Getting Fit

Getting fit is probably the least enjoyable new year’s resolution in existence. Humans on the whole are severely change-resistant (even people who “love change” hate change – stagnacity kills them); getting fit, however, is the epitome of torture. Pains erupt in muscles we forgot (or never even knew) existed. Sweat gets everywhere. Exhaustion levels rise on a daily basis until we feel like we’ve reached the breaking point. The worst thing about getting fit, though, is the massive physical block that stands between the states of unfit and fit. It takes more than a few weeks with a solid determination and an iron resolve to become fit.

Habits are the next issue. The reason(s) we were unfit in the first place were a combination of activity, emotional, and eating habits. If we want to get fit, we’ve got to break pretty much all of those habits. If we are, for instance, stressed all the time, we’re not going to get very far with fitness training (it keeps muscles and minds tense and prevents proper regeneration when we’re resting). Habits are tricky critters; people with (apparently) qualifications argue all the time about the “true way” to break habits (21 days? 67 days? 99999 days? self-induced trances?), but generally speaking, habits need to be replaced by either strict placeholders (very hard to do) or less detrimental habits. A strict placeholder would be replacing a chocolate bar with cucumber slices. A less detrimental habit would be replacing that chocolate bar with a few squares of chocolate. As far as health is concerned (although I’m not as sure about fitness), the gentler habit will help you more; completely shattering our daily average intake of any nutrient will put our bodies into shock/withdrawal for a while.

But if we can power through the blocks and successfully repair our habits, we’ll reach the goal: fitness. The thing I find funniest about fitness is that after it is in our grasp, it is relatively hard to lose it. This is, of course, because fitness is forged in the fire and flames of discipline and healthy habits, but trust me – it’s blasted hard to believe that fitness is easy to maintain when we’ve not reached that point yet.

If you’re trying to reach/regain your state of fitness, keep at it. I feel for you. I was fit a few years ago (sigh), and I’m trying to get back to that state again. The sweat and the tears are real.

A New Year

I left my site to stew through the waning of 2015 with something of a dramatic post at its head; this was partially on purpose, certainly, to emphasize the dramatic stance I took, but it was slightly because I was (like you were as well, I imagine) busy with family and friends and taking a general break from things. And now, life goes on again. It’s a new year! What does that mean for you?

I can tell you that in ancient European cultures (my favorite), the new year didn’t seriously start until winter started to melt away. It’s kind of funny that the year ends in the middle of a season, but who am I to argue with the established calendar? Okay, don’t answer that; my wife will tell you that I follow the good old tradition of men in that I can be muleishly stubborn and argue just about anything.

But with the date/calendar aside, a new year can mean several things. For some countries, it means the end of the tax year (public servants scrambling backwards and forwards and poring through data for hours on end). For others, it simply marks a time of massive sales (salespeople scrambling backwards and forwards and poring through data for hours on end). Some people recognize the new year as a sacred tradition stemming back from books and oral traditions as far back as the beginning of history itself. Others like to drink but haven’t got a clue what the fuss is about if they aren’t holding a bottle. A lot of people take down their old calendars and put up new ones. Some people make new year resolutions. A few keep them.

So what does the new year mean to you?

I personally like to think of the new year as a time to celebrate the coldest winter days (also the shortest days of light) of the year where candles and fires were lit and feasts were made and stories were told while people celebrated yuletide, which was a twelve-day celebration marking and celebrating the passing of the thickest stage of winter. I’m old-fashioned and somewhat romantic that way. The irony, though, is that I presently live in Australia. In other words, the new year marks the longest and hottest days of the year and there are usually total fire bans. It’s funny living in Australia when you’ve got British/Norse blood.

Star Wars: The End of the Wars

Be forewarned: as with any review or reflective piece, this is wrought with spoilers. For better or for worse, I am making my position on the new Star Wars film clear.

I’ll start by explaining that there are two types of Star Wars fans: dabblers and live-ins. Dabblers watch the movies, sometimes, and maybe buy a Star Wars t-shirt or coffee mug. Live-ins watch, read, write, etc, and can cite various numbers of authors, titles and stories (not to mention countless film or book details word for word) from the series. All true Star Wars fans are now sitting in dark corners, sobbing their hearts out. Their world has been mercilessly obliterated.

