Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nobody Does It Better...

You know... 2011 has been a  good year for gaming. Now, on the last day of the year, I can look back in all honesty and say truly- YES... It was an awesome year for gaming! Consider that I started the year playing Rift beta, and wound my way through Eve Online, Age Of Conan, Sims 3, World Of Tanks, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Second Life, Forsaken World, and of course... Guild Wars, only to find myself leaving one galaxy far far away and joining the same... 3000 years earlier (RIP SWG, Hello SWTOR). How about that, I even managed to time travel, to boot. Doc Brown would be proud of me. Along the way, I managed to end my 2 year unemployment stint; was able to get into an awesome rock band by the name of Death Of Adonis; and even have my daughter- "Lolo" up here for the holidays... The last one being significant, since it has been several YEARS since we spent the holidays together. Last but most certainly not least... I have a new roommate named Luna- a gorgeous grey kitten, gifted to me by my awesome coworker, Jaclyn.

I was going to use this last blog of the year to recap all the fun events, and the not so fun ones of 2011, but after further review... You really do not want to read about that anyway. If you have been keeping track, you already know what life was like this year. So instead, I want to talk a bit more about the surprising level of FUN I have been having in the last month of Star Wars- The Old Republic, as the Imperial Operative- Belenos.

The name's Geode... Belenos Geode. I have enough swagger as James Bond, with the skills of a master hacker, and the medical know how of Bones McCoy... Not to mention they gave me a kickass British accent! You can find me on the RP-PVE (roleplaying- player vs environment) server known as Lord Adraas. I was lucky enough to get into early access and had 5 days of playing before the mad throng burst through the SWTOR gates... So I started my life on Hutta, deep undercover as a criminal known as the Red Blade.

My boss- a brilliant strategist codenamed- Keeper, sent me here to see if I could garner the support of the major Hutt cartel, for the Empire. The task seemed easy enough... Do what Nem'ro The Hutt and his lackeys tell me to do... gain their trust, then take it from there.

As expected, Nem'ro is a slimy piece of worm ridden filth... Aren't they all though. I managed to get into the good graces of one of his lieutenants- a stocky, black man by the name of Karrels. With my charm, and skills I was able to get him to see things my way, without having to disintegrate him. In due time, Nem'ro himself respected the Red Blade.

I got free run of the palace, and was able to take in the many sights of the place... Let me tell you, for a backwater, poisoned world, there are indeed some sights worth seeing. Turns out I was not the only one keeping an eye out. From the shadows, there was another player in the spy game... an assassin known as Kaliyo. Not quite sure what to make of her, I regarded her cautiously, till she figured out that working for me was going to be more lucrative, not to mention FUN.

Ok, I think I can get into the Sinead O'Connor look... as long as she can handle herself with a blaster. More importantly, Keeper taught me never to waste a valuable resource. If Kaliyo was willing to tag along while I get my mission done, then the more the merrier.

As it would turn out, she became a great asset to have on the battlefield. While I generally prefer to work alone, I have to admit, having the Ratataki by my side makes fights go a lot smoother. Besides... she has a sick sense of humor that I find highly attractive, even if she does repulse my advances.

Belenos and Kaliyo... almost like the high tech version of Bonnie and Clyde... tearing through Hutta like it was made out of rat poison filled cheese. I do have to say that she knows how to handle herself, and has even been willing to sacrifice herself in the pursuit of a target. Luckily for her, I know how to cheat people of death... as well as hasten them to it.

In short order we found ourselves tackling a rival Hutt gang, to aid in Nem'ro's supremacy of his home world, and along the way, picked up some baubles for our trouble... For example, this shining gem is called a datacron (each starting world has 3, the rest have 5 or more). When touched it grants the user a permanent attribute increase, which comes in really handy for gaining an edge on the competition.

I can assure you, as an undercover agent... there is ALWAYS competition... In any event, having satisfied my mission parameters, and having made Keeper a happy man for it, it was time to get off Hutta to more palatable climes.

Only one thing stood in our way, as we were to get off world... Unbeknownst to us, the REAL Red Blade apparently heard of my endeavors in his place, and decided to come to Hutta to investigate.

He was not a happy camper by the time I explained to him that his services and presence were no longer needed. I did thank him for the alias though... It was fun.

Once that matter had been... dealt with... It was onto the shuttle and off the smelly world of the Hutts, to rendezvous at the Imperial Fleet- my home away from home.

I took the time to get to know my companion a little better... all the while still amazed at her resolve. Every pick up line I used failed in a major way! I was beginning to think perhaps I lost my legendary charm!

By the time we landed on Drumond Kaas- Imperial capital world, I had put the issue in the back of my mind, in favor of getting to the task at hand... a meeting with Keeper to discuss my next assignment.

Ahh Kaas City- there has never been a more gloomy looking capital city. Always raining, always dark, and full of more intrigue in one sector than in most of the galaxy, save the senate tower on Coruscant. To make a long story short, I was sent on some errands for a Darth Jadus, as well as Keeper, and by the time I got back, I found out that some heavy duty terrorists had succeeded in blowing up Darth Jadus' personal ship- with HIM on it... as well as a thousand civilians. Keeper was livid, to say the least.

