General

Rescue Time

In my last post I talked about how Tuesdays were a fun day in Azeroth, and made some claims about my play time. Prior to that thought I had already installed “Rescue Time” on my laptop which logs all of your activities while actively using your laptop. I assumed that doing everything I had planned listed would take me around 10 hours a week. I was pretty close!

Yes there is no Sunday or Monday (which is because it wasn’t installed  at the time  and funny to see how big Tuesday is for me in game. The rest of the week it seems I spend between an hour to an hour and a half per day, which would but my weekly time (last week, anyway) at closer to 11.5 hours. I will also run it this week to have a look to see how accurate my guesstimate was.

As for the program that tracks this itself – it is free. It breaks down your productivity and gives you visibility on where you are spending your time while on your device. You can also install it on multiple devices to get your full aggregate. Think you check Instagram just a few minutes a day? This will break it down for you exactly. It doesn’t seem to measure idle time, so a program in the background that is not being worked on / read / used doesn’t count (I tested a few things to see. multiple windows in the background, Excel, Tableau, etc to gauge how it measures.)

They assure your privacy, whatever that means this day! (FBI if you are reading this, this is my gaming computer *mostly*, I promise I do more work on the other one!) Pretty big eye opener on where I spend my time on the computer – a few minutes checking something here and there adds up. It even tracks how much time you spend on websites. Outside of my post on Monday, I only spent 16 minutes 44 seconds on my own site the rest of the week. Mostly because I use it as a launching pad on my blog-roll updater to read my favourite posters when they write something new.

Oh, and not because it would affect you, but because you are probably just curious, for you know, your cousin or something…. by default it does not track anything on adult websites. Again, so I hear… I don’t even know what those are anyway. It was mentioned in some sort of pop-up window/option.  Figured you might want to know.

Happy Endings

I enjoy the TV show “The Walking Dead”. I wouldn’t call myself a giant fan but I watch every season. I tend to watch the season a season behind (I just started season 6, season 7 is underway) and it is a weird place of enjoyment-but-not-quite-fandom. I have a vested interest in seeing what happens to the original crew of the show.

I say that deliberately – the original crew. Season one of The Walking Dead was some of the best TV I have ever enjoyed. Season two was great, season three was good, and now the series is in what seems like maintenance mode – things are happening that are consistent with a zombie apocalypse and some of the events even follow the comic books (loosely and somewhat) but the show is just not dynamite. This is bound to happen when my main tie and motivation for the show is around the people and in earlier years they did a better job of developing them.

This show kills off recurring characters weekly and main characters annually, for the most part. Now in season six there really are only four characters that I care greatly for – Rick, Maggie, Glenn and Carol. I also, to a lesser extent, tend to care about Carl and Michonne.  Other characters have come, been killed / eaten, and gone – but their introduction and story lines just didn’t leave a lasting impression. I have no clue how long they plan on running this series but I do kind of have my own time set when to stop watching, when those characters are no longer a part of it.

I tend to struggle with long term TV shows as it seems the first couple of seasons are done exceptionally, and then people recognize that there is great money to be made so things adjust to profit. I don’t mind (and appreciate!) that they can drive profit from their art and work but I am unsure if the quality is really lowering or if it is just my personal experience. Take the series LOST, for example. That is a perfect example of an exciting and intriguing first year. After that it was pretty clear that they stopped moving the plot forward and focused on introducing new characters only to give them an episode to explore their backstory. I am not even cynical but that is my lasting impression of the show – “How do we stretch this out”, instead of “how do we explore a great plot”. I know that series lasted several years – perhaps others have far more patience than I do, or found something in it I couldn’t

I am not a big TV fan to begin with because it is just so passive. I don’t mind watching sports on TV but otherwise I am far happier with a laptop out and reading, or playing a game – even if the TV is on in the background.

Back to The Walking Dead – there is no possibility for a happy ending. The world explored becomes worse and worse and with less hope. The entire population is infected and there is no hope for a cure. It is a show to watch to explore the human condition when hope is at a premium.  I still watch because I want to see how far the people I like make it. When their future / ending is decided and I can finally turn off the program for good is when my happy ending will be with the show.

Real Hot Mess

I’m struggling finding fun in gaming right now.

It is definitely not for a lack of trying, I have been buying games like crazy and giving them a good chance to hook me. I even made blog posts about it, to try and drum up some momentum to get into a game or two and strengthen that tie and enjoyment with some good old fashioned blog posts. It’s just not happening. I have been abandoning games at an alarming rate this year and am just not finding that groove. I am completely jealous and envious with Bhagpuss who continues to find enjoyment in the same spaces and am struggling with a hobby I am not getting enjoyment from and missing terribly at the same time. As you can probably tell, the quality and frequency of my blog posts has also deteriorated. The struggle is real.

Looking back at my 2016 to date and my positive gaming time:

  • Destiny (Heavy time): I was on a nice schedule of an hour a day. I have all 3 classes at top level (not top gear, since I do not raid) and since the content has dried up I stopped playing. There are expansions on the  horizon (and sequels!) and that is something to look forward to.
  • EQ Progression Servers(Heavy Time): I shot myself in the foot here as I did three characters to level 30 (and had so much fun doing it) but took a step back when I heard they were launching a no-box server. When that server finally launched, I had a hard time chewing through the first 10 levels for a fourth time. Daybreak also nerfed quest XP and XP gains in general, so it was extra painful (even with XP bought potions.) I couldn’t get a good start again and the servers I had abandoned were leveling ghost towns (all end game).
  • Pillars of Eternity (Completed): A good RPG but I admit that near the end I was rushing to finish, not explore.
  • X-COM 2 (Completed): Fun game, but hard to pick up DLC when you already saved the planet!
  • March of the Living Dead (completed with one character): Really enjoyed this title but like many indie experiences, there wasn’t much reason to replay through as the encounters became familiar and repeated.
  • Portal Knights (ongoing, its gaming time with my 11  year old. Infrequent but checks a lot of good boxes)
  • ….is that it? Really?

That is a lot of single player experiences outside of EQ. Sure, Destiny is online but not a chat/social platform at this stage (unless you include pointing and dancing.) Looking back at 2016 to date with my stops / starts:

  • The Division (40% done): I grabbed this for the PS4 (and also received a free copy with my new laptop) and finished half of the main storyline (which was intriguing enough
  • Fallout 4 (60% done): I’m not sure when or why I stopped playing F4. I remember actively enjoying it and then… done. Not sure when or why that changed.
  • Landmark (toe dip)
  • Rimworld (three solid days, and lost interest)

I have even started reloading MMOs on my gaming drive “just in case”. Last time I checked I had EQ2 (highest level 18) ready to go, EQ (highest level 55), TSW, (in Egypt), SWTOR (level 22) And just this weekend, WildStar.

WildStar is my new “give it a go”. I did something in WildStar I never do (play the “bad” side) and this weekend was a blast as I worked on weakening a local tribe that was capable of building very powerful weapons, which made the Dominion nervous. They do not want any new, strong enemies. The action combat does wear on me (I read an article where it was changed from tab targeting half way through development – bad move!) but the stories are fun. I do want to get a max level for the story aspect – both sides. This is another MMO that for me would be better as a single player game – although, I do like some of the early dungeons when the queues used to pop. I just wish WildStar took itself a bit more seriously, there would be a great story there if there was less joking around and less 4th wall breaking. I think it could prove a worthy distraction. With quarterly revenues up, but low (2M USD equivalent) I’m afraid the game may go away before I get a chance to learn more about the planet.

I am struggling with WoW as a tempting revisit. I didn’t play a single level in Warlords (I did buy it at 75% off) but my pocket cleric from EQ Testserver (Candarie) messaged me – “Come tank for me B (Braack). Just like old times.” Candarie is still a full time gamer and I am now on the other end of the spectrum. A few hours a week is lucky for me, which makes commitment to anything in gaming worlds hard to do. For the first time in my life I feel like a big hot mess in gaming. I miss it, I wish I could make more time for it in my life, but something else would have to give. I am not quite ready to sacrifice my wife, family, work, or health.

Yet.

New Rig

Pulled off an amazing “need case” at work for this sweet, sweet mobile gaming (and computing) powerhouse:

Delicious and Nutritious?

So far it has been wonderful, except for the fact that  the case is warped. In certain situations it moves corner to corner when typing and that is incredibly annoying. Gaming wise it has performed as expected, but those dual fans really kick up a lot of noise to keep it cool while under load.

I also dislike the keyboard lighting. For me so far it seems to make the keys look “fuzzy”, if that makes sense as a descriptor. I am curious if when they send the replacement (which they are) if the warped casing has anything to do with that, and also distracting when not a single, pale colour. Maybe my eyes are going in my old age. Who wants rainbow lighting moving around your keyboard anyway? And why won’t those kids get off my lawn *shakes fist*.

