When the Pendulum Swings Too Far Back…

…In a rather comic, yet irritating example.

I downloaded the Anthem beta (which was a demo, by the way–there’s a difference), and began the sequence with a very basic character creation.  If memory serves, the character creation boiled down to a single option, which was this:

“Pilot Voice [Female/Male]”.  The default was female, but who exactly was “The Pilot”.  I pondered a moment, considering two implications:

  1. Our society seems to prefer female voices as the deliverers of information (i.e. Siri, Alexa, et al.).
  2. We’ve hit a point where “Girl Power” has advanced beyond the point of reason.  And in fear that failure to adopt this trend will lead to both social and financial ruin, Corporate America has jumped on the band wagon and now everything marketed is pro-girl/woman.

My conclusion, then, was that “The Pilot” was either a voiceover AI (a la Cortana), or that it was the player’s voice (me).  But which was it?

I debated, and landed upon an analysis of what would bother me more:

  1. The in-game AI would have a male voice (no real problem there).
  2. My character–me–would be a woman.

Were the choice made without my input, I would say “whatever” and move on.  But the choice was mine, granted unto me by BioWare.  What bothered me was the assumption, that the game would even make a default.  Why–if the goal is equality, and the in-game choice could have been neutral through simple programming, would it choose to go to the other extreme–the polar opposite extreme of which was what caused this ongoing social battle in the first place?

The assumption for the male player-character was originally an acknowledgement of the target audience.  Then we learned through market research that gamers were split pretty 50-50 men to women, so to consciously change the default to something other than neutral comes off as a bit…disingenuously pandering.  You already had female gamers.  You had both.  Why show a preference now?

I encountered this same problem when I booted up The Division 2 demo (again-a demo).  Although not as cryptic, the default was definitively a female character.

I’ve had this post sitting in my Drafts for a month now.  I wish I had a conclusion with which to finally conclude this, but I don’t think it even needs one.  I’ll leave it as an observation.  Formulate your own opinion.


Wasteland Bachelor

As a Man of the Wastes, I seek a certain refinement to daily routine.  I desire the comforts of old–music, culture, and a place to sleep without giant mutated ticks.  I have my basic needs fulfilled, so naturally I turn to the aesthetic and artistic.  I want to live, not just avoid death.  So let those young bucks suit up in power armor and run foolhardily into the irradiated desolation.  It may be they who eradicate the violent abominations of the land’s fringes, but it shall be I who will restore the quality of life.

My earlier hours in Fallout 76 left me somewhat unimpressed with the world I was given, plus a certain lack of urgency.  If everyone who lived here before the vault was opened are dead, exactly who am I saving?  The premise now is not to be a hero, because there’s no one to laud my accomplishments.  So instead, I will collect salvage and build an abode.

I’ve since replaced that bed with a dressed one. Clean linen in the wastes? Hellllloooooo ladies!

Then it occurred to me: I’m alone, and I built what is essentially a studio apartment bachelor pad.  What good is that if I can’t entertain?  It was time to make a friend!

The trouble with an isolated cabin in the woods is it’s rather…isolated.  There weren’t exactly a steady supply of weary travelers with which to exchange booze and stories.  On occasion, one would pass nearby and I would invite them over.  The individual would typically peruse my layout, give an approving thumbs up, use my workstation equipment, dump their junk off in the stash, and run off (never bothering to close the door on their way out, I might add).  Fine, I would instead stalk random people and force good will upon them.

And so, armed with purified water and stimpacks, I set off.  An unexpected benefactor of medical supplies I would be.

My first victim was busy scrapping items at the beginning camp.  I initiated trade, he accepted, and I offered free water.  He readily grabbed the freebie, and then I ran off before he could respond with any form of emote.  Ha!  Goodwill ninja!

I realized then that the problem with trading was that it required mutual consent.  I decided to change plans.  I would drop bags of goodies at peoples’ feet!  Take that!

I initiated this bold plan upon another newbie coming down the main road leading to the vault.  I ran up to her and waved!  She shot me.  Jumpy–that one.  No matter, I ignored the slight and dropped a stimpack and bottle of water.  She stared, quizzically, so I encouraged her with a thumbs up, stepped back, and fired a harmless round at the bag, then ran around it, then backed off.  She approached, inspected the bag, took the goodies, gave me a heart sign, and…I ran off!  Huzzah!  Goodwill ninja strikes again!

I considered, goodwill ninjaing is fun and all, but it’s not a very good way to meet ladies if I run away immediately.  Next time would be different.  I would give the wasteland equivalent of my phone number–a creepy beckon to follow me all the way back to my cabin.

The next fellow I encountered was locked in combat and seemed to be struggling.  I lent a hand, and he thanked me by repeatedly punching me.  I guess that’s how people say hello in these parts.  I gestured my peaceful thumbs up, and he responded with more punching.  I guess he didn’t want company.  I left without offering anything.  Coldshoulder ninja!

Consulting my map for more prey, I noticed a conglomeration in the area where I used to have my cabin–before the game rudely supplanted it for the umpteenth time and I decided to move.  It was a nice spot, so it wouldn’t surprise me if someone else had moved in.  I set off in the general direction, still loaded down with water and medicine.  Water that would go in someone’s gullet before I was through, mua ha ha ha!

I climbed the rocky crags until at last, I reached the exact spot upon which my own cabin used to reside.  And there, in its place, sat another cabin–properly furnished (though not as well as mine), with a campfire surrounded by instruments.  Naturally, I sat down to play, and in short order, and as the universal cultural constant dictates, other joined.

One, two, three women!  I had found ladies at last!  And we had formed an impromptu quartet!

