7 Games that Influenced Me: Golden Axe

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Okay, so this blog post was inspired by a video on Playstation Access that talks about 7 different games that inspired the staff at Playstation Access.  Gaming, along with reading and writing, and watching movies and television shows, make up a large part of my free time, so I thought that I would also do a blog post that covers seven influential games for me.  I will revisit this post several different times, each time updating it with a new game.

Here are mine are in no particular order:

Golden Axe

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So, I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore for what I should do for my last game for this post.  I have so many games that I’ve played that have had an influence of on me.  I had to really think about a game that affected me and I finally settled on Golden Axe.  As a beat’em-up much like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, where you take control of a character and use the controller to “beat up” your opponents.  While inevitably violent, most of these were never really bloody in the way a “slasher” film might be–the violence (to me) was always cartoony (a la Tom & Jerry).  Essentially, Golden Axe is a side-scrolling game you move from right to left defeating monsters and creatures.  You choose from one of three characters and you can play it alone or cooperatively with a 2nd player.  In the late 1980s, Golden Axe was the closest thing to fantasy movies like Conan the Barbarian and fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings.  There is even a magic system using gnomes and jars that added variety to the game.  I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve played this game or how many times that I’ve enjoyed going all the way though it, either by myself or with my uncle.  This game is one that I played all through my teenaga years.

Street Fighter 2

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Street Fighter 2 is a game that I discovered while I was in college.  It became super popular  during my second year at UT Knoxville.  As a fighting game, it allowed one player to challenge the computer or 2 players to challenge each other.  It became all of the craze at the Gameroom at the University Center and in the “arcades” that lingered on “The Strip” (the road just off of campus that divided the campus from the off-campus apartments and led into downtown Knoxville).  The game was intense and even though there were only 8 characters at the time, they were so different that it was easy to pick a favorite and learn all their moves and then challenge others (strangers or friends).  I remember that my best friend from high school came up to UT Knoxville during my 2nd year there and we used to have epic battles on this game.  My main character was Chun Li because I loved her speed and agility and her move set (especially the Lightning Kick and the Spinning Bird Kick).  My friend played Bison (aka M Bison) because of his power and powerful moves.  I was so in love with the game, that I asked for a Super Nintendo just to get an arcade perfect port of the game (I didn’t need to because a later edition also came to the Sega Genesis a little later on with the ability to fight against the same character that you were playing).  This is one that my uncle and I had loads of fun playing, although I think he was a little disappointed that it was just a “fighter” and didn’t have more depth.  For me, however, I was enraptured.  Once I learned Chun Li’s moves, it became a mini-game to see how I could beat opponents with as many of the different moves as possible.  This game to this day, still is one that when the latest iteration comes out, I will at least give it a look/play, even when it steps away from the core gameplay.  SFII as it is affectionately known by fans is a game that truly had an effect on me as a gamer.

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The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight

So this game is one that I played religiously during my childhood.  I got into D&D through the boardgame Dungeon! and bought quite a few D&D and AD&D rulebooks and supplements.  I saw an ad for this in a magazine (I think) and I got it for a birthday (or Christmas) present.  Rolling a character and creating a party was immensely fun for me as was adventuring in the town of Skara Brae.  I, along with my uncle, scouraded the land and the dungeons.  I seem to remember that there were seven dungeons (not including the “starter” dungeon in the world.  We managed to map out and beat the first two dungeons (if I remember correctly), but not the “starter” dungeon, weirdly enough.  I think we might have gotten one finished, but I’m not really sure at this point.  I remember the puzzle that stopped us, “What is No. 9’s favorite wine?”  I’m assuming there was a clue that we missed somewhere because I think this was in Dungeon 4 (???), but where ever, it stopped our progress.  Even though we didn’t technically finish/beat the game, we spent hours and hours on the game, and even invested in graph paper to map out the dungeons and the game world (before “automapping” was a thing.  Even without finishing, the experience of the playing the game and creating characters still helps to inform me as a writer today and that’s why this game is one of the influential games of my childhood.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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So, Call of Duty was a franchise that I knew a lot about, but didn’t actually pick up until Treyarch’s World War II game, Call of Duty 3, and I really liked the game, but shortly thereafter Infinity Ward announced that they were moving out of the WWII arena and moving the game into the modern era.  I really found this to be provocative and I followed the development with considerable interest.  When the game released, the campaign just blew my mind.  It was tense, fun, and graphically well done and I found it to be one of the best stories that I’ve experienced in any medium.  The online component also sucked me in after I finished main campaign several times.  It extended my enjoyment of the game and I played the online portion religiously for the better part of two years.  Modern Warfare is a game that not just influenced me, but also influenced the entire gaming industry for the better part of 8-10 years.

