All things in moderation. Except this rant.

Wotcha everyone,

Thanks BBC.  You’ve just pointed out that addiction to online gaming is bad.  In such a way that makes me want to go and buy Wrath of the Lich King RIGHT NOW and play it ALL NIGHT.  Just to spite you.  Yes, you, BBC.

I think it’s the just-one-step-from-hysteria tone of articles commenting on online gaming addiction that annoys me most.  And now here is a justification blog.

Yes.  Online games are addictive.  Yes, they really are.

I know this.  I freely admit I’m addicted to them.  I will not even try and append any disclaimer “buts” to that statement.  “Hello everyone.  My name is Hawley, and I’m an addict”.  Single player games just don’t offer the same draw for me, and I do play them for a few hours most nights.  And during the day, if I can.  I have also seen friends start playing them, become addicted, and lose their social lives to online gaming.

Yes, our health can suffer.  For every hour spent fighting my way around Praag, I’m wasting an hour I that I could have used training for the London Marathon.  Or practicing to climb the North Face of the Eiger.

Yes, there is a lack of personal contact.  I’m spending my time looking at a screen, instead of engaging in actual, honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation with actual, honest-to-goodness people.

Yes, I’m removed from the community at large.  I could be spending time working within my local community, volunteering for charities, and generally helping little old ladies cross the road, but, well, you see, the forces of Destruction need holding back, you see.  And if I don’t do it (whilst getting to level 40) then who will?

But then again, if all the people who weren’t addicted to online gaming were off training for marathons, conversing politely to all and sundry, and filling their spare time volunteering for their local charity, then the world wouldn’t just be a better place, it would be unrecognisable.  We’re just following their lead.

And please, can we also point out that there are a lot more, far more harmful addictions out there.  Because, let’s face it, *anything* can be addictive, given the right person.

I could sit here and go through a list of everything, in order of how dangerously harmful they are to the addict, and those around them.  But there’s no point, is there?  We all know what they are, so why should I waste all of our time going through them, and making this seem like a guiltily defensive moan.

No, this is an aggressive rant.  Why is it that online gaming, and World of Warcraft in particular, is hauled over the coals whenever something happens in online gaming?  Why does it always have to be reported in the same semi-hysterical way?

Why is it that games are the bane of modern civilisation, the root of all of our modern evils?

Is it because we’re WASTING OUR LIVES™ by playing them?  Okay, that’s a valid point.  But then again, I spent three years commuting four hours plus per day to get to work and back.  Four hours.  That’s 20 hours a week.  Almost a whole day every week spent sat on a train, or waiting for one that would never come.  But no-one told me that was wasted time.  No!  Being at the mercy of the British rail system was a good thing, because it was spent going to and from work!  But I tell you what, it felt like I was wasting my life at the time, and I still feel that way 5 years later.

Besides, I spent much of that time reading books, and everyone knows that reading books is good.  Don’t we?  We shouldn’t collapse in front of the television every night, we should do something constructive, something edifying, something worthwhile, like reading a book.

What?  Are they taking the piss?  When I was a wee whipper-snapper, before the internet, and before mainstream gaming, I lived my life in books.  If I wasn’t told to do something by my parents, they would find me with my nose in a book.  Anytime, anywhere, there I was with a book.  To the point that they got worried.  Yes, worried.  They deliberated on whether they should take books off me, or just hope and trust I would be “all right”.  If only books had had their positive, wholesome and uplifting image then, my home life would have been much easier!

I’ve spent a lot of time reading books.  I still do.  And not one has changed my life.  I may have learned some things, I might have discovered how different people thought during different periods to our own time, I might even have vicariously lived the exciting and varied life of the author through their writing.  But no, I have received none of the enrichment that seems to be promised by reading actual treeware nowadays.

No, the point here is that whenever Online Gaming hit’s the press, someone somewhere decides to bring out the same semi-hysterical Online Gaming is Addictive! story, and present it in the same way that they no doubt inform people that “MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!  MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!”.  Yes, we can see that your hair is on fire.  Thanks.

Is it that online gaming doesn’t make for the same exciting sexed-up news that makes the mainstream viewer or reader sit up and take notice?  Are we living in the sort of society where the average person is too busy checking their crampons to look up unless the geeks are shown to be dangerous geeks?  And in a way that all the studies that show that gaming can help improve cognitive thinking, social skills, and hand-eye co-ordination stories won’t?

