And We’re Back!

The last several weeks have seen me shuck off the last of my Seasonal Affective Disorder.  With the coming of spring I make my transformation back to a being capable of maintaining focus and actually caring about things, and I look forward to the long period of productivity ahead of me.  Especially on my beloved Renaissance Dork.

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Right up front I’m going to say I haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games.  Despite not only living in the city Bioware calls home, but having several friends that work at the company, I have somehow managed to hide in the eye of the ME storm, avoiding its time-draining effects.  I am neither happy nor sad about this fact; I will play it at some point but that time has not yet been ordained.

So I have listened to the Mass Effect 3 news/uproar/whining of the masses with some detachment.  I don’t really have a zurg in this fight, so people loving/hating the game does not touch me in any way.  Actually, the game’s effect on me came long before its release; it kept two of my friends from making it to our weekly Pathfinder game for a while, which I felt was an unconscionable lack of etiquette on the part of Bioware.  But I am a forgiving man, and we are all good now.

But when I cast my gaze upon the internets today, I came across this little gem of an article.  It seems some gamer by the nom de web El_Spiko has decided that the failure of Bioware to live up to certain “promises” (especially concerning the end of the game) is enough justification to log a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.  Um, yeah.

I’m not entirely certain what that is supposed to accomplish; several responses to the post seem to back me up on that question.  Video games, after a fair bit of struggle, now fall in the “art” camp, not commodity.  And the FTC, just looking at their website momentarily, does not seem in the business of adjudicating art.  So I don’t think for a second the FTC is going to do more than respond with a form email to El_Spiko et al, of the PFO variety.  And if I’m wrong about this, well…that will be an interesting day.

But what caught my eye in all this, is the overweening sense of entitlement that video gamers seem to have.  Guys and dolls of the video gaming world, Bioware owes you nothing.  Let me say that again: Bioware owes you nothing. Despite owing you the square root of eff all, they have still maintained a very good record of acknowledging consumer feedback.  This has resulted in both huge headaches for the company and amazingly good games.  But because they choose to listen to you, does not mean they are required to satisfy your whims.

You didn’t like the end of ME3?  Get over it!  I have lost count of the movies, books television shows and games that have disappointed me over the last three decades.  You know how you deal with that?  You don’t watch, read or play the offending item again.  If you were truly offended/disappointed, you might send a letter to the authors or producers explaining your disappointment.  But you don’t go crying to a third-party organization (and the wrong one at that) because you didn’t get the artistic result you wanted.

I mean, what is El_Spiko’s best-case scenario result here?  Say the FTC does step in and bitch-slap EA/Bioware over ME3.  Now we have the precedent set that any creator can be held responsible for the lack of satisfaction of their engagers.  And around about that point you will see many creative types stop putting their creations out in the public eye.  Why should they; if too many people don’t “get it”, they could face sanction.  And the stuff that does come out is going to have the emotional consistency of warm porridge, so that no one is offended or disappointed.

Disappointment is the risk you take when you engage with any artistic medium.  Sometimes you don’t get the ending you want, and you have to accept that.  The trade-off is, sometimes you get to experience something amazing, that transforms the way you think or feel.  And I think that is a fair trade.

But what do you think? Comments section is just below…

Update: My pal James Leask wrote a much more in depth piece along similar lines over at Comics! The Blog, and you should read it.

Humpday Links for February 22

There is some happenings and doings around the ‘net this week, so let us get to it.  But first and most important, please help Spider Robinson if you canUpdate:  Jan Schroeder has begun the Graceful Woman Warrior auction on eBay in support of this cause.  There are some wonderful items up for auction with more coming, so please take a moment to check them out and spread the word.

– I know Valentine’s Day was last week, but these cards from the Dungeon Bastard are worth another look.

– Lloyd Brown has an updated look at starting a game company for $1000.  Hmmm…

– Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter.  No, it’s true! #history

– Beautiful in its own right, I would of course use this for gaming

– Thank god! Now I’ll know how bad I should feel for the creators when I’m watching The Avengers this summer. (Answer: Sort of.)

– It came as a complete shock to me that large companies could be dicks.  A shock I tells ya.

– If you are going to set the Zorro story in the future, why not just write a whole new story?  Oh, right, it’s FOX…

– If you are taking part in Free RPG Day this year (and why wouldn’t you), this is what Pathfinder is offering up.

– On a more serious note, apparently there are women girls who don’t want Chris Brown chemically castrated (and by that I mean drowned in a vat of chemicals.)  This article is for them.

– It seems the world of Sherlock Holmes remakes is getting more incestuous.  Who knew?

– In other news that will shock you, gamers on the internet are hyperbolically angry about something stupid.  I know, I know, I didn’t want to believe it either…

– Look out Doctor Who, here comes Inspector Spacetime!  I smell crossover event!

– Because nothing says fun like Soviet space propaganda posters!

John Cleese responds to online comments.  Um, not much else to say really.

