For the First Time…

So where have I been?

Nowhere. Still quarantining at home for the most part. Occasionally coerced pointlessly back into the office, with masks. Figuring out how to navigate this new world of shaky supply chains and logistics, where grocery shopping for balanced nutrition while remaining as socially distanced as possible are consciously planned actions.

Juggling the bliss of pure introversion becoming a societally benevolent survival strategy with the downside of extraverts and ambiverts mentally breaking down all around me and absorbing some of that stress leakage in assorted ways.

Achieving a number of firsts in the past couple of months. (Though I use the word ‘achieving’ extremely loosely.) Perhaps ‘encountering’ would be a better term.

I lost an entire month or more to catching up with the entire saga of The Wandering Inn. That’s a first. I can’t even recall being so ‘with it’ with Worm or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I’ve forgotten most of the details of the latter two web serials, but I feel like I’ll remember every single one of the Wandering Inn’s cast of wacky characters.

I guess I have to take back my initial impression of LitRPG being weird. If the writing can captivate me for that long, I have zero leg to stand on.

At the same time, for the first time, I have divested myself of Guild Wars 2. As in, seriously, consciously let go of it. The hardcore achiever collect-it-all mindset. The endless frustration about the endless lag. The twice weekly raid obligations. The mental drag of forever full bags.

Burnout had been a long time coming anyway – I might have clung on three more years than I should have. I gave the fractal update a pass. I skipped Halloween. I might get around to -very- casually dipping a toe into the latest story chapter at some point, but I’m four days late to the party and I don’t really care that much. If I don’t log in, I don’t have to deal with any of the weighty matters above. One less mental burden in this crapsack 2020 year.

I could be doing other things. Like catch up on my reading. I blazed through the latest Dresden Files – Peace Talks and about 7/8 of the way through Battle Ground – in a couple of days.

The past three months have also been a nouveau experiment in a new style of gaming.

I haven’t quite pinned down a proper term for it yet.

I mean, we’ve all heard of patient gaming by now, where one chooses to wait for a period of time before buying and playing a video game – aka doing one’s best to avoid the launch hype and the launch price.

Every so often in the respective reddit, someone pops up with the eternal lament about dealing with one’s “backlog” of games they want to play, and others return assorted advice about creating a structured list and sticking to it, limiting one’s options, reframing perspectives and erasing the word “backlog” and replacing it with “collection” or “library,” relaxing the obsession with game completion, etc. etc.

Infrequently, I chime in with a slightly more left-field strategy of cycling as many games as one desires for 15-30 mins or some other random block of time.

It’s meant as a short term tactic of satisfying the urge to try out the many games on one’s mental list of “stuff I want to play” while trusting that one might eventually bump into something that sticks for longer or worse case scenario, one covers a lot of games territory while encountering nothing captivating.

It works, for me, at any rate. I have a large amount of already collected games at any one time and ridiculously diverse tastes, so the limited focus, specialization strategies don’t work as well for me.

What I -was- experimenting with was a larger scale, variant application of this idea, and stealing some of the theme behind Krikket’s “Play to Satisfaction” policy.

The working term is “Unfettered Gaming” as inspired by the Stephen R. Donaldson poem about Unfettered Ones – the quote that keeps echoing through my mind is “Free Unfettered Shriven Free”

It’s a mouthful, but it encapsulates the idea of loosing all restrictions. All “shoulds” and “have tos” and “ought tos.” It’s the antithesis to the Five Game Challenge, which is more one of those limited focus strategies.

It’s about even deliberately playing against those mental restrictions, if one becomes aware that some baggage is bogging them down, so that one realizes the world won’t end when doing so.

Example – “I should complete all games when I start playing them.” “I want to see the story to the end.”

Heck, no. That is a LOT of baggage to deal with. The reality is that I don’t complete most games. Nor do many other people. So why put that expectation on myself? I’ll play the game up to the point I no longer feel like playing it. Once it gets too onerous, I shall decide to stop and decide on the next action.

Am I just not interested in the gameplay? But still keen on finding out what happens next? I shall check out a written synopsis or skim through a Youtube Let’s Play, and call it done.

Am I stuck? Do I not know where to go? I shall use a walkthrough and disregard the “real gamers don’t use walkthroughs” guilt trip glomping around in the back of my mind.

Is the game too hard? Too frustrating? I shall find a cheat. I shall lower the difficulty. I will MOD the shit out of the game until I like it again.