Star Wars has lost its heart. Probably the biggest thing about any Star Wars story (this is why the X-Wing or Bounty Hunter spinoffs were so-so) was the sense of nobility. Whether it was sith or jedi, there was always something noble. Sith were coldly noble, something like Alexander or Napoleon. Powerful and cunning and aloof. Jedi were Arthurian knights, noble brothers in arms following an honorable and ancient code. But that’s all gone now; jedi, sith, droids, tusken raiders, they all act the same. Everyone and everything acts base and bland. It’s that beautiful Hollywood principle of flattening the playing field, I guess.

Next, Star Wars has turned to clichés and repetition. For a moment Han Solo brought his familiar, fresh feel and voice to the scene, but I guess the director got sick of letting him say non-bland lines, because a stop was quickly put to that. But what was with using the exact same lines to reintroduce the Milennium Falcon? Why did that even need to happen? Anyone watching the new film will either 1) know the ship already and be confused at how it got lost or why it was lost or what in blazes it was doing out of Han’s possession for so long or 2) not give a damn about spaceships and their general state and certainly not spare a thought about whether or not it is a bucket of bolts. Needless to say, there were many pointless lines that were directly stolen from the movies that directly prequelled this film. The Force Awakens uses countless recycled Hollywood lines (I mention this later as well) rather than original Lucas lines. This isn’t Die Hard X or Jurassic X.

Logic was spilled all over the floor and swept under the carpet from scene one. The very first glance we get of the stormtrooper, he is stunned by the death of his comrade. He goes utterly haywire about it. But two scenes later, without any misgivings, he’s blowing his comrades-in-arms away willy-nilly from the secondary gunning seat aboard a TIE fighter. What happened to the trauma induced by his dying partner tracing a (as in a typical zombie scene) four-finger trail of blood across his visor? But I’ve moved ahead of myself here – the first issue started with the yellow text. Luke has run away for no good reason – he’s fled! He was confronted by darkness (he’s faced that before as he’s had to face his own father in combat) but this time he fled, and for some unexplained reason left a map to his whereabouts (a galactic easter egg hunt) which all his friends and family have to solve if they are to survive the onslaught of their enemies. Back in Return of the Jedi, Luke learned pretty darned well that fleeing was not the way to solve anything. All his friends got in big trouble when he left. So now he’s done it again? The next thing that confused me was the swordplay. Everyone is a master swordsman. Several duels occur during the movie, and somehow sith have fallen beneath even stormtroopers in martial training. Not to mention that the lady of the story (not Leia, although it was nice to see her back) was even able to master a selection of force maneuvers after knowing she had force attunement for approximately a single day. It took Anakin and Luke Skywalker many years to even slightly channel their abilities, even though they were two of the most powerful jedi later in their lives. And why is the rebellion only four wings of X-wings big? They lose nearly ten X-wings and then everybody’s screaming that half the fleet has been wiped out! They’ve had more than twenty years without the emperor or Darth Vader around to build up their forces and contacts. The Empire was in shambles at the end of Return of the Jedi. Not to mention that they never brought in any Y-wings for the bombing runs – X-wings can stock a torpedo or two that can replace a bomb in a very tight pinch, but Y-wings are actual bombers. Any Star Wars fan knows that! And Ben (although Disney, you ought to realize that his name was actually Jacen), switched between two ultra-odd modes. Without his helmet, he cried and cried and cried all the time (very sith of him). With his helmet, he became stronger but for some reason his voice modulator was perpetually broken; it was nigh on impossible to understand anything he said. It’s not like he has voice issues like Anakin had when his body had been ravaged by flame until he had to be reconstructed, so what was that all about? I can go much, much further into logic issues here, but I’d better leave the rest up to you to find for now. This post would be a few thousand words longer if I included them all.

Acting. I’m not sure if this was due to the Star Wars acting competitions or not (budget talent), but so many of the actors appeared to be over-dramatizing non-dramatic scenes (adding unnecessary melodrama). Wide eyes, tense voices, urgent attitudes, all the time. Even in the dead calm of desert solitude, Rey acts sullen and pouty. Why? She might have been apathetic or losing hope. She instead looked like she just got rejected from… cheerleader tryouts? I’m glad for everyone who got to act in such a once-beautiful franchise, but maybe they could have used some direction and/or makeup? This wasn’t the first draft of a web series or a new series. It’s a new instalment into one of the most highly-acclaimed sci-fi franchises in existence.