More undercover work... Find out who is responsible... follow the leads and uncover the masterminds behind this plot. Standard fare Imperial agent work, to be sure...

But who says the job has no perks? Gathering intel can be a rather lengthy and draining process after all. At least I have not truly lost my charm, even if my choice in women can be limited at times. Speaking of women, after my brief tryst with this daughter of a suspect, I also turned my eye to my coworker- Watcher 2. A tough nut to crack, I put that bug in her ear that she is more than just a pretty voice on the comm, and went about my business.

One such mission involved me retrieving an ancient mask of Darth Revan, thereby securing my initiation into the Cult of Revan. Once that was secure, I betrayed them and walked away from the fallout and purges that occurred. Silly cultists...

I also had the dubious good fortune of travelling to the Dark Temple, to solve some pressing matters that concerned the Sith council. How I managed to make it out of that spooky place with my mind intact is beyond me.

By the time I returned to Kaas City, a plan was being formulated to locate and eliminate the Terror network run by a shadowy man called "The Eagle". There was just one more thing I NEEDED to do before leaving Drumond Kaas...

Seduce Watcher 2. Let's just say, mission accomplished. (wink wink). As part of my bonus for my work with Intelligence, I was granted clearance to fly one of the new X-70 starships.

To call it a luxury yacht is a mere understatement. This slice of paradise is more than just a fancy place to call home, but a mobile assault platform, complete with its own (annoying) servant droid! In short, this ship is the perfect thing to run around the galaxy in!

Of course, I had to take it for a test drive...

Not too shabby... a brand new ship, a new codename of Cipher 9, spiffy new uniform, got laid TWICE on the Imperial capital, though I still have not gotten into my companion's pants... yet. Not bad at all... and all this before level 20!

We shall stop our story here, in the interest of length, but I do promise a LOT more to come in the new year, and possibly a spinoff blog, to go more in depth into the story of Belenos the Imperial Agent. For now, I hope you have all enjoyed the story, as well as enjoyed the many blessings of 2011.

Happy New Year to all! See you in 2012 and may the force be with you!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Many Turkeys Died To Bring Us This Information...

"We thank you, oh lady of the harvest... For the bounteous gifts you have bestowed on us this year... And bless this food and drink into our bodies; bestowing health, wealth, wisdom, and love!"

The above words were written by me, when I used to have my band- Dionysos, in Florida (circa 1997). They belong to a song entitled "Harvest Home", which is about the Pagan thanksgiving. It happens to fall on the autumn equinox (really close to Canadian Thanksgiving). I feel the words are also appropriate today- November 24, 2011... American Thanksgiving.

I have a LOT to be thankful for this year, and I scarcely know where to begin. I suppose first and foremost, I should be thankful I am still alive... I just turned 41 on November 18th, and after an epic weekend of partying and gigging, I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. My birthday has always been a time for grand celebration for me, and it feels like the older I get, the more impressive it gets. This past weekend for me, culminated in my new band- Death Of Adonis playing our first official gig with this lineup, in Pittsburgh, PA. You want to talk about a great birthday gift? That was it right there. It feels good to be back on stage after a 5+ year hiatus!!! I have to thank my awesome band mates for making that a reality.

L-R: Frank (guitars), Drew (drums), Dennis (vocals), and myself... Drew (bass)

This year has found me meeting a lot of new friends online. This actually started last year when I was in the Rift beta, and I seem to have gained quite a few folks whom I both respect and enjoy "stalking" online. To name a few; Jasmine, Gary Gannon, MikeB, and Lore at Gamebreaker tv, as well as their host of awesome moderators...  My old Rift beta friends- Misty, Ciovala, Laughter, Danny and Di, Elisan, Aki, Marilith, and of course my guild leader Charles... Rubi; who got me into Guild Wars, Elixabeth and Izzie; who got me to WRITE about Guild Wars 2, DistilledWill, and my fellow krewe at As well as many other random people like Toria, Nixie, Mintchip, Sake, Pokket, et al... Not to mention Playboy Playmate of the Year 1988- India Allen, who is still following little old me on twitter. It does not get much better than that.

Online friends to me are just as valid as friends you see every day physically, and I am grateful to know all of the above, and more. There are so many more people I could mention, but you do not want to read a list of names.

I DO want to call out some massive thank yous to the folks at Force Junkies; with whom I recently signed on to write for. With SWTOR almost ready to be let out of the gate, you can expect some really good things out of that camp in the coming months. I am sworn to secrecy, but trust me when I tell you... IT WILL BE GOOD! So between what is shaping up here with Force Junkies, and of course my ongoing work with TalkTyria; in reference to Guild Wars 2, I am pretty sure 2012 is going to be a great year for gaming, let alone gaming coverage!

Ahh Coruscant, how I have missed thee.

