Tag Archives: video games

blaugust #16: Tyria, try again.

GW2 - Tristis - Lion's Arch 8-16-15f

I’ve finally gotten Guild Wars 2 reinstalled and had that run around I was craving earlier in the week. Tristis is a bit shambolic at the moment. They’ve changed the character builds since I last played, and I’m still finding my way around the skills ring. She’s got half of one outfit on, and half of another outfit. We are badly in need of transmutation, but I don’t have any charges and don’t want to buy any. She looks a bit naff, but I’m just going to live with it for now.

GW2 - Tristis - Lion's Arch 8-16-15b

My first impression, once I’d had my pretty run around over hills and through forests, was that I was bored and would rather be playing something else. I logged out and came back a couple of times over the course of this week. But two posts I read this week have convinced me to stick with it for a little while and see what develops. The first was this tempting collection of screenshots of the new Lion’s Arch, which I hadn’t explored yet. The second was MMO Gypsy’s Blaugust post for yesterday: “What makes me happy in MMOs.” Some of the things on that list are things I can relate to: windmills creaking, my cloak fluttering in the wind, getting that mob down against all odds. But a lot of them are things I’ve not played long enough to experience: getting to a place where I feel competent and my gear looks crazy good.

I seem to start MMOs, and be super invested for a while, and then my interest kind of peters out. I keep starting over again because I’m interested in reaching that point of competence and ownership. But then drying up in the middle all over again. There are specific and identifiable reasons for this dry spell I always experience. For one, I don’t like crafting. I have yet to find a game where the crafting interests me, but it’s important for leveling up and optimizing your gear. For another, while I love the physical environments of most of the games I’ve tried, I’ve not been able to get invested in any of the lore or storylines. I enjoy the mechanics, the scenery, the dressing up. I love getting a better weapon and seeing my stats go up. I like the little moments of understated interaction: getting to res another player, or having a total stranger take a moment to demonstrate how to climb a vista just because they can see I’m having trouble. Those moments are really fun. But I struggle with activities that require greater interaction or communication between players, because I’m shy and because I’m not particularly confident in my skills. The first dungeons I ever did as a healer in WoW were the most terrifying thing I’ve done in years. Actual sweating palms and shaking hands and social anxiety. I am shy in person, and an introvert, but I don’t experience social anxiety. In game, though, I am a bundle of social anxiety. This makes it hard for me to team up with other people in a way that’s meaningful and progresses my character. So I just sort of dwindle away and wander off.

These two posts have convinced me to try sticking with Guild Wars 2 for a while, though. Yesterday I explored a new section of map, did a couple of events, and was rewarded with my first exotic gear drop ever. I want to earn the right to wear that at Level 80. Today, I spent a couple of hours in newly rebuilt Lion’s Arch, taking screenshots and rediscovering vistas. The bank is a giant stone octopus, with a fish tank for a head. Who would want to miss that? It was fun to reclaim that territory, figuring out what was different and what remained the same. Standing under the windmill that’s one of my favorite things in the entire Tyrian world, I felt that urge to keep going.

(This is day 16 of the Blaugust initiative.)

gamers buddy system.


I talk about my niece a lot. She is precocious and pithy and imaginative, and I love to tell the whole internet about her. Sometimes I need the hive mind to decipher what she’s saying, and sometimes I just think everyone needs to know about it immediately. Just lately, though, I’ve realized that I don’t talk as much about her older brother, my nephew. Partly that’s because for most of the year, he’s in school during the day and I don’t see him as much. Partly it’s because he’s a quieter person than she is. But I am prodigiously proud of him. He’s smart, patient, and good natured, and I think I learn something every time I talk to him. He absorbs every detail about things that interest him.

He also plays a lot of video games. In fact, that’s the only time he’s not patient. He’s still good natured, but he’s fiercely competitive, and he will gleefully roll right over anyone whose skill or investment in expertise is less than his. He’ll encourage you to play with him, but he will not accommodate your weaknesses. It’s infuriating and hilarious, and I love to see the confidence in him when he’s talking about his home territory. This past week, when Phil was here, I finally got to see the two of them play some games together, and it was glorious.

