Trouble Thinking

June 21, 2012

Gaming and Women

Okay that’s an ambitious title I can in no way back up. I can’t really speak to the whole experience of women with games. But there’s been some shit stirred recently that caught my interest and made me slightly frustrated with the way conversations about ‘geeky’ media and feminism go. So first off: the very capable media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been doing this Feminist Frequency thing for a while and it’s quite nice! It’s bite-sized explanations of a lot of shit everyone should probably have a handle on. She likes games, so she decided to do similar explanatory videos about tropes and women in games. Basically, here’s what is meant by “damsel in distress”, here’s why some people take issue with it being a cliche, maybe shape up slightly?

So, she got just craploads of death threats and rape threats and … well one guy said he’d never date her which isn’t really a “threat” per se but suffice it to say her entry into the ‘gaming community’ proper with this video series was met immediately with some pretty harsh fucking words. Now, in a nice countermove here Kickstarter asking for $6,000 got funded for $158,917. So, that’s nice. But the thing is, the fact that the reaction to seeing the word ‘feminist’ next to the word ‘videogames’ got a significant portion of the internet crazy mad is not great. There’s also the fact that a rather large number of people responded to her discussing that with ‘Well that’s just how things are you know? You have to let it roll off your back.’ Which ignores the fact that in a lot of circles being inundated with rape and murder threats is not considered the cost of doing business. And it probably shouldn’t be!

Which leads to this interesting post on the blog of one Foz Meadows: rape culture and gaming. Also, on Pandagon: Geeks, You Have a Problem. Basically, there’s a simultaneous assumption by geeks that we’re too smart to be privileged or misogynistic or racist or whatever but if you want to change a goddamn thing about anything we will cut you. After arguing at a ridiculous length about this for years, I feel like it mostly comes down to people who are nice deciding that means they cannot do a bad thing. Well, no that goes too far obviously nice people realize if they just shot a dude it’s probably bad. But I’ve met a hell of a lot of nice people who don’t find using homophobic slurs particularly bad. It just means ‘stupid’, man! Get over it! It’s different! Anyway point is I will destroy mountains before I stop saying this one word I got in the habit of saying for no reason.

Nice people are extremely stubborn when you ask them to change any behavior that cannot be directly demonstrated to harm another person the moment it happens. Because for fuck’s sake, they had a groove. Now, you’re asking them to reevaluate everything and maybe never do some of the things they’re used to doing. That seems pretty mean! So feminist complaints about gaming culture are reduced to the nagging of shrill harpies who just don’t get us. Look, if you’re made uncomfortable by the unrelenting misogyny on display at tournaments, or the trailer for Hitman and the new Lara Croft game having an attempted rape in it but I’m not it sounds like you’re just a whiner. It often gets shifted to a censorship discussion because geeks feel more comfortable in that arena. But the thing is, no one is interested in censoring a goddamn thing. Ms. Sarkessian isn’t making a series of videos about ‘what games need to be destroyed’, she’s making a series of videos about what tropes exist, why they exist, and what that means for female gamers. The exploration of the concept that things may not be perfect is seen as an attack worthy of a pretty outsized response. And of course, the nice kind good people of the geek community say well that’s just 4chan they’re crazy I would never do that but anyway it kind of sounds like you’re just being whiny I never had a problem don’t censor games I like here’s a few examples of good characters that totally disprove everything they’re just doing what sells! They’re totally on your side they can’t stand those damn commenters either but have you ever thought about how all these weak-ass arguments prove you should shut up?

Look I love Bayonetta, it is the best. But I don’t think the hair-fetish shit was really the reason I had so much fun with it. I’m amazed that in a genre of media so much more defined by mechanics than narrative there’s such push-back against the ideas presented by feminist critiques.

Also worth reading: Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat. One of the pieces I found really interesting talked about how gender-neutral games were until some pretty random events kicked them into being a male-centric thing to do.

Also: Women beat 18-34 men for tech adoption and purchasing power. In case you talk to someone trying out that “just what sells” pile.

November 3, 2011

Bastion is Great, Buy It After The Steam Sale Ends.

