So this is Christmas?

Maybe you’re wondering what two dudes in medieval armor, about to go Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on each other, have to do with Christmas (or writing)?

I’ll get to that in a bit…

Christmas is upon us, commonly held as a favorite holiday by many. And there are obviously many reasons for that.

For some, it’s the spiritual nature of the holiday. For others, nostalgia or the weather or a combination of all the above.

But here’s my theory: part of what makes Christmas so enjoyable is escapism.

A good ‘ol ducking out from day-to-day reality.

People turn their living rooms and front lawns into magical wonderlands of lights and characters.

Attitudes lighten.

We give and get.

The very atmosphere overflows with not-your-typical-part-of-the-year joy.

It’s the same reason people love a good fantasy or science fiction novel; we crave that escape into the fantastical.

Which brings me to our boxing duo, and an unexpected writing lesson they taught me.

The Louisiana Renaissance Festival

So once again, I dressed up like my main character from Path of Relics. Yup, that’s me as Terry (kind of), doing my best “bow and arrow.” My daughter gave me lessons.

This is our second year at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, and just like last year, we had a blast. The turkey legs, the mead, the endless shops with items so cool and unique you want to buy it all. (My wallet was fatally wounded. Seriously, critical hit.)

But one of the best experiences was the “Tournament of Arms” competition.

Imagine our great joy to arrive 30 minutes early to the “arena,” only to find almost every seat taken. But we were there for the experience; I told myself. We did our best to settle in.

As grown men in full armor stretched and warmed up, I prepared to watch what I expected to be a choreographed fight. Just something to let modern day crowds imagine what combat back then might have looked like.

Y’know… a little escapism.

Boy, was I wrong.

The first fights featured no weapons, just two people in full armor throwing fists. The game master called the fight to begin, and these folks went at each other full force.

The first punch landed against the other guy’s helmet like a gunshot. The crowd gasped appropriately.

These fighters weren’t playing around.

This was real.

The crowd leaned in.

Round after round, these men and women duked it out in full armor, but all with great sportsmanship. After each round, they helped each other off the ground and hugged it out.

Then they went back to throwing gauntlets at each other’s jaws.

The next round progressed to shields and weapons. While the swords were wooden, the impact when hitting the opponent’s armor was, again, very real.

And I realized something…

These fights differed from most fiction fights in two important ways.

They were cautious and brief.

Like modern boxing, much of the match involved the fighters sizing each other up, hesitating to strike until their footwork and movements created an opening.

And once they closed the distance, the “killing blow” often happened quickly.

A feint resulted in a hasty block, which opened the other fighter’s defense for the true strike to torso or head. Or a quick slash to the legs snuck in completely unseen. Which, given the low field of view in those armored helmets, makes total sense.

Some fights had a decent back and forth, with repeated blocks, disengagements, then going back at it. But these were the exceptions.

Overall, what stood out to me was the intense focus on making your every move count, because in real life, your life would depend on it.

Fantasy fights are often very different, aren’t they?

The characters block, dodge, do back flips, tangle, disentangle, draw superficial first blood, PARKOUR…

It’s fun. It’s also engaging. But in a different way that’s not exactly accurate.

It’s escapism.

And you know what?

I think that’s fine.

Seeing (somewhat) the real deal was eye opening. And while some of what I experienced will likely find its way into my writing, in fiction, the “rule of cool” must have its say.

Just like with Christmas, we crave the fantastical. That romantic break from reality that makes fiction special.

Besides, I get a bit of a pass with Path of Relics. The game world may be just as real as our own, but it’s still a game. Sure, the in-game events mean life or death for people in the real world, but the fights themselves play by different rules.

Players and NPCs having health meters mean they don’t approach fighting in the same way as we would in real life.

But maybe, just maybe, in Path of Relics: Dark Throne, I’ll play around with that concept a bit.


I hope you have a very happy holidays, and get all the escapism you desire.

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