Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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What’s with the Steam hate?

January 21, 2010

Steam is bad? Did I miss something?

So after getting a little addicted to playing Global Agenda and writing a few pieces on the subject for Massively, I started to notice this really odd wave of comments that actually confused me — people who refused to play GA because it was Steam exclusive.  They didn’t want to install Steam or deal with it, because they felt it was getting in the way of their gaming experience.

Some of the comments they had about it were absolutely venomous, such as how it hogged system resources, performed bad installs, updated games slowly, and was generally unwieldy.  When I was reading their comments, I felt like I had gone back in time to the year 2004, when Steam first came into mainstream use with Half-Life 2, and the first “Steam Controversy” was born.

In fact, just as I’m writing this article, I went over and checked the Wikipedia entry on Steam.  Holy shit, talk about being biased.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, Steam is a buggy piece of crap that ruins video games, steals money from developers, and demands the sacrifice of first born children to the “My Games” tab before a game can be run.

Yet, even as I’m typing, Steam is running comfortably in the background, doing whatever it is that it does in the background.  When I want to run a game, I open Steam, double click on the game, and it runs.  Beyond that, Steam offers me some amazing, amazing, amazing deals on games that I’d like to play.  Deals that go above and beyond their 10% discount on a game when you pre-order it.  From the Steam Holiday Sale alone, I was able to buy nice gifts for all of my friends, add 10 more games to my arsenal, and not spend more than 100 bucks for all of it.  The amount of money that I’ve saved through using Steam as my distribution service is just amazing.

So, let me try to wrap my head around some of these reasons for why you shouldn’t use steam.

1. It hogs system resources

So I pulled up the ctrl+alt+delete service menu to see just how much memory Steam takes up when it’s running in the background.  Just so you all know that I’m not making crap up, I put the screenshot off to the side here.  Click it if you need it blown up, as I know it’s pretty tiny.  But, even with the visual evidence, let me break it down for you.

Steam, in this photo, is taking up 8,680k of my memory.  Compare that against Skype, which is taking up 12,236k, iTunes, which is taking up 32,976k, Thunderbird, which is taking a hefty 46,308k, and Google Chrome, the “lightweight browser” that’s taking up a whopping 53,328k over two processes.  For one instance of Google Chrome, I could run Steam six times.  So don’t tell me that Steam is hogging your precious resources, unless you’re running on a really, really small amount of RAM.  I’m running on 2 GB, personally, and Steam does not impact how my games run.

Shit, the only reason I was running iTunes in this screenshot was because I was playing Burnout: Paradise.  And even while running iTunes, Steam, Google Chrome, and Thunderbird, Burnout: Paradise still ran at 60 FPS with everything turned on high.  Don’t tell me Steam ruins how your game runs.

2.  Steam ruins installs

I have 36 games on Steam.  Not one has misinstalled in the entire 4 year history of me using the program.  Either I’m incredibly lucky, or Steam isn’t a rabid misinstaller.

Oh, and if you’re talking about how Steam automatically updates games when the developer pushes out a patch, then that’s not Steam, that’s the developer.  If it updates and breaks your game, I’m sorry, but it really doesn’t happen as often as you want to say it does.  Once again, over my entire history of using Steam (and having 3 different computers, each with a different setup) I’ve never had a game break from an update on Steam.  Ever.

3.  You need to be online to play Steam games

If you’re on dial-up, then this is a legitimate gripe.  It does suck that you have to be online to play a Steam game, as Steam forces game authentication every time you run the game.  However, for the rest of you silly geese who are on broadband, what the fuck are you complaining about?  Sure, this might suck for those of you who have bandwidth caps in other countries, but I don’t see Steam pulling down that much bandwidth when I’m playing.  It’s very light on the bandwidth if you’re not playing an online game.

If you’re in the US, you most likely can’t gripe because we really don’t have bandwidth caps around here.  I’m constantly connected to the internet thanks to the wonderful advent of cable internet.  I’m always online.  If I wasn’t online, I’d pretty much go insane.

Lastly, if you’re bitching about adding Steam and you’re adding it to play an online game, like Global Agenda, then go fuck yourself.  “I have to be online to use Steam” is not a valid excuse when the game you’re playing IS ONLINE ONLY ANYWAYS.

