Star-Fired Beef


Speaking Out Against Hate and Ignorance

Okay so I wasn’t going to do a GamerGate post. I started off intending to, but after assembling a bunch of reference material I got worn out by the sheer vicious stupidity of the movement, and then I read Belghast’s post on being fatigued and forlorn by the issue. I realised that he was right, it was not only unhelpful to fan the flames, to give undue attention to this abomination that is GG, but it would also harm my mental health if I remained involved in keeping up with the situation. Not because I fear for myself or anyone I know, but because just being immersed in the hate and ignorance and stupidity is enough to drain you of hope for humanity.

But then J3w3l wrote this post, and the thing that jumped out at me was this:

But then I realised that making my opinion known is important as well as it adds to the large collection of people out there doing the same and strengthens the resolve of those around who are yet to feel comfortable.

Which she then reinforced in her comments:

I think just making it known makes people more confident and just a quick statement seems to be enough for that too. Solidarity you know…

I also feel it makes those attacks, if they were to happen here a little less severe. If their is one or two key spokespeople it’s easy for people to direct their anger. A whole community of blogs and it gets spread out and deflected far easier.

I also couldn’t just sit by while some bloggers I know had been receiving such things. Had to give my support, and in a way thanks that they stood up and were heard.

So here I am, adding my voice in support of those who have been harmed by this insanity that is GG. For those of you not really aware of what GG is all about, Deadspin provides a great outline of the movement here.

The Sooner It Ends, The Better

Make no mistake, GamerGate is, always was, and always will be a hate movement. Jennifer Allaway discusses how and why here.

As far as I am concerned, there are two types of people who are a part of GG. The first is the truly despicable group, the “true believers”. They range across the spectrum, from the extremes of death and rape threats, to the comparatively tame defenders, who honestly think that women like Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian are “professional victims”, that they deserve the hellish treatment they continue to receive, and that there is a feminist conspiracy that needs to be resisted. I believe that this type makes up, if not a majority, then a much larger minority than is widely assumed. The second type is that of the ignorant, the critically inept, and the morally suspect. They hang around the fringes, were drawn in by the PR of the “it’s about ethics in games media” bullshit, and genuinely want to have that conversation. But they show their utter lack of judgement, their dearth of critical thinking skills, by willingly associating themselves with this movement. And the longer they do so, they become more and more morally bankrupt, because any decent person would, upon discovering that GG is about hate, run for the hills. I mean come on, when your movement has actual neonazis flocking to it, how can that not raise a giant fucking red flag? When the mascot for your movement – designed by the lovely people of 4chan, of course! – is a thinly veiled rape joke, and you continue to support it, there is something wrong with you!

Rant mode is warming up, so I’ll finish here before shit gets real. There are many intelligent, well-documented posts and articles out there that deconstruct this abomination. The two I linked above are good examples, as is this video looking at GG’s base assumptions. But one post really captures the scorn, the anger, and the horror that I feel towards each and every person who, through their participation in and support of GG, have been and continue to be responsible for the vile treatment of so many people. They are not only giving the rest of us gamers a bad name, they are doing it by hurting people, mostly women. I leave you with a quote from Chris Kluwe:

Every time I see one of you slackjawed pickletits link me something like “I’m a moderate #Gamergate’r,” or “#Gamergate in sixty seconds YOUTUBE CLIP,” or “Here’s an anecdotal story from this one woman we found that completely negates an entire history of misogyny and abuse of women, not just in videogaming but in the entirety of human existence so support the REAL GAMERS,” it pisses me the fuck off because you are ruining something I enjoy. When people — everyday people who watch the coverage on CNN of Anita Sarkeesian having to cancel a speaking engagement due to death threats — think of “gamers,” they are going to think of you, and that irritates me. It enrages me. I want to punch down a wall, and I like my walls. They’re nicely painted.



Steam Challenge – Dear Esther

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 2 hours

From what I gather, Dear Esther has polarised the gaming community. It seems you either “get” it, and you proclaim the wonders of the experience and hail it as life-changing; or you don’t, and you bitterly declaim your lost, wasted time, calling it a pretentious non-game, a tech demo, a ‘walking simulator’ if you’re feeling charitable. Is it even a game? The debate on that rages on.

