Comics are Confusing

I’ve been on a big superhero kick lately. @partpurple and I recently re-watched all the MCU movies. We watched WandaVision (loved it), Falcon and Winter Soldier (liked it), Loki (meh) and currently What If…? (loving it). We watched all seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We watched and enjoyed all the Netflix Marvel shows.

And still I wanted more. But from where? Then it hit me. There’s a thing called a comic book. I should look into those!

Goofiness aside, I’ve never really been into comics. When I was a kid I’d read them now and then, but it was hard because 1) we didn’t have comic shops, we got our comics from the drugstore; 2) I was limited to visiting the drug store when my mom needed to go and she felt like dragging me along; 3) and I had no money so I had to beg her to buy me an issue or two.

End result was I’d read some narrow slice of a story, whatever was crammed into the pages of a single issue. What I remember most about comics from when I was a kid was Stan’s Soapbox (in Marvel titles, obviously). Stan Lee was the first adult I can remember who didn’t talk down to me. Of course today I realize he wasn’t writing Stan’s Soapbox for 8-year-old me but for a varied audience, most of whom were older. But I had no idea. To me Stan was writing directly to ME and he wasn’t patronizing me. Not that I knew what “patronizing” meant at the time. To this day I kind of think of Stan as a father-figure of sorts.

All of which leads me to the point. I subscribed to Marvel Unlimited [MU] to take another whack at getting into comics. And boy am I ever confused. (Full disclosure, title of the post should be Marvel Comics Are Confusing but I was going for the alliteration thing that Marvel seems so fond of.) I’m not complaining though, it’s really fun trying to sort this stuff out.

MU promises over 29,000 issues. So where to start? Well I like Spiderman, let’s look for Spiderman… I used to watch Spiderman cartoons when I was a kid, and I’ve seen the movies and played the games. Let’s just read Spiderman. OH MEM GEEE there are SO MANY Spiderman comics! Dozens. Maybe hundreds. Where do I start? It’s just overwhelming.

Page from West Coast Avengers as displayed on my phone. Source: Marvel Unlimited
OK OK let’s back slowly away from Spiderman. MU offers a “Get started” section for folks like me who are new to comics. First on the list was The Eternals which is currently running, I think. I read like 5 issues before it stopped which is why I think it is still running. The Eternals was not for me. It was just too high concept. Earth is a machine and the comic is narrated by it, Eternals hangouts are, y’know, hidden between 3 molecules of a day old pastry or something. No offense to folks who love this shit but I want something closer to street level here.

Next was Wanda and Vision. Ok here’re a couple of characters I enjoy. These books are from the mid-1980s. I read issue 1, it’s OK. Read issue 2 and then I see in the footnotes that the story they’re telling concludes in something called West Coast Avengers, a different series. So I go looking for that, where I find Hawkeye (who I know from the movies) and Bobbie Hunter/Mockingbird (who I know from Agents of Shield) and they’re married. Whaaat? And of course the character designs are very different. But OK let’s roll with that. So now I’m sorta juggling two books.

And they’re enjoyable enough, but my vague feelings of OCD really wants to find a character, read their original origin story and follow them through the decades to the here and now. I feel like there is this incredibly complex web of character storylines and I’m just skimming the surface. So far everything I’ve sampled (more than I’ve listed) leaves me feeling like I need to back up a little and figure out what came before to set up what I’m reading.

I’ll figure it out, eventually. I mean I’m digging it. Digging it enough that I went ahead and signed up for an annual subscription. But I’m not a very patient person and when I get into a new interest I want to be an expert as soon as possible. And as nutty as it sounds I kind of wish I could sort the books by publish date and start back in 1963 or whenever the earliest books on the service are.

In terms of the mechanics of reading, I’ve mostly been doing it on my iPad using the ‘smart panel’ system that zooms in on each panel/section of a page as you read. It works pretty well though at times I need to toggle it off and on. I have it set to show the whole page, then as I tap it advances panel by panel, then shows the whole page again to reinforce context, then on to the next page.

I have the app on my phone too (shown above, right side of the page) which is OK but it’s a little small for my tired eyes (that image is larger that actual size on my Pixel 3). Smart Panel works there too but not quite as well since panels vary in size and shape. Some fit fine with the phone held in portrait mode, others work better with the phone in landscape mode. I keep turning the phone back and forth. It works in a pinch but for me the tablet version is far superior. Progress does sync between the two, which is nice.

Anyway, if anyone wants to suggest a specific series title that they enjoy, please do so! I need help!

