I am not the oldest player in this game, dammit!
But I am one of them. I do not remember WWII, but I got a lot of "first hand" reports on it from my father, Uncles, and their friends. My father landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He told me that there was one moment in that war that affected him more than any other: when his troop ship came sailing into New York Harbor in 1946, and he was finally "home". Those who fought and survived that war didn't talk about it much, even among themselves. Over time, however, my Dad would tell short snippets of his experiences in Europe during those terrible days. Those days would haunt him until his death in 1998. I was privileged to travel to Normandy with my Dad as a part of the 50th reunion of the Normandy invasion. For two weeks, we traveled the roads he traveled, went through the hedgerows he fought through, and shared time in those countries he had experienced in days long ago.
It was an amazing historical opportunity for us both. He stopped in the middle of a street in France, looked down, and I saw tears rolling down his face. This would happen time and time again, as he remembered scenes he could not describe, friends he saw dying...again, and he even showed me the very spot where he got a jeep shot out from under him, killing his driver and two other soldiers. That would get him his third Purple Heart.
We visited farm houses, villages, and a few cities in France, Germany, The Netherlands, and England. It was truly a "once in a lifetime" event for me. It was his second time. What I remember about my experience pales in comparison to what he remembered those days. But, for me, the memories I have are among the most terrifying of my entire life. My Dad, the immovable force, shaking like a Quaking Aspen, crying uncontrollably, snot running down his nose as he fought to release, then contain. Himself. The Senator, reduced to complete incomprehensibility as he struggled, trying to understand still, and again. Looking at ghosts he would simply name with rank and serial number, inevitably looking down at some spot on the ground only he could see. In Paris, my Dad said:
"The first time I walked these streets, strangers kissed my boots. Now, they spit on them. What happened?"
When we flew into New York, the pilot did something very special for those veterans on that plane. He circled the Statue of Liberty. Tears rolling, my Dad uttered something I did not understand. I asked him what he had said:
"You can put your lamp down, honey. I'm home." He said that was the statement he made when he had seen the Lady Liberty the first time, in 1946. Then, he looked at me and said:
"Never hate, Son. Never hate a person, a thing, an idea, a nation...just never hate. Will you promise me that?"
"Yes, Sir. I promise."
"No matter what life deals to you, no matter the circumstance, deal with it in such a way that you increase the positives, and reduce the negatives. Then, your life will matter. There are many who never got that chance."
My Dad and I never got along much, or very well. I have said that, in my life, my Dad told me three things that ever made sense.
I've just told you two of them.
This is a game. Like Monopoly (where I've seen some pretty embarrassing moments of anger, as well, btw!), or Chess, or Candy Land. It's a game. It's not real. Life does not hinge on the outcome.
But your personal construction might well be affected by how you play this game. Remember that the person behind the pixels is not your enemy; they are fictional characters in a game. Don't become too infatuated, or dependent upon them to qualify the worth of your life, or your moment. This game has given me friendships that have lasted longer than real life friendships, and I will honestly tell you that I do cherish them. Some may not particularly care for the characters I have played, or may yet play in this game. But, it is a game.
Keep it IN the game. Using the IC game to even begin to consider OOC confrontations is loving the character, and the game entirely too much. Yet, with many games, and especially those games that are created for the purpose of creating fictional characters, we can tend to throw ourselves into them with such gusto as to go too far for ourselves, for our "Alliance", or for the game. Children play this game. (I can call most of you children, as I am most likely older than your parents, and could fit well into a conversation with your grandparents. So shut up, and give the old man some respect!)
Increase the positives, and reduce the negatives. I was somewhat stunned to hear those words come out of President Bill Clinton's mouth during his
. (If you haven't seen this speech, you really and surely should. I think it's one of his best, and for me, that would put this speech at the top of a pretty long list.) It's generally known as "The Funny Hats" Speech.These are life-changing words. One of the attractions of this game is that our characters can be as good, or as bad as we wish to make them. There are some really great examples of each, and many in between. Likewise, the same could be said of Alliances, or even Blocs. For some, if they couldn't be the ultimate "heel" in this game, they would have more difficulty outside the game. CN is aggression therapy, rage identity,etc. for these players. It's a lot cheaper than coming to someone like me for professional counseling.
