Month: June 2013

Coming up for some air

Good morning bloggerillos of the world!

It’s been a while since my last post, and I excuse for that. The thing is, I’ve been rather busy the last few days, Just to give you a heads-up of what’s keeping me from posting, here’s a quick list:

  • I’m busy preparing for moving to my new place and preparing for my new job. It’s pretty damn awesome that I’ll have both a new job and a new place to live from the 1st of July, but it also requires some planning, packing and mild panicking. Don’t worry though, before I know it, I’ll be chillin’ like a villain (oh God, did I just say that?) in my new place and handling my new job like a boss.
  • Last weekend was pretty damn awesome, but also very packed. After my apartment hunt, I had a Dark Knight marathon with my friends, a short night followed by a morning of epic, epic, epic paintballing, which was then followed by an afternoon and evening of good food and cocktails, all in the company of fantastic people.

So yeah, I’ll be picking up the pace again once I’m restored from this really great weekend and I’m done moving. Until then, I’ll try my best to at least remain visible on Twitter and give you the occasional post. I’ll keep an eye on all of you good folks, so you better keep an eye on me!

Your comfort zone: the childhood neighbourhood you should leave behind

“Comfort zone” by xiaoyugaara

You know what’s fascinating about geekdom? We have hobbies far outside the comfort zone of many other people, but still despise leaving our own comfort zone. Once a geek has settled into a fandom or field of interest, it’s hard to get him out of it and discover something new. It’s like we like to stray from the mainstream, but once we’re out in the wild, we stick to the part of the nerd jungle we know best.

There’s actually nothing strange about that. As humans, we like to have comfort zones. The name says it all: we need a physical, mental and spiritual area in which we feel comfortable and at home. It’s our safe little shell, into which we retreat when the world out there is just too much. Everyone has a comfort zone, and everyone enjoys it. However, comfort kills growth, and so we tend to turn our comfort zone into a stagnation zone in the long run.

You see, when you only surround yourself with people you know and things you like, you will never make new experiences. And if you don’t make new experiences, you don’t grow. Even though you might have left your childhood neighbourhood long ago, staying in your comfort zone will keep you there forever. You will walk the same streets, say hello to the same people and eat at the same damn restaurant every last Sunday of the month.

This stagnation is death for us creative people, and as geeks and nerds, we are often creative. As a player of tabletop RPG’s and amateur writer, fresh ideas are like fuel to me. I can only recycle a concept, character or plot so often, before it has gone stale. Leaving my comfort zone is thus important. No matter the area, I try to leave it regularly. When I picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu two years ago, I left my comfort zone because I never practiced such an intense and grappling-orientated sport before. When I gave the improv storytelling game Fiasco a try, I entered new territory since I had no experience with those kind of role-playing games. When I decided to peek into Sunstone, I went way out of my comfort zone because I just don’t have a thing for BDSM webcomics focusing on the trials and tribulations of the female main characters.

Now, not every excursion out of your metaphorical childhood neighbourhood will be positive or succesful. My quick peek into Sunstone certainly wasn’t (though I do admire the artistic style). What counts though, is the fact that you were willing to try something new. To get a taste of something fresh and foreign. You decided to ignore what you know, and focus on something you didn’t. It’s these experiences that spawn stories that start with “Hey, remember that time when I…”, and those stories are worth telling. For us creative people, they will also give you ideas for your creations. In an Exalted campaign in which my players took the roles of teenage Dragon-Blooded who were trained at a military academy, many of my descriptions for their martial arts classes were based on what I saw in my BJJ classes. When the characters in my RPG campaigns get to meet people from another culture, I think back to how I felt when I moved to Denmark for an exchange semester. Drawing from your own experience adds authenticity, and your audience will appreciate that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I urge all of you to just go out and leave that stagnation zone of yours. Read a book you normally wouldn’t read, see a movie you think will blow or hang out with people you don’t hang out with regularly. There’s a world beyond your childhood neighbourhood, and leaving it behind for a holiday from time to time will bring you both fresh impressions and a new view on the same old streets and people.

