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In The Beginning, We Were All Strangers

It’s been just over a year since I started this blog. And what a roller-coaster of a year it’s been.

A lot has happened both in my gaming life and my personal life, and I am at a vastly different place now than where I was at the start of this little journey.

As a gamer, I feel I’ve lived through and observed so many hype-cycles through this past year. I’ve dabbled in so many different games, online and off; completed some, left others partially finished in my come-back-later-to-finish pile.

I must have been living a mad scramble, desperately filling the gap that my almost-decade long hiatus from gaming has left in me.

But now, that gap’s been stuffed to the brim. It’s gotten so full that I needed to relax and take a step back. My pace has slowed. The urgency has gone. I can take a day to just watch TV, or just go to bed instead of sitting in front of the computer. It’s a liberating feeling.

I do miss my WildStar family, who got me into this gaming community in the first place. But unfortunately, the strain of the MMO lifestyle is unsuited for me right now. The most I can do, and probably will, is to dabble in story quests in whatever game I feel like, half-hour chunks at a time. It was Guild Wars 2 last month, and it’s WoW and Dragon Nest this month.

I’ve also taken plunges into Fallout: New Vegas, and played through the main campaign of Diablo 3 again. Life is Strange, The Stanley Parable, and even the tedious Risk-like Paradox strategy game, Sengoku, have all given me great and memorable experiences in my recent memories.

The long and short of it is, I’m more comfortable now with what I play and what I choose not to play. I no longer feel remorse for deleting my unfinished games from my Steam library. I no longer feel the need to play so I can “fit in”.

As the dust settles from the game-gorging activities of the past year, I can see more clearly: games can be fun, but what’s more fun are the people.

In the beginning of this journey, I just had the game to cling to; this fresh and struggling MMO called WildStar, which coincidentally blew my dormant social media life wide open. With it came new folks and new connections with shared passions: The WildStar community, the MMO Twitter community, the gaming blog community.

In the beginning, we were all strangers. What a difference a year makes.

After a time, I found myself surrounded by a small, but great group whose shared interests transcended the lifespan of any specific game. The friends I was unable to make in-game, I made in social media. And I didn’t need to be in the same game to enjoy their company. I realized that I had here what I was seeking in an MMO from the start. I no longer needed the game as an excuse.

I know there aren’t many of you, but the handful of you who have chosen to share this journey together with me have truly made a positive impact in my life. I am grateful and happy that you all are a part of my life.

Thank you for making my life a richer and more meaningful one.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Progress Report: Fitness, Gaming, and Design

I finish my workout challenge, and I get sick. Ugh.

I think it’s time to start up another one. Looking through Darebee’s workout library, this one looks the most interesting and fun for me. It’s a martial arts-based 30-day exercise program. Having practiced some martial arts in the past, this would be a great way to bring back the muscle memory in my limbs while staying in shape. I’ll get on it as soon as I finish writing this.

In gaming news. I’ve been switching between a few games since reinstalling Windows 10 on my new SSD. The main one was Psychonauts. It’s a 3D platformer that reminds me of the classic console games from the days of Mario 64. The gameplay is just pure fun. The writing and dialogue is hilarious. It has one of the best (if not the best) expositional intros I’ve ever seen in a video game. I love it. My only gripe is that I’m having a hard time sharing it over Forge. It was crashing left and right, but when I solved the issue by running it under Windows 95 compatibility mode, it no longer streams on Forge. Since my social interactions online have been dwindling these days, I wanted to play a game that I could share with you folks. Oh well.

The other game I’ve been playing, as of two days ago, is Dragon Nest. It’s a F2P Nexon game. Yes, they prod you to spend money every time you blink. But it’s fun. It’s an anime-style action-RPG with dungeons/instances you can clear in 5-10 minutes. Not sure how long I’ll stay, but it’s a very low stress MMO. At least for now. I’m still level 19. Level cap is…70? 80? Not sure.

Anyone want to hop on with me?

As for my music challenge, I may switch over to a writing/design one for a couple weeks. My friends and I have been working on a game. The basic movement mechanics are working out fine so far. The basic story-concept is in place. Now we need to flesh out the mechanics more and work on the level/story designs. Art assets are another issue, but we’re not really at that stage yet. I think I need to spend a little time each day on this project if we want to move it along any further.