(Which is, by the by, how I spent 2-3 weeks in the past months playing ARK singleplayer. The default setings are bullcrap. Harvesting and resources and dino taming settings were tweaked to be easier. I played until I bogged down, realized the weight limit sucked, and turned up the player weight and dinosaur weights.

No point owning a bunch of Brontosaurus if carting things from them is annoying as hell with 250 weight limit. Yes, the tamed dinos have all overrun the place. #firsthousesyndrome
This new slightly more sizeable compound brought to you by a 1600 weight limit and the resources stone and wood.

Argentavis speed is terrible? Mod it for classic flyer speed. Classic flyer speed still too damn slow? Fiddle with the config file for TWICE the speed. Now I can actually solo fly across the island in decent time.


It’s not at all cheating oneself if one will actually stay -longer- with a game when doing so. Ditto Sunless Sea and ship speeds. So goddamn turtle slow.)

Am I truthfully just no longer interested in the game for the current moment? As in, not likely to click on the icon in the next week or so?

I used to just keep the game around… just in case. Well, part of deliberate unfettered gaming is to loose that fetter. UNINSTALLED.

Gone from the hard disk. What’s the harm? I can always re-download it again when I get the urge to play it again. The save files are mostly all intelligently maintained or cloud saved these days.

And truthfully, if I don’t come back to the game within a week, I have probably forgotten how to play it and will usually have to start a new game rather than pick up half way in a save I don’t remember at a difficulty that is now too ramped up for the unfamiliar.

This part is probably the biggest personal mental habit that I have been deliberately working against to break. I hoard. I cling. It’s what I do. I accumulate stuff. I accumulate installed games all over the place until my hard disks are crammed full.

I am slowly, ever so slowly learning, that the world is not going to end if I just make a little virtual note that I might play X game again someday, and then strip the thing from my hard drive and have the Steam list a bit more greyed out than usual.

“I should play this game properly” “I want to be optimal” “I need to learn the exact ratio of X to Y in order to make this as efficient as can be” “I can’t enjoy this game unless I’m playing it in a properly approved best practices manner.”

Yes, some people enjoy doing so. That’s how they play their games. All power to them. You? You don’t have time to do so. Learning to be an expert is going to take longer than you’re likely to stay with the game in the first place, given your distracted honeybee mind.

So if your virtual city’s roads look like a Mayan hieroglyph…

… and your new highway flyover is daring the city’s denizens to commit suicide if they accelerate up it too fast…

…you know what? They’re just going to have to deal. (Anyway, it makes all the cars and lorries slow down before they attempt the sharpest angle turn of their lives. It’s fine.)

So my Steam games activity list has looked something like the above for the past month or so. A new game “for the first time” every couple of days.

Whatever I feel like playing, I play.

However I feel like playing, I play.

Whatever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And uninstall it after some time.)

Whenever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And do something else, like reading, or watching Youtube videos, or eating, or even *gasp* exercising – on a small scale, with microworkouts.)

It’s been harder to blog about because I’m not about to write a first impressions post or paragraph for every last random game I play. And then drop happily after a couple hours or days, having enjoyed most of my time spent with most of them. That becomes an obligation and we’re doing Unfettered Gaming here.

That’s the whole point.

LitRPG: Where the Fictional Meets MMORPG

Now here’s an odd specialty sub-genre of fiction that I couldn’t have conceived of in my wildest dreams.

I encountered the term while browsing through the Solo Roleplaying reddit – another niche gameplaying style where the goal is to entertain oneself by solo playing a tabletop RPG. Some narrate events to themselves, some simply daydream, others pen down some manner of written record to help their memory along. Often, this may include some game system terms in a sidebar or separate paragraph, to demonstrate where the game mechanics stepped in to take some authorial control and surprise the solo game player. (Without this game emulation, it’s basically just writing a story.)

Someone mentioned that such written records resembled “LitRPG.”

Now that’s a strange term I haven’t heard before. What newfangled creation hath this corner of the young internet wrought?

Google to the rescue.

Wikipedia defines it as:

LitRPG, short for Literary Role Playing Game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of computer RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels… The proponents of the term state that in LitRPG, games or game-like challenges form an essential part of the story, and visible RPG statistics (for example strength, intelligence, damage) are a significant part of the reading experience.

