When Raid Lives and Real Life Intersect

The relationships you develop when you play any online game can leave an indelible mark on your life. Often, these wonderful moments and memories are attributed to such random names as Sundown, Viszerban, Boot, Sarutobi, Narutotwo, etc. Because, honestly, how often did you find out their real names?!

Twelve years later, I still remember with fondness Sharina’s /huggles; that my mage Kochanski, who was named after Lister’s love interest in Red Dwarf, was very similar to the Polish words for “I love you” thanks to Merlina, my warlock friend of Polish descent living in Canada; that Tiggy /bites and would often demand sandwiches once he found out I was a woman; that Coolcat lived freakishly close to us, yet we never got together; and that Alenassin worked in coal mines in Virginia.

Seltaeb and Quill questing long before Fusion.

Seltaeb and Quill questing long before Fusion.

I remember drunken shenanigans with several guildies in Massachusetts one night during the Burning Crusade days. For the life of me I cannot tell any of their real names, but I can tell you that my husband and I had a lot of fun partying with Alterya, Watz, Steelfury, Tuon, Hegram and one or two others that night. And Watz? She could cook one seriously badass skirt steak and that bacon corn dish she made? I’m still trying to recreate it to this day.

Yet, of all these experiences nothing has, or will ever, hold a candle to traveling across the ocean and receiving a guided tour of my personal Mecca from our guild leaders. On our honeymoon.

Yes. We met our WoW guild leaders and they gave us a tour of their hometown and my musical holy grail - Liverpool, England. My Macca Mecca, if you will.

Life doesn’t often get more random than that. Then again, isn’t that the beauty of the relationships we develop through our online avatars? Fleeting, and if you’re lucky, enduring relationships that change us (hopefully) for the better. Even the brief moments where we allow someone to touch our lives via a game without ever meeting in-person change us: the late night chats where you get a glimpse into someone else’s life halfway around the world or when you’re having a woeful stretch IRL and someone online provides the words of comfort you didn’t realize you needed.

And when you’re at your luckiest, you get to travel around the world and connect in-person.

It was 2006 and we’d been playing faithfully on the Dalaran (US) server since a few months after release. We were members of The Windriders, the top guild on the server through C’Thun. It was enjoyable being in the upper echelons, but as time went on, we suffered raid burn-out and discovered that we also enjoyed the slower track. It was a fun challenge of going through the raid instances with a brand new guild. Seeing Molten Core with new eyes.

Some old school Fusion fun. Heading to the Quartermaster.

Some old school Fusion fun. Heading to the Quartermaster.

It started with us occasionally joining MC raids on alts, but ultimately we became members of Fusion - a guild led by married couple Peculiar and Alyssandra (Pec and Aly). We got along well with them and since I wear my musical passions on my sleeve, or in this case, my hunter - Seltaeb, they knew my love for The Beatles early on and we discussed their hometown often.

Along with a healthy dose of daily WoW and work, we were in the process of planning our wedding and our honeymoon. We knew from the start we’d honeymoon in London - it was a city that held great meaning to both of us individually that we wanted to share together. And, since he is a saint when it comes to humoring my musical obsessions - the trip would involve a side trip to Liverpool so I could see the place that birthed The Beatles. It was definitely an added bonus we’d be able to meet Pec and Aly! As the trip neared, we began to solidify our plans with them.

We would take the train early one morning, meet up with them, spend the day sightseeing and then take a late train back to London. Of course, travels never work out quite as planned and the train schedule flipped from Summer to Fall a few days before our trip - which left us with far fewer options. After FINALLY finding a car rental shop that had an available car - we were on the M1, several hours later than planned.

Checking out THE Penny Lane with Pec and Aly.

Checking out THE Penny Lane with Pec and Aly.

Our day trip was turned into a two-day trip and saw us arriving in Liverpool and at Pec and Aly’s doorstep in the evening. There was something surreal about pulling into their driveway that night, ringing the doorbell, coming into their home and seeing them raiding with all our guildmates, the majority of whom were back in the states. We hung out for a bit, but didn’t want to disrupt the raid too much.

We made our plans to meet up in the morning and headed into town to find a hotel and start taking in the sights. As it turns out, when in England, you need to take football matches into consideration when traveling. There was a Liverpool-Manchester match in town that night and hotels were booked up solid. Between drinks at the Cavern Club and The Grapes (another known Beatles hangout), we went from hotel to hotel in ascending price point looking for a room. Finally, when we thought we’d hit the last hotel in the city, the concierge tipped us off to a brand spanking new boutique hotel back downtown. He called down for us and got us the literal last hotel room in the city around 1 a.m. It was a gorgeous hotel and ended up being cheaper than the room we had back in London. We lucked out completely!

