Monthly Archives: January 2013

Battling the Spirits of Pandaria

The first few trainers are fairly easy, simply matching up the proper elements leads to victory. However, once out to Northrend, that strategy doesn’t work anymore. So here are a few teams to help beat the high level trainers, broken down by trainer.

Aki – The Master Pet trainer in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.

She uses a Cricket (critter), a Dragon, and a Golden Civet (aquatic).

So let’s break down each pet. The cricket is a critter, and uses mostly swarm. Anything that does well against a critter is good. (Especially anything with beast powers.) Most efficient is a Humanoid with Beast powers, because they can take out the cricket and be ready to deal with the dragon.

Stormlash is a pain in the butt. And he is sure to call lightening which will kill your team quickly. You want a humanoid with a nuke. Panderan Monk is a good option, I use Murkimus, because I can use his Heroic Leap to avoid damage.

Lastly, take out the Golden Civet with a flyer, especially one with Lift Off, so you can dodge his dive. I like the Cenarian/Hippogryph Hatchling for this. Most efficient is a Magical Pet with Flying abilities (jade owl? I don’t have one, so I can’t be sure).

My team:

Murkimus, Hippogryph Hatchling, Fluxfire Feline. FFF vs Chirrup, Hippogryph vs Civet, and Murkumus vs the Dragon.

Flowing Pandaren Spirit – Dread Wastes

Water Spirit (Elemental), Marley (Aquatic), and Tiptoe (Critter).

Marley is a standard aquatic with pump and dive. Pull out your Cenarian Hatchling and use his liftoff to avoid the big nuke of Whirlpool and Dive on the third turn. Again a magic type with flying abilities is most efficient here.

The Critter is easily taken out with a magic pet with beast abilities. I use Spectral Tiger Cub, but alternatives are Twilight Fiendling and the Baneling from the SC2 HoS CE.

The water spirit will generally show up last. Try a Rapana Whelk or a magic type with aquatic abilities (like Legs).

IF you have a Disgusting Oozling, Jade Oozeling, Oily Slimeling, or Toxic Wasteling, try them first, and use Absorb/Corrosion/Acidic Goo. Place the two dots on and then absorb. I find I can EASILY solo all three pets with a single ooze. So I end up being able to level a lower level pet on this trainer.

My Team:

Disgusting Oozling, Spectral Tiger Cub (or leveler), Hippogryph Hatchling.

Burning Pandaren Spirit – Townlong Steppes

Fire Spirit (Elemental), Crimson (Dragonkin), and Glowy (flying)

First off pull out the Rapana Whelk against the Fire Spirit. His critter family, plus his aquatic abilities make him very powerful.

A standard humanoid will do nicely versus his dragon, but really, the best choice is a dragonkin with humanoid abilities. He will cast a cyclone ability that will heavily damage any aquatic pets you have on your back line, so don’t have any. Most efficient pets here, Soul of the Aspects or Death Talon Whelpguard.

Glowy is fairly easy to beat with anything with a nuke, but most efficient are Dragons with Magic abilities. Bust out a Nether Faerie Hatchling or an Emerald Whelpling and tear him up.

My Team:

Rapana Whelk, Murkimus, and Emerald Whelpling.

Thundering Pandaren Spirit – Vale of Eternal Blossoms

Earth Spirit (Elemental), Sludgy (Critter), and Darnak (Beast)

I hate this guy.

First off, his Earth Spirit will stun the crap out of your first pet. Pull out the Rapana Whelk and make him pay.

Sludgy is the perfect foil to a Fluxfire Feline, so bust that one out when your Whelk dies, and watch Sludgy die quickly. Now your FFF isn’t going to last very long against the third guy, BUT if you haven’t rezzed yet, and still have enough time to get off 3 moves, you have this fight with just these two pets. Just be sure to PASS on your turn if he is burrowed and your attack is all queued up.

Obviously, mechanical is very strong against Darnak, but he is very strong against Mechanical. So if your FFF has taken too much damage, try the Cenarian Hatchling with his liftoff timed to avoid the burrow.

My team:

Rapana Whelk, Fluxfire Feline, and Hippogryph Hatchling.

Whispering Pandaren Spirit – Jade Forest

Dusty (Critter), Whispertail (Dragonkin), and Air Spirit (Elemental)

Dusty hits weak against dragons and is weak to beast abilities. So best here is a dragon with beast abilities like the Dragonhawk Hatchlings. Alternaitely use a strong beast pet, but watch out, he likes to cocoon and you don’t want to waste your best shots.

