Blaugust Day 12 – Homer strikes back

I now know why other, smarter Blaugust bloggers elected to not include the Blaugust tag in their post titles. For one thing, it means it’s going to be glaringly obvious — especially to me — if I miss a day, and I sort of promised myself I would try not to miss any days. And yet…

IGMonkey-1_1024x1024
Homer, my Instant Gratification Monkey

And yet the more I try to force the posts, the more by brain is pushing back against the very idea of writing anything. When I’m not blogging regularly — as in the last three years — there’s nothing Homer wants more than to do a blog post!!11oneone… provided I don’t actually sit down and do one. I don’t know if my Instant Gratification Monkey is a special mutant kind, but whatever he is, he always wants to be doing anything but what I want to, ought to or should be doing right now. When I’m working he wants to play games. When I have time to play games, he wants to write blog posts. When I sit down to write blog posts, he makes this passive-aggressive cross face and points at the TV. When I watch TV, he reminds me I have deadlines to meet.

Little shit.

I shall persevere, even if my post content has become cobwebs held together by fluff, because I think there’s something going on there.

Sometime in the last 3 or 4 years I lost confidence in the fact that I had anything interesting to say, even to myself. (How selective is that? If you can’t talk to yourself, who can you talk to?) I decided I’d said it all, others had said or were saying it better, and I wasn’t playing much anyway so why bother. Bullshit. When one writes for the love of writing and for the joy of expressing oneself, one doesn’t second-guess one’s motives. They’re right there: I used to write because I bloody well wanted to. Finis. The end.

I’m pretty sure I still want to but I’ve also spent my entire teen and adult life telling myself that writing is not a valid pursuit. This is old, old baggage for me — I wanted to be a real writer long ago but pretty much everyone in my entire family and adults circle convinced me that I was being foolish. One might as well want to become a trapeze artist or a snake charmer. Hell, it might be easier to want to become a tightrope-walker. It would certainly be more lucrative to become a bus-driver, landscape gardener or — well, pretty much anything else. Only people with a very weak grasp on sanity and reality want to become authors. (This is apparently not uncommon. I am willing to bet at least one of you reading this has had a similar experience.)

Since I also have a few cases of baggage relating to sanity, the lack thereof and other fun things like that, and because I am who I am, all the negatives stayed in my head and all the positives (teacher & friend comments and encouragement, grades, actually getting published [albeit in a very small way], etc.)… did not. If I have a curse in life, it’s the inability to retain all the wonderful things people say to and do for me coupled with a photographic memory for all the negative things I have ever incurred. (Yes, incurred. People like me tend to think we’ve earned bad treatment.)

Getting back to the point, we all have a rational mind and mine does work rather well — provided it’s not being hijacked by Homer or my far less rational subconscious. (For those who care, I’m much more Jung than Freud, even though the old goat did make some valid points.) Rationally I know I shouldn’t care, that things that hurt were most often meant to help and even, in a weird way, support. Rationally I know that if I’m writing for myself, none of the above should matter. Rationally I know I’m perfectly capable of writing even for an audience (I’ve done it) and that it’s never too late to become an author as well as a writer if that’s what I really want. Life is not as either/or as we tend to think when we’re in our teens or even our 20s. Life may be short, but it’s also longer than we realise at that age.

I must love writing or I wouldn’t be here; I wouldn’t be constantly devising game backgrounds; I wouldn’t be writing out paragraphs, plots and people in my head as life goes by.

So I should just write. And I will. As soon as I break down this — I hope — last barrier of self-doubt and self-sabotage. So if I need to do 31 days of entertaining but seriously content-weak posts to break down that wall, that’s what I’ll do. Because I am writing for myself — and telling myself I’m writing for all of you (much though I appreciate you stopping by and love hashing stuff out in comments) is just another way to try to fail.

Now I’d better publish this before I wimp out.

Blaugust Day 4 – Portrait of a Gamer

Deadalus Project & Quantic Foundry

Years and years and years ago, at the birth of the new millennium, a smart studenty type decided that researching gamers might be an interesting thing to do and began doing just that, surveying thousands of gamers. I don’t remember how I became one of them but I did, and I filled out a bunch of surveys over the years. You can still check some of that data and his conclusions out on the Daedalus Project.

