Instead of Writing…

  By Shamus   Jan 14, 2009   38 comments

…you’re getting a link dump. [EDIT: No, actually you’re getting writing. Unintentionally. Brevity is a cross-class skill for me.] Time pressures this week are preventing me from writing about all the things that are demanding my attention. This stuff will lose some of its relevancy if I wait until I have time to write about them with any sort of depth, so instead I’ll give you the links and leave you to your own devices.

1. Darths and Droids has finished with Phantom Menace. Congrats to the comic irregulars. One movie down, five to go. Then there’s the animated TV series, the CGI TV series, and the Christmas Special. Don’t tell me you’re not doing the Christmas Special!

2. Yahtzee has teamed up with Yug & Matt of Australian Gamer to launch a new show called Game Damage. The leap from “I made this with Windows Movie Maker” to “This is good enough for broadcast television” is a massive one. Maybe they didn’t make it, but I’m amazed at what these guys accomplished with a limited budget and no prior experience.

I really like Yug & Matt, and I tune into the podcast from time to time. I’m often frustrated at the asinine delayed releases, missing titles, censorship, and price-gouging that Australian gamers have to tolerate. What have publishers got against a country with nice beaches and lots of purportedly friendly middle-class people who speak English? Americans often have a saying, “If X happens, I’m moving to Canada.” Screw that. If X ever happens, I’m moving to Australia, and I’d really like to be able to buy videogames when I get there to take my mind off the horrors of X. I have a lot more I’d like to say about this if I had the time, but for now I’ll just point you to Game Damage and say that it’s at least worth a look. (And it’s amazing to see Yahtzee go a full half hour without swearing.)

3. The Escapist has published a letter from the staff. It’s a sort of “position paper” for them, and it makes for an interesting read. As I said in the comments, at first I thought that it could use more depth, but I’m pretty sure that would have the opposite of the intended effect. A number of broad, reasonable statements that everyone can embrace is good as far as vision statements go. As you add resolution and details, it becomes harder and harder to make statements that everyone can agree with. In an effort to please everyone, you end up with a document that everyone can tolerate but nobody will embrace. (It’s like political platforms, really. “Education is good” is something everyone can agree with. But as soon as you propose a particular action, that “everyone” shatters into a hundred bickering clans.)

I also like that while unifying, it gives lots of room for individuals on the staff to embrace different positions. It might be a matter of personal taste, but I don’t become a fan of periodicals, I become a fan of an individual writers working for the periodical. Too many big-title publications go for that one-voice approach, and their voice ends up being a bland monotone. It’s one of the reasons I think blogs are so successful: Even when our page design sucks, our proof raeding is non-exitsent, and it doesn’t load right in your browser of choice, it offers a distinctive voice.

4. And finally, a question about gamertags: If I link to a gamertag thus:

I notice that if I’m not signed in, it doesn’t take me to my profile, but the Microsoft Livemeh signup page. Is this the way it’s really supposed to work? Only Live users can see gamer profiles, and everyone else gets the sales pitch? Please tell me this is just a fluke or that I’m doing something silly. If this is how it works, then I simply do not have the time to marshal the words to covey how much their irritating stupidity and lameness has filled me with indignation.

Ah! I sat down to bust out a quick link dump post, and ended up hammering out a couple hundred words and consuming time I did not have to spare. Apologies. There is no greater shame than a man who works from home but ends up being late for work anyway, so I must run. Good luck with the links.

201838 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Pat says:

    Re: The gamertags. I’ve tried as well and it won’t let me see your profile until I’m signed in myself.

    I don’t think it’s a sales shill particularly, since you can sign in with Silver-level membership which is free. I’m suspecting either bad website design or part of a system to discourage strangers on the Internet from data-mining people’s profile info.

  2. SimeSublime says:

    A word of warning, if X has happened, it will likely happen here eventually. That being said, the current Government is seeming a little more likely to listen to it’s people then yours.

  3. Hawkehunt says:

    Yeah, it’ll likely happen here, too, but not as soon.

  4. Dave says:

    I’m right there with you on Australia. Heck, I’ve even considered the possibility of retiring there at some point, even if nothing drastic does happen. I get this “kind of like England, but nowhere near as uptight” vibe about the place. I’ll have to make a visit between now and then to scope the place out, but so far it’s got Canada beat.

  5. qrter says:

    I don’t get why any publication would publish a list of positions – surely the articles you run should be telling that story?

    I’m suspecting either bad website design or part of a system to discourage strangers on the Internet from data-mining people’s profile info.

    It might be the second one – there have been a lot of instances of account theft on the 360 last year. That said, Microsoft would be doing it this way anyway – it wants everyone to sign up.

