Tag Archives: gaming

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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*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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Local Gaming and Newcastle’s Continued Export of Idiots


I read something last week and haven’t really had a spare minute since to vent my frustration with what Grainger Games got up to at this years Games Media Awards. They basically lived up to everybody’s worst idea of a gamer which is to say a rowdy, laddish inarticulate mess. Conveniently that is also everybody’s worst idea of a geordie.

This is the thing that intimidates people who go into places like Grainger Games. Having worked previously in a second hand games store I know that the the scary gruff men are actually lovely humans who want to help anybody from noob to qualified nerd. I was somewhat intimidated as a wee lass by the men who worked in games stores. I convinced myself gradually, especially having had a job in that environment, that it only appears uninviting and exclusive. When it comes to actually experiencing the community, they’re all people and it’s all good. Apparently the iffy, laddish vibe I get from Grainger Games was not unwarranted.

full of iff and lads

Grainger Games: Iffy and Laddish

Booth Babes! And dwarves. Condoms on tables. I’m not even sure how to prioritize my incredulity. AND everything was bright orange, as if it weren’t bad enough. This only adds fuel to my ongoing suspicion that women are only welcome in the gaming community if they’re half naked. I know that this isn’t true, but  is it hard to find any visual evidence. In addition to this macho-man uniform they were keen to enforce at the event, condoms were strewn across the dinner tables. Should any of the attendees have been overwhelmed by their masculine desire to fuck something, there would at least be no embarrassing rash. This sort of idiotic display of masculinity is exactly what encourages hostility from people who are convinced that girls don’t play games.How could they possibly survive in such a testosterone-charged environment? It’s shit like that that makes me wish I didn’t.

Not only were GG generally offensive in their message, but their behaviour. They have embarrassed the organisers, who posted a message on their website to apologise. They made a complete arse of themselves and the people who were trying to accept rewards. They were the talk of the industry, but perhaps not in the way their sponsorship had intended. Here’s the lovely JamSponge with further thoughts (I got this link from the gizmodo article)

Now, this would all be annoying enough if it were just some random shop. It’s bad form and shitty behaviour from an indy retailer. Indy retailers should be encouraged, but it’s hard to encourage this sort of thing. However, as somebody from Newcastle who regularly shops in one of the several Grainger Games stores about the place, this is just heartbreaking. Recently this region seems to have specialised in the export of idiots. This doesn’t bother me when it’s on X-Factor or Big Brother because it’s not the sort of thing I consume. As far as I’m concerned it’s local shit as opposed to national shit. When it’s something I care about and it’s from my city, which I love, I am genuinely upset. JamSponge makes it clear he has nothing against Newcastle, but I kind of do. We are a gorgeous, wonderful city. Rather than embrace our idiots and smothering them beneath a pillow of brilliance, we kick them out and inflict them on the rest of the country instead. We then jealously guard our treasure and culture like someone’s going to take it away.

Fuck’s sake, man.

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Girl of Warcraft: Part 2


My last entry on this topic covered bases that have been covered beautifully elsewhere by others. Namely the strange desire of games designers to put their female characters in armour that would almost certainly get them killed were they to face so much as a chilly day in the real world. In Azeroth, and many fantasy landscapes besides, facing the scourge of undead, a dirty great big dragon or an orc with biceps bigger than its head is apparently a breeze in nothing more than a chain-mail bikini. When so much thought goes into the tiniest detail in worlds like this, it strikes me as odd that such an obvious and difficult element of disbelief is suspended for the sake of minor titillation.

What is certainly even more strange is the strange myth of the Girl Gamer who simultaneously does not exist and exists but is attention seeking and rubbish. I have countless examples of this attitude from WoW forums, but believe me this attitude exists anywhere you’d care to look.

Rar.

Click for link to source!

The refusal to believe in Girl Gamers can be witnessed in its purest form in a story I read over on LiveJournal. You can read the whole thing here, but the gist of it is that somebody inherits a guild and is forced by their new position as Guild Leader to speak on Vent for the first time. Everybody is shocked and amazed to discover that this person they’ve played with for two years is a girl. For two years, they had assumed the big male orc character was played by a boy. Not exactly a wild stab in the dark, but wrong nonetheless. It’s a delayed revelation but many guild members get over their initial shock and get on with their lives.

