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The Questionnaire

October 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

Jasy of Cannot be Tamed suggested that bloggers answer a gaming questionnaire.  I’ve been sitting on it a while, but finally took the time to answer the last few questions.  In the spirit of other such “challenges,” I’d like to suggest the staff writers of Epic Slant Press who have not yet answered these questions take the time to do so.  I’m curious who my new coworkers are!

  • When did you start playing video games?
    • My first video games were on the Atari 2600, as my mother was interested in computers from when they first became prevalent in her life during the 1970s.  I don’t have any specific memories of the Atari, but I do remember our next system, the Commodore 64, which is still in stasis in our attic somewhere because I’ve staunchly refused to let them throw it away.  I specifically remember the cartridges and 5¼ floppies on which I played Frogger, Cleopatra’s Needle, Summer Games, and a game where you rode a unicycle and kicked balloons up in the air (Kickman, perhaps?), but I’m sure there were others.  I also remember some very early text-based adventures that I was far too young to understand at the time, which means they didn’t get much play.
    • After the Commodore was the Tandy 1000, on which I know I started playing role playing games.  I don’t remember any specific titles for the Tandy 1000, but that’s likely because we didn’t get one until after the Nintendo came out, and I’m QUITE sure I got my first Nintendo in May of 1987 for my birthday.
    • The only other really significant computer gaming milestone came for me in 8th grade when I won a writing contest, the prize of which was a x386 computer.  I don’t remember the model of it, but it was mine.  It was my first computer, and I’ve had one of my own ever since then.  Of course, that also taught me a very important lesson should I ever decide to be a parent: DON’T LET YOUR KID HAVE A COMPUTER IN THEIR ROOM.
  • What is the first game you remember playing?
    • As above, I can specifically remember some of the Commodore 64 games.  I know that in Summer Games, for instance, my by far best sport was pole vault.  I have no idea why.
  • PC or Console?
    • Both, of course.  After the x386 I got an early intel chip (I don’t remember which one, but I skipped over the x486 model entirely), then better and better computers up until now.  I think I’ve owned – let me see if I can remember – probably 7 computers since I was in 8th grade?  That seems about right.  In the same time frame I’ve owned the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, N64, Playstation, Playstation 2, Wii, and XBox 360.
  • XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    • All of them.  I stayed with Nintendo a long time because of the Final Fantasy series, which I also jumped to Playstation for the 7th installment of.  Each system I bought after the Super Nintendo I likely picked up for a very specific game, which usually then left me disappointed in the rest of them.  The XBox is the exception – I got that for free when I purchased a laptop and barely have used it at all.  I played Portal 2 on it, and that’s about it.
  • What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    • I’ll have to go by genre:
      • JRPGs: Final Fantasy 3 (aka 6 – the one with Terra and Locke and Shadow)
      • Computer RPGs: Fallout 2
      • Platformers: Klonoa - yes, that’s a weird one, but it was excellent
      • Shooters: Does Fallout 3 count?  If not, then Borderlands 2
      • 4x: Honestly, I think it was Galactic Civ 2 or Space Empires 4; I can’t really differentiate them in my memory any more.  What made it so good was the depth of the diplomacy system, something the more traditional Civ games have always lacked.  Of course, Master of Magic and Master of Orion 2 rank quite highly up there, as well, but they suffer in the ranking simply because I was younger and understood much less.
      • RTS: I was never really fast enough for the RTS games; I’m such a defensive player that against harder difficulties I’d always eventually be overwhelmed.  I don’t really have a “favorite” of these as a result.
      • Other: Star Control 2.  Isn’t that everyone’s?
  • What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    • I’m really not sure; they’re so forgettable.  I can certainly tell you the games I’ve been the most disappointed in:
  • Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    • Half-Life 2.  Yeah, I said it.  I don’t know why, but it just never did much for me.
  • Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    • EYE: Divine Cybermancy was riddled with bugs, bad translations, and had multiplayer co-op issues, but I still really liked it.  It was what Deus Ex should have been.
  • What are your favourite game genres?
    • RPGs, hands down
  • Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    • Probably Cecil from Final Fantasy 2.  He was struggling with some serious issues of loyalty versus goodness.
    • Terra from FF3, for that matter, for many of the same reasons,
    • All the Fallout protagonists, because they often have tough choices to make.
  • Describe your perfect video game.
    • It’s likely an MMO or at least a large co-op team game.  It has a variable skill system, like a Fallout game or The Secret World, smooth, action-oriented combat like TERA, a deep lore that’s available but not necessary to delve into to understand the game, and a vast collection and crafting system like Fallen Earth.
  • What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    • Kirby, and mostly because he or she is the most odd answer I could think of.  I have a wife, people, who I love very much.
  • What game has the best music?
    • You really have to ask Syl and Syp of Battle Bards questions like that.  They are, in my opinions, the custodians of a vast modern day video game music knowledge database.  The best music you might not have heard of yet, though?  Paper Sorcerer.  Check it out.
  • Most memorable moment in a game:
    • The Mysidian Twins Polom and Porom petrifying themselves in Final Fantasy 2. I cried.
  • Scariest moment in a game:
    • Most terrifying or horrifying?  Terror is way overused in both movies and games and relies only on the primal flinch/fear instinct.  Horror is about a disconnect with everything you know and understand.
      • For terror, probably the first time I played Resident Evil.  I wasn’t familiar with the zombie genre and didn’t know that they’d be getting back up if you didn’t headshot them.  I killed the first one, then turned around to putter around at a door, and then got startled when I turned back towards the “dead” zombie and found it approaching me.
        • For that matter, there was a game called Legacy: Realm of Terror by Microprose (my tied-for-favorite game developer who did X-Com and other awesome games.  It’s tied with Square Enix) that had a lot of moments like that.
        • For horror – hmmm.  Horror’s a lot harder to do.  Even the beginning of Mass Effect 3 is a bit horrible, where you see the kid, then see him again, and then see him again, and he gets killed.  That’s pretty horrible.  Undoubtedly, though, the most horrifying game series I’ve played is The Walking Dead, in which horrible things happen over and over.  Probably Duck’s death followed by his mother’s.
  • Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
    • Again, that’s probably from a Walking Dead game.  There’s so many; those games were so good.
  • What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
    • Why, it’s www.sheepthediamond.wordpress.com, of course!  But I assume you meant others.  I really like Jasy’s site, but to be fair to everyone, check out my sidebar.  I love them all.
  • What’s the last game you finished?
  • What future releases are you most excited about?
    • I don’t like the hype cycle, so I mostly stay away from it, but I’m intrigued by Star Citizen.
  • Do you identify as a gamer?
    • Yes, Shamelessly.  I don’t go around announcing it to everyone I work with, but if asked, I don’t hide it.  Since I also play pen and paper RPGs, which are far less mainstream, admitting that I play video games isn’t a big deal.
  • Why do you play video games?
    • To have fun!  I like the challenge of video games, and the stories, and the unique approaches to old genres.  I like the socialization of it, too, when I can play with my friends who live 1000s of miles away.  Video games bring people together – all games do, in fact, and even the root of the word, the “ga” sound, comes from the same root that forms gather.  Games bring us to the table, digital or physical.  What we do after is up to us.