Wikipedia on LitRPG

The top search on Google (or at least my version of what Google deems is most relevant for me) is a The Verge article on LitRPG. The article author, Paul Miller, is fairly critical on the literary aspects of the books (ie. extremely lacking) but positive on the primary concept, that of a real person becoming lost in and learning to live in an MMO world, stat blocks and all.

A more positively biased summation of LitRPG comes from the page of (naturally) a LitRPG author.

I’m excited by the potential of LitRPG as a medium for dissecting our fascination with games and virtual worlds. Through our gamer and NPC characters, we can explore the relationships between real lives and virtual lives, and gain a better understanding of our own psychology around the human-technology interface. Why do we want to lose ourselves in digital fantasies? How are we motivated by quests and level-ups? What is it about virtual relationships that are so satisfying (or not)? By trying to answer these and many other questions through LitRPG, we can strive to understand the actions and motivations of the hundreds of millions of people who now call themselves “gamer”.

Edwin McRae, “What is LitRPG”

Some informational dumpster-diving through years-old Reddit threads later, I had a couple examples of what titles were generally considered “LitRPG.” Most looked like self-published work going for bargain bin prices on Amazon.

Being unwilling to pay sight unseen for dubious quality products and mostly just curious as heck, I identified two generally-recognized-as-not-horrible examples that were available for the glorious price of free.

Excellent. Free is good. Enough to figure out if I might like it or not.

The Wandering Inn appears to be a serialized web story in the manner of Worm. The protagonist, Erin Solstice, is a modern human suddenly teleported into a Breath of the Wild-esque fantasy world where a whole bunch of new game-like rules (e.g. sentient monster races, skill leveling) are as universal as breathing.

Faced with barely any relevant survival skills, her best bet is to take refuge in a mysterious inn and wind up in a Recettear-like situation where one becomes a fantasy innkeeper.

AlterWorld: Play to Live. A LitRPG Series (Book 1) by D. Rus. This Russian author is credited with mostly kindling (haha, pun, see what I did there) the budding genre. In this fantasy version of Earth, it has become possible for people to get essentially ‘sucked into’ a fully immersive MMO universe, becoming fully digitized where the physical body can be conveniently discarded with no ill effects to the digital self. This is known as “perma mode” (as opposed to “perma death,” I guess.)

The protagonist, Max, on learning he has a plot-convenient terminal illness hatches his grand plan to purposefully trigger “perma mode” and become Laith, a High Elf Necromancer in the MMO AlterWorld (because you know, opposite Drizzt is a thing and players always gotta buck the racial/class norms). There are some distinct stilted phrases and terminology scattered throughout, presumably due to the author’s Russian background.

The later books apparently get much worse in quality as some distasteful themes make themselves known in the author’s writing, but if one wants to study the genre, it makes sense to at least have a look at the original genre-starter. Free, after all. No plans on paying for more.

Having gotten a couple chapters into both titles, I have to say… I don’t know… The whole thing feels weird. Creepy weird. Yet strangely compelling, in a fanfiction train wreck sort of way.

On one hand, the serialized version of the web stories feels like a harmless fanfiction prose version of various game-inspired webcomics I love to peruse and follow along – things like WTF Comics (a distinctly Everquest flavored adventure campaign that has sadly petered off in the past few years, but the existing content is top notch), LFG Comic (a more half-original, half-WoW flavored take on things), and so on.

Granted, the good web comics become renowned because their -comic- qualities (as in, the art, the layouts, etc.) are quite high quality. It seems fewer of the present LitRPG cohort meet good prose thresholds, which makes their “literary” claim to fame a trifle presumptive, or at least, somewhat preliminary.

Expect fanfiction quality levels of English – some pretty good, others downright awful, the odd typo or grammatical error here and there. Editorial cleanup passes are unlikely.

That said, the authors plainly have some ideas and are keen to convey them, and are more or less understandable, so it is possible to be curious about the fates of these characters and the precarious situations they find themselves in.

What I do find weird is the thematic blend of fantasy and reality.

I’ve always known that I don’t play MMO games like a good many other players do, where they put themselves or an idealized version of themselves into their avatars, which then play the game.

I’ve never purposefully made a character that looked like myself and then put real world “me” into the game. LitRPG, conversely, seems to be full of people who do exactly that. Total immersion to them means throwing themselves bodily into the game world.

Me, I play MMO games from a GM’s or author’s perspective. I separate myself, splintering into various shards, containing multitudes. Some have aspects of me, some have aspects of others, blended up into a unique formula which makes them distinct. Each of these shards is a character, with their own personalities and backstory. They need a name.

