My Steam Award Nominations

It’s been three days since the last GW2 patch dropped and I haven’t even set foot in the story chapter or the new map yet.

Why?

  • Beyond suffering a mild, low-level crisis of the faith in terms of where my life priorities are going;
  • being distracted anticipating the upcoming Breach League in Path of Exile (launching Dec 2-ish);
  • and gleefully indulging in a spur of the moment Steam sale purchase of Hitman;

I took up starting a new Expert Mode world in Terraria last week to try out version 1.3+.

I can quite confidently state that it deserves the following:

As proof, I submit my Hours Played as recorded by Steam:

playedtime

Beyond noting that I spent a lot of time on simple but fun grindy mini-MMOs and idle breeding games, nothing even comes -close- to the hours spent in Terraria. Not idling, I assure you.

Next up, an oldie but a goodie:

Honorable mention: Blackwell Epiphany (It’s the last game in the Blackwell series, which I rhapsodized about. When you play five games with a set of characters, it hits you in the feels when it comes to an end.)

I went for something completely different for the next one:

Eh, everybody’s going to vote some version of Civilization anyway, right?

Alpha Centauri wasn’t on the Steam menu. Looking at my played time, the -honest- answer would probably also be Terraria, but apparently you can’t vote a game for multiple categories. So I went for the game of the moment.

Bought three days ago, and already at 11 played hours…

My rationale is to highlight this strange oddity of a stealth sandbox game that -encourages- you to wait globs of time doing nothing (ie. waiting for NPCs to move into position or to the next part of their pattern so that you can act) and get the entire multiple part mission -complete- before you quit for the night… which is easier said than done when something goes wrong and multiple save/reloads come into play.

Well, yes, theoretically one could just save and come back the next night where one left off… but, who does that, really, when there’s an outstanding target to be headshot/garrotted/poisoned/otherwise offed in an entertaining manner.

A really broad interpretation is possible for the next:

I have a strange sensation that proponents of the “hard, painful, masochistic mindblowing challenge” school of thought will set a Dark Souls game on the throne.

But you know, I read “crazy plot twist” and I’m going the “whoaaaaaaa, this started awesome and unique but what did we suddenly just smoke, my mind is expaaaaanding far out, duuudde…”route.

Honorable mention: Her Story is also pretty mind-expanding.

This one took a while to figure out – I apparently don’t play that many games with outstanding villains:

The Batman: Arkham variants were briefly considered, for their rogues’ gallery full of villains, but ultimately… the Joker man just wants to watch the world burn. He doesn’t need a hug. He’s villainous through and through. Sorta like Sephiroth.

Shadow of Mordor, though… ha. Sauron, The Bright Lord, you, the orcs, everybody needs a hug.

Honorable mention: The Masked Kidnapper from Tales from the Borderlands. He needs a hug too. Cos…reasons. (That you will know, if you finish the game.)

I -was- planning on voting Batman: Arkham City in, to reflect all the time I’ve spent chasing one Enigma achievement or side challenge or another. I -was- going to mention Skyrim’s many mods as an honorable mention.

Then out of the blue, while clicking on the voting button, this lil classic came to mind.

Nobody plays Magicka to be wannabe wizards defeating the dark lord of darkity dark. It’s all about the ARSE mines and murdering your friends.

See the date? October 11, 2012.

Released on Steam: October 9, 2013.

I remember when it was being Greenlit, nyah. So yeah, I totally found it first. And don’t you ever forget it.

(Everybody’s just gonna go vote ARK: Survival Evolved, I’m sure.)

If Goat Simulator doesn’t win this category, I’m going to be very very surprised.

Hell, even it was the game that first came to mind for me, though I’ve never bothered to buy it or try it.

But you know me, I can’t do things easy. I was going to think of something completely different. Preferably from a Steam game that I own, and love enough to recommend.

One word. “Pig.”

I couldn’t think of a funny ha-ha category. So I went for something safe that still served the purpose of showcasing some of the most played games on my Steam list.

Sleeping Dogs was an unexpected gem that never quite got its day in the sun. Hell, it took me two posts before it sunk in that I really kinda liked it.

Mind you, it’s also the Best Game That Doesn’t Exist Anymore, because they’ve apparently replaced it with a “Definitive” edition, while I made it a point to vote for the original version.

Aesthetically, the original has a dramatic vividness of color contrast that got obliterated by overzealous reality-recreation of Hong Kong fog. In my opinion, anyway. See for yourself and decide:

So those are my Steam Award nominations for this year.

What are yours?

Two Things That Make Me Wonder…

“Is it too late to start?”

I visit Reddit a lot.

Every week, it seems like there’s another person asking a variant of this question for the two game reddits I visit, and probably more besides in the other game reddits I don’t visit.

What is the point of asking this, really, pray tell?