  6. Daimbert says:

    I’m going to take the opportunity to say something that may offend and bother a number of people, but hey …

    I like Darths and Droids, but there were a number of times while I was reading it and re-reading DM of the Rings that I really wish it was you doing it instead of them. I like Irregular Webcomic and have read them all more than once, but there are just some times that I thought that you would have captured things better — at least to my sense of humour — than they did.

    So I’m taking an opportunity here to give you a swelled head and make you insufferable …

  7. Joyraindo says:

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    It’s good to see a non-Australian website that mentions Australia without ragging on it.

    Australia’s a great place, except the heat (so if X happens to be “massive heat wave” then you’re out of luck). It got to 40 degrees Celsius today where I live so 104 Fahrenheit, I think. (Climate-wise this area is very similar to the Mediterranean).

    I have Xbox Live… Mind if I hit you up with a friend request? Haha :P

    About the gamertags, seeing as it’s a Windows Live thing, it kind of makes sense to have to sign in to see anything, as tedious as it may be. Now I have a question for you: How do you make it show what your favorite game and genre of games are? For the life of me, I can’t figure out where to go to put that in. Including the “Edit Profile” bit and I can’t find anything about it there. Just out of curiosity, is all, not really important.

    Have fun!

  8. Penn says:

    Australia appears appealing other than the online censorship thing. :)
    More seriously, while you have a heatwave, we here in Ontario have a cold snap: High of -14, low of -25 where I am.
    For Americans, that’s high of 6, low of -13 or so.

  9. Krellen says:

    “Brevity is a cross-class skill” made me laugh out loud, Shamus.

  10. Factoid says:

    I can see your gamertag just fine, and I don’t believe I’ve ever signed into Live on my Mac…if such a thing is even possible.

    You’ve racked up quite a few gamer points already. A thousand points in less than a month isn’t too shabby at all. Of course, you played Mass Effect through to completion several times, which is what you have to do if you want to pick up all the points in that game.

    I know most people think the points are silly, but I do love the achievements and being able to compare with my friends who has which ones.

  11. Deoxy says:

    No, actually you’re getting writing. Unintentionally. Brevity is a cross-class skill for me.

    Either it’s not available to your class, or you’ve put no ranks in it at all. “Cross-class” does not BEGIN to describe how bad you are at it.

    Much to my benefit, I might add. :-)

    Microsoft Live signup… HELLO?!? It’s MICROSOFT. While your word-smithing on the topic is enjoyable, even considering “indignation” at them over stuff like this could waste your whole freaking life. It’s one of their primary core values – get used to it.

    Australia: I do have to agree that they are the current runner-up in “places I’d like to live” (right after the USA, of course), I do have to point out that they are also far down the “gun-ban” path, which generally does not bode well. Of course, that’s equally true of Canada and England… not a good trend we have going right now, eh?

  12. Alexis says:

    GameDamage felt forced and bloodless. The features need work and the DNForever skit was both cheap and poor. I could stand to watch more.

    England isn’t really that uptight. Americans get a very weird picture of us.
    Having said that dear Albion is racing to be the first surveillance state.

  13. Henebry says:

    Daimbert: I’ve had the same thought (Shamus would have done it funnier) more than once while reading Darths and Droids, but as they rounded out the first movie I had a new thought: they’re not really aiming to do what Shamus accomplished. Shamus’ take on LoR is, at bottom, parodic, theirs not.

    Both start with the same premise: given that this narrative has played such a seminal role in the consciousness of gamers, how would these narrratives have played out if current tabletop rpgs had given rise to them rather than the other way round? They differ, though, in their responses.

    Shamus answers the question with the cynicism of a great satirist. His GM is a self-important fool who has crafted a campaign of unplayable complexity; his players are too engaged in petty rivalries and private obsessions to be interested in the epic story set before them. This produces a wonderful tension between the gorgeous screencaps taken from Peter Jackson’s movies (in which the scenery and actions really are epic) and the low-comedy dialogue spoken by the players. We readers are led to expect that these images record what’s going on in the imaginations of the GM and players, but this expectation is defeated, again and again. In this way the comic pokes fun at the grandiosity of tabletop rpgs, the notion (endemic among us) that in our raucous sessions we can achieve a narrative scope akin to the great work of Tolkien or Robert E. Howard. And we gamers laugh because we’re geeks and we’ve learned to take joy in laughing at ourselves. That is our great strength, the thing that separates us from the jocks.

