Category Archives: Society

#Blaugust2016: Trends

In this permanently connected world we live in, new trends are an almost daily occurrence. I don’t regularly read news papers or magazines in digital or other form and I’ve not had a TV in 15 years – but I still experience trends through my different geek channels and selected social media and they can be as obnoxiously suffocating there as ginger tea and Aloe Vera in the hipster wellness world.

I have an uneasy relationship with trends as a social phenomena. I like to follow and trust my friends’ recommendations and “hypes” as much as the next person, particularly when they seem to be a natural fit. Whenever something or rather a product develops into an unavoidable mainstream icon however, my aversion increases and I loose interest fast. I don’t know if that’s just inverted snobbery, my general suspicion of crowd behavior or appreciation for niches (I am an MMORPG player after all) but it ends with me temporarily withdrawing from things and people that are very intrusive.

Naturally not all trends or novelty products are objectively bad. It took years of persuasion before I gave twitter a go and I readily admit it’s been a great addition to my blogging ever since. I was happy to explore it on my own after the initial hype had died down though, without the collective force of the internet shouting “how to do it best” from every corner.

Pokémon Go is ablaze like that right now and while it’s too reductive to be my kind of game for one, I can see why it’s so successful. And then I think of last night when we took a late countryside stroll with our neighbors and the dog, under a breathtaking sky with the sound of crickets all around and how the neighbor’s smartphone display suddenly pierced the night and he started rubbing his phone to catch a GOLBAT that was sat on a 750 years memorial stone….and that’s exactly why I won’t play Pokémon Go.

gaming trends gone wrong

Suddenly even graveyards are fun… (

I keep the majority of my gaming purposefully on PC and I don’t want it to invade every part of my daily life. If I consider that, no hype around this title can sway me. That said, I’m sure Pokémon Go is amazing to a younger generation than me, less spoiled and tired with gaming trends and fads. Whether it truly brings people together or gets them to go out and “see the world” well, that’s for others to answer. I prefer catching real trains for that rather than the proverbial bandwagon although, maybe not to Oxford just now.

How do you deal with the constant stream of new trends in your social and online environment? Do you readily join the fray, apply certain rules for yourself or stay the hell away from anything that becomes overly popular?

#Blaugust2016: Unplugged

It’s been a seriously depressing year concerning all kinds of bad world news: wars still waging at our doorstep and the refugee crisis in Europe, terrorist attacks or attacks presented as such in the media, mass shootings in a closer vicinity than usual, the UK falling for Brexit and the kind of American presidential race that leaves the most wordy of us speechless. New heights of low or so it seems, and our wonderfully untrustworthy, biased media to tell us all about it – or not.

That is from our perspective, for the mostly white, well-off and pampered it’s been an “exhausting year” having to hear so much of that, naturally from the safety of our homes but anyway it’s been scarier than usual and maybe, we even know someone more personally affected. For others not belonging to said demographic it’s been a year like every other, I’m sure – getting by somehow or far worse, either way no time to follow Brexit live tickers on an expensive phone.

Being present on social media and twitter especially, I admit for a moment this shit really started to suck me in, too. I generally keep informed and I have some appreciation for political satire. Unfortunately, even the “funny” Trump videos on youtube stopped being funny long time ago. The internet has become a toxic wasteland of paranoia when it comes to convoluted trigger words like terrorism and many more -isms like it. No doubt there have been great demonstrations of “online solidarity” during events like the Paris attacks too but they’re drowned out by hysteria and frankly ever increasing racist and xenophobic sentiments, to name a few.

This is not where I want to be.

Why I choose to unplug

Over a year ago my partner started pruning and “sanitizing” his twitter and other media consumption from all negativity, including a huge bulk of political news channels, more comedic ones included. To say this took me by surprise coming from someone so political would be an understatement but by now I understand completely. It’s not just that the negativity is crushing, it’s also unhinged in many ways, often factually wrong and fueled by questionable, shady channels and sources.

Still, it took me a moment to get to that point. I followed the Brexit drama on twitter this early summer, I read different articles and viewpoints on the Orlando shooting and an ever darker cloud started to settle over all my social channels. But then I went back to Italy in July and realized I’d been starting to lose sight of reality –

“Fa caldo” says Giuseppe, like every other night when we frequent our favorite Albergo restaurant at the Adria, the one I have been going to for 30 years. During that same time span there have been several “economic recessions”, not to mention wars and we’ve been collectively afraid of WW3 at least five times, if I remember correctly. Anyway, it’s still the same building with the same blue and white fountain in front and the same home-made Italian cooking I remember from when I was a child. Some tourists at the other table read a newspaper with a big headline about Brexit, or Syria or Hillary Clinton. “The same every day”, Giuseppe shakes his head, he is clearly not impressed. “But here?” he says, “we have sun, food and each other, no? It’s all that matters”.

The world is not a scary place full of evil people. It is a huge place, not the selected fraction we hear about in our daily news. There are not terrorists hiding behind every corner trying to get us. The great, great majority of this planet is inhabited by people who want exactly the same as me: a roof over their head, food on the table, their friends and family safe, peace and happiness. Wherever I have traveled thus far there have been friendly, warm and real people with similar values everywhere, going about their daily lives being completely ignored by “world news”. Nobody reports on our shared daily life; it’s boring and it can’t be used to divide us against each other.

unplugging social media negativity

Inform or not – but always beware paranoia

Initial sarcasm aside, it goes without saying that I’m not trying to make light of horrific events that have gone down this year and go on right now in certain places of the world. Being a target of hate or becoming victim of an attack is terrifying; if it happened to me or anyone I knew personally, I’d be devastated and angry. However participating in the fear and negativity that’s being nurtured collectively through social media serves nothing and nobody. It only fills me with unproductive dread. I’ve been following stories that I have zero influence over for so long, it really begs the question how sacrificing my energy on the altar of vicarious woe is helpful when I could be using it on things and people actually around me. Because let’s face it, when it comes to scary world news, we have exactly two options:

  • A) Read/listen to more bad shit until head is filled up with worry and you’re feeling down. Then go on with your life as usual.
  • B) Don’t read/listen to more bad shit until head is filled up with worry and you’re feeling down. Then go on with your life as usual.

If there’s anything more productive created for you personally, then great – you’re the exception! Maybe someone actually drops their day-job over twitter crazy and becomes an activist or politician but more realistically, this is not what happens. What we do is dip in a daily dose of crowd hysteria and I suspect our reasons range anywhere from earnest empathy to sensationalism and privilege guilt. I sure believed for a time that I “had to” keep myself informed, that somehow as an involved world citizen, I needed to subject myself to insanity. In truth, I’ve changed nothing but my state of mind – for the worse.

unplugging social media negativity

So nope. I really don’t have to follow this stuff! I can’t trust this post-factual age of news reporting we live in and I trust fear-mongering even less, no matter how personal. Fear is the magnifying glass that leads to paranoia. Paranoia means losing sight of all proportion and reality. I know for a fact that the world is not this dark place filled with”others”. I know for a fact that 2016 isn’t by far “the worst year we’ve had” – all it takes is opening a history book. And I know that overall things have actually been getting better slowly but surely and for more people, thanks to research done by people like Max Roser (who is worth following on twitter!). If you feel down on the world, whenever possible take a trip to wherever really, as far as you can – smell foreign air, see for yourself.

