Sunday, 23 December 2007

The origins of the angel Jean

Well, I've decided to tell two stories tonight, 'cos I probably won't post tomorrow. The second one's longer.

The first one is purely a vanity story.

--The origins of the angel Jean--

While I was just friends with my now dear husband Smith, he mentioned that he had recently been made a staff member at an online game. This game is a "multi-user dungeon" or MUD, a text-based roleplaying adventure game which could be accessed online via telnet.

Well, soon after we decided we were right for each other (which is another story for another time), he invited me to look at this game. The rest, as they say, is history, but hey, I feel like telling the story and I never really have.

Jean is not my real name. When he invited me to connect to the game, he checked to see if my real name was available as a username. It was. I duly connected to the game using my name, but he wasn't there when I did, so I started playing the game. I found it interesting, but involved, and eventually disconnected.

(Smith is not his real name either. It is his game username. I don't use real names online.)

As a coincidence, one of the other staff members had the same first name as I do. (I think Smith had found that out earlier, and did some snooping around to make sure we weren't really the same person. :P)

Anyway, the next time I decided to connect, I decided that since it was make-believe, I could use whatever name I wanted. I chose Pearl. Yes, Pearl the elf bard was my first real character on the Dead of Night mud and I played her for quite a while.

Once Smith had seen my character, he also made a character, and we played together whenever we were on. But, he was on a lot more than I was, and as I said he was a staff member and knew a lot about the game. Pretty soon his character was 50 levels above where Pearl was. :P

I met his online friends and enjoyed the game for the most part. But I did have one bad experience as Pearl. Because Smith's non-staff character was so much higher than mine, and because he liked to give me things, I soon amassed some equipment that I never would have obtained myself. One day a respected player (who would soon become a staff member) looked at me and accused me of multiplay - that is, making multiple characters and passing equipment from one to the other - which is considered cheating in that game. I was mortified.

A few months in, Smith decided that he no longer enjoyed being a staff member, and quit. He would log in his other character every so often and chat with people, but he no longer played with Pearl as much.

I didn't mind. Our real life relationship was getting stronger (and continues to do so to this day) and we were spending plenty of time together. But I still liked to play as Pearl. She did have a tendency to get hit on, however, which I didn't enjoy. I should have expected that, I guess that's one thing that did reinforce my prejudice of the community as being nerds.

One day I decided I was sick of it. I wanted a new character with different abilities. All I had to choose was the name. I chose Jean. It was plain and nobody would know if I was male or female. And after the multiplay scare, I resolved not to accept any help from ... anyone. I would do this by myself.

And I did. I have to say that I picked one of the most difficult combinations on that MUD :P Not deliberately, just out of ignorance. It was 3 years before I got to level 21 where you can choose your own title, so for 3 years I was 'Jean the elf'.

By then, I guess my personality and Jean's character had really come through. I chose a healer class because it fitted in with who I was. I had even begun to roleplay a little, and of course Smith came back (soon after I started playing Jean, even) and everyone knew I was his. Staff on the mud are given 'god' status (basically meaning they have powers others do not), so I played his little priestess. I also wanted a little humour and conflict in my character, so Jean was a naive and gauche little girl who said things without thinking. Jean was never very good at her healer class anyway, so that helped form the character.

I was very flattered when Smith was allowed to write a room description of his own and he dedicated it to me. This is what he wrote:

Slight, solid stainless steel skylight shows streaming sunlight.
Bathed below, beautiful baskets contain copious cooled fresh fruits from
far fields. Deep, dark desk draws dedicated attention at an actual
angel. Architected as alabaster, an angel appreciates an apple. Less
lovely lifeless, lifelike loses real revelation reality releases. An
angel achingly associates real resonant remembrances etching elven
existence, Jean.

(Yes, I am addicted to apples. One a day. Don't tell me it's ironic I'm a doctor.)

So when it came time to choose my title, I was definitely going to go with Angel Jean. Of course, Smith was the one to point out to me that it really should be the "the angel Jean". So online I have been known for ... wow ... five years now as the angel Jean - Smith's little elf.

I subsequently became a staff member myself (another story, although I have to say I earned it). And when you have to deal with players who want character and game changes from you, and you have no reason to work on them other than a desire to make them happy and the game a better place, you will get a lot of flattery. But I was touched by how many would tell me afterwards that I had truly earned the title in their minds. And call it self-aggrandisement, but I wouldn't have used the title if I hadn't thought I would deserve it. Jean is helpful and kind with never a nasty word to say about anyone, always ready with a listening ear, tries very hard not to show any favouritism, and is Always sincere.

I have drifted away from the Dead of Night. Staffing is a chore, and Smith would rather I spent my life on something tangible. And you can't flatter me by calling me an angel any more, although I might be bemused. But I can't yet let go of the angel Jean, and I try to continue to live by her high standards.

Hmm, story two will be another post.

the angel Jean - Smith's little elf

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the angel Jean