Saturday, October 02, 2004

Oh My God Dude!

I'm a celebrity now! I got quoted in MENJ's blog. Woo hoo!

And he called me a dickhead! All right!

Do I read his blog? No, not really.

Oh. What's my problem with him?

I dunno. Don't read his shit. I just needed an example of a ‘bad blogger’, so I chose him, based on the amount of bitching I've heard about him (yeah, bloggers are the quintessential Internet dwellers). I can't believe he read my blog! Whoa! Next thing you know Jeff Ooi's gonna come by, read what I say, and call me a cocksucking motherfucker.

That would so awesome. Please, Jeff, if you read this, I'm like your worst enemy and shit, and I think you should be buggered by angry hornets. I'd be ever so grateful if you, like, describe what I do with my mother every night in embarrasing detail. Ok, thanks, bye!

TARIQ SMASH: No More Blog-Talk.

I'm pissed off. I don't want to talk about blogs any more. I just don't. It's stupid pedantic arguing. “Oh, bloggers should be responsible for their opinions, they'll get hurt, blah de fucking blah”. That's consequence. You be careful when you don't want to get hurt, not because you're a fucking professional. You're professional when you get paid anyway, and blogging pays shit. Stupid people.

Blogging, like McCloud said, is a medium. A container for messages, you know, like a jug is a container for Merlot or some shit medium-class wankers or conneiseurs drink. I dunno. Some times the drink sucks, so do you blame the jar for it? Of course fucking not. And besides, like jugs, you can fill blogs with whatever messages you want. Look at the Datin Diaries for fuck's sake. She's already admitted that part of her blog is fictional anyway. Sheesh.

And you bloggers want to be taken seriously. So work at it lah. It's not as if Jeff Ooi isn't doing anything right — at least people listen to him and trust him. That's worth something, even if you bitch like an old lady about how he's not accountable to anyone. Of course he's not accountable to anyone, he doesn't get paid for advertising, no one will fire him from his damn job, he's doing it because he loves it. Not for Truth of Journalistic Integrity. Because he likes it, and he can't stand people not knowing what a fucked up country we live in.

So you get hurt when some troll comes in and calls you and your mother names. So fucking what? It's the fucking Internet, baby. Scum come in all the time. Hani's a wonderful woman, she writes good, and who did she fucking get? Some self-righteous prick who dissed her because she's not the typical Melayu girl: ie scared shitless about saying anything, and cowed down into not thinking.

Fuckers. Blogging is a medium. Bloggers have no duties and responsibilities save within their own domains. That's it. People want to listen to them, that's fine. The thing is, there are hundreds and thousands of other bloggers out there. Some are nice people, like Hani, Najah, Pick Yin and the like. Some aren't, like that fucker MENJ and his Mullah-talk. So what? That's the Internet. It's not as if people are getting paid for this kind of shit.

Friday, October 01, 2004

On Blogging.

The Scarfer's just announced her intention to take a hiatus. Almost a month ago, the Datin decided to do the same.

They're two completely different people, with relatively little in common, apart from the fact that they're involved with someone ‘exotic’ (one is married to a Datuk, the other is dating a gwailo), and that they're both female, and obvious shit like that…

Basically they've got nothing in common. Save for one thing. They spoke their minds, realized that to some point, they were wrong, found out that people didn't like them for being wrong, and realized that blogging, formerly the panacea for troubled minds, has become too much. The things people said have become too painful, blood has been drawn, and it's time to pull back and lick your wounds. The game isn't fun anymore.

You know, I'm terrified this would happen to me. Hence, I limited attempts for people to post their feedback on my blog, reasoning that the kind of people who would do stupid, hurtful things to me would be those who don't think about what they say, and find that it's easier to talk trash than to STFU.

At least, when they're struggling to either 1) register to Blogger or 2) write me an email, if what they're saying is important, they'll find a way to say it, and if it turns out that what they're saying is wrong-headed and obviously contrary to Natural Law, hey, they're sad fuckers.

Or that could just be a rationalization and all I want to do is talk without being bothered. And when I don't want to talk, I'll just let go of blogging, without having to tell you folks that I'll be in a hiatus.

I just realized something. In almost any literary or textual medium, the author owes the audience something. It could be money, in the case of novelists and authors, or it could be trust, in the case of a journalist or a newspaper columnist. But a blogger owes his audience nothing.

The audience comes to a blog in their own free will, and can leave without accruing penalty, other than wasted bandwidth, which the blogger has to pay as well. Nothing is owed between the blogger and his audience, other than what the either side believes. And belief is the flimsiest coin there is, even on such a nebulous realm like the Internet.

