Hyperbole and a bit: My quest to write again by writing about questing.


It is with grim determination and a small fizz of excitement I declare myself ready to leap back into the maelstrom of pop culture that was once the great glory of my internet postings. Mostly my posts will be focused on my books, my games and the various ways in which I employ the intertubes. I have something else planned too, but that will be the subject of another post.

My last goal having been my Masters degree, anything that isn’t strictly career focused is causing me spasms of disabling guilt. Despite my present short term goal being to get out of (some) debt and move out, my ego will not take any sort of leisure activity without braying me about the head with the anvil of ambition. That said, I am mastering this anxiety by writing about my perspective on the pop culture products I enjoy. My take will obviously be refreshing and new, a smack in the face of the status quo. Take that, things as they are!

So, one of my most recent terrible decisions is to achieve the Loremaster title in World of Warcraft. I got excited about the game again following a new expansion (Mists of Pandaria) that I find enjoyable and highly playable, rather than the previous expansion, which I found mostly the opposite. Painful and tedious, if you’re going to force me to choose antonyms.

I would be completely useless as a household applicance! Whee!

Hey guys, look at me! I don’t suck!

For the uninitiated, Loremaster is basically a quest to do quests. A quest is a tiny capsule of directed gameplay. A non-player character tells to you go and kill six of this, half a dozen of the other. Sometimes they’ll ask you to gather plants, go speak to someone else or watch them do things. At the end of this you get gold and some points.

Quests are generally a way of telling the story, and were something I never really bothered with. I don’t play games for stories, I read books for stories. I play games to hit things with axes and fire. Tiny pixellated folk bossing me about isn’t my idea of fun either. I’m a tiny green warrior, I don’t take your shit! And they give fewer experience points than rampaging through a dungeon of an afternoon. As a tiny green warrior, this is far more my cup of tea. While I do enjoy their directness (kill this guy!), quests just aren’t for me.

Look at my hair!

For the purposes of this post, this is me.

Why then, would I commit to doing the three thousand quests it takes to achieve the Loremaster title? In public? It boiled down to three things. I realised I was paying a monthly fee for a game in which I disregard the bulk of the content as boring. My wallet has decided that I will like quests whether I like it or not. Self induced Stockholm Syndrome seems by far the easiest way to go about this.

Secondly, I realised that having a title after your name is the most important thing ever. This realisation was forced by the writing of George R R Martin. Being Kingslayer is easy, Lannister, personally I’m aiming for Loremaster. That was an excerpt from the conversation Jaime Lannister and I will definitely have one day. At that revelation his head would turn and his eyes would shine in admiration, but he would never say anything, because he’s fictional. I could of course achieve a title by doing charity work or becoming a beacon of goodness in my community, but I’d rather smash the motherloving pixels out of some fictional monsters.

Thirdly a few of my friends have it. I cannot allow them to bask in this glory alone.

There’s a long way to go before my little goblin warrior gets to be Loremaster. Dozens of smaller achievements and tedious maps must be conquered before she can proudly declare herself accomplished in the arena of doing menial tasks for NPCs and crying at night over phased questing areas. It will be a long journey, but I’m sure her pixelated mind will rest a little easier knowing I am documenting her tiny stub legged journey. Also, she has a dragon. Nobody rests easier than a person with a dragon. Except maybe dragons.

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PayPal are evil.


Edit: They fixed it. Thanks for being so scary, internet!

Edited edit: According to the latest post on Regretsy, they have not yet been contacted.

PayPal do bad things. Do a google search. If you can’t be bothered, just know that there is a website called PayPalisEvil, as if you needed more proof. Of course there’s also a website called BertisEvil, but don’t let that tarnish my argument.

Bert (right) has been said by The Internet to be evil. Sesame Street and Ernie (his friend and advisor) deny these claims.

EDIT: also look over here to see what they did to Katrina victims /end edit

The latest and most shocking example of PayPal’s money-grabbing disregard for anything that doesn’t have a dollar sign on it comes courtesy of Regretsy.

The whole shitstorm can be read in detail on Regretsy, which is excellent. This year the site had set up a PayPal “Donate” button to try and help some needy kids and families in the Regretsy community at christmas time. Such was the generosity of the donations that in addition to toys and gifts, Regretsy were actually in the position to send money to the families too.

That is until PayPal shut it down. They decided the Donate button had been used fraudulently by Regretsy and so froze the donated money and the personal account of the site owner, which is all of her revenue from book sales etc. It will be held for six months.

