Category Archives: entertainment

Spring Movie League – Strangers Triumph

Only in the second week of our Spring Fantasy Movie League and there was already something of an upset.

The lineup for week two had some new titles, including A Wrinkle in Time, that was being discussed as possibly the film to take the number one weekend spot away from Black Panther.  Certainly the pricing indicated that expectation.

 A Wrinkle in Time    $641
 Black Panther        $575
 The Strangers        $126
 Red Sparrow          $121
 Peter Rabbit         $107
 Game Night           $97
 Deathwish            $85
 The Hurricane Heist  $78
 The Shape of Water   $48
 Gringo               $48
 Jumanji              $47
 Thoroughbreds        $47
 Annihilation         $44
 The Greatest Showman $29
 Fifty Shades Freed   $25

I was skeptical of the strength of A Wrinkle in Time however.  Last week I went over the hazards of taking on a beloved classic, especially one that had already been make into a film, if only of the “made for TV” variety.

I played with a lot of options over the course of the week.  I avoided Wrinkle, but thought about everything else.  Particularly sticky was that log jam of $47/$48 films in the middle when it came to filler for some test lineups.

I did, at one point, have seven screens of The Strangers with one screen of Peter Rabbit, but discarded that when Liore, resident expert on horror films, said it would be hot garbage.  So I discarded that and thought no more of The Strangers.  I lined up eight screens of Red Sparrow at one point, the lineup SynCaine took, but discarded it when my mental estimate simply didn’t add up to enough dollars given the ~$8 million estimated weekend box office for it.

Instead I went looking for what might go well with Black Panther as an anchor.  Once you spend $575 on one screen, the search is for the right mix of filler.

In the end I settled on 1x Black Panther, 3x Game Night, 1x Jumanji, and 3x Greatest Showman.

Spring Week Two – My Picks

It seemed reasonable at the time, though I might have been a bit too fixated on that $47/$48 title war.  I picked the winner in that four horse race with Jumanji, … the others had low theater counts when it came down to it… it just didn’t matter.

When the screens locked on Friday, the MCats league seemed pretty solid anchoring on Black Panther, with only Liore bucking the trend with Wrinkle and seven screens of Gringo.

The TAGN league however was full of variety.  Sure, there picks were mostly anchored on Black Panther, but there were also Wrinkle and Red Sparrow in the mix, as well as two players in on The Strangers.  Po Huit was especially keen on The Strangers, with seven screens of that and one of Game Night.

When the Saturday morning estimates came Po’s lineup was the perfect pick.  Historically, that changes with the final results almost every week, so having the perfect pick on Saturday is almost a guarantees you won’t have what ends up really being the perfect pick.  I don’t call it the “Saturday of False Hopes” for nothing.  I’ve had that happen to me multiple times.

But the Sunday morning estimates continued to show Po with the perfect pick.  And it continued to hold right through until the final scores were released.

Spring Week Two – Perfect Pick

So Po, along with 320 other players, cashed in with $99,679,288 for the week.  That left Po well out in front of the pack for the week as the scores shook out like this:

  1. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $99,679,288
  2. Kraut Screens (T) – $87,518,144
  3. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $73,452,542
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $73,452,542
  5. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $72,892,467
  6. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $72,338,433
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $71,814,131
  8. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $68,973,320
  9. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $68,874,200
  10. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $68,874,200
  11. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $68,776,712
  12. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $68,018,104
  13. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $67,691,059
  14. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $67,305,834
  15. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $66,364,589
  16. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $65,654,362
  17. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $64,046,761
  18. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $63,405,826
  19. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $62,356,016
  20. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $59,282,466
  21. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $58,458,097
  22. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $52,180,549

The Meta League Legend:

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

The perfect pick put Po way out in front, while Kraut Screens, the only other person to bet heavily on The Strangers, secured second place.  After that there is a $26 million gap between Po and the rest of the pack.

At that point we get into people who anchored on Black Panther and things sort out by how well they did in picking their filler.  I managed to get into fifth place overall, with Black Panther and 3x Game Night being the most solid mid-pack anchors.

Down towards the bottom you get into people who eschewed Game Night, bet on Gringo, or who went the full contrarian Monty.

