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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Bloggy Xmas – Day 18: Building Our Bond

Community is a word that is tossed around casually. It’s one of those words that serve a utilitarian purpose, but the word means so much more.

Back in my youth, I knew who my friends were. I had a few small groups of kids I hung out with. We played hide-and-seek, we fought with Ninja Turtle and SD Gundam figurines, we played console games, we bought Magic: The Gathering cards, we went swimming, we played soccer, we played music, and so on. As we all left our hometowns to pursue something greater, we all slowly drifted apart, like so many others must have done before us. There are a few friends I still have contact with, but still, it isn’t the same; we all have other people or priorities in our lives which take precedence over our past friendships.

The past dozen years or so has been a pretty turbulent period of my life, with ups and downs, new friends, new places, new jobs, and so on. Change. Change everywhere. The environments I placed myself in were in a constant flux of people. New college kids, recent graduates, people finding jobs, people driven to make something of themselves, people still figuring it all out. These were the people I interacted with, and they always came and went. I understood that, and that was the rhythm of my social life.

Now I am married and have a toddler, a full-time job, and a life-time of financial obligations. I recently looked back on the past year or so settling down with the family and I came upon a realization. Through my thirty-some years on this earth, this has probably been the most socially isolated period of my life.

One of the few respites from this solitude would be my frequent forays to the various online game worlds. Still, there was never a game which made me stay for long–I was still playing alone. When I stumbled upon this game called Wildstar, something in my life started to shift. As written in my previous post, I became involved with social media for the first time (Facebook doesn’t count!). These people were complete strangers. Strangers from all over the world–California, Massachusetts, Canada, Russia, UK, France, Switzerland–who shared the same interests and passions I had!

As I interacted with people on Twitter and in-game, I came to understand that there was something special here. All of these people really cared about something–in this case, WildStar. And you know what? I was also one of these people.

This is significant, because this is our bond.

People from around the country and even across the oceans are freely talking to each other about things we are all passionate about. The friends I couldn’t have at home, I found on-line.

I read article after another from gaming journalists I followed on Twitter. I watched videos and listened to podcasts from content creators I met there as well. I could talk to them, and they would respond. I discovered that there are others like me who love what I love, and I can be who I am next to these people.

As I spend more time on social media, I find more interesting people with interesting things to say–things I am interested in. We all have thoughts, ideas, passions, and expertise, and I respect immensely those who dare to share them with the world. Then, something else happened . . . it snuck up on me very slowly as a gnawing thought at the back of my mind.

You should also be one of those ‘interesting’ people. Give back to the people who have now become your community.”

But, what is my community? Individuals, sharing with each other, based on respect and support for one another: to me, this is a community. And with that thought, I am starting to see where my “real-life” communities exist: my work community, my church community, my musician community, and my gaming community.

Building a healthy community is a two-way street; just passively existing will yield little benefit to myself or my peers. It’s one thing to join a community, but really, what can I offer to enrich the lives of those I share mine with? There are probably many like me who stumbled upon these gatherings of people with heavy blinders on–we, who joined said “communities” for self-centered reasons, with hopes to only gain something for ourselves. Therein lies a compelling paradox: we enter communities for selfish reasons, yet communities flourish only when those individuals rise up beyond their egos to serve one another.

To me, this thought is really powerful. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “community building”. As I watch the team at Carbine Studios work to develop its own community, it makes me think of past and current governments, and how they still struggle with building solidarity within their own national communities.

Community is a loaded word, and I salute any of you who care enough to make one happen.

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Check out the rest of A Very Bloggy Holiday Countdown: An MMO & Gaming Blogosphere Event! hosted by Syl @ MMO Gypsy Blog

Thanks for letting me contribute!

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Thanks for stopping by, and have a Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Enough Pretending

I have never been a man of “what if’s”. The past makes me who I am, and I have no regrets for the mistakes I have made thus far. This is the first time in a long while where I feel differently.

This post is sort of a self-therapy session.

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I have a lot of thinking to do.

December 31, 2014 ended with one of those movie moments.

“Honey, we need to talk.”

