Category Archives: Editorial

MMO Dragons through the Ages – Fantastic Creatures, Formidable Foes

dnddragon

D&D cover by L. Elmore

Dragons. Formidable beasts of fantasy and wonder. The stuff of nightmare in many a heroic story of folklore, mythology and children’s tales. Most beloved foe of the high fantasy genre be it in movies, books or video games. Where would our MMOs be without dragons? Who doesn’t love dragons?

From an early age I was fascinated with draco, also known as dragon, drake, sometimes wyvern or lindworm. I was a child of fairy tales and the big bad wolf aside, which mostly just scared me, dragons were the most fascinating and exotic creatures that would inspire my wild dreams like none other. I remember a particular story in my vast audio&textbook collection about a green dragon and a knight; the pictures of the ferocious beast gave me such nightmares that my mother glued a blank opaque paper over the pages so I could follow the story without seeing the dragon. Bless our early beginnings.

Remember with your heart. Go back, go back and go back. The skies of this world were always meant to have dragons. When they are not here, humans miss them. Some never think of them, of course. But some children, from the time they are small, they look up at the blue summer sky and watch for something that never comes. Because they know. Something that was supposed to be there faded and vanished. Something that we must bring back, you and I. (Robin Hobb, Golden Fool)

White Dragon Sleet(Elm)

Dragons of Winter Night by L. Elmore

Later I discovered the dragons of D&D and in particular, the Dragonlance; that’s when I irrevocably fell for this genre, absorbed in pages full of colorful illustrations by Elmore, Parkinson, Caldwell and Easley. My first artbook was a Larry Elmore limited edition which me and my best friend ordered on that novelty called the internet. I remember sending Larry a short thank-you email for the exclusive sketch he had done in each of our books, adding this well-wish: “may there always be dragons soaring across your sky”. I imagine he can see them whenever he closes his eyes or how could he possibly illustrate them in such stunning detail?

…the Dragon is the Patron Saint of all storytellers and artists and his likeness has adorned canvases and stone and has been forged in every precious metal. (Guillermo del Toro)

The Dragonlance Chronicles also opened a new, more modern perspective on dragons for me: dragons that are more than mere alien beasts and forces of nature. Dragons that have a face, that are scheming and cunning creatures of magic (sometimes shapeshifters like Silvara whose name I’ve adopted). Dragons that can choose different allegiances – good or neutral as much as evil. I love when dragons get to be real characters in stories and not just the ultimate yet dumb antagonist for the glorious dragon slayer. When a dragon ends up being little more than a T-Rex, that’s what I like to call narrative mistreatment, a lost opportunity. As far as morphology goes, it is interesting to note that historically there’s a distinction between European and Asian dragon tradition, with European dragon imagery being the predominant representation still in our western culture (with legs, wings or the ability to breathe fire) as opposed to the more snake-like Asian dragon (also naga).

MMO Dragons through the Ages

With the amount of dragon imagery and tradition out there, it’s no surprise that fantasy MMORPGs too capitalize frequently on our fascination with the winged, fire-breathing reptiles. I’ll come forth and say that I never ever tire of dragon encounters in MMOs; give me Blackwing Lair, Onyxia and the Dragon Aspects any day of the week! My favorite boss encounter of all time will probably always be Lord Victor Nefarius aka Nefarian which in my humble opinion, was a way more fascinating figure than Deathwing.

WoW is a game that loves to flaunt its dragons and “dragonkin” as foes but also mounts or pets. GW2 features the most breathtaking dragons for me as far as sheer size and dramatic entries go, so while ANet failed to make Zhaitan and Co. a particularly interesting bunch, the Shatterer or Claw of Jormag encounters will always hold a special place in my heart. Who would not feel awe and terror facing this? –

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Descent of the Shatterer (guildwars2guru.com)

Musing on dragon history and my favorite encounters in MMOs, lead me to a full-scale investigation of MMORPG dragons of the past, present and future. As far as popular mainstream titles go, there’s not a single game that didn’t feature draconic foes at some point or other – or is there? Anyway, let’s look at my quick and selective chronology of MMO dragons (you can find the full-size wallpaper of the image here):

mmodragons

While we’ve come such a long way graphically since the dragons of UO and Everquest, today’s MMO dragons have the same effect on players and still follow the same narrow design template. AION probably holds the trophy for the most beautiful and lavish dragon design. If I had to try and tackle the beast, put into words what still makes dragons so appealing to lovers of the genre, I’d call it a mixture – the fear of the unknown and supernatural as much as a fascination with the majesty, power and wisdom of a sentient being that shares traits with familiar animals. More than any other fantastic creature, dragons embody the virtues of a magical world beyond our wardrobe and maybe our longing thereof. Or as this article concludes beautifully, quoting a Tolkien essay:

Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability. If they awakened desire, satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded… The dragon had the trade-mark of Faerie written plain upon him. In whatever world he had his being it was an Other-world. Fantasy, the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds, was the heart of the desire of Faërie. I desired dragons with a profound desire… the world that contained even the imagination of Fafnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever cost of peril. [JRR Tolkien, On Fairy Stories]

That is the gift of dragon-sight; the purpose of the dragon quest. Dragons embody the beauty and the peril of an “other world” that is “richer and more beautiful” and full of strange and marvelous things.

