Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waiting for the Ball to Drop

By many standards, it has been an eventful year in my house:

  • The oldest Mini-Red is now able to legally drive and has begun receiving college literature.
  • The youngest Mini-Red has left elementary school behind for middle school.
  • The Mini-Red in the middle* reached the state finals of the National Geographic Bee.

And oh yeah, there were some games played, too.

When the year began, I had two main games --WoW and SWTOR-- and a couple of smaller games that I played in Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Age of Conan. I was content to get my regular fix of Alterac Valley, and when the PvP Seasons would restart I'd play the other BGs before the arena players got too far ahead of the rest of the more relaxed (if there is such a thing) BG crowd. I'd only finished two class stories on SWTOR, and I really enjoyed the questing and flashpoints.

In a sense, my original WoW habit had broken into two games because of my dissatisfaction with the 5-mans and the dysfunctional questing progression in Cataclysm.

Mists was an okay expansion and better than the incomplete Cataclysm, but the emphasis on Dailies, Pet Battles, LFR, and Scenarios meant that the parts of the game that I liked best (BGs and 5-mans) got the short shrift.

The Mini-Reds started the year playing LOTRO with occasional forays into SWTOR. Blizzard's subscription design kept them out of WoW --I wasn't planning on forking over around $45/month just for them to play an hour or so a day (each) in Azeroth-- and given the toxic nature of some parts of WoW I wasn't planning on letting them play there anyway. When I get a crude come-on in the middle of Isle of Conquest, you know there's just enough creeps out there to not make it worth the risk.


What surprised me the most about 2014 was how some issues that had been lurking just under the surface finally exploded.

If you'd have asked me about the most problematic aspect of Gamer Culture in January of 2014, I'd have mentioned the crossover area into Hentai and the seedy underbelly of child porn that thrives there. People like DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, while not gamers themselves, have spread a taint over all of Geek Culture that isn't easily removed.

So what happened in 2014? Oh, not much, only an explosion in how women are treated in the gaming world.

You know, Gamergate. Among other things.

The fallout from Gamergate will take some years to completely process. While the Gamergaters themselves are a distinct minority, they have tainted an entire industry with their nearly insane zeal to protect their Boys' Club from 'the wimminz'. The hatred and bile that the Gamergaters spewed across the internet became an eerie echo to what happened when the anti-suffrage movement took on the Suffragettes.  Spinks has referenced this quote attributed to Rebecca West, but it still resonates with me: "Women, listening to anti-suffrage speeches, for the first time knew what many men really thought of them."

In the end, the Gamergate campaign has not achieved any of their goals --if you believe the goals they lived by as opposed to the often mocked goal of "ethics in gaming journalism"-- and if anything it has hardened the resolve of people to be more inclusive.


Other things happened in 2014, of course.

In our household, the biggest surprise was the rise of Marvel Heroes 2015.

It's no surprise that in a household of three Marvel fans that the F2P MMO-ish game Marvel Heroes** caught on. It's Diablo meets Marvel, without all of the messiness of who owns what property in movie studios. Apparently when Marvel Heroes launched, it was a bit of a dud, but over the past year plus it has really come along (as in fixed bugs and issues with gameplay) and gained a pretty decent following.

The first boss you meet. Oh hey, Black Cat. Wasn't expecting
you at a bank robbery. Not. At. All. (from Marvel Heroes Forums)

The gameplay is fast, the cutscenes are fantastic comic book drawings, and being able to see Storm in the same cutscene as Luke Cage and Spidey is just icing on the cake.

Oh, and the music is pretty good too:

(Alas, I couldn't find a link to the 6+ minutes worth of credits.)

Oh yeah, and the Mini-Reds started their own kinship in LOTRO, and it seems to be going well for them. They're now excited enough about the four person requirement for a guild in SWTOR that we're going to get one going on one of the NA servers (I get to be the Guild Master of the group).


As for me, my growing frustration in BGs has been well documented, and it eventually drove me away from WoW. Considering how much I'd stuck through on the game up until that point, it's a bit of a surprise that BGs were the breaking point, but really that's all I'd been doing in WoW by then.

What I find ironic is that I've been poking around the crew portion of Star Trek Online a lot recently, and everything I read about Garrisons sounds exactly like the missions and other things you can have your crew do as a mini-game in STO. People are comparing Garrisons to SWTOR's and Wildstar's housing, but they should really be comparing it to STO instead.


I guess you could say that I was eventually going to give up on WoW, but I certainly didn't expect to pick up Guild Wars 2 as a replacement.

Unlike WoW's movement toward solo play, GW2 continues to buck the trend and emphasize the social aspect of MMOs, and they do it organically through the regional events that people come out of the woodwork to do.

It's not a perfect fit for me, but then again I don't think any of the current crop of MMOs are.***


As the year ends, I have to admit there was a lot of shakeup in household's gaming. A long time stalwart has been removed and replaced with something I'd tried out a year ago but passed on. One game came from out of nowhere to take the Mini-Reds by storm (or is that Storm?), but they held onto their long time favorites.

And after a year of turmoil, maybe we as a gamer community can finally start to move forward constructively.

What does 2015 hold? I have absolutely no idea. About the only thing I can say is that the only constant is change. (Except for Blizzard creating a controversy by creating a "Doh!" moment; they seem to do those on average of once a year.)

I hope you haven't overindulged tonight; there's games to be played tomorrow!

*Note to self, contact FOX about a reboot of Malcolm in the Middle.

**I'll drop the "2015", even though it's implied.

***If I had to guess at a perfect game for me, it's Civ IV.


  1. Is the SWTOR guild going to be called "The Mini-Reds", filled with characters that all have red hair? ;)

    1. I don't think we're going in that direction, although my original Gunslinger and my Agent both have red hair. ;-)