Category Archives: Editorial

Off-Topic: Ramblings on Careers, Self-Confidence and the Future

This is a personal post mostly about me. If you’ve no interest in me or what I do for a living, come back another time!

It’s been a wild week ever since resigning my current position as HR business partner last Friday. I took it on myself to tell all of my close clients personally, because the relationships I have established over my time here deserved no less. The feedback was overwhelming and both motivating and emotionally difficult. I’m not used to such an amount of sympathy or people in leadership positions becoming misty eyed at the prospect of my departure. Then again, I have also never before worked anywhere with the same degree of personal commitment; it’s true that you need to invest yourself in order to get something back. All that said life goes on of course, in business there’s no such thing as being irreplaceable. I like that about it, it’s honest about the facts of life.

That leaves me with returning to the open road and hunting my next prospect, as I always have. I am leaving a stable, safe environment and good relationships behind not because I am not content but I am no longer motivated (a difference that is best explained by Herzberg’s two-factor theory on motivation). What I do for a living has stopped being just a job, what I seek is challenge and fulfilment. I spend a great deal of time working and expect a high performance of myself – but not for free. And free is not just about salaries, it’s the whole package. It’s like the difference between a great MMORPG and a lacklustre one: you can have fun with the second for a time but in the end, you’re left wanting for the more well-rounded world. And as long as we have the means, why should we content ourselves with anything less?

I am incredibly grateful for the last few years. They have been fruitful in so many ways, not just because they advanced me but because I have learned such a great deal about myself. I’ve learned what I do not want anymore. And I’ve learned that there’s a place for someone like me, with my skillset and personality which is not as naturally accepted in women as it is in men. Time and time again I had to fight for my voice, especially a frank and dissenting one sometimes, one that challenges those your peers don’t dare challenge. Here’s a secret: they love it when you do, they find it so refreshing. It took a moment to gain people’s trust but once I had, they appreciated and respected me for how I am. I didn’t need to play a part and maybe for the first time ever, I feel completely confident in myself. Love it or leave it, this destroyer of worlds is embracing herself. And say what you want about other people’s judgement, it feels damn nice to have them in your corner!

bc

Unfortunately or luckily, I can’t stay anywhere when there are no new targets and old routine sets in. I’ve known this for a while, that I require a vision of my future, a next step or goal lest I become very unwell. After I finished my University degree, I fell into a deep hole. Before I decided to switch careers four years ago, I was in existential crisis. Where do I go from here – what am I hunting next? It doesn’t even matter what the dream is, just have one and work your ass off. I don’t always stick to the course but I need a sense of direction, forward forward always forward. Most of us need to earn their passage and just hang in there, climb up a little at a time and be bold when switching jobs. A new position shouldn’t be all about what you already know and can do, it should contain things you’ve yet to learn. I’ve recruited qualified staff for a while now for different branches, and one comment by our head of IT stuck with me when one day, he told me about his findings concerning female candidates (which are rare still in IT): “The difference is that men boldly apply for a job even if they can’t fully do it yet, whereas women wait a long time and think they have to be perfect before they apply for the job.” Such unexpected insight.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

The next three months will be about vetting different positions not for other people but for myself. Being a major geek, I am hoping to land back in the IT world which is among the more progressive and dynamic environments. I’ve not given up hope to work with people someday that are at least a little nerdy and into tech. I also look forward to using my English skills again and maybe work more project-based, specializing further. Further further…..but first, I’ll take a month off to travel! I am after all, also an explorer at heart and it’s the open, undestined road that keeps me sane in MMOs too. Such a contradiction or maybe just a complementary necessity? I seem to exist best at extreme ends of a spectrum and already as a child, boredom was my nemesis. I grew up performing under constant stress that was none of my choosing, I learned how to escape but I still need the stress even today – pressure, challenge and overcoming fear are what I know. It’s a sobering analyzis that one, how I was made but each of us has their own genesis. Understanding mine has helped me accept what I need. Once you can do that, it frees up energy for other things and you’ll likely make better choices for yourself. What we need and what we want blah. Life is messy!