I look forward to meeting more MMO dragons in the future. I’m not sure about Wildstar but it’s probably safe to say we’ll see more of them in Everquest Next, Elder Scrolls Online and certainly WoW. What are your favorite dragons in MMOs? And is there anyone who’s tired of all the dragons? I can’t imagine my virtual worlds without them.

Friday Linkage

Battle Bards episode 13 has aired this last Tuesday and it’s adventure time! One of our most abstract theme shows so far, it was both interesting and challenging to think of MMO tunes that convey the spirit of adventure; that feeling of setting sail into the blue. Adventure and travel are every explorer’s bread and butter but no matter your Bartle profile, it means a great deal of different things to different people. What does it mean to you? Find out and tune in!

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Episode 13 show notes

  • “Open Sea Music” from Pirates of the Burning Sea
  • “Explorers and Artifacts” from Guild Wars 2
  • “Spiritual Elysium” from Anarchy Online
  • “Step to the Next World” from Aion
  • “Talking Island” from Lineage II
  • “Romulus Suite” from Star Trek Online
  • “Breeland Jig” from Lord of the Rings Online

An NBI-2 Status Update

This October’s NBI has already attracted a fair group of new MMO bloggers – head over to the official forums to check them out! We are only halfway which means there’s plenty of time left to sign up as a newcomer or to contribute as a sponsor. The poetry slam event is still going too and around ten MMO bloggers have already risen to the challenge. This has been great fun so far, so keep them rhymes (or not rhymes) coming, folks!

nbimedium

Women who play interview

Kazz from Gameskinny has started an interview series on female gamers, bloggers and women generally active in and around the field of gaming. It is her proclaimed goal to reach out and encourage women who play to step into the light – to join communities such as the blogosphere and other networks where gamers roam and are being creative, without fear of rejection.

“Women in gaming” is a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but never quite found the right approach. Whilst there are many tales available of the horror stories and downsides for women who dare to call themselves gamers, my own experiences – as a gamer and game blogger – have actually been quite positive.

I’ve always felt that it is important to highlight what is going wrong and to expose those who judge by gender. But equally, women are playing games, they are making games, and they are making positive contributions to gaming communities. [Kazz]

As a videogame blogger I have a lot of self-cringe when being asked to give anyone an interview on myself; it seems like a horribly self-absorbed thing to do unless your name is Jane McGonigal or Markus Persson in which case you probably have something important to say. However, after overcoming these initial misgivings I was happy to answer Kazz’ questionnaire which led me way back, to humble beginnings and parts of my gamer biography I have never talked about before on the blog. If some of my own struggles can inspire anyone to take heart, that’s a worthy cause right there.

Tangentially, I always wanted to write an article on my personal gamer bio; I think this would make for an awesome blogosphere meme. I’d love to hear fellow MMO bloggers to talk about their own journeys – how it all began and which games they deem the most significant and formative. In any case, over the course of the questionnaire I realized once more how much I owe the blogging community and how thankful I am for discovering it, including all the special bloggers and commenters who have engaged with me over the last few years. I was a fairly isolated gamer before I started my blog. I still hold a torch for fellow gamers and geeks everywhere, no matter the sometimes bad propaganda or foul apples on boards and comment sections. We are the community.

So, thanks Kazz for having me. For all those who are similarly nosy and curious as myself where their fellow bloggers are concerned, you can find the interview here.

Happy weekend everybody! I shall resume more game-related news and ponderings soon, well as soon as an MMO out there does something interesting. Here’s to hoping!

Holding on to your Escapism

Hello, my name is Syl and I am a screenshot junkie. I admit, I have a weakness for shiny fairytale worlds. Sometimes, I wish I lived there.

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There have been times in my life when I have. Half of my childhood (literally) was spent lying on my bed, listening to audio cassettes (fifty-two, for which I will always thank my late grandfather) full of international folklore, mythology and fairytales, while reading the colorfully illustrated booklets. All day long I watched Jack climb the beanstalk, Sindbad fly giant birds and Odysseus fool the cyclops with sheep skins. When George killed the dragon, I was there with him. The secret backdoor in my wardrobe has been wide open all my life. Escaping to fantasy land always came easily to me. It’s what has kept me sane. I don’t want to imagine my life without stories growing up.

There’s nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you’re escaping from, and where you’re escaping to. [source]

When less informed people talk about game-related escapism (for that still seems to be less established than the literary form), they only ever focus on the escape; the negative distancing, the social estrangement. Hardly ever do they understand that when we do, when we need to, we escape to a better place – maybe to the only, currently right place in our life. That it’s only there where we find shelter, safety and peace of mind. For a little while. And that it may save us from something. That it gives us hope.