And, in last place, for the second week running, is Liore with her Wrinkle and 7x Gringo lineup.

Needless to say, that shook up the overall Meta League rankings for the season so far.

  1. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $196,695,747
  2. Kraut Screens (T) – $175,839,546
  3. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $174,128,564
  4. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $173,568,489
  5. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $172,490,153
  6. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $168,520,253
  7. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $168,477,075
  8. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $165,890,659
  9. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $165,890,659
  10. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $163,874,451
  11. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $159,444,463
  12. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $157,435,657
  13. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $155,083,369
  14. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $154,869,762
  15. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $154,745,128
  16. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $154,668,668
  17. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $151,557,010
  18. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $149,955,112
  19. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $147,478,402
  20. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $146,308,332
  21. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $132,207,713
  22. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $68,776,712

Those who went with The Strangers rose to the top, though the gap between second and ninth place is less than $10 million.  And even with a $20 million lead, Po isn’t safe.  A bad week could change things and we are only two weeks in.  Corr and Ben, who battled for first place last season, are only back in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Meanwhile Liore was saved from being at the bottom of the overall rankings by the return of Bean Movie Burrito.  With only one week of scoring, he is behind the pack.

Which brings us to week three.  Can Liore get out of the basement?  Or is she just trolling us?  She won the summer season across both leagues even though she missed a week.  So I remain suspicious.

The lineup for week three looks like this:

Tomb Raider         $407
Black Panther       $391
A Wrinkle in Time   $241
Love Simon          $217
Game Night          $82
The Strangers       $78
Red Sparrow         $67
Deathwish           $54
I Can Only Imagine  $41
7 Days in Entebbe   $29
Annihilation        $29
Jumanji             $23
Gringo              $21
The Hurricane Heist $19
Peter Rabbit        $15

Gone from the list are The Greatest Showman, Fifty Shades Freed, The Shape of Water, and Thoroughbreds.  Somehow though Jumanji carries on.  It isn’t even at the bottom of the list yet.

While new this week are Tomb Raider, Love Simon, I Can Only Imagine, and 7 Days in Entebbe, with Tomb Raider in the unenviable “can it beat Black Panther” position this week.

I mean, Lara Croft has been going strong for almost 22 years now and has evolved from a character that looked like she could literally poke an eye out if you were not careful.

1996 Lara Croft wearing one of Madonna’s bras

But the new film, already out overseas, has not drawn much in the way of praise, so I am wary of it as an anchor.  I am not convinced it will beat Black Panther or, if it does, beat it by enough to offset the price difference.

Then there is A Wrinkle in Time.  I am not feeling it for that unless it seems to be holding over the week in the daily box office numbers.

Finally in the anchor price range there is Love Simon, which Liore has already endorsed, a situation that brings me back to the questions about her strategy I asked above.  Is she playing us?

And for filler… lots of choices.  Once again I will have to wait until Thursday and the theater counts to commit.  I do want to say something about 7 Days in Entebbe being the fourth movie on that subject, my personal favorite being the Charles Bronson version, which would put it on the list with Deathwish as another remake of his work.

At the moment though my gut is to go with two screens of Black Panther and fill in from there.  Then again, there is a theory out there that, as a kids movie, Wrinkle might have a slower decline than one might otherwise expect.  Wrinkle dropping 50% over last week doesn’t interest me.  Wrinkle dropping 40% or less though, that could be something.

Over Abundant Gifts in Telara

In the mix of old and new in Rift Prime, the daily gift box apparently made the cut for inclusion.

In its Rift for this is the daily rewards calendar.  You get something every day you log in.

The Daily Rewards you get Daily

I was on day six last night, which entitled me to a box of crafting materials.

Box of Materials

Previous days were fireworks or void stones or other little things.  So I claimed the box and opened it.

Oh, one of the things I didn’t bother to bring up in the last post was inventory management.  Being a new character on a new server and all that, I had only the 20 slot starter bag… World of Warcraft finally matched that… plus whatever other bags I have been able to scrounge.  That total hasn’t been much, leaving me with a grand total of 38 bag slots, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t all that much for a packrat like myself.

