Anthropologists have recently been writing about World of Warcraft, Second Life and other Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). Since many of these games have millions of players, with their own economies, cultures etc., it has been suggested that people within virtual worlds have developed their own culture. As an avid World of Warcraft player, I heartily agree. But I also love playing games in real life, and, in a sense, this is what UrbEx is all about.
Yesterday Marc took me to a site which felt very much life a game, a surreal landscape of industrial waste, technological failure and a ninja Ghurka security guard. We explored it, very carefully, and all went well, but when I got home, I re-dreamed the explore, making it the game I knew it was.
I call the result a Real Life Role Playing Game or RLRPG.
In a small forest, in a quiet neighbourhood, there are trails snaking their way through the tress. Different paths straddle the border between the forest and fields, inhabited by Mums with prams on this lazy Sunday, and by pairs of flatmates and friends, jogging, trying to sweat out remnants of last night’s snakebite extravaganza with girls in too-short-skirts. On one of these trails, in a black hooded cloak, walks Marc of the Cata Clan, Lvl 80 Elite Explorer, back again to conquer Pyestock for bonus explorer points before returning to his subterranean home in the Paris Catacombs.
Marc moves to the perimeter of his target, taking note of the Ghurka guard walking along side him, without looking in his direction, noticing that the Ghurka is following his movements. And eyes. He has been spotted. Marc breaks into a run, trees passing by like cars on a busy highway. With a quick glance to the side, he notices the guard is keeping pace. An elite guard. Merde.
Rookinella was right to be scared and stay home today, this guard cannot be defeated with felt or plastic pirate swords. With two glancing kicks off of the leaf cover, Marc is running up a willow tree, rebounding over the 4 meter triple barbed wire fence, his cloak hood flapping in the wind, distracting the Ghurka just long enough to pull the small blade from his leg holster. The Ghurka is cut down before he can get to his weapon, his mouth held from behind to muffle the screams of agony as he bleeds out.
Marc shoulders the guard (god he’s heavy for such a little man!) and sneaks stealthily into the entry point, the Stargate chapel, where his next surprise awaits. He stuffs the guard under the mesh catwalk and walks over to a large circular disk on one end of the room. With a deep breath, he grabs the edge of the Stargate and pulls it open to unleash the Goblinmerchant, a daemon; a vendor of all things fantastic and mystical.
But what’s this? The Goblinmerchant smells humans. Turning his comrade, he can see that Marc has heard them long before now. A group of 4, fumbling their way through. No wonder, with security gone now. The perimeter is being breached. If they make their way to the Stargate, all hell could break loose.
They run off, low to the ground, weighted down by field equipment and supplies pulled from the Stargate, supplied for documentation of the Cata Clan invasion. Through the dangling Cat 5 cables, past the air tunnel control room, up the rusty ladder. Four fellow explorers lie in ambush and a battle almost ensues until we realize they also hold a key to the Stargate.
The documentation begins, one room after another, small items and large machines from humanities forgotten industrial past, a legacy of materiality replaced by computer models and office jobs in Slough.
Goblinmerchant calls control to tell them the mission has been accomplished. He is awarded 3 mana potions and 5000XP points.
Documentation complete, Marc enters the energy capacitor, a small proton particle subfield generator, and Goblinmerchant flips the switch, firing him back to Subterranean Paris.