The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed. [source]

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I will never apologize for my escapism. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I will never be ashamed of what’s kept me alive. Things could have gone badly – instead, I found universal meaning, truth and understanding that reaches beyond the struggles of our everyday lives.

We read to know we are not alone. [C.S. Lewis]

Moving on to the interactive stories of video games was the natural progression of my childhood thirst for fairy tales. Discovering JRPGs around age 10 was a revelation. Later, MMOs finally allowed us to enter the worlds we’ve been day-dreaming about in Lord of the Rings or the Forgotten Realms in full capacity, as ourselves.

The rest is history. I love this genre – I love it for its immersive otherworldly-ness, its places of order and beauty where, for a little while, I can rest in peace and recharge my batteries. In a way, this is self-medicating. Bhagpuss commented elsewhere that ‘the reason games are “fun” is because they allow us to forget for a small time that we are all going to die one day and probably sooner than we would like to think’ and that may be a part of it too, the older we get. I do not fall down the rabbit hole as deeply as I used to nowadays, yet there are still moments in my daily life when I feel completely drained and in almost physical need to switch off and just play games for a while. There have been times when I neglected this part of myself for real life demands and that didn’t go well. I need to keep in touch with my wardrobe; it restores my sanity like nothing else does.

lotro1

I wish that more people understood this because so many of us deal with the world in similar fashion. In the words of my old philosophy teacher: “the greatest gift we can give our children is to give them stories”. So keep yours close (and check out my new screenshots gallery!) and a happy Monday to all you MMO escapists out there. Hold on to that escapism for as long as you need it.

Picture of the Day

Thanks to the wonderful Tesh, my mug collection (yeah I have one) got two shiny Battle Bards mugs added to it today. Naturally, I had to take a quick picture with the family. Sometimes you plan everything out carefully and then the cat is being awesome, so here’s the result:

sia

A happy weekend to all of you, with hopefully less rain than over here!

Happy Moday Post: A Gamer’s Dream

I am a crazy dreamer which I’ve always attributed to my rampant imagination. I dream very vivid dreams on most nights, in stark contrast to my partner who never ever dreams and if he does, he never remembers. I, on the other hand remember lots of things although on average memory is at its freshest right after waking up and then fades miraculously soon after. It’s only ever the most impressive, horrible or delightful dreams that stick with me longterm and honestly this dream business is as much a blessing as a curse at times. Dark dreams can overshadow my mood for the entire day to come – not very pleasant! On the other hand, nothing beats being woken up by your own laughter (and creeping out whoever may be in close proximity). I don’t place much meaning on dreams though; I’ve always interpreted them as “brain doing a clean-out or re-arranging furniture”. I’ve definitely had dreams in the past which were a direct consequence of intense experiences or stressful times, still dreams are ripples on the surface of our subconscious at best, without any indication of what’s to come. I believe as little in oneiromancy as in palm reading. Did you know that’s a word?

Anyway, it so happens that I’ve had one of the most fantastic gamer dreams ever only two nights ago and I’m still thinking about it. I’m having lots of cool gaming-related dreams of late, it must be a lucky streak! That particular one was so geeky and epic however, I just have to share it on this sunny Monday morning! Most people would give me funny looks over this but I feel this blog is a safe place to tell the tale.

“The Ultimate Escapism”

Artwork by HeeWonLee

Artwork by HeeWonLee

So, I am standing on the balcony of my apartment which happens to be a different apartment, but then dreams never seem to care for this type of accuracy. It’s a sunny day and I am looking down on the green lawn below. Suddenly, this tall and bulky male Troll warrior in full battle armor materializes out of thin air; he is lying on the grass quite relaxed, staring up at me. He is also an ingame character (as in WoW cartoon while me and the rest of the world are still erm photo-realistic). He’s winking at me while I’m trying to catch up with my brain. Next thing a shiny sword starts materializing beside him, followed by a Draenei, this time a woman, grasping it. Apparently they’re here to fetch me. And I’m late.

This is where the dream “zones” or makes a cut, or maybe I just don’t remember how I left the balcony. I’m now in company of these two mysterious figures leading me to a WoW style city, where numerous other game characters are fighting and training and basically doing MMO THINGS as I’m given a tour around. I end up being introduced to a cheerful troll girl with pink hair (she actually had a haircut that exists in the game…and tusks) who takes me to the inn. She had a name too but I’ve lost it.

Troll girl introduces me to her girlfriends at the inn and they’re talking about fashion (…). Apparently there’s a party later on and I’m not dressed for the occasion. Worse: I am still no cartoon figure! Immediately I’m taken to this lake where – wait for it – there’s a sort of fishing mini-game going on with small rafts. I have to compete against 7 other players and win the thing by collecting most items from the water.

And so I do! Victorious, I head back to the lobby (or whatever it was) and grab the reward sitting on a table. It’s a fairly lackluster cardboard box really and when I open it, there are several cockroaches swarming out (which I interpret as tokens for the losers). What’s left is a grey bushy tail.

