The Real Escapism

ByqspJxIAAAvndW

I’m not the sort of person who is afraid of being alone. Much to the chagrin of my friends, I will often do things that allow me to sit and enjoy something entirely by myself. I sit for hours at both home and my job, just passively watching things go on around me. Movies, dinner dates and sightseeing are all things I’ve done lost in my own thoughts.

Gaming nowadays goes roughly the same way, almost in defiance of how social video games have innately gotten. There’s endless titles that have single-player narratives but still allow global text chat, voice chat, cooperative play and random matchmaking. The act of playing a game can be just as social as anything else we choose to indulge in.

However, as I grow older, I find that my gaming habits have changed. As Ian Williams remarked on a recent episode of Justice Points, we don’t need MMORPGs to fill that social void when we’re constantly interacting with social media. Social media has let me lapse into a solitary lifestyle while the gentle pings of Twitter keep me company whenever I decided to tab out of whatever I’m doing in Diablo III or Hatoful Boyfriend. I can even enable my app to pop Mentions out as tiny boxes that I can read without even leaving what I’m doing. Having others rely on me to keep a game experience going is often tiresome for my mercurial attention span – sometimes I can hyper-focus for hours at a time but most of the time I just want to come and go as I please.

Enter Eidolon, a game I feel strongly about despite having only played a handful of hours. I have barely scratched what promises to be a deep narrative experience, only to just wander lonely and quiet, gently surviving. I watch the sky change color and clouds roll by. I climb to the top of cliffs to look out across the horizon. I pick up tinder and mushrooms. I orient myself using a compass I found from a glowing green cube.

There are no social options in this single-player game. There’s not even any other people as far as I know and I find that the best part. In this low-poly post-apocalypse setting, all I encounter is the occasional animal (dangerous or not) and snippets of what people left behind. I could sit doing nothing, just looking at the stars and the game would not mind. As long as I have enough food to keep myself from starving and a fire to keep me warm, I could go on like this forever, criss-crossing this ruined stretch of the low-poly Pacific Northwest.

It isn’t that I eschew the comfort of others, far from it.

When I used to have anxiety attacks about my own life, I used to imagine leaving everything behind. Whether it was driving out to the ocean in a car I didn’t own or leaving my body somewhere, the particular act of dissociation gave me a little control over my feelings. The open road has been a call for many people but I mostly just wanted to drift from whatever particular circumstances I was in at the time and felt chained down by.

What the game offers me so far is that same freedom to leave the trappings of being – I have no body or presentation in this game. There’s not even the ubiquitous “pair of hands” that so many other games have, I am a ghost wandering the hills. My experiences with other genres have been tied up very heavily in how I look, and one of the drawbacks of that is that it does remind me how, even though I am almost the lowest bar to clear in terms of representation (white cis female), there’s still quite a lot lacking. There’s also just how weighed down I can feel by how much even my gender matters in the video game sphere. Everywhere I look, someone is reminding me that I am queer, feminist and a woman and everything that means. Expectations and micro-aggressions are their own suit of armor and my spaces have gotten more hostile as of late.

Video games have long been the province of escapism, full of power fantasies and highly idealized versions of self. Exploration mechanics in games are the antithesis of that in a lot of ways, they beckon you to enjoy being somewhere versus someone else. For me, the chance to be no one is enticing, to not matter in the slightest. I simply wake up in the middle of a forest and the only question I have to answer is, “What now?” It’s a way to gain the feeling of being lost and happy about it without some of the concerns that do come up if I wandered outside of my house.

The choice to matter so very little is an odd one, but it is less stressful, even for a little while.

 

 

 

 

Who is Andrestrasz?

Picture of Andrestrasz, red dragon.

Photo courtesy of Wowpedia.org.

According to some sharp-eyed forum posters (The original thread got deleted. It was brought to my attention by @GontierWoW), as of 5.3, a red dragon by the name of Andrestrasz was quietly added to a small cave no one knows about on the backside of the Ahn’Qiraj outside zone. The cave used to be part of a larger abandoned Tauren-style farm on the coast before the Cataclysm changes, but now is the only thing that remains. So why was a level 5 red dragon, who for all intents and purposes seems to be asleep (with the occasional silent yawn) stuck into a locale in the ass-end of Silithus that no one goes to, let alone knows about? There’s been some early speculation and I’ve been racking my brain to come up with answers. Let’s run down some theories, far-fetched as they may be, for why that dragon might be there.

Andrestrasz is Rhea’s last egg, all grown up.

  • This was my initial thought moreso than any other theory. The world seems to be populated with the other dragon involved in that questline, so why not Rhea’s kid too? What wouldn’t be explained though is why he’s big enough to be a full-grown dragon (even if he’s level 5) and why he’s all the way out here. 

He has to do with future legendary quests.

  • Interesting for the same reason my initial theory, but possibly not the case for the same reasons I outlined. The legendary quest thus far has been restricted to Pandaria content, if not the main continent itself. Going to the back-end of Silithus makes no sense for this theory.

He’s a tribute to a player.

  • All player tributes (usually who are deceased) have usually been in some way public – either as NPCs with flavor text, parts of questlines or with their own marker somewhere. A dragon with no notation or gossip option in a cave no one knows about would be kind of a terrible tribute. 

Andrestrasz might have something to do with Caelen and Ahn’Qiraj lore. 

  • This is another theory I came up with – the last time red dragons had a presence at the ruins was during the time of the Scarab Gate. Caelestrasz was one of the protectors of Ahn’qiraj before the gates were opened but moved onto Cataclysm content, meeting his untimely death at the hands of Sinestra. Could Andre here be a replacement? That doesn’t explain why he’s not at the actual gates or inside the raids, however. 

If he’s not guarding Ahn’Qiraj, what is he guarding?

  • The red dragonflight are historically known as guardians and protectors. What would a red dragon be guarding in an entirely empty cave (save for some skeletons)? There has never been anything in that cave whatsoever. It didn’t even have a name, unlike the weirdness with random Ortell’s Hideouts there’ve been.

All in all, this poses a significant mystery to those of us who have been puzzling and speculating about things for years. Players have also been trying to evoke a reaction out of the dragon or change, perhaps to chase some origin out of him. There’s no change to the dragon whatsoever if you are alive or a ghost. He does not react to the legendary rogue daggers, Dragonwrath (I tried this myself), Runesword of the Red, having a Crimson Whelp out, or Archmage Vargoth.

Perhaps he’s just an Easter Egg dropped there by Blizzard to reward explorers like myself, like another mob in the area. Maybe he’s integral in larger plans in the future, who knows! I just hope we find out before the curiosity eats me alive. The WoW world has felt mostly examined and solved for a while now and this introduces some un-datamined mystery back to the world.