Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So ... Twitter?

I've always been a web forum/community person for as long as I can remember but it took me years to see the 'value' of blogs and I was only really converted to the power of Facebook by work requirements. However, I am pretty convinced that the current love affair with social networking will bear some fundamentally long-lasting fruit. Its here to stay.

I am not, however, seeing the purpose of Twitter. Or at least, its value isn't immediately apparent to me. As far as I can gather, it is supposed to be 'microblogging' (which I would cynically tag as 'blogging for the txt gnrtn') - reducing your blog output to 140 character bursts. It seems to be a little more open than Facebook, more akin to Livejournal, in that you don't have to have specific permission from someone to see their stuff. You can just 'follow' their twitterings - or 'tweets' as I am lead to believe they are called.

My problem is maybe a degree of redundancy? The niche that Twitter fills seems to already be filled by Facebook Status updates surely? In my brief experimentation, I have even found people who have posted the same message to both services. That seems to take what should be a spontaneous expression of self and turn it into quite a clinical distribution of information. I'm also a touch sceptical about the nature of 'microblogging' as well. I'm all for brevity but sometimes an idea has to be expanded upon in order to give it the substance it needs to be understood. The internet is already a hive of misunderstanding and misreading. I cannot see this sort of statement-service helping!

I think there is also an issue on the exhibitionism-voyuerism spectrum. Facebook is a service I find quite voyeuristic. I can look through album upon album of people's photos and as long as they are part of my network of friends, their wall-to-wall conversations are open to me as well. I can sit, relatively anonymously, and observe their little online life. Blogging is, in my opinion, quite exhibitionist. Its a public, expanded, statement of a view. Not really a diary service, its more a form of self-publishing. I wouldn't go as far as to say a memoir, but you know what I mean. Twitter seems to live with a foot uncomfortably in both camps. Due to the fundamental lack of content in the feed, the exhibitionist side really does live in that pointless 'posting to post' style of information. Minor little lifestyle updates with no context. However, the ability to follow someone without permission means that you can sit and watch this constant stream of digital drivel.

However, my experimentation will continue. I'll report back if I find some value in it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 Point Memes

Stop it.

That is all.

I Am (or Am Not) My Character

Interesting times.

In the World of Warcraft, the next raid instance (Uldaman) has been previewed and the content is causing a bit of a stir. To get to the instance you have to take part in a massive battle using war machines to smash through enemy forces and then take down a massive tank. It all sounds rather epic and frankly quite innovative. However, it is ruffling the feathers of a fair number of players because they cannot 'play their character' - rather, they are in control of a war machine and have the abilities that it conveys. This is seen as devaluing their character and its achievements in gather loot and their achievements in learning to play their class. It could be seen as the final iteration of Blizzard's new 'bring the player, not the class' philosophy. Its all about the player skill rather than the precise build of the particular class they are playing. The comment, however, which prompted this post was this:

" This is dumb. You could just have a Level 1 in the machine playing it!"

Comments like this have always bemused me as I have never really understood the status games that come with being a higher level character in a game where (a) you can make alts, (b) levelling is so easy and (c) not everyone started at the same time.

I am reminded of something my old art teacher, Mr Pringle, told us - " You may or may not be more intelligent than I am, but I probably know more than you ... at the moment. Don't ever confuse knowledge with intelligence."

Or ... " You may or may not be a better player than I am, but I have experienced more content than you ... at the moment. Don't ever confuse level with skill."

Of course, this isn't restricted to WoW. I play in an online wrestling federation game called 'The Wrestling Game' (creative, I know). Its a good game and has provided me with nearly a year of great roleplay and gaming fun. However, the developers and admins just love a fiddle and recent changes to the way federations are ran are nonsensical to say the least. When I commented on this matter, another player replied.

"I don't see why a mid-carder like you should be angry or comment about something like this."

Putting aside the fact that I wasn't in the least bit angry (for once), I was shocked that my status within the federation (as 'King of the Mid Card') and my level within the game (18 out of 25 levels ) should somehow mean that the contribution I could make to the community and the development of the game was less! Obviously I lambasted the poor soul who made the mistake but it was an eye-opener to the particularly damning nature of people when it comes to status and computer games.

Its something I have never seen around a roleplaying table and I assume that this is because we are all familiar with each other in real life. Online, the only real measure that people have is their avatar personas, although in the case of TWG, I've certainly been my normal open self about who I am and what I do so its not as if I am some sort of faceless automaton.

So remember folks - its not about the size of the man, its about the size of his EPICS!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Get Off Your Arse, You Big Horned Druid!

When I first quit WoW, I took Gorthaal (my druid character who I have had since Day One) and retired him to a nice green hill in the tauren starter area. It was a moment of pleasant reflection.

Cut to the present day and Sunraven (my rogue character) has hit the plateau that all characters must come to eventually. All of her equipment is top-tier 'pre-raid' stuff. All of her skills are levelled to raid quality. She is a raid character now and really, there isn't much to do with her except batter Naxxramas and Obsidian Sanctum. Now thats cool because I have started getting some raiding under my belt with her and it is fun.

So I considered whether to start an alt. No. I just couldn't do it, not again. I tried a warlock but it didn't work. I'm not overly interested in a death knight. The answer was simple. Reactivate and transfer one of my old characters. The choice was between Gorthaal and Kylea (a mage). I chose Gorthaal. I value £15 of Duty & Honour profits far less than I do the month or so it would take to level a new character so it makes a lot of sense. The deed was done this morning, including an enforced name change to the more familiar 'Gorthe'. He lives!