(I’m not kidding! First I thought it was weird but then I remembered this…….)

The tail looks more like a short brush and is made of some cloth fabric (rather than real tail thank god). I’m supposed to eat it to complete the transformation to cartoon Syl. As I start chewing on the thing, the troll warrior from the beginning is back cheering at me. I’m still trying to gulp down what’s left, feeling strangely warm inside.

…And that’s when our neighbor from downstairs (I hate these people) rang at the door, waking me up. It’s SO cliché yet it’s nothing but the truth. And I never got to know what else would’ve happened in that strange dream land after becoming a WoW character, DOH! I went back and tried but re-connecting to dreams is virtually impossible. /sadface

Oh well. It was a wonderful dream nonetheless, a gamer’s dream. One that I got to share with you. Happy Monday everybody – and hang on to those dreams of yours!

Goodbye from Raging Monkeys! Hello from MMO Gypsy!

Dear readers, subscribers and blogger friends,

After almost three years I bid farewell to my old blogger blog, known as Raging Monkeys (sometimes with apostrophe, sometimes not) and am very happy to welcome you to my brand new wordpress site: MMO Gypsy!
When google announced the death of google reader that was the final push for me to turn my back on blogger whose continued existence is now doubtful at best. I’ve always toyed with the idea of moving to wordpress but platform switches being such stressful undertakings, I resisted. So, I guess this is where I give thanks to google for ever treating blogger as their bastard child.

That said, moving blogs cross-platform was as rocky as expected; much reading, eyebrow raising and hair tearing has gone before this very first post on wordpress. Coming from blogger with all its installed conveniences and simple stylesheet, learning how to navigate WP’s plugins structure, editing themes and setting up a self-hosted domain are a challenge. That last part was easiest thanks to some friendly support, but I am still working my way through finish issues concerning permalinks switches, feed redirection, google’s SEO et cetera. Oh boy.

A new name and theme

I am very happy that the move to WP also marks the beginning of finally hosting my own blog (as blog content ownership is shady at best at blogger) and loosing the baggage of Raging Monkeys. It is always weird to be the only person blogging from a ‘plural blog name’, frequently being referred to as ‘they/them’. Somewhere along the lines I gave using an apostrophe a shot which only created more confusion on people’s blogrolls, either linking to Raging Monkeys or Monkey’s. Yeah, that worked well. I haven’t felt attachment to my old blog’s title for a long time now and after having had friends ask me what was apish or angry about my blog, I had to agree that it neither really fit my personality nor writing style. It was fun for a few months before blogger hindsight struck me. Alas, Raging Monkeys was my home for a long time and I’ll always treasure it for all the enjoyment blogging in the MMO sphere and interacting with my commenters has brought me.

I’ve chosen MMO Gypsy as my new alias. I feel it’s a fitting description of my many travels through online worlds that started over a decade ago. I know I will be attached to this wonderful genre for much longer. There is also a more personal identification with the literal gypsy as I partly share origins with some of that wandering folk. This is something I only recently discovered, so I take it as a good omen towards the new name choice.

About the old feed and blogroll issues

Due to both permalink reasons and google punishing duplicate content, the old blog is not accessible anymore but redirects to the new domain. However, as you can see I managed to fully import all my past articles and all your old comments to MMO Gypsy! This was the most important part for me and luckily it all went smoothly. I am glad that from now on there will be more and better options for commenting.

As I intend to keep my old feedburner feed, no changes have gone into the site’s feed; if you subscribed to my old blog before, you should now automatically get the new updates from MMO Gypsy. I have installed a feed-redirection in WP on behalf of new joiners (unfortunately WP automatically generates its own feed and won’t let you delete/replace it) and sincerely hope that’s working reliably to direct them to my old feed to avoid multiple feeds. Please let me know if this appears not to be the case!

To those of you who have Raging Monkeys on their blogroll: I’m afraid this will have to be updated manually by yourself as the old blogger link will not update any longer or reliably (and certainly not update the blog title). Thanks!

With that, I hope to have sorted the most important aspects of the move. As you can see the new blog is not entirely finished yet and I have few qualms to sort out on the sidebar and plugins to find to replace blogger’s inbuilt functionality for mobile view or statistics. Many thanks for letting me know if you detect an error or loading issues anywhere!

A look ahead and thank you

So much novelty did of course beg for a brand new look, too. I’ve been a white, minimalist theme blogger forever and while I loved Raging Monkeys final look (and have kept its overall layout and font styles), I’ve been wanting to go more ‘gamey’ and cheerful for a while. I hope all you non-feed readers like the new look – after much fixing I am quite happy with it now!

All that said, from here on MMO Gypsy is resuming all business and tomfoolery as usual. While names may have changed, I remain yours truly Syl, host of this not-so-serious but always sincere MMO and RPG blog – looking forward to many adventures to come, interesting discussions and great laughs with the community.

