Category Archives: Even More General Blathering

Back From Antipodistan

Thus ends the summer break. And, incidentally, summer, around here. On my last day of vacation, it was 32 degrees. At home, it’s barely above 12.

I went through the middle of Australia, saw a lot of nothing (and totally enjoyed it!), some kangaroos and wallabies (alive), a lot of kangaroos and wallabies (dead), didn’t get bitten by any spider, nor by any snake, nor eaten or stung by save what I think must’ve been some sort of harmless jellyfish. At least it only hurt for about 5 minutes, and I didn’t stop breathing.

I think this picture sums up (at least part of) my vacation quite well:


Now I have to update games. And get back into them. And see whether I can come up with something to write about them!

Oh, and do a lot of laundry.

Blog Vacation

Sorry for the recent lack of posts. It won’t get better in the near future though. I’ve spent most of the last days preparing a combined work trip plus vacation in Australia. For the next three weeks, there won’t be a lot of updates, if any. The programme will return to schedule in October.

Unless I got bitten by a venomous spider.
Or a snake.
Or stung by a fish.
Or a jellyfish.
Or eaten by a crocodile.

Learn from the really big fish

With all the doom and gloom over inflated and missed quarterly goals for MMOs, maybe it’s time for some more… fundamental measures:

Trying to sell your MMO as a religion might boost income, who knows? Worth a try if you fear your game might tank otherwise.

(And yes, I got the link from a German blog, which in turn got it from reddit, so half the world has probably seen it already.)

Restarting My Feed Reader

So, as I said in my short “I’m not dead” post, I stopped reading other people’s blogs for some time, too. They had the gall to keep posting, though! The nerve! So when I opened my feed reader, I was greeted by no fewer than 812 MMO blog posts.


There was no way I would be able to read them all in any sensible amount of time, so I had to grab my machete and cut down left and right. I went through all posts and marked as read lots of them, depending on their topics. I marked as read, but didn’t read:

  • Everything related to Guild Wars 2. I’m not all that interested in the game. Maybe I’ll try it at a later point, but I only skimmed over the beta-related posts when I was still reading daily, so this was a no-brainer. I guess if I’m interested, I’ll just read whatever posts will float by from now on.
  • Everything related to Mass Effect 3. I haven’t played the game yet, but want to at some point. I didn’t read any of those posts because 90% of them were about the game’s ending, and as such spoilers. All I gathered was that the ending sucked, and that people weren’t out of their minds with astonishment over the alternate ending either.
  • Everything related to SW:TOR. That means one blog got completed marked as read without ever looking at the posts. Sorry Shintar of Going Commando! I just never got into the game. Just like with Guild Wars 2 however, I’ll probably read what will float by from now on. From skimming over posts in other blogs, I gathered that there are server merges (probably a healthy thing), some confusion about the implementation of said merges, and an unlimited trial just like with WoW and RIFT. That’s all I need to know right now.
  • Almost everything related to Diablo 3. Beta didn’t grab me, so eh.
  • Most things related to RIFT. I read there will be an expansion. My highest character is somewhere in the 40ies. I’ll probably follow the news once the expansion is released.

Of course, that means I probably missed a lot. The whole 38 Studios fiasco is something I only heard very vague things about, and might read up on at a later point. There was some coverage about City of Steam in some blogs, but it went unread by me. Finally, sorry to the MMO Melting Pot! You’re great, but I had almost 100 posts from your feed, and seeing how each of these links to, on average, 2-3 other blog posts, that went out of hand too fast. I marked as read everything except for the last 5 posts. It’s sad, but I had to cut somewhere.

Now I’m down to 324 posts. Hm. Might still take some time until I’m back on top of everything.

I learned one thing

There are many things that can keep you from posting. For me, it started with being really engulfed into EVE, and the old problem: do I rather want to play, or write about playing? It continued then with extra load from work, and a bad cold that disabled me for a week. And then, suddenly, it was several weeks, almost a month, since the last post. And I felt slightly intimidated to start again. With that much of a break, you’d need a killer of a post as a comeback, right? So, I waited even more to come up with something amazing. At some point, I didn’t even read other people’s posts any more because I started feeling bad about just dropping out.

Long story short, rule number 1: never ever stop posting. It’ll just make it that much harder to get back. Write silly uninteresting stuff rather than nothing.

In Which I Lament The Depiction Of Males In Computer Games

I had sworn I’d never write a post about the topic of topics, the filler of comments with gall and spite, the one topic you must not write about as a male, lest be scorned…

Oh Boy! (or Girl, I guess, to genderize correctly.) In all honesty, I’m scared. I hope the relative obscurity of my blog will prevent me from the dreaded 100-comment discussions. Anyway, here it goes:

I’ve heard the question over and over again. Why do women complain about the depiction of women in computer games, but men do not about depictions of men? The often-cited reason is: Depictions of females in computer games are sexualized to fuel male fantasies, while depictions of males are empowered, to also fuel male fantasies. Hence, guys don’t have anything to complain about, that’s why you don’t hear about it. This is called “false equivalence”.

