26 May, 2013

The Admissions of a Gamer and the Rise and Fall of a World of Warcraft Addict

You can read my article at The Button Mash here

Let me just preface this blog post by saying: I am an adult of 26.
I'm a gamer to the very core and heart: I’ve grown up with games. When I was not even in Kindergarten yet my dad brought home the old brick Gameboy and it was over for me. Hours of Yoshi’s Cookie eventually evolved into hours of Super Mario World, and then subsequently Goldeneye, and through natural progression Zelda and 16 hour runs of Final Fantasy X. This developed into somewhat of a game connoisseurism, where I had collected systems and games (including the tragic Phillips CD-i) into something reminiscent of a cat-hoarding spinster.

I flipped off hanging out with friends/boyfriends/boys/dates/”other” to play games; but interestingly I’ve also used it as a social experience to bond with and make new friends/boyfriends/boys/dates/”other”. In fact, I would say that the majority of the friends I’ve made in the last 5 years are involved in games/the games industry somehow.

In 2007 I was in my 2nd or 3rd year of University. I lived with 5 other girls, I had class full time, I worked part time, I was a social butterfly, I had a boyfriend, friends, and we went out… a lot. I had a typically overstuffed university schedule, full of parties, booze, friends, and general shenanigans one can only equate with the stereotypical lifestyle that comes with mid 20’s independence.
Enter World of Warcraft.

I actually won the original World of Warcraft in a raffle, and had it sitting in my room for a while. I had played Warcraft I on Dos if this gives you an indication of where I’m going with this, I also stockpiled II, III and their subsequent expansion packs. So I was familiar with the lore and rhythmic chaos that stemmed from a fantastical RTS. I thought, “OK I’ll make a trial account and see what happens.” Of course the trial account turned into me ripped open the WoW box like a junkie and ultimately lead to the purchase of the next two expansions (WotLK was set to be released not even 2 months from this day), and a pool of credit card charges from my friends at Blizzard. I was in one of the top 50 guilds in the game, and the top 10 on my server before they disbanded in 2009.
I stopped going to bar with the roommates, I cut classes and pushed back due dates until the last night for research practicum’s, and one time I even forgot to prepare my seminar presentation, which lead to me add-libbing and going off people’s faces with whether or not I was talking about anything relevant. I spiralled into somewhat of an anti-social state, going on 4 hour raids starting at 2am, buying a laptop for the sole purpose of running alts through instances, and dreaming about the Auction House system (this is not a joke).

One time, all I had to eat that day was a bag of Smart Food which happened to be sitting on my desk, because I didn’t want to leave the room to grab anything. As I played with oily, powdery Smart Food-fingers - powdered dust creating an oil slick over my mouse and keyboard – with eyes absorbed on Kara, I realized my priorities were fucked up: Warcraft > food, and when that happens something is not right. I looked at myself and thought what the fuck happened to my life? I was 22 years old and the prime of my life, and here I was with crumbs on my lap, unwashed hair, and the remnants of Smart Food powder making a ring around my mouth like a fat child who ate a Fudgesicle.

I quit WoW cold turkey the summer of 2009 when my account got hacked, and it was an absolute nightmare to get it back (I eventually did, but it required sending my picture and licence to the support team after weeks of escalated threads). I’ve been clean since 2009, but still carrying a 30 day card in my wallet for nostalgia or maybe the far-reaching dream of maybe going back someday.
The moral of the story here is I was a gamer. Now here it is, the point I’ve procrastinated.
I hardly play any games anymore.

As an adult (which I explained to you earlier), I have adult responsibilities. I have bills, a car to maintain, I commute over 3 hours to my job a day not including overtime at a busy marketing department, and I work part time on the weekend. I also squeeze in friends and a dating life when I can, which equals most of my time being eaten.

When people ask me what games I'm playing now, I hitch, because I know I haven’t been. The odd review here or there I complete, but nothing near the playtime I used to put in. The last huge game I played was Skyrim and Skyward Sword (and I haven’t even finished it, and ‘m supposed to be obsessed with Zelda… it’s embarrassing). Some days I feel like a fraud - like a no-game-playing fraud in an Amanda suit (which is a suit made out of really nice hair).

