Tag Archives: Real Life

You met me at a very weird time in my life.

It never fails. Someone says “I cannot wait until we get a new raid… I am bored/hate this one.” This always sparks the conversation of favorite raids and most hated raids. (For the record, mine are Naxx and ICC.)

Someone always brings up ICC. You know how when you smell something distinct and suddenly you are launched backwards in time to a significant moment – that happens to me every time someone mentions ICC or when I step inside the instance.

I was raiding on the Alliance side for the first time. I was healing for my raid. I was raiding with co-workers. We worked at Sega and it was fun. We would play at night, then in the morning there would be long discussions about what we did, and what we should be doing.

During this time, we were a team of 9 players. We needed another dps, so we stopped by Dalaran, pinged trade chat, and picked up a warrior. How was I to know that the pug we just picked up would end up not only joining our guild, but so would his wife. They would become friends. Fortunately they didn’t live that far away, so we even got to hang out in real life.

Then life happened. Sega closed our studio. People went to new jobs, with weird crunch schedules. Things… drifted away. But from that point on, meeting Misstorgo, raiding ICC, downing the Lich King, and working at Sega on Iron Man 2, all of these things were intertwined in my brain.

The real oddity is… this has happened before. Black Temple and Hyjal are intertwined with working at Mind Control. Kara was when I was at TG. Since then, raiding Cataclysm was a period when I was at TfB, but not raiding with co-workers.

It is odd to realize I am in the midst of creating another connection. My TfB raid team, finishing SoO, finishing Trap Team… it’s all interconnected now. My life is a series of events blended with in game events.

When I return to these raids or talk about them, I will have that moment of nostalgia. I will have that reminder of my life from that time. I wonder if other players have similar experiences, both in WoW and in other games.

PAX and Acceptance.

There are a ton of people who are super pissed at Gabe. I wanted to weigh in on it, because I feel like people are getting riled up and yes, overreacting.

First, a few points I want to be perfectly clear:

1. I don’t like Gabe. I think he’s an asshole. He’s not a terribly nice person, and he overreacts in extreme ways and INTENTIONALLY tries to piss people off.

2. I don’t like rape*. It’s a way of killing someone while still letting them live. It’s an atrocity and should be treated as such. I am firmly in the camp of “Not only does no mean no, but ONLY yes means yes.”

So. What does this mean for PA/PAX and my love for all things nerdy gamer?

Well for me, not much actually. I haven’t read PA regularly for over a year. I will occasionally go over and read a strip or two if someone links it. I haven’t bought PA merch in a while (5 years?), since it got me in trouble. (MtG shirt that says I’d Tap That… apparently inappropriate when a woman wears it.) But one thing I do, and will continue to do, is go to PAX.

The tensions on the sides of the argument are heavy. One side, rightly so, points to rape culture and the harm it causes through casual acceptance. The other side, again, rightly so, says that censorship is wrong. These, and many other arguments against Gabe/Tycho/PA are all deeply mired into experiences, anger, fear, pain, and rhetoric that is not to be taken lightly.

Today I was told I was a horrible human being and not a feminist for going to PAX. This is not okay. A personal attack against me, or Gabe, or Antia, or ANYONE is unacceptable. Part of this comes from growing up and from two very pointed comments made to me. Once I used the phrase “It’s like Sophie’s choice!” when discussing trying to pick a Magic card during a booster draft. Someone, thankfully, looked at me in shock and asked if I was REALLY comparing picking a card to picking which of my two children would die? I didn’t have kids. I had never seen the movie. I just knew it was an exaggerated phrase to describe an impossibly difficult choice. As a writer, I often consider word connotation, but I had never really thought of idiom choice. I STILL think about that moment regularly. I think about it when I use an over used turn of phrase. The second was when I told someone to diaf (die in a fire) in a random group in WoW. He was being a jerk. When I said it, another person in the group immediately got furiously upset with me. Not normal levels of upset, but more like, if she had been in the same room strangling me with my mouse cord upset. Her father died in a fire, saving her and her sisters. He died from the severe burns he got all over his body. I found this out after managing to get her calmed down to explain WHY she was so mad at me. Not only have I NOT used that phrase again, but I also have spoken up to people I have heard use it and explained that they need to choose their words with care.

This is the crux of everything. Choose your words with care. The larger your platform, the greater care that needs to go into every word you say/write.

People point to the original strip and say, “They made a rape joke! What horrible people!” I actually remember being surprised to find it wasn’t a Fruit Fucker comic. I remember reading the Dickwolves comic the morning it went up. As a WoW player, especially during Wrath, I recognized the dissonance he was talking about. These characters we play are supposed to be heroes, and yet once we were done with a quest we were willing to leave, regardless of how many prisoners remained. I assume he got the idea from the Pit of Saron. I am fairly confident in that, because I remember pissing off groups I ran with because I would free every prisoner, EVERY TIME, when tanking. The first time, it’s a quest. After that, it was me, actively hating that they were laboring away while I would just run past, trying to get to loot faster. I remember feeling horrible over it. I actually told myself, THEY ARE JUST PIXELS GET OVER IT. So at this point, I have to say, I disagree with people who look at the comic and say it’s a rape joke. The Fruit Fucker is a rape joke. Dickwolves is making a not terribly funny joke about players who are supposed to be heroes and instead are mercenaries, It’s about the moral lack they show leaving those prisoners chained up. Would the strip have worked better without the dickwolves or if they had said something other than rape – like beat us every night? It would have been a wash. The “joke” barely made sense to people who play WoW.