 

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Galaga/Galaxian

Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit on this entry as technically, Galaga and Galaxian are two separate games.  However, they came out at about the same time, they play so similar, and they are ones where I played either of them no matter what, depending on the location–some places would have one, other places would have the other, and I personally had no preference between the two.  Basically, these two games are what’s known in the gamer community as “top down shooters.”  You shoot aliens as they move though space, but your view is from the top as if you were looking down on your own ship and the aliens.  Much like the classic game Space Invaders you find your ship confined to the bottom of the screen, but instead of aliens coming down in straight lines, they swirl around the play area, making your job of hitting them, much harder.  On Galaga,  there is an extra wrinkle in that some ships are able to send out a tractor beam and capture your ship.  If it was your last ship, then the game is over, but if you have another ship and can hit the alien that has captured your ship, you have the chance of getting it back and doubling your firepower.  It has a great risk/reward system in place with that mechanic.  Galaxian is essentially the exact same game minus the alien ship with its tractor beam.  These two games were favorites of mine and earned my quarters every time I saw them in an arcade, or where ever they might have been located.

Tomb Raider 2

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This is probably the most influential game for me in the “modern” era of gaming in that it was the one game that I played when I still had my entire family available to me (my uncle, my grandmother, and my grandfather), so there is a nostalgia factor with this game.  Most people, scholars/journalists will cite the rise of Lara Croft as this feminist icon in video games, and while this is true, TRII is most notable to me because of its proto-narrative structure.  From the introductory cutscene, all through the in-game dialogue, you can see a narrative trying to be told by the game designers.  While not nearly as polished as a movie, you can see early attempts at dramatic irony, a sarcastic heroine, and a narrative structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution), all wrapped around a larger-than-life character in Lara Croft.  There was also an element of “world-hopping” similar to the best adventure movies with the game taking place in various real-world settings–from Venice, to Nepal, to other exotic locals.  However, what I remember most about the game were the puzzles.  The puzzles were clever and inventive.  I remember, up until that point, I hated games with heavy puzzle elements because I felt that I just wasn’t very good with them–however, TR II, helped to change that for me.  With help from my uncle, I began to be more patient with puzzles and began to really enjoy the challenge of trying to figure them out.  We had the “cluebook,” and used it early on in the game, but later in the game, it became a secondary challenge, a mark of distinction, and a badge of honor, to see if we could figure out the puzzle without the cluebook.  I credit this game with helping me become a better “library assistant” as it came out during the first two years of my time at the CPL.  This game had a profound effect on me during my mid-20s and is still one of my favorite games of all time.

Pacman (Arcade and Atari 2600 editions)

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So, Pacman had a profound effect on me.  While it was the most popular of the 1980s “first wave” of video games, it was also influential on me in that it was a game that helped to cement my  love of video games at that particular time period.  It wasn’t the first video game I played (no, that honor goes to Galaga), but it was the game (along with Galaga, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Turbo, Spyhunter, and Missle Command) that set me firmly in the camp of a gamer.  While I was never really very good at the game–I never wanted to memorize patterns–I always just wanted to “play” it, it still was something that I would always gravitate to and want to play.  If I (or my parents) ever had spare quarters, they would end up in the cabinet at some point before the night was over.  When the game came home, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t exactly match the arcade version, but I can still remember hearing the “dun-na-na-dunm” of the start-up screen as Santa’s elves set it up on Christmas Eve.   For a game version that I was mildly disappointed with initially, I have to say I spent an inordinate amount of time playing it.  I really liked the game and it was very influential for me as both a child and a gamer.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

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Tai Chi Experience, Part II

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Multiple people taking a Tai Chi class. Image Source: Visit Fairfax (Lawn Tai Chi), https://www.fxva.com/event/tai-chi-on-the-lawn-(free)/22723/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 20
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 20/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 0/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Rough Drafted a page and will (hopefully) write it tonight. I usually try to rough draft the pages either Friday night or Saturday, but because I took a Tai Chi class with a friend–didn’t really get to rough draft as I normally would have, so I’m a little slow this week.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Hard vs. Soft

