GuildWars 2 : WvWvWs : Pointless Fun!

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While fighting the never-ending back and forth battle that is WvWvW in GuildWars 2, at least ten times a night I laugh out the words, “This is the stupidest game ever.” It is the strangest combination of ‘crazy fun’ and ‘completely pointless’ I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been playing these games since before the internet existed.

The creators of GuildWars 2 tried to create a world that was perfectly accommodating to ever type of gamer, and save for large scale dungeon raiders, they truly succeeded. Solo, grouped, explorer, farmer, hard core pvper…they all have their purpose here. And you can make things as easy or difficult as you like… trotting out into the world alone or waiting on dynamic events that will take you there with a party. For pvpers there is a choice of tournament style or structured, but by far the most fun to be had in this game is in the enormous World v World battlegrounds. These aren’t like WoW’s BGs where you queue and go in for a set point match with a group of forty people…these are persistent realms with ongoing battles between hundreds (if not thousands) of people that do not end for weeks. Then, they fast calculate how each server performed and base the next match up on each one’s strengths, so you are always in the closest / fairest fight they can give you.

Literally at any moment of the day or night you can jump into a massive battle between your server and two others. No matter when you enter these realms, you are immediately caught up in the heat of that map, whatever the current drama. Because something is always going on. But outside of the nice little server buffs to be had and tokens to be won, the truth is, sometimes I have no idea why I do it outside of it’s really fun to defend your keeps or chase down and kill people. Pointless, yes, and yet my husband and I laugh like fools all night, running around with the zerglings or doing little ninja runs on our own, often until the wee hours of the morning.

In GuildWars 2, there are no real consequences to your death outside of repair fees, so you never really care when you die, and since the opposing side can’t speak to you or see your name, there is never any ego deflation involved. It’s freeing, in a way, because there’s no excuse not to go for things that might seem dangerous. Pick off that pack Dolyak in the middle of twenty enemies? Yeah, what the heck, let’s do it! And we have, many times! And we’ve gotten away!

Played side by side with my husband allows us to get two perspectives if we need them. It’s not unusual for one of us to be shouting “RUN!” when the other is trotting into an ambush. There isn’t an upgraded supply camp on the map we can’t take out if needed and we can set up an arrow cart damn near anywhere at a seconds notice. Sometimes we’ll push the enemy over a bridge and then they’ll push back…they’ll get to our keep and get wiped out and we’ll push to theirs and wipe out and suddenly we’re back to fighting them on the bridge…having gained precisely nothing in the past few hours of battle, and yet…each time it happens…it’s exciting! You’re fiercely attacking or fiercely defending something at all times and the tide can turn very quickly.

There’s no carrot we can obtain anymore, each having two sets of top gear and all top weapons, and yet…we’re still playing every night and still loving every second of it, which is easily the biggest compliment I could give to any mmo these days!

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Board Games Build Lasting Friendships

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It was the autumn of ’96. We had just moved thirty miles away from our hometown, and my quiet eleven year old son, Keith, had yet to make any friends. His first days in a new school proved fruitless, and I watched crestfallen as this bright, creative kid solemnly spent his afternoons alone in front of the TV. But one day, something changed. My son got off the bus, raced into the house, grabbed his deck of Magic the Gathering cards and darted back out the door, shouting only that he had met some kid who played.

That kid, it turned out, lived just a block away from us, and his name was Christopher Batarlis.

Chris was the kind of kid who filled up a room with his larger-than-life personality. He wasn’t a kid, he was a full-blown television show…complete with actors, commentators and sound effects, and my son came alive in his presence. The first time I met Chris, he walked into our house with a wide grin on his cherubic face and an enormous boxed game under his arm. The box was so old it was falling apart, its lid barely held together by yellowing pieces of tape. “It was in someone’s garbage,” he proudly told us, the pure excitement of having found it for free apparent in his voice.

The boys shared a love of board games and gaming in general, and they quickly became best friends. My concrete block basement was cold and held only a large folding table and some chairs, but over the next few years it was transformed into a portal to another world, as the boys found and played every board and card game out there. New and old, they tore through them. Some were played again and again, others were tossed aside, and still others sat stacked unopened on the floor waiting to be played.

From upstairs, I could hear them reading the instructions. I could hear their dice roll, their shouts, their sudden bursts of laughter, their role playing and their arguments. I could hear them methodically working out difficult encounters and discussing various avenues of progression, and I could hear them dream of the ultimate game. Long, in-depth conversations that started with ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…?’