The canon decanonization was a brutal slap-in-the-face. Timothy Zahn wrote some absolutely epic books for Lucas. The Hand of Thrawn trilogy, to name one series. Jude Watson also wrote fantastic stories for Star Wars. Is Disney really so illiterate that its people cannot take good stories from the existing canon and have to instead blacklist them as unofficial to make their own (severely lacking) story stand on its own feet? Timothy Zahn already laid out thrilling, logical, exciting sequels to Return of the Jedi. The material was there. The story was simple. Instead, Disney scrunched lines from Die Hard and Taken and Jurassic Park (“you’re keeping raptors here?”) and other thriller films and needlessly crammed them into Star Wars. Star Wars didn’t need recycled lines. Words aren’t about to add to global litter or anything. People may have groaned at Lucas for some things, but originality was never one of those reasons.

Will I say anything good about the new film? Sure. The landscapes were gorgeous; the desert panorama of wrecked destroyers, for instance, was simply breathtaking. But concept artists have always done a good job. Seriously. And effects are pretty run-of-the-mill now – they stopped being special after The Matrix 3 and Transformers.

So come on, Disney: was this a joke? Should I have left the cinema laughing? Honestly, I’m not generally one for crying, but this brought me pretty close. You’ve trashed the most fantastic sci-fi & fantasy universe that was ever realized. Just knowing that you’re in the process of making further sequels is carving me up inside.

George Lucas, please… can’t you take your work of art back? I adored Star Wars.

Moving House

Moving house is a weird process.

First of all, there’s the realization that you cannot stay where you are. This naturally comes as a shock (whether actively or subliminally), because humans are resistant to change. Sure, the situation sucked, but… move? But move you must, for better or for worse, and thus followeth the second stage.

Hunger. You realized you’ve got to move, and now you want to make the move a good thing. You look up all the options, you hunt for a better place, you scour the land for something you can swallow. You’re repelled by places that look uncomfortable or uninviting in any way. But luckily, it’s that hunger that fuels the next stage.

Packing. This is the part where you deconstruct your entire living space, review all your belongings, and discard between 35% and 50% of your current life. You keep assorted items (bookcases, bed frames, tools, heirlooms, some of your more expensive items, vital clothes) but toss the rest.

Traveling comes next. You sit behind the wheel (or in the back seat) of little motorized vehicle while you follow or lead a truck/trailer containing your life. Everything hangs by a thread. One little slip and your life could be shattered and strewn across the road. You either live in ignorant bliss or you take deep, slow breaths the whole way.

Unpacking. Provided everything arrived safely, you get to start on this next stage. This could end up delightful while you line your new living space with all your things (and in doing so, notice that all your things feel fresh and new again), but this is mixed with annoyance. Why did he pack this? Why didn’t she throw that away yesterday? Your unpacking stage turns into a half unpacking, half throwing-out stage. Lots of clothes donated to charity. Dusty cookbooks and crockery are tossed to family or friends or the same charity as the clothes. Some things have spoiled: the cooking oil wasn’t quite sealed, so you have to toss or scrub down everything from that box.

Settling in. You’ve got to vacuum the floor (which was spotless before you moved in) and do a bunch of things that feel like only moving out chores. You spend hours stacking things in cupboards and wardrobes. Finally everything is sorted and neat. You begin (pretty much) the same life as you had before, but with a different route to work (and perhaps a slightly different job).

This is all fine and weird. Did I just go through it? Yup. The darnedest thing, though, is that somehow we managed to pick the hottest day of the year (so far) to move. That’s 40.5 C (Google tells me that’s 104.9 F; I love American spelling and punctuation, but temperatures are all foreignheit to me). But also humid. So 40.5 C and humid. Seriously, don’t do that. I must’ve drunk 20+ liters of water and orange juice and other random drinkables that day, but I was still thirsty for the entire day and the day after. It’s all very well for moving to be a weird process, but it’s probably wiser to avoid making it exhausting at the same time.

