogames, or rather one in particular- World of Warcraft.
When I used to work as an IT contractor, you never got paid if you took a day off. As a result, even years later, I still need to be reminded that I get holiday with my day job, and reminded even more that I need to take it. So when I saw that the latest World of Warcraft expansion was coming out, I thought why not spend two weeks in the new continent of Pandaria? When I told my boss, he was just happy I was finally taking some time off.
There’s a tendancy these days to say that World of Warcraft’s reign is over. But whilst I would agree with a lot of the criticisms, games like The Old Republic have yet to grow into something that might capture me away. So I continue to raid with my guild weekly and continue to have a lot of fun doing so.
I’ve documented back in October just how crap we were when we started out. In that post, I marvelled at the fact that for the first time we were actually doing the current raiding tier’s content for the first time. Our improvement has continued and we were stoked when, come the release of the new Dragon Soul tier back in December, we tried it on a whim with only 9 out of 10 players and actually took down the first boss.
I’ve talked before how I love MMOs. There’s something about the depth of worldbuilding needed for the sheer number of quests that make them incredibly immersive games.
My first MMO was Star Wars Galaxies and we had a great guild with our own city until the NGE came along and just wrecked everything we loved about the game.
My friends and I migrated to World of Warcraft but it always seemed less immersive than Star Wars Galaxies. The crafting wasn’t so complex, there was no housing and so most of them dropped off, consigning their MMO experience to an enjoyable history.
As a rule, I don’t have a problem with Tie-In Fiction. I’m very much in the “you like what you like” camp and don’t think you should ever be ashamed of your reads.
The argument against tie-in fiction is often that it is of a lesser quality, that because it is work for hire, authors don’t give it the same attention they would their own creation. I don’t think that’s necessarily true any more.
However, I have encountered more than a couple of tie-ins which fail to capture the spirit of the property on which they are based, and just come across as “My book with characters from X in it”. I’m specifically thinking of a few Star Wars novels but (though I’ve not read it), I’ve heard a few people say this accusation could be levelled at the new Michael Moorcock Doctor Who novel.
The Shattering is a World of Warcraft novel, and specifically it’s the story of events leading up to the latest expansion, Cataclysm. There’s been a surprising amount that hasn’t been explained in-game, and this book serves as an explanation why certain racial leaders have changed, some zones have changed hands and there’s strife within the factions themselves.
Surprisingly, the amount of content the book needs to cover actually works against it in many ways. With two factions, the book has to walk a tightrope of ensuring both are equally catered for. The characters have been well established in Warcraft lore so as a result, character development is done via a quick bit of exposition. It’s difficult when working in another universe to show character development, and I will give credit that some was attempted here, but even Thrall stepping down as Warchief felt more about moving chess pieces around on a board than some form of natural character growth.
Golden tries to tie all the threads together through the use of Anduin Wrynn, a secondary character, and here is where there is the most character development. But ironically, the inclusion of the hearthstone (a feature in-game to return you back to your home inn to save you running all the way back) meant whenever Anduin was in trouble, you just felt he could hearth out of there. As a result, I never really felt the character was in threat, and therefore I didn’t find myself caring about him as much as I would have otherwise.
In the end, Golden just has too much to do here. There’s too much careful balancing and moving characters into position to really spend much time developing characters. As a result it feels like a very constrained novel. It’s plot gymnastics over actual story.
There’s also an awful lot of exposition, telling us what a character is like rather than showing us. I cannot read the passage below without each instance of the word ‘had’ ringing like a church bell in my ear.
“Drek’Thar had always had prophetic dreams and visions. It was a gift – a spiritual sight, as he no longer had physical sight. But since the War Against the Nightmare, the gift had grown teeth. His dreams had worsened during the dreadful time, and sleep promised not rest and refreshment, but terror. They had aged him and turned him from one who had been old but strong into a frail, sometimes querulous elder. He had hoped that with the defeat of the Nightmare, his dreams would return to normal. But while the intensity had lessened, his dreams still were very, very dark.”
I guess the important thing is that Golden has written a Warcraft novel rather than a novel with Warcraft characters in it. There’s a sense she really understands this game and its world, and that can’t be said for a lot of tie-in fiction. This is a book that is primarily for Warcraft fans, as I think general readers will just see some of the flaws I mention above. Which is a shame, I think had Golden had been able to tone down the exposition, give time for characters to develop naturally and worry less about giving both factions equal page space, she’d have turned out a much better novel.
As it is, I think fans of the game will find it a good Warcraft novel (which is the aim here). Sadly, it’s not a book to convince the general populace that tie-in fiction can be of an equal quality to original fiction though.