I have tried to be good, vendoring things mercilessly to try and keep things from accumulating.  Still, I keep getting little things that I hate to toss, but haven’t gotten around to using.  How many stat buff scrolls can I use at once if they’re all for wisdom, right?

As I said, I opened the box, only to find it trying to dump in excess of 25 stacks of crafting materials on me.  I probably had a dozen slots free, tops.  So there I was with the clown car-like box waiting for me to clear bag space.

Inventory full and then some

Fortunately I logged off in Meridian the night before, so I only had to walk across town to the bank NPC in order to start depositing thing.  I’d hate for that to have happened if I were out in the field.

Like I said, I shouldn’t look a gift box in the… opening I suppose.  But sometimes the generosity is a bit too much.

Still, if I remember to claim every day and get to Day 21 before it resets a mount is waiting for me.

Trove of mounts at Day 21

We’ll see if I can wait that long for a mount.  Freemarch is a tight zone, but when you’re in an invasion event group and everybody mounts up and rides off while you’re trotting along behind, it can try a player’s will.

The Fishing Defiants in Telara

I was a little bit slow to roll into Rift Prime.  As noted, I set myself up with 30 days of Patron status using the abundance of credits I had in the game and rolled up a character on the new server when it launched last Wednesday.

Mounted tiger burning bright, ignore the common chatroom blight

Still, I had some trouble building enthusiasm for a fresh start in Rift.  I haven’t really touched the game since the Free to Play conversion a little over four years ago.  But it wasn’t the conversion that damped my enthusiasm for the game, but the first expansion, Storm Legion, and the design philosophy that seemed to bring to the game.  Not everything about it was bad.  The expansion did have some good ideas.  But the “more is better” philosophy about the size of zones let me down after the awesome tight “less is more” zone design that went into the first 50 levels of the game.

It didn’t help that Rift felt a dated even as I started to poke my nose into it.  The character models, never a high point of the game, seemed even rougher and uglier than I recalled.  It doesn’t help that I favor the Defiant side of the game, which features purple elves, purple… uh… big people, and gray humans that seem to have some rodent mixed into their genes somewhere.

Character models aren’t the most important thing ever for me, so it takes something for me to be put off on that front.  And while the Guardians side of the house has better models, I dislike their post-tutorial zone, Silverwood, with about the same intensity as a I love Freemarch, the Defiant post-tutorial zone.

So I rolled a big old Bahmi (which always makes me think of banh mi, which are not purple at all) chose the cleric’s path, and headed out into the tutorial.  And then, almost immediately logged off.  Clearly I was not excited to play.

I logged back on later and rolled through the starter zone, took the portal back in time, and landed in the corner of Freemarch where you start in the game world, and logged off again.

I wasn’t put off by queues or the horror of the level 1-29 chat, which I turned off fairly quickly.  Many dumb things were being said there.  Freemarch chat was better, but had its moments as well.

Only one of us is correct

Rather it was my inability to quickly match my fond memories of the game with my current experience.  I can prove I was fond of the game because I leveled up one of each of the class archetypes to level 50 before the Storm Legion expansion.

Four Level 50s… and Nehru

That I played a mage up to level cap says something.  I almost never do that and, when I do, it tend to be via some off-the-main-path mechanic.  For example in WoW I will shortly have a level 110 mage.  But he got level boosted from 60 to 100 and his experience from level 101 to 110 will be almost exclusively from pet battles.

But how to get there?  How to find whatever it was that got me hooked back in the day?

It is different when Daybreak rolls up another EverQuest retro server.  There the draw, the nostalgia, is almost wholly concentrated in the first 20 levels.  Killing things in front of Qeynos, roaming into the Qeynos Hills and Blackburrow, ranging out into the Karanas, and then making that first run across the world to Freeport and Faydwer, that about covers it.  Find a few groups, camp some spawns as I go, and nostalgia objective achieved.

It is clearly different in Rift for me, where my memory of the initial tutorial zone ranges from bland to negative.  It is also before the fun of the soul system starts to kick in.  The soul system can be one of the highs of the game, enabling players to create some very fun setups to play.  Of course, it can also be a curse as you are more likely to make an unfun setup if you’re not on top of the whole thing.