Oh, and the move is why I’ve not posted in a few days. Utilities is one of those other weird parts of moving – some things, like water, can be connected immediately; electricity and internet are two things that can be delayed unless properly arranged long ahead of schedule. Cold showers for the first week? Plan further ahead next time!

Laugh Tracks

Most of us have watched TV comedy at one time or another. The Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Hogan’s Heroes, The Good Life, etc, etc. They’re all filled to the brim with crowds of laughing people. Now… probably the oddest thing to me about laugh tracks is the fact that they feel so natural. It’s habit – we see something slightly amusing or tickling, and then someone else laughs, and then we’re splitting our own sides as well. But what is a laugh track? It’s a pre-recorded excerpt. Some crowd of people was watching something super funny one day, and someone (Charles Douglass) had the bright idea of taking their laughter and engineering it into other things.

So again: what is a laugh track? It’s a dusty, overused copy of some random crowd’s laughter about something totally unrelated to what we’re watching right now. But the thing is, it still (usually) feels completely natural. It’s often quite hard to pick out the times when laugh tracks are used, because we’re laughing right along with everyone else.

I think the thing that really intrigues me about laugh tracks is really something very simple. It’s stand-up comedian rule #1: don’t laugh at your own jokes. If they flop, they flop – move on. Laughing at your own jokes is poor sportsmanship. Is it doable? Sure, but people think you’re a fool and start laughing at you rather than with you. But then comes another side to the definition of laugh tracks: they are the illusion of someone other than the writer laughing at the situation/joke. It’s one of the most important of the magician’s rules: if you’re doing something sneaky with one hand, make sure you are very strongly encouraging your audience to either think nothing of it or look somewhere else. Sure, it’s a laugh that the writer/director inserted, but does it sound like the director or the writer? Nope, it sounds like a general crowd of other people responding to the piece. And it’s that fact that does it for us. If there was only one person laughing, we’d not laugh along with it. We’d scratch our heads and look for the source, discover that it’s Joe, then puzzle over him for a moment or two before making wisecracks at him or simply telling him to shut up. But if an entire crowd starts laughing, we’re sucked in. It’s peer pressure at its most curious – a couple of hundred invisible voices have cracked into laughter, so we feel the peasant-urge to follow along.

A simple flick of the wrist. A snapshot into human psychology. A minute observation that has made trillions of dollars for comedy shows worldwide. For years, stand-up comedians have been quite successful and side-splitting without laugh tracks prompting anything; laugh tracks are the cheapest and most effective way of persuading us to feel and think that even poor humor is simply hilarious.

One slice of comedy to two slices of peer pressure. Sometimes even worse ratios.

But will that prevent us from laughing along with everyone else? Probably not. It’s instinct. But now that you’ve read this post, I tell you one thing for sure regarding laugh tracks: ignorance was bliss. Too bad, eh?

Late-December Shopping

You guessed it – Christmas shopping. Now, I’m aware that Christmas shopping can start several months earlier than December (the biggest shops swap over to Christmas things about a week after Easter finishes), but we tend to procrastinate and postpone and forget and become generally too busy to go Christmas shopping until December 15 – December 24. Two pitfalls of doing this are as follows: rushing and subliminal confusion. We think “oh, I won’t have another chance to buy something, so I’ll just get it now even though it isn’t on sale”. We spend top dollar for things that – while perhaps thoughtful – are actually worth significantly less. “A stormtrooper doll-thing? Hmm, the new Star Wars movie is coming out… and I can’t think of another gift for him… yep, it’ll have to do.” This kind of rushed purchasing is direct, it’s guilt-ridden, it’s painful. It’s very nearly masochistic. Subliminal confusion, on the other hand, is all on the heads of the chaps in marketing. They do a very very good job at this time of year (and ever since Easter), and probably get paid very well to do so. They’ve wrapped hampers that look stunning, they’ve combined things we never knew could possibly be combined in shops (but always wished they were), they’ve painted entire buildings with hints and suggestions and ideas. Our minds have taken in all the colors, smells, sounds, and textures that they’ve slipped into our lives over the past six or more months, and now that the word “Christmas” is becoming a solid and current event, all the marketing we’ve experienced since the beginning starts to niggle its way back into our minds. We simply have to have Christmas pudding. We couldn’t live without stockings, or wrapped presents, or holly, or wreaths. Tinsel. Baubles. Lights. Candy canes. Trees. (I’d love to go on a tangent about how plastic trees are a mockery of the original pagan rites, but that’s another topic in and of itself.)

