August 2010

Last night I jumped on my rogue. She immediately told me to get off her … ahahahahahahaha.

Anyhoo, it has been a while since I have logged on to my rogue to actually play, and not just so I won’t get kicked out of the guild for non-attendance. You know that it’s been a while since you’ve played when you can’t remember which poisons go on which hand on which spec. Seriously, I almost had to go and look it up before I remembered. Which meant that I decided to not put my hand up for the heroic ICC that was just forming at that time. Better to ease my way back into things, I wisely thought. I was in Ironforge and I had a quest to hand in down in Booty Bay. It was a low level quest, but some time ago I had wandered into that little pirate cove in the Arathi Highlands by sheer chance. I didn’t even know that it was there. A whole pirate ship in a secret cove. I ask you, what can be cooler than a pirate ship in a secret cove? Nothing, obviously, (which goes some way to explaining why the Deadmines is still one of the best instances ever).

So there were some quests there and I decided to do them. This left me with a gem to take down to a pirate captain in Booty Bay, so last night I hopped on a gryphon and flew down there. Flying really takes a long time, doesn’t it. Ironforge down to Booty Bay is a hell of a trip, or so I thought. Anyway, I arrived at the pirate base and made my way to hand over the quest to the captain who then promptly gave me another quest to do which took me …

All the fucking way back to the secret pirate cove in the Arathi Highlands. I mean, seriously … whoever designed these quests should be made to do them for all of eternity as punishment. I really hope they drop or at least rethink these glorified “messanger-boy” type quests in Cataclysm. So I hopped back onto a flight and took off for Refuse Point. At this stage I reduced WoW to a little window and went to potter around the house to do some stuff, talk to my wife, prepare a little cheese plate, get a nice glass of red wine, mention to the dog that if he doesn’t get back on his mat I am going to throw him out the window, the usual stuff. This took me quite a while, so long in fact that I had forgotten that I was playing WoW. I sat back down at my computer, fully expecting there to be a bunch of indignant players who had whispered me and got no response, to find myself …

Still flying. You have got to be kidding me. I was over the Wetlands at this stage. You know it takes a while to fly around the place when this happens. But hey, I wanted immersion, right? Just now I went to jump on to finish off that quest, (as I couldn’t face it last night), only to discover that the server is down for 24 hours. I thought about jumping on my warrior at SAN, (the bloggers guild), but figured that I’d probably be tarred and feathered if I did that. So fuck it, I’ll go for a walk in the mountains with the dog. It sure won’t take me as long as flying to Booty Bay.

Disclaimer: this post begins with an explanation of my position on religion. I go into such detail not so as to begin a discussion on religion but so as to enable the reader to draw a clear picture of my beliefs on this topic. I understand that the reader may be swayed to comment on religion itself, but as the argument is of a different nature, and as I use religion only as a point to make an example for my greater argument in this case, I humbly ask that the ensuing discussion be kept free of religion. If you as a reader wish to further the discussion on religion, please send me an email and we can do it in private, something of which I am only too happy to do.

I am an anti-theist. For those of you unfamilar with the term it defines someone who not only does not believe in the idea of god, but who is opposed also to the idea of religion itself. I find the entire concept of religion and faith to be deeply insulting, and talking to a priest or other layman can induce the feeling of wanting to throw up in my own mouth, (which can be tricky seeing as I live in a small mountain village in Italy).

I do not like anything to do with religion, be it a church or an altar, a priest or a nun, a veil or a cassok, a ritual or a celebration. I particularly detest funerals as I am forced to go to those due to both wishing to pay my respect to the deceased and attempting to give comfort to the bereaved, whilst simultaneously having to suffer the stupifyingly stupid and insulting speeches from the clergy that drone on for so long as to cause birds to drop from the sky. It is also my sincere belief that the world would be a better place without religion. In short, religion gives me the shits.

So let us now turn our attention to WoW. And let us assume that I were the type of individual who felt that it was their duty to impose their own political and moral viewpoint onto the game enjoyed and played by millions of people around the world. Imagine if you will the list of examples that I could draw up, similar to that written over at mentalshaman with regards to feminism. We could start with the Cathedral in Stormwind, and the entire Cathedral district. We could move on to entire character classes, the priest, paladin and shaman. It would not be difficult for me to gather a great many examples to support my argument for the imposition of anti-theist elements within the game to at least balance out the biased and irritating examples of theism and religion found all over and throughout the World of Warcraft.

Now I want you to imagine if you will, that I actually wrote this list, on this blog. Imagine that I gained a notable following and a good deal of vocal support about this. Imagine that Blizzard actually made a few changes in-game to satisfy this outside pressure group. How would you feel, knowing that your game that you play and love had had to bow to political correctness from the real world? How would you feel when you saw one of these elements in-game, whether something added or something taken out? I know how I would feel: it would yank me from my immersion in a fantasy world that I use as an escape from the real world and place me back into that real world. And it would thus make me very sad and upset.

