Tag Archives: Subversive play

Violence and Consent in Computer Games

Quoted from:

A Game Is Being Beaten

By Leigh Alexander

The trend in video game design is to comment on violence by asking players to perform violence. But could there be pleasure in performing consent?

A popular approach to ­video-game design is to “think about the verbs.” Interactive entertainment should be verb-led, some say, and the way to make a good game is to think about what the player does. In many games, you have to do the things it wants you to do whether you want to or not. If you don’t like it, as the saying goes, just don’t play it.

[...]

Kopas quietly self-­published a small, text-only game called Consensual Torture Simulator for $2 on Gumroad. In it, a mutually affectionate couple enjoys a night in. You play as the domme in their kink relationship scene, scratching, flogging, caning, and performing other acts of consensual physical violence on your submissive girlfriend. Both partners have decided to explore the goal of making the recipient of the violence cry.

Read the whole article here: A Game Is Being Beaten – The New Inquiry.

Also linked in the original article: Pixels in Distress (tumblr)

The Overlooked Heroes of WoW – Unconventional Ways to Level

Wow has reached an age where a lot of players have tried almost everything, we have plenty of alts of all classes, we know the ins and outs of leveling and generally have extrapolated enough knowledge about the game to get around smoothly.

But the WoW-era we’re in currently has also made leveling not just more linear, but also more efficient – in my opinion too efficient. Killing mobs, completing quests, even picking a flower, will award you xp in generous amounts. Don’t be surprised if you out-level the zone you’re in, before you’ve even completed the main storyline. That’s why this also is the best time to really try something new, something unconventional, something that will make you rethink how you play the game, re-analyse the challenges that come your way and see WoW from a new angle.

My own little challenge, Joy the Nerfed Hunter is an attempt of just that – self-nerfing to the extent it’s harder to level, that I can’t always take the easy choices and most of all, I wanted to learn to play a hunter and experience the true strengths of this class. But I am in no way unique, nor is my not-so-clear-cut challenge original.

So here I bring to you, the players that challenge the cookie-cutter-whatever, that think outside the WoW-box, that I find a great inspiration and maybe they can inspire you too. They don’t come across as the obvious WoW hero, they “lack” a long list of raid and arena achievements, they don’t seem to be too bothered about the straight and paved road of leveling, instead they aim for the uncharted and rocky pathway.

I like to think of these players as the overlooked heroes of WoW.

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Naked Troll Project

We’re starting back in vanilla WoW, and the player behind who became Jumba the Naked Troll, was already getting bored and figured he could make the game interesting again by … well, by being naked.

Still wearing his underpants, he is not completely naked... you know.

“As it stands right now the only armor I will wear are gloves and shoes because not even total badasses wander around without shoes on.”

Jumba therefore kept shoes and gloves on, but would go on for the next 59 levels without pants. He made “The Naked Troll Project” to document the leveling and even made a short video that shows the exact moment of dinging 60. It took him 14 days and 10 hours of /played to reach level 60, and when he hit the mark, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to go next, especially as not everyone thinks pantsless hunters are jolly good news.

On Saturday, October 14, 2006 Jumba posts “Operation Tinfoil Armor” discussing the possibilities of getting into a raid while still obeying his own rule of nakedness. As far as I understood, he managed to get into raids wearing either lvl 60 broken armor or low level white armor with no stats, that gave the impression that he was wearing something useful.

The trend spread and more people began leveling naked alts of all classes, fx Gutrot the warrior who put down his weapons and leveled without anything, except, opposite Jumba, covering up his behind with a loincloth.
Later during The Burning Crusade we began seeing new ways of pulling off similar feats as the naked trolls, fx Noor the Pacifist who’s up next.

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Noor the Pacifist

Noor back in 2008

Being a pacifist for Noor means that she refuses to kill mobs and other players, or at least tries her best to avoid it. Her allowance includes undeads, demons and mechanical targets, but killing everyone else is against the deal.

This post is focused on the leveling sides of unconventional gameplay, so Noor’s ways sound absolutely ludicrous given the time of The Burning Crusade expansion. How on earth was this even possible in a world where everyone seems to be at war with everyone?

Well, Noor comes in two versions, the more obvious class for a pacifist play style, an undead priest named Reinisch, which opened up for an even harder option, the gnome rogue Noor.

“As a rogue is a sort of “spy” class, I Googled for a pacifist spy and found Noor Inayat Khan, a woman who was also executed by the Nazis for aiding the French resistance, so I named my rogue after her. She was the daughter of a well-known pacifist in India.”

Noor lvl 80 anno 2011

By using cunning engineering devices, such as target dummies, she was able to complete some quests that would otherwise force her into battle, despite her fate as a rogue making this a bit of a contradiction.

