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How World of Warcraft Will Make You or Break You

orc

Before you reach for your torch or pitchfork, let me assure you that this isn’t another one of those long, drawn-out articles warning you against jumping into the all-consuming void of Warcraft (mostly because I’ll be forever in that void, and I think they’re watching me…). This is, instead, a little commentary on my opinions about how this particular MMO has the potential to either make or break you – as a person and as a whole.

But first, let’s take a closer look at WoW, shall we? This massive multiplayer online game has had millions and millions of people hooked from day one. Now whether this is due to great game design or mass hypnosis, I will never know but, either way, there is something about this game that keeps people coming back to their keyboards. Could it be the great graphics that can be played on almost any computer? (is that an Alienware laptop I spy? No need for that here! Let me just take that from you…) Or perhaps it’s the instant gratification that comes with defeating a dungeon boss and getting your favorite loot? Whatever it is, it’s making this game highly addictive.

Many a gamer has pondered their favorite aspects of video games, whether it be the player-vs-player experience, the dungeons and teamwork, or even the quest lines and lore of the overall plot. World of Warcraft has all of these features, of course, but it also has the unique ability to bring out the true colors of anyone who touches this game. Are you a helpful ally, looking forward to leading your online friends into battle and willing to do whatever it takes to make your character become the best that it can be? Or are you a troller, hell-bent on causing chaos and destruction wherever you roam as you terrorize low-level starting areas and pick off the weak while out farming for supplies?

There are many different kinds of good guys and bad guys in the world, as we all know from watching any Game of Thrones episode, and this particular game has an endless supply of resources to test every characteristic you thought you had. For example, let me give you a little scenario with a few multiple choices for you to respond with:

There you are, that big, beautiful, elegantly armored hero that has finally trekked through this lengthy old dungeon to – no, not the elf. You’re the Orc. Look to your left. Your LEFT! Yes, that’s the one. Ahem, anyways – to finally reach the last boss that promises epic loot and undeniable bragging rights. You’ve teamed up with random strangers (because the members of your guild are naturally too busy to share in the awesomeness of this adventure) and you’ve all hacked and slashed your way past countless mobs of trash and bad guys.

The last boss laughs as you enter the room, giving a long-winded dialogue about why your team will not succeed where everyone else has failed (despite this being an older dungeon that you’ve conquered countless times with your guild when it was considered “current” content). You eye the boss with skepticism, swinging your weapon lazily as he finishes his speech. He knows why you’ve come here. He knows what you want. Though he says nothing else, he can tell you could care less about the fancy achievement, and you sure as hell didn’t come for the outdated gear. You want that little adorable baby phoenix pet that has a 1 in a 1000 chance of dropping, and his sinister smile tells you he doesn’t want to give it up.

The strangers that surround you, now comrades in arms, all position themselves and type frantically in the chat log, begging everyone not to screw this up (especially that guy who left his keyboard five times mid-fight, killed the group twice by not following directions, and just generally sucks).

Finally, the battle begins. You are like a graceful tiger, slipping in and out of enemy reach, cutting the boss to smithereens as he chokes on his pompous words. With one last swing of your mighty weapon, you and your companions bring the villain down, and the crowd goes wild! But a silence soon falls over your party. A dense hush. Loot is about to drop. Will your small fiery bird be among the debris? YES! It drops, and everyone who said they didn’t care about the pet instantly rolls their dice in a last-ditch effort to bring the phoenix home. You roll. A 96! Amazing! You’ve never rolled that high before and – oh but wait. That noob you’ve been carrying this whole time finally shows up at his computer again after ditching you guys for another round of milk and cookies. He rolls… HE SCORES! 97 beats you out of the game and Douchewaffle gets the pet!

Now here are your options:

1. Calmly accept that everyone participated, no matter how little, and that he won fair and square. Pat your comrades on the back and meet up at the same time next week to go again.

2. Protest loudly. Tell that Douchewaffle exactly how you feel, and encourage him to promptly destroy his computer or uninstall the game.

