Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What is Lore?

1. the body of knowledge, especially of a traditional, anecdotal, or popular nature, on a particular subject: the lore of herbs.
2. learning, knowledge, or erudition.
The word "Lore" is related etymologically to "Learn."

Harbinger Zero is wondering if players can create Lore. I gave him some link love on Twitter and got a couple fairly quick responses from the players behind TSW's Hikari Kenzaki and Frank Calhoun, saying that the RPers from TSW have created lore right on Twitter, and some of it has ended up in the game. I can't remember if HZero plays TSW or not, but since he didn't think Kenzaki and Calhoun's Lore affects his gaming experience, then he does not consider it Lore at all.

Now, I realize that HZero is working from a premise put forth by some EVE players in a recent discussion about that game; Lore is only Lore if it affects gameplay. But he himself expresses reservations with that premise. "I had severe cognitive dissonance when official company lore was only said to be effective when it impacts 'in game realities.'" Perhaps Lore is less important in a sandbox-type game like EVE.
Here's the thing about Lore, though. Its effects can be both subtle and far reaching, from the type of creatures you may encounter, to the architecture of the cities and other locations you visit. Do you have to be aware of the "history" of Meridian in Rift, for example, to be affected by it?

(I bring this up as a side note: In the recent Battle Bards episode on City Themes, Syp, Syl, and Steff discussed the layout of Meridian and how they didn't like it or understand its reasoning. Perhaps it would help to know that it is an occupied city; built by the Abyssal Cult as a center of worship, then turned over to Orphiel Farwind and the Defiants by the Faceless Man in a betrayal of Akylios the water dragon.)
You don't have to know any of that to be affected by it. Meridian doesn't really seem like a city because it isn't. As HZero pointed out, just about every game out there has some sort of Lore that affects design choices. This includes EVE. How much does this impact the player, though? If I am a Guardian in Rift, and never set foot in Meridian, how does its history affect my game reality? Does that make it "non-Lore" to me?

Prominent players in the Blizzard Community have ended up inspiring NPCs in World of Warcraft. Breanni runs a site devoted to companion pets and later became the proprietor of the Dalaran Pet StoreThe cofounder of Wowhead has an in-game character honoring him. The Redshirt Guy who played Stump-the-Chump with Chris Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi of Blizzard even has a character in game. Granted, these characters are shout-outs by the devs, but just as player Lore is founded on dev Lore, the opposite can sometimes occur.
Wildhammer Fact Checker
What about TSW's Twitter experiment? I'd hazard a guess that much of the interaction among RP player characters—and between the PCs and NPCs through their Twitter accounts—is not seen by the vast majority of TSW players. I follow all the NPCs and a good 75 PCs though my own RP account, and I am sure that I don't follow half the RPers. And of those that I do, for various reason I don't see the majority of their interactions. Does the "Lore" they create impact me? Does it affect the in-game reality? It does have that potential, in two ways.

1) Occasionally stuff put together by players ends up in the game, like the completed monster book in the Tree House in Savage Coast, as pointed out by Hikari Kenzaki. Players can go in game and see the book itself with artwork created by other players. Funcom also occasionally holds contests for things like original music that end up in the game, like "Sleepless Lullaby" by Bright September and featured in TSW Issue #7, "A Dream to Kill."
2) When I tweet in character, I am playing The Secret World. Whether or not I am not logged into the game client is irrelevant, if you think about it. I affect and am affected by other players, as well as the NPCs with accounts on Twitter, when I participate in those scenarios. Granted, TSW, being set in present day earth, lends itself to such interactions.

EVE does, too. The recent Battle at 6VDT received coverage from news outlets like BBC and CNN. I would say any in-game action that receives RW news coverage ought to qualify as Lore, especially in a game like EVE, where most of the stories you hear about are PvP betrayals and battles; as opposed to, say, World of Warcraft, where PvE Lore like the fall of the Lich King or Deathwing take center stage.

Your own personal lore may also affect your game experience, even if it doesn't change what you see or do moment to moment in the game. HZero mentions how the work of another player, Kodachi, enriches his own experience.

In the end, while there may be theoretical value to HZero's original postulate; in practice, I think it is very hard to discern where some little bit of lore affects your game reality. Every player experiences a given game differently, which is partly there are so many different games out there with loyal followings. Much like the real world, we may never end up in the history books of a game as individuals, but I think we create and influence the Lore with every action, nonetheless.


  1. I simply don't understand the statement "lore is not really lore in any meaningful sense, unless it impacts the game itself". Isn't that like saying air isn't air unless you breathe it?

    Surely some, possibly most, lore pre-exists the game? That would be my understanding of the term. Doesn't someone sit down and create the bulk of the lore before the game gets made? If not, how the hell does anyone, artist, designer, writer, have any idea where to start?

    I wouldn't consider anything *players* do in or out of game to be "Lore" because in my understanding of the term Lore would pre-exist players. Things that players have done that affect the gameworld are "History" not "Lore".

    Lore seems to me to be, by definition, something we can only experience by being told about. If it happens to us, how can it be "Lore"? It's true that there is some crossover, a grey area, between known facts, history and lore but to conflate them or treat them as synonymous just adds confusion and uncertainty.

    On this basis I'd agree that players cannot, at least in normal circumstances, create game "Lore" but they can most certainly create game History.

    1. I would counter that by saying that History is a part of Lore. I also think developing the lore and the game environment go hand in hand, feeding off each other.

      But you're right, if we experience an event personally, it is not lore for us. However, for those that come after, it certainly can be Lore, in my opinion.

    2. I updated the post to include a couple definitions from Dictionary.com, if only to muddy the waters.

  2. Just to give some background, I started the post originally to defend the official lore of EVE Online. One example of that was the game's races, which was offhandedly dismissed as not really being lore - despite the fact that race determines your starting location, basic relations/reputation, and beginning ship/skill selection.

    It seemed to me to be arrogant or perhaps just misguided to claim that what someone's corp did in system ABCD123 was lore. Much less to claim that it was primary/good lore within the game while denigrating official game lore that had achieved far more impact on literally every player to ever play the game.

    I have two more points to make in the second post in the series, I hope people will tune in. My cognitive dissonance is going to go up a notch.

    1. I will say EVE players are strange bunch. I don't think HK and FC would argue that their RP takes precedence over the established Lore of TSW. Even the stuff like the monster book is secondary to the basic premise of conspiracy and mythology.