So there’s my answers.  I hope you enjoy!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and questionnaired)

Some Kind of Shift

October 8, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’ve recently undergone some kind of shift in my playing.  I’m not certain I know what it is, but I have a theory.  I said in Illinois when I was teaching college that I had moved on the Bartle’s axes (that’s the plural of axis, there, reader, not the sharp-edged weapon) a little more towards socializer than I had been in the past.  I said at one point, in fact, that I didn’t see any reason to buy a game if it didn’t have a co-op feature that I could play with my wife or buddy.

Well, something’s slid that needle back to the other side, now.  A lot of the Humble Bundle games I’ve purchased were not co-op.  Now, admittedly, I bought packages of games, so I didn’t have full control over what I’d bought, but really, none of them were co-op.  I have again become perfectly satisfied with playing by myself.

A lot of my recent game time has been by myself, in fact.  Now, I don’t want it to seem I’m trying to isolate myself; I’ve been playing Civ games with my buddy Balkoth and Wildstar with my wife, so it’s not that I’ve become a loner, but I’ve just become more willing to sit alone and play games – like I used to be.

I suspect that this is related to my teaching.  I hypothesized before that I had become dissatisfied with hardcore WoW play and become more social in games because I was less satisfied with my job in Illinois.  I said then that the relationship with my students was different and less fulfilling than it had been in New York, where I taught 8th grade.  Now that I’m back in a public school, it may be that I’m getting my socialization in during the day the way I used to and don’t need it from games anymore.

It’s a working theory, at any rate.  We’ll see if I go through another rotation in the next few months.

In other news, I’ve been really enjoying Long Live the Queen.  It’s essentially a game where you groom a princess into becoming a queen by having her learn various skills and navigate social or political situations.  My buddy teased me about it, asking why I was “just now” buying this game since it’s “so perfectly suited for me,” but teasing aside, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.  I have no idea what the “end game” state is like, so right now I’m just doing what I think is best, as a real person in such a situation would have to.  If you haven’t heard of it, check it out; it’s definitely a little weird, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing!