One might be tempted to call it an interactive story. Even that invites contradiction, as while there is a very small amount of control available to the player, there is no real interactivity beyond movement. In addition, there seems to be a story, but the deeper you go, the more questions are raised. What is real? What is symbolic? What is projection? Do seemingly scattered thoughts and memories a story make? Is this just madness?

I can really only say that this is art. The music, sound effects, narration, and graphics are all astoundingly excellent. They come together perfectly to present a totally immersive atmosphere, but only if you are open to it. Do not try to impose yourself on Dear Esther. Do not demand anything from it. Come to it from a place of wonder, and you will be rewarded with an extraordinary experience.

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Steam Challenge – Crysis

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

Time played: 20 hours

This is the first FPS I’ve played for a good while, and as such it took a little time to readjust to the controls and feel of it. I’ve spent so long in MMOs that I instinctively hold a mouse button in order to move the camera, which is frustrating when it makes you waste ammo and/or attracts attention. But I got back into the groove, and Crysis was a very enjoyable FPS that lived up to the hype it received over the years.

As a game that was released in 2007, only a couple of years before I got my mid-range-at-the-time computer, my rig was able to play it reasonably well, but it showed why you basically needed a cutting edge rig to play it when it first released. Even today, it is purrrrty. I noticed the same level of quality in the tropical areas of ArcheAge, which uses CryEngine 3. I was able to run Crysis smoothly at the top settings, which made for a breathtaking experience at times.

The game takes place on a remote subtropical island off the Korean Peninsula. You are a special forces commando (of course, seems like most FPS games in the last 10 years put you in that role), wearing a nanosuit that enhances your capabilities. By switching modes, you are able to run faster, gain superhuman strength and jumping ability, become more resilient to damage, and even cloak. The suit also gives a logical way for you to regain health without needing medipacks or health pickups. It’s very consistent with its in-game logic, so immersion is easy to maintain.

The game is on rails, but there is a lot of space to work with in order to complete objectives in your own way. There are subtle barriers – mostly cliffs – that contain you so you don’t go off script. The story is okay, but not great. It’s fairly predictable once you have done the first couple of objectives. I much prefer games like Half-Life and Portal for their stories than Crysis. It feels like the story is more of an excuse to show off the technology than anything.

The AI enemies are simultaneously really well done and also dumb as fuck. If you pick off a sentry that is in view of others, it will trigger calls of alarm and perimeter sweeps will be made, if they haven’t already spotted you. They fan out and try to surround you if they can. However, it is ludicrously easy to draw them into a bottleneck and slaughter them as they appear, even on the hardest difficulty setting. Add to that, the cases where they bump into each other, causing them both to fall over, and the cases where they all bunch up outside the room you’re hiding in, allowing you to pop out, shoot one, then pop back in without them coming after you. Those latter cases are rare, but it was still disappointing when it happened.

There are really two distinct parts to Crysis. There is the jungle fighting part, the first half of the game, and then there is the “everything’s gone to shit” part. I liked both – the jungle part, while really fun, was very much in danger of dragging on too long, so the second part was way more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been, simply because it changed things up. The boss fight at the end was suitably epic, although for some reason it was the one time I had to drop my graphics settings to low, otherwise my graphics card would overheat.

The ending was clearly signalling a sequel, which I appreciate – one of the things that bugged me about the Half-Life – HL2 transition was the apparent lack of continuity – but it also robbed me of my sense of closure for the game. I don’t have Crysis 2, nor do I have an overwhelming urge to find out what happens next – as I said, the story wasn’t fantastic – so I’m left feeling a tiny bit unsatisfied.

I’m sure I can live with that, though. The overall verdict is positive, but I’m not putting it up there amongst the best games I’ve played.


ArcheAge, why do you make me feel so conflicted…

So I’m playing ArcheAge.

After quickly coming to the same conclusion as Aywren that it was not worth playing as F2P – in my case, not owning property could be acceptable, and the lack of offline LP was bad but could be coped with, but the final straw was the fact that you can’t list auctions unless you are a Patron –  I ponied up and have had nearly two weeks under my belt as a fully functional member of ArcheAge society. I even managed to get on the unofficial Oceanic server, Kyrios. I tried a little of the Harani starting area on another server while I was waiting for Kyrios to start accepting new characters again, so when it came time to make my “real” character, I chose the Elves. I’m not a fan of the default ears on the AA elves, and given that they are indistinguishable from both Human races otherwise, I guess there was really not much point to my choice. I made the ears as small as I could, and covered them with a thick head of hair, and off we went.