I’m going to Gamescom next week. I understand some fellow gamers have mixed feelings about the size of the event or fear for their friends. I thank everyone who told me to take care because I appreciate what they’re saying; but first of all, I wouldn’t even know how to do that and secondly, I refuse to be paranoid. Already the bad feels are starting to creep in and I have to violently shake them off and deny them; this exactly is paranoia!

We will go to Gamescom and we will have a royally epic time. We will hug new friends when we finally meet them, we will play and laugh and celebrate this life because that’s the only way to spite the darkness. We’ll look after those we actually can because they’re in our immediate environment. And if we’re still all screwed anyway by next year because nuclear war / global warming / godzilla / take a pick, heck at least we enjoyed the time we had!

#Blaugust2016: Food

I am back to a work place where there’s no company canteen, shops or restaurants nearby which means most of my co-workers bring lunch with them for their 30 minute lunch break every day. I worked at a clinic before with diet cooks provisioning clients and staff alike but now it’s back to tupperware and simple lunch solutions and therefore one item above all has re-appeared on all my co-workers menus:


Cottage cheese. That easy to pack, cheap and filling white stuff that’s not only low on calories but low on anything really, including good fat to fuel your body. I made a cottage cheese check last Thursday during lunch break and all of my female co-workers were eating exactly the same type of lunch: salad with cottage cheese. And a few crackers (because the other stuff is fucking depressing).

This isn’t the first time I noticed the omnipresence of cottage cheese in the corporate world, either. Some years ago I had a gig at a consultancy in Zurich’s rich industrial center and every damn lunch break both the over-dressed men and women were listlessly nibbling at cottage cheese and rice crackers. They didn’t even add vegetables or fruit or the like, they only had processed items. My fitness heroes.

According to one research referenced in the “Food Matters” movie documentary of 2008, processed salad dressings make up a significant amount of executive women’s necessary daily caloric intake in industrialized countries. Everyone was taught to fear and avoid real food and worship unfulfilling greens, lowfat products and sugary smoothies from their teenage years latest and of course they’re all familiar with the rules: If you mean to make it big in the corporate world and earn your share, you have to look healthy. And looking healthy equals being slim, no further questions asked. If you’re a woman of average height that means you shall not cross the universally accepted UK size 10 limit. Men face similar issues and smaller paychecks for being too short.

Your answers are already there (but they ain’t great for business)

While there’s a conversation to be had over health and obesity, instilling the fear of food in children from an early age is one of the most harmful forces within modern society today. Having grown up a girl, my first encounter with dieting was through my mother as it so often is. Already in third grade she put me on a diet (she was dieting herself at the time) because I was the tallest girl in my class and also turned out to be the heaviest (duh?), after my teacher decided to put everybody on the scale one fine math morning. I look at old pictures of me in elementary school and can only marvel how anyone could put me on a crash diet. I wasn’t overweight according to our physicist either but my mother was afraid for me and fear is rarely rational.

I am far from the only woman with such an early dieting story and I hate that I was made self-conscious about my weight and started fearing certain foods from such a young age. I grew up with contradictory, confusing food messages from school, from home as well as the media and to this day, I am surrounded by food lies about fat and carbs and calories every time I go grocery shopping. Our modern society started gaining a lot of weight when the food industry decided to really get rolling with low-fat and fitness foods in the 80ies and today some big industries only exist because people have become so out of touch with what is supposed to nourish them. Fat money.


This kind of stuff can drive you to the brink of madness. There have been periods in my life as a student and also later when I completely lost touch with myself and my body. The voice within was drowned out by all the conflicting messages and the constant fear of gaining weight or not being thin enough, even when I was sporting a smooth size 5-6 which is slim for my body type and height. Talking about BDD…

The thing is, I don’t actually need a size chart to know my body’s needs; I don’t need posters and magazines to tell me when somebody is too slim or overweight or how to exercise more. I need neither look at absurdly skinny models nor fat ones in order to identify the right balance for myself and a healthy life. Nobody does.

If I can drown out the noise and go back to listening and being honest with myself, I know fully well what’s good for me: I know when I’m stuffed or when I overdid it, I feel better and more sated after a freshly cooked meal than a convenient one. I have more energy during the work day when I made time for breakfast and when I add a bit of fresh fruit during those morning and late afternoon work hours. I don’t sleep well after late-night snacks. If I can’t pronounce it, it’s likely better in small amounts. I know I should probably do something about my fitness if I sound like a dying rhino running up a flight of stairs. And I know it’s time to lose a few pounds when my favorite jeans won’t fit anymore or my thighs cause painful friction. Who can tell me any of that but me?

Our body is telling us everything we need to know, the rest is Vanity Fair bullshit and ka-ching!

My new relationship with food: no stressing!

I love food, heck I don’t even dislike cottage cheese as long as it isn’t my go-to lunch option. I grew up around some amazing grandma cooking and I cook most of my meals from scratch when possible. I travel a lot and exploring foreign food traditions and delicacies is big part of the enjoyment. Food is awesome – and eating is supposed to be enjoyable, fulfilling not just filling!

There’s also the whole stress component: all this added stress around our food choices and eating habits is doubly harmful. Stress causes our body to process and store food differently, we’re hungrier and we gobble it down rather than taking the appropriate time to eat. It really all dawned on me one day how often I ate fast meals or snacks without noticing, either because I was absent-minded, hated what I ate or felt guilty for not eating what I hate. Stress stress stress everywhere seeping into my system!


But no more: Screw temporary diets, screw media messages about fitness and exercise, screw size charts. Screw the what-the-hell-effect and the shame it brings, screw destructive fat-shaming. Your body holds a natural wisdom, so listen to it and above all: be patient with yourself. If you’re over-weight right now or feel over-weight, either way the solution can never be to hate food or stress yourself out (for whom are you stressing anyway?). Give yourself time to learn anew, find out which foods literally make you feel happy and energized – start there! Don’t deny but allow variety and allow yourself to indulge or fail without that what-the-hell-effect taking over full force. It may well be the only thing standing between you and your success.

Taking time and not giving up after “missteps” is generally how people successfully change eating habits and disorders. Banning perfectionism has become an important exercise for me personally. My relationship with food has changed for the better when I discovered that I can actually “eat anything” if I eat without stress (or guilt), including things I used to deny myself. Rather than gorging down a huge bowl of socially accepted green unsatisfying stuff with lots of sauce, I’ll order whatever I crave; more often than not it’s a wholesome choice too because my body actually wants red, yellow, green and brown on my plate. Unsurprisingly this has led to eating less overall, as in snacking less, because I don’t feel I’m wanting. My natural diet is varied and I’ve stopped over-eating when I stopped denial, as well as mindless eating which is probably the biggest culprit of all.

fearIt’s a good place to be at, if not a safe place. Old habits die hard as do internalized fears but I am more aware of them now; I know perseverance is key to starving them out and I refuse to re-enter that unhappy relationship with food. Food is our body’s fuel and the body is not divorced from the mind. Food is also part of countless social interactions and situations in our daily life. I want to enjoy this part of my life and I want to “be present” when I eat, be it by myself or with others. Life is too short to keep missing and fearing such a big and delicious part of it, surely!