I do also want to take this opportunity to thank all my faithful readers and commenters, those who have stuck with Raging Monkeys for so long and those who have only discovered it more recently. You’re what’s making blogging this fantastic and worthwhile experience to me and all the merry chats, insightful debates and exchanges we’ve had over the years are what I will always cherish and welcome, also on this new blog. I look forward to seeing you back here! A very warm welcome to MMO Gypsy!

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– Syl 🙂 (who still needs to figure out how to align images in WP)

The quintessential indispensable guide to successful blogging (and cheeseballs)

In case you’re wondering what’s up with my publishing speed of late, I am finally off work! Yes, that evil work from hell and I couldn’t be happier about it. I am back open road, my old friend! Just this Monday I got an SMS from my successor and she is telling me that she intends to resign this week (after a mere two weeks in a company I stayed at for 8 months) and that the other new gal (who replaced everyone else of my team who have also resigned with me) already resigned last Friday. Ahahaha! If only I could shed a tear for my former bosses but sometimes karma hits the right people.

Anyway, I noticed that I have been entirely too unserious with my blogging of late, so today I intend to fix this by giving quintessential blogging advice after receiving an email from Sam, a silent longterm reader who approached me about how to best establish a successful blogging venture. Now, back in the days I would’ve felt horribly unqualified to answer such a question and just have redirected him over to Larisa, who always offered the best of counsel mixed with some genuine, motherly peptalk. Truth be told, I still feel rather awkward to share my “wisdom” on something I still consider trivial at its core (not the art of great writing mind) but then again, I have been a steady blogger for 2.5 years now with 300ish posts published – so why the hell not?

Of course, the internet is full of serious blogging advice by very experienced individuals. These days you can hardly get a word out before being confronted with “becoming a great blogger” and all the fatal “do’s and donts” of publishing – and rightly so! After all, this is the new journalism and we need to imitate that crowd. So, I can definitely see why some people are intimidated to start their own blog, no matter how long they’ve toyed with the idea. For those, let me guide you on your road to guaranteed successfullness.

The lofty art of SRS blogging

Dear Sam and everyone else it concerns,
I hate saying it but while blogging ain’t rocket science, you gotta know your stuff these days. You wanna stand out among one billion gazillion bloggers out there, don’t ya? Well, you better follow this guide meticulously. It really isn’t so hard (or scary) if you follow few easy steps!

Rule #1: Be overbearingly present!
If you intend to start your own blog, you better know that it’s not enough to write good articles regularly. Make sure to also get accounts on facebook, myspace, google plus, twitter, tumblr and youtube right away – the more, the better. NETWORKING NETWORKING NETWORKING! If you wanna up your traffic, your presence gotta be inescapable!

Rule #2: Nomen est omen!
Naming your blog is serious business. Further down the line to fame and success, you might hate yourself for not having given this proper thought and then it’s too late! Think hard on something fresh and catchy that represents you and sticks with people, or don’t open a blog at all. Ever. 
Good example: a geeky/techie wordplay on your name and chosen subject.
Bad example: completely unrelated monkey business.

Rule #3: Limit your subject and be real!
The worst you can do to establish a big readership fast and harvest hits, is to write about too wide a field of topics. You want to be known for something, right? Even if you are a really interesting person with many different interests, try to focus and deliver one thing only. Also, avoid niche topics and meta analysis. Nobody wants to read a meta commentary blog on MMORPG design, for example. Trust me.

Rule #4: Guides guides guides!
The best you can do to keep’em hits rollin’ is writing guides. Might sound dry and boring to you, but nothing gets you street cred and longterm visits like a nice and detailed guide with pictures. Great writing and insightful debates are cool and all but….guides dude, guides!


Rule #5: Use catchy post titles!
You probably know how the google search engine works, so you want to make sure when people are looking for something they always end up on your blog! Intention means nothing but every hit counts! Try and make your post titles as search engine catchy as you possibly can. Add meta tags and work broad terminology into the mix! If you manage to weave “cheeseballs” coherently into any given post title, you basically got it down. Ninja!

Rule #6: Sound smarter than you are!
Make any given topic sound like an academic treatise. The art of spicing up the mundane lies in correct placement of a few superfluous but trendy or intellectual sounding catchwords the average reader probably won’t understand. Popular words include: “dichotomy, paradigm (shift), per se, oeuvre, juxtaposition” etc. Jep, any of those will do. Or better even, use them all!

Rule #7: Don’t swear!
You may never ever swear or sink to vulgarity in an article. Even if it’s really witty and in context, or alternatively just damn funny and honest, you do not want to alienate anyone by using bad words on your blog. Only unprofessional and shady people swear. In general, avoid being too extreme with your opinions; you don’t want to polarize – to polarize is to lose half of a potential audience. People only like strong opinions as long as they are theirs.

I will stop here because seven is a beautiful number. Also, these are really the most valuable points I can possibly pass on to rookie bloggers – points I live by myself every day. I hope I’ve managed to show that there’s nothing to worry about whatsoever as long as you heed a few simple, widely approved rules. If not, I’m afraid to say your blog’s gonna crash and burn and sink into oblivion.

