Monday, March 5, 2012

At least the dark don't hide it

"Now, the world was empty on the day when they made it
but heaven needed some place to throw all the shit..."
-At Least the Dark Don't Hide It, Magnolia Electric Co.

Possibly because of the massive amount of cold medication I was taking yesterday, I spent the walk over to last night's PAGE meeting thinking about the stories behind our toy soldiers. In our group, I'm the Dark Angels guy, and that's cool. It's good to be a "guy." Of all of my various miniatures collections, the Dark Angels are the army I keep coming back to, the one that inspires the most enthusiasm every time I take them out of the case even though I've been playing them for years now. I'm trying to decide why that should be.

 A friend of mine is taking some kind of fancy, post-graduate "video game studies" course at UPenn, and they spend a lot of time talking about the psychological motivations for playing video games (this is apparently becoming a discipline, look it up). According to the literature, when playing a game that involves choosing a character, players will either choose a character that allows them to break completely from their own personality (the escapist approach) or a character that they feel is somehow representative of their values. I'm definitely the latter type, which is why I tend to choose characters that adhere to rigid moral codes. I think I've played a paladin in every sword and sorcery RPG I've ever tried. That's not to say I believe I really measure up to those standards in my day-to-day life, but apparently I love responsibility so much that my favorite way to relax is to invent fictional responsibilities. Both in life as in games, as I get older these predilections persist, but they're slowly coming under a more cynical influence.

Not to get too Freudian, but I think that's the reason I keep buying terminators. Dark Angels have all of that. They're the First Legion and therefore the most legitimate to those of us who value longevity. Their rituals assume a stern and religious atmosphere but they're essentially pragmatists. Actually, I think it's fair to say that the central tragedy of the Dark Angels is that they've begun to worship themselves.

They're seeking redemption, but in their attempt to go it alone, they're just digging the hole deeper every day. They're the Walter Whites of the warhammer world. They got themselves into a pretty big mess, and instead of just coming clean, it's all they can do just to keep it together. I can appreciate that.

That's why I think the most current version of the Dark Angels background story does a real disservice to the chapter, with Luthor acting as a cozy scapegoat that allows the Dark Angels to remain the unmitigated "good guys." Does the hunt for the Fallen really make any sense if the larger body of the chapter is totally innocent and Luthor is merely a rebel? I've been told the Black Library books address this and maybe I'll check them out soon.

In the meantime, beyond appreciating the way the army looks and plays, I find it immensely and strangely satisfying to know that I'm on Team Moral Uncertainty.

2 comments:

  1. Well said. I can't explain why I play guard without referencing the Sound of Music. Remember the music when Rolf found them in the cemetery? Yeah, that's my IG (cue laughtrack).

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was an interesting read. I'm an incredibly anal retentive type with obsessive compulsive personality disorder (subtle difference from standard OCD), and in roleplaying games I nearly universally play chaotic characters. I've thought about it before, but I don't know if I've ever vocalized that I must do so because the rules in my brain are so rigid in real life that chaotic characters provide me with the most interesting escape from all that. Curiously, when I'm not actually playing a character (like when I'm piloting a 40K army), I tend more toward choices that better reflect my own inflexibility (like Tau and Grey Knights, and in the case of Tau there's even a perverse socialistic tendency which lines up quite neatly with my own beliefs). Gaming psychology...

    ReplyDelete