So, today I thought I’d take a moment and detail my experience in the Tai Chi class. It was really a very interesting experience. It was pretty much what I expected: part meditation, part mindfulness, and part martial arts. The class was small, yet friendly, and everyone wanted to really work hard, including me. And for me, that was difficult because Tai Chi isn’t about working hard, its about letting go. Again, this is where the meditation and mindfulness comes in, but Tai Chi is about decentering yourself and letting the stress go. While I’m not a “stress-puppy” (to use slang that went out of vogue at the turn of the 2000s), I tend to follow my late uncle’s advice of “staying Neutral,” (i.e., never too up or too down), so I’m pretty much already decentered to begin with–not meaning that I’m not stressed, I mean, I’m in a PhD program and a poor graduate student again for Peter’s sake, so of course I’m stressed, but I try to “stay in the middle” emotionally, so it’s hard to let go of something I’m not really holding (or only hold it when I need to).

Water vs. Stone

My real problem came in when I was trying to replicate the forms. I haven’t done real karate (with a teacher in a class) in years, no, decades now at this point. I remember as a karate student, I was super accurate with my forms and my “technique.”  Perhaps it is just memory clouding my perception of things, but I found myself frustrated when I would miss a movement demonstrated by the teacher. He probably sensed my frustration because he said that someone from karate is going to have a hard time adjusting to Tai Chi. Karate is “hard” meaning that it is precise, hard-hitting, and rigid where as Tai Chi is “soft” meaning that it is more “flowing” and more “elegant” and not nearly as rigid.  I found this to be very true as I struggled through some of the hand and foot combinations.

Learning through Unlearning

What I’m glad of, however, is the fact that both the teacher and Tai Chi were forgiving. I tried very hard to mimic the movements, but didn’t get them right all of the time (most of the time, if I’m honest), but the teacher said that to learn one needs to unlearn what one has learned.  I know this implicitly, but it was nice to be reminded of it. Whenever I want to master something, I have to basically start over, go from whatever level I am and begin at level one all over again, otherwise I don’t really do that well in whatever it is I’m trying to master.  This is what I needed to do in my graduate school (by rereading all of my books on Rhetoric for my MA in English), in my writing (by creating a process by which I draft and revise, write and rewrite, before submission), and now through Tai Chi, by figuring out the intersection between Tai Chi and Karate, and learning one, while drawing on my knowledge and experience in the other, but not letting it interfere with the new learning. While it may be a while before I get to take another class due to my schedule, it was a great experience and I’m glad my friend invited me to come.

Sidney




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EA Play 2018 Conference Review

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EA Play 2018 (Fifa 19, Anthem, Unravel Two Game images).  Image Source: Coming Soon.Net

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15pm), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.

  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

Beginning of E3

So, while “technically,” E3 doesn’t begin until Tuesday (June 12), Saturday marked the beginning of the various E3 Press Conferences from the major game publishers to showcase their new products for the upcoming year(s).  As I type this, Electronic Arts (EA) is the only one to have shown their press conference as of yet (although, by the day this goes live, all of the major platform holders will have presented their shows).  I will wait until next week (June 18th) to start reviewing their shows, but since EA started a day early, I can talk about their 2018 show.

Battlefield V, Indies, Sports Games, and Anthem

While EA debuted and talked about many more than what is in the header above, their show basically broke down into these 4 main sections, with these four areas serving as the main topics of discussion for gamers.  Battlefield V seems interesting, but not nearly as revolutionary as 1) Battlefield One, their WWI game, or 2) as the designers seem to think that it is.  While being a part of the Norwegian Resistance is a novel concept, it doesn’t seem as if they are really invested in “doubling down” on that story to tell a truly “gritty” WWII drama (although it remains to be seen).   There were two notable indies talked about during the press conference, Unravel Two and Sea of Solitude.  While I didn’t play more than a demo of the original Unravel, I didn’t mind it.  It was okay . . . but I’ve played many games like it, so I decided to wait until it was on sale at a very low price (or hope that it would come to the “free” PS Plus games program).  U2 will probably go the same way.  Sea of Solitude (SoS) looks interesting, but as a poor college student, I’ll probably end up passing on it as well.  The sports games all look fine, but EA has pushed me out of the sports game market.  I used to be a heavy sports game enthusiast, but with the inclusion of “franchise” modes, “story” modes, and “ultimate team” modes (virtual trading cards purchased with real currency), I find that I simply can’t play the game like I want to–take my favorite team, play 1 “season,” and see if I can win the championship, and rinse wash and repeat each year, so I stopped buying them.

