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      After the recent release of “Alice: Madness Returns,” I  picked up a copy. With each copy, console gamers also got a free download of  the original “American McGee’s Alice.” Before playing the new Alice, I had to  go back and beat the original again. While many things were just as I had  remembered, I’m glad […]
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      One of my favorite games of all time is Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2. When I heard they were making a new one, I was super excited, but also somewhat skeptical. So a few months ago, I picked up a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns to try out the new game. My fiancee also joined […]
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       (Warning: some spoilers) When they decided to turn this Canadian comic into a movie, I’m not sure they were aware of what a cult smash hit this would be. Topping the charts for Blu-rays on the first day it was released on home video, it’s also been on several top ten lists. It appeals to […]
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      This is a digression from my usual topics, but I wanted to share some of my strategies with other unemployed or soon to be unemployed people out there. My job search has been the focus of my free time lately, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for my next post. 1)      Assess […]
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Why do you WoW?


I am an RPG lover. I’ve been through conventional ones and dual class RPGs, including Diablo 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Borderlands, Dokapon Kingdom, and recently World of Warcraft. Yeah, I used to be big into WoW, I leveled a character up to level 40 before I had to quit.

And now? I’ve been playing for 2 weeks, and I’m already level 38 on my Night Elf Druid. That was basically 3 days worth of playing. Nonstop. I did occasionally eat food and sleep, but I thought about WoW, and ate while I played. Soon, the addiction will fully take over, and I will be playing every spare moment, doing dailies and raiding and re-specing and…

So why is it so hard to stop playing? I’ve tried to figure out what makes WoW so addicting. It’s not the plot for me, or the characters. It’s definitely not the amazing combat; fighting is fun, but I’m not into PvP and I’m not big enough to raid yet.

My theory on why WoW is so addicting is threefold. One, the escape from reality afforded by most games. Monotonous questing and killing is a great way to blow off steam and relax with some menial task, like knitting or cleaning. RPGs are good for this, and WoW does the RPG bit right, with good leveling, abilities, and talents.

Two, you can be a total noob and still make progress, especially if you’re a twink, or on a private server. (Jk.)

Three, the people make it fun. On private servers, there are not enough people to do real raids, and the guilds aren’t terribly active. On official, there is a definite community, with a working auction house that always has nice stuff, and people to raid with (not just random puggers). It is a massively multiplayer RPG for a reason, and I think this must be the main reason.

This is a game that is meant to be played with others, often because 1 character can’t do it all. You can’t tank and heal and do DPS, not and do them all well. Even my druid can’t do as much as I can with my rogue partner. By myself, I can take 1 guy at a time, but with my boyfriend on his rogue as a leveling partner, we can take 4 mobs at once.

So I have a question for any readers out there. Do you WoW? Why do you WoW? Why do you continue the meaningless quests, the mindless leveling? Is it your character, the sense of accomplishment (or Achievement whoring), the adorable Murlocs—what makes you keep coming back?

Leveling IRL


Ding! 
Ding!

I return to one of my favorite topics always on my brain: how is life like a video game? Today my topic shall be leveling up. It’s an RPG concept that is easily applied to real life experiences and events.

I think of age as like your level. At level 1, you don’t have much. You’ve got crappy starting equipment, no money, no concept of money yet. You’re still figuring out the system, how everything works. By level 5, stuff is either really easy or really hard. You’ve gotten an idea of how to do what you want. You may struggle with not having much in the way of equipment or money, which makes the little things matter that much more. There are probably more un-interactive or static cutscenes than you’d like and than you’ll probably remember later.

 In your 20’s, you look back at where you’ve come from and realize how little you’ve really accomplished in the grand scheme. You gain experience in lots of little ways, and sometimes in leaps and bounds. Nothing is quite as hard as it seems, but you don’t really realize that until something harder comes at you. At 25, you may not be sure yet who will be permanent party members or who will just be cameo characters. The plot is still kind of a mystery.

I’ll have to reserve my judgment on the next levels until I reach them myself, but based on this game logic your middle age levels have some pros and cons. You’ve finally made some money and traveled a bit. You may have some nice transportation (like a 1972 Mercedes Airship in metallic mint green) and a fully furnished house (somewhere to keep all that loot with easy access to merchants). But whether you’re living in Tenpenny Towers or the shack in the Imperial City, it doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be facing tougher challenges than when you were lower level. More boss fights (that may, for example, kill you and cause you to restart) and more minions to deal with (middle management-types have a 50% weakness to fire), but more experience with your chosen profession/class and more .

 The plot may be thickening, with family or work, or it may be dragging on as the game gives you a chance to catch up on some exploration and leveling. You may have invested energy in leveling characters who leave halfway through the game for some ill-defined reason. You’ll probably never reach level 100 unless you power level, which isn’t really much fun all the time. Some people obsess over it (see healthy foods, exercise, or good genes/character class). And no one really knows when they’ll finish the game. It may be after power training all your Pokemon to level 75 to beat the Elite Four. You may have an idea based on the plot and other cues that the final boss fight is coming, and the game will end soon. Or the game may never really end; like so many plotlines in life, you may keep going back to them even after you think they’re done.

 I realize there are a few problems with this extended metaphor. There are many guides to life, but no one’s quite gotten them right yet, no matter what they claim. The Konami Code will not help you; you can’t really cheat to get ahead, beyond a basic gold glitch or item dupe. Spoilers are actually a good thing; if you have an idea of what’s coming based on others’ experiences, you have a better chance at surviving. You don’t really have as much control over party members’ actions as you might like. And, finally, sometimes level doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you get pwned by a boss half your level, or get lucky and beat one twice yours. Sometimes you need to rely on your Luck, or Personality, or Defense, to get you through. And at the end of the day, you never really know which level up will be your last, so you should try to enjoy every single level. Ding!

