Greg got a great laugh out of it at the time. He called me over to the computer and said, “Hey, Dad, you should try this game.”
“What is it? Run-escape? What’s that?”
It started off as something for us to do together on weekends, and the chat channel let us stay in touch while they were away at their mother’s house. When I was forced to surrender my custodial rights to take a job up in Livermore in 2004, the game became a stress breaker. Runescape involves a lot of mindless, repetitive skilling activities. I would sit down with The Economist and mouse away, half the time without even looking at the screen.
My avatar, Trichronos, was once a negative image of me. Now my hair is mostly white. The original Runescape was pretty raw, with a lot of adult language, misogyny and racism. I chose the character as a reaction to the last, and have been called a ‘nigger’ more than once. And when others complain that they wish there were more female players, I always trot out my original error, “Well, it’s because girls parse the name as ‘Run! Escape!'”
On the flip side, I have observed over the years that Runescape does grow player communities consisting of disabled vets, students, the chronically unemployed and the elderly. They follow each other’s lives and often provide support in solving real-world problems.
One of the draws of a fantasy game is that you get to chose what kind of hero you want to be. Combat is a big draw to some, although the tactics and visual effects in Runescape are tame compared to those in games that focus narrowly on combat. I do enough combat to be able to do the quests, but filled up my time with skilling.
As the ecology in California began to collapse, I felt compelled to focus on the farming skill. It was my first “max” skill two years ago. Changes in the game mechanics made it easy to max out on the other skills since, but also introduced rewards for further achievements. So while I don’t have an interest in the other skills except as they factor in quest outcomes, I am trying to complete the farming achievement. It represents a bounded but not insignificant draw upon my energies: logging in for twenty minutes four times a day to harvest patches and plant new crops. I estimate somewhere between 120 and 200 days to achieve my goal.
“Trichronos” is obviously not a name I would give to a child, but has specific meaning to me. “Tri” is obviously the prefix “three,” and Chronos is the Titan of time in Greek myth. The choice references both my model of physics, in which I posit additional time dimensions, and my sense of my deep past, as in “third time is the charm.” It’s not time to explain that second one yet…