The only time a “No, it’s too late” answer is likely is when it’s an online game and the servers have shut down and/or there’s not enough critical mass of players for multiplayer matches (and even then, the players might try to get one more into the fold.)

Far more pertinent questions would be:

  • “How time-consuming is this game?”
  • “How steep a learning curve does this have?”
  • “How long would it take me to get on a level or competitive playing field with veterans?” etc.

in order to figure out the real question of “Is it worth spending my time to learn or play this game?”


 

“Yep, this really makes me want to buy Black Lion Keys with real money, stat!”

newblchest

Trust Guild Wars 2 to make me want to buy lockboxes…

…from a different game.

The point of lockbox gambling is the thrill of seeing something cool pop up, while consoling yourself that the worse the lockbox can offer isn’t too bad and can still be used/useful.

Not, oh my god, that is so shit that I got totally gipped.

The boosters, at least, had that opportunity for potential future usefulness.

I challenge anyone to look at the picture above and say with a straight face that “eh, it’s not so bad, they can still be used.”

Transmutation charges would have more freaking use.

A guaranteed wardrobe unlock item in the place of the booster would have been perfect.

I leave you with the video comparison of some poor soul opening 75 new black lion chests ($78.75usd in worth):

To contrast against a different game’s lockboxes (>$100usd in worth):

Study the emotional punch of opening one GW2 black lion chest vs one PoE mystery box and seeing what pops out.

One makes you feel “Cool, it’s not what I wanted, but I could use that. Probably. Eventually. Maybe another one will have what I want. Just… one more…”

The other makes you go, “Let’s open these as quickly as I can in order not to feel the figurative gut punch of an individual box that has nothing but shit inside, and hope that the aggregate adds up to something that won’t make me feel like I wasted my money.”

You’re selling an experience here, people.

I know which I’d rather pay for.

Disclaimer: I got my Black Lion Chest Key for free. That state of affairs is quite unlikely to change at this present moment in time.

The Parable of the Bad Pottery Teacher

I may have mentioned a while back that I’ve been dabbling with pottery lessons.

They started out great, staying that way throughout the six weeks of beginner handbuilding.

The teacher was appropriately attentive, both in demonstrating what to do with practiced hands and in taking a step back to allow the student to get the feel of the clay, while observing mistakes and offering tips and fixes to solve issues that came up.

Some time through the intermediate lessons, the teacher’s attitude inexplicably changed.

Perhaps it was me – maybe I unknowingly offered grievous insult to his honor with a humble jest that I -thought- demonstrated student modesty.

It was an offhand smiling remark to another student and him about how all the great bits of my piece were the mark of a master’s hand, after he had helped, and all the lopsided bits were mine.

Or perhaps it was him. Over the weeks of the lessons, he seemed perceptibly disinterested in teaching – complaining bitterly to older hands and partner potters that he had to rush to prepare for suddenly booked corporate events; that student works were piling up needing to either be kiln-fired or collected by beginner students who never returned after the first six weeks; bitching within earshot of existing students that the various newbies showed up with no or last minute notification or didn’t bother to attend lessons as they felt like it – and generally evincing distinct signs of burnout.

My last couple of intermediate lessons felt like an exercise in deliberate inattention.

He’d walk by to offer the odd word of advice to the one or two beginner students, then walk out the door and put himself incommunicado, leaving us to flounder on doing our own things.

Now and then, again in earshot of all the struggling students, he’d express his belief in his supremely hands-off teaching style to another obviously experienced artist potter who was just sharing the same venue.

“Give us time and space to make our own mistakes and screwups, and then figure out how to fix it for ourselves” seemed to be the general gist.

Inside, I was fuming with frustration.

No, really, I get the hands-off method.

I think it makes sense, judiciously applied, but:

a) the student has to feel that the teacher -cares- (the vibe I got was mostly laziness, judgmentalism and burnout)

and b) the student has to have some basic grounding in HOW to even begin looking for answers to fix the problems they’re having

With both missing, chances are fairly good that a sizeable subset of students will drown, for every one student who flounders on to reach shore, having figured it out for themselves.

Tossing people into the deep end of the pool after demonstrating a swim stroke once and waiting to see who comes out is -not- good teaching.

In my book, anyway. I expect a good teacher to be able to break things down for a student, encourage step-by-step practice and gradual progress, observe errors and offer guided advice on how to fix the problem and in general, scaffold the student’s learning.

After the end of my intermediate lessons, I took a short break and really questioned if I wanted to go on to the advanced lessons of wheel throwing with said less-than-good teacher, especially since he seemed to be doing everything in his power to dissuade me from even paying him for the next set of lessons.

Mostly, it was the sunk cost fallacy that did me in. The beginner and intermediate lessons were a prerequisite for the advanced ones. If I walked now, and sourced for another teacher, the effort, time and money sunk into the previous months would likely have to be written off, as I’d end up fulfilling said teacher’s cynical prophecies of a student that would never come back.

