[Gamer Responsibility] Escape and the Pursuit of Life

If I may, allow me to break the fourth wall of buttonmashing for a moment.

As some of you may know, I am an associate pastor of a rural church. One of my primary responsibilities is working with young people. A goal of mine is to lead and encourage them to live in faith, morality, genuineness, and to make an impact. In speaking with young people (who may even be like some of our readers) I am always trying to get them to see what is really important in life. Often in this society—especially in America—we spend most of our lives trying to escape it. Video games, movies, music, books, sports, parties, technology, and other such forms of escapism are moderately not bad, but can consume a person’s life.

Sometimes people forget. Why are we here? Many people think it’s to try and be happy, maybe even by pursuing the escape of life. I don’t think that is the reason. I believe it to be all about the impact we make on those around us. If we build a better life for just ourself, does it make it worth it? How about if we build a better life for another person?

You may have heard of Dr. Randy Pausch and may have seen his “Last Lecture” video. This is a person who doesn’t have long to live but is making an impact on those around him. His escapism is his life. The following is a ten minute presentation he did on Oprah that sums up his initial talk. I believe he gets it. He’s not a gamer (that we know of—he is a geek, however), but he knows about gamer responsibility.

Escaping to the world of video games is not a bad thing. Living the world of video games can be another thing entirely. Who does it benefit?

A few years ago I spent over 2,500 hours in Guild Wars. I have nothing to show for it other than lack of sleep, mini-arguments with my wife, and times lost that I could have spent with my first child during his toddler years. My evenings and Saturdays were full getting ultra-rare intangibles. I learned from that experience, and now I spend most of my time with the two boys I have.

Yes, there are times that we spend playing video games. Other times we read, we draw, we paint, we tell funny stories, we watch birds in the back yard, we travel, we disagree, we agree, and we talk. We live. As a gamer my responsibility is to not always be one. Yes it is something that I like to do, but there are a plethora of things that are more important.

I chose this topic for my first posting on gamer responsibility because I think it goes beyond just playing games. It’s foundational for how we should look at them. It’s foundational for how we should play them. I know that many arguments can be made for being immersed in video game culture, and I’ve not addressed any of them. That’s not what this is about. All I ask is who does living a life of virtuality impact?

January Cabin Fever

I’ll never buy a PC game again.

The following quote was from a Google Talk chat that I had with Tony a couple of weeks ago. I guess it was a lie. I don’t know what it is about January, but I always become weak this time of year for PC games. It’s like I have to catch up for the year before. Many times I’ll purchase a game in January and not play it until late December or early January (Hello, Civilization IV this year!).

I guess this year was no exception. This silly trend of mine started almost four or five years ago with Far Cry. Then it was Unreal Tournament 2004 (loved it!), Galactic Civilizations (learn..ing curve!), Guild Wars (2500+ hours!), Command and Conquer 3 (meh to good), Galactic Civilizations II (strategy perfection), and Civilization IV. In the last week, I’ve purchased four titles that I’ve had in the back of my mind to play: Unreal Anthology, Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends, World in Conflict, and Rail Simulator.

The Unreal package is kind of a weird misnomer this year. When we moved this last August, we ended up losing one box, just one. This was a box that had some computer games in it. Of course, they were some of the games I played once in a while. The anthology replaces some of those games.

I don’t know where this weakness comes from. I think it has to do with a man needing to have a cave. Our consoles are out in the open in the living room, but the PC pretty much has a room to itself. I find it enjoyable and comforting to go in there from time to time and just veg on a good game. It might even be to that I’m coming down of the holiday high and I want to replace that with something different. RTS usually seems to be the preferred flavor, but I may go all out crazy on some action as well.

I’m wondering if I am alone in this? Do any of you guys have a weakness when it comes to games, console or PC? Do you have a cave as well?

So now what?

I haven’t devoted as much time to games recently as I have to finishing Resident Evil 4. Before I started playing RE4, I wasn’t playing anything with any regularity. I played some Guild Wars when I got the chance, maybe a game of Mario Kart DS or Animal Crossing Wild World, but other than that, I wasn’t too commited to anything.

Finishing up RE4 has renewed my desire to game again and now I’m not sure what’s up next. Playing through RE4 has piqued my interest in the Resident Evil universe, so I may play some of the older RE games. I started playing the REmake of the first game for the Gamecube, but never really made it that far. I know most of the older games are flawed in their controls, so that may be hard to overcome, having been spoiled with the over-the-shoulder camera and controls of RE4. Nevertheless, I’d really like to see more of these character’s pasts and get more of the back story. I still say Capcom should capitalize on the success of RE4 and repackage all the Gamecube editions of the series in one mega-pack. Throw in a couple sweet collectibles and I’d be all over it.

