Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Falling off the Community Bandwagon

OK. I knew this was going to happen. I got busy with other things and stopped posting. Or maybe I just had writers block. But Kaozz had a recent post that inspired me, because it connects with my own behavior in MMOs (and blogging too). I am a lurker. I like to observe a community, be it gaming guild chat or Blaugust Discord chat, but I very rarely enter into the conversation. I also rarely group even when grouping is pretty darn easy and incentivize.

Why? Well, the most obvious is that I am an introvert. I am a manager at work and that means a lot of time in meetings and on the phone with people all day long. I have no problem dealing with people, but I find socialization draining after a day at work. I also have a very social family life, so games are actually a refuge where I can have some “just me” time.

The second reason I don’t communicate more is that, even at my age, I can still feel insecure when talking to people I don’t know, especially in a group setting. This manifests in several ways. I communicate better in writing, but when in group settings I end up talking too much. I am probably overcompensating and feeling like I am obligated to contribute to a conversation even if I don’t have much to say. Generally, I avoid voice chat like the plague in games. I find most texting to be okay for exchanging quick bits of information, but not for actually getting to know people. Truth to tell, it’s been a long time since I “friended” someone outside my family in a game, although I still join guilds for the purpose of trading goods, guild hall facilities or other amenities. I do send donations to the guild, but don’t do many guild events.

An then there is my desire to set my own pace. Grouping is very frenetic these days at least for pick up groups. Everyone rushes through the content and it’s hard to pay any attention to any story or ambiance when you are running after your groupmates. Way back in the original EverQuest, groups would set up “camps” where a particular boss would spawn, sometimes with long waits between. Sometimes the group would talk while waiting. Waiting is anathema these days and has been eliminated from games, for better or worse. I am pretty sure that even I would no longer enjoy that slower pace in gaming.

Finally, there is just shear laziness. It’s just more complicated if I have to consider other people’s needs or respond to conversations. I probably could find a deeper enjoyment if I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, opened up and got involved. Some people out there can be really cool. Maybe someday.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Goal Horizon

There have been several posts lately about August gaming goals. Goals give gaming or life in general a structure that can be appealing especially to achievement oriented types like me. But goals serve different purposes depending on the span of time being considered. At the bottom of this post are my August gaming goals and some screenshots of the game areas under consideration in ESO and Sims 3 (Sims 4 never caught on with me).

My daily goals tend to be mood and time driven. How much time to I have today and what activity/character/game fits my mood? Weekly goals are frequently driven by opportunities. Is there an event going on? When night can my husband and I team up. Monthly goals are more achievement driven. At the end of the year, there is another spate of yearly reviews and resolutions. What game should I focus on this year? Is there anything new and exciting?

The most interesting and hardest goals to set are the long term goals not often considered in games or life. Where do I want to be 5 years from now?

  • Get through Cadwell's Silver quest, i.e. complete second faction on one character.
  • Play Wrothgar during Orsinium event
  • Complete Clockwork City questline and zone

Sims 3
  • Get the Elvish legacy family to generation 3 in the Monte Vista neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Being There

One of the reasons I enjoy ESO is the high quality storylines and the voice acting. The story pulls me into the world and makes the quests more than ticking off objectives. However, I have a few bad habits in my gaming that interfere with my immersion in the game world.

First, previous games I played had poorly written quests with no voice. I started clicking through the quest text, so I could to get back into the world and accomplish the objectives. Many gamers vow to read all of the text, but when I tried to slow down and do that, the writing was so dull I gave it up as a waste of my time. ESO isn’t like that. If I listen, the characters dilemmas and needs are compelling and there are multiple storylines that interact with each other. There are choices in some quest that do affect the world, but not the overall direction of the story. Nevertheless, it is worth slowing down and experiencing the game more fully in ESO.

Second, many games have annoying sounds either bad music or oppressive ambient sounds and no voice acting. I started muting the game and only using the visuals and text. When I was playing No Man’s Sky the other day, it had ambient noises that really got on my nerves. Further, even when the game sounds don’t annoy me, they annoyed my husband who is on his own computer next to me. We solved that with headsets, but that keeps us more separated than I would like. ESO generally does not rely on music to set the tone of an area and the ambient noises are appropriate and not irritating even in those zones like Coldharbour that are visually oppressive, so I play with the sound on, so that I do not miss the voices that make the story more compelling than just reading the text.

Third, since my sound was sometimes turned off, I began listening to other things, mainly audiobooks and streaming video. This split attention between two activities can help me quickly through boring or slightly unpleasant activities such as housework. In games, crafting grinds and dailies also fell into this category.  I have two computer screens, so watching a movie or TV show on one screen while playing a game on the other is easy. But if there are voices happening in both screen, I can only pay attention to one of them at best, and more likely, I can’t understand what is going on in either screen. It’s gotten to be ridiculous, but I think it is a symptom of trying (and largely failing) to multitask.

Modern U.S social structure values “efficiency” and “productivity”. Further, our culture has become more and more ADD with shorter and shorter attention spans for any particular subject. I remember when MTV and music videos began and thinking how quickly the images flew by. Now all video formats are like that. How long does a camera stay with any one point of view in most movies or TV shows. Games are like this too, emphasizing short, quick tasks in most cases which is part of why combat is such a central part of most games. MMOs and some single player RPGs go against this trend with longer story format and that is part of why I enjoy them.