Fortunately, one of the post-launch updates Trion kept for Rift Prime was the suggested soul templates for people like me who want a fun setup, but who will screw it up if forced to make their own.  I am enjoying the cleric template I picked, but it took a while to get to that.

The Nature’s Protector build, complete with pet!

You have to go through the usual stages of running up to mobs to beat on them with your one attack, to getting a ranged attack, to getting a good close up attack with a cool down, to getting a better ranged attack, which took a few levels.

I played furtively off and on until Sunday when I started to hit my stride.  The tipping point seemed to involve fishing.  I was stumbling along from quest to quest, knocking down a rift now and again, but not really feeling it.  Then I arrived at Kelari Refuge, a village on the coast of Freemarch and found a mass of people hanging around fishing.

Kelari Refuge arrival

There is a trainer there for fishing, as well as some of the other trade skills.  But, as if my wont, I went for fishing, hanging out on the coast for a stretch.  Fishing quests give experience after all.

That seemed to get me into the vibe of the game.  Fishing in Rift is a pretty decent implementation, a little more old school than the current WoW mechanic,  more useful and well integrated that what you find in LOTRO, but not as clunky as it was way back in Norrath.

I hung out and finished up the fishing quests, earning all the Freemarch fishing achievements along the way.  It was about then that it started to look like we might have enough people interested in playing that a guild seemed appropriate.  I had already ditched the default guild the server sticks everybody in, tiring of an eternal stream of messages about achievements and who just logged in or out, so was set to make a new one.  Fortunately, guild creation in Rift is an extremely frictionless process.  You essentially open the guild window and press the button.  None of that collecting signatures in blood or petitioning for a GM to create you guild.  You want a guild, you got a guild, so I created a guild with what I felt was the theme of the moment.

A guild is born

I then set about inviting people and promoting them.  The default guild structure in Rift has… a lot of ranks.  I set about making everybody an officer and then, on discovering that the default officer rank was actually pretty far down the hierarchy, went and gave officers the ability to essentially do “all the things” so people could get in the guild.

I also found that the only title I had accrued in the game so far fit the theme as well, so I displayed that.

All about the fishing

That done, I set about not fishing anymore, but headed off into the Freemarch quest line again, stopping along the way for rifts and invasion events, which seemed to be quite frequent.

Always another rift forming somewhere…

And from that point on I started to get into it.

Part of that was starting to get into my class/role, which included realizing I left a couple of key abilities off my hotkeys.  Once correctly, or at least better, setup, I realized that I was pretty strong out in the field.

Part of it was reaching that point of immersion… as defined by my own odd parameters last week… where I was just playing the game and enjoying it and not thinking about anything else.

Then there was the feeling of life in the game, with lots of people around and public groups to join and things just happening everywhere.  Sure, once in a while that leads to a competition over quest objectives, but it is mostly a very good thing… as long as you turned off Level 1-29 chat.

And finally, part of it was a sense of nostalgia.  Having, as noted above, run through the game with four Defiant characters previously, questing through Freemarch was a long string of “Oh yeah, I remember that!” moments as I traced a path across the zone.  It had been a while, so details were fuzzy, but I always felt like I knew where I was headed and if there was some other quest I ought to pick up before headed to a certain point.

Add in the random element of rifts and invasion events and I was having a good time.  I logged into Rift and let WoW be for the day.

Of course, I saw a lot of complaints about Rift Prime.  But complaints always bubble up because people happy with things tend to just play.

I think part of the problem is that Rift Prime wants to be several things.  There is a hint of it being retro server in its own way, limiting content for a bit and dialing up the experience slope some.  But it also wants to be a live server while, so it doesn’t limit things that came later in the game.  And there was also a thread in the message from Trion about simply wanting to give people a non-cash shop, non-loot box, old fashioned subscription style experience.

So, as happens when you have multiple threads in your message, people hear the one that appeals to them and ignore the rest, the complain when they figure out that the focus wasn’t solely on what they expected.

Of the complaints, I think experience might be the thorniest of the bunch.  Part of me sees the problem, and I am far enough along to see it happening, where if you just run the quest lines, the quests chains level up faster that you do.  On the flip side, something in the back of my brain recognizes that very same issue from starting out playing years back, that if you didn’t spend time doing rifts and invasion events you would find yourself in that situation.

