I was born into The Secret World as Liling “Lilyann” Ming, a young economics student who apropos of nothing discovered how to manipulate physical objects using her invisible hands while studying the ways in which some people think markets are manipulated via invisible hands. I don’t have much more than that in terms of her backstory, other than the fact that she’s perhaps interested in branching out into Computer Science which could lead to a career in what we would call BCIS these days. I’m developing her raison d’être as I play – the alternative would invariably result in tropified, stereotyped characterizations based on what I think I know. Instead, I’m going to rely on my knowledge of what it’s like to be a human being and go from there.
I suppose I should mention that I came up with her name by referencing a list of female Chinese names and their notional meanings. Based on my poor understanding of the words’ transliteration sans tonal diacritics, “Liling” (莉玲) is something like the sound of white jasmine and “Ming” (明 or 铭) seems to represent some confluence of literal and/or figurative enlightenment. I’ve also supplied her with a standard-issue “American” nickname as part of TSW’s character creation requirements should she ever decide to come to the United States and have to work a part-time job in order to finance her studies – that way the locals will be able to pronounce her adopted name without tripping over their tongues and turning an everyday encounter into a discussion about culture. But she wouldn’t consider it unless she gets accepted to MIT. Six digits of debt simply aren’t worth it unless you’ve been correspondingly prepared to obtain a career making six digits.
For all I know, her name could be entirely nonsensical to the ears of a native speaker. In the meantime, she’s been kidnapped by the Dragon, an arguably equally nonsensical group of Jeff Goldblum’s finest Chaos Theory adherents from the original Jurassic Park. I decided on the Dragon as her secret society due to the fact that it’s the least unsuitable of the three choices. I ruled out the Illuminati almost immediately: she’s not interested in participating in the type of brisk, jocular, snappy dialogue you would find in a movie about high-powered stock traders who drive fast cars and wear expensive suits and for whom women are horizontal trophies. I took my time and thought about the resulting dialectic for a couple of days: the Templars or the Dragon? All of the online tests out there told me I was a Dragon, something which immediately triggered the contrarian in me and made me lean toward the Templars. I tried to come up with an angle in which my character had been abandoned at birth and looked to the Templars as ersatz parent material. Would I find enough agency within those parameters, though? I’m afraid I don’t make for a very versatile stage performer – I roleplay however I like without regard for what I’m “supposed” to be doing based on a game’s in-fiction.
I watched the introductory videos for each of the three secret societies to gain a greater understanding of their respective modi operandi. No thanks, Illuminati. Rose White displays commitment and conviction – a bit too much for my liking but I’d pick her for my team ten times out of ten. At the end of the video for the Dragon, Mei Ling, your plot liaison, makes herself a Dragon Milkshake after having taken out a demon. I think I’ve found my brand. The ingredients are simple enough: milk, vanilla ice cream, vanilla extract, strawberries, and marshmallows. I decided to try it for myself yesterday using half the ingredients and I have to say, it was pretty damn tasty. I might do it again with blueberries or raspberries. I don’t have the youthful metabolism of Mei Ling, though, so I can’t really afford to be drinking these every day. Then again, I’m someone who feels bloated at 152 pounds on a frame slightly under six feet tall, so maybe I could – for a while, anyways. There’s a version for the other two secret societies that involves a “secret ingredient.” I’ve had my fill of contrived factional animosity in games and really have no problem with either the cut-throat tactics of the Illuminati or the Templars’ Ishgardian zealotry as long as they’re not getting in my way and/or trying to kill me.
