NBI: Talkback Challenge #4

Joseph Skyrim’s NBI Talkback Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time.

This weekend has seen me going on a meta quest to learn about learning (this Coursera course is amazing for the vast number of links to read up on and make connections to – I’m seeing the principles apply for games, for writing, for martial arts, sports or exercise, for music, for languages, or yes, even regular school subjects or other things an adult learner might be interested to pick up.)

One of the topics that came up was the importance of mindset, as popularized by Carol Dweck.

Some people stay in a fixed mindset, that intelligence is innate, that creativity and talent are inherent and that these cannot be changed in any meaningful way. To people who were brought up with this mindset, it becomes more important to look smart, to seem competent, to hide mistakes and avoid failure in order not to feel bad and diminished in their eyes and the eyes of others. (Apparently, all it takes is a single line of the wrong type of praise to sway children in one direction or another, which ultimately all adds up to habitual patterns of behavior.)

A growth mindset, meanwhile, recognizes that people can train and practice to become smarter or perform better. This mindset looks upon “hard” things as a challenge and failure indicating that there’s always something more to learn. Valuing the process more than the end goal, holding this mindset lets you pick yourself back up again and persist in the face of obstacles – persistence, after all, being a generally more successful trait in the real world than smarts per se.

Like any other popular philosophy, it’s probably more than a bit simplified, while holding valuable grains of truth or insight.

There’s probably -some- innate differences in aptitude for various things based on our genes, but if one doesn’t practice said thing repeatedly, that innate aptitude isn’t going to be noticeable regardless.

And you probably wouldn’t want to hold a growth mindset 100% of the time blindly either, since you’ll then be forever trying to persist on both important and unimportant things. Prioritizing the things that you value and want to persist about is likely a good idea.

But in a broad general sense, it seems valuable to realize that these two mindsets exist and to recognize when it is appropriate to use either.

(If your boss has a fixed mindset, I wouldn’t suggest persisting in trying to change his or her mind about it. I’d just worry about projecting the desired image until one can find a new job with less dysfunctional people in leadership positions. That’s just me, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you’d be more interested in becoming your bosses’ boss and changing the organization that way or whatever.

Ditto trolls. You -could- persist in attempting to change their mind or perspective about something. It could equally be a waste of some of your valuable time on this earth.)

In that vein, examining one’s perspectives and mindsets on gaming seem valuable for understanding more about one’s relationship to games and learning.

Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Considering that I can play and enjoy ASCII games, I probably don’t enjoy them “more.”

I likely would question the provenance of the game and whether it would be worth playing it if that’s -all- they had, since it would indicate a rather adolescent viewpoint at work in the creation of said game, and other design choices that might make a game more fun for me might also be missing or not shared by said creator/designer.

I don’t have issues with them including those avatars in a game though. I’m happy to have the more choice and options the merrier, and I know -some- people like ’em. If that’s also a target audience for paying the devs money, then so be it.

I can’t play scantily clad buxom D-cup yet anorexic ladies with any sense of immersion, so no, for those. Conversely, I admit to being partial to unrealistically proportioned hulk-like muscled males (scantily clad is optional, fur and bestial features is preferable,) so yes, for those.

I think, ultimately, that avatars are representational. For some people, realism or consistency in a fantasy setting or creating a persona that resembles their real world selves is important, and these players lean toward the more average-in-looks avatars. For others, they are sort of an escapist fantasy, and they go for more archetypal, exaggerated “superhero” symbols.

Playing big buff monsters is, for me, a representation of my love for melee combat, for running in there and being a sturdy protective tank, for wading in and kicking ass, of being the big supportive guy in the back of any group photo. It’s being someone I wouldn’t have much hope of being in real life, genes being what they are (eg. by and large, Asians are not known for being able to develop massive height and muscularity, as opposed to say, someone with Nordic ancestry, where they -might- have some hope.)

The virtual world enables people to walk in someone else’s shoes. May that never change.

And it’s why I’ll happily defend the right of straight white guys to play their over-sexualized female avatars, ostensibly to ogle their butts and boobs and throw on the brightest or clowniest lipstick and makeup ever. Who knows, maybe the avatar is a representation of some kind of fantasy in their heads, be it sexual or just trying to get in touch with their emotional feminine side, often repressed in real life from cultural mores. Maybe they’ll have the experience of seeing the world from a different perspective, if others treat them differently based on what their avatar projects. From that, is laid the groundwork for open-mindedness and respecting diversity, in small steps.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

Hell, yeah. Who knows, maybe there will be a great games industry collapse and I will need new games to play on my desert island some day!

Well, seriously, I try to buy games that I’m interested in (and so much catches my interest) to support the devs who make them, so that I will never encounter that scenario.

However, since I am not a rich billionaire made out of money, I generally wait until nearer the tail end of their lifespan to buy ’em for 75% off. I’m a generalist that spreads 1-5 bucks across various games rather than pay $80 outright for one new game to specialize in.

Thus I tend to accumulate a whole boatload of unfinished games – I’ll play ’em for a couple hours to experience what it’s like, to appreciate what this one game is about, but I generally don’t have time to finish via repetition all the maps and levels of each game unless I really really like it in some way, maybe it’s the story or its design or it’s unique in some way or it’s just short enough for me to complete in a reasonable time.