She quickly found herself stuck around the lower twenties and had to think of new ways to get xp other than exploration and non- aggressive quests, which quickly became a depleted source. Daily battlground quests were the answer, and while Reinisch the undead priest could easily heal his way through this, Noor the gnome rogue had to find another solution.

“In battlegrounds, my rogue will throw bombs to interrupt flag captures and stun people and may even accidentally kill players low in health or nearby critters”

Noor has showed us the limits of this type of leveling, as you will still get honorable kills even when you don’t use real weapons but whack others with a fishing pole, which at the time didn’t give you any weapon skill. Noor’s proof was in the lack of skill in weaponry, which today doesn’t exist any longer. As we shall see later, there are new ways of being a pacifist and being able to prove it.

Noor still runs a blog called “Pacifist Undead Priest/Gnome Rogue/NightElf Druid/Tauren Shaman“, where she keeps track of all her pacifist extentions. She has given several interviews to WoW Insider’s 15 minutes of fame theme: The first one on her pacifist playstyle, and another one on her journey to 70, including information on which other methods she used, such as fishing and profession based quests – a glimpse into a very deliberate and considerate approach to leveling.

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Gweryc Halfhand, the Melee Hunter

It sounds like the worst stereotype of a bad player, but it isn’t. Especially not when you consider that this challenge was carried out during the Burning Crusade and that Gweryc did reach level 70 in the end, without ever using a ranged weapon.

He has also off-tanked Karazhan, joined a raid in Black Temple killing the first three bosses (this time as dps) and done battlegrounds, still without using a ranged weapon. Like Jumba, he pushed his nerfed character as far as he could go, putting the concept of the melee hunter to the test.

Gweryc  exemplifies not just that it can be done, but also how it can be done and provides on his blog “Out of Range” a lot of numbers and calculations around Gweryc’s gear, stats, everything you would want to know about this niche of hunter playstyle. It’s a funny hypothetical scenario to think of, and most of us would never dream of actually carrying it out, yet Gweryc pushed this from the fantasy into the reality and it’s a noteworthy experiment indeed.

Gweryc also did an interview with WoW Insider, and he, like Noor, was met with the harsh surface of that audience (something I will discuss further at the end of this article).

Someone went as far as to create an alt on his server just to send him this in-game mail:

Gweryc’s attitude to this really amuses me, as he writes in the accompanying post:

“While it’s largely blather in the vein of a frightened goose honking at something it doesn’t understand, I concede that there’s a valid challenge to my logic in there. Was Mongoose the wrong way to go for an enchant on my Felsteel Reaper?”

And then he goes on with great enthusiasm to discuss choices and options with regards to gear and enchants. Even though Gweryc was self-nerfed, he still had a penchant for theorycrafting around the obvious obstacle of fighting as melee.

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Everbloom the Gatherer

I gave her the postfix “The Gatherer” and with the way Everbloom leveled, she surely deserves that title.

Now that you can get experience from gathering materials, Everbloom the resto druid did just that and continued until she hit level 85. This of course includes exploration as an xp source as well, and if done flawlessly will grant you a statistics page with 0 quests completed and if you’re also a pacifist, 0 killed mobs. Everbloom died 25 times in the process, but if you’re stellar and have a good connection, you could make that a 0 as well. Someone is in fact working on that feat right now! – Maedra is up next.

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Maedra’s Challenge 

Maedra was lvl 47 when this picture was snapped from the armory.

I was alerted in the comments about a player who did in fact play under the rule of permadeath (permanent death). It simply means that when your character dies, no matter how, then you are not allowed to resurrect and can not resume playing him or her.

It takes nerves of steel to carry this out, and Maedra the gnome warlock, must have plenty, as she is on her fourth incarnation – that’s four times she died, had to reroll and start over again.

“I’ve always been a fan of hardcore mode games, where death is final. It adds an extra edge to a game that is hard to replicate in any other way. I played a lot of Diablo 2, and once I found Hardcore mode, I couldn’t play anything else. Similarly, in Torchlight, I was straight into Hardcore mode. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, for sure, but I love it.”

Players usually carry out this exercise as it introduces an element of realism, the immediate effect on the gameplay, is a step-up in intensity. You are more likely to think about your choices in the game, as you literally cannot afford to take many chances. Combat, of course, carries the immediate threat of critical loss, which only increases as you reach even higher levels.

As I am writing this, Maedra is level 47 by which time I would have died a few times already. I checked her armory, and yes, 0 deaths it says. How far will she go? You can follow her progress here.

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The Thriftee Challenge

Thriftee is also a more recent leveling experiement, rooted in the linearity and flight heavy land of Cataclysm.

“Thriftee was always an all or nothing guy, and now finds that he cannot bear to part with a single copper – for anything!”

Thriftee and his pet Bear

Thriftee is a dwarf hunter, whose only rule was to not spend any money, this included not accepting gifts from others.