Even one step further, I was so surprised people were upset by it, and actually said something to the effect of “Do you READ Penny Arcade? That’s totally the stupid shit they do.” Once more I point to Fruit Fucker. If you go back to the start of the strip they made a dick joke in the second strip, and had a murder in the third. It’s five strips to CHILD ABUSE. Suicide, gay sex, sexism, slavery, human trafficking, and so on. It’s frequently juvenile, disgusting, and crude. Apparently we didn’t mind the Gabe raping a Pac Man cosplayer. And all of that was in the FIRST YEAR. (Even funnier is reading through that first year, I noticed that most of the issues Scott Kurtz has with Big Bang Theory – PA did too! That just cracks me up.) But here we are, 14 years later and we have this. Yes, there are still dick jokes (alot of dick jokes), and jokes that make veiled implications about homosexuality and sexism. To the point where I just have to say… that’s kind of Penny Arcade. That’s what they do. They make a ton of stupid comics that aren’t that funny, then they make one that’s HILARIOUS or one that’s BEAUTIFUL. I stopped reading the comic because I got sick of all the dick jokes. I grew up.

Now here’s where it gets… shifty. There are people attacking ME personally because I went to PAX. There are people who are attacking PAX and Child’s Play because of their connection to Gabe. I don’t like Gabe, but I am aware that making a rape joke, though in extremely poor taste, does not make one a rapist. But he is being treated as such.

I don’t attack someone who likes Chris Brown even though I think he’s a horrible person who deserved some serious jail time. I have friends who are perfectly okay with reading Ender’s Game and deciding to go to the movie, even though I refuse because I think that’s another human who makes the world worse. I have friends who go to Chic Fil A KNOWING they donate to groups that advocate the KILLING of homosexuals. I accept these people, even when I disagree with them, because I know we are all people. No one is perfect. We are all flawed. I am not going to attack someone because I disagree with them, or because I think they are being a jerk.

If you disagree with Gabe, me, or anyone else, it is your right to say we are horrible people. Just like it’s our right to stop interacting with you. But I don’t want to lose more friends over what is a disagreement about freedom.

Gabe responded to the initial response to Dickwolves very poorly. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I don’t get, is how people didn’t expect it? Anyone who was a nerd in high school, and bullied for years, is familiar with that instinctual response to defend and lash out. Of course he buckled down and then used every bit of his hard won protective shell of sarcasm to fight against it. We in the community tend to believe we know more than we do of these people. We think because we see them at PAX, read their tweets, and watch videos that we know them. Does anyone saying he’s a rape apologist actually THINK that Gabe would rape someone? Or be okay with someone being raped? There are leaps being made that people cannot back up.

I am also bothered by people who bring up Enforcers and the bad (illegal?) things that happen, and actively blame Gabe/PA for it. o.0 Are you kidding me? How can we blame them for what volunteers do? Of course there are going to be some bad apples in a force of volunteers who are put into a position of power. I am assuming they only do the standard double check on people, but I doubt they can find someone without a record who turns out to be a bad guy? It’s not like they are inviting them back year after year. They have a black list of people who aren’t allowed at PAX, why would we expect the Enforcers to be any different? (To be fair I have only had three encounters total with Enforcers, two were exceptional and one was a guy who was just a bit of a dick.) I am bothered by people who also bring up the bad behavior of people who read the comics. Because it’s Gabe’s fault those people are dicks?

(As an aside, Gabe’s idiotic response to transgender doesn’t really have a place in this discussion, because the understanding between biological sex and gender presentation is still not a broad understood concept. *I* didn’t even get it until a few years ago. And even then, I wouldn’t have if not for actually meeting a transgender person and having it explained, with great patience. He could have responded better, and so could have the people who called him on it. In the end, he said he didn’t care, and this upset people. But I can kind of see his point. I don’t care if someone is transgender. Mostly, because I am not trying to sleep with anyone. The parts don’t matter to me. All I need to know is, which pronouns should I be using with that person. However, it wasn’t unreasonable for him to assume a game with vaginas was aimed at women. Because for the most part, it is. This is part of living in a two gender society, although wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t? Calling him transphobic is not accurate because if he was transphobic, he certainly wouldn’t employ someone who was transgender or be friends with them. He doesn’t know, and that’s different.)

