Introducing my not-so-new-anymore apartment

As always, click the pictures to enlarge

Blaugust’s Introduce Yourself Week is long over, but since my last post already featured some parts of my home I figured I might as well show you a bit more. Considering I promised as much to y’all over nine months ago it’s about damn time anyway.

What you see up there is indeed the view from my apartment’s balcony, amateurishly stitched together by yours truly. Technically I moved in on February 1st, however neither bed nor couch had been delivered yet, so I’m actually living in it since about a week later.

The kitchen arrived another two months further down the road – I don’t know if you’ve tried to buy anything other than everyday-stuff lately, but delivery times are hell on toast since Covid started, no matter the line of business. Luckily I already had fridge, stove and washing machine, so I lived, but it wasn’t pleasant regardless.

This is the view from the kitchen window, obviously at dusk. On the left hand side you can see Cologne’s big cathedral in the distance. I don’t care for it that much as I’ve seen it basically every day for over twenty years now, but I’m sure I’m paying part of the rent just for that.

As you can see living on the 12th floor (of a 23-story building in this case) definitely has its upsides, and I’m digging it a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by tall buildings anyway; every time we’re in a city like New York or San Francisco I love to just wander through the street canyons with wide eyes and stiff neck. As Germany doesn’t have many high rises I never would have placed this high on my must-have list for apartment-hunting though, so I consider myself very lucky in this regard.

There are downsides too however. We have two elevators, and in a building with approximately a hundred flats there’s pretty much always someone coming or going, so waiting times are a thing. By now I’ve gotten into a habit of taking the stairs when I leave, especially on weekday mornings. When I come home though, not so much. Lakisa and I had to climb up once because both elevators were out of order, and, well, it’s manageable of course, but I really wouldn’t want to do it every day, especially not during summer.

Overall I’m very pleased though. Another plus is that my “cellar” is on the 22nd floor, consequently it’s completely dry and for the first time ever I don’t have any concerns about storing stuff there long-term.

This is the building from the outside, and the X marks the spot…err…I mean, the circle marks my balcony.

You’ve already seen parts of my living room, but since it’s rather big the gaming cave has also found its place in there:

Now you know where that Diablo II record went

All those CDs I mentioned last time have to be stored somewhere too, as well as books, photo albums and stuff like that. This is still a bit of a work in progress though. Of course the keepsakes of my time playing football are kept in a place of honor (pardon the reflections):

The dining table in the foreground turned out to be a tad tiny, so I’m currently looking for one that looks basically the same, but is bigger, yet not too big at the same time. It’s funny, some things you thought will be difficult turn out to be a piece of cake, while stuff you’d basically taken for granted can become a real headache. Astonishingly that table falls into the latter category.

As soon as I own enough records for storage to become an issue the bookshelf on the left will be moved next to the one on the right, and the vacated space will be occupied by a dedicated record-shelf.

And there you pretty much have it. I won’t bore you with pictures of the other rooms, as they look like…well…like kitchens and bathrooms and stuff usually look.

I’m really glad that I found this place and the owners accepted me as their tenant. Here’s hoping I won’t have to look for a new place anytime soon.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 5

Relearning to spend musical quality time

Two weeks ago I went and bought myself a record player.

Now that’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d say or write, but there it is. I also bought a HiFi-rack to put it on and a CD player while I was at it.

Depending on how old you are you may wonder what’s so bloody remarkable about this. I was born in 1976, so neither records nor CDs are anything new or special to me. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

But here’s the thing. During the past year I’ve mused a lot about the stuff I do or don’t do with my free time, and I’ve realized that there is something I used to do a lot in the past but pretty much never do anymore, and that’s spending quality time with music.

It’s not that I just don’t do it – I’ve basically forgotten how to do it.

Of course there are multiple factors that led to this, but I believe my biggest mistake was to move away from physical media and only use my phone to manage and play music anymore. Now, I still made sure that I listened to it in fairly good quality at all times, either via ‘real’ speakers or a good pair of headphones; just using the phone’s speakers or some such always was out of the question. Nevertheless my listening habits changed dramatically because of this without me even being aware of it, at least initially.

First of all, I very rarely listened to an album all the way through anymore. Just one or two tracks, then off to the next. What’s worse, I was already browsing my library for the next track while listening to something, which of course meant that I was barely paying any attention to what I was hearing.

Over the years I started to perceive this as a problem, and I’ve been feeling the need to do something about it for a while now. During the past six months or so two things happened that nudged me over the edge.

One, I had an extensive talk about the issue with my buddy Dark, who himself started to listen to and collect records a couple of years ago and confirmed my assumption that it’s a much more conscious and appreciative experience. Thanks for the tons of advice, by the way!

Two, my rekindled love for Diablo II made me wish I had something physical to display in my gaming shelf – other than the original Diablo and Diablo II boxes, which I obviously already have. So I browsed the net and found this:

The collector in me loves this SO much

As you can see I bought it right away, and it all looks and feels amazing. Only now I suddenly owned two records that I couldn’t actually listen to.

So I finally made up my mind – I would buy a record player and “force” myself to relearn how to fully experience and appreciate music again.

Obviously I don’t have a great many records to listen to yet. What I do have are about 500 CDs though, so I thought what the hell, I’ll also get a new CD player, something I didn’t have for over ten years now either. Sure, I could’ve used my PS3 or Blu-ray player at any time, but those don’t have displays of their own, and I don’t like having to turn on my TV just to play music. Fortunately I still kept buying at least some music on CD throughout the years regardless, I just never listened to it the way it was intended anymore.