#Blaugust2016: Bullied

Welcome to my Blaugust 2016! As announced, there will be a month of rather personal and non-gaming related writing happening on this blog – if that’s not your thing, see you in September! To everyone else: /wave and happy blaugusting!

This post is dedicated to my Burns – for always seeing with the heart and not turning away from a smelly bundle of white fur.


Finney Mouse

We adopted our third cat Finn, also called Finney Longshanks for his curiously flexible front legs, in June 2015. Like our other two cats whom we found via online shelters and cat networks, Finney was a rescue cat but his story was a little different: Finney was put up for adoption by his breeder, rather than some agency or cat rescue. He is half Maine Coon and half Norwegian Forest cat and by now, he is our other Norwegian’s (who is all black) best pal which was our plan all along.

Finney’s white coat is the result of a natural mutation as is the case with many white cats. He is not an albino but he was born into a litter of brown, grey and black colored coon mixes, all of them slightly bigger and hunkier than him. In the online ad the breeder lady noted that Finney was “hearing” which was the time I learned that a great majority of white and blue-eyed cats are actually deaf. The same gene that causes their blue eyes is often causing deafness too. Finney however has light green eyes, the color of fresh grass and so he can hear just fine.

He is the perfect cat; friendly and talkative to strangers, a happy over-active rascal at times (he loves dog games like retrieving), goofy and so very very affectionate. He was also bullied by his siblings and the other cats, which is why his breeder decided to put him up for adoption.


2015: Finney’s first night at the new home, so tired!

When we got Finney, he didn’t have the long and glamorous coon coat and collar he has today. His fur was shorter and shaggy. There were bald spots all across his back where he was either hurt by others or had scratched himself. He smelled horribly when we got him, so badly in fact our bedroom, which became his first refuge, smelled of unhealthy fur for weeks. We washed him twice, just to take the edge off. Whenever cats stop taking care of their personal hygiene, you know something is very very wrong.


2016: Lord Whitemane, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”

Fast forward one year later, after a patient adjustment phase with our other two darling cats and with lots of play, joy and love Finney has become the star of every party. He prances about the house like the king he is and all our guests fall in love with him in a heartbeat. For whatever reason, he decided my side of the bed and my PC chair are the best places to sleep. I love him too.

Finney is purrfect in every way and I am not even sorry about the bad pun.

When we were little

Watching Finney make himself at home and bloom into the character he is today has made me reflect a lot on my own story of bullying and the stories of countless others. He was born a healthy and social animal but his peer group rejected, nagged and chased him off because of the color of his coat and maybe his slightly more delicate physique. He was isolated and depressed which fortunately, led his breeder to adoption.

But there is no mercy in the animal kingdom any more than there is among humans at times. When I grew up and went through six years of elementary school nightmare in the late 80ies, bullying wasn’t a topic that was frequently discussed, not even by teachers. I felt so isolated and alone not knowing how many people out there shared my predicament. Many of my friends today and folk I met online have similar stories of social ostracization to tell. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence; do we gravitate towards one another or is bullying just so pervasive in our society? I wonder too if much has changed at schools since, but I doubt it. In this age of cyber bullying, there’s still silence and stigma around the topic and not enough raising awareness along the lines of To This Day.

The reasons for bullying seem different but at heart are always the same. I don’t think it matters really why you were bullied: your looks, your clothes, the way you talk, your family, your grades – these are all just pretexts and shallow explanations. I was bullied for a variety of such reasons, sometimes total opposites, yet at the heart of it was difference– being somehow different combined with being in a minority, in a weaker position relative to a larger peer group.

You’ll find people who experienced bullying in all walks of life and on every side of the spectrum: too smart – not smart enough, too pretty – not pretty, rich – poor, short – tall, dark – fair, foreign – local, introvert – extrovert. There’s no rule to it other than one person finding themselves in the unfortunate situation of standing apart and without an exit route in sight. Bullies fear and envy as often as they hate and despise, they come in all flavors.


My mother who has a very different personality from me and who is the rolemodel teacher I always thought I’d become, got bullied all the way up to adulthood. She once told me that it’s not just the bullied who never forget but bullies too; that they remember their acts always and often regret them. I somehow doubt that’s true as a rule but when she attended her highschool reunion only a few months ago after much deliberation, she came back from an evening of late closure. A whole bunch of her old male colleagues, now grey-haired and retired, came up to tell her “I’m sorry I was such a dick”. I was happy for her. None of her female colleagues apologized.

Bullying affects us in life, sometimes for as long as it affected my mother. The old saying of “sticks and stones” was coined by a person who never suffered any bullying or other verbal and mental abuse in their life. Some are lucky to overcome the after-effects of bullying or escape relatively unscathed; for others it remains a deeply unsettling and destructive experience which alters their behavior and expectations in social contexts. I consider myself fortunate that after six years of tummy aches before school in the morning, I escaped my social environment by leaving for the Gymnasium. From that moment in time, my entire social life took a 180° degree turn – just like that. Suddenly I belonged, when I had done absolutely nothing different. I still talked the same, dressed the same, looked the same but everything else had changed. Like Finney, I had been adopted by the right environment, for me.

From there, my self-confidence was allowed to recover and prosper. I’ve had nothing but good to great times at college and university and I am thankful they overwrote much of what I had gone through before and put things into perspective: I didn’t cause the bullying. It wasn’t a fault within me and I did not deserve it. None of us do.

Thank god for growing up and becoming more independent and free to save yourself and find your own people.

No Retrospective Rationalization

These days I carry scars from bullying but no aching wounds. I frankly don’t care to attend school reunions but neither do I feel personally encumbered anymore by the cruelty I experienced as a ground schooler. I could talk about how bullying may have added to my personal independence and self-confidence later in life, or how it’s made me protective of others – but that conclusion would be fatal and is one I chose not to make. All of us who are here are survivors; we’ve been through dark times, some of us more than others, and our pain has forced us to grow. Yet as much as it is in my nature to look at upsides, I would always choose not to be bullied at all. Ever.

And not everyone who was bullied at a point in their life gets a chance to rewrite that history. Bullying is hard to prevent and even harder to stop when in full motion, even for someone in close proximity. However in the age of the internet, that fickle beast, we’re given an amazing chance to connect with others, discover similar stories and hear about people overcoming adversity. You can reach out, you can make yourself known and be there to listen. Or you can tell your own story so somebody out there may know they are not alone, that it’s not their fault and that they won’t be stuck in that wrong place for all time.