And Now, a Respite

Blaugust came and I started blogging again. I did daily posts for the month of August but when Blaugust stopped I kept going, right up until today.

And I’m tired. It’s time to take a break and recharge. I have been doing daily posts because an object in motion tends to stay in motion whether it is having fun or not. I had sort of hoped I’d form the habit of daily posts and I’d enjoy writing them, but that hasn’t happened. It still feels like a chore to blog every day.

Additionally, I need to work on self-improvement in terms of technical skills. In order to find time to do that I have to either give up the daily blog post, or give up gaming, or give up spending time with the family. Only so many hours in the day. Obviously not going to set family aside, and gaming is my primary form of relaxation and one of the things that keeps me sane. Plus I mostly blog about gaming so if I stop gaming I wouldn’t have anything to blog about anyway!! 🙂

So, taking a break. Hopefully it won’t stretch out to a year-long break! I just kind of feel like now I’m in the habit of daily posts and I need to break that habit. Once the ‘streak’ is broken I hope I’ll feel less pressure. We’ll see.

I can’t honestly say for sure if blogging is still for me. I’m not really happy with the quality or the content of my posts. A few of them were OK but most just read like filler to me. I don’t feel like 5 weeks(ish) of daily blogging is making me a better writer; I kind of think the quality of my posts has dropped, if anything. Yesterday I find a post in my drafts about my dog and after reading it, it didn’t really seem any worse than posts I wrote and re-wrote and tweaked. (So I published it, what the hell.)

Anyway I need to step back, think about things and decide what my next steps are. I may be back day after tomorrow and this may turn out to be the last post before the site shuts down. I’m just not really sure yet. But that’s what the break is for…to figure things out.

I definitely WILL keep reading other blogs though. That is a habit I’ve developed and that I definitely AM taking a lot of joy from. So the rest of you….please keep writing!

Until next we meet, be excellent to each other.

Weekend Recap for September 7th

It was a 3-day weekend which means I should’ve done 50% more things, right? Sadly that wasn’t the case and now we have to get through to the end of November before another break. I think. I know we all hate Columbus now but I miss having his day off. I promise I never spared a thought for him; I just enjoyed having a 3-day weekend when I was working for a place that gave us that one.

Anyway, onward!

Movie Night — This week we watched Cruella on Disney+. I honestly didn’t expect to like it. I wanted to see it because I was curious as to how they’d make a live action movie about such a despicable character (You’ll remember in 101 Dalmatians she wanted to skin puppies to make coats out of them…that’s about as low as you can go.) Turns out this was more an alternate timeline Cruella and this one likes dogs. And I liked the movie, quite a bit, though I think a solid 60% of my enjoyment came from the soundtrack. It was a really good homage to Dalmatians with a lot of the same characters but everyone was just a little different. Would watch again.

Family TV — This is mostly a “see last week” situation. Still on Clone Wars and ST: The Next Generation. We did catch up on Expedition Unknown, which a kind of adventure-documentary show on Discovery. Imagine a ‘Finding Bigfoot’ show only instead of Bigfoot they’re looking for something real. This week it was the wreck of the steamship Pulaski which sank in 1838. Interesting stuff.

Reading — Still on book 7 of The Saxon Stories…

Gaming — Everything went upside down with my gaming. I had intended to play No Man’s Sky, but instead found myself logging into Lord of the Rings Online for a bit. And then, totally out of the blue (I blame reading some 7 Days to Die posts) I started a new community in State of Decay 2 and got HOOKED in a way this game has never hooked me before, despite owning it since it came out in 2018.

I think I’ve made more progress than I ever had before, and things are getting really interesting. State of Decay 2 is a zombie apocalypse game where you have to both fight off the zombie hordes and oversee a base. The ‘base building’ is all menu-driven but you fight the zeds, as they call them, from a 3rd person action perspective. Clear out hordes, scavenge for materials, try to keep your survivors alive and healthy. You switch between the members of your band, so you’re always playing a character but no character is “you” per se. Characters need to rest and to heal so it’s a matter of who is fit enough to go out on the next scavenging run. I’m finding it really compelling.

And that’s about it. Long weekend, short recap. I did spend a good amount of time messing the caching solutions for the blog. I’m still not 100% happy with what I’ve got but it’s stable for now, until I get up the mental energy to have another go at it.

Always Something To Read!

With Blaugust over I’ve renamed my blogroll to “Always Something To Read” since I’ve kind of started using it in lieu of my RSS reader (Feedly, in my case). You can see it over on the right rail unless you’re on mobile where it kind of goes poof because when I wrote this theme the right rail was kind of pointless. I should address that.