Filed under: Game News, Game Reviews, Video Games — Tags: , , , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:53 am


Bastion is such a danged excellent experience, I recommend you pay more than $7.50 for it. In fact, not only should wait until you have the opportunity to pay $15, you should send Supergiant games an extra $5 to thank them.

Briefly, Bastion is a beautifully rendered dungeon crawl/action-RPG. Less briefly, Bastion tells the story of a young man who wakes up to find the world has shattered around him in the night and sets out to put everything back together. He’s guided… well, you’re guided, by the voice of an old man telling the story of how he does it. The narrative conceit, added late in the development apparently, works amazingly well. You’re gently guided to the right paths, you get commentary on your actions that can be pithy or surprisingly touching. There are also some very well done bits where the old man can only tell you what he thinks may have happened, which is a nice way of turning the previously omniscient narrator into a portion of the story.

Bastion is a triumph of form over function. It’s a game type I’ve played dozens if not hundreds of times before. You walk, you smack, you gather, you build. But with an astoundingly deft touch, the writing and art direction manages to make you care so much more than you expect in a game like this. It comes, appropriately, in both big and little pieces. The beautiful painted landscapes that rise out of nothing to meet you as you run, the spare lines of text that hint at a society you wish you could have seen in full flower, the way the narrator seems ashamed of the fact that he needs to send a kid to do the dirty work, the distant music from a time you’re trying to bring back. All of these pieces of design lift what could have been a standard slogging kill-fest into something simultaeously melancholy and heartening.

This is one of the few games where the compulsion toward completionism that I tend to feel regardless carried some emotional weight. I wasn’t making sure I had all the upgrade structures, I was putting back the pieces of a shattered world so that a hard-working kid could finally rest. I wasn’t getting achievements, I was paying tribute to the people that would be forgotten without me. Its a game with few characters, but it makes you feel for all of them. Including the beasts you need to kill to make your way in the world. It’s not mawkish or sentimental, either. It just presents you with a situation that is unfortunate and too few options to fix it.

Through these touches Bastion achieves one of the best game narratives I’ve seen, using subtle strokes to tell a story bigger than the part you play in it.

The best recommendation I can give is that immediately upon finishing it, I wanted to wipe my memory and start again from the beginning. Hell, it’s got a newgame+, I may do just that.

Buy Bastion at Half Off!

September 30, 2011

Addictiveness Will Kill Games

So hey! Gaming! Oh man, isn’t it cool how everyone basically plays games now? Even Grandma knows the Book of a Thousand Faces has some jingly-jangly things on it you can entertain yourself with. It’s like your hobby has “gone viral” or “mainstream” or “maybe now people will listen to my Starcraft stories”.

And it’s really a good thing. I’m a fan of it! It’s a form of entertainment with a lot to give and not enough people treated it seriously. If only 5% of the population watched films, we’d be poorer for it. So yes! Everyone should get their hands on a game and give it a shot. And, also, I’d love it if each and every game they tried playing weren’t a payload specifically designed to destroy their life and finances, finally leeching the calcium from their bones and rolling back, bloated with the life-force of what used to be a human being, to sinister men who make their beds in the acute angles of reality.

There is a focus, unambiguous and unashamed, on making games “addictive”. It’s used as metaphor, a buzzword because hahaha games aren’t a real drug wiiiiink get it we just mean make it like it’s a horrible destructive worthless thing designed to promote self-harm. And to an extent, that’s true. Chemical addiction hits harder and more often. But that doesn’t mean that non-physical addictions don’t exist. Ask someone who lost their kid’s college fund gambling if they felt fully cognizant at the time. The point is, as terribly fearmongering as “mom leaves kid in car to play WoW” and the like are, it’s fundamentally a bad thing to be focused more on exploiting customers via addiction than producing a fine product.

And that’s where we are. Zynga is a success. It’s not the devil, no. Their shitty facebook games aren’t hurting people. But then, they aren’t supposed to. They’re supposed to exploit well-studied psychological triggers in order to transfer money from people to Zynga.

Other people have followed eagerly, including major established developers. The actual game has been identified as a barely-necessary middleman, something to be created in as spare a manner as possible, in order that people get hooked on the transference of money out of their pockets. Many modern game developers have stated implicitly that they would be delighted if they could simply avoid the messy business of actually crafting a game, and get on with tapping into the spines of unwary consumers. If “Dragon Age Legends” sold more copies than Dragon Age 2, you’d never see a full game from EA again.