It seems to run EQ just fine, at least. (yes: obvious sarcasm)

Sure, I understand you can get 2x the desktop rig for the same price but I don’t need to be on the bleeding edge and I like being able to game in different parts of my house, and also on the road (which I travel for work). So it is a win win. Plus, the IT department knows I put a lot of visual and computation strain on my computers with the various data-sets I run and this will mean less time alt tabbing and waiting for a result and more time sending results. So far so good. I can think of a couple other excuses – subtle ‘nods’ from gamers when they see the snake logo light up in a business meeting and all the nerd-cred that goes along with that, things of that nature. I think I might be cool again. Is the word ‘cool’ making a comeback?

I used to lug around old Asus laptop gaming machines with 17 inch monitors and 8-10 lbs of glory so this has been a really nice, thin change.

Spring Cleaning – Old Post Drafts #2

Continuing my Spring Cleaning project – here is my second post as I go through my drafts folder and decide to keep (and finish) old post thoughts or delete them away. The first post in this series is here.

“I Don’t Use Steam Much Anymore” (8/7/2014)

Steam is that ultra convenient platform that I have had some bad experiences with. I go swathes of time without updating the service. This particular post outline had four bullet points and nothing more. They were:

  1. It doesn’t know my birthday – this always drives me crazy about Steam when I want to watch a video game video. It has my credit card information on file, that’s great for when I buy games, but god forbid it knows my birthday and allows me to watch any video that my birthday qualifies me for without having to re-input it. A basic quality of life change (that probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does. Just one of those things.)
  2. They suck to deal with – I still recall the worst purchase experience of my life when I bought a game for $19.99 on one day, and it went 90% off the next day ($1.99) and Steam refused to credit me the difference. I didn’t even want money back, just a credit, and I’ll go buy another game with it (that would have cost more than $18). They refused. No other retailer would get away with that.
  3. It’s a race to the bottom pricing event – that does not build loyalty. Steam is to gaming as Subway is to food. It’s convenient. It’s always there. They both just charge cheaper and cheaper and give it away, and not necessarily getting better at it or making a product that is good for you.
  4. F@ck me. (yes, it said that. I have no clue what that means, or what kind of day I was having in August 2014, but that was my moment of clarity – so it seems.)

Outcome: Delete due to being same old same old. Steam will be that platform I’ll never reconcile with due to the past and what I feel it does to the market, but I also know I am in an extreme minority in that viewpoint. I will still use it when I see a good deal or feel like I have to, but I will never be a big fan.

“Payment Models – Analogies” (8/8/2014)

This post has been done to death and keeps coming around. The constant “what is best” (B2P, F2P, Subscription, Early Access, etc. etc.). I tried to simplify things by using analogies but some of them weren’t that great and the clarity and end to this debate we are all seeking to find was not going to be found in here anyway. I used a concert as B2P, a street performer as F2P, and social assistance / welfare for Subscription. All decent ones but analogies are so imperfect because they aren’t the actual things you are talking about. I think by now people just have their own personal comfort zones on each and no amount of debate of analogies (good or bad) will change that.

Outcome: Delete due to dead horse kicking. As much fun as that is.

“Half Full” (4/4/2014)

Check out these awesome notes on this post, in their full entirety (including punctuation and capitalization)

COol story – half full, half empty HAS BEER

Syp, Syl

Attitude of bloggers

I feel whiny

That’s it. I literally had to look at this for a while and think “WTF was I talking about…” and after thinking through it came to the clear and obvious conclusion that bloggers like Syp and Syl are just positive all around, half full kind of people. I love their “tone” of blogging.They can make their points clearly in a non-whining or condescending manner. I like that. Sometimes when I post ranty I feel/worry that I am just coming across like a whiny baby. Maybe that is due to people just generally being harder on themselves (by people, I mean me) but I am unsure – DO I come across whiny? I don’t even have a full grasp on my own blog’s “tone”. I think that is because I write in whatever kind of mood I am in at the time.Constructive criticism, not fishing for anything but the truth!

Many bloggers have their own tone – everyone knows Syncaine’s, etc. The good news is, regardless, that I mentioned beer in a post. I need more posts with beer. Outcome: Delete. And drink a beer.

“Is it September Already” (8/30/2014)

Well, according to that draft date, no. No it isn’t Isey.

The notes for this post were another piece of inspirational magic.

August Review

Stop me if you have heard this one before. A blogger that does a full and comprehensive month end review, what an amazing idea! Maybe I should do that!

Sarcasm aside, I love TAGN’s monthly review posts but he has the chops, pedigree, and consistency to make those posts awesome and fun to read. It’s a short history trip every month about his blog but also for gaming in general with the 5/10 year look backs. I was definitely inspired by him to think about doing a post like that and especially because it was on the heels of Blaugust (which I completed) so I actually had a lot to review for a change. It never did happen, of course. Also, like the late night cram the day before exams, I clearly wasn’t willing to put the necessary work in. He can keep that all to himself, quite safely. Outcome: Delete due to way too much work to do and now irrelevant.

“Swap Free to Play” (8/31/2014)

Look, I know I had a ton of posts started in August and very few of them fleshed out. This was mostly because of the daily Blaugust event you had to always be thinking of ideas to post about. I did, at least. I really enjoyed the event and it  fired me back up to blogging – if even just as a therapeutic method of getting through a long end of summer. Every once in a while I get completely inspired to try something new. There are so many creative people out in the interwebs and Blognation doing awesome parodies and videos and songs. I have no talent like that. I was an inspiring young rapper back in my white privileged middle class upbringing in small town Canada, so I do fancy myself a lyricist. I once linked (probably all dead links now) a bunch of video game related things to the lyrics of “Don’t Believe the Hype” by my all time favourite band Public Enemy (I am not even kidding. Chuck D was a visionary.) I am almost embarrassed that I desecrated that revolutionary track lyrics that way.

Again, a lot of thought put into this Blaugust draft.

Heyyy, hooy

Hip hop hooray song

Unlike others where I can claim the 5th (can Canadians do that?) and faux confusion about what the hell was I thinking, I do remember this one clearly. It was the beginning of a rap parody of Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray”. Which you should 100% know, but just in case:

So the basis of the parody was taking the lyrics and turning into how a poorly planned MMO launch would have to “Swap Free to Play, hoooo, heyyy, hoooo” Here is a snippet of the original:

You drew a picture of my morning
But you couldn’t make my day, Hey!
I’m rockin’ and you’re yawning
But you never look my way, Hey!
I’m lickin down you darlin’
In every single way, Hey!
Your funny flow is foreign
And a green card’s on the way!

to the video game themed

You spent 100 million

But you couldn’t make me pay, Hey!

Your built another wow clone

It plays exactly the same way, Hey!

You had 200 programmers cramming

And tomorrow is payday, Hey!

Your bank account is empty

There is no other way!

 

Swap Free to Play, heeey hooo heeeyy hooooo

Now picture a bunch of nerds in the video above jamming to that. Outcome: Deleting to save the world from that disaster.

I feel like deleting these old drafts instead of bringing them to fruition is some sort of public service.

Blognation, you are welcome.

Spam Posts as a Measure of Popularity

All of my spam posts caught in my Askimet filter are about two games right now, split pretty much right down the middle.

Blade and Soul and Runescape.

Most of them are  about selling gold in those two games.

What does this mean? Is there really that big of a market for gold in either that it’s worth spamming about? Or is my blog specifically targeted to those two games because of things I post? (nothing about either, ever, that I recall)

Perhaps they are telling me that is where I need to be, or they are measuring some quality of those titles against my writing.

Outlook is bleak.

At least the Russians stopped harassing me.

 

Birthdays and Forums

My birthday was yesterday!

I was reminded of such while driving home from a hockey game at 12:04 am by 2K forums. While I was appreciative of the well wishes I did have to chuckle a bit. The last time I posted or visited those forums was in 2008.

We at 2K Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Thank you 2K Forums. I did only sign up there to deal with a game breaking issue for me with Bioshock. Still, it’s the thought that counts! A good opportunity here would have been to say “we haven’t seen you in a long time, maybe some of these posts will interest you?”, or even “here is $10 off one of our games at Steam in celebration!”. A little silly to send me a one-liner during a marketing opportunity.

They weren’t the only ones – thank you Dungeon and Dragons Online!

We at Dungeons & Dragons Online Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Wait.. that looks awfully familiar. Are they sharing boards? Maybe using the same software? Aren’t you free to play now – why not give me a message to entice me to maybe download and try the game out again! Maybe some free currency to get me started! (I did really enjoy it at beta test and launch.) I don’t think I have played since then either.

Not to be outdone, a game that I played more than the others (and have tried to promote on this site often, even though I haven’t played in a while) was the good folks at the Project Reality Forums.

We at Project Reality Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

I don’t remember the last time I posted there either, it has been so long. Although I did re-download the game recently. That message (besides being identical to the other two) could have been so much better with a “check out our latest patch / video / update” message as well.

Finally, I did get one from a board I have checked recently!

Happy Birthday from your friends at Cruisers Forum; we wish you all the best in the year to come.
May your boat be leak free.
May your sails be in good repair.
May the winds be fair, the weather kind and
May your days be filled with the exquisite pleasure of new adventures, fabulous destinations and excellent friendship.