Also, for Sam – please check my other answer in your inbox!
Best wishes,

Syl
(who is entirely guilty of using ‘per se’ when others aren’t looking. The Big Yin would not approve.)

The Deathbed Fallacy. Or: Spare me your Gamer’s Remorse, Thank You!

(This post is dedicated to all the happy gamers out there. And the unhappy ones.)

I have one more month to go at the current job, much to my great delight. Imagine my surprise then when today, somewhat late, I discovered a distant co-worker talking about his WoW raiding spree some years ago, when he was still a progression raider on his horde shaman. Unfortunately however, WoW had “gone wrong” sometime after WotLK (which is true of course) and so he stopped his raiding career of many years and approximately 172 days of total playtime. What a familiar story.

However, my initial fuzzy surge of ex-raider fellowship was short-lived; three minutes into the conversation, the topic shifted to what an utter waste of time it had been to play as much WoW as he had. How could anyone in his right mind spend that much time on games? And with nothing to show for after such a long time? Never ever would he do anything like it again.

Of course! I can never be that lucky….after all this workplace just sucks in all respects!

From there this guy went to explain how he’s rather playing online poker these days and earn some money – because that activity at least has some financial upside (and hence must be utterly worthwhile compared to playing silly fantasy games). Of course my mind was reeling from all the familiar, hollow argumentation at that point, but what struck me the most about this person was the way his enthusiastic flashback of past WoW days turned into such a fundamental condemnation of the once cherished pastime. His eyes had been shining brightly thinking back on his raiding career. There was grim pride in his words when he clarified he’d been one of the “real raiders” on a popular German progression server. Not to mistake with one of the casual crowd! He had killed Arthas on 25man and more. He had “had everything”.

And quite obvious to me, he had enjoyed that greatly. To such a point, a distant shadow of that past glory was still surfacing on his now frowning face. And yet, somewhere along the line that same mind convinced itself that it had all been worthless. An odd ambiguity bespeaking a battle between feelings and reason.
I was just waiting for him to say it: how none of us wish we had played more videogames on our deathbed. At least he spared me that particular cringe.

What none of us wish

Besides the obvious thing, that there’s an awful lot of things we won’t be wishing for when facing death one day, no matter how much we have done them, the truth is most of us will never ever find ourselves on that proverbial death bed. You know, that peaceful and solemn end-of-days contemplation as we feel the last flicker of life leaving our body. That perfectly timed moment of retrospective. And even if by some chance we did, we wouldn’t be thinking of having played too many videogames; in fact I have this wild hunch we wouldn’t think about games at all. This entire analogy isn’t even a thing, it’s nonsensical and construed. Anyway.

Sometimes I still wonder, in a brief moment of desperate frustration, how long is it gonna take? How much more established do videogames need to become in contemporary, western culture to be regarded just as any other hobby out there that isn’t necessarily making “financial profit”(?) That isn’t productive on a first-glance or physically tangible level (tangible on many other levels though). Heck, some hobbies are actually downright detrimental to your health and wellbeing and even those are more accepted than gaming. It’s nuts.

Not to mention of course all the upsides and benefits of videogaming as a hobby / passion. So often documented by gamers out there. Again and again. I’ve talked about it myself, At least twice. I don’t feel the need to revisit this topic. By now there’s a multitude of studies and hard facts out there on all the things that gamers are better at, from hand-eye coordination to abstract thinking, from organizational to certain social skills. And then, in case you missed it in 2012, there’s pieces like this one that actually deal, literally, with the deathbed fallacy in context of videogaming. Yeah, it’s McGonigal again – she’s an enthusiast. And she has a point.

So, in case you still detect yourself in that thought process sometimes, privately maybe as you ponder how much “greater you could’ve been without videogames”, how games stifled your growth and progress in other areas when they’ve really just been an excuse from yourself, saving you from self-doubt and the realization that maybe you’re not going to be a big world changer, internationally acclaimed author, scientist or designer after all – here’s a short transcription from McGonigal’s 2012 TED talk:

“Hospice workers, the people who take care of us at the end of our
lives, recently issued a report on the most frequently expressed regrets
that people say when they are literally on their deathbeds. And that’s
what I wanna share with you today, the top five regrets of the dying:

  • Number 1: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • Number 2: I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • Number 3: I wish I had let myself be happier.
  • Number 4: I wish I had the courage to express my true self.
  • Number 5: I wish I’d lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me.” [source]

Now, I don’t think I need to further comment this list. I only wish you do yourself a favor: take it to heart. And while we’re at it: do me a favor and spare me from your goddamn gamer’s remorse.
If you feel the gaming blues sometime (I have), take some time off! If you aren’t enjoying games anymore, don’t play them! If you feel you’re spending too much time on games, play less games! If you feel you’re using games as an unhealthy outlet, ask for help.

