Posts Written On September 2015

Are Friends Electric? :: The Minefield of Friendship in MMO’s

I’d like to tell you a story about an Internet Friendship.

Once upon a time, two people met online. They were drawn together by mutual interests, and the love (in this case) of an MMO. They spent time together chatting via various forms of Social Media, but for one of the two involved, alarm bells had already begun to ring. Because this person knew that the Internet was not a place to begin relationships, that the level of anonymity that the medium allowed meant that people could not be trusted. This meant Person A was open and polite whilst talking to Person B, but wasn’t truly being themselves, or indeed respecting Person B’s enthusiasm and love of what they did. You see, B loved the Internet. They saw it as a golden opportunity to meet people that shared their interests, and A was exactly the kind of person they’d just love to hang around with at the end of a long day. What this meant, of course, is that this friendship was doomed to fail, because sooner or later A and B would collide, and they did. The likelihood was that it would be over something totally trivial and nonsensical, and the drama that resulted would undoubtedly end up being smeared all over everyone’s social media. The final straw was when A blocked B on Twitter, and B had a very public and pointless meltdown as a result. T’was ever thus.

This is pretty much how the world works for many people who use the Internet as their extended social circle on any given day.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – A Game For The Unfamiliar?

As a kid, I was never really interested in Metal Gear Solid. The only entry in the series I gave any time to being Ghost Babel on my Game Boy Colour. I tried the PS1 classic, a demo I believe giving me my first taste of its stealth action, but I could never get on board with it.METAL GEAR SOLID V_ THE PHANTOM PAIN_20150918181320 (1)

It required timing, precision, educated moves and at that moment in time, my attention span was not ready for that kind of gaming. I preferred the colourful ridiculousness of Crash Bandicoot, the platform exploration of Spyro, not to mention the little block men of ISS Pro Evolution (damn, I loved that game). It was only when Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow came out that I really started to enjoy stealth, my mind and hands ready for a new type of experience. By this time, the Metal Gear series wasn’t on my radar, other games were out and, despite my new found appreciation for the stealth genre, my earlier experience had put me off playing it. According to many of my friends, I missed out.

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*Unable to connect to network*


  1. 1.
    The action or process of integrating.
    “economic and political integration”
    synonyms: combination, amalgamation, incorporation, unification, consolidation,
    merger, fusing, blending, meshing, homogenization, homogenizing, coalescing, assimilation


Thursday morning, I arrive at work and have a particularly important scheduling report to compile in time to present to a customer visiting today. I shuffle my hands and think “right, got a few hours to get this done, let’s crack on!”

**Unable to connect to network**

Well that knocked the cheese off my cracker! For almost 3 hours the entire site network is down, for those unfamiliar with ERP/MRP, these are software packages integrated into the functionality of almost all operational systems within a business. Therefore, when the software fails, everything else cannot function. Anyway, while I was sat twiddling my thumbs for a few hours, this whole vocational dilemma got me thinking…

How reliant are we upon the technology we currently have access to?

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I’m a completionist. With a limited attention span. Wat?

So, I’m playing a single player RPG. Like lots of people, I need to talk to everyone and I need to collect every bit of trash. I need to complete all the side quests and I need to do ALL THE THINGS. It’s compulsive. I literally cannot enjoy playing any other way.

In Skyrim, for example, I religiously looted every one of the tens of thousands of urns, containing random worthless junk, wherever I went. In games like KOTOR or Dragon Age, I have never and will never experience the wonderful writing and acting, or differences in story, associated with killing Juhani or arguing with Leliana to the point that she leaves.
Whilst I tend to typically play the “good guy,” hence no fighting with Leliana, the reason I don’t do these things is not because I don’t want to be evil. It’s because I can’t stand the idea that I will miss out on content.

Im KOTOR 2, where your alignment dictates whether you recruit Mira or Hanharr, I could play either and do either. However I could never kill Juhani, even if I played Dark Side, because that would mean having slightly less content. Hell, I hardly ever used her in my team, so it was only conversations on the ship I would be missing out on, but still I couldn’t do it.

This has always intrigued me as I have pondered what it is that I actually enjoy about games, or at least about single player games. Going back to Skyrim, I played to the point of abject boredom and ended up not finishing the major quest lines in that game as a result. I became despondent as I constantly fast travelled to various vendors to sell my junk and free up some carry weight. I got bored of clearing every single cave and tower, whether I needed to or not, because it irritated me to have to run past them. Hell, it irritated me that I would have to leave them ‘undiscovered’ as I zig zagged all over the map, from one nearby point of interest to another. The world map itself, featuring those locations that I had actually discovered, became more like a to-do list than a map.

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Azeroth: Confessions and emotional investments

The first game I ever played was Pong. It was 1978, and I was twelve years old. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company and flew a lot between Dagenham (Essex, UK) and Detroit, and on one particular trip he arrived home with an Atari 2600. That’s when everything changed. After that it was the ZX81, then the BBC B and an Amiga. The first pay cheque my boyfriend earned after graduating University went on buying a 386 PC with a copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Nearly thirty years on we’re still married, and gaming is a part of everyone’s lives in this house: my 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter are playing Trove together as I type this article.

However, these days I spend quite a lot of time in Azeroth playing World of Warcraft, and that’s what I’ll be talking about during my tenure here.

The MMO was bought initially in order to help me through long nights breast feeding the youngest, and in the end it saved me from myself, after I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. It became a space where I could allow myself to just kick back and relax, and evolved into something more significant as time went on: becoming a GM in a small but committed Guild gave me confidence in the virtual world where none existed in reality. It was a vital first step back on a road to recovery which pushed me to write daily as a means of helping to rationalise how I felt and to deal with the issues I had. In February 2016 I will celebrate seven years of my Warcraft Blog. I know that without this particular game in my life, I’d not be the person I now am.

It’s odd when people ask me to describe the journey I’ve had with games since those early days. Being a woman in what was back then very much a man’s world was always difficult, especially when I could make my 10p last longer in a Galaxians machine than most boys my age.

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Cyberspace is a small world…

Yet another sleepless night. Tonight I am finding myself pondering over the complexity of chance. Coincidence. Some believe that the probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful or tragic way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence.  Some believe in destiny. Some might say we don’t create our destiny but participate in its unfolding. Others, like Ernest Henley would undermine the power of chance and famously say “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. Albert Einstein said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I personally don’t believe in divine intervention. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in randomness. A beautiful mess of constant occurrences in this huge space known as “the present moment”. Right now is happening all across the world and in this enormous collage of “now”, collisions happen. We only find these collisions strange when they are of a certain character which is somehow meaningful to us.

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Asheron’s call Part 2: “Carebears”

Follow this link to read Part 1 in this series.

Before the story goes any further, I really need to explain the key mechanics at play. Without understanding them, it’s impossible to see the fascinating behaviours exhibited by the player population.


The most commonly used insult and an accurate description of most people. As in real life a Carebear is someone who wants to play if they are on the winning team, who wants to fight if the odds are in their favour, who wants to progress without obstacles. They are followers rather than leaders.

Whilst Asheron’s Call had an economy (based around cash and loot and player trades for rare items) on Darktide the currency was Carebears. Available in their thousands, Carebears were the worker bees that powered the XP Chains and the cannon fodder that won or lost wars. The only information anyone could see about a Monarchy was the total number of members, by viewing the character sheet of someone in that monarchy. Therefore, in a time of war, the only measure for the progress of that war was whether the Monarchs concerned were gaining or losing members.

Because Carebears don’t stay and fight for the losing team.

Second, Character Builds & Leveling

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