I have decided that I’m okay with this. I’m not breaking the bank or my budget this way, and I’m indulging my love of games in general.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

It depends. If it’s a developer hand out, I assume they are giving the freebie for some kind of purpose, eg. encouraging someone to log on, celebrating an occasion or saying thank-you for something, and I’m happy to take it and appreciate it and enjoy it.

I’m less keen on player hand outs. I suppose it’s okay once or twice as a goodwill gesture, if the context is just that they’re being friendly or helpful. I do find it smothering when taken too far. If someone does everything for another person, they will never learn or go through the process, and that -journey- is the joy, not the reward at the end.

It again depends if the rewards are lacking in a particular activity. If the activity isn’t something I’m interested in to begin with, yeah, I’m liable to prioritize going somewhere more rewarding, in terms of both enjoyment and the goodies at the end. If I -want- to do that activity though, I’m still going to do it once or twice just to say that I experienced it and did it, even if I get zero or negative goodies out of it.

I’m generally a more intrinsically motivated person, so I tend to avoid games that offer external reward loot showers for doing stuff I don’t enjoy. In fact, I’m more liable to bitch and complain about “forcing players” if the game did put an exclusive desired goodie at the end of an activity I didn’t enjoy, rather than endure the activity repeatedly for the reward.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t ever intentionally leech, it’s just not me. I’m a perfectionist that needs to be effective or at least above-average in optimal to feel like I was contributing to a group. I’m a lot more likely to quit a party if I ever get pissed off at something, rather than passive-aggressively hang around trying to be annoying.

If I do go AFK, it’s a forewarn kind of thing, it’s just manners that I learned from my old games “AFK, bio” or “AFK, phone” or what have you, and only for a couple minutes and I try to minimize that whenever possible.

hate people who are not respectful of others and decide to wander off for half an hour or more eating food, or wrangling with their kid or parent or cat that has suddenly decided something absolutely critical has come up. You’re making 4-5 other people wait for you. I understand that RL emergencies happen. Just fucking come back for a minute, apologize that you can’t continue and leave the group and let them get on with their lives with someone else. I am very likely to bail from one of these dysfunctional groups if shit like this happens.

I generally don’t discourage others from attempting difficult things. I’m fond of encouraging others to stretch themselves, in fact. However, my one exception if this difficult thing is reliant on the whole group getting it done right and I don’t have time or patience that day to make repeated attempts at it, having not joined or been forewarned that such a goal was in mind. Then I’d much rather they attempt the difficult thing on their own or with a group specifically put together to attempt it.

I’ve seen plenty of people who needed help and decided not to help them. One, they won’t learn to help themselves if they are always being helped. Two, they may not welcome the help, especially if they are the obnoxious “I play how I want” sort of person that is not open to improvement with a fixed mindset. Three, I might be on the way to doing something else, and they don’t specifically need my help, just someone to help, and someone else was already going to help them.

I generally only stop to help if no one else is there, and they genuinely look lost or in trouble, as opposed to just being lazy and expecting someone to help them as is their “entitlement.” Or if they are what I define as a “promising young newbie,” someone keen and eager to learn, asking intelligent questions, communicating in full sentences, interested in moving from beginnerhood to more understanding. Or if they try a few times on their own and fail and I realize they need some scaffolding or coaching or support in some way to grasp a concept they’re missing.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

I do get angry at other players, though I try my best not to these days, it’s better for my own blood pressure and health to change my perspective about that person’s behavior.

I generally do not yell at anyone. The most I might do is forcefully point out a combat mechanic of some kind, if they’re being very thick about comprehension and I’m getting frustrated by the group’s overall failure and I think that grasping this basic concept might in fact improve the existing situation. I guess I get more angry about a situation or a failed fight than with any player per se.

If a player is obnoxious enough to make me angry, that person usually qualifies for an immediate block from me, probably a report to whatever game authorities they are, and possibly me leaving the group as I no longer want to succeed with that group and enable that person’s bad behavior (assuming no self-penalties for leaving the group, eg. in a PvE dungeon instance, else I usually give up success as a lost cause and work on a personal improvement goal instead with the remainder of the PvP match time.)

I really have better things to do with my life than to stalk an individual that makes me mad around the place. Exactly what would that achieve besides making me even more mad to see a person I detest MORE often? Report to someone who gets paid to look into these things, block (so I never see or hear their ugly mug again), and done. Finito. On to less bloodboiling matters.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

Ok, I confess that jealousy and envy are fairly alien emotions to me. Perhaps I have to thank my parents and childhood for that, but I never really grew up with a sense of scarcity, of feeling that someone had stuff I wanted and couldn’t have. My mum basically taught me to “suffice” – we may not have it all, we may not even have all of what we want, but what we have is enough and can make us happy. Other people may have more things, but who knows, they may not actually be happy even if they had more things.