Anthem

Closing the show was a “deep dive” on the game Anthem.  I’m actually going to save the discussion of Anthem for later as I plan to do individual posts for the most impressive game reveals/game trailers of E3 like I did for E3 2017.  Basically, I’ve heard some position Anthem as a Destiny/Monster Hunter World “clone.”  Long-time readers of the blog know that I’m a hardcore Destiny fan.  However, after the crap EA pulled with Mass Effect Andromeda, while I do plan to “preorder” the game, I will be waiting on reviews before I actually “purchase” it and will switch my money to another game should the reviews be anything less than stellar; I prefer to wait for a significant price drop in the summer and/or as a holiday game rather than pay full price for a game that is less than stellar these days.  Fool me once, EA.  I’ll be waiting on the reviews on this one.

Overall Grade: C-

So, I went back and forth on this one as I really think that this Conference was an improvement to last year’s EA Conference (mostly due to the host Andrea Rene) and it was an example of a “old school” type of conference that was fine in the PS2/PS3 era of gaming.  The problem is that it could have been so much more.  As the unofficial start of E3, everyone always hopes that EA will do better than it does, but EA refuses to actually do what the gamers want–less developers and more gameplay (and more diverse games).  You have the Star Wars license, please show us Star Wars games.  EA has the licenses for the Army of Two series, Battlefield series, Burnout series, Command & Conquer series, Crysis series, Dead Space series, Dragon Age series, Mass Effect series, Medal of Honor series, Need for Speed series, Plants vs. Zombies series, Rock Band series, SimCity series, The Simpsons series, The Sims series, Skate series, SSX series, Star Wars series, Titanfall series (list pulled from front page of Wikipedia).  

They only talked about Battlefield (newest game), Command and Conquer (mobile game–wrong venue as E3‘s audience isn’t really comprised of mobile gamers), The Sims (in pre-show), and Star Wars (and they couldn’t even release a logo/trailer/etc from the newest Star Wars game which isn’t even releasing until holiday 2019).  That’s it.  All those licenses listed above and that’s all the EA showed, knowing full well that gamers want gameplay.  Hopefully, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Sony will be much more exciting and will feature the games/gameplay that gamers crave.

Here is a super-salty, but condensed version of the press conference that is only 5 minutes long (clean, but very dismissive–probably more than I would I have been, but the summary is on-point):

Well, that’s all I have for now.  Have a great day!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

The Olympics Opening Ceremony

So, this will be a shorter blog post–I’ve managed to get behind in my school work (what’s new?) and I need to use today to catch up–but I wanted to give a shout-out to the Olympics Opening Ceremony which I will hopefully watch tonight.  I really love the Olympics, but I never really get to see a whole lot of it.  I probably (still) won’t get to see many of the sporting events, but I almost always try to see the Opening Ceremonies, but we’ll see if that happens today.

I cut the cord a while back and the major disadvantage is trying to find live sporting events that are not on regular TV.  In this case, NBC in America is showing it on regular TV, but I won’t be where I can get to the TV easily and it is always a crapshoot as to whether NBC (& to be fair, other providers such as CBS and ABC) will allow people to watch content without a subscription/login.  NBC also streamed the Super Bowl without needing a login/subscription, so I’m hopeful they will stream this as well, but I haven’t actually investigated it yet.

Here’s hoping and I’ll keep my fingers crossed!  If not, I’ll just have to miss this Opening Ceremony and hope that I will be able to see the Opening Ceremony for the Summer 2020 Olympics.

Sidney
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Sportsmanship–The Lost Art

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Image Source: emaze.com

So, I’ve recently become enamored with a video game that has a mostly online focus: Gwent Beta for the Playstation 4.  The Witcher fans will recognize the game from Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt as it is a heavily reworked version of that game.  Gwent is essentially a “card” game in the Magic: The Gathering sense, but the cards are often animated and the computer administers the effects of the cards and acts as scorekeeper and referee.  The game, ostensibly a Free-to-Play game (meaning that it is free to play, but offers a store where players can purchase “kegs” of cards using in-game and real-world currency).  Many gamers term this a “Pay-to-Win” in that those who are willing to pay real-world money often have a distinct advantage over those who just grind away for the (slower earned) in-game currency.