Sometimes the difference between hope and despair is touching a single other mind that knows.

Off-Topic: I hate Platitudes

The other day I was witness to an all too familiar situation at work: a co-worker of mine just went through a personal loss that came with some added complications, the kind of crap that’s hard to listen to and therefore harder to experience. Sometimes life makes no sense. Quite often in fact, things are just one major parade of suck and as a bystander, all you can or should do is be there and lend and ear.

Of course that never stops someone piping up with old age wisdom; “it happens for a reason”, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, “time heals all wounds” and any misbegotten, infuriating variations thereof. There’s a word in my native German tongue for these kinds of worn-out platitudes: “worthülsen”, literally “word husks”. Empty shells of words that touch nothing.


It’s not just that phrases like these are often ill-timed but they’re trivializing in a way that may deeply offend the person affected. They’re lies too: it’s evidently untrue that all psychological (or physical) wounds heal or that every experience ends up making you “stronger”. As for someone in the process of mourning, dealing with trauma or some other life-altering struggle, usually the last thing they need to hear is that shitty things make them stronger or have a reason – which suggests, intentionally or not, that this is somehow an experience worth having or being thankful for.

No, it fucking ain’t! If someone lost a limb in an accident or watched a loved one fade away slowly under excruciating pain, there’s is no deep meaning in that experience. “Oh I survived this shit, yay?” – Come on. There may be more indirect, less horrible side-effects way, way further down the road but that is a different matter entirely. People suffering are not “chosen” by anyone, there’s no benevolent masterplan – certainly none I would willingly subscribe to. Tangentially, I have no problem with belief in a higher power but spare me rationalizing other people’s tragedies because god’s will. Spare me also all these religiously motivated platitudes that even the most secular society can’t seem to shake completely in everyday language:

  • ora et labora (work ethics…work work peon)
  • turn the other cheek
  • be good in this life…erm

/side-rant: Only the most evil of masterminds could come up with this stuff in order to maintain power over the gullible. Work and pray all day – so there is no time or energy left to form independent thought or organize gatherings (beware idleness, sloth etc.). Turn the other cheek – don’t retaliate against anyone, including those who would fool, exploit and harm you and yours (don’t lie to them either…you’re not supposed to lie to anyone, no idea why not). Wait for no rewards in this life. Seriously? Tyrant for dummies 101. /close side-rant

The thing is – I get the rationalizing part, I do! I actually believe it’s one of our greater cognitive abilities as human beings, that we can look for a positive in anything, in retrospective. If you can get to that point for yourself after a long journey, more power to you! That doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done without that horrible event in the first place.

I suspect that as a society, we’re so fearful of the darker sides of life, there’s almost an unconscious reflex to turn the light on. Yet pain, sadness and anger have their time and place and can’t be rushed. In fact, it would make so many things easier if we learned to share painful moments more naturally, in an environment that feels no need to rush difficult emotions or put a label on them.

If you’re looking to help someone, the first step is to respect pain. Respect it as part of everyone’s life and someone’s personal journey. Don’t feel awkward or embarrassed in the face of pain, don’t feel the urge to gloss it over with platitudes. Don’t think all pain needs to be cheered up (by you). Resist your inner fairy godmother.

Instead, just be there. May be the other person will find closure further down the line. May be that they don’t. Whatever happens, they are entitled to feel whatever it is they’re feeling, no matter how hopeless it may seem to you or how glum. Sometimes just being there and letting someone feel they are not alone in this world, is the greatest kindness you can do for them. And listening takes very few words at all.

Life is a painful journey but we can walk together

This is an editorial post unrelated to gaming, MMOs and all the silly things that also make me happy.

Last Friday night I got together with my oldest friend for dinner after a long stretch of radio silence. Silence not just from my side – ever since worklife has caught up with us after leaving university, the periods of not seeing each other have grown longer. I’ve come to accept this about adulthood; that we all get caught up in our private and professional lives, people moving away or getting married, changing jobs and struggling with all the daily tasks and responsibilities. We all do our best to stay in control but there are times when it’s hard to muster any more energy after the day is done. Before we know it, we start existing and stop living. That is especially true for those who are used to shoulder much more than just their share.

The overlaps of history between my friend and me are remarkable. Not only has life insisted on continuously bringing us together time and again ever since we were both 9 and 10 years old, as if our own winding paths could never part for long, I have also never known anyone to share that much of my own biography, so many experiences and constellations that made us who we are now. It’s this kinship that wipes whatever time away that may have passed between meetings. As long as we keep having these regular brushes, even per SMS or email, our friendship endures. That said, longer stretches of silence are usually a bad sign. That is certainly true for the extrovert types that we both are, who insist on functioning no matter what and have never learned to share their own pain, only share in the pain of others.

The moment she stepped into my new home, I felt it. She looked pale, she talked differently. She was like a tired shadow of her other version. I showed her around, I poured a drink wondering how best to catch up. And as usual, it didn’t take long – over the course of dinner I got to tell her what a rotten year lies behind me, how my partner finally started therapy for a complex case of childhood PTSD and how things are slowly improving for the both of us, step by step. I don’t hold back on these topics anymore; I’ve come to know too many wonderful people struggling with anxiety disorders or depression, to maintain any sort of shyness or tolerance for stigma around these discussions. Fuck stigma. Fuck the whole masquerade. Life is raw and deep and painful whenever it stops being easy.

I’m done wasting my time with false pretenses. When my partner decided to tell the world (as in all relevant environment such as friends and the workplace) that he had been suffering for over thirty years and that he was dealing with things now, in a serious manner by whatever help necessary, my heart ached with pride because he decided to stop hiding. When I think of how medication-based therapy enabled my mother to build a second life from scratch after the age of 55, when the alternative would have been death or hospitalisation most likely, there is only thankfulness in me and empathy. It’s such a huge step to get yourself help and turn your life around, no matter a more introvert or extrovert type of personality. Only you can do it and the pain tends to get worse before it gets better.

Opening up about these issues broke whatever fabric my old friend had wrapped around her pale exterior. She’s been going through her first ever rough patch that is in fact about herself. She’s a nervous wreck, she can’t sleep at night for all the noise in her head, she’s experienced several anxiety attacks at the new work place. Her body is acting up. After a life of achieving and caring and carrying, she’s finally stretched so thin that her entire system starts revolting. She’s being forced to focus on her own needs and she has no idea yet how to do this. Her first instincts are probably to write a list of priorities and weigh the pros and cons, so yeah she needs help…I was very glad to hear she’s already reached out about this to her GP.

It’s all so familiar. The moment my partner finally and earnestly got into therapy (which took three attempts), my energy levels completely rock bottomed. I got sick with serious infection several times in a row and my nerves deserted me even on trivial tasks. I have never felt as spent. That is the aftermath of overcoming hardship more often than not – it’s not sunshine and cheerfulness, it’s a deep well of exhaustion. Before you can move on, you have to breathe out and recuperate.