Yes, it’s nice that people are playing games, and it’s nice that games are breaking into previously untapped demographics. Yay for a broader culture, maybe we’ll all learn something.

But for fucks sake, people playing Farmville shouldn’t be playing that when something like Anno 1404 is on the market. I know I know, it isn’t browser based, it’s not free, there’s a learning curve… all valid issues. But the thing is they shouldn’t be playing something more substantial in order to receive some sort of cultural cachet from me. They should be playing something more substantial because at least the people who created that tried to give them something. It’s not the difference between seeing Rashomon and seeing Transformers so much as it is the difference between seeing Rashomon and getting shanked in the ankle.

The people making these shit little money-sinks do not like you. Yes, you can still find their products fun. But that is an accident, one they hope to correct in the future.

God damn I hope no one paid $99 for that fucking Dragon Age Facebook game.

Here’s an interesting piece from an industry insider that spurred this post to a large extent. He does get a little bit wanky and verbose, so feel free to skip everything after the first page.

March 15, 2011

PAX East Impressions!

Filed under: Interesting Things, News, The Internet, Video Games — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 9:00 am

 

 

 

What’s PAX East, you say? Generally a good time is what!

PAX is a convention the was begun in 2004 by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known as Gabe and Tycho, creators of the smash hit webcomic “Penny Arcade”. Basically, there have been some industry conventions and expos geared more towards insiders and press for a variety of game-related things for a long time, the big ones I know about are E3 for videogames, Gencon for tabletop/card/board games and the San Diego Comic-Con for comic books (and games and movies and…)

So, being giant dorks with an enormous and dedicated fanbase that shared a passion for a variety of games, Gabe and Tycho figured hey why not hold a just “we all pretty much like games” convention?  The first year drew a (relatively) small number of people, about 3,000. People were generally entertained, a massive LAN party was held, and a game competition called the Omegathon began the tradition of holding a tournament that featured an eclectic variety of games, in keeping with the spirit of the thing (the first round of the initial Omegathon was a dice game, the last was Pong).
So, good times. It grew, though. Shit did it grow. It’s sitting pretty at about 90,000 attendees in Washington and has spun off recently, producing PAX East in Boston in 2010. PAX East began at 50,000 attendees and has also grown crazy a lot. Between the original PAX (now called PAX Prime) and PAX East, basically almost 150,000 people attend these things over the course of the year.

And one of them was me! I was there! That’s what you should take away from this: it was important this year because I was there. Some other people I knew were there too, but they shouldn’t really figure in your opinion. They were there as dressing, mostly.

It was a nice time!

Initial impressions:

Pros:

-Really crazy big convention center, plenty of room for all the events

-Many interesting games on display on the Expo floor space with various levels of actually having shit to do at them. Some were tiny little booths where you could try an indie game on a Calecovision (Fez still isn’t out, and yet looks to be fucking finished), and some were humongous ridiculous extravagances without actually having anything anyone could play.

-A huge room dedicated to tabletop gaming stuff, including a “library” where we could try out games that crazy people who are super into boardgames buy that cost like $90

-The “Freeplay” area, though we only used it for like 40 minutes, was really pretty great. Just check out a game and some controllers, take it to a console in set up in another room, and hang out with friends. It was pretty fun to wind down there after they closed the main expo floor.

-There’s a charity that passes out cookies for donations. That was awesome.

-There was a stage for Dance Central, a game designed to test the limits of your shame, which was pretty entertaining to walk by.

-The one presentation we all went to, the Deus Ex panel, was pretty excellent.

-Brink. Brink Brink Brink Brink. I never actually stood in line to play because the Hangers On were pretty insistent that waiting an hour for a game they didn’t care about was somehow rude but it looked completely sweet.

-The Enforcers, a sort of ad-hoc community policing/organizing group were all pretty nice and helpful!

-We figured out that so long as we got at least 3 free shirts, the con paid for itself (assuming $15 per shirt)!

-Other people in attendance were generally very amiable, if shy!

-Getting to see shit earlier and in more detail than normal people makes you feel like a wizard!