I made the decision not to go Resto (because I've had that pain already) and not to go Feral (because I have been there, done that, too). That left Boomkin. Supercool. Not the joke-spec it used to be at all. HOWEVER, my casting gear was positively NEOLITHIC. Like Molten Core and Zul Gurub stuff. Even after some conspicuous consumption at the Auction House, things weren't looking that much better. And then I remembered that I could wear cloth and a new-look Gorthe appeared. He's still patchy all over the place but he can rattle off a fair bit of damage and take down three mobs at the same time, which is what I wanted. And there are lots of shiny new buttons to press as well. Lots of them!

In fact thats something that I have enjoyed so far. All of the versatility of the druid class is beginning to come back to me and he's like a little Energiser bunny when he gets going. Healing, damage, Innervate, running, swimming - its all there. Sort of a perpetual motion levelling machine. With shit equipment. Very shit equipment. But no worries, I'll soon have that sorted.

Will Gorthe be my main? No way - there are simply too many excellent druids in the guild to ever consider that. However, as a ranged dps option, he will be there - and as my casual character, he will get slowly progressed until he can hold his own.

Its cool to see the Old Man of WoW out for a run again. Well, a waddle at least!

Monday, February 09, 2009

When Genres Clash!

Hip Hop + Pirates ... whats not to love?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Conception - How Not To Do A Con

Conception 2009 was great.

I, however, was bloody awful.

I flew down on Thursday feeling like death warmed up. The flight was easy and I had a lovely pick-up from the airport. The con itself is at a holiday camp near Christchurch and it looked really cool. Its a 'games con' - ie. lots of games being played rather than games being bought - and was spread over four days. During those days the Collective Endeavour stall did over £550 and I sold a ton of Duty & Honour.

I didn't play a game.

Why? Because I had to flu from Hell. No, worse than that. It incapacitated me two nights in a row. One night I was hallucinating so bad I thought I was pissing arrow-shaped tadpoles from my belly button. I was sweating so bad, I generated roof-drip! It was terrible. It buggered me for the entire con and I only really got my mojo together on the last day, when I pillaged the raffle. Five strips, four prizes - sorted.

The real drama of course, was the snow on Monday reducing Southampton Airport to a standstill and leaving me stranded. Thanks to Rich and Claire for my emergency crash space and chicken dinner. I got home eventually, 36 hours late but it really put the kibosh on a great weekend.

Conception has a lot going for it. The people are great - an entire different side of the UKRP crowd. The setting is fantastic and the lodges are really excellent value for money and provide a great community feel to the event. The pricing structure is great - you pay for what you play, plus your accommodation. So no wasted entry for me. The problem is, the bloody thing might as well be in France! OK, the flight to Southampton makes it a lot easier but it is still a long way away. Or is it? I dunno. It feels like it but I know it isn't.

Anyway, yes, I went and it was great. Thats my full year of UK conventions done now: Conpulsion, Games Expo, Furnace, Dragonmeet and Conception. I could have slipped Continuum in there, I suppose, but I never did. Its been a good year, all told, for cons.


You knew this was coming right?

Can we all just stop being offended?

In the wake of the reality-crunching horror of the Ross-Brand fiasco, anyone broadcasting anything that might just upset someone is in for a world of hurt. For those that have been living under a rock for the last few months, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were very naughty boys who said 'Fuck' on Radio 2 and left telephone messages to a frail old man about sexual activity with his grand-daughter. It was terrible. Literally DOZENS of people complained who had actually heard it ... and tens of thousands who hadn't. Subsequently Brand resigned and Ross was suspended and had had his pay slashed and his generally in the dog house where his every word is being watched by 'Concerned of Dunstable' for breaking some code or other.

You see, however, the problem is that Russell Brand was telling the truth. He HAD been having sex with the woman in question. And lets not believe that poor old Grandad was unaware of his darling granddaughters activities - she is in a band called 'Satanic Sluts'! And the grandfather? That was Andrew Sachs, who was booked to be on their show ... obviously to talk about flower pressing. Anyway, he's done alright, suddenly emerging from 'retired' status to land a slot on Corrie. Poor old thing.

ANYWAY, next we have Jeremy Clarkson, who cannot do anything right to start with, calling Gordon Brown a 'one-eyed, Scottish idiot'. Now, he does have only one eye that works, he is Scottish and the media has been making a mockery of his ability to do anything barring tie his own shoe-lace for months. So whats the problem? Oh people are offended! Apparently it ties disability to ineptitude. I even heard someone claim it was a racist comment?! Clearly, the masses have been calling for Jeremy to lose his job as well. He upset someone. Heads MUST roll.

You also have to juxtaposition this with Carol Thatcher, yes, the spawn of Satan herself. Carol decided that whilst she was relaxing in the Green Room of The One Show with such showbiz chums as Jo Brand, she would say Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 'looked like a Golliwog'. In front of Jo Brand!? And she has lost her job. And apparently, this is unfair and she shouldn't be sacked at all. Its an over-reaction and political correctness gone mad and the BBC are not acting on a level-playing field etc etc.

Carol? If you worked in any other media business and you were spotted in your place of work in front of company guests making racist comments and then refusing to apologise for them, you would be disciplined at least and probably sacked.

Clarkson? He's an idiot at the best of times, but he has apologised for the eye comment and for called him a scotsman (although I fail to see why on the second count) but not for calling him an idiot. Well done Jeremy. Thats it, let it be the end of it.

My point is that we cannot live in a society where anything which might slightly upset someone is deemed unacceptable and leads to a totalitarian reaction of intolerance. Down that route lies state oppression, the removal of freedom of speech and the suppression of comedy, ideas and most importantly our right to object. At the moment our media is held in some sort of improved standards death spiral fuelled by an unwillingness of the controllers to simply say 'No, sorry, thats not offensive. You are being over sensitive. Grow up.' to the people who are complaining.

And don't get me started on swearing!