Speaking of SWTOR... Unless you have been living under a rock the last two weeks, news should have already hit you that the NDA (non disclosure agreement) has been officially lifted by Bioware! This welcome bit of news means that just about everyone and their brother can NOW talk about SWTOR in all its glory and yes even residual bugs (it is still in beta after all). I have been no exception to this. I was in the 11/11/11 weekend beta, and will be logging in again tomorrow 11/25 for this massive weekend test coming up. To psyche myself out for this weekend, I have been watching streams online provided by Laughter, Jasmine, Sake, and Pokket. The links you will find below will take you to the aforementioned broadcasters, all of whom have general beta access, and are happy to show you the ins and outs of gameplay in that galaxy far, far away. I am extremely thankful to these folks for helping me get my Star Wars fix as I wait to get back into the beta test.

Laughter (Force Junkies)-
Jasmine aka IRLJasmine-
Sake (Red Rancor)-

Everyone has their own times for their shows, so be sure to follow them, and you will get updated via email as to when they broadcast. Tell them Belenos Stardust sent you.

You can also look for this guy right here, and his buddy below tomorrow, as these are my main characters that I have been working on.

I can tell you that so far I have been pleasantly surprised by SWTOR. I was originally on the fence about it, being a 8 year veteran of SWG (translation- disgruntled vet)... But as I made my way into the beta test, and created a Trooper character, I have to admit that the story impressed me greatly, and it did not take me long to find myself WANTING to play more, to see more, to DO more! As I stated bugs still exist, and you can tell there are areas where Bioware could add some more polish, or down the road rethinking of how xyz aspect functions, but overall, the game has impressed me enough to preorder the digital download of it.

Two more words for you- HUTT BALL... You HAVE to try it!

What is this I don't even...

Lest you think I have suddenly forgotten all about Guild Wars 2... I have been incredibly impressed with ArenaNet for the more constant stream of information of late. They have been working hard to get the game ready for closed beta (promised to us before 2011 ends), and the info I have seen coming out on their blog, as well as fan made videos, and of course guildwars2guru forums, has me still VERY MUCH interested in my future "life" on Tyria. ArenaNet has made leaps and bounds on such aspects as character creation, and cutscenes, and whether you choose to compare them to Bioware or not, it cannot be denied that Guild Wars 2 is still a strong contender... a tiger waiting to be let out the box! I thank you ArenaNet for reeling me in hook, line, and sinker... and I am even more thankful that as I pay for my SWTOR subscription, I will NEVER have to pay for a Guild Wars 2 subscription. That is a win I can live with.

In closing, I want to save my most special thanks to my family. Many of you do not know that two years ago I had lost my job... It took about two years to the day for me to get a new one; one that I am very happy with. During that time, my mother and my brother decided to move up to Pittsburgh, PA, from Fort Lauderdale, FL to help make ends meet. To say I do not know how I would have survived without them is an UNDERSTATEMENT! I am extremely grateful for their presence here, and every day I am reminded that family does in fact come first. As you carve up your turkey, twitching nervously because you cannot wait to get back into your game of choice, try to remember to look around at the people you are sharing this moment with... and be thankful that they chose to share it with YOU!

Many Bothans turkeys died to bring you this day... be sure to thank THEM too!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and see some of you in SWTOR beta tomorrow!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Death Comes To Those Who Wait...

We've all lost people in our lives who have touched us at some point... right?

Family members, significant others, perhaps even children... sometimes all of the above. I am finding that the longer I live, the more aware I am becoming of my own mortality, and what it means not only to myself, but to those around me whom I call friends and family. Yet even with this sobering reminder, on this day of Samhain (that's Halloween to you modern folk), I cannot help but think that, perhaps like in the games I play... Maybe death is NOT the end?

Back in my death metal vocalist days, affectionately known as "The Drewcifer Era", I used to have this ritual at every show of screaming the words "Death comes to those who wait"! It became a tag line of sorts, as if the sight of a black death metal vocalist with a long goatee and LaVey-esque bald head was not disturbing enough. Back then it was mostly done for shock value... and boy did that ever shock people. As I grew older and started getting into video games, I started to gain a new value to death... since in games, death is hardly the end.

The first time I died in an MMORPG, was of course, in Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). I was about level 5ish (there were no real levels back then), and running around Theed, on Naboo, doing delivery boy missions. Yes, you heard right...  I was a "Fedexer" in that galaxy far far away. I am not quite sure what got into me, but I decided I did not want to wade through a gaggle of gnorts (little pseudo bunny/armadillo looking things), so instead I started pew pewing them with my little CDEF pistol. Unfortunately I missed the part in the game manual that stated that some animals have herd mentalities, and in short order I found myself dead, by bunnies.

2 hours into Star Wars Galaxies... GO ME!

It was embarrassing to say the least.

Since that first "death experience", I have died many many more times in that particular game, and of course in the many others I have played, right up to Guild Wars (GW); my current poison of choice. Now, with GW, I have the pleasure of not only killing myself, but all my other alts as well... an epic wipe to end all wipes! I do this multiple times a night... regularly!

The common denominator with all the games I have played is, once you're face down in the dirt, your game is NOT over! You always have the option to clone, or respawn... be reborn as you were when you died, at the closest "save point". Now that is a nifty little trick that I earnestly wish real life had! Imagine how many second chances you could get with loved ones if there was that respawn button you could push to bring them back to you? Yeah, I know... wishful thinking. All the same, there is so much I could tell my grandmother, my daughter Deanna, or Heather, or even my Uncle Billy- who passed on this past August (and was the reason why my summer blogs were written in Florida, and not home in PA).

