More Emails from the Edge

    Well, it’s that time again…time for me to write my favorite part of the column.

    You see, one of the reasons that I write Garwulf’s Corner (currently the only writing I do that I’m not paid for), is the reader mail. Not only do I get a lot of it, but it is usually exceptionally well-written and intelligent. It really does make me feel privileged to be writing for you.

    So, while I simply get too much mail to be able to share all of it, here are some of the shining stars that have landed in my email box…

    Column #8 (I am NOT Harlan Ellison) managed to bring in a couple of interesting letters. Mike Ferry wrote:

    “As far as the Diablo-killers angle on the reviews go, these guys have an axe to grind with D2 and are eagerly waiting for something to come along and kill it off. My pet theory is they still haven’t gotten over 640×480. Wasn’t it CGW who put BG2 at #1 and kept D2 off the list entirely? They can not deny that D2 is outselling these other games by far, and they can’t get past their own Black Isle slant.”

    Regarding my difficulty with the New York Times quote on the recent Robert Jordan book, Ragnar Ehrenroth kindly sent me a letter saying: “They probably mean that Tolkien was the one who began to reveal the world of epic fantasy, and Jordan is now the one who dominates that genre.” That’s got to be the best explanation for the quote that I’ve heard so far…

    Garwulf’s #9 (Staring at the Top Rung), managed to stir up a bit of controversy, and for every reader that agreed with me, another didn’t. Brian Cripps, falling on one side of the spectrum, wrote:

    “I’ve never seen the point of having ladders in Diablo II. We the solo players (People who play to have fun and enjoy the game) stand no chance of getting on it. You have to ruin the fun of the game and create an, as you said, “Uber-character” to get on the ladder.”

    Nathan Page, from Brussels, wrote a long and eloquent letter to me entitled “The joys of being a ladder player.” While I can’t print all of it (it’s simply too long), there are some highlights that I would like to share…

    “For most people, once they have reached the point where there is nothing new left to see or do in the game, it is time to move on to a new game (or something more constructive). However, there are a few people like me who won’t do that. The only challenge left, then, is not just to play Diablo II but to excel at it. For some people, this involves creating the best dueling character they can. For others, it involves trying harder versions of the game (Hardcore, Iron Man, Naked) to prove their mettle. For a few people, it’s the ladder.”

    And, in a later paragraph:

    “If I went through life without trying to achieve anything, I would be living purely for the moment. Either doing only that which gave me immediate satisfaction/enjoyment, or only those things which I needed to survive. I think this would be a miserable experience. Achieving a top ranking in Diablo allows me to “feel good” about myself; I have done something which very few other people have done, and I have proven (to myself and others) that I have the determination and ability to do it. Will people remember me in a few years time? No. Will I remember what I have achieved? For sure. I can add this to my list of ‘the things I have done,’ and be proud of it.”

    I think Nathan has put his finger on a very important point, one that cannot be stressed enough. Personal fulfillment comes from the things that make one proud of one’s self, regardless of if it is writing, painting, or ladder playing. Other people’s opinions are just that, and for the most part, they do not matter. I just hope that the other ladder players have the same sense of pride in their characters as Nathan does.

    The controversy from installment number nine was nothing compared to Garwulf #10 (Cutting Through the Dung-Pile). And, some of it caused me to re-think my position on the issue. In particular, the economic standing of younger teenagers. As Jared Gee writes:

    “I am one of those teenagers who own a computer game rated ‘M’ called Diablo II, although not 13, but 15. My parents didn’t do the buying for me, I worked long hours farming to make enough money for that (actually, for a computer, but that was an added bonus).”

    Well, I can honestly say I was wrong on that one. I was thinking back to my days as a teenager, when there was a rather serious recession going on, the Ontario government was being ineptly run (which, come to think of it, hasn’t actually changed), and jobs were rarer than gold. It made me wish I had never given up my paper route (after all, a pittance is better than nothing). Well, I am justly chastised; that’s what I get for living in the past.

    A couple of people were annoyed at my classification of teenagers as “not mature.” Shawn Gerger writes:

    “I’m 14, and I did buy Diablo 2 with my own money… I currently have $400.00 in the bank from my job. And I do watch R rated movies my parents rent for me, but I think I am mature enough to watch them without thinking about shooting up my school tomorrow. And, I do realize all the consequences for violence and do realize that games are just games.”

    Maturity is a sticky issue. There are many teenagers who can be considered mature for their age: for example, I personally know a 14-year old who has the maturity of a first-year university student. Are they truly grown up, though? For the most part, I would have to say no. Part of growing up is getting out there and living on your own, a process that forces you to change in ways you didn’t even think possible. But, maturity is not a black-and-white issue; you aren’t either mature or immature. Instead, it has infinite shades of gray.

