It’s no “Questionable Content” or “Penny Arcade”, but…

Breon W. Guarino

(Wolfgang is not my middle name at all.)

 

“I’ve enjoyed this greatly. In all seriousness, I am thrilled with the prospect of continuing the process of pulling out the awkward (to my untrained mind), deeply-embedded, and persistent allegories of Spenser’s work. It is deep reading, almost as though one was slogging through a marsh made of candy and deliciousness that one must work for. It is like reading Shakespeare while under the influence of morphine, so utterly beautiful in its Middle English verbosity that it presents a massive buffet of purely enjoyable poetry, the likes of which that has not been seen in centuries, at the least.”

I wish I could say that with a straight face, but it should not be assumed that the accompanying grin is one of mischief. I’m not sure why, but I find a great joy in reading The Faerie Queene. It would not be dishonest to say that I aspire to find a copy and set about reading it myself. It may be some sort of academic masochism that causes this, or perhaps I simply want to be able to hold that accomplishment over the heads of any other English majors that I meet. In any case, I view it in the same way I viewed leveling in LotRO or writing stories.

It is a challenge. After all, it’s pretty rough getting through the convoluted Middle English terminology. There are letter sequences that I do not recognize, but the work of others before me has paved the way towards a slightly more accessible understanding of the material. In a sense, working on The Faerie Queene is like using open-source software, in that the efforts of several people (at least hundreds if not thousands, in the case of The Faerie Queene) have come together to make the original basis more useful to an everyday user that happens across it. It would be a serious personal accomplishment to read through the entirety of it, and there is a certain pleasure to noticing the way that the spoken English language has changed in five hundred years. It’s akin to pillaging the archive of a long-running webcomic and watching as the author develops his or her skills, except that it is AN ENTIRE LANGUAGE that is being developed over the course of CENTURIES. Besides that, a reader can see the perspective of an entirely alien society within the pages. Things have changed since the time period in which the work was made, but the blunt allegory of the poetry was effective in its purposes during its original time, and it makes one wonder about situations and events that could have changed the perspectives of that day to become those of ours.

I would wager that, in the end, I’d say to an IT professional the same thing that I would say to anyone else interesting about reading this work (because I doubt strongly that we would be discussing it otherwise). It’s an interesting piece of work with its own rewards for reading it, it’s proving to be as challenging (or perhaps even more challenging) than I anticipated, and I heartily enjoy that fact to the point that I look forward to continuing it. It is a matter of perspective, and it requires a rather specialized mindset, but it has proven to be highly interesting for me, if nothing else.

By the book, by the numbers.

by Breon Guarino

I’ve spent a lot of time walking through the Barrow-Downs recently in Lord of the Rings Online, slowly but surely working through the quests related to that area. Naturally, I don’t feel as though I’ve done anything to provoke such hostile responses from the taint and denizens native to the region, but without any sort of provocation besides their mechanical nature, they assail me to no avail. Lo, I have journeyed from afar, that with my strong heart and my fell blade, I might be considered more than a match for such paltry foes, that I might scalp them and claim their long-hidden treasures for my own! Surely these are no match for me, surely!

I know they aren’t a match for me; minutes, if not hours, of click-based combat have proven this to me. I’ve come to find myself not disillusioned, but removed from the comfort of immersion in the game environment. The same thrill of risk isn’t there anymore. I’ve started to fall into the trap of checking how many inventory slots I have open at any given moment, started knowing what loot I can drop without regard in favor of minerals, items, or simply more valuable loot. The rewards have started to become numbers in a shopkeeper’s ledger and silver pieces in my pocket. There is repetition now as I fall into the process of grinding out more experience.

In reading Snow Crash, however, I’ve been spared this. In a sense, as the seemingly more thorough immersion of the game decreases slowly due to lack of challenge, the book remains at the same enjoyable level of performance. It is engaging to me on a different level, a level that may need a workout after an hour of grinding through Barrow-wights like I was part of the Gutbuster Brigade. As I’m watching Hiro duel with the “Nipponese” businessman in The Black Sun, as I watch him running through evaluations of tactics in his mind,  I empathize with the violence of his bloodless dismemberment of his opponent. He is victorious; he has competed with passion in his competition. In my mind, I can see the action, and though I am removed to the position of spectator, I am somehow engaged by it. After all, there is safety in the crowd of observers, because an observer has no need to react beyond their own enjoyment of a quality piece of street theater. There exists some massive difference on a level I can only begin to grasp; as I read, I am rewarded with rewarding work, but in the game, I’ve become a worker towards a reward.