I guess the main reason I went with an Elf is for the racial mount. Horses, even though they are incredibly well animated, are boring compared to lions, weird demon-faced kangaroo-things, and…elk! I’d heard great things about the quest to obtain your first mount…and, well, here is my little baby:



After playing with him, feeding and washing him, my little baby grew up into a magnificent companion:


Ready for the Wild Hunt…

I’m playing as an Eidolon at the moment (Shadowplay/Auramancy/Witchcraft) to get as many tricks and instant-speed attacks as possible. This was shaped by my early experiences with AA…namely, that it isn’t going to be easy for me to actually do anything in realtime.

There are several reasons for this. First, is the joy of Australian ping. I don’t want to be casting at half the rate of my opponents because my feedback is terrible – I figure instant speed casts let me at least remain on par with amount of actions before I die. Second is that my computer is fairly old, at least 5 years now, so the demands placed on it mean that my animations are not smooth and responsive very often. It takes a while, even on normal graphics settings, for my immediate surroundings to draw themselves in, and even longer – I’m talking minutes – if it is a crowded place I am zoning into, such as a city or housing area. Taking the public carriages and airships makes for a very jerky and disjointed ride. Third is that I am still kind of starting out. I have only just managed to secure a plot for my first garden (#Bragtoberfest! Awww yisss) and I am just saving up stone, iron and lumber for my thatched farmhouse when I can nab a plot of land for that. Only then will I start thinking about possible PvP or action-intensive activities – the only thing I’m doing until that stage is trying to complete the trade run to get my scarecrow farm, in case I can’t find enough land for the farmhouse.

So PvP is going to be a nightmare until I get a new rig. PvE combat is okay at the moment as long as I am careful, but I’m resigned to avoiding much combat for the near future.

So let’s talk a bit about the stuff I like and dislike about the game. The dislikes are mostly to do with the way F2P has been implemented. It’s one of the poorer implementations I’ve seen – you can’t really play the game properly unless you are a patron (subbed). I am very unimpressed by the fact that all the three races I have tried (Nuian, Harani, Elf) are virtually indistinguishable from each other apart from clothing and starting mounts. They even have the same emote animations. I have played through the whole storyline chain now, and there are two points that I came to really dislike: the narrator uses a gratingly forced dramatic style that seems to want to imitate the Galadriel narration at the start of the LOTR movies, but fails horribly; and the cutscenes where this narration happens is very poorly placed – it comes right after the quest you’ve just completed that reveals the info the cutscene is (re-)explaining. It’s basically telling you what you’ve just done, with (towards the end, at least) very little extra lore  or contextual information.

Oh, and the fact that everyone is The Beautiful People – even the old folks are just young folks’ bodies and faces, with grey hair and hunched over a bit – is starting to creep me the fuck out.

There is a ton of stuff I love about AA, though. Many small things, like mounting up gives you different animations depending on where you are in relation to the mount. The incredibly deep and time-consuming crafting system. The animations in general – this is the first MMO I have played where movement animations are as smooth and natural as WoW’s, both for players and mounts. Rift, LOTRO, even TSW, the running animations just felt slightly off. Not so in AA. I love the travel trade-offs: you can travel around the world quickly, but it’ll cost you in resources (LP, materials), or you can take the public transport (which has all the pros and cons of, well, public transport), or you can ride your own mount, which saves resources at the expense of convenience and time. I love the armour choice trade-offs: plate gives you more physical defence, cloth gives you more magic defence, and leather gives a balance of each. You can get bonuses for wearing the set – leather gives you extra crit and evasion, for example – or you can mix and match without penalty.

I’ve liked the looks of the gear so far, even though short skirts are still the norm for Korean MMOs, it seems. And damn, AA does baby animals so well…


My new battle puppy, Loupe! He’s all grown up now, too. That’s Menashi in the background, looking classy as always.

It remains to be seen whether I will extend my stay in AA beyond the next month. It has its hooks in me, but there are enough irritations to keep it perpetually on the edge of losing me.