4.  You can’t sell Steam games back to the retailer or to someone else

No, and you can’t sell PC games to GameStop either.  If you don’t want to use Steam because you want to sell your games, then just don’t use Steam.  But for online only games (like Global Agenda) then you really can’t resell the game anyway because it’s tied to your account.  Once again, go fuck yourself. *smiles and thumbs up*

5. Steam is a trojan horse

Thanks alot, Direct2Drive, for making this really shitty comparison.  Sorry that your download service doesn’t offer a community panel, IM and voice chat services, automatic updates that don’t suck, and competitive deals.

Steam is not a trojan horse.  If anything, steam (and integrating games into Steamworks) lets developers utilize Steam’s anti-cheat platform, their auto-update functionality, matchmaking and lobbies functions, and the very cool Steam Cloud which lets you keep your game saves and profiles online and take them wherever you go.  As long as you’re logged into Steam, you get your games and your saves.  Very cool.

So, if you’re still into hating Steam, then you’re still pretty much stuck in 2004.  If you still really don’t want to use the program, then my advice is to just not use it and shut up about it.  Go off to Direct2Drive or go shop at GameStop — you still have those options.

As for me, I’ll be enjoying the Steam Cloud and my legion of affordable games.

~Sera

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Gaming Journalism vs. Real Journalism vs. Media Journalism

January 13, 2010

So there seems to be this interesting wave going through the blogging community regarding the state of gaming journalism.  It seems to be the usual “gaming journalists aren’t real journalists because they have opinions” tomfoolery that seems to rise and fall every once in a while.  It’s not the first time that this subject has come up, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But sitting down to think about it got me on an interesting train of thought — one where I actually began to think about gaming journalism against topics like “real journalism,” aka, news, and journalism that focuses explicitly on media forms.  Not “the media” mind you… journalism that centers on the entertainment industry or perhaps books.

Now, mind you, I’m in a very lucky position.  I have training as a “real journalist” thanks to my college writing track and I work for a MMO news website where we take pride in our integrity and, for the most part, post our news articles (not our op-ed columns) without bias.  We say what happens, we try to make it interesting to read, and that’s it.

Yet, even with our stances, you wouldn’t believe how many times we’re accused of being opinionated in our news posts, or how many times we’re yelled at by a reader for “manipulating” them with yellow journalism.  And that leads me to the problem that separates our news from other media outlets — fanboyism.

Make no mistake — we’re a culture founded on being competitive.  Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to World of Warcraft and beyond, we love trying to one up one another.  We’ve always taken our competitions to more meta-grounds, such as our irrational need to proclaim one game as “vastly superior” to another.  (See: World of Warcraft vs. Aion vs. Warhammer vs. Whatever Floats Your Boat.  The odd need to proclaim a game as shit.)  I personally thinks that this taints our view of our media in two ways: from the staff side and from the reader side.

Let me, first of all, back up Brian “PsychoChild” Green‘s assessment of my sister site — Joystiq.  When they wrote up their notice that Near Death Studios was going under, their post was a little caustic for a rote news article.  (Especially when you compare it to Massively’s coverage, and we’re sister sites.)  Obviously Randy Nelson was using Joystiq’s standard style of being slight cheeky and acidic in every post, but it seems to resonate harshly in this article.  These are the times when fanboyism is very clear and very unwelcome in a journalistic style.  Now, I can’t fault Randy… what he wrote is simply the site’s style and he stuck to it.  It works for them and it gains them readers, but it does certainly taint the idea of rote journalism for the rest of us.

However, the side that people aren’t noting or talking about is the stupid shit I have to listen to every day when we at Massively try to do our jobs professionally and to a more neutral standard.  When we talk about all of the games that surround us, we get accused of being biased simply because we talked about X game.  If we talk about a smaller game, obviously we’re being paid off by a developer to talk about it, such as when we cover Eskil Steenberg’s Love.  Other times, if we cover a story that negatively affects a company, we’re being the big evil media site who’s out to smash the little guy.

