To Quest or not to Quest: it’s a Confusing Question

~ By Jim B.

Steve Wiebe didn’t thwart the Dourhand dwarves of Kheledûl. He didn’t make war with the goblins of Rath Teraig, and he didn’t rescue Bounder Primstone from the goblins of the Shire. Steve didn’t even help Holly Hornblower recall her botched pies (I did, and now have a deep and passionate hatred for “hungry hobbits”). No, Steve’s was a different quest altogether.

Steve’s quest began with the casual purchase of a Donkey Kong machine. Before long, his relationship with the rolling barrels, deadly trampolines, and devious fireballs had gone far beyond casual: Steve Wiebe was determined to conquer the world of competitive Donkey Kong ! As far as I’m concerned, this sort of determination (to reach a set goal with a decided reward) is all that’s needed to distinguish between a simple hobby and true… questhood. That being said though, it’s a tricky business, drawing the line between “the casual” and the “quest.”

I play tennis. I practice to improve myself and to have fun. Is the practice a quest and is the improvement/fun the reward ? In my case, I wouldn’t say so. In Roger Federer’s case I might. Why ? Because he’s a world class tennis player ? Because his reward for excellence is tangible ? My answer is yes. But what about the thousands of aspiring tennis champs – are they on a quest ? Again, I’d have to say they are. The difference between their quest and my hobby – their tennis and my tennis – is a difference of motivation: different people are driven to pursue different things with varying degrees of personal investment.

For some reason, I feel compelled to learn the stories told through games like the Wild ARMs series, FFXI, and now LOTRO. I’m willing to run my character all through the Shire while delivering mail and rescuing pies because I trust that I’ll be rewarded with some creative morsel of story. Steve Wiebe was willing to cross the country and spend months intensely studying the motions of an angry monkey program because for some reason, he feels compelled to challenge the DK world record. For my “quest,” I earned the title of “Pie-runner.” For his, Steve undeniably earned the right to be known as (a) “King of Kong.”

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