Monday, November 28, 2022

Monday, Friday. Wednesday.

It's Monday. What better time for one of those Friday Grab Bags?

Let's start with a quick What Am I Playing? I don't generally do those, although generically the entire blog is one infinitely extended WAIP post, I guess.

Mostly, it's Lord of the Rings Online and Noah's Heart. I have now logged into Noah's Heart every day for nearly four months, which must put it right at the top of the stack for imports I've played. I've certainly spent more hours in other Korean or Chinese games but I can't think of any I've played for this many consecutive days.

LotRO is also doing me very nicely right now. I'm in the happy position of not being able to get as much time in the game as I'd like (Too many hours dog-walking and doing other real-life stuff.) Much better to want to play more than you can find time to fit in than not feeling it at all, I think.

In terms of blogging, though, I'm not getting much in the way of ideas from either of them at the moment. On the contrary, I actually find myself preferring just to play without thinking about whether something I see or do might make a post. I guess that's a good thing although I'm not entirely sure.

Other than those two, I dip into my Steam and Amazon Games libraries now and again, mostly for a quick fix of point and click adventure. I finished the third title in the Secret Files series a week or so back. I think it must have been some kind of bonus episode because it was maybe a quarter the length of the first two. It was also a lot easier. Either that or I'm attuned to the house style, now. Whatever, I didn't need to resort to a walkthrough even once, which might be a record.

I also finished a free title, If On A Winter's Night, Four Travellers, which I came across somewhere. I forget where so if it was on your blog I apologise. It was very moody and atmospheric and the ending blindsided me completely. I even liked the pixel art. I may be softening on that aesthetic. Or crumbling.

Other than those, I've popped into Chimeraland and Guild Wars 2 briefly, mostly to pick up freebies. I haven't logged into New World for a couple of weeks but I haven't intentionally jumped ship. I need to pop into EverQuest II to do the last of the panda quests, too. I think that's about it.

With that out of the way, let's move on to What I'm Not Playing. Dragonflight

Well, obviously I'm not playing a million other games too but the new World of Warcraft expansion is the only we care about, isn't it? I'preparing myself mentally for the next couple of weeks, when Dragonflight is going to be all anybody wants to talk about.

I almost certainly wouldn't be playing it anyway, of course. I have literally never bought or played a WoW expansion at launch, so it would be disingenuous of me to claim any moral high ground. Still, I do find it a little unsettling just how completely the game and the company behind it have slipped back onto almost everyone's "currently playing" list. Has anything materially changed? Would we even know if it had?

I was planning on re-assessing my position when the Microsoft buyout went through, which I thought would have been before this. Now it looks as if it might not happen at all. I wonder where that will leave us all? 

I'd be fudging if I said I wasn't interested in playing Dragonflight at all, though. Most of the things I've read about it make it sound more attractive than most previous expansions the game's had. More laid-back, less hyperactive, dare I say more casual? I'd be curious to see how that impression stands up to experience, although maybe not curious enough to pay for the damn thing. Looking forward to reading some reviews from people whose experience and judgment I value.

What I Might Be Playing comes next. I'm not talking about the obvious EverQuest II expansion, due at the end of the month. I'm thinking of the Mistlands update in Valheim.

I'm in two minds about it. I'd like to see the new content but I definitely don't want to start over. I tried that a while back and it absolutely did not take. Fortunately, there's still a good portion of my original world I haven't opened up yet so I'm hoping there will be some patches of Mistland in there, somewhere.

I was very impressed with the promotional video. The thing certainly captures a mood, that's for sure. Iron Gate are quite adept at getting more out of less. I could do with fewer fast cuts but I can see why they wouldn't want to let the camera linger on some of the shaky graphics.They always look much better in game.

How about What Am I Watching? I'm glad you asked! The same as everyone else, of course - Wednesday, currently #1 on Netflix UK.

Bit of an open goal, really at least where I'm concerned. I've been a low-key Addams Family fan since childhood. It was a show I always tried to watch back when it was there or thereabouts new. I much preferred it to the Munsters, which I liked but, even as a ten-year old, found a bit silly.

I saw the first two Addams Family movies at the cinema although I kind of lost touch with the franchise after that. I also loved the unofficial Adult Wednesday Addams YouTube shorts, as has been evidenced here these last two Halloweens. 

