What Does Britomart Look Like…

By: Max Mam

I envision Britomart as being about 5′ 8″ with long, dark brown hair and brown eyes. She is thin, but not so much as to appear weak. Very athletic, she possesses great strength and agility but is not physically imposing underneath her armor. Though she is very beautiful, she must hide her feminine features in order for her to pass as a male during quests. She wears ivory-colored armor and wields a snow white spear whose tip exudes a faint blue aura. Beneath the tough demeanor Britomart maintains whilst upon her many adventures lies a pleasant smile and a beautiful laugh. In some ways, she resembles Keira Knightley. Additionally, Britomart would undoubtedly vote for John McCain simply because he is her great-great-great-great-great grandson somewhere down the line. And we all know Britomart’s got her family’s back.

Britomart’s speech pattern implements many old English speech patterns and vocabulary and is thus far removed from the current vernacular in modern society. Also, she has an uncanny knack for having her sentences rhyme. Undoubtedly it would be great fun to talk to her.

Britomart: Most gracious noble knight, art thou not well? Speak what woes trouble your heart, I implore, for I shall smite those evils straight to hell, else in my vain process breathe nevermore.

Max: *speechless at the absurdity of the situation*

Britomart: What wretch doth live to thy voice take captive? By mine hands shall this evil be undone. Fear not, this villain soon shall cease to live. Foul sorcerer, thou shouldst make haste and run!

Max: *still speechless and watches in amazement as she runs to smite a non-existent sorcerer*

Playing Games For Homework?!

By: Max Mam

I live on a pretty social hall and my roommate and I always leave the door open so that people constantly wander in and out of our room. There have been countless times when I have been leveling up or questing in LOTRO or NWN2 and people come into my room and ask me what I’m up to. I simply reply with a smirk, “Doin’ some homework, man.” I love watching their reactions because they always are amazed and jealous and generally have a ton of questions about the class. It’s fun hearing their comments, but honestly I would rather them leave me alone because I’m busy killing goblins.

Video gaming for this class honestly hasn’t affected my life in any noticeable way. I was a pretty hardcore Final Fantasy XI player in high school, but since coming to college, I’ve yet to touch the game. In high school, I am certain that my video gaming extended into and affected other aspects of my life. Staying up late nights or turning down friends’ requests to hang out just so I could finish a mission or attend an online event were common for me. In college, however, I’ve been careful to make sure that video gaming, whether it be for pure aesthetic pleasure or for class, never interfered in my social or academic lives. I make conscious efforts to ensure that my academics comes first, and that I never neglect my friends for the sake of simple video game entertainment. Even so, I thoroughly enjoy video gaming and would never give it up completely. I am a gamer for life, but RL comes first. Perhaps growing older and a bit more mature has helped me realize the responsibilities I now have.

No RMT Please!

By: Max Mam

In Final Fantasy XI, just about every high-level player, myself included, agrees that RMTs are trash. RMTs (real money traders), or gil-sellers, as we called them in FFXI, caused us legit players many problems. First of all, some of the Notorious Monsters”, extra strong monsters that drop valuable items, that players camped for their gear were unjustly monopolized 24/7 by RMTs that utilized illegal bot programs to instantly lay claim to the mob as soon as it appeared. These RMTs would then take the items the NM dropped and sell it on the auction house and could essentially control the price of said item since many of the items are exclusive to certain NMs. This made it incredibly hard for some players to get the gear they needed simply because they would be forced to wait until the RMT left the camp or instead fuel the RMT by buying the item on the auction house at the inflated price. Without the right gear, it is hard for players to get into a decent party to level up and experience more of the narrative through missions.

The frustration continues since the gil that the gil-sellers accrue go onto eBay where many novice players can essentially buy their way into the best gear possible. In some games, this isn’t as big a deal, but in FFXI, when a player doesn’t do their job right, it greatly hinders the entire party. Many of these novice players don’t take the time to understand how to play their respective jobs and expect to coast along on uber-gear to the high levels. A similar dilemma occurs when new players buy accounts so that they begin at the maximum level with no clue as to how to play their job. Those of us that worked for our levels have spent countless hours in the game and know everything about the jobs we play. In a game like FFXI where you really can’t accomplish anything solo, you need to have a full party or alliance where everyone knows exactly what to do. When one or a few players have no experience with their jobs, the party fails, even if the players have amazing gear.

I really am glad that there are admins and GMs in FFXI. Corporate ownership of the game makes it harder for RMTs and gil-sellers to exist. The less RMT there is going on, the easier it is for people to enjoy the narrative because the leveling up is easier, the economy is better, and there are fewer high-level players without gameplay experience. Gil-selling undoubtedly still goes on, but when I think about what would happen if there weren’t the mass bannings of RMT accounts and the continual efforts to curb gil-selling, I realize that there would be many many more players with no experience but great gear and high levels. I certainly don’t want more of those because those are the people that make the parties I’m in fail. It certainly ruins the narrative experience when I continually have to repeat certain fights because of one person. I already spend too much time in Vana’diel; I would rather not waste time repeating missions due to lazy rich players.

The Mysterious Azureskye of Rivendell

By: Max Mam

Every person has a past. It makes them who they are and dictates why they do the things they do. By providing a back story on a character, a player can experience a fuller role-playing experience. Here follows the background of Azureskye, the female elf I play as in LOTRO.

Born in Rivendell to a noble line of Elves, Azureskye knew well the taste of good wine and flavorful food. There was a part of her, however, that longed for something more. All her life she had her needs attended to by servants day and night. What she longed for was adventure and danger. And so under cover of darkness one evening, Azureskye made her sudden and unprompted departure, alone.

