Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Spouse Aggro"

I'm in a mixed marriage. I'm a gamer and my husband is not. Actually, that's putting it mildly. I'm a gamer married to a psychologist who has published articles on what he refers to as "Internet Dependence"... complete with a diagnostic test that suggests I am a computer junkie. (I have pointed out that if I replace the word "internet" with the words "car", "cell phone", and/or "watch" I am also unhealthily dependent on those things, but he insists it is somehow different.) And this week, just as LOTRO was going into general release, I managed to hit a major patch of "spouse aggro".

Almost every gamer married to a nongamer runs into this, and we usually know how many hours of gaming we can get away with in any given week before we get called on the carpet for it. I have less time than most - ten "visible" hours a week is enough to get me in trouble. So, just as LOTRO was going into commercial release, my time for this week ran out. And to make it worse, my husband is home with the flu, so there are no "invisible hours" available.

I'm wondering how other gamers deal with this. The truth is that my husband resents my gaming time in ways that he doesn't resent other sorts of singular activity. If I were watching TV, for instance, he wouldn't mention it. This confuses me. But I'm a relative newly wed... our first anniversary is still about two months off. So, fellow gamers, any advice for a newbie on how to avoid "spouse aggro"?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Second Life

As long as I'm talking about the virtual worlds I'm playing in, I thought I might as well toss in Second Life. I'm not nearly as involved there as I used to be - in fact, if I'm in SL ten hours a month, it's unusual. There was a time when I was very involved, though. From the early days of the Bhodi Tree Gallery to the more ambitious VERTU project, I was pretty taken with SL from its first few fledgeling months. In fact, I was more taken with it back then, when the community was still pretty small, most of the people actually doing something knew one another, the porn was a little more under control, and there weren't yet any major corporate presences. But I do go back to visit, catch up with old friends, and SHOP. I confess. I'm such a girly gamer, that I do love being able to buy and wear things I could NEVER get away with in real life, to look like I want to look at the moment, and all that. So here, at the moment, is what I look like in SL. Next week, I may be back to wearing one of the costumes I have tucked away - Lily Munster, Albert Einstein, a giant set of walking chattering teeth... but at the moment, this is me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vanguard - Definately Shinier

Having already admitted that LOTRO is really my current game of choice, I wanted to take a moment to also weigh in on the really wonderful things about V:SOH. (And let me confess right now that I am a total "van boi" and am willing to ignore the incredibly rocky start because I have so much faith in Brad and the gang at Sigil, and because what I have seen so far has really impressed me.)

I'm a girly player, and I like the shiny. LOTRO has some real beauty in it, but it doesn't take my breath away. V:SOH does. Not always, but often. The vistas are amazing. This is a detailed world, with great variety and atmosphere. LOTRO is beautiful as well, but in it I feel more like I am looking at a beautiful painting than standing in the place itself. Something happened to me during my first days of Vanguard that haven't happened to me since my very early days in Asheron's Call. I wandered into a basically empty place. There were trees, rocks, everything that one would expect to find in the unpopulated woods. There were even a few ruins here and there, although they didn't seem to be more than the foundations of long-ago abandoned farm houses. There was no one around for as far as the eye could see, and believe me, that was quite a distance.

Now, I know that this is as much a function of the premature launch as it is game design - I'm sure that there is something planned for the space I wandered into. But there is something emotionally fulfilling about that sense of discovery that I, at least, don't get from finding a place the devs have obviously been leading me towards all along. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for V:SOH, for frontiers, and for freedom. But I'm not holding my breath, or giving up the great group of players I've found at LOTRO, either.

Merwyn - Life in LOTRO

Merwyn is my LOTRO character. Unlike Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, where I am still experimenting with a number of alts, I have pretty much settled on a single character in LOTRO. This is, in no small part, because I have found a wonderful "heavy RP" kindship (the LOTRO word for guild), The Red Arrows. While my V:SOH alts have no real personal histories, Merwyn has been very fleshed out, her life already intertwined with those of others in the kinship. This, at the moment, makes LOTRO the game that demands most of my attention. A good group of folk to play with is the real secret to enjoying an MMORPG.

Having said that, I have to say that I'm sad not to have yet found such a group in Vanguard. As much as I love LOTRO, it doesn't have the feeling of an endless world. Far from it. The world feels downright tiny and I often feel lead along a linear path. My biggest gripe about WOW was that it rarely felt like I was acting on my own; it seemed I simply ran from one quest to another, an errand boy caught up in a world that I never fully understood and where little I did had any impact at all. Vanguard has a lot of potential to recapture that feeling from the early MMORPGs of a fully realized world--one that includes both crowded, busy areas and wilderness, one where different play styles really do create a different experience and lead to different character strengths--but it's ridiculous tech requirements and steep learning curve may prove too much for most gamers. So far, I have not found the kind of warm, welcoming community there that seems to exist in LOTRO. And, in the end, it's community that will keep me coming back.


Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere. As one of the veterans of the early days of MMORPGs, and of MUDs before that, I thought it was time to begin to chronicle my thoughts as I go from world to world, exploring that magical connection between people as they set out to explore a shared illusion.

As I start to chronicle my adventures in the worlds of Middle Earth, Telon, and the ever-morphing Second Life, I can't help but remember all the people and places that have come before. Dereth was my first great love. I miss the sense we had then of a completely open world. I don't remember questing in the original Asheron's Call. Was there questing? Surely there was, but it was somehow different... I do recall people completing important story arcs, but I mostly remember finding myself in an inhospitable world full of others anxious to tame it and discover it's secrets. It felt more free, less linear, than any game I have experienced since. It was also there that I met my first great RP friend - Lerik. (I wonder what has become of you, Lerik? Are you lurking in MUDs again, disgusted with the l33t sp34k and griefers in MMORPGs, or fighting beside me in LOTRO without my knowing it?) Then there was Everquest, which I came to late and never did fully learn to appreciate. It taught me that you had to be there at the beginning of the game if you wanted that frontier feeling - come later, and invariably some group member would shout out a walk-through for the task at hand. EVE was too difficult for me - I was an English major, economics bore me. I want a story, not a stock market. Everquest II cost me a love; I introduced him to the world of MMORPGs and he disappeared into it, lost to me forever. Anarchy Online made me feel old; a middle-aged woman clearly trapped in a world of teenage boys.

So now I find myself in games that seem targeted to folk just like me; refugees from earlier worlds with high expectations who want desperately to somehow recapture that old excitement but within a world that still allows us time for the families, jobs, and other curses of middle age. Will it be LOTRO? Or perhaps V:SOH? Maybe both, although where I will find time for two additional lives on top of this one I don't know. I hope you'll enjoy sharing the journey with me, though, and perhaps we'll meet in Ered Luin or Thestra.

- Veingloria