When the boys got older, we would spend entire weekends at gaming conventions, attending all the demo games and playing a wide variety of board games, war games, LARPs and RPGs, and Chris dived into every one of them with equal energy and enthusiasm. It was crystal clear, even way back then, where his passion lied.

Life led the boys in different directions after high school ended and I didn’t see Chris for a while, but he was one of my facebook friends so I kept an eye on his life. His feed proved nothing had changed. It was pictures of him and his friends playing games or snap shots of games in progress, and it continued that way past his college years and into his adulthood. So when I heard Chris was working on his own game, I knew it was bound to be epic.

Everything Epic’s Secrets of the Lost Tomb isn’t just some gamers who made a game. It’s the lifelong dream of that devoted kid who sat down in my basement. It’s decades of first hand knowledge of what makes a player excited. And it’s flying off the shelves for that same reason. This game has all the fun elements a kid can imagine combined with the lifetime experience of a hardcore gamer, put together by a guy who’s still as theatrical and boisterous as ever. Be sure to check it out! Secrets of the Lost Tomb

 

Expanding Young Minds

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My grandmother, to occupy me on those times I slept over, would always pull out a tool box…and she had a wonderful assortment of things that I could take apart. Electronic things like telephones, TVs and stereos, all kinds of weird mechanical stuff with little motors and tons of removable parts. And I would spend hours deconstructing them and trying to put them back together.

Thus began a lifetime of thinking, if something stopped working, I could take it apart and fix it on my own. I never felt like sealed items were somehow off limits to my prying, and at some point in my teenage years, that extended to my car. I became fascinated with how all the little wires in there hooked up, and what went where and how to add things to that mix. Which probably would have meant a kick ass audio system if I had been a boy, but instead meant (obnoxiously) adding pretty purple lights to everything on my dashboard.

In any case, the moral of this story is: You can open and expand the mind of a child if you provide them with the right tools.

Music Ramble

Back in the 70s, Vin Scelsa was a budding Manhattan DJ who ruled the night airwaves at a public radio station called WBAI, and I was a really little kid who suffered from insomnia. While I had a TV, it generally went off the air around midnight, so my go-to relief on those long sleepless nights was the radio. Since reception wasn’t exactly stellar, being so far from the city, I played with the dial a lot, and somehow, one night, I happened on Vin…or rather I happened on a station playing ‘Psycho Killer’ by a band called the ‘Talking Heads.’

The late 70s was not where New Wave music was really born. And while there were some innovative bands alive at the time, I could count them on one hand. The 70s was geared towards the pop single and it was disco that was ruling the roost. So alien was the sound coming from my radio, I was instantly in love with it. Unable to locate a pencil, I actually scratched the numbers 99.5 into the side of my old wooden dresser next to fading flower power stickers.

One of my prized possessions back then was a Radio Shack tape recorder, which I had saved up $12 to buy. Armed with this tape recorder, I stayed up until 4am the next night waiting for Vin Scelsa to play this song again, but instead, I ended up taping about twenty other songs I’d never heard of, and it would be another week before I added ‘Psycho Killer’ to the mix. Listening to that tape now, it astounds me just how prolific Scelsa was. It’s a who’s who of bands that wouldn’t become household names for another ten years. Devo, The Police and Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Sex Pistols and Johnny Cougar (Mellencamp.) There’s Planet Claire from the B52s and Lene Lovich’s Lucky Number. Songs that were the crest of a tsunami still several years from hitting shore.

Vin Scelsa was the kind of guy who talked to his audience like he was talking to his pals in his basement. He fast became my friend, his voice…a welcome beacon of companionship throughout the long dark night. I followed Vin from station to station as he grew from a college station DJ to one of Manhattan’s most prominent on-air personalities, and there is where Vin’s musical tastes began to enter the mainstream, introducing a whole new generation to music he’d been playing for me a decade. Doing the hipster thing, while that was going on, I started to seek out newer music, honing in on a whole new sect of college DJs who were playing unsigned bands. It had become my passion.

Musical taste is developed by experience. Mine was molded by Vin Scelsa and others like him who seeded my brain with the desire to hear the new, the innovative, the different, a desire that continues to this day. I’ll load anything onto my MP3 player and let it sit in rotation a week. By that point I’m usually like, “Wow, who is this?” or “Oh God, not this horrible song again.” Back when Napster was still a free download site and ‘pirating’ wasn’t an issue, I went through thousands of songs this way. Now I have to hunt for (decent, well produced, free…) new music, which is a shame. :/

Welcome to suggestions if you know any good sites for free, new music downloads.