Finally, I have one last point to make. We spend all our time saying that the games, movies, books we consume do not make us violent, thieving, rapists. How then can we say that this comic changes that? I watched Buffy and the rape scene that happened there, but I didn’t attack Joss Whedon. I watched Archer, and the multitude of rape jokes that show has made, and all it told me was, nope, don’t want to watch Archer, got it. when I read PA and it is 80% stupid stuff and dick jokes, I stop wasting my time on it. That’s the correct response. If someone wants to keep reading it, that’s okay too. If someone wants to buy a Dickwolves t-shirt, they can. It just helps me know who I am not going to want to talk to. Just like I am fairly positive I don’t want to talk to someone wearing a redneck shirt or a racist shirt or any other thing I find reprehensible.

So… How can I go to PAX, even though I dislike Gabe? Easy. I don’t go to PAX to see Gabe. In fact, I was three feet from Gabe at this PAX and ignored him in favor of his wife and son, who I talked to about Skylanders. I went to PAX to spend time with people who live far away, but travel to PAX. I went to walk the expo hall floor and not be assailed by booth babes at every step. I went to buy dice and watch people play board games. I went to sit in the Tap House, drink a stupid amount, then go back to my hotel room and play WoW. I went to revel in gaming and gamers for three lovely days.

People will say, you can do that without PAX! Well, parts of it. Some of my friends don’t go to BlizzCon. GDC is mostly professionals. E3 is booth babe central. None are in places like Seattle. People who compare it to DragonCon and it’s founder problem are not comparing the two accurately. One is a guy who runs off at the mouth. Another is a guy who actually BROKE the law.

I love PAX because it’s the first place I ever felt like I could be wholly myself. I could be a nerd and not only was it okay but I was cooler because I did. I love PAX because it’s about the gamers. PA may be the thread that started it, but I actually don’t know very many people who go to PAX to meet Gabe and Tycho.

If you honestly think we shouldn’t be friends because I want to go to PAX, even knowing that I dislike Gabe and his humor, then I am sorry. That’s sad. I agree, Gabe has a huge platform. He could be a great leader from his empire of nerdom. But he’s not. He’s a flawed human that wants to do what he wants to do. We aren’t going to change or educate him anymore than we can change or educate any other dickwad on the internet, at this point he is too ingrained and too convinced of his own power. He is convinced that he can just speak his mind and if people don’t like it, they can fuck off and that’s okay even for him. Instead we need to choose OUR words with care. We need to express concern over his actions. We need to express concern over the comics. We need to express how it *is* a shitty thing to do to wear a shirt that makes a joke about rape. I actually think his decision to “not engage” is a good one. He needs to stop engaging if he can’t choose his words with care. We need to not leap to conclusions and immediately jump to inflammatory rhetoric. We need to, even with Gabe, but especially with everyone, remember to not assume the worst.

As my absolute final comment, how do people who call for bans of PAX and Child’s Play deal with the choice of banning everything associated with Gabe and PA? Are they not going to buy Magic cards? No more Minecraft because Notch goes to to PAX. No more Wil Wheton. No more D&D. No more Borderlands. No more Nintendo. No more of those lovely indie games. No more Think Geek or We Love Fine. Is that logical or reasonable? How about instead write an email (no threats or insults) and explain why that was such a shitty thing to do? Write a blog. Write so the words are out there and people will see it. (It’s a much better medium than Twitter after all.)

*Marks an understatement.

Free to Play Vs Subs

During my Game Design 1 class this week, I talked about WoW. As a part of this, one of the students asked a question:

“Yes, but how do you feel about the subscription fee?”

Then he made a comment that he just couldn’t get past the sub.

So here’s my answer, that I feel is very important for any person who considers subscription games.

  • This month I bought Gone Home for $20. I played it for 3 hours. It was great, and totally worth it.
  • I got into the Hearthstone Beta, and bought $50 worth of cards. I have played it probably about 30 hours. Totally worth it.
  • I bought Dishonored for $60, played it for about 10 hours, and it was totally worth it.
  • When I go to the movies, I pay $10-12 for a 2 hour experience. Totally worth it.

So the question becomes, what is the value of WoW at $15/month?

Well first off, I only pay $13/month. I pay in 6 month blocks. So it takes about 2 and 1/2 games to equal the amount of money I spend playing WoW.

Let’s see… I got Dishonored, got 10 hours worth of play. XCOM, 36 hours. Borderlands 2, 4 hours. So all told about 50 hours worth of play for more money than I spend on WoW in a year.

I play WoW, on average, 3 hours a day. (From 7:15 ish to about 10:30-11 most nights.) That means in 17 days, I have already played more WoW than I would THREE other games I bought at $60 each.

The only single player game in recent memory that even comes close to WoW is Skyrim. I have about 240+ hours. Totally worth it.

But even so, these games can’t compare to WoW because I play WoW with friends. I enjoy hanging out with them. Killing Internet Dragons with them. Griping about quests and LFRs.