Anyway today I’m asking for MORE BLOGS TO READ! Not that the blogroll was ever strictly Blaugust, but it was Blaugust and a few friends who were already in my old ‘static link’ blogroll. Now I must cast the net wider!

So if you have a blog (and, y’know, you’re a person, not a marketing bot) drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter and I’ll add your blog to the list. If you do this I can almost promise that you’ll get 2, may 3 extra page views over the course of a few years! Maybe. 🙂

[Header image is from Far Cry New Dawn, Xbox One version. I just thought it was pretty.]

Blaugust 2021 – Fini

Here it is, the last post of Blaugust 2021. I made it. Whew! While I originally didn’t plan to post every day and at the 1/3rd point I decided to cut back I never really did. For better or for worse. Technically I think I wrote 32 posts since if I remember right I double-posted once.

So what did I discover? Well most importantly I learned that I can still generate a blog post every day if I really want to. Unlike so many of my projects, I didn’t abandon this one. I also discovered some really nice blogs and really nice people and I intend to keep reading these people in the future.

There were some disappointments along the way. While I tried my best to amplify other Blaugust participants by retweeting stuff with the #blaugust2021 hashtag on Twitter, I found there were only a handful of us doing that. Seemed like a missed opportunity. (There were a few people who retweeted almost every post and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart!) In some cases I Followed Blaugust participants just so I’d be aware of their blog post announcements and could retweet them, but often they didn’t follow me back. Maybe other bloggers just don’t see Twitter as an important audience building tool? Or maybe they just thought it was more important to curate their timeline than to promote people they didn’t really know (which is fair, particularly if they’re trying to build a Following that they can monetize). Either way, that was a bit of a bummer. I mean, it isn’t like promoting each other is in the rules of Blaugust but it was still a little disappointing.

In the run-up to the event I was excited about joining the Discord community, but I only lasted a week or two in there. As with just about every Discord I join, it felt like a clique of people that I wasn’t a part of. (This is just where my brain goes in any kind of crowd, IRL or online, so not a knock on the community, just a hang-up I have about new groups of people.) I dutifully posted content in the “Share Your Content” for a while, but I saw almost no traffic from that and none of my posts seemed of interest to the other Discord users. There are certainly helpful people in the Discord and if you ask a question you will get answers. So it serves a function, but for socializing and talking about writing it was a bust for me. Additionally the most helpful people in the Discord seem equally helpful on their blogs or in Twitter, and since I’m already at those places, making a special trip to Discord seemed like a poor use of my time. (I should note that I am not a Discord user and the Blaugust Discord was the only Discord that I was using.)

In general the broader community aspect of Blaugust was pretty much a bust for me, but then I’ve always struggled to find my tribe. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve joined a micro-community of bloggers who I really resonate with, and that is a huge win.

All that said, I am ready to announce the Dragonchasers 2021 Blaugust Mentor of the Year Award as chosen by ME!:

Aywren from Spot of Mummery!
*confetti cannons go off*
Aywren posted a lot of great advice over the month and her advice was always clear without being simplistic. A marvelous gift.

Honourable Mentions:
Bhagpuss at Inventory Full
Naithin at Time To Loot

So, About The Future…

One of the reasons I did Blaugust was to decide if it was time to shut down the blog. I went something like 8 or 9 months without a post. Is it worth paying for the domain and hosting?

In terms of popularity, it clearly is not. My traffic doubled in August, which sounds great but again, I hadn’t posted in a long time so traffic was very very low. Doubling from 2 to 4 is a lot less impressive than doubling from 2 million to 4 million, after all. Specifically I had like 1000 page views for the entire month of August and 240 of those page views was for a post from last year. Basically 31 days of Blaugust posts barely caused a bump in traffic. Eliminate that article from last year and Blaugust added 250 page views over the entire month.

My take-away is that posting daily doesn’t help me generate traffic, and let’s be real, this blog is 19 years old. If it hasn’t found an audience yet, it never will. My choice of topics or my writing style doesn’t resonate with many. I remember a time when I thought Dragonchasers would become a side hustle. I was going to build it up and then get sponsors or ads or whatever. That dream was 99% dead already, but Blaugust drove the final nail into its coffin. I don’t have what it takes to write a blog that generates revenue. I’m just not focused enough.

And y’know what? That’s kind of a relief in a way. Last time my hosting plan came up for renewal I bought a 2-year plan and I still have a year or so left on it. So for now the blog will stay around but it’ll be MY blog and I’ll write for me and assume no one will ever read it. Maybe I’ll just share stories of my (completely ordinary) life or something. Who knows?

