Category Archives: Miscellania

Non-gaming related musings.

(Probably) Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together (With XBox One)

Dear Xbox,

We need to have a talk.

Do you remember when we first met? I’d been in an exclusive relationship with PlayStation for a long time. I thought I was happy, and I know PlayStation was- and then I met you. You had exclusives I just couldn’t bear to be without. You showed me worlds that PlayStation couldn’t touch.

Before I knew it, I’d left PlayStation completely and was spending all my time with you. I was so happy, Xbox. I thought we’d be together forever. You had everything I needed; you seemed to go out of your way to make my life easier. Eventually it seemed that all I had to do was say the word and you’d do your best to give me what I wanted.

We had amazing adventures together. Remember that time we saved the galaxy from the Reaper threat? And the zombies- remember the zombies?

No. Not those zombies, the other- no, not those either. The OTHER other zombies. YES. THOSE ONES.

We made wonderful friends together, too. Amazing friends that I wouldn’t have met without you.

I’m keeping the friends, Xbox, but… I’m leaving you.

You’ve changed. You’ve forgotten that you’re a guest in my home and you’ve started making rules for me to follow. You want me to go through you to watch television, listen to music, talk to friends- you even want to know all the details of my fantasy sports teams. (If I had them, which I don’t.) You used to respect my privacy, but now you want to watch me all the time. You want to listen to me all the time- you say you won’t work with me at all if you can’t have your camera and microphones on.

All of the sudden you want to check in with your mother every single day to let her know what I’ve been doing. You won’t even give me a choice, you say; if I don’t let you report to your mother, you won’t let me play my games.

You won’t let me do a lot of things with my games anymore. Now you want to control who I share them with and how- you’re even talking about charging me a fee to share games. Eventually, you’ll destroy those games when the servers go offline; you know it and so do I, and I won’t be able to do anything to stop you.

You’re becoming unbearably controlling. You say you’re doing these things to make my life easier- does this sound easier to you? I don’t think this has anything to do with me, Xbox. You think I love you too much, after all we’ve been through, to just walk away.

You’re wrong. I can walk away. What I can’t do is live the way you want me to. I can’t stay with you when you want me to change my life to meet your demands.

There are other fish in the sea, Xbox, and there are other platforms on the market.

You should know I’ve been talking to PlayStation lately. I don’t know if we’re getting back together; there’s a whole new side to PlayStation that I haven’t seen, and I’m not making any commitments just yet, but… it seems likely. Even if I don’t reunite with PlayStation, I’ve become acquainted with PC Gaming over the last couple years, and he’s powerful, Xbox. He’s flexible. He may be slightly less comfortable, but he makes up for it by giving me more choices than you ever did.

Even if PlayStation and PC weren’t vying for my attention, you know what? I would rather stop gaming entirely than play games the way you want me to. If it was you or nothing, I’d pick nothing.

It doesn’t have to be this way, Xbox. There’s still time. We can go back to the way we were before, where you respected my boundaries and I respected your Terms of Service.

If not, however- I’ll miss the way we were.

Regretfully,

Me.

Savoring the Last Shot…

I have been waiting impatiently for the last three and a half hours for the final Mass Effect DLC, entitled “Citadel”, to download to my Xbox. Since the internet is full of spoileriffic landmines, (thanks, assholes) I’ve been wandering restlessly around my house, noting the time it takes me, in download percentage points, to do household tasks. The dishes, for example, took me 35 DLC percents, while cleaning the bathroom took me a mere 5 DLC percents.

It finally finished downloading about five minutes ago, and after gathering up a box of tissues (we all know there are going to be tears, okay?) and roughly 30 pounds of snack food, I realized something.

I don’t want to play it.

Not yet.

I get like this whenever the last of anything comes around. The more I love it, the longer it takes. I still haven’t watched the last episode of Doctor Who, for example, and there are two Terry Pratchett books (Dodger and The Long Earth) that I still haven’t read. I’m not ready to take that last step, to let go of those characters that I have loved having adventures with (in the case of the Ponds), and I am painfully aware that the next book could be Sir Terry’s last.

I’m just not ready for those adventures to end.

I guess I’m guilty of some hypocrisy here, because I’ve looked at the throngs of rabid fans- the passionate Thane fans that just can’t accept the ending he was given, or the furious legion of disappointed players that still haven’t forgiven BioWare for the way the game ended- and rolled my eyes and said, “For fuck’s sake, it’s just a game.”

I should be more understanding, because it hasn’t been just a game for me. As I told my best friend last night, “Mass Effect has changed my life in ways that a game should not be able to do.”

I didn’t even want to play it at first. I had no interest in the setting or the gameplay; I was a die-hard fantasy hack and slash girl. A futeristic space-shooter didn’t appeal to me at all. However, after playing Dragon Age for the fourth time, I desperately needed a new RPG fix, and I figured I’d give Mass Effect a try, simply because it came out of the same studio.