I am not saying that one type of game should be played over the other. I loved Dishonored, XCOM, and Skyrim. I want to replay all 3. But at a purely cost vs time played, WoW wins, hands down, regardless of the subscription.

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.

What’s in a Name?

Okay here’s the article.

 

To summarize, it’s a nifty article on last names, and women taking their husband’s name after they get married. It’s a nifty article because it covers many of the viewpoints WITHOUT ever pushing an agenda. Bravo Stephanie Pappas for writing a good article.

Now, why do I want to talk about it on what is arguably a gamer blog? Because it’s important to me.

My experience:

My mother has been married 3 times in her life. The third time was apparently the charm, as she is still married to him now. She had my brother with her first husband, me with her second, and married my step-father when I was 9 or so. So growing up my brother had one last name, I had a second, and she had a third. I was used to being the only person with my name. Add to that, it is a rather uncommon last name, and I liked it.

You see, it started with Ac. So when teachers in school would go to put people in alphabetical order, I would just get up and walk to the front. I generally had the first seat in the front row in every class. I had no problem with this. In fact, I kinda liked it.

My name was a part of who I was. It was short, sweet, and unique. It meshed well with my middle name (I always went by my middle name not my first name) and generally was fun to write.

It never bothered me that my mother had a different last name. It never bothered me that my brother had a different last name. We knew we were family and loved each other.

Now, I did have a hated first name. It was pretentious, long, misspelled, and didn’t fit me even a little bit. I shorted my signature to start with a J. very early in high school and never looked back. As my friends and I discussed getting married one day and names, the discussion generally revolved around whether we would take our husband’s names or not. The consensus was that we would, unless it was a stupid name, or it sounded bad with our names. I always said I wouldn’t, because I liked my name. It was part of who I was.

The first time I got engaged, I flat out told my Fiance I would not be taking his name. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t cool, and it certainly didn’t improve the sound of my name any at all. This engagement eventually fell apart. Why? I was too independent, and he was too clingy. (Among other problems, but those are the big “overarching” problems and were a common theme among all the others.)

Was the name thing an indicator? Maybe. He was certainly upset about it.

Many years later, after going to grad school, and living on my own, I got engaged again. This time, his name wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. Also I saw the opportunity to get rid of my dreaded first name. Here I was, at 26 about to completely change around my name.

Now to follow along… <J. First Name> <K Middle Name> and <Ac Last Name>. When I got married I legally changed my name to <K. Middle Name> <Ac Last Name> <Husband Last Name>. No hyphens, or whatever, but now my maiden name was my middle name. I looked at my new name and smiled. I *loved* it. It was totally me. It fit me better than my birth name ever had.

I took a moment to consider if I would ever change my name back if I was ever to get divorced. The more I thought about it, the more I though, no, probably not. This name was more who I was that ever before. And I loved it.

My husband wasn’t pleased. I know right? His response was “Well that’s a rather sneaky way of keeping your own last name?” Is the name thing such a touchy subject because men still have this desire to “lay claim” to their women? It’s kinda cute, as long as they are okay with dealing with it if we don’t go along. This comment surprised me. My mother had always used her maiden name as her middle name. My grandmother did too. All the adult women I knew growing up had done the same thing. With one exception and she had *hated* her family before she got married and likely wanted to shed her last name as much as I wanted to shed my hideous first name.

Turns out, it’s a common Southern tradition for a Southern Belle to keep her family name as a middle name, unless she is ashamed of them. I am not ashamed of my father’s side of my family, but neither am I proud of them. I don’t really think about them one way or the other, as my parents divorced when I was 3 and my mother then moved 14 hours away. I never really associated the name with them. It wasn’t their name, it was mine. Mine and unique. I think this discovery of culture mollified my husband.

What changed in the 3 years? I grew up, lived on my own truly, and struck out into the real world without Mom and Dad or Student Loans to keep me up. I came to view my life as something other than just myself. I was planning on being with this man forever. I was still myself, but now I had a part of him too. My new name looked and sounded right.

I embraced this new “label” for who I was. I was different than I had been as a child, so it made sense for my name to be different as well. Maybe this mentality comes from playing games, and thus having avatars or roles, so I already deal with “alternate” names quite a bit. I mean, I answer just as readily to Joyia (my World of Warcraft warlock) as I do my own name. I use Ember Dione as interchangeably with my own name to the point Google thinks it really is my own name.

I feel now like a name is a representation of who we are. And as such, should change when we change.

My name is meant to fit me, not the other way around.

 

Addendum: As far as the “legally required to assume your husband’s name” thing in the article, that’s just ABSURD. Not a chance in hell would I be okay with that being a law. It’s a person’s choice, and it should be left at that. After all, they have to live with that name.

Meddling Kids!

Recently I have found myself in the position to give advice to people. Thankfully the advice is usually something I have had personal experience with. I have no idea if the receiver wants said advice, or even listens to it. But the fact that a few people seem surprised at what I have to say really makes me wonder… How do they not know this? Well here is a bit of my collected wisdom.