Well, I’ve swiftly started to make up for that missed opportunity now that I have a “complete” HiFi-rack again (sans tape deck because screw that crap). For the first time in over 25 years I’m in that position, and I’m simply loving it!

Oh, and it looks pretty nice too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some music to listen to and don’t want to be disturbed.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 4

Movies I’ve watched…err…considerably more often than seven times

Almost none of these, actually…

A while ago another fun meme was making the rounds in our little part of the blogosphere, and boy, do I have the home-field advantage for this one.

The question was which movies one has watched at least seven times. Wilhelm had an eclectic list on offer, while Bhagpuss actually wasn’t sure whether there’s even a single one film he’s watched that often.

Talk of polar opposites. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many I’ve watched seven or more times, let alone write a comprehensive list, because it’s just too damn many. I’ve met a lot of people over the years who can’t for the life of them understand why, but to me the reason is rather simple: I really love watching stuff that I know and like over and over again.

I laugh at jokes in advance, I get goosebumps just before the big twist or reveal, I revel in well done match cuts, parallel montages and other technical gimmicks or easter eggs – in many aspects already knowing what’s coming enhances the experience for me instead of diminishing it.

But I could watch so many good movies I haven’t seen yet instead, couldn’t I? Well, yeah, and of course I do watch new ones regularly too (have you seen The Batman yet? Seriously, go and watch that one right now!). Still, when I come home exhausted from a workday and really crave a relaxing and deeply enjoyable experience, pretty much nothing beats re-watching a movie I love with a bag of chips (I mean crisps, you crazy Brits) and a cold glass of Coke.

There’s also a neat little side effect: I can recite pretty much every bit of conversation from the films in question, and it’s all sorts of fun to throw around movie quotes whenever there’s an opportunity. Great, kid. Don’t get cocky…I hear you say, and you’re probably right. Ahem, moving on.

So here’s what I’m going to do: instead of using the threshold of seven – or any threshold at all – I’ll give you a list of movies that I’ve watched the hell out of, and I’m going to make a ballpark guess about the actual number of times I did so.

    • Star Wars – The Original Trilogy

I have a bad feeling about this!

Nah, just kidding, good feelings all around. These three movies positively changed my life, and I’m not even exaggerating. If you’ve seen these for the first time as a kid or young teenager during the eighties, like I did, I don’t have to tell you how magical, epic and just awesome these were at the time, and if you didn’t…well…I can’t tell you because there are no words to describe what the experience felt like.

Of course this effect has diminished greatly over time, and watching them over and over has most likely played a part in that, but I highly doubt that 45-year-old me would still feel the same magic even if I hadn’t, and I always had and still have so much fun coming back to these masterpieces every few years that I don’t regret a thing.

Unfortunately I haven’t counted, but I assume I’ve watched them about thirty times each by now.

    • Ghostbusters 1 & 2

Listen! Do you smell something?

In my opinion these are two of the greatest comedies ever made – yes, I actually like the second one just as much as the first, maybe even a bit more. Sue me.

Everything’s absolutely on point, casual and over the top at the same time, and all the characters are quirky each in their very own way. While Bill Murray is terrific as ever my favourite has to be Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler. I mean, how can you not love a guy who, when inquired about his hobbies by a gal who seems to fancy him, says: I collect spores, molds and fungus, stoically yet ever so slightly embarrassed?

I’ve watched these probably about twenty times each, and I just realized it’s high time to give them another spin.

    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

That belongs in a museum!

For once it’s not the whole (original) saga but one particular movie that I like the most. Don’t get me wrong, Raiders and Temple are great films, but to me they can’t hold a candle to the third installment.

There’s a couple reasons for this. For one, I actually watched it before the other two, and also in a movie theater instead of at home (at a time when I didn’t have a 55″ OLED screen and a powerful 5.1 sound system in my living room this obviously made a much bigger difference than it would now). Also, Sean Connery kills it as Indy’s old man. The origin story at the beginning is pretty neat too – I especially appreciate how it takes the time to explain not only the character’s fear of snakes, but also the adult actor’s chin scar. Talk about going the extra mile.

It’s the perfect action adventure movie with epic locations, bad guys who turn out to be good guys and vice versa, an awesome score and, of course, lots of action. Add the constant bickering between the extremely likeable main characters and you have a classic. I’ve watched it about fifteen to twenty times.

    • Back to the Future I-III

Nobody calls me Chicken!

Hearing Alan Silvestri’s famous main theme to Back to the Future makes my eyes well up a bit pretty much instantly, even more so than the Star Wars or Indiana Jones themes. Not only is it an awesome piece of music, it’s also such an integral part of these great movies which, as a whole, always trigger a strong emotional response from me too.

This story takes the ‘Teenager goes on an epic adventure and screws up lots of stuff along the way, but all turns out well in the end’-routine, adds time travel to the mix and polishes the whole thing to perfection. And boy, the time travel stuff is so well done. Are there logic holes? Of course there are. But it’s so damn entertaining and fun that I couldn’t care less.

Most importantly, I don’t know if I have ever cared and rooted for a movie’s main characters more than I always have (and still do) for Marty and Doc, which is saying quite a lot. My guess is that I’ve watched the three films about fifteen times each.