One of the best features for me is that it can sit on the sidelines while I’m doing other things, then be there, ready for action (or the lack thereof in most cases), when I need something to do.  I spoke about other games like this – microsession games – not too long ago.  You can just take a turn when you can and ignore it otherwise.  The other games I’d mentioned were Candy Box and A Dark Room.  These are perfect games to have up in the background when you’re writing, playing a turn- or round-based game, or playing an MMO with someone else.  When it’s time to take a short break, there’s your next turn, ready to go.

So if you need a sideline game, that’s one to give a try.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and solo)

A Long Overdue Catch-up

October 3, 2014

Dear Reader,

As the title says, this is largely just a bullwall (think a BBB Bearwall, but with Tauren) of what I’ve been up to.  First, I think I’ve hit my stride – even being a little sick (I was a lot sick this past week) – I wasn’t desperately in need of a nap today (which is a Stubborn family tradition).  That may – MAY – mean a better correspondence schedule than the past few weeks.  I’m hoping my body is basically finally adapted to the challenge of being a public school teacher again.  To illustrate, we had a field trip to Luray Caverns today (google it), and at the end, I was a bit fatigued, but my wife was WIPED OUT.  She’s not developed the chops for it (though I’m sure she would after a few weeks, like I’ve had).

I’ve also got some big news.  I got picked up as a co-blogger on the soon-to-be-rebooted Epic Slant Press LLC Blog!  My writing will occasionally be featured there alongside two other wonderful bloggers.  I’m really excited by the opportunity to work alongside Ferrel, a long-time friend of the blog whose work has been inspiring me for a long time.    The blog there is more focused on board and card gaming, so the two sites shouldn’t compete for topics much, so I think it will be an interesting way to start thinking about a new genre.  Keep an eye out both here and there, and I’ll cross reference as I can.

In gaming news, I’ve been playing a lot of different games, thanks to the Humble Bundle.  The by-far top of the list right now is Defender’s Quest, which has been a real treasure find from the Bundle.  It’s essentially just a good ol’ fashion tower defense, but I still really like the unique aspects of the gameplay.  It’s a good mix of RPG as well, where you can level characters and choose their talents D2 style, while also getting gear (including special gear from challenges) all the while.  It’s got multiple classes, a variety of acceptable solutions to the tower defense levels, and a pretty decent story, as well.  It’s not going to win any graphics awards, but that doesn’t bother me too much.  If you’re in the market for a single-player strategy game, I’d highly recommend it.

While my brother-in-law was visiting, he, my wife, and I all played The Yawgh, one of the most fun party (if you have parties of only 3 or 4 people, like I do) games I’ve every played.  Often, party games are just a series of silly challenges designed to make people look foolish so everyone can have a nice laugh together.  This one was a cooperative story telling game with a lot of hilariously fun, unpredictable outcomes.  It was another steal from the Humble Bundle.

Lastly, I’ve been playing Wildstar.  I don’t know if I pointed that out to you before or not, dear reader.  I was keeping it a little secret, though only a little.  I only play with my wife, and her play time is very limited, so we’re still in the first zone, but we’ve been enjoying it.  It’s no great shakes; it’s another WoW-like game, which isn’t a complaint, mind you, as it builds on many of the best features of WoW.  I’m playing the Stalker, which fits my rogue-love, and my wife is playing a medic, which she seems to be enjoying.

So that’s what I’ve been up to recently.  Check out Epic Slant Press if you’ve never been there before; they’ve got a lot of neat articles, books, and games for sale, all of which I’ve enjoyed.  You could, too!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and caverned)

Happy to Help

September 26, 2014

Dear Reader,

Recently, I was contacted by Navi about a post she was tossing around that became this post.  I felt pretty honored to be her (or one of her) sounding board(s).  I figured I’d steal a little of her wind here and give myself a post for the first time in a while by publishing my response to her offering.  If you haven’t read it, you really should; it brings up a very interesting ethical situation, and besides, my post won’t make since out of context.

