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Teh Bias: Big Heroes
Freedom: A Closer Look at Enslaved
Motion Control: Show me what you've got

Welcome, wanderer.

I am old beyond time.
(Not actually true, but I ain't young. I still get carded every single time I go to the liquor store or buy cigarettes, and they always make a big deal about it when they read my birthdate off the ID, so I guess that's good.)

I am omnipresent.
(Okay, not true either. But I've lived in a lot of places. Currently adjusting to living in a smaller town after coming from a huge one.)

I have watched your kind over the years, learning.
(Well, I can be a little antisocial; I'm an introvert. Social situations exhaust me. But I'm actually pretty friendly and have learned, with painstaking practice, to hold up my end of a conversation.)

I have watched you evolve.
(I like all sorts of games. I have some over-analytical tendencies, and when no one's looking, you might actually catch me playing with a notebook and pen at my side, taking notes. I love to see games do new things, create new systems and new ways of playing. Games like Catherine, Journey, or Child of Eden - or even little indie strangenesses like Passage and One Chance - always get my imagination fired up.)

I have participated in your rituals.
(Music - Electronica, darkwave, ambient, 80s, chillout, punk, rock, conscious hip-hop, some folk and indie. See last.fm for things I tend to listen to; the profile's out of date, and of course doesn't account for any non-digital music I own.)

I have absorbed your literature.
(Books - Stephen R. Donaldson, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe, Warren Ellis, Stephen King, Chuck Palaniuk, Hunter Thompson, Richard Morgan, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Lovecraft, Haruki Murakami, Jeff Lindsay, Mervyn Peake, Borges, Harlan Ellison, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Banana Yoshimoto, bros Hernandez, Nancy Collins, Jessica Abel, Brian Wood, Mary Roach, Mary Karr, Jane McGonigal - and many more.)

I have aided your heroes.
(Fondly remembered games - Final Fantasy series and FFT, Persona series, SMT and DDS, Portal, Bioshock, Batman Arkham Asylum, Fallout, Silent Hill, Valkyria Chronicles, Culdcept, Baroque, Katamari Damacy, Odin Sphere, The Red Star, Rez, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, Soul Calibur, Panzer Dragoon, Oblivion, Planescape Torment, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Civilization, Limbo, Puzzle Quest, Demon's Souls, Okami, Parappa the Rapper, any and all co-op beat 'em ups, PixelJunk Monsters, and I'm probably forgetting tons worthy of mention).

I have chosen you to hear my words and bear them to all who will listen.
(Kind of!)

Welcome, wanderer. Make yourself at home.
Following (30)  

7:21 PM on 07.27.2014

After about an hour, a bed flew out of space and crashed into the mountain.

There wasn't really anything I could do about it. †I rotated the mountain back and forth, and clicked on the bed to no particular avail. †It's still just kind of sitting there, embedded into the mountainside at a weird angle, and seems like it will be there forever. †

There isn't much you can do about anything in Mountain. †It begins by asking you a series of questions about yourself, to which you must respond by drawing in answers (look, all that messing around in MS Paint is finally going to help you after all!). †No one knows what the game does with the answers. †Maybe nothing.

I'm calling it a game. I mean, you can argue about whether or not it is one. I like to think we've outgrown that discussion finally. Like, nothing says "insecure about my hobbies" like the need to formulate a thesis to justify them. Maybe we should call it an interactive meditation, or a digital snowglobe? Whatever revs your motor.†

Mountain is sort of like like an old bottle that someone discovered in a trunk in the attic, and you've bought it at a garage sale for a dollar, and you take it home and you discover that the top is permanently sealed on. †So you rattle it around a little bit, and you're sure you can see something in there but the glass is too scratched and tinted for you to be sure what it is, no matter which way you turn it. So you just end up putting it on a shelf, and every once in a while someone asks about it so you take it down and puzzle over it with them for a few minutes at a time. Otherwise it just sits there on the shelf, inviting you to think about it every once in a while.†

Have I just described a game? I suppose I haven't. But it's sold in the same places that you find games, and I use the same portion of my day to play with it that I would otherwise spend on games, and it shares some features with games, like being on a computer and responding to your keyboard and mouse inputs, and having sounds and graphics and whatnot, so let's call it a game and be done thinking about that part for now, eh?†

Every once in a while the mountain has a thought.†

These thoughts occur with little chiming sounds. Sometimes they repeat, as your own thoughts do. They're pensive thoughts, and sometimes even a little dark. The mountain sounds like it is trying to figure itself out by studying its surroundings, with minimal success. There may be a lesson in there for you. I don't know.