I shall call them “Women of the Apocalypse”

Sadly, the game mechanics randomize the servers, so I don’t have any way of guaranteeing a second house-call.  But if I ever find myself in their neck of the irradiated wastes again, I’ll be sure to bring something stronger than water.


The Apocalypse Isn’t Lonely

And I’m not sure that isn’t a problem.

I awoke in a comfortable bed in a an apartment the size of something I’d expect in New York.  It was Reclamation Day–the day I’m supposed to abandon all of my worldly comforts and run unarmed into a wasteland of anarchy in naught but a jumpsuit.  I speak, of course, of Fallout 76.

The vault was exclusive to the upper echelon of society.  Reading some personal diaries on abandoned computers (the future of infosec in this timeline is somewhat unimpressive), I find that the former residents all had extensive military backgrounds or multiple PhDs.  And we were in this vault for the last 25 years.  Soooo, they opened the door and forced a bunch of people in their 50s to go out, reclaim the wilderness, then repopulate?  Discounting the radiation human gametes will be exposed to in the nuclear aftermath, I question my future procreative virility regardless on the very basis of age.  And with the way my joints hurt now whenever it rains, I doubt I’ll be sauntering off through Appalachia.

The game world also saw fit the match me into a server with someone else just emerging from his studio.  And, as one would expect of any 50 year old just waking up, starts jumping and running around the atrium at full speed.  He says nothing, which is most agreeable with me.  I, in turn, ignore him and amble up the stairs to the exit.

Outside, I surveyed the scenery, and immediately began the search for shelter in accordance with basic survival tenants.  I followed the path to the right, and was set upon by hostile robots shooting lasers.  Devoid of weaponry, I ran away, spot a corpse, search it, and pilfered a machete.  Oh good.  A blade–perfect for taking down steel robots.

As I debated, the gentleman I encountered earlier in the vault ran past, and in the squeaky voice of an adolescent (odd for a man in his 50s), uttered something–I didn’t listen, because whenever kids talk I immediately tune out.  I then searched the settings and found the option to disable all voice chat.

These were my first few minutes with the game.

My impression of the game so far is that we’re all on a general truce with the rest of the players, and we have some sort of vague objective to find out more about the world and why there’s bad things.  And to survive.

And it’s this last point that pulls me in, for I feel the need to be self-sufficient.  So I generally ignored the quests and instead spent my time collecting junk that I could use in the construction of my base of operations–or shack filled with weapon-producing workstations.  Apparently, I’m role-playing the Unabomber.

It’s an MMO designed for aging gamers.  I don’t want to enter the fray and pull victory from the jaws of defeat.  I want to putter around.

What would I do were I to enter West Virginia and found it devoid of people?  Why, drink moonshine and learn to play the banjo of course.  Maybe I’ll eventually track down the source of the Scorched and mow down Deathclaws with gattling guns, but those seem like activities for a younger man.  I just want to grow tatoes.



Fallout 3 makes frequent returns to my gaming sessions, as I’ve often discussed.  And it remains in my mind to be one of the few games that has achieved perfection.

And yet, it’s always bothered me that I had failed to collect all the in-game bobbleheads.  After all my praises for the game, I had still yet to honor it by achieving character perfection.  Well no more!  I set out to achieve this final task and remove the stain of incompletion from my conscience.

The problem with this task is that certain bobbleheads can be permanently irretrievable if they are not acquired at the appropriate time.  And my existing character had not collected one such bobblehead, rendering that character’s save forever exempted from finding it again (as the saves prior to this point were no longer stored with my cloud saves).  So I would be forced to start a new character–no small task for a Bethesda game.  But this year marks the 10-year anniversary of Fallout 3‘s inception, so it seemed appropriate–before the game was lost to the annals of gaming history (with Oblivion).

Of course, chronicling a 10-year old game would just be redundant to the Internet at this point, especially since it’s over 100 hours of gameplay.  So I will simply state that, I did it!


And now, I have closure.



I picked up Skyrim again.  I do love me some Oblivion, but once the latter’s quests are completed, the world feels a bit empty.  Skyrim, on the other hand, has its Radiant quest system and unique dungeons, so there’s always something to do and somewhere to explore.

And it was between these explorations that I wandered back into Whiterun to pawn my loot.  I had also been leveling archery, and I had a bow equipped.  I was experimenting with it, as I had recently taken a perk to slow time when drawing the bow, and was unwisely priming the weapon while in the town square.

It was at this moment that everyone’s favorite character, Nazeem, approached and began his usual line of condescension.  Ordinarily, he just jeers passersby without formally starting conversation, but for some reason, perhaps because I had my bow drawn, his comment began the conversation mode.  This had the amusing side-effect of loosing the arrow, which then caught Nazeem in the neck mid-sentence.

With a cry, he collapsed, dead.

I was amused, certainly, and completely without remorse, like when a Halo marine dives in front of my warthog.  The town guard, however, was not amused.  Apparently brazen murder was still frowned upon, even when the victim was generally disliked by the townsfolk.  Fortunately, my heroic deeds earlier in the game had earned me the title of Thane, and so I had been granted one get-out-of-jail-free card.  I informed the arresting officer of my status, and he left.

To show my disregard for human life (for now I was a callous murderer), I stripped Nazeem of his possessions and left his naked corpse to rot in the street.  And I shot another arrow into him, just for fun.

Then another guard approached me (apparently oblivious to the recent conversation) and questioned me about the body, and if I knew anything about the recently departed’s death.  I assured him that I did not, and my smooth choice of words had him on his way.

I used this newfound confidence to then murder the town’s ranting preacher–the one who screams 12 hours a day.  So if nothing else, the streets are a tad more pleasant to walk now.  Saving the world is so cliché–nay, this is my gift to the good people of Whiterun.