We’ll learn. Today I believe in baby steps, in cherishing lighthearted moments when they occur. I still look forward to things but I don’t plan so much anymore. I let things happen rather than making them – I am learning to chill. My friend is currently at the stage of debating whether she should tell her superior or not and if she can get a grip with “just a few GP sessions”. She worries about coming across as unprofessional when sharing too much about her life and well-being and I don’t blame her. But I also know that there are things you cannot hide from others. You can try of course but it won’t do you any good. When you reached the point where a condition or illness temporary or otherwise, manages your life, it is an impossible task to maintain the act. More importantly however, you are missing out; you’re missing out on reactions that will surprise and humble you. From the moment we open up about what is essentially our human condition, people around us will come out and connect. I have co-experienced this twice now and it’s stunning. Truth liberates, there is magic in being truthful about yourself. It also means you’re taking back ownership of your life by switching on the light in those dark corners. What we keep in the dark makes us sick. When we further isolate ourselves from others, we cut away all opportunity.

No matter where you are, in this moment there are people around you with the same struggles, keeping quiet about the same things. The minute you come forth, there’s a high chance of experiencing togetherness, empathy and support from unexpected places rather than rejection. And inadvertently, you will become someone else’s spring of hope, too. It’s as if everyone was just waiting for a chance to chime in. This is life and it’s happening to everybody! If you think you’re immune to it, I say give it time.

I am glad I was able to support my friend in her time of need. She’s already tough but now she’ll also learn to be human – and that is an experience worth having. Last night my partner and I came across Wil Wheaton’s contribution to the “UR OK” project on youtube and we were both deeply moved by his words that describe much of what we’ve been through. It’s not over, every day is another step on the journey. There will be days of pain and more growth and there will be days of joy and not feeling bad, until we realize that this journey is really just life. And we can all walk together.

Today in P2W: Gamers are getting older and that’s okay!

Today I came across this passionately one-sided opinion piece over at Massively OP which makes a somewhat poor case against the ever-rising pay-to-win model for videogames (yeah, am still reading about MMOs and stuff!). I admit it was a disagreement between Isarii and Scree on twitter that made me aware of its existence, so like every curious MMO blogger I was drawn to the drama – and there is always drama when players discuss pay to win.

Now before I address the Massively article, I’ll say this: I am personally not a fan of P2W games. I don’t play any and they tend not to interest me in the slightest. I gave Candy Crush 15 minutes of my life once, out of obscene curiosity and recoiled in disgust after the first of many enforced time locks popped up. That being said, I am not afraid of P2W games either; while their market share may be growing, I don’t believe them to be an imminent threat to more traditional games or gamers since they do not cater to that target audience. We all know that gaming as a whole is getting bigger and the really significant growth of the last few years belongs to social or “casual” as well as mobile gaming. – Geeky and niche MMO gaming? Not so much. Still, we have little to complain about compared to our humble beginnings. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t fear P2W games any more than I fear that WoW has destroyed the MMO genre when really, WoW created its own market and if anything, helped other MMOs along (midterm copycat fails or not).

Of course one can take a moral approach and try analyze how (un-)ethical P2W models are. There may be merit in that discussion, although personally I am not prepared to have it (and my liberal stance on f2p is hardly news). Too often does it come down to players defending what they know versus what is new and still unfamiliar ground. Or worse, everyone starts sounding like a wanna-be psychologist and umm gaming addiction and save the children. There are some shades of grey, may-be, but essentially all videogame ventures and business models are looking to make the most money in the most effective way possible, triggers included. There have always been players at the shorter end of the stick of whatever business model. How exactly is this such a great “truth” we never heard of (in reference to the Massively article)? So while I understand some critics’ concerns and where they come from, I tend to agree with Scree on this one. The times they are a’changing and maybe we need to keep an open mind and try sound less like our at least proverbial grandparents.


We’re getting older, oh noes!

My immediate reaction to the Massively piece was, passionate rant or not, that it’s incredibly condescending towards anyone within that “older gamer group with disposable income” who dares to play games differently and enjoy them differently. Jef Reheard even goes as far as saying that P2W players don’t actually play the games – no, they “pay their way through instead of playing it through”. This is also clearly not fun! That makes you wonder why the heck all these weirdos keep paying money for something that surely is objectively horrible but wait, there’s the answer to that as well: they are lab rats that act out of compulsion rather than umm, the righteous and sound enjoyment of the non-P2W advocate. Yep…that really is the gist of the article, I’m afraid. You got some jolly “no real gamersss”-disdain, mixed with the old “not fun”-trap and some pseudo-psychology spice to top it off and make this one unsavory cocktail to drink.

It’s no longer about the fun or the escapism of gaming; it’s about capturing a bite-sized piece of those bygone days when they had time to play, and of course it’s also about satisfying those psychological skinner box urges[…]

I snorted. And then I self-cringed too because I’ve had my share of “why achievements and instant gratification are destroying my MMO”-rants and malcontent on this here blog. I still hold to the journey is the reward (for_me). However in hindsight, and also really whilst writing, it’s apparent that dramatic rants were dramatic. I think us MMO explorer types can live alongside the achievers or killers just fine for the most part, heck some of us even like one another despite our different playstyles (<3)! And none of us have gone out of business.

But back to P2W: as a general rule, all panicky reasoning is bad reasoning. And sure, you might find P2W cheap or cheaty and that’s alright, but obviously there are many ways to find pleasure in games. I’ve played MMOs in the past just to dress up my characters and yes, buy exclusive clothes from an ingame store. Likewise, P2W-players do very much also play the games they invest in, duh – it’s not like they’re just paying money and then never spend any time on actual game play. They just play differently. Maybe they want to skip stuff they don’t consider fun (like grinding!), maybe their sessions are shorter. Either way, it seems reasonable there should be a market for such a customer. It also seems contradictory (and patronizing but let’s forget that) to say the model is dangerous for the weak of mind and spirit and then make a point out of how it’s a more mature and financially stable target audience that sinks money into P2W games like World of Tanks and ArchAge?

And gamers are OK with P2W in large part because they’re getting older and they’ve outgrown gaming. They have mortgages, multiple jobs, kids, and a dozen other excuses for circumventing game mechanics with real money.

Ah pardon moi! I did not realize gamers needed “legit excuses” for the way they play games at all. As far as I am concerned, an aging player base with more disposable incomes and diverse tastes in gaming is brilliant news for the videogame industry. We are entering uncharted waters still with the first generations of videogamers advancing through their middle age; this process is far from over. Games, genres, markets, business models: they are far from being fully explored or formed or finished. I’m not sorry for growing older or changing my spending ways – what a silly argument to even have.


Many changes, handle it!

I’ll make it a simple summary: whatever rants declare (good old) gaming is dying or getting worse or going under for reason “XY” are wrought with fallacies. Cathartic at times maybe or endearing in their zeal, still wrong. Don’t trust them, don’t worry about it. The only truth is change. Games change. Audiences change. It all changes constantly. Sometimes you’ll like it better, sometimes you’ll like it worse. Most likely, it just means we’re getting more games and different games and more diverse, specialized markets and business models. We’ll see things come and go, over and over because such is the paradox of time (green is the new green!). And some games you really should avoid, ideally without preaching to others (too much).