I joke and say I played WoW and that I don’t have to prove my gamer-ness after that (which is partially true I still believe), but the truth is that was a long time ago. And like any relationship or child, you need to spend time with it to nurture it so it doesn’t grow up and rob banks or become a stripper.

I just bought a ticket to Fan Expo in Toronto, and I plan to make the first step in taking back my identity as a gamer. Making an actual effort to try to keep up with what’s happening in the game community and playing some of these games, whether they are terrible or not. I’ll always have the game culture in my blood, and the obsessive nature that true gamers have, but I have to learn to turn off the obsessive switch so I can enjoy games without creating a pee-bucket out of a Bawls bottle, or using the empty bag of Doritos as a hair tie. I will try to do what it takes to experience the cool shit coming out of the games industry, and attempt to pick-axe some time from my schedule to play some new stuff; this is my promise to you.

But I'm not playing Slender.

18 May, 2013

Heroes - A Short Story

His wrinkled, weathered hand softly fell on hers. His calloused thumb gently traced the dancing lines of her aged palm, time hiding her scars, a dozen times broken and bruised from the job.

She sat on the armchair next to his, sleeping silently, her body not able to handle even the lazy days anymore. She couldn’t make it through a sunny and warm Spring Tuesday without dozing off, her mind trying in vain to repair the damage done many times over, so long ago.

A docile smile sat on her gentle face while she slept; she looked so peaceful – so happy. He sat in his chair, thumb grazing her hand as a single tear welled in the crease of his eye and slid down his cheek, navigating the moguls that were his permanent scars and lines.

He brandished a handkerchief with his free hand and pressed it into the tear, salt-water soaked into the thread-worn linen as he saw his beautiful wife sleeping beside him. He saw her scars and wounds, far from pink – now a faded purple – and he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her, how lucky he was to have such a beautiful creature. It made his heart weep.

It wasn’t that long ago she wielded her golden blades, armour-clad bodice hugged her tall frame and muscled body as she gracefully fought under the glow of street lamps  She fought like a dancer, beautifully deadly, and moved like a prima ballerina. Every step focused and with purpose, she was one of the most powerful heroes of their time. Her confident face was highlighted by the moon as she smiled and laughed, sparring and dodging villains like she was a leaf caught in the wind.

He could still see the joy in her sparkling green eyes, wiping the blood that trickled down her brow, unaffected by pain.

It had been decades since they fought side by side as partners and lovers. His knees were the first to go; the super-human strength really wore down his joints. Twice the doctors told him he would need to get surgery if he intended to keep up his routine. Stabs of guilt had ripped through him like talons every time he thought he wouldn’t be unable to keep up with his omnipotent wife. Twice he declined, and his position grew worse as the years went by.

Other Heroes came and went, all having eyes for her. But she only had eyes for him. He remembered her smiling, the sides of her mouth sliding up and the corners of her eyes crinkling as she shot him a shy smile when they met. They were being awarded the key to the city – he and a few other heroes – and she kept glancing his way, catching his golden eyes.

They were young then, and they’ve been together ever since. They day after his knees gave out she collapsed. Over the years of fighting, her head set with beautiful flowing blonde hair took so many blows she had lost count. So many times she had blacked out in alleys, home, or hospitals. Doctors warned her too many concussions could be dangerous but she had people who depended on her so she pressed on. He was so proud of her then. Now he felt that familiar guilt – searing through his body, coursing through his veins. He shouldn’t have let her continue.

She had a brain aneurysm that had burst, caused by the constant trauma to her head and neck. She recovered but was never quite the same.

They retired (they were in their late 40’s at the time after all) and had lived out their golden years in a cottage by the lake that was skittled with homes occupied by other retired heroes. Most days he gardened in the warm caress of the sun, wiping sweat and dirt off his brow as he took iced glasses of sweet tea from his wife, the condensation of the glass pooling onto his fingertips as he kissed her first. The tea could wait.