Happy Birthday!

If they were selling anything, I’d probably buy it. Look, a modicum of effort was given. It probably took them 5 minutes to set that up. I have been toying with the idea of buying a sailboat so have been reading a lot there to understand what I would be getting myself into.

If a general interest forum can do that, companies that live or die off of sales probably could too. The constant reminder that for digitally native companies they leave a lot to be desired in terms of customer engagement. These are easy misses, low hanging fruit, and entry level marketing think.

My other takeaway here is how few forums I actually sign up for now (well, since 2008, apparently) since most information is more readily available elsewhere. Also, that a whole slew of other forums didn’t bother to wish me a happy birthday – probably because they sorted that I stopped visiting there at some point. In 2009 when I brought this up I had received birthday wishes from Pirates of the Burning Seas and Warhammer Online as well – but they have a fair excuse for missing it this year (and all years upcoming!)

Worst Enemies and Lists

Happy New Year!

I have been playing my same old boring games, but feel compelled to update briefly. This post is composed of two subject matters, and two lists!

Gaming List

  1. Fallout 4: I am 45 hours in and just went back to the main story line. I just did the Glowing Sea, as a point of reference for those who have finished the main story arc (I have no clue if that makes me close or far away..). It is so easy to get sidetracked in that game and I absolutely love exploring and following breadcrumbs. Still, that makes me feel like a terrible father as I do have an abducted son out there somewhere I should go find. Oh look! Meat sacks! What could possibly be in THAT building?
  2. EQ TLP: Cabby my Wizard is level 8 now and done Orc Hill, and about to enter Crushbone. I love the zen of grind in EQ. I still think I am going to unsubscribe for a bit. I hate feeling like I am not getting time in to justify a subscription, so it is one of those titles where I may sub for a month, take one off, go back, etc.
  3. WoW. Yes, WoW. 75% off Draenor made me buy that, but I haven’t resubbed. Add to that I actually had a good experience with a CSR from Blizzard (shocker!) and received 7 days free time. My wife goes away on a business trip next Tuesday which gives me 4 uninterrupted nights of gaming. I am going to go back to WoW to play in WoD. No clue who I am taking through, probably my Paladin so I can tank 5 mans. If 5 mans are still a thing. I wish Shaman were tanks..

Lifestyle List

Continuing with my “I has health” theme I am going to caution you on who will become your worst enemies if you decide to go down the path of living a healthier lifestyle. This list may be a little sad. This is in order from not so bad to absolute worse. Without further ado – my ‘Worst Enemies” list, from personal experience.

  1. Your friends. We all have them, those really fun, awesome friends. One of mine, who likes to drink 10+ beer a night on weekends is constantly and incessantly harassing me for only drinking three or four a night with him over the same time period. Three or four is actually a lot. I have learned self control. I like beer. I like friends. I just don’t feel the need to get out of control, completely plastered, and make an ass out of myself (and feel equally as terrible the next day.) Oh, I still have my benders – but I pick and choose those nights. I don’t want to do them regularly. Really special occasions, etc. You will have people who don’t want to change their lifestyle pick on you for changing yours. The answer to them: ” I don’t judge you for your lifestyle, don’t judge me for mine. We’re friends. I support that you like to cut loose. Support me that I want to tighten it up.” Worst case scenario: you make new friends that align more with your values. It shouldn’t have to come to this, and if it does, it is on them, not you.
  2. Your spouse/significant other. If you already have one, and they are comfortable with you and your life. I have had my wife (of all people) tell me she now finds me unattractive. I am too skinny. I care too much about what I eat (I drink wine and eat peanut butter cups daily!). I get up too early (and workout, then take the dogs out, then make breakfast for everyone, and lunch for school for my son, and coffee for her, all before she steps out of bed 2.5 hours later than me). Sounds like a pretty good deal. Still, to be fair, she has gained weight while I lost it – so she is probably trying to tear me down instead of build herself up because she isn’t happy with herself. You may face the same obstacle. The answer to them: “Let’s do this together. Just try a couple times a week with me. Start slow and see if you like it”. Worst case scenario: it is actually kind of scary to think that you have to choose between improving your personal health and lifestyle and someone you love. Divorce isn’t something that anyone wants to explore so you really need to find common ground. Just don’t sacrifice a long and healthy life to keep that.
  3. Yourself. Probably not a big surprise, but you are the one person who can most easily and efficiently stop you on your own journey. That is a sad truth. As Henry David Thorough once said “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. what a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.” Scary stuff to face against – yourself. The answer to you: “I will do my best and take small steps to get to the long term goal I want. I want to live a long and rewarding life. I choose to own my health and wellness.” Worst case scenario: You fall down and fail. Often. The best part is, you control whether you get back up or not.

The good news of all of this is that it gets easier. It really does. The negative voices get quieter as you surround yourself with people that now understand, or new people. Your body gets less sore with each effort. You get into a routine where being active is just as normal as eating and breathing. You just have to start and not give up.

Day One is Tomorrow

I last posted about how I am going to post more about my personal health journey and things I learned that worked for me. This is very fitting being New Years Eve today, with a whole host of resolutions to be made by a big chunk of the world to start tomorrow!

And most of them fail.

That is because a lot of the goals aren’t realistic, and besides, people don’t really want to do them, they just know that they should. When I was a smoker I tried quitting a dozen times. The first 11 I didn’t even really want to quit, but I knew that I should. So I’d say I was quitting, make it anywhere from a day to a month, and then do what I really wanted to do. I really wanted to smoke. It wasn’t until I truly wanted to quit smoking that I did – and deep down I knew it was time, and I was looking forward to stopping. I quit and never lit up again. I don’t even remember being a smoker now.

That is what happens during resolutions. People say what they think they want, or what they think other people want for them, and make that a goal. If you don’t feel it deep down in your core that you truly want to do something or make that change then don’t say that you will. Be honest with yourself.

All that being said, if you want to make healthy changes, here are my three  simplest tips:

  1. Start tomorrow. The next day is always Day One. You don’t need to plan for a year from now. You can set a longer term goal, sure, but really, just set a goal for the next day. That way when you slip up and “fail” a day (which you eventually will!) you just reset and go the next day. Some days I would wake up and plan on working out but didn’t have it in me and I would play video games instead. You have to let yourself have the room to enjoy the things you love, but don’t use them as an excuse to skip your goals.
  2. Wake up early. Even those times when I meant to work out and didn’t, I still got out of bed. I know that can be hard for a lot of late night gamers but I started waking up at 6am, then 5:30, and now 5:00 – and I still go to bed at the same time. When you are healthier you sleep better. I get 6.5 hours a night and it feels like I get 9 hours that I used to take. When the rest of the world is asleep your time is yours. No kids, no spouse, no work. That is your time to rise and shine.
  3. It’s the journey not the destination. You read about these huge changes that happen “overnight” but those are often years of dedication. Don’t get caught up in the end goal, get focused on the next day, Day One.

I am going to post by “before” and “after”. I didn’t take a proper before (honestly, I didn’t feel good enough to!) and before I do, I want to make one thing clear: I am a bit uncomfortable posting this (I always have been in my own skin) but also this is not to be vain or “look at me” – but it is just to show what small steps lead to. Besides, I don’t even care about how my body looks now – what I do care about is how I feel about myself now.

On the left I was 38, 230 lbs, smoked a pack a day. I did some sports like Hockey, but I’d play for an hour and then drink 4 beer and eat 2 pounds of chicken wings. (I still play hockey, and I still drink beer after the game.) On the left, I was incredibly unhappy with almost everything in my life. I was borderline depressed. I smoked first thing when I got up and last thing when I went to bed. I wasn’t attentive to my child. I was unhappy and self absorbed. I ate out a lot.

On the right, just a month ago, I am 41 and 180 pounds. I don’t smoke. I still love wine with dinner and beer with friends, but I eat better. I love cooking and make sure I have leftovers that I can take for lunch the next day to work so I don’t eat out. I eat healthy but delicious food. I actually like Broccoli.

The left to right transformation wasn’t overnight, it took three years, and I took small steps along the way.

First step (year one)  was to work on my diet and try to be more active. Just 2-3 times per week. That’s it. At that you aren’t going to see any big changes anytime soon and that isn’t the point – the point is to create new habits. Go out for an hour walk, get on a treadmill, elliptical, etc. Just make sure you start moving more often every week. Start finding good foods to eat that you like and cook with less butter and salt (less, not none!). Make small steps.

Second step (year two) was to increase the intensity and frequency of my workouts. Instead of cardio, I started doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) such as Insanity, etc. They lasted 45 minutes and I could barely finish them, but I did the best I could. I also started doing some weights (what I felt I could handle). I still had a sweet tooth but didn’t deny myself anything – I just made sure I balanced it with good workouts.

