Gaming communities need to keep calling out the bad apples.

Grumpy Bear pondering a snack … or the post.

Every once in a while, various gaming and roleplay communities collectively shit themselves because yet another call-out post is going around and ruining their precious hobby. There’s a lot of crying about maturity levels, “just block and walk away”, and accusations of people not getting outside enough.

That one is hilarious on its own, since those folks aren’t exactly following their own advice. Anywho~

Call-out culture is a thing. It exists, it can be harmful — just like everything else — and it requires some critical thinking skills to deal with. Some people are very, very good at being obtuse and not paying attention to what’s going on, so they’ll fall for absolutely everything. Others are better: they can pick apart each call-out and figure out what’s genuine and what isn’t.

Even with the risks associated with call-out culture and the call-outs themselves, we still need them.

Back in ye olde LiveJournal days, I ran with a variety of roleplayers that were (and some still are) associated with World of Warcraft. There was this overall accepted idea that if someone had issues with a player, they’d let their friends and other roleplayers know and just… whatever happened, happened. We had bad_rpers_suck and the WoW-specific one (I created it and still can’t remember what it’s called), with the second one being more about the problem roleplayers that people ran into and the proof of their behaviour.

That proof was referred to as “receipts”. I think that term is still used, but I don’t see it as much.

Why do callouts seem to be more common now than they were years ago?

I don’t think they are.

Ten years ago, our online communities were more insular than they are now. More private channels, friends-locked journals, members-only websites, that sort of thing. Tumblr does not have the luxury of making posts that only your friends can see — and if your posts are set to show up in the site’s search engine, chances of some random stranger stumbling on what you’re saying are very high. You can’t limit who can or can’t reblog your posts, either.

Tumblr is the internet equivalent to playing games in the park. LiveJournal is the internet equivalent to playing games in your living room.

Anybody can join in on Tumblr, and on LiveJournal you could limit participation.

We had the blogosphere then, too, with some posts going viral — AppleCiderMage’s guide to dealing with harassment in WoW comes to mind and is very relevant — but no call-outs actually stand out to me right now.

What purpose do these call-outs even serve?

People tend to make a call-out post when they’ve reached the limit of the bullshit they can deal with and they feel it’s time to expose the behaviour of the other person. A small percentage call people out over perceived slights. The majority write about situations of abuse, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment (unwanted advances included), and general bad apples.

I said it several years ago and I’ll say it again: gaming and roleplay communities need people to expose these behaviours.

If we all remain silent for fear of being thought of as “immature” or whatever the flavour-of-the-month criticism is, then these people — people that run the gamut from sexual predators to serial abusers — get off scott-free. When people share their stories, they show others that they aren’t alone and help lead to healing. Yeah, it may not seem healing to talk about what happened and expose oneself like that, but for some folks it can be. We need to work together to keep these sorts of folks out of our communities and away from our most vulnerable.

Warnings about people that were nasty pieces of work in roleplay and gaming communities helped me get through the past ten years of being part of various fandoms without suffering too much. I learned the sort of behaviour to look out for, warning signs, and to trust my gut. I learned which people were troublesome and in what ways, and was equipped with the tools I needed to either get away or stay away. The years before all this were … not so great. I got dragged into a lot of shit I shouldn’t have, and dealt with some awful people. Sometimes I wonder if some advance warning would have been helpful.

Block and walk away does not always work.

I wish it did. I wish it were always that simple. Once in a while, it is! It often escalates, though, and police services are still very new to dealing with cyber harassment — and if someone has had bad experiences with police or is part of a minority group, a run-in with the police for any reason can have dire consequences. It’s easy to sit behind your keyboard and crow about what somebody should be doing instead of writing about an incident on the internet — I mean, you didn’t have to deal with that bullshit. You obviously know best, though!

Even then, with the police and other proper authorities involved, that may not be enough. The perpetrator may be forced to stop dealing with one person, but they can go on and victimize another, and another, and another.

And unless everyone’s willing to put themselves through the absolute fun that is trying to explain online harassment and abuse of any sort to authority figures, that’s going to keep happening.

We have to self-police.

