Monday, June 5, 2023

A Question Of Pride

I feel like this is the same post I wrote the same time last year but what the hey. Life moves in clades as Bruce Stirling once said. Or maybe he didn't. And even if he did, it's hardly the same thing. I don't know why I brought it up.

Life is one big circle, maybe that's what I mean. Oh, wait, now I sound like I'm in The Lion King. Which could totally work, if could come up with some smart way of connecting Pride Month with a pride of lions.

And why not? It's just what Darkpaw did, when they ran out of rabbits to drape in the rainbow flags of all orientations. They just moved on to lions and started working through the list all over again, three at a time.

This year's trio is Aceheart, Openheart and Freeheart, which I'm reliably informed "represent asexual, non-binary, and pansexual orientations". I think that's in respective order, although it's not always obvious which colors match up with which flags. The names can be a little vague, too, although Aceheart is clear enough. 

The lions, which are Familiars in the game, and therefore functional as well as meaningful, are all free for the asking in the EverQuest and EverQuest II cash shops, as are all those from previous years. Since Familiars are character-bound rather than account bound, you'd need to claim them all separately for each character you'd like to have them, but you have the whole month to do it and indeed a bit longer than that; they'll be in the cash shop until the 9th of July.

I've already picked mine up for my two most-played EQII characters and I'll be collecting them for all the others as and when I log them in. It's been a while since I last logged into EQ and even longer since I actually played but I'll probably make time to get the latest lions for at least a couple of characters before they disappear.

As I said, though, it's no big deal if you miss the opportunity this time around. The whole, rolling carnival will be back next year, I'm sure.

Which is both wonderful and also slightly worrisome, in a way. If you wanted a textbook example of how mmorpg culture has changed for the better in the twentysomething years I've been playing, you couldn't ask for anything more than the widespread acceptance and acknowledgment of difference that comes with incorporating Pride Month into the official event seasons of the games themselves.

It's a very far cry indeed from the genre's origins, when only the bravest of souls would dare to mention the possibility that anyone playing might be anything other than a straight, white male. Back then, you could easily find yourself on the wrong side of a vocally violent in-game mob, just for raising the possibility that anyone might want to express themselves as anything other than that expected norm. Even more disturbingly, you could sometimes find yourself on the wrong side of the moderators or GMs too, especially if you had the temerity to stand your ground.

It wasn't always that bad by any means but it was a time when many, quite possibly most, players seriously did not believe anyone played the games they liked other than people they considered to be exactly like themselves. Anyone playing a female character was assumed to be male because girls didn't play mmorpgs (Or any video games, really.) and any male who played a female character was deemed to have some nefarious motivation probably best not revealed.

Without getting all Polyanna about it, things are demonstrably better now. I'm just not entirely convinced that the best way of expressing, consolidating and cementing that positive change is to keep giving away free stuff. It seems a little odd, that's all.

But, hey, free stuff, right? I'm not gonna say no...

In fact, I'm so much not going to say no that over the weekend I logged into two games I'm not currently playing just to grab the Pride freebies I'd heard they were giving away. I have no shame when it comes to freebies. Plus, I do like to represent, at least in small ways.

I guess that's a cue for a quick aside before I get to talking about the loot I got. As one of those supposedly stereotypical straight, white males, I haven't had to spend a whole lot of time reflecting on either my gender or my ethnicity. Or so you'd think. Except, of course, I have.

I'll put the ethnicity angle to one side for now and try to concentrate on one thing at a time for a change. I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few years. It's something Mrs Bhagpuss and I talk about quite often, too. I'm about as sure as it's possible to be from the precarious vantages of hindsight and hypothesis that, had the cultural framework to support it been in place when I was an adolescent, I would have identified differently to the way I did.

How I would have identified is another matter altogether. Adolescence is a contradictory time of both radical confusion and rabid certainty. I might well have picked a flag and waved it proudly. I might also have found the fence a very comfortable place to sit. 

Now, at my advanced age and with my immense and hard-won wisdom (I don't need to insert an irony emoji here, do I?) I'm starting to realise the Q in LGBTQ+ could have some connection to me. It would be tantamount to cultural appropriation for me to lay claim to Q for Queer but I feel quite comfortable in adopting its alternate meaning - Questioning

Next time I have to fill out one of those government forms with a box to tick for gender and/or orientation I'm going to give it a bit more thought. You're never too old to learn new things about yourself - or I hope not, anyway.

While I figure out what questions I ought to be asking, let alone what the answers might be, let's get back to the plunder! ArenaNet is giving away a nice pair of wings in Guild Wars 2 for this year's Pride although unlike Daybreak they don't seem to be making much of a noise about it. I heard about it from MassivelyOP but I didn't get any emails from ANet and there's no mention of it on the news feed on the official website.

The wings are supposed to make you look like a macaw. What does that have to do with Pride? I had no idea, so I asked Bard, Bing and ChatGPT. Unfortunately, the rabbit-hole that led me down would trip the entire post and send it cartwheeling into a thicket of unsubstantiated assertation, so let's just say I was not able to confirm a relationship between macaws and Pride, assume ANet knows something I don't and take it there must be more to it than a mere coincidence of coloration.

The wings, which you can claim for free from the Gem Store under the Promotions tab, are account-bound and work either as a glider skin or a backpack, which makes it odd that you have to have at least Heart of Thorns enabled on the account to claim them. I tried to get them for my Core account but they don't even show up in the shop. 

There's a thread about it on the forums. It appears to be an issue with the Gem Store itself because there's a workaround in which you can get another account to gift the wings to a Core account and the receiving account is able to accept and use the item, which they can then equip as a backpack but not as a glider. Whether ANet will fix this before the offer ends I guess we'll just have to wait and see but it does seem a bit shortsighted of them to have allowed it to happen in the first place.

I've left the best 'til last, although since I led with it as the picture at the head of the post, I kind of blew any element of surprise right at the start.

For Pride '23, DCUO is giving away all ten orientation flags along with a really strong set of posters for your base. The posters feature various DC characters kissing, including Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy and Superman and... y'know, I'm not sure who that is. I really need to find out.

I took everything I could get my hands on and then realized my base is so overdecorated now there's barely any wall space left to hang new art. I eventually found an alcove I hadn't used yet so I put the posters up there but I may need to move them to somewhere more prominent later.

There are also some spectacularly colorful costumes that I haven't quite worked out how to get. I can't quite see myself wearing them so I can't pretend I made all that much of an effort. It's nice to have the option, all the same.

I'll be keeping an eye out for any more freebies that might turn up in other games I play, even if they're games I don't happen to be playing at the moment. I'm always willing to patch up for a good freebie. Pride lasts all month so there's plenty of time for more to show up.

Not that I'm suggesting free stuff is the point of Pride. No, not at all. I didn't even think it. 

It's just it'd be rude to say no when saying yes says so much more.

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