We all choose the way we want to spend our leisure time.  And anything that makes us feel happier, empowered, or powerful can turn us into an addict.  Those happy joy-joy feelings make us want more happy joy-joy feelings.  Anything taken to excess can negatively impact on our lives, and our personal well-being.  And one of the wonderful, amazing things about people is that we’re all different, and as such, can take different things to different extremes.

People drop out of the mainstream all the time, and a lot of the time, what they’ve done isn’t the real reason for dropping out.  The student who drops out of university can blame World of Warcraft all he likes, but it’s quite possible that if it hadn’t been getting phat lewtz and epixxx that got in the way of his degree, it would have been something else; I remember trading essay-writing time for Warcraft 2.  Not because I was addicted to Warcraft 2, but because I really would have done anything rather than write that sodding essay.  Warcraft 2 was just the easiest, shiniest escape route.  And didn’t involve canoeing up the Amazon.

Geeks are an easy target, after all.  We don’t have “normal” hobbies.  We’re playing a game, and by doing that, we’re doing something that many people just don’t understand.  They don’t understand the attraction, they don’t understand how it works, and most of all, they just don’t understand how we can be so passionate about it all.  And, like most people confronted with something they don’t understand, they mock it.  And it doesn’t help that many geeky hobbies are inherently silly; I know, I do most of them.  But then, after ridiculing our hobby, John Normal goes back to shouting at 22 grown men in tribal colours chasing a ball around a field.  And refers to his tribe of choice as “we”.  “We” won.  “We” lost.  Despite the fact that all Mr Normal did was shout ineffectually from the crowd of John and Janes.

I’m geek and proud.  I don’t hide my geeky nature; I revel in it.  I stopped bothering to hide it a long time ago, and when people mock me, I’ll mock back.  I’ll also try and educate those who don’t understand.  But it doesn’t help when the people who bother to listen have already been informed by the media that we’re all raging addicts with no ability to differentiate between a fake world and the real one.  That we’re all ready to shiv each other up for stealing something that never existed in the first place.  That we’ll never leave our games to go and do something else.  Something involving real people.

Stop it.  Just stop it.

According to the media, gamers buying Wrath of the Lich King at midnight so they can go home and play it immediately are damaging themselves.  Their addiction is wrong.  But parents taking their kids to the midnight launch of a Harry Potter book at a bookshop is perfectly fine, it appears.  And something to be celebrated.  And I’m sure NOT ONE of those kids went home and immediately started reading when they should have been sleeping.  No.  Not one.  All tucked up in bed, sharpish.  Their parents too.

Please, can we have a more balanced view?  One that says we may be daft, but we’re mostly harmless?  That some of us are addicted, but not in the way that means we’ll be mugging old grannies and stealing your toaster to sell for subscriptions?  And that most of us aren’t addicts?  Please?  Do us a favour, and don’t make us have to justify our hobbies to our parents, as they try and hold an intervention?

Cheers,
Hawley.

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Wrapping up for the Winter

Wotcha everyone,

Wrath of the Lich King.  Warcraft’s new expansion.  I have to mention it at some point, because for me to try and ignore its imminent release would be like trying to ignore the imminent arrival of Winter.  No matter how much I might run around in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts (geographical dressing FTW!), it’s still going to get colder and colder.

So, here is me putting on a big woolly jumper and a scarf.

Will I be playing Wrath of the Lich King?  Probably.  At some point.  Hopefully, my mates who still play World of Warcraft will froth at me about it, in the hopes that I will join them.  If they don’t, it will be because it’s rubbish, or they don’t want to spend time in my company.  Either option would be bad.

Good games are good for all of us.  It keeps raising the bar, it means that standards rise, and that means that we all get to play better games.  So a good Wrath of the Liche King is great for everyone.

But I don’t want a repeat of the playing carnage that was Burning Crusade.  An entire server in one zone, desperately trying to level as fast as possible?  No, no thanks.  Neither would be trying to play whilst thousands of Death Knights are desperately trying to get to level 80 to assure themselves a place in their raid.

I might play later, but not at launch.

But there is something about the launch of Wrath of the Lich King that vaguely disturbs me.  And that’s a continuation of something that really started to strike me during the closed beta, NDA days of Warhammer Online.

For me, one of the things I love about online games is getting out there and discovering stuff.  I don’t have to see every single square foot of the world, but I love discovering things.  I love discovering the plots arcs, and taking part in them.  I love seeing the various places, and discovering what sort of trez there is to get.

