Ok, now that we've crossed that bridge let's get down to business.
The question was raised as to how players can address the issue that can sometimes come up where they get a little too attached to the game, their characters, etc. This isn't really something that's very easy to tackle in any way, and it's definitely not a subject where I'm going to really pretend to be any sort of authority on the subject. I'd encourage people to chime in and share their own ideas for what techniques they use to keep a healthy distance.
The root of it is in something that's been around for decades (at least). Modern "RPGs" really aren't very much of the sort. You may pick a type of character to play (by that I mean mostly good or bad, as it doesn't tend to get much more complicated than that), and use that to pick dialogue options or such. That, combined with some sort of progression of strength, are sort of the two calling cards of a modern role-playing game. If you think about the history of the genre and about what the very name of the genre means, that's really a pretty poor approximation to the games of old.
TSoS and other games like it fall into a rather older style of RPGs. They're a lot more akin to the D&D games of yesteryear than they are modern take. You pick a character type...and that's just the starting point. You have to imbue them with a personal history, personality traits, motivations, hopes and dreams, etc. To some extent, it's like your very own multiple personality setup. You're creating a whole different person that you have to try and think like and act for. Sometimes these may be patterned (at least a little) on you, but just as often they may be someone very different.
There are plenty of stories out there about people who've lost touch with things in their real life from playing D&D just that little bit too much. It's probably not as big of a deal now as it was when I was going to school, but back then it certainly had enough of a reputation even amongst people who knew little to nothing about it. MUDs and their ilk are different in the sense that they aren't really known very much outside of a fairly small subset of the gaming crowd. Even folks that I know that play RPGs really have never heard of the text-based variety other than something like Zork which is really, on some level, entirely different.
It's just as easy to get a little too heavily invested in your character, their comings and goings, etc. with something like a MUD as it is with an old fashioned D&D game. In some ways it can probably be easier as it probably takes less work to go home and login than it does to get your favorite group together for a gaming session in person. You also will end up with probably a larger group of people that you'd typically interact with, even if just in passing, than the small tight-knit gaming group.
So when does it all become a problem? Well from both personal experience, as well as years of watching others I'd say that for many the first time when they really realize that there's something amiss is when they lose their first real character. I'm not talking about the one that you had for a couple weeks and then lost because you did something stupid in a roleplay and got killed. I'm talking about the one you had for two or more years, got really invested in, and then had something go wrong leading to a sudden or unexpected death. It is tough to lose something that you've invested so much of yourself in. It may feel like the many hours you invested were taken away too quickly, for little to no real reason. It's kind of what makes the worst part of TSoS's death system losing the character rather than some portion or skills and such. (If you don't feel that way, you probably should reevaluate your relationship with your character or your priorities.)
I think the advice that I would give people in that situation is pretty much the same advice that I would give people in general who would struggle with finding a good balance with respect to their game-play habits in general. We wouldn't be responsible administrators if we didn't want people to play our game and enjoy the product that we're putting out there. On the same line of thinking, however, we also wouldn't be responsible if we didn't worry a little now and again if someone seems to get a little too attached.
I think one of the first things that people who lose loved characters needs to realize is one of the most important pieces of advice that I could give anyone who's hooked on TSoS or any other game. That is to say, at the end of the day when you power down the computer it is still just a game. It's not necessarily any more intrinsically valuable than Monopoly or Connect 4 or Poker. It is something that we do to pass the time and find some measure of enjoyment, it's a game. This particular game is made infinitely more complex than those others due to the element of interpersonal interaction that's involved though. Games are meant to be fun, but they aren't meant to be more than pass times. It's should certainly be the case that the relationship that you have with the game should be a lot less important than the one with your family or friends.
That isn't to say that there's no value in the game, or that you can't make new friends there that will become close ones. Still, if you find that you're spending more and more time logged in, get really stressed about what's going on or any particular thing that's happened, etc...in all of those situations it is probably for the best that you at least talk to someone about it. There may not be a problem, but venting is a healthy process. Find a friend and tell them how annoyed you are by this silly game. Find an Imm and tell them how frustrated you are that ____ happened and you don't understand why. We're always here to listen to concerns that you might have and to try to help, even if it is just to explain why something isn't going to be different.
Find yourself struggling to deal with managing game time and other priorities? Here are a few tips you could try that might help a little:
- Try scheduling things for a while rather than just logging in. That is to say, set up specific times with friends that you're going to get a RP sorted out, and then login for that particular RP and logout and do something else afterwards.
- Limit your days or playtime in some way. Take a day or two every week off. Go play basketball or draw something, or play bridge with your family or whatever it is that you do. Just make it a day or two where you leave the MUD client alone.
- Don't login while you have other things you should be doing. Is the homework done? Driveway shoveled? Laundry cleaned? House picked up? Flowers bought for girlfriend? If the answer to any is no, leave the MUD client alone until they are.
All of this basically boils down to use common sense and have a good time. We're glad when people like the game that we've put work into creating for them (feel free to let us know when you like it, it's always nice to hear that) but it's important that people don't always like it Too much. That's when you become a staff member and get sucked into doing extra work, and that's kind of like a fate worse than death.
Anyway, as before, if you have ideas for folks about how you manage things, or want to share an experience where you first realized you were kind of attached, feel free to in the comments below. Until next time, keep on truckin.