I'm also a low-key Tim Burton fan, although I don't like everything he's done. I was a bit wary when I heard he was behind this latest addition to the chronicles. He's a little too... colorful... sometimes. 

I'm delighted to say all such fears seem to have been unfounded. I'm four episodes in and loving it. I'll save detailed comment for when I've seen the lot but I'll just say that if you're not watching it, you probably ought to give it a try.

Lastly, What Am I Planning? Something! Nothing original, for sure, but something I haven't done here on the blog before: a Musical Advent Calendar.

Yeah, right. Like I have any idea how to set that up. No, what I'm planning is a post a day from the First of December to Christmas Eve, each with a single Christmas song plucked from YouTube. Nothing too obvious but also nothing completely unlistenable. I've already packed away the first dozen and I can tell you, they're thick on the ground already.

I got the idea from the surreal sight of the two remaining members of Run-DMC, now in their mid-50s, performing one of my all-time favorite Christmas tunes, Christmas in Hollis, as part of The Wonderful World Of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration. You couldn't, as the saying goes, make it up.

It won't be instead of regular posts. It'll be a bonus. A gift, if you will. Or, indeed, if you won't. It'll be fun, anyway. For me, that is.


  1. Ooh, If On A Winter's Night Four Travelers might have been me! I thought it was pretty great for a free title.

  2. "I do find it a little unsettling just how completely the game [WoW] and the company behind it [Blizzard] have slipped back onto almost everyone's 'currently playing' list. Has anything materially changed? Would we even know if it had?"

    This. So much this.

    Last Tuesday I was at some talks, and one of them was about representation in video games. The speaker chose Blizzard's Overwatch as the main example. The speaker was clearly an Overwatch fan, and after commenting on the in-game things done right and wrong for representation, he… asked for questions? I had to ask "what about Blizzard itself?" While this was acknowledged as fair, the problems were definitely represented as downplayed (seriously?) and in the past (y'know, like a year or two).

    On Friday, YouTuber Dan Olson released his latest video, Why It's Rude To Suck At Warcraft. Dan is one of my favorite YouTubers, partly because of his strong stands on relevant social issues. Again, WoW was chosen as an example because of some point about game sociology. Again, the topic of Blizzard's IRL corporate behavior came up not once in a 90-minute video. I was very disappointed.

    I am glad to have deleted my account at the time of the Blitzchung incident. I had only been playing WoW Classic rather fitfully at the time, so it wasn't a huge loss. I felt pretty smug when the later, much worse stuff came up.

    It shocks me how fast and deep the attention span of the gaming public dropped with this one. As you can tell, I find it more than a little unsettling.

    1. I picked the word "unsettling" quite deliberately. First draft, I went with "surprising" but in the edit I realised I'd be lying if I said I found it surprising. It's basically the same process I've seen all my life, where a scandal becomes the only thing anyone's talking about until another scandal pushes it down the list and then another until eventually the first one falls off the bottom of the list. People only have so much bandwith for other people's bad behavior, except and unless it affects them directly.

      As I said in a comment elsewhere, if I'm honest about why I'm not already dipping into my free WoW account, it's a combination of bloody-mindedness and personal pride: I said in public that I wouldn't play Blizzard games until I felt things had changed, so I feel obligated to stick to that decision. Really, though, how would I know? I've labelled the Microsoft buyout as a sufficiently significant event to draw a line under the past but for all I know things could already be much better at Blizzard - or they could be much worse.

      In the end, unless you care to dedicate your life to them, these kinds of decisions are always arbitrary. I'm going to stick with good old gut feelings and say it doesn't feel right to me, yet. When it does, I'll know, but that probably says a lot more about my psychology than any objective facts.

    2. Having watched the video, I believe Dan could have doubled it in length if he incorporated Blizzard's corporate behavior and culture into the mix. I certainly hope Dan will come back and address it later, but I felt that his video was sparked by a singular event, where his friend was bullied over not being "optimal enough" for something that wasn't a big deal. I doubt that Dan even considered linking Blizzard's corporate behavior with the behavior observed in WoW, but in retrospect he should have.

  3. If the third game in the Secret Files series was "Sam Peters" or the like, it was absolutely a spin-off shortie. If the actual third game in the series is like that... well, I'll find out soon enough, that series has been pretty high up my backlog, although I'm thinking of working into Syberia next.