Cons:

-Lines were insane, like Disney World. I got to play exactly a single game for actuals, because a group of four people isn’t going to just stop for an hour because one of us saw something interesting

-The panels on Saturday just weren’t really interesting. I mean, seeing a demo of Deus Ex was pretty neat because well shit that’s the game that powered my tiny heart for like 2 years when I was 12, but a lot of the ones I looked at seemed to be some form of “we show you something you saw already on Gametrailers”. I wouldn’t have minded more panels not promoting something. I was disappointed I missed the “You’re not a game designer” one.

-There was a lot of wasted space, and a ton of crowding. The Portal line snaked around the booth twice.

-There was way too little signposting, making it hard to find places. And I mean the entrance from the T and the actual main entrance queue were on opposite ends of the building. Also, it was tough to tell where shit was/what shit was on the expo floor. The space on the expo floor was very cluttered, and there wasn’t a clear design to the layout. Some booths were unclear about whether or not there was anything playable at them (*cough* Portal. The free shirt made up for it)

-Lots of events are really long and mutually exclusive. My friends and I could have played one game of D&D for funsies, but it would have meant missing absolutely all other content at the expo.

-Everything needed more space/consoles/computers/whatever. Because literally the entire crowd basically wanted a go at all the things there, there wasn’t ever a lull in any of the lines.

-The lack of a cookie brigade in my everyday life, now that it is apparent, is heart-wrenching.

Overall, it was a pretty positive experience. Fun times, good crowd, lots to see, and no one went home with any bruises. It was uniquely congenial, feeling like something put together more as a party than a trade show. I highly recommend that if you’re into anything remotely like a game, you check it out next March.

I’ll post in detail about a couple of things over the week! In the meantime, you won’t see those posts because I will not have made them yet.

February 27, 2011

Interstellar Marines – AAA Indie Investment Opportunity

Hey all,

Durandal recently posted an interesting blurb about the in-development FPS called Interstellar Marines.

The big thing behind their development is they’re an independent studio earning money largely through donations from interested gamers who want to see the game made. It’s sort of like raising venture capital on a grassroots scale. They were encouraging donations by offering little things like shiny avatars and badges and extra or advance content access, but now for the next few months they’re offering shares in their holding company for people who contribute above a certain amount, at an average price of $5 per share.

A paste from their official announcement is included below:

Today, Gert – the majority shareholder in Zero Point Holding A/S – launches his “Shares for Support Medals Giveaway” initiative, taking crowd-funding to a whole new level!

The following message is from Gert Haar-Jørgensen the co-founder and majority shareholder in Zero Point Holding A/S (ZPH), the company that owns all IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) for the Interstellar Marines franchise:

My name is Gert, the so-called “rich uncle” and to cut to the chase my crazy idea is to give away shares for Support Medals purchased on InterstellarMarines.com! (Please read on for details).

Gert may not be Lvl16 in Bullseye, but he’s the primary reason why we’re here today!
Gert may not be Lvl16 in Bullseye, but he’s the primary reason why we’re here today!

Background

People were commenting on our forums that they would like to support more but didn’t get anything beyond the first 20 Support Medals. Additionally Nocheiner asked if it was somehow possible to achieve shareholder ownership in addition to the initial pre-purchase and support of our games!

Based on these discussions an idea came to me recently and this article outlines my personal initiative to make these requests a reality.

The “Shares for Support Medals Giveaway”

My idea is simple; I will give away 100.000 of my personal shares in ZPH for Support Medals (Total ZPH shares is 1.211.605), which could potentially accumulate to $500.000 in revenue and take this AAA Indie initiative to a whole new level.

To anyone who owns more than 20 Support Medals, I will personally transfer 10 of my ZPH shares for every 10 additional Support Medals owned. Hence if you own 30 Support Medals – the first 20 Support Medals “pimp’s” your marine badge and the next 10 Support Medals earns you 10 of my ZPH shares.

Support Medals are purchased in the shop via PayPal and go directly into the PayPal account of Zero Point Holding A/S avoiding any ideas of misappropriation.

We already have several Super-Supporters who owns more than 20 Support Medals and I will obviously honor these in the same fashion, retrospectively.