There are those players in this game, too, who seek in this world to make their existence through their characters better than the realities life offers them. Here, they are whole, well, and strong. They can be the sex they choose, the age and power they choose. Failure is something the person behind the character may know intimately, but success is elusive. Here, characters get to help define what success is in ways that they may not be able to define outside the game. We can shape it, frame it, and create success as we wish.
I would truly be sad to know that there was a character in this game who hated me, or my character. Transference, it's called. Transference works in both directions, too. We can bring our anger, hurt, and disappointments from RL into our character's performance. The friendships between characters can grow, and become life-strong. They can also be destroyed in an instant. Here, some characters and alliances thrive on the hatred of others. That's how they measure success in the game, after all. Pain felt by a bombing run during battle can actually impact the person behind the character whose infra is being reduced to rubble. Adrenalin kicks in on both parts, and strange things happen.
Behind every character is a person. It is completely irrational to believe that if you think you know a particular character (yours or another) well, you somehow know the person behind the character--or the alliance. The power of an alliance in this game is pretty clearly understood, and I will not address that here. For me, however, the true power behind an alliance is the community which is built around, from, and beyond the log-in to the forums. There is, however, one inviolable law of CN which we must all agree upon. Failure to recognize, and absolutely commit to the keeping of this law creates unnecessary and very real problems, not for the characters, but for the person behind them.
I have known people who have played this game, who have found themselves to become the the target of real life stalking, ostracism, and physical violence. I have known people who, in-game, have bragged about being the perpetrators of such action. Because someone "accidentally", or with the belief in the faith of a friendship within an Alliance, "personally" reveals some fact or reality about their personal, non-character life DOES NOT automatically give you the right to use it against them, or their character. Period. New players sometimes innocently reveal facts of themselves through their characters. Some folks feel this is appropriate intel to use against them, either IC or OOC. It may be their age, their sex, their sexual identity, their political philosophy, their digits...something. You may not like the character, or respect them. Fine. You do not have the right to presume that the character in the game is in any way relevant to the OOC, RL person pressing their characters' buttons.
I don't like some Alliances in this game. I don't like their themes, their structures, their "history", the way they play the game, or the sphere they call home. There are players in this game that take things well beyond any reasonable limit, in my view. But, you see, that is just MY view. The character nor the Alliance is somehow required to conform to my sense of fair play, or rationality in order to be a player in this game. I can disagree with them to the point that I direct my Alliance to roll them, and roll them, and roll them. Some characters, and even some alliances can create their own histories in such a way, and to such a degree that they will become a character with whom I will probably never become close to, or friends with. They may be alliances that I would never join. Their choice. My choice. IC, I can make all those choices I want. I can take all the actions for, or against as I am capable and equipped.
President Clinton said that our world is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. I do truly wonder if he has a nation here! But, what if he did? Or President Bush, for that matter? Or General Powell? Could you identify them? Would you automatically ascribe their characters in RL to the fictional character they manipulate here? I would bet not. And, why would it be so surprising if they did have a nation? After all, look at me. Look at you. We are real, and very much alive people who come together to pay an online browser game, join community, and somehow make it to the next necessary thing. That's what we are. That's what we do. That may not be why all of us show up here, but it is why we stay here, or come back again, and again.
Keep IC where it belongs. Protect, preserve and radically defend OOC of every player you know, and every player you don't. That's the inviolable rule of CN. We've seen instances where that wall has been breached. Regardless of stated reason or rationality, violation of this one inviolable rule is ALWAYS wrong. You may, from your character's perspective, disagree with me on that. You may, personally, disagree with me on that. But let's look at it for just a moment from the viewpoint of someone I knew for most of my life, my Dad.
"Be sure to increase the positives, and reduce the negatives."
These words did not come from someone without experience, or judgment, or reason. They came from a man who had seen, and lived in a world that was unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. To him, these words were, finally, the only way to make some kind of sense out of that world. He lived his life clinging to them, endorsing them, and growing from them into a person most folks thought and believed to be a pretty good man. It's really okay to bring just a little stability to Planet Bob. CN will not suffer if we, characters in a browser, bring a little equality to our game. Our characters, our alliances, and our world here will be, I think, more positive, and a lot less negative if we will just commit to creating a little sustainability to the game.
That's the way I have played the game. That's the way I have developed the character I play. Now, you know a little bit about why.
I hope you will, too.