Heroes of the World (of Warcraft)

On particularly successful days of playing World of Warcraft, my mind will continue thinking game-related thoughts as I try to go to sleep. Since this weekend saw the acquisition of both a breastplate and a pair of pants I had been gunning for (not to mention some awesome shoulders), I continued to consider WoW while dozing off, and I wondered what kept me playing. It’s a game I enjoy a great deal, despite a two year hiatus, and I continue to have fun playing something that should, by all rights, bore me.

As I swished thoughts about the game around my brain, though, I began to think about the framework of WoW. Your character, regardless of race, begins and ascends as a hero. You are told from the outset that you are one of the last of your kind, or that your people are fighting some sort of war, and that you may be the last hope in our stand against evil.

Which, of course, appeals to me. In our middle-class, American lives spent eating, sleeping, and going to work Monday through Friday, we don’t often get the chance to be a hero. And, truth be told, we don’t really want that chance. While our characters run across continents, being attacked by fantastic and dangerous creatures, getting killed repeatedly while risking their lives, we (the players) sit comfortably in air conditioned rooms, eating pizza or drinking coffee while chatting with our friends.

Even if you’re not into roleplaying, you suspend your disbelief and sort of become your character for a while when you play World of Warcraft. The game gives you permission to put on a mask and become a hero, to work towards a goal with comrades and Save the World (of Warcraft).

We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves, and the vast world (of Warcraft) gives that feeling. Even when ascending to the heights of heroism, there’s still a great deal going on around you, and Blizzard continues to expand the world and add content for you to explore. What felt cramped prior to the current expansion now feels huge and ever-changing, and a second expansion will be released soon. New lands await for exploration, conquering, and storytelling.

As simple or complex as you make it, WoW continues to thrive, and continues to let us be the heroes of which we dream. A lot of people speak disparagingly of World of Warcraft, but you have to wonder why it retains and gains so many subscribers. The answer, to my mind, is simple: no other game or experience lets you feel so awesome. World of Warcraft is structured to stroke your ego and make you feel like a hero of legend and renown. That’s a sort of thrill that’s hard to find elsewhere, and even though I recognize the manipulation and suspension of disbelief required, the game continues to be fun for me. Every day I can become an even greater hero than the day before.

Video playback on the XBox 360

When evaluating which of the top three consoles I wished to invest in, I had originally settled on the Nintendo Wii. Its controller was revolutionary (the code name for the console was originally Nintendo Revolution, in fact), and there are a lot of Nintendo games I like. But then a mate brought his Nintendo over and we played some games, and I found that I really disliked it. I got tired playing the Nintendo, and while some people are drawn to the idea of exercising through gaming, I’d prefer to relax while gaming and get my exercise elsewhere. I’m usually already tired when I sit down to play a game, and I don’t want a system that is prohibitive to play in those circumstances.

The PS3 was overpriced with little promise, so I went with the XBox 360. It had a more mature game selection, the controller’s nice, and it doubles as a DVD player. Since I already had a DVD player, this wasn’t that big an advantage, but now I’m rethinking that. My old player is dying a slow and laggy death, so April and I have begun using the 360 for watching movies. For whatever reason, we find that we like the controls on the 360 (managed through on-screen buttons you navigate with the regular game controller) better than the complicated DVD remote, and I think the picture might be a little better as well. What’s more exciting is how it manages pausing, though.

Another way to put it is that you don’t need to pause. One of the exciting features of the XBox 360 is that updates are fed to it over the Internet by Microsoft. A feature added a few months ago allows the 360 to save where you are in a movie automatically. We didn’t really notice this until we started watching the special features of Lord of the Rings, where we’d watch for an hour or two, then turn the 360 off. A few days later, turn it back on, start the DVD, and playback would begin right where we left off.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve played games in the intermediary time (though I haven’t tried watching a different movie and then switching back), or how long the console has been off. It just comes back to the exact point you stopped at so you can continue watching.