I will report as I make progress.

Over and out.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Fitness, Gaming

 

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Day 12: A Time to Play, A Time to Rant

Blaugust Entry, Day 12

I don’t like to repeat content in games.

This thought first occurred to me when I was in high school, and my friends would always go to this Korean Internet Cafe to play Counter-Strike 1.6. I wasn’t good as those guys as I was under-practiced, but I was trying to catch up. Then I started to get bored. “Hey guys, can we play a map other than de_dust2?”

I totally understand the allure of the “even playing field”. When everyone knows a map so well, nothing is left to chance. It’s what makes chess a great strategic game. It’s most likely why the MOBA genre has gotten so popular. It’s why sports are so interesting to watch, even when you’re not actually playing them.

When I’m in the driving seat though, I don’t find it fun. It bores me to hell. I certainly can’t bring myself to play Diablo 3 again, just to face the prospect of getting through Tristram again, just to kill more things and get more loot. Guess I should have said, “it bores me out of hell”! I also get bored playing the same storyline in an MMO after I have finished the main storyline. That’s my biggest gripe with the MMO genre: the need to keep people playing = more time sinks = more rewards for playing the same content every day. Daily quests? Pssh. No thank you. My time is valuable.

The only reason why I would want to play something again and again is to overcome a challenge I haven’t been able to complete yet. Platformers are a good example. Something like Super Meatboy. Maybe Dark Souls, if I ever get to it. The thing is though, once I finish these games, I probably won’t play them again. Games like Crossy Roads and various puzzle games, even though they’re repetitive, have variations to them which make them interesting. Before you speak, I don’t like procedurally generated games either. Variation is usually all there is, and they often lack focus and direction.

The bottom line is: the end goal is not worth a tedious journey. The journey is the most important. And if there is a great ending, it should be because the journey made it great. Movies, books, and music are different, because they are crafted works of art. They are enjoyed in a way where you can appreciate the intricacies of the artists’ work, sometimes even more so the second or third time. Games often aren’t designed in that way, unfortunately. MMOs certainly aren’t. Yet. (On my previous rants on my frustrations with MMOs, click here and here.)

I have to admit though, Clicker Heroes has been running on my PC a whole lot these days.

Ah well. I can’t have my way all the time.

Onward, to Day 13!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Day 10: I’m Open. With Myself.

Blaugust Entry, Day 9

Syl over at mmogypsy.com had a post regarding her Gaming Personality. It is one of a couple surveys hosted by Quantic Foundry over at their website.

I took one myself, just answering what came to my mind without deep thought.

Well, according to my results, I don’t enjoy gaming all that much. 😛

My Gaming StyleSpontaneous, Relaxed, Independent, and Practical

chart (1)

I guess I wasn’t feeling pretty strongly about much, since three of the six traits border on 0%. Wow. I guess at this point in my life, I don’t care about achievements, I don’t care to be the best at a game, and I don’t feel like exerting extra creative energy playing games when I do so already elsewhere. I don’t know if I quite agree with the Action classification, but then again, I only scored 53% in it. I feel like all the games I am most drawn to fit into the Immersion sector (as described below).

The Action Components (53%)

Gamers with high Action scores are aggressive and like to jump in the fray and be surrounded by dramatic visuals and effects. Gamers with low Action scores prefer slower-paced games with calmer settings.

The Immersion Components (42%)

Gamers with high Immersion scores want games with interesting narratives, characters, and settings so they can be deeply immersed in the alternate worlds created by games. Gamers with low Immersion scores are more grounded in the gameplay mechanics and care less about the narrative experiences that games offer.

Fantasy (48%): Gamers who score high on Fantasy want their gaming experiences to allow them to become someone else, somewhere else. They enjoy the sense of being immersed in an alter ego in a believable alternate world, and enjoy exploring a game world just for the sake of exploring it. These gamers enjoy games like Skyrim, Fallout, and Mass Effect for their fully imagined alternate settings.

