What I’m Playing
Other Places I Write
A Torn Page: Anthology
Legend Online is the second game I’ve reviewed over at GiN. My editor, Marie, assigned me the game and also sent me a very generous credit in Diamonds, the game’s premium currency, from the game’s publicist. But when I looked at the game, it was one of my more awkward moments in game reviewing.
“Is there any possibility,” I had to ask her, “that maybe this isn’t actually the game? Like, maybe Legend Online is a great game, but I accidentally downloaded a ripoff reskin called Online Legends? Also I can’t seem to spend this my virtual currency, and their customer service says they don’t have a diamond shop.” Spoiler: No, I was playing the right game.
Legend Online: New Era is made up of a spreadsheet RPG, where your hero and sidekicks battle fantasy villains to win loot and glory, and a city builder, where you level up your City Hall in order to level up your Barracks in order to level up your sidekicks. After a while, players can battle other players and join guilds for larger battles. The game does what it says on the tin, but barely.
The game opens with a choice of hero and character class. I first chose the female spellcaster, because girl. She’s wearing calf-high boots, and an open coat over her thong, but I figured I could find her some pants once we entered the magic land.
I was mistaken. This is a pants-free kingdom.
Good game design is often described as a series of meaningful choices, but it was hard to find either meaning or choice in Legends Online. I was level 7 or 8 before I got to do something besides tap where the blinking arrow pointed in a tutorial. Although, with player instructions like VIP can CD for Free and Click the Army button (while pointing to a button labeled ‘Troops’), plus loads of different loot, I needed all the typo-ridden explanation I could get.
There’s kind of a trend for writing and talking about how great events used to be, because the only thing cooler than being at an event is being in the middle of things while being unimpressed by it. Like being disaffected at E3 because it used to be swaggier, or being at SXSW saying the only worthwhile events were the unpublished, exclusive, celebs-only events in the good old days. VentureBeat ran one of these posts, entitled How to Survive SXSW, with useful tips like Don’t Go, Really Don’t Go, Miss Your Flight So You Don’t Have To Go, and Don’t Talk To Anyone. Parts of it are a human-hating giggle:
Don’t hook up with strangers. Sure, lots of people will be doing it. But break this rule, and it may haunt you for life. You have no idea who that other person is. S/he could be a social media expert. Eww.
Ok, so that’s valuable and hilarious advice, both on the risk:reward ratio of colleague hookups and on how anyone with an ego and a couple Twitter followers can be a social media expert. But it’s hard to ignore the snarky subtext of pieces like this. Remember — the author is reminding readers — that even if you’re at the event, or going to go next year, or thinking about maybe going sometime in the future, you can’t have the elusive good experience without a time machine back to exclusive SXSW (or swaggier E3, or whatever. I think I’ve been reading Is This The End of E3? columns since college.)
The authors of these pieces remind us that THEY would only go if they were “roped, tricked, or coerced” into attending, but others might attend if “you’re a cock-eyed, optimistic noob who thinks it will be a geeky love-fest full of valuable content and networking with your peers.” It’s particularly weird to find this in tech outlets. like VentureBeat, who send staff to cover events like this, presumably so the poor plebs who can’t attend can read about the event (and all the lame things their staff is too cool to enjoy, I guess?).
Turns out that when given such a clear choice between being too cool for SXSW or being the optimistic noob, I’m unashamedly an optimistic noob.
Looking forward to the geeky love-fest next week!
I started doing yoga about 5 years ago, which was when I was chubbiest. (Also, not coincidentally, I was pretty depressed at that time.) I wouldn’t go so far as saying being chubby made me depressed, or that being depressed made me chubby, because trying to figure out if one led to the other always invites a chorus of angry commenters telling me that I’m Doing It Wrong. But both of these things happened to me at the same time, and also, abated at the same time.
I’ve been thin for a few years now (and by “thin” I actually mean “back to my normal weight” but it sounds like a much more impressive fitness feat if I call it thin), but the yoga part stuck. In the last 5 years, I’ve done yoga on my own, with a video, or with a class. The classes are the best, because if I don’t have to be at a class at a specific time, I tend to spend just 5 more minutes working or playing a game, until it’s the middle of the night and I haven’t done any exercise. If I have a class, though, I’ll actually get there on time, with my yoga clothes and mat and water bottle. Social pressure for fitness, man.
It took me a while to find the right class after I moved here, because I want the right blend of fitness instruction and calming, thoughtful practice. I’ve done the really meditative yoga classes, and I enjoy the music and the incense, but I’m ultimately there to stretch and breath. I’ve also tried bikram yoga (that’s the hot yoga, which means sweating through your bikram yoga clothes) and a yoga-pilates blended class (which is great for strength), and pretty much always have a good experience.
Recently, I’ve started doing Couch to 5K, adding regular (extremely slow) treadmill running to my regular yoga classes. It’s not so much that I’m planning to run a 5K as much as I’d like to be somebody who mentions going for a run before work, or says they actually feel better after running. (I think those people are lying.) I don’t know if I’m actually the kind of person who runs long distances, but when I started yoga, I didn’t think I was going to be someone who easily does shoulder stands, either.
This post has been sponsored by Space Cat Yoga Wear, as if I needed another reason to talk about my yoga classes.
The Wives of Los Alamos is out today, and I’ve reviewed it over at Yahoo.
