Thursday, April 30, 2015

In Memoriam

Transgender game developer Rachel Bryk committed suicide the other day after a steady stream of online harassment.

I wish I could write something uplifting about this, but I can't. Not after what happened to Leela Alcorn locally.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Explain to me again how watching sports gets you fitter

The broadcast of Heroes of the Dorm on ESPN2 has been generating a bit of controversy.

You'd think that eSports wouldn't generate that much heat, given that the finals were at 9:30 on a Sunday night on ESPN2. Most NBA games were over for the day --Sunday games tend to be shown earlier in the day than on Saturday-- and MLB was on regular ESPN. Without college basketball and the NBA regular season, there's a whole lot of "not much" on Sunday nights on ESPN2.*

But of course, some people had to bitch.

You don't have to watch to get the gist of it. ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd doesn't like eSports, and he wants you to know that ESPN made a mistake (saying it mildly) by putting Heroes of the Dorm on ESPN2.  Sportsgrid and The Mary Sue both have their own take on Cowherd's rant, but both boil down to the same thing: ESPN also broadcasts the National Spelling Bee, poker games, and eating contests, so saying eSports have no place on ESPN is pretty silly.

Now, the question about whether eSports are "real sports" is quite another thing.

There are games that qualify as sports that make me raise my eyebrows. Bowling, for starters. Golf, for another.** While both are competitive, you don't see people get fit playing either sport. You could make an argument about golf, but the way most people play the game now (using carts) any fitness gained from walking 18 holes has pretty much evaporated.

And auto racing.... Let's not go there.

George Carlin's 1986 clip on sports.
I don't think I need to tell you that he's a bit profane,
and that he says a few things that are more offensive now than
back then.

All of the so-called sports I listed above are tests of skill, but they won't get you fit.

My personal definition of something that is a sport is that it is an athletic physical activity/game that will provide good exercise. Handball, tennis, running, and basketball are all sports. Golf, auto racing, bowling are not.

eSports are not sports by my definition.

That said, eSports are definitely tests of physical skill, just not enough to give you a good workout. If that were the case, my "work" of sitting around and typing at the keyboard all day would qualify as "exercise".*** eSports fall under those other so-called sports (golf, etc.) in that they are all tests of physical skill, but eSports also veer into mental skill territory found with other games (spelling bee, chess, poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc.) that have big championships.

eSports are at that intersection between physical and mental skill that, for some reason, make some people uneasy. Probably because they remember goofing around playing video games and saying "Wouldn't it be cool if you could make money PLAYING these things?" But the reality is, this sort of level of competition turns the game itself into work. LoL teams like Fnatic pretty much work at the game all day, almost every day, and the level of skill involved almost guarantees both burnout and a drop in skill level once pro eSports players hit their mid-late 20s. If you thought the burnout level at the progression raiding guilds was high, you ain't seen nothing yet.


Playing a game (or a sport) isn't the same as watching it.

When you hear people gripe about eSports not belonging on ESPN  because "they're not real sports", my initial response is "What does it matter to you?" After all, does watching basketball make me fit?

Hell no.

It's just people's biases kicking in, and they don't like the fact that video games require a skill that they (likely) don't have. If Colin Cowherd was good enough at LoL, do you think that he'd turn down a boatload of cash to play the game in a pro league?

Again, hell no.

Would ESPN be silly to turn down a chance to get in on the ground floor of something that could become a huge entertainment franchise?

Hell yes.

I'm not a big fan of ESPN, but they've got the right of it this time.

*NHL Hockey is on NBC and NBCSN, the NFL (in the fall) has Sunday night games on NBC, and the European soccer/football league games are long over by the time US prime time rolls around.

**For the record: my grandparents were avid bowlers and loved-loved-loved watching PBA King of Bowling on television back in the 70s/80s/90s; my father is a true golf nut to the point where he used to hit the links with snow on the ground if the weather was warm enough. I grew up watching him putt on the family room in the evenings.