Now, there are at least a dozen more movies from the eighties and nineties I could talk about here, for example TRON, Blade Runner, Aliens, The Fifth Element, L.A. Confidential, Groundhog Day, Terminator 1 and 2, Matrix and more, all of which I’ve watched at least ten times. However, it’s not like no awesome movies were made in more recent years (i.e. since the turn of the millenium). Quite the contrary. Hence I’d like to highlight a few newer titles too, such as…

    • The Dark Knight

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

What can be said about Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in general and this movie in particular that hasn’t been said a thousand times already? As great as The Batman is, The Dark Knight is the best film about the caped crusader we’ve ever seen and will probably ever see. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times, and I never tire of it.

    • Edge of Tomorrow

I think there’s something wrong with your suit…there’s a dead guy in it!

Basically a mashup of Saving Private Ryan, Starship Troopers and Groundhog Day, this is a really awesome movie. It’s only eight years old at this point, and I’ve watched it about ten times already.

I can’t go into much detail because it’s very easy to spoil important plot points in this particular case, but I’ll say this: As we all know every great body of work is more than the sum of its parts. This applies here too, but even the individual parts are terrific on their own. For instance, I would watch this film again and again for Bill Paxton’s hilarious yet believable portrayal of a Master Sergeant tasked with bringing an unwilling Tom Cruise into line alone.

    • Oblivion

Everybody dies, Sally. The thing is to die well.

Another Tom Cruise flick, another slam dunk. It’s science fiction, but pretty different from anything else I’ve seen in the genre. I like the story a lot, but first and foremost it’s the visuals and the sound that blow me away every time. OMG, the noises those drones make! The score is also superb. Since it came out in 2013 I’ve seen it ten to twelve times.

I have to say, Tom Cruise has slowly but surely become one of my favourite actors. I wouldn’t say that he’s the best character actor ever, but he always seems to give his all, and, most importantly, with very few exceptions he just doesn’t do bad movies. What I mean by that is that before he agrees to star in a film he seems to make sure that the script is excellent and the director capable. Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow are good examples of this. Another case in point:

    • Jack Reacher

You think I’m a hero? I am not a hero! […] I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot!

When I watched this a little while after it came out in 2012 I’d never heard of a guy named Jack Reacher. By now I’ve read the first twenty novels the author, Lee Child, has written starring this character, and I’m (obviously) a big fan.

As I usually don’t read crime stories I wouldn’t have been interested enough to even give them a shot if the movie was crap, but fortunately it’s anything but. Of course it’s not the first thriller we’ve seen where the protagonist hunts the bad guys while operating outside the law themselves, but this guy is really well written, and the movie makes the most of the material. I especially like how it lets us participate in Reacher’s thought processes without utilizing fancy slow motion montages of him scanning the scene and stuff like that. It’s almost a bit oldschool in some regards, but in my opinion that works in its favor.

Just recently Amazon released a series just called Reacher, and I like it even better than the movie – this time around the character even looks the way he’s described in the novels, which is approximately double Tom Cruise’s size. Still, the film is awesome and I come back to it fairly regularly. Up to now I’ve watched it around ten times.

And at this point I have embarrassed myself more than enough I guess…how much time can one spend watching the same handful of movies again and again? A fuckton, that’s how much.

No regrets.

My top 25 music albums of the last 25 years

Graphic by Derek Abella

Ever since Bhagpuss made me aware of Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary People’s List I’ve been thinking about which albums of the last 25 years I would choose as my favourite ones. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as a lot of my most beloved albums were released between 1985 and 1995. I gotta say though, being restricted to 1996 and onward actually made browsing through my stuff, filling out the list and mulling over the exact rankings all the more fun – and also quite surprising.

I mean, who would have thought that not even one of my list’s top four spots can be clearly categorized as Metal? I sure as hell wouldn’t have. Pick number four isn’t even Rock, for crying out loud.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Without further ado, here are my top 25 albums released since 1996:

      1. Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
      2. Meteora – Linkin Park
      3. Billy Talent II – Billy Talent
      4. The Fat Of The Land – The Prodigy
      5. Ghost Reveries – Opeth
      6. 10,000 Days – Tool
      7. Scenes From A Memory – Dream Theater
      8. Bannkreis – Subway To Sally
      9. Herzblut – Subway To Sally
      10. Toxicity – System Of A Down
      11. Follow The Leader – Korn
      12. Human Nature – Alphastates
      13. Morningrise – Opeth
      14. Passage – Samael
      15. In Absentia – Porcupine Tree
      16. The Family Jewels – Marina & The Diamonds
      17. Where Shadows Forever Reign – Dark Funeral
      18. Issues – Korn
      19. And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer – Haggard
      20. And This Glow… – Joy Of Colour
      21. Kasmodiah – Deine Lakaien
      22. Ten Thousand Fists – Disturbed
      23. Take To The Skies – Enter Shikari
      24. Wishmaster – Nightwish
      25. Heaven & Hell – Ava Max

Of course everything below the top three our four spots is more or less interchangeable. I don’t think it’s really possible to nail down such a subjective evaluation permanently, not least because it can vary even from one day to the next depending on mood, nostalgia or whathaveyou.

I’ll probably not talk about each and every one of these here because some of those posts would pretty much just amount to “Well…I really like it, is all”. It would be an easy way to get my Blaugust post count up, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

So how about I just start off with the first two spots for now, what with those being performed by the same band and also, well, being my top picks?

