Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Am Not the Demographic

The recent announcement about the impending changes to the Marvel Universe has served to drive home something I've known for a while, but haven't truly unpacked and considered until now. For those not following the state of Marvel comics, it was announced last week that the primary Marvel continuity (the 616, as it's commonly referred to) will be destroyed at the beginning of the upcoming Secret Wars event, and a 'Battleworld' will be stitched together from chunks of that Marvel Earth and dozens of alternate Earths. Supposedly this change is intended to be permanent and will be the setting for Marvel comics going forward.

It's possible, of course, that this will end up going the way of Heroes Reborn and the changes will be walked back. I fully believe, however, that Marvel really is intending to try and make this the new status quo especially after DC's linewide reboot a few years ago. Either way, come May neither of the main super-hero universes I grew up with will exist any longer. Both will have been replaced with newer, 'fresher' versions.

This serves to really drive home the message that I am no longer the target demographic they're after, and I haven't been for a while now. At 37, I no longer qualify as a young adult, and my habits aren't what's driving the decisions big media companies are making. You see the same thing with movies, where properties like Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been re-imagined in ways that are utterly unappealing to me. Why should I expect them to appeal to me? They're not for me; they're for the teenagers and young adults of today.

This isn't to say that no one is making media for me. Certainly nostalgia has been big in recent years, and there are plenty of cool Kickstarters and indie projects aimed squarely at us children of the 80s. But the big companies, the Disneys and Warner Brothers, the EAs and Sonys, they've moved on. Any interest of mine in their products is now a happy bonus for them, not the goal.

It would be easy to become bitter and rail against the perceived injustice of this abandonment, but that would hardly do me any good, and it certainly wouldn't be healthy. Thanks to the internet, niche products can survive and thrive, so there will always be new things for me to read and watch and play, I'll just have to look a little harder to find them. And I'll have to learn to let go of the things that are no longer for me. I'm going to continue reading Marvel's books at least until Secret Wars, and then I'll have a decision to make. It's possible I'll decide that this new direction is something I enjoy and want to follow, but I don't find that likely. If it's not, I'll have to close the book on Marvel and move on. It's good to know when to let things go.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Doing Well By Doing Good

Ever since I've had a for-real grown-up job I've made a point of donating to Heifer International each year.  Not only is it a local charity in my case, it's model is one which I whole-heartedly approve of; providing people with knowledge and assistance that is useful long-term and ultimately asking them to pay forward in the future when they are able.  I also like the idea of giving someone the gift of baby ducks.  I haven't always been able to give a lot, but I always at least give someone ducks.


Patrick Rothfuss agrees with me enough to have started a yearly geek-centered charity drive called Worldbuilders.  Every year around the holidays, Worldbuilders solicits donations to Heifer with various nerdy things occurring once certain totals have been raised.  This year, as an example,  Neil Gaiman recorded a video of himself reading Jabberwocky once $600,000 had been raised.  In addition, every $10 donated is an entry in a massive lottery of all sorts of geeky goodness.  Books, board games, and so forth.  Since Worldbuilders began, I've made my yearly donation to Heifer through it; I figure a chance at something neat is a nice little added benefit, so why not?  If anything it encourages me to give a little more to up my chances.

I've never actually won anything in the lottery.  Until this year, that is.  Saturday I found a package from Worldbuilders at the door, and inside was a copy of the board game Amazonas!


It's a pretty interesting looking game, with a short enough playtime and straightforward enough rules that I might be able to get my wife to play it (She hates complicated fiddly games with lots of different actions to choose from and hours-long play times.  Sadly this includes most of the board games I own).  Perhaps this weekend I'll shanghai a friend or two and play a couple games.  If so, I'll try and write a review once I've seen how it plays.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hello there, Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to any new readers that came from Massively to check me out!  I'm actually double glad Syp linked to me, as he mentioned the post that he made some years back that was my inspiration for my ability identification post!  For some reason I was misremembering it as something I saw on the LotRO forums.

I don't know how many folks might stick around and keep reading, but I've been considering a state of the gaming post in any case, so what better time?  Here's what I've been up to recently.


The 2.5 patch came out Monday, and for the first time I was entirely caught upon the various questlines.  I didn't really have time last night to try running any new group content, but I got everything unlocked and am ready to give some of it a try.  The Hildibrand questline continues to be the best thing ever, and I'm especially looking forward to the new Gilgamesh fight.

Apart from the new stuff, there's still plenty of existing goals that I'm still working towards.  I've leveled all my crafting and gathering classes to 50, but I still have plenty of better gear to work on so I can craft 3 and 4 star items.  I've been in a bit of a conundrum where I didn't want to spend a lot of gil melding materia into gear that isn't best in slot, but working on desynthesis has opened up my ability to craft the best jewelry for gathering and crafting, so that should help me move on up the chain.

I've also been working on my battle classes and have 3 of those at level 50.  Bard remains my main to which I've added Dragoon and Warrior.  I'll probably be focusing on White Mage or Scholar/Summoner next so I have a healer job available, but I haven't decided which yet.  I suspect I'd actually be better tanking as Paladin than Warrior, but I won the most absurd axe in the game off Titan a couple months back, and I've been wanting to use it ever since.