High School only lasts for 4 years.

Seriously. I know it *feels* like forever. But not matter how great or how horrid it is, it will all be over in 4 years. (Assuming of course you don’t fail and have to repeat.) This leads to point number 2:

It gets better.

After High School, everything in life kind of opens up. Want to go to College? There are thousands of Universities waiting to take your money. Don’t have the money for it? There are student loan companies, scholarships, grants, etc to help you get there. Don’t want to go to college? That’s an option too. Learn a trade, or just dive right in and find a job.

The best part is, at this point, you can do what you want to become financially independent and move away from your parents. The first year of not living with your parents is the toughest and most amazing of your life. You will spend too much money and have to borrow something from someone. (Toilet paper, shampoo, laundry detergent, laundry change, gas money, etc etc.) It’s insane. And great. And after that year, you will understand why I say it gets better. The worst part about High School and youth is the inability to control things that affect you. Once you get out of HS and into your own place (even if rooming with someone else) that all changes. You have control.

Don’t stress it. And if you find yourself stressing it, find something that chills you out.

It’s the idea behind “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” which I take objection to because it follows it with “and it’s all small stuff”. BS. There can be EPICALLY HUGE things you sweat. Car accident? Failing a required class? Company getting ready to do cutbacks? BIG STUFF. The problem with worrying is that it makes it hard to sleep, which makes it hard to function, which stresses you out, which makes it hard to sleep… and so begins the negative feedback loop. It’s not an easy cycle to break either. Theoretically a person should be able to say, “Don’t worry about.” and then, resolve to not worry about it until they can do something about it, and things would get better. But that never works. Which is why it pisses me off when people say that.

My solution – find the thing that chills you out. Something that makes your brain shut down, makes you feel even marginally better, and distracts you. Now, to be fair, you can’t use this as a permanent solution, but, if it is Friday night and you can’t do a thing until Monday, stressing about it all weekend is NOT going to help. Exercise, listen to music, drink a cup of cocoa or hot tea, play a mindless video game, play a stupidly difficult video game, hang out with friends, etc etc. This is going to be different for everyone. Everyone has different things that make them feel better. Be sure your activity is safe, not exacerbating the problem, and doesn’t do more harm than good.

My calming method: I make a cup of Earl Grey tea, then sit down and do some herbing, skinning or mining in WoW. It’s brainless, requires just enough concentration to keep my brain from drifting, but doesn’t require so much it is frustrating. Occasionally I will level an alt, but usually it’s herbing. This also hits a secondary calmer for me. Retail therapy. In college I would go to Best Buy, buy like 5 dvds and then go home and watch them all. Unfortunately, my worries were generally either money or could be about money so this was a very negative calmer. Yeah it made me feel better, for about an hour, then I would start to feel even worse. The best part about WoW retail therapy is that I am spending in game gold for in game items. And honestly, the feeling of going out and spending 100 bucks at Best Buy over going and spending 10k gold in game, it’s the same.

Just be careful with your de-stressing tool. Always keep in mind the “doesn’t do more harm than good” rule. Alcohol, drugs, random sex, etc, may de-stress you for a moment, but will always, ALWAYS, lead to more stress. They are dangerous and harmful solutions.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. At level cap.

I really wish I could say life was fair and people are easily recognizable as good guys or bad guys. But that is not the case.  Lucky for me karma really does seem to exist. And revenge is sweet, despite never quite being what you expect it to be.

My life example: I dated a guy for 3 years. He was wonderful. I was certain I was going to spend my life with him. Not so certain though that I was willing to sleep with him. I didn’t want kids after all, and life had soundly taught me that people who have sex will have kids. I didn’t want that yet. Turns out, he didn’t agree. And proceeded to sleep with another girl. Needless to say, I did NOT take it well. Flash forward 6 years. Yes, it took 6 years. I happen to be in town visiting my parents and run into said guy at the local Walmart. I can only consider it a win that I was at my slimmest, looking amazing, and he looked like he had a very bad reaction to peanuts or shellfish. I had just gotten a job as a video game developer, a career he had talked about maybe wanting to do one day, but instead, he worked at Best Buy, for the Geek Squad. I was married to a great guy. I was happy and content, and totally didn’t care about this guy, or anything that had happened anymore. And he did. Oh you could see it in his mouth, tight around the corners, the muscle that clenched in his jaw, the narrowing of his eyes. I don’t know if he felt bad or if he suddenly wished he hadn’t done the thing he did, but, at the very least, he was jealous right then. His jealousy made me feel good, but I didn’t care. I had my revenge,  but it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I think about this often, not because of the idea of getting my revenge, but rather the realization that it didn’t matter. Now when I get that horrid betrayed or hurt feeling, I remember that feeling of not caring. Yes, it’s a big deal now, but in time, I will see it objectively as a learning experience. And I will be a better person for it.

Organization renders any goal possible.