Word on the (virtual) street says it was made by the same person that made another not-a-game that is featured in the movie†Her, which is apparently about a man dating an OS that lives in his smartphone. If you like this sort of thing, thing being solitary mountains drifting alone while time passes, pondering the nature of existence, then you may also like that sort of thing, which is Spike Jonze.†

Some of the buttons on your computer will make something happen in the world of the Mountain's world, but not all of them, and the range of interaction feels pretty narrow after a few minutes, but who knows how many surprises are lurking in there? I don't want to spoil too much. Anyway, I'm not telling you how to spend your money. I thought it was worth a dollar, so that I can fire it up every once in a while and think about being a mountain. Maybe that's dumb. But what else are you going to spend a dollar on? Go on, try and come up with something. I'll wait. I'm pretty patient.

Maybe that's why I like†Mountain.

So, Jackie Chan is retiring from action movies. It makes me a little sad, but at the same time - maybe itís about that time? I would certainly rather be hearing this news than finding out that heís gotten himself killed on a movie set during some incredible but ill-advised stunt involving a backflip off of a motorcycle in mid-air between two skyscrapers to deliver a flying kick to some other guy on a motorcycle while on fire.

Itís honestly perplexing to me that there has never really been a Jackie Chan game worthy of the name, to my knowledge. I wanted to do a bit of research on his impact in games and all the places that Jackie look-alikes show up, but I found out that Hardcore Gaming 101 is all over that already. Their article is like 8 pages long, and probably you should be reading that instead of this if you really want to learn something!

Close your eyes and pretend that this is an embedded video! Well, don't CLOSE them, but...

I first learned about Jackie Chan back in 1993 or so - I think Armour of God and Twin Dragons were big at the time. Back in the days when videotapes existed, I used to help sell bootlegs at the monthly L.A. comic convention. It wasn't so easy to find japanese animation and HK flicks back then, especially subtitled. There were no torrents, no Toonami. People hadn't heard of Akira. There were anime clubs you could go to, to get introduced to things like Ranma films or Project A-ko, because there was nowhere local for a strapped college student to get ahold of that stuff.

Nowadays it is possible kids are actually a little bit TOO exposed to anime.

We'd get tapes that had clearly been recorded from public television, wavy lines, mediocre reception and all. Then someone would subtitle them (or in shadier instances, almost certainly snagged from a commercial laserdisc or someone's fansub - I won't lie, there was some hustle involved) - and then we'd copy manually on VCRs and hawk them at the con. It was my friend's deal, I just went for free lunch, free day at the con, and maybe 40 bucks for my time if business was solid. It was a bit of a time commitment, but I somehow managed to squeeze it in between all the Drunken Mastering, failing to have sex, and skipping class to play Mario Kart or Panzer Dragoon that otherwise kept me busy.

It was better quality than this. Usually.

We had this one copy of just Jackie Chan cuts of all the best stunts from all of his work - 2 hours of heads getting kicked in, in between ludicrous backflips and handsprings and wall runs, set mostly to a bunch of White Zombie and hardcore jams. This was some of my first exposure to the latest HK cinema, and it blew my mind. It was always one of the best sellers; I don't know how many times I watched that thing.

It's not an exaggeration to say that his influence changed the way our culture perceives and understands action. When you see an action sequence that doesn't make quick cuts, but actually just puts the camera at medium distance and lets you clearly observe the actors in motion, a lot of that came from the hundred-odd films this man put together. When you catch any reference to drunken master kung-fu, it comes back to Jackie's Drunken Master. And he never needed to be some kind of MMA hardass to do his thing - in any given situation, he'd rather make you laugh than make you bleed.