I played it. I played it again. I bought the first Mass Effect and played it. (I learned why Kaidan had been yelling at me on Horizon and stopped calling him “that greasy jackass”.)

I started buying Mass Effect merchandise and reading the BioWare blog. They used to run these features every Friday where they’d interview members of the development teams, and I loved reading them and learning about the people that made these games that were coming to mean so much to me.

I dabbled in the forums at the BioWare Social Network, learned that the BSN is a darker, more dangerous place than Mordor, and backed out slowly. I started reading fanfiction. I learned about fandom. (It wasn’t something I’d ever come in contact before. I’d always looked at it from afar, because, as I would have said then, “Those bitches CRAZY.”)

I became active on Twitter, meeting other fans and interacting with developers. (Did you guys know they’re people? Like, REAL people. They have feelings and everything.) I started making friends. Not just internet acquaintances, real friends. People who not only loved Mass Effect the way I do, but also shared other interests with me. I found, for the first time in my life, a circle of people with whom (accidentally typo’d “whom” as “home”, which I think was appropriate) I felt I entirely, completely belonged. People who understood my passions, instead of simply tolerating them.

These people taught me things. Important things, like why it’s okay to do the things you want to do, even if other people might think you look silly, because doing the things that make you happy are more important than earning the empty approval of others. They taught me why it’s okay to reach out to a stranger to offer comfort, support, or just a joke or high-five. They inspired creativity in me, and allowed me to be part of their creative processes. They’ve even become my companions in real-life adventures, and it’s been amazing.

Mass Effect, and the community that caught me when I fell into its fandom, have made me braver. I’ve said before that Commander Shepard’s line, “I will not let fear compromise who I am” has become a sort of mantra for me, something to hold on to when I’m struggling with depression or anxiety, something to remind me to dig my heels in and fight back when I’m feeling overwhelmed. That quote is also a big reason I started this blog; it can be downright terrifying to express your opinions, especially when those opinions involve potentially explosive topics like feminism in gaming and “why you shouldn’t be an asshole to game developers”. That single line has become a reminder for me to fight to be the person I want to be, even when it would be so much easier to fold up and fit in.

This final chapter in Commander Shepard’s saga, this final adventure I get to experience with her, isn’t just about saying goodbye to Shepard and her squad. That is clearly part of it; I love the people I’ve met in the Mass Effect universe with the depth of feeling I’ve previously reserved for actual, living people, and saying goodbye to them for the last time is going to be painful.

I’m reminded of a line from South Park, when Butters has been dumped by his girlfriend, and he says, “I love life…Yeah, I’m sad, but at the same time, I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like…It makes me feel alive, you know. It makes me feel human. The only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I’m feeling is like a beautiful sadness.”

It’s kind of like that, but there’s also a massive amount of gratitude. I am so grateful to the Mass Effect team for the beauty and the sadness, for the community and the belonging, for somehow making me a stronger person. For making a game that has become, for me, so much more than a game.

Now, I guess it’s time for me to pop the heat sink and fly off on one last, grand adventure with Commander Shepard.

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Requiem for a Friend

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We met in the summer of 2010. My husband’s birthday was coming up, and I, as usual, had no idea what to get him. He’s the most irritating person in the world to shop for, because he just never wants anything.

I watched him for a couple weeks, trying to figure out what hell to buy him. Finally, after watching him squint at the screen of his phone while he read Game of Thrones on his Kindle app, I knew just what he needed: A Nook. (Why I went Nook when he was reading on the Kindle app, I have no fucking clue.)

He wasn’t convinced he would like it, but I talked him into it. It was probably my earnest desire to finally get him a good gift.

He read one chapter of one book on it, declared that he hated it, and never touched it again.

I picked it up, read one chapter of one book, and I fell in love.

I hadn’t expected to like any e-book reader, because I like books. I like the sound of pages turning and the way they feel in my hands. I like the way they smell when they’re new, and the way they smell when they’re old. I like flipping through them to find the passages that I especially want to read again. I like seeing them around my house. (I like using them as props to make people think I’m smart. “Look at that! Pride and Prejudice. I gots mad culture, bitches.”)

Not just that- I loved CHEAP books. I could get any book I wanted to read for half price just by waiting for it to appear at the used book store, and when I was done, I could sell them back. I could lend them and borrow them. An e-book reader just seemed like a huge downgrade in almost every possible way.

Somehow, it wasn’t.

Over time, the Nook became more than just a reading interface. It became a window into any other world I wanted to visit.  I could download and read any book I wanted without reservation or judgment; when I wanted to read a tawdry romance novel, no one needed to know. When I wanted to continue a reading adventure in the middle of the night, I just had to download the next book in the series; I didn’t have to wait until the next time I had a chance to go to the bookstore.

When I needed something, it had it for me. Spiritual advice? Pema Chodron or Thich Nhat Hanh were on hand. Recipes? Rachael Ray was right there.

