Posted in Avakin

What do you get…

If you take Second Life, but make it quicker and easier to customize your newbie avatar, throw in some free coinage and a “level” system, and remove all ability to create your own content?

You get Avakin Life, a thing I was foolish enough to check out today.

Differences from SL: Free money when you start out, no way to sell content (because you can’t make content). Avatar choices are human and kind of elf (yay). Less laggy. Can’t fly. Animations are AWFUL all around; definitely no MoCap happening here. The environments are all very modern human world, not much in the way of fantasy worlds or NPIRL options.

Similarities: Dancing, teenagers, and Brazilians everywhere. Total strangers try to hit you up even if you don’t speak the same language. You can play for free, but you gotta pay in for the good shit.

Posted in day-to-day, depression

Dr. Phil, Second Life, and Gaming Addiction

So, as no doubt you’ve heard by now, Dr. Phil made an appearance in SL, and Ebbe made an appearance on Dr. Phil.

Kudos to Dr. Phil for making clear that video games and virutal worlds are not by default bad. As I’ve said myself, they’re neither good nor evil, because they don’t think and don’t have intentions one way or another. For many people they’re therapeutic.

But I could really sympathize (though on a lower level) with Justin saying that it’s much easier to just anesthetize himself than to face the harsh realities of the world, especially when he feels like it’s too late in his life to make anything positive of it. The feeling of having missed my shot is one that resonates with me as well; I’m 40 years old, no degree, diploma by the skin of my teeth, with huge gaps in work history that make it really hard to make look positive on a resume.

But if by some chance you’re reading this, Justin? No. It’s really not too late. It’s easy to feel like you’re lost when you’re 23; lots of people do.

At 23, JK Rowling was broke. Tina Fey was working at the Y.M.C.A. Oprah had just gotten fired from her first job as a TV reporter and Walt Disney had declared bankruptcy. None of these wildly successful individuals could have predicted what was in store for them next but the one thing they all had in common was that they knew that there was more to them than what they were doing at the time. And that’s what you have in common with them, too. You know that there’s a bigger, better version of yourself to bring to life. You just haven’t gotten there yet.

That doesn’t mean that you have to become the next JK Rowling or Walt Disney. It simply means that there’s so much more ahead of you, and within you, that you don’t even know yet. And it’s scary but it’s also exciting.

And, the same goes for me. Did you know that Phyllis Diller was almost 40 when she first gave stand-up comedy a try? Or that Julia Child was 49 when her groundbreaking cookbook got published? Stan Lee was 39 when he published his first comic book. Vera Wang went into fashion design at 40. Darwin wrote “On the Origin of the Species” when he was 50. Laura Ingalls Wilder started writing books in her 60s. Harland Sanders was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken.

My point is, it is NEVER too late to be successful.

And it’s frightening because, for me at least, fear of failure and that nagging lie of “IT’S TOO LATE” are always always hanging over me. Or fear of making a wrong choice. It’s so much easier to just not make any choice, and curl up, and let life happen while I’m deluding myself that I’m making amazing things happen too, just in a virtual world. It feels GREAT to be ultra-popular in a virtual world. It feels GREAT to have the ability to make anything, do anything, go anywhere, and be seen and appreciated for it. It hurts like hell to walk away from that. It’s HARD AS HELL, Justin, and it might take lots of tries, but I believe that you CAN do it!

One thing the show only briefly touched on, though, is HOW. I know that On-Line Gamers Anonymous tends to preach the hard line that all video games are bad, all relationships in them toxic, and you’re 100% better off without them. I don’t agree with that, and from the sounds of things, neither does Dr. Phil. I think maybe for some people it’s easier to talk themselves out of an addiction by convincing themselves that the thing to which they’re addicted is absolutely undeniably BAD. I believe personally that the hard (but necessary) first step is to face the IRL dragon. Look what you’re running from in the eye. For me, that was financial troubles. I had to do a lot of paperwork, make a lot of appointments, pay a lot of debts (and as a result, make a lot of sacrifices), and it was draining and overwhelming. It helped to break things into small pieces, and give myself some kind of reward (preferably tangible, not virtual) for accomplishing smaller goals. For example, if I sit down and pay all my bills and get them sent out, I go and treat myself to a favorite junk food snack while I’m out at the post office. Or, I get a new bottle of nail polish. Or something at the fabric store. Or art supplies. Or a matinee at the theater. Things that I have to be AFK to enjoy.

I’ll reiterate to Justin and all the other Justins and Mistletoes out there: it’s FUCKING HARD. But you can do it. It may take years and years, and you may stumble on the way, but you can do it. We can do it!

Now if you will excuse me, because I reached my goal by sitting down and writing this blog instead of playing on FB, I’m going to go and treat myself to some embroidery floss and a nice walk outside to get it.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo

We all know the trope: you were about 11 years old, and you had that one friend who claimed he had an uncle who worked at Nintendo and that that’s how he had all this inside information and goodies from the world of gaming.

But what if the uncle really existed? Worse, what if the “uncle” is really a malevolent entity that devours kids– kids like you!

Written by Michael Lutz and illustrated by Kimberly Parker, The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is a horror-themed interactive fiction game that you can play for free on your browser. It doesn’t take a very long time to play. You’re the 11-year-old protagonist, spending the night at a BFF’s house, when you learn that the BFF’s mysterious uncle who works for Nintendo is coming over at midnight. As hours tick by on the grandfather clock (have your sounds on when you play!) you determine how you interact with your BFF and slowly uncover pieces of the mystery surrounding this uncle. There are five possible endings to the game; once you achieve the fifth ending you learn how you can unlock the epic sixth (“real”) ending.

Once you “beat” the sixth ending, you unlock the author’s notes, in which Lutz talks about what inspired him to make this game, how the game accidentally wound up being topical in the midst of G*merg*te, what the “uncle” might symbolize, some history on Creepypasta, and so on.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the game’s story (if I haven’t already) but I can see how the “uncle” might be interpreted as the darker side of game addiction. Have a look for yourself and see, if you like.