Fingers crossed.

2015 Q3: A Busy time for Geeks and Gamers!

2015 has been a great year for MMOs, for me anyway, and I find myself struggling to keep track of all the goodness ahead this Q3 and beyond! Fall tends to be the time for gamers and geeks and some of us may soon find themselves in dire need for holidays to catch up with games, movies and other shenanigans.

Awaiting in Games

FFXIV is about to drop the 3.1 content patch soon which in good old SE fashion means a lot more of everything. Wildstar is transitioning to free-to-play tomorrow and I will be swimming in the new shop currency due to my past CREDD purchases. And anyone burning for raiding and healing in GW2 just got to hear the latest news about druids coming to Tyria.

That’s only as far as MMOs go for me. I am also looking forward to Jotun releasing tomorrow (check out the beautiful trailer!) and The Witcher 3’s first expansion pack coming out October 13th! Fallout 4 is due in November of course and also, ARK is still on my list of things to check out (currently on discount via Humble Bundle). Good times.

Awaiting in Movies

I’ve not been to the movies in a while, mostly because summer is for BBQ and river baths, but am definitely going to see the following new features as soon as they hit cinemas in Switzerland (which tends to be either sooner or much later than elsewhere, it’s odd):

Awaiting in Books

I used to read so much. In recent years, blogging, social media, podcasting and what else have left a mark on my reading schedule. I am still not an e-book person however and now that winter is slowly creeping up on us and it’s time for snuggling up in front of the fireplace again, I got around ordering a few books I’ve been meaning to read:

The other day, the postman also delivered my Chris Riddell illustrated book set of Neil Gaiman tales, so that’s what I’ll be doing over the weekend when I’m not playing Jotun or Wildstar. Which new games, movies or books are you looking forward to this Q3-Q4?

riddel

Off-Topic: Musings on losing my Phone and Patience

Last Friday I „lost“ my cellphone somewhere between work and home and was unable to retrieve it until today. I spent a good part of my weekend frantically turning the apartment upside down to my partner’s chagrin, because the potential loss of my phone is the stuff of nightmares. Years of messages, personal notes and photographs from all over the world could’ve ended up in some ditch or worse, a stranger’s pocket. The fact that my car battery also decided to die on me yesterday morning on my way to work didn’t make things better – I have no other phone line beside my cellphone and so I ended up emailing people at work like some maniac (there is the assumption that everyone has a phone and therefore must also be able to use it, no pressure!) while rushing to the local car garage on foot at 8am. And I am not a morning person, mornings are for other people.

Am losing my shit

Losing my shit

When I was finally able to recover my phone at work today, where some fairy must’ve found it and put it in my personal locker, I cried proverbial tears of joy. Dear phone, I MISSED YOU SO MUCH! In this day and age we’ve come to rely on our mobile communication gadgets in a way that frightens me a little. What is all this doing to me?

On the erosion of patience being the erosion of skill

While I was still jubilating my phone’s recovery during coffee break, I came across an interview with Nicholas Carr, bestselling author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”, in a weekly feuilleton I like to read and which is literally the last remnant of print media in my life. Carr critically discusses the omnipresence of digital media and our reliance on and obsession with connectivity. So far, not exactly a fresh angle on the internet age. However, the interview became more interesting when he started referencing studies on what the ever increasing speed of information and interaction does to our brains: how we expect faster reactions and feedback from webpages/email/people, how our frustration threshold for wait times is decreasing as we grow more demanding yet less focused, valuing instant gratification while losing our ability for patience.