I will forever be in awe of Jackie Chan, who through training, dedication, and an unkillable sense of humor, has used the humble tools of his fists and a movie camera to elevate the level of wonder in the world by showing us things we would not have imagined were possible. The man moves through our waking world as though it were a video game - every surface available for him to navigate, every jump the precursor to a double jump. I feel like thereís more to say here, but this wonít be a timely post if I sit on it too long, and so Iíll make like the actor himself - drop it here, and move on to other things.
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Would it be weird if I said I donít go to games sites for gaming news coverage? Or does that just make me dumb? Basically, Iím trying to explain to you before I mention them, that I donít often visit Kotaku other than to read Kirk Hamiltonís game music articles and the occasional Ashcraft ďLife in JapanĒ piece.

That was such a terrible explanation. Seriously, so bad! I'm sorry for wasting your time, everyone!

Okay, thing is, somebody sent me the link to this one about JRPGs. And I found myself realizing I had a lot to say about them, because I wrote down what was intended to be just a brief little comment on my G+, but ended up going on for just forever. I get like that about JRPGs.

So, this is the article, for reference.

In a nutshell, itís a defense against a criticism that JRPGs are ďdead,Ē that theyíre all too repetitive or stagnant or whatever people say about games that donít get as much media attention.

The first thing that sprang to mind for me was, "repetitive" isn't itself a flaw if the core gameplay is fun. All kinds of fun stuff is repetitive. Swinging on a swingset is repetitive. Dancing is repetitive. Television is repetitive. Checkers is repetitive. Peggle is repetitive. Triple Town and Tetris are repetitive. Shooters are repetitive. But they're also addictive. When people say that a formula of gameplay is repetitive as a criticism, what are actually perceiving is the game's failure to keep them locked in a satisfactory engagement loop.

Sometimes repetition is awesome.

If the story payoffs are not getting the player emotionally invested, or the combat systems lack tactical nuance and opportunities for decision making, or the leveling system does not continuously feed the character fun new things to learn, or the game's camerawork, effects, and presentation fail to evolve in eye-catching ways over the course of the game, or - well, any number of potential problems! - then the gameplay is perceived as repetitive rather than addictive, because the player feels that they are receiving less and less reward while growing more and more adept. But these are design problems - not problems with the genre as a whole!

As a form, it has a lot of limits. The D&D roots are clear, jutting out from the surface of the genre at odd joints. It's mostly about using numbers to make bigger numbers, dressed up with swords and spells. There's not much more to it. But limits can be enabling; Final Fantasy IV and VI, along with Chrono Trigger, are examples of some of the magic that happened when Square developers mastered the available tech and then pushed its' limits - dueling airships, playing through opera sequences, multiple character POVs, stories spanning lifetimes, branching storylines, time travel, and so much more.

It seems intrinsically Japanese to me, this honing and polishing of a small and brilliant form of gamespace, re-iterating and recycling to seek perfection within well-defined limits. Contrast it with the West - sprawling, open-ended game vistas - stay in one form of gameplay just long enough to plant your flag, consider it conquered, and move on to new pastures and new ideas quickly, or consider yourself "stagnant."

If JRPGs have an primary weakness, to me, it is in the narrative - and a lot of people play these for the story! But to me, there's a point at which I just cannot take the constant retelling of the journey to adulthood - the immature young hero learning to be mature through strife and sacrifice, learning about love, learning about defeat, learning about firsts. It is actually perfect for the model of linear leveling progression that RPGs in general have at their heart - start weak, strive, get strong, overcome. As gamers themselves age, it becomes harder for them to identify with these themes. The adult world contains more nuance. What a lot of gamers reaching their 20s and 30s aren't realizing that it's not the games that are "stagnant," it's they who are growing up and seeking deeper understanding.

But the form is capable of that. Costume Quest and Penny Arcade Adventures are fully approachable, witty, and charming games built on those exact mechanics, but telling their own unique little stories. Parasite Eve takes you through a fight against your own mitochondria, who have shaped the human being since the dawn of time. SMT: Nocturne asks you to adopt an ethos - that of the solitary Ascetic, or the arbiter of Law, or the Chaotic force of growth and change - and to harness the demons and thoughtforms that align with your ethos, to prove out that thesis in demonic combat. The linked article contains many similar examples.