Story (38%): Gamers who score high on Story want games with elaborate campaign storylines and a cast of multidimensional characters with interesting back-stories and personalities. They take the time to delve into the back-stories of characters in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, and enjoy the elaborate and thoughtful narratives in games like The Last of Us and BioShock. Gamers who score low on Story tend to find dialogue and quest descriptions to be distracting and skip through them if possible.

I also took their second test, and found it a little more interesting and insightful.

My Personality Profile: Curious, Introverted, Sympathetic, and Calm

chart

I like where I am (or where I appear to be). The low Extroversion fits with my preference for one-on-one interaction and aversion for large groups, even within games. I do like to play with friends though, just not too many at once. My Conscientiousness sits right in the middle. I do lean towards one side or the other occasionally, depending on mood and circumstances.

I wonder what games would most fit this personality profile. Any suggestions?

Openness to Experience (84%)

People who score high on Openness are inquisitive and imaginative. They like to think about “what can be” instead of “what is”. They like to think deeply and play with abstract, unconventional ideas. They enjoy trying out new things and visiting new places. They are creative, and enjoy art and aesthetic experiences.

Conscientiousness (52%)

People who score high on Conscientiousness are organized and self-disciplined. They make plans and follow routines and schedules. They have a strong sense of duty and obligation. They work hard to achieve excellence and success. They are persistent, efficient, and reliable workers. They take their time to consider outcomes and alternatives when making decisions.

People who score low on Conscientiousness are spontaneous and flexible. They are adaptable and react well to unexpected situations and change. They find rules to be arbitrary and stifling, and don’t mind breaking them. They enjoy living life on a moment-to-moment basis, following their own whims, and often take leaps of faith to see what happens next.

Extraversion (10%)

People who score low on Extraversion are quiet, low-key, and are perfectly happy spending time alone. They tend to be reserved in social situations and keep in the background. They prefer quiet, peaceful, and relaxed environments. Their typical mood and disposition is more subdued and neutral. They are slower to reach out to others and tend to have a small circle of close friends.

Agreeableness (82%)

People who score high on Agreeableness are sympathetic and compassionate. They value cooperation, social harmony, and assume that most people are fair and honest. They are naturally trusting and sincere in their dealings with other people. They are modest, dislike confrontation, and always willing to compromise to get along with others.

Emotional Stability (76%)

People who score high on Emotional Stability are calm and relaxed even in stressful and anxiety-provoking situations. They are even-keeled, fearless, and remain poised and confident when under pressure. They are difficult to provoke and are able to easily resist urges and temptations.

How did you score?

Do you have a profile that compliments mine?

(Maybe we can talk.)

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Gaming

 

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My 2 Cents – Games with Friends

Playing games with friends. When it’s done in the same room, it creates near-instant friendship. When done online, it can be exhausting. My mind is a flurry of activity when I interact with people, and it’s not easy being amidst a large group of people if I’m not familiar with them. When I spend time with someone new one-on-one, I can focus on that person, and that takes enough of my mental energy as it is. With a group of people, my brain overloads and I need to get away from it all after a while.

I’m finding it much the same when I’m playing MMOs. Of course, there are those who I talk with on Twitter, which has become my main mode of social interaction with people who share my interests, and I find it much easier to approach them in-game since I’ve developed an ongoing relationship with these folks. But mostly, I am often left with just names in a chatbox. Even when I use a voice-chat service like Ventrilo or Teamspeak, I only get the bare minimum of who that person is. I can’t see people’s faces, see their little physical reactions and gestures; there’s a lot less connection and more build-up of stress. Going into a teamspeak channel is like going into a room full of strangers – and I can’t even see their faces.

I miss the days of getting together with a bunch of friends to play games together. Console games, board games, party games. Even playing outdoors games like capture the flag dissolved the stranger-barrier really quickly for me. If you want to get two people to open up to one another, having them play a game together is a much better way than, let’s say, coffee or a dinner. It’s nowhere near the same for me in an online environment.

Maybe I need to schedule some more intimate game-time with a select few in the near future, because lately, gaming online is getting to be very tiring form of play for me.

But maybe that’s just the cost of being social.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Gaming

 

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Do the MMO Hop!