However, one guild member in particular starts talking about how he’ll miss his old buddy, apparently under the misapprehension that “female” is a euphemism for “dead”. Now, this person was clearly so convinced that “girls don’t play this game” that as soon as he learned of her gender, it created a paradox and his brain deleted her. Really, it’s no wonder that this girl kept her gender secret so long. Especially when the stereotypical gamer girl gets such a bad rap in the first place.

The kicker is if they’re acknowledged at all, girls are largely assumed to be either really rubbish or just there to flirt with boys for gold/other in-game perks. Oh and they don’t play other games for fun, only for attention from boys. They only have a Wii. They’re totally not a threat. They don’t play even play real games.

Gamer Girl stereotypes exist and are perpetuated even by Gamer Girls who do not fit the mould. Sure I know of instances where girls have sent naked pictures to male friends for in-game perks. I also know of several boys who pretend to be girls and have cyber sex with other male players for the same reason (they say it’s for gold, anyway). I also know someone who pretended to be a girl for months, decided he was bored, so pretended to be his own brother to tell everybody Jane* had died of cancer (when in reality she had never existed.) People are weird, y’know?

I’m not saying that the Gamer Girl stereotype comes from nowhere, that this has never happened. People manipulate each other, I’m not saying they don’t. What I am saying that this strange insistence that the problem is a female one means decent gamers with vaginas keep their mouth shut because the second their secret is known they cease to be taken seriously.

MMORPGs attract weirdos of all genders, it’s just that confirmation bias means people forget about the boys. The problem girls have is that by virtue being perceived as a deviant or minority in the community, they are constantly subjected to attitudes like this:

yay xkcd

Replace Math with WoW. Pretend that instead of the equation it's the gates to Blackwing Descent.

However, because they’re perceived that way, girls tend to keep their gender to themselves and therefore continue to be perceived as a minority.

Things are not all bad, the tendency seems to be for people to be more accepting, not less.This article from 2005 outlines a lot of similar stuff so it’s not like we’re progressing at breakneck speed. I think people are generally aware that sometimes some girls play some games. I am not constantly barraged with crap about my gender when I play. I don’t talk about my gender when I play, but if it does come up it’s a thing. It’s mentioned, commented on, considered. Not by everyone, but always by someone.

I was lucky enough to play for a long time in a guild where the Guild Leader was a woman as were two of the Officers and many of our regular raid team. However once in a while in a random group, we would reveal our perverse secret identities and have a DPS immediately drop group. Or receive demands for “pics nao” (I mean really.) There is no correlation between gender and kick-assness in game. There is no difference. The fact that I know this and other people know it does not change all perceptions.

For this reason I am assumed to be male. I play a character who looks like this:

As if I'd tell you my character name.

I didn't want to look at an Undead spine all day, all right? And Orcs were clearly animated by a blind drunk person with no hands. Blood Elves are a perfectly valid race, ok?!

and I am resigned to the fact that people will assume that it’s because she looks good from behind, unless I want to shout from the rooftops that I am a girl. For the sake of visibility, I should do that. Girls should not have to become invisible to play.

Because of minor improvements as people get acclimatised to the idea of Girl Gamers, articles like this get written, which means the problem will remain because it’s “only” people whispering you inappropriate things. It’s “only” getting extra attention from people when you’re trying to enjoy your game time. It’s “only” the occasional “prickly” PUG. It’s only little things but it’s a lot of the time, and it’s representative of something much deeper and more sinister: Girl’s aren’t supposed to play games.

Less malicious but just as irritating are stereotypes like “Girls only play healers!”

Women are nurturing. Especially when killing big monsters.

Because girls care for stuff!

To put this person’s comment in perspective, of the 10 classes it’s possible to play, 4 of them have healing capabilities. Odds are if you pick a class to play at random, as many new players do, there’s a 40% chance that it will be able to heal.

So, basically what he’s saying is that the girl players who play characters that could heal, even if they don’t, are still conforming to his preconceptions of what a girl should be. The one’s that don’t are “tomboys”, therefore not proper girls and one person he knows doesn’t even play a healer and she’s pretty good! These are evidently crazy times we live in. It’s almost as if his theory holds no water at all! The confirmation bias is strong with this one. It’s just an example of a boy gamer talking loudly about what all girl gamers are like while casually ignoring the many girl gamers he knows who aren’t like that. And that’s just the ones he thinks are girls.

So, girl gamers. There is no mystery here. We exist (hi!) We don’t want your gold, or your Officer status nor are we dying to get our chesticles out for strangers on the internet. We’re not desperate to patch you up when the nasty dragon burns you, nor to inflict our hormones upon you on special days. We just want to kill some pixels. Doing so as secret cyber-transvestites should not be necessary.