Third step (last 12 months), where I am at today, is a 5 day a week 45 minutes per day mid to heavy compound exercise routine, with hockey 2x a week (on top of it) AND I do cardio a couple times a week if I feel like it. Always under an hour. It doesn’t feel like work it is complete ME time. I get up at 5:00 am, have a coffee and read news, etc. until 5:30, and then work out until 6:30 – and my family doesn’t get up until 7:00 – 7:15. By then I have breakfast ready for everyone, lunches packed for school, dogs fed and taken out.

And I feel amazing.

My outlook on life has changed. I eat what I want when I want, including sweets and eating out, but I balance that with being active and eating healthy foods (that I now LOVE! – I never thought I could eat broccoli. now it is one of my favourites. It took a lot of time to get there.)

At times, especially end of year one and into year two I would get frustrated. I didn’t feel great. I didn’t look different. It took me a while to change my perspective that I’d have abs and pecs after light workouts and cardio. I’d beat up on myself when I became lazy or skipped workouts. I had the wrong perspective. I am really glad I stuck with it because at some point my perspective about everything changed and I realized I was doing this to be healthy, live a longer, more fulfilling life, and be happier – not to look like a fitness model. After that things became a lot easier. Getting up was easier. It became fun. It became routine, and once it was routine it became easy.

It took three years. You won’t change overnight and you won’t change on a resolution – but I promise you if start taking small steps you can get to where you want to be.

Day One is tomorrow.

I Has Happy Holidays!

Hi Everyone.

Just a quick note – I am on a beach right now not thinking about blogging, but spending time with my family and thinking about the world. There is so much unrealized potential and I hope as a global community we start treating each other the way we need to.  I wish nothing but the absolute best to you and your family, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. Lets all focus on being better people, and better to those around us. That small initiative will spread quite far and wide if everyone just treated everyone within ten feet of them with the respect and dignity human beings deserve.

Cheers my friends, both old and yet to be. May the upcoming year be the one step of many.

You don’t have to wear a cape to be somebody’s hero.

As Always,

Isey (Chris)

I HAS PC, Life and Interwebs

Where to Fit(bit) In!

Blogging has been a struggle as of late – I am playing four games, four of which are “out of date”, and I am plodding along at my own pace within them. I am not discovering anything new about these games (or myself playing them) and all of that adds up to the deeper questions of “where do I fit in” and “can I produce anything worth reading” in and for Blognation. High School all over again! Thankfully now that I am in my 40’s I do not have the care or worry about what other people think of me, because you get to that point in your life where you just realize you are what you are and you have what you have. This goes to most things physical, emotional, and spiritual at this stage. Perhaps that realization is enough to share and the young whipper snappers can appreciate that! Although there are far more persons with far more wise views on life in general, and as already mentioned, I am at peace with that.

Should I write about my EQ Wizard grinding CB again (for joy and levels), my level 16 max-charisma persona in Fallout 4 saving the wasteland (one cleared out building at a time), my new Ranger in Pillars of Eternity sorting out what it is he needs to sort out, or my Sword/Fist Templar plodding through Egypt in TSW? This is where my foreseeable gaming is taking me – I am enjoying each in the bite sizes I have and do not feel the need to venture into anything new. I am more likely to go in the other direction and go to older titles that are sitting installed.  This makes me a pretty terrible gaming commentator (writing style, grammar, and other generalities aside!) although I have still been poking my nose into other blogs to comment here and there. I love consuming community generated content.

So I am venturing into some newer territory and will be trying some posts on the ‘Life’ part of the tagline of the blog (‘Life and Interwebs’) and talk about things I have learned about health. Not just physical health, but mental and emotional as well. Oh, I’ll tie it into gaming where I can and where it makes sense, but Arywen noted once that gamers typically (or stereotypically?) tend to use their spare time to game instead of eating healthy and/or using their time to exercise. I am in the food industry (healthier for you fast casual) and have made health important in my life. Not above all else, but it is there as part of my life balance. And it wasn’t always that way.

in 2013 I was 230 pounds and smoked a pack a day. I loved smoking. I smoked the first thing when I woke up, and last thing before I went to bed. I was active in some sports (baseball and hockey) but those were largely leagues based around “beer” and camaraderie. Skate for an hour and then drink 4-6 beer and eat 2 lbs of chicken wings. The activities after the athletics not only completely negated the activity itself, but probably everything active for the entire day. I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t manage stress well, I didn’t eat well, and although I was a generally pleasant person to be around, I wasn’t really happy. I had a great job. I had a great kid. My wife and I weren’t really connected but we had a good life together. Things just fit out of balance.

Fast forward to today and I do an activity nearly every single day. I get up at 5:00am and exercise before the rest of my family gets up. I cook everyday, and make food that tastes amazing AND is healthy too. I am going to share a lot of my journey with you here, in bits and pieces and what I feel is relevant. Maybe it will inspire you to make small, positive changes in your life. Maybe you don’t care and are already completely happy with where you are in your life. I promise nothing here but to share my honesty on what I do and who I am, and how I feel it has benefited me. I am in the best place in my life, for the most part, and it has had a positive outlook on my stress, my relationships, my work, my free time, and overall, my outlook on life. I will share mindsets, workouts, heck, even recipes! Plus whatever good habits I think I have developed that are worth sharing. The main starting point is that it has been a long journey, I am far from perfect, but focus on it every day and feel like I moving in the right direction. I am not not a doctor or professional trainer, so take any advice through that lens.

Starting small here, and tying it back to the title, I bought a Fitbit. Not just for myself, but for my entire corporate team (45 of them). “Gamifying” health is one easy way to get gamers started. Fitbit has a clear set of daily goals (that you can set for your own pace) that is in simple format, and covers all aspects of basic health. Number of steps, glasses of water, calories burned, hours of sleep, number of floors climbed, daily activity minutes, and miles walked. It is on your phone or on a webpage and is just a constant, small reminder of some small but important things you should be doing everyday. The fun part has also been tracking how things I do affect my body. Here, for example, is one night when I played hockey (complete with a picture of me playing hockey, which Fitbit doesn’t do)

Now I am pretty sure the Fitbit slid over my taped wrist at that big drop off, but other than that is neat to see. Generating interest is part of generating habits – you get interested in a game and you play. So, as a motivator, the Fitbit has been a hit. Same for the team – you see people challenging each other and pushing each other to be more active. It has been fun to see. It will be even more interesting to see how long that effect lasts. I’ll still talk about gaming that feels right to talk about, and this isn’t a wholesale change in blog format or anything – just a newer focus I am going to play on some posts with in the new year. I have a vacation coming up (hot, island, far south!) but it will be fun to step into this just in time for everyone’s resolutions in the new year.

Santa Isn’t Real

Well, the cat is out of the bag.

Oh, not for me. I knew about that a long time ago. Give me some credit.

My 10 year old asked the big question last night as we were getting him ready for bed. He is in a grade 5/6 split class (due to Ontario regulations on class sizes it’s a weird setup this year – there are 4 split classes) and some of the grade 6 kids were letting other, younger kids in on the ‘scam’. I knew this question was coming eventually and had prepared myself somewhat for it. Instantly, after the question, I wanted to draw from my own experiences – how did I feel when i found out for the first time, and I couldn’t recall it at all. I have either completely suppressed the experience and it could/will come out in some devious personality quirk and/or moment of high stress and/or weakness, or it really wasn’t that eventful to me to begin with. I am hoping for the latter.

The conversation went pretty smooth. (using a lot of Sons and Dads in the language to clearly outline who is talking. We don’t talk to each other that way normally, just illustrative purposes!)

“Dad, is Santa real?”

“No, he isn’t.”

<cue tears bursting out>

“Son, its okay. I know this is hard to understand.” <hugs and fatherly comfort>

“Dad, I just feel so stupid. I used to get so excited when I got a Santa gift. It meant I was good to people and things and now I just feel so dumb”

“Son, it is important to realize the spirit of Christmas and why we do that to begin with. Maybe in the old days there really was a man who made and gave gifts out to all the good little kids, but what is important to live on is that we need to be good to one another, take care of your family, and appreciate each other. That is what the spirit of Santa is all about. And now that you know that.”

“Dad – you are telling me you would buy yourself gifts from Santa too, why would you do that?”

“It was to ensure you believed that Mom and Dad were good too.”

“Where did you hide everything Dad?”

“Not telling you son, we still use those spaces to hide other things. Surely you can see that one person, even magical, couldn’t do every single house in the world in a night, and that parents have to band together to make that happen. Magic still exists but often it is just in the way people treat one another positively.”

“What about the Easter Bunny Dad?”

“That’s me too. Kind of creepy to think there is a bunny running around our house when we are sleeping, no?”

“The Tooth Fairy came and left me $20 just last week….”

“That’s me too Son. And I didn’t have anything smaller. Trust me, I heard it from the other parents about that one too..”

And we sat and talked for a while about a whole host of topics around holidays and the things parents do to make them special for their kids. It was a really good conversation. I told him that every kid learns this at their own time and place and to try and keep it special for other kids until they learn from their parents. Some learn of this really young, some older, everyone has their own time frame. He knows there are kids on his hockey team that still do and decided that it was best to let them enjoy it while they could.

