“Thinking again? There’s nothing wrong with thinking, but you’re smart enough, so why not just solve the problem?”
Rule of the Strong
How many of you played MMORPGs back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s? For those of you who did not, let me give you a little history lesson. In the early days of MMOs there were no such thing as instances. I was playing Everquest at a raiding level at the time, and let me tell you, power plays among the guilds were a very real thing. There were only so many good hunting grounds, and if someone you didn’t like encroached you could train mobs on them until they died. It was even worse (better? more exciting?) with raid mobs. Instead of having an instance like now-a-days, if a raid mob spawned, that was the only one there would be on the entire server until it was killed and respawned. It was a race between every high-end guild, with the strongest reaping all the spoils and the weak relegated to third-string status, if you wanted to be nice about it. There were huge guilds like Krusty’s (Sakurai Takahiro) D.D.D., and small elite guilds like the Black Sword Knights. The tyranny of the strong was a very real thing, far more so than it is in MMOs today.
I had mixed feelings when they were painting these high-end guilds in such a harsh light. I see nothing wrong with D.D.D. being huge and with lots of 90’s, nor with the Black Sword Knights wanting to be the best. These are perfectly natural desires, and organizations that embody them exist in our own world as well, they’re just called “corporations” or “nations” rather than guilds. The Black Sword Knights definitely get points off for buying the EXP pots from Hamelin though, provided they know how they’re getting them (or have reason to suspect). Really though, its shitty game design on the part of Elder Tales. Couldn’t they have just made those potions untradable, or increased the exp gain at lower levels? Same thing with Minori and Touya in Hamelin; why can’t they just de-guild and run off? I’m starting to realize why MMORPG stories are more difficult to write than they initially appear – when drama comes from bad game design, it feels arbitrary and annoying, while when the same thing happens in a non-game setting it’s totally fine. The programmers should know better, but some fantasy world’s god? Meh. Which probably means I ought to give them more slack.
Drama & Angst – Deserved & Not
There was a lot of angst this episode, mainly from Shiroe, and I’m mixed on it. Shiroe is a character very much given to introspection and the angst that so commonly springs from it, so it makes sense that he would wallow from time to time. That doesn’t mean it’s especially fun watching him do it, though. Credit where credit is due, though – he was hesitant to act for while, but we’re only six episodes in and he’s already formed the titular guild, he called up Minori after only a little waffling, and now he’s setting out to change all of Akiba – and with it, the rest of their new world. Between them demonizing hardcore players and Shiroe’s angst, the chewy middle of this episode was a bit of an expositionary drag, but it’s leading somewhere nice.
We Can Do Better
If you’ll permit me to dive into the philosophical weeds, let’s talk about natural selection. Based upon the preponderance of evidence I’ve seen, I think natural selection (evolution) happened. That doesn’t mean that we, as a society, have to let it keep happening. Those that argue for social natural selection – that the smart will become rich and powerful while the lazy will suffer – are missing the point in my eyes. We can do better. Here we have big guilds like D.D.D. gobbling up all the smaller ones and dominating the good hunting grounds while the Black Sword Knights use their strength and money to level more quickly and Hamelin exploits lowbies, and you might say this is all natural because the strong are dominating the weak, but can we not do better?
Shiroe has decided they can. Nyanta was right – nothing is perfect. Nothing. You make the best of the flawed systems and individuals you have, all the while trying to improve them when possible. Shiroe intends to remake the face of Akibahara into something better, and I could not be happier. Slogging through the guild-drama mud and galvanizing all the players into breaking their way out of this reality is what I wanted to see out of this series, and Shiroe has started down that path. Shiroe has done his thinking, and now it’s time for action. With the creation of Log Horizon – I got chills during that scene my friends, chills – we have the first step to a stronger Shiroe, and a greater world. I can’t wait to see where it will lead.
Looking Ahead – Shiroe’s Secret Weapon
Shiroe said he needed five million gold and everyone’s hope and goodwill. Of those, the latter two will be the hardest. First up is the money though, and Shiroe’s secret weapon is clear – food. That’s a powerful bargaining chip in this world, but it’s a good thing he’s planning to use it sooner rather than later, because the longer he waits the more chance someone else will realize the trick. In a world of tasteless muck, Shiroe will have incredible influence for a time. I’ll be interested to see how he turns that into more lasting power, and exiles Hamelin from Akiba at the same time.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The tyranny of the strong. Through the angst, Shiroe has decided to stop thinking & start acting. Log Horizon has arrived! #loghorizon 06
- The greatest failing of this episode – we didn’t get to see Akatsuki in a summer dress. Dammit Henrietta, don’t keep her to yourself!
- I loved how they noted that some raids were 100+ player fights. This is definitely a late 90’s / early 2000’s MMO. Reminds me of my old EQ days, of taking down gods with 120+ other players. Modern MMOs have some cool mechanics, but there’s nothing quite like that sheer united effort of humanity around you.
- Despite all the changes to the world, I’m surprised that there aren’t already Lv 100’s running around. Leveling was a lot harder back then, but it’s been, what, a few weeks? And they can’t log off even if they wanted to? You all should be level capped and bored, you slackasses!
- Did you notice how Krusty was on Shiroe’s friends list? Should be fun to see what their relationship is like later on.
- “We aren’t nearly desperate enough.” Damn right, Shiroe. Get desperate, and give it to Hamelin. For Log Horizon!!
Check out my blog about storytelling and the fantasy novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Novel update: editing & short stories, My stance on piracy, The three main rules of storytelling, and I’ve never regretted any of them.