March 31, 2012

That guy sure is a character!

Throughout my life, I've used entertainment, like many Americans, as an escape from reality. As I'm nearing age 30, I've spent more time questioning that effect on my life. Is this escapism creating a false sense of reality in me and is it in turn affecting my expectations in life?

What makes fictional stories so different than reality? I thought about this a lot the other day, as my wife was watching Office Space on Netflix, a movie about a disgruntled office employee. The main character goes about life in a careless way, with everything falling into place even though he'd given up all effort to be productive at his job. I could never be late for work everyday and skip the days I don't feel like coming in, all while having a “I don't care” attitude and tearing down my cubicle, without the consequence of losing my job. But this character did, in fact he got a promotion, and it made for a great story.

The difference is, I have bills, 2 cats, and a wife. However, there's that part of me that desires more chaos in the world and a bit more freedom. It's that part of me that wonders if these characters are truly so far fetched. It's not that we can't be outrageous, it's that we won't. Pressures from society and fear of being different, or abnormal, save us from potentially making fools of ourselves. That is, unless you live in Berkeley, CA.

A good story has colorful characters, each with their own flavor. The problem with real life, at least in American society, is that we're so caught up with fitting in, that the the lines of individuality become thin. When someone acts out of the norm, such as owning a flock of cats, or tattooing feline spots on their face, they're looked at as freaks. But at the same time, many people suppress their desire to stand out in fear of being ostracized. Where's the fun in that?

So I've come to the conclusion that many of these fictional stories, that masterfully transport our minds to a place more colorful, are not so out of touch as we are from life. People can, and should be eccentric, they should take chances, and their appearance should reflect how they feel inside instead of adhering to social pressure. Remember that character is defined as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. Do you have character?

March 25, 2012

Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, struttin' through a blizzard like a boss.

When you pass through a snow covered valley, wind howling in your ears, the setting sun casting shadows around you, it's easy to get lost in the astonishing beauty of it all. Easy enough to make you forget you're sitting at your desk in a crappy apartment, killing time before you have to leave for your lousy job. It's the immersion that hooks many people to MMOs, and it also gives them a bad name.

My first MMO was Ultima Online. A few of my friends were playing it and I had to join if I ever wanted to see them again. I never really get into it, though. Perhaps I was too young for it, or maybe I didn't see the appeal. It came at a time when the internet was rather new in my house, and although I didn't play long, it left me wanting more.

Technology has played a big part in getting me into MMOs. When the atmosphere in MMOs began looking more realistic, or at least appealing to the eye, I got hooked. Maybe it's a bit shallow of me, but personally, the presentation of a game matters a lot. I like sleek designs, breathtaking locales and high detail. Perhaps it's my love of nature blending with my digital age taste.

Many have demonized MMOs for their addictive qualities. You hear one story of an obsessed husband, playing a game for hours on end, who loses his wife and friends because he would rather play the game. Then you hear a few more stories just like that, and all of a sudden these games are destroying our country. It's just like rap, violent movies, rock & roll, and Elvis' pelvic thrust. It's all out to get you!

The sad thing is, many people who fight what they believe to be an evil doing, rarely give it a chance. So often they make judgments with closed eyes, hands over their ears, while they scream something about burning witches. I can't say there isn't a danger in playing too much of an MMO, too much of anything is unhealthy, but I can say they've given people experiences that wouldn't have been possible without them.

Next time someone gives you slack for bragging about the shiny new gear on your high elf, just laugh it off. They're obviously missing out on some great experiences. Just make sure you turn off the computer now & then so you don't miss out on any adventures yourself.

March 22, 2012

Do you play the role, or is the role playing you?

When I'm anticipating a new game release and drooling over the scraps of info that trickle out, the most fun part is figuring our what type of character I'm going to play. Since I prefer RPGs, the options are often vast and varying. And now, with personal story arcs becoming an important factor in MMOs, it makes me question even more what kind of character I want to play and if character creation choices are going to impinge on that. But first, lets look at why we choose certain character types and if it's a reflection of our own personalities.

I was talking to a close friend of mine a while back about which class we want to start out with in GW2. He told me he was very interested in the Necromancer, but he typically enjoys playing melee characters more, as the experience of hacking away at something is very appealing to him. It got me thinking why I choose certain classes.. even the choices of race & gender I make. Is it just a cosmetic thing, or is there more to it?

When I was younger, I was all about casters. I grew up a nerd, wishing I was a wizard rather than a football player or something more realistic. Perhaps it was because of games like Final Fantasy IV, where the animations were limited, spells just looked cooler than the simple run up and slash of melee characters. It wasn't till games got more advanced that I began to enjoy melee characters. The style was more fleshed out, it's usually fast paced and demands a lot of coordination. Just the challenge I wanted!