    By contrast, the Comic Irregulars answer the question with the idealism of true believers in the promise of tabletop rpgs to elevate poorly conceived plotting through occasional flashes of insight. Sure, in Jim (Qui-Gon) and in Pete (R2D2) we get satirical portraits (the gung-ho treasure-seeker and the superstitious min-maxer). But with the others (and even sometimes with Jim and Pete) the outcome is a story with moments of dramatic tension far more interesting than the original movie. Case in point: Sally’s Jar-Jar, who (far from Lucas’s oafish Stepin Fetchit) exhibits the wild inventiveness of a child’s imagination. The Phantom Menace storyline in Darths isn’t a preconceived epic crafted by an overambitious GM, but rather something produced organically by a group of people working interactively, and often with surprising but brilliant results. True, the story which emerges is too convoluted to make a good movie — but we already knew that, right? :) And the storyline that matters is at least as much the story of Sally and Ben and Jim as it is of Jar-Jar and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. As if in response to Shamus’ satire on tabletop rpgs in DM of the Rings, the Comic Irregulars demonstrate that the real aim of tabletop gaming is not the simulation of cinematic epic, but rather the collaborative enactment of epic action.

  14. Daimbert says:

    Henebry,

    Mostly, I’m judging the comic on the entertainment value, and so keep thinking that it would be more entertaining if Shamus had been doing it. I like Darths and Droids, but somehow it just doesn’t click for me. And partly it might be because of the mixed types of players; it seems to me that there’s more potential there than has been realized so far with the conflicts amongst the player personalities.

    I also liked it better earlier on than towards the end; maybe things seemed a bit rushed to me in the newer comics that kind of dropped the personalities out a bit …

  15. Ben says:

    I thought Game Damage was quite good. For television, anyway. Yahtzee carries it though- it’s all him. He’s just funny, and his delivery is pin-sharp. He should be doing real comedy shows, not this.

  16. Rod says:

    I’m thinking New Zealand myself. Apparently, it’s the only free-market capitalist society left in the world….

  17. MintSkittle says:

    I have no use for Live.

    My Xbox has touched Live once, and that was enough to keep me away for good.

  18. Hal says:

    Shamus, I’m still curious how you like Kung Fu Panda. Movie tie-in games tend to be pretty bad and/or watered down for kids. I bought Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix for my Wii and was disappointed at how short it was.

  19. Rustybadger says:

    Australia’s nice, but it has way too many venomous and poisonous critters for my taste- if I’m moving to that part of the planet, it’s New Zealand. Kiwiland is a lot closer to my native Canada in terms of geography, and I’d really get depressed if I had to completely give up my mountains. Politically they’re both pretty close to Canada (and the UK, I guess), which means less guns, higher taxes, better medical care, etc. (as opposed to the States). I have always felt bad that I couldn’t use the “If X happens I’m moving to Canada” ploy, though. Here we always say “If X happens, I’m moving to Whitehorse!”

  20. krellen says:

    @Rustybadger, #19:
    “If X happens, I’m moving to Whitehorse!”

    I know people that live in Whitehorse. I should ask them what they say.

  21. There’s a lot of flack about Australia having dangerous animals which could most likely kill you. Which is true. But as an Australian myself, most of the time, they actually live in the Outback, so if you live in the city suburbs, you’re not going to see them. The only time I’ve ever seen them was in the zoo. Ya, rly!

    Plus we’ve got awesome beeeaaaches!

  22. Daf says:

    It’s weird, because if X ever happen here (in Aus) I’m moving to Canada.
    The online censorship thing might well be that X, and escaping it might be worth the very cold sounding weather in BC :)

  23. Daimbert says:

    BC is only cold in the interior. If you find, say, Vancouver or Victoria cold, don’t even think about heading anywhere east of there …

  24. Miral says:

    I’m probably biased (because I live here), but moving to New Zealand is probably better than moving to Australia. Ok, maybe the beaches aren’t as hot (but then again I personally regard that as a good thing) but we have much less censorship (we have an R16 and R18 gaming labels and no plans for a Great Firewall) and our parallel import laws make it easy to find cheap stuff (and also mean that most DVD players are either already region-free or contain instructions to make them region-free).

    Sadly our download caps are a bit smaller though. And we have almost as much price-gouging on console games as Australia does. (PC games are getting better, though.)

  25. Jabor says:

    Oh yes, internet is pretty poor down here in NZ.

    I know people who can’t even get broadband because the local exchange has been at full capacity for months.

  26. Mistwraithe says:

    Careful though, Australia is full of dangerous, sometimes poisonous, creatures. And then there are the snakes and spiders which you also need to be careful of.

    ;-)

    (I can say that because I am a Kiwi, aka New Zealander, and at birth we are given a free pass to pick on Australians… Just like Elves get Elven Accuracy, but it is an At Will power for us instead of Encounter)

  27. Rich says:

    The girlfriend and I have seriously considered Australia as well. The move has been postponed, for a while at least.

  28. Jeff says:

    I’d never want to live in Australia.