My son is also a bit of a smartass sometimes, and the next day when he was waiting for his bus outside of our house and I drove past him to go to work I put my window down, told him that I loved him and that I hoped he had an awesome day at school and that I would see him afterwards.

He replied:

“Thanks Santa”

gave a huge smile, and off I went.

Maybe he is going to turn out ok afterall.

Personal Easter Eggs

When questing in the Savage Coast in The Secret World I came across a gem during the Crime and Punishment quest line. This was after finding Sam Krieg’s fan mancave and hacking into his computer:

You can click on that to enlarge it to read it, but it is the quest text for the final part. The text is about Sam Krieg and reads:

“Born September 11, 1951; history teacher; married three times; Anne-Marie Ellsworth left him in 1983 (glastnost was a front); TV star Bobbi Mann (born Popescu!) left him in 1986; third wife, Elizabeth Galvan, died of breast cancer in 2002; writes letters to his dead wife; loves cashmere; hates the Habs; misanthrope; knows all about the darkness in our hearts; the cadence of shit; conspiracy buff; dominant theme in his novels: people pulled into the abyss; drinking problems; writers block; OCD.”

That description of Sam by his fan was priceless to me. “Hates the Habs”. Most hockey fans would get the reference. I am a huge Habs fan (origin: Les Habitants, ie: The Montreal Canadiens). Any good New England guy would naturally hate the Habs. The Boston Bruins are our most hated and heated rivals. Seeing it in there just tied more relevance and “reality” to the game for me. Of course, Sam Krieg, New England native would hate the Habs. I am just more impressed that a Norweigian quest writer would know that.

I am not sure how many hockey, Canadiens, or Bruins fans actually play(ed) TSW and hopefully that reference was not missed or lost upon the members of the Secret Societies. Sometimes it is the simple things that you learn to appreciate.

Honest Kids

This Blog has always mostly been about gaming, some movies here and there, and other things like  TV shows. You know, the fun things to talk about. I even hit some political topics and generalities here and there. The blog subtitle is “Life and Interwebs” but mostly it has been about Interwebs. It works for me. Due to the fact that I am entering the dry season for gaming (summer summer summer time!) there will probably be a lot more dashes of “life” posts. My most exciting game right now is TSW and I am so far behind in it and learning the ropes there that I don’t have any interesting insights to share. I will be playing on the EQ Progression Server as soon as they figure out their stuff, and I’m due back in WildStar at some price point change. Just a heads up to expect more life posts. They were always supposed to be on equal footing here.

My son hates clementines. It drives me nuts, fruit is basically just candy that is good for you. We eat a lot of fruit in our house. Because I know he hates it, I try to shake him on that and often put them in his lunches. He never eats them, we discuss why, I reinforce my views that its delicious and good for you so try next time, life goes on. I have tried advanced methods such as pre-peeling them, taking off the white, stringy bits that I suspect turn him off from them, even washing them to make them shiny. I have (for either reasons unknown, or very silly reasons) made it a mission to make the kid like clementines. I am still shocked he doesn’t.

At one point last week when yet another freshly washed, peeled, plucked and separated clementine came home in his lunch pail I just wondered how he hasn’t learned how to lie yet. How easy would it be for him to throw it out at school and just say he ate it? Then we could skip our routine when he gets home where I ask why he didn’t eat it as he dumps the crusts and remains of his lunch pail into the garbage and he reminds me that he doesn’t like them.

Of course, he is only 10 so maybe he just hasn’t learned how to lie “right” yet. As an adult I its sad that I kind of expect to not get the truth. I forgot that at some point in life kids sort out it is easier to lie than face up to something – but before that point it isn’t even a consideration to not tell the truth.

Or, he is toying with me, and purposely doing it to show me who is really in charge.

Impressive, proud parent thinking either way.

(no, no clever gaming analogy to tie to this, just life and clementine musings. Although, I will probably stop bothering him about it now)

History is Important

I appreciate learning the history of things. Often, I think this comes with age. It’s not enough to just live in moment amongst the new – a lot of amazing things have happened in our world. Learning about them is important. I travel quite a bit for work and pleasure and when I get an opportunity to learn about the origin of things I do. This sometimes runs contrary to my normal likes and dislikes. For example, on a recent trip to Nashville I did the Grand Ol Opry tour. I don’t even like country music. What I did like was learning about the history, joy, and importance of a single building that has been very important to country music. It was a couple hours very well spent. Hee Haw.

I find every time I open my mind to learning about the origins of something (anything really – from Steamwhistle to Tobasco Sauce to Mayan civilizations) I appreciate that thing more. Everything has an origin story and some capture and record it better than others. In the example above of Tobasco, they have a full time PHD historian tracking the efforts and actions of the founders of the brand and historical artifacts – of a hot sauce. It is actually a very cool story. Many do not have such care for the past and doing so  is a good thing in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society.

So naturally, when Zubon posted about Dr. Bartle’s post I felt it important for me to also repost and link to it. I don’t normally repost a post linking another post but as menioned in the prior paragraphs history is important. History about something you genuinely have passion for feels even moreso. The passion I have for gaming is pretty much the main reason why I blog in the first place.

All of this is history that needs to be recorded. It’s just not right for pioneers to be forgotten merely because they didn’t make millions from it. There are games historians today who think that virtual worlds began with Ultima Online or (for bonus points!) Meridian 59. A hundred years from now, there may be young researchers who are arguing in their PhDs that World of Warcraft had something to do with it. I won’t care myself, of course, as I’ll be dead; I care right now that few people care right now, though.

Hopefully by sharing this other people will care.

I do, sir.

Goalie Equipment and Mask Design

I am not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but I am a hockey goaltender. I spent my life playing the position and even now that I cracked the big four oh, I still play two to three times a week (in the winter). It’s fun exercise, allows me to still draw on my competitive nature, and overall, sit and have a beer with the guys a few times a week. Being a hockey goalie tends to come with certain expectations – one being that we are all crazy because we like vulcanized rubber hurdled in our direction at 100+ MPH (and we try to get in the way with it). I’ve had my own superstitions over the years and still dress left side first, every game. Heck, even my warm up stretches haven’t changed since I was sixteen years old. I can’t argue about there being screws loose. I mean, you have read some of my articles, haven’t you?

I have worn NHL pro level gear my entire hockey life. I was fortunate to have access to it. The gear that I have worn for the last eight years smells like it has been worn for eight years. Part of it is held together with duct and hockey tape. I have far outworn the lifetime of the gear but at the same time it just worked for me and of course had a lot of magic in it. Still, it’s time this year, with my 50/50 winnings from my fabled Les Habitants, I am replacing ALL of my gear. Although I am not playing pro level hockey I am still in two competitive leagues and I figured I will try to play for the rest of my life – so I am buying pro level gear, one more time. Part of me is really excited because the technology has changed so much – cross crease slides should be quicker and pucks should sting less (yes, the do hurt when hitting certain parts). So that is exciting. One change that will be REALLY weird for me is that in order to help increase scoring in the NHL a few years ago they made the maximum pad width 11″ – down from 12″. I am still using 12″ pads. From what I heard from my goalie brethren it actually increases agility by decreasing weight so it is a net benefit. Sorry for my ramble, I am guessing this isn’t nearly as exciting for you as it is for me.

Most of my gear (pads, glove, blocker) will be predominantly white. An optomistrist did a study and sorted out that white pads are harder to tell where the edges are for a shooter making a decision, and as such more pucks hit the pads. The stats on Marc Andre Fleury in white pads versus his yellow pads is astonishing! Still, I wanted a bit of color. My team colors are yellow, white and black so I opted for a simple white pad with black accent. Of course, to make it match, I did the same color pattern with glove and blocker. Below is what has been ordered.

Maybe you will recognize the design. Never a bad idea to duplicate the best goalie in the world, right?

It’s simple and fits my style. I am looking forward to stopping pucks with them. This leads to the big, fun question! My current mask is a custom 1999 Ed Cubberly. Ed used to make masks for such NHL greats as Mike Richter and Kirk McClean, but he has retired. My mask is heavy compared to the composite kevlar styles made today and with my mask needing repairs just to be safe, I decided it is time to upgrade that as well. To stick with my theme, I went with CCM.

The huge problem is, it’s all white. I need to get it painted. My last mask was actually worn in the NHL by a Carolina Hurricane and so I had those colors and styles. For this one I get to be creative! The thing is, I am not a very creative person by nature. Goalie masks are very personal and usually you have the graphics represent you (or the team you are playing for). I play for three separate teams, so the team angle doesn’t work. I could pick my favorite hockey team (the Habs) but they are red and blue as colors and that would clash pretty bad with my yellow and black gear and jerseys. So I am looking to BlogNation for inspiration and ideas! Here are some I would tack onto my idea board:

One of my favourite comic book characters, and as a solid piece of metal and strength could also easily represent “shutting the door” in net and stopping pucks. The yellow and X Men symbol would also fit nicely. Sticking with the superhero theme:

Gambit is another of my favorites, is pretty agile, and also can integrate the X-Men logo and theme. Not so sure about the pink though. Last but not least on the X-Men:

Yellow and dark blue/black, is an iconic Canadian superhero, and who doesn’t love wolverine? He is ranked third behind the two above however in terms of my superhero preference.

