OMG! TEH WOMENZ!! THEY GAME!!!

On the left is an Atari 2600 with Freeway, a g...Image via WikipediaSo, there I was, being a Geeky Mom, checking out Twitter after an extended session of mining and building in Terraria with Trusty Friends NEligahn and Ellif, when @HMXThrasher made this tweet:

Being someone of the female persuasion, of course I had to check this article out.  I read it, re-read it, and face-palmed (appropriately on Captain Picard Day, I might add).

OK, CNN writers–just where the hell have you been for the last, oh, 40-ish years?  I probably was gaming before half of you were even born. My dad and I played Cat and Mouse on the Magnavox Odyssey. I played Pong with my aunt when it first came out.  The Pac-Man game at the arcade ate a ton of my quarters along with my time. I shot up millions of Asteroids and a few thousand AT-ATs in The Empire Strikes Back game on the Atari 2600.  I play games on multiple platforms now.  If it’s fun, I play it. If it’s great, I play it for years. I still play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) for Jolee Bindo one-liners.  I play Star Trek Online with my son.  My dad, kids, hubby, and I all play Beatles Rock Band together–can’t beat three-generation gaming. My daughter and I trade Pokemon. All of us in my family are going to be playing Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes out.

Lest CNN and others who are ‘speedbumps on the Clue Highway’ think that I am an aberration in the female gamer category, Hubby and I quest through Tyria, Cantha, and Elona in Guild Wars, along with our guildmates in The Lost Haven–many of whom are female! I’ve shot down my share of orcs in Neverwinter Nights (NWN) 1 and 2 and LOTRO, all while gaming with other women.  I’ve installed mods for NWN 1 and 2, KOTOR 1 and 2, Dragon Age, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and Mass Effect–many of which were created by–shock, horror, FEMALES.

Even more–we talk, write, and tweet about gaming.  Trusty Friend leXX and I podcasted for 2 years about gaming on LucasCast, and share about different games regularly in forum posts and tweets.  Several women host the podcast ‘Corellian Run Radio‘.  Trusty Friends NEligahn, Ellif, and I are working on the Crossed Lightsabers podcast. There are any number of women writing for gaming websites and magazines. I’m certainly not the only female gamer who blogs, either.

Welcome to the 21st century, CNN.  Glad you made it out of your mom’s basement to discover that we gals have been upstairs for years, XBox controllers or Orochi gaming mice in hand, fragging VC in Call of Duty: Black Ops or slicing and dicing the bosses in Fallout: New Vegas and Red Dead Redemption. I’ll even share my controller with you if you promise to quit being so idiotically surprised that women actually game.  Try and keep up with us, boys. We women aren’t going to hold back on our leet gaming skillz for you.

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Coupon for Kotor!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC box ...Image via Wikipedia

I received an email today with a coupon code for 25% off of Bioware’s game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, at the Direct2Drive site. How do you do this? Register on the TOR forum and sign up for the TOR newsletter before September 15th. Check your email and you should find it in your inbox today. Even at the full price of $9.95 at Direct2Drive, the game is a steal, but saving a few bucks is even better. Perhaps they’ll extend this for new forum members?

What I’d love to have, though, is a code for the beta of TOR. That would be seriously cool.

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Geeky Moms and Comics

There is some unwritten rule that Moms are not allowed to buy comics, unless they’re buying them For Their Kids or are ‘Serious Collectors’. It’s OK to buy comics until you get out of college, or maybe turn 25 or something, but definitely not after after age 29 and/or birthing children. I’m not sure what it is about comics that oozes immaturity. Granted, the writing isn’t Pulitzer-prize level, but they’re fun to read. What’s not to love about an Elfquest graphic novel or a Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (aka KotOR) comic? I get more of the universes I love in a fun package.

Of course, this leads to some interesting conversations like this–on Skype chat, of course, because that’s appropriately geeky.

Me: I gotta run. The kids and I are going to Rockheads to pick up the latest KotOR comic.

Trusty Friend Rogue Nine: You are such a geek. 😀

The smiley, naturally, is very important to avoid misconstruing ‘geek’ as a pejorative. 🙂 Of course, Niner’s an admin at LucasForums and showed me how to Skype and set up my IRC in the first place. People who live online should not throw virtual stones. 😀

Anyway, I have to be one of the few moms who goes into the store to, get this, buy my own comics. I go to Rockheads about every 2 to 3 weeks or so to see if the latest issue of the KotOR comic is out yet or to browse the racks to see if there’s a new D&D adventure module or book.