I can tell you right now, from the position of being a vehement anti-theist, that I would be just as vocal in my opposition to this if it came about as I have been to the argument of imposing feminist elements merely for the sake of having them there. There is no place for the imposition of real world special interest groups and their agenda’s, whether good or bad, onto a place that we all use as an escape to have fun and relax. And more to the point, if one group gained representation in this way then any other group would have equal claim to have their own issues and demands met. And fairly soon our game would not be about changing it to balance this class over another, (never at the expense of rogues!), but about which group had more representation, a balancing act that can only lead to inanity in its apparent search for equality.

If this outcome would seem outlandish to you, know that every large movement in history, every change whether for good or bad has had its genisis in such small and seemingly innocuous steps. Which is why when I saw that post on mentalshaman and the responses to it, as well as further posts echoing throughout the blogosphere, I felt compelled to act. Blogs are not private, as some commentators have stated, attempting to insinuate that I had no place bringing my unwelcome attitudes into a “private” discussion. Your blog is private if it requires a password in order to access it. If not, then it is just as public as the bbc news website, and therefore both able to spread its ideas at a rapid rate and also be up for discussion. I have, amongst many other unwelcome accusations, been accused of being filled with rage. My posts have been attempted to be dismissed as the ravings of a demented bigot. Accusations which I fully expected to come, though perhaps to be honest not quite so thick and fast. So why do this? Because it can be very difficult to draw attention to the other side of this argument, even if in doing so one is often attacked by liberals whose usual method when faced with an opponent is to identify your lowest possible motive and then claim it as being your only possible one. Which of course has happened to me here.

The upshot of all this, and the idea that I would like to leave on this matter is that Blizzard did not design this game for males. It did not design it for females. Nor was it designed for people of a religious persuasion or those being against religion. It was not designed for the young or for the old, for the rich or for the poor, for the gay or the straight. It was not designed with people with special needs in mind nor for people with specific political view-points. It was not designed for people from specific creeds or countries.

It was designed for gamers. We are all gamers. We all have that in common, and our common interest and love brings us together. By seeking to raise one group of gamers above the other by placing their needs as special then we shatter that image of equality. We are all the same in the game, that is the truly wonderful and amazing thing. You are not discriminated for whom you are. You are judged and valued on what you can bring to the game. It is why I have played this game and games like it for so long. And I will always fight to protect its preciousness.

And now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to have a drink.

One thing that amused me about yesterdays firestorm of argument was the assumption that I am wholly resistant to any form of change. The line of ill-reasoning goes something like this;

I don’t agree with your idea of needed change;
ergo, I must therefore be against all forms of change.

It is an intellectual jump usually reserved to those with a limited capacity at reasoning and an unstable emotional base with which to work from. The idea to these people that you do not agree with their “noble concept” is terribly insulting to them. Thus, they must jump to this conclusion to save themselves from further emotional pain. They cannot handle at all the creeping realisation that actually:

I have a very healthy attitude towards change, but in this case not to yours.

This is a double layer cake of insult to them. It is much easier for those unstable emotions flying around to take refuge in the belief that the opponent is just some hard-head who is against all forms of change, (as it makes it even easier still to immediately tar their opponent with the brush of bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, etc, accusations of which come forth immediately when they realise that someone is not in agreement with them). Being resistant to all change is obviously stupid. But reading my blog for any length of time and coming to the conclusion that I am resistant to all change is even more stupider still.

In regards to all the misconceptions and incorrect conclusions made in regards to my last two posts, I am not going to defend myself, nor clarify my thoughts. I did that once yesterday when I pointed out to a certain individual that his assumption that I am homophobic was completely incorrect. Did I receive some form of recognition that his public accusation was unfounded? No, I got insulted even further as regards to my writing ability. These people do not want to be reasoned with. They form their opinion and then they will fight at all costs to uphold it. They are not looking for a rational discussion. They are running on emotion. Trying to defend yourself with people like this is like trying to stamp out a grass fire; you think that you’ve finally got it under control and then it pops up somewhere else. But what I will do is spell out, once and for all, my stand on all of this:

I am all for the natural evolution of a game and a gaming genre. But I will strongly resist the idea of change for the sake of making change in order to appease any outside special interest groups, whatever the change or whomever the group may be.

I think that this covers it all quite nicely. Of course, I am not afraid at all of Blizzard bowing to any pressure groups in this way. They are not stupid. And a commentator yesterday asked me why I was bothering to make this stand, as apparently you can never win fighting against these types of people. My response is that to remain silent while these ideas are being put forth is to tacitly condone what is being said, and I will not do that. And above all else, a good poke of the wasps nest every now and then can surprise you with which wasps are actually raving emotional nut-jobs beneath their carefully constructed public persona.