So I guess it’s my time to speak up and claim that, to me personally, this “false” is a “true”. I want to complain about the depiction of men in computer games. There are two points I want to look at and refute:

Sexualization is bad, Power Fantasies are good?

Maybe the problem is that the female stereotype shown is more offensive than the male one.

That would imply either a) sexualization is inherently bad in itself, or b) power fantasies are inherently good. Now, you can argue that “sexualization” is an over-reliance on sexual attractiveness, and this is bad as it is a stereotype. I will even agree, I hate chainmail bikinis with passion. But on the same level, “power fantasies” are an over-reliance on bullyism, and this is also a stereotype, hence bad.

Now, let’s reduce it from the stereotypes to the underlying concepts. Sex and physical prowess. Sex isn’t inherently bad. We all like it, we like to do it, and unless we cheat nature, which we also all like to do all the time, we actually need it to survive (as a group). Physical prowess also isn’t inherently bad. Back when we had to run 5 hours chasing a gnu, we actually needed it to survive. But we don’t need it any more. Physical Prowess is much more archaic than sex. Therefore, it often gets sublimated: the power of physical prowess is converted into more intangible power over other people.

If that is true (I’m not 100% sure, I admit I haven’t read more than a couple of introductory texts on psychology and psychoanalysis), the male depictions in computer games hint at having power over other people. I find that even more offensive than being sexually available. Why do I, as a male, have to subjugate others to fill my gender role? I don’t like having power over others, it makes me feel queasy. I’d rather “make love than war”. I reserve my right to be offended at those male depictions, because they pigeonhole me into something I find highly problematic.

There is no choice for women?

This has become less and less true over the years. Of course, there are still bad apples. The last wave of posts about this topics was motivated by the TERA demo. I looked at the youtube videos featuring the classes, and I see a problem there: about 90% of the women are scantily clad, about 90% of the men are heavily armored or at least properly clothed. But even in TERA, there are the occasional properly-clothed and even armored females, and the half-naked guys. Then again, the game is going to tank anyway, and we can get worked-up about it all day. What can you expect from a game that has a brainless muscle beating up your target audience as advertising campaign?

On the other hand, many games at least give you a token choice. And if you don’t like that one, you’re equally out of luck as woman or man. Don’t like over-sexualized females? (I don’t, so I follow the rules laid out here.) Better don’t play a Demon Hunter in Diablo III, or a Blood Elf in WoW, or a Norn in GW2. If you’re hell-bent on playing a female character, switch to the Barbarian, Orc, or Sylvari, respectively. If you’re hell-bent on playing the class/race, switch gender, and chances are you’ll be happy (with the exception of the Norn, I guess), because stereotyping in games seems to run along races rather than sexes these days.

Don’t like over-muscled males? (I don’t, so I follow the rules laid out here.) Better don’t play a Barbarian in Diablo III, or an Orc in WoW, or a Norn in GW2. If you’re hell-bent on playing a male character, switch to the Demon Hunter, Blood Elf, or Sylvari, respectively. If you’re hell-bent on playing the class/race, switch gender, and chances are you’ll be happy (with the exception of the Norn, I guess), because stereotyping in games seems to run along races rather than sexes these days.

So, is there no choice in female characters? No, there sure is. Is there less choice in female characters than in male characters? Hard to make a blanket statement, but I can’t see it. Elves are typically a great avoider for the male stereotype, and it seems we’re getting to the point where either evil-ish or hunky races avoid the female stereotype. In that respect, I disagree with Spinks; I think there indeed are different female models available in most games, and that there is choice.

The Final Rant

Stop reading here. Seriously. (Actually, I decided to delete most of it before I hit “publish”, because it detracted from my point.) Just one short summary:

I find many male depictions in video games offensive, because they imply I need to be a power-hungry hunk to be really male. I don’t like to have power over others, and I’m not athletic. Stop exploiting this weird gender image, it’s not working for me. Then again, most games give me a choice to avoid the stereotypes I don’t like. So get over it, all genders and sexes.


This week, I hit 1000 page views since the blog started (or whatever WordPress’ Jetpack defines as “views”). Well, not quite, the statistics only go back to 6th of August, but not much happened before then anyway. So it took me almost exactly 7 months. It’s gotten a lot faster recently though. Around New Years, I had just a bit less than 500. Apart from Blogroll links on other websites, the main contributor has been MMO Melting Pot, which mentioned me for the first time six weeks ago, and twice more since then. It’s not a huge number, but I’m quite happy with this little milestone.

I hope I’ll be able to get back to a schedule of two posts a week, which seems to fit me best. Thanks to all my readers, many or not, long-time or new, faithful or passers-by!