There is a particular group of guys who are somewhere around late high school to college age who are usually there when I stop by. I almost wonder if they live there–the owner has a soda and snack machine, so all they need are some sleeping bags and they’re set for life. When you’re in college, you can live on banana Twinkies and Coke, you know. Real food isn’t required. They’re typically playing Warhammer or Magic, arguing over which Pokemon is better, painting miniatures, or running some wargame with said miniatures on one of the big tables set up for just that purpose.

I’ve been there often enough now that they’re starting to recognize me (although granted, I’m not exactly a forgettable character). After the kids and I leave with our purchases, I can just imagine their conversation goes like this:

1st guy: Dude! Check out that mom! She just bought a comic!

2nd guy: So? She’s got kids. They always get comics.

1st guy: No, man, the kids had their own. She’s holding a KotOR comic, you know, the newest one that just came in today. She’s getting it for herself!

2nd guy: You’re whacked. No moms read those things. It’s gotta be for the kids. Or maybe she’s a collector.

1st guy: I’m telling you, she was really checking it out while they were waiting to check out, dude. I mean, she was actually reading it.

2nd guy: Man, if she’s that geeky, her kids are doomed.

Wait til they find out that we play D&D as a family to help the kids improve their math skills.

The Accidental Novel

Honest, I never intended to write an entire novel. I certainly never intended to write an entire novel about a character in a video game. It was just supposed to be a 30-ish page little story about Jolee Bindo training a Padawan, and it kind of went a little nuts from there.

The Adventures of Jolee Bindo sprang to life one night when I got a sudden picture of Jolee grousing about having to train a stupid apprentice Jedi who insisted on using a lightsaber and blaster at the same time. I’d posted about the intelligence of wielding a lightsaber and a gun and using both at the same time in a LucasForums thread. Should you be unconvinced of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such a thing, try waving a broomstick around while shooting a water pistol at a picture of Nancy Pelosi or George Bush (your choice) nailed to a tree. It doesn’t work very well, no matter how motivated you are to make a bulls eye.

Anyway, I posted another reply in that thread and included a little vignette on the trusty LucasForums of Jolee that I’d just written on the spur of the moment, thinking that if the image made me chuckle, others hopefully might also be amused. Well, they were. If Trusty Friend RedHawke knew he’d end up creating a monster by putting a laughing smiley in his reply, however, he might not have been so quick with that complimentary post. 😀

Thus inspired by the fact that someone might find a Jolee story entertaining, I started writing ‘a little story’, thinking I might be able to make something fun in the fanfic section. Fanfics, for those of you who do not share my Geekiness, is fan-made fiction. There’s an entire forum devoted to fanfics (fanfiction.net), and for those of you who love the Knights of the Old Republic games as much as I do and run out of fics to read on LucasForums, there’s another forum just for Kotor fanfics called Kotor Fan Media. Imagine–entire forums devoted to fanfics about a Star Wars game. Here was not one, or two, but an entire flock of tech-silver sheep creating stories for this game, and I was right at home.

I finally willed up the courage to create a thread for my little story. I had no small amount of angst at posting my writing for a bunch of strangers to read and comment on. You don’t know what ‘intimidating’ means until you post a story and hope no one rips it to shreds. However, Jolee grabbed me by the throat and was quite insistent on having his story told. I _had_ to write it–the words and pictures came out whether I wanted to or not. In fact, I was rather consumed by the whole process for close to five months, which reminded me a bit of college courses, except they’re a good month shorter. I think I was married to the laptop for that whole time, and Jimbo probably would have wondered where his wife had disappeared to had it not been for me muttering in frustration when I got writer’s block.

To be honest, I thought the whole story would be 20 or 30 pages, maybe 40 tops. I’d never written anything longer than 23 pages prior to that, and that was my senior seminar paper in college. That was _supposed_ to be a long project. It didn’t take me long to work through a series of vignettes and then decide, “Hey, Jolee’s a Jedi, and so are the other main characters. I should send them on a quest!” Quests being something that all good Jedi should do regularly, particularly if it improves the LucasArts bottom line and/or the entertainment of other Star Wars fans. Before long, I’d gotten to 50 pages, and made the stunning realization–I was nowhere remotely close to being finished with the story. This was rather frightening, daunting, and exciting all at the same time. I soldiered on, buoyed by the comments by Trusty LF Friends Emperor Devon, Char Ell, Hallucination, Pazaak Princess, Pottsie, Renegade Puma, JediMaster12, and a long list of others. By the time I finished the story, I’d ended up writing some 200 pages and close to 100,000 words–an honest-to-God novel. About Star Wars. About a Star Wars game. About a character in a Star Wars game. It was all very geeky and wonderful at the same time.