I often wonder how different games would be if as a death penalty, you simply could not go any further. That's IT... You are gone... poof... end of game, unsub, no more for you. Of course we all know that would royally suck, so let's hope no gaming companies even get that thought in their heads. Speaking of death penalties... even in the games I have evolved with, those have changed. It would appear that gone are the days of corpse running. If you have no idea what corpse running is, let me summarize:

Your character just died and is cloned. You appear in your skivvies (because well, they could not make you appear naked and keep that T rating). You now have to RUN to your corpse, wherever you left it, to loot yourself and gather the items you had on your person before you died... You know, just the basics like clothes, money, weapons, etc. An annoyance? Indubitably! It only takes a couple of times, if that much before you learn to always insure yourself. (Another lesson I have had to learn the hard way in multiple games... Thanks SWG and EVE Online... not to mention the MAIN reason why I have life insurance in real life... Just in case). I for one, am glad to see corpse running go. I am certain there may be a few out there would wish it would remain, simply for the downtime factor, but you all are on your own on this one. I won't be rallying for the comeback of the corpse run.

I KNEW I should have taken that "accidental death and dismemberment" policy.

Ok, so no more corpse run... Well there is always "cloning sickness", which takes various forms in different games. Guild Wars, I think, does it the most hardcore; making it an aggregate each time you die. You generally start off with a 15% diminishment of your attributes, and it keeps getting bigger each successive time you die, to the max of 60%. Talk about an incentive to fight smarter! If you kill bosses, or large groups, you eventually whittle this down (or if you are lucky enough to find the trinkets that can wipe out death penalties all together). If you are really frustrated, simply use your map to teleport back to a town or outpost and you will be right as rain once more. The catch being, you have to start all over with whatever you were doing that kept getting you killed... Perfect time to redo your skillbar, and reformulate a strategy.

Yes, Chicago is one of the bears... Original, I know.

Usually I see a timer on the death penalty, in most games. X amount of time where you are not quite your full capacity, which is also a good time to relax a little and take that well needed bio break. (We have to eat and use the facilities after all)

Every now and then a game comes along to challenge what we know... and this time around it appears to be Guild Wars 2. As pertains to death, ArenaNet has purported that you cannot really "die" in the game (ask them, they hate using the word). Instead, when your health bubble goes down past critical, you fall to the floor in a last ditch effort to save yourself. It's called the downed state. It essentially amounts to being mortally wounded, with the caveat that you can get back up to fighting trim if you-

A- manage to kill an enemy with the skills you are given in this downed state before you "bleed out".


B- have someone around who can resuscitate you. (All players, no matter their class can do this... from level 1)

If none of the above happen, you go into a defeated mode. This "technically" would be what we gamers call death, but even so ArenaNet prefers to describe it as simply being unconscious. You then choose a spawn point nearby and pop back up. Is it semantics? Possibly... Is it annoying, probably not as much as a corpse run, or waiting for a timer to expire on your weakened condition. You rise up no worse for wear, with no after-effects of your... "near death experience".

In essence this would mean that there is no "true" death penalty in this game... That is if I am understanding this correctly (and feel free to correct me, in the comments if I am not).

But hey, don't just take my word for it... Here is what ArenaNet has to say on THEIR website about death penalties:

"Players who have recently been downed several times will take longer to revive each time. If no one revives you, you can spend a small amount of gold to come back at a waypoint. It's as simple as that, and why not? Why should we debuff you, take away experience, or make you run around for five minutes as a ghost instead of letting you actually play the game? We couldn't think of a reason. Well, we did actually think of a reason--it just wasn't a good one. Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn't fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible. Defeat is the penalty; we don't have to penalize you a second time."

Hardcore RPG purists may have a tricky time coming to terms with this new mechanic that seems to take all the hassle out of something so bothersome as death. It's unheard of! There has to be some kind of penalty!! Well, unless I am totally off base... Nope... No penalty. They did it this way to add more fun to the game, and reduce a lot of the tedious things that turn gamers off to MMORPGs.

Of course we are all still waiting for closed beta to test that theory... Hint hint, ArenaNet.

While death still comes to those who wait, it is apparently just a passing phase anymore. It's a shame real life could not operate this way, but then... the world is overpopulated as it is. I have always felt that those who die make room for those who come after. Might seem a little odd to think about it that way, but if as a species our job is to perpetuate itself... It seems only natural to me.

I only hope that when my time comes, if there is in fact an "Other side" (I have no concrete proof yet), I sincerely hope it looks like this.

Yeah... I could live here... What dreams may come...

If it does, I won't be coming back for another run!

A very happy Samhain / Halloween to you all, and try not to eat too much candy... What are your thoughts on death, whether ingame or as touched you in real life? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I am Unique... Just like EVERYONE ELSE!