The Daedalus Project has been over for some time, but Nick Yee now has a new, just as interesting venture going: the Quantic Foundry (no, I have no idea what it means, but it certainly sounds cool, smart, and even a bit gamerish). Long story short, there are still surveys to be done and if you check the place out you might want to start with the Gamer Motivation Profile. Hell, even Ars Technica got in on the survey action.

I’ve done mine and while the results were no surprise to me, they might be interesting partly for my usual readers (who probably won’t be much surprised either) but mostly for the screaming hordes of Blaugustinians dropping by. I read a number of blogs written by people with utterly different gaming styles from mine, but I certainly tend to empathise more (and comment more) with gamers who prefer some of the same types of things I do.

Gamer Motivation Profile

So here’s my profile page. And here’s the chart from the profile page for those who can’t be arsed to click:

Gamer Motivation chartAnd a quick caveat quote from the profile info:

Percentiles are how you rank relative to other people. In this report, your percentiles are how you compared with other gamers who have participated in this profile tool. A percentile of 80% means you scored higher than 80% of gamers. Conversely, a percentile of 10% means 90% of gamers had a higher score than you. This means that a 50% is perfectly average.

Most people will have high scores on a few motivations, low scores on another few motivations, and the majority of their remaining scores will fall near the average (in the 35%-65% range). Thus, it’s your non-average scores that most define your profile as a gamer.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a competition or an exam. High scores are not “better”. Gamers with extreme motivations (on both the low and high end) represent a smaller proportion of gamers and may have a harder time being satisfied by available games (which try to capture more average gamers within their genres).

It’s really difficult for most people to see percentiles and not compare themselves to others, for good or ill. In some ways it’s not a bad thing — I always knew I was different and a little weird when it came to the ‘norm’ of gamers (by which I mean MMO gamers for the most part; we may also play Candy Crush Saga, but most Candy Crushers have never even heard of an MMO and for my money they’re not ‘true’ gamers — but that’s another discussion for another time).

Action, Mastery, Achievement

I score exceedingly low in areas where most gamers I know tend to score much higher — and I’ve known for a long time that I’m absolutely not motivated by action, mastery or achievement. My action score is actually broken down into Destruction (35%) and Excitement (0%), which is totally me. I don’t like adrenaline — it makes me feel physically ill — so while I can watch people play fast-paced, action-oriented games (by which I mean Tomb Raider & co; I don’t think I could bear to even watch anyone play Silent Hill or whatever the current scare-the-pants-off-you game is), playing one is extremely un-fun for me. I do, however, like blowing things up now and then. Who doesn’t? Similarly, while I do enjoy some strategy (23%, and why I’ve been playing Civilization throughout its many incarnations — but I prefer the building side to the war & conquest side), I only give a 1% shit about challenge. As for achievement… I get a measly 7% for completion (my anemic achievement score in WoW proves this) and a total 0% for power.

All of which actually represents me rather well as an individual and not just as a gamer. I don’t care much about achieving things just because they’re there — Sir Edmund Hillary and I clearly wouldn’t have much to talk about at a dinner party. I believe power is a pointless and ultimately destructive pursuit (even in games, where there are no real consequences, the pursuit of power leaves me yawning). And while I like to blow up pixels or build bonfires almost as much as the next guy or gal, I actively avoid situations where adrenaline is a factor. I do really badly with adrenaline and I have an extremely low threshold for excessive sound and visual input — you know, like you find in most dungeons. My dislikes certainly inform my gaming a great deal. So how about my likes?

Social, Immersion, Creativity

Without going into massive amounts of detail (you can check out the write-up on my profile linked above, and better yet — go do your own!), they’re very true to who I am as well. Socially-speaking I am into community and cooperation (86% — shared effort, building things like guilds, cities, houses, communities in general) but not much into competition (8% — the why may be worth exploring someday, but I suspect the number is skewed by the fact that most competition involves excitement and adrenaline and I shy away from both). My Immersion-component scores are the most balanced out of the 6 — 64% for Fantasy (becoming and playing someone else) and 65% for Story (good storylines, complex characters, etc.), which is no surprise to me given my tabletop role-playing background. In fact, I’m quite sure that if I had an actual tabletop gaming group to do stuff with, as I used to, I would do a lot more of that and a lot less MMO gaming, and my blog would contain a great deal more content about pen’n’paper than it currently does. Which reminds me, I really need to look into those computer-based gaming program thingies… (Feel free to comment if you use one and like it!)

