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State of Being As A Mechanic

State of Being As A Mechanic

Monday I talked about the desire to regain the feeling of gaming in days gone by, but there’s one element that’s a lot harder to talk about because it’s totally intangible and totally dependent upon the individual, and that’s our own personal state of being when we are enjoying ourselves.

I guess the best way to nail it is to talk about our “feng shui of gaming”. I’m not sure that anyone aside from millionaires who have the resources to craft their own living space has the option to create their ideal entertainment area. The rest of us have to do the best we can with what we have, and with whom we have to live with.

Currently, my PC is in the finished basement. We have a side of the basement that’s just large enough for our three computer desks to fit. The PS4 is on the TV on the other side of the basement. When we bought the house, the previous owners had their computers set up in the same area, so it probably got stuck in our heads that we’d do the same. It works well as a designated space: it’s cool in the summer and can be warm in the winter, and it’s two floors away from people who might be sleeping late at night.

But there are issues. For one, it can be a bit claustrophobic. The PC area has room to move around in, but with three desks — two with hutches — and a set of shelves filled with books, there’s certainly a sense of confinement going on there. For another, there’s only one window in the basement, and it’s at the end of a hallway. Under some circumstances that’s ideal: I can make it really dark down there so that the monitor or TV is the only focused light in the room. In other circumstances, it just adds to the cave-like feeling. Then there’s the ergonomics. My couch isn’t really all that comfy for me (with chronic neck-and-back-muscle pains), and I’ve gone through dozens of computer chairs over the years trying to find one that I can sit in for a long period of time.

These things matter more than I think people realize. Maybe a lot of people get it as-close-to-right as they can by choosing the right room in their house or apartment from the start, or spend a lot of time measuring the distance from TV to couch for the optimal view, or maybe people just have limited options and brute-force their enjoyment of environment. Back when I lived in my first apartment after college, my PC had it’s own room (a spare bedroom) with a large window. After I was engaged and lived with my fiance, our one PC also lived in the spare bedroom, but had to share the room with an actual bed. In both cases, having the light from the window — and the ability to open it for some fresh air — was important. It helped me to relax when the weather was nice, and allowed me to look outside and be glad I was nice and warm inside when it wasn’t. Again, intangible elements when it comes to what we normally think of as relevant to enjoying our entertainment, but when I think about those halcyon days when I was really able to stick with one game and enjoy it, those kinds of details factor prominently into my memories and even color my current feelings about my setups. I’ve thought about maybe moving my PC to our never-used spare bedroom, even though it’s on the other side of my daughter’s room, and across the hall from my own bedroom. That would limit many options like audio and “everyone gather ’round the PC to watch a cool video” that happens when friends come over, but would provide a different mental state for me during the lion’s share of time I’m on the computer.

I wonder how much of an effect our environmental choices have on our enjoyment of what we do. We may not think of it, may not have previous set-ups to compare it to, or maybe one set-up is just as good as another as far as most people are concerned, but since we’re products of our environment, shouldn’t we put some thought into the environments that we inhabit and how they affect our experiences?

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The Longing

The Longing

There are two kinds of gamers (I’m oversimplifying here): those who stick with one game until complete, and those who jump from game to game as the spirit moves them. I envy the former: seeing something through and realizing the full fruits of one’s expenditure. I am unfortunately the latter: someone who values novelty over achievement which pushes me from game to game before I manage to get anywhere near the end of a single game.

The envy component is always at the forefront of my mind, not just because I feel like I should be getting more out of my investment. I remember when I played Ultima Online, I would obsess over the game during the day (at work, with my friend who also played), and when I got home I’d log in. It started on dial-up, and then I got broadband and it was a night and day difference. I’d spend hours playing, comfortable in my chair at my desk, only logging off when I realized that time had escaped me. Of course, those were the times of less responsibility, where I really just needed to not get fired during the day, and not piss off my fiance once I was home.

But shouldn’t we want to achieve that kind of feeling even now? Why do something that doesn’t make you happy when you’re actually doing that thing? But what else in our lives do we work on piecemeal, that we need to put on hold for the majority of time as we take care of real-world responsibilities? Books are one example, but books are pretty portable and there’s no stigma attached to reading at work during your lunch break in Corporate America (or elsewhere). These are hobbies, of course, something we do in our spare time to wind down, but who would take on restoring an old car, only to leave it half way finished in order to start restoring a new car? Who knits a sweater and stops at a sweater vest to start on a scarf? Well, maybe that’s a bad example…

I’ve got a whole stable of games that will take a long time to learn, and then a much longer time to play, like anything from Paradox (Crusader Kings II, Sengoku, and all those world domination games). I look at those games and think “damn, I’d love to be able to master that, to be able to sit down on a rainy Saturday afternoon, with no responsibilities, no work that needs attention, and just relax and enjoy myself.” But I can’t. Most of the time these days, regardless of the game, it’s been like racing the clock: “If I start at 8PM on a weekday, I have maybe two hours of solid playtime before I reach that I’m-going-to-be-a-zombie-at-work-tomorrow stage unless I get to bed”, or “I’ve got an hour before the family needs to be somewhere on the weekend, so I’ll log in and tend to busy-work until I get yelled at that it’s time to leave.”