And unlearning the ability for patience/focus or never exercising it in the first place, is a bigger issue than one might think. It’s not just about dealing with all the extra (peer) pressure created by new media. Carr goes on to explain the skilldrain accompanying this age of technology, where gadgets have stopped enabling or improving personal growth and skill development but rather replace them entirely. Instead of learning from an early age that acquiring and exercising certain skills takes time for practice and repetition, we are tempted to leave such effort to technology altogether, especially if it’s faster. This is the case when kids can’t do mental math anymore but require a calculator to add two-digit numbers together or when we’re incapable of navigating traffic without a GPS device. These are not positive examples of technology improving our lives but instead, examples of them taking over. It creates a dependability that is risky and potentially harmful. Which is not to say that technology doesn’t do an awful lot of wonderful things, too – it should however not make the education of a versatile and well-trained mind obsolete.

This is where I am personally grateful that I grew up before the complete takeover of mobile tech and uber-connectivity. I consider myself a digital native due to my upbringing around video games but I was in my late teens when the internet happened. I am also part of a now bygone generation of “classically trained” college students within the Swiss academic system. That means I was part of a crowd that primarily learned to question, interpret, analyze and debate with strong focus on language learning, literature, art, history and other humanistic disciplines such as philosophy or religion/theology. I spent 7 years studying latin along with three other language majors (plus all the natural sciences and art subjects) before moving on to specialize at university. I sat in archways in the beautiful city of Bern sketching old church towers and got to spend time in museums and dusty city archives. Thanks to all of this, I believe I am a pro at educating myself; I am very fortunate and privileged that my school was still the “we help you to help yourself”-kind and that there was diversity taught for the sake of diversity. Of course I didn’t quite see it that way at the time.

I realize that with growing economic pressures too, schools are less and less allowed that much room for “frivolous subjects”. There’s a plethora of studies and articles out there right now on how the school system is old-fashioned and not in tune with modern times and demands. Apparently productive adulthood can’t start soon enough, which is somewhat ironic given that we only just discovered the importance of childhood in the early 20th century. Where is this going? Without all this time and patience for learning in my curriculum, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wonder if I’d play games differently too – after all, there’s a very strong parallel here to the more slowed-down and exploratory playstyle I prefer in MMOs, as opposed to bite-sized themeparks full of reward and achievements that require shorter attention spans. Maybe my gameplay preferences too are shaped by my upbringing? I don’t know, I am thinking out loud here.

As an ex-educator, it does concern me that schools offer less time for children to focus on developing their own skillsets from scratch, rather than being productive and job-ready as fast as possible. But maybe this is really the times we live in and there’s no point in fighting the takeover by technological optimization (it’s already happened to manual work). Maybe being impatient is the new green and I am sounding like my grandparents. Or maybe “go with the flow” is some defeatist thinking right there.

I retweeted this image. Yes, I realize the irony.

I retweeted this image. Yes, I realize the irony.

What I do know is that every time  I have willingly unplugged during holidays in the past, it was simply amazing. There are few times a year when I don’t read email and hardly use social media platforms, reducing all social stimuli to a minimum except for the ones of my immediate environment. Once the transition is done and I am sitting at a lake somewhere breathing the sun, it feels great – like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s as if my outward senses are recovering. And yet these are connections I do treasure and maintain around the year, which is the conflicting part. How do these things fit together? What’s more real?

I think I need to get back to answering some emails.

Off-Topic: Questions I have no Answer to

This is an off-topic post written at work. Sorry it ain’t too happy.

There is a young guy at the clinic I work for that I come across ever so often on my way to the cafeteria or when meeting clients. He must be around 20 years old although I can’t exactly tell. Like many of the more longtime residents, he likes hanging in the park and talking to random people. Every time I see him, I don’t know quite what to expect. Some days he ignores me, on others he waves at me greeting me like an old acquaintance. On other days he’s raving loudly, so I pass by not saying anything. I know quite a few people who are afraid of him, taking a detour whenever he comes in sight. Some are nervous or just indifferent. That’s not a judgement of any of these reactions as not everyone employed at the clinic is equipped or meant to directly engage with patients. Naturally this is an environment dedicated to their care but that doesn’t mean everybody down to the frontdesk person knows exactly how. For most of the support staff, the patients remain firmly on the other side of daily business. The young man raving in the park is just another voice they’ll hear outside a window.