Wow, that’s weird statement, but wildly accurate. Trying to find a job? Get organized. Money problems, organize everything and budget yourself down to your last penny. Everything in life can be organized, sorted, and researched into submission. If nothing else, at least you will know everything about what is going on so you can make good decisions.

Don’t be a dick. Also known as Wheaton’s Law.

Seriously. I know it’s hard. I know it can be hard to keep your mouth shut. I fight with it all the time. And I fail more often than not. But this is truth. You never know when that person is going to be able to help you later. Also, it generally makes you a more well liked person.

Do your job well, even if, and especially if, you hate it.

Minimum wage jobs are the suckiest thing ever. Soul crushing jobs are called that for a reason. But that doesn’t mean you should goof off and not do your job well.

Why? Because at the very least, at the end of the day, you can go home happy knowing that you did a good job. Make that your mantra. Today, I did good work.

Also, I have found through person experience that doing your job well, gets you noticed, gets you promoted, and gets you into a better position.

Do not, under any circumstances let fear keep you in a bad place.

Abysmal job that you hate getting you down but you can’t quit because you can’t pay the bills? Horrid bosses who are known backstabbers? Terrible relationships that you cling to because the thought to being alone is that much worse?

Don’t do it. Trust me. Life is hella short. Find another job, make it priority one. Shed the mate you have and find another one and work at making it work. Be yourself and be honest. Always. If you give into fear, and stay in a bad situation even when you are wildly unhappy, nothing is going to get better. Make changes to make things better. It is possible to be poor and happy as well as alone and happy. If you aren’t sure you are in a bad place, ask for advice, others will know better than you.

Courage is a hard thing to muster, but there is a reason it is something that gets you noticed. I once worked at Toys R Us. I was in a good position with good pay. But I watched my great job turn into a hellish experience over the course of two months when a new manager came in. I went to Borders that night, applied for and interviewed for a job, got it, and accepted it all in one night. The next morning I started at Borders, when I should have been at TRU. I walked over on my lunch break and quit, essentially telling my old boss to take a long walk off a short dock. I took a $4 per hour pay cut. I had to get up 3 hours earlier than I was used to (I hate mornings). But the simple change of cultures from one of fear, aggression and hurt, to one of calm, intelligence and mild craziness, made all the difference. Yeah, I was broke all the time, but the quality of my life was immeasurably better.

A note of warning, be sure what you consider is a “bad place” isn’t something  you can change or work with. Personal relationships can have bad moments, that is not a reason to get a new spouse or so. But that is a reason to check and work with them at being better.

Anger is a habit, as is joy.

Ever met one of those annoyingly upbeat and happy people? Ever wonder why they are annoyingly happy and upbeat? It’s not because everything is perfect. No one is perfect. No one’s life is perfect. It means that they are so used to looking on the bright side of life that they can’t see the other. They notice the good things first. We fall into habits, and our moods are as much a habit as anything else. Work at being in a good mood, and you will find yourself, more often than not, being in a good mood.

To thine own self be true.

It’s cliche and trite. That doesn’t make it any less true.

Don’t ever try to be someone you are not. Accept yourself, your flaws, your awesomeness, and work with what you have. I spent so many years trying to fit a mold I wasn’t made to be. I fought against my true self every step of the way. Until finally, I was just too tried to keep trying. So I stopped. Shock upon shocks, people still liked me, without pretending. I was awesome, without trying to fit my icosahedron in a square hole. The very minute I got over this, the better I felt. And each day it was better, because I was me.

There is probably more, but these are all good things to remember as you try to make it through life.

There is no pause button…

I have never been so glad to have the mom I do. Wow Insider’s breakfast topic today dealt with how do you explain WoW to muggles? (Muggles being non-WoW players in this case.)

Several issues were immediately brought up and then rehashed through the comments. I just wanted to take a moment to consider them and talk about what they really mean.

1. People don’t get that it isn’t a single player game.

Several people brought up how they have problems explaining to their parents/friends/significant others that the pretty avatars running around the screen are in fact all being played by other people. The first time I showed my mom WoW, I immediately explained, “You see this guy here, see how his portrait looks? See how his name looks? Okay, see this other guy here, see how his name looks? The first guy, he’s an npc. The second guy, he’s a player.” She then looked around the screen and commented, “But, most of the characters on the screen, they look like players!” I laughed at the surprise in her voice. From that point on, she really grasped that I wasn’t alone in the world.

2. There isn’t a pause button.

When I am not in game, the world keeps on turning.  Players keep logging in and things keep happening, even when I am not there. I can’t pause, because it isn’t a game that relies on my existence. This is where the sports analogy can really take over. To really explain this, most people said things like, “Think about it like the Superbowl. You can’t ask the players to stop playing while you go pee. The game is gonna keep going, you have to pick the best time to run pee. This might be the half-time show. Might be when  player gets injured. Might be when the coaches call a time out.” In WoW, you can’t just press pause and get up to do something. You have to be “safe”. If you are in a battleground, group, raid, etc, you can’t just jump up. You have to wait for half time.