My adventures these past few days in gaming involved swapping between several games. I’ve been popping into WildStar more to get some quick adrenaline bursts with Veteran Shiphands, and also to work the markets with my Technologist goods. I’m finding it much more lucrative to invest in lower level crafts than the highest, since everyone seems to be making them at a high cost of materials.

Game #1: I got the trial version of Dragon Quest X, thanks to screenshots by @_Kimimi. Didn’t even know it existed until then! Of course, it’s Japanese only, but good thing I can a good amount. It plays very much like a console Dragon Quest game, even though it’s an MMO.

Game #2: Final Fantasy XIV

I love Belghast’s Free Company. Everybody I know from Twitter is congregating here. Not to mention the fact that almost everyone is happy to run low level dungeons together. I guess having so many classes to level helps with that. Thanks to the peeps who hung out and ran some dungeons with my fledgeling Rogue (soon to be Ninja)!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Gaming

 

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This is Life: A Review of ‘Life is Strange’ (Hint: Go play it!)

I had the pleasure of playing Life is Strange yesterday, and I was not disappointed.

I picked it up because I heard great things about its cinematic storytelling and gameplay. I had a really great experience with this type of game a month ago when playing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which totally won me over. It had great visuals, pacing, gameplay, and most of all, told a rich, emotional story (without the use of language, to boot).

Strange and Beautiful

Strange and Beautiful

Oh, to be young again...

Oh, to be young again…

Life is Strange is an honest portrait of the teenage mind–one that doesn’t hold back in its reality the way that most media tend to. You are able to revisit what it was like to experience the thoughts of a blossoming young mind, full of complex emotions. You face socially awkward situations, make friends and enemies, and even face serious issues such as bullying, drug use, and even unwanted pregnancy.

It is almost like a high school simulation. But then, it isn’t. Right from the start, there is something strange going on. As you go through your seemingly normal day at this prestigious private academy, something magical is happening around you. The gameplay encourages you to take your time and live your life as if you were there, while simultaneously compelling you ever forward with its mysterious storyline.

It is the perfect blend of the mundane with the fantastical.

Very hip to current trends and issues.

Very hip to current trends.

It even has a sense of humor!

It even has a sense of humor!

Screenshots doesn’t do this game justice, because it’s not really about the story (yet). It’s about life, about each moment you spend in it, and how your actions matter to you and to those around you. This game doesn’t shy away from real issues, either. In fact, it seems to embrace them and puts the player in the shoes of those affected by them. Even with it’s potty-mouthed, black-mailing, pot-smoking crew of characters, I would urge every teenager (and beyond) to go and play this game. Screw the Mature ratings! This is their world anyway.

This game doesn't shy away from real issues.

This game doesn’t shy away from real issues.

Do you remember when you used to doodle in class?

Do you remember when you used to doodle in class?

This is a very different type of game for sure, but it works. With Telltale games pioneering the way for these short, episodic games–and now other studios following suit–these story-driven games seem to be a developing trend. I am looking forward to what comes next.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Gaming

 

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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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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!

xmasred2-e1418787661448

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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Running on Passion

Hello fellow travelers of the interwebs. Welcome to my little corner of the world. The carefully edited sum of my inner thoughts and feelings. My home. This post is a short introduction on why I am here and what I have to share.


There are a handful of things I am passionate about in life. Let me lay them out for you, as they will be the foundations of this blog:

I love gaming: from modern, story-driven first-person shooters to old-school console games; from on-line RPGs to competitive games of Texas Hold’em in the living room.

I love learning. There is a quote you may have heard: “Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.” I like to think of myself as one big question mark and encourage others to do the same.

I love good food. After discovering an amazingly simple, yet delicious tomato sauce recipe, I will never go back to store-bought spaghetti sauce. Shaking off the corporate-run diet of the 20th century is both a challenge and a joy.

I love music. I have wanted to play music for as long as I remember, and my life has been filled with instruments, bands, performances (bad and good), teachers and students, rock music, pop music, classical, jazz, and so much more.

And the most recent discovery: I love writing. Self-expression. Making a statement. These are things we say of why we create art. But, surprisingly, the easiest form of communicating my inner self is not through melodies or song; it is through the written word.

I hope that my musings will be of some interest to you, and that you leave with some new ideas to chew on each time you visit.

Cheers~

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in General

 

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