Other, non-superhero inspirations:

I love Calvin and Hobbes. My tatto is of Hobbes leaping accross my leg (as if he was to pounce on Calvin). I kind of like this face for the side of the mask as it is almost like a taunt to a player after a big save. My son thinks the following could look pretty cool:

The colors definitely fit the theme, but I was never a big transformers fan. Those are just color and theme inspirations, they wouldn’t be things decal’ed directly on. Here are some goalie masks in action to show the type of creativity that is done in this regard.

It’s pretty much an art form now.

So – do you have any ideas? Any preferences on the style board items I have shown? I would love to get some community opinions and thoughts!

Talkback Challenge #1 : How GamerGate Affected Me

I have mostly avoided participating in the major discussion threads surrounding #Gamergate for the sole reason that I find the internet a terrible place to have meaningful, open discussion on serious and important topics. I realize how silly that is as someone who blogs quite regularly and participates in a lot of blogs – perhaps I should rephrase. I find people intolerant of differences of opinions. Rightly or wrongly – it feels like when people are debating in written form it is for the sole purpose of proving they are right, or winning, versus learning, being open minded, moving the discussion forward in a positive and constructive manner, and sharing healthy discourse. I find pubs and beer is a much  better avenue for open, honest, and engaging debate. Still, I did touch upon my thoughts on it in two posts. One, captured it all quite perfectly through comedy on the Colbert Report:

My personal favourite moment is when Colbert compares the worry about what would happen to serious journalistic outlets such as Hollywood reporting (8:45) – TMZ, Entertainment tonight (etc.) if they too had ethics issues like Gaming journalism. I have missed that argument around all of the Gamergate “controversy” – most news sources we consume are pretty clear on their biases. It seems as though they are trying less to hide it, and at bare minimum the educated parts of society know the influences behind news reporting.

I love how comedy can often make more sense out of tough topics than serious discussion. I did write a more serious post about sensationalism in writing and shared what I feel the most simplest form of it all was – how it was trying to label me.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

I have been very consistent with the viewpoint that the world doesn’t need big heroes, it really needs a lot (like, millions) of regular people just being a bit nicer to each other. That is how the human race can truly change the world. Celebrities have a fraction of the power as a community working together. Holding doors open, saying ‘Thank You’ to strangers, helping out locally, and being open minded and understanding that we are not going to agree on everything and be tolerant of other viewpoints. Especially when they aren’t harmful or endangering.

Izlain’s talkback challenge was to share how #Gamergate affected me, not how I wrote about it. And, the  truth is it did very little to nothing.  I followed it closely and read a lot of posts but I felt that a paragraph here or there on the topic couldn’t do it justice, or wouldn’t be complete enough, easily counter argued and/or picked apart. I also do not write essay style posts here as it is a very relaxed and conversational blog and I did not feel like having to defend myself or worry about “winning” the argument. All that being said it does not mean I am not sensitive to the issues and problems  and I do believe change is good in this industry – I constantly argue here that the gaming industry is incredibly immature – and that is scary for a multi-billion dollar business. What I worry about is gaming hasn’t even sorted out how to reward and support long term employment and stability for the industry, let alone tackle serious gender representation issues. I believe it will all come in time and people are right to fight to speed that up when they are really passionate about it. People are also right to fight to ensure freedom of speech is safe even if it isn’t the popular opinion.

Now, at this point, you could try and argue that by me not taking a big stand (either way) that I am making the problem worse, not better. And to that I say stop trying to win an argument on the internet. I live my life with a mind and heart on equality. I learned this when I went to a liberal arts university in Canada in the 90s – and the university was ‘famous’ for it’s gay and lesbian population. Not that percentage wise it was any higher than any other Canadian campus, but that they were more free to be open about their sexuality. It was common to see same sex couples holding hands around campus – and in the 90s, this wasn’t as common as it is today.  I learned a lot there as a young adult growing into manhood and one of the defining moments that I recall strongly was a “Take Back the Night” rally – where hundreds of women would march down the streets of the city to show they weren’t afraid – and wanted the freedom and safety to walk at night. Something so simple that many men take for granted. Being a young idealist at the time, I wanted to help out! I wanted to support this movement and show solidarity with my sisters. The only thing I was allowed to do to support?  Help clean up the next day. They didn’t want male participation. Men where the ones causing fear for women to walk at night for fear of sexual assault (or worse). This was a women only march. I was pretty mad at first. I am not the problem. I didn’t assault women – I was the help and support walking my female friends home so they were safe. I supported their cause and understood their fear – not from experience, but because I had a lot of women friends who would share their feelings with me. Even though I was the one walking them home at night to be safe, the fact that they needed a man to do that at all to feel safe was the core of the problem to begin with. I was disappointed in what I was being told but in the end I did what they asked of me and grabbed a broom. I learned that day that even though I personally wasn’t the problem I still represented it, and that if I pushed the issue and walked the streets with them I was still taking away the empowerment they so badly wanted (and deserved). So I did the next best thing I could. I helped clean up.

Ever since then I have lived my life trying to learn and be open and do the right thing. I didn’t fight for or against #Gamergate online because the battle was crazy and both sides often being completely intolerant and silly to each other. The signal to noise ratio of meaningful or constructive discussion was near impossible to find. So I hit “like” on the posts I read that I liked, and ignored the troll bait, stunts and senseless arguments that was also abundant. And throughout all of that reading continued to live my life as the best person I could to the human beings I came in contact with in my everyday life.

#Gamergate didn’t affect me, but it reminded me of how far we have to go as human beings to be good to one another.

The Day the Music Died

I HAS RETURNED!

I left on a two week vacation and the several posts I had lined up to keep the traffic hits a coming (including the “I am leaving on vacation but have some posts queued up” post) didn’t pan out. If you stick around here until April 2016 you may find them. The past two weeks I have been on an epic, cross USA journey to a music festival. Perhaps you have heard of it?

Or perhaps you haven’t. Truth be told, I am not a very big “music” person – I hadn’t really heard of it until last year. I knew of festivals such as Lollapalooza which stood out, but not this one. Still, the trip sounded fun and our company lets us drive the branded RV anywhere if you book it. It’s handy. yup, an RV! A 2001 35′ Winnebago. Complete with the floral pattern couches and everything. Here is the route we drove.

The highlighted cities are the cities we spent a night in. With four drivers you can pretty much drive constantly on shifts, especially when you have full food and washroom services on board. We did all of that on 10 days (the first 4 days was a weekend in Niagara Falls). We did the bottom loop first through Nashville and finished up in Chicago. I had an additional 4.5 hour drive from Niagara Falls afterwards but that is where we dropped the RV off.

Back to the title – I am not really a musical person. I have some bands and songs that really resonate with me from specific, formative times in my life (University, childhood, etc.) but for the most part music doesn’t fire me up. I don’t feel music like my wife does. Sometimes I think I am broken because of that – or at the very least, am missing out on things. You may think I am crazy for driving across the country for a music festival when music isn’t really my thing but while music is meh for me, the experience of getting there and being a part of it was still incredible.  Plus the hike in Jemez Springs was good for the soul.

I want to explore the music thing for a moment because it actually bothered me that I couldn’t get into it while I was there, surrounded by people who could. I remember times where music was important to me and even 20 years ago when I was part of the underground rave scene I would dance until the sun rose and really loved it. I think I started tuning music out because I worked for so long in bars, restaurants and night clubs and music would distract you from service or the sale. I think that is where it started. I also play almost all of my games with sound off. I don’t even know what I am missing half of the time. Quiet gaming stemmed from my wife getting frustrated when I had headsets on, ignoring her completely, laughing with strangers from all over the world while we slayed digital dragons. I quickly learned to play with one ear out so when she talked to me I could respond. This is also why I now favour single player games, or single player MMOs (which most are now anyway). Funny that is finally starting to understand my love of video games when I explain it to her in music terms. See there, when Nero dropped that sick beat? That is like getting a new level!

Ok, it sounded way cooler with an EDM track in the background.

She’ll never really understand.

Coachella was all that it was billed as – concerts day and night, a lot of drinking, some dancing, tons of bands and crowds and live art – I have some nice pics over at my Instagram feed which I don’t think I have listed here anywhere because it is more life than interweb related – if you are interested my Instagram feed is founts_ca (and I’ll see if there is an widget for that).  They had corporate hippos in suits and an office environment that were absolutely captivating to watch. My main frustration was lack of internet. Being Canadian, roaming rates are disgustingly expensive and I thought I was smart hitting the first Wal-Mart when I crossed the border and grabbing a contract free WIFI hub from T-Mobile. It worked “ok” in cities (received 4G) but pretty much everywhere in between was only 2G service and wouldn’t let you download emails or surf basic information. And most of our trip we were “everywhere in between”. Still, that forced me to unplug a bit but I fell so far behind on keeping up with games and blogging, and I am happy to have returned.