What awaited her in the wilderness did not scare her; she knew very well the dangers and hardships she would face away from civilization. But she was prepared. With a strong heart and will and a steady bow arm, she conquered the elements of nature and made her place wandering through fierce woodlands across Middle-Earth.

It was not hard for her to leave. She had no one to say farewell to. Though the male elves expressed deep interest in her due to her sharp wit and deep mystery, her fierce independence and mistrust of others never allowed her to become close to anyone. She had only herself to rely on, and that is how she liked it. Without friends, no one would let her down. And she knew she would never let herself down either. Wandering through Middle-Earth, Azureskye found the happiness within her that she could never have found in Rivendell. Only by relying on herself could she truly feel fulfilled and free.

Her survival skills, sharpened as they are now, did not develop overnight. Prior to her quick exodus, she made extensive use of Rivendell’s massive collection of books. Through her research she learned the concepts of how to survive in the wilderness, what to eat, how to hunt, and where to sleep. Armed with that knowledge she was ready to leave and test her skills against the elements. The first few weeks were harsh. The skills she possessed were easy to learn, but difficult to master. Intelligence and aptitude, however, were two of Azureskye’s strongest points. So, within just a few months, legends spread of the grace of Azureskye’s arrows.

Fighting Styles Within Fellowships

By: Max Mam

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the movie remediation of Tolkien’s epic novel, there are many different races each excelling in different types of combat. Frodo’s fellowship contained four hobbits, three men, an elf, and a dwarf. Just by looking at the characters’ respective weapons, it is apparent that each race has a different fighting style. The short-swords of the hobbits show that they are suited to fighting by hiding and confusing their opponents. The swords wielded by Aragorn and Boromir strike an efficient balance between offense and defense. Gandalf of course uses his ancient magic to obliterate his foes while Gimli relies on his powerful close-combat attacks with his axe. Legolas hangs back releasing a torrent of arrows and also uses his elven agility to perform acrobatic close-combat attacks.This combination of varied fighting styles allows the fellowship to efficiently work together to defeat their many foes.

In LOTRO, players get the chance to create their own fellowships and fight together in a fashion not unlike that of the movie. Though the races are the same, the classes that a player may choose from are quite a bit more varied than in the movie. Race plays a part mainly in how a player’s avatar looks and directly affects which classes a player may choose from. A player wanting to specialize in sneaking around and launching surprise wouldn’t be able to use a bulky dwarf character to do so; instead he would have to use the smaller statures of either the hobbits or men. The fact that certain classes are available to only certain races makes the game more believable and encourages users to seek out players of other races and classes to form varied and powerful fellowships. By including a wide variety of both classes and races the population of each server enriches the narrative experience since the diversity throughout the world creates a more realistic environment and facilitates heightened immersion within the game.

The Differences in Distances Among Media

By: Max Mam

While they share many similar aspects, the movie, book, and video game version of The Fellowship of the Ring each carry vastly different characteristics. One of the main discrepancies among the three media is the way space is presented. In LOTRO your character can easily travel from The Shire to The Green Dragon in Bywater in a matter of minutes. If your character isn’t already a high level, there is the possibility that you might run into a few animals that you have to kill on your short journey to Bywater. Nevertheless the run is relatively painless compared to the many many miles of road between the two locales as presented in the Fellowship novel.

The expanded distance seen in the novel is fine since the reader is able to jump through long periods of time between sentences. Large distances, however, don’t cut it in video games like LOTRO where players don’t want to spend hours merely running from town to town. To achieve a shorter travel time for players the designers of the game merely compressed the Middle-Earth map to a smaller scale so that everything is much closer and more accessible to players.

The movie handles The Green Dragon scene in an altogether different way. Instead of incorporating the actual scene in Bywater, the producers saved film time by inserting the Green Dragon conversation in the group’s visit to The Prancing Pony. It just wouldn’t have been practical for the movie to include every single scene.

Steve, Our Everyman

By: Max Mam

When I first sat down to watch The King of Kong, I was expecting to endure an hour and a half or so of a boring documentary about some arcade player looking to make a name for himself. I had no idea, however, that throughout the course of the film I would grow to become emotionally attached to Steve’s struggle to attain the world record on Donkey Kong.

Steve Wiebe is the protagonist of The King of Kong. But more than that, he is the only character I felt any emotional link during the entire film. I, along with many other viewers, felt his triumph when he scored his first 1 million+ point game in his garage, his anguish when his record was denied, and his joy when he finally bested Billy Mitchell in the record books.

So why do we all root for Steve Wiebe and make him the hero of our story? Well perhaps part of it is the slant that the movie director applied to the film in order to increase the entertainment value. Even so, I think it is the fact that all of us know what it is like to be the underdog, to want something so much that we work tirelessly to get it. Steve Wiebe is our everyman. His victories are our victories and his failures are ours as well. We feel his painful shortcomings in our lives every time we fail at something and we can easily understand his desire for success.

So why isn’t Billy Mitchell our protagonist? I mean, he certainly is extraordinary and is the current world record holder of the Donkey Kong high score. He even has his own hot sauce! Again, the director certainly biased the film towards Steve, yet even beyond that I feel it is because Billy is so good that many of us can’t truly relate to him. How many of us hold multiple world records for arcade games and how many times have we been hailed as the best arcade game player of our era? He is simply out of our league. We can never truly relate to Billy Mitchell and that is why we all want Steve as our protagonist.