I’ve also got “The Queue” to work on. I really should get back to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. The list is long and I should give it some attention. But it’s probably not going to happen.

It’s not going to happen, because I’m strongly considering giving EVE-Online a try. The guys over at Kill Ten Rats, one of my daily reads, are always posting excellent EVE bits and pieces and I’m very intrigued. I almost bought EVE-Online last year when I was looking for a new MMORPG to play. I ended up with Neocron instead of EVE (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing). Neocron was fun but eventually fizzled out. It didn’t exactly put Massive in MMORPG, which always bothered me. EVE looks much deeper (maybe it’s too deep) and a lot more vibrant. From the looks of it, the crafting system is complex and confusing. Just the way I like it. A good crafting system is one of my basic needs, so this may be the clincher. I loved Neocron’s crafting system (the best I’ve experienced) and EVE’s looks much better. So there’s a good possibility I may download the client and give the 14-day free trial a go. I will still have to grapple with the monthly fee, but that’s something that can be worked out.

You guys have any suggestions? Any experiences with EVE? Anything else I should try out?

What I’m playing

Even though I have a stack of unplayed games (hereafter to be referred to as “The Queue”), I am currently engrossed in Resident Evil 4. Even though I finished the game over a year ago, I’ve been playing the Mercenaries mini game, off and on, for the past couple months. Just recently I decided to endeavor to get 5-star scores on all four boards with the five characters. I unlocked the last character (Albert Wesker) and then spent some time racking up the scores needed on each board. Upon doing so, I unlocked the “Handcannon” which would be available to me next time I played. So I started the regular game over again, this time with the “Pro” difficulty. I figured I’d get to the first encounter with the merchant, buy the Handcannon, go blast some baddies with it and be done with the game. Things didn’t go as planned. I got to the merchant and the handcannon wasn’t available. But I had been enjoying myself so much that I decided to finish the game on Pro difficulty. I just rescued the President’s daughter from the church and now we’re trying to get out of dodge.

Having played this game extensively the past week has reminded me why this is such a great game. The game defines what a polished game is. The attention to detail is what gets me every time. From the authentic Spanish phrases (I will be updating the list with words and phrases I missed the first time through) to the gun reloading animations, I can’t say enough. Just a fantastic game, top to bottom.

Ashley Resident Evil 4I decided to go with the “Special Costumes,” an option you get once you beat the game. Leon is now decked out in his Raccoon City Police Department Uniform. It’s a nice touch. Little did I know that Ashley (the President’s daughter) would also be sporting a new, *ahem*, costume. I couldn’t find any screen shots of the new costume, but she’s gone from the demure and preppy skirt and sweater combo to a revealing cowboy outfit, complete with a rather revealing halter top. It was rather unsettling to see her risqué side. I guess I should come to expect such things.

So yeah, I’ll be playing Resident Evil 4 for a while. I’ll eventually get back to Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and the rest of The Queue, but for now it’s RE4 time, all the time. I still try to squeeze in a game of Guild Wars when I can and I also check in on Animal Crossing: Wild World to check the price of turnips and to water my red turnip, but that’s about it. My animals will probably be complaining and leaving town sooner or later, but tough for them.

I got escort the President’s floozy daughter to safety.

WTS Charr Carving!

For you Guild Wars players:

If you’ve spent any amount of time hanging around in Piken Square you’ve probably picked up quite a number of these curious little charms… but now you can have your very own handmade replica!

Your ascendance is now complete.

My first character in Guild Wars has finally ascended. It took me a lot longer than it probably should have, but I finally did it. My character is a Necromancer/Mesmer. He’s a great support character but he doesn’t exactly dole out the damage. (Note: If you haven’t ascended and/or don’t want any spoilers, you might not want to continue reading.)

For those who don’t already know, the final “test” is a face off against a doppelganger, a “mirror” image of yourself. Sort of. This so-called image of me had a big magic axe and powerful bow, both of which I don’t have. He also had my spells but he was doing more damage to me than I could do to him. No matter what I did, he was whipping my butt. I got close to beating him a couple times. Of course close only counts for nuking elementalists. I had to quit for a while because I was getting frustrated. Not just frustrated. FRUSTRATED. It didn’t help that fellow GW-mate Bobster told me how easy it was for him. I had no clue what to do.