But yep, Christmas shopping. A tip for the unwary: don’t choose in a hurry; don’t choose based on whim or marketing. Choose what you choose because you know the gift(s) will be used/useful or because the gift(s) will mean something real to the recipient. As for me, well… as I said, those marketing people really know their stuff. I try to hold my own, but sometimes I’m a whimsical buyer too. I’m working on it.

Copy/Paste

This is the inevitable process a lot of people use to apply for jobs. It sounds quite bad when you first read it, but I assure you there’s some sound logic behind it. When we apply for a job we want, we put heart into it. We put all our best feet forward. And if we get rejected, we assume it was because other people of higher caliber applied. There’s always someone “better” out there (the question is, why are they always applying for our job of all jobs?). But we are left with what we consider a top-knotch cover letter and resume. The logical conclusion: we’ll use it again for the next application. And the next, and the next – brilliant!

In essence, it’s a fantastic plan. From a practical standpoint, it’s pretty unreliable. The number of times I’ve sent off a cover letter and then discovered that I’d left in that top line “applying for your advertised role for a [fisherman]” when the new application was for a publishing assistant… is embarrassing (disclaimer: I’ve never applied for a role as a fisherman). The cover letter is brilliant otherwise, right? Not if fishing requires different skills to publishing. Thankfully, resumes are more flexible. We can generally get away with using the same one. We just need to watch out for skills and experience that might confuse or put off employers. If we’ve fished for twenty years full-time and then worked for a press for a year – and we include both on our resume – the HR manager at the publishing job is probably going to assume we’re better suited for a fishing job than their office.

In short, though, copying/pasting is one of those things that is sometimes viable (with care) but is inevitable nonetheless. Jobs throw out more resumes than we do tissues while we have head colds. It’s hard to compete with that kind of turnover, so we copy/paste and move on to the next employer or opening.

Then we cross our fingers.

However, keep this in mind: if you really, really, really want the job, don’t just copy and paste. Give your resume a good scouring and a trim. Add some frills if you’ve gained any. And if you don’t want to write a cover letter from scratch, make sure you read every word in your candidate before you send it off.

And ask yourself this: if you were the HR manager of the studio/company/business/etc you applied for, would you hire yourself? I would – but I guess I’m being too lenient, because it hasn’t gotten me anywhere yet.

The Four Divisions of Gamers

4suits

I used to think of gamers as simply gamers. Sure, there are angry gamers and full-time gamers and casual gamers, but still, they’re all just gamers, right? Well, not quite. It was when I recently ran into a little something called Bartle’s Test that I realized something: you can call all gamers simply gamers, but that’s about as accurate as calling all engineers simply engineers. Different people game for different reasons, and they get different things out of gaming. Richard Bartle’s article here goes further in depth about things, but I’ll highlight the main details I got out of it. Also, while Bartle was chiefly identifying them as types of multiplayer gamers, I believe it can apply to gamers as a whole.

According to Bartle’s theory, there are four distinct character types that define gaming. Anyone can overlap with any or every type, but (generally speaking) we all have a stronger leaning in one particular direction. The four types are as follows: achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers. Bartle goes on to further highlight what attunes those gamers to those aspects using the following chart:

Bartle_graph

This gives some insight into personality patterns that can decide the polarities of gamers.