A simple rule with huge consequences, as this meant Thriftee couldn’t train new skills and had to make the best out of the gear he earned as quest rewards. So the trainer was off limits, the auction house included, but also things we normally take for granted, such as riding skill, taking flightpaths or even getting repairs. What Thriftee did utilise, was the talents as they are free and so Thriftee became a beastmaster hunter, despite the irony of having a limited control over his pet Bear.

Thriftee has since dinged 85, documented his entire journey, made a video and was featured on WoW Insider. Not bad for an independent and slightly greedy old dwarf.

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The WoW Ironman Challenge

And now we come to the last bit, a challenge that has similarities with the previous stories, but is still unique. It was concieved recently between several people, where the bloggers Vrykerion and Psynister have both posted about the concept in detail. This one is still in the making and inspired me to dig all of these stories out which dates back to vanilla.

The challenge is to level a character while wearing white or grey items, no enhancers (enchants, glyphs, heirlooms etc), no professions (except first aid), no talents, only training your skills is allowed.

The Ironman Challenge is yet to unfold and a new Cataclysm chapter of the overlooked WoW heroes is about to play out. You can do it too, Vrykerion and Psynister invites everyone, who wants to try out this kind of gameplay, to join them.

Being Unconventional can have Backlashes

As I mentioned earlier, some people don’t see neither the point nor the entertainment in these adventures. All of the players I’ve featured above (I’m not sure about Everbloom though) have been verbally attacked, called stupid and clueless. Gweryc’s in-game mail is a pretty good example and he, problably due to his raid and battleground activity and flirt with a notorious stereotype, had a lot of anger directed towards him, so much that WoW Insider featured him again, but this time in what they called “The Non-Conformity Backlash.

The article is an interview with Gweryc, where he goes indepth with design issues, player motivations and the animosity towards himself and Noor:

“I think the really violent reactions come from highly competitive players who can’t reconcile themselves to the idea that I am, in essence, playing a different game than they are. They mistake my own meta-game of optimizing Hunter melee for fun as a serious effort at excelling as a melee Hunter on their own ambitious turf.”

Maedra states the same philosophy behind her challenge:

“I’m not doing this for the prestige (if such a thing exists for playing a game in an unintended way) but rather for the enjoyment.”

Thriftee (the player who’s also behind Döra the lvl 1 explorer) has also had some belittlement thrown her way, and reading about Gweryc helped her understand the opposition as she wrote her reflections on the topic in a post she called “Odd Bods“.

I have not received any hatred yet with my own nerfed hunter project, but I am expecting it to happen one day, especially as I have just put on a low level pair of intellect pants (for the looks, not the stats!) But to others my gear must look utterly ridiculous, so I consider this a matter of time.

If you plan on participating in the Ironman Challenge, just remember that not everyone “gets it” and some players will tell you that you’re the one not getting it. Do remember that playing unconventionally and nerfed are completely valid playstyles.

If you’re having fun leveling, however you do it, you’re doing it right!

Updates!

The Ironman Challenge has since been completed by the blogger Tome of the Ancient, who documented her entire arduous journey. Here’s her post about finally hitting lvl 85 with her Ironman warlock named Ironsally.

I also made my own Ironman character and embarked upon a sporadically updated story about the mage Elford the (former) Executive. You can read his latest update here.

Self-Nerfing for the Sake of Joy

What do you do when the challenge is gone and everything is too easy?

That’s how leveling feels right now, and even though I’m playing a hunter, a class that I’ve struggled with in the past, killing mobs can be done by pressing a few buttons – random buttons that is. I hadn’t been playing my hunter Joy for a while, and now when I turned back to her, she couldn’t live up to her name.

It wasn’t because of the hunter class, in fact she could have been any class as it is right now, things drop by the evil glance of my kitty. Joy’s pet Froy can easily solo anything, actually I think Froy would be able to carry Joy, given she was lazy enough and didn’t want any loot.

I also accumulate experience too fast. I’ve purchased one heirloom, the dagger “Balanced Heartseeker”, but nothing increases my xp gain, as I didn’t want to be level 85 in a week. I want to finish off a zone before going to the next one, I want the whole story of the place and I want to see all the quest-lines. I have just been in in Azshara and I outleveled and outgeared the zone completely when I left. Where’s my challenge?

Yesterday I aquired my first chestpiece of rare quality (blue) “YEE….eesss…. meh”. Under normal circumstances I would have been thrilled, equipped the gear and headed out to enjoy the increase in dps and survivability. Times are different now, random buttons kill mobs, I’m overpowered in my quest-greens and this way I will never learn how to play a hunter.

What do I do?