It was the culmination of two-and-a-half years of struggling and trying to patch things up, while pretending to the world that things were going just all right. Nearly three years of hitting brick walls, finding slight cracks – only to find another wall beyond.

Now, the pretending is almost over, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to deal with it.

I feel almost paralyzed; frozen in thought for minutes at a time, reliving the last nine years of our lives together. Maybe I should have been more forceful with my arguments over certain life decisions? Maybe I should have conceded on some others? Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The biggest regret comes when looking at our son: seeing him jump for joy when I come home; jokingly spilling all of his toys on the floor; scarfing up his last bites of dinner while shouting for the cookies we made together. Knowing that his happy memories will be tainted by this ugly rift brings me to tears.

Sometime in the last couple of years, I saw the movie Blue Valentine. At first, I couldn’t understand what was going on. What do these two stories of these two couples have to do with one another? That was until I realized that they were the same exact couple. A few years changes so much.

When we hit our first rough patch, I sang this song: I Won’t Give Up. And I meant it. That was over two years ago, and I don’t think I can sing it again.

The sad part is that, this is not a unique story. The details may be, but we are now just part of another statistic. And when I see lovebirds on the street or on Facebook, there is a sober part of me that is skeptical. How long will this last? Can I even do this again?

It will be a while until the dust settles; there will be some turbulence for sure. Only one thing is certain. 2015 begins a new journey for both of us. I hope, for the better.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in General

 

A Video Game Changed My Life

It may be strange for some of you to hear this, but a video game changed my life.

For those of you who don’t know my online gaming history, I spent a few years of my high school life being addicted to a certain MUD–a text-based online role-playing game. If any of you have watched .hack//Sign or Sword Art Online, this was near the level of immersion I experienced during that time. The people were real, the drama was real, the combat was frantic and with social consequence. I never met the real people behind their aliases, but they were real to me. I felt friendship, sorrow, anger, and even love. This “second-life” experience spoiled me to the advent of 3D graphical “MMORPGs”. All they seemed to me were fancy puppets running around dice-rolling things without any emotional or social context. I have never had success with online gaming since then.

This was true until earlier this year, when I accidentally stumbled upon WildStar. I fell in love within the first five minutes of sifting through the website. I loved everything about it. A game that actually wants to challenge its players. A skill-based game with much PvP potential without being a MOBA. A departure from the oft-depressing fantasy settings with both over-the-top humor and a super-serious storyline. It felt like the game I had been waiting for over a decade to play.

Wait, wait… to be clear, the game in itself didn’t actually change my life. What did, is the chain of events which happened right after it launched.

As I played the game in its infancy, I began watching the live streams from the developers. This led me to creating fan-art (well, fan-music). This prompted me to create a forum account, a Reddit account, and a Twitter account–all of which I’ve never touched in my life–just so I could get my work to the devs. I was new to this section of the online world, and it was eye-opening. All of these people were within arm’s reach. If I spoke to them, they responded back. This was the true magic of the Internet.

When the hype-bubble burst after a relatively smooth launch, I was very upset. I wasn’t mad at the game. I was mad with the “perception” of the game; how everyone seemed to forget that raiding was marketed by the company to be there to please the dedicated players, yet somehow, that became the sole purpose of the game. There was a mad-dash to level-cap and the raid attunement process. The whole game was left behind in the dust, including the “regular”-difficulty adventures and dungeons–the stepping stones to the attunement process.

As a witness to this mob-phenomenon, I was dumbstruck. I felt a strong anger well up, as well as an urge to say something. I began to write. I shared my writings to a few prominent members of the community through Twitter who helped to share my sentiments. As the game ambled on, my anger subsided, but I kept writing. I started a Tumblr blog to write down more of my thoughts outside of the forums, and that was when I saw a tweet recruiting writers for a WildStar Community Magazine. I had never written for the public before, but I had discovered in myself a new passion and I applied for a position. I am still contributing there today. That’s not all. Spurred by a Christmas initiative started by a blogger/podcaster whose works I have come to quickly admire, I felt compelled to start my own proper blog; an avenue to talk about the things I really care about–things I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t say aloud in a casual setting.