I only experience such feelings on super-rare occasions, such as when I failed an important language exam by the world’s most catastrophic margin while everyone else in the class was bright-eyed and cheery and in the top god-knows-how-much percentile… and I generally felt super-helpless that there was absolutely nothing I could do to improve my grade further because the exam standard was presuming a linguistic background I didn’t have (years of foundation speaking it) and no amount of effort was going to help this in the time frame I had to improve for the next one… then I felt somewhat jealous of all these other peoples’ A grades and assumption that absolutely nothing was wrong, while I had fallen through the cracks over here and no one (including the teacher, who didn’t want to make any eye contact) had a clue of how to help.

See, here is the basic thing. I generally have a growth mindset for most things, including games. (The one time I felt intense helpless jealousy, it was exactly that, I was helpless, felt utterly inadequate, and didn’t have any avenues I could think of for improvement, so the last resort was just wishing that I was somehow magically better and like everybody else.)

So perhaps this player can complete content I can’t, or plays at a much higher level than I can right now. I take it as meaning that I can improve myself to that level if I work at it. Maybe not immediately today, but eventually.

It’s hard for me to be jealous of that player, it only means that player put in a hell of a lot more time and effort playing that one game or mastering that one aspect that I either am unwilling to put in the effort right now, or haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. If I wanted to, I could work at it too. It’s just a matter of deciding if I want to invest the time to do so.

As for whether they are hacking or cheating, maybe, sometimes it’s hard to tell in certain first-person shooters whether a person just has played so often that they can do snap headshots on reflex and instinct alone, or if they have some kind of aimbot that automatically tracks for them. Still find it hard to be jealous either way though. Either the person worked hard (in which case one should respect that) or the person’s a cheater (and how one envies someone acting so low, I don’t know, they’re only cheating themselves in the end.)

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

I guess this one is my deadly sin. I can do a pretty good Lucifer impression.

I won’t demand an elite group, but I do -prefer- smooth runs that don’t go all pear-shaped on a regular basis. I tend to take it very personal if I keep ending up face first on the floor (I’m working on that impulse through conditioning via PvP and dungeon solos. I get it bad in PvE groups though, it’s an image thing. I feel incompetent in the eyes of others if I keep dying and no one else does, whereas if I’m alone, death means I didn’t get the right strategy yet, and in PvP, death is just a thing that happens to everyone.) That does usually mean a base level of competency and efficiency.

I don’t like dungeoning to begin with, so I’d rather things end fast and I get the shiny at the end that I wanted. I rather not have to devote 2-4 hours to a herculean epic struggle against heroic odds where I end up having to coach three other players how to play in order to get through it every time I dungeon. I don’t mind it in the initial stages of discovery of a new dungeon, where it’s all new to everybody and that’s what we do to learn as a populataion, but once it gets old, my exploration drive totally loses interest and I end up only going along due to my achievement urge.

I generally do not kick underperformers who can’t help themselves. Perhaps they’re new to the dungeon, perhaps they’re (stereotyping intensely here) someone’s healer girlfriend, perhaps they’re still struggling with MMO controls in general, or all three. I’ll get frustrated at the group’s lack of progress and repeated wiping due to one (or worse, three) part members not carrying their own weight, but it seems cruel to kick someone who is still learning and trying to get the hang of it. So I bite my tongue and coach and try to think of any and all creative non-standard strategies that might eventually let us progress and wipe along with them until we either get it or some party members run out of time to continue (thank goodness.)

I am, however, very tempted to kick (and usually -will- support kicking) an underperformer who doesn’t care that they’re underperforming and expresses they have no interest in getting better or helping the group succeed. It shows a lack of respect for the group (that they joined, duh?) If you’re running around Leeroying triggering stuff and generally not communicating or cooperating with the group, if you refuse to alter the way you play and it’s getting the group killed as a result (as opposed to playing in a nonstandard fashion and the group -still- succeeding), that kick is likely going to come. Probably not initiated from me, but I’ll say OK, if anyone else has had it with you too.

It’s very situational. Honestly, I think too many self-styled “elitists” aren’t actually that good themselves and are just pointing the finger at other people in an attempt to cover up that they’re weak players themselves. If you copy a cookie cutter build without real understanding of why someone chose those choices, you’re really not an “elite” player, you’re just using someone else’s solution that works, a cook following a recipe, a pattern-emulator.

The real question is, what can you do when the situation changes? Can you solve new challenges with the patterns you’ve learned? Can you adapt on the fly and switch your build to whatever best suits the situation? Can you work with your group to formulate than execute new strategies?

Yes, I’d much rather group with players that show through their actions that the answer is ‘yes’ to all those questions. Things die faster, the group functions more smoothly, I learn a lot from what the true elite players do.

But I really don’t sweat it if “optimal dps” is not being performed at every last second, or whatever. Did things die? Did we complete the dungeon? If so, great.

Are we still in the dungeon two hours later? Did we die a dozen times already? If so, fuck.

Advertisements

NBI: Talkback Challenge #2 and #3

It wasn’t until Cleeyah posted her response on being a gamer that I realized that I was late for Talkback Challenge #2. Oops.

So you all get a combination post instead!

Talkback Challenge #2 – Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

Maaaaybe, but mostly leaning towards no.

I don’t have any massive issues with either scheme, and I really like the idea behind Kickstarter.

