Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pansies Paralyzed by Snow Army

I greatly fear the day when invading forces allied against the United States land on the shores of the northeast.

If they're smart, they will replace all guns, missiles, cannons, and trebuchets with giant snow machines.

It would start with word that the Snow Army was approaching. Instead of preparing their defenses, people would all drive simultaneously to the grocery store for bottled water and canned goods. Thousands would die fighting for the last can of Spam. Thousands more would be killed in the subsequent car crashes and traffic jams.

Those traffic jams would be so bad that some people would actually still be in them when the Snow Army landed. Having squandered the chance to muster a response, people would begin calling out of work and attempt to wait it out in their homes. The call to arms would go out, but everyone would have excuses to avoid reporting for duty.

"They don't plow my street in the neighborhood I live in."
"My house is near a hill."
"By the time I get there, I'd have to turn around and come back home."
"I'm not driving out there with those morons."
"I'm a huge pansy."

You get the picture. Left with no defense, the Snow Army would roll over everything in its path. The angry inch of powdered death would leave nothing untouched. Governments would fail to respond at every level, elected officials having already chosen an excuse from the list above.

It didn't used to be this way. George Washington and his army spent a brutal winter at Valley Forge, and they didn't call in sick. They used the time to get their asses out there and retrain.

Damned if I was going to dishonor their memory.

This morning I walked out at quarter to 7 in the morning. My car was covered with an inch of pure ice. I couldn't get the door open.

Instead of picking one of the excuses above, I gave the car a few swift kicks. That knocked enough of the ice off to get the door open. I started the car, got out the scraper, and got to work.

Turned out I was better off wielding the scraper at first like a baseball bat to crack the ice. I used this tactic for awhile before using old fashioned scraping techniques. In the process I sliced open my finger.

No time to deal with the blood. The freezing rain and snow were still falling and covering the work I had done so far. I kept at it, and eventually enough space had been cleared on the windshield to see out.

Tossing the scraper back in the car, I went upstairs to my apartment to get a bandage for my finger when I noticed I had gotten blood all over my shirt.

That's when the power went out. Undaunted, I went back to the car. Unfortunately, the 2 minutes I had spent not scraping ice had resulted in the car door freezing shut again. I gave it a tug... and pulled off the handle.

Now my keys were trapped in the car, but I used a credit card to pry open the tiniest bit of plastic left on what used to be my door handle. This time I left the door open as I retrieved the scraper and got the freshest coat of ice off.

I eventually made it in to work to a half empty office and emails from friends and coworkers who were staying home.

When it snows, you can choose to be a huge pansy. That's your right as an American. That's a choice that you live with.

But just remember that you are dishonoring the proud history of this country.

And that you suck.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Gaming's Many Forms, or the Burning Shark

Last Thursday's Shadowrun game was a ton of fun. It was odd not having one of the group's stalwart players there, but we soldiered on.

I imagine most gaming groups have their ups and downs. But after reading this post from Abulia Savant, I can certainly count myself lucky. Our group has never had problems of this magnitude.

Perspective is a funny thing like that. Sometimes one forgets that things are never so bad that they can't get worse.

On a somewhat related note, the momentum for the Warcraft expansion pack has been picking up everywhere I look. Some of the folks who work on my floor are avid WoW players and I hear them chatting about it once in awhile. Most of the Thursday night gaming crew also plays the game (including, I suspect at this point, the infamous Andy), going so far as last week to bring a hardbound copy of the artwork to the table to ogle in pre-dice slinging reverence.

A little perspective helps here, too. For starters, the last thing I need right now with Final Fantasy XII remaining yet unfinished is another game, particularly with the siren song of Dwarf Fortress calling to me from the ugly, demon spawned XP partition of my iMac. It also helps that one of the new races in the game was apparently re-imagined as a famous Star Trek character, complete with spaceship. The shark, people, has officially been jumped.

The required time commitment remains a big factor. Although everyone insists that the smaller instance sizes have eliminated the time consuming need to carefully organize for six hour dungeon treks, I remain extremely skeptical that it will stay that way once everyone maxes out again at the new level cap. At that point it would only make sense for Blizzard to make larger raid instances again in an effort to stem off the inevitable tide of player boredom and angst.

Another factor is the core gameplay mechanic itself. If not for the social aspect, the game would, frankly, be a dull graphics update to Dragon Warrior. Even Final Fantasy XII, now that the new car smell of the gambit system has worn off, is exhibiting some of these same traits.

I must admit that the thing I find most comical (and satisfying in a snarky way) is that everyone who spent the last several months of their lives raiding for hours every night found their gear obsolete seconds after installing the expansion pack. The fact that regular, solo quests now yield gear greater than anything which you acquired with the aid of 39 other stalwart companions just a month ago is a design move that has either slipped the notice of the players, or been offset by gear so unbelievably l33t that it has blinded the good sense for which hardcore WoW players are universally renown.

It was the social aspect of WoW that I thought I wanted. Before the first Christmas of WoW's lifespan, I was completely sucked in by the level of RP and graphical whizbangery to complement it. Post-Christmas, when the average age of the player dipped by a decade or so, things became markedly less amusing. I now realize that although I still want that kind of game, it is not be found in WoW.

Where it is found is at the table with your friends. Whether you are playing a pen and paper RPG or just a board game, the experience there just has not been captured in a computer game. Perhaps trying to do so is a foolish design goal anyway: after all, shouldn't you use a new medium to accomplish new things?

I guess MMO video games have provided us something unique: a chance to get "pwn3d" by kids 15 years our junior.

Oh, and a new reason to kill each other.