3. Light your apartment on fire and stand outside of the burning wreckage, flipping the world off with both hands as the fire spreads through the neighborhood.

As you can see, everything isn’t always black and white. By choosing option 1, you are definitely playing the bigger person, but by choosing 2 or 3, you may feel a little more satisfied on the inside (possibly the inside of a jail cell, if you chose 3). Any time you log on to WoW, or possibly any MMO, you will see countless people either helping their fellow players or purposely pissing them off. No matter how nice you are, someone (perhaps even a lot of someones) is going to upset you, insult you, or make you shake your fist in the air at the unfairness of it all. The way you handle these situations is going to help develop your own personal character, and that’s what you take with you when you leave the keyboard (unless you’re hardcore and NEVER leave the keyboard!).

You may have thought you had the patience and tenderness of Mother Teresa before, but just wait until you’re healing a random dungeon group and the tank fails his taunt, causing the whole group to die, and for some reason they all blame you relentlessly (and cruelly, with all that unnecessary name-calling!). You’re going to want to punch something fluffy in no time, and I don’t blame you. We’ve all been tempted to go a little Godfather on a cyber-bully, but keep this in mind: you can always challenge him to a duel. If he accepts, feel free to slap him around with your broadsword in front of all his friends. If he denies, well… time to get out the ol’ bloody horse head and make your way to Douchewaffle’s house.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Fantasy Novels and Writer’s Block – 5 Steps to Getting Back On Track

calvinWriting isn’t something that comes easily to everyone and, in fact, it can even be considered a super-power in many cultures and societies. However, as any avid Marvel or Capcom fan will tell you, every super-power has its weakness. Superman has his Kryptonite, the Human Torch can’t stand asbestos, and even the Hulk struggles with his uncontrollable rage. For authors, our weakness is strong, but simple: Writer’s Block.

Although there are many tips and tricks out there designed to help budding authors get over this impenetrable wall of doom, I have gone and made a list of my own; one more dedicated to those who have taken on the challenge of writing in my own particular genre – Fantasy.

  1. Have a creative friend to bounce ideas off of.

This is perhaps the most important of all my writing tips, and it is a very big key to any successful author. After all, let’s face it – writing is a lonely profession. We spend hours upon hours hunched over our laptops or computer monitors, tip-tapping away on our keyboards while drinking copious amounts of caffeine. Sometimes we hide away for days at a time, and rarely do we find people who are as interested in our book projects as we are. However, without the opportunity to openly discuss your novel and ideas with other people, you are limiting yourself to just one mind. This means one path for your imagination to follow and one person to catch any flaws, holes, or errors in your book’s plot. So, pick a supportive friend that you trust and make sure they have creativity of their own (writing, painting, acting, etc.). This friend will listen to even your worst ideas, while hopefully presenting a few ideas of their own and, even if you don’t take any of their suggestions, this will give you a broader scope of things to play around with in your mind.

  1. Play Dungeons & Dragons.

Having also been the center focus of an earlier post, I firmly believe that Dungeons & Dragons is a major stepping stone to creating any fine fantasy novel. This nerdy little game is jam-packed with enough awesomeness to kick-start any author’s imagination, and I have found it to be a tried and true method of banishing mental fatigue and Writer’s Block.

  1. Perform a Daily Fantasy Warm-Up.

There are many articles out there that advise young or new authors to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just a sentence. It could be about anything at all, and this will help you get over your writing obstacles. However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes we just need things to be a little more specific. So, if you’re struggling with Writer’s Block, instead of writing something random every day (some blah-blah sentence about the weather or a description of that blanket Grandma’s making), write one sentence every day that eventually tells a small story. For example, if I were struggling with my current novel, I would wake up today and, on a separate piece of paper, I would write something simple: “Once upon a time, in the small city of Linford, a young boy came across a golden coin while sitting on a park bench.” The next day, I would add one more sentence that related to the first: “As he plucked the coin up off of the ground, the boy felt a small tingling sensation begin to course through his finger tips and up along his arms.” The sentences are simple but they get your mind revving, and the story doesn’t have to be related to your novel.