….but spare me and the rest of the happily ever after gaming crowd. Spare me the underachiever complex and lamentation of failed grandeur which you so graciously bestow on everyone around you in one sweeping, condescending blow of rotten hindsight wisdom. I think videogames are fucking great – they have been for the past 28 years of my life! That’s for how long I’ve been playing them, so I think I too know a thing or two about the subject.

Just….SPARE ME. Thanks!

It’s a new day with so much to play!

Steam sales. Yes, we have all done it over these past few days – I know you have and so have I. Steam has been rather awesome for a while but the direction the platform has taken of late is fabulous from my humble end-user perspective; easy browsing (too easy!), purchasing and gifting games to folk on your friendlist, automatic updates, trailers and demos all in one spot, public wishlists and screenshot galleries….and now with the new big picture portal I have even re-plugged a gamepad to my PC. I used to think that XBOX live showed the rest of the console world how online is done properly – the same can be said for Steam and PC gaming. As somebody who has always looked forward to multiplatform, digital gaming instead of dusty boxes piling up on my attic, I am very pleased with this new era. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that with Steam I feel more like I’m paying my money to the right people, aka developers.

What this platform does so well is what amazon, youtube and similar sharing, networking and self-publishing sites have done for a while: check out what others are playing, read your buddies’ recommendations, browse similar titles, genres and special bundles. Before you know it, you own so many games you don’t know where to start! Which brings me to the inevitable topic of excess. I guess it fits our overall lifestyle in the western world that we now increasingly “nibble” at our games, try more of them but finish less. I don’t know if this is good or bad; I remember how I saved up my allowance as a child to afford a new SNES RPG, playing it to death for weeks. Games were more expensive then, too.

Today, I might finish one game out of three. Does that mean I enjoy myself less? I am not so sure. With more choice and variety, I actually get to keep my enjoyment level fairly high. I have the flexibility to switch to something else when the same level or riddle frustrate or bore me. At the same time, avoiding frustration all the time is to avoid that feeling of epic win; of being victorious over tedious obstacles. That is an old discussion we know so well from MMO design too. Still, do we all need to play games in the same way? Do we take pleasure from the same type of “win”?

A Trip back to Middle-Earth

After thoroughly enjoying the new Hobbit movie in cinema, hands down the biggest fun I’ve had over the Christmas holidays (during which I was ill with a nasty flu, yay) was with Lego Lord of the Rings. Yeah, that surprised me too! Being my first Lego title due to popular bias, the huge care, love for detail and humor that has gone into bringing the movie trilogy to life with Lego characters is simply stunning. Lego LOTR is straightforward gameplay fun, sticking very closely to the beautiful settings and script of Peter Jackson’s films, while surprising you with creative ideas and funny details around every corner. I finished the whole storyline in about 15 hours, after which I had discovered only 30% of the entire world and open world mode got unlocked. The fully explorable map of Middle-Earth is packed with more secrets, puzzles and playable characters to recruit (75 in total!). That last one was a neat flashback of the fun I’ve had with an old RPG called Genso Suikoden. What else can I say, if you’re at all into Tolkien’s world and the LOTR movies, forget your lego bias and give this game a try!

As if that wasn’t enough Tolkien for a week, I finally decided to put my money where my mouth is and give Lord of the Rings Online a try. It’s one of maybe three MMOs I’ve been meaning to play forever (together with Vanguard and FF14) but different issues kept me from it. One of them was probably timing; when LOTRO came out I was still deeply into WoW. Way too much about this new title looked similar to WoW’s approach at first sight, for example the questing system. I am also not actually a die-hard Tolkien fan. Anyways, by now I can say that no MMO I’ve ever tried was actually “just like WoW” (the way some people claim): Allods is not like WoW, Rift is not WoW and LOTRO too is not WoW. They just share basic features like all MMOs have to.

After a few hours of gameplay (and rerolling on Laurelin EU RP server), I decided to upgrade my account to VIP status for three months and give this game a fair chance. I am still taking in newbie impressions, so suffice to say that LOTRO already managed to surprise me. I am loving the oldschool feel of this MMO both in setting and gameplay approach. I struggle with the combat quite a bit and have a feeling this isn’t the game’s strong suit. Questing is very linear and a rather uneventful fetch&delivery routine so far. The world on the other hand is absolutely massive (travel gets a new meaning) and lives from its community – which is really what I’m interested in with LOTRO. There is something very soothing about playing my Loremaster, dabbling at crafts and hobbies, stopping at inns and listening to music being played by real players. At this point I should also apologize for having called this game ugly in the past: I don’t know what Turbine have done since launch but on my current PC with max settings LOTRO, dated as it may be, is still a beautiful game with lots of nice details for today’s standards (click image to expand!) –

As you can tell from above screenshot, I am currently parked in Bree and undecided where to go next. So far all general chat on my server is very quiet. I don’t know if Kinships are a must in LOTRO from the get-go (tips welcome) or whether I am missing something. Hopefully I will find more chances to interact soon. I look forward to explore more of this world. LOTRO is not exactly the most self-explanatory or beginner friendly of MMOs in many respects (which does not have to be a bad thing).