The “Shares for Support Medals Giveaway” is time-limited to 3 months (ending May 31st 2011) to allow everybody to get their ZPH Share Certificates in one go, avoiding spiraling legal costs for me.

Click HERE to goto our upgrade page!
Support Medals automatically upgrades your marine badge and shows other community members the amount of support you’ve purchased!

Step-by-step details

  • On May 31st 2011 all Community Members with more than 20 Support Medals are informed via email about their share-entitlement (10 ZPH shares for every 10 Support Medals above the first 20 Support Medals).
  • Community Members provide me with full name and address and signs a Transfer Agreement with me (Please see below).
  • The official ZPH share register is updated with the Danish authorities (Companies House, Inland Revenue etc.) during the first week of June 2011 and ZPH Share Certificates (PDF) is sent via email to all community shareholders in versions of 10, 100, 1000 complete with full name, address and unique certificate number from the official ZPH share register.

Transfer Agreement

The Transfer Agreement covers that the eligible Community Member takes on responsibility for registering his/her shareholding as appropriate in their country / jurisdiction and, in the case of future dividend payments (if we are so lucky), that they personally submit to paying all taxes etc. due from these as well as provide account details etc. for electronic transfers (or collects at own expense) etc., to avoid a back-lash, either way, in the future.

To avoid having too fragmented a voting process at Annual General Meetings and Board Meetings, the Transfer Agreement also requests that Community Members transfer their vote, by Proxy, to me. I hope the members concerned will trust me to do right by them.

Final words and thoughts

To elevate the public awareness and acknowledgement of the “Shares for Support Medals Giveaway” my guys at Zero Point Software (ZPS) have promised me that they’ll implement cool shareholder ribbons to member profile pages, comments and forum posts, as soon as possible.

I have to emphasize that this is a personal initiative of mine, which means that all inquiries and feedback have to be directed at me (gert@haarjorgensen.com), not ZPH or ZPS. I have my fellow shareholders’ approval for transferring my shares to Support Medal owners, as long as it does not affect them directly.

In the end I would rather share the potential upside, with the ones that truly matter; You – the IM community – than selling big chunks to “suits” that do not share our passion for games!