Yet more and more, it seems that letting all those juicy little secrets out is part of the marketing campaign.  Now, I haven’t bought gaming magazines for a while, but this month’s PC Gamer has a number of pages dedicated to Wrath of the Lich King spoilers.  I can only assume that there have been similar amounts of NDA leakage to gaming websites as well.  Whether there’s more or less leaking than for Warhammer Online’s launch I have no idea, and nor do I care to find out, but something does worry me.  Is one of the reasons that we look for these leaks to give us a leg up, an advantage over our fellow players, rather than to help us form an opinion about a game, and if we should spend our hard-earned spoondoolicks on it?

It’s quite likely that I’m going senile, but I remember a time, a much gentler time, when gaming was about fun.  It was about levelling your character, so you could do different fun stuff.  It was about “ooing” and “aahing”, and generally going “squee!” when something nice dropped.

And then, somehow and somewhere, that ceased to be the case.  Suddenly it was about getting to maximum level as fast as possible, with the levelling content being there purely to stop you getting bored and going elsewhere.  Suddenly it was all about the epixxx, and moaning because “your” item didn’t drop.  Again.

Will Wrath of the Lich King change this?  Will it bring peace and love back to online gaming?

Or is Wrath of the Lich King just another excuse to wave our e-peens about the ether, in the way that Warhammer Online, and the rest of the current wave of 2nd Generation Online Games have been doing for some time now?

I really, really hope it’s great.  That it becomes more than the sum of its parts.  That it brings happy joy-joy feelings to online gamers everywhere.

Most of all, I’m really hoping they’ve got rid of the grind, because that’s what keeps sucking all of the fun out for me.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Lie back and link for England

Welcome to Denizens of Xibalba, Cathbadh’s Warhammer Adventure and Spell Damage!

The UK launches its first National Videogame Archive. About time!!! Hrrm, wonder if they want some of my old games…

Virtual Worlds Forum event postponed due to a shooting at the venue. And talking about virtual worlds, both Sony and Microsoft are planning on launching them, Second Life style for their respective consoles.

World of Warcraft praised for educational value – by nature, they mean all MMOs here, they just used WoW as an example. In similar news, the Church says games can be a positive influence!!!

Spore expansion due out in November. It’s called “Cute and Creepy Parts Pack”, digitalspy say they don’t know what’s in it but I think I can guess. Don’t want to be cynical about money-making, but an expansion.. ALREADY?

Tigole posts more about Blizzard’s upcoming plans for WoW PvP: Including the ability to queue from anywhere and earn xp via battlegrounds. That didn’t take long. There have been a lot of blog comments about this — Syp thinks competition is great for gamers, syncaine wonders if borrowing too many ideas can water down the core of a game.

Congrats to The Greenskin for a year of blogging! Inspirational!

Save da Runts lists 10 tips from a tank to the healers.

Gamasutra has an in-depth community analysis of Warhammer Online. The writer has been checking out forums to see how the community is evolving post-launch.

Ever felt awkward about admitting to your non-gamer friends that you spend the evenings playing games? The Brainy Gamer has been thinking about whether our culture has a taboo about adults playing frivolous games.

We expect to have more Blizzcon links next week, but here’s one to start. Diablo III will be playable (presumably as a demo) at Blizzcon. And they announce one of the other classes: the wizard. Oh, it has frost nova and magic missile, be still my beating heart. Sorceress fans should be pleased. Here’s the trailer.

Elitist Jerks have an amusing thread on how to think of a good guild name. Also lots of thoughts there on how to reach a consensus with your guild and what your guild name says about you. I love the idea of naming them like Iain M Banks’ ships, wish I’d thought of that. “Of course I still love you” would be an ace guildname. (GCU Arbitrary – no comment, they found where I steal usernames from – arbitrary!)

Mono-game-y?

I’ve had a number of chat with people over the weekend and they’ve all been around a similar topic. For the first time in our lives we’re going to have two MMOs active at one time. For me, it’s LotRO and WAR – and mostly because of LotRO’s lifetime subscription. But always in the background, during my WAR time, I’ll have my LotRO characters waiting for me to breath some life into them – especially when the Moria expansion comes out sometime towards the end of the year.

Others have WoW and Lich King around at the same time as WAR. That’s trickier in some ways because both games need their monthly fee to keep active. At least, after the free month that comes with the game purchase for WAR. So in that case I know at least a couple of people who are letting their WoW accounts come to an end, but not cancelling. The implication being that at some point they will switch from one to the other and probably back again, as required.

