Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jealous gamer

My wife, as an elementary school teacher, roleplays more than I do, and I'm jealous. Granted, her roleplaying is usually just a means of relating to her students, often playing the part of a 2nd or 3rd grade student trying to understand a teacher's methods. But that's irrelevant, isn't it? She's indulging in imaginative play...and I'm not.

Okay, so my wife isn't infiltrating a network of spies, saving a city from a mecha-dragon with her laser vision, or falling asleep as an invisible chicken (that's her D&D specialty), but all the same, she's getting outside of herself.

Even though I work with a group of relatively imaginative people, I can tell you that roleplaying at work would be pushing things to the extreme. I mean, sure, I've often pretended that my coworkers are evil cultists trying to infect the sane world with their blasphemous terrors; who hasn't it? But I can't very well walk through the halls damning them to hell and spouting counter spells. Trust me, I've tried. Doesn't work. They just spout even more nonsense about "finding a solve for the problem" or "marshalling resources to enact greater departmental bandwidth." Seriously, how am I supposed to react to that?

When I expressed my jealousy at this, her comment was, "Well, YOU could become a teacher too." I replied appropriately. I mean, that's just too much work, never mind the responsibility. After all, being a successful teacher requires too many skill points. It doesn't leave enough points to spend on sneaking or sword-wielding. And I like a little bit of dice rolling with my roleplaying too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

MMO-ing stole my writing life

All of my late-night blogging time of late has been spent playing Free Realms – a family-friendly MMO. That's right, I've broken my first commandment: Thou Shalt Not MMO.

Free Realms is free to play and is full of free-wheeling adventure. There are quest lines to follow, but only if you want to. You can just as easily hang out in the middle of town or pursue random errands offered by the world's NPCs. And that's the big win here: there's something for everyone.

There are nine jobs you can choose for your character, and you can jump freely between them (no cross-class penalties here!). That lets you find your gaming niche, whether you like racing games, combat, puzzle games, or exploration. They're all here. You can even play as a Card Duelist. So yes, this is a computer game where you play a character who plays a collectible card game - talk about reaching the next level! And if you decide to become a paying member, you get access to even more jobs.

The other thing I like is that it's a family friendly game. I can let my wife and kids play too. (I haven't been able to lure them in yet – they're all still playing Club Penguin.)

I'm sure that a lot of you wannabe gamers out there – the kind who play your games on a computer – might scoff at a family friendly game, because it definitely caters to kids and girls. Most of their 5 million registered members are under 18. And while it might not be the go-to game for Suicide Girls, having a 33% female membership is considered very high in the gaming industry. Personally, I'd LIKE to have an online game where I can hang out with my kids, my wife, and online friends who maybe aren't into hardcore rocking like Jack Black, at least, not all the time.

There is one problem that I'm having with Free Realms: it's fun. If I play much more, I’m going to have to buy some Station Cash. See, there are two forms of currency in the game: coins and Station Cash. Coins are the treasure you accumulate from doing stuff. They're used for buying basic supplies and some other stuff. But all the coolest gear can only be purchased with Station Cash and you get that by spending real money. Mind you, the conversion rate is pretty good. And it's a nice way to support the game without a membership subscription. But as I said, if I'm going to keep playing, I'll have to spend money. My character needs the superhero mask and a pet dog. And a mask for the dog. And the electric knife would make me a much better chef. And I'll need a Halloween costume VERY soon!

So Free Realms is my first MMO. And I need some support. If you're into this new-fangled trend of playing games on computers, give it a try and we can hangout. In the meantime, what was your first MMO, and what do you play now?

Now reading: Weird Tales #350 (I'm a few issues behind)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wonder Twins of the modern age: Waits & Perlman

Tom Waits and Ron Perlman were separated at birth. That's the obvious explanation. They were both born in 1959, which means they turned 50 this year. Okay, sure, they were born months apart (October and April), but what does that matter? If they're not biological twins, then they're a batch of mutant off-shoots of the Boys from Brazil. Now that I think of it, I'm sure that's the real answer.

Tom Waits has been making music for a long time, and it's good stuff. But I think we all agree that his greatest contribution to society was his portrayal of Doctor Heller, the designer of non-lethal, super-weapons in the movie Mystery Men.

Ron Perlman has been acting for a long time, and got famous for snuggling up to Linda Hamilton on a weekly basis. Now he rules Sam Crow's roost on Sons of Anarchy. Hell yeah.

These two men are the Wonder Twins of the modern era, full of vinegar and self-expression. Both are ruggedly independent, incredibly talented, and gravelly voiced. Blue eyes and strong countenances further point out the kindredness. Still, there are differences. I mean, clearly, Ron Perlman is the evil twin, while Tom Waits is the drunken, happy twin. And they're both among the coolest people walking the planet today. Happy 60th year gents! Keep on truckin'!

* Edit: corrected my math. Sheesh. *

Now reading: The Reel Stuff (a collection of scifi stories that had movies based on them)

Saturday, October 10, 2009


It's that time of year again. Oktoberfest means seasonal brews, and if you know me, you know I'm a sucker for seasonal beers. I like trying new flavors, new takes on my favorite food.

Oktoberfest is no exception, certainly. But I've noticed something. All Oktoberfest beers pretty much taste the same, they only vary in the degree of how good they are.

This thought scares me.

After all, that's what non-beer drinkers say about any beer, and what clueless food critics and beer drinkers say to justify why they drink crap. So, I recognize the possible ignorance of my statement.

In general, an Oktoberfest brew is a lager that is designed to be full-bodied and easy to consume in quantity. It's a traditional (in the European sense) fall harvest festival beer. "We brought in the crops that we nurtured all summer. Our village will have food to get us through the coming winter…now let's party!"

That aside, I have found a couple that I like. For "ease of availability," you can't beat Saranac's Oktoberfest. It's easy to get, and easy to drink.

The one I have to give full props to, however, is the Oktoberfest from my favorite local brewery (see my previous post), Blue Mountain Brewery. This one is easy to drink, goes down smooth, and for me, is easy to get.

Go find YOUR favorite Oktoberfest – and hurry!

Now reading: the first volume of James Robinson's Starman