It sucks. It really does. If we don’t keep each other informed, though, we wind up with far more victims suffering in silence — and I’d rather be seen as a petty arsehole than be part of the reason that someone else winds up getting targeted by one of those jerks.

Your mileage may vary.

 

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Conan Exiles: Typical Survival Game in Conan’s Loincloth

I had the benefit of a pretty solid career with survival-type games when I purchased Conan Exiles and first started playing it. I like to consider myself a veteran of the genre — though that’s being generous. I started with Minecraft like everybody else, then progressed to 7 Days to Die (back when falling trees were my most common cause of death), and dipped my fingers into several others along the way.  My current favourite? ARK, which runs the exact same engine as CE.

So I immediately knew what to start doing when the game finally loaded and my naked exile started out into the world.

You’re playing the part of somebody that’s been exiled to this wasteland for randomly-generated crimes, and you come from one of several of the ethnicities that inhabit Conan’s world. My default in Conan games tends to be Stygian, with its ancient Egyptian aesthetic and heavy roleplay possibilities.

It’s safe to say that, according to game canon, Conan himself cuts the exile down from their cross, where they were expected to die in the desert sun. For those in the rather massive, varied Conan Exiles RP community, notsomuch. The reasons for being in the game world can be anything from “born there” to “killed somebody and wound up there”.

Anyway.

My first instinct was: gather sticks, rocks, and bush stuff. It didn’t take long to learn how to make a stone pick, then a stone axe, then my first set of clothes. The safest bet on figuring out where I was (before the map was of much help) was to follow the road. I soon spotted trees and greenery poking up from the desert in front of me and stumbled upon the verdant oasis/river area.

Progression through the Exiles’ world is fairly linear: areas on the south end of the map are “easy”, and enemies/conditions get harder to handle as you delve deeper into the map. The rewards get better, though: bigger game means better meat and thicker hides for improved armour, you get access to reliable sources of metal and coal (important for crafting and smelting). There are dungeons to explore, apparently.

In exploring the lowbie-friendly (sort of) river area, I discovered:

  • crocodiles! Tip: Let them get close, then as they go to bite, step back. There’s a bit of a delay where you can make use of hit-and-run tactics this way.
  • gorilla-turtle creatures that attack when you get close. Tip: Run from these when you start out, until you get a proper weapon.
  • nests full of delicious gorilla-turtle eggs and their young. Tip: The babies are predictably helpless and make a good early source of meat and hides.
  • camps of NPC exiles. Tip: Run from these ’til you have your first set of real armour and a stone weapon or basic bow.
  • imps. Ugly, ugly little fuckers. Tip: You can punch these to death, and they’ll attack you from really ridiculous distances. Good source of meat and hide.
  • indispensable knowledge that fall damage is really finicky.
  • ghosts!

The ghosts reveal bits and pieces of the area’s backstory, and sometimes have rock carvings or discarded letters nearby. Look for them for delicious lore.

It’s not overly difficult to get to a point where you’re more-or-less self-sufficient with the basics. There are spots along the river where mobs are few and far between, or you just have to contend with the occasional patrolling gorilla-turtle or imp. It’s not difficult to establish a basic base, gather up the initial materials for the first sets of crafting stations you’ll need, and then start getting thralls to run them.

Beyond that? It’s very unforgiving. More hostile critters exist past the river, the earliest of which you can’t contend with until you craft your light leather set and have at least a stone sword. As far as survival games go: if you’ve played any other survival game before this, you have the basic kit that you’ll need to succeed here. You already know how these games work and the risks associated with them.

 

The major thing that makes CE unique is the inclusion of full nudity. Funcom was shot down on including full frontal nudity in its Age of Conan MMO offering and they doubled down on including it with this title. Jiggle physics for breasts and penises leaves much to be desired. Breasts seem to jiggle ridiculously in and out of armour, though it’s toned down a bit in the earlier leather sets. Whether that’s my imagination or not I can’t be sure. Penises are hilariously elastic, bouncing around everywhere and anywhere, behaving more like a flesh slinky than anything else. I could literally watch them for hours. I’m surprised that I’m still alive with how I’ve laughed myself into actual tears over this. It’s bad. So, so refreshingly bad.

