Monday, November 2, 2009

I am an optimist

Maybe that's why the Star Wars setting is so appealing to me. Yes, there is suffering and loss and dark times and seemingly insurmountable odds. But in the end, the good guys win. In the end, there is a 'happily ever after'—even if it isn't always long-lived. I think that this is where I differ in outlook from a lot of gamers. The thought of a cruel and uncaring world where the best you can hope for is mere survival for another day is...well, depressing. As is the thought that the world is inexorably falling towards doom and there is nothing you can do about it.

In a post over at Grognardia, James M. discusses his love of the Fall season and all its philosophical and emotional implications. For the most part, I agree with him. I love Fall. I love the idea of the end of 'easy' times—of preparation for a time of trial and difficulty. The idea of an 'end' to the way things were and a harsh reality to face is great (yeah, I have central heating/cooling and live in Florida, but like I said, this is all philosophical). However, I would not have the same feeling about Fall if I knew that Winter truly was 'the end'.

I love stories that begin in the "Fall", where things appear to be okay, but seem to be turning for the worse. The Dragonlance Chronicles, for instance, begin in the Autumn—where the heroes gradually discover that things are going from bad to worse. The second book in the series (Winter Night) details some of the darkest days of the story, through a bitter winter full of defeats and loss. The third book in the series (Spring Dawning), shows things starting to turn for the better until, through great struggle and sacrifice, victory is finally achieved.

In many ways, the Star Wars saga follows the same path. The second movie (beginning in Winter/Hoth) is very much the lowest point for the heroes of the saga. The third movie (with the verdant greens of Endor) is very much the dawning of a new day—the 'spring' of a new Galaxy free of tyranny.

If either of these sagas had just 'stopped' in the Fall or Winter, I know I would not have liked them nearly as much. Why? Because I AM an optimist. Don't get me wrong, I know that bad things happen (and will continue to happen) in the real world—and that for a truly dramatic story to be told, 'bad things' have to happen in fantasy worlds as well. But my personal preference is to always cast a ray hope for the future. Something that is worth all the effort that heroes are putting into achieving it—something more than just 'survival'.

The video game Fallout 3 serves as something of a showcase for these thoughts and emotions. The game is very immersive. The graphics are incredible. The options and breadth of the game are interesting. And yet, I simply stopped playing it. Why? Because it was so unrelentingly, hopelessly depressing. There were NO signs that things would ever get better. And in many of the quests, the best you could hope for would be "at least things didn't get worse". But evidently, that's what most people enjoy. The videos I see posted on You Tube are all about how much fun it is to blow up random people and sell children into slavery. I guess I'm just not part of that crowd.

I guess that's another reason I never got into the C'thulu game or game style. There, it is pre-determined that you will fail. Perhaps not right away, but eventually, you will fail and the world will fall inexorably into chaos and ruin. I appreciate the pathos of it—the heroism of people who KNOW they are fighting a losing battle. But at the same time, it isn't the kind of world I want to play in. Nor is it the kind of world I want to live in.

I've never considered myself devoutly religious. I was baptized in the Episcopalian faith and grew up going to a small protestant congregational church in South Dakota. I enjoyed my time in church—the fellowship and indeed fun I had there. But that hasn't stopped me from having questions about faith—from trying to reconcile my rational view of the universe with the existence of a supreme being. I'll admit that my faith wavers from time to time. And yet I always return to it. I do believe there is good in mankind—and that it IS the reflection of something greater than ourselves. I believe it IS important to aspire to that kind of behavior, even in the midst of this often harsh 'real life'. I don't expect god to 'come in and make everything good', but I do think that people can and do rise above their animal instincts to become that something better.

I don't mean to get all metaphysical here. Or to preach my beliefs being better than anyone else. This is just the way I feel, and one of the reasons I AM optimistic in how I look at life and one of the reasons I like to see optimism in my fantasy.

So now, perhaps, you can see why I don't enjoy a lot of the apocalyptic and 'gritty' Star Wars story lines in the Expanded universe. As I've stated before in other posts, I think that the Star Wars galaxy and the heroes of the Rebellion deserve a happily ever after (or at least one that lasts longer than what's presented in the novels).

So here's to a glorious Fall season—and I'm looking forward to Spring.

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