My main problem is that games tend to be very hard to scope properly and it’s also very hard to evaluate if a game team is capable of doing what it -says- it wants to do. There’s just a lot of in-betweens that can cause what is put down on paper to not resemble the final product at all.

I don’t like throwing money into the ether. I believe that Kickstarter is a great platform for crowdfunding what interests you, but if you ask me to give some money to you, personally, I need reassurance that I’m going to see a concrete product back in return, within a reasonable timeframe.

The way I evaluate this is simple. Is this an established company that is used to working together and has processes in place?

(No, a brand spanking new company just formed from a whole bunch of ‘pioneers’ does not count. I’ll give you some time to get your hierarchy hashed out and ego/political games in place to see if you can produce something functional despite the natural dysfunction of any company.)

How difficult do I feel the finished product will be for you to create, based on what you tell me in the Kickstarter?

If you give me vague promises, a design document that reads like marketing copy, and no prior track record, you’ll find it really hard to move me into giving you money up front. Even if you really can put out.

Pillars of Eternity was one of those that I just couldn’t bring myself to fund, despite liking Baldur’s Gate a ton. I needed to see a final product and reviews saying that it is good, before I consider putting down money for it.

But let’s say they ask for money again, to produce a sequel or some additional DLC content. Given this track record that they’ve produced one game in this vein before, I’ll find it much more reasonable to assume they can do something similar again.

Conversely, I found it much easier to contribute to the Defence Grid 2 Kickstarter (they already made Defence Grid 1 and they had a plan for additional funding if KS didn’t work out), and to a company like Reaper Miniatures that wanted a cash infusion to buy a machine for their special plastic/resin molding or whatever (all the creative work is either already done or the processes are in place, they have already produced Bones plastic minis via a Chinese company, the only major risk is shipping/transit issues.)

I might also find it easier to fund a solo person creating a tabletop RPG pdf (not yet though), since that is mostly desktop publishing. The scope of the work is not that colossal, one is only essentially paying to support the author for the time spent on the creative work. But again, said author must have a track record of having written prior PDFs that contain content I find worth paying for.

As for Early Access, meh, I just can’t fit my head around the concept of -paying- for the privilege to alpha or beta test your game.

(I might do it for free, there’s mutual benefit in that. I get a sneak peek, and you get me poking around attempting to break things with my presence.)

If it works for others, go nuts. I’m happy that these guys are helping to increase the chances that this game will see the light of day and become a finished product that I can pay for. But don’t ask -me- for money to test your game for you. Just… don’t.

Talkback Challenge #3 – What made you a gamer?

I can’t remember a time when I -wasn’t.-

Before I was old enough to hold a joystick, my mum was playing a vast variety of Parker Brothers board games with me.

We’d inherited her Cluedo and Monopoly set, painstakingly saved up for when her whole family was not that well to do, and I took a special delight in these two boxes of history, since they were editions that were no longer being sold in stores and reflected a different time and age. (He’ll always be Reverend Green to me,  not Mr Green! And Dr Black died, not Mr Boddy!)

Now that the family was a little better off, it seemed we were doing our best to sample every board game that caught our eye on the Toys R Us shelves, from A-Z.

My dad was a big enabler when it came to computers and a tech early adopter.

There was an Amiga in the house very early on, and it naturally came with little game disks that I would happily browse and pop into the computer based on the name alone.

Most were arcade games of some kind, spaceships shooting multiple bullets or little soldiers shooting guns, since that was the type of game he liked, but occasionally, and more so once he started bringing Amiga games magazines home now and then, I would find or beg for different games – Secret of Monkey Island, Dungeon Master, Zak McKraken, the works.

When the Game Boy console launched, my dad had to have one. Naturally, it was taken over by yours truly fairly early on in the process. Turns out my dad just couldn’t really stick to games, or train up his reaction time to do as well as he liked, thus getting frustrated and losing interest quite quickly. That was ok by me. Next step, finagle a Final Fantasy RPG cartridge via a birthday present or getting good grades for that semester.

My mum passed me more of a stubborn, obsessive streak, perfect for that video games addiction. (To this day, she’s not much of a computers person, but boy, can she pwn that Solitaire game. Or any other simple casual game I put on her phone or laptop.)

By the time I graduated to my dad’s PC (ie. seemed old and tech savvy enough that I wouldn’t break anything via learning DOS), I was very much a gamer.

First step after mastering DOS commands? Locate whatever games he had on that system. Which wasn’t much, he was moving out of his game phase, alas, but I did find Alley Cat, Ninja, and a couple of others.

I’d scavenge around in his greatly messy study for any more lost and forgotten game boxes – Rocky’s Boots was one of the treasures I did find (I was learning about AND, OR, NOT gates at a mindblowingly young age and I hadn’t a clue this was happening, because to me, this was a fun game to play.)

Before long, I was spending much of my pocket money on saving up for games. My dad, the great enabler, would bring the tech into the house. e.g. a Sega Genesis console, with an odd game or two. And then I’d end up drooling over more interesting looking games in the games store and bringing those back home. He picked up the arcade games, I went for RPGs or adventure games or top reviewed classics and that seemed to cover enough (especially given how long it took to beat RPGs in those days.)

