Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The High Dragon

It won't surprise you to know, or be a spoiler to say so, but there is, in Dragon Age: Origins, a dragon that you can fight. You don't have to fight it - it is rock hard - but you can fight it if you want to. I spent something like three hours over the weekend trying to defeat it, and I failed every time. Eventually, I had to admit that the story I was telling in this game (that's the way I always play western style RPGs, by the way: based on story considerations, rather than stat-maxing) was one where my party sneak past the dragon as they have too much important and pressing work to do to risk unnecessary death rather than call it out to be brutally butchered for the glory of my name.

Having said that, despite my years playing D&D I never got to defeat an actual dragon in that either. A part of me wants to go back to where the dragon is, stocked up with health potions and fire resistance, and take it out anyway. Which might just work in the context of the game, as I'm playing a character who's clearly heavily conflicted. Motivated by pride spiked with self loathing and a stranger both in her homeland as well as her home, she doesn't think she should still be alive but has a duty which she wouldn't have chosen but which, now that she has taken it on, she won't ever let go.

I relate to this character more than I was expecting to when I started playing the game, which is funny because my character builds for Bioware games are usually much more straightforwardly escapist or based on a core of simple wish-fulfilment. I'm actually not sure, even considering the time implications, if I could face another play-through of the game anymore with a different character; It would just feel too wrong and cheap and disloyal even though, maybe especially because, I'd like to see how the different origins stories play out. It would be like plotting out how your life would be different if you'd settled down with someone else.

(Or if you'd been born in a different family, and all of your loved ones were not who your loved ones actually are. Moving even further away from my original point, I think this partly seems disloyal, and in fact an actual dereliction of duty, because despite not being one now in many fundamental ways I still think like a Buddhist, because that is the religion under who's auspices I was raised. And one of the tenets that turns up in Buddhism is that, when we reincarnate, we sometimes have some choice about the situation into which we are born; and in doing so our life becomes a challenge we have set ourselves - to wish for another is to fail only ourselves. And no, when I started writing this I never would have thought that one of the Bioware signature game mechanics would help illustrate a function of Buddhist philosophy either. Although, to be fair the use of game mechanics to embody  philosophical concepts has been on my mind recently.)

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