Eye Catching 4 – 8 November

Happy November!  The holiday season is fast approaching and for those of us in gaming, it’s past time to start deciding what to buy for ourselves, what to give as gifts, and – perhaps most importantly – what to warn people NOT to buy for you.  You all do that too, right?  I mean, how else can you avoid your nongamer Aunt May giving you shovelware?

While exploring the internet this week, a parent’s guide to the new consoles, written by Keith Stuart for TheGuardian.com, caught my eye.  Now, I must point out that this guide was written for the non-gamer parents in the audience and I read through it wondering what fellow parents, who were not gamers, were being told.  It’s easy for gamers to decide what to buy fellow gamers or ourselves, but video games remain a mystery to a large percentage of the population.  The verdict, not surprisingly, is rather ambivalent and suggests that people buy the system that best answers the questions, “Why am I buying a new console?” and “What do I want this machine to do?”

As for launch titles, Venturebeat.com’s Dean Takahashi, provided a succinct review and links to the complete lists.  Of course, this brings to mind my belief that what separates people who play video games from Gamers, is that a Gamer will answer the question, “Why am I buying a new console?” with “Because it’s the only way I can play _______!!”  ~ Star (who bought a Dreamcast because it was the only way to play Shenmu.)

* PS4 or Xbox One? A Parent’s Guide | TheGuardian.com

* How the Xbox One Launch Titles Stack up against Sony’s Playstation 4 Lineup | Venturebeat.com

So how many of you out there are playing Call of Duty Ghosts?  Well, if you follow TotalBiscuit, you may not be.

I confess I’m not a big fan of first-person shooter games, but the ad campaign for this game has intrigued me.   The early ads were somber, taking the war theme seriously.

But the latest phase of the ad campaign is much more upbeat and, dare I say, happy.

and

Now, I get it.  Create some ads that show players having fun and promote the fun factor to gamers.  But here’s my soapbox moment.  You may remember that we featured an article a few weeks ago on Operation Supply Drop, a charity that focuses on supporting soldiers with battle fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder.  One comment thread in particular on Kotaku’s article took issue with soldiers joining the military and then “complaining about death.”  While several commenters came in and took issue with the original comment, at the time, I wondered how, in this post-9/11 world, where the real effects of war can be found on several different TV program types aside from the news, some people still believe these things.  Then the “Epic Night Out” ad, with its Frank Sinatra soundtrack, came out.

Look how fun war looks!  And Old Blue Eyes is singing you along into the fabulousness of it all.  We can laugh in the face of our enemies, while mowing them down of course because, “There’s a soldier in all of us.”

I won’t lie.  I play battle style MMOs that throw characters into wars against monsters and other players, but no matter how fun my game time is, I’ve never thought my characters would come out psychologically unscathed had these been real wars.  And I’m not naïve about how war continues to be romanticized – that’s happened since the first wars in history; soldiers get glorified, and nothing has really changed in the course of human experience.  But I’m a little intrigued and a little disturbed by the last ad.  And I’m wondering if there might be a correlation between games that make battlefield combat seem fun and people without military experience growing callous or ignorant about the realities of war.  I don’t know.  What do you think? ~ Sandra

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Jade Shadows – Chapter 1 – Guild Wars Fiction

JadebannerMood music:

Chapter 1, Retracing the Past

Stone upon stone upon stone.  No cushion.  No give to it.  Hard and cold, grey and rough.  Pale skies that look masked of their light.  Everything about this city is mean, hateful.  I’ll escape.  I’ll sneak out when the priestesses aren’t watching, and head for the Salma District gate.

That’s how I felt when I first arrived in Divinity’s Reach.  I just wanted to go home.  I wanted the green fields under my feet and the sound of the temple bells in my ears.  I wanted my home.  I wanted my parents back.

I know my parents died trying to get us here, but this isn’t where I’m meant to live, shut away from the fresh air, earth and grass that I love.  Waves of Risen have to be more bearable than the too ready smiles of the priestesses.  Their fake concern, their over-familiarity.  My name is Kazue.  Not Kaz.  Not Kassie.  And not sweetie.

Only the Preistess Layla understood that.  But she left not long after that man brought me to the orphanage.