So maybe a too literal recreation of the original?

It is annoying to find the quests out leveling you.  On the flip side, I don’t want to rush through the game to level 50 in a week or two, I am fine doing the side tasks, and I am obsessive about doing all of the quests, even the ones you can safely skip or might not find if you’re not careful.

But even then I have found myself about a level or two behind the levels of the quests being offered and I haven’t gotten all that far into things.  So maybe some adjustment is needed.  I will say that I was pleased to find my character was powerful enough to handle mobs 2-3 levels above him.  At about 4-5 levels things get dicey.

For the moment though I am enjoying myself.  Rift has its charm and the reasons I enjoyed it back in the day still seem to exist.  And, with a guild, there is a chance of getting together to do things.  Instances would be cool, but just running around and closing rifts can be fun.

I am not ready to renounce all other games and swear to play Rift forever more, but I am good for the next month or so.  As with EverQuest retro servers, there is something of a built-in expiry for me.  After a certain point I lose interest in the expansions.  The problem with Rift is that I lose interest with Storm Legion, the first expansion.  There isn’t even a Ruins of Kunark to keep me going.  Oh well, I will enjoy what I enjoy and move on when that enjoyment stops.  For now I’m good chasing the next rift on the horizon.

Water rifts are so pretty…

Others writing about Rift Prime this week:

Delve – Mining Surge

The EVE Online monthly economic report for February came out on Friday, so it is time to see one again what is up in the New Eden economy.

As the title suggests, the first thing I want to look at is mining, which went up quite a bit in Delve during February.

February 2018 – Mining Value by Region

As the chart says, the value of ore mined in Delve in February stood at 13.5 trillion ISK, up substantially from the 8.1 trillion ISK value reported last month.

However, as I always bring up, mining value is based on the current market price of ore and minerals, so if the price spiked the value on the above chart might go up without there being any real change in mining output as measured in m3.  So what did the pricing do in last month?

February 2018 – Economic Indices

The price, after having risen some in January, looked to have stayed fairly flat over the last month.   Meanwhile, the output for other regions did not change as much.

February 2018 – Mining Value by Region – Bar Graph

Querious and Deklein both saw a bit of an increase, though nothing like the 66% increase that Delve saw.  The question is what drove that boost?  One theory is that as more moon mining platforms come online, they become a regular part of the yield, helping to increase total value.

Anyway, the Imperium appears to happily mining away in Fortress Delve.  And the coalition is looking to expand that.  Yesterday was a region-wide moon mining op in Querious.  All the moon mining platforms were set to come out together, so the super cap umbrella moved to cover the region as the locust-like swarm of Rorquals descended to strip the moons clean.  I haven’t heard anything about the success of the op… other than it started late, so some early risers got the best pickings… but if it went well I expect we will see the number for Querious rising in the March report.

The next boost in Delve, though much smaller than mining, was NPC bounties.  With everybody back from the Million Dollar Battle in January, it looks like people went to work to earn ISK to replace those lost fighters.

February 2018 – NPC Bounties by Region

That pushed the value of NPC bounties take to 10.5 trillion ISK, up 1.5 trillion from January.  Delve remains far and away the largest region for NPC bounties.

February 2018 – NPC Bounties by Region – Bar Graph

The overall percentage of bounties collected in null sec went up a bit, from 92.8% in January to 93.3% in February.

February 2018 – Bounties by Space Sec Rating

I guess that the Guardians Gala event did not spur High Sec to shoot more NPCs.

Overall NPC bounties saw a slight dip in February.

February 2018 – Top 8 ISK Sinks and Faucets

However, the bounties collected remain very high, something CCP seems disinclined to look into.

On the production front, Delve continues to keep pace right behind The Forge in total output, clocking in with 29 trillion ISK to The Forge’s 30 trillion ISK in production.

February 2018 – Production Values by Region

That narrowed the gap over last month though, as I point out every month, Jita’s location means that you must include Lonetrek and The Forge as part of the Jita focused economy.

February 2018 – Production Values by Region – Bar Graph

Neither Lonetrek nor The Citadel look like much compared to Delve, but combining them with The Forge gives the three a combined total of over 55 trillion ISK in production output.  Jita remains safe on its throne as the king of commerce in New Eden, and all the more so when the trade value charts are explores.