I guess what makes it different for me in his case, is that I know this young guy was once upon a time somebody’s son and someone’s brother. I know not his name but I know that he was sound of body and mind. He probably obsessed over brands and baggy pants (he still wears giant hiphop attire and bling), hated his teachers and dreamed of a sweetheart somewhere. Until one day a car accident killed his entire family and left him all alone and forlorn in this world. I wonder if he remembers the accident that left him a sole survivor. I wonder if he remembers that he once had parents and siblings. I wonder most, if it matters if he doesn’t.

Now the clinic is his home. The staff that look after him to the best of their ability. The park and the people in it who take a detour whenever he comes in sight. I don’t want to pity him because pity is a patronizing emotion and I have no idea how the world looks like through his two eyes. He may be as happy or unhappy as the next person, there’s no way I could know. Yet I’m still gutted by his story, I can’t help that. I am sad that he will probably never again be in full charge of his own life. But then, am I? Should we even look at different lives in this way, as if there was one preferable way of living?

I don’t know. These are difficult questions.

Gamer Space [#Blaugust 30]

I recently moved to a new home which came with the perk of having my own gamer room/office again. I’ve truly missed this, even if I’ve always done my best to carve out a cosy niche or corner for my desk, books and other bling that makes me happy. I’ve been hanging the same pictures and room lights for over 12 years now, I keep the same books on my shelf and the same family sword on my wall. My friends who have followed me from first to second, to third and fourth apartment through the years, tell me how my room always looks the same no matter where I am. My personal space means comfort and stability as much as identity.

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Life is a painful journey but we can walk together

This is an editorial post unrelated to gaming, MMOs and all the silly things that also make me happy.

Last Friday night I got together with my oldest friend for dinner after a long stretch of radio silence. Silence not just from my side – ever since worklife has caught up with us after leaving university, the periods of not seeing each other have grown longer. I’ve come to accept this about adulthood; that we all get caught up in our private and professional lives, people moving away or getting married, changing jobs and struggling with all the daily tasks and responsibilities. We all do our best to stay in control but there are times when it’s hard to muster any more energy after the day is done. Before we know it, we start existing and stop living. That is especially true for those who are used to shoulder much more than just their share.

The overlaps of history between my friend and me are remarkable. Not only has life insisted on continuously bringing us together time and again ever since we were both 9 and 10 years old, as if our own winding paths could never part for long, I have also never known anyone to share that much of my own biography, so many experiences and constellations that made us who we are now. It’s this kinship that wipes whatever time away that may have passed between meetings. As long as we keep having these regular brushes, even per SMS or email, our friendship endures. That said, longer stretches of silence are usually a bad sign. That is certainly true for the extrovert types that we both are, who insist on functioning no matter what and have never learned to share their own pain, only share in the pain of others.

The moment she stepped into my new home, I felt it. She looked pale, she talked differently. She was like a tired shadow of her other version. I showed her around, I poured a drink wondering how best to catch up. And as usual, it didn’t take long – over the course of dinner I got to tell her what a rotten year lies behind me, how my partner finally started therapy for a complex case of childhood PTSD and how things are slowly improving for the both of us, step by step. I don’t hold back on these topics anymore; I’ve come to know too many wonderful people struggling with anxiety disorders or depression, to maintain any sort of shyness or tolerance for stigma around these discussions. Fuck stigma. Fuck the whole masquerade. Life is raw and deep and painful whenever it stops being easy.

I’m done wasting my time with false pretenses. When my partner decided to tell the world (as in all relevant environment such as friends and the workplace) that he had been suffering for over thirty years and that he was dealing with things now, in a serious manner by whatever help necessary, my heart ached with pride because he decided to stop hiding. When I think of how medication-based therapy enabled my mother to build a second life from scratch after the age of 55, when the alternative would have been death or hospitalisation most likely, there is only thankfulness in me and empathy. It’s such a huge step to get yourself help and turn your life around, no matter a more introvert or extrovert type of personality. Only you can do it and the pain tends to get worse before it gets better.