With that said: CE is very much an Early Access title. Funcom is developing as they go, making bug fixes and adding content on a regular basis. They’re not optimizing the game as much as I’d like while they go along, which makes testing it on anything but a top-of-the-line machine a bit bothersome.

The Unreal Engine is clunky as hell, though, so I’m not sure how well it’ll optimize once release time rolls around, anyway. ARK’s release is on its way — so we’ll see what that winds up meaning for Conan Exiles.

Overall, Conan Exiles is fun, but doesn’t bring anything particularly unique to the survival genre — yet. It’s definitely geared toward people familiar with the Conan mythos in its overall look and feel, and it’s fairly easy to tell that the Funcom team is absolutely keen on R.E. Howard’s work and world. If you’re looking for low-tech survival with fewer zombies than the average genre offering, this is a game for you.

If you’d like to support the development of Conan Exiles, I would suggest dropping the money on it now as it will most likely go up in price for official release. Otherwise, wait until Early Access is over and a more polished game is available.

… And maybe hope that Funcom learns how to render a penis in the meantime.

We’re doing some work here.

GBD has been pretty damned quiet of late. I’ve had some issues IRL with my mental health because of my job, so concentrating on anything has been a hell of a tough gig. Still. I’ve been reworking my other site, melissapearce.net, and this one is gonna get some changes, too.

I’m gonna have weekly posts going up as well as a slightly larger array of content: reviews will join the guides, and I’ll have more games to talk about since I’ve branched out from WoW (I think it’s been a year since I last played).

GBD is still going to be a gaming and roleplaying blog first and foremost.

Please look forward to it!

What’s Realistic in World of Warcraft? Part Two – Magic

In the first post on this subject, we went over what technologies exist in World of Warcraft to give an idea of what sort of stuff is realistic in the game world. This time, we’re gonna talk about the more esoteric crap.

Magic

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Muppet-effing MAGIC.

Magic is a massive aspect of the Warcraft universe. It’s the reason the Burning Legion even showed up on Azeroth, it’s the one thing that the Sin’dorei were thirsty for for the entirety of The Burning Crusade expansion, and it powers some Azerothian technology. Mages use it (obviously). In fact, Azeroth is criss-crossed by ley-lines that provide much of the planet’s magical power (more-or-less) and that are used for everything from powering arcane sanctums in the Eversong Woods to creating moonwells. Portal magic relies upon them.

An Azeroth without magic is an Azeroth that would probably not manage to exist for very long.

Dragons

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I was gonna use a screencap of Ysera, then made myself sad.

Massive and powerful, the dragons of Azeroth have existed since before the world’s recorded history, their flights charged by the titans themselves to protect the planet. All that remains of the great dragonflights are the dragons that are alive today, since they can no longer reproduce post-Fall of Deathwing.

The leaders of each flight aren’t nearly as powerful as they used to be, either, but dragons can still take mortal forms and wander about.

WoW’s dragons have been present for every major event in Azeroth’s history, sometimes even saving all life from certain destruction — usually at great cost to themselves. It’s entirely possible that Azeroth would long ago have ceased to exist without the dragonflights and their aspects.

The Burning Legion

Okay, not a member of the Legion anymore, but... still a demon (and I love her).
Okay, not a member of the Legion anymore, but… still a demon (and I love her).

Demons. It’s made up of demons. Demons that were drawn to Azeroth because MAGIC and keep trying to destroy it. Warlocks, having a death wish, learn to summon them from the Twisting Nether and usually wind up being killed by them.

Basically, nearly every major threat to Azeroth has had demonic influence: orcs drank Mannoroth’s blood before the whole “invasion of Azeroth” thing, Gul’dan’s entire character arc was demontastic, the plague was concocted under Kil’jaeden’s direction, the War of the Ancients was the direct result of demonic interference — seriously I could go on forever at this point.

In short: if not for the Burning Legion, Azeroth would be a very different place.

Undead & Undeath

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In Warcraft, the dead don’t alway stay that way. It started with the plague of undeath and the Lich King, and continues with the Death Knights of Acherus — people that were killed and raised into undeath (sometimes a second time) to serve as the Lich King’s army, and then immediately betrayed during events at Light’s Hope Chapel in the Plaguelands.