Blaugust is done. It’s not something I imagine I would do again. I’m glad I did it just because it got me back to writing, and getting people to blog is the whole point of Blaugust so it definitely worked. That said, if someone were to ask me about getting started or back into blogging, I’d say rather than waiting for Blaugust just pick a day and start writing. Make a schedule and try to stick to it, but avoid going for a daily post schedule. Give yourself at least one day off a week, and probably at least two. Maybe 3 or 4. Depends on how much free time you have. If you work full time and have a family, I feel like 3 posts/week is PLENTY. You need to reserve some time to do the things you’ll eventually blog about!

Weekend Recap for August 23rd

Another weekend come and gone. This one was a weird one for us. We lost power Thursday night, though it was restored by midnight. Somehow that still threw our Friday out of whack. I’m amused at how ‘delicate’ we are. I can remember going weeks without power due to hurricanes when I was younger and while it was certainly inconvenient, we just kind of rolled with it. These days, 6 hours without power made us crazy. Of course back in the old days not every activity I did required a screen, so there’s that.

Anyway, let’s get started.

Movie Night — This week we watched The Suicide Squad which we’d heard a lot of good things about. It didn’t resonate as well with us. @partpurple almost called it but she started enjoying it more after the half-way mark. I liked it more than she did, but it certainly wasn’t a favorite. I can chuckle at over-the-top gore for a while, but two hours of it got old. My favorite character was Sebastian, and for those who haven’t seen it, he is a rat. Like, a literal rat. I think that says enough about my feelings towards the movie.

Family TV — The highpoint of our whole week, in TV terms, was Friday night watching episode two of What If…? on Disney+, and episode 2 of The Lower Decks on Paramount+. Both were really good. We’re really impressed by the voice casts (as well as the stories) on What If…? and this episode of The Lower Decks had us howling with laughter. Both are animated shows. What If…? is a series of stand-alone alternate history shows for the Marvel Universe, and The Lower Decks is a comedic Star Trek spin-off about the lives of lower ranking crew on board a star ship. When The Lower Decks was announced I was sure I would HATE it since I’m pretty serious about Star Trek, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Reading — Copy/paste from last week. Still on book 6 of The Saxon Stories series from Bernard Cornwell.

Gaming — I had a dumb gaming weekend. Thursday I finally re-subscribed to Final Fantasy XIV, but about 10 minutes after I did that the power went out. Friday I spent getting clients upgraded/installed on both PC and PS5, and tried to figure out where to roll a new character to get my feet wet. There is really no need for alts in FFXIV but the last time I came back I was so intimidated by the jobs and systems I’d forgotten about that I just bounced off completely. This time I decided I needed a new character so the game could re-teach me things and let me ease back in more gently.

Then I noticed that thanks to QuakeCon, the Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood expansion was on sale. I already own the expansion on Xbox but don’t know anyone else who plays there. I did have a friend playing on Playstation though, so even though I’m not nearly as advanced on that platform, I sprung for the expansion and a month of ESO Plus.

So now all of a sudden I have TWO MMO subscriptions. I spent a bunch of time researching a build for my ESO Dragonknight, and getting all the settings tweaked, plus doing the quest to get one of the Companions that Blackwood added.

And I started a new character on the Zalera server for FFXIV and got him rolling along, but now I’m kind of more interested in ESO. Typical me. I hate the forced grouping in FFXIV for dungeons. Social anxiety really spikes. ESO has grouping for dungeons too, of course, but they are optional and nothing is gated behind them (plus once you get powerful enough you can solo a lot of dungeons in Normal mode). What makes things worse for FFXIV is that if I play on the console (which is where I prefer to play) I run into the problem of no communication since, y’know, no keyboard.

I guess my next step is to get a cheap wireless USB keyboard for the PS5. It’d be useful for both FFXIV and ESO.

And because I guess I was operating under the delusion that we have plenty of disposable income these days, I ALSO bought the update/upgrade for Ghosts of Tsushima on the PS5, but thus far I haven’t even touched it. Clearly I need more gaming hours in my day!

So that was the weekend. Now we have another super hot week to get through, but September is ALMOST here. Also Gamescom is this week so there should be some gaming news to talk about to get us over the finish line of Blaugust.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Weekend Recap for August 16th, 2021

I don’t normally do this kind of post but I figured I’d give it a try. Some folks do a post about what their plans are for the weekend (or even for the month) while others do them after the fact. I’m a terrible planner so I’m going with the latter.

So with another weekend in the rear-view. and the happy fact that we’ve made it half-way through August (I hate summer since moving to the south), let’s recap!