Once named, they are not me. They are them.

Total immersion to me means that these characters can exist fully in these new worlds and settings as totally lore appropriate beings – there is never the awkward juxtaposition of trying to resolve modern-day issues and sensibilities (a carry over from a player brain that is unable to sever their own personality from their avatar) in a non-modern-day fantasy setting.

LitRPG, to me, seems to be written by a generation of people who have less background in books per se, but whose growing-up experience has been the odd physical and virtual blend of always being on the internet, always having social media around, always playing some form of video game. Little wonder that their real world selves merge with their digital selves, and this craving need to resolve the paradox.

That would be the positive form of LitRPG. A far worse form would be the pretender that has poor grounding in either actual game or this blended dilemma, but tries to throw in made-up game jargon anyway. At which point, I think the problem becomes clear. Any fiction requires a consistent world. If your construct of your fictional world is created poorly, through lack of understanding of game systems, then the inconsistency shines through and grates with every paragraph.

Generally, I lack the confidence that a fanfiction style author has the capacity to formulate a consistent fictional game world for their story. Not only are there authorial responsibilities, they are now taking on game designer responsibilities for the game jargon and skill/systems interaction. That’s a pretty big ask.

A solo RP written report doesn’t have that problem, because the game system & rules come from established texts from other authors.

A Let’s Play of an actual -real- game, whom I heavily enjoy reading the well-written ones, has the same grounding because the game system & rules exist in reality. The authorial responsibility there is then just to write well and be entertaining, and explain the systems text & rules if required.

Reading any LitRPG leaves me feeling that I’m on shaky ground. I’m not sure if the rules are consistent, or if they are going to bend to suit the fiction.

Perhaps my concern is wrong, and there are indeed authors who can handle both at once. Constructing a game world full of solid rules design, as well as plot a story that contains both conflict and compelling characters. But it seems there very well might be some tradeoffs here and there.

In any case, the final oddity is that I guess I find the obsession over game text curious. I tend to skim read over most system messages.

This placing of game text on a hallowed pedestal of a full paragraph is a strange convention of LitRPG. It reminds me of the way 4x strategy gamers scrutinize every last word of a skill, or resource, or building and basically min-max and optimize their way through a game mathematically.

Me, I admit to doing no such thing, unless forced by circumstance to. I’ll just pick stuff that sounds good, stack it all if possible, and read it only if I must. Game text is not meant for word-by-word parsing, if you ask me. It’s like an informational system message. Could be spammed. Picking up the big picture seems sufficient.

Still, LitRPG adds up to being an odd curious genre. I suppose there’s no harm following along further with the free stories, if one has time, if only just to find out what happens next.

The Ubiquitous Boss Battle

Boss fights seem to be everywhere now, a formulaic inclusion because of player expectations, and whatever else could we throw in at the end of a corridor or dungeon full of lesser enemies or minions?

I started thinking about this after Remnant: From the Ashes began to wear down on me. I’d just defeated Ixilis XV, a butterfly-like boss that clones itself into two, in a brutally hard and unforgiving fight on top of a bridge.

This boss had it all. Restricted arena space, yes. Bridge is very much limited. Some attacks might very well push you off the bridge to an instant death. Restrictive camera and field of view, you bet. One has to turn one’s back on at least one boss to properly attack the other. Phases and attack animations to be learned and solved systematically through lethal trial-and-error, not to mention proper stats on gear and consumable use.

I had to learn to dodge with perfect timing when the bosses’ weapon glow green and were held at a horizontal angle, because a wide bridge-clearing swipe was incoming a second after. I still got the other vertical weapon slice regularly confused with the other attack, both of which the boss holds its weapon aloft, but one is a simple melee slice while the other conjures up a bombardment of homing green balls – which had to be shot at to dissipate.

In addition, the boss also tosses a singular yellow-brownish-green ball attack which turns into an AoE gas cloud on the bridge. Twice. The solution being to move or dodge out of the way of the initial hit and then to hopefully avoid standing in the bad until it went away.

All its attacks do corrosion damage, which my scrapper armor has negative resistance to. The corrosion debuff makes armor increasingly ineffective, leading to more damage taken. Problem is, I had no other type of gear as stat pumped as my original set. I tried a switch to some higher corrosion resistance gear, but the lower upgrade level meant taking equivalent amounts of damage. I eventually wound up just pre-emptively chomping down on a consumable that cost 50 currency, which pushed up my corrosion resistance from negative to positive, every attempt at the boss.