Honestly, when I and the rest of the staff pick up a story, we do it because we believe it to be newsworthy and of interest to our target audience.  The two key tenants of our target audience.  Hell, we even make sure that we’re trying to talk about all games in the industry, even the ones that people don’t exactly love to death.  Why?  Because that’s what being fair means — we give page space to everyone.  Is it always equal page space?  No, because not all games generate news at an equal rate. Yet, because our audience reacts with a very competitive edge and hates to see anyone offend their game of choice, we are accused of “assumed bias.”

In short, what I’m saying is that the nature of our very culture taints how we read our news.  Because of how opinionated we get as a culture, when others talk rationally, we see that as opinionated out of a defensive mechanism.  It’s really unfortunate.

As to comparing our journalism to physical news coverage or entertainment news, it’s extremely hard.  Physical news coverage doesn’t have the same level of opinion contained within it.  You can’t say, “Man, I loved it when they covered that presidential election.  That presidential election was the best sequel ever.”  People don’t have that same type of reaction to the news.  News happens, you talk about it to others, and that’s that.  You can’t undo what actually happened.  (You can spin it, however… and that’s what so many “real media” outlets are being accused of nowadays — heavy spin.)

As to entertainment news, once again, we don’t have that same type of rivalry with movie companies.  You usually don’t say, “Shit!  Guillermo Del Toro is way more badass than Peter Jackson!” or “Lord of the Rings really kicked Harry Potters ass.  Harry Potter shouldn’t even be in the fantasy genre.  Who the fuck subscribes to that shit anymore?”  What happens is that people go out, view the movie, form an opinion if they liked it or not, and go on their way.  Case closed.  They don’t compare and contrast (even the critics) nearly as much as we do in the gaming industry.  We, in the industry, feel that every freakin’ game needs to be compared to some other game in that genre and how it’s either X much better or X much worse.  And I’m not saying we do it as critics… players do this every single day without even thinking about it.  We’re all freakin’ critics around here.  Competitive critics who have to be right.

But even the entertainment news has problems… how many times do we call them “Rag Magazines” when they pry into the personal lives of actors and actresses?  How much is that media industry stained with useless gossip that most people brush off as petty?

So let me finish out with this clear cut statement — stop fucking comparing game journalism to other forms of journalism, as if you’re putting other forms of journalism on a pedestal.  They all have their problems and it all comes down to people, as a group, calling every form of media “opinionated and biased.”  Someone says the gaming media is tainted with opinion and bias.  Someone else says mainstream media is full of spin and mistruths.  And someone else calls entertainment media a bunch of petty star chasers or unreliable critics.

Guess what everyone?  All this tells us is that we’re all opinionated and we’re all biased. Whoops.

~Sera

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On leaving The Border House

December 18, 2009

Today was my last post on The Border House, for those of you who have read my few posts over there.  I know it’s a sudden departure, but I think it’s for the best for both The Border House and for myself.

I want to take the time to thank Cuppycake, Alex, Brinstar, and the rest of the staff for taking me on the site and explaining feminist ideals to me.  They’ve been really good and nice in dealing with my non-existent knowledge on the feminist perspective, and I’ve learned a lot from my short time on the site.  It’s really important that we have a site that looks at things from another perspective different from our own, and I wish them all the best of luck with the blog.  It has the potential to do a lot of good for many people.

I don’t want to dwell on my reasons for leaving.  To put it simply: I’m just not a feminist.  I’m a female transgendered person who identifies with pretty much everyone out there in one way or another, but I’m just not a feminist.

But, as I want to reiterate, I’m very thankful for the time I got to write there, I’m thankful for what I’ve learned and read, and I hope they continue to kick ass and do good.

~Sera

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Coca-Cola: My Drug of Choice?

December 6, 2009

Want cooooke!!! Want Coooke naaaoooooo!!

I ❤ Coca-Cola.  I don’t think anyone really understands how much I love Coke.  It’s both an addiction and a passion of mine that includes collecting bottles, participating in the Coke rewards program, and drinking it pretty much everywhere I go.  One of my friends once joked with me that he couldn’t recognize me without a can or bottle of Coke in my hands.  Yeah, that’s just how bad it is.