Opening up about these issues broke whatever fabric my old friend had wrapped around her pale exterior. She’s been going through her first ever rough patch that is in fact about herself. She’s a nervous wreck, she can’t sleep at night for all the noise in her head, she’s experienced several anxiety attacks at the new work place. Her body is acting up. After a life of achieving and caring and carrying, she’s finally stretched so thin that her entire system starts revolting. She’s being forced to focus on her own needs and she has no idea yet how to do this. Her first instincts are probably to write a list of priorities and weigh the pros and cons, so yeah she needs help…I was very glad to hear she’s already reached out about this to her GP.

It’s all so familiar. The moment my partner finally and earnestly got into therapy (which took three attempts), my energy levels completely rock bottomed. I got sick with serious infection several times in a row and my nerves deserted me even on trivial tasks. I have never felt as spent. That is the aftermath of overcoming hardship more often than not – it’s not sunshine and cheerfulness, it’s a deep well of exhaustion. Before you can move on, you have to breathe out and recuperate.

We’ll learn. Today I believe in baby steps, in cherishing lighthearted moments when they occur. I still look forward to things but I don’t plan so much anymore. I let things happen rather than making them – I am learning to chill. My friend is currently at the stage of debating whether she should tell her superior or not and if she can get a grip with “just a few GP sessions”. She worries about coming across as unprofessional when sharing too much about her life and well-being and I don’t blame her. But I also know that there are things you cannot hide from others. You can try of course but it won’t do you any good. When you reached the point where a condition or illness temporary or otherwise, manages your life, it is an impossible task to maintain the act. More importantly however, you are missing out; you’re missing out on reactions that will surprise and humble you. From the moment we open up about what is essentially our human condition, people around us will come out and connect. I have co-experienced this twice now and it’s stunning. Truth liberates, there is magic in being truthful about yourself. It also means you’re taking back ownership of your life by switching on the light in those dark corners. What we keep in the dark makes us sick. When we further isolate ourselves from others, we cut away all opportunity.

No matter where you are, in this moment there are people around you with the same struggles, keeping quiet about the same things. The minute you come forth, there’s a high chance of experiencing togetherness, empathy and support from unexpected places rather than rejection. And inadvertently, you will become someone else’s spring of hope, too. It’s as if everyone was just waiting for a chance to chime in. This is life and it’s happening to everybody! If you think you’re immune to it, I say give it time.

I am glad I was able to support my friend in her time of need. She’s already tough but now she’ll also learn to be human – and that is an experience worth having. Last night my partner and I came across Wil Wheaton’s contribution to the “UR OK” project on youtube and we were both deeply moved by his words that describe much of what we’ve been through. It’s not over, every day is another step on the journey. There will be days of pain and more growth and there will be days of joy and not feeling bad, until we realize that this journey is really just life. And we can all walk together.

Momentarily out of Action, Temporarily out of Gas

Life is busy. Between demanding work assignments, getting better after a heavy flu crisis and preparing for a big move at the end of April, I’ve been struggling to get much writing in these past weeks. It’s not even lack of time – it’s energy, feeling mentally drained or preoccupied to the point of preferring a session of casual, trivial FFXIV in the evening over anything else. Writing, blogging on this here blog, has never been a casual gig for me; I don’t do casual blogging nevermind the speed or quantity of my posts compared to others. Blogging about MMOs and social topics, finding the right words and engaging with my readers are matters of passion and dedication. They deserves nothing less.