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME,

g

~~~~~~~

Whether or not owning shares in this company is a wise investment I leave to the individual to decide, but I think it’s a clever way to offer at least a small amount of ownership to players in the community who simply don’t have the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to be venture capitalists in the traditional sense. As a man who can afford a couple hundred dollars of investment at best, I’d love to see a similar approach take root in other interesting indie games trying to get off the ground.

 

February 20, 2011

Infinity by I-Novae Studios

Several days ago a colleague of mine showed me a youtube video that absolutely took my breath away. It’s a technology demo for an in-development computer game called Infinity, and though it’s still in earlier stages of development it looks to be something truly special. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.

The elegance behind the I-Novae engine is that planets, stars and environments are procedurally generated using complex algorithms, meaning each planet, star, or element doesn’t need to have the bits stored on a disc or on a server somewhere to be looked up and instanced. Rather, the engine will generate an object for the user on an as-needed basis, allowing the developers to implement a persistent full scale galaxy of billions of stars without needing the data of billions of stars to be pre-written to memory.

Procedurally generated elements are not the same as randomly generated elements. If two players are each visiting the same planet, the seed assigned to that planet will cause the procedural algorithms to recreate the same planet for both observers. Infinity is an MMO designed around this engine, and from first impression promises to be a game which is very unique.

What I like most about the planned game play of Infinity is the fact that there are NO classes, races, levels, cooldowns or other traditional RPG progression mechanics. Combat is real time and dependent entirely on player skill, and unlike EVE, you won’t need to spend 3 years building up skills to have the ability to use big capital ships. The game is incredibly open ended, player driven and (forgive the pun) astronomical in scale.

It will probably be a few more years before Infinity is released, as the small independent studio behind the game is currently working to polish up the game engine for sale and licensing. Still, I’m content to wait if it means that they can deliver the sort of game they’re promising to. It’s finding gems like these that make me wish I had a wealth of venture capital to invest.

Official Infinity Site: http://www.infinity-universe.com

I-Novae Studio Site: http://inovaestudios.com/index.htm

Are you interested in other interesting things? Of course you are! Read my review of DreamKeepers Volumes 1 and 2!

January 28, 2011

Burn, chibi, burn?

Filed under: Game Reviews, Sports, Video Games — Tags: , , , , — Katherine Barclay @ 5:38 pm

So, I’ve avoided the Wii ever since it came out. I’ll admit, this had a lot to do with the fact that I was broke, and anyway, I never play games, so why exactly would I need a new console? Also, it asks you to, like … do things to make things happen on the screen, and ‘point and click’ is simple enough of a computer but gets remarkably confusing when you ask me to do it to my television. It also didn’t really help that the only games being made for the Wii  were tack-ons to franchises that I never really got involved with in the beginning — the ninth Zelda thing is probably a lot of fun for people who know who Link is, but for me he’s just That Guy Who Came Before Legolas, and it’s not really all that thrilling.

The one thing that did intrigue me was Wii-fit, mostly because it seemed too cute and soft and fluffy to be any good. I mean, everyone knows how exercise is supposed to work — you run around your dingy block fifteen times, or you go to your dingy gym, and struggle to figure out how the equiment works before the scary muscular guy waiting behind you decides you’re wasting his time and kills you over the leg press thingy. This soft-edged white board with it’s encouraging child-like voice is in complete contrast with that, and the adorable cartoon pictures that guide you through the exercises seemed too … well, silly, to be any good.

Seriously, what's up with these soft happy grey people? That's not exercise, it's interpretive dance!But my friends just got a Wii, and with nothing better to do with my evenings I bribed them into letting me try it, to see what all this fuss was about.  And, much to my surprise, I’ve actually found it to be remarkably … well, exercisey.

Sure, it took a while to get there – the gateway into Wiifit seems to be balance games, mini games that involve you throwing your weight around like a crazy person to walk a tightrope across a gap, or float a bubbleboat down a river without crashing into the rocks, or trying not to get hit in the head with flying soccer cleats. Each game seemed simplistic and a little big juvenile, but I quickly discovered that “doing my best” got me a measley one or two stars, and the unimpressive title of Amateur. In order to do well at even the simplest of these little games actually takes work, and muscles were aching the next day that I didn’t even really know I had.

And that’s the easiest of the options – if you’re feeling a little bit braver, the Aerobics section is full of equally chibi-looking childlike exercises … except that these ones actually make you work. A reasonably simple-looking hula hoop game that makes you swivel your hips like an idiot ended up with me panting after a minute and a half and their step-aerobics game requires a deceptive amount of precise muscle control (combined with a healthy amount of luck) to get the balance board to think you’ve done it perfectly. And if you’re feeling slightly more hardcore, there’s also free running, measured by putting the little remote thing in your pocket, and boxing, which involves flailing at the screen like an idiot while a deep-voiced black chibi man yells at you. Each of these last two start off reasonably short, with a 2-3 minute run and a 4 minute boxing set, but doing each short game a few times unlocks a longer version. And while four minutes of non-stop boxing seems easy enough, I quickly discovered that eleven minutes was hard.