I didn’t have Linkin Park on my radar until a colleague of mine brought along their Live In Texas DVD one day in early 2004. I’d heard one or two songs before (at least I immediately recognized One Step Closer when I watched the video) and liked them, but hadn’t looked into it any further at the time for one reason or another.

This show though, holy crap. The raw energy the band brought to the stage gripped me and didn’t let go anymore. I immediately bought the studio outputs too, and they’ve become two of my all-time favourite albums for several reasons.

First of all, said energy is there in full. Studio albums often tend to sound a bit too clean and thus lose some of their power, but not these. If anything they’re even more powerful, the production is just superb.

Of course the music itself is what matters, and this is where all that energy comes from. I’ve read that Chester Bennington (rest in peace), the band’s lead singer, used these albums to process his very troublesome childhood and youth, and I think you can clearly hear it. I’m lucky enough to not have experienced most of the things the songs are about, but they still always carry me away on a wave of passion and sometimes even anger – in a good way. I’ve always said that channeling one’s bad feelings through aggressive music is a much more healthy way to deal with them than most others. At least it works for me.

The alternation between Bennington’s clear vocals and primal screams, and Mike Shinoda’s backing vocals and rapped parts are another of the band’s standout features that I really love. I’ve always liked polyphonic singing, and these two really did a phenomenal job at it (listening recommendation: Papercut, from two minutes onward). The rapping and screams add another dimension and fit the overall sound and feel very well.

What’s also great about both albums is that there are no duds on it. How many long-players have you bought because you knew and liked one or two songs, only to then realize that those are really the only good songs on there? My answer: too many. These two albums are great from start to finish, and given that some of my all-time favourites are among those songs that’s a high bar to clear indeed.

Lastly, the wave of excitement Linkin Park made me ride on in 2004 even rekindled my love for making music myself, and I went looking for a new band to join after a three-year break, resulting in me regularly hanging out in rehearsal rooms and on stage again for the following four years.

A playlist that consists of nothing but those two albums plus the song What I’ve Done from their third studio output, Minutes To Midnight, still runs regularly in my car or on my earpods, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

And there you have it. What are your favourite albums of the past 25 years?

Blaugust 2021 post count: 5

A quote about underrated music

Prompta2020

We’re just one third into this year’s special version of Blaugust, and the awesome blogging community has already outdone itself with lots of great posts about various topics.

The fourth blogging prompt, introduced to us by Roger Edwards on August 3rd, was this:

What type of content do you feel is severely underrated?

Well, that’s an easy one as far as I’m concerned. It’s Metal, of course!

Metal1

Err…wait, no, not this.

Metal2

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

My cousin, ten years my senior, introduced me to Metal when I was about eight. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Ozzy Osbourne, stuff like that. I fell in love immediately.

At the time I didn’t really know what it was, exactly, that I liked so much about it. What I did learn incredibly quickly though was that, generally speaking, most people don’t share my passion. Which is severely downplaying the issue of course, as almost everyone I’ve ever met who doesn’t love it actively dislikes it at best, and regards it as “unbearable noise” at worst. According to the latter group anyone who’s into Metal surely must be some kind of psychopath.

Metal3

I really don’t know where they got that idea from…

Anyway, with kids being kids you can imagine that eight-year-old me, already wearing Metal band patches on the denim jacket, had to develop a thick skin rather quickly. It never grew quite as thick as I would have liked though, and I can still get pretty angry when someone badmouths something that I really like, especially when I feel that they have no idea what they’re even talking about.

Yet over time I’ve wisened up at least somewhat. A couple of years ago I would have, at this point, carried on to beat you round the head with at least half a dozen paragraphs “proving” that many flavors of Metal are, in fact, musically vastly superior to most forms of mainstream music, that geniuses like Bach and Beethoven would undoubtedly be metalheads if they lived today, and that channeling your inner rage through aggressive music does actually make you a less aggressive person, not more.

Instead though I’ll just leave you with one of my favourite quotes – which, incidentally, fits nicely into our Blaugust groove too, as Wilhelm gave us the prompt to do exactly that.

It’s taken from Helloween’s song Heavy Metal (is the Law), where Kai Hansen posits

If you don’t feel it you won’t understand.

Truer words have never been spoken about Metal – and I think it actually applies to pretty much anything human beings can be passionate about.

Media that’s shaped my worldview

Prompta2020

2020’s version of Blaugust is in full swing, and it’s my turn already. Thank you Dragonray for handing over the baton, I hope I’ll be able to meet the high expectations you’ve set for me. šŸ™‚

Here goes.

Blaugust Promptapalooza – Prompt 3

What are some key sources of media (games/movies/etc) that have shaped your worldview?

As I’m writing a blog that mainly focuses on video games in general and MMORPGs in particular it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those will get a mention here. I was born in 1976 though, so I’ll have to start off with some earlier types of media.

Radio
Not ours, but we had the exact same model in our kitchen

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been working in radio broadcasting for almost 20 years now, and during that time I’ve often said that I enjoy it despite not being and never having been a radio listener myself. While thinking thoroughly about today’s prompt I’ve realized that it’s actually not true at all.

I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the stations’ names, but back when I was little the radio was always on at home. My mom also played vinyl (and shellac) records, of which I mainly remember The Beatles and ABBA, but mostly it was the radio playing.