I can leave, I can call you all names, I can profess the foulest doctrines that could turn the stomachs of any right-thinking reader around the planet. And I still wouldn't be responsible for you. Any responsibility I have is what I take up, and I am in no condition to be punctual, inoffensive or even Right. I just need to Be.

Of course, you, the audience, don't have to listen to what I have to say, either, or even visit me. That's your right. It's also the right of the reader of fiction, nonfiction, journalism or whatever, but I think blogging is special. Blogging is, probably, the only media where it is all right to be not listened to.

I could be wrong. It's something that's coming out, stream-of-thought-ish, you see.

An Interesting Revelation

WARNING!: Not for people who find talk about masturbation and the sight of one huge penis unsettling.

If you've seen my profile before, you might have noticed that I've added a few new interests.

One of them was ‘masturbation’. Out of curiosity, I clicked through it, just to see who else was brave enough to put it in.

Two things I noticed:

  1. There seems to be a lot of teen girls who like masturbate on Blogger. Youngest I actually saw was 15, which sounds suspicious as hell.
  2. Out of all the women in Blogger, only two have posted pictures. Mind, not of themselves, but just pictures. Basically an eye and a pair of panties. Both of the posters are older than 25.

I don't recommend looking through the profiles myself, unless the sight of a huge, erect wang doesn't upset you (and yes, the profile has pictures that may shock and amaze you, mostly shock).

Why am I telling you this? Well… it's just me thinking about the nature of the Internet. I suppose telling the world that you like killing kittens is a ‘guy thing’, while for girls it's taboo. Unless I'm completely wrong, of course, and there's a far more reasonable explanation, like hordes and hordes of guys emailing you and telling you how hot they think you are—

Oh, wait. Hani used to get that kind of shit. Okay. Makes sense.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hey, Lookie!

I got impatient for Amazon to index my Wish List, so I decided to cheat a little.

I'd be lying if I said that I just wanted people to see how ultimately refined my tastes are, and just say it out loud my true intentions: I Want Presents for My Birthday.

Ha ha. There. I've said it. It's November the 6th this year, mind you.

Anyway, here's the link. I'm putting it at the Horrible NASCAR-like affiliation list, and I'll probably whine a bit just before my birthday.

Tariq Kamal's Wish List @

Anyway, a few highlights:

  • Usagi Yojimbo Book 3: The Wanderer's Road — I love Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. Funny, usually I mock furries, but a couple of my favourite artists draw anthromorphic animals. One of them is Stan Sakai; the other is Dave Kelley, who drew Living In Greytown. Anyway. I've got all of Stan's early Usagi books save this one: the one where Jei, Usagi's insane archnemesis, makes his first appearance. Which is a shame.
  • Paranoia XP — The first Paranoia RPG was published by West End Games (which publishes boring shit like TORG now, I think). Whatever. This new game is like the old one, except that it's updated for the millenium. And it's published by Mongoose Publishing. There are two things that make Paranoia special. One, is that unlike other RPGs, Paranoia encourages you to be a back-stabbing bastard. Secondly, it's funny as hell.
  • Y: The Last Man (Book 2, 3, 4)— Imagine, in the near future, that every male mammal on this planet died suddenly. Every one, save for two males: Yorick Brown, an unemployed escape artist, and his pet monkey. Yes, it's perfectly serious stuff. Honestly. I've got Book 1. It's perfectly serious, gripping stuff. Even when Yorick's sister, Hero, joins the Amazons and burns off her right breast.
  • B.P.R.D: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories — Forget the damn movie, Hellboy the comic is so much better. I've got the first book in this series, and Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien are much more rounded and interesting characters than they are in the movie.

That's it. I'm such a whore ^^

Okay, seriously. I don't really mind if no-one gets this for me, but you know, there might be, just might be, people out there who might want to. And, really, I had two options: either drop hints to people (and risk people getting the wrong message or me forgetting), or be explicit.

Guess which route I'm taking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ooh, Look. A New Feature.

I added in trackback, courtesy of Haloscan. I'm still using Blogger's commenting system, which is fascistic and restrictive. Just the way I like it.

Worded Out.

That's what I am. I've been wanting to blog for two days, now. I've wanted to talk about a couple of things — violence in videogames and a roleplaying decision, for one. Thing is, every time I sit in front of my PC, everything I want to say runs dry. It's very aggravating.

On the fun side, yesterday I was playing around with Amazon's Wish List feature, and I've amassed what looks like a veritable fortune in merchandise I want to buy, but I cannot afford to. Since it takes a couple of working days for Amazon to index my Wish List, it's still not publically searchable. I'll post up the link when it is.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Psychology of Gameplay

I'm not qualified to write this at all. I don't have a mind suited for empirical observation, careful reasoning or follow-up questions. What I do have, however, is a way with words, so that's what I'll use.