Also, this.

Geez, my examples are really dated, actually. Iím not even that expert on all of whatís out there. But 1) That still supports my point - even decades-old JRPGs showed some fairly astonishing and innovative concepts. And 2) Thatís actually why Iím going to quit yammering on like that guy on the night bus who insists on involving strangers in his largely monologic ongoing conversation about how heís constantly receiving mental messages via satellite from Mars telling him not to bite strangers, and ask people to educate me instead.

What is the real hotness in JRPGs? For all my defense of them, itís been a long time since I found one that I really enjoyed. I think itís fair to say Iím over the usual pastoral-green-adventure-land, kids-with-swords-fighting-dragons, good-triumphs-over-evil nonsense. Iím curious about whatís on the fringes of the genre now - the stranger, the more bizarre, the more unusual for a game, the better. I tend to prefer stuff I can find on PS3 or PC, and tend to prefer turn-based or ATB to ĎAction RPGs,í but I still want to know about JRPGs that really made you stop and think or impressed you, no matter what platform theyíre on. Anybody want to school me?
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Well, itís been a super-long time since I wrote anything here, right? But I love all of these 10 things blogs - kudos to bbain for getting that going! My subconscious firmly believes that you guys actually all resemble your avatar pictures, and that you spend most of your time fighting for space justice on the internet while piloting a hundred thousand tiny space vehicles that assemble into a gigantic Mr. Destructoid wardroid every time I visit this site.

And yet somehow, even after catching these glimpses into your real lives and the things that make you, well, YOU - my subconscious only feels even more justified in this belief. I was never able to win an argument with my subconscious, so let me dust off and clean up my space vehicle and get up in this mother.

1. I have been laser-enhanced.

I spent a good bit of my childhood with my nose buried in a book. This might be why no one noticed I was nearsighted until, like, 5th grade or so. Then I spent the rest of my jr. high and high school years wearing thick-rimmed glasses that, yes, were frequently held together by tape. I didnít get contacts until college, and from then on, the process of worrying about them, taking them out and re-inserting them, getting eyelashes caught in them, and all the other wonderful joys of contact lens wearers were mine to enjoy (by which I mean hate) for many, many years.

I eventually saved up to get PRK, which is like LASIK but hurts worse and can take days to recover from. I cannot shoot optic blasts, which I specifically requested, but I can now enjoy the privilege of being able to close my eyes whenever I want, for as long as I want, and not having to undergo some elaborate cleansing ritual when I decide to open them again. It sounds like a little thing, but itís amazing.

This is the type of thing that makes me want a good universal health care system. Everyone should be able to do things like, you know, SEE, regardless of their income level. Iíll pay taxes for it, whatever.

2. I'm of mixed race.

My momís Filipino, my Dadís black from Louisiana (with a good dash of spanish, french, and other stuff, probably). Itís not something I talk about much, but neither will you catch me ignoring issues of race. Regardless of whether theyíre aware of it or understand it, perception of race is something that affects everyone, all the time, in ways that are both subtle and obvious. Just because I donít say much about it, doesnít mean I donít think about it. But I'd way rather be talking about stuff that's actually, like, fun.

3. I'm trying to write more often.

I always want to get better at writing. Itís the one thing that I can claim to have above-average ability in; in all other areas, I try not to suck but neither am I exceptional.
I rant about all kinds of crap on G+: fulldamage

I am working on an experimental fiction project, here: Ehaema

On the latter, Iíll be writing one little piece every single weekday, for the next year. I just started it, and am a little over a month into the effort. Itís sort of a story, but also sort of not? I honestly donít know whether itís the kind of thing anyone would care to read, but itís mainly a practice thing for me to do daily, like working out - gets me into the habit of writing regularly, without getting hung up on details. So far, so good.