Whispertail is again a dragon, so here is another use for your humanoid. If you are lucky enough to have a Death Talon Whelpguard he shines here since he is strong against Whispertail’s attacks, and uses humanoid attacks.

The air spirit is a pita, just because of his self healing. A Rapana Whelk does well here, with its own healing, but the fight can drag on for a while. Alternatively use a FFF or a dragon with a huge nuke.

My team:

Rapana Whelk, Emerald Whelpling, Spectral Tiger Cub.

 

As you will notice, I use several pets over and over again, thus it’s worth your time to go and get a rare and level them up:

Rapana Whelk

Death Talon Guard

Fluxfire Feline

 

Store bought pets:

Pandaren Monk

Cenarian Hatchling (a copy of the Hippogryph Hatchling TCG pet)

 

These 5 form a very nice base that will allow you to take out all the Pandaren trainers. See my post about leveling pets to get them leveled up quickly.

Is this going to improve the game? – A Design Question

“If someone says, ‘It would be cool if…’ tie them up and throw them in a closet until the game is done.”

That might be a bit of a harsh reaction, but if there is one thing I have learned in video game design it is this: ALWAYS CRITIQUE YOUR WORK.

Is this thing you are doing, this choice you are making, is it *vitally* important to the game. Will it make the game better as well as not break or make the game worse?

Let’s look at a few examples:

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, I worked on the Darklight Crypt expansion. One of the things I chose to do early was have a “boss” fight at the end. Most of the other levels, if they had bosses, they were against Kaos, and all done by another designer. But Darklight Crypt was an adventure pack level, meaning the user would have to spend extra money to get the toy for it to unlock the level. The theme was dark and very haunted crypt castle kind of place. So the boss I created ended up being a huge eyeball.

Queue the jokes. “I see you!” The boss would shout and kids would burst into fits of giggles. Was the boss fight the best? Nope. It was a super simple push the button to make the boss vulnerable and then hit him with the big guns, repeat three times, and win. The fight wasn’t the reason to include it. The ability to cleanly mark the end of the level with a climatic moment was. The addition of a bad guy the player could see and interact with was pretty important too. The humor that tagged along turned out to be vital to the level as well, but at the time we didn’t know that would happen.

The inclusion of the boss was risky. I was new to the project and studio. The fight was a complex bit of scripting. There were a dozen things that could have gone wrong. There was bad choices made within the fight (locking out players from using two cannons at once). BUT in the end, we can see that it added so much of the heart and character to the level, it wouldn’t be the same without it. When I suggested putting it in, I made these arguments for it: It makes the level feel different from the main game, with a boss fight at the end. It gives the player a firm target and goal, that is clear from the beginning of the level. It wouldn’t detract from the level, because it would give it a climatic moment and would be very simple for the player to understand.

I think, for the most part, it was successful. One thing that we did fail on, and learned our lesson, was using the main mechanic of the level, switching worlds, in the boss fight. Occulus, while awesome on so many levels (did you notice after him, there comes Eyebrawl?) didn’t fit within the switching mechanic of the level well. I shoehorned some switching in, but it felt out of place. In Giants, we did this MUCH better with the boss at the end of Wilikins Isle, the new switching level. I worked with the designer who did the boss fight to make sure that it incorporated switching in an organic way. Of course, it helped that before I ever suggested it, I knew he was an Ikaruga fan. It made it very easy to convince him.

So why is this so important?

Because not every game can patch out their problems. You have to put every design decision under the microscope. Think about the player and how they are going to have to deal with each decision you make.

Another example:

World of Warcraft recently added pet battles. All the minipets crazy people (like myself) had been collecting as pure vanity items suddenly became the source of gameplay. They essentially turned pets into Pokemon, complete with elemental affinities and weaknesses. Pet battles is an amazing feature, that needs a great deal of polish. Deciding what parts need polishing becomes very clear the minute each decision has to be defended.

One of the major things to do as a pet battler is go out and fight Trainers. Much like Pokemon, these are NPCs that have a team of their own, that you, as a player can challenge and beat for rewards. One design decision, that looks good on paper, is that the early trainers have set orders to their team. The order that their pets fight in is always the same. This allows the player to start off on a good foot, by stacking their first pet against the trainer’s pet. As the trainers level though, their pets begin to appear in a semi random order. Meaning that they will choose to use one of two of their pets seemingly randomly at the beginning of battle. I know, I hate random. But in this case, it is clearly worthless.