And lastly, the Creativity component. I scored 71% on discovery (exploring the game – both ‘physically’ and in terms of systems, options and mechanics) and 91% on design (making your mark on the game, be it through character customisation or through buildings, ships, etc.). This not only doesn’t surprise me, it actually helped to validate how I feel about myself. I’m a mostly-frustrated creator, a wannabe writer who failed at overcoming writer’s block almost 20 years ago and turned to ‘easier’ alternatives in order to scratch that creative itch. Like this blog; like 4000-word character sheets; like designing an endless series of game settings for games that never get played… and so on. I’m sad that I allowed myself to give up on my dreams of being a writer, but glad that I found other outlets.

Role-Playing Tangent

The one thing that might surprise new readers after the above is that while I definitely identify myself as a role-player, I am not a role-player in MMOs. I’ve covered this elsewhere (here and here), some years ago now, but the not RPing in MMOs part of me hasn’t changed. It boils down to the fact that too much is imagined for me in MMOs, and there are too few tools to do some of the behind-the-scenes hand-waving that needs to happen for meaningful (in my opinion) role-playing to be able to happen. Also, you can’t reach through the monitor and knuckle-sandwich the RP-nazi who insists on defining for you how your character reacts to what they’re doing, which is a major downside as far as I’m concerned.

Personality Profile

After (or before if you’re a contrarian) the Gamer Motivation Profile, you can take the Personality Profile survey (here’s mine), which also produced very accurate results in my case.

Personality Profile chartThe one totally skewed result was “Extraversion”, and I sent the Foundry folks some feedback about it — but it’s interesting nonetheless. Basically I filled out the survey assuming it wanted to know about how I am in games, when I guess what it wanted to know what how I am in general (i.e. also out of games). In games I am in fact super-social, helpful, chatty, and occasionally even manic (except when I’m a hermit and then I play a character nobody knows so I can just bimble about silently with my own self). In real life I am also social, helpful, chatty, and occasionally even manic — but only with a small number of very close friends or in much, much, much smaller doses (like an evening or two every few months).

I probably should take that survey again knowing that it’s asking me about RL-me, not gamer-me, and see what comes out.

Conclusion? Cute Baby Animal!

If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations, you win a cute baby animal picture! (And as I write this, I pause for half an hour while I coo over cute baby animals I’ve Googled and get tied into knots trying to figure out which one is the cutest that I haven’t already posted.) Do check out the Quantic Foundry — it’ll give you food for thought, and if you’re a Blaugustinian it might even give you food for posts.

baby animal awww

 

 

 

Lack of courtesy or proper assertiveness?

Over the weekend I got a snarky letter from an organization I won’t name, objecting to the use of an image they claim to own. Not here – elsewhere. Draw your own conclusions since I don’t post in that many places on the Intertubes.

Now, I don’t know if it’s even legit, but from what I’ve heard about the organisations and societies relating to this oh-so-seminal author of oh-so-seminal fantasy who shall also remain coyly nameless, it’s that many of them have sticks up their ass and an overblown impression of their own importance to literature, fantasy and the universe in general.

Don’t get me wrong – if the pic was used without permission, apology shall be profferred and retribution made. At least, I’m pretty sure it will. Since I had nothing to do with the selection and/or use of said image, I’ve kicked the demanding email upstairs as is only proper.

I dunno what’s rubbing me the wrong way. Protecting one’s intellectual property is everyone’s right and I would probably exercise mine if people ripped my stuff off with no attribution. But I’m not sure I would go wading in quoting lawyers and legalese and using a generally high-handed tone.

Then again, I’m also patiently waiting for payment on work invoices that have 45-day payment terms (pretty damn generous considering I deliver my work before I even get to invoice for it), long after the 45 days are gone. I’m going to have to do something about that because not being able to pay my rent or organise my trip abroad properly is probably more important than being ever-so nice and understanding of my clients. I need more American in my British makeup, I suspect.

Maybe I need to get some snark of my own when it comes to defending my output, whether it’s attribution or payment.

Cheeseburgers have cheese in them

Here’s something I’ve never understood about the internet opinionating. It used to happen on the old mailing lists and bulletin boards, it used to happen on forums, now it happens on blog and article comments. Person A writes “ABCDE”, very reasonable and pretty straightforward stuff, and person B lets off with a diatribe out of nowhere.