4. I have a cat.

Alley is a weird little cat that shuns most people in favor of hiding in corners and staring like a creepy witchís familiar. But she seems to adore me and we get along just fine. I have a piece that I keep meaning to write, about how she went to the hospital and almost died last year due to kidney complications. I was playing the Binding of Isaac at the time, and kept seeing parallels - about what itís like to be a little creature, trapped in a scary environment, at the mercy of forces beyond your control or comprehension. Maybe Iíll get around to it. Mostly Iím just happy she pulled through.

5. I am a lurker in all walks of life.

I like a lot of things that spawn subcultures - comics, books, games, sci fi and fantasy, punk rock, hip hop, gothic / electronic music - but I tend to drift along the outer periphery of all these scenes, rather than settling comfortably into one the way so many friend groups seem to do. Iím a little anti-social, so I donít make friends real easily - Iíve always kind of done my own thing, and Iím totally a space cadet who spends most of his time in his head - but life is in the connections you make, right? Maybe I should get ďde-lurkĒ tattooed on my forearm as a personal reminder to engage more often. Is that overkill?

6. I canít swim.

Dunno. Iím half Pacific Islander and half from a southern culture that historically relied heavily on fishing and sea trading - so Iíve got the genes of all kinds of water-loving people, but it doesnít help. I canít really tread water - I just go down. I even took swimming lessons as a kid, but all I ever got out of it was a mouthful of baby pool pee water and a sense of general inadequacy.

Every once in a while Iíll sneak into a pool and try to doggie paddle across the shallow end while no oneís looking, but to little avail. Itís fine. When the dolphins finally rise up to slaughter us all and dominate the planet, you swimmers are going to be the first victims, while I hide in my landlocked bunker and prepare a statement of fealty to our new aquatic overlords, so the jokeís on you, suckers.

7. I like karaoke.

Not the open mike onstage kind (though I have done some spoken word in my time), but I will totally rock out in a japanese style karaoke booth with whomever wants to go! I tend to pick old New Wave or gothy tracks because I can mostly hit the baritone range their male vocalists tend to be in, but my range isnít that good.

8. I wish I could support comic books better.

Man, comics are awesome. But in my advanced age, I really just canít hang with the monthlies any more - I follow my favorite writers/artists and pick up the trades instead. Retailers are suffering because of this, but I canít justify dropping 3 or 4 dollars on something Iíll have read in 5 minutes, and be stuck waiting until the next month for a little crumb of plot advancement. Iíd rather wait until a story is collected, and order it from Amazon or something, the way I do with books.

So comics retailers and publishers need to adapt to the increasing amount of people who are going to do it that way, but a lot of them are trying to figure out how to incentivize people to get single issues by adding content to them. I get why they want that, but I think itís a losing battle.

9. As a child, I profaned the blessed Sacrament at church

Iím not a churchgoer. I think about consciousness and spirituality a lot, mostly under the wing of philosophy (which was my major in school). And I love mythology, because I love stories. But my folks are Catholic, so I went to catholic school in 5th grade. I never paid attention when my mom brought me to church, so I didnít know why everyone was lining up to go the front to get some weird little paper cookie.

On my turn, I snatched one out of the priestís hand and carried it around nonchalantly for a long time before cautiously snacking on it later on. Protip: Catholics are weird about you doing this unless youíve participated in their whole First Communion rigamarole. I had to go talk to a nun with my parents later because eating Christ Cookies when youíre not supposed to apparently ruins EVERYTHING for EVERYONE.

Man, those things taste awful anyway. I distinctly remember some kid telling me they tasted like chocolate. They do no such thing. Catholics are messed up.

10. You cats rock my socks.
I actually hope this was something you knew already, but in case you didnít, there it is. I am always scarce around here, but I love knowing that Dtoid is here, full of awesome people and fans of all kinds of games, waiting for me to pull up a browser window and read all about not JUST games - but the life, culture, and people that love games too, and how theyíre affected by those games, and then go out to change the world just a little bit, by writing things or getting together or gaming together or just doing their thing - shit, all of it. It makes me happy even just to think about it, while Iím stuck in the middle of some onerous task or other. Seriously, thank you for that.

Hitler puppy commands you to enjoy this post, and the rest of your weekend.
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Itís when the silence sets in. Thatís how you know theyíre coming for you.