I don’t have precise anatomical knowledge of how exactly having no heart makes you evil, but I’m fairly certain that a pericardiectomy is a prerequisite for a job at PayPal.

EDIT: Scroll to near the bottom of this post at Green Geeks to see why PayPal are wrong according to their own policies.

How can you help?

Regretsy provided this list of every available point of contact that The Consumerist could find. Bother them!

PayPal’s Facebook team are doing a pretty good job of deleting every mention of this posted on their wall, but do keep trying and perhaps something will happen. They’ll be annoyed if nothing else and the Karmic Balance will be redressed somewhat. Be polite, though.

Another good idea and brilliant course of action is to try and get The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to cover this. Their facebook pages are also currently overflowing with links to the Regretsy post. If you’re unfamiliar with either of these shows, please spend a few minutes on YouTube addressing that problem.

This is adorable

EDIT: This is the most adorable call to action I've ever seen.

Please be polite when contacting any of these places. Please and thank you.

Any suggestions or other links are welcome, I’ll stick them up there. Regretsy is a website trying to do some good, PayPal is a company doing something objectively evil for no discernible reason.

EDIT: A change.org petition has been put up for you to sign and vent your outrage into an ordered list.

Seriously, PayPal. You’re evil. Shame on you.

Shame on you PayPal

Shame.

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How to be an internet crazy person.


More and more people are becoming familiar with ways of compartmentalizing their identity online. Almost anyone now realises that a new gmail or hotmail account is free and an easy way of having a new mask for every party, so to speak.

Elaborate web hoaxes are easy to create but where many creators fall down is their ignorance of IP addresses. Having several sock puppet accounts to post comments or edit articles is all very well, but if they all share an IP address it’s a lot of wasted effort and a huge trail of evidence.

Sad Sock Puppet

What a sock puppet may look like

Earlier this year a simple trace of IP addresses revealed the popular Gay Girl In Damascus Blog to be a hoax by an MA student in Edinburgh. Johann Hari, a journalist, was revealed to have a strange web of plagiarism and alter-egos to protect his reputation. He created a sockpuppet in order to edit wikipedia entries that, surprise surprise, shared an IP address with The Independent, his place of work.

Creating a sock-puppet and then failing to change your IP is like opening your front door to a door-to-door seller and smiling politely before closing your door, putting on a hat then screaming abuse at them. It is still obviously, provably you. A less fun analogy is that your IP address is your internet phone number, so let’s learn how to put 141 at the beginning, yes?

The easiest way to be an internet lunatic and master of many sock puppets is to use a web proxy. There are dozens of free ones online, used by school children across the globe to get past their school’s website restrictions because even IT teachers don’t know this basic stuff. HideMyAss.com is the first proxy to come up in a google search so let’s use them as an example.

HideMyAss.com. Now you know how to hide your ass.

All Johann Hari or the creator of Gay Girl in Damascus needed to do was jump on google and use a proxyserver. It’s the simplest thing in the world but they are both n00bs and failed to cover their tracks.

Don’t be an internet n00b AND an internet crazy person. Think of the shame wrought on your family, the titters in your obituary when it’s discovered that you were an utter boob Think of the equivalent-of-blogs-in-the-future where they use you as a quaint example of a naive internet pioneer. Think of the blogs in the present who use you as an example of how-not-to-do-it!

Use a proxy server!

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*sigh*


Girls play games cause diamonds.

New WoW TV spot. There’s a girl! Who wants diamonds and plays cause her boyfriend bought the game for her. Aubrey Plaza is awesome, though.

 

*sigh*

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Really Blizzard?


The new Chuck Norris World of Warcraft Advertisement is only acceptable if we get something cool in game like the Mr. T Face Grenades. (They were actually called Night Elf Mohawk Grenades but my name is cooler.) They were ultimately useless but added a little something to the world. Like the alliance. (I kid, I kid!)

Mohawk isn't even a class! And Night Elves don't exist. My world is falling apart.

Blizzard’s strategy with celebrity endorsements appears to be to get angry men to frown into the camera and intimidate folk into playing the game. Evidence!

Nooooorrrriss

Chuck Norris punches your eyes with his face.

Foo'!
I’m Mr. T and I’m a Night Elf Mohawk


But even if there was a fun in game gadget, the advert would just be ok. Not great or funny or clever. Celebrities who probably never use a computer (like Mr. T and Chuck Norris) endorsing a computer game not only doesn’t make sense for obvious reasons, it’s condescending and weird. It’d be like Paul McCartney advertising McDonalds astride a cow. If Chuck Norris claimed to have a WoW subscription before they paid him money to say he does, I will eat my own head.