  1. Read.

Reading is a very popular method for ridding yourself of Writer’s Block, and it is also a favorite way to find inspiration for new plot ideas. This is not a method that works for me, however, but I thought it worthy of a mention just in case it could help one of my readers. If this method does not work for you, don’t worry. Some of us are very critical of our own work – more critical than others, perhaps. Because of this, reading a great book may only intimidate us or make us question the value of our own work. If this is the case for you, just as it has always been for me, then I would suggest watching a fantasy television series, such as Game of Thrones, to get that brain bubbling.

  1. Always bring a notepad!

I cannot stress this enough, and so I’m going to try harder: Always, ALWAYS scribble down your ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, ideas that strike in the middle of the night or when you have soap in your eyes, it doesn’t matter; they are all ideas and an idea is the first step to making a decision. Just because something doesn’t fit in your plot now doesn’t mean it won’t later, and you’ll be glad you kept it within arm’s reach when inspiration strikes as suddenly as it tends to do with our kind. The primary downfall to any author’s successful novel would be thinking the words, “That’s a good idea, but I’ll remember it later.” It doesn’t matter how many times you go over that idea in your head, trying to make it stick like glue, it’s still going to float out of your head like a butterfly the next time you get distracted. A large contributor to Writer’s Block is a lack of content, but you HAD content… you just forgot it. Now your notebook is empty and you have nothing to add to your new novel.

So that is my own personal list of successful tips to get over that pesky Writer’s Block, and even a couple ideas to help you find further inspiration for that epic fantasy novel of yours. Let me know which ones worked best for you and feel free to leave a couple ideas of your own!

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How Dungeons & Dragons Will Make You a Better Writer

Dice

For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy game that is mostly played via word of mouth – with nothing more than the use of your imagination. Sounds lame, right? Well, it isn’t. In fact, if you ever decide to give it a try, you just may find that it’s the best, most addictive game you’ve ever played. The best part about D&D is that it’s almost completely free to play! All you need is a set of dice (yep, the weird-looking ones with all the sides), a piece of paper (or the real character sheets if your Dungeon Master is feeling fancy), a  love for fantasy, a few friends, and an experienced nerd.

Once you have what you need, your Dungeon Master (who was hopefully awesome enough to make his own campaign story) will now lead you on an epic journey of twists, turns, monstrous creatures and moral choices, all tied nicely together with a healthy dose of controlled chaos. Your job as an adventurer is to decide all the actions and dialogue that your character makes in response to everything and everyone that crosses your path and, depending on your luck with dice, this will shape your character’s destiny either miraculously or terribly. You’ll never again feel the same joy as when you rolled that 20 while shooting an ogre with your bow, killing him with one hit! But you’ll also never know shame like that time you rolled a 1 and shot your healer in the eye (or whatever other terrible punishment your sadistic DM can think of). So, now that I’ve explained Dungeons & Dragons to you, my dear readers, let me explain how this game has shaped my own own perspective and how it will help you achieve greatness in writing.

The first time I ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons, I was nothing more than a young teenage girl. I had already developed quite the imagination and was often found tucked away in a corner with my nose in a book, but I had yet to dabble in the fine art of playing any kind of game that wasn’t presented on a TV screen (Super Mario Bros. anyone?). However, due to my teenage obsession with being accepted, coupled with the negative attention that was given to those who played the game (mostly from school bullies), I didn’t have the nerve to try it for many years. After finally leaving home as a fresh adult, I eventually met a few friendly people in my new apartment building and, after several months of good friendship, it was finally brought to my attention that my new friends were… well, nerds! Among many things, these wonderful people taught me how to fix my own computer, how to program certain software and, you guessed it, how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

From the first several minutes of playing this game with my friends, I was hooked. Not only did I get to create my own character essentially from scratch, but through this character I was able to experience virtually anything that the DM could throw at me. My friends and I fought dragons, found treasures, made friends along the road that later betrayed us, and even paid for a prostitute or two in a brothel (always use protection!). The adventures were long, usually lasting months, and eventually my character (if he/she survived very long) became so bad-ass that I couldn’t help but feel like I’d officially reached pro-status.