The reaction to yesterdays post was fully expected. I was waiting to be called a misogynist, and it happened, (though to be honest I wasn’t expecting to being accused of being a rapist). It sure is an easy label to throw around. Kind of like if you mention that you happen to think that Israeli settlements are out of order then you immediately get labelled as an anti-semite, (queue all the comments hounding on me about comparing hating women to hating jews). One part of my post was seized upon and taken as the crux of my argument when in reality it was merely a somewhat ironic observation. Because of this it was assumed that I am some sort of sexual drop-kick who has spent the last twenty years of his life gnashing his teeth over the failure of hawt chicks in high school to give him the time of day whilst being unable to hold down a job and thus craves the opportunity to use this against the wymens of the world.

Ironic when you think about it, no? Got to love me some stereotyping.

Perhaps not. People latch onto any part of an argument that will give them ammunition, even if it means ignoring the actual facts that had been put forward.

WoW is part of an imaginary fantasy world which we use as an escape. Attempting to impose real-world issues and conditions on an imaginary world goes a long way to missing the entire point. As a male do I get all self-conscious and insecure because male figures in WoW are of a grotesquely muscular bent and in the real world I am not? Does my pysche suffer due to the fact that most of the baddies in the imaginary world are male, and thus I must jump to the conclusion that all males must inherently be evil and bad? Am I walking around counting how many times I see something that is of a male demographic and comparing it to how many female examples I can find?

It doesn’t even fucking register.

And what right would I have to try and change the game for other players purely based on my own personal set of issues? (If you take what people commented on yesterdays post then apparently I would want to have women thrown out of the game entirely apart from the few that we could string up in the town square for a good round of rape). Trying to impose real world conditions, and attempting to find role models in an online fantasy video game takes self-importance and ego driven delusion to what I thought were unscaleable heights. Which is fine, if that is your own fucked up reality. But attempting to influence the game that I play and change it to suit your own agenda of political correctness is somewhat insulting. Accusing me of being a mysognist for taking a stand against it is a cheap shot and a sign of moral cowardice.

My idea of a fantasy world is not restricted to some scantilly clad female crouched at the feet of a leering barbarian king, (although I’ll never pass that up). But as soon as you step upon the path of imposing real world conditions on a fantasy world, then you may as well chuck the whole thing in the bin and start again. I mean, where would it stop? Where would the line be drawn? I’ve seen feminists trying to decide on a common issue, and it isn’t very pretty. Not to mention we may as well let the gay community voice their displeasure at not being represented and thus this setting a bad example for the little kiddies out there. Why don’t we let religious groups in? And then athiests and anti-thiests just to even the score. Oh and we can’t leave out those pathetic fence-sitting agonstics as well. If you include one, if you bow to one pressure group to get an element of the game changed to reflect a real world issue then you must accept all of them.

Does that all seem ridiculous? Of course it does, which is my point. There is no room in the game for this nonsense. There is no “under-representation” in WoW because that is not the point of the game. Why are you coming to play a fantasy sword and sorcery game to get real world representation? And more to the point, why are you trying to impose that on me?

There has been a great deal of discussion lately about feminism in WoW and the prevelant sexism and prejudice, which then shifted onto the Men. About all that was come up with in the ongoing discussion was the fact that the human male avatars in WoW seem a tad unrealistic, (as in they are all muscly and their head is smaller than their neck and who ever heard of a muscle-bound mage or priest?). At the end of the day though I find that a discussion on why there is sexism in WoW is like having a discussion on why there happen to be fish in the sea.

I am going to try and cast my mind back to when I was in high school. This is a long cast-back by the way. I am now going to attempt to imagine my group of male friends and peers at the time. So far so good. Now I am going to try and imagine what it would have been like if we had had access to WoW and a social communication network with actual females where they didn’t know who we were and we could say whatever we liked without fear of repercussion …

It wouldn’t have been pretty, and there would have been a lot of gossiping and joking in the school-yard the following day. I also fail to see how we would have got any homework done at all. The point is that this game is full of teenage boys with no social repercussions for their in-game behavior. What is there to work out here? It’s going to be a free for all. It is a free for all. This doesn’t excuse it, but you are trying to swim against the tide if you think that you are going to change this.

There is one interesting point here though. When I was at school, video-games, (as well as RPG games like Dungeons & Dragons), were this young adolescent male’s only escape from the horrible realisation that I was a social leper and that I sucked around girls. Looking back, I don’t even think that I would have wanted girls to be included in this activity. It was the only place where I could really relax and be myself without having to worry about whether or not I was saying or doing the wrong thing.