I liked it a lot, and it didn’t take long until I begged for my own one with a built-in cassette recorder so I could record my favourite songs. Once I’d got it I would sit on my bed for hours on end, listen to the music and record the songs that I liked the most. To this day Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts is one of my all-time favourites, for example.

I guess radio shaped my worldview insofar that it taught me early on how beautiful, heart-warming and life-enriching music can be. I can’t imagine a life without it.

TV
Ok, I’m not actually THAT old, but you get the picture

Growing up during the eighties in an urban environment also meant watching a lot of TV. Until about 1985 we still had a black-and-white set and a grand total of three programs to watch, but around my 9th birthday we got a color set, a VHS recorder and cable TV. From then on there was no stopping me.

I soaked up everthing a boy of that age ought to like (at the time): shows like The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, reruns of The three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy; a bit later I was really into The A-Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf and so on. I even got my first taste of Anime (without knowing it) with Captain Future and Saber Rider.

I wouldn’t call any of that life-changing experiences, but the things I watched have undoubtedly shaped me in some way or other.

At the age of twelve or so a true landmark event happened though: I got to watch Return of the Jedi – and thus a Star Wars movie – for the first time. I believe I’d never been so enthralled by anything in my life. Other stuff I’d just watched, but that movie took me to a galaxy far, far away indeed, and I think it really changed the way I watch movies. Nowadays I get totally absorbed by the story – usually even if said story isn’t all that great – and forget about everything else until it’s over.

I have to admit that it can be somewhat demanding to watch movies with me as I don’t tolerate talking, cell phone usage or anything else that might distract me (chips are okay though as long as I can have some too), but that’s just the way it is now and the price, I feel, for being able to immerse oneself completely.

Great movies and shows take me to places and let me experience adventures I would never see and have in real life, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Reading

You probably wouldn’t be reading this now if I hadn’t been a huge fan of reading all my life.

It started, unsurprisingly, with comics, mainly Mickey Mouse, Asterix and Clever & Smart. I tried to like Marvel and stuff, but those were just too ‘loud’ for me, if that makes sense.

At age 13 or so I shifted away from comics and started to read ‘real’ literature – if you’re willing to call penny dreadfuls literature, that is. John Sinclair is written by a German author and tells the stories of a Scotland Yard inspector specialized in paranormal investigations. I used to read those every week for a couple of years straight, and that’s what kicked off my turning into a serious bookworm. I assume it’s also where my penchant for horror movies came from, to boot.

For the next ten, fifteen years I read a hell of a lot, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but also thrillers, historical fiction and even non-fiction (the latter especially about ancient Egypt).

These days I’m not reading as much as I’d like, but I still do of course.

If you’re reading this I don’t need to lecture you about the power of the written word, do I?Ā  Suffice it to say, without reading so much I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’ll never stop enjoying it.

Games

Playing video games is pretty much the earliest memory of consuming any type of media that I have, and it has always been my main hobby, if you will. It’s much more to me than a hobby though.

A really great game can, in a way, be the culmination of everything I talked about above. Experiencing adventures I could never have in real life? Check. Music that evokes strong emotions and makes the ride all the more enjoyable? Absolutely. Thrilling, touching or funny stories with heroes to root for and villains to despise? Sure thing. Well, sometimes anyway.

Add to that the ability to play an active part in all of it instead of just consuming passively, and in some cases to even fundamentally affect the outcome, and you get something truly marvelous.

Unfortunately playing video games has also helped to shape my worldview in a negative way though, as it has taught me that even amongst ‘normal’ human beings (i.e. not counting scum like terrorists, rapists and so on) there’s a frighteningly large number of dickheads out there. I’ve had stretches where I outright refused to play online-multiplayer games because I just wasn’t willing to take it anymore.

Apart from that though, what can I say, I just love playing video games. They’re inextricably a part of me.

And there you have it.

Tomorrow the wonderful Roger Edwards (thanks for all the great movie reviews by the way!) will be there for you with the fourth installment of Blaugust Promptapalooza 2020, so head on over to Contains Moderate Peril and have a look. I sure will.

Time flies when you’re having fun

CakeThree
As per tradition: moar cake!

Hard to believe, but today marks this here blog’s third birthday.

Had you asked me back then whether I thought I’d still be writing blog posts three years down the road…I really don’t know what my answer would have been.

One thing I do know for sure though. Had you told me at the time that I would publish 187 posts with a total of 156 thousand words, and still no end in sight, I’d called you crazy. But here we are.

The main reason, of course, is that it is a lot of fun. Much more so than I would have imagined. It’s also an ongoing learning experience. When I compare my first couple dozen posts with more recent ones it’s almost as if someone else had written the former. It’s remarkable how quickly human beings can learn stuff that’s rather alien to them and become at least somewhat proficient just by doing it over and over.

Along the way I’ve even learned a bit of HTML-code – I didn’t want to, but WordPress made me – which may come in handy…or not.

What didn’t happen was blogging becoming my true love and/or main driving force. Towards the end of Blapril Bhagpuss said that he’d rather write about games than actually play them, at least at the moment. To me actually playing the games is still much more important, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. After all the desire to chronicle my gaming adventures was and remains far and away the main purpose of this blog.

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Speaking of which, this third year has indeed been quite an adventurous one, not least due to the release of ArcheAge Unchained in October. Sucker for sandboxes that I am I’ve been deep-sea fishing, building a family empire with friends, trading, making music and generally goofing around quite a lot since then.