THE Strawberry Fields! My mind is blown in this picture. (That's why the photo is so damn fuzzy.)

THE Strawberry Fields! My mind is blown in this picture. (That's why the photo is so damn fuzzy.)

The next morning we met up with Pec and Aly (AKA Adam and Louise) at PanAm, a restaurant on the Albert Dock alongside the River Mersey. We ate lunch, chatted guild and game and then hopped into our cars. They drove us around to all the sights: Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, St. Peter’s Church where John met Paul. All these magical sites that I’d spend my life dreaming of that were part of their everyday world. Sites made all the more special because we had friends showing them to us.

All too soon, it was time for us to hop back in the car and head back to London. We said our goodbyes and “See ya in game”s and headed out.

As time went on, we all took breaks from the game and sadly lost track of each other. Yet, they are still in our hearts for sharing that special day with us.

 

 

 

So, Alyssandra and Peculiar of Fusion on the Dalaran server circa vanilla WoW (AKA Lou and Adam of Liverpool, England), Seltaeb and Quill thank you for your hospitality, your friendship and one amazing addendum to our honeymoon!

Have you ever had an in-person experience with an online guildmate? We’d love to hear your story!

 

#ThrowbackThursday - Resident Evil: Code Veronica

RESIDENT EVIL - CODE: VERONICA WAS ONE OF THE BEST RE TITLES IN THE SERIES.

Since 1996, Resident Evil has been the most popular horror series in gaming. Released February 3, 2000, Code: Veronica took place three months after the events of RE2. It was the first of the series to premiere on the next generation consoles of the time: Playstation 2 and Sega Dreamcast. Code: Veronica was developed to be Resident Evil 3 and is still considered Resident Evil 3 by Shinji Mikami and developers.

When gaming writers talk about some of the best games in the horror genre, for some reason, Code Veronica is often forgotten-- and that's a shame. Too many people don't even know it exists! PC Magazine listed all of the Resident Evil games from worst to best and completely left out Code: VeronicaCode: Veronica was one of the best games to come out in 2000 and is among one of the best RE titles. Sony released emulated versions of the PlayStation 2 version Code: Veronica on PlayStation 3 and then another emulated version for the PS4.

Resident Evil-Code: Veronica starts off with Claire Redfield searching for her brother at an Umbrella facility in Paris. She ends up getting captured and is taken to a secret facility off the coast of Antarctica. While there, someone bombs the Umbrella facility, pretty much destroying everything and releasing the T-Virus, causing an outbreak. Claire escapes her prison and runs into another prisoner, the playful and flirty Steve Burnside.

The Resident Evil series was a departure from other horror games a the time, which focused on aliens, zombies or some other form of undead. RE presents complex, evil human beings worse than zombies. Code: Veronica took it a step further with its gothic horror themes. In addition to the supervillain badass, Albert Wesker, Code: Veronica introduced players to the twins, Alfred and Alexia Ashford--though Alfred believes himself to be his twin and dresses as her, talks like her, while she lay cryogenically frozen.

The storytelling in Code: Veronica was superb. NRMGamingHD created a movie, Resident Evil - Code: Veronica using all the cutscenes and it plays like an early 2000s cartoon drama.

What makes Code: Veronica stand out is its hard-as-hell puzzles. It also takes awhile to play (hooray for long games that keep gamers engaged). And, it has the best game ending of all of the RE titles. Hopefully, Sony will release a PC version just as it has done with the other titles in the RE series. It's such a good game that a remastered version would be able to contend with other modern titles.

Will Virtual Reality Become As Mainstream As Video Games?

From Call of Duty to Candy Crush, video games are in practically every household. Will VR be the next household item?

Both video games and virtual reality have been around for quite some time. Video games, designed to be in every home or easily accessible via arcades, quickly became mainstream and has evolved a great deal since it's early days in dark arcades or the two button controllers. Virtual reality, however, has remained elusive to mainstream audiences. Investors are banking on that changing very soon. Facebook, already a household name, acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion and looks to do for VR what Facebook did for social media but can Facebook make VR a household item--a mainstream go-to for entertainment?

The very first video game was created in October 1958 by physicist William Higinbotham. It was called Tennis for Two, practically the predecessor to the popular 70s game Pong, which was created by inventor, Ralph Baer. "There were computer video games in the 1960s, but computers were so rare and so large that they were strictly for academics." With the computers becoming a household item, so too, were video games on those computers. Computers have always been the gateway to the popularity of video games due to accessibility.