The boss had multiple phases. In the initial phase, only one butterfly clone is seen while the other waits in a cocoon. Take it down to 75% health and the other pops out of the cocoon at full health. OR you could take it down to 76% health, turn your back on it (exposing yourself to all its lethal attacks) and shoot the cocoon until it bursts, causing the other to pop out at 75% health as well. Choices, choices.

I went for the latter, but it was painful. I had to notice and use a central bridge obstacle (which eventually breaks after the boss does another type of attack, a hadouken beam attack) to half shelter me to do so.

Once both butterfly bosses are out, they take turns being the main attacker. One continues doing the previous style of attacks while the other one does the abovementioned beam attack that can one-shot kill you by knocking you off the bridge.

It took -forever- and a spate of googling for help for me to eventually grok that the beam attack follows a -fixed- pattern, it starts at one end of the bridge and steadily moves over the course of five beams or so to the other end.

To make matters even more interesting, every now and then, the bosses do a group AoE howl that if both are allowed to perform uninterrupted, does enough damage to one-shot you. To prevent this, one has to shoot the growing energy ball they cultivate until it bursts. Since both are on opposite sides of the bridge, this is a job for either coordinated multiple players (of which a soloist has none) or really good dps (of which, I had none either, because the alternative was stopping and leaving to grind for gear upgrades.)

I settled for locating two high ammo quick firing weapons (spitfire and the chicago typewriter) and blowing up the energy ball of one boss. That exposed me to half the damage of the other boss, which meant healing after each group AoE attempt.

Eventually, the critical realization of the bridge beam attacks being fixed meant that everything else started falling in place. I had figured out solutions (more or less) to every other attack; I just needed to know that I should be keeping in the center until I saw which side the boss I wasn’t going to face was going, and allow it to do a few beams, and then purposefully run to that side of safety in between beams. Then it could be safely left alone and with my back turned while I focused on the main boss.

It was… tiring.

Once victory was ultimately attained, I picked up the next key to unlock the next stage of the game. Faced with the prospect of a new planet of Yeesha to wander through before the final climatic battle of the narrative… I balked, more or less.

It felt like one act too many. Here was going to be another run of a zone, followed by a mini-boss or boss, then another zone, and then another boss. Rinse and repeat 3 or 4 times, and then just maybe… we’ll get to campaign’s end.

*sigh* I kinda prefer the game’s Adventure mode. One mini-dungeon zone and a few boss battles, the end, rinse and repeat when one is ready. Shorter, sweeter.

So I called a hold on Remnant and went to play the next game that had caught my wandering eye.

I found myself back in Terraria, fully intent on trying out the Journey’s End changes, and mostly grinding away in the early game from a very slow start because I got insane enough to try an Expert Mode world. Suffice to say, everything has a lot more hitpoints and does a lot more damage.

Not without some irony, I noted that I was slowly but steadily, attempting to do all matter of prep work for… what purpose, but killing the first few pre-hardmode Terraria bosses so that one could progress to the next stage of gear?

One has ample time to ponder while exploring and farming in Terraria.

Hang on, said I, haven’t the recent games I’ve been playing been full of bosses?

My GW2 raids are nothing but one boss battle after another. Path of Exile has plenty of bosses, some with different phases and attack animations to learn, and they keep ramping up further in this direction – possibly due to customer demand. Monster Hunter is boss after boss.

Most of the singleplayer action or Ubisoft style open-world game layers in plenty of boss battles as the narrative progresses. Platformers have bosses, roguelikes have bosses, if perhaps less dogmatically systematic about it.

It made me stop to wonder if there was ever a time when games weren’t so rabidly obsessed with the necessity of a boss battle after every level. Especially a singular colossal big boss that has to be taken down raid style, pattern puzzle solved per attack animation or phase in order to successfully defeat it.

It felt like, maybe once upon a time, there were.

I seem to recall roleplaying games like Baldur’s Gate where yes, there were a couple of bosses, but they were mostly a group of enemies with a central stronger character that you had to take down, and normally always part of the narrative of that encounter. Sometimes you could bypass the battle by talking it through. But otherwise, they were like any other combat encounter, just with a few more dangerous combatants.