That man.  Hao Luen.  He doesn’t hide the fact he’s Canthan.   People respect him, even fear him.  I don’t understand but I know he’s hiding something.  I can feel it.  Papa trusted him but I don’t.  I’ve seen his eyes, veiled, masking their light.

As I sat in that barrel, choking on the echoes of Mama’s screams and Papa’s curses, his face appeared over my head.  He found me and lifted me out, silently.  He just stared at me and pursed his lips.  He took my hand and tried to pull me onto the listing deck.  But I jerked myself free and stood on tiptoe, reaching back into the barrel for the soft, worn leather bag Mama had placed there before she put me in.

“Watch over the ancestors and they’ll watch over you,” she always said.  I couldn’t leave them behind.

I heard the hard sigh behind me before he grabbed me and pushed me aside to look in.  He stopped short and blinked twice before reaching in and rescuing the bag.  He held it up a moment, squinting at it, puzzled, then held it down so I could take it.  My small hands reached out for it, barely grabbing it before he yanked me up on deck, past the scattered remnants of the battle, to stop in front of that … creature.  Shud.

“A bookah child.  What am I supposed to do with this, Luen?”

I looked up at him, and he sneered at her.  “Move her quickly.  Isn’t that why I pay you?”  And then he walked over a plank and off of the sinking ship.

“Hmph.  Come along, bookah child, we haven’t got all day,” she snapped.

I didn’t move.  I scanned the deck searching for them.  There were limbs with peeling skin everywhere.  But it wasn’t them.  Their skin didn’t look like old, rotted fruit, mottled and more than ready for the trash.

Then I saw them.  They were together, his arm around her shoulders.  A piece of his shortbow lying at his feet.  Her sword snapped.  My feet moved instinctively towards them.  They looked like they were sleeping peacefully, just as they did whenever I’d sneak into their room on a Saturday morning.  Her right hand resting on his chest; his left arm stretched back over his head.  Only the blood soaked under her hand and seeping from her side shattered the illusion.

“Now listen here, bookhah,” I heard.  But that was all she said.  She stood next to me and took in the silent forms.  The ship groaned and started leaning a little more.  The motion was just enough to let an unseen scepter and dagger come into view.

“Watch over the ancestors and they’ll watch over you.”

I stepped carefully over to them and squatted down next to Papa.  I reached out to their weapons and looked at him for the last time.

I will.  I promise.

I placed the dagger in the bag and clung to the scepter.

The next thing I knew, I was led across another plank and into a new ship, bigger than the one we’d taken out of Cantha.  More of those creatures – Asura – were in the ship, and none of them looked pleased to see me.

“What’s this, Shud?  That’s not even a progeny,” one of them said.

“Stuff it and weigh anchor, Belpp. The bookah child’s coming with me.”

“Sh-shud?” I offered.  I hadn’t spoken in hours; my throat was raw and my voice raspy.

“Oho!  So you can speak, can you?  Save it for now, little one,” she added a little less gruffly. “The less noise we make, the higher the probability those Undead won’t return and attack.”

I blinked.  “You’re as tall as me, so how am I the only little one?”

Her shipmate – Belpp – started to chuckle.  He stopped when Shud shot him a look.

She led me past crates and barrels and into a cabin.  “You should rest, bookah child. We’ll be in Rata Sum in a few hours.”  She pointed me to a low hammock and waited until I clambered onto it.   As I laid down, she took a rough blanket from behind her and laid it across me.

“I’m Kazue, not bookah.”  She chuckled softly and walked out of the room.

Rata Sum.  Shud led me off of that ship and into the tipsy city.  Hao Luen wasn’t there though, so Shud told me to stay in a room with glowing tables and walls.  She called it her lab.  She wouldn’t let me out to explore, and I was too afraid to go anywhere without her.  The Asura in the tipsy city looked menacing with their sharp, pointy teeth.  For all I knew, they might decide to eat me.  Shud was all right though.  A little shady, but harmless.

She talked a lot about money and the Eternal Alchemy but I was interested more in the magical energy panels dotting her lab.  They glowed pink and purple like Mama’s illusions.  Seeing that I wouldn’t let the dagger or scepter out of my sight, Shud explained how illusions were created and said I might learn to create them one day.  I didn’t tell her I’d been training with Mama for the past year though.  Any time I tried, my throat hurt and the tears would come.  Shud never pressed me; she’d quietly move to one of her tables and start tinkering.