While I’m not blogging so much right now, I’ve found some needed distraction lately catching up with TV series and the culinary arts (did you know we have a food blog?) and I am still enjoying my time in Eorzea immensely. I hit level 50 on my black mage several weeks ago and have been quite invested in the main storyline, the dungeons and raids and of course collecting shiny armor of which there is so so much in FFXIV, I don’t know where to start! Oh and chocobo dyeing…..which is the single most annoying and frustrating process I have ever encountered in an MMO. My bird, Dandelion, has gone from plum purple to razor blue and back so many times by now, I wish a curse on all the guides ever written on “how to” recolor your chocobo in FFXIV! Once when I was young and naive, I set out to achieve gloom purple but there is only so much disappointment one can take.

Sylberry, settling for plum purple…alas!

Anyway. I don’t do meta life-messages very often but this blog is part of a community that I have come to value a great deal and miss. This is to let all my friends and readers know that MMO Gypsy will resume business as usual as soon as normality has been restored in what we all call the “IRL”. I am still here – and I look forward to chatting, laughing and arguing with y’all again soon!

Podcast: Beyond Language Barriers

On the weekend, me and Braxwolf got together to talk about a vastly intriguing subject that’s sometimes overlooked when we communicate across blogs, social networks and guild chat: language barriers and cultural differences. For the most part, I pride myself to be very proficient at English and I don’t encounter any issues when dealing with native speakers online; misunderstandings are rare and funny puns or learning about colloquialisms is something I’ve always enjoyed. As for cultural differences, I always felt that on an individual level human beings have a lot more in common than they have not, even if there’s such a thing as overarching culture that makes it more or less difficult/customary to talk about certain issues at times. However, when we meet each other halfway and give people the benefit of the doubt, any topic allows for discussion and common ground. The things that move us are universal. Likewise, English has become an universal language, a lingua franca, that belongs to everyone and that keeps evolving with its diverse international community.

To listen to this episode of Beyond Bossfights, check out Braxwolf’s place for “Episode 15 – Language and Culture Differences” or the TGEN Network!

http://braxwolf.com

 

Bloggy Xmas Day 14: Transcontinental Kinship and the International Language of Music

Gaming and community is a very wide and open subject which is why I chose it for the #bloggyxmas event. Depending on whom you ask and where they come from, people have very different stories to tell but almost without fail, gaming folk will name the internet as the one big game changer, that amazing space of connecting across geographical boundaries and finding kindred spirits with more ease. A lot of geeks are lonely as far as their interests are concerned and living in a place that is all about stability and pragmatic productivity, I found myself in a fairly isolated spot too before the world wide web happened.

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Ever since getting involved in a blogging community, my ride has been almost entirely a positive and enriching one: I’ve been able to find and talk to people who love the same things I do and worry about the same things. I’ve written about difficult subjects like geek pecking orders and gaming stigma, only to find my sentiments echoed by others. And I’ve been educated by smart and brave female and male bloggers on social issues I was struggling with myself in the past.

Besides this inner journey, I’d like to believe I have grown as a writer and thinker thanks to all the critical feedback and countless comments I have received over the years. I started out as a rather self-conscious second language blogger in this international but English-speaking blogosphere and few years later, I find myself confident enough to write long articles in one sitting and invited as a vocal participant to podcast round-table discussions. I never dreamed of making youtube videos or podcasting when I started writing but so many fellow bloggers have shown me nothing but support when it came to finding my voice (with the “funny accent”!). For such unexpected kindness I will always be thankful.

The International Language of Music

For my personal Bloggy Xmas post, I want to talk about Battle Bards and how this global neighbourhood has opened up new avenues for a very niche interest of mine: videogame music. Gamers are used to be counted among niche geek culture and certainly, MMO players have always been regarded as niche by the gaming mainstream. World of Warcraft has had a positive impact on this image but the way things are going, traditional MMOs are disappearing next to a mass of next-generation online genres.