Granted, I might be being a little unfair. Surely there are games in the present day without boss battles. Strategy games in a Civilization vein are unlikely to have boss battles per se, as we’re more on an army scale here. Crafting or optimizing games like Factorio or Satisfactory lack boss battles, if only because the combat is not quite centered around the concept – at most, combat climaxes are waves of tougher enemies (something the tower defense genre favors a little more.)

Multiplayer PvP games -probably- don’t have boss battles, if only because the main opponents are intended to be other players, rather than a computer controlled opponent.

Regardless, it does seem like recently, the concept of boss battles has been increasingly put up on a pedestal of desirability, or at least something that -has- to be included in most games, along with vertically progressing gear numbers and levels, and crafting which mostly consists of assembling a bunch of ingredients into another new object with the click of a button.

Wherever are the experiments away from this format?

PC Building Simulator: No Cash, Much Build

Finally caught PC Building Simulator going for 50% off on Steam the other day.

Considering that I was lusting after it during the Summer sale and still stingy not to bite at 40% then, I decided the threshold of 50% was sufficient for something I really wanted to play.

Prior plans for new computer replacement in real life are now overdue, thanks to the current pandemic climate we find ourselves in.

While mulling on plan B (buying parts in a face to face setting is now much more inconvenient – do I trust delivery options to not damage stuff in transit / wherever am I going to put a new computer case when prior room renovation plans are hold / which month can I take the leap on this for best financial management in a pandemic situation, etc. etc.), I needed a virtual stopgap to feed the “new PC” desire.

It’s certainly much cheaper.

And dare I say it, kinda addictively fun to be able to simulate build after build in a compressed amount of time.

Naturally, the first thing anyone would do (or at least I did) was jump into the Free Build mode to build a dream PC of choice, unrestrained by anything so prosaic as a budget.

Honestly, the build below is completely unresearched, so it cannot be considered “my” dream PC of choice, but given that my criteria was mostly “what is super-expensive in this catalog that also sounds good,” it is certainly -a- fantasy PC.

Random bits of shiny

It’s certainly not a maxed out 3DMark score. All stock parts, no overclocking, no doubled graphics cards or ludicrous amounts of memory, but just to get the feel of how PC building simulator worked.

Then I started in on the campaign, where the story is that you’ve taken over a modest little PC repair/build shop from your uncle. Customers send you email with their requests, and their PC if you accept. You order in any necessary parts and assemble and troubleshoot as necessary.

The simulation is both detailed and simplified enough to be satisfying. It glosses over real PC building woes like misplacing screws and trying to fat finger in parts in cramped surroundings without dropping or damaging them (or is that just me) but allows you to plan and systematically attack the assembly of multiple PCs, meditatively inserting components by mouse clicking and holding.

There is the satisfaction of meeting a customer’s requests and their parts budget, as well as color-coordinating cables and components for reasons of pure cosmetic vanity.

There is a simulation aspect of balancing the customer’s requests, budget and your own company goals – max profit, be super efficient, just meet minimum requirements, shortchange the customer, play unethically, or go the distance for super customer satisfaction at possibly time and labor cost to oneself? Or anything in between.

The above customer had a huge budget of $1500, and her requirements were exceedingly minimal. A computer that can play Euro Truck Simulator 2 (Recommended Spec). Heck, you could probably build a PC that fits those requirements for half the price, and save the customer money.

I was in the mood for a -nice- build though, and since the customer was agreeable to footing the bill for up to $1500 in parts… why not get top of the line components up to the budget and put it together?

The final result completely exceeded the requirements by far, but I liked putting it together. It was a PC I wouldn’t have minded owning myself.

The cherry on top? The customer liked it too! Sense of accomplishment achieved. Never mind that it is completely pretend.

The multitude of cases one gets to go through is fun. Some are dreams to assemble and disassemble, and others, well, you’re left cursing and swearing as you pull off both the sides and the top, just to get components to go in. Certainly helps contribute some ideas for further research when it comes time to figure out what real life case to buy.

Probably my only chance to get relatively up close and personal with artistic cases. Certainly nice to look at.

In reality, I’m far too concerned with factors like good ventilation, given the hot and humid country I live in, as well as ease of assembly/disassembly for regular dust cleaning.

There are some amusing mini-stories in the emails that customers send you, providing a sort of voyeuristic view of various character’s lives, a kind of simulated reality drama.

“The good news is, I found my hamster.” Emphasis mine. Riiight.