But now let’s further unravel the categories:

  • Achievers (diamonds) are people who love to collect titles, awards, experience points, high scores, medals, and the like. They thrive on praise and admiration. They’re some of the longest-playing, richest, and most loyal gamers due to their long-term investments in the games they play. They have tendencies to be proud, and they like games to contain challenges that other gamers can’t (or won’t) necessarily overcome.
    • Planners have the big picture in mind. Long-term goals. Things to chip slowly away at for the next ten-twenty years. Weapons or houses to build or collect. You’ll probably mostly find them playing MMOs (or still trying to get the highest score in Tetris or Pong).
    • Opportunists tend to snatch up their achievements in bursts; seasonal events or peak or off-peak game times affect the frequency and intensity of their gaming. They’re also more interested in achievements that are relevant at the time (so that people around them are actively impressed).
  • Explorers (spades): although Wikipedia’s summary of Bartle’s theory suggests that only two sub-types of explorers exist, I’ll have to say that I disagree. There’s definitely at least three. Explorers are the people who run around absolutely everywhere. If you’re watching a Twitch/Youtube feed and you’re wondering why in blazes the streamer/uploader went into that room/corner/building when the quest clearly pointed another direction, they’re almost certainly an explorer gamer.
    • Scientists experiment. Scientist explorers try everything around them – all the buttons, all the books, all the combinations, all the options, all the shortcuts, and all the scenic routes as well. If it works, awesome. If it fails, at least they tried. No stone left unturned. No formulas left uncombined.
    • Hackers are looking for bugs and exploits. Some might simply be amused by such glitches, but others could be compared to achievers in that they try to get to places that others can’t (or skip the hard work involved in reaching certain achievements).
    • Tourists could be compared to scientists, but they’re running around more to see new things and places and characters and scenes and scenery than to experiment. They take it all in and then want more. They’re the most likely to jump between games, because unless the studio keeps tossing new places and lore for them to explore and absorb, they churn through everything quickly and are then struck by unquenchable wanderlust.
  • Socializers (hearts) are the glue of every community. They talk, they discuss, they pull people together, they repair breaches in society. They’re the heart of guilds or outfits in MMO games. They’re the kind guys and gals who stop to revive you when you’re downed in the middle of nowhere. They’re the group healers and buff-providers. They’re the people who spend hours beside (or in) a puzzle with you just to have someone to talk to. If they play single-player games, you can pretty much guarantee that they’re active and proactive on the game’s forums.
    • Networkers bring groups together. This usually involves bringing people from different character types into one place and gluing them there by creating bonds and loyalties and nurturing mutual friendships. They build and expand and maintain guilds and/or communities. They form teams and proactively schedule meetups/group events.
    • Friend gamers are the loyal buddies who are always willing to join you, wherever you are, whenever you are there. They’ll drop what they’re doing (“forget it, I can start again from the bottom of the mountain later”) to join their buddies. They’ll come to their friends’ rescues if they’re being confronted or abused on a forum.
  • Killers (clubs) are highly competitive players. They may or may not be as competitive in general as achievers, but kills and skills are their two favorite things. They’d sacrifice the score turnout for a bloodbath if kills didn’t mean wins (but kills are usually directly related to winning, whether by eliminating the opposition’s score-earners or through the kills themselves). They’re players with serious reflexes, and are either frontline brutes or veteran snipers. Some fight with honor, and are fun opponents. Others can be derisive and unpleasant.
    • Wolf gamers compete and hunt. They feed on flesh and bury their muzzles in warm blood. They compete with other wolves for the position of alpha, and they form hierarchies of mutual respect and understanding based on skill and strength. They’re generally just as comfortable hunting by themselves as they are in packs – and in some cases, when in a pack that simply keeps getting in the way, they separate and scour the battlefield on their own.
    • Griefers can be compared to the forum lepers I mentioned in my previous post. Some of them may even be those. They’re in for the rush, the feeling of superiority, the chase. They’re the level-281-account players who create level-0 accounts simply to plow their way through low-level matches and watch dismay and despair seep through their opponents. They’re the group of five players who watches for ones and twos of their opponents to arrive – and then pounces on them, then waits for them to respawn so they can rinse and repeat.

There could be more sub-categories, so feel free to suggest them in a comment! I’ll even add them to the post if they stand out as unique or necessary.

I personally lean toward the tourist end of things. Sometimes I fancy myself in the wolf pack or trying to support my allies, and occasionally I reach for some low-hanging achievements, but unless I’m playing a game like Rainbow Six: Siege, like I currently am, I’m usually more interested in my surroundings. Getting from point A to B, C, D, E, and all the other letters. Seeing characters and scenery and the world(s) and stories come to life around me. That’s where most of my hours in Skyrim and The Witcher 3 come from.