Let’s say I go up against a trainer that can bring out either a critter or a dragon first. Well clearly, I want to stack my first pet to be against one of these two. So I pull out my humanoid, who is strong versus dragons. I initiate the battle. The trainer brings out their critter. I could, and it is clearly designed that I should, switch pets, forfeiting one turn to the trainer, to have my strong pet out. BUT they allowed us to forfeit the fight entirely, with no punishment for doing so. So instead, I just forfeit, then re-initiate the fight. Repeat until the trainer brings out her dragon first, then battle away. Sound tedious? OH IT IS.

At this point, the designer should defend their decisions. They have made two. 1. That pet trainers should pull out pets randomly. 2. That forfeiting costs the player nothing. First, look at the source design, Pokemon. In Pokemon, the trainers always use their Pokemon in a set order (also generally having a team with nearly all the same elements). Also, if the player wants to quit a fight… they have to lose all their Pokemon. So there is a conflict with the source design on both points.

Which feature makes the game better? If you could only have ONE, which one would you chose: Random pet order or forfeiting? I choose forfeiting. It’s never very fun to realize that your entire team is all wrong and then just have to suffer through being bludgeoned to death so you can try again.

So what about the random pet order? Well, defend it. 1. Does it improve the game? The argument could be made that it makes the fights more challenging. 2. Does it break or make the game worse? The ability to forfeit negates the challenge introduced in point 1, and the constant cycling to try and get the “correct” pet up first makes it tedious, so yes, it makes the game worse.

At this point, CUT IT. Rip it out. Not only are the battles less tedious, but also they make the fights easier on the players. If there is a need for challenge, do that in the numbers with a systems designer, or have the trainers use more “dual affinity” pets (like dragonkin who use all magic abilities, super tricky!). It takes some of the randomness out, and improves the flow of the mini-game. Designed is always better than random.

Unfortunately, according to patch notes, Blizzard has already decided to create a punishment for forfeiting. Now each of the pets on your team will take some small amount of damage when forfeiting. So rather than streamlining the game, they left the tedious part in, but increased the time it takes to get past it. NOW players will forfeit, then wait for the 8 minute timer on the ability to heal their pets to come up, heal the pets and try again. Or they will just stop fighting the trainers completely. (In explanation, they will not just switch out pets, because the high level trainers are so tightly tuned that even one miss or dodged attack can lead to the player losing even WITH the first pet being stacked to win.)

No design decision should be made without first asking, “Does this make the game better, without making anything worse?” Would the game be better without this feature?

Once the game is shipped, the players will see it, and rip it apart. They won’t ever know about the features that were cut or didn’t make it in their original state, but they will see the broken or bad features that are present.

 

Leveling Pets Quickly

Reached a trainer with a vicious setup? Discovered a new pet you want to make a part of your main team? Want to sell leveled pets at a premium price?

These tips are targeted at players who haven’t reached the point in pet battling where they have a team that can just roll the Pandarian Tamers.

First, prepping the leveling process: One thing players seem to keep forgetting is that battle pets are account wide. It doesn’t have to be a level 90 engaging the fight. Now is the time for judicious use of alts! I have an alt sitting beside each of the Tamer Dailies that give bags. (Lydia Accoste, Karazhan; Stone Cold Trixxy, Winterspring; Bloodknight Antari, Shadowmoon Valley; Major Payne, Argent Tournament; etc) But for leveling, I only use the first two Grand Master Tamers.

To begin leveling a new pet, start at Karazhan. Load up a low level pet and two level 25 pets. The high level ringer pets must to be able to handle all three of the trainers pets. They have to be 25, as opposed to level 20-24, because if they are capped, they won’t “steal” experience from the low level pet. If two pets eligible to receive experience participate in the battle the amount of experience they would have received is split between the two, so leveling one pet is twice as fast as leveling two. The low level pet should be at least level 5 or so, to prevent being one shot. It only needs to be able to survive one round in the ring. If I am starting with a level 1, I pop up to Duskwood real quick and fight a few battles to get it up to level 3-4.

NOTE: The pet being power leveled has to be present for an entire round. It can’t start on the field and switch out immediately. Use any of its abilities, but debuffs are nicer, since they help the replacement pet.