Luckily for me, my mom was used to playing Tetris and understood that even being able to pause the game, when she came back, her flow and mindset for the level was broken and likely would mean restarting. So when she came up to me while playing WoW (or more accurately at the time DAoC) and I said “Sorry mom, busy!” she would say “When you’re in a safe spot, I need you.” And she was cool with that safe spot being 30 minutes or an hour out.

3. The people you are playing with are important and friends.

This is always the point where my husband rolls his eyes and says “Second job…” But my mom always stressed the importance of honoring your commitments, being on time, and being respectful of others and their time. I hate saying I will make a raid and then missing it. People will often respond with, “But it’s just a game.” From the number of comments that other people made, this is a very common issue. Responses to how to explain this generally fall into the sports metaphor. Many commenters likened being a part of a raid team with being a part of a bowling league or team. If you don’t show up to play, no one gets to play.

I show up to raid early, prepared and ready to pull. Nothing annoys me more than players who show up 15 minutes late, without consumables, and goofing off, essentially treating it as if it weren’t important. If it were a single player game, it wouldn’t be. But you have 9 to 24 other people, who deserve respect, waiting on you.

Another thing that came up in the discussion was the implication that these other players aren’t “real”. As if they matter less as people because the major connection with them only exists in a virtual world.  I always consider the fact that a real person, likely much like me, sits behind the avatar in game. But I have had people say things like “Well, your ‘friend’ who may or may not be real.” Chances are I have spoken with these people enough in game that if I call them my friend, I know them well enough to have made that decision. Even more so, chances are they are on my facebook, I have seen pictures of them, or maybe even hung out with them in real life.

4. Yes, it’s a video game… That doesn’t make it any less important to me.

I always love it when people ask me how much I play WoW and I respond with 3-4 hours a night if I head straight home from work, plus 7-8 per weekend day if I can. They are genuinely horrified. Couldn’t that time be spent doing something better?!? I can’t resist laughing. This is the point where I ask: Do you watch TV? Do you watch movies you get on Netflix? Do you play golf? Do you play basketball? Do you hike/bike/swim? Usually the best one they respond with is “Oh of course I watch tv, I watch x show, and x station” etc etc. See the thing is, unless I am playing WoW, I don’t watch tv. WoW is my hobby, just like building boats is Gibbs’ or bowling is Abby’s. Just like my grandpa sat around listening to music and playing his guitar. Just like people who go out and run for an hour every day. Just like people who go and sit at a bar and socialize. The only difference is, I go and socialize with people who live in Canada, New York, Florida, California, and everywhere in between.

I especially like when people are like, you pay 15 bucks a month to play a GAME?!? My retort: You paid how much for those golf clubs and greens fee? You paid how much for that paintball gun? You paid how much for all that camping gear? Football teams spend how much on players???

WoW is no different from any hobby or sport. There are people who get it and people who don’t. To try to explain it, you have to use their words. For most people the sports analogies work pretty well to explain WoW. I am a member of the team. Raids are the games. Dungeons are the practices. The Guild Master or Raid Leader is the coach. My computer is my speed and agility. The internet, my stadium. My guild, my team. In the end, I am the equivalent of a minor league player, who loves the game.

Higher Education

CBS News published an article about College Students not learning in college. A study, following students over the course of several years, concluded that students were not improving on an assessment. Queue the worried concern and the sudden desire for a “No College Student Left Behind” and so on. There are so many issues with both the study and the article, I am not even sure where to start.

How about assessment tests? I am good at standardized tests. The first time I took the TCAP (Tennessee’s version of the test that makes sure you are at least “high school” level) I made it into the 99th percentile with a little Advanced indicator in every subject. Meaning I scored a perfect score. In the ninth grade. I was given a “pass” to never have to take the test again. I shrugged and thought nothing of it. Until my senior year, when due to a clerical error I was scheduled to retake the test (they filed my scores under the wrong name). I showed up with a note for the proctor to explain why I wouldn’t be taking the test (I had helped the guidance councilor find my scores) to discover a room with about 50 students in it. All of them stressed, worried and clearly not at their best. A passing TCAP is required to graduate. All of these seniors were on at minimum their fourth try to pass the test. (A 50% or proficient score was required.) In the room were several people I knew. They weren’t dumb, or idiots, or even trouble makers. They were spazzes though. At that moment I became very aware of one very important difference between me and these people about to take this test. Tests don’t bother me. I am good at figuring out the answer if I don’t know it. I am good at looking at the 4 choices and picking the correct one by process of elimination. If I get a wrong answer, oh well, I know I will get enough right answers that a few wrong ones won’t matter.

My point is that a standardized test is a terrible way to gauge knowledge of a subject. Some people just suck at taking tests.

Can you name all 50 states? Can you recall the Bill of Rights? Can you name the first 10 Elements on the Periodic Table of Elements? Can you recite any 14 lines of Shakespeare correctly? Can you recite any 14 lines of Poe correctly? Do you remember the Pythagorean Theorem? Do you recall the chemical makeup of salt?