Dat Axe

Marvel Heroes

I've honestly not done much in Marvel Heroes recently apart from try to log on once a day to collect daily rewards.  I'm sure I'll swing back around to it again before too long, but for now FFXIV and occasional single player games are dominating my PC gaming time.

Shadow of Mordor

Among my Christmas presents this year was Shadow of Mordor, which I have been enjoying the hell out of.  I absolutely love Arkham City, so the basic gameplay is right up my alley, and the orc captains are a great element.  I had one poor idiot come back a total of 4 times, jumping me out of nowhere each time and looking rougher and rougher as it went along.  I do have trouble focusing on the story at all since I keep running into captains that need killing and Power Struggles to deal with.  I need to at least get to the point where I can brand captains so that getting them promoted actually benefits me.


Finally, I picked up the FFX/X-2 remaster recently and have been playing my way through Spira again.  I'd forgotten how dark that game is underneath the surface once you know what's actually going on.  So many things that were relatively innocuous the first time through have a whole new level of sad attached to them.  Really though, I guess Final Fantasy games have a history of darkness. mass genocide in VI, the whole Cloud/Sephiroth thing in VII, and Tactics, man don't get me started on Tactics.  It's like a Shakespearean tragedy told with Precious Moments figurines.

In any case I just wrapped things up in Luca and am headed out on the Mi'hen Highroad.  X is one of the Final Fantasy games that I not only beat but pretty much burned to the ground content-wise the first time around, so it's interesting seeing what all I remember and deciding how in depth I'm going to go.  I have a hard time not collecting all the things, but I don't know if I'm going to be willing to put forth the effort this time around to, for instance, get Lulu's final weapon.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Some people get really weird about playing characters of a different gender than their own.  I don't mean in an "I wish Assassin's Creed had playable female characters" way, I'm talking about people, mostly guys, who seem to think that choosing to play a female character makes a man less of a man.  Look around on any MMO forum and you'll likely find the 'why do guys play girl characters, what's wrong with them?' thread.

You see a lot of reasons suggested, ranging from 'their gay lol' to 'they want people to give them stuff' and so forth.  It's depressing, honestly.  So many of the posts always seem to boil down to 'I don't want to do thing X so anyone who does must be wrong/different/weird'.  There's a self-centeredness and lack of empathy that seems emblematic of so much of what's wrong with online culture.

When I create characters in online games, tabletop, or whatever, I generally have a basic outline in my mind when I start.  I'll either have a class or a personality in mind and everything else flows from that.  One of those elements is gender.  I'd feel as strange trying to make a character male that I've pictured as female as I would the reverse.  Playing a female character is comparable to playing a dwarf, or a robot, or a psychotic little cat thing for me.  I'm not any of those things in real life, they're elements of a character I choose to inhabit.

That's not to say my views on characters are the way, the truth, and the light.  I can absolutely understand wanting to play 'yourself' (or more likely an idealized version thereof).  My version of the Avatar in Ultima games has always been simply me at the core.  It's also not at all surprising that a transgender person would want to play a character of the gender they identify as.  For me such a role is a challenge to attempt; for them it's an opportunity to inhabit a more comfortable skin.

I think a lot of my view on this comes from my roots in late 80s and early 90s tabletop role-playing.  This was a time when story and setting was really coming to the fore, and games tended to involve a lot of social elements along with the combat.  Like most players I started out pretty much playing 'me with magic', but that gets boring after a while.  For role playing to be interesting, the role needs to require some effort.  As one gets better at it, the effort needs to increase.  Particularly once I started running games, I needed to be able to play all sorts of different NPCs, some of whom were female.  From there to a female PC isn't much of a stretch.

Ultimately, choice of character gender is just one of many, many ways that different people play the same game in a different way.  Trying to claim that someone else is playing wrong because of that choice says a lot more about you than it does them.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's that Ability?

Wilhelm's post today about Everquest 2 included a shot of his hotbars on the character he has been leveling recently.  I know I was curious and confused by many of the icons, so as a public service I will interpret the many skills here shown.

1) Throw Paper Airplane
2) Duel
3) Moonwalk
4) Deep Hurting
5) One Sword
6) Two Sword
7) Red Sword
8) Discuss Punching
9) Deeper Hurting
0) Punish Villager
-) Replace Cart Wheel
=) J'accuse!

Alt 1) Start Horse
Alt 2) Defrost Windshield
Alt 3) Visine
Alt 4) Display Pecs
Alt 5) Super Saiyan
Alt 6) Boot to Head
Alt 7) Bitch Slap
Alt 8) Pimp Slap
Alt 9) Palmolive
Alt 0) Apply Makeup
Alt -) Dance Around Maypole
Alt =) Blue Sword

Ctrl 1) Contemplate Hand
Ctrl 2) Alien Abduction
Ctrl 3) Beam Me Up!
Ctrl 4) Buckle Belt
Ctrl 5) Remove Staple
Ctrl 6) Replace Pad
Ctrl 7) Flashdance
Ctrl 8) Drink Heavily
Ctrl 9) Rail Against Heavens
Ctrl 0) Become Pope
Ctrl -) Add Ice Cube
Ctrl =) I Don't Know

There, isn't that better?