Whatever our own personal situations, it does strike me that for the first time I’m not making the choice of giving up one game to play another – and I honestly never thought I’d have two MMOs on the go at the same time. Maybe there’s someone out there with more experience of the time-split and how it can work successfully?

So how about it? Are you mono-game-ous or will you be splitting your time at all? Any tips on how it all works?

Sir Links-a-lot

Leipzig Links

The Games Convention blog gets to GOA. It’s in German, I haven’t asked my husband to translate yet.. but I currently am in love with the line:

Wir haben es getan. “WAAAAAAAAGH!!!!” Es soll dann auch T-Shirts geben. Jippie!.

(Note to all GOA/Mythic types going to Games Day – we love T-shirts – arbitrary ;p)

Here’s a cool video from Leipzig about living cities, showing a Bright WIzard running around Altdorf. Oh, and Josh Drescher gives a commentary!

If you’re going to dress up, pick a cool class to dress up as. Here’s a good example from Leipzig.

What’s the future for Warhammer Online after September 2008? Paul speaks at Leipzig and says there’s a 3-year plan currently in place.

Sterntaler (one of the german CMs) posts some video of the GOA/Warhammer stand in Liepzig. (He mentions T-Shirts and free stuff prominently, which I know Arbitrary will find intriguing!)

Sausage and Sauerkraut – lunch is good at the Games Convention it seems. Lunch is important. More photos from Leipzig can be seen here (incl. Age of Conan booth babes – because I’m good to you – arbitrary).

Player vs Developer compares the WAR trailer to the WoW one, both released at Liepzig. Rock, Paper, Shotgun also mentions them in the same breath, but gets to use the word ‘phwoarhammer’ – we’re depressed we didn’t think to use that one, so credit where it’s due. Is it just us though, or was that a handful of Order chars taking on an entire Destruction army. Nerf!!

And, of course, Warhammer Online wins Best Online Game of the show.

General Links

Neurotic women are more likely to blog. No comment. Actually, that reminds me, there’s a new livejournal community for WAR-ladies.

Gnomeo and Juliet. No comment. Actually, sounds awesome ;p

Ablegamer takes a look at Warhammer Online from a different perspective – what does it have to cater for the disabled player.

This is my current favourite review of Warhammer Online – it covers a lot of ground, while not being too in-depth, and it sounds like a group of friends honestly discussing the game. This I like.

We loved the gamespy pre-NDA impressions of WAR, here’s their actual beta review.

MMORPG.com has an interview from GenCon Indy with Robert Mull, Community Relations Director for Mythic. There’s a short intro here, and then a longer video.

Useful tools for Warhammer Online. WarDb (basically Thottbot for Warhammer Online) if you want all the info/spoilers broken down, and the combat parser (though if I am going to use that kind of thing I’d rather have one on my desktop than have to go through a website).

This is Massively’s collection of videos showing the /special emotes for each race. They’re what WAR has instead of /dance to give you something amusing to do while you’re waiting for people to run back from the graveyard.

Olympic Link: Matt Slater (a BBC commentator) claims that Beach Volleyball is a great sport in its own right, and he doesn’t just watch it for the girls in bikinis — he may be the only one 😛

Ok, this may be down right now but it’s supposed to be back online today so I’ll link it anyway. Tiny Adventures is a D&D Facebook app – it lets you create a char, equip them and set them off on an adventure. Sounds fun to me!

Links! Is it links you’re looking for?

The timer is ticking and people are starting to think about their plans for guilds. There are a couple of guilds connected with bloggers (and blog readers), both US based. So check out Casualties of War for a Core RvR based guild, or Keen’s Happy Fun Guyz guild for an Open RvR one.

Twist-It Logic ponders why the majority of people on the Casualties of War forum have a preference for Order, a change from previous polls on other forums.

The Cogworks is thinking up some mottos for the different classes. Wizards and Wenches has a few suggestions also.

Syp@Waaagh discusses how people choose between Core or Open servers, and why there’s so much name-calling involved. Snafzg@The Greenskin is still deciding – or, has decided!

Waaagh also has some suggestions for new WAR bloggers.

Sales Predictions are another big topic. Tobold kicks it off with a guess of between 1-2 million sales this year. /random explains why he goes for the lower bound of 1 million sales. Syncaine guesses higher at 1.5 million. Stropp gives a detailed explanation of why he estimates between 1.5-2.6mil sold by the end of 2008. Fuel for you guys, Paul says there’s been 130k pre-orders (and that the game is going gold next week!)

Elsewhere, Iain C makes us jealous with his notes and pics from Campus Party in Valencia, Spain. I note the availability ot T-shirts, and consider this a moment. I love T-shirts!