Here’s an example. Call me a literary critic (since I’m trained to be one), but I think Syp hits the parental nail on the gaming head. It’s rather poetic and it’s incredibly sincere, and for my money you can’t ask for much more in a blog post. Course, I don’t expect every single “gaming journalism” blog post I read to be a review of GT4 or SuperMario In Your Pants, The Sequel.

And here’s the rather mystifying “omg you left hair in the sink, I’m moving back to my mother’s!” comment. Um, what?

It’s not, mind you, that I have anything against readers being fickle bastards and altering what they like from week to week. I’m exactly like that myself.  I just don’t understand the causality in this case, even though I’ve seen it happen a million times over the years.

Person A: “Cheeseburgers have cheese in them.”

Person B: “OMG you are SO full of cheese! I can’t believe I ever read anything you wrote! How can you claim to be a legitimate emailer / poster / blogger / journalist / carbon-based lifeform?! I’m off to a blog about real Limburger!”

/blink

It’s happened to me a few times on MMORPG.com lately, too, though to be bluntly honest I try not to read the comments over there, or at least only through slitted, somewhat glazed, unjudgemental eyes. But okay, I do read them. And occasionally I’ll get an “OMG you’re full of shit! This is SO inaccurate! You are a tool of the MMOlitary RPGdustrial combine! You call this game journalism?!”

Actually, no. That’s why this blog’s subtitle is MMO musings and commentary and that’s why the MMORPG gig is marked as perspectives. Pure opinion. No facts implied or advertised. Bias inherent and admitted. What’s so difficult to grasp about that?

I should know better, but I still boggle at the gap between what we write and what people read.* God knows that’s caused a lot of online drama over the years, especially if you count game chat as a medium. There’s already a gap between what you think and what you say, and then between what you say and what people hear, simply in normal conversation — but add non-physicality and a wholly typed medium and you’ve got a recipe for misunderstanding that makes me wonder how we manage to communicate online at all.

Even so… even knowing that what one says and what is understood are never quite going to match up, I still have to wonder at the strange gap between “Cheeseburgers have cheese in them” and “That’s it, I’m outta here.”

Yay for freedom of speech and blog-reading choices!

~

* Or indeed between what person A says or does and what person B hears or expects. There’s a reason two of the most-used tags on this blog are “design” and  “expectations”. Maybe I should move on to marriage advice too. (And the first person who calls me Dr. Ysh will have a contract taken out on them. Just sayin’.)

Holy Spam, Batman… and other things

So, I hadn’t checked the dashboard for this blog in a few days. Logged in just now — to announce something completely different — and saw 100 spam messages in the spam box.

For this blog, that’s a lot. 2-3 spam comments a day is about normal. But a hundred… ouch. So if there was a genuine comment amid the endless exhortations to log on to porn sites, I didn’t see them. Sorry! Too busy checking out pron, dontcha know.

And now for something completely different.

For reasons best known only to themselves, I’ve been asked to contribute a column to MMORPG.com.

For reasons best known only to the Mi-Go, I accepted.

A couple of hours after I’d accepted, my brain went AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! And has been doing the same for the last couple of days, albeit at a slightly lower, background volume. Me? A column on a proper site for proper readers? (Sorry guys – I know you’re all cardboard cutouts, I just didn’t want to say anything.) They’re going to eat me alive! It’s a shark pool over there!

OMGWTFBBQAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

While my initial goal was just to share the news with the small weird dedicated readership of this blog and assure you it’s not going to stop me posting here — you know, at the huge volume I’ve been putting out in the last couple of months — I am also unashamedly looking for pats on the back. I’m scared spitless! Only real bloggers do big-site column thingies, and I’ve never actually considered myself a real blogger — just a fringe onlooker occasionally making comments on what interests me. And writing to deadlines? Aieeee, that’s going to hurt. I have enough of those in my RL work.

So there you have it. The big-time beckons and I’m certain I’m going to catch my glitzy new high heels on the red carpet and splat my non-raiding ass all over the floor. The journalists will have a field day!

On the other hand, it’s much more likely that nobody will notice. Which, come to think of it, might actually be worse.

I’ll let you know when I have a column name and URL and whatnot. But first I need another Valium or three.