The best part of the trip for me was just driving across the USA. I have spent a lot of years in many USA cities but I didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the roads and parts between. The drive from New Mexico to California was stunning. The beauty around Flagstaff was amazing. There were stretches of just pavement and forest and I had never experienced the USA that way before. I definitely appreciate it a lot more. Also, RV’ing is an amazing way to travel. I thought the novelty would wear off but I can totally see myself taking another trip like that. I would definitely make it with longer stops in between drives but it’s a comfortable way to travel. I’d just have to solve the internet problem better.

So, I am back. And much like my lack of music I am not much of a picture person either, so besides the dozen on my Instagram feed the rest is in my head. Very safe place to be.

Pay Beta/Alpha

I often review old posts – it is a fun way to see what I was jabbering about back over half a decade (sounds so much longer when put that way). I was reviewing some old posts when I randomly came across this one:

Introduce a New Phase in the Development Cycle

The premise of the post was to encourage a new production phase, the Commercial Beta, because that was essentially the state we were getting games in anyway. I had less issue with it for being honest and reduced in price. While it has been debated to death as of late I was just curious to found I supported the idea before it was a “thing”.

This could be a big win/win. Developers win because they can acknowledge their product is still in beta phase (albeit Commercial Beta) and it will give a little more lax room for player expectations as it is properly termed. They also will start getting a revenue stream to continue making changes. Players win because they receive a fairer value for their dollar for buying an incomplete product and pay less while changes are done, and also give a hand in shaping a game (that they obviously like, paying to beta and all) to be better positioned in the market to attract and retain a good player base after official launch. It also benefits the players because developers will have to make noteworthy changes and fixes to keep the player base after they go to “Official Launch”.

So listen, I’m not saying that the slew of pay for alpha/beta state games (and/or early access) is my fault or anything, but I did call it back in 2009. And I didn’t call it to say that this step would fix the way games are made (or even improve the current system) all it was was a call for honesty from developers. These are the fun posts when  you throw out an idea like that and it ends up coming to fruition for whatever reasons (not related to actually reading my blog posts). And while I know some people think that paying for these early game states is bad for the industry I am loving the two early access games I am currently in (and playing the most) and eyeing up a third that really suits my style.

With all the current chatter around monetization (again) for me it comes down to the personal value I get from any particular title, paid for in a way I feel comfortable with, based on the return enjoyment I am investing in. That isn’t anything a marketing department can come to easy grips with – but it works for me. And that may be in a pre-commercial release state.

Technology Creep

When gamers talk about “creep” they are often discussing things such as “Power Creep”. I don’t want the title of this short piece to be confused with that. I am talking about pure creep-y, which is a much different kind.

I consider myself very tech friendly and tend to early adopt and welcome technology into all parts of my personal life. My house has a Nest thermostat and 3 Nest smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. Onenote has replaced my pen and paper list obsession. I start far too many sentences with “OK GOOGLE” while holding my phone close to my mouth. I haven’t bought a paper based magazine in three years since my first The Economist digital only subscription. 90% of the books I consume are in audible or digital format. As soon as Nest let’s me do it, I’ll replace my door locks with Keyfobs. I am very comfortable with technology – even at my old age of 40. I can’t wait for my car to be able to drive itself.

I do find ignorance is a bit blissful when it comes to what our devices and services are actually tracking. This became a full realization when I got home last night from our two weeks in Denmark, and Google greeted me with this.

That is my trip in Denmark with key places, cities and timelines through the photos I took with my cell phone. Those weren’t the only photos I took, but were most through my Android based Samsung Galaxy s5. My wife thought it was really cool. I was a bit creeped out.

I didn’t ask Google to do that.

Google figured out I was back home because it knows where I live. It tells me everyday when I am commuting home from work how much longer until I get home – even when I don’t ask. Hell, I don’t remember telling Google where I live. It does know I sleep there every night though, or at least, that is where my phone charges all night (which means people are sleeping for the most part).

I have vendors trying to sell customers near my businesses geo-fenced coupons or ads to phones as they near retail outlets but I find that way to creepy. I figure that in all of my comfort if I have unease then surely others will.

I used to post with my real first name and last initial on this site while most others used their gaming names. I ended up getting a bit uncomfortable when I overheard some colleagues making fun of adult gamers. That’s when I switched it – although I felt a bit silly of it afterwards. I wonder how much of me should be here versus how much of what I think should be and the two are one in the same at the end of the day.

All that being said I am still pro-Google (and also not an Apple fan, although I think they can co-exist) but just want to pay a bit more attention to how my technology is in and around my life with a mind of its own.

Hell, after that whole article I still posted it up for the world to see. Although that is a bit presumptuous. My readers and Blognation to see at the least.

Do you have any examples of creepy tech – or maybe amazing tech? Am I over thinking this and should just be glad Google was nice enough to make me a digital photo album for free?

Pronouns

This post was originally started about 10 months ago – I found it deep in my “drafts” list (it is actually the oldest draft I have left). I sometimes resurrect these posts under my “Draft Necro” series because hey, not all posts deserve to rot away in draft folder hell. I typically preamble them in italics like this to explain why I started the post, and what happened. On this one, I read a developer interview and he used the word “I” so much I was pulling my hair out. That is what inspired the post! It sat in draft hell for so long because I couldn’t recall who I was reading about and lost the link to the article (normally I would email myself the link). So at the end of the day, I had a premise I wanted to share but no supporting material. In this final incantation of the post, I used myself getting a business award as the example, but it completely lost it’s video game slant. I really wanted to find that article because those who have read me for a long time know how I feel about “rockstar” developers and this smelled of that. Anyhow, the post ended up a lot weaker than I had wanted without the video game tie in so it sat… and sat. Now I am freeing it in all of it’s mediocrity!

I have a friend who is a consultant, and I recently saw him spoke at a convention. It was a smaller one, and a pretty “warm and cozy” environment. As he was talking about his past achievements to the group there was one word that kept coming up that I heard over and over, and it is the one word that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me whenever a business person uses it. That word, is of course, “I”. Now, unless you are working in a true company of one and not enlisting the help of any individual or organization, then “I” is okay. But that is the only time it is okay. When he asked how his presentation came across I told him that he used “I” far too often and that leaders don’t use that word when talking about accomplishments. Business leaders only should use “I” when taking personal responsibility for an accountability or a mistake. It is also okay to use the word “I” when taking accountability for a mistake the team made that the leader was ultimately responsible for – that is also good leadership, showing that they will take the heat for a team member.

He understood and appreciated the sentiment. Nothing is more disappointing than hearing a business leader speak about his accomplishments when he has a team of 10s, 100s, or 1000s. Those people typically never use the better word, the truth, “we”.  “We” should be common tongue for people in business, things are never done on their own or in their own petri dish. It’s a big, interconnected world out there. They also tend to use the other “worse” word business people can use, “they”. I did my job, “they” didn’t do theirs. “I” and “they” are two words any aspiring entrepreneur should lose fast, or at least find the right and proper spaces to use.

The one problem  with all of this pronoun discussion is how genuine the leader is. Some corporate leaders are well trained and say “we” all the time, when deep down inside the honestly believe that the success of their 50 year old brand that has 10,000 employees is the decisions they personally make at breakfast. It is neat to try and read through the lines and see the egos behind companies and their successes. (Good to Great, by Jim Collins, talks a lot about “rockstar” CEOs and their effect on the companies they parachute into).  I was also curious if one could find patterns in people based on successes and outlooks. For example, before a launch, are the bigwigs saying “I, I, I” and during launch saying “we, we we,” and after things didn’t launch so smoothly say “they, they, they?” – I did a bunch of google fu and didn’t find that so was very happy. Either way, I spend a lot of team reading how people say things, not just what they say.

Moral of the post? Share the wins, be humble, be good to people. Everyone works hard – the “leader” always gets too much of the credit when things go well. This tends to be true in any type of group setting.

The Year That Was 2014

I normally don’t do these posts, but it was a very good year and I feel like sharing. I am going away to Europe for Christmas for two weeks and as I tie up my professional and family life here in Canada before next week there probably won’t be a lot of blogging or gaming for me for two weeks. Looking back is always fun before moving forward. I have really enjoyed the posts from other blogs I visit who revisit their guesses on things that would happen throughout the year – since I didn’t do that in 2013 I can only look back on the year I had at I has PC.

Non essential but fun things (stats) is that I had my second busiest year blogging in terms of visitors, and best since 2009. “Best” is a bad word there, because it doesn’t count for quality by any means, so a better word is probably “most” for terms of numbers. “Best” counts for the quality of visitors, as I have made a lot of new blogging friends this year and  a lot of links added, and regular new reads.