Here it is:

Navi,

Let me start with two of my favorite quotes:
“Redemption is the highest form of good – not justice.”
“Tolerance is meaningless without tolerance of the intolerable.”
It’s really hard to live by these quotes, and no one does all the time, but I think your attitude in this case fully embodies both of them, and I think you have a completely legitimate concern about how your guildies reacted.  Safe places have to be safe for everyone, not just the people who came in having “earned” it.  Once they misbehave – make it an “unsafe” place for others – then they go, as in this case.  But the decision is still up to them.
I had a similar situation recently.  Well, not similar, but not terribly unlike your thoughts about “What if this kid really does give up on growing up because of this?”  Balk’s flex had a really bad interaction with a guy who had routinely come with us, and a bunch of guildies went after him on openraid.  He deserved it, mind you; he said some pretty terrible things, but for god’s sake they DESTROYED this guy’s capability to find other groups.
I still have him on my friends list, by chance, because I once set up the flex when Balk was away.  I don’t want to talk to him because I assume I’ll get the same vitriol that the others got.  And again, he was horrible, right in front of me, but I feel like they might have taken it too far getting him banned from openraid.  I wondered, too, if that flex was the only thing he enjoyed during his otherwise unhappy week, and they’d taken it away.
I’m sure I’m being melodramatic, but my point is that I completely see where you’re coming from, and I think your post does a good job explaining it.  I think you should post it, assuming you’re not worried about guild blowback or anything, and I think you should use it to start a discussion about the difference between justice and prejudice.  They have the same root, after all – judgment.  They were clearly prejudiced, and perhaps for good reason, but that doesn’t mean you don’t let people try to redeem themselves.  Quite the opposite, in fact.
That’s the thing about being “good.”  You constantly have to open yourself up to situations in which you may be vulnerable, which leads to the whole Spaceballs “Good is dumb” belief.  It’s not, though.  It’s daring, and forgiving, and strong enough to survive when people often don’t end up redeeming themselves.  But still, good tries.
What do you think, dear reader?  Is it stupid to help people who are likely beyond helping?  Or does good always at least try?
Sincerely,
Stubborn (and still around, if only just)

Google Training

September 16, 2014

Dear Reader,

Today, I got to be the recipient of “Google Training.”  Naturally, this was a complete waste of my time, as I used to be one of the  (unofficial) “Google Experts” at my old community college, a place where, if I said I knew how to do something, I was respected enough to be believed. Sadly, such is not the case, anymore.  Now, though I know just about everything there is about basic Google app functionality, I get to sit through 45 minutes of “training.”

Naturally, the first fifteen minutes was used to check if I set up my non-Google gradebook properly.  At the beginning of the year, we were sent an email describing how to set up the gradebook, which I followed to the letter, as I assume most people did, so this checking over my work was, again, a waste of time.  On top of that, that I had to sit long enough to write this correspondence instead of working on things for my students certainly indicates that there was a problem.

Forgive this general venting session, but this is precisely what I hated about being a student in school; I don’t need to sit and do boring old things simply because some of my colleagues can’t follow directions, and as an adult, I damn well don’t need to be told that my work needs to be checked after I tell someone I did it.

This is a common problem with teachers; I may have fallen into it myself if I weren’t with my wife.  She put a quick stop to any of that nonsense when I started coming home and being bossy. Teachers often don’t have an “off” switch; they begin to treat other peers the same way they treat their students.  Since some teachers treat their students pretty terribly, this means that they end up treating their peers pretty terribly, too.  For example, I got snapped at today as if I was a child because I dared to point out that I had gotten the set-up email and followed the directions instead of just silently complying with the trainer’s orders.

By the end of the training, we had covered how to sign in to a Google account, change one’s password, and use Google docs.  What revolutionary new things I’ve been exposed to in this forty-five minutes of training.  What revelations.

In gaming news, well, frankly, I haven’t played any.  My parents were visiting, so I spent almost the entire time with them.  Now they’re gone, though, so I can get back to my regular routine.

More on games next time.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and poorly trained)

AFKish

September 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m currently sitting in a computer lab at my middle school while my students take yet another pre-test assessment to inform me of their capabilities.  You know, the capabilities that I’ve witnessed every day and have already informally assessed pretty well.  Lord DATA requires numbers, though, so here we are.

My parents are currently visiting, cutting further down on time i have to do things I like, such as writing our correspondences.  It’s not too much of a problem, of course, since I don’t have much time to be gaming or the like, anyway, but it’s still a bit of a bother.

For instance, I’d like to write about a guild situation that crept up this week.  I won’t go into any detail about it except that it could have been explosively bad, but thanks to the good management at both the GM and officer levels, I think everything’s basically calmed down.  There were a lot of discussions, and a lot of different opinions, but through time and conversation a lot of agreements were made that left everyone pretty much satisfied.  Not perfectly satisfied, of course; that would be impossible with virtually all forms of drama.  But satisfied enough.