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Image Source: PlayGwent

Now, I really don’t like this model and I was determined not to spend any additional money on this standalone game (I mean, I bought the Special Edition version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for double the cost of the base game.  How much more does CD Project Red–the makers of both games–want me to do?)  I was also resigned to the slow pace of earning in-game currency and losing multiple matches while my currency slowly accrued.  It is also a beta and the current build on PS4 is buggy as all-get-out.  It has crashed my PS4 more times and in many more different ways in the past 3 weeks than any other game that I have owned.  And we’re not talking just random freezes, but hard crashes.  It crashed so utterly, one time, that I had to pull the power cord from the PS4 and replug it in because nothing that I did would shut off the system.  I even put up with that, but the thing that finally got to me and inspired this blog is the “taunt” system that the designers included with the game.

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Now, I realize that they didn’t want to open up players to the abuse of a regular voice chat, but “taunt” system is the “canned” version of verbal abuse because no one online understands the concept of sportsmanship–i.e., being gracious when you’re winning and not being salty when you’re losing.  You just play the game to have fun.  However, these days, playing the game is not enough, it seems, unless you can decimate your opponent and then “taunt” him or her about it.  There have been matches where I’ve done the math and I’ve clearly won and declined to play the rest of the cards in my hand because what’s the point?  I’ve won already–I don’t need to destroy your ego or use the taunt feature to make you feel bad about yourself.  We were playing a game and I happened to win that round.  I’ve been in the losing seat just today, knowing that I did not have the cards and rather than the opponent just ending it, he/she played their entire hand and and added with a pre-canned taunt for good measure.  Needless to say, that person did NOT get a “Good Game” response from me.  And this is increasing.  Where it was rare, it has become something that happens 3 out of every 4 games–and there’s no mute button that I know of (except the mute button for the TV which blocks out all sound effects)

I see this in other online venues as well.  If players can’t win/aren’t winning, you can be sure that some will choose to leave no matter how bad it hurts their stats or the team’s performance.  “Backing out” is the term for it if you aren’t a gamer (i.e., “this sucks, let’s back out” and blip they are gone).  Winning too has taken on this same level of destructive behavior, but instead of just taking a loss and learning from it, the winners are now narcissistic braggadocios.  They are the greatest thing on God’s earth if you listen to them after a match.  There are even people online–YouTubers and the like–who brag that they just want to get online and “crap talk” with their buddies.  That’s what is fun to them.

Really?  I thought it was about playing the games and having a good time while online.  Why does the idea of sportsmanship (being a gracious winner or loser) have to die for you to feel like you’re having fun?  When did just playing the game not become enough and it was decided that in order to have fun you have to belittle other players?  And why are we okay with that?

Tour De France 2017

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Image Source: Bicycling.com

Today is the start of the annual three week bicycle race The Tour De France.  I try to watch it every year (when I can).  I really enjoy watching both the scenery as well as the tactical aspects of the sport.  I also enjoy watching the spectators and the countryside as the Tour travels the French countryside for the next three weeks.  There is also an element of nostalgia because my uncle (who instrumental in instilling in me a love of sports and sportsmanship) and I watched this when Greg LeMond won the Tour in the 80s.  We used to watch the abbreviated two hour show on weeknights and the full Tour that they showed on the weekends and I remember I used to watch, enraptured, waiting to see if LeMond could pull it out.

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Image Source: EverymanTri.com

Last year, I watched the lead-up races to the Tour with baited breath.  This year, however, I’ve had other things occupying my time (writing and reading, among other things) and I’ve not kept up as much with the teams, so I can’t say with certainty if “The Sky Train” (the nickname for the Sky Team) will be as dominate as they were last year and in previous years.

Blog entries will still continue (and I promise they won’t all be on the Tour De France–I’ll probably only mention it as a weekly wrap-up of some of the most exciting moments). Most people seem to enjoy the tactics of the teams going up the  mountains, but I really like watching the cyclists freewheel down the mountains and go up and down the hills, valleys, and curves that make up much of the French countryside.  To me, this is some of the most interesting racing available in all the sports from track and field all the way up to motor sports (and this is coming from a Formula One fan as well).  I love the tactics and the way the Yellow Jersey inspires riders to dig into the very depths of their bodies and souls to try to win the Tour for themselves or their teammates.

This is the kind of passion that I’d like to try to find for my own characters to make them real for readers.