21st Century Brontë #5

Wicked Eyes, Wicked Hearts

I view socializing at work as a game. I realized that I’ve picked up mannerisms contrary to who I am in a relaxed setting. My hands that usually flew or pounded solid surfaces for emphasis are anchored to my sides. Usually, my friends have to remind me to quiet my undulated yapping, but with coworkers I have the tone of a well-mannered flight attendant. And I find myself laughing the moment others do despite the punchline sounding more like a general comment on the weather.

I used to think this behavior was fake. I can easily look out a window if I wanted to learn about the weather (although living in Florida can be remarkable at times). If someone is scrambling to facilitate Smalltalk that tells me that they’re uncomfortable with silence, not that they want to get to know me. So it baffled me when one of my coworkers, who I knew prior to being hired on, put on this chipper façade and laughed along with the group, participating to the roundabout of Smalltalk.

Until I started implementing this mask as well.

“Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts” is one of the main quests for the exceptional game, Dragon Age Inquisition. You initially enter with the sole objective of preventing the assassination of the ruler of Orlais, Empress Celene. The quest spans the duration of this lavish soiree hosted by the Empress herself, located at the Winter Palace. It is framed with vast, manicured courtyards and pristine fountains, the insides packed with elaborate golden rooms and a grandiose ballroom, murals adorning the high, chandeliered ceiling.

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You have no idea of when the assassination will take place or by whose hand, but swinging your staff in mid-lunge, vestments crusted with darkspawn blood won’t uncover any answers. Instead, you have to rely on this mechanic called “The Game”.

In order to extract information from nobles you have fulfil minor favors, such as recovering lost jewelry. If you explore the Palace, you can’t be away from the public for too long or else your approval rating with the court drops. And if you’re too direct with your intentions, your approval plunges as well. If you hit “0” you’re thrown out of the party and the Empress dies. The Game is like a dance, swaying the court in order to gain influence, while accomplishing your own objectives, murdering hired assassins when no one is looking, and ultimately you decide who should rule all of Orlais.

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If I was playing this game as a freshman in high school, I’d be shipped back to Ferelden the moment I stepped into the palace. The art of subtlety is a wasted trade on me; my friends still won’t let me live down the one time where I lied to this girl I couldn’t stand because I didn’t want to relinquish my gum. Not even a few minutes later I whipped out the pack to share with an actual friend. I heard the girl’s mouth would’ve clattered to the table if we were in a cartoon.

Now I’m not tactless to that degree anymore, but I’m still terrible at this Game. I thought I’d be better at this considering that writing is somewhat pathological lying. On paper, we enter the bodies of whichever personality needed for the given the situation. Only with this job did I learn that “fakeness” is really partaking in societal norms of donning masks to fit within the surrounding environment. Swearing around friends is normal, while that language would garner a lecture on Jesus from my grandpa. I can’t really tackle a bear the same way I would the conversation of an Orlesian diplomat.

And the first conversation to my boss over dinner and drinks really shouldn’t be about taking my hamster to the vet to have his teeth filed. It’s more of a balancing act of sounding interesting but not divulging too much information, controlling the flow of others’ perception of who I am. I’ve forged a better mask in order to fit in with my peers, not faking my personality but placing a more acceptable filter over it. A Diet Brontë if you will.

I guess this is just another part of becoming an adult.

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21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

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