A week later, Hao Luen arrived, at night, cloaked and hiding from the Peacemakers he said.  He handed Shud a smaller cloak and said, “We need to move quickly.”

Shud said nothing, only moved towards me and wrapped the cloak around my shoulders.  She pulled the hood up and said quietly, “Take care, little one.”

Hao Luen nudged me out of the lab and towards the Asura Gate.  We entered the ship city quickly, and then he pulled me to another Gate, into the stone city.

When the Priestess Layla asked him my name, he only said, “Kazue.”

“And her surname?”

“She’s an orphan, isn’t that enough for you to be getting on with?” he snarled and left.

I still don’t understand why he wouldn’t tell the priestess my surname.  Didn’t he know it?  He knew Papa, and I never told him my name.  His response, though, kept me from telling the priestesses my full name too; should I have?  Would Papa have told them our name?  I know one thing and that’s that Hao Luen was hiding something and I need to know what … and why.

Shud.  I haven’t thought about her in years.  If anyone could tell me where to find that man, she could.  I can leave Divinity’s Reach now.  I think it’s time to return to the tipsy city.

~~~~

“Fear Not this Night, Piano Only” by Jeremy Soule @ ArenaNet’s SoundCloud

Halloween Happenings

Halloween in Inkysticks Land

Ah, Halloween.  The first of the cold month holidays that spark nostalgic childhood memories of combing the neighborhood asking for tricks or treat, getting enough candy that it would last a year (mom controlled consumption so we wouldn’t drive her crazy I think), and spending fun time out in the cold with my friends.

rooibos20scropped

Rooibos Tea, Halloween 2012

I’m not young enough to go traipsing about looking for free candy, and I don’t have kids to walk or drive around looking for candy.  I’m the one on door duty handing out candy and asking kids how their candy haul is coming along, or telling them random “when I was your age” stories about getting pennies and nickels instead of dollars from some neighbors.

Since I started playing Guild Wars, part of my time is also spent looting candy corn from foes and trick or treat bags, and, since last year, mining candy corn nodes and entering Mad King Thorn’s Mad Realm.

A few weeks ago I talked about maxing my necromancer and getting her The Crossing staff permanently.  Those of you who run around Tyria regularly know this staff was introduced last year.  I was so captivated by the design and look of it.  A spider web.  A hand holding a lantern.  Seriously, crossing the River Styx?  This is a literature nerd’s perfect necromancer-playing weapon!  I farmed enough candy corn last year just so I could get two of the time limited weapons for her.

Ten hours of happy Crossing use ensued and I vowed Rooibos would have this staff when she turned 80.  Now, since I spend my limited play time in PvE, getting all of the materials would be a challenge, so I thought I’d just buy it off the Trading Post.  Little did I realize its price would double in a year.  By the time the Blood and Madness patch went live, I was sure there was no way I’d be able to afford this staff.

rooibos80halloween

Halloween 2013

To my happy surprise, not only could I afford it, I could craft it myself!  So Happy Halloween and Happy Level 80, Rooibos Tea!  You’ve come a long way!

Now we have to figure out what to do about your armor because I’m getting slightly tired of it.  But first we have to take out the Toxic Alliance. ~ Sandra

Meanwhile, in Star Corner:

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted!  I think Halloween ate the entire week!  I decided at the last minute to participate in Guild Wars 2’s Halloween festivities so spent hours running around the Mad King’s Labyrinth, fighting glow-in-the-dark skeletons, dancing around as a spider, etc. (See last week’s post.)  Finally, I played Mad King Says to round out the week.

In addition, I dropped by Guild Wars 1 yesterday morning and played a round of the original game with fellow stalwarts.

Admiring the View

Admiring the View

But the highlight of my Halloween week was watching Day [9]’s Halloween stream of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.  I’m not sure if it’s funnier watching him freak out over the game or watching me freak out over him freaking out.  I cannot play scary games, despite being able to watch others play them.  I respect him for going through with the stream despite not wanting to do it.

What’s up next week?  Well, with the time change here in the United States, we all have an extra hour for gaming.  There’s a charity marathon scheduled for tomorrow night, taking advantage of that fact.  What game will you be playing with your extra hour?

Me?  I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month this year.  The quality of my posts may diminish as the word count increases.  ~ Star