– And finally: I’ve been playing a lot of World of Tanks recently, so I find tank graveyards pretty cool.

That’s it for this week, I hope this links have taken up enough of your Humpday that you can start the slide into the weekend.  If not, fill some time by providing links of your own in the comments.  It’s fun and it wastes time!

Renaissance Dork’s Gift Suggestions

Yesterday I gave you my advice on the best way to shop for the geek in your life.  Following those should make your geek shopping experience a little easier, and result in happiness on Thanksmasween Day.  “But Renaissance Dork”, you ask, “What if I don’t have time to absorb 500+ words of shopping theory?  Can’t you just tell me what to buy?”

As it turns out, I can.  My vast experience and hours logged scouring the internet have turned up a number of gifts that are sure to please the geek in your life.  It is important when reading this list to keep in mind two things: 1) You must still follow the advice I laid out in my previous post; and 2) This is a wholly subjective list of what I think geeks will like, based entirely on whether I thought it is/was cool.  So If you use it to shop for me, success approaching 100%; if you use it to shop for your geek, I give a 70% chance of success, +/- based solely on how well you know your geek.

It occurs to me that last sentence may seem like pandering for Christmas gifts.  If so, you are very astute.  Onto the list!

The Geek Dad Books – These are, quite frankly, a no-brainer gift for any geek with kids old enough to be interesting.  Geek Dad, Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun and The Geek Dad’s Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists (pictured) should be in the library of any geek with kids.  Each one is filled with activities to entertain and “accidentally” educate your child (and quite possible you).  But what if you are not a geek with kids?  Still worth having!  For instance, I am both a geek with nephews, and a geek with geek friends with kids.  These books will easily cement me as the Coolest Uncle Ever, even as the parents shoot worried glances my way…

Star Wars Craft Book – What’s better than buying Star Wars collectibles?  How about making your own, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted Star Wars memorabilia?  Author Bonnie Burton has compiled a bantha-load of fun Star Wars activities, perfect for the crafty fan.  Another great book to have if you want to entertain children, but it will entertain the adults as well.  I’ll be making some items from this to decorate for Christmas, my self.  And seriously, how could you not love a book that shows you how to make a Jabba the Hutt body pillow?  You can’t, you can’t not love it, that’s how!

Pathfinder Beginner Box – Well you knew there was going to be some Pathfinder on this list, right?  But I really do think this is the perfect gift for that geek that has been on the fence about role-playing games, or that has been waiting for his/her kids to get old enough to game.  The Beginner Box comes with a stripped down set of Pathfinder RPG rules that won’t overload the novice player, and had enough material to play characters up to fifth level.  It also provides an easy transfer into the main Pathfinder RPG later on.  Still not sure if this is for you?  Paizo has generously provided a walk-through of the contents, so you can see how cool this is for yourself.  I can’t recommend Pathfinder or the Beginner Box enough; if you get one and need a GM, let me know…

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Have a geek friend that hermits for weeks at a time after every new PC game release?  This is the gift they will want (assuming they didn’t pre-order it already).  BioWare’s latest foray into the Star Wars universe is by all early accounts a grand-slam, making this the go-to gift for your video-game fanatic.  This MMORPG might just draw you into a whole new world of gaming yourself (yes, come to the dark side…), because let’s face it: who hasn’t wanted to be a jedi, even if its just online?  So while you grab one for a friend, slide a copy for yourself into the cart; you and your friend can spend all sorts of quality online-time together, exploring the Force!

The Settlers of Catan – For a board game that has become a benchmark for board game design, it boggles my mind how many gamers (myself included) don’t own this game.  When it broke onto the scene, lo those many years ago, the idea of a semi-cooperative resource management game with no inter-player conflict wasn’t even on the radar with a lot of North American game designers.  Arguably, Settlers of Catan is the game that introduced us to euro-gaming, and the floodgates have been wide open ever since.  And it is loads of fun, even if you don’t play with the many expansions (though for my money, getting the 5-6 player expansion right away is a good choice).  If you haven’t seen this on your favourite board game geek’s shelf, it might be high time to grab them a copy.  Conditional on you getting to play, of course.

Genshiken – If you have an anime fan in your circle of friends, then this anime about anime fans will make a welcome addition to their collection.  Lovable characters, hilarious situations and a unique look at both otaku and Japanese culture, this is the anime series every anime nerd needs in their collection. Why? Because this is the one you bring out and watch with your friends when they want to know why you are into anime.  It is an honest and sincere look at fans just like us.  (And I can’t thank my friend Morgan enough for turning me onto it; thanks Morgan!)   It is also a manga series, so if your friend is a manga reader, everything above still applies!

I’d be thrilled to find any of these under the tree, and if you have a geek with a gaming/crafty slant like mine, I think you are golden.  Thursday I’ll expand the list somewhat, look at some neat little gizmos you can order online and maybe have in time for the New Year!  Until then, you can ask me for specific gift suggestions in the comments, or make suggestions of your own.