No, it probably doesn’t match up to going to a gym and actually hitting the machines, but mixing and matching a combination of strength exercises (pushups still kill me, but I’m surprised by how well I did at the leg ones) and yoga and the aforementioned aerobics, I actually left the game feeling like I’d accomplished something. Sore muscles  on day two eventually started to fade, and a week later I can do a ten minute run without getting out of breath, where a week ago four minutes killed me.

It’s baby steps, but for someone with no access to a gym and a burning hatred for running around blocks, I’m surprised to say that I’m actually really enjoying this thing. Anyone who already has a Wii who’s looking for an easy-to-commit-to exercise regime that doesn’t feel like a chore might do well to check it out!

January 19, 2011

Star Trek Online: Engaging!

Filed under: Computers, Game Reviews, Video Games — Tags: , , , — Katherine Barclay @ 3:04 pm

I know, I know, terrible pun. Let’s just move on from that, shall we, because I’m about to make a point that I never thought I’d make.

Star Trek Online

I have long hated MMOs. No, I’ve never had a subscription to that WoW thing that so successfully ensnared so many people, and maybe that makes me unable to truly judge, but the point of the matter for me is that I’ve never wanted one. I’ve watched people play, and I’ve watched people play other MMOs, and at the end of the day, they have always seemed massively unappealing to me. The dual points of the game seem to be a) get as high level as possible as quickly as possible, because that’s where all of the fun things are, and b) to get yourself as deeply burried in a guild as possible, because those fun things often end up being really hard to do alone.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with either of those notions, especially if you’re the sort of person who’s looking to put hours upon hours into his or her game of choice.

The problem, for me, is always what each part implies: levelling, to the best of my observation, tends to involve a lot of monotonous repetition of mundane if not utterly tiresome game elements, all leading up to the chance to actually access the interesting parts. Do people really enjoy killing porings that much? Did porings traumatise you as children, that they must now be hunted down and slaughtered to a head? It reminds me of Pokemon, and how you’d have to spend hours walking around this one little square of grass to get your entire party from level 2 to level  49 — only at least with Pokemon, there were no other trainers walking around, laughing about how long it was taking you to do it, and whether your pokemon were 5th level or 55th, in the end you were still just a kid.

And as far as guilds go, it has always seemed to me that they make gameplay much more restricting than they do freeing, from a (vaguely) objective point of view. Those guild-attached players who I have had the pleasure of witnessing (anecdotal evidence is 90% of the law?) always seemed concerned, if not downright obsessed, with how their guild would perceive their actions. Gameplay now had to happen Just So, and at such specific times because of in-guild actions of various sorts that even the least obsessive people I know tended to start treating it like a job. A job they really enjoyed, but a job nonetheless, with the fear of being fired if you don’t perform to the boss’s standard.

Which is why I resisted as hard as I could, when I was offered a month’s subscription to play Star Trek Online … and why I’m surprised as all hell to have ended up enjoying it thoroughly. (more…)

October 14, 2010

MMORPG Anonymous

Filed under: Video Games — Mrs. Orange @ 2:34 am

Hi, my name is Lisa and I am addicted to the World of Warcraft. It’s been one year and two months since I last logged in.

I deleted the game off of my computer and cancelled my account. I have placed my trust in a higher power. I have apologized to the people whom I have wronged.

But I’m talking to you today because Cataclysm is coming out in a couple months, and sometimes, during the long and lonely nights, I’m afraid I lack the strength to resist its pull.  It’s during these weaker moments that I remember the good times spent /laughing with friends and running dungeons with Aldonza, my DPS machine. But, even then, I can’t forget the fact that three years with that game has left a mark on my psyche that I feel even after a year of sobriety.

Aside from the little things, like salivating when I hear the word “epic” and getting inexplicably irritated when someone mentions Chuck Norris, the game warped my ego. I gained an inflated sense of importance that doesn’t seem to translate into real-world confidence and life skills.

I used to be a financial genius that could manipulate the Azerothian economy to suit my mount-related needs. Now, when I ask my mom if I should start saving for retirement, she laughs at me. I used to have valuable skills and sought-after talents that contributed to the well being of my guild. Now, I can make a sort-of-decent pie. I constantly lament the fact that you can’t level up basic world understanding in a point-based system and that my smaller achievements tend to go unacknowledged.

I am also left with a physical reminder of my former addiction. As I type this, I feel the phantom pain of one-too-many rogue-style backstabs radiating from my wrist. Too veiled? Yes, WoW gave me carpal tunnel. Similar to how a meth addict will have to deal with the unfortunate ramifications of “meth face” the rest of his or her life, I have to deal with a right wrist that lacks a full range of motion. But we all have our crosses to bear.

I think that it’s fair to say that I’ve never regretted quitting, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. I just miss the state of arrested development that the game provided; Azeroth is so much easier to live in than Earth. Mistakes aren’t permanent and the character you invest so much time and money on ultimately isn’t a reflection of yourself, which makes it easy to abandon. But I’m in the real world now and, unfortunately, it’s just me. I want to become a fully functioning member of society, but I’m not sure I’m specced for that.

October 9, 2010

Your Nerdy Question of the Day

Filed under: Comics, Video Games — Tags: , , — Chris @ 10:02 am

Despite being “designed only for killing,” has MODOK ever actually killed anybody?

More like "Mental Organism Designed Only for Bullshit"

This question brought to you by MODOK’s announcement as a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Yes. Really.

 

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