Any time he upgraded his PC system, I got his cast offs. (That was probably a strategy devised to ensure I wasn’t hogging his computer all the time.)

My friends and I were playing PC games all throughout the Age of Shareware.

At some point, 3D shooters became the in-thing. Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Heretic and Hexen (the latter two firm favorites, given our fantasy propensities.)

Somewhen during that era, we transitioned from merely talking on the phone while simultaneously playing games separately and began our first steps into multiplayer when again, our respective dads brought in modems.

Modems naturally meant visiting BBSes, and BBSes meant door games. Good ol’ Legend of the Red Dragon and Tradewars 2002.

I learned fairly quickly on that my friends weren’t any match for me. I blew one friend up in Hexen repeatedly, and that was the end of deathmatching for me, we had to play co-op after that.

Another classmate professed to love some version of Command and Conquer, and I was pretty gleeful to find another potential player. I guess it was a mistake to say that I hadn’t ever played the game before, but somehow managed to luck into unleashing a whole bunch of nukes onto said classmate. That was the end of that too. (I really hadn’t played C&C before either! I did play all the versions of Warcraft out at the time though! Who knew RTS principles held that true?)

The internet couldn’t come soon enough.

Alongside frequenting various first-person shooter game servers (Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, etc. where I actually found people better than me to blow me up and thus learn from,) I’d discovered that fascinating phenomenon: MUDs. Online chatroom, text adventure game and RPG all mixed into one.

I was hooked.

And it’s been all up and down hill from there.

NBI Writing Prompt: Prompt? There is no prompt. Go answer one of the Talkback Challenges instead!

NBI: Talkback Challenge #1

Great big wolfy yawn...

How GamerGate affected me: It didn’t.

Not interested in Twitter. Not interested in social justice warriors.

I don’t need a self-elected “look-at-me” celebrity purportedly fighting for “my” rights. Keyword: fighting.

fighting
ˈfʌɪtɪŋ/

noun
 1. the action of fighting; violence or conflict.

adjective
2. displaying or engaging in violence, combat, or aggression.

Like Tyrannodorkus, I chose not to participate.

I neither want to enable or acknowledge.

You may very well have a point but if you use the wrong means to do it, it can very well become counter-productive and shoot your own cause in the foot (or knee)… several times over.

Extroverts or those with a western bent (or perhaps just the activists with the herd mentality and lack of critical thinking) may think this bystanding behavior is “hiding” from issues and allowing more vocally obnoxious groups to get their way, that if you don’t automatically join up with every social group that comes your way espousing the same belief, that you must be “against us” if you’re not “with us.”

*shrug*

I’m an introvert.

I come from a pragmatic culture that blends both east and west in equal measure, that is used to keeping their heads down when political speeches start getting thrown around (cos you can get sued or thrown in jail for saying the wrong thing against the right people) and finding other quieter (almost sneaky) non-confrontational ways to affect change and sway the hearts and minds of a populace over time.

I don’t believe in binaries, dichotomies or black-and-white thinking.

The obnoxious people are doing just fine making a fool or a nuisance of themselves and getting into car accidents with a lamp post (in the case of obnoxious drivers) without anyone’s help or involvement. In fact, you risk getting hurt via their stupidity and confrontational behavior if you do join them. Let ’em win their Darwin Award elsewhere.

You don’t feed a troll with attention. You starve it by utterly ignoring it and not letting it succeed in getting a rise out of you.

(You can also quietly moderate them out with as little fanfare as possible so that their efforts go unnoticed and unremarked, or even better, costs them money, which makes them take their focus elsewhere to someone more “fun.”)

No need to bring yourself down to their level or get into a car wreck fighting with them.

You want to know who I think the real game-changers are?

The many girls and women who are simply out there playing games each day, making it a perfectly normal, everyday, boring, no-need-for-commenting-on experience. (“Dude, I Played A Game With A Girl Today!” would be kind of an amusing blog post to make in this day and age, right?)

Everybody who just goes right on ahead in our games treating everyone equally, following female raid leaders just as respectfully as male ones without a single off-color comment or sexist remark.

Folks who build, lead, join or support communities where mature, rational, respectful behavior is the norm.

Whoever in the game industry who supports and introduces more choice and customization in art assets and the depiction of PCs and NPCs to represent a broader and more diverse representation of humanity (and other fantasy races.)

It’s a slow process, but patience and little everyday things change minds and cultures a lot more successfully than direct adversarial confrontation.

We can normalize open-minded behavior through our everyday actions – you don’t reject sexism (or any kind of -ism, really) by waving a banner or noisily cheerleading and then feeling good and continuing on with your lives like you’ve done your part:

  • You reject it by treating everyone you meet equally regardless of their gender (or whatever)
  • You reject it by choosing not to label others or thinking before you say sexist (or whatever-ist) things
  • You reject it by calmly saying, “hey, that’s not cool” to someone acting like an ass and proceeding to model desirable behavior
  • You reject it by creating and supporting positive egalitarian diverse communities that can discuss and dissent (not ghettos of one color or gender, or cults that support only one way of thinking, or groups that automatically default to dichotomous “us vs them” viewpoints)
  • and by teaching the generations to come to be just that little bit better a person than our generation.