A long time ago, in a childhood far far away, I decided to beg my mother for her last $20.00 that week because something profound had occurred in my school. A couple weeks before, we had just gotten in about 4 or 5 of a brand new item known as the Apple IIe. All the nerds at the time were going gaga over this new bit of technology and the list of people signing up for "Computer Class" was long and distinguished. Thankfully, my mother decided it might be a good idea (translation: It will keep me out of trouble), and I learned how to program in BASIC.

The rest, they say, is history....

How it all began...

Since that time, my life has been changed dramatically, setting me on a path that would end up with me being a huge gamer geek, and tech guru of sorts. The by-product of this is of course, being labelled a geek or a nerd for most of my life, a moniker diluted by the "cool factor" of being a working rock musician. In essence, I have thus far lived a life that makes me unique... just like everyone else.

It's hard to say when EXACTLY I got into gaming... Perhaps it was when I first played Karateka on the Apple, or maybe it was the Pong game my dad bought for us one xmas, but one thing is clear. I have had a love affair with gaming since those mist enshrouded times in my past, and through said gaming I have learned a lot more about the human experience, albeit encased in the virtual one. Apparently we are a lot alike, us gamers. We are all at heart social beings, reaching out through this medium to form connections, even briefly to other people we have never met. We judge people based on their virtual actions (or lack thereof in some cases), and we discover a diaspora of psychological conditions in the people we choose to game with, even for a hot second.

It can be staggering at times, and I have to admit that there are often moments where in games that I play, ESPECIALLY MMORPGs, I opt to travel solo through the pixellated world... the hermit with +10 to dexterity armor. I have come to learn that for the broad cross-section of people who play games, in particular MMORPG games, we seem to fall somewhere in the three categories I am about to discuss below:

The lone wolves, the socialites, and the outcasts.

"Yeah Mom, me again... Yeah... top of the world again... Yes, I'll be careful coming down... Love you too. Bye Mom."

The Lone Wolf-

I walk alone... If you see me, it's once in a blue moon... Don't get attached, because I will be gone again really soon.

Lately I have found myself falling into this category. Perhaps it is because age and cynicism has pushed me to this point, or maybe I am just getting tired of the interaction. The irony of this is, if the latter is true... I should NOT be playing MMORPGs at all. I'd probably be better off playing single player RPGs. The reality of it is that, there are games out and games coming out now that cater to the lone wolf "crowd", allowing massive worlds for us to explore solo, and a plethora of content to rise up the levels, and experience MOST of what the game itself has to offer. This is a good thing! In my short time playing Guild Wars (since late June/early July), I have to say that I have had such a blast playing through the campaigns, and even more fun being able to group with my own alts and push the stories ever further. It may well be an altaholic's dream, as I wrote in an earlier blog! For those of us who are lone wolves, we KNOW there are many others in the world, but we often choose to distance ourselves, because nine times out of ten, the story and the exploration of the world the devs have made for us is more important than making friends and hanging out in xyz city.

In Rift, some of my fondest moments WERE being on top of a mountain no one had the cajones to climb, and finding a cairn full of elite items just for me. I explored so much of that map that I had the very edges filled in, and a screenshot of it shows as a chronicle of the places I have been, the monsters I have fought, and the things I have seen. For a lone wolf, the journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination... This is something I resonate with in real life as well, when I go into hermit mode to shut off the world... and simply BE. Friends and family hate when I do so, but were it not for those moments, I might have lost my sanity decades ago. As Guild Wars 2 slowly plods along to inevitable beta and release, the promise of a vast world to explore solo opens up to me once more, and I have to admit... I am excited to see Tyria, 250 years later.

"Can you guys play that one song again... You know the one."

The Socialite-

I am defined not only by who I am, or what I do, but by the company I choose to keep.

Any good guild leader is part socialite. The entire basis of guilds in games is the coming together of like minds for the express purpose of gaming together and experiencing what the virtual world has to offer en masse. Guilds come in all shapes and sizes; ranging from the close knit, real life family that plays together, to the 200+ juggernauts of pvp, pve, and raid nights. As I have stated in past blogs, I used to run one of the latter types of guilds. Sanctuary of Hope, formerly of the Naritus server on Star Wars Galaxies (SWG), was well known for its helpful people, its strong Imperial presence, and its ability to get the job done, and have an amazingly fun time in doing so. As a matter of fact, were it NOT for Sanctuary, and the guild I joined after Naritus died- FEAR, I would not have met most of the people on my Facebook, and Twitter friends lists. Some of these folks I have even met in person, and had the pleasure of running around in RL with! One of whom I even fell in love with, though that story had a tragic end, in her death years later.

Heather, gone but not forgotten... Everquest II will never be the same again.

As a socialite, meeting people IS the game. It is the heart and soul of MMORPGs, and a chief reason why some who otherwise might be awkward in real world settings, end up forming long lasting friendships from their games. Make no bones about it folks, one of the best ways you can meet people IS to play video games such as I play. If I told you how many couples I have seen come together in RL through gaming, or how many wedding ceremonies I have performed in the games I have played, you would probably not believe me.