My initial interest when I started playing video games was twofold: I wanted something I could fall into as immersive relaxation therapy after hard work, but more importantly I wanted a vocabulary and a skill set that would let me bond with my nephew. A few years, a lot of rabbit-hole conversations with Phil, and many game experiments later, I’ve learned enough to know what I look for in a game I’ll really enjoy. I have the vocabulary to listen to my nephew and to occasionally even be able to offer him advice or suggestions.

So it’s a pretty sweet part of my day when he sidles up next to me and his serious small face cracks a missing tooth smile and he boasts his latest triumph – conquering a tough board in Mario, or outwitting Enderman, or his newest dinosaur acquisition in Jurassic Park. I like to get the update while we’re dropping the day’s shipping off at the post office, or unloading the dishwasher together. Sometimes we talk strategy. Sometimes we debate how much real life money is reasonable to spend on what is essentially a picture of a dinosaur. Sometimes we talk about how he interacts with other gamers. Sometimes he just wants me to watch him play so he can show off his mad skills.

And sometimes I bribe him to do the hissing Dilophosaurus thing on camera by telling him he can use my iPhone to play a game. It’s shy kid economics. I love the boy.

just don’t look at it.

This is what my kitchen table looks like at the exact moment I’m writing this. Chaos. Things that are currently happening in this space: printing shipping labels, taking photographs of new products, printing color palettes for new designs, writing two postcards and one letter, paying bills (which should all be automated, but two things mysteriously showed up on paper this month – I will need to investigate), and packing the bookshelf. And writing this blog post. And half a glass of iced green tea. It looks like beer, but it’s not, more’s the pity.

I hate chaos. My impulse is to clean this up and empty the tabletop, but honestly, there’s nowhere to put it. If I move this chaos, I will create another chaos a couple of feet away. My living/working space is small and hard to manage under normal circumstances, and it’s in full-blown activity and transition mode just now. I find it hard to relax or be at all productive in chaos, but the last few months have been so hectic and uncertain that I’ve been working on learning a new skill. Instead of managing the chaos, much of which is out of my control, I am trying to manage my awareness of/response to the chaos. It’s really hard to do. At least, it’s really hard for me to do. Working out helps. Retreating to bed, which is the only non-chaotic space in my apartment, with my computer or my book helps.

I started to feel like a lot of things in my life were out of my control in January, so I’ve had nearly six months to work on this skill. I’ve gotten much better at it, but nothing really succeeds in taking that background anxiety all the way away. I think it’s going to be some time before things feel calm again, so I’m continuing to look for ways to just leave the constant mill of thought and planning and wondering that is the inside of my head.

My friend scrufflibrarian and I have been emailing back and forth about video games for a while: what makes them appealing, how they’re different from other types of entertainment (I’m not sure the word entertainment is even the right one, but I’m neatly sidestepping that rabbit hole for now), how they test you, how they’re designed, what different people look for from play, what types of play interest people, what ideas are embedded in them, etc. It’s fascinating. He’s described several of his favorite games to me, and the more I learned the more appealing it sounded. After the car accident last weekend, I just wanted something to step into that wasn’t related to work or moving, and that would take my concentration and attention. Scruff suggested Kingdom of Loathing, an online RPG of visual simplicity, magical silliness and thorny, embedded complexity. It was the perfect suggestion. First off, it’s soothingly simple to look at. See? No chaos:

It’s also reassuringly simple to play. Basically, it’s read text, assess options, click to complete action. But there’s a ton of information and options and places to explore and complex goals for playing (for which my friend is kindly providing me tutorials and hints so I don’t waste all my game time mindlessly hitting things). So while it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all, there’s plenty to keep my mind occupied. It’s also incredibly clever and funny. Basically, it’s perfect. I’ve only been playing for three whole days, but so far it’s doing a nice job of keeping my eyes and my anxiety off the things I can’t control. Thank you, Scruff.