TaraShea Nesbit’s novel The Wives of Los Alamos is told in first-person plural, and yet it never seems like an experiment in a creative writing workshop. By describing how we came to Los Alamos by train, and car, and airplane, or how the water shortage left us unable to wash our hair, the narration is simultaneously small and large. It’s a chorus of individual experiences, telling one story. Throughout the book, she blends details of daily life, like a husband tired and cranky after a long day at work, with the work going on all around, creating the bombs that killed millions.
It went on like that for a while, while I tried to handle my frustration by imagining the conversation as a moment in text-based Adventure, trying endless variations on Open door and Turn Key and Put Key In Lock because I knew there would be something great on the other side. Eventually, I would be able to use these airline credits for free flights on a free flight, right? That’s what’s behind this door, if I can just find the way to get is open.
I thought about that old chat-game Eliza, that would parse text entries, and seize on one word, and then make a sentence using that word. It was pretty exciting at the time, and brought to mind the science-fiction possibility of someday having artificial intelligence completely indistinguishable from a real human being! I don’t think the intention was customer service failing a Turing test, though.
IndieCade was surrounded with snow-related disasters, but one of the nice effects of that is Paolo Pedercini’s (from Molleindustria) talk was given remotely, and it’s available to watch online here:
And if you are old like me, and learn by reading, the full text is here.
Justice Joseph Crater disappeared in 1930, leaving behind debts, bribery allegations, and powerful “friends” in high and low places, an angry society wife and a pregnant showgirl mistress,
investigators weren’t looking for someone who might have a motive to do away with the corrupt judge, as much as wondering who didn’t want the guy dead. Lawhon’s fictional account imagines yet another possibility in this historical whodunit, set in the glamorous and scandalous speakeasies of Prohibition-era New York City. Historical figures and landmarks give this novel even more realism, connecting Coney Island attractions and Broadway shows of the day with invented speakeasies. Neckless mob henchmen, Tammany Hall fat cats and their society wives, classic mob boss Owney Madden, a backalley doctor and a callous newspaperman complete the pulp novel scene. A bit heavy on the New Yawk dialect, but a rich setting.
Layered, connecting arcs reveal the stories and secrets of three women connected to the missing justice: his wife Stella, his showgirl/callgirl girlfriend “Ritzi”, and his maid, Maria. Each woman is keeping her own secrets from her husband, from police investigators, and we realize in the final scenes, even from the reader. Society wife Stella enjoys the prosperity that her husband’s promotion has brought them, but she’s not crazy about his new friends and his increasing secrecy. Hardworking Maria is not just the Crater’s maid, but also the skilled seamstress with mob boss Madden as a new client. With such nuance and character development in Stella and Maria, Ritzi’s background, a farmgirl turned New York showgirl and mob moll, feels a bit generic, and her softhearted-hooker narrative has been done many times.
While some of the narrative jumps between years and protagonist are disorienting, it becomes worthwhile in the final scenes, when an aging Stella reveals just how the lives of the smart-mouthed showgirl / callgirl, the brittle trophy wife, and the hardworking maid have connected.
Glamorous, vibrant settings and layered secrets in this pulpy historical fiction.
There was so much to learn at IndieCade East, and so much to mull over and think about afterwards, but I haven’t actually written anything. I got home feeling completely, deeply exhausted, like I’d been traveling for weeks.
I usually suffer a bit from planning fallacy while traveling, overestimating how much work I can do while in transit, but I hit every possible delay and disaster on this trip. Did you know that if you are carrying a Kindle and iPod and netbook through security, that is a suspicious amount of electronics? And it will get you pulled out line and get your bags hand-searched? (I was carrying my suspicious electronics and associated chargers because I have both Droid and iOs review assignments due.)
With airlines charging to check bags and expecting passengers to be at the airport hours before the flight, it’s pretty ballsy for airport security to question me about why my carryon contains both things to occupy myself for hours of waiting and things I need for a trip.
<<Here I wrote an extremely long list of complaints about everything else that went wrong in the past week, but it’s boring, so I deleted it. >>
Anyway, I have a great deal to think about from the presentations at IndieCade that I made it to and weren’t canceled, if I can stop dwelling on how awful my week was, I will.
IndieCade East is held at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, which should be a almost a straight shot from my parents’ house. Take the 66 from the corner to Port Authority, then take the R almost to the museum’s door, but neither the 66 nor the R was running smoothly. While it wasn’t my most favorite thing ever, it’s been a while since mumbled MTA announcement derailed my travel, and it felt oddly normal and right.
The view from my window of real snow falling in Chapel Hill!
I wrote about the sameness in tech hipster pitches when I was at TechCrunch Disrupt a few years ago, so I found this auto-generator for tech hipster Twitter bios hilarious.
Have you noticed that there’s a certain sameness to tech and startup bios? What The F*ck Is My Twitter Bio re-spins the common cliche of products-used-as-adjectives with brags-used-as-nouns found in way too many Twitter profiles. Think “Instagram guru,” “Tumblr mixmaster,” “Snapchat rulebreaker,” “Pinterest ninja,” etc.
What The F*ck Is My Twitter Bio was made by Jack Marshall, Saya Weissman, and Brian Braiker, all from Digiday, proving that even people who live and breath internet marketing can’t say “social media guru” and “bootstrapping ninja” with a straight face.
Although I have to admit I considered making Tumblr evangelist, SEO rulebreaker and coffee connoisseur my accurate and sarcastic Twitter bio.