The world of Lordran is always quiet to begin with. Other than the hum of wind, the occasional crackling of a distant bonfire, and the quiet mutterings and growls of those few strange creatures that still cling to life in these vast abandoned ruins, there is precious little sound. But when even these few noises die down to a muted hush, so quiet you can hear your own heartbeat, it means only one thing. An invader wandering the cold Abyss between worlds has gained a foothold in your world. That invader is coming to kill you. You can always hear it, as long as you listen.

The second thing you hear will be the unmistakable sound of that spirit gaining coherence in your world, spawning into full reality nearby. It may only a be few seconds, or nearly a minute, but itís barely enough time to prepare.

And then I hear the spawning sound. A message banner rolls across the bottom of the screen. ďSpirit of Vengeance Manitoba87 has invaded.Ē

There are many types of invaders that can make their way into your world. This type, Spirits of Vengeance, belong to the Darkmoon Covenant - the karmic police of Lordran. When I was a much younger spectre, 20 or 30 soul levels ago, I belonged to the covenant of Forest Protectors. I wandered for many moonless nights in Darkroot Garden, hunting down intruders for their souls and the materials needed to forge my weapons. Many of them, as they fell, indicted me - wrote my name into the pages of the book of Sin, so that warriors of the Darkmoon might find me later and exact their vengeance. And I deserve it, of course. We all sin, and we all bear the cost. But so long as I am armed, and at full health, I refuse to die. The souls Iíve collected are my only means of getting stronger, my only means of escaping from this forsaken place. They will take them from me by putting the business end of a length of steel through me - or not at all.

My heart is pounding. Has been since the silence fell.

Iím on the third floor of the Library in the Dukeís Archives. Itís a precarious situation. Iíve never been this far into the Archives before. Invaders may be escaped by rushing into the boss area at the worldís end, but I donít know where that is, nor how far away. I donít know where the enemy is coming from. And Iím full of souls, tens of thousands of them gained from slaughtering my way out of Seath the Scalelessís gruesome prison tower. Souls that will end up in a bloodstain on the floor, in the middle of an armed mob of shamans and crystal warriors, if I am not careful. I stop moving, so that the clank of my plate-armored footstep canít give me away. I slot in my remaining Estus potions of healing, click through my few offensive options. I lurk in the shadows on the catwalk, and wait.

And then I see him from over the lip of the railing, scurrying across the bottom floor silently. Invading spectres make no sound.

My hands are shaking now.

I have one small advantage - control of the arena. There is only one way to get up to my level - via a rotating staircase that connects the second and third levels of catwalks. He can make it up to the second level, but he canít get up here unless I turn the staircase for him. But thereís no other way for me to get out. So I must face him. It still takes me several minutes to build up the courage.

None of us want to die. Not again.

I take a breath, and walk out onto the staircase, audible and clearly visible now. At the staircaseís midpoint landing is the lever that will rotate it 180 degrees, connecting it to the second level catwalk on the roomís opposite side. I pull the lever, and wait.

As expected, he is there at the foot of the staircase when it completes its rotation. An energy pattern of coldly flickering cobalt blue light in the shape of a man.

We stand there, regarding each other for at least five seconds. It would not have surprised me to see a tumbleweed roll past. This is a test of the opponentís character. Hungry, thuggish, inexperienced souls will come charging in immediately. When enough time has passed to established that neither of us is that type of warrior, then we bow simultaneously - he with a courtly sweep of the arm, me with a formal, from-the-waist eastern bow.

Then, just like in any samurai movie youíve seen, we charge.

He has a one-handed sword. I hold a Crescent Axe, a long-handled headsmanís blade. It is not a popular weapon, but it has better reach than any other axe, and delivers damage commensurate with the strength of my Faith. As we draw near, just before Iím inside the reach of his sword, I drop the axe and palm my talisman - the symbol of that faith. And as he draws back to swing, I take a knee and pray.

And the air erupts with the Wrath of the Gods.