We went on fantastic adventures together. We battled faeries and demons, tumbled through epic love stories, and saved the world more times than I can count. It re-acquainted me with old friends (Sam Vimes) and introduced me to new ones.

It became my travel companion. When I was bored or lonely on trips, it was always right there to cheer me up and keep me company. When I didn’t want to be around the people I was travelling with, it provided an excuse to escape for a little while.

It became my comfort. When I was depressed it took me to happier places, and when I was overwhelmed it gave me a break.

It even taught me to play Sudoku.

Newer, flashier e-book readers came out, and I considered “upgrading”, but in the end I stuck by my Nook. We were bros. It gave me everything I needed. The plastic was yellowing-in some places even cracking (The page forward button, in case you were wondering), but it still worked, and so I stayed faithful.

A few months ago, I turned it on and found that the memory had been completely erased. Everything was gone; it wasn’t even registered to me any more.

I panicked, but the internet said that it was fine, that I just shouldn’t let the battery get completely drained again.

Fair enough. I re-registered it and downloaded my books again, making sure to plug it in every couple of days.

A month after that, on a full battery, it happened again; for some reason, my Nook was rolling itself back to factory defaults.

It was like my Nook had developed an electronic form of Alzheimer’s.

I kept re-registering it, and it kept resetting. Not only that, but the memory failures were getting more frequent and more severe; the screen would go blank and then flash repeatedly, and it would stop responding to the buttons for long periods of time. Still, I could deal with it. It was happening every few weeks, that’s not a big deal.

It happened less than a week ago. Yesterday, it happened again.

Last night, I went out and bought a new tablet to read my books on.

And I came home and cried a little bit.

It wasn’t just technology. It was my friend.

 

(This was crossposted to razorbladebellhop.com)

This Thing I Did, And It Didn’t Suck. You Should Listen To It.

If you follow me on Twitter (I’ve been starting way too many blog posts with those words lately), you may remember me saying that I’d been invited as a guest on a podcast called “The Gentlemen Radio”.  I was pretty nervous about appearing for a couple different reasons; I didn’t want to ruin an entire episode of their show, for one thing.

It went better than I expected (if  you ignore the part where my tongue decided, “fuck you and fuck English, I’m going to make my own rules” and the fact that I giggled pretty much the entire show). The hosts, Josh, Charlie, Patrick and Jeff were all very nice, as was their producer, Dan. If you ignore the massive quantities of alcohol, they’re very professional at “The Gentlemen Radio”.

They’d obviously made an effort to choose topics I was comfortable with, and I appreciated that enormously. It was a relief to feel like I had something intelligent to contribute while we discussed things like harassment in online games and the never-ending battle between PC and console gaming.

I’d love it if you would check out the episode (prepare yourself for a lot of high-quality “posse” jokes and profanity; earphones might be a good move if you’re listening to it around kids or at work) and let me and the guys over at “The Gentlemen Radio” know what you think. While you’re there, you should check out the rest of thebuzzmedia.com. They have a lot of really interesting movie and game reviews, con recaps, and stuff the more technically inclined will enjoy.

Help a (Terribly Indecisive) Gamer Out!

I’m stuck in a rut. Not a bad rut; I LIKE my rut, but a rut I am in.

Rut rut rut rut rut.

You know, if you type that enough times, it ceases to have meaning.

Anyway.

I have a lot of favorites. When I find a world that captures my imagination, like the Discworld or the Old Republic,  I am perfectly content to experience that world over and over again. I don’t get bored, and if I do, I have other favorites to fall back on. Tired of Discworld? That’s okay, I’ll journey back to Recluce (never actually finished that series, but that’s a tale for another time) or Middle Earth. Tired of Mass Effect (right, like THAT will ever happen)? I can visit Ferelden, or go kill some Templars in Constantinople. (Which has not yet become Istanbul. Sorry. Every time I talk about Assassin’s Creed: Revelations I get that song stuck in my head.)

ANYWAY.

I am perfectly comfortable staying within my comfort zone, but I’ve realized that my resistance to new experiences in games and literature (as well as other media) could mean that I miss out on other experiences that I would love.

I’ve gotten kind of stuck, though, trying to decide which game to play / book to read / television show to watch; I spend ten minutes paging through books at Barnes & Noble before I think, “You know what was a good book? Hogfather. I should go read that.”

Please help me.

I’m going to post a series of polls to decide what my next adventure should be, and I’m hoping that you all vote. I’m going to feel pretty damn silly if I only get two votes and a pat on the head.

Will you help me pick my next game? I picked a few games from my Steam library that I have not yet played; there are a few other, newer games that I’m pretty interested in, but the mom in me demands that I play the ones I have before I go spending money on new ones.

Thanks, guys.

(If you have favorite games, books, or shows that you think I might enjoy, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll include them in future polls! Thank you <3 )

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