***On second thought, I'd rather not give somebody the idea that maybe I could get exercise by coding. That's kind of a depressing concept.

EtA: Clarified that my dad used to play golf while snow was on the ground.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hello, Old Friend

For some reason, I only have altoholic tendencies on SWTOR.

I couldn't explain why, because outside of the class stories there's no real difference in wanting to create multiple alts on SWTOR versus any other MMO. When I played WoW I played a toon on each faction for a while in Cata, but in general I kept to a single specific toon each expac. I never considered that a true alt, as I simply switched my main to a brand new toon with a different class.

On other MMOs, I haven't created more than one or two toons total.

But with SWTOR I've created somewhere around 14 toons, and 7 of them are at least L50.*

Maybe it's just an extension of what I do with WoW, but compressed into an L1-L50 story. And with WoW, of course, you had only two main story arcs --one for each faction-- with the occasional class story thrown in for good measure. Since SWTOR doesn't have major expacs the same size as WoW's (or LOTRO's for that matter), I can't use the "2 Year Plan" as a cutoff to trying out a new toon. Viewed from that perspective, reaching the end of the original class story and starting up a new toon makes a bit of sense.


In much the same way that I found the pre-Cata Vanilla and BC areas of WoW fascinating, I really enjoy poking around the L1-L50 areas in SWTOR. It's not limited to trying out the different class stories, as I've created at least three smugglers and three counselors. Sure, the light/dark/neutral choices when interacting with a quest giver give the game a bit of replayability, but I'm kind of (in)famous for playing more as myself instead of trying different options for curiosity's sake.

Even as a 'nice person' Sith?  Yep.

Andronikos was just off screen. He was busy saying
something about how he didn't want to go into slaving
as he'd learned from watching me that some slaves are mean...

I've not played Sreeka in, well, ages. I logged in with her briefly to acquire the initial quest for the Forged Alliances story, but as I was busy with my Bounty Hunter at the time I never did anything more. Before that, hmm.... That would have been at least a year ago, when I finished up the Makeb story back in January 2014 and worked my way through the Dread Masters questline shortly after.

She's still a loyal member of the Empire and technically in an alliance with Darth Marr, but she still forges her own (light side) path.

But boy, have her abilities been tweaked.

I had to essentially rebuild my UI from scratch and relearn how to play the proverbial glass cannon, all within the scope of the Forged Alliances solo flashpoints. Well, I'd completely forgotten about some little things --like Static Barrier-- until several hours in, but I only died once.  (I think.)**

It was good to see Sreeka in action again. And her voice, that dark, throaty, sultry voice that promised both electrocution and entertainment and arrogance in one fell swoop... I'd missed that.

Xanthe Elbrick does a great job as
the voice actor for the female Sith Inquisitor

Welcome back, Dark Lord.

*There are two Smugglers who have completed the original class story, but the others are separate classes. I haven't completed the Knight or the Agent, either.

**For a DPS Sorcerer, Static Barrier is more than "just" a little thing; it can often be the difference between life and death. I was reminded of that once I reached Rishi.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Did You Expect Anything Else?

If you're one of the few people on the planet who haven't seen the new Star Wars trailer (released today), here you go:

Oh, and did you catch that Sith's mask? Looks an awful like a certain (ex) Sith Lord:


Before you jump to conclusions, no I don't think it's Revan, but boy is the mask similar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I've noticed a very odd trend on my stats the past few weeks, and it's the sudden spike in Russian websites visiting the blog.

At first I saw the increased traffic and thought that I must have been added to a widely read blogger's lists, but then I saw where they were coming from: tons of *.ru and [random miscellaneous letters].com sites.


Well, that was deflating.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Not Your Typical ESPN Fare

I'll come right out and admit it, I'm a college basketball junkie.