Despite all of the laughter, fun, and even occasional outrage, the one thing I picked up on while playing this game was its complete and total flexibility… almost as if the boundaries of the game were meant to be manipulated. You could literally do anything! If you were clever enough to make it sound legit, and if you were mildly lucky with your dice, there wasn’t a thing that couldn’t be done. Cornered on the edge of a cliff by a giant ogre? Well, remember that time your friends laughed at you for choosing the ability to create a gallon of water anywhere? You thought you’d need it in case your character got stranded in a thirsty desert, but who’s to say that gallon wouldn’t best be located inside the skull of that giant ogre? Roll a good number and enjoy your Dungeon Master’s fury when his precious goblin’s head explodes without even swinging his over-sized club.

The first thing a game like Dungeons & Dragons will teach you is how to always think outside the box. For example, a well-placed Mage Fist to an enemy’s unfortunate testicles can give you a much needed advantage and end a battle much quicker than regular attacks that simply drain health points. The craftier you become, the more you challenge your DM to keep your character in check and, in the end, the campaign may simply turn into several adventuring friends trying to drive their diligent Dungeon Master clinically insane. Because of this, the game can get quite competitive, but if your DM isn’t clever enough to explain why you can’t flood his ogre’s brains with water, at least without creating new rules or worldly guidelines, then you have free reign!

In writing, this concept is often the same. I have had many people approach me with a constant concern: “There’s a huge hole in my plot and I can’t make it work without starting over.” Here’s my advice: Play a few hours of D&D with your friends. If you don’t feel clever enough to stretch or manipulate your plot to make something work, then you aren’t exercising your imagination, which is almost a muscle in itself. Just as writing regularly will actually improve your grammar and literacy (without even taking a class), so, too, will your imagination improve when forcing it to think outside the box. As with all things, practice, practice, practice, and watch the plot of that epic novel start to wrap itself together nicely without you even breaking a sweat.

However, I must warn you: don’t think you can take a shortcut and play a video game instead, as it’s highly unlikely that you will achieve the same result. With video games, there is too much structure and, therefore, less options. If your character in Assassin’s Creed is in a tight spot against a big boss, you can’t think to yourself, “I’ll just throw dirt in his eyes! That will distract him while I take out his minions.” Instead, you are stuck with the abilities your character has and the small map around you. No room for imagination, and no DM to piss off when you thwart his best attempts to kill you.

An added bonus to playing this game is that, because you’re playing with actual people, you learn what other adventurers would think and worry about along the way. Your sister is playing the healer? How sweet. But she’s getting real sick of you meandering away from the group and getting yourself caught in traps – probably because she has to use her vital resources to keep you alive after she finds you bleeding out on some spikes. The lesson: the healer in your novel probably feels the same way, and this may give you a small idea for something to add to your chapter, or even a bit of personality depth to give to that character. That’s right! If you want to have true insight into your characters, you have to listen to your buddies rant and rave while you journey through the amazing world of Dungeons & Dragons. Observe the roles they’re playing and how those characters interact with each other – this is literally your free ticket into the minds of real people while they journey through a fantasy world! Sounds like a good cheat sheet to keep nearby if you want the characters in your novel to be more realistic! Take inspiration from the different personalities around you and flex that imagination by getting yourself out of tough situations (or into them, if you’re hungry for adventure!). Unless your dice are cursed (and we know this happens), there should be no reason you can’t have an amazing experience. Not to mention, if you have a good Dungeon Master, you just may learn a thing or two about creating breathtaking worlds, giving life to various villains and heroes, and even discovering and using loopholes to your advantage. With the game of Dungeons & Dragons, and especially with your writing, the only limits you have are the ones you place on your own mind.

So go and find that dusty basement full of nerds, throw on that Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and make sure you brought your best set of dice (yes, the sparkly ones!) because you’ve got adventures to go on and that book’s not going to write itself!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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