Until then, here’s Jeromai – the wolf of indeterminate gender, providing a perfectly gender-neutral blog, hoping to make a point of their own – signing off.

No, seriously, have you got nothing better to do than to
No, seriously, have you got nothing better to do than to keep fixating about what’s down there?

NBI Writing Prompt #3: “Dude, I Played A Game With A Girl Today!”

A Guild Odyssey – Part 3 (NBI Talkback Challenge)

“The universe is driven by the complex interaction between three ingredients: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest.”

— G’Kar, Babylon 5

I believe Dunbar was on to something when he proposed that there is a limit to the number of people a single person can maintain social relationships with.

I don’t know if he got that number exactly correct, but certainly, it’s easier to remember 10-20 familiar names in a guild (my memory is very very bad) and the games in which I felt the strongest connections were games where less than 300 people tended to be online at any one time.

A Tale in the Desert is notable for being one of the few MMOs that allow people to be in multiple guilds at one time.

In my opinion, it’s pioneered a number of innovative guild features that other MMOs would benefit from adopting. The game also highlights the interesting push-and-pull between public community interest and self-interest for personal benefit via many design aspects.

Guilds, first and foremost, in ATITD are a means to control ownership and access rights to the property and items that players build.

If you’re a solo player on a single character, you might be able to get away with just having all the stuff you build be in your name and accessed via those, but if you play two or more characters, it becomes convenient to create a guild and give all your characters equivalent high access to everything.

Also, spouses or best friends that play one or two characters each will also favor creating their own guild so that they can share access rights that way.

Evolving up from there, we have the friends and family guilds where groups of friends may want to share communal resources, or come together to build big ticket items that are infrequently used but expensive for a lone player to build.

The nice thing about being allowed to join multiple guild is that you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a personal guild for yourself to keep your personal items safe, while being part of a larger guild, possibly with more limited access privileges, but still contribute to that community and benefit from the shared resources.

Veteran players tend to develop close relationships with each other and naturally want to stay in contact with each other and chat, so such clique guilds are common. Depending on the group, they may be open and inclusive to newbies joining them as some don’t mind or enjoy teaching newbies, and more players contributing resources tend to make the guild stronger as well.

A Tale in the Desert has one interesting spin on guild chat. (All chat tabs, really.) It’s persistent. As in, the guild chat can be set to be time-stamped and left up for hours if no one scrolls it off the screen.

What this means is that in smaller guilds, or even individual whispers to a player, you can essentially leave messages for each other even when both parties aren’t logged on at the same time. You could conduct a conversation message-board style 8 hours apart, and have the benefit of it speeding up to real-time when both of you are logged in together.

ATITD allows for as many chat tabs as you want to be up at once, so depending on the player, they could choose to leave chat tabs for 10 or 20 or 70 player names up at once to always stay in contact with them, or be in multiple guilds and keep track of all the chat going on in each channel.

This gives rise to functional guilds.

Interested in an aspect of ATITD? Say, wine-making? Beer-brewing? Growing thistles? An expert and want to talk shop with other experts? A newbie and want to pick the experts’ brains while asking questions? Join a functional guild and be included in a small community of other enthusiasts, sort of a hobbyist guild within a hobby, where most chat will be related to the subject of interest.

Regional guilds are also commonplace, often doubilng up as either ‘public facilities’ or ‘research’ guilds.

You see, it’s not easy to travel in A Tale in the Desert. The map is LARGE, the runspeed is SLOW, and so people tend to spontaneously clump together in regions and form local communities, with buildings close by that resemble a village.

Again, for big ticket items, people have found it most convenient to construct shared facilities, that are often placed in a central location of a region – next to a chariot stop – and designated as for public-use.

Ditto for research contribution, which are basically Egypt-wide projects to unlock a technology for all, including future players of that Telling, to use. Guilds are used to indicate interest in contributing to those projects, with the bonus of having a separate chat tab to keep track of everything.

One common mistake newbie players make is to simply join one guild, which is often a public or research guild as those have the widest reach and give their all for that guild. The effort is always appreciated, but sometimes the new players expect a reciprocation (such as increased guild rank promotion) that may not arrive. (Depending on the guild’s leader, permissions for various ranks may be set differently, to restrict certain items from being broken by over-use or abuse.)

Often, it is sensible to keep some resources for oneself and one’s individual progress through the game to gain levels, and contribute only what you can spare. Different people arrive at slightly different balances between self-interest and community good, but extremes at either end tend to be rare, and don’t usually end well.

Which brings us back to MMO guilds in general: are they merely comprised of selfish individuals looking out for number 1?

I doubt it.

But I don’t think it is wrong to say that most people are self-interested.

(Not selfish, not self-centered, because those words come loaded with negative connotations. Even self-interest is used in semantically confusing fashion when one does a casual search on the web. I find this man’s take on the words a decently nice way of differentiating them though – Gerhard Adams on individual self-interest that can lead to selfish, cooperative or altruistic behavior on interaction with another.)

It is survival. Self-preservation. Natural selection favors a self-interested mind.