    1. Yep, it was "Sam Peters" I played. It was good, too, although Sam is really annoying. Then again, so are all the characters in the series. Being short actually helped. The others drag on a bit. I have Syberia on my to-play list, too.

  4. You know, if the Microsoft buyout of Acti-Blizz doesn't go through, how would that be viewed? As a failure of Bobby to get a deal done, a failure of the company to clean up its act (financially and ethically), or too much concentration in the video games industry? I'm very curious on this point, because major consolidation has been happening in the boardgames industry, where the Embracer Group has been buying up boardgame companies and turning them into a corporate monolith under Asmodee's leadership. A lot of companies that I used to buy games from, such as Asmodee itself and Fantasy Flight, Z-Man, and Days of Wonder, have all had their creativity and interest in taking risks sucked right out of them. As Embracer is a holding company, all they really care about is profit and not whether the games are any good, so while that consolidation might have been good for Embracer's bottom line, for players not so much. Here's to hoping that moves toward consolidation in the video games industry be put under more serious scrutiny going forward.

    1. I haven't been following the detail but from the news reports I've seen it seems to be mainly about Call of Duty and how if Microsoft get their hands on it they'll be dominant in the console market... or something. Microsoft say they mainly want King for the Mobile market, the US, UK and EU authorities are only interested in Activision and as far as I can tell no-one much cares about Blizzard, which just seems to be tagged on the end of the deal almost by co-incidence.

      Consolidation really is the big trend right now, though, so even if this doesn't go through (Which it will, most likely, once some concessions are made.) then I imagine another one like it will follow from somewhere else. Blizzard itself just isn't that big any more, I guess.

  5. Has anything materially changed? Would we even know if it had?

    For what it's worth, attempts have been made to answer that question. YouTuber Preach posted a video a few days ago for which he paid for a trip to the US to visit the Blizzard campus and ask them questions. They obviously couldn't really talk about the ongoing lawsuit, but he seemed to get good vibes. How much stock anyone puts into that is their own choice, but it's probably as much as we're likely to get at this point.

    1. Thanks for the link. I'll watch that later. It should be instructive because these days about the only non-gaming news I see about Blizzard is about them still trying to block all attempts at unionization. That one comes up fairly regularly but if it had been the only issue at the company I don't think there would ever have been a public boycott in the first place. Unionization is important but its a very dry issue for most people - and most media sources, too, for that matter.

  6. To my understanding, nothing much has changed at ABK. I've given up on its products for the foreseeable future, but I can also understand the feelings of someone who quit the game over the revelations of harassment, sent their signal when it mattered, and now struggles to see much point in denying themselves something they enjoy.

    Boycotts are difficult to sustain even with serious organisational effort; the spontaneous organic variety almost never work, not because people are amoral but because their ethics lean consequentialist and they don't feel like they're making enough of a dent. Or, in other words, they don't work because they're not expected or seen to work. It's hard to break that circle.

    1. I completely understand and empathize with anyone's need to carry on playing the games that give them support and comfort. Gaming in general and mmorpgs in particular form a kind of life-support system for some people in all kinds of difficult situations and while it may be very admirable to set personal pleasures aside for ethical purposes, it's not always a healthy choice for everyone.

      I also agree entirely about boycotts. Those that have worked, like the anti-apartheid boycott of the 70s and 80s, have mostly taken huge, sustained, effort, supported by institutional-level organizations like charities, NPOs and governments and taken years to have an effect. The kind of spontaneous boycotts that change things usually do so almost instantly, like the reaction to jewellery chain Ratner's CEO ridiculing his own product and customers, leading to said customers taking their business elsewhere en masse. That didn't happen with Blizzard, whose players largely just kept on playing. (I think Twitter is currently undergoing much the same faux exodus.)

    2. For me it's not about a boycott, but about personal ethics. I don't want to be supporting companies like Facebook, Blizzard and Twitter regardless of how successful they are. If Blizzard was the only game in town that would make it harder, but you may have noticed a couple of other games in any space they are in.

      I was talking to a friend tonight that is coming back to Overwatch for social reasons: their friend group tried a couple of other games and couldn't find a great fit for everyone. I get it, but I hope they can figure something else out


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