Taking down Lydia’s trio (critters are very strong against her team) should get your newbie pet up to 7 or so. The next trainer is in Winterspring. The fastest way is to just park an alt there and switch over to them. Fly down and battle Trixxie. It’s possible for the trainer’s pet to one shot your leveler, even at level 7-8. Trixxie’s dragon is the most likely to do it. It’s never good, but it happens. If it does, forfeit the fight, heal, and try again.

The problem with the subsequent trainers that give bags is they all really need a strong team of 20+s to take them down. Generally the team even needs to be stacked specifically to fight that trainer.

The fastest method of leveling pets at this point is to battle all the aquatic pets rolling around the Vale of Eternal Blossoms (Shrine of Seven Stars for the Alliance or Shrine of Two Moons for Horde). Take your main, load up a team with two flying level 25s, and the pet you want to level, and go to town. The aquatic packs respawn fairly quickly and there is a stable master right by the flight master at the Shrine for when your flyers get knocked out. Until level 15 or so the low level pet will get 1 level per fight. At 15 it starts taking 2 fights, then at 20 or so it will take 3 fights per level.

Use this method to level a team specifically stacked and prepped to battle the Pandarian Tamers. With some luck in catching rares, it is possible to build a two pet team that can take out the Pandarian Tamers, at which point it might be worth it to try to level a third pet through them, if you are going to be killing them daily for bags anyway. I tend not to do this though, as re-starting the battle over and over to get the right starter pet, unlucky crits, unlucky misses, and it ends up taking longer than just grinding in the Vale.

Prime Targets for Stones

With Battle-Stones, Blizzard introduced an easier way to get a rare pet. Simply capture a pet of any rarity, then use the Battle-Stone on them to make them rare. They also allow players to improve pets that have set rarities. There are two kinds of Flawless Battle-Stones, one that is boe and generic, and ones that are bop and limited to a family type. (Yes, there are Polished Battle-Stones, however, this article is focused on the ones that get pets to battling shape.)

The question becomes, once receiving a Battle-Stone, which pet is it best to use on? In the end, it should always be whatever pet you most want to use it on. This is simply a list of potential targets that might make a bit more sense than others.

In general this is how I prioritize stones:

  1. Hard to farm pets. (Minifernal, Giraffe Calf, Baby Ape, etc.)
  2. Pets that cannot be farmed as rare. (Like the Children’s Week pets.)
  3. A pet needed to make a team overpowered. (Minifernal, Mana Wyrmling, etc.)

So here’s my top picks for each family:

Humanoid:

Flayer Youngling – These guys have a long spawn time, and tons of campers, so they are a prime target for an early stone.

Peddlefeet – A very good battle pet, and he only comes in uncommon rarity

Dragonkin:

Emerald Proto-drake – Both a good battle pet, and a rare spawn.

Infinite Whelpling – Rare spawn, rumored to be a good battle pet, and heavily camped.

Flying:

Darkmoon Glowfly – Not only is this pet good, but he can only be farmed one week out of the month. It is likely going to be a huge pain to get him.

Gilnean Raven – A vendor pet with some very interesting abilities.

Tirisfal Batling (or Bat) – The Tirisfal Batling can only be learned as uncommon. The Bat can be farmed rare, but has so few spawns, it will likely take a great deal of time. Both have the Reckless Strike ability which is great for killing aquatic battle pets quickly.

Undead:

Ghostly Skull – Vendor pet, and good at pet battles.

Infested Bear Cub – This pet so rarely spawns as it needs a momma bear to do so, and even then, not all momma bears spawn the cub. It is worth it to kill the infested bears to force respawns of the bears themselves to increase the chance of a cub spawn

Critter:

Egbert – Only obtainable during Children’s Week, he is also uncommon when learned. He has a very powerful move set.

Wolpertinger – Only comes in uncommon and limited to Brewfest.

Magic:

Minifernal – Not only insanely difficult to farm, but also one of the best pets to counter the Fluxfire Feline.

Mana Wrymling – Also good against Fluxfire Feline, and only comes in uncommon.

Elemental:

Fel Flame – Rare spawn

Tiny Twister – Rare spawn requiring special circumstances.

Beast:

Baby Blizzard Bear – Only uncommon and only from the Anniversary achievement.

Baby Ape – Rare spawn requiring special circumstances.