Battle Bards, the brainchild of the inimitable Syp from Biobreak, is an oddity among gaming podcasts, no doubt a niche inside the niche. For someone like myself who has collected videogame and movie soundtracks since the early nineties, sometimes with a tape recorder, our podcast is in equal parts an enthusiast’s dream and labor of love. I was already happy to know of a handful of MMO bloggers who shared my musical interests, writing about them every now and then. But it is off-the-charts amazing that such a thing as Battle Bards exists and that I am a part of it! I enjoy each of our shows and recordings in the full knowledge of how special an opportunity this is and the fact that we have a die-hard core of listeners is, well….hard to believe and very humbling. With 400 downloads on average per episode, Battle Bards may be a tiny podcast compared to many others but it’s waving its geek flag loud and proud. We’d be doing it just for the three of us but knowing there’s somebody out there who shares our passion, makes our time spent all the more rewarding.

Our listeners have made us laugh, think and consider the things we share on our show. We’re not just talking amongst ourselves but to an audience that is as international as we are and who will hear our voices on their way to work, while preparing dinner in the evening, killing time on yet another airplane ride like Rowan or when in the car with their family, like my friend Redbeard. Knowing Red and his three musically gifted kids tune in to Battle Bards regularly because they love videogame music as much as we do, makes me want to put all the more effort into our podcast. For Christmas in 2013, I got a Xmas card with the three of them on the cover playing their instruments; I still keep it on my desk like a token – a reminder of all the great things that have come from gaming, blogging and connecting with other people’s lives since publishing my first post in 2010.

This is community for me. It’s a micro-cosmos, a niche inside the niche. It’s the people we let into our lives, select individuals whose strength is not in numbers but in the way they touch our life and give us hope. We all need to know we are not alone.

Thanks to all of you who have been interacting with me these past few years in the blogosphere and via other social media, all the readers and commenters of MMO Gypsy and my fellow bloggers and friends! Thanks to everyone who has supported Battle Bards and TGEN this year – we know you are there!

The Year of Un-Deception: A 2014 Pre-Recap

As the articles on “2014 – the worst year for videogames” are piling up (gotta love sensationalist headlines), I am contemplating my personal year of gaming. I usually start preparing my best games of the year-post around this time, as well as a round-up of the greatest videogame soundtracks. I have no plans to deviate from this course at present and when it comes to the actual games at least, my 2014 really wasn’t half as bad as apparently some people’s. But more on that another time.

Of course it’s gamergate that has marked 2014 as a black year for gaming and on a more personal note, it has impacted on bloggers, podcasters and people I call friends from this here MMO blogosphere. This is something I eye with much concern because if there’s something that gaming needs more of, it’s the type of diverse and welcoming community that has been established within the micro-cosmos of my blogroll. I am down when my friends are down and especially when one of them is taking their leave. However on a very personal and direct level, I am still evaluating my own feelings in regards to how gamergate has affected me. And it’s almost chilling to admit that I don’t feel particularly anything over all the ugliness that has come to light since August 2014. It’s too familiar – so unlike this tiny blogging niche that I inhabit and which is special in so many ways.

Is this really the darkest year for gaming or is it not much rather the year where some rotten dams broke and a lot of taboos were finally (and in some places aggressively) challenged and put on the spot? Did parts of the gaming community get toxic all of a sudden or were they not much rather always a hostile place for anyone not bowing to the established, unspoken norm? What gamergate stands for is that greater societal issues which are very much alive in gaming too, have finally been given a prominent voice and are receiving mainstream attention (time they caught up). That is threatening and it’s only when a status quo is truly challenged when things get ugly. But this also means that things are finally in motion.

While speakers don’t realize it anymore in everyday language, the German word for “disappointed” has a rather intriguing, literal meaning: it’s to be “un-deceived”. If we feel disappointment, it is generally because we were let down on our expectations – our hopes, dreams, illusions maybe. In any case, there was a deception of some kind involved and quite often it’s a self-created one as much as the other way around. [source]

We keep reading about or preaching how change hurts but when we find ourselves in the middle, we can’t stand the heat. Societal change of any magnitude is tough and no eye will be left dry – no, not the advocate’s either. Yet, gamergate and all the disappointment and pain it has caused is preferable to illusions we may have allowed ourselves to live in and which lulled us in treacherous passivity. There is nothing worse than a false sense of security while the years go by with nothing truly improving.