As computers became smaller and more affordable, more games for those computers emerged and accessible via floppy disks. Then the advent of early gaming consoles such as Magnavox Odyssey and Atari allowed people to play video games via cartridges. But with new technological advancements came new games and greener graphic pastures. It was in the 1990s that video games truly solidified its place in mainstream society.

Source: PC World

Source: PC World

Why, then, with all of the technological advancement and very promising and exciting experience virtual reality offers, is VR not a household item yet? It's simple. Until recent months, VR headsets were too expensive and not easily accessible. VR headsets also come in two categories: tethered, meaning connected to a PC or other device or mobile. At present, the least expensive tethered VR is the Playstation VR, sitting at $400. The Google Daydream View is a mobile VR headset. Mobile, in this sense, means inserting your mobile phone into the headset and attaching it to your head, using the phone as your display. Mobile VR headsets are inexpensive, compared to the tethered VR headsets.

With VR, you can see the world without leaving your home. You can immerse yourself in exotic environments and be at the center of the action of a video game. So why is VR still not commonplace like video game consoles? Variety writer, Todd Spangler makes a very valid point in that VR just is not something that is considered a "must-have".

VR’s immersive, solitary confinement simply doesn’t square with how people consume entertainment at home. Never mind that you can’t interact in-person with another human being with a Google Daydream, Oculus VR or Vive headset strapped to your noggin...Then there’s the fact that VR requires a caffeinated level of engagement. You have no choice, locked in the cage of a VR headset, but to pay constant attention.

VR seems like something that would be fun to try, say if you go to an arcade or entertainment wonderland like Dave and Busters. But to invest in a VR headset just for an immersive gaming experience? You'd have to be pretty dedicated to solitary entertainment without human interaction.

Luckily, VR is being used for more than just entertainment. Entrepreneur discusses the many ways VR is being used outside of gaming, including. to perform experiments in controlled environments and "to help paraplegics regain body functions." There are a great many uses for virtual reality that go beyond immersive video games. 

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Story-Driven Games Are Making a Comeback

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD STORY.

Stories draw the audience in and captivate them. People become emotionally invested in well-developed characters. Love them or hate them, a character that's well-developed in a well-written story line can bring out all the feels. Think about the HBO original series, Game of Thrones, based on the very detailed epic fantasy book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Think of the character Joffrey Baratheon. He wasn't just evil; people didn't just dislike him; people felt a genuine hatred for his character.

These feelings of intense connection to a story is why story-driven games are making a comeback. Quite honestly, they never left. True, many gamers flocked to popular "looter shooters" like Playerunknown Battlegrounds (PUBG), Overwatch and the ever popular Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) for their multiplayer experience. But these multiplayer communities have become incredibly toxic, fostering an environment that breeds sexism, racism and people too afraid to speak up that they resolve that it's best to simply ignore it. Not only that, but there's no story to keep players intrigued, with the exception of Overwatch, that is. Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons why single-player story-driven games are on the rise again.

Screenshot:  PUBG

Screenshot: PUBG

How do even you tell the difference between PUBG, Rust, H1Z1, Ark and DayZ?

For a brief period, it seemed as if developers were ditching single-player, story-driven games. One gamer tweeted how "single player games don't keep you entertained anymore once the story has been completed!" That seemed to be true for many single-player games in recent years, like Destiny. Their storytelling fell way too short. But many platforms are offering story-driven, single-player games with the option to either play co-op or multiplayer as well. Far Cry offers both single-player story modes as well as competitive, multiplayer mode. But it's the story of Far Cry 5 that will draw players in, allowing for character customization and tackling controversial topics that resonate with today's issues.

Not only that, but FPS games that don't have single-player, long campaigns are now being criticized. For a few years now, developers hadn't been making single-player campaigns long enough, choosing instead to focus on multi-player, open world aspects of games. Destiny, for example, was one of those games where storytelling fell short. As John Butler from Inquisitr put it, Destiny's first campaign was a story of "short, uninspired writing". But with Destiny 2, storytelling was improved immensely. Anthem looked to be incredibly promising when it was revealed at E3. But, like most other games it turned out to be another Destiny--literally.

So it's no surprise that gamers are looking forward to games that have always had great storytelling like Mass Effect 3 and Wolfenstein II--a series that's been kicking nazi ass since the '80s.

Gamers want originality, great writing, storytelling; we want to be immersed in lore; we want to be inspired; we want to play a game and feel all the feels. It feels like a waste of time and money when we play a game that looks to have an exciting and promising story only to be left disappointed. We want the love stories in Mass Effect. We want the intrigue and badassery of Red Dead Redemption. We want to be entertained. 

What's your favorite game story? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.