WordPress Live Updating Blogroll

One of the things I always envied the blogspot bloggers for was their live updating blogroll. You know, with blogs ordered by their last post. In the spirit of “this blog runs on my own site, wordpress is open and extensible software, there should be a solution for it” I invested a bit of time and now found a nice plugin called WP Social Blogroll that seems to do the job. You’ll find it to the right as “Experimental Live Blogroll”.

It basically relies on the Google API to get the information, so it should be as up-to-date as the blogger rolls. There’s a few minor differences, for example, the current version doesn’t calculate the post age down to the minute, but I should be able to change that in the code if I want to. I’m also not 100% sure I liked the current style, but I could always play around with the CSS more.

I know many other people have been searching for such a feature. If you want any information, just ask. I’m not sure it’ll work with blogs, but it might be worth a try for those over there.

I also need your feedback, though: The plugin comes with a warning that blog pages can take longer to load if the blogroll is “large”, but it doesn’t give a number. Please leave a note if you have the feeling that the site has become sluggish with the new plugin. It’s normal that the blogroll takes a second to populate after the site was loaded, and I think that’s fine as long as the rest of the page is rendered without much delay.

On Books and other Worldly Possessions

I’m still a bit behind on reading posts. I’m now catching up on Raph Koster, who has recently stirred up a lot of comments lately by stating that immersion is dead (I paraphrase). I’ll ignore that for the time being, and focus on another post, where he ponders the inherent value of culture and specifically its means of presentation, with a focus on books.

To me, this has always been an interesting topic, because it seems to be one of those very fundamental opinions that people have diametrically opposed opinions about. It’s certainly a world view topic, in how it shows what is most important to you as a person, what you value as a virtue in and of itself, without any more fundamental reason to it – it is important because it is. Some people value professional success, some value riches. Others may value a perfectly-fitting suit and a trained body. And some people value the feeling of history that is inherent in a first edition book from 1901, or in an original pressing of a certain vinyl record. To those people, history is a virtue in itself. Others might just like the sensual feeling of holding a real book in their hands and turning the pages.

Yes, Raph Koster is probably quite right when he points out that there might be signalling theory involved. But it is also telling when you read the comments to his post. It is obvious how some people immediately understand the feeling of how a large collection on books, proudly presented in your living room, is both awe-inspiring and comforting, while others say they don’t get it and were glad when they could get rid of all their cruft.

I’m one of the history collectors. From my living room windows, I can see our old town hall from the 14th century, which in turn is the only building that prevents me from seeing the cathedral that’s 1200 years old. Looking at them just makes me feel happy like other people might when they look at a sports car. Turning around, I face book shelves that – while not containing anything that can rival Raph Koster’s 1901 Dumas edition – contain a collection of books that are dear to me, both for their age and for having been bought and read by me. There’s also my second-hand record collection. I was so full of joy when one day I found an original pressing of Secret Treaties by Blue Öyster Cult, my favorite album of my favorite band (though, in a strange twist, not my favorite album of all times). I don’t play these records a lot, I admittedly often prefer the convenience of (high-quality) MP3s. But when I do, it’s something I wouldn’t want to miss.

So, what does that mean? I can think of three things.

  1. Never ridicule people for their strange fetishes. People might laugh at me for collecting useless old stuff. I shouldn’t in turn laugh at people worshiping things that seem exceedingly weird to me. Let them do their thing.
  2. One commenter on Raph Koster’s post quoted a piece of advice he got: “Never sleep with anyone who doesn’t have books in their room.” I think I never broke that rule, though if it is specifically about the bedroom, I might need to recheck some locations… which might pose a problem. I’m sure I’d get some weird looks from some of the girls if I asked whether I could check out their bedroom again…
  3. Oh God Oh God I’m already dreading the next move. What with all the books and records and DVDs and other things that will need packing, moving, and unpacking. I should start saving now so I can afford professionals.

Office Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Spinies

I promised I’d make a photo as soon as I installed it, so here it is:

Lakitu cloud with Spiny

Careful when you enter, you'll be right in the drop zone.

It’s a Lakitu/Jugem plushie, with a Spiny/Togezō dangling underneath. It’s incredibly soft plush, which is totally wasted now that people won’t really touch it. It looks very cute though. I bought it at Kotobukiya in Akihabara, a shop that specializes in merchandise such as plushies, figurines, and plastic models that you assemble yourself. I just had to get it, and it also was cheaper than a similarly sized Mario on a Yoshi (I guess you pay popularity tax on that one).

I also like the joke that whenever somebody enters our office, he’ll now be standing under it. It’s like a nerd’s sword of Damocles, with the difference that our Lakitu is fixed in place, so you can evade it easily. It will also be interesting to see whether some people won’t know what it is. If any student doesn’t, I’ll thow him out. He should not be allowed to call himself a computer scientist if he doesn’t know the basics!