Yesterday a still studying co-worker of mine showed me an interview he did with a 60-year old pharmacist who happens to train apprentices. The topic was “today’s youth” and communication, or something. It was basically an old fart talking about how young people cannot concentrate anymore, constantly use their mobile phones for wasteful activities and other weird things the old man (old because of his ways) clearly did not come close to grasp. He had zero understanding of this new generation he was supposed to teach, in fact he had no interest to learn about their world at all. It was a most tedious read for me, also because I have worked with young people and count myself among the digital age children. I fucking love the internet and over-sharing on twitter.

That’s why I am somewhat radically over the ever-fearful, judgmental whinging of fading generations, in all walks of life. I hope one day I’ll be a better old person (with a cool hat). There is a new world born every day and I am ready for the next adventure.

(…and I’ll still tag this post under ‘rants’ because :IRONY:)

The Year of Un-Deception: A 2014 Pre-Recap

As the articles on “2014 – the worst year for videogames” are piling up (gotta love sensationalist headlines), I am contemplating my personal year of gaming. I usually start preparing my best games of the year-post around this time, as well as a round-up of the greatest videogame soundtracks. I have no plans to deviate from this course at present and when it comes to the actual games at least, my 2014 really wasn’t half as bad as apparently some people’s. But more on that another time.

Of course it’s gamergate that has marked 2014 as a black year for gaming and on a more personal note, it has impacted on bloggers, podcasters and people I call friends from this here MMO blogosphere. This is something I eye with much concern because if there’s something that gaming needs more of, it’s the type of diverse and welcoming community that has been established within the micro-cosmos of my blogroll. I am down when my friends are down and especially when one of them is taking their leave. However on a very personal and direct level, I am still evaluating my own feelings in regards to how gamergate has affected me. And it’s almost chilling to admit that I don’t feel particularly anything over all the ugliness that has come to light since August 2014. It’s too familiar – so unlike this tiny blogging niche that I inhabit and which is special in so many ways.

Is this really the darkest year for gaming or is it not much rather the year where some rotten dams broke and a lot of taboos were finally (and in some places aggressively) challenged and put on the spot? Did parts of the gaming community get toxic all of a sudden or were they not much rather always a hostile place for anyone not bowing to the established, unspoken norm? What gamergate stands for is that greater societal issues which are very much alive in gaming too, have finally been given a prominent voice and are receiving mainstream attention (time they caught up). That is threatening and it’s only when a status quo is truly challenged when things get ugly. But this also means that things are finally in motion.

While speakers don’t realize it anymore in everyday language, the German word for “disappointed” has a rather intriguing, literal meaning: it’s to be “un-deceived”. If we feel disappointment, it is generally because we were let down on our expectations – our hopes, dreams, illusions maybe. In any case, there was a deception of some kind involved and quite often it’s a self-created one as much as the other way around. [source]

We keep reading about or preaching how change hurts but when we find ourselves in the middle, we can’t stand the heat. Societal change of any magnitude is tough and no eye will be left dry – no, not the advocate’s either. Yet, gamergate and all the disappointment and pain it has caused is preferable to illusions we may have allowed ourselves to live in and which lulled us in treacherous passivity. There is nothing worse than a false sense of security while the years go by with nothing truly improving.

So, this year we’ve established that gaming and gamers aren’t a better society than any other – tadaa? What is there to be had other than working with and from within our very own, tiny and handpicked communities anyway?

It always gets worse before it gets better

International media have recently exploded over police violence in the US against black citizens. It’s easy to get involved and upset over cases like Eric Garner’s because for once, they are getting attention and are being widely reported on. That doesn’t change the fact that this reality has been many people’s reality always – or that black men are disproportionally more often ending up in jail or getting killed resisting an arrest compared to white men, on any given day. This isn’t news, yet right now everyone is up in arms about it. The fact that there’s been demos and in some places not-so peaceful riots, well…you don’t get to choose the face of change. If riots seem ugly to you, think of the ugly reality some people deal with every day of their lives that drives them to such extreme and dangerous (for them as well) measures. I don’t condone violence but it’s hypocritical to shake your head over Ferguson when you probably never even knew about the place beforehand and about everything that pushed so many marginalized people to a breaking point. Condemning riots is the tone argument of the privileged. It is also a tool of maintaining the establishment when ironically, violence has so many way more harmful and insidious faces.

"Whatever you do, don't swear."

Whatever you do, don’t swear.

Social change isn’t about making you feel comfortable, it’s about changing things. This brings me back to gamergate and all the ways it’s been uncomfortable but also, all the ways it heralds progress if we manage to perceive it that way. I’ve said it on a related CMP podcast before, the fact that so many people have started to talk about gaming culture or in support of women in gaming this year, is bewildering in a fantastical way. And yes, it also brings the most toxic of our non-community to the table but they have always been there, driving individuals out of this hobby. Did we believe they would welcome more and more diverse forces claiming games for themselves with open arms?
Thankfully, gamegate has brought new allies to the table too and like Liore started vetting her twitter community more closely, mine has not just seen people removed over gamergate but many join as well. Things have been moving and becoming clearer.

On an recount of my gaming background on Gameskinny a while ago, I talked about how I was driven out of a male-dominated gaming forum I had been active in for a decade. The type of treatment and in some cases harassment (not detailed in the article) I’ve received over the years cannot be compared to what some female developers and journalists targeted by the 4chan gamergate crowd went through, but there are all too familiar parallels. I know perfectly well how it feels not to be accepted as a legit member of a community you are contributing to because of your gender. I know how it feels to be scared because the usual rules of online life versus offline don’t apply in your case. This has been my reality and many other female gamers’ always, just as it’s been the reality of women professionally involved in the games industry. It’s just that nobody ever talked (much) about it and the topic certainly didn’t make it into the Colbert Report.

Only when I discovered this small community of MMO bloggers I barely dare call myself a part of, for fear of finding this fragile butterfly shatter too, did I realize there is still a place for people like me – women like me, gamers like me.

You gave me hope and hope was a change. Now change gives me hope. So no, for me personally 2014 is far from the worst year in gaming; a tough year for sure but also a year of more discussion, critical debate and alliances than ever before. And if the “community” has gotten more polarized over it in the long run, that too is part of the process that leads to inevitable change. I live in a country whose relatively consensual and pragmatic way of handling a rare form of representative democracy is in fact not grounded in consensus but on polarities so far removed and so established, that they cannot deal with each other in any other way but with compromise. If radicalization is how it’s gonna be, best get it over with.

I believe in inevitable, bumpy progress. Most of all, I hope to see everyone who is, with an open heart and mind contributing to gaming culture, back in 2015! To my fellow bloggers, podcasters, streamers, commenters and twitterers: your voice matters, more than ever. The only way this 2014 could be the worst year in gaming is if niche communities like ours went quieter and lost faith in their power to reach kindred spirits and change the face of gaming for somebody out there. Somebody like me.