Movie Night — Saturday night is our movie night and for the past few months we’ve been re-watching the Marvel superhero movies in the chronological order they take place. This weekend we finished that with Spiderman: Far From Home. Technically we still have Black Widow but I can’t really justify $30 to watch a movie so that one will have to wait.

It’s been a pretty fun ride since I have a terrible memory and watching the movies one per week meant I did a better job connecting the dots. We both really love Tom Holland as Spiderman, and after watching Endgame the week before it was nice to see something a little more upbeat.

Family TV@partpurple and I finished up Season 1 of The Bad Batch on Friday, which we really enjoyed. And Star Trek: The Lower Decks is back so we watched that. I remember before we watched Season 1 of that show I was SURE I would hate it because I’m pretty serious about Star Trek, but turned out I love it. I most be getting soft in my old age.

Then last night we watched the first episode of What If…? on Disney+. This is like an ‘alternate reality’ series. The first episode posited that Peggy Carter, not Steve Rogers, got the super serum and she become Captain Carter. It was really good and had us both smiling ear-to-ear. Now I want an entire Captain Carter series, though. Oh, and they got Hayley Atwell to voice Peggy Carter, thank goodness!

Now we’re in search of another series to watch. We’ve been ‘filling in’ days when we have nothing new with a re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which has been fun, though there are some really dated aspects to that show at this point.

Reading — I’m still reading the Saxon Stories books by Bernard Cornwell, and will be for quite some time. I’m on book 6, Death of Kings. I’m a terrible book reviewer so I’ll just say that I really enjoy Cornwell’s books and this series is no exception. If you’re not familiar with the books you might be familiar with the TV series, The Last Kingdom. There are 13 books in the series, though, so I’m not sure that I won’t need a break from 10th century England at some point.

Gaming — Friday evening and Saturday were devoted to finishing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Siege of Paris. I think I’m ready for a break from Valhalla now although there’re still plenty of things to do in the game.

With that put to bed I finally got around to trying Hades, which hit the Xbox and Playstation last week. I’m playing on the Xbox Series X thanks to it being in Game Pass. So far it’s been fun though I’ve kind of hit a wall. I think it’ll be a game I play in short spurts now and then because I know myself enough to know that just trying to power through will lead to frustration, which in turn leads to playing worse, which leads to more frustration, etc etc.

Lastly, Bugsnax. I mostly knew Bugsnax from the trailer that was making the rounds last summer, and in particular the catchy jingle:

Bugsnax was a Playstation Plus game late last year; I think it may have been the first PS5 game on PS+. I figured it was about time to try it out and either play it or delete it from the (small-ish) storage on the PS5. I had no clue what kind of game it was. Turns out it’s a first person puzzle-adventure. It is both super-cute and super-weird. You are basically tasked with catching these little creatures (the titular Bugsnax) that are all animated food, then feeding them to these weird furry townsfolk. Alive of course. When someone eats a Bugsnax a part of their body morphs into that kind of food. So if they eat a Bugsnax based on a French fry their arm will turn into a French fry. It is not clear what impact this has; it seems to be just a visual gag. I like the weirdness of Bugsnax, but I am not a fan of the cute aesthetic and I’m not a big fan of puzzle-adventures either. I’m not knocking the game; it actually got decent reviews. I just pretty quickly decided that it wasn’t for me. To be very clear, I spent less than an hour with it so PLEASE if you’re interested in the game, don’t take this as a knock on it, and do seek out actual reviews from someone who put some time into it.

And that was pretty much the weekend, aside from some random TV. The English Premiere League season has started, so I watched a replay of a game on Peacock TV (which I subscribed to just for these games because generally that service is pretty terrible). I’ve been kicking around (pun intended) the idea of re-subscribing to YouTube TV or Fubo TV for EPL and other sports, just for a month or two. My interest in sports rears its head now and then but never lasts more than a few weeks. I’m a terrible multi-tasker so when I’m watching a game I am JUST watching the game while thinking about all the other things I could be doing with that time. NFL games are the worst for this: three hours out of my short weekend just to watch a game? That’s hard to justify.

Anyway I hope everyone had a great weekend. Back we go to the salt mines!

My Gaming History

This week in Blaugust is supposed to be about introducing ourselves. I am old and telling you all about myself would bore you to tears, so here is my ‘gaming story.’

I was raised in the 1960s-1970s. There were no video games when I was a kid, but I really liked boardgames, even if I had to play them solo since there were no other kids in my neighborhood. I have a brother 10 years older than I, and