Lately though, I’ve been away from my drink of choice.  Let’s just say that my bank account isn’t overflowing with gaming industry bribe money (unlike the commenters tell you) and my house is still full of Sprite from Thanksgiving, when one of our friends brought over 8 2-liters of the stuff.  With both of those under my consideration, it seemed like a bad choice to go out and buy Coke.  Why waste money when I already have copious amounts of soda I like, right?

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been slowly killing our Sprite supply.  Simultaneously, my productivity has dropped significantly.   It’s not that I’ve lost my will to work — it’s that I’ve been hit by these disgustingly large writer’s blocks.  When I can’t write, it hurts.  Like, it really is painful to sit in front of my computer and stare at a blank page.  It’s intimidating.

I’ve tried lots of stuff.  I’ve tried walking away from the PC, I’ve tried playing a game for a half-an-hour before trying to write again, I’ve tried taking a short nap, I’ve tried free writing (only to find that even my free writing is failing, which is pretty much extremely bad news), and I’ve tried word association where you just start writing words on the paper.

I’ve also gotten tired, I’ve started to hold bad hours of sleep again, I’m hungry more, I have more headaches, and I’ve begun to lose a passion for doing what I love.  Yes, that’s right, video games weren’t even fun.  Of course, my first instincts are to deny that it’s a depression.  I know depression all too well, and it’s certainly a place I’d rather not be again.  So, whenever I feel kinda depressed, I just start telling myself that I’m really not depressed, I’m just having a mood swing.  I actually have the drive to attempt to combat those depressed feelings.

But, sadly, it wasn’t going away.  And what does all of this have to do with Coke?  Well, that’s exactly it.  Today, while considering my depression, I realize that I’m productive.  I’m doing things, I feel active, I feel happy, I’m enjoying writing… and I have a Mt. Dew sitting next to me from a party yesterday.  Yes, that’s right, I’ve been going through caffeine withdrawal without really putting two and two together.

Coke isn’t riddled with caffeine, but it certainly does have enough when you’re like me and drink lots of it each day.  It’s not that I’m addicted to Coke, it’s just that I drink alot.  If you want evidence of that, you should see how I killed off the Sprite stock, or how I can destroy a gallon of orange juice.  I like to drink things while sitting down and writing — it’s all part of my work habits.

But finally figuring out that my mood was shit because I wasn’t getting any caffeine is… well… interesting.  I really never noticed it before, but it’s become glaringly apparent now.  Of course, it’s all going to come down to me sitting here and getting back on my caffeine track and seeing if that improves my general mood and writing abilities back to where they usually are, which is going to take about a week, but my initial guess is that I’m going to be feeling a whole lot better when I crack into a brand new case of my drug of choice.

~Sera

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It’s fantasy, and I can indulge in it

November 28, 2009

My Avatar -- 100% not like me and 110% impossible IRL

After writing this week’s Anti-Aliased and looking at all of the comments (and how many hits it’s getting, hoo-boy) I started to think about how all of this pertains to me as a person.  Why did I choose this argument?  Why am I not offended by women with huge knockers?  What does this say about me as a trandgendered person?  Do I want to be like those women on the video game boxes?

When I looked into myself, I found my answer.  I back up these unrealistic depictions because they are unrealistic depictions.  Shit, I’ve even wrote some into my stories on purpose and I’ve certainly made my share of breast-tastic characters.

In short, I like fantasy because it’s fantasy — nothing more.

I wouldn’t want a cup size of 34FF in real life, but I have to say it’s fun to be able to create something like that and enjoy it temporarily in a virtual world.  Just like I wouldn’t be an extreme, cold-hearted bitch in real life, yet most of my MMO RP characters are cold-hearted bitches.

It’s an escape, and it’s a fun escape.  When we keep trying to see something bad in these things, we’re only really destroying the dreams of ourselves and others.  I guess I put it on the same level as someone who tells me not to read Harry Potter because it’s about witches and warlocks.  It’s silly.  Certainly you may not like it, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it / make avatars like that / enjoy my imagination.

As an aside — one of the commenters on this week’s Anti-Aliased said that I would be offended if transgendered people were shown in an exaggerated manner in video games, simply because  it would “finally hit home” that exaggerated depictions are bad.