When I was a child I used to lead "clubs" in school. My peers would sign up to be a part of the club, we would pool money together to buy things we needed (usually toys, soccer balls, occasionally food at the restaurant near my childhood home... aka KFC. This was back when kids could actually walk into a restaurant unescorted and sit down to have lunch with no one the wiser). Little did I know that would set the pace for the virtual me becoming a guild leader, and somewhat "internet famous" for my disposition, leadership ability, charisma, et al. The sad part to being such a socialite was that it eventually left me no time to BE a lone wolf, and I had to actually divorce myself from any and all guilds, just to be able to enjoy the game I wanted to play. With SWTOR impending, and GW2 not far behind I have already made it known that I do NOT plan on joining a guild anytime soon. My friends know how and where to find me... I am only a /tell away.

The Guild Wars krewe... Outcasts in Ascalon, Kryta, Elona and other fine places we get kicked out of.

The Outcast-

I really do not care what you think of me... I'm going to do what I do, and damn the consequences. QQ moar nub, your tears sustain me.

This category is one I have rarely even entered. The outcast carries with it a stigma that is worse than even being labelled a nerd in real life. The outcast is not only someone who may or may not have been shunned in real life, but also shunned by their gaming peers... Often due to their OWN actions, or some times misinterpretations thereof. Who knows why someone chooses to grief? Is it a cry for attention; as if they were socialites who have to resort to "bad puppy syndrome" to get some of the limelight? Are they lone wolves simply due to being anti-social in RL and in game? Are they truly sociopathic individuals who have luckily chosen the best path to keep themselves out of trouble... After all, who can arrest the dude who kills you over and over at the spawn point?

Whatever the case may be... get used to seeing the outcast. EVERY MMORPG HAS THEM. Some more than others (WoW, I am looking at you). Whatever their reasons are for running against the grain, you can be sure to run into them at some point in your stay on (insert game planet name here). Does it make them intrinsically "bad people"? I am not so sure about that. In my time gaming I have actually met a couple of would be griefers; outcasts even by their own standards, whom, upon further discussions, end up being average people acting out their frustrations with the real world, in this virtual realm where no one knows their name, and will shortly forget who they are anyway. I call this kind of behavior "internet muscles". It is not exclusive to gaming. I am sure everyone who reads this has met people like this who apparently type first and think later, with the goal of stirring that hornet's nest, then sitting back and watching.

Happens every day... With the relative anonymity that can be garnered here on the web, or in game, I am not surprised that people act this way. Of course in a perfect world, we would not have to deal with it... but then, even the virtual world is not perfect. The outcast is a reminder of this. The most ironic part of it, is that often times, the outcast is a mirror of the bad in ourselves... and THAT is the part we hate to see the most.

It's easy to vilify, but it takes real talent to understand.


As I look back on my life over these (almost) 41 years, I am constantly amazed at what I have learned about people, and the venues in which I have learned it. it comes as no surprise to me to see similarities in the circles I have been in... musically, game-wise, work related, etc. In just about all aspects of life you can find people in these categories, and every single one of us is indeed unique... Just like everyone else. So where do YOU factor in? Are you a lone wolf, a socialite, an outcast, or some of all? Sound off in the comments.

Somehow we looked more impressive in pixels... Go Figure.


By the way, I want to take a moment to give a heartfelt "THANK YOU", to my longtime idol, Steve Jobs. Were it not for you and YOUR peers, unique to say the least, I would NOT be the gamer geek I am today. May you sleep and dream in peace... and we'll see you on the other side, when our game is over. Thanks for changing my life.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

These Are The People In Your Neighborhood...

Do you remember when you were little, there used to be this segment that would air on Sesame Street (for that matter do you remember Sesame Street), called "The People In Your Neighborhood"? It was a little song that basically told you about some of the people you might find around town, usually notable figures such as fireman, policeman, bus driver, etc. It was cute, and the song of course was so catchy that it was partly instrumental in my developing an early love of music.

If you have been following my blogs with any level of frequency, you should know how random I am. Generally I pull from something in my childhood that loosely ties in to what I am about to blog about today. Well, as I had this song rolling around in my head, I stumbled across a post on Google +, sent to me by a new friend about notable gamers that she suggested I should follow. Naturally I already had most of the list on my friends list, as I have been talking to them whenever I get the opportunity to... Thank you social networking sites. It suddenly dawned on me that with all these gaming conventions going on, and every article, blog, comment, or random musing either panning or praising the various games and their creators, NO ONE really ever talks about US, the people who actually PLAY these games, or devote our time to talk or write about these games! That, dear reader, is where I come in. If nothing else, I would like to present to you some of the people in MY "neighborhood", whom I have grown to admire, not only as real persons, but competent gamers, and people who should be looked up to in the gaming community (especially the MMORPG gaming community). Some of these I may even go so far as to say, I have a schoolboy crush on. Without further ado, I present to you the people in my neighborhood... In no particular order:

Jasmine "IRLJasmine" Hruschak-

I put Jas first because when I first thought of this blog idea, I bounced the idea off her, and she agreed that it would be a cool thing to do. Jasmine is the definitive "ginger" gamer. I have told her she reminds me of Lucille Ball reincarnated, in her facial expressions, her mannerisms, and her decidedly pointed humor... which at times borders on slapstick. Jasmine spends a lot of time gaming in such titles as Rift, LOL, WoW, and many others; and when not gaming she can usually be seen on, on the show "The Sanctum". What makes Jasmine so special, aside from her amazing eyes, is her extremely personable character. She thoroughly enjoys talking to fellow gamers on and off camera, and every Sunday on has dedicated an hour of her time (often an hour and a half plus) to simply answering questions from her adoring fans, who have now dubbed ourselves "Jasminions". (My idea by the way) From my understanding she is also a keen shot with the bow and arrow in real life. You can follow her on twitter at @irljasmine (I know that did sound a bit redundant), or you can go to her website and "watch her make words at you" here. It's no secret, I am totally enamored with Miss Hruschak. Watch her once, and you may very well be too.

Gary "V-Neck" Gannon-

Gary is rapidly becoming a superstar, simply for being the mastermind behind With a solid background in broadcasting, and his very own entry on iMDB, Gary has made it his singular mission to keep the gaming community up to date on all the happenings in the game worlds. Having been a veteran of many games including WoW, Rift, SWG, et al, his unique perspective on the varied games we play- whether console or PC, puts him in the envious position of being a "go to guy" on matters of gaming. In the shows he hosts, he tries to maintain a neutral perspective, though he will generally call things as he sees them- a trait which often endears him to fans and the casual viewer alike. You can be sure if there is something on the internet about XYZ game, Gary is going to talk about it at some point, and will invite many guests and cohosts (such as Jasmine above) to be a counterpoint on his shows. The shows themselves have become a weekly ritual, as the selection grows, and the fandom spreads. You can find them all here, on . If he says the acronym SWG on any show, you have to drink, and always ask him to wear a v neck shirt. He's also on twitter at @garygannon.

Hillary "Pokket" Nicole-

Hillary Nicole, or "Pokket" as she prefers, has quickly made a name for herself as being the most congenial video game guide maker for the MMORPG- Rift. A relatively recent addition to the crew, her definitive turquoise hair has graced the internet screen many times, and her lilting voice has managed to entrance her fans, dubbed "Pokketeers" (Not my idea). Hillary has been playing games almost as long as she can remember, and from the old school games such as Ultima Online, to her favorites, Rift and LOL (League Of Legends), she has become a force to be reckoned with in pixels. It is no doubt that Pokket stands out anywhere, but she often does not have to even do anything to be noticed, let alone be respected in the gaming community. She is well loved by many, and oft desired by even more. Pokket is on twitter @Pokketsays, or of course on, and on Youtube here.

Mike B "aka Fony"-

A gifted musician in his own right, as well as a photographer, Mike B has also gained internet fame as being not only member of the crew, but also hosting his own internet tv show called The BFF Report, where he gives insightful, if not swiftly delivered information on the game chosen as the show's topic. Affectionately known as "Chinhawk" by fans and friends alike, Mike B is as real as the day. He generally tells it like it is, and is not afraid to disagree if he thinks something is sub par. A regular wearer of the tinfoil hat, Mike's presence on any show is to bring it down to earth somewhat, and deal in the facts of what a game is and represents to the community. If you want a straight answer on any game he has played (and he has played a LOT), you have only to follow him on twitter here- @akamikeb. Mike also moonlights as the WoW character Darnell, who is a hillarious character that often gets himself into strange situations.

Fjola "Mintchiplol" Chem-

Who cannot help but love the quirky, random, and apparently ditsy Mintchip! (Don't worry, the ditsy is just an act) Is she good, or is she SO good, as she likes to say, Mintchip has gained notoriety for being a vocal part of the vast world of Eve Online. Often times gaining as many detractors as followers, her charm is still undeniable. They say even bad press is good press, and Fjola takes it in stride, shrugging off her naysayers with the grace and charm of a Southern Belle who "just doesn't give a damn". Don't let her fool you though, this highly intelligent woman, and avid gamer is well informed on the subject of gaming, and is not afraid to cap your virtual ass if need be. Recently also featured on (notice a trend here?), Mintchip is fast becoming one of those faces you love to watch, just to see what the hell she is going to do next. Her Youtube is here, and you can find her on twitter at @mintchiplol. Be sure to give this video game nymph a looksee.

Josh "Lore" Allen-

Another of the vaunted crew, Lore, or Devolore is well known, not only for his vast knowledge on games- in particular WoW, but for his trademark "fro" hairdo. Ok so it's not really an afro, since he is not black, but I can tell you with all certainty that the brothers respect him for keeping it real. Lore is often picked on for his lovely "herpderp faces" whenever his screen freezes, and has been a victim of the "jeopardy tune"; a gift bestowed by Gary Gannon on those cohosts who ramble on and on. If you are going raiding however, you do not want anyone else by your side, as he has become one of the kings of raid group organization and implementation. He can be found on as cohost for both Legendary (about WoW), and The Sanctum (about Rift), or you can follow him on twitter here: @devolore.