What is the result of me purchasing and subscribing to this one game? For one, it is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy, whenever I can find the time to jump in and have fun. It also helped to uncover a joy and talent that I didn’t realize I had buried inside. I wouldn’t be writing here today if it weren’t for this game and its developers’ involvement with their fans. I have also discovered a wonderful gaming community that I didn’t know I had access to. With this, for the first time in my life, I am starting to get a feeling for what “community” really means–something I will talk more about in my upcoming spot on Syl’s Bloggy Christmas Countdown (Dec 18th). So if any of you devs are reading this, just know that you have, at the very least, affected the life of one person greatly.

Thank you.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Forcing the Mould

I call myself a musician. For a long time, I would hesitate to call myself that. Sure, I played guitar. I knew the theory and I knew the patterns. But, was I a musician?

I couldn’t play much by ear. I couldn’t jump in on a jam session if I didn’t have the chords in front of me. It was hard finding the right groove when I tried to improvise. Simply put, I didn’t have any confidence in my “talents”.

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I fell in love with the guitar when I was in high school. I always loved  music and dabbled in piano, clarinet, and even the oboe during my formative years. I finally settled on the violin during middle school and stuck with it for a few years. Then, I discovered this thing called rock music, and I suddenly had to have an electric guitar.

The first guitar I bought was a used knock-off of a Gibson Les Paul. No logo, no serial number, and extremely heavy. I paid $50 and my dad spotted me the other half. From then on, I pursued guitar for over ten years, playing with friends, playing in rock bands and church bands and taking jazz lessons. But, through all this time, I have to confess… I was never truly comfortable playing guitar.

Maybe it was the pressure of the role. The expectations to blow everyone away with epic guitar riffs and mind-bending solos. Maybe it was the years of in-school training on a melodic instrument as opposed to a chordal instrument. Maybe, it just wasn’t the right instrument for me.

About four or five years ago, I bought an electric bass.  About $300–pretty cheap in the instrument world. It was different, and I only dabbled in it when I needed to. The thing was, whenever I played it, I felt good. It wasn’t a constant challenge like playing guitar was. It let me think linearly from one note to the next, instead of wading through the infinitely complex matrices of chords and all of their possible permutations. I could make clear and deliberate musical decisions, and focus on what was really important: the song.

A year or two later, I stopped calling myself a guitarist and officially labeled myself a bassist. The funny thing? I’ve never taken one lesson or class involving the bass guitar.

Looking back, I think that what called out to me is the role of the bass player. It fit my personality. That quietly supportive element of the band; seemingly unimportant, but if approached correctly, surprisingly impactful. While a guitarist may revel in shredding a face-melting solo in the hot, bright spotlight, I stood perfectly content in the background, devising subtle ways to complement the melodies and the song. After all of these meandering years of insecurity, I had finally found my instrument.

You see, for half of my life, I had been trying to be someone I was not–trying to force my soul into a different mould. When I discovered who I was, and who I am not, my path became a lot clearer. I am a better bassist than a guitarist, and I enjoy it so much more because it lets me bring something tangible to the table. I discovered other things about myself, too: I am a better writer than an orator; a better sound engineer than a composer; a better director than a solo artist. I now see myself more as a craftsman and less as an artist. Once I realized these things about myself, I stopped being upset or depressed about my shortcomings, or even envious of others and their successes. I could finally be content with who I am.

At this point, I have to ask one question: Why had no one opened my eyes to these things earlier?

We learn so many facts and technical skills as we prepare for independent life, yet these important lessons are neglected. It is a shame–because many of us still do not know where our passions and talents align; because so much of what we try to become as we grow into adulthood may be misdirected.

We are all different. Yes, we should know that.

Yet, we still try to make ourselves that which we are not.

I am still growing as a person, for sure. There are still things that are unclear about my future regarding my passions and my career. One thing has changed for certain: I am now much more confident in my uniqueness–as a person, and as a musician. My talents are different than your talents. Yours are different than mine–and I’m perfectly all right with that.

Are you?

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Music

 

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