She read on the porch, stories of heroes gone by, tales of might and magic; she always secretly wished she could go back. Go back to when her mind was as sharp as her blades, and his body was as taught and hard as his physical love for her. She would reminisce on the porch as she watched him garden, and on some days she would sit and read by their fountain in the grass. The water spouting up and onto itself, the content gurgle of the streams relaxed her as she dipped in her hands, water misting her skin.

She smiled slightly as she slept on the chair beside him; her dreamscape was as coloured and wonderful as her memories. His love would be just as coloured and wonderful, until the last of his days.

11 May, 2013

Different - A Short Story

Kol spent his entire life being different. I mean, he looked the same as everyone else but inside he knew he was something more.

He spent his childhood years blissfully in the middle of the social hierarchy; a finger of each hand in different groups. As he grew and filled into the man he was becoming, he noticed that other people just weren't the same, and nobody seemed to understand him.

Because of this he spent an exhausting amount of time building walls inside himself to keep others out, so they wouldn't see him for the man he was inside. He was terrified he would be judged, laughed at or worse, pitied.

Kol sauntered through life at face value, never letting anyone inside or get to know him. Oh sure, he dated and he had relationships (some argued he had too many), but whenever he let anyone know the real him they ran screaming.

At work Kol was well liked, albeit for his loud demeanour that tended to scare off more meek employees, which resulted in a circle of friends Kol felt was satisfactory in displaying his public prowess, and just enough he didn't have to rip off his mask to show his true face to anyone. He was happy this way.

When Kol met Marlyn his world turned on its axis. Her first day at work she walked on confidence in black heels through the offices, shaking hands and having her beautiful red hair sway across her back after her. Her eyes looked like blue glass marbles put under fire and her skin looked like it was whipped silk. When she got to Kol’s office he couldn't look away, and it took everything he had not to make a scene or embarrass himself.

She pointed at his collection of Transformers displayed on his desk, and gently cooed to herself as she picked one up and gingerly fingered it in her hands.

“That one is the leader…” Her head stayed where it was, but her eyes darted swiftly to his ad he spoke. “Um the leader of the good robots.” He racked his brain for the words he desperately sought but he felt like his mouth was made of sand. He stammered awkwardly and he went to grab another toy off his desk, subsequently knocking two off and watching them land on the floor, his face red with humiliation as he tripped on his words.

“Optimus Prime.” She looked at him like he had secrets; she put the toy back on his desk without taking her sparkling eyes off of his. Kol nodded and watched her as she took a step to the side and bent over to retrieve the fallen Autobots from the floor.

His eyes instinctively went to her body, and he raked it with his eyes, primal need filled his head like water being poured into a glass, and he went ridged; afraid his obvious body betrayal would be noticeable to her. He hastily grabbed some papers off his desk and made a show of leafing through them on his lap, her cool blue eyes scanned them and she lifted her small frame onto a bar stool by a table in his office.

“Do I make you nervous?” Her face held the beginning of a smile captive, and he felt his body prickle with anticipation.

“Um, no I, I just have a lot to do,” He cleared his throat. “A lot on my mind is all.” He shuffled the papers once more and put them on his desk before he stood up, satisfied with his body returning to normal.
She hopped off the stool and glided past him to the door, her hair filling the room with the smells of mandarin orange and mint, and her skin slightly touching his as they brushed arms on her way out. His arm instantly bristled into goosebumps and a 5 alarm siren filled his head. She’s different too.

Several months went by since Marlyn met Kol, and Kol remembered the instant he showed her the real him. She didn’t scream, didn’t run, and didn’t fill with fear. They were on the rooftop of their office at midnight, after he had brought back dinner from his hunt. She took in his solid black frame and smiled at his fur-laden body. She gently ran her hands along his massive wingspan, letting her fingertips linger on the sharp claws housed under the hair of his left wing. His primal eyes took her in as he showed his true self, and sharp howl escaped his jaws in pleasure as he saw her start to change as well.

The two sat on the rooftop, claws digging into the kill, sharp teeth ripping it off the bones, and they ate in content silence.

Finally there was someone who understood him; someone who would understand him without his mask. Someone who would be able to accept him for the beast he was, and not the man he pretended to be.

Marlyn did.

Because she was the only one who was different, just like like he was.

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