Digging deeper, I've found it's more about the game play mechanics of the class rather than if they use spells or swords to disperse or their enemies. Personally, I like a class that is versatile. Something that has a bag full of goodies for all sorts of situations. In WoW, my favorite class is Hunter (with druid close behind). The hunter, which is limited to only DPS, has so much utility. You can direct mobs onto the tank, pull mobs off the healer, trap, slow, stun, play a tug of war with mobs by pulling/dropping aggro, plus you have the many pet abilities to choose from.  Basically, allowing you to master the class through utility.

You see, I'm a fairly adaptable person in life. My living situations have changed often, and I've worked at a handful of very different jobs. It's no wonder this translates to my gaming preference. But with SWToR and GW2 having personal story lines, there's more to it than the play style you enjoy. I find myself asking will I like the personality that's given to my character by developers?

Ree Soesbee, ArenaNet's lore and continuity designer, recently sat down with VG24/7 in an interview discussing these personal story lines. She mentioned that you'll be given in-game biography questions to further flesh out your character and allowing for many paths to go on. While in SWToR, I wasn't very happy with the linear storyline of my character, it felt very limited to light or dark, I do have faith in what ArenaNet is offering in GW2.  Hopefully we'll be given choices that change our character, adapting to the situation at hand.  After all, life is most exciting filled with experiences that have an impact on your very character.

March 20, 2012

Unemployment rates for Trolls are high, there just aren't enough bridges to go around.

Change. It's what evolves us, moves us in directions we never would have imagined. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, other times it's a struggle to achieve, and ever so often it is demanded with force. Whatever it takes, it's clear the people who inhabit the internet are due for a more positive change.

I'll do my best to avoid getting preachy here, but there's an ever growing issue that's been weighing on me. The way people treat each other in public is one thing, but on the interweb, it's a nightmare. If you don't believe me, go to YouTube and search for any video that has a female host and take a look at the comments for that video. You're bound to see some terrible, demeaning things said to her. But it's not just women and it's not just YouTube, anyone on the internet who stands out is a target for some anonymous beat downs. Now with the popularization of “Trolling,” it appears to be getting worse.

So what can we do? Any change you desire begins from within. That philosophy has proven true for me many times. I've had some rough moments in life, but my ability to adapt and press forward has gotten me far. Sadly, there's a few people you'll run into who say it's a lost cause and nothing will change. But who are they to shoot down your desire to make a difference? Fed up with it all, an idea began to develop...

A while back I was feeling frustrated with the community within World of Warcraft. I played on a PvP server to be with real life friends, although I preferred my RP-PvP server, which had friendlier inhabitants. The constant trolling, name calling, and unwillingness to help one another made for some terrible experiences playing a game that's supposed to be fun. I began taking frequent breaks from the game, and longer ones at that. Finally I decided to build my own guild, with guidelines focusing on nurturing the community. Problem was, my enjoyment of WoW was waning after 7 years, and my computer at the time was dying. It just wasn’t the best time to lead a guild.  That's where Guild Wars 2 comes in.

Recently there's been talk about the sense of community that ArenaNet wants to portray through GW2. They blogged about it on their website and shared a couple tweets directing fans to other bloggers (Kill Ten Rats and Under the Pale Tree) who shared in their enthusiasm on the matter. It was refreshing to see this (dare I call it) movement coming to life. Like they read my mind. It's just another reason I'm so excited for this game.

For now, I'm focusing on the guild I dreamed about leading, aiming to be a positive influence on whatever server I end up on. It's coming along nicely, and I hope to open it up soon for potential members. Once the guild website is finished, I'll share it here for anyone who is interested in making their GW2 community a great place to be. Wish me luck!

March 19, 2012

The question everyone wants to know the answer to: What is the meaning of Blog?

Every person's life is better remembered by the milestones along the way. The series of events, big & small, that touch many people at once, or you alone. It's a major driving force in moving ourselves forward in life, and it is no wonder we have developed many ways to document and cherish these moments.

When asked to reflect on your life thus far, you'd likely avoid the mundane activities of the day to day, but rather tell stories of life changing events, exciting adventures, and heartfelt moments. Usually, in a quick conversation, you'd address the most important events: First love, deaths in the family, birth of your child, etc... but life is filled with so many smaller moments, simpler in nature, and just as character defining, that fill the space between the more grand experiences.

These smaller moments can differ widely from person to person, more so than larger events. They tend to ignite from ones interests & taste rather than social expectations or necessities of life. While one person may reflect back on the many sporting events they attend, and another can recount the excitement of seeing various rock bands, for me, one activity has always been dear to my heart: Video Gaming.

With the impending launch of Guild Wars 2, an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game... phew!) that promises innovation, a great community, and many facets to feed your varying gaming addictions, I'd like to document my personal experience revolving around the game's release and beyond. So expect to learn how my personal life and the game interact, what experiences I have in and out of the game and how they affect one another, as well as some coverage of news and my personal opinion.

Feel free to leave comments & questions and also share your own experiences with gaming. Now let the wait for Guild Wars 2 launch begin!