I'm back into playing Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. While this isn't a surprise to some, other people found it a rather unsettling experience. Me, for one. But this article isn't about Y!PP. Rather, it's about something that's caught my attention of late, and it's the career of a rather interesting player who calls himself RobertDonald.

He's made some interesting comments and some careful observation about the mechanisms and systems that make up Y!PP, but that's not what interests me at all. What does, however, is his attitude, or the perception of others on what his attitude is. I've noticed that most people, for some reason, react negatively towards him.

Nobody likes the winner.

I've heard him talk once, and it was brief. He was polite, almost curt, betraying none of his supposed arrogance and behaviour, which had filtered to me from hearsay and what I could gather from the forums as well as within the game. When asked about what his philosophy of winning was, he linked me towards David Sirlin, a game designer and former Team USA member. Sirlin's three articles are as follows:

  • Playing to Win: Part 1 — in which David Sirlin outlines his philosophy in gaming, and divides gamers into two kinds of players: those who play to win, and those who don't.
  • Playing to Win: Part 2 — in which he replies to reader mail and clarifies his opinions.
  • Playing to Win: Part 3 — in which he introduces the idea of ‘Playing to Play’, and clarifies his philosophy further.

They were interesting reads, full of interesting ideas. Presented terribly. From what I heard, the impression that a lot of people got from his papers was that both Sirlin and RobertDonald were, simply put, jerks. Not only jerks who would do anything to win, but also jerks who looked down upon other players, calling them ‘scrubs’.

It's true that Sirlin does boil down his ideas about game-play into a simple principle — in which players are given a choice… play ‘fairly’, or play to win. It is true that his language is harsh and uncompromising, and that the fact may be that Sirlin's scope is far narrower than he actually states (I believe he restricted his examples to games with high potentials of competitive play and low levels or interpersonal interaction). And I don't think he condones what looks like game-breaking tactics — that is, tactics that essentially tip the balance of the game too far into unplayability.

In other words, I don't think either RobertDonald and David Sirlin are baby-eating backstabbing bastards, worthy of nothing but anger and contempt.

But I don't think that Sirlin and RobertDonald got the whole picture.

Arguments against full-on competition

For a reason why I don't think David Sirlin's ideas do not necessarily equate with either long-term existence and social solvency in Y!PP, I need to go over Sirlin's background in computer gaming.

David Sirlin is, if his testimonial is of any indication, a damn fine Super Street Fighter 2 player. He is remarkably good at games like these, and has represented his country as part of Team USA. He is a well-respected, yet controversial figure within the computer gaming community.

I almost immediately pegged him as, according to Bartle's scale, a Killer, Achiever and Explorer, with Socializer coming in a dead last. It's not surprising to see that; the environment that tournament fighting game championships seems to endorse is one of endless competition and achievement, and neither diplomacy or wit is often required.

This attitude, in a sense, works in a distressingly large amount of computer games — as a matter of fact, you will very probably get ahead in a large number of computer games faster if you practised his philosophy of winning over what he calls scrub behaviour. And, frankly, if your objective in any game is to defeat it, and defeat others in it, you're going to get nowhere while being a scrub.

This philosophy, however, falls flat when you enter the realm of traditional role playing games.

We're not talking about the current crop of CRPGs that have been the mainstay of electronic gaming now for almost thirty years, which have roots with the ancient and venerable rogue(6). While these games are an excellent source of entertainment and are quite fun, they do not represent the entirety of role-playing games, which repeat the same elements so often that they've been parodied for a long time.

Once you get past the rogue(6)-like elements of RPGs, you enter an ideosphere completely different from the one we left earlier.

The power of the role

People make fun of ‘serious roleplayers’.

We know this — whenever roleplaying comes into play, we think of that goofy dork who is allegedly the Wizard of New York City… you know, skinny black kid, green robe, fake facial hair, pompous language. God, what a fuckwit. What we don't see, however, is how similar his preferred style of ‘play’ is to many of us.

Okay, stop laughing. I'm serious. While Blackwolf is in no way representative, or even close to the average role-player, he engages in activity that many roleplayers, and many of you, can identify with: the act of playing pretend. I don't know how far his role extends to (it may even be pathological, for all I know), but his role in itself is an extension of a natural human instinct, one that we learn as toddlers: that of putting ourselves out of our normal selves, and assuming another one.

But that's not what we're going to go to right now. What we're going to examine is roleplayer behaviour.

