Purple Jedi Code

Something I came across in my delving within dark places:

To the left, the dark side surges
with passion and with selfishness
To the right, the light beckons
with discipline and with arrogance

The Dark are locked in constant struggle
The Light can be healing or blinding
Neither way is whole
I know this now

In cruelty, may be tenderness
In tenderness, cruelty
I accept both and give both
Their due mercy

Thus I choose now to seize the center
with passion and with discipline
I am both servant and master
of all the Force gives me

I serve myself by mastering myself
but I am greater than this vessel
for the Force is a living thing
within and without me

I serve the Force because I AM the Force
The Force serves My Will because I AM the Force
Neither Light nor Dark can hold me
Because I AM the Force


Sexism in SWTOR Clothing Choices

Sent in to the customer service Protocol Droids:

Among all the powerful Sith Lords and Independent Noblewomen, surely there are some who appreciate the male form as much as your designers appreciate the female form. My Sith Lord for one definitely appreciates the male form! From the reaction in general chat, she’s not the only one.

Please, implement beautiful male versions of all the female-only social armor, particularly the slave outfit. I would expect a richly detailed slave harness instead of a bra, the rest can probably stay the same design. Elegant Dress doesn’t have to be just a female dress, it could be a lovely white-and-gold coattail jacket chestpiece and there’s no need for the skirt to be female only as all Consulars and Inquisitors wear skirts.

Not only would that make the game world more diverse but it’s a bit offensive to only objectify the female form in this way, as if only women are allowed to be objects of desire. It’s merely perpetuating outdated societal norms from our own society here in North America, despite other indications in game that there is some equality in power. That breaks immersion pretty badly. Um, pun wasn’t intended. >.>

Just more “male gaze” which denies both the validity of “female gaze” and the validity of men as sexual beings. I expected better from Bioware. …I’m saying that a lot lately.


Media Fast FAIL, Poverty and the SWTOR Beta – Day 22

So, follow through on this media fast thing continues to be a horrible struggle. Self-discovery continues to pour in from the attempt but I’m at the verge of abandoning it.

Why? Quite simply, I game to connect with people.

Yeah, yeah, it’s sad. Cue typical gamer images of an overweight overgrown boy in his parent’s basement. I’m neither overweight nor a boy, however I would be living in my parent’s basement if I had parents and if they had a basement. So I do fit the stereotype that much: I don’t get out much, I’m sick a lot, and the sun, it is bright. Very. Ouch.

Daily meditations get missed when I’m sick. It happens. Getting back into them when I found out that SWTOR lifted NDA and is having a big beta stress test this weekend? Goood luck with that.

There are no purple Twi’lek in SWTOR:

Actually I’m pretty thankful for this. It gives me an excuse to not buy the game when I can’t afford to anyway. So I’ll just be testing, evaluating from the viewpoint of someone who is a Bioware fan and a mild Star Wars fan, someone who loved KOTOR and KOTOR II. But I’m not going to have to give up Rift to get a subscription, because there’s no purple Twi’lek and I can’t make the character I’d want to make in it because of that.

Some guildies really love it so far, preordered, and are leaving Rift for it. Other guildies are NOT coming from the attitude of fanboi squeee and aren’t very impressed at all.

It would have been an amazing game 4-5 years ago. I’m feeling that Bioware’s inexperience actually making MMOs has combined in a bad way with EA’s general… um… well it’s EA. Douchiness is a word right?

Just from reading about it, there’s a few things I do like. One, all healing is capable. Two, all tanking is mitigation, with variances in playstyles more than in tanking capability. Three, force lightning is JUST AWESOME.

But, no purple Twi’lek. No va.

Soooo Media Fast? Meditation? Hellloooo!

During all this, I feel guilty for falling off the schedule I set for myself. For logging on Saturdays for guild runs, then Saturdays and Tuesdays. For spending one whole day (a Monday!) reading up on SWTOR races and classes and gameplay styles, and arranging on Twitter for preparations to play together once the upcoming beta test actually starts.

But each time I fail in this task I set for myself, it’s telling me what’s really important to me. And it’s also telling me I don’t have enough of that in the “real life” part of things.

My guildies, my games, they mean a ton. That’s why I was crying at what happened to Codex at The Guild‘s Season 5 Finale, because I can relate, but also because I’m sad that can never happen to me. If it did I’d have to say I’m too sick to do it.

On to the Occupy Movement:

To not be too sick anymore? First off I don’t even know if that’s possible. If it were, well, here’s the costs to live a basic contributing life where I am, that someone with a job would have to spend in order to get the job, keep the job, and de-stress from the job.