*Clearly that is not a real name. Fake name for a fake person.

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Girl of Warcraft: Part 1


Female people- We can grow humans in our abdomen, dismantle the welfare state and  cause the downfall of all humanity by eating an apple/opening a box/marrying a Beatle. We can also play games. This, in my circle of friends, is a non-issue. It’s barely even interesting. My best friend got me into World of Warcraft specifically, but I was given my first console at the age of six and I’ve been killing/maiming pixellated life forms pretty solidly, albeit with varying degrees of dedication, ever since. Girls* play games. They also eat toast, get on buses and wear shoes. Apparently this mindset is still a bit unusual outside of my group of friends.

I had never considered the role of women in games and the gaming community at all until I got to university and was asked to consider it. Most people never get asked this, so I’m not especially surprised that outside of online forums I’ve never heard it discussed. I’ve never even talked about it with my friends. When it is brought up though, some frustrating issues come to the fore. I’ll focus on World of Warcraft for now because it is so massive in terms of players and content (11 million+ accounts) and has been going long enough for there to be lots to talk about.

There are no solid figures for how many girls play WoW. The reason for this will be discussed a little later but the best I could find put them at about one in five. Now, twenty percent is a fair whack. If you’re in a five man PUG (pick up group) of random players, for example, odds are at least one player is female. If you’re in a 10 man raid, two players. 25 man, five and- well, you can all do basic maths. My point being if this is the case, why does the majority of WoW’s content appear to assume that the person playing is a straight male?

I draw your attention firstly, to the phenomena of ‘porno-plate’ and the succubus.

Porno Plate, as it is often known, is the difference between how a piece of armour looks on a male character and how it looks on a female character. Observe if you would, this nice goat-woman, or Dranei as they are known in WoW.

Put some clothes on. You'll probably die

It's warm in Azeroth

See those sort of red chaps she’s wearin’? The shiny red bikini with thigh attachments? Those are supposed to protect her from the likes of this guy:

Is that an axe in your hand...?

Tagar Spinebreaker. He'll break your spine.

This would be all well and good if that’s how the armour came from the catalogue. You get your order, it’s not quite what you expected, but you have to jet to Hellfire Peninsula pretty damn sharpish or all the good orcs will be dead. However, if the nice goat lady were oh I don’t know…male, her armour would look more like this:

I mean, really?

Unsurprisingly most of the images of this armour were the female character model.

If you pop over to the comments section on WoWHead, an online resource for WoW players, the phrase “porno pants” crops up fairly early on in the discussion. And over at WoWWiki, they feel it’s necessary to display armour on both male and female character models, making the comparison all the more stark.There is language to deal with this phenomena. This is something many people find strange enough to at least talk about. Why else would anybody choose the indignity of saying “porno-plate”? WoW is not the only fantasy role playing game to have come to the illogical conclusion that “skimpy” and “armour” are two concepts that simply must meet, but that doesn’t make it less stupid. There is an amazing break-down of this strangeness, along with more pictures, here.

Speaking of women ill-equipped for battle, there is the Succubus. A companion warlocks in the game are able to summon to help them kill stuff. The Succubi look like this:

Me by what?

Mmm, spiny legs.

Yes, she is a succubus. By her very nature she’s sexualised to the nines. Her job as a warlock’s companion is to sort of be sexy at people and whip them until they die. She’s pretty useful in PvP and since Warlocks are so squishy it’s nice to have somebody who makes such an effort with their appearance as a helper. I have no problem with her powers of death-by-sexyness in themselves, more that they are directly aimed at teenage boys (as this little fella learned to his cost). There is, however, no male equivalent. According to a post on the official forums they’re working on it kinda sorta. If you’re going to make something for all players to oggle, Blizzard, you can leave the noises out, if you want.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about the strange and unusual phenomena of “Women on the internet! (omg)” and why that may be skewing our perceptions of how many girls play WoW.

*I say girls because generally in techy circles there are fan boys and fan girls. Boy gamers tend not to be described as such because apparently the noun gamer doesn’t need to be modified to let you know the person has a penis. “Girl Gamer” is a term used generally to describe women and girls who game, I’m not taking issue with that term right now because of the fangirl/fanboy thing. It’s just how it’s done. Nerds are children. That’s fine.

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