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Warframe was last year’s new addition to my gaming library, and a really great one. While it’s obviously neither an MMORPG nor a sandbox it has a surprising number of gameplay elements on offer that aren’t just about killing stuff. I’ve built a custom gun, went mining and fishing, composed deadly tunes, played Guitar Hero In Space and tried myself at parcours.

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The third game I’ve spent a lot of time with was EVE Online. I went back to nullsec, experienced my first Keepstar-kill, saw a faction Fortizar blow up and went to fight inside wormhole space. In April we would have finally made a trip to Iceland and attended the EVE fanfest too, but of course that didn’t happen. Maybe next year.

Finally, about a week ago Lakisa asked me, quite unexpectedly, about an MMORPG we hadn’t been playing for a couple of years. Honestly, I’d had heavy-heartedly made my peace with the fact that I’d never play it again some time ago, what with the reboot it got in 2017 that, in my opinion, was totally uncalled-for and ‘improved’ an outstanding game very much for the worse. Turns out, though, that the original version can still be played and even has a couple handful of players.

So yeah, we’re back.

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Looking stylish as ever…

Don’t be surprised to read some stories about a supposedly dead game around here in the near future. Year number four, here I come.

Have you ever…?

There’s another questionnaire making the rounds in blognation, and I found the results to be very interesting. While the idea is pretty simple on first glance I’ve been enjoying reading those posts a lot, not least due to the fact that, as it turns out, the answer to some of those questions depends a great deal on which corner of the world you come from. What’s a no-brainer to you might be a totally outlandish idea to me, or vice versa.

So let’s see in which ways having been born and raised in Germany has screwed me up, shall we?

Have you ever…

…driven or been driven at 100 mph / 160 kmh?

Oh boy, we’re starting off with a slam dunk. You see, many highways in Germany don’t have speed limits whatsoever for huge stretches. I think it’s stupid and high time for a change, but our politicians know all too well that we have a significant amount of speeders who love nothing more than to burn their money on the street, almost literally. Since more than half of that cash flows directly into state coffers it’s also a very serious source of governmental income, so…yeah.

It’s no big wonder, then, that I absolutely have driven at such speeds too when I was young. I think my all-time top speed was just over 200 kmh (124 mph). That being said, I don’t have to drive out of town much anymore, and I’ve also become older, calmer and wiser (I hope), so the needle rarely crosses 140 kmh when I drive nowadays.

…learned a possibly deadly skill?

Does tackling an opposing Football player as hard as I possibly can count? No? Then no.

…ridden in a helicopter?

Yes, in 2008 over the Grand Canyon. Pretty great, although I wouldn’t call it a life-changing experience.

That being said, flying (riding?) a helicopter myself is one of my lifelong dreams – most likely ever since I saw my first episode of Airwolf when I was about ten years old. I’ve done a bit of research though, and unsurprisingly this is something that takes a lot of time, effort and money. Unless you’re really wealthy I don’t think it can be realistically done just as a hobby, at least not in these here parts, so it probably won’t happen.

…gone zip lining?

Yes, in an adventure park on Koh Samui, Thailand. Quite fun. Lakisa even dared to ride upside down, which I politely refused.

My personal highlight in that park was all-terrain quad driving though. Hell, I want one of those things! And the terrain to match, which is the bigger hurdle.

…been Bungie jumping?

No. I would really like to, but I think someone would have to literally push me over the edge, as my fear of hights would prevent me from doing so myself, and I don’t think that’s allowed.

It may sound contradictory that I wouldn’t dare to jump yet still want to, but it’s that same fear of hights which lets me enjoy roller coasters, freefall towers and stuff like that all the more. Without a moderate amount of fear a ‘thrill ride’ is just a ‘ride’, I feel.

…been to an NFL game or Ice Hockey?

Yes and yes.

Being huge Football fans we’d wanted to watch a game live for quite some time. In 2017 the schedules finally aligned and we watched the Giants host the Lions in Metlife Stadium, New Jersey. The game was pretty crap, but it was still a great experience. We’d like to watch the Seahawks play at home in Seattle next.

We live in Cologne and thus have a first league ice hockey team playing right at our doorstep. We’ve watched the Kƶlner Haie, which translates to Cologne Sharks, playing at home three or four times. We’re not the biggest fans of the sport though, so we don’t go regularly.

…watched Dr. Who?

No, not even a single episode.

I don’t know why, exactly. I might be mistaken, but I think the show was never a big thing in Germany. At least I can’t remember anyone at school or anywhere else I used to hang out talk about it. It’s one of those glaring gaps in my entertainment-education, it seems.

…been to Canada?

No, but I’d like to see it. We’ve already talked about the possibility to make the above-mentioned trip to Seattle, watch the Seahawks play and head north afterwards one of these years.

…visited Disney?

No. We love amusement parks, but mostly those that focus on thrill rides. Also, the nearest one is in Paris, which isn’t that far but not around the corner either, and it’s said to be outrageously expensive.

…visited an actual castle?

Yes, several. Mostly in England and Scotland. I’ve been to Doune Castle, for example, which is where most castle-related scenes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed.

We even have quite a lot of them here in Germany, and, well…as Eddie Izzard once said, we (Europeans) are up to here in fucking castles. They still fascinate me though, and I love visiting them.

…visited Vegas?

