Do roleplaying games have to be enhanced by offers of jewellery made from chainmail and 'feelie kits'?
[Kat Brown, The Guardian, Technology section, 23 August, 2007]
Is there a single computer game left untouched by the fetishised psychosis of people who still live with their parents? If so, for crying out loud, give it my number.
When I hung up my roleplaying game (RPG) cap I thought I'd said sayonara to the more obsessive end of the gaming spectrum. A genre with as many wobbly papier-mâché shrines and roleplay fanatics as you can wave a Wii controller at, the continual wading through fan fiction to find an FAQ got to be too much, and I ran away screaming.
In Kingdom of Loathing I thought I'd found my perfect retirement. An awe-inspiringly sarcastic online RPG that drops pop culture, gaming and scholarly references with the flair of a pixellated Pratchett, its intolerance of the usual internet mores is such that you have to pass a spelling and grammar test before you're even allowed to chat.
But there is a downside: as with most freeware, the game's creators make their money from merchandise and donations and an - honest to God - "feelie kit". For a mere $40 (£20), some keys, a participant's certificate and other hastily assembled crap can be yours.
It's the sheer disparity between the game and the merchandise that makes me twitch. Who are these complex individuals who can spend an afternoon laughing disdainfully at Lamz0r N00bs (that's lame newbies to you, auntie), only to lovingly admire their participant's certificate afterwards? You have to hope it's a little joke from the makers, this time more on their obsessive users than the general public.
It gets worse with Zelda, a series so unrelentingly brilliant that fan design should be made an act of treason. One fan makes a tidy sum selling Triforce jewellery made out of chainmail. "Ever wonder what the items and such in Hyrule really look like?" runs the blurb. No, because I've played the game and in fact they look heavily pixellated and a bit rubbish.
You can choose from the Ocarina of Time, the Moon Pearl, and even the potions. "The bottles are 16oz/500ml size and about (sic) the exact same size as the bottles Link carries around." You can just bet someone sat by her screen with a ruler and a calculator for that one.
While I'm slightly in awe of people who can use chainmail in anything other than a sentence, I wish they'd use it for Dungeons and Dragons instead of such dead-eyed kookiness. I know they're just games for children and people with no social lives who are frightened of cheese, but they're also mine, dammit, and I refuse to be lumped in with a load of reverential basketcases just because I like playing them.