Rent (even just a room is usually 850-1600!): $950
Telecommunications: 120
Transportation (in a city where you don’t need a car but can’t bike): 140
Looking to other people like I respect myself and take good care of myself (AKA clothing, makeup, shaving, haircuts, hygiene): 80
Food (I eat like a bird now, but if I was more active I’d need more calories): 300
Being fit and healthy (supplements, gym memberships or equipment, gym clothes, dental work): 100
Entertaining locally (going out for dinner, throwing parties, omgpeople, occasional pedicures, gifts): 120
Gaming (one mmo sub, savings for new games): 20

That’s $1830 for a regular gamer kind of life, which means an income of $2000 a month to be able to pay taxes. $24k a year doesn’t sound like a lot does it? It’s not, it’s the poverty line in Canada for a single person.

On assistance, the maximum a single person can get is $640 a month, that’s if their rent is $350 or greater and they’re well enough to volunteer. People on assistance can’t even afford to eat, look for work, or look like they care about themselves. Much less make or connect with friends by going out to dinner or the movies, entertaining with parties, or giving gifts.

On top of that, good luck finding a room for rent for less than $700 a month. Yes, that’s more than most people even get in total. So they’re forced to the streets and shelters because they can’t even rent a room.

Where’s the poverty line compared to that amount? Can you even afford to look for work? What about getting a haircut, a manicure, something to show your employers they’re getting someone with self-respect and attention to detail? What about food?

What about dignity?

No chance.

This is why I support the 99%, because I’m personally in the 2% at the bottom of the 99%. The 2% lowest income in the world. I live on a third world income in a first world country, despite being smart enough to figure out how to work a computer. I’m sure it’d be luxury over there. Here, I have luxury of rich people’s castoff stuff, but I can’t afford food and gave up having a phone. Again, how do you look for work when you’re too sick to volunteer, not sick enough for disability, and you don’t even have a phone?

Welfare is the modern world government’s answer to the PR disaster of concentration camps. It’s Auschwitz without walls, without gas chambers, without guards.

You can walk out of it any time, but where do you go?

Gamer Generosity and Children’s Miracle Network

As many of you know I’ve signed up for Extra Life as part of the Gaiscioch team. I’d like to take a moment to thank you for your support.

The thing is, I’m not doing anything special by taking part. I have frequent insomnia, I play videogames a lot to deal with the pain and for something to do at late hours when the regular world is in bed. So playing a game for 24 hours straight really isn’t a big deal, I’ve done it many times.

What makes this special, is that YOU are donating your money to these hospitals, and by that making something I’d be doing anyway worth something cool. I’d especially like to thank the Anonymous donor, who not only showed incredible generosity but also modesty. You all rock!

A History of Barding as it applies to Videogames

So why is it that many games just don’t get what bards can be? Let’s have a look at the historical roots of the Bard, both in real life cultures and in gaming cultures.

First, ancient cultures around the world used chants and songs as a way to promote community, change and uplift moods, drive away bad spirits, and bring healing. This was part of being a Shaman, but also part of ordinary life for everyone. They used drums, various wind instruments, and stringed instruments, made from natural materials.

In the Celtic Tradition, the Bard had three main tasks. To rouse people to battle; to make even the most hardened warrior cry; and to soothe people to sleep. They were a specific rank and training of Druid class in Celtic society, honored as negotiators and storytellers, keepers of lore. At the word of a Bard, battle would end, or begin. Historically they did not fight, themselves, but oversaw the fighting of others. They were part of the religious elite. Their words and their songs, had power.

As the Druid tradition was stamped out by invading Christians, the songs and lore were lost save for the songs of the people, sung in taverns and homes across the land. The Bard was now merely a minstrel or troubadour, a traveler bringing news along with entertainment for a night’s lodging, or gaining entry to a court or even a sponsorship by great talent for diplomacy and music – plus good looks and seduction skills.

Troubadours who wished for sponsorship had to act like nobility, enough to not be out of place at court. They would not stoop to lowly activities such as tavern brawling, injuries could ruin their career forever.

Music remained part of religion however, in songs and chants of monks and clergy. The secular music was seen as base, impure.

Game lore such as The Elder Scrolls universe has the Bard as a type of Assassin, a rogue who gains entry to noble presence by talent and diplomacy, then either spies or kills someone with the use of poison or dagger. They take inspiration for the Bard from the Troubadour era of music. In gameplay, the Bard in Oblivion has buffs to help the party fight better, and uses either daggers or bow for more personal combat based in Rogue abilities.

In the history of Dungeons and Dragons, again the Bard draws from the Troubadour root, in this case from the Tavern musician who has never seen the inside of a court but wishes he was high class enough to do so. He’s a rougher fellow, often not at all above brawling, with a bit of warrior and a bit of rogue thrown in for good measure. Hard drinking, hard playing, and hardly fighting. He can sing, wench, and steal your purse to pay for his companions to stay in better quality sheets – either legitimately through his songs or by pickpocketing. But the memory of Troubadour history haunts the D&D Bard as he’s made the butt of jokes for playing lute and seeming somewhat poncy, especially if he only supports the party by singing rather than fighting. Nobody cares about the Bard. Right?