Yes, twice. We’ll probably go again. It’s fun for a couple of days at a time.

…eaten alone at a restaurant?

It depends on how you define restaurant. If only ‘real’ restaurants count, so no canteen, no pub, no fast food place, then no. I think. Never thought about it, really. If you loosen up the rules a bit the answer changes to ‘pretty regularly’ though.

…played an instrument?

Yes. I’ve actively played the guitar for about six years, the drums for about twelve years and a wee bit of piano in between. I can still strum a couple of songs when I pick up a guitar and play the drums fairly well, but not counting small fun-gigs at birthday or christmas parties I haven’t done so in quite a while.

…ridden a motorcycle?

No.

…ridden a horse?

Yes, but I didn’t like it.

Lakisa rides a lot, and I reluctantly agreed to go on a ride with her when we were on vacation in Corsica. What can I say, I really don’t like being at the mercy of an animal that doesn’t appreciate me sitting on it. Also, I totally understand the horse’s mindset on the matter, and I’d rather leave it be so we’re both happy.

…been skiing/snowboarding?

Skiing, yes. Once when I was about six, hated it. A second time 25 years later, just to see whether my opinion on it had changed. It had not.

I guess I really like to stand on firm ground, so I’ll gladly pass on having huge, unwieldy planks nailed to my feet, thank you very much.

As you might have guessed it’s a No on snowboarding.

…gone to a festival?

Only single-day ones. The idea to live in a tent for a couple of days, without bed, shower, toilet or dignity…no thanks.

…driven a stick shift?

Again, this is a somewhat weird question for most Europeans as manual transmissions are still the norm over here rather than the exception. In Germany there are most likely a lot of people who have actually never driven an automatic, whereas most everyone has driven a manual. So have I, and our current car is a manual too.

…ridden in a police car?

No.

…driven a boat?

Yes, again in Corsica. We rented a small boat just for the two of us and cruised around for two hours (I think). Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as fast as I’d hoped – turns out you need a driver’s license for any kind of bigger motor – but it was still quite nice.

…eaten escargot?

I had to google what that even is. Ew, no.

…been on a cruise?

I’m not proud of it, but yes, we’ve been on a couple. It does very much go against my desire to go on vacations that feel at least a little bit like an adventure, on the other hand it’s an extremely stress-free and relaxing way to see a whole lot of stuff in a short amount of time. A couple of years ago we’ve been to Athens, Rome, Crete, Mykonos, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and a few other places all within twelve days, for example.

…been on TV?

Yes, once or twice. It doesn’t really count though as some colleagues and I were just filmed doing our regular jobs, which in my case is handling the technical stuff of radio broadcasting.

…been in a paper/book/magazine?

Not that I know of.

…eaten Sushi?

Yes, quite often. My tastes in regard to fish are rather limited though, and I pretty much only eat tuna.

…seen a U.F.O.?

No.

…rescued an animal?

My ex-wife took in a very small and weak hedgehog once and nursed it for a couple of days until it seemed strong enough to go back out again. I helped her a bit with that, but since I don’t know whether the little fella actually made it after that I can’t be sure if it really was a rescue or only delaying the inevitable.

…met someone rather famous?

My aforementioned job brings meeting more or less famous people with it every now and then, yes. If we play someone’s music chances are they’ll swing by sooner or later and record acoustic or at least scaled down versions of some of their songs in our studio. I think the most famous artist I personally recorded was (don’t you dare laughing!) Chris de Burgh, because of course I had a day off when Mark Knopfler or two guys from Metallica came by. Chris de Burgh’s autograph made my mom happy though, so there’s that.

Just one more personality test

Richard Bartle isn’t the only one who concerned himself with finding out what makes people tick when playing games, and what different types of players there are.

Several fellow bloggers (too many by now to name them all) have recently done Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Profile survey, most of them not for the first time. Reading their results was really interesting, and I definitely prefer this test over the other, mainly because it doesn’t feel quite as restrictive to me, and it doesn’t paint me as a psychopath just because I like PvP either.

Unlike my keyboard pals (we are kind of a modern version of pen pals, aren’t we?) I’d never done this one myself yet, just like Bartle’s survey until two days ago. Well, now I have.

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These are defined as our ‘Primary Motivations’

Without context the graph itself is somewhat baffling because I feel the Social and Creativity percentages should be much lower, while I’d expected to score higher at Mastery and Immersion. Only Action and Achievement seem pretty spot on. So what’s the deal here?

Each of these scores is an aggregate of two ‘Secondary Motivations’. The Social category, for example, is made up of your results in Competition and Community. The idea is that you’re being social whenever you interact with other players, be it cooperatively, competitively or just chatting. My Competition-score is 60%, Community sits at 52%. The former still seems a tad low to me, but as it also includes wanting to be the best at everything, which I don’t care about, it does make sense.

Creativity is made up of Discovery and Design, which include stuff like exploring the game world and customizing one’s character or spaceship, respectively, so my high score here makes sense after all.

What really made me laugh was this description of gamers with a high score in Destruction (part of the Action category):

“If they accidentally find themselves in games likeĀ The Sims, they are the ones who figure out innovative ways to get their Sims killed.”

Yep, that’s me!

So knowing what those scores actually mean I’d say that my results are pretty accurate.