There’s a cute, almost campaign-like story saga which I guess might segue into the PC Building Simulator’s recent eSports DLC (which has more middling reviews at this point, so holding off on that for now). But the story in the main game itself is fun.

There’s this kid who is into League of Legends and dreams of being an eSports star. Mum doesn’t approve. Naturally, he saves up his own money, then sends you an email and begs for as budget a PC as possible, that can still play League of Legends.

Do that, and he starts winning a few competitions, mum’s opinion changing slowly as she sees the prize money come in. He comes back to you for PC upgrades through this little mini drama.

Here’s a sample where he wins some extra cash and wants to reward himself with some bling for his PC:

Good on ya kid, here’s some shiny RGB lighting and color-coordinated cables.

Because these little things matter when you value your computer.

And I guess that’s why anyone would wind up playing PC Building Simulator for long periods of time. Because you like PCs and find value in the simulated assembly process of multiple computers.

16 hours and counting for me. Worth it. Recommended if you like PC building (and aren’t burned out with repeating the process over and over.)

Aggressive Helping and Perfectionist Overwhelm

The entertainment of the past few days has been watching an apparently quite famous Twitch streamer (I wouldn’t know, I’m old and unhip) try out Guild Wars 2.

I’m mostly left wondering how much is deliberate performance for Twitch income and how much is genuine flawed human on display for the public to revel in celebrity culture and their own flawed humanity.

There’s been a LOT to unpack and digest in these last four days.

It started with the news of the hour over on the Guild Wars 2 reddit that “Summit1G” was streaming GW2 on Twitch to an audience of 30,000 or so.

Now my first reaction was, “Who?” but you know, that’s just me being very much not a millennial or younger.

I watch Critical Role on Twitch, and chill to CohhCarnage from time to time because both communities are very positive, filled with good vibes and no toxicity, but other than that, I tend not to be in the loop with anything or anyone else.

So like any curious onlooker, I pop over to the Twitch stream to gawk.

Day 1 is mostly the same old Queensdale run that any new player goes through, and a jumping puzzle or two.

The only difference is that Summit1G attacks and murders pretty much any mob in sight (hey, like me! need me some combat action, yeah!) rather than just travel obediently from point A to point B doing hearts. (He does that too.)

That, and plenty of blindingly shiny blinged out players desperately craving for their five minutes of fame attempting to jam themselves into his camera view. A percentage of viewers (and the streamer himself occasionally) are annoyed. I have no dog in this fight, so I’m only mildly amused. (That, and if you play GW2 on the regular, you’re so used to tuning out this visual bling anyway.)

The guy plays for 11-13 hours straight, which is… wow, a lot to unpack.

On one hand, it gives me the viewer something to actually watch during my late mornings and afternoons, which is well nigh impossible when you live on the other side of the world as the majority of English-speaker streamers.

On the other hand, you can’t help but wonder how exhausting it is and how much this would ultimately contribute to burnout. It seems to be sort of an underlying current in the public commentary surrounding this celebrity – that he seems to be bouncing from game to game unhappily looking for some kind of PvP holy grail.

From Day 2 to 4, besides a quick stint in Ascalonian Catacombs, Summit1G discovers GW2’s structured PvP and goes for deep deep 11-13 hour dives into the format.

He has his own group of mates with him, so they are usually in a complete 4 or 5 person party at any time. This provokes a twinge of envy for how quickly he can get set up and supported. The background players often seem to be adjusting more quickly than he is, playing better games or helping push the team to victory despite his meandering off, lack of objective focus or newbie mistakes.

Then again, they don’t have a distracting Twitch chat stream filled with scrolling emotes, text spam and advice of shapes and colors aggressively overhelping and attempting to backseat drive his every move.

Not to mention, highlighting and pointing out every last poor decision with immense schadenfreude.

(Even if attempting to go 1 v 3 while completely inexperienced seems to be perfectly obvious common sense.)

The very definition of irony

In the above clip, MightyTeapot (a fairly well-known GW2 streamer, whom I’ve normally never bothered watching because I’m old and don’t do videos) had popped in to join their PvP team and do a little coaching and demonstration of a somewhat slightly higher level of PvP play than the newbies were exhibiting.

He’s busily lecturing in his nice, positive, calm voice to… uncertain effect (Twitch chat alternating between catcalls and support) while Summit1G leaves mid point and charges right up to near the enemy spawn because he sees two enemy players low on health and has gone into full lock-on blinders mode.