Rubi Bayer-

If the game Guild Wars could have an official spokesperson, it would be Rubi. Her knowledge of the game is extensive, and you had better believe she has followed the progress of Guild Wars 2 since it was first announced. A working mother, who splits her time between her family, her games, and her job writing and editing for the popular internet mag- Massively, Rubi has one of the most down to earth attitudes, and a personality that is so relaxing that it almost lulls you. Her bubbly enthusiasm has made her a household name in the Guild Wars community, and lately the gaming community at large, and make no bones that there is already a huge following who would like to see her on as a regular cohost of a Guild Wars 2 show. Pretty much, all we are waiting for is Gary Gannon's decision on when to do it. Followers of Rubi will love her insight on life and gaming on twitter at @Rubi_ . You can also hear her on Guildcast, as well as see her on occasional episodes of TWIMMO (This Week in MMO) on

Larry "Shaddoe" Everett-

Larry is a regular cohost on the show- The Republic, which is all about the upcoming Star Wars- The Old Republic. Often known as "Mr. Star Wars", Larry is easily recognized as one of the biggest Star Wars fans out there (well, aside from myself anyway). When not appearing on, you can also read his articles on Massively. Another down to earth person, Larry has had many years in SWG (Star Wars Galaxies, by the way), and is definitely looking forward to playing SWTOR. Unlike Gary Gannon, who plans on tormenting his companion NPC characters, Larry is there for the story, and will likely be smuggling his way from one end of the outer rim worlds to the galactic core. The big question is... can he make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? Larry can be followed on twitter at @Shaddoe.

Nixie Pixel-

They say sex sells. If this is indeed true, no one exudes it more so than Nixie. A self professed gamer geek, and lover of all things Linux, San Francisco based Nixie is more widely known for her photos of herself, than her great prowess in gaming. I am pretty sure it is safe to say that she represents a lot of gamer nerds' "fantasy girl". From her red hair, to her decidedly "come to bed" eyes, everyone loves Nixie. She cannot post anything anywhere without at least a hundred men mobbing her posts... and some women. Far from being the unapproachable super model however, Nixie is a real person, with real emotions, and a sharp mind. If you are going to speak to her, always do so with respect, even though we both know you are looking at her chest... Don't worry, she knows it too. You can see the fabulous Nixie Pixel here on YouTube, or on her own website, here, and if you are brave enough... follow her on twitter at @NixiePixel. Talk nerdy to her, and she may actually talk back!

Izari "Izziebot" Aljen-

Quite possibly the most personable New Yorker you will ever meet, Izzie is the creative genius behind the online blog I write and edit for- TalkTyria. This beautiful lady lives and breathes journalism, working "her day job" for a notable magazine company in the Big Apple, and spending a good chunk of her time editing and contributing to her baby- She is, like everyone else on this list, a die hard gamer, who is also waiting (not so) patiently for Guild Wars 2, while racking up a ton of time in the original Guild Wars. One of the chosen few who has gotten to see the inner workings of ArenaNet's Bellevue, WA studios, (along with Rubi and Elisabeth), Izzie has even been featured on ArenaNet's very own fanday video. Andy Warhol always said everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame, and it is my hope Izzie gets more than that. Follow her on twitter at @izziebot.

Elisabeth "Elixabeth" Claire-

Elisabeth is the counterpoint to Izari. Both are the powerhouse behind, and both are well educated writers and editors. Where Izzie is often the face of TalkTyria, Elisabeth is often the HEART. Her articles are always well informed, not to mention well punctuated, and her personality is very easygoing and engaging. Another long time Guild Wars afficionado, Elisabeth is also one of the few and the proud who got to go to ArenaNet's studios, and she came back with a wealth of information that us fans of the Guild Wars franchise have gobbled up and happily asked for seconds. This unassuming lady has more heart than most folks I know, gamers or otherwise, and you would be wise to follow her on twitter at @elixabethclaire. Tell her Belenos sent you!

Last but most certainly not least...

Jewel "Laughter" Daab-

Jewel is an old hand at gaming, having been all over Azeroth, and Telara (which, by the way... it ain't Azeroth). Laughter was a staple when Rift was in beta, and now that it has been released she has made a name for herself as being one of the friendliest people you will ever find on any shard... The only problem is, figuring out which shard she is on THIS week. I often call Jewel the Rift gypsy, as she carries on her quest to find the server with the best community, but rest assured she is an asset to ANY guild she ends up in, and you will not regret talking to her. She is also cute as a button, but don't tell her I told you that. As a mother, she understands how to interact with folks in a manner that leaves them feeling good about themselves, and her... and you cannot help but go awwww at some of the pictures she posts. She has her own website and blog here, and is going to be very active when SWTOR comes out, already endearing herself to the Cantina podcast folks.You can always find her on twitter at @_Laughter


So there you have it folks, some of the key gamers that I have come to know, admire, love, and respect. Be sure to follow them all, and while you're at it... You can find ME on twitter too at @belgeode! While I do not plan on doing any tv shows anytime soon, I DO plan on being more involved in the gaming community at large as time goes on... As long as I can fit it in between work and band practice / gigs. You can hear my band here, by the way.