As a video game developer, *none* of these bits of information are vitally important to the day to day job I do. And my job requires all kinds of weird knowledge. But at various points in my history I was forced, usually *wildly* unwillingly to memorize all of that information. To what point and purpose? I am still not sure. The important thing to me is that I *know* where to find this information. I understand how to look at the formula and get to the solution. I understand the importance of cadence, rhyme, and couplets to Shakespeare. I understand the importance of the Bill of Rights. I understand Geography and can recognize a state as belonging to the United States.  Again, I can look at something and generally managed to figure out how it works or why it is important.

Point number 2, memorization and regurgitation is NOT learning. It’s a temporary measure to attempt to remember something. It does not explain why something is important or understand how it works.

Brace yourself… not everyone needs a college degree and college isn’t for everyone. I love school. I love learning. I love breaking things down, rummaging about their internals, and then putting them back together, metaphorically. I have been jokingly called Hermoine Granger and I took it as a compliment. (Though she stressed way more than I ever did.) I love reading. I love writing (I know, it’s obvious). I loved research papers. I am all for people learning, broadening their minds, and absorbing new information. But most colleges are a structured program that requires a great deal of input from a student, on a school’s schedule, often requiring overworked and underpaid teachers to do the best they can with what they have.  A student is really only going to get so much out of this kind of program. Realistically, they are only going to get out of it proportionally to the amount of effort and time they put in.

But not everyone is cut out for college. It’s just like they always say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I hated working retail. Three of the managers loved every minute of it. They loved working with people, customers, items… everything about the job. I barely have the patience to do my own hair every so often. I get it cut about once every year or so. I know two people who are *fantastic* stylists and love their job. They wouldn’t do anything else. And they are both *very* successful. Not everyone needs to go to college and college is not the only path to success. Nor is college the only way to learn. In fact, I would agree with a friend of mine who said what you learn is not as important as learning how to learn. I was hired as a tutor in college and proceeded to tutor people in subjects I never took. How is that possible? I would skim the chapter, begin to understand, take a second look and then talk through what I had just learned with the person trying to learn. It annoyed people to no end I assure you.

We need to stop trying to get everyone to follow the cookie cutter pattern and accept that people learn differently and have different goals. We need to focus on practical knowledge and training. We need to be aware that people learn at different rates and through different methods. Trying to set a bar and insisting that everyone passes this arbitrary bar is a sure fire way to fail at increasing the national happiness and intelligence. We also need to stop the mindless push to make higher education the new High School. It is really one of those things where parents need to accept that their 18 year old is an adult and let them make their own mistakes.

Rejection

So in all my positives, and believe me, I look at the world in the best positive light, there are negatives. Despite the best efforts ever and despite being the best person for a job there is the mistake belief of the people interviewing you that you aren’t quite what they need.

It SUCKS.

You want to scream. You want to shout, give me the chance! I will PROVE TO BE THE BEST DECISION YOU EVER MADE. And yet, you are left rejected, turned down from the perfect job that you could do exceptionally well.

This is especially bad after a “perfect” interview as far as you can see. From your point of view, it was nigh on PRISTINE. You are then left with a sense of doubt, self loss, and worry. Are you truly in the right field? Are you good at what you do? Are you worth the time and amount of money spent in school?

On the eve of such a rejection, for the weakest of excuses (yes, even weaker than “Your test was weak”), I have to say…

Yes. I am GOOD at what I do. I build levels with speed that makes Mario Andriette look like a sloth. I devise ways to do things that other designers and programmers literally say to my face CANNOT BE DONE, and then… I do these things. I look at a problem from all points of view and try to devise multiple solutions to this problem so as to give my lead a multitude of options to solve said problem. I try to apply my unique vision as a girl to game design to solve the question how do we make this awesome for all audiences? I never accept “it cannot be done” as a possible answer. I see the layers of the Matrix and the world that lies under underneath.

It is sad that I cannot convince leads and companies that I am worth the investment. But at the same time, I see these people have a bias. A belief that experience and certain “pedigrees” matter. These pedigrees mean more to them than anything else and they honestly believe that they need someone who fits it to make them happy. I understand this bias despite disagreeing with it.

In the words of one of my favorite writers: If you can quit, do it.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything different, and as such look forward to many indie games from me, as I refuse to let such setbacks stop me. At the end of the day, even this does not deter me. People can say what they wish. Companies can turn me away. But until I give up; the fat lady has not sung. Creating a game is painful and hard, and when you are done the community and Internet at large rips apart that baby you spent all your time, blood, sweat and tears on. It hurts and it sucks… but at the end it is not as bad as being turned down for a job. At least the game ripped apart on Kotaku got made, the company won’t even give you the chance.

But if I let that stop me, well clearly I wasn’t a very good designer to begin with. Roberta would be proud, I think.