Little does he know that he’s shot through the enemy team and overextended (a third fully health enemy to his side he seems to have missed or dismissed), and that one of the low health targets is a necro, with a second health bar. The necro pops into shroud and that low health becomes full health, and the three generally dogpile him.

His teammates are mostly back at mid, or reluctant to walk into that outnumbered battle to support, and all the while MightyTeapot is busy droning about picking one’s fights properly (aka not being stupid.)

This is a moment of endless amusement for the Twitch audience.

Which on one hand seems to be positively desirable for the purposes of Twitch streaming – your audience is entertained, they learn stuff, presumably this nets viewers and followers and real life money being thrown at you because some people have a desperate craving to be right on the internet or to provide helpful advice, and will actually tip $5 to have their words read out via text to speech and posted on the stream for all to see. Repeatedly.

On the other hand, this might do a number on one’s ego if one is the least bit less well-adjusted and self-secure. If you’re competitive or perfectionist or the least bit invested in one’s performance, dying and losing would already suck. Especially if you want to be and feel competent. Especially if you have an inkling that your friends are doing much better than you.

Never mind that the reality is that it’s going to take quite a while and a lot of effort of study and practice to accumulate skill and knowledge towards competency, and that patience and good self-esteem are important factors on the journey.

We don’t know how much is real and how much is a demeanor for performance purposes, but suffice to say, that a perfect positive role model is not exactly on display over the four days. (And should we really expect such a thing? Isn’t that over-expectation of a different kind as well?)

There are a lot of complaints. A lot of newbie errors. Like forgetting to use a heal. Walking straight into AoE because one has no clue that it is dangerous.

Generally getting melted by conditions and stunned and interrupted to oblivion because both condition cleanse and stun breaks are a completely alien concept to newbies. (Something I have deliberately used to fairly devastating effect when I paddled around in the shallow end of the unranked PvP pool because I have no illusions about my lack of any real PvP capability, and have to shore up with knowledge trickery.)

This is apparently quite agonizing to a certain percentage of his viewers, who spam the chat with unsolicited advice. Useful for other viewers in a receptive frame of mind, perhaps. Much more questionable if the recipient is un-receptive.

I’ve been in the latter shoes before. It is hard to diplomatically explain to the overly concerned individual that one simply does not want to invest the necessary time and effort to “git gud” because it is not a personal priority among other competing priorities at this time. It’s possibly the individual’s priority, hence why they are so attached to the outcome, but it’s not yours.

I’ve also been in the former shoes. It’s tricky. Sometimes you just want to share what you know with others. The person may not ever learn it otherwise, and if they know it, they might have a better experience.

(I had someone pop a late comment into my Terrafirmacraft Plus post the other day. I would certainly not have realized my error about TFC+ fruit trees otherwise. I would have no reason to comb the wiki about fruit trees, especially since I haven’t picked up the game in three months. On the other hand, the usefulness of this is also questionable for said obvious reasons above.)

Then again, sometimes the advice is too overwhelming and simply too much to absorb at any time. Especially if the person is not feeling in a receptive mood. Then it simply becomes counter-productive pressure, because all the person wants to do now is push back and defend their boundaries and autonomy, including the freedom to make their own mistakes.

Because ultimately, it’s a game. It should be about having fun. It should be about learning organically.

It shouldn’t have to be about performing perfectly to suit other people’s expectations. Hell, -work- wishes they could achieve that. Not happening at work. Why should we expect it in our games and entertainment?

For what it’s worth, I continue to watch because it’s both entertaining and educational for now, and it’s something new in GW2 land (which as we all know, is a rare animal these days.)

It’s nice to see the learning process, newbie mistakes included, because it demonstrates a more everyman human frailty, rather than some god of PvP firing off keys at an expert piano playing rate, helped along by a 30ms connection to the servers.

There’s also the possibility of seeing other people play well and learn something new too. Had no idea you could actually time a warbanner res to resurrect yourself.

Not being much of a PvPer, even I can see that Summit1G has fairly good instincts from his general experience at other PvP games. His escape game is leagues better than what I can put up, breaking line of sight almost instinctively and hopping up and down elevations and putting great distance between himself and others when he’s low on health. (Now if only he can remember that he can heal himself in the process…)

How long he will last in GW2 is another matter. Celebrity gossip and drama appears to follow him. Chances are high that he’ll take flight in another direction soon. But it’s certainly been an entertaining couple of days.