    I mean, sure, only nine out of ten of the world’s most venomous creatures are in Australia, but Australia has nine out of NINE of the world’s most venomous creatures. :P

  29. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Yes, the government has recently launched a new ad campaign overseas to drive up tourism. Slogans include the following:

    The Beach Can Kill You By Itself

    Nine Out of Ten Australian Herpetologists Are Dead

    Our Poisonous Animals Aren’t Shy

    Both Our National Animals Murder People

    The Koala Isn’t A Bear (And It Likes To Maul People)

    We Kill Rabbits With Biological Warfare

    Come And Set Off A Nuke – Last Time We Didn’t Notice

    I love my country.

  30. Yar Kramer says:

    I really ought to go to bed … But on the subject of Yahtzee not swearing, I realized when watching the GDC video that I’d become so jaded to it, I didn’t actually notice it much until they censored all of it. ;)

  31. DKellis says:

    Amusingly, I’ve always wanted to move to the US. Because no matter how bad the situation seems to be getting there, I’ve always thought that it’s not so bad compared to here.

    Grass is always greener, I suppose.

  32. alfredogarcia says:

    I’ve been considering a move to OZ. They have a points system that makes it relatively easy to settle if you have an occupation they actually need (quite a broad range of professions, really).

    There are points awarded for a range of factors; your job, whether you would consider working outside of popular urban areas (special demand for health professionals in the outback) and, of course, for completing mass effect twice over.

  33. Zaxares says:

    It’s precisely because we’re such nice, laid-back people that others take advantage of us. :P But we’re still not bitter. Aren’t we just the greatest?

    And I echo the sentiments about the whole hoo-hah about Australia having some of the world’s most venomous creatures. Firstly, the creatures are spread out all over Australia; there’s no single place in Australia that has all 9 of them at once (except maybe a zoo). Secondly, you are 99.99999% likely to NEVER see any one of those creatures in your lifetime if you live in a city (and don’t visit zoos).

    Seriously, Australia’s a pretty sweet place to be. 8)

    Even if we do have ridiculously overpriced games. But that’s what eBay is for.

  34. Volatar says:

    When you mentioned “if X happens” Shamus, my first thought was actually towards the X series of games (space sims). I was thinking you were saying “If we go into space, build the space equivalent of a stargate, find it connects to an existing network of gates created by an ancient race now gone, find all the planets empty, create a fleet of AI controlled terraformers to terraform the planets of this network, have that AI turn on us and ‘un-terraform’ our existing colonies, fight the AI in an epic war, and then disconnect ourselves until those AI find a way to warp to us without a gate”

    Of course that is not what you were trying to say…

    I do agree that Australia would be a better place to go if X happened (referring to what you really meant). The classic line is Canada due to its “close to home” feel (or assumption thereof). You have a good point that Australia would be a better choice. If X happens to the US (this line comes from the US) then Canada will be affected as well. Any politicial/military situation in the US will more than likly have Canada on the side of the US. Any Economic situtation (such as the one we are sliding into, as a group of people cannot decide collectively to hit the brakes) will affect Canada also, as the two are very well intertwined with trade and investment. Australia however, even though it is also allied with the US, due to its geographical seperation will not be affected as much by any Political/Military situation. Australia does however have economic interest in the US (everybody does). Australia’s cheif export (as of a few years ago when I did a school project on it) is beef. America is a huge importer of beef. Make the connection. Honestly, the best place to be if X happens to the US will not be on this planet. Infact, living on a different planet may not even save you economically if we have an interstellar economy (if we don’t, you are going to be more worried about surviving on your own planet of choice, or even not know at all until N years later where N is the number of light years away you are from Earth.

    Even though the US may be so important to the world economicly, I am not saying that it is “too big to fail”. Nothing is too big to fail (corporate — Fannie Mae/ Freedy mac, Enron, WorldCom — political — Greece, Rome, Napoleon’s Empire, the USSR — or religious — Catholic church (as in its loss of its hold upon the world). I am not even saying the US is “too big to [let] fail”. I believe that large things failing is a good thing that brings change and helps root out inefficiency.

  35. Deoxy says:

    better medical care (as opposed to the States)

    Only if you define “better” as “more equally distributed”. By any other definition, not remotely.

  36. Author says:

    What you see at Live is called “A walled garden”, if you want a term for Yahoo/Live/Google search. Same thing is done by just about any social network, including MySpace at which you have an account.

  37. […] Last time I talked about D&D, Henebry left the following comment, which nicely heads off arguments over which comic is “better”: Daimbert: I’ve had […]

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  1. By Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » D&D Interview on February 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    […] Last time I talked about D&D, Henebry left the following comment, which nicely heads off arguments over which comic is “better”: Daimbert: I’ve had […]

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