Musings on 2013

Looking at my full Steam library and having recently resigned from a job that has drained all my energy, creativity and joy in life for the past few months, my wishes for 2013 are very humble: to do more of what I enjoy, to be more me again. Odd how that always seems to be such a difficult task.
I hope to find a more fulfilling (or at least less soul-destroying) work place soon and I look forward to having more time for writing again, gaming and other new projects – one of which may very well be a collaborative gaming&geek culture blog in the German speaking hemisphere (something that is still very under-represented compared to English sites and communities).

I have always wished to turn my different passions into a living, at least a part time gig, and I feel geek culture deserves more serious voices here in the heart of Europe. You may think mainstream media are conservative over in the UK or US still but when it comes to gaming, art and entertainment, both younger and older audiences around here don’t have many places to turn to and platforms to share in, unless they speak English. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while anyway and tackling blogging in my mother tongue would assist me in professionalizing it where I’m living. I’ve had people tell me about monetizing and different options before, but so far I never felt this was the way to go for this little blog here.

This turned out to be a very editorial post, which I guess is warranted after a quiet December and in presence of the new year that is 2013. These artificial boundaries we create for time have their upside in symbolism. I like a blank page before me, I always have. And with that I wish all of you a belated, very happy new year, filled with time and opportunity to be yourself and do the things that matter to you most. Now I have some catching up to do on my blogroll!

P.S. If nothing else, you should absolutely check out the current, amazing indie bundle up on Steam! It doesn’t get much better than this!

Happy Birthday to Meee!

Guild Wars 2 cometh and I am so prepared, Illidan would be proud! After a Friday night shift in the company of euphoric buddies (particular thanks go to my friend Dave for doing most of the work and research!), the new PC is up and running – as in running any game on maximum details smoothly I can possibly attempt to play on Steam. If you’re currently looking to benchmark a gaming rig I recommend DayZ though, no game (maybe with the exception of BF3 which I don’t possess) is a better indicator of what your PC can handle right now. Needless to say, DayZ looks amazing for me, much to the envy of a significant other! Everything onscreen down to my Windows system fonts, is so damn sharp that my eyes need actual adjusting….Is this the real world??

Real or not, this is also where I give thanks again to everyone who left their comments and recommendations on what components to get last week and those contacting me via email. To sum up briefly for you what I got in the end, and maybe also as pointers for anyone else currently looking to upgrade to a solid gaming rig on an average budget:

(click image to enlarge)

You might think I slightly exceeded my price limit there (which I did), but the list includes a new 2TB hard disk and Win7 64 which I had not considered earlier. I chose the GTX-570 over the GTX-560ti for reasons of very similar price. I went with a different brand as no other were on stock, it’s absolutely fine and looks impressive.

One piece in particular I couldn’t be happier about is the much debated SSD: this is quite possibly the most amazing upgrade ever and for 150 bucks extra worth getting if you’re in any way similar to myself – somebody who frequently uses the same few, big applications. It is paradise to see your Windows or Photoshop launch within mere seconds (no kidding) and games like Skyrim or any MMO with significant loading times and a tendency to crash every now and then. An SSD is such a huge improvement in terms of overall enjoyment and quality time, there’s no going back for me ever! Add the nice side-effect that I will now frequently shut down my PC, instead of keeping it running while having dinner or a shower…all systems are back running so fast it’s silly.

I R really happy now – why, oh why can you not let me test GW2 already, ArenaNet??

Year Two

Over the PC building zeal and GW2 euphoria, I actually almost forgot that this blog here is turning two years old as of today. That’s right, 730 days and a second cupcake! Such nice timing it is, with me gifting myself and the world of MMOs being so considerate, too!

Alas, I have not much else to say, I am not a big birthday person. When I think back to my last bloggaversary, I feel that everything I said there still stands and I still very much endorse the same topics (and people). I’m glad I’ve found this place for myself and my writing, and I’m particularly glad that I’ve stuck with the blog for this long no matter how busy the times. I don’t believe in grand quitting gestures and hasty goodbyes, I believe in comebacks and life being about ups and downs rather than stability. Our blogs are patient and they will always be there when we return (that is if our providers don’t quit on us in the meantime). To me that is a strangely comforting thought.

I look forward to some high times ahead now, with GW2 coming and whatever the MMO and RPG future holds for us all. I will be there and I count on you joining me, all of you whose voices I’ve come to know better over the past two years and who make blogging such an enjoyable and rewarding venture to me, as much as those visiting for the very first time. All winds of change aside, I am still feeling optimistic about this wonderful genre and grateful to live in times such as this; times of truly big and beautiful games, vast worlds with many stories yet to be told and epic memories to be had in the company of friends. From here MMO Gypsy is resuming MMO business as usual and with very much the same promise as last year – that absolutely nothing will change on this blog. A merry /toast to all of you! ~Syl