But what we find is that when circumstances dictate that cooperation and/or organization yields bigger or equally decent returns for self-interested individuals working together, they come together.

Zergs spontaneously form. Leaders create guilds. Humans have a long history of coming together.

At least, for a while.

Until going one’s own separate ways benefits the individuals more, and stuff breaks apart. The age-old cycle repeats itself.

P.S. As for Puzzle Pirates, I’ve decided to talk about that another time. Suffice to say that it’s a game that also has guilds designed -into- the game itself, giving players a need to ‘join a crew’ for better privileges and unlock access to some activities, and a way for newbies to flow into and be introduced to various guilds. Suffice to say that it is -also- an aging game that is past its prime in terms of guilds that are still alive rather than historical artifacts that have seen better times.

P.P.S. I’d like to come full circle soon and talk about guilds in my current game of Guild Wars 2, but I’m finding it a little hard to write about at the moment. Suffice to say that a number of guilds I know are… cycling right now and that’s correspondingly getting me a little bit down as well.

Change is inevitable, but sometimes, it’s a little hard to accept while it’s happening.

A Guild Odyssey – Part 2 (NBI Talkback Challenge)

“It is good to have friends, is it not, Mr. Garibaldi? Even if, maybe, only for a little while?”

“Even if only for a little while.”

— Londo and Garibaldi, Babylon 5

In City of Heroes, guilds were known as supergroups.

I didn’t join any for a while.

Not because I didn’t want to, but mostly there was no pressing need to (everyone did pickup groups) and I think I was hoping to get lucky and stumble across a perfect match like in my MUD days.

Turns out that an MMO is a lot bigger than a MUD.

It’s hard to be a known name or recognizable, and you sure didn’t seem to see the same people twice in your pickup groups.

I did eventually end up meeting a rather nice chap on the Justice server, who sent me an invite to his Instant Heroes supergroup, and I joined to be nice about it.

Alas, I started running into the problem that would plague me for the rest of my MMO career. Timezone issues.

Back in the MUD, I was mostly on American soil, playing with hardcore folks who would stay online for 9-16 hours a day (and possibly bot the rest of the time too.)

In an MMO with a larger casual population, more people play more sedate periods of 1-4 hours a night.

My primetime was not their primetime. As a result, the guild tended to be very quiet when I logged on, and they probably never saw me log on either, until the weekends.

Then I ran out of character slots on Justice and moved onto sampling a new server, Freedom, which had developed a more powergamer-type of community.

Around the same time, in 2007, supergroup bases became a thing. The new update was going to allow guilds to earn a currency that could be used to design-your-own-guild-hall.

Supergroup recruitment messages plastered the forums, every group clamoring for new recruits for self-benefitting purposes.

It was also going to be an awful waste if I remained guildless and kept playing, while I could be earning that currency for a guild. Powergamers abhor inefficiency, after all.

And the inveterate explorer in me was intently curious on -seeing- this new content, even if I had no interest in designing or building rights. Just being able to walk in was fine.

So I randomly picked a nice guild recruitment message that appealed and was in the same server that I was currently playing in, and found myself part of the Top Ten supergroup.

Oh, it started out promising as all these things do.

2007-07-16 05:00:16

We had our guild meetings in a brand spanking new HUMONGOUS superbase. We had our guild colors.

We assembled everyone together to take guild photos with artfully arranged emotes.

Memory fails me, but from scattered screenshots, I think we even had guild events where we assembled enough to do a hamidon raid or visit the PvP zones for some random fun.

I’m sure you know the ending of the story by now.

Attrition happened.

People got distracted by other games, Found other things to do. Stopped logging in.

We lost officers. The events dried up.

Day by day, the guild population got smaller and smaller.

Again, I ran out of character slots and the l33tspeak powergamer tendencies of the Freedom server were beginning to get to me as I kept mellowing down further.

I kept the global channel the supergroup was using, as I enjoyed the chatter, but stopped logging the character that was in it since there was nothing much to do but farm for fun after hitting max level. (Loot was still not a thing beyond some supergroup crafting items or what-not.)

I had moved on to the roleplaying server, Virtue, with new characters to level and was enjoying the concomitant increase in community maturity level.

And NOW loot became a thing. Inventions happened. A guild supergroup base made a really good bank storage given that characters only had ten slots to store stuff.

Except that one has no storage rights being a member of a big guild in a server far away.

Enter the family and friends guild.

Well, -one- friend.

They fancied themselves quite the supergroup base designer.

Desk stacking to raise an item to unintended heights. (I had no such patience for it.)
Desk stacking to raise an item to unintended heights. (I had no such patience for it. He did.)

It worked out fine. I left most of the design to my friend, continued to play my way and earn supergroup currency for us, and made use of the amenities – including hogging a bunch of storage containers for my packrat tendencies. He got to put the prestige earned by two very dedicated players to good use, building elaborate architecture to his heart’s content.

Attrition still happened.

This time the guilty party was me. I lost interest as all the raids arrived.

I stopped playing City of Heroes around six months before the end. I think my friend held on till NCsoft booted him out. Though he also had bouts of dissatisfaction from time to time, he held a bit more loyalty to the franchise than I did.