    After Garwulf #11 (Changing the Guard) was posted, several people wrote to inform me that I had missed somebody in my list of great authors who had passed beyond. I think Matthew Flader said it best:

    “Thank you for your article- it really made me pause and reflect on some of the great works of fiction and the people who created them, and how those bright lights have been forever extinguished. I only wish that you had mentioned Roger Zelazny as well.”

    Well, it is a bit belated, but Roger Zelazny was a bright light, and one that we will all miss. I just hope that I won’t have to write too many more obituary installments of Garwulf’s Corner in the future. There are still several star authors out there, all of whom have years to go before they have said all they are going to say…

    Garwulf’s #12 (The Devil in the Details) proved to be a rather controversial one. It turns out, among other things, that there are several different views of modern Satanism, many of which conflicted with my own interpretation. As Patrick Cauthen writes:

    “No, not really. The place you visited must have been a variant or some kind of very mild satanic/new age mix. Satanism tries to get one to care about oneself, not one’s neighbors. It’s all about satisfying one’s wants regardless of the cost. Anton La Vey, founder of the Church of Satan and author of the Satanic Bible wrote:

    “‘Satanism is a blatantly selfish, brutal religion. It is based on the belief that man is inherently a selfish, violent creature… that the earth will be ruled by those who fight to win.’

    “Any other pretenses are false. And yes, animal sacrifices are done.”

    Paul Darling, in a very eloquent letter, told me why some fundamentalists actually find games such as Diablo Satanic. I don’t have enough room to quote both reasons, but I will print what I thought was the more interesting one:

    “The Bible is very clear that people should avoid things like the occult, astrology, and witchcraft as these are all controlled by Lucifer and his flunkies. Since many of the powers given to the characters are ‘spell based,’ they are clearly in violation of these items pointed out in the bible (sorry, but there is no such thing as ‘white witchcraft’ regardless of what some people claim).”

    I got one other letter I would really like to share from this issue. Although I really hate to say it, I thought the incident related was extremely amusing. As Ed Ma recalls:

    “I just wanted to congratulate you on making the right argument. This is the exact same thing I said to a friend, [Deleted] in grade 8 when the original first came out. His mother (Spanish) came in his room and saw a borrowed copy of the game… Her reaction: grabbed the CD, case and all and crushed it down its diameter with her right hand. Later that week she had a priest come in to expel any lingering demons…

    “So I told him to tell her mother it’s about killing the devil—she didn’t buy it. [Deleted] is still grounded to this very day… that’s three years and counting.”

    The controversy continued with Garwulf’s #13 (Hackers at the Gates). Some people thought I was off my rocker in some way, others that I was dead-on accurate. One thing that many people disagreed with was my comparison of the hacker attacks to Palestinian bombers. Geoff Shakespeare stated it most eloquently:

    “Not only do I find the comparison of hacking (which although damaging usually causes little permanent damage) to the loss of human life misguided at best and obscene at worst, but I also was upset with your singling out of Palestinians in your example of terrorists. I don’t believe that you meant to paint all Palestinians with the same brush or had any intention other than creating a metaphor, but I still think that your metaphor was poorly chosen. Perhaps in the future you might consider refraining from comparing a ongoing human tragedy to what is ultimately an extremely trivial thing.”

    Admittedly, the metaphor was a bit extreme, and requires some explanation. You see, when I wrote that installment, the violence in Israel had only just started up again (thanks to a stupid Israeli Prime Minister who shoved his foot into his mouth in front of the entire country). Every day, when I woke up to the CBC radio news, I would hear about another bombing, or a shooting, and it all seemed utterly pointless…just like the hacker attacks on Blizzard. Unfortunately, instead of things quieting down as cooler heads prevailed, the situation in Israel became far worse, and, as I write, now appears to be escalating into a full-scale civil war. Had I known that events in Israel were going to play out this way, I would have used a different metaphor.

    While several people suggested that it might be corporate espionage, Eric McCann saw the hacker attacks in a bit of a different light than I did. Instead of sheer information terrorism, he suggested that it might actually be a prank of some sort:

    “Why is Blizzard targeted? You may be right about the motivation, but what other game allows someone to anonymously attack like that? Nox, yes, on a free server – but how big is Nox now, even with Noxquest? Not very. It just doesn’t have the replay value. EQ? You have to provide your name and a credit card – you’re not anonymous, so you can get caught. Blizzard’s got a popular enough game in D2 and a free server – that’s the combination that’s attracting these jerks.”

    The idea has merit. Unfortunately, until one of these hackers is caught and tells us all why they did what they did, I fear we’ll never truly know the reason for these vicious attacks.

    I want to close by lamenting that I don’t have the space to print even a fraction of the letters I have received; every installment brings in tons of interesting feedback, and I really wish I could share it all. So, until the next feedback issue, my dear readers, keep reading and keep writing!

    Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner is written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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