It was a nice difference from what I’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to, where drama leads to more drama until it spirals out of control.  It was handled quickly and efficiently, and even though not everyone agreed, everyone worked together to bring it to a conclusion.  That was refreshing.

Of all the Humble Bundle games I’ve purchased recently, I’m still playing one on an almost-daily basis: Hand of Fate.  It’s still the jewel of the litter, and I still pretty strongly recommend it to anyone who would like a light-roguelike deck-building brawler RPG.  That’s right.  It’s all those things.

I played some Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer over the weekend with my blindish buddy and Balkoth, my GM, and except for the game crashing a few times (which has since been solved), I had a really good time, and i think my blind buddy did, too, once we put it on a lower difficulty that was more his (mine too, really) speed.  I had been feeling bad about not spending any time recently with Balk, since I can’t go on the Weds flexes anymore, so it was nice to get to do so.

At any rate, that’s me.  Time to get back to Lord DATA.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and data-driven crazy)

Embarrassed by my Gender

September 3, 2014

Dear Reader,

While I’m well aware that none of this has to do anything with me personally, the abuse that various Internet Ladies (forgive me for being raised a Southern Gentleman) have had to suffer this week has really made me embarrassed for my gender.

The thing is, I’m never really sure how to respond.  I can understand what it’s like to be bullied, threatened, harassed, and made to be afraid by people around me; I had a bad time in school with bullying, as has been discussed before.  But to suffer it on such a large scale over something as ubiquitous as gender makes me wary of acting like I know what it’s really like.  

I simply cannot understand – and never will – how people can live with themselves, can sleep at night, when they say or write such things to another person.  There’s being young, being a troublemaker, being ignorant, feeling invincible… but then there’s what we’ve seen this week.

Forgive me if this next bit seems a bit nuts, or condescending to youth, or suggests that I may not be fully in touch with reality, but when I’ve gotten pretty comfortable around someone, I have a theory I like to bring out.

Studies of the recent rise in dog attacks against humans (recent, in this case, was probably more than a decade ago now.  I’ve had this theory a long time) suggested that one cause was the lack of socialization of the dogs – meaning that neighbors weren’t bringing their dogs out any more, weren’t going to company picnics with them, weren’t taking them to the dog park as much, etc.  On top of that, dog behavior was so closely monitored that any perceived dog “fight” signals led to quick separation and isolation.  

The consequence of this dog alienation is that many dogs never learned their place in the natural “pecking order.”  They never learned that they, the individual dog, weren’t the end-all, be-all alpha of all they surveyed.  So when little Timmy grabs their tail when they’re in a bad mood, they maul his face because they’re the boss.

I wonder if there’s not some connection here with what we see in some of our more immature adults.  Having far less face-to-face socialization in their lives, be it church (which I’m not necessarily saying is “important – I never went to church) or athletics (budgets having been cut), or simply just playing outside might have this same effect.  Helicopter parenting – never letting their kids misbehave and learn the consequences (until college, where binge drinking and sexual assaults are hugely rising) might lead to similar outcomes.  Each kid thinks they’re the end-all, be-all of all they can see.

Never having had to suffer, sacrifice, or even just survive (even something as temporary as bullying) seems to have left a huge morality gap in some of my and younger generations.  It’s the same emptiness that Bret Easton Ellis captures in books like  Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho (the final being a hyperbolic satire of precisely the kind of behavior I’m talking about in dogs) and Chuck Palahniuk lampoons with his self-centered, unlikable characters (who, unlike Ellis’s, often change by the end).   The popularity of both in recent years doesn’t seem a coincidence.  

It may be wrong to compare human behavior, which we wish to be rational, to animal behavior, which we may not believe can be rational.  That’s one reason I don’t blurt that theory to everyone I meet.  Still… I wonder.  One of my favorite quotes, one I’m sure I’ve used here before, relates to our ability to think rationally, comes from Gene Wolfe (though I read it in A General Theory of Love).

”We say ‘I will’ and ‘I will not,’ and imagine ourselves our own masters, when the truth is our true masters are sleeping.  When one wakes within us, we are ridden like beasts.”

I wonder if we’re not more like beasts than we think.  Regardless, that’s neither an excuse nor an explanation.  I’m disgusted by what I’ve seen this week, and I’m ashamed of many members of my gender.  

I haven’t a clue what I can do to support Ms. Sarkeesian beyond writing about my support of her ideas.  It’s not much, I know, but it’s something, as tear-jerkingly (at times, for me) rendered by Justin Sane in Thanks for the Letter that You Sent

We all need to do more, and do better, in whatever way we can.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and dismayed)

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