February 2018 – Trade Value by Region

The Forge, hosting Jita (and Perimeter), adds up to a total of 661 trillion ISK in trading value, a number so big that it dominates the bar graph pretty handily.

February 2018 – Trade Value by Region – Bar Graph

The bar graph without The Forge better shows the granularity of the other regions.

February 2018 – Trade Value by Region – Bar Graph, Forge Excluded

Without The Forge, Domain, home to Amarr, is the top trading destination, with Delve coming in third, ahead of the lesser high sec trade hubs.

Then there is the regional stats comparison graph that I like to look at every month just to get a high level view of some of the key regions.

February 2018 – Regional Summary Stats

Finally, the bonus graph this month has to be the Trade Balance graph.

Feb 2018 – Trade Balance by Region

The interesting item there is Providence, which exported 15.675 trillion ISK in February.

That represents the evacuation of assets by Provi-bloc, which seems to be crumbling in the face of the onslaught by Pandemic Legion and NCDot.  So, in addition to the hole in the north left by Pandemic Horde moving from Fade and Pure Blind to Geminate, there looks like there will be a change in Providence as PanFam continues its drive there.

PL owns the north of Providence now

That puts PL closer to the Legacy Coalition, which includes TEST and Brave, both favorite targets of PanFam in the past, as well as being much closer to Querious and Delve.  We will see what happens with that.

And we will also see next month what impact Burn Jita had, if any, on the economy of New Eden.

The monthly economic report is available as a dev blog and contains more charts than I have shown as well as the raw data used to generate them, if you want to roll your own.

Guardian with a Kill Mark

You know you’re in a target rich environment when even logi manages to get a kill mark.

Our fleet at the scene

A Nidhoggur tried to interrupt what was supposed to be a quick bubble clear op, got trapped, got a Lif dropped for support, then dreads, and then a fleet of bombers.  The latter dropped piecemeal at fairly close range and engaged us with torpedoes leading to a situation one might call a “feed.”

The end was a bunch of dead ships on the field, most of which were theirs.

Wrecks around the station, our cap chain visible in the distance

We escalated as well and sacrificed some dreads to kill their caps, but the end result was very much in our favor according to the battle report.

Battle Report Summary

And we got all the bubbles cleared in the end as well.  Op success.

And, since I mentioned it in the title, I suppose I had better show it off in the post.

Kill mark in the red circle

That little mark means I managed to get the final blow on somebody’s ship.

Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be

-Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You’re not being the ball Danny.

-Ty Webb, Caddyshack

One of the problematic aspects of talking about video games is how differently two people can perceive and interact with them.  This goes double in writing, where the reader can inject tone and choose to define words in a way the author did not intend.  I’m sure we’ve all run into somebody online who defines a word in a very specific way and then pedantically defends that definition against all evidence or logic.

Take “immersion” for example.  There is a ticklish concept that I have concluded means something different to everybody.  I have had people in the comments here argue that immersion is literally not possible in a video game, or that certain things, from pop-culture references to graphic detail, prevent or break immersion universally, or that you’re not really immersed unless you’re role playing and literally believe that is your reality.

But it isn’t so easy, so black and white.

I find immersion in a video game totally possible and quite independent of a lot of things that might break it for other people.  It certainly has nothing to do with role playing in my case.  But I couldn’t tell you how I get there any more than I could say how I go to sleep.  One moment I am not there and then I slip across some invisible barrier and arrive.  And, as with sleep, I don’t even know I am there until the spell has been broken.

Or so it goes for me.  It is a fairly rare experience for me and, as with sleep, has become less likely and more fleeting as I have grown older.  But I know when I have been there.

Anyway, this all comes to mind because of an article The Mittani posted over at INN, The Masks of Cyber-Purgatory.  I saw several people praising it on Twitter and went to read it myself.

My reactions were… mixed.  There are truths in the post, but also things I found at odds with my own personal voyage through New Eden over the last decade.  For example I can’t recall hearing anybody saying that the only way to win EVE Online is to quit often enough to make that a point of universal agreement.  I’m pretty sure if it were as universal as all that people would be responding to posts on /r/eve with, “Look forward to you winning the game!”  And the whole “slave name” thing was just bizarre.  Never heard that before, would scoff at it if I had.