Giraffe Calf – Rare spawn, that like the Infected Bear Cub, requires a momma giraffe to spawn.

Silithid Hatchling – Rare spawn requiring special circumstances.

Aquatic:

Wanderer’s Festival Hatchling – Rare spawn requiring special circumstances.

Emperor Crab – Strong battle pet

Fishy/Tiny Goldfish – Strong battle pet, and they only come in uncommon

Mechanical:

Fluxfire Feline – Currently the most broken overpowered pet out there. He might be nerfed to oblivion in 5.2, but will still be strong. Spawns fairly slowly, and is heavily farmed due to his current strength.

Anodized Robo Cub – Rare spawn, heavily camped.

Any of the engineering pets are also good targets for Battle-Stones as they are all uncommon. (Personal World Destroyer and Mechanical Chicken are the ones I would pick first, as both have Supercharge.)

 

There is no wrong answer when choosing a pet to boost, just some that might make life collecting easier.

Beating the Kittehs

It’s getting patched in 5.2, but at the moment, the Fluxfire Feline (FFF) is the reigning champion for the title Most Overpowered and Broken pet.

Snagging a rare one of these cats, and then leveling it to 20+, grants a pet that on turn 3 can do 1800+ damage with very little drawback. Simply use their level 20 ability, Supercharge, followed by two Wind-Ups. Adding insult to injury, this ability negates resurrection passives as well, so no mechanical pets popping back up, no one turn to get a last shot in for undead. (This may or may not be a bug. Blizzard hasn’t commented on it.)

In 5.2 this combo move will be nerfed. But if we take a minute to look at the math, the nerf may not be enough to bump FFF from the Title. Currently, the Supercharge multiplies damage by 150% then adds that to the base damage. The Wind-up increases damage done by 10% and then on the second hit does ~702 damage. ((702 + (702 x .1)) + (772 x 1.5)) This gives us a base damage of 1930. Ouch. The proposed nerf will make Supercharge only multiply by 125%. (702 + 70 + 965) Giving FFF a base damage of 1737. This is still enough to one shot most pets.

The other change will extend Supercharge’s cooldown to 4 turns, but even so, chances are one pet will die very quickly.

The initial thought is to simply load up Elemental pets and give the FFF a triple fireball to its furry little face. But from my experience, pet battlers have gotten used to that, and so they will have a Magical Crawdad waiting on the sidelines to take out the Elementals. Surge, Shield Shell, and Wish make him a formidable opponent on his own, and versus Elementals, he is nasty.

So how can the FFF be countered?

Shimmering Wyrmling and Mana Wyrmling. They are the same pet. They have the same abilities, and are both magical pets. These two things are important. First, because they are magical pets their passive kicks in and hamstrings the FFF’s one-shot. Magical pets cannot be dealt more than 40% of their total health in one hit. At this point it is actually better for the FFF owner to just use Wind-Up. Second is their exceptionally interesting level 20 ability, Reflection, which reflects the damage back on the attacker, so it’s not only a block, but will one shot the FFF as well. Players tend to focus on rotations. They get in a groove and just let muscle memory take its course. If they do this versus the Wyrmlings, they are going to be on the receiving end of their own hyper boosted Wind-Up.

The Shimmering Wyrmling requires either gold to buy it off the Auction House or doing the Argent Tournament Dailies to the end. The Mana Wyrmling is a mere 40 gold in Netherstorm, but starts off uncommon, so it will require a battlestone to boost it to rare so its stats are competitive. The Wyrmlings are also pretty weak attackers on their own, so once reflection has gone off, it’s best to switch them out with a more tank like pet or a high damage pet.

Swapping the Wyrmlings back in for later parts of the battle to reflect again is just bonus, especially if they use other pets with buildup attacks (Pump for example).

It’s also worth trying to get a Minifernal of any rarity and using a battlestone on him, as he is not only a magical pet, but can use Immolate and Immolation, two Elemental attacks, against the FFF to deal out massive amounts of damage. He is, however, one of the excessively camped pets right now. Additionally a Flayer Youngling is a strong pet, with Reflection, but requires precision timing to get it off to stop the Supercharged Wind-Up.

The FFF is a powerful glass cannon, and well worth the time to tame and level, but is not impervious against a well-planned defense.

Big Bang Theory – Learn to Laugh, or you will spend all your time hurt.