Undeath is literally another case of “it’s MAGIC!” because dark magic is what fuels it. No magic, no undeath.

Shapeshifting

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Dragons can do it, druids do it all the time, and other creatures can do it, too: shapeshifting. Dragons turn into members of the mortal races, druids become different animals, shamans become wolves. Shapeshifting is a pretty everyday thing in Warcraft.

The Entire Goddamn Game World

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World of Warcraft’s Azeroth is a massive collection of tropes, pop culture references, memes, and a lot of what the developers think is clever. It’s full of stuff that simply can’t happen in real life — obviously — and is usually better. I mean, you don’t hear any “get back in the kitchen” jokes in canon, women and men alike are able to succeed and thrive, and the dominant religion runs on three major tenets: respect, tenacity, and compassion. Notice how “religion-fueled hatred of various sexualities and genders” isn’t part of that and actually goes against the first tenet? Huh.

Whenever someone tries to say that something isn’t realistic in a world of magic, dragons, space ships, goblin machinery, and other assorted sci-fi/fantasy/pop culture crap … they’re ignoring EVERY GODDAMN THING IN THIS FREAKING GAME.

Tell your friends.

A Friend In Need

Keep Kar's Kids' Power On (Kareth's Kids)
The kidlets, image from Youcaring.

I’ve known Kar since my early days on Thorium Brotherhood, when I was a newbie to roleplaying in a MMO – and really, to MMOs in general. We created so many stories together, helped one another through various forms of drama, and confided in one another. He and his wife were, and are, among the kindest people I’ve ever met in the game.

Even though we don’t talk as much as we used to, he still means a lot to me.

Kar, his wife, and his kids are in desperate need of help. He lost his job of fifteen years a few years ago now. He fell ill. After a diagnosis of MS and treatment for related vision problems, things started improving for him and his family as his wife found a well-paying job.

Then, suddenly, in the summer of last year, Sam got sick. Nobody has any idea what the cause is, and because of all the sick leave she had to take, she lost her job, too.

Kar is limited in what sort of work he can get by his illness, as is Sam. They’re coasting by right now, and in order to keep a roof over their head, they need our help.

If any of y’all can spare a couple of bucks, head over to Kar’s Youcaring fundraiser and send it his way. Please.

What’s Realistic in World of Warcraft? Part One – Technology

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since it could even loosely be described as mostly high-fantasy in Vanilla, but even that was a stretch: goblins and gnomes had technologies that could be described as computer-like, with flying machines and airships. As time has gone on and new expansions have been released, more technology, pop culture references, and other non-fantasy elements have been introduced.

It’s been argued that non-white humans and Sin’dorei are on the same level of unrealistic for the game world as take-out cups and cameras (which exist in-game). Lore police use the “unrealistic!” battle cry to turn down anything that doesn’t fit with their view of the game, although they consider real-world examples of sexism (e.g. “get back in the kitchen”), homophobia, and transphobia as being “realistic” for the game world.

It’s interesting that people of colour are “unrealistic” to these folks, while various forms of bigotry must be present. Huh.

Anyway, back on track.

Here’s a short list of things that World of Warcraft has that make “that’s not realistic!” arguments seem especially ridiculous.

Internal combustion engines

exhibit-a
WoW’s motorcycle collection even has rumbly engine sounds.

From flying machines to airships to motorcycles, the internal combustion engine – in the real world, the electric-start engine was a product of the 1900s – is a frequent sight. Goblins and gnomes are fond of putting engines in things, with goblins even having their own idea of a hot rod.

The Iron Horde operates its machinery with coal-fired engines – the Iron Star that were originally used as highly-destructive weapons.

Robots

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Mechanical toys in Dalaran.
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Mechanical gnome in Pandaria, with fighting bots.

If you’re an engineer, you’re very familiar with the robots of WoW. Repair bots have been in use for years, Blingtron has been giving us daily gifts for a couple expansions now, and promotional fighting robots with their own special fuel are things that have actually happened.

We’ve also had access to mechanical non-combat pets and mechanical animals that act as weapons since Vanilla: see mechanical squirrel and explosive sheep.

Soda/Pop

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It’s Kaja Cola!