As far as looking in-game for healthy representations of maleness or femaleness, I really don’t know what to say. If you’re looking for this sort of stuff in your life in a fantasy role-playing game then you’re pretty fucking deluded. I mean, have you ever watched Conan the Barbarian? This is what it’s all based on. The caveman dragging the female back to his cave by her hair. This is escapism, pure and simple. The fact that it is so far from reality should indicate that it is not in any way a representation of reality, nor is it meant to be. It is what a fantasy video game has always been as well as the whole fantasy genre; big guys with swords killing each other at an alarming rate with semi-naked females scattered around for your viewing pleasure. That is the demographic, right there. If you are a girl, and you choose to play in it, then great. I’m very happy for you and I hope you have fun. But don’t start crowing about femisnism and sexism and any other ism that gets your knickers in a knot. When I was at school I was openly made fun of by the girls for playing these games. Now twenty years later girls are getting worked up about the fact that those same games don’t have enough female representation in them? Give me a fucking break.

There was a post at yesterday about the death of in-game interaction. Unfortunately, the writer set his premise but then spent the rest of the article explaining what he would do to fix it, instead of exploring his actual premise and the reasons why. His ideas were mostly nonsense and even included that old hoary chestnut of a bigger death penalty. This obviously meant that the comments were made up of four pages of people calling him a moron. But digging deeper into the comments I discovered something: a few people were agreeing with his actual premise, and as a result they were getting down-rated.

The actual fact of the matter is that the majority of players in the 11.5 million that play WoW are not the the same ones who played it back in 2005. They did not experience the original WoW and its social aspect. Their WoW is the log in, push a green button, do an instance and get your loots without talking to anybody. It seems that a lot of the original players who want social interaction have moved on to EvE. A pity that I don’t like space games. So of course that post on is going to be taken to pieces – the playerbase has changed. He’s preaching to the wrong crowd.

So where does this leave old fossils like me? In the unenviable position of whining about this state of affairs on my blog. I played a bit of WoW on Sunday afternoon. Did some stuff on my priest. It actually bored me shitless. I haven’t made any friends, but that is as much my own fault as the games. I searched in the Barrens yesterday and discovered about 30 other players there. Yet I didn’t attempt to make contact with any of them. This is my own unwillingness, but it is also a symptom of the state of the game. The game doesn’t put you in any situations where you could make friends. To try and force it yourself is un-natural and uncomfortable. Why should I go through that in a game that is supposed to be relaxing?

Cataclysm will not fix this. It will have a brief period of social activity when everyone is levelling together. But the basic game mechanics are still the same. I was thinking yesterday that even questing has become out-dated. I do not have to even read a quest now. Click on the ‘!’, look on map where the area is that I have to go, cursor over mobs until I find one that says ‘0/12’, kill them until it says 12/12, go back to point on map with ‘?’. It’s not very immersive. But if that is all you know then it’s great. You did not experience the original game so you have nothing to compare it to.

The next 12 months should be very interesting. Apart from Catalycm itself, there are a bunch of new games coming out. Guild Wars 2 looks very impressive. They promise a lot but if they deliver it could be my WoW killer. Lets face it – WoW isn’t the game that it used to be. But it was so good when it came out, so breathtaking in its scope and execution that we just don’t want to leave her behind. I’ll leave you with a quote from Travis McGee on San Francisco. It sums up my feelings on WoW:

“… San Francisco is the most depressing city in America. The come-latelys might not think so… But there are too many of us who used to love her. She was like a wild classy kook of a gal, one of those rain-walkers, laughing gray eyes, tousle of dark hair–sea misty, a lithe and lively lady, who could laugh at you or with you, and at herself when needs be… A girl to be in love with, with love like a heady magic… She used to give it away, but now she sells it to the tourists. She imitates herself. Her figure has thickened. The things she says now are mechanical and mechanized. She overcharges for cynical services … This one had her chance to go straight and she lost it somehow, and it has been downhill ever since. That’s why she is so depressing to those of us who knew her when. We all know what she could have been, and we all know the lousy choices she made. She has driven away the ones who love her best. A few keep trying. But the love words have a hollow tone these days.”

from “The Quick Red Fox” by John D. MacDonald.

This is an off topic post, but one that I need to write as it has been nagging away at me for a while now. I get quite a few comments on my blog, and I value all of them. I have only ever unapproved two comments and one of those was a mis-click. A lot of blogs are areas of conversation where the blogger replies to each comment and generates a continuing discussion; The Pink Pigtail Inn and Righteous Orbs are good examples of these. I however, don’t respond to comments very often. Most of the time I’ve said my piece in the original post. If a commenter writes something inaccurate, most of the time someone else will correct them. I love it when this happens, even more when you all get into your own arguement.

My point is that while I value all your comments, I’m not the type to repond to them just for the sake of responding. I hope that you all continue to comment and aren’t disappointed that I don’t often reply. I read them all, but I like to just lurk in the background. If I reply only occasionally, it carries more wait, don’t you see.

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