 

Martin and the reason for his killing sprees

got jk rowling grr martin georgeHERE BE SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, BOTH THE SHOW AND THE BOOKS!

The reason to write this post has two origins. First of all, I’ve caught up with the TV show of Game of Thrones, and now I’ve joined the great amount of people who are waiting for the next season. It’s better to be late to a party than to never arrive, right? Second, a comment from the Nerd Maids on my previous post about Game of Thrones has prompted me to share my opinion on the way Martin handles popular characters and death in his works.

First of all, thank you for commenting and sharing your opinion! You have valid points, and I can understand that killing off popular and cool characters seems counterproductive: readers care about them and use them as a way to interact with the written world, and so their deaths are all the more cruel. Plus, why not end the lives of characters nobody cares about, like the Freys in Game of Thrones? You can tell better stories with the “cool cast” still alive than with those…weirdos. I can relate to that opinion, but let me explain why I can’t agree with it.

You see, I’m also a person who really gets into the characters of a book, a show or a movie. If their story is intriguing and well-written, I’m hooked and reeled in like a fat carp. I’m a fan of good versus of evil, of knowing who I should cheer for or having the possibility of choosing a “team”. If both sides of a conflict have interesting characters, the whole conflict gets even more interesting. If you add an epic climax to it then, something that has been built up for multiple books or episodes, you have found a sure way to please me. However, you have also found the easiest way to please me, by serving me a meal I have eaten so many times the flavor has dulled my senses. If you happen to be George R.R. Martin though, you throw a plate in front of me with food that looks familiar, but with a taste that will overwhelm me.

Alright, enough of the weird culinary metaphors. What I’m trying to say is that Martin dares to cross lines other authors don’t, and all of this “trespassing” of his makes his work all the more interesting. Where other writers are afraid to kill their or their reader’s darlings, Martin will rip them out of his stories in a cruel way to propel the entire plot into a new direction. Sure, one might argue that death is the cheapest way to add drama, but it’s also the most efficient way to add emotion and the chaos it causes. Killing someone is final, it presents the reader and the characters in the story with an event they can’t just ignore. Everyone has to take a stance, and these stances will drive the story into an unexpected direction. Sure, the Red Wedding is bloody and cruel, but it turns the entire War of the Five Kings upside down and makes you, the reader and viewer, re-think your opinion about certain individuals. It keeps you engaged in a cruel, yet effective way.

A result of this murderous tendency Martin shows is that no character is ever safe. Fantasy writers tend to save the “heroes” of the story in that last, dramatic moment, just so that they can save the day, free the kingdom and rule with a gentle hand. Martin doesn’t do the “hero”-thing, and he puts everyone and their mother into permanent danger. Every character in his books can be killed, and you should learn that rather sooner than later. This fear of death is a good thing though, since it will make you care even more for the individuals in the story. Why hope that the hero will make it, when you know that the author is using every trope in the universe to make it so? What use is appreciating the depth of a fictional character, when he cannot be taken from you at any moment by some malicious enemy? This fear you feel, and your wish that your “beloved” character will make it actually strengthen your bond with the story, turning the reading of a simple book into a fantastic emotional rollercoaster ride.

I’m not saying that all fantasy authors should be like Martin. We still need the “classic” novels, where good and evil are clearly separated and where the brave hero gets the girl. However, we also need more writers who raise the stakes and add danger to their stories, having their own beloved creations entering the lion’s den multiple times. They might make it out…or they won’t.

No matter the outcome, you are cheering for your favorites, and you will remember their story. You should not weep for the dozens of characters Martin has killed, but the dozens of new plot hooks their deaths have spawned. Where one story ends, a new one begins. Trust Martin to make them good ones, and you will find out that he does not slaughter for fun, but for crafting an epic masterpiece of a story.