To answer that, um, isn’t that how transgendered people are normally portrayed in the media?  We’re always these super sexy girls who try to lure men into dirty, penis filled traps.  We’re never normal women.  Yet, you don’t see me rioting in the streets over that issue.  Honestly, I’m usually the first one laughing at those jokes because I know it’s exactly not how it is depicted.

Maybe I’m a weird person who isn’t easily offended by anything.  All I know is that I love fantasy.  I love using my imagination to draw up fun characters, and I never, ever want to sacrifice my imagination simply because the masses say I’m wrong.

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Dragon*Con City of Heroes Panel — Courtesy CoH Podcast!

October 18, 2009

So Chooch and Viv from the CoH Podcast have gotten their audio of the City of Heroes panel at Dragon*Con up on their website!  It’s pretty epic, as I got to chair the discussion because I was apparently the most knowledgeable one there about the game.  But, it was an honor to be in a room with so many great people.  The City of Heroes fanbase is TREMENDOUSLY AWESOME, and I can’t stress that enough.

But, before I go any further, I need to get some stuff out of the way:

First of all, GIGANTIC THANKS to Douglas Allan from the Paragonian Knights and Mark Brinkman from Central Nexus.  Without those two helping with the panel, I would have been screwed.  They came on at the last minute, unprepared, and did a killer job with answering everyone’s questions and offering insightful commentary on the fly.  THANKS SO MUCH!!!!! ❤

Second of all, big thanks to Chooch and Viv for coming by the City of Heroes panel at Dragon*Con 2009 and recording it.  It was an awesome idea as there was some seriously great discussion during that panel.

So, without further ado, if you want to listen to the panel and pretend you’re at Dragon*Con, go jump over to CoH Podcast’s site and listen in on their latest podcast!

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I’m not the type to talk about this stuff…

September 26, 2009

I think the title says a lot here.  I like this blog to be about games, my musings on games, and perhaps…. sometimes…. very rarely…. my outlook on life.  I’m not the type of person who likes to get preachy with others.  But tonight I was dealt this really odd blow.  A blow that is slowly affecting me, but simultaneously not affecting me.  Yes, it’s that confusing.

So, let me start off by saying that I don’t come from a huge town.  Pittsburgh is really my adopted home — my college home.  But I come from a small town in Pennsylvania called Pottsville, PA.  Some of you may know it thanks to Yuenging Beer…. “America’s Oldest Brewery.”

Pottsville, due to it’s small town nature, isn’t on top of things like a larger city is.  Being gay in Pottsville is a big deal.  My former priest was gay, and he almost lost many members of my church’s congregation because he was simply a gay priest.  Of course, people ended up coming to their senses, but that didn’t ease some of the animosity that he suffered from other priests in the area.  And when holy men are getting into the act of disliking one of their own, you can only imagine what some of the rest of the town gets like.

Well, tonight one of my own friends… my old best friend, to be exact… betrayed my trust.  I got a message from him saying, “Sorry, I was bet 50 bucks to write that on your Facebook wall.  You can just delete it.  I don’t mean any harm.”

I logged in to find he had written “FAG!!!” right on my wall.

Sticks and stones right?  Just a harmless little insult, right?  Yeah, that’s how I felt for about 3 hours.  I went out, I had some fun with friends, and then I came back to find that same word right on my computer screen where I had left it.  I began to really think about it, and that’s when I started just feeling uneasy.

I trusted this guy for more than 10 years.  He was my best friend.  He was the first guy to ever, EVER, know that I was transgendered.  That’s not knowledge I entrusted to him lightly at the time.  He knew even before my parents knew.  I think that says a lot.

You guys want to know why he did it?  He did it because someone dared him to write it for 50 bucks.  He pretty much threw away 10 years of our relationship for 50 stinking dollars.

I was told by many, many people to expect this.  I was told by so many individuals that there would be people in my life who would do things to hurt me.  I expected this, to be quite honest.  But, just not from someone like that.  Not from him.

It saddens me… it really does.  I would never do that to someone, ever.  Ever.  Yet, someone has seen fit to do that to me.  It’s one thing when the Aion community does it.  They don’t have a “face” to be exact.  But when your former best friend does it to you… it takes on a whole new light.