Big Bang Theory (BBT) has gotten a lot of buzz on my Twitter lately, with people talking about it being a “bad show” and making fun of nerds. I get the point of view these people are coming from. But I find it very hard to honestly say BBT is a terrible show and shouldn’t be watched. I am a nerd and I love it.

First off, calling it “blackface” is wildly offensive. Both to the people who make the show and to the historical reference. It’s like comparing anyone on the internet to Hitler. Until they have led to the deaths of 6 million people, don’t make the comparison. BBT is not making completely offensive jokes about an entire race of people who have been enslaved, treated like cattle, and then treated to years of offensive oppression and degradation. It’s not even close to the same.

Also, let’s take a moment to realize what exactly we are critiquing. It’s not high comedy. It’s a sitcom. It’s a 21 minute episodic sitcom. It’s not high art people. Some people say, “It’s not laughing with us, it’s laughing at us.” No, Honey Boo Boo is laughing AT people. BBT is a show about nerds and the absurd situations they can get into and how, even though they are super nerdy geniuses, they still have all the same problems as everyone else.

For some reason, some people watch the show and feel like they are supposed to identify with Penny. Penny’s an odd character, but she is not the one I identify with. I feel the connection to Leonard. No, we weren’t raised the same way. No, I am not a physicist who studies lasers. Have I ever been in love with a super hot guy who ignored me to date super hot girls even though they were dumb as a brick? God yes. Have I ever had a moment where I wondered why the hell I was friends with these clearly deranged people? Yep. Have I ever thought about throwing away all my “toys” and trying to be a “normal adult”? That one too. Leonard is the protagonist, he is the everyman nerd that we are all supposed to be viewing the situations from. And really, the argument falls apart when they realize the guys are far more critical of Penny than she is of them. Remember the entire setup where Penny didn’t go to college and feels inferior so she lies about having gone to community college? It was silly, and absurd, and totally could happen. Likely with much worse results on the friendship than in the show.

People point to the references on the show and comment that a. they aren’t “correct” or b. are purely used as a punchline. When the joke is that these guys are saying if they don’t get to play Dungeons and Dragons then the rest of the group will hate Bernadette, then yes, it is a joke. People aren’t laughing at the mention of D&D, they are laughing over the absurdity of the game overtaking real life concerns and relationships. And what nerd hasn’t been in THAT situation? My parents still don’t understand what I mean when I tell them I have to contact my raid to let them know I won’t be on. What does it matter? It’s just a game?

As for references not being perfectly accurate, sometimes things have to be adjusted to make the plot/joke work. No, you can’t have sex in game in WoW. You can cyber though. And the plot required that Howard had done something absurd and creepy (hey, imagine that, as it’s part of his character to be over the top creepy guy) and they wanted to tie it into an online game. Which online game should they reference? The one with the largest player base and thus the best chance of being recognized? Or the one that no one has ever heard of but actually accurately allows for the plot set up? The writers are doing their best to bridge a gap in knowledge between geeks and those who know of geeks.

Another common complaint is that the characters are stereotypes. Well, yes… it’s a SITCOM. Not a documentary. Yes they are exaggerated caricatures of real people. I don’t work in academia or in serious computer science, I work in games, and yet I have met people that are toned down versions of each of these characters. The super nerd that can’t talk to girls without alcohol? Yep, I know a few actually. The guy that is basically nice but has no concept that many of the things he does comes across as super pervy? That too. And while I have never been friends with someone just like Sheldon, I know several people that if you smushed them all into a single person they would BE Sheldon.

One blog (specifically the one that spawned this post) calls out the Halloween episode as setting up the audience to laugh at the guys for making nerdy Halloween costumes. What episode were they watching? Because the one I saw, had the guys get super excited about a Halloween party, and then they took it about 10 steps BEYOND geeky. They took what could be considered as “normal nerdy”, dressing as Frodo, and exaggerated it to the point of hilarity with the guys running off to sewing machines. Am I laughing at them? Well, yes, but not because I think they are stupid or worthy of scorn, but rather because oh man have I been like that before. I spent HOURS researching and then searching down each and every piece of my Amy Pond costume. I know that feeling. I have BEEN that person. How am I supposed to relate to Penny, the sexy cat costume, when I am totally on the side of Leonard and LOVING his Hobbit costume, and absolutely in awe of Sheldon’s costume which so out nerds my nerdiest it makes me feel like a lesser nerd?!? This episode inspired me to sit around trying to come up with other costumes that could represent abstract scientific theories! The episode even goes a few steps further and has the guys successfully integrating into the “normal” friends Penny invites. Raj sleeps with a lady bug. Sheldon manages to push the guys into interacting with others at the party. Leonard manages to do what we have all always wanted to do and make the stupidly good looking jock look as stupid as he actually is. Not by force or being “cool” on the jock’s level, but with his superior intelligence.