Then I thought about Thriftee, the brave and self-reliant hunter, who never spent a dime while leveling, who never bought skills, nor gear, and never took a flightpath.  Thriftee had himself and Bear to count on and he would have to make it work as well as he could (and he did). So I thought “here’s my answer, I need to nerf myself!”, so I spent some time finding some suitably crappy, but neat gear that would lower my stats and keep me on my toes. It won’t be a challenge similar to Thriftee’s, I’m allowing myself full freedom to twink her in the future, if that’s what I want. Joy’s challenge is simply for me to have a good time, that’s all.

So the rule is, I can upgrade my neck, trinkets and rings. I’m sticking with my heirloom dagger, and I am allowed to upgrade the offhand as well. The rest has to stay the same. I chose the Tattered set, which is common quality (white) cloth clothing with no stats and around 9-21 armor – OH YEAH!

Joy's nerf gear - bad but good looking. Am I being admired from the back there?

I’m wearing:

Chest: Tattered Cloth Vest
Shirt:  White Linen Shirt
Wrists: Tattered Cloth Bracers
Hands: Tattered Cloth Gloves
Waist: Mortar-Slinger Belt (low-level quest reward, I liked the look of it)
Legs: Simple Linen Pants
Feet: Tattered Cloth Boots

A Hunting Bow for a hunter... that'll do!

The bow I’ve stuck with so far, is the “Hunting Bow”. It’s pretty crappy, and depending on how hard it will be later on, I will replace it. However, right now it’s not an issue.

I’m unsure about my cloak, I’m still waiting for a good looking one to come along, one that will match my set, so right now I’m just wearing a low-level quest reward.

OMG I HAVE AN ITEM NAMED AFTER ME!

I also have this cloak, and even though it has a much suitable name, I’m not happy with it’s blue and gritty looks, it’s ugly! What a shame.

I’m not sure about the headpiece either. I’m unlikely to have it displayed, so I’ll probably upgrade that itemslot too.

For the sake of Joy

Some would probably shake their heads in disbelief – “what is she doing?”. I’m still waiting for someone to whisper me that my vendor bought cloth set, is not a very good choice, or perhaps I will just become a notorious huntard on my server without ever knowing.

The thing is, there are different ways of playing the game: some play it to win, to figure out how to be the most efficient and then execute it perfectly, to be top-notch. Others play it with a more process-oriented mindset, it’s not about the result, it’s about the journey. Sometimes we switch between them depending on what plans we have for our character. I don’t really care about gaining levels on this character, it’s the travel, the experiences along the way. Joy is all about the joy, not the speed nor efficiency, I would have named her that then!

I Told You We Would Celebrate, Didn’t I?

Dear GTA

Before we part our ways, I want to end it with a bang including “gunsgunsguns” and “giveusatank”, and surely we got one!

What you see in the picture, is me taking down a whole sidewalk. People will often try and stunt-jump away, but most of them got splattet out, and when I use that description, it’s because it matched the noise it made. I thought that was a bit gross.

This was a selfimposed challenge really: I wanted to try and play subversively, which means to not play in alignment with the intention of the game. I wanted both of us to go crazy and you to throw everything you had at me, but getting there proved to not be that easy.

As you know GTA, I killed so many people, pedestrians, any random vehicle in my way and lots of policecars …lots. If there was one thing you really loved doing, it was deploying innumerable swarms of policecars. But seriously GTA, they all exploded when they came in contact with my tank, it wasn’t even a challenge! Are you suicidal or something?

It only got a bit harder when you stacked up some barricades:

The SWAT team eh?

I also had a hellicopter chasing me at this point, which was also useless.

As the picture shows, I had four stars, but I wanted the full range, I wanted to see the complete artillery… you know, I wanted to be the Most Wanted person EVER!

But the problem was, I couldn’t get more than four stars, I went pedestrian hunting again, more policecars, more of everything I could think of – and nothing worked.

I successfully escaped every one of your nifty tricks to get me snatched, and little did I know that my demise would come in the form of the Village People builder.

Hey!? It was a moment of hesitation, my tank was almost standing still and this guy runs over and tosses me on the ground – must have been the money I robbed him a week earlier… hmmm..

Police quickly took me down after he pulled me out, and I never reached six stars. Do you not believe I can handle it?

I then decided to go hunt on my own since I now had all the weapons available.

The sniper was my favorite, one shot and they were dead. I also think the percieved safety of the distance made this form of killing work well with me. The picture above shows me headshotting prostitutes (I guess you would call them “my girls”), for absolutely no other reason than them being there.

Surviving on the streets while killing anything that moved, had me dead myself very quickly. You turned out to be quite efficient then, I must say. Or maybe I still need some training.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this form of play and although I didn’t really experience guilt about it either, it got boring really fast and felt quite empty, but I bet you had a blast!!

I told you we would celebrate your ten year anniversary, didn’t I?

Your mass-murderer-friend

- Ironyca Lee