White Knighting Sarkeesian…again

feminism glass ceiling

“No more need for feminism” by ladylaguna

Alright, you might think that there are a few other things I should or could write about today. You might think I should write another edition of Geek Jitsu, considering it’s Wednesday. However, since I’m busy compiling and writing the first PDF version of that column, there won’t be a Geek Jitsu every Wednesday for the next weeks. I can only provide you with so much healthy advice. Still, there’s this E3 thingy going on, and you bet I have an opinion about that. Well sure I do, but there’s something else I have to get out of my system (which is related to the E3).

Last week, I wrote a post about how all these male gamers should take a chill pill and let Sarkeesian share her opinion on the role of the female gender in gaming. A few days ago, Sarkeesian tweeted about the lack of female protagonists in the games presented during E3. When I saw it, I just thought “meh, didn’t bother me” and went on with my life. However, a gazillion wannabe alpha-males out there had to interrupt their schedules to bring down some “righteous” fury on Sarkeesian. A most “enjoyable” compilation can be found here.

I hate playing the White Knight for people who are fully capable of defending themself, but these tweets just raise the question why there’s so many gamers  who get all tense and aggressive when someone adds some feminism to their hobby. You might not like Sarkeesian’s opinion, but that’s no reason to call her a cunt or tell her that her statements make your manhood all limp. Those are the things you spew forth when you’re five and you have a disagreement with your big brother, not when you want to have serious dialogue with someone who doesn’t share your views.

Look, I’m not telling you guys to agree with Sarkeesian. I don’t even fully agree with her, but you don’t see me sending her hate-tweets, hoping her life ends in some cruel way. What I am telling you, though, is that you should finally grow up and just argue with her like an adult. Write your own blog posts about this, send her e-mails or contact her in any other way. That will certainly get your message across as well, while opening up some healthy dialogue we can all learn from.

I hope this is the last post I have to dedicate to this topic, and that we all can just get along, no matter if we want our video game protagonists to be male or female. One love, guys and gals. One love.

Flexible raids and why I’m not that disappointed

wow world of warcraft raid

Image courtesy of Blizzard

When Blizzard’s Community Managers started talking about an “unannounced feature” coming to WoW in 5.4, the world went crazy with wild ideas of what it could be. I wrote about one of mine (which is one that was shared by many other fans) a few months back, and through it all I hoped that 5.4 would give me the option to have my Dwarf Shaman join the only faction relevant to Azeroth (at least if you ask the story writers responsible for the plot in Mists of Pandaria). Sadly, it turns out that the 5.4 super-secret feature are flexible raids.

Okay, I shouldn’t say “sadly” there, because it doesn’t make me feel sad though it should. I should be angry that this unannounced feature is nothing but a stupid different version of raiding, and I should feel entitled to get what I beg for. Wow, so that’s what it feels like to be one of the ever-complaining players? I couldn’t do this for more than a paragraph…

All joking aside, I think that the Flexible Raid system might turn out really nifty. The fact that it has no Item Level requirement means that you might be able to gear new guildies that need to catch-up, while you don’t have to cancel raid night because only eighteen people have showed up. If Blizz also decides to retrofit the earlier Mists raids, this feature might turn out rather interesting.

Of course, 5.4 is still far away, and Blizzard might have a trick up their sleeves. On the other hand, they might also screw this up. I mean, it’s Blizzard: they either do something really well, or they mess up in a grandiose manner (don’t name Cataclysm, don’t name Cataclysm, don’t…). Time will tell, but  it’s  reason enough for me to not feel disappointed about the fact that I won’t be leveling up my Dwarf alongside Tauren and Orcs. My day will come…I hope.