As for the “oh they are nerds and can’t get girls” stereotype, this is the one complaint that has absolutely no basis on the show. At various points all of them have had relationships of varying levels of commitment and quality. Even Sheldon finds it within himself to connect to a female and create a relationship agreement. Are they exaggerated? Yes, but again, SITCOM. People call out how it’s “homophobic” when they make jokes about Raj and Howard’s actions towards each other… but 10 seasons worth of them doing so much worse to Chandler on Friends was just whatever? It’s a low brow joke. Do I find it funny? Eh, it’s amusing. Do I watch the show for that? Nope. Is it making fun of homosexuals? Not that I can see, as it seems like it is making a joke at the expense of those who get uncomfortable in those situations.

The blog also calls out the fact that until Amy, all the girls on the show were “normal” and even goes so far as to make cracks about her being lost to have ended up in the comic book store. Uh, well… Are you a girl that has ever gone into a comic book store? Oh it’s funny on the show, but have you had it happen in real life? Because I have. I have had so many experiences exactly like that, they are common place. They don’t even stick out anymore. I was once asked if I was lost at GDC, wearing a World of Warcraft T-shirt and a Nintendo bag. The joke, the stereotype, is based in reality, and it is absurd. It SHOULD be laughed at. They are also clearly overlooking the multiple instances where Penny has shown her growth. Yeah, in the first season she was pretty and dumb, but as the show has gone on she has shown her ability to grow, and her worth to the group. Who can the guys turn to for help when it comes to fishing? The cute blonde. An absurdity that is a classic sitcom setup. She complains to Leonard that he has ruined her ability to date stupid guys. Penny grows as a person over the course of the show, and clearly shows affection and love for the guys.

Do I find all the jokes on BBT funny? No, but then, I also don’t see them as hurtful. They are simply caricatures of people, exaggerations of reality, to create absurdity and incredulity. They are characters on a show that is written to make people laugh. Do I laugh when Sheldon rattles off a list of increasingly ridiculous specifications on his food? Yep. The same reason I laugh when I stand behind someone in Starbucks who does the same thing, and the same reason I laugh at myself when I do it with eggs at Toast. It’s absurd. It’s silly to be so demanding about our food. But we do it. And it is worthy of being laughed at.

Most annoying is the comparison to Community… *sigh* They point at BBT and say that it’s terrible because it’s offensive, homophobic, and laughs at nerds not with them… Because Pierce isn’t so mind bogglingly racist that I cringe every time he spews what is supposed to be funny. Because they don’t make the exact same homosexual innuendos with Abed and Troy. Because they don’t have a character (Jeff) who openly mocks and belittles the “smart” person in the group (Annie) who then falls in love with him because he’s so “cool” in some weird Stockholm Syndrome variation. OH WAIT. It’s also a sitcom. It reaches for the same low hanging fruit in its humor. The difference is, it’s characters aren’t as likeable. It’s setups aren’t as believable or as likely. As absurd as it is, I have had more experiences that are closer to BBT over Community. Maybe it’s why I like it better.

All that, but I can honestly say, I get the point. People don’t have to find the same things funny. People come to a show with their own baggage and wounds that color the way they see and hear things. I was tormented in school for years about being a nerd, and yet when I look at BBT, I don’t see something where people are still laughing at me and those like me, I see kindred spirits that are so much more absurd than I could ever be, showing me it’s more than okay for me to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars, because here’s these 4 successful and interesting nerds that are just as bad as me. It gives me joy to see these guys doing things *I* do and not feeling even the smallest bit of shame. I revel in the absurd level of nerd and enjoy every minute and every reference. In fact, the one thing I really wish they would adjust, over time and at least somewhat realistically, is getting one of the girls as into all the nerdy stuff as they are. Amy is super intelligent, but she shuns or is kept out of the nerdy things the guys do. Those walls need to come down and they need to bring the girls into the nerd world.