 

Dragon writing

1. It’s Monday morning, where’s my Dragon Age?! I know, I know, they have until tomorrow, but it had better be on my doorstep tomorrow morning or I am having a major hissy fit.

2. Yesterday was Day1 of “Write, bitch, and no excuses this time!” and I managed roughly two and a half thousand words. So I’m relatively happy.

3. I am incapable of getting to the point even in fiction. Aieee.

If any of you reading this have danced around the idea of NaNoWriMo or generally around the idea of trying to write something, but have managed to slither out of it through a combination of apathy, procrastination and terror, then maybe my experiences can be of some help. I’m not trying to bully or cajole anyone into NaNo — for me, it’s helpful to have a deadline and a public commitment, but that’s all it is. Others may find that stifling. Others still might like the competitive aspect, or the idea that you can win some kind of a prize for it (just don’t ask me what it is, I’m not motivated by shiny items).

Perchin_Year_Dragon_pen_101eHowever, getting irritated at an artificial deadline is a sign of procrastination (at least in me). Most author-advice pieces I read have them all saying pretty much the same thing: if you want to be a writer you need to a) write, and b) write even when you don’t want to. Not wanting to is a luxury for those to whom writing is a mere hobby.

I started writing fiction in the 4th grade (thanks to some stunningly great and fondly remembered primary school teachers) and I wrote pretty constantly until about 15 years ago, at which point I stopped cold. I haven’t written any fiction since, not counting game stuff for live events or tabletop campaigns; those don’t count.

I don’t know why I stopped and I don’t know why it became impossible to start again, but there you have it. So for me, NaNoWriMo is an attempt to prove to myself that I can still put out fiction and that writing paralysis can be overcome. Turns out it’s quite easy once you figure out how; the hard part is working out what will motivate you and give you just enough courage to get the day’s pages out of the way. Oddly enough, knowing that thousands of people were also planning, pondering, procrastinating and putting pen to paper did help; it makes you feel less alone while still allowing the solitude many (myself included) prefer when it comes to actually writing stuff.

Note that at this point I don’t care about being read — that’s a whole ‘nother hurdle I’ll face when the time is right. But I’ll tell you one thing: if I can put out 10,000 words during this month, let alone the 50k NaNo demands, then it’ll be about 10,000x as much fiction as I’ve written in the last decade. Quality is irrelevant here: it’s the doing that matters.

Cake– no, Novel or death!

Okay, okay, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Prodded by people like Syp and Scarybooster, and several others I’m not awake enough to remember yet (oh hai Rivs!), here I am.

Qualifications? Who needs ’em! But as it happens I’ve got some degrees and they might have to do with literature in two languages, which makes me educated enough to have no clue about anything. Also, I’m really mean about books that are poorly edited (let alone poorly-written — everyone’s a critic and that includes me), not to mention books in which the foreign-languageyness is incorrect. If you’re going to include French or German or some other language I can read in your book, make sure you get it right or Ysh will smash. The French really don’t spend all day saying “Oooh la la” — in fact they pretty much never say it at all. It’s not a French expression, at least not in the way it’s used in English. And while I know French conjugations and tenses ain’t easy, that’s absolutely no excuse for a professional publication to get things wrong.

(Oh yeah, you should see me yelling at TV shows too. YSH SMASH!)

All of which means that if I have the balls James Mason gave a fly, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and join up. Wait… the whole body parts association thing in the previous sentence isn’t sitting well. Eh, never mind, I can come back and edit it out later.

screamThe rather precarious excuse I gave last week was that I’d be snowed under with words — err, work. I was slated to have 70,000 words to translate in November and adding 50,000 of my own to that didn’t really appeal. (Why yes, it was a yeller-bellied, lily-livered pansy-ass excuse, but we’ll pretend it was valid.) However, said work has been delayed and my excuse vanished.

You’d think the karma pixies were conspiring or something.

Just as well there’s a couple of days to go because I have almost no idea what I’m going to write or how I’m going to write it. I’ve also been one of those pretentious suffering blocked types for many many years, which I won’t bore you with other than to mention in passing that putting pen to paper has gone from being as basic as breathing to me to being something that will break me out in a cold sweat, literally. Fortunately, NaNoWriMo actually provides a workmanlike, no-nonsense “just write something, dumbass!” attitude that’s much more helpful in these situations than any kind of coddling.

So we’ll see.

I’m pissing my bland-white unisex MMO undies already.