The “tradition” of the Templars doesn’t match Liling’s tradition anyways – castles and causes and righteous justice are all well and good if you’re fond of reminiscing about the days of Empire in which you murdered anyone whose existence was at odds with your vision of an orderly world; I didn’t see enough room for expression within that context. Liling doesn’t care for any of that and doesn’t seek to pretend in order to fit in. So I went with the “terrorists,” the Dragon adherents, who go out and sow chaos based on the theory that a gust of wind introduced on a summer’s day flaps the wings of a butterfly somewhere which takes off and lands on a bush, inspiring an artist to paint a masterpiece which is sold to a corporate executive at an auction who puts it up on the wall of her condo which is stolen during a robbery and subsequently sold on the black market to a hitman with too much time and money on their hands who is so moved by its beauty in a Jack-Bauer-watching-a-trash-bag-in-the-breeze sort of way that he calls off the hit on the mayor of Kingsmouth who then by virtue of being not dead is available to bed Madame Rogêt and be interrupted mid-coitus by the zombie apocalypse causing him to run off with the key to her plush handcuffs straight into the waiting arms of the undead horde, leaving her to tell me this tale in the den of the fortunetelling house I just so happened to have wandered into.
I thus stood there in her basement entranced, not because she was telling me a moving tale, but because I was listening to music from a radio that I assumed to be upstairs. I had read of TSW’s first-rate ambient sounds previously; one of the first things I did when I got to the hotel in Seoul was stand there and listen to the sound system’s entire repertoire of loud karaoke pop songs. The radio above Madame Rogêt’s den, in contrast, played muted, ethereal tunes, the sort of thing that’s very much my kind of thing. One of my fondest memories as a child was waking up on the floor of my mother’s bedroom one morning next to her bed and listening to the soft strains of a radio in the apartment downstairs. I imagined the radio’s owner listening to it at full blast while showering; from my perspective, it was as if sirens were singing their melodies in a distant place unknown. Were I a character in the movie “After Life,” in which the dearly departed select one memory to take with them into the after-afterlife, I would take that memory with me. I stood in place and listened to Madame Rogêt’s radio for a good ten minutes.
It’s this kind of purposeless meandering and idling that I’m here for. I like to pretend we live in a world in which the first movie of a series such as Jurassic Park remains untainted by sequelitis. In doing so, it’s necessary to consciously ignore a few things for the sake of immersion. Knowledge of too many details makes for a version of fantasy that doesn’t differ enough from reality. And so in the game I’ve left NPC nameplates and health bars at their default settings, which is off. I have player nameplates on because I find it interesting to see what people have chosen for their given names and nicknames. I’m debating on whether to turn these back off – from a roleplaying perspective, you wouldn’t know these things unless you asked and were answered. I’m not engaging in challenging group content where such things matter, anyhow – at least, not yet.
While running around town looking for nothing in particular, I did stumble upon a large rock creature which was marked on my map. At first I thought it was a quest objective. Turns out it’s part of the Guardians of Gaia event that’s running until the 15th. I was rather surprised when my frame rate dropped for 10-15 seconds to load the thirty or so players who were standing in place and plinking away at it. I did the same, being careful to stand just outside the range of its occasional largish telegraph, and dutifully built and spent bullets with my assault rifle. Every so often a group of melee-range players would go flying up into the air in a rather comical fashion and come crashing back down to earth, lying in deathly repose for a good five seconds before ninja-flipping themselves back up onto their feet. I decided to forgo all of this and instead concentrate my mental efforts on TSW’s infamous 111112111112 combat. My reward was a miniature rock minion and several loot bags full of currency and foci, a weapon type I’m not interested in using because it looks dumb on my back. You don’t always have to have a good reason for everything, you know.
So don’t ask me why I’m off fighting zombies in a town called Kingsmouth far, far away from home. I really have no idea. Doesn’t seem like a very nice place to live, yet armed residents can be found most everywhere defending their little corner of heaven. “Kingsmouth: Come for the murders, stay because you got murdered.” I can’t say that Liling cares much for exotic philosophies or noble causes – she’s rather more pragmatic and studious than anything else and would be perfectly content living her life in the back room of a bank calculating running totals and balancing books. Honest pay for honest work. As to why she’s a thousand miles from home taking potshots at the walking dead and hacking their limbs off, well, I’m still working on the RP angle for that one. It’s an organic process, one that I expect to take a while. Suits me just fine.