Retail is just a dirty name for Public Relations


I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy dealing with my job, which is… unexpected in many ways. Retail is something I’ve now become initiated into. But with every job, no matter what it is, there is always something you can gain from it.

I’ve learned that I can’t stand standing up all day. I like multitasking, and being able to focus on multiple things at a time. I can deal with children if I put in effort, which is good if I ever want to teach. I’ve been thinking about teaching English in a Japanese conversation school (eikawa), and I might be able to handle it. I never thought I would be able to do that.

The things that brighten my day are animals, talking to people with common interests, and the feeling I’m doing something productive or useful. When a customer comes in with a dog on a leash, I can’t tear my eyes away from their cute little puppy, and I’m not even that much of a dog person. I like my co-workers; they make it easier to work with all kinds of tourists while we talk about video games or alternative energy. And just having a job is better than being unemployed, because you have something to fill your hours and maybe stick on a resume at the very least.

I’m not sure if I could do public relations work in the future, but certain things about retail seem similar. You have to sell yourself, and present a different person to everyone, yet still maintain the same core being, with a certain set of values, work ethic, and attitudes. People are customers one minute and individuals the next, depending on what angle you’re aiming for. You have to learn how to sell some things you might not really believe in, but find some way to be okay with that. And sometimes you’ll get backed into a corner by something you’ve said or something they want and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I supposed I’ve leveled up my Personality and Speechcraft, plus my Strength and Intelligence a bit. Random things change you in life, and I need those interpersonal communication skills in any job. My next project is working on those writing skills. (Would writing be the equivalent of Alteration? Conjuration? Yeah, I’ve got Oblivion on the brain). Blogging is fine, it shows diversity on a resume, but choosing a specialty, like fiction, journalism, or video game scripts, may be more productive in the long run. Perhaps I can use blogging to my advantage and use this blog to brainstorm for a new writing project. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Underlooked Games: Party RPG Dokapon Kingdom


A thief prepares to take out a town's boss.

Dokapon Kingdom: Party-RPG-Board game all in one

An awesome game you never knew you needed.

The Dokapon Kingdom box says of itself “the friendship destroying game,” a “party game,” and “Win: this game is full of it.” It’s a multiplayer-board game-RPG for the Wii and PlayStation 2 where you roll a dice to move your character around the board, fighting monsters, leveling up, collecting treasure, freeing cities, and battling your friends in the race to win a kingdom. You can play with up to four people using only one controller.

There are 3 initial character classes: mage, warrior, and thief, but as you level and get proficient in your class, you can class change into some neat hybrid classes like cleric (my personal favorite). Your character fights monsters and gains experience to level up and items to recover, pump up stats, or play nasty tricks on opponents, like curse them and steal money/items. You can even fight each other.

Battle is kind of like rock paper scissors. You have to figure out what your enemy will do and react accordingly. You take turns on offense and defense, so it’s definitely turn-based. On the offense, you can Attack, Strike, Give Up, or use a special attack, like Fireball, Steal, or Heal. Each choice on offense and defense will show you the result; if you Attack and your opponent Counters, you usually do a good deal of damage, but if you Strike and he Counters, he may defeat you in one hit.

On the defense, if you think a beast will Attack, you choose Defend. If you think a mage will use a magic attack, you choose your magic defense. Or you can Counter to deal 200% damage back against a powerful Strike. If you choose wrong, you risk leaving yourself open to an attack you can’t defend against. If you choose right, you can finish off your enemy in one round. If your character dies, you have to wait a few turns, then you start back at the castle.

Around the board, you have several kinds of squares. Shops where you can buy items, weapons, and spells, monster spaces, loot spaces, and the most important, towns and castles. At these, boss monsters (whose stats you can see) have taken over the towns, so you have to defeat them to claim your town. They are spots to rest and heal at, plus you can invest in them and collect taxes and items, or even take over someone else’s town.

It’s really addictive, and there aren’t many games like this (Itadaki Street is the closest thing I know of, and that wasn’t released in the U.S., which is a grand oversight in my book). It’s cutesy and fun, with boatloads of replay value and tons of ways to play. It’s as deep as an RPG and as fun as a party game, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a different gaming experience.

Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade

New Game


It takes some confidence to come public with a blog. I found a little electric courage, if you will. In general, the more I know about a topic, the more confident I feel about it. Studying abroad, for example. The amount of research I did drove my friends crazy; it was an almost compulsive thing, to cram as much knowledge into my tiny American brain as I could before I left. But I did it so I knew what I was flying into when I landed in Japan, and so I felt like I could handle what was coming.

On the other hand, before my gum surgery, the more I read about it online, the more I freaked myself out about it. Part of that was the sheer volume of horror stories available, as opposed to the amount of useful, more balanced info (thanks, interwebs). In both cases, actually gritting my teeth (so to speak) and taking the plunge was the biggest step, but it was one I couldn’t have taken without feeling a little weight of virtual experience under my belt.

That’s why I decided not to wait anymore to start writing. The more I blog, the more I’ll gain experience, and the more confident I’ll feel. I’ve done my research enough to feel like I can figure out the rest from here. To put it in video game terms (this is the first of many times), I’ll be leveling up my communications and writing skills, which I suppose falls under the Charisma and Intelligence categories.

So here’s to my online debut under my real name and not any stage name (the internet is a kind of play, after all, both the kind with actors and the kind with avatars).