I don't know if you've noticed this yet, but most roleplayers have a set of rules that they must abide to. While roleplaying is a powerful tool, it also is far more dangerous than Street Fighter 2. There are examples, during the Internet's most early days, of roleplaying gone horribly, tragically wrong. Again, while most competitive gamers may be harassed and mocked after losing a game, many do not feel like they have violated, the way Mr. Bungle's victims were.

You might say that those things never really happened, but then you'd miss the point of harassment — the point is roleplayers open themselves up to feelings of hurt and violation every time they take on their role. As such, there must be limits, lest such play degenerates into viciousness. You see it every time in any other ‘normal’ social event — it is simply not the done thing to tell your hostess that you'd like to mount her from behind and viciously sodomize her. It's not the done thing, even though in theory your hostess may not be able to stop you from saying those words, and you did not do any real physical harm to her.

Role-playing games, even electronic ones that are rapidly entering that level of interactivity, as a result, have a set of (typically) unspoken rules that mimic the same rules that appear in social events. While not mentioned, codified or even debated, these rules are almost cast iron, and were organized so that the situation remains as safe as possible for as large a number of people.

That's what people mean when they say “It's only a game” — not that you're not supposed to play and play well, but to take note of the rules that keep the game safe for everyone. And safe, as it may turn out, need merely be a form of mental safety.

The Sins of RobertDonald

RobertDonald's first sin, as it was, would be to violate an unspoken rule in swordfighting: one does not use more than one sword in a tournament. Doing so was bad form, not illegal: there would be no way to enforce the law as it was, and I don't think people thought it was terribly important. That is, before they lost to RobertDonald.

RobertDonald's second sin was to not assume the proper frame of contrition necessary for the normal state of affairs to resume. While he believes that he was merely speaking out his philosophy, others thought he was preaching towards them, in a way that was insulting and demeaning towards them. They didn't do any harm to him, it would seem; and yet here he was, acting impertinent and behaving as-he-would-please!

This would not be such a problem for RobertDonald, except for one thing: power in Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates does not lie with mere puzzling skills, in which he is most likely supreme. As it would seem, power in Y!PP arises from the complex interactions between multiple factions, each vying for position over not only political, but also economic and social wealth. While RobertDonald has proven himself to be a brilliant thinker, strategist and tactician, socially he has become a sort of a pariah.

Social pariahs have risen to power in Y!PP. The problem, however, lies in the fact that the pariah will face a lot of opposition to his will, and that has weakened the resolve of many would-be conquerors. It's probably the reason why no one has been crowned the King of the Ocean for any significant amount of time — you cannot rise to the top without making a few enemies, and those enemies tend to have friends, as well as people who have the means and ways to oppose you.

This doesn't mean, however, that RobertDonald would not be able to take on that challenge. It's certainly possible that a monarch with impeccable skills in not only strategy and tactics, but also diplomacy and training would be able to bring Midnight under his power and hold it for a long time. It's possible, but very difficult.

Because in the realm of role-playing, if no one likes you, your will won't matter too much anyway.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Irony of CRPGs.

Before you do anything, go to this website. Download the game, create your character, and play it for a while.

Or, in actual fact. Run it for a while. You'll see what I mean. Just run it. Run it and leave it running for a while, until you get sick of it, and then continue reading this entry. It'll still be here when you're done.

Bit of a bummer, wasn't it? Did any one of you find it amusing? Did you get the essence of the joke? Yeah, it is a joke, in a sense; and a joke that sadly illustrates the state of computer-role playing games right now.

I mean, okay. It's kinda funny and scary at the same time, the way satire should be. But it really shows you, honestly, that that's what an CRPG, no matter how advanced in terms of features and interaction, is essentially no different than rogue(6).

Not that that's a bad thing, when you really think about it. Except that a whole generation of people will grow up thinking that hey, this is what role-playing games are all about — a combination of power fantasy, tedious number-crunching and somewhat odious obsession.

The worst offenders tend to be the most popular: games like EverQuest and Ragnarok Online spring into mind. Actually, Ragnarok Online is particularly sour for me, since GameFlier, RO's distributor in Malaysia, seems to think that the best way to run the game is to screw it up for everyone. But that's a different story, and not mine to tell.

Basically? The game you just played, that small snippet of 320KB, that wonderful piece of satire you just played… that's the essense of computer role playing games. Whack something, take stuff from it, sell it, repeat ad nauseam.

There isn't much else I want to say. Except that the best places for CRPGs are not always the most obvious, or the most commercially popular ones. The funny part is I can't think of any right now. Well, Nethack. Now that's the ultimate hack-and-slash game.