Much like a lot of stuff in-game, Kaja Cola is something that was introduced with the Goblins in Cataclysm. The drink made players yell ideas (not all of them any good) and was part of the influx of pop culture that the Goblins are known for. In the real world, the stay-tab can came about in the 1980s – it’s difficult to tell if that’s what’s being represented, or if it’s actually the pull-tab version that was from the 1960s.

Take-out food

Image from ironyca.wordpress.com

Goblins also seem to have introduced take-out food in its iconic little boxes, which can be spotted in the barge in Thousand Needles as well as throughout goblin towns and the starting zone.

In Mists of Pandaria, people that took up cooking were able to get their hands on a recipe to make a noodle cart, which provided really good buff food for the time – plus, it was kinda cool.

Image from WoWhead

Electricity

Electric lights, weapons that use electricity to zap stuff (and aren’t magically powered), and the occasional appliance have existed in World of Warcraft for a long time. Mainly the stuff of goblin and gnomish technology, we’ve been seeing its applications all throughout zones like Gnomeregan and Kezan. We could also make the argument for battery-powered gear, since we’ve had to go after energy packs of some kind or another in quests since Vanilla.

Indoor Plumbing

For some reason, sinks and bathtubs are common on Azeroth, but they haven’t entirely figured out actual toilets (that I’ve seen). Goblins are keen on a good old-fashioned bath now and again, though I still wouldn’t trust one of their tubs to not explode.

Unfortunately for most people, the outhouse is the most frequent sort of toilet found in the Warcraft universe. I am absolutely not going on a toilet hunt in this game.

That’s it for part one. Next time, we talk about the other weird shit in WoW.

 

 

“Dark” Roleplay Requires Consent

Okay, so, there are some roleplayers that claim their style as “mature” or “dark”, which advertises that they’re open to RPing stuff that’s for a very limited audience. I mean, they’re cool with roleplaying stuff like gore, torture, sexual assault, and stuff of a similar nature.

Stuff that they need to be reminded isn’t for everyone.

If your “Roleplaying Style” flag in your RP add-on of choice is “Mature” or “Dark”, then we need to talk about consent in RP.

Different people roleplay for different reasons. Some want to explore lesser-known areas of the game’s lore, others like following the lives of the common people, still others want to be heroes. Some RP to relax and flex their writing muscles. Others RP due to boredom. Some have less-than-honourable reasons for their RP and use it for badness. Whatever reasons folk have for roleplaying, the one thing they tend to have in common is that they’re trying to have fun.

It’s not fun having content pushed on you that you aren’t comfortable with.

The problem most people wind up having with “dark” and “mature” roleplayers – what makes them the butt of several jokes – is the tendency of so many of them to just… thrust whatever edgy stuff they’re into on unsuspecting people. That’s not cool. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are regarding content warning and “censorship”: you have to be considerate.

You can sometimes figure out what sort of RP somebody’s willing to do by checking their roleplay profile. World of Warcraft add-ons like XRP, TotalRoleplay, and others allow players to write a description for their character. Lots of people also use these to add warnings and notes of what they are not interested in RPing, while some use them to point out what they’re looking for – some of which might be what you’re after.

Ask first.

Let’s use a tame example here. You’re playing a character that’s a thief. You’re interested in stealing something valuable from another person’s character. Send that person a private message telling them that you’d like to roleplay a specific scene (a ‘scene’ refers to a scenario), and what that scene is. If they agree, great! Have fun! If not? Move on.

If you throw a massive fit or otherwise just try to proceed even though they said “no”, you’ve failed. Go sit in a corner and think about what you’ve done.

Some types of RP are not meant for this method.

If you’re roleplaying things of a far more sensitive nature (themes of torture, grotesque violence, and stuff I don’t want to mention here), it’s best to put in your profile that you’re open to this, that, or the other thing, and look for guilds that are up your alley. There are communities where you can find like-minded folks, such as Darknest. You can put out your feelers on Tumblr and post in specific server tags saying that you’re looking for partners for that sort of roleplay.

But for the love of kittens, don’t force it on people that you’re running into out in the game world.

Have you dealt with people trying to force their style of roleplay on you? How did you deal with it?