The two things that make this especially bad marketing are as follows:

Chuck Norris jokes are an old meme. They were old last year, and the year before that. Advertisers should either pick up new memes and use them in a sort of credible edgy way AND accept that by doing so they will kill them, OR they should leave them alone. Propping up a dead meme doesn’t reinforce my decision to subscribe. I’m mostly just upset this is how they spend my money. I’m surprised they haven’t tried Rick Astley. Maybe he isn’t macho enough. Maybe if he sang about “Never Going to Give Up Punching Things” he’d have more of a shot.

Chuck Norris holds some pretty repellent right wing views. He hates gays, loves guns and america and Jesus, all evidenced on that there linked page. While I find patriotism + guns + religion to be a pretty unwise mix, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with those views. His hatred of gays AND his vocal right wing political views alienate me. Old jokes + weird politics = bad marketing.

The Mr. T adverts at least rates a “Quite” on the badass scale. Chuck Norris rates a “Used to be.”

Response on WorldofWarcraft’s Youtube Page is mixed, at the moment.

Chuck Norris Jokes, you are OLD.

Chuck Norris, you are OLD.

The concept behind the ad campaigns is fine. Some of them are actually funny. The Ozzy Osbourne one in particular makes me happy. This is mostly because he’s represented as Horde and I’m fed of of Alliance getting all the awesome. It pleases me especially because there is footage of him in front of a computer, rather than just wandering around in-game.

This poor darling has it wrong, as it happens. I do share the sense of the injustice that few of these celebrities actually play the game. Rather, they enjoy the image it creates for them of “Kicker of Stuff”. (Walls mostly, in Chuck’s case. )

Verne Troyer talks about stuff you can actually do. Sure you can be a hunter like Chuck Norris, but you can’t do half the things he does in his game trailer And Mr. T was a class that doesn’t even exist.

Some celebrities actually do play and have talked about it. Mila Kunis (yes, her), Jonathan Ross and  Jane Goldman play together, according to their twitter accounts. This is surely better publicity than lame half-joke concepts executed using celebrities who probably never played a day in their lives before the money was offered.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this would be amazing.

If we must have celebrities who don’t play, let’s at least have some diversity. I think Blizzard are just trying to overcompensate, a fact that Charlie Brooker articulates brilliantly in his piece on why CoD characters are dickheads:

What, exactly, are they overcompensating for? Well, for one thing, games are inherently wussy. The stereotype of the bespectacled dweeby gamer is an inaccurate cliche, but there’s no denying games are far from a beefy pursuit.

Macho ad-guys are the game worlds equivalent to a flashy sports car. ’nuff said.

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An Andtidote! Games Designers and Other Humans Take Note


For those of you who sympathise at all with the sentiments I express regarding women wearing entirely impractical armour to go and kill stuff, this blog may be relevant to your interests. I present to you Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour.

I imagine these women are the ones whose male colleagues were less tight lipped about the location of well stocked armourers.

“What do you mean you’ve only got a child’s chest-piece and some chain mail hot pants…why do you even have chain mail hot pants?”

“Sorry, there’s been ever such a rush.”

“*sigh* Give them here…”

Those days are over! Behold, a fully clothed woman:

Oooh she's so ARGH MY EYE

Diane says that thanks to her new armour, her chances of dying in battle are now a much improved "fairly likely" A prognosis far more promising than the "certain" chance she faced only a few short days ago.

The blogs “About” page details its awesome mission statement:

Nothin’ wrong with sexy!

Cheesecake has its place.

But I like pictures of women who look like they are legitimately bad-ass. Women that don’t fight in high heels. Women that clearly give a shit about the practicalities of getting in a lethal situation. Women who could most definitely kick my ass.

Women fighters in reasonable armor.

Go and see the awesome collection of pictures. Go! Go now!

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Mists of Pandaria


So, there’s going to be a new WoW expansion. With pandas. Perhaps Blizzard took an internet poll and found something that nobody could dislike after the disaster of Cataclysm and settled upon the fuzzy-wuzzy unlibidinous bamboo eating bear. Of course this being the internet, where people are honour bound to disagree, within minutes of the #mistsofpandaria hash tag appearing on Twitter, people were mocking the new race. Or they were outraged or upset or offended or aroused. Personally it looks to me like Blizz are screaming “Subscribers, come back, check out how cute we can be. This anthropmorphised animal might not have a dodgy accent or be faintly disturbing. Come baaaack!”