I’m off to write up some comments on some other people’s fanfics that got entered in a little contest. Feel free to come join the rest of us tech-silver sheep. 🙂

A few things I’ve learned on a forum

I thought I was relatively tech-savvy prior to joining Lucasforums. After all, I knew my RAM from my ROM, had learned some Basic and Fortran in high school, knew how to update a sound card, and was on a three-person team that revised a 75 page policy manual entirely through email. I had figured out how to get the wireless going on all our home computers and had even got some games going on a laptop with only a 32Mb video card, which I learned later was something of a minor miracle.

Well, this all came about as a result of a search for a fix to a very simple problem: how to put rancor scent into the pile of bones in the PC game “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.” This is a seriously cool game, and considering I had not played much in the way of video games since my Atari days, mainly because we didn’t have the money during the college years to spend on a console or a decent PC, I thought (in 2005) that this had to be one of the greatest looking games I’d seen, not to mention Jolee Bindo’s dialog is hilarious. In the game, though, the only way to get through this one particular section is to put rancor scent into the pile of bones along with a grenade in order to make a tasty (and explosive) treat for said rancor, which looks a lot like a giant brown drooling Godzilla minus the scales for those of you who missed Return of the Jedi. Throughout the entire game, anytime you open a storage chest, you click ‘take item’, and the storage chest gladly complies, offering you items like healing kits, stimulants to boost your speed and stamina, Jedi robes, and the occasional Baragwin Assault Rifle. There is also a ‘give item’ button to press, but who wants to give up a Baragwin Assault Rifle? I mean, those things do some serious damage.

The single solitary time that you ever are required to utilize this ‘give item’ button is to ‘give’ the rancor scent and a grenade or two to the pile of bones. Why you can’t just drop them there and run like the wind, I don’t know, but that’s how the devs made the game. Needless to say, if you haven’t played a video game in several years, this is not immediately obvious. I got stuck trying to figure this out, and was not yet familiar with the concept of game walkthroughs (how much walkthrough do you need to destroy Asteroids or pop balloons in Circus Atari, after all?). However, Google and I are on a first name basis in the search department, so I googled Kotor and ‘rancor scent’. Up popped a thread in the Kotor section of Lucasforums. Here were a bunch of people who geeked out about Star Wars as much (if not more) as me, and I was right at home. So I signed up, read the rules (a novel concept, I know), and lurked a bit to figure out who was who and what was what.

I quickly discovered that an entire gaming language had developed in my sabbatical from playing games. I was hit with LOL, FTW, pwn, 1337, emo, “11one!!one!111eleventy-one!!111″and the ever-popular WTF, which was obvious even to this n00b. Mind you, Jimbo’s in the military reserves, so we are no strangers to speaking in acronyms. Thank God for urbandictionary.com. Without that, I’d have looked like a complete idiot rather than merely totally n00by. I have actually managed to learn to say “Orlando Bloom is teh hawt, and I lurv Jimbo”. IM speak is right out, though. I can type the words normally faster than I can think of the IM codes and intentionally misspell things. So, don’t ask me to IM speak, plzkthx.

There was also the concept of three levels of moderators, with varying degrees of God-like powers over The Editing and Deleting of Posts and Banning of Members. Up until this point, I’d only seen a moderator or two on e-lists, and they didn’t have to do anything except tell people maybe once a year or two that the conversation was getting a little too heated and to play nice. Of course, they weren’t moderating a bunch of post-pubescent teens, either, so maybe the lists didn’t need as much watching.

One thing I learned was not to post when under the influence of medications. My first post in LF was momentously awful–I had had knee surgery earlier that week and was taking Vicodin. I discovered that week that writing anything while taking Vicodin is A Bad Idea, but I was bored to death, so what can I say? I’d go and delete it now, but Trusty Friend Niner would probably undelete it just to torture me. 😀

I’ve also learned how to make a mod for a game, make my own custom avatars and signatures, find a nemesis, moderate the forum (I’ll never know what possessed them to think they should turn me loose with demi-god powers, but they did), and how to use GIMP, among many other things. Not bad for a Star Wars gaming site. 🙂