My opponent is lightly armored. The force of the miracle scatters him to the foot of the stairs like leaves in the wind. And I make a mistake. In my nervousness, Iíve double-tapped the cast. Wrath erupts a second time, but it washes over my prone opponent harmlessly. Worse, it eats away a precious second of my time. As fast as I can, I heft the axe once more and bring it down in a brutal overhand chop, but itís too late. Heís recovered. Quick as a blink, he vaults to his feet, backflips twice, and goes sprinting down the catwalk in the other direction.

I run after him as fast as I can, but Iím in full paladin armor, bearing no charms or enchantments to lighten the load. He outpaces me easily. A smarter fighter than I would have pulled out a ranged weapon and fired at his back. This is my belated thought process as, barrelling down the hall, I see him turn back to face me with a halo of glowing spheres rising up around his head.

Crystal Soul Mass. Itís nothing to me. Charging forward still, I wait for the spheres to leave his orbit and come streaking towards me like small earthbound meteors. I dive forward in a roll, and they zip overhead, harmlessly. I have to think of them as harmless. Because if you stop, if you try to run, even if you just freeze and hold up your shield, then the first one will knock your shield aside, and the rest of them will rip you open and leave you broken on the floor.

Coming up from the roll, I leap forward to bring the axe overhead in a downward smash. He flinches aside just in time, but fails to get out of the way in time for my follow-up swing. I can hear the gasp through his teeth in the stillness of the Archives as my blade cuts through his armor once, twice. But again, Iíve been overeager. I barely caught him with the tip of my weapon; the third swing hits only air, and leaves me off balance. I have a moment to see him lean forward, to see the glimmer of a Pyromancerís Flame in his sword hand. And then the air around me combusts into a terrifying cloud of fire.

My faith protects me to some degree from direct magical damage -- but fire is an older, rawer form of magic. I try to swing the axe again, but the fire has ripped through my defense - I can only stagger, arms twisting in pain, withering in the deadly inferno as the air explodes again, and again.

With the last of my strength I throw myself into another roll, past him, tumbling until I can get clear. I have a second to myself, maybe less. Itís not enough, but in a haze of panic, I down a flask of Estus. My health bar, shrunk to a thumbnailís width, springs back to half-full.

A second later, and that Pyromancerís glove is at my back again, the air once more burning. But Iíve recovered just enough to take the hit without flinching. Pivoting, I level the axe into a wide horizontal sweep.

He sees it coming, and flips backwards, but his timing is off, and my range is good. I clip him as heís coming down on his feet. He panics, turns, and sprints a short distance before turning to regard me once again.

Weíre both torn up. At this mid-range distance, whoever flinches first loses. The sword re-appears in his hand. And just like in the samurai movies, it ends as it began. We charge.

Iím late on my swing; he gets clean past the axe. His sword tags me as he passes; the blade is enchanted with flame, and once again, I am burning. My health bar is a sliver.

Any second now, there will be a backstab. Iím wide open, and out of options. I donít think about alternatives; my fingers do the math for me. Reflexively, one last time, I drop the axe, take a knee, and pray for the air to fill with the sound of Godís Wrath.

Iím waiting for the backstab sound to happen. Waiting to see my avatar snap into that all-too-familiar shock animation as my opponentís weapon enters her back and explodes through her chest, lifting her clean off the ground in the process. Iíve already seen it as vividly as though it were real, when my ear finally registers the soft double-thump of my opponentís body hitting the ground knees-first, and the sighing whisper of his soul leaving this plane of existence.

Iím a scrub, when it comes to PvP. A humble vessel, who entreats greater powers to help him deal with the skilled, vicious, and deadly obstacles in his way, and hopes -- against all odds -- that somehow he will make it through each encounter alive. Hands still shaking, I had to put the controller down at that point, and reflect on what it is to have a little bit of Faith.
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"This should be fun. When do we leave?" - Gogo the Mime

It's been about a month since PAX. I keep meaning to write something about it, when work isn't kicking my ass. Thus far, the ass kicking has been relentless.

They say they'll lay off the brass knuckles if I get all my spreadsheets done.

Also, I'm kind of lazy. And I didn't take any pictures, because I have the attention span of a flea with a mood disorder and a Red Bull problem.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it.