Also, it didn’t seem polite to end abruptly. Leaving after a beginning, middle, end sequence was another thing altogether. One could then seek out another teacher and say truthfully that one had completed a pottery course, but was now looking for further improvement and new perspectives from a brand new teacher.

So I went ahead and signed myself up for another six weeks of instructorial neglect.

Halfway through now, and it went about as much as expected. One demonstration and then left to one’s own floundering devices.

Maybe I frustrate him as much as he frustrates me. Maybe he just doesn’t know -how- to teach me.

I remember things slowly, especially when it comes to visual bodily demonstrations. Perhaps my mirror neurons are somewhat dysfunctional, I do not really learn viscerally. Dance, exercise, pottery, you name it, I cannot see once and automatically ape.

It has to be repeated multiple times. I have to preferably read it, in step-by-step fashion. I have to see pictures and photographs and rehearse placing my hands in the demonstrated positions. Theory must come before practice.

Instead, full of frustration, I’m often left googling up “pottery concept X” after the lesson that introduces the name of concept X and not much else beyond the realization that I’m making a right muckup of concept X because I don’t even know what I’m actually supposed to ideally do in the first place.

I learn more by eavesdropping. Imagine that.

Said teacher is having a extended cheerful conversation with another experienced potter, just chilling and hanging out and steadily ignoring me, and he pulls out his phone and shows her some Youtube video of an advanced technique from a potter of a different country. He does -not- show the video to me.

I make such a right muckup of concept X (centering, if anyone knows pottery) for hours and look so distressed and woebegone, that after the “bad” teacher has rushed out of the workshop to grab his lunch before his next batch of ungrateful students, that the other experienced potter comes over and offers me a completely free demonstration of the way she does it – and by the way, more emotional support in those five minutes than the last five weeks.

She then promptly screws it up with a perfectly overheard conversation to the teacher who just came back, expressing her own helplessness at trying to explain concept X to me, while he offers her a commiserating knowing smile and shrug.

I stifle an internal scream.

It isn’t until the lesson is over and I’m furiously googling again when I chance upon THE article that sings to me – The Clay Will Tell You How You Are.

Here is a woman who makes me feel better because she’s had an even worse time of it than me.

At least my piece of clay didn’t turn into a flying projectile, but just sat there as an insistently lopsided soppy wet yet hard and sandy lump that evoked the ever unproductive ritual question and answer from student to master:

“Is this centered?”

“Not centered.”

“Now?”

“Not centered.”

“How about now?”

“Not centered.”

I bite back on the words, “What the FUCK is centered then? How does it even look? What the FUCK am I aiming for here?” because I know I’ll get no words, just the guy’s hands coming down on my piece of clay doing magic stuff with me none the wiser.

I did learn one thing though.

When you have a bad teacher, the Internet is your best teacher.

After seeing the Youtube video being shown to the other potter, angels descended and sang Hallelujah in my head because my eyes were suddenly opened to the source of a DOZEN good teachers.

Ten Youtube video clips of “pottery centering” later, I had the foundation concepts and the scaffolding that I had not been privy to before this.

No one had told me that I was supposed to brace my hand against my leg, or that the wheel had to be at a decent speed, or that the idea was to push in one direction while easing up in the desired direction so that the clay had some place to go.

They knew how to do it, but they didn’t know how to teach it.

Those on Youtube did.

The following week, I magically produce a 98% acceptable centered piece of clay after a couple of false starts and self-experiments.

(No doubt I also just confirm in my teacher’s head that his style of teaching is perfect.)

Things go well until I run aground in the next progression step of “lifting the clay to make a tall cylinder.”

We engage in a failure cycle of call and response again until the end of the lesson.

This time though, I know what to do in order to progress my own learning next week.

cylindervid

So why I have spent 1400 words telling you guys about my pottery lessons on a -game- blog?

It strikes me that learning is learning, regardless of the subject.

It could be pottery, it could be Civilization 6, it could be Path of Exile, MMO raids, PvP or whatever.

We all want the ideal of the understanding good teacher that cares and knows how to break it down just right so that we can learn what we don’t even know, let alone don’t understand.

(Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe you have some other ideal of the perfect teacher that is just right for you. Goldilocks style, not too soft, not too hard.)

Chances are bloody good that we’re not going to get one.

We would be immensely lucky if we strike gold on the first attempt at sourcing a great teacher.

Chances are far more likely that we’re going to hit judgmental people; people too self-absorbed in their own lives to bother much about your learning; people far too ready to go for the expedient assumption of “unteachable, boot him/her out of here” much more often than a good teacher with a heart of gold. (The latter burn out real fast, I hear.)

They’re going to do shit things to your emotions.

But there’s always one person that -is- committed to your learning, and that knows -exactly- how you like to learn.

Yep. You.

Perhaps that’s the teacher to really have a heart-to-heart conversation with.