Most gaming I do, I do “pure”. I don’t do GameFAQs, I avoid spoilers and hints as best I can. When I beat a game, I want to do it without any help. (That’s probably one of the reasons why I haven’t finished Viewtiful Joe) When it came to ascending in Guild Wars, I wanted to do it “pure”. I didn’t want help from the interwebs or fellow players. Heck, for a while, I wouldn’t even change my skills, allowing him to kick my butt with my own magic, repeatedly. I’m stubborn like that. I noticed he was doing some serious damage with his bow (insane damage, actually) so the first thing I did was upgrade my armor. With the new armor, I redoubled my efforts and took him on again. I tried numerous skill combinations and strategies. After another dozen beat downs I decided purity wasn’t as important as actually getting it done, so I went off to the crazy web and did a little research. Of course hitting the forums immediately yielded results and victory was near.

The solution? Necromancers have a handy little spell called “Insidious Parasite”. It steals health when an enemy physically attacks you. With my new armor I was better equipped to take a beating, so I ran in, cast IP on my doppelganger and let him go to town on me. Since he was dealing out less damage than what I was leeching from him, I just sat there and let him kill himself. Cheap? Maybe. Impure? Sort of. I would have figured something out eventually, I just didn’t have time for eventually. Ascensions need to happen, know what I’m saying?

So in the end, I guess I should just be happy to have reached a GW milestone and get on with my questing, but there will always be that nagging doubt in the back of my mind.

I’m unclean.

At least now, maybe I can finish Viewtiful Joe.

Happy Halloween!

Guild Wars Style:

Image shamelessly stolen here. (Thanks Bushido for the cool pic)

Guild Wars Help

A lot of people arrive at buttonmashing.com searching for all things Guild Wars. Many get pointed to my Guild Wars review (due to the fact that the review includes all the topics they’re searching for) but are actually looking for help on a specific topic. Because we here at buttonmashing are all about serving the gaming community, I’ve rounded up some helpful links to help you get your Guild Wars on. Hopefully this helps.

A great place to start is the Guild Wars Wiki. You can pretty much find everything that you could possibly need — locations of skill traders, mission maps (along with bonuses), crafting. It’s a one-stop-shop for your Guild War needs. There are other sites that also have strategies, skill descriptions and other helpful hints. The Guild Hall and Guild Wars Guru are both sites I frequent. I lurk in the GW Guru forums, where a lot of good info for the Guild Wars player can be found. There are a lot more sites than the two I list here. A fairly complete list can be found at the Guild Wars website.

While Guild Wars doesn’t seem to have the breadth or depth of WoW or EQ but jumping back into GW this past week has reminded that it is still a fun game. Even though it may MMORPG-lite, it’s still good fun. It’s good to be back to slaying the bad guys.

I plan on updating this post as more GW searches come in. It will be broken down in terms of search topics. For now, most of the searches coming in are for crafting, so we’ll start with some helpful crafting links. More will follow.

This is a good discussion about Salvage Kits
Of course, once you salvage all those goodies, you’ll need a place for Armor Crafting Recipes.
Handy Salvage Guide, so you’ll know what kind of crafting material you can salvage from what items.

This link is a good resource for different strategies for different builds.

And more…

(Last Update – 12/12/2005)

What I’m playing

Guild WarsGuild Wars – Guild Wars has been taking up the majority of my gaming time right now. I’m working on my main character, a Necromancer/Mesmer. I’m concentrating on Blood Magic and Curses, with Domination Magic for my Mesmer skills. I don’t think he’ll be the best build for PvP (whenever I take that on) but he’s pretty effective PvE. Been running around most of the time with my buddy who’s got a Warrior/Monk setup that seems to work really well. I’m enjoying GW immensely and look to continue the good gaming in Ascalon.

ForzaForza Motorsport – After a stint with Burnout 3 and Midnight Club 3 I decided to give Forza a try. It’s been culture shock going from the fast Burnout 3 and the arcade-y feeling MC3 to Forza. Basically, I suck at simulation racing games. I’m trying to get the feel of the game. It looks and sounds great but I’m just not used to the car actually obeying the laws of physics in my racing games.

Shot-Online – I’ve been hearing about this Golf MMORPG (Golf?!) out of Korea a bunch lately (I read about it first at Wonderland months ago) so I decided to download it and give it a try. It’s laughably translated but looks decent and it’s Golf RPG, what more do I need to say? I haven’t played a full round yet but I’m been playing with the practice options and I’m liking it so far.

Up Next:
Fate – I’ve been hearing so many good things about Fate that I decided to give it a try. It’s sitting on my hard drive right now but I’ll be getting around to it soon.

Guild Wars – The Single Player Experience

Guild WarsOne of the original ideas I had for buttonmashing.com was a review site. As I settled on the idea of a gaming blog, the review idea sorta got shelved. Well, I did review NCAA 2005 a while a go, but that’s been the only review so far. With that in mind, I’d like to review some games. I’ve added a new category and everything. So, I present my review of the single player aspects of Guild Wars.

The review is after the jump.
[Read more…]