The last time I went to Seattle was more than ten years ago; passed through it, I should say, rather than "went to." I was visiting a friend in Snoqualmie, and really didn't see much of Seattle other than that it seemed rainy and full of coffee shops and flannel and the spirits of long dead alien scouts from other worlds, hungry and in need of fresh, untarnished, virginal souls - which is pretty much what everyone expects Seattle to be. But convention time is different.

During PAX - well, I guess all I really saw was downtown. But because of the massive convention clustered right near its heart (like a cancerous growth, but very slightly less expensive), it really became something Other - like a city in a novel, full of weird and wonderful sights. You roll out of your bed in the morning, as early as you can stand, because awesome is happening right outside and you need to be part of it (and why can't waking up be filled with that feeling more often?).

You stumble towards coffee, and a bunch of N7 troops from the Normandy are lounging near the counter in fatigues and tank tops, ordering espressos and blearily trying to remember where they parked their ship. As you're chewing through your thing-that-was-a-pastry-once, you can see Mario outside posing for a picture with someone - no, wait, that's Ron Jeremy. Ron Jeremy in a Mario costume? Probably wouldn't be the first time. Maybe itís not Ron Jeremy. You're not quite awake enough to figure it out.

Give this man a mushroom. Right now.

As you trundle towards the convention center, the streets are teeming with Soul Collectors and Creepers and BlazBlue warriors and "sexy" Pikachus and a sad man in a yellow blanket who thinks he's Pac Man and may have diabetes. And so much more. It's like a forum exploded, and everyone is dressed as their avatar. It makes just walking around a heartlifting experience. It's beautiful.

Forums! Geez, I never go there, which is my own damn fault. I spend too much time on the internet to begin with. But did you know that the forums are filled with awesome, and that everyone in there is bombsauce? I met so many cool Dtoid forum people I don't even know where to begin. Jack Shadow and Hei, Diverse, GOBUN!, Fleet3000 and lady, Glitchy, the amazing Changston, Scion of Mogo, and many other rockstars whose names I cannot remember right now because BOOZE. Also met a handful of the many community leaders whose names you may not see that often if you're a front-pager only, but who do an amazing job of helping people have a good time, on the site and off - Tactix, Powerglove, and so many more. Also met the incomparable Elsa for a few minutes, which was an absolute treat, as well as the polite Mr. Kraid, sublime intern Ali D, Heiyu who is a hilarious friend of mine that needs to delurk - the list goes on.

All of these people are awesome, and are only one tiny piece of the Dtoid army which lurks in secret. Okay, they lurk in public. And they are actually kind of loud and sometimes wear funny hats and foam swords and are not actually that secret. My point is, they are all as awesome as you could possibly expect; hilarious and legit and straight up nerd-sexy, and the meetups at E&C and Pink, not to mention the Dtoid panels, absolutely made my damn show.

Want to know a secret? Every once in a while when there are no new texts from my friends or material in my RSS reader, I'll flip open the GroupMe app on my phone and look at the chat record of that weekend - hundreds of fellow Dtoiders greeting each other, meeting up to get food, get booze, find trouble to get into, and sometimes something or other about gaemz. For a second, if I'm stuck in a line or doing a really boring task, it's a breath of fresh air.

What is there to say about PAX?

I mean, most of it has been said already. Everyone who wasnít there is sick of hearing about it already, and everyone who was there - well, they were there, and the moment doesnít translate into words very easily.

Mostly, I think I want to set some of it down just for myself.

Because over the course of this year, there are going to be some bleak moments. Iíll end up stuck late at work, sleep-deprived and laboring away on something I donít care about. Or one of those foul moods will sneak up, the ones that convince me that nothingís worth doing, no oneís worth seeing, and that if the earth would just sink right back into the water before I have to put on my shoes and go out the front door, that would be the best of all possible outcomes.

Unless I had slick shoes, and didn't use the door. That'd be fucking awesome.

And when that grim breath passes, I remember all the things worth doing in this world, and the fact that I just found a new one, and that it happens every year like magic.

Eleven months to go. See you in 2012.
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