If there's a game on --men's or women's-- I'll likely be watching the game (or at least be familiar with it).*

I've also developed a minor addiction to Barclay's Premier League football (thanks to NBC Sports Network) and NCAA Women's softball, which means that I frequently scour the NCAA games on ESPN3 for something to have on in the background while I'm doing housework on the weekend.**

Well, there is a new thing available on ESPN3 that has gotten some writeups the past month or so but I've managed to avoid: Heroes of the Dorm, a college oriented Tourney for Heroes of the Storm.

ESPN likely looked at the number of people who a) pay money to watch streaming of BlizzCon online (or via DirecTV) and b) the exploding interest in eSports  (see their broadcasts of the League of Legends World Championships) and decided to throw some money Blizzard's way to get a HotS tourney going for broadcast.

Unlike a lot of the other ESPN sports, this one has the feel of a brand new broadcast searching for it's groove. If you want an apt sports broadcast comparison, I'd say it's similar to the FOX Sports One's Big East broadcasts, where the quality on the court is much better than the quality in the booth and in the TV trucks.***

Still, even though you have to have a cable/satellite subscription (or your ISP has an agreement to carry it) to watch Heroes of the Dorm, I'm sure that this is a win-win for both parties. ESPN locks up more of the eSports market, and Blizzard gets a partner that will (eventually) push a high level of professionalism and promotion into the eSports environment. For people like me who have little interest in eSports, ESPN provides legitimacy that you wouldn't have found elsewhere.

That legitimacy will inevitably cause a backlash from the "real sports" crowd. Even though these games are on ESPN3 or WatchESPN, I'm sure there will be gripes and jokes about how the nerdy "non-sports" masquerading as "real sports" are taking away from the "real sports" on television.

In a bizarro-world sense, it's the Jocks vs. the Geeks all over again, but this time for television viewing ratings.

Does the NCAA Basketball Tourney have to worry about ratings competition from eSports? Not likely, but what is likely is a resistance to an expansion of what exactly "sports" is. Never mind that Texas Hold 'em poker tournaments have been broadcast on ESPN for over a decade, that's a MAN'S game. Not these sissy eSports that nerdy guys in their basement play.

As for me, I'm not likely to watch the games --I'd rather play an MMO or MOBA myself rather than watch someone else play-- but I think this entire debate is silly. If you want to watch someone play eSports, more power to you. If ESPN wants to get in on the ground level with Blizzard for this HotS Tourney, great.**** There's plenty of bandwidth for everyone, so why bitch?

*Want to hear someone complain about how UCLA should never have been given an invite to the NCAA Tourney? I'm your guy. As soon as Baylor lost in the Second Round, I called my dad --an avid Xavier fan-- and told him that X is about to advance right through to the Sweet Sixteen. The one team in the Rounds of 64 and 32 that could beat X just got upset by Georgia State, and X would have an easy time of it until they'd run into the Arizona buzzsaw.

**It's kind of hard to play an MMO while doing housework; not to say that I haven't tried, just not had much success doing both that and getting cleaning done.

***For the record, I'm not a Big East fan. I'll watch the games --mainly to root against Xavier, I'm a Dayton fan-- but outside of when Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson are in the booth the other broadcast teams just aren't at the level of quality that you'd expect in an ESPN or even a CBS broadcast. Some of it is also due to FOX constantly insisting on being ultra "hip" and "edgy", when neither is necessary for broadcasting or reporting on games.

****I'm sure that ESPN will really amp up their League of Legends coverage this fall, based on their experience with both the Heroes of the Dorm tourney and last year's LoL World Championships. If nothing else, ESPN is a master at promotion.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Overheard This Evening

The mini-Reds are busy:

"I've got a shield! Come at me, bro!"

"I'm out!"

"I'm out too!"

"Okay, I've got this!"

"Did you get the shot?"

"Yeah, I got the shot in!"

"Yeah! We took him out!"

For the record, the first line was said by mini-Red #3. Were it not for her quip, I'd probably have not posted this. And yes, I'm biting back my laughter.