Perhaps that is a sign that New Eden is less purgatory and more full-on Dante’s Inferno, where each of us ends up stratified in our of circle of the alleged hell that is internet spaceships.  Because clearly The Mittani and I are in different spheres.

But I could have told you that before this article.

And then there is the whole concept of masks, the adopted identities that we use in the game.  I get that, and then again I don’t.  Or, rather, I see it, have seen it, will no doubt see it again in other people, but it isn’t me.

Among my many personal issues is a sense of detachment from things, including video games.  I almost always see the game itself and its workings, they are almost always in my thoughts and calculations.  And, as I have said in the past, when I make and play a character in a video game, I am almost always playing myself.  There is no mask, there is just me.  Me playing a video game.

Or at least me in the constructs of the video game in question.  I’m pretty sure real me would get shiv’d by the first kobold he met in Norrath or Azeroth and would never climb into that pod in New Eden.  And, up to this point at least, I have never take part in a murder for hire scheme to kill ten or a dozen strangers for a few pieces of gold.

So I never don a mask because I am never “in” the game, any game, enough for my character or avatar to be anything apart from myself in any deep sense.

Is it cosplay or just me wearing a jacket?

Going back to immersion, for me it is passing into a brief state where I don’t see the mechanics, where I am not looking at the map or planning how best to fulfill this latest task, but am in the moment in the game, doing what I am doing without it being a part of a plan or a goal.

But there are masks and there are masks.

What I think of me on my side of the screen is only universally applicable if I am playing a single player game.

Out in the world of multiplayer games… or out in the world dealing with other people in general… what goes on inside your head is invisible.  It is how others see you and their own filters and biases that turn you into what they think you are.  You can wear any mask you want, or no mask at all, and somebody else will put a mask of their choosing over that all the same and claim that this is the real you.

I am brimming with examples of this, in video games, in reactions to things I write here, and of course, in real life.

I used to sit across the way from a guy who used to get really angry at email that came from HR about company policies.

Something like that would pop up in both of our email inboxes simultaneously.  I would look at it, try to figure if it had any impact on me, and generally get back to what I was doing without spending too much time on it.

On the other hand, I could hear him getting angry, spouting expletives, and generally fuming about the email.  And, of course, he would have to call over to me for the inevitable, “Can you believe this?” routine.

He would ask if I saw the email that just came in and I would acknowledge that I had, adding the “what are you going to do?” shrug to show my indifference.  But he would have to make sure I could see his point, reading from the email in question using tone and inflection to give it the worst possible spin he could.  As he framed it, this was the most unreasonable, insulting thing they had done yet… today at least.  And I could not talk him down off of that cliff.

Of course, I saw myself as in possession of the facts and had the email in question read in a neutral tone in my head.  But that was just my own spin on it, the parameters put upon the whole thing by my own perception.  While I’d like to say I was more likely to be write, or at least closer to reality, than my co-worker, I couldn’t really prove it any more than he could.

We all put masks on other people through our perceptions, biased by the filters and experiences that are genuinely our own alone.  We all like to think we’re in possession of the truth.  I know I imagine myself being reasonable by simply not getting excited or indignant about things that seem like matters of interpretation.  But even that point of view could be wrong.

And I am prone to put my own spin on things, to apply masks to others even when I know I might be yielding to my own personal bias.  Even in humor… or especially in humor… playing to that puts a mask on somebody else.

As an EVE Online illustration… also, I made this and wanted to share it

All of which doesn’t roll up to a nice tidy point and set of suggested behaviors I suppose.  I started out here with a point to make, but as I drove along down the path, I seemed as unlikely to be in a position to give guidance as anybody else.  I apply masks, or labels, or whatever metaphor you care to choose, on others as much as anyone.  That I tend towards what I think is a charitable view of others doesn’t make them any more accurate than my co-worker who would work himself into a lather about email messages from HQ.

Anyway, this many words in this late in the evening and I am committed to this post.  So I suppose the only thing to say is to be mindful of both the masks you wear, as nobody can see the inner you, as well as the masks you apply to other people, because you sure as hell can’t see the inner reality of others.