So, this year we’ve established that gaming and gamers aren’t a better society than any other – tadaa? What is there to be had other than working with and from within our very own, tiny and handpicked communities anyway?

It always gets worse before it gets better

International media have recently exploded over police violence in the US against black citizens. It’s easy to get involved and upset over cases like Eric Garner’s because for once, they are getting attention and are being widely reported on. That doesn’t change the fact that this reality has been many people’s reality always – or that black men are disproportionally more often ending up in jail or getting killed resisting an arrest compared to white men, on any given day. This isn’t news, yet right now everyone is up in arms about it. The fact that there’s been demos and in some places not-so peaceful riots, well…you don’t get to choose the face of change. If riots seem ugly to you, think of the ugly reality some people deal with every day of their lives that drives them to such extreme and dangerous (for them as well) measures. I don’t condone violence but it’s hypocritical to shake your head over Ferguson when you probably never even knew about the place beforehand and about everything that pushed so many marginalized people to a breaking point. Condemning riots is the tone argument of the privileged. It is also a tool of maintaining the establishment when ironically, violence has so many way more harmful and insidious faces.

"Whatever you do, don't swear."

Whatever you do, don’t swear.

Social change isn’t about making you feel comfortable, it’s about changing things. This brings me back to gamergate and all the ways it’s been uncomfortable but also, all the ways it heralds progress if we manage to perceive it that way. I’ve said it on a related CMP podcast before, the fact that so many people have started to talk about gaming culture or in support of women in gaming this year, is bewildering in a fantastical way. And yes, it also brings the most toxic of our non-community to the table but they have always been there, driving individuals out of this hobby. Did we believe they would welcome more and more diverse forces claiming games for themselves with open arms?
Thankfully, gamegate has brought new allies to the table too and like Liore started vetting her twitter community more closely, mine has not just seen people removed over gamergate but many join as well. Things have been moving and becoming clearer.

On an recount of my gaming background on Gameskinny a while ago, I talked about how I was driven out of a male-dominated gaming forum I had been active in for a decade. The type of treatment and in some cases harassment (not detailed in the article) I’ve received over the years cannot be compared to what some female developers and journalists targeted by the 4chan gamergate crowd went through, but there are all too familiar parallels. I know perfectly well how it feels not to be accepted as a legit member of a community you are contributing to because of your gender. I know how it feels to be scared because the usual rules of online life versus offline don’t apply in your case. This has been my reality and many other female gamers’ always, just as it’s been the reality of women professionally involved in the games industry. It’s just that nobody ever talked (much) about it and the topic certainly didn’t make it into the Colbert Report.

Only when I discovered this small community of MMO bloggers I barely dare call myself a part of, for fear of finding this fragile butterfly shatter too, did I realize there is still a place for people like me – women like me, gamers like me.

You gave me hope and hope was a change. Now change gives me hope. So no, for me personally 2014 is far from the worst year in gaming; a tough year for sure but also a year of more discussion, critical debate and alliances than ever before. And if the “community” has gotten more polarized over it in the long run, that too is part of the process that leads to inevitable change. I live in a country whose relatively consensual and pragmatic way of handling a rare form of representative democracy is in fact not grounded in consensus but on polarities so far removed and so established, that they cannot deal with each other in any other way but with compromise. If radicalization is how it’s gonna be, best get it over with.

I believe in inevitable, bumpy progress. Most of all, I hope to see everyone who is, with an open heart and mind contributing to gaming culture, back in 2015! To my fellow bloggers, podcasters, streamers, commenters and twitterers: your voice matters, more than ever. The only way this 2014 could be the worst year in gaming is if niche communities like ours went quieter and lost faith in their power to reach kindred spirits and change the face of gaming for somebody out there. Somebody like me.

A good Friday to all of you – the un-deceived who are struggling, the un-altered set to alter and all those who will find their strength renewed. Thank you for being my company.