Dodgy accent

Wolf People: Dodgy Accent

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

Cow People: Faintly Disturbing

Dodgy Accent
Goat People: Dodgy Accent

Blizzard have announced it, no doubt, to calm the wave of “omg catacylms sux lol” since the last expansion, Cataclysm. The hardcore players got to level 85 hours after they’d started playing and realised there was nothing there when they arrived. I only experienced a tiny bit of end game raiding before my guild fell to bits and my Real Life got busy again. I did some of the new instances, which were, you know, fine. The dailies were tedious and gearing up, especially as a warlock, was prohibitively difficult. I can’t speak for PvP, but the PvE content was just…meh. There were zero wands ever. Ever. I enjoy a challenge, but I don’t enjoy a job. I understand that there are hardcore players who play hours and hours each day but I shouldn’t need to do that to be competent at raid level.

My grumbling about my own experiences aside, I’ll need to see more of Mists of Pandaria before I come to any real opinion. The new monk class should be interesting. I’d heard rumours of cloth melee even before Cataclysm was released. Somebody has probably already bookmarked Friar Tuck for their monk. Triar Fuck will be epic but short lived. I salute you, whoever you are.

Blizz need to curb their pop culture references for this expansion. If there’s a Kung Fu Panda joke in there anywhere I will be having words. I could probably argue that the whole thing is a Kung Fu Panda joke. The odd Monty Python reference in a quest objective is fine. Even some achievements or the odd NPC based on internet memes or films, great. When it starts becoming so obvious as to remove the immersive quality of the game, I start to get irritated. There’s a whole area and quest line devoted to Harrison Jones, the Indiana Jones spoof character. I could have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of going to Uldum.

That’s to say nothing of the new pet battle system (pika?) another new talent system, and pandas. Did I mention pandas? There are going to be pandas. I can’t quite tell if I’m incredulous or excited but look:

Nope, still can't decide.

Pandaren: We Fight and Snack

Pandas. Pandas with beards. Really. I don’t even know. Pandas.

We can’t even get pandas to screw to save their species and Blizzard expects them to save all of Azeroth from a murderous dragon. Madness.

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Online Abuse


The Guardian had a piece on their website yesterday about what to do with sexist abuse online.

A reasonable suggestion from XKCD

XKCD: This will never not be a reasonable suggestion

The Guardian panel provide mostly reasonable suggestions that warrant further discussion. But the first woman, Helen Lewis-Hasteley’s comment about “Why should people pay for you to promote that opinion?” completely misses the point of how the internet works. The advertisers are paying for people to promote any opinion they like, on sites that aren’t moderated at least. On sites that are moderated, advertisers are paying for the moderators to be there so that some sort of order and civility is built into discussions. God knows people on the internet are far less able to be reasonable and measured than people in the street. The internet is like real life except with the thrill of anonymity that sitting behind a screen provides. It removes some of the humanity from others and you feel free to see them as words you hate rather than a person with whom you disagree.

You would never say, if someone were to yell obscenities in the street, “I can’t believe the council are maintaining the pavement for the person to stand and yell abuse.” Of course the abuse online is often more explicit, more threatening and less legal. Helen Lewis-Hasteley does not refer to that type of abuse when she says that advertisers shouldn’t pay, although of course illegal threats are covered in what she says. She specifically says that people shouldn’t be allowed to call her “shrill or ugly or whatever.”

I agree that rudeness is hardly an upside to having an opinion online, but I wouldn’t expect advertisers to stop paying for it any more than I’d expect local authorities to whip the pavement from under the person who pushes in front of me in the bus queue or starts a highly original and catchy chorus of “oi, ginger.” It’s tempting of course, and far easier to do online, but I think general ass-hattery in the form of assuming any woman with an opinion is shrill and ugly and whatever is very different than assuming every woman with an opinion deserves to be raped and beaten.

I think moderated comments online are necessary to a degree but censoring sexism doesn’t make it go away. If you’ve ever run into someone who’s convinced that women run the world, like… Beyonce…

censorship would be counterproductive in the extreme. Confronting and challenging sexism like the woman in the video doesn’t even make it go away. I would never suggest that she stop trying, because that’s an awesome video.