I had other games, and other guilds.

CoH was not the sole MMO I played. I had it on constant sub for years, while jumping to the next newest and greatest and shiniest at the time (and a few odd ducks besides):

  • Guild Wars – Ironically, I joined no guild in this, playing it as a single player game for the most part, enjoying myself thoroughly with my heroes and personal solo challenges.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online – The required grouping and timezone issues killed this one for me at launch even before I could think about maybe being committed to the game long enough to perhaps join a guild.
  • Lord of the Rings Online – I think I did join a random fellowship at one point. You know the sort. Advertised over mapchat. Filled with people doing their own thing and occasional guild channel chatter looking for group while the game was still popular. At the time, I didn’t need much more than that. I attrition’ed with everyone else and must have got booted at some point. I wouldn’t know. I was having more serious issues, like not being able to get out of Moria. Ever.

(Run in circles, kill ten more goblins, pick up another quest, go back to the same place and kill 10 more different types of goblins. pick up yet another quest and visit the same area to click on some rocks near goblins, pick up still another quest to kill goblin leaders that may have needed a group or to be higher in level…. Yeah. I ended up taking pretty screenshots and logging off.)

  • Age of Conan – Alright. Let’s get serious, I thought. Timezone issues were a massive pain. Let’s take the time to pick and choose my guild more carefully, and if I couldn’t find a local guild – which never tends to last in not so popular games – maybe an Oceanic Australian guild would work. So I shopped around, read all the ubiquitous guild recruitment messages, tried to pick a good fit one that actually bothered to request applicants fill out a casual application survey. (My MUD did that. Good way to weed out the utterly nonserious and the unable to type to communicate to save their lives ones.)

I got in.

Oh my god, it’s full of PVPers.

Ok, I kid, but not by much. It was full of and led by competitive Killer types, with a side helping of Achievers.

In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected that, being that I was playing an MMO that -advertised- itself as FFA PvP, hardcore-realistic battles and what-not.

They weren’t bad people, by any means. Friendly, supportive, band-of-brothers-y. It just wasn’t going to be a guild culture that mapped onto my interests very well.

I stuck with them for quite a while, all the same. Attempted a PvE raid or two, to discover that GMT +10 primetime was still different enough for someone in GMT+8 to have a really bad time trying to make the schedule and be on time (quite a few hasty commutes from work and skipped dinners.)

  • Warhammer Online – This was the period where I think of the three MMOs in sequence. As AoC was drowning from exploits, bugs and laggard development fixes and patches, everyone switched their attention to WAR. I coasted with the same guild into the new MMO, where we had our fun-enough-for-a-time PvP trains and zergs while the crowds were still home.
  • Aion – Just as rapidly, the whole Oceanic population jumped ship from WAR to Aion. I was already beginning to get quite cynical at this point, recognizing that Oceania/Asia seemed to have formed their own community of PvP-interested guilds that were less attached to a game per se, and more attached to each other as voicechat individuals. I envied guilds like The Kelly Gang whose timezones and playstyles matched well enough to stick with each other, regardless of game. (Small world, ain’t it?)

The guild I was in wasn’t bad, but we were leaving a few people behind with every jump and getting a little smaller and smaller via attrition once more. And I was burning out from all dat PvP. Oh, the endless I-kill-you-kill-everybody-dies…

And you know, Aion -was- grindy. Like, really really grindy. Like, I’ve killed so many mobs in the same place and still can’t seem to level grindy.

Not to mention, being an undergeared melee class in a game where players can fucking fly (ok, glide) from floating island to floating island may not have been the wisest choice for successful PvP. (And PvE was turning out to be an unoriginal holy trinity game of spawn camping world bosses for lousy RNG drops, with presumably ugh, raids in the future.)

No hard feelings, guys. It’s not the guild. It’s the FUCKING GAME. I moved on.

  • RIFT – Having gone through all types of guild options at a rather accelerated pace, I though, well, what’s one more? Mega-guild time. There are only a couple of famous, super game-spanning guild communities out there, and mostly via random pick, I tested out The Older Gamers as opposed to say, Gaiscioch.

Which worked fine during the early launch days, providing sufficient chatter and crowds for my not-very-demanding needs, but I was beginning to suspect that the success of each individual game chapter of a mega-guild depended a lot on the shoulders of the leaders and officers that had volunteered to run it. If a community center didn’t develop, that was pretty much going to be it. (And it’s also tiring as hell for the people who are serving as the centers of community. I did it as a guild leader on my MUD once. Never again.)

As suspected, attrition yet again whittled down the RIFT chapter over time. I was losing interest in the game myself.

I never did participate much in the bigger game-spanning community forums. An unfortunate and untimely injected script into an advertisement incident scared me off frequenting their boards too often – valuable game hours are taken up by scanning for viruses, trojans and rootkits, y’know!

You get out what you put into a community. TOG was simply a little too big for me to connect with anyone. I found I preferred guilds that were game-specific, so that at least everyone had some kind of common interest.

To my surprise, it was in the niche games that I found more of a throwback to what I was used to from my MUD days.

Next up, Puzzle Pirates briefly and A Tale (of guilds) in the Desert…