And the info continues to trickle in from websites given the opportunity to report before the NDA is lifted. Here’s Massively on the first Dark Elf quest (spoiler alert). And Ten Ton Hammer on Rune Priest masteries (no new info) and the Squig Herder ones (I don’t think this is very new either, sadly). However, Ten Ton Hammer has written a short update on Ekrund, the dwarf starting zone which is more interesting than the class overviews.

Warhammer Herald news – North Americans and the Oceanic people (not from Lost!) can now go enter their codes. It seems not only the CE people there, but also the first 50,000 SE people can get access to the preview weekend, of which we’ve heard a little. I’m wondering if Mythic realises how confused some of this has been, and when we’ll hear from GOA what’s up with our codes and stuff. Ah yes, they do realise it’s confusing!

And talking of news from official sites – if you’re in Europe (well, UK, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden)and you get MTV, you might catch some teasers of the new Warhammer cinematic. Here’s dates and times. Or you can wait until after Leipzig’s Game Convention and see the whole thing!

More on the Simon Parkin/Paul Barnett conversation that we linked to in our last links, less of a war of words now, more an exchange of ideas. Always good to read Paul’s thoughts though.

And, finally, we’ve all read about the Blizzcon ticketing nightmare (too many people wanted tickets, the site couldn’t handle it, it was a bit of a PR mess), well.. wasn’t going to mention it, but Joystiq’s use of the Wrath of the Ticke-Ting deserves a mention!. Oh, and while on the subject of World of Warcraft – was it hacked?

The Tortoise and the Hare

I was chatting to a friend over IM this morning (if you’re awake at 5am-8am UK time, and ever want to chat, let me know!), and he’s interested in trying out LotRO. He asked me a question I was totally unprepared for:

can you recommend a site that tells me how to power level? 

I was quite taken aback by it. Why? Because to me LotRO just isn’t a game that you ‘powerlevel’ in. The main reason I enjoy LotRO is because it’s set in Middle Earth and it’s beautiful and they’ve done a great job with it. Plus I have a fantastic guild there, and friends I’ve made through the game.

Now, I’m first to admit I have a faster levelling pace than some, but it’s never my goal to level as fast as possible (except maybe when alting!). I simply have more time than most because I only work part-time, so I tend to level a bit faster. But in LotRO I just went through quests, ground through traits I needed, did instances with friends, PuGs, guildmates however many times we all needed them for class items. I completed the epic books.. and through all that I levelled pretty fast. But I never entered the game to discover the endgame and that served me fairly well, because content at the higher levels wasn’t as great when I reached them as it is now. And there’s still not many raids or instances that are for ‘endgame’ chars. The appeal remains the world of Tolkein and the way Turbine have created it. And monster play has been a very welcome excursion that reminded me I enjoy PvP.

Back to my time in WoW. And to what I hear now about WoW. The levelling curve has been reduced massively, all the interesting stuff is happening endgame, which has led to a generation of MMO players who feel that achieving endgame is the goal, and levelling is the pesky bit in-between that you have to go through. It won’t be too long before WoW allows you to create higher level chars, I imagine (as DAoC did, though you only got to skip the first 20 levels in DAoC).

I prefer the non power-levelling model, I have to say. I like to not feel rushed to complete content, even though I know others, when playing with me, think I go at too fast a pace. I guess we’re all comfortable at different rates and we all know what it’s like to be rushed, and yet frustrated someone else is levelling faster. But that’s still not the point here. Being rushed isn’t even the same as power-levelling.

To me, power-levelling is skipping content to get to the endgame. Now currently, from all I’m reading, in WAR the endgame seems like it’s mostly RvR, open field and city sieges with the occasional dungeon and exploration. That’s a never-ending battle, as it should be. I’m sure there will be people who try and get as close to rank 40 in the headstart as they can – the advantages to that are what.. a little fame for having done something first?

And then some empty scenarios while the rest of the server catches up.

If WAR’s endgame is open field RvR, scenarios, keep takes, city sieges, dungeons – well, I can do a lot of that at rank 1 (obviously not the city sieges and dungeons), or to take a less extreme example, I can do a lot of it as I level through the game. At tier 2 we get keep takes, and that’s fairly early on in the levelling cycle. So they’re feeding us the ‘endgame’ throughout. Worth bearing in mind!

Personally, I’ll continue to play at my own pace, faster than many, slower than many too. I pay for the game, I intend to enjoy as much of every aspect of it as I can!