As I walk my dogs, there is a section of our route that smells of chimney smoke this time of year. The other night, one of the first nights that was crisp and chilly, I became literally almost intoxicated by the smell. It brought on such a wave of nostalgia that I stopped and just sniffed the air. It was glorious.
I realized right there on the spot that we humans all share two things: the fear of death; the constant back-of-our-mind nagging that one day it will all be over, and the love of fire.
Fire connects us, and as I smell that smell of smoking wood on the night air I feel connected to the entirety of humanity through time, more than I ever have. It is reassuring, that this world and this life is bigger, more connected, more ancient than most of us could ever get our minds around.
Is that why I am always attracted to fires in my virtual lives? Role-players love to sit by them, telling stories and meeting for adventures. I like to people-watch sitting next to a fire. If it looks cozy enough, people will almost always stop to say hi or to just pause. It's nice. It's a reminder to slow down. It gives our games a sense of realism simply because it reminds us of real life.
So let me list for you my top 4 favorite fires, in no particular order. See what you think:
Everquest 2: EQ2 has probably the best fireplaces in any game. You can actually tell the fire how to perform, from a small glowing pile of embers to a roaring flame, and it will do it. There's something magical about right-clicking and selecting "roaring" from a menu, and the fire roars to life. It's like a toy, but you can set a mood with it as well. Just wonderful.
The Chronicles of Spellborn: When I first walked into the tavern inside Hawksmouth, my jaw fell open. So atmospheric, so begging-for-roleplay. The fires in the taverns and in the blacksmith shops give the place a magical glow, and provide most of the light, something that fits the genre. After all, if you had a massive pit with fire streaming out of it, wouldn't it be the centerpiece?
Mabinogi: Like so many things in Mabinogi, the fire has effects besides just being a place to sit down with your friends. You can actually share meals while sitting at it, burn items in it to get XP back, and increase some stats with it. You actually chop wood and must have the skill to make the fire. And if it rains? The fire will have a shorter life. I like how they look, even glowing during the day, but I love how they work even more. Just another example of Mabinogi being one of the smartest games out there.
World of Warcraft: The Filthy Animal tavern in Dalaran has probably one of the coziest fireplaces in the entire game. Many times I will log in just to see who might be sitting at the fire-place, and there is usually almost at least one or two people. It's a great place to pick up some casual role-play. It's huge, the fireplace, and the rest of the inn features a huge table that begs for guild meetings. I love it, and it shows that you don't need super high res textures to bring out that nostalgic feeling.
I love fireplaces and fires like these, but there are many more. I am not subbed to Lord of the Rings Online right now, but if you go to the Prancing Pony Inn, walk to the back. There is a small room with a fire place in it and room for a few people. That room is so cozy it's amazing, the fire cracks and pops, and I have never seen a tavern laid out like that one, with back rooms that are tight and work best when walking. It's brilliant. I also like Ryzoms fire, and too many others to name.
I can just imagine me and Leala sitting at a cracking fire with the dogs asleep at our feet. Patrons walk past and some stop to nod or to light a pipe. The crowd is varied, and the snow outside glows blue in the moonlight. Leala looks at me and smiles, acknowledging the adventure that we just had.
Ah, that wave of nostalgia for places I haven't been yet!