A good Friday to all of you – the un-deceived who are struggling, the un-altered set to alter and all those who will find their strength renewed. Thank you for being my company.

Where all the Hate comes from

This is a very personal post. If you’re unaware of the events around gamergate or lack feminism’s 101, you won’t be educated by me here. 

After an intense discussion of the events around gamergate for an upcoming CMP round-table, I got talking some more about the internet mob and general hostility directed at women like Anita Sarkeesian with the excellent Roger and Sean. The comment that really kicked this off was Roger pointing out how Sarkeesian never actually condemns anyone for enjoying the games she’s covering; neither does she claim you’re a horrible person nor does she ask developers to stop creating violent content full stop. What she does for the most part, is pointing out how carelessly most of the violence against women is included in games and how it differs from violent imagery in general.

So why is this woman met, no stalked with such extreme aggression? Why can we observe similar irrational, emotional responses all the time when the topic is representation in games or a feminist concern? Some gaming press articles lately have identified a sub-group of “socially inept male gamers with female resentments” that are panicking at the prospect of the industry changing, as the main driving force behind the attacks on Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn. While I have known few such individuals myself firsthand, it doesn’t explain why so many gamers from much more diverse backgrounds and areas of life are allying themselves with the gamergate or notyourshield tags. I’ve witnessed similar hostility to reasonable feminist concerns from some of the best people I know, so it’s clearly not just a few left-overs from 80ies gaming culture that like to sneer and spit when confronted with uncomfortable questions.

Everyone wants to be a good guy

I grew up in a very sexist family. Like most in similar situations, I didn’t realize this until much later in my life. My family was what I knew, what was normal. I knew my mother wasn’t in any way on equal footing with my father but I had never heard of the term feminism, only of emancipation in more negative terms every now and then. There was much that I hated about my past when I finally moved out at 20 but I had no name yet for the natural oppression of the women in our family context. I only felt acutely that we didn’t deserve to be treated like second class citizens.

I was also for a large portion of my life what I liked to call a tomboy. I preferred the company of boys – they shared my interests, they were easier to get along. I kinda deluded myself that I was part of certain clubs when I really wasn’t. Much worse however, is that I actively perpetuated my state of “not getting along with women”. I didn’t know why I had no female friends and in my book none of that was my fault. It was cool too, who needs women, right? Oh god.

The moment that first bubble burst was really painful; when I realized how I never really had a voice in my own family, how I didn’t stand up for myself or other women, how society treated me differently from men in many areas of life. The system is rigged against me. And men too in some ways. I had felt it hundreds of times like Neo in the Matrix but I hadn’t grasped the overwhelming picture up to the point when I started educating myself. I was angry, I was defensive. There was no way all of it could be true. But once you’ve become sensitive to these matters and you start going back, analyzing situations and becoming more aware of how people are treated around you on a daily basis, you can’t deny sexism any longer. Not the one targeted at you and not the one perpetuated by yourself. It’s a horrible feeling and difficult to face.

My second bubble burst a lot later, the question of why I don’t have female friends. I should probably add that I do have a very close female friend since childhood, but in many ways she’s a copy of me and I never managed to connect to another woman until I was 30, internet buddies aside (you are all awesome and I do owe you). The truth is I did want to have women as friends but I wouldn’t admit my own inadequacy. How can you not get along with 50% of all people? Around 30, things changed when I met a co-worker from Vancouver who I really connected with. It was scary as hell but it got me taking a hard look at myself and how I still treat women differently from men when by now, I should know better. And I’m not alone – I keep watching my female co-workers cheer on guys for being assertive while attacking women for the same traits, I witness jealousy, unsupportiveness and double standards that don’t apply to male colleagues and it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want to be like this.

It’s so hard to disconnect yourself from the culture you are taught by your parents and society around you, the one that is never questioned. It’s hard to accept that you’re part of a system and part of the problem. It’s much easier to get defensive and spiteful, to blame others or deny the truth. Growing pains.

Everyone likes to think of themselves as the good guy. [R.D. Precht, German Philosopher]

Nobody likes to hear that they’re part of an unjust system or that they’ve got privileges they do not deserve. Men and women struggle with the idea of sexism because they’re both complicit one way or another, before making conscious effort to question the status quo. Some take great offense at being called profiteers of the system, others take equal offense at the suggestion they might be systematically slighted, because they consider themselves strong enough and not part of “those other, weak women”.

Now, Anita Sarkeesian’s videos might not be condemning games or gamers but they constantly rattle the matrix. They force you to question what’s given and consider your own role and motivations. That path inevitably leads to bursting bubbles. It’s uncomfortable and painful – so much easier to unleash wrath upon the source of all that discomfort. The irrational hate directed at Sarkeesian is fueled by kicking and screaming fear. There’s no denying it: once you’ve opened that door, it truly is the end of the world as you knew it.

The Crusade against the SJWs

There is a waxing resentment being nurtured by gamergate and notyourshield exponents against so-called “social justice warriors” (and white knights). If you consider this briefly, it is a pretty horrible state to be in, to fight against social progress or those that speak for more inclusion and equality. How can anyone be against that?

This too, begs for a brief digression. I was for a period of my life a vegetarian for several reasons. I am not any more although meat is still a rare commodity in my diet. Anyone who thinks we eat animals for any better reason than because we can, is likely to get my eyebrow together with a link to Eating Animals. However, I was never a confrontational or preachy vegetarian. It was a personal choice and I wanted to be left alone just as much as I ignored others. I wasn’t complicated either, I’d eat whatever was left minus the meat when invited to friends. Despite all of that, my vegetarianism became the most unexpected and eye-opening social experiment for all the unprovoked hostility it exposed me to. I had people mock me, question my motives and trying to drag me into discussions of explaining myself. Some became instantly apologetic or embarrassed. My mere presence at some social gatherings was an issue, I was a spoilsport for no better reason than ordering ‘without the meat’.

I had never been aware of the deeply rooted, sacred ritual of eating meat/food together in our culture until I disturbed said ritual. I had become a point of vexation to some, like a silent reminder of all the questions they did not want to ask about their own consumerism. I didn’t mean to hold a mirror to anyone but it happened anyway. Genuine disdain was directed at me simply because I refused to be “complicit in eating meat”. I don’t know how many times I had someone tell me “you know, you’re not better than me” or “it doesn’t change a thing anyway”.

And that’s what “social justice warriors”, aka people who give a shit, do: inadvertently or not, they hold a mirror to anyone that chooses lazy complacency. They remind others that there are injustices yet to be fought right under their nose. Defensiveness and aggression are a typical reaction to feeling blame or guilt. Mocking those that care more than you do is a fine diversionary tactic.

No hatred more passionate than the hatred for a truth that hurts.