To get the most out of an MMO story and world, I need to be a little more patient and focused and stop multitasking. Balancing quality and quantity is a good life lesson.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Screenshots vs Immersion

I have the same relationship with screenshots as I do with photos. I love looking at them, but hate taking them. Taking a photo, especially a good one, takes me out of the moment. I have to stop participating and shift to observing which is a very different activity. Participating in an event is where I find fun and joy. It seems worthwhile to devote some time to invest in a photo, because that will extend the enjoyment of the event to later times and/or to other people.

Much like my goal for this blog, a screenshot puts me in a “meta” state that causes me to think about what a game is and what it means to me. Some screenshots can come close to art as some game visual can be amazing, but that artistic quality shot takes an investment of time, composition and editing. Those screenshots can memorialize a game or experience, but are rare. My dad used to take a lot of posed pictures of our family. That style of picture taking is pretty passé in these days of the ubiquitous selfies. Although come to think of it, he used a camera tripod and timer to get into the family photos himself, so those were early selfies too. Most screenshots, like this blog, are more fleeting and spontaneous, but with luck can offer a bit of humor or a snapshot of an experience you want to convey. Even a quick screenshot can be worth a thousand words.

I know I always enjoy blogs that have a few pictures. So I will strive to add pictures to my blog and see what those images have to say.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Variety Spice

This weekend I played a few hours of No Man's Sky. I purchased this game on Steam when it first came out. I found it novel, but the novelty of procedurally generated content tends to fade at the point at which the "infinite" worlds all start to look the same (about 36 hours according to Steam). I concluded that it had potential if the developers put more work into the game to expand the variety of things to do.

Anyway, I heard about the big "Next" patch and went in to check it out. I did get off the first planet by following the tutorial/instruction. Starting players out on a hostile, radiation heavy planet is a good way to get people to go into space early in the game. Last time I played, I stayed on the starting planet for many days of gameplay and just explored there. While there were hints on what to do, I got the exploration vibe of figuring out a very different than the games I have been playing for years, which is all I was really looking for.

 The questions is: will I stick with NMS or was it just a fling? I should give it more time to see some of the other changes, but it has a lot of competition on my computer. Personally, I favor sandbox games in which there is not a lot of hand holding, so NMS fits that preference. But I also like games that offer a variety of types of content, e.g. resource gathering, exploring, surveying, building, questing and I haven't played enough NMS to see if it has enough to do.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Daily Comforts

I only had about 20 minutes to play last night, because my sister in law and her husband are visiting from out of town. The one thing I can do in ESO without a lot of thought is dailies. I logged into two of my characters, my current main and my jeweler alt that I am leveling up. I “fed” their horses, which increases their speed or bag space. I also did the crafting daily for jewelry.


It’s easy to see what the game companies get out of creating daily tasks. They help establish a routine with the plays of connecting to the game, keeping interest during lulls between more intensive involvement in the game. Dailies also provide incremental progress in long term goals for the player at a very low cost for developing simple repeatable quest. I rarely delete or re-roll a character, because I have made progress in some skill that would take weeks or months to repeat.


But what do I get out of dailies? Dailies are part of what is usually referred to as “grind” and in excess can lead to boredom and burn out. But dailies are also an example of habit or routine, and routine can be comforting, especially in times of change. They give me a feeling that I still have some measure of control over your life. My habits can be utilitarian or trivial such as small cleaning tasks or game dailies.


Sometimes my routines can really help me to get something done without having to think or stress out about it, but other times they an verge on negative compulsions. “Casual” games on my phone are more likely to have these compulsive characteristics than computer games. When I find myself playing multiple games of solitaire at work, I am either stressed out or bored. At that point, I need to stop and think about why I am doing this behavior and fix the cause, or at least find a more constructive outlet like going for a walk.


Nevertheless, I recognize that daily routines can be a good thing if done in moderation and mindfulness. Mindfulness of routine is something of a paradox, since routines are the epitome of mindless actions. Mindfulness is more the meta state of thinking about the patterns of my actions and whether my current actions are still serving my best interests overall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Gaming Styles or Stereotypes?

Many gamers are familiar with the Bartle gaming styles – Explorer, Achiever, Killer, Socializer. As with personality testing, this type of categorization is mainly useful for getting people to realize that not everyone thinks the same way or enjoys the same thing. It also satisfies the Achiever’s need to put people in neat little bins. Like all categories, they can either be a useful shorthand for a particular purpose. Or overused stereotypes when deriding alternate viewpoints and lifestyles.

I happily categorize myself as a mix of Explorer and Achiever with very little Killer or Socializer. I love games with beautiful, vast open world with few if any access restrictions. At the same time, it can be a trap to put myself in these boxes. I had a good time last night using the dungeon finder in ESO. It was quick, gave good loot and took me to places I hadn’t seen before. I generally avoid grouping, because I dislike the ambiance of most dungeons (dark and ugly) and I don’t like the feeling that other people are impacted by my screw-ups. Plus, these days, there is really no social interaction in pickup/dungeon finder groups.  

Getting out of ruts and putting more variety in my gaming is a good thing given that I devote so much time to MMO games. For years, I have been spending as much time gaming as working a job and I have spent 5-10 years playing some MMOs. Games serve a multitude of need depending on how I feel at any given time. They can be soothing stress relief, a window to another world, a creative outlet, and a mental or even physical challenge.