I enjoy the games and the controllers and Live (Internet play) and everything else, but this might be my favourite feature right now. It’s something they didn’t need to add, but is extremely nice, and just a great perk. Attention to helpful details like that is what makes me a satisfied customer and ensures I’ll get another XBox product someday.

I don’t think I can do it

I’ve been DMing (being the dungeon master for a game of Dungeons & Dragons) for around 7 years solid now, and I’ve been playing D&D for closer to 10 years. With Cody having moved to Florida, that puts our gaming group at 2 players and 1 DM, which just isn’t feasible for a good game, so I pretty much called it and decided not to run a game anymore. But I don’t know that I can do it. As I start to get back to work on my own creative projects, I think about how great they would be as a campaign setting. How I could get back to D&D the way it was when we  first started, before I bought the fancy campaign settings and we got the expansion books, back before everything got so complicated. Back to having one set of dice, some graph paper, a notebook, and our imaginations. No fancy pre-printed maps or campaign settings, no certificates and fake licenses, just straight-up, old school D&D.

It’d be a few months before I can be ready to start a new game with a new world, but I’m thinking about it. Maybe try and find some new/additional people to join in, run it either at Metagames or our apartment (which is feeling increasingly cramped), and just get back to basics. I just wish I knew people to invite (that I really liked). I don’t want to put an ad out and get some random person who’s a jerk, but the few people I know who game either already have a group or I don’t actually want to game with them. That or they’re too busy as it is.

We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited about the thoughts I’m developing regarding the world I’m building. It’s classic, but different, with some intriguing twists. I really need to get some more work done on it tonight or tomorrow night if things aren’t too busy, but I also need to start reading the next book for my mythology class, and my second block class starts next week. And there’s still work all day and FnC 3-4 nights a week. In the little off-time I have, it’s hard to force myself to sit down and do more work, however enjoyable it may be… I really look forward to this summer and dropping some of my current workload so I can work on other stuff that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

Some call me… Tim?

My boss bought us some books the other day (I received one on BSD and another titled Wikinomics), which have been a refreshing addition to my workday. I troubleshoot computer issues, research, write documentation, etc., and adding in a reading component (other than tech articles and/or Slashdot) is nice. Wikinomics is filled to the brim with jargon-speak, and I’m not bowled over by it yet, but I’ve only finished the first chapter (after 33 pages) so far.

I bought a Nintendo DS last night with my tax return money, which is pretty exciting. After playing Pokemon (Pearl), Mario 64, and Legend of Zelda for about 5 hours last night, I’m really pleased with the system. I enjoy Nintendo games, but I don’t really like the Wii. The controls of it are inaccurate, in my opinion, and somewhat tiring. I play a game when I’m tired (say, after working for 8-9 hours) and just want to sit and relax. Having to wave my arms all over the place isn’t what I’m looking for at that point.

The DS stylus + control pad is pretty nice, though. It’s quick, responsive, and accurate (touch screens have a lot more R&D in them than motion recognition via accelerometers, transmitted over IR), and the games have been enjoyable. Plus, I’m not tied to a large television screen.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the XBox 360; I certainly do (I’ve almost beat the second stage of Acre on Assassin’s Creed o/ ). But it’s nice to have variety in my entertainment like I now have in my job.

The last of the tax return money (as an aside, the other really nice thing about the DS is it’s price; the games cost half what XBox games do, and the system was just over 1/3 the price of my XBox, so I could get more for less) will go to buying hot wings next Friday.

What’s your favourite kind of wings, and where do you like to get them?

Game suggestion

I received a gift certificate to Gamespot from April’s parents for Christmas and I’m not quite sure what to put it towards. What game would you all recommend (and, if you feel so inclined, tell me why you recommend it)?

You don’t think I’d run around creedless, do you?

I have a purchase to pick up at the Gamestop on south Glenstone (near Barnes & Noble) tomorrow. I’m kind of anxious for its arrival but don’t have a way to get there right after work (4:30ish or 5 p.m.), so if anyone is interested in roadtripping with me down to the Battlefield Mall area, let me know.