That’s a long way to drop from being an honored figure of religious ceremony, wearing a gold torc to symbolize that your standing is only equal with that of the highest chieftains in the land, advisor to kings, with the power to walk on a battlefield and STOP THE WAR by a single word!

So here’s the problem with Bards in gaming. Music in the real world is a physical action. It’s enjoyable. Most other classes’ fighting styles have an equivalent physicality. When you watch a fighter slash at things with a sword or axe, you can feel it. When a mage casts magic, it’s done with a staff or wand, again as a physical action. The animations, if done well, have a weight and depth of reality to them.

The Bard plinks at a lute. Lalala. Look at me playing lute on a battlefield, lalala!
There’s no illusion of physicality and it’s rather silly overall.

So, there are two types of Bard in gaming. There’s the fighter Bard, who splashes deeper into real combat, based on street fighting and tavern brawling, then there’s the “useless plinker” Bard who only supports the party with buffs but can’t fight. Or, well, do much of anything. If it can’t be mesmerized by song, the Bard has no other tricks. If facing a boss, the plinker is a helpless cliche about to be burned to a crisp by the Dragon, who is conveniently immune to the Bard’s only ability: song. Only a REAL fighter can save them, either by might or by magic.

The music part of Shamanism is reduced by games, and only the Shapeshifted warrior remains. Yet that physical tradition of spirit-transformed melee combat is satisfying to play.

Druids speak with faeries and nature spirits, and those aid them to fight. Again, physical combat and sometimes spells cast at a range, as a hybrid type of playstyle.

Bards, plink. Lalala.

My vision of what a Bard could be in games, is based in part on a book called “The Soprano Sorceress” by L.E. Modesitt, part of a series called The Spellsong Cycle. In it, a music teacher is tossed into a fantasy world where songs have power. I’ve always felt that music has a real magic to it. Some games in the sci-fi genre use sonic death boom weapons, but that power is rarely given to Bards in games where fantasy Shamans turn into bears and fight with greater endurance and strength purely from magic.

What if you took that “useless plinker” and made it a real Mage? The playstyle of a plinker is already closer to that of a caster – they stand away from the thick of battle and play an instrument instead of using a real weapon such as sword or dagger. Real nukes and real heals would be possible, and would have that illusory feeling of physicality like the rest of the Mage class, as they use a focus crystal for singing, or an instrument glowing with magic that congeals then goes BOOM! to nuke an opponent as they cast a spell of song.

Let’s honour an older tradition of Bard in newer generations of games. Recognize that the Bard has a caster type in basic abilities, and that if expanded that could be a wonderful, powerful and FUN playstyle. Stop relegating the Bard to uselessness as a failed and cowardly Rogue going lalala on the field of war! Bards are Mages of Song.

Music is a type of magic, and that magic has not been fully expressed in games.

Celebration time, come on! (Rift)

Update, July 29th: At the first patch of Phase 5, the “funny” line that was disrespectful towards Asha has been removed. Thank you! In addition, Abyssal Prancers have been reduced in number, and some have been renamed Abyssal Violators as if to remind us these are enemies, not just female dancers. Although it’s probably the best quick solution to the problem (any other solutions would require art assets for either male or creature Abyssal dancers, female soggy Dwarves, or different despawn animations,) it does remain a quest I’m simply not comfortable taking part in. I do thank Trion for making an attempt at making it more clear we’re killing ENEMIES here, and I hope they’ll be more aware of subtleties in the next events.

Well, that was a beautifully thought-out world event, without the frustrations of the first being well, anticlimactic. Now at the ending, we get a celebration until 1.4 hits, with fireworks, dancing, and drunkenness in Meridian or Sanctum!

Here’s the feedback I sent in on the ending celebrations:

Having a celebration after fighting off the forces of water AND death is a great idea. Love the dancing and drinking games, the fireworks, and a lot of the new gear. Woohoo!

However, one of the celebration quests basically has us killing female-looking prisoners, with a penalty (no points) for killing male ones. I had hoped the Ascended would have been more civilized, or at least more aware of gender issues. You have women WORKING on your game, how did something like this slip through? If you’re gonna be barbaric please at least be barbaric equally to men, women, undead, and fishy-looking creatures. Thanks.

As you can see, there’s still a few things Trion may need to work the kinks out on. Some of my guildies were pretty upset about it. Maybe I should be more upset about this kind of thoughtless misogyny, like I should be more upset at the men who always assume they’re talking to a man ingame even when their girlfriends play it! I’m just too used to being considered… well, NOT considered, I guess.

Back when I first started playing, the kinds of games I wanted to play didn’t even have female characters I could play or identify with. Then when female characters started to happen, they all had HUGE boobs. Again, something I can’t really identify with. As women have entered the industry we’ve seen small amounts of change, but little things like this show there’s still a LONG road ahead.

Would have been so nice to just be able to enjoy a cheery ingame celebration after all the hard grinding… sigh.

Lei ❤