gaming

How To Get Through the Loading Screen

The video above is fairly accurate representation of what many people (including me) do during loading screens. Though I didn’t get smashed while waiting for my game to load so far, I recognize a few very familiar things in this video.

It makes me wonder…what do you people do while you’re waiting for the level to pop up? How do you cope with waiting for your buddies to click the “Ready”-button when playing a co-op game? Share your bizarre and strange activities with all of us!

In a perfect world

In a perfect world, many things would be better. Mondays would be smooth, weekends would last longer and the birds singing in the morning while you crawl back from the pub would tell you where the heck you left your front door keys. A perfect world would be, well, perfect.

Seeing how it would be perfect, we would also not have different consoles in this gaming utopia. All the giants of industry would have banded together to create the perfect console, a divine machine capable of a million things. You could play games however you want to play them: alone, with friends on your couch, online with strangers, while you stream your gameplay, while the NSA records your body temperature et cetera. Everything about this imaginary messiah of gaming would be perfect, and there would be no debate about it.

In this dream of a world, companies would not screw their customers and give them what they want: good games. It’s so simple, yet it seems so hard to grasp. We do not want all these fancy doohickeys and gizmos. We don’t need extra functionality or bombastic graphics. All we want is a piece of art, in which every stroke contributes to the total beauty of the creation. If something does not support the game’s fun and engaging gameplay, it is simply left out in this oh so perfect world.

This perfect world would know games that are only published when they are ready to be published, leaving money-hungry sharks out of the equation. Developers would be treated like the artists they are, and their paintings would not be put up for auction before the last highlight has been placed. Games would not be something you consume and then throw away; they would be tales we look back to when we are in the mood for nostalgia, and a warm feeling would rise in our bellies every time we do.

In a perfect world, this post would not be necessary.

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.

 

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.

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.

Role Play Convention 2013 – smaller, yet somehow bigger

rpc 2013 role play convention cologne

Blogosphere! How you doin’? As I sit here listening to Frank Turner, I can only come to the conclusion that it was yet another great weekend, especially for the somewhat dominant geeky side of my personality. The reason for that was my visit to the Role Play Convention in Cologne, Germany. I don’t know if it’s still Europe’s biggest “general nerd convention”, but it really didn’t feel like it this year, while somehow it still did. Confusing? Let me elaborate.

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The de-mystification of games through achievements

achievement ygotas yugioh yu gi oh joey brooklyn rage

“Brooklyn Rage Achievement” by Zuo-Ci

About a week ago, I had another great conversation with my friend Dis. Dis (which is just the abbreviated version of the nickname he likes to use) is a guy who ponders about the stupidest things, but sometimes I join him in his mad thinking sprees and together we can actually discuss some fascinating things. Sometimes we elaborate on the philosophical depth of the Manual of the Warrior of the Light, just to continue the next day with a topic like euthanasia. Lately though, we have been discussing an even greater topic: achievements.

Yes folks, those blasted cheevos. Since they have become a shtick of gaming, achievements have us doing the weirdest things just to get that “achievement unlocked” pop-up. We place masks on zombies in Dead Rising, enjoy orgies in Fable II or simply press Start in The Simpsons Game. Achievements reward us for both normal and really strange activities in our favourite games, and are a nice pat on the back for most of us.

However, Dis and I came to the conclusion that achievements also contribute to the “de-mystification” of video games. In a way, achievements are spoilers. Simply seeing an achievement like “Kill Boss X without using the yellow power-ups” tells you that Boss X will probably be hard, and it also states that X will be a boss. What if X is your buddy for most of the game? Haven’t the achievements just given away a really cool twist? Also, achievements tell you about things you might not know are there. Many RPG’s hide legendary items throughout the world, which you should only learn about by talking to NPC’s or by stumbling upon them. However, one look in the achievements list tells you that you get fifty Gamer Points by finding Glundragir, Bane of the World Tree (or whatever the epic sword in your favourite RPG is called).

Of course, one might argue that in a time where walkthroughs are free to get on the Internet and message boards analyze every aspect of every title, games are already de-mystified. Still,  walkthroughs and message boards can be dodged, while it’s harder to escape from a built-in achievement list. If I want to like, I like to keep a new game exciting and mysterious, and achievements certainly don’t help.

What’s your opinion? Do cheevos ruin your sense of discovery and exploration, or do you fully endorse them, planning your playthroughs around getting as many of them as possible? Vote below, and leave your opinion!