Truth hurts

Change isn’t comfortable. You can hide behind tone arguments but at the end of the day, if you’re at all committed to matters of social progress or equality, you have to accept that bubbles will burst. You have to accept pain and confusion on an existential level. And you will need to be brave.

The moments when you feel like screaming and kicking those who have caused your discomfort, are most likely the ones where you get to learn the most about yourself.

Your last MMO ever and the Troubles of Aging together

I am a 30+ MMO player with a history. I don’t speak for all 30+ MMO players with a history. This post is about many things at once.

Not too long ago I had an interesting discussion with an old gaming buddy reflecting much of the current MMO malaise that seems to have struck several bloggers around the blogosphere lately. The most memorable statement in our conversation was this: “Wildstar is going to be my last MMO” – something that I’ve heard several times now and keep reading on the official forums. Clearly MMO culture is in a phase of re-evaluation both on a personal level and otherwise.

On the surface, such final player declarations appear singularly odd and certainly unique to the genre; never would you hear anyone say “this is going to be my last RTS ever” or any variation thereof. Why would anyone make plans for their last MMO ever?

Of course the answer is simple for those among us who have been there – played MMOs, breathed MMOs, lived inside the same MMO for years. This genre is not like other genres and neither is its commitment. Players are passionate about their character progression, their guilds, their dramatic quitting gestures. And sure, there are exceptions to the rule, players content to solo and never invest in any type of cooperative endgame. Yet, there is still a consensus, spoken or unspoken by developers too, that the heart of the MMO experience lies in cooperative multiplay. A big chunk of content gets created entirely for this reason, for better or worse.

And multiplay takes extra time, in fact not just when you’re in the middle of it but way in advance. Looking for guilds, spending time getting to know a community, working around timezones and schedules in order to group up and advance together, that’s a type of effort that asks for special dedication. For the more fatalistic among us that don’t do casual solo even when they aren’t hardcore, this also means the decision to jump into a new MMO is one that must be carefully considered. There is no time to waste or something, it’s either all or nothing.

All of this resonates with me given my early WoW history. However, there are times when I wonder if it’s really such a good thing to make one’s own happiness so dependent on other people (it’s not like that ever works out in real life). I love the cooperative aspect of MMOs but they are also virtual worlds, canvases of beauty I’d like to travel and explore. The older I get, the more there is compromise to my own time spent in games. O tempora, o mores, I guess.

The Troubles of Aging together

That said, I’m a player who is still counting on social ties for longterm dedication and so many times since WoW have I been flustered about MMOs not bringing back the “good old times”. Of course there’s a pattern here; you’ll never hear an early player talk about the good old times because there are no such times (yet) to make flawed, subjective comparisons to.

The only reason I’m probably still playing Wildstar every night and enjoying it immensely is social environment. I’d still be paying a sub and exploring the maps of the Nexus but as a solo player or member of a dwindling group of peers, I would never have bothered to acquire the Genesis Key, step one of the attunement of doom. Wildstar might actually be another MMO on the shelf already, as it is for others that used to be more excited for launch than myself. I’m still in though and wondering about the reasons, knowing at least half of the answer:

I started playing Wildstar with three old WoW buddies of mine, all of which have drastically changed weekly schedules now that they’re in their 30ies rather than early 20ies. So do I, despite all of my personal time still being my own. I am not 23 anymore, I need more sleep than I used to (it’s true and I hate it), I don’t do rushed PC dinners any longer and I have no wish to be in charge of anything or anyone else than my virtual self when online. I’m still looking to be a regular in an efficient and fun guild though, one that manages to balance the hardcore casual for lack of a better word.

Facing the fact that a group of ex-WoW raiders now all in their early thirties don’t stand a chance lasting in Wildstar’s endgame (we’ve tried and failed before), I soon resolved that our small guild needed to move on and reinforce a bigger team run by fresh people full of “MMO-oomph”. It’s been the best decision possible both for my own enjoyment (and hopefully theirs too) and dedication to the game. More importantly maybe, hearing others talk about the game made me realize that MMOs are as new and wonderful as ever for players of another generation – the players we used to be ten years ago. In no way is Wildstar inferior to WoW when it comes to how it’s handling group content. Nothing has changed in that department – we have. The people around us, our original peers have.

Early MMO enthusiasm is contagious. So is dwindling enthusiasm.

Truthfully, every MMO since WoW was a game I tried to re-connect to together with my ever less active WoW buddies. You could say I’ve kept trying to recreate my old communities elsewhere, as so many of us do. A guild’s greatest virtue which is bonding with others, becomes it’s greatest peril in the long run when communities get so insular that there’s hardly room for new blood, not even across games.

Yet the more we kept to ourselves and didn’t mix, the faster we dwindled. It’s a downward spiral and it doesn’t work. Soon everyone’s frustrated that they can’t ever seem to get a full group for anything. Maybe somebody out there knows a critical mass of 35-year old MMO veterans that are mostly regulars but I do not – and you need a regular (slightly nutty) core to run a guild effectively. Now that I’m in a way more mixed guild with dedicated leadership, I feel completely boosted by their enthusiasm. Who are these people and why are they having so much fun? Oh wait, I used to!


Luck and then some

There’s always an element of luck and timing involved when we start out in new games and looking for a new guild can be tough. I’d certainly call it a piece of luck to have chanced upon an active bunch of people with so similar a player ethos to my own. It would be amiss and incomplete however, not to try analyze things beyond luck.

Mingling with a wider age range aside, the choice of RP server and faction is probably crucial. On the only EU-RP server, Dominion side is a very calm and underpopulated place to be a Cassian, with dead zone chats and limited wares on the AH. My first instincts were calling it a bad choice when in fact, it’s the most beneficial thing to guild life. Players need their guild. Already this community feels tight-knit, the way it only happens in MMOs after launch rush is over and grasers have moved on. It’s the people who stay behind that you want to guild with.

And so maybe, it all comes down to this: staying behind and choosing to be part of a new, active community rather than maintaining an old one. Rolling on a cosy low-pop server. Sticking with that choice past launch rush. Not so different from ten years ago. We blame design a lot of the time when it comes down to frustrating social factors that ultimately, we’re both in control of and aren’t. Even if an MMO facilitates group play, and I believe Wildstar does, commitment remains a choice and unfortunately it’s not enough to make that decision yourself, you need others to make it with you. So maybe new blood is where the aging MMO player needs to start focusing his or her attention, if future gameplay experiences are meant to outlast a brief visit. I am guilty of having lived in the proverbial past.

For the Record

I love MMOs and I intend to play them for the foreseeable future. I believe that my generation of gamers especially, born in the 70ies and early 80ies, have an important and unique opportunity to be rolemodels for everyone else to come, doing away with gaming misconceptions and stigma. Yes, you can be an older gamer! No, gaming doesn’t have to stop at 30! If we can embrace ourselves and let go of the good old days in favor of new ones, new people and new experiences, there’s nothing to stop us from becoming the first gamers to happily make it to retirement (just think of all the free time!). Loving this place that is the MMO blogosphere, I hope to see you there.