My 5 most viewed posts:

WildStar Pre-Order Sales Slump?
How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways
WildStar’s Fast and Dramatic Decline
WildStar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline
EQN Landmark – 4 Extra Closed Beta Keys

Which I found a bit odd because I didn’t play or blog a lot about WildStar – although I had high hopes for it. So I must have hit a google SEO word sweet spot or something. All that being said, there are another 20 posts within 10% of those top posts in terms of views so I have a good “general” viewership for most topics.

I published 135 posts this year (including this one) which is a post every 2.70 days, also a high for me. A lot of those were through Blaugust but that also helped me find my blogging sweet spot and stride that I have been able to maintain since. I have been doing this a long time and with all the ups and downs, I really enjoyed being a part of the community extra this year.

My country viewership (in order) is:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • UK
  • Australia
  • France

Always fun to see the sprinkling of other countries in there as well, but good to see the motherland high on the list with a bunch of ex-colonies.

Going back over the posts by month, here is a quick synopsis:

January – I finally gave Turbine more of my money (I hadn’t since it was a subscription game!) and bought the Warden class. The one class I always wanted to play (something about fighters that use shields..) and many posts that month were about LOTRO and the fresh start. Favourite Post: A Dark Room. It was my favourite only because it was a really fun little game to play and captured my imagination.

February – LOTRO was short lived and February was all about Landmark. This game captured my Minecraft (I was an early adopter there) love with fancier graphics. I haven’t been back in a while, but I think I will dabble there again soon. Favourite post: I Still Can’t Build. I loved landmark for the exploration, but am a bad builder. I made a decent (by my standards) dragon head house and was proud to show it off. It is very amateur compared to what the community is pumping out though.

March – Nostalgia month as I tinkered back in Everquest since they had a birthday. I also mixed in Diablo III and more Landmark. I also started noticing Wildstar. Favourite March Post: My Influential 15. This was a fun trip looking back at the games that shaped what and how I play(ed) games. It was a great exercise and a lot of people ended up doing it. TAGN inspired!

April – April was all about revisiting and enjoying Everquest, while looking ahead to WildStar. The MMO itch was happening again! Highlight Post: WildStar Pre-Order Sales Slump. I knew something was up and my fears were founded at the launch and rapid playerbase decline of the game. I am still waiting to play it again once they drop they sub (or find a better payment method).

May – I was in beta for WildStar, dabbling a bit in Landmark. Highlight Post: Star Citizen – Seriously. I liked the post because I semi called out this project as a fundraising first project, not an actual game making project. In hindsight, as they continue to push to new fundraising heights without actually coding much, this could end up being the most expensive vaporware project in crowd-funded history. It could also cripple the system.

June – Chris “River” Cavelle, a fellow blogger, died in June. I still pop by his site sparingly out of habit. River – High Latency Life gets my post of the month for obvious reasons. Rest in peace my friend. Someone else has already bought his domain (that expired) but his page lives on at highlatencylife.wordpress.com – but of course it is just a reminder of the words he shared with the world. It’s the only piece left his internet friends have of him.

July – Wow, I do not post much in the summer. I need to work on that! I was still playing WildStar but just about unsubbed at this point. Summer is for outside! And non-sub fee games. Anyway, post of the month is Dragon Age : The Birdcage as DA announced a fully gay (male) companion character. Good for Bioware for leading the charge on diversity in AAA gaming.

August was Blaugust month and the most posts I have done in this blog’s history. 32 posts in 31 days! I also won games and prizes (luck of the draw) but I found my blogging style and habits rejuvenated from the exercise. I know it burned out some bloggers as well, but everyone reacts differently. It was really hard to pick a highlight post for August but I ended deciding on selecting I HAS PC’s birthday post. I shared a lot of personal things there about my health and marriage, but also it was to celebrate still blogging after six years. I also quit playing WildStar this month, to no one’s surprise who read the blog.

September had me posting every other day and I was still in groove of things from Blaugust and Destiny had launched with much fanfare and an absolutely stupid and waste of a story, storyline. I coined the term Dinkelaged (to mean something bad) but really I was too hard on the fellow. He was just chasing the cash, and not even Ian McKellan could have done a good voiceover in such a bad story environment. It’s too bad as well, because Destiny was close to being something really, really special – a merge of MMO and FPS. Instead, they took the worst parts of the MMO (needless grinds) and put it into an otherwise solid FPS game. My favourite post of the month was making fun of that story by explaining exactly how it unfolds while you play in The Destiny Story.

October had me experiencing (and thoroughly enjoying) The Wolf Among Us. I am really looking forward to part two. My thirst for story is mostly quenched through TellTale Games, and I wish SWTOR had a story only option (I would pay for that.) My favourite October post was AAA Blog in which I question the self anointed AAA title – it shouldn’t exist unless there are parameters and an independent body. It’s an oft overused meaningless label. Unfortunately it is now part of our everyday vocabulary when it comes to gaming. It shouldn’t be.

November had me talking a bit about Warlords of Draenor but I was actually playing The Secret World. B2P is a great model for dipping toes in and such. I know I will be sucked back into Wow, but holding out for the new year. A lot of future posts to talk about there. My favourite post in November was A Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us in which I lament that technology has even ruined the team sports photo. I know that is a pretty foreboding title for a team photo, but it’s perfectly true.

December is still going of course so not much to report here. I am going to Europe for the Christmas Holidays (not National Lampooning it) so I am not expecting a busy posting schedule. My favourite post of December is Not Threatening to Kill You About in which I threaten give Murf some love. A Merry Holiday post about death and internet dumbery, what could be better?

All in all I feel like I had a good blogging year. I made a point of frequently visiting other sites (and finding new ones!) and building my blogroll and making comments on other’s blogs. I like the interaction, its a nice break from work. I didn’t play nearly enough games or hours into games that I wanted to, but I plan on making some life changes in the New Year and making that happen. I currently work too much evenings and/or have mindless TV on. That time is much better spent on less-mindless vidya games.

Thanks for being a part of my 2014 journey, and looking forward to a healthy and fun 2015!

Freeedom!

I realized today I am completely insulated from the video game hype cycle. I am free! Normally by now I would be really deep in Dragon Age: Inquisition (I am a huge fan of Origins, and got through the second one for the sake of it) or I would be levelling in Warlords of Draenor for my regular “back for the expansion” trip.

This William Wallace isn’t nearly as exciting as the Mel Gibson version

I am not doing either. I know I will do both (eventually) but I am free from the need to get the game at the time the developer wants me too. At full price. I have argued in the past that the cycle of huge hype then huge discounts is hurting the industry and I believe where I am right now is proof of that. I was always a launch day buyer (even pre order) for big, major AAA titles. Now that has changed.

All that has changed is that I realize if you wait you get the same game (sometimes more, if DLC is out), that works better (patched) and is less crowded (if online). In short, you get a better game. You don’t even have to wait to that long, typically the hype train has left a new game 30 to 60 days after launch (since new games are on the hype train) and you can get a discount. Hell, if you wait a year, you can get that $60 game for $5 now. Depends if you have that patience.

The humble bundle and steam sale phenomenon has given gamers huge libraries of games that they can’t even get through, let alone think about paying full price for a new one. This, and the F2P landscape, gives so many options that the need and desire to buy on launch day is dwindling. It’s a race to the bottom on price and all new games have now is launch week. Once they lose that (and they will) the industry will need to have a correction.

We have seen this in the food industry where most major QSR brands raced to dollar menus to get people buying and looking for frequency and volume purchases. They have spent the last few years trying to undo this as the move has trained customers to expect a full meal for a couple of dollars. Initially they were hoping to (and often successfully) translated those dollar menus as lost leaders to the big items but consumers are pretty smart. And we are getting smarter. Games hurt a bit less on cheap “menus” because once they are done there are no more hard costs. To sell a Bic Mac you still have to pay for the ingredients and the labour to build it. To sell a game you just need a website and an internet connection. Regardless, the industry is training consumers the things it doesn’t want to.

I have a lot of disposable income for gaming and love gaming, and normally I would happily pay full price and support game makers – but now I know I don’t have to, and if I look at their actions they are telling me they don’t want me at full price either if I can resist the hype. I am the same guy who gladly pays $5 for a Starbucks because I like how friendly they are and how they treat me as a return customer, not because they have the best coffee. Most industries out there focus on building customers and loyalty and studies show time and time again people will pay more for a better experience. So why is the gaming industry sending a message that their efforts aren’t worth what they have been telling us all along?

Hell, games are being discounted BEFORE launch day now, because developers are realizing if they don’t sell before launch, they are going to lose boxes. I could have bought Civ: Beyond Earth for 25% off before launch day. (Thankfully, it will be 90%+ off soon..). All of this is very confusing. To everyone. Customers, developers, digital distributors – no one really understands what is going on and what the long term effects will be. It just feels like a gong show!

Gaming as an industry is very young, and they are making a lot of mistakes that more mature industries have already learned. There will be a correction at some point (there needs to be) and it will be very interesting to see what that looks like when it happens. In the meantime, I have a catalog to play and sales to wait for.

(test)