What kind of a gamer are you?

Forum Lepers

anarchist

Online forums can be very toxic places. I guess it goes back as far as ancient Greek meeting places (cheers to the roots of democracy), where people would get riled up in their discussions, but the Greeks had an advantage – they weren’t talking on the internet. People hiding behind screens and keyboards can be as abusive, as stupid, or even as ignorant as they like without (generally) taking a hit to their personal reputation. Anonymity has encouraged general anarchy (ever wondered why anarchists are often portrayed with masks?). While I’m not against some forms of anarchy and the ideals behind it, I have to say that it should be infused with education (or at the very least, culture). Uneducated, uncultured anarchy is chaos.

But I digress.

I’ve had some great conversations and discussions on online forums. Some of my favorites have been constructive threads about games (like Guild Wars 2), talking about their concepts, mechanics, and how things could have been better implemented. I’ve run into several other fantastic people who are interested in the things other people write, and when they post they think out their thoughts before saying things; like in any community, it’s those kinds of people who make the forums worth visiting.

And then there’s the forum lepers. I call them that not because I have anything against people who have been diagnosed with leprosy, but rather because they are the untouchables of the forum world. Forum lepers can be divided into a few groups:

  • Trolls: simply there to say junk that may/may not be related to anything that has been said or will ever be said on the forum. Usually not concerned with anything remotely related to relevance. Posts made uzin turribl spelinge or containing unrelated jokes or supporting something that has been proven false/misleading are commonly made by trolls.
  • Dumpers: dump their baggage on posts and couldn’t care less about discussion, but are instead there to unload their minds. It’s not uncommon to find a lot of **** marks or ENTIRE PARAGRAPHS OF CAPS in their posts.
  • Bullies: similar to dumpers, but they’re there to force their opinions upon others. The experienced forum poster can’t be bullied, but less savvy members might be affected negatively. Confrontational, direct insults or lashing out at personal character abounds in their posts.
  • White knights: I’ve only really heard of this happening on game forums (those are the ones I frequent), but I’m sure they could be anywhere. White knights are the Wormtongues of the world: they suck up to a concept/company/person and utterly idealize anything and everything that ever issues from it. Perhaps they don’t personally feel any of the things they say, but it’d be the damnedest thing if they ever say anything negative or constructive about their favored thing. They’re a bit like dumpers in that they couldn’t care less about discussion, but they’re more like a stubborn form of bullies (except on the defensive more often than the offensive).

How do you counter a forum leper? That’s a tricky question. I’m not even sure if there’s an answer. A hardworking forum leper can steer the conversation into a completely new direction, or even cause the thread to be closed or deleted. Confrontation was an option in ancient Greece, but is not actually possible online. Trying to engage with them can encourage them. If someone is unintentionally a forum leper, a private message could solve the issue, but if they’re doing it intentionally, you’ve just singled yourself out for targeted abuse – and whether it affects you emotionally or not, it can leave a trail of destruction behind your own perfectly reasonable posts. The closest thing I can see as a solution is ignoring them, but not alone: the affected forums need to become strong communities of people who actively post around the forum leper to build a veritable bulwark of interesting and constructive/supportive threads. Those threads and forums shine.

So don’t be a forum leper! If you’re visiting a forum and intend to contribute, keep an open mind. You’ll not only have a better experience, but you might learn something while you’re there. Note, of course, that if you’ve fringed on any of the leper groups, it doesn’t make you automatically a forum leper. It’s your goal that means the most.

Flames of Solsgard Again

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Well, Kickstarter didn’t really go as planned. But I’ve discovered that Kickstarter isn’t the best option for my writing anyways. So (without further ado) – have a look at my Patreon page, which is where my writing will now be released on a pay-per-story basis. $1 each. If you are a first-time pledger, you will receive the four-story collection Flames of Solsgard; thereafter, you will get my latest story. If you join after stories have already been released, don’t worry! I will release them in eBooks later on. Look forward to having you come along!

Unfortunately, the project won’t be able to launch seriously until there is $50 pledged per story. I may launch the first release before reaching that, but further releases will be irregular at best until then.

So come along and support my Patreon project!