It is becoming apparent by the junk mail I’m receiving that Christmas is approaching. I haven’t given much credence to the holiday in recent years (like the last 8-9), but I’m honestly excited about this one. It should be relaxing, April will be here, we’re getting married ELEVEN DAYS LATER, and there are actually things I can honestly say I would like to receive as gifts. In previous yearen, when prompted by my parents, I would throw some stuff on an Amazon Wishlist to make them happy (read to get them to stop bugging me about gift ideas), but there wasn’t much I really wanted. I suppose this year I am returning to my youth, as my wishlist is comprised exclusively of games. It’s kind of cool, in a gamer-geek pseudo-ten-year-old sort of way.

For the wealthy or parental figures reading

  1. Mass Effect
  2. Guitar Hero II
  3. World Peace? (for XBox 360)

Part of me wishes there was something else on this list, but I feel like all the other stuff I want is already listed in our wedding registries.

If you don’t read webcomics, you should totally start right now, today.

The Cake is a Lie

Whooo Orange Box!

What am I doing this weekend? You know what I’m doing this weekend 😛

Edit:: Wow… I just realized that I haven’t bought an XBox game since I bought the console, which was last September (2006) I think. I bought one for April, but other than that, I’ve been playing the same 5 games for over a year.

I feel kind of guilty spending so much money on a game (though in this case, it’s FIVE games!), but now that I put it in the context that it’s the first in so long…

I have Assassin’s Creed pre-ordered, which I’ll receive in a couple of weeks. I think my Christmas List may be topped by Guitar Hero II

I’ve got a 2 for 1 coupon

I have finally found a game for XBox I want to purchase other than the one I pre-ordered last month. As we approach the end of the year, particularly that magical time when money must be spent to prove we like one another, the good games are finally being released and I am filled with anticipation, excitement, and joy. I’m going to get the Orange Box primarily because people I know on EVE will be playing it, but also because I really like the comic book style of animation used in Team Fortress 2. It’s built on Valve’s source engine, so I know the physics will be good, and I get to play it on console. The games are generally accepted to be better on PC, but I find that playing XBox, kicked back on my sofa with a controller in hand, is significantly more relaxing than sitting at my computer for even more hours than I already do each day.

As it turned out, I didn’t have anything more to say about Jonny’s impression of Ayn Rand, other than “Yes, that is indeed an apt description.” If you need clarification on the paladin reference, just ask and I’ll be happy to provide it. As a DM of the last 7+ years, I believe I am qualified.

Paid off my credit card yet again this morning. I keep putting a balance on it, but I pay it off every month, so that’s OK, right? Essentially, it is being used for honeymoon stuff, so I’m taking a portion of what I would be putting in the savings account (for the honeymoon) and applying it to the credit card.

In short, my finances look better than ever, and that kind of surprises me. My diligence and hard work at not spending hardly anything at all is paying off, no pun intended, and I’m quite excited about that… but I feel uncomfortable talking about how excited I am. It feels like a subject on which it is improper to brag, same as about ones relationship with God. If your relationship with God is great, that’s just swell, but you should be humble about it… right?

Paul seems to think there are times when it is appropriate to boast, though he recognized its necessary limitations. If I have financial prosperity and security, it is because God has provided for me, and I am faithful in my stewardship and tithing. Yet I feel uncomfortable talking about it…

For whatever reason, we humans tend to be innately jealous of one another, or desirous of striking our peers down. When in high school, I would be insulted or verbally attacked in some manner if I did well, was praised by another, or won an award. When graduation neared, I won a scholarship that allowed me to go to college–without it, I doubt I would have enrolled at all–and people were truly upset at me for winning it, even though they had the opportunity to do the same or (in some cases) had no financial hardships of their own.

Why are we so negative towards one another, do you think? I have my own theories, of course, but what are yours?