So, violent rape and death threats to women with opinions. Bad. V. bad. Should be removed. Sexist asshattery? Leave it be and point out how absurd it is. If someone tells me to shut up and make them a sandwich when I disagree (it’s funny the first fifty times, after that, not so much) or to get in the kitchen where I belong or any number of stereotypes that died before the commenter was born, I’ll have a word. Several words. A couple of expletives if need be. If we hide stuff like that away, it isn’t a problem and we don’t need to deal with it. Maybe that’s why we do.

I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that every post here seems to revolve around me addressing some issue to do with my chromosomes. One day I’ll go on a website and see some great injustice involving unfair distribution of puppies and rainbows. That’d be nice.

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Liz Jones. …The fuck?


Ok. All of you. Now. Read this.

If you see nothing wrong, kindly relocate to Atlantis.

The rest of you, see my twitter feed.

I will articulate properly at a later date. For now. Wtf.

 

EDIT: Here is my attempt to articulate in the face of such utter shite. I ask you to please mark any coherent sentences with punctuation as a gargantuan achievment. plz and thx.

I signed into twitter at about lunch time and there was an unholy shitstorm on my feed about Liz Jones. She was also trending nationwide. Fortunately somebody had had the good sense to link to the article without driving traffic towards the Daily Fail site. Here is the freezepage for your viewing pleasure. I will quote choice extracts here. As my friend Rachael pointed out, every paragraph is pure nonsensical gold.

The premise of the article is the fact that Liz Jones is making her most shocking confession yet. The content of the article is Liz Jones taking the sticky, horrific tar of her own serious personal problems and slapping it all over the face of womankind. She basically had a series of relationships with men who had no interest in a family and stole their sperm in an attempt to impregnate herself. No. Really. She did.

She starts her article by highlighting the inevitablity of the maternal instinct, which she uses as an excuse for the violation of several partners. When she was younger, she was free of her lunacy.

As a feminist, I looked down on mumsy types.

I know several awesome feminists with wonderful children and families. And as my friend Laura pointed out, Liz Jones is not a feminist.

Damn right.

Troof.

Her motives were entirely reasonable:

Because he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, I decided to steal it from him. I resolved to steal his sperm from him in the middle of the night. I thought it was my right, given that he was living with me and I had bought him many, many M&S ready meals.

Because, you know, the lifelong committment to raise and care for a child can be bought with microwave dinners.

The ‘theft’ itself was alarmingly easy to carry out. One night, after sex, I took the used condom and, in the privacy of the bathroom, I did what I had to do. Bingo.

Don’t put theft in quote marks. You did steal his semen. You did violate him. And bingo? What sort of fucked up card are you playing from? Misogyny *stamp* Bad Life Choices *stamp* Theft of bodily fluids *stamp* BINGO!

It’s from here that she goes from batshit insane to downright dangerous. She moves from saying what she did was shocking, to implicating that all men are at risk from such mindless insanity. This is clearly something all women do. We just want babies. Secretly. Secret babies. We want to get pregnant by devious methods or the fun just isn’t in it.

if a woman disappears to the loo immediately after sex, I suggest you find out exactly what she is up to.

Ok, great. Now every woman following the sound advice to have a wee after sex is under suspicion from any impressionable male reader. Nice one, Jones. Dudes: women who disappear after sex are either magic or peeing. Women will usually prefer you to impregnate them while she is in your presence, just FYI.

What really riles me up about this is the idea that all women are conniving deceitful liars like Liz Jones says she is. She’s taking her own actions and extrapolating. Obviously women are a monolith. A semen stealing monolith who are not to be trusted with anything ever.

Her first attempt doesn’t work, so she finds another man who doesn’t want babies and tries the same with him. She at least, you will be pleased to know, had the decency to marry him first. Marriage is best founded on completely separate family plans. She has clearly learned from her mistake.

At least on this occasion we were married, which you might think would — should — give a woman every right to want to start a family. But my husband was 14 years younger than me, and he had told me he was not ready for children.

Don’t know if you people were aware, wedding dresses now have behaviour altering drugs in them to make women want babies. If you are married and have no desire for children, please visit your dressmaker immediately for a refund.

She goes on, getting worse and worse. She gives anecdotal evidence of “friends” who are just as insane as she is. Giving warning to men not to trust women in their late thirties or early fourties. This is when we’re most dangerous and the succubus emerges from under our harmless feminine exterior.

I don’t even want to spend my time spelling out exactly why she’s crazy. The lies and baseless assumptions about 50% of the population here are too many and too depressing to list. This is bad and she should feel bad. She won’t, though.

 

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