Boo hoo, right? It’s a consequence of aging, of being a productive adult, first world problems, and all that. These are hobbies, not lifestyles, and certainly not something that we should be focusing on to the exclusion of the majority of the rest of life. We (I, and possibly you) are past the point where sitting in front of the computer or console all day is really a good idea, anyway. Was it ever a good idea? I don’t know. I don’t regret the hours I’ve spent doing it, though I realize that at this stage of life any memory I have of those carefree days are more sepia-toned than 4k 3D reality. But it’s still an ideal of leisure that I long for when I find myself with free time.

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Game Services, Wallets, And Funding

Game Services, Wallets, And Funding

Over the weekend I was alerted to the PSN flash sale that was in effect until Monday afternoon (Real Coast Time). Most of the items on sale were for PS3, the PS4 items weren’t really all that sexy, but there were a few nice, deep discounts for some Vita titles like Freedom Wars, which is one that friends had been playing for some time.

I had thought that I had wallet funds in the PS Store, since I had used a store-bought card a while back in order to buy some DLC for Rocksmith, but when I went to the PSN store to verify this, I found an empty balance. I swore that there had been money there, because I know I was purposefully keeping it in case there were more Rocksmith songs I was interested in.

This morning, I went into the transaction history, and found that my PSPlus service renewed, and that it had used the remaining funds in my wallet first, and then took the remainder from my bank account. This kind of annoyed me; I understand the logistics of it, naturally, but in my mind (at least), I put money into the wallet — be it PSN or Steam, or XBL — for the purpose of some immediate purchase, or in the event that I see something down the road that’s new or on sale. To me, the idea is that the wallet is like a holding pen, a place where I can put money away for a rainy day for a very specific purpose.

The PSN renewal is (again, to me) a “maintenance fee”, and I’d rather have it be withdrawn in toto from whatever non-wallet funding source I have set up. Taking money from the wallet almost feels like having your parents take money from your dresser-drawer savings account in order to pay your auto insurance; yes, it’s technically coming from the same place (me), but there’s a psychological difference between a stash and an official funding source.

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How Comic Books Got Me To Love TV

How Comic Books Got Me To Love TV

Maybe the title goes a bit too far. I’ve never really been in love with TV. When I was younger, my brother and I would be home alone during summer vacations, and if I got to the computer first (we actually raced from our rooms in the morning to the C64), my brother would spend the day in the recliner watching TV. We were extremely productive youths.

It’s not a habit I’ve ever taken up. I liked TV OK, but not enough to make it my primary mode of entertainment. My wife also likes TV a lot, so history repeats itself: while she’s watching The Voice or something, I’m over on the computer.

When shows like Arrow and Agents of SHIELD debuted, I wasn’t too excited bout it. For one, I liked the Marvel moves, but I am not a Joss Whedon fan by any stretch, and the show bears his distinct mark. And Arrow was on “The CW”, which means I’m way outside of it’s core demographic and expected it to be all 20-somethings-playing-teen-angst.

But I started watching Arrow backlogs because folks were talking about it on Le Networks Sociale, and I was extremely impressed. I went back in time to catch up on SHIELD and was initially less impressed, but the end of the first season improved significantly. Then The Flash debuted (with tie-ins to Arrow), and of course you can’t access any Marvel property without accessing all Marvel properties or else it won’t make any sense, so there’s that.

Now they’re talking about another DC spin-off called Legends of Tomorrow, linked here, today! and it looks just as awesome.

Of course, no discussion on comics would be complete without taking a side in the DC vs Marvel war. I have to side with DC, but only because my familiarity comes from the screen translations. I’ve got not desire to spend $5 on a 20 page comic book that I can complete in the bathroom and still have time to kill. But the Marvel adaptations seem to be very reliant on periods of lighthearted comedy mixed with over-the-top action (my issue with Mr. Whedon’s style), and an insidious plot to punish you with continuity confusion if you skip a movie (Hi, Ant-Man). DC’s shows, so far, have been more serious, and to me, more in-depth. I blame the fact that they’re on The Cwuh for the focus on interpersonal relationships and for The Flash‘s almost sophomoric vibe, but I’d rather have human drama over threat-of-the-week drama any day (which is why I love Battlestar Galactica so much).

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Interplanetary

Interplanetary

I’m not writing from first hand knowledge, but I saw the game Interplanetary on Steam last night and was intrigued but also frightened.

I have fond memories of our entire dorm floor crowding in the quad at the end of the hall to play hot-seat Scorched Earth, so the idea of lobbing objects at opponents has weight with me (pun intended). I’ve also tried Kerbal Space Program, but it involves maths that are the Kryptonite to my doing-anything-that-involves-math. Interplanetary combines the two to have you launching attacks at rival planets while having to deal with the gravity of intervening bodies like other planets, moons, stars, and whatever else lurks in deep space.

I’m thinking of getting the four pack for our Monday night gaming group, but I don’t know if it’s something we’d be able to get into as a group.

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