Three player types that give me healer rage

healers wow druid tauren

Image courtesy of Angry Healers

Rage is a feeling many gamers will feel when gaming. There’s the rage quit, when you just throw your keyboard out of the window and exit the game forcefully. There’s just general rage, which is often caused by the (perceived) idiocy of your fellow gamers. And then there’s a very specific kind of rage, which is often found in MMORPG’s which cling to the holy trinity of tank, DPS and healer. Some call it “just whining”, but I call it healer rage. Sadly, I am no stranger to it, but my experience with it has taught me that it takes specific types of players to invoke the rage deep in my healing heart. In this post, I want to introduce to you that trio of idiot players that force me to raise the question: “Why the eff do I still enjoy doing this? ”

Type #1 – the heal-hogger
The first kind of annoying player is what I call the heal-hogger: a player who thinks that he is the only one worthy of your healing and that no other member of your party should receive those green, floating numbers. Most often, this player is an unexperienced tank, who lives under the illusion that his survival is the only thing that counts. A heal-hogger will remind you regularly that he is your number one priority, especially when his health gets dangerously close to fifty percent, or when he sees that you dare to heal the top DPS of the party. He’s not just green because of your heals, but also with envy.

Luckily, most heal-hoggers grow out of this behaviour once they understand the game dynamics and the value of every party member. It still takes time though, and their appearance in a pick-up group gets my heart racing in the wrong way.

Type #2 – the “I have a scratch, heal me now!”-dude
Many new healers think that they have to make sure that everyone’s health bar is permanently full. Sooner or later, these young apprentices learn that many end-game encounters do not give you the time, resources or plain possibility to keep everyone’s HP at a maximum. The experienced healer does not fret when a part of the group hovers around half of their maximum health. Everyone’s alive and kicking, so where’s the problem? Well, a certain type of player can be the problem…

This annoying archetype has probably never played a healer himself and does not understand that most of us have to work with a resource budget. He lives under the impression that if just one party member is not at maximum health, the healer is slacking. This player will remind you of your failure, telling you that you’re worthless and should play something else. You know who should play something else? You, you annoying piece of dung. You will appreciate me once you’re at the brink of death because you pulled something. Which brings me to my final annoying player type…

Type #3 – the tank who isn’t the tank
Some people just seem to be always in a hurry. Sadly, many of these people play MMORPG’s, and nothing can be fast enough for them. When the tank dares to slow down a bit because the party can’t keep up, this tank who isn’t a tank will take over his job and charge ahead. Going all Leeroy Jenkins on the party, this often squishy damage-dealer while dive right into a pack of elite monsters, causing his health to plummet. Once he’s dead, and the party is done cleaning up his mess, he will blame the healer for his demise and often ragequit.

Well, you mother of annoying party members, let me tell you something. The reason you’re dead is because you’re an idiot. My heals don’t work on idiots, so you just killed yourself. Remember that the next time you group up with me. Maybe if you calm down a bit and use your grey matter, my heals will detect that increase in IQ and work on you. Until then, have fun paying your own damn repair bills.

Writing this piece already brought up some healing rage, so I guess I better stop now and think about all the players who appreciate a good healer. Yes, believe me, they’re out there, and you should be grateful for having them around. Just stick with them, and you might be able to dodge these three flavours of idiocy I described above.

Geek Jitsu – compiling a handbook

I just counted them: there’s more than twenty of them! What did I count? Well, the number of Geek Jitsu posts on this blog! It’s already something, huh?

Anyway, since I like to have an overview and I have the feeling I’ve covered the most important, basic elements of a healthy lifestyle, I think it’s time to compile the information of these first twenty-something posts into one neat little eBook. That’s right, I hereby announce the creation of Geek Jitsu – The healthy nerd’s handbook. It won’t just be a compilation of the things I’ve already said though. I will do my best to fit the elementary aspects of starting to live healthy into a nice, structured narrative, so you can use it as a good starting point to a healthier life. , the number of Geek Jitsu posts that can be found on this blog! I’ve been at it for a while now, trying to inform all you geeks, nerds and part-time dragonslayers about how to live healthier. If you are one of the few dragonslayers reading this, my number one advice to you is that living healthier starts with finding a much safer job. If you’re a geek like me, all the tips and tricks found in Geek Jitsu will do just fine for you.

Even though I have quite some material to work with, I’m still tinkering with the table of contents. That’s where you fancy chaps come in. Anything you would like to see in a guide for the beginning healthy geek? A certain focus you would like it to have? Hit me up in the comments below, and I see how I can fit it in!