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All my ‘Secondary Motivations’ in one graph

The questionnaire itself, just like Bartle’s test, is a mixed bag. A couple of questions are really weird, as is the way some of your answers are interpreted. As Bhagpuss puts it:

ConstantĀ action and excitement“. Who wants that? It would be unbearable! It’s like asking “Would you like to live on a diet of nothing but donuts forever?” and then interpreting a flat “No, I bloody would not!” as meaning “Well, you obviously don’t like donuts then, do you?

That being said, I picked the second-highest answer for the question he refers to, which is “Enjoy a lot”. Which doesn’t mean that I would want to live on nothing but donuts, so I absolutely second his critique.

I also share UltrViolet’s feeling that the test seems to be more marketing research than scientific study, not least due to the fact that you’re asked which games you’ve played and enjoyed recently, which systems you play on etc., with those answers not affecting your test result in any way as far as I can tell. Oh well, if it somehow convinces people to make more of the kinds of games I like…

My three ‘recent’ games I enjoyed playing (they define recent as ‘released in the past few years’) were Uncharted 4, ArcheAge: Unchained and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Of course I cheated a bit with ArcheAge here, but since the legacy game and Unchained are listed seperately it’s technically correct.

I’m not currently playing any web/mobile/tablet games (and never have and probably never will), so I left all of those boxes blank. I was actually a bit surprised that I wasn’t kicked out of the questionnaire right then and there.

My three ‘any other’ games that I’ve enjoyed recently were EVE Online, Warframe and NieR: Automata. Again a bit of cheating here as I’ve just started to play the latter (I’m like two hours in), so I can’t really give a verdict yet. It started really strong though and I couldn’t think of anything else anyway.

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That bullet hell sequence right at the start really caught me by surprise

So have I gained some new, groundbreaking insights about myself doing these two gamer-profile-thingies? Not really, no. But finding out stuff about yourself probably isn’t the main reason for doing them anyway. Sharing your results and talking about them is much more interesting. At least I think it’s kinda cool that I now know a bit more about the gaming preferences of my fellow bloggers, and they about mine.

Blapril 2020 post count: 12

Doing Bartle’s Test of Gamer Psychology

Bartle’s Test of Gamer Psychology has been around for a pretty long time now. Many people have done it, and its merits as well as its flaws have always been subject of much debate.

However my impression is that, despite all criticism, the majority of players are able to identify with their results for the most part.

When Krikket talked about hew own findings the other day I realized that I’d actually never taken the test myself. I guess it was about time to remedy that, wasn’t it?

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I nicked Krikket’s much nicer version of the old graph, I hope she doesn’t mind

Before showing off my result I’d like to share some personal thoughts about the test, now that I’ve taken it.

I absolutely agree with the most commonly heard criticisms. My main complaint is that a lot of the questions are rather restrictive and sometimes outright weird.

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This is, I think, a good example of a really strange choice I had to make. I mean, sure, I get that this one is meant to assess if you’re more of an explorer or a killer. There’s a whole bunch of assumptions tucked in there that I don’t necessarily like though.

If I was an explorer (spoiler: I am), why would I need to feel ‘safe’ to enjoy doing so? Why would I not dare to explore if other players were also present? The essay linked above claims that explorers say things like “You mean you don’t know the shortest route from [obscure room 1] to [obscure room 2]?”, which absolutely implicates that there can be a sense of competition to it, so this forced link between safe and exploration makes no sense to me.

If I was a killer (spoiler: I am), on the other hand, why would an area be useless to me by default as long as there’s no other player to kill there? Maybe a bunch of lucrative quests that I need to do to advance my gear are located there, and I’m actually glad that I don’t need to compete with others or fight over the quest mobs.

Now, I do realize that I’m probably being too nitpicky here. If I were to conceive a test like this and didn’t want to hassle people with having to answer hundreds of questions I’d be forced to generalize a bit, too. Still, it just rubs me the wrong way when my options feel too black-or-white, and also when choices are presented as mutually exclusive when they really aren’t.

This all being said though, here’s my result:

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And what can I say, it represents me pretty well I think.

I love MMORPGs that allow me to feel like an Explorer, and many great adventures I’ve experienced only came about because I dared to venture into regions unknown.

It’s no secret that I also like to fight against other players and that I’m an advocate for open-world PvP, if done right. This is where I’m really quite at odds with Dr. Bartle’s essay because his description of a Killer is, in my opinion, more fitting for players I’d call griefers instead. Some versions of the test even use that term instead of killer. This is problematic though as it paints all fans of PvP with the same brush. Unjustly, I might add, proudly donning my Captain Obvious cape. I’m the perfect example in that I like to PvP a lot, but I hate griefers with a passion and would never behave like that myself.

That 40% Socializer score is probably a bit too high, to be honest. Oh, I do like to do stuff with my close friends of course, and when I’m in a great guild I also like to group up every now and then. More often than not I like to be on my own though, and even when I’m in a group I’m usually not very talkative. Except when you get me going about one of my favourite topics, then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t after a while.

The low Achiever score definitely hits the nail on the head. Being the first, having the biggest numbers, ticking off all the boxes…I couldn’t care less about things like that. Now, I do like to get my hands on nice rewards, so I sometimes engage in achievement-hunting and stuff like that if that’s what it takes. However it’s always about what I can do with those rewards, not about the achievements themselves.

And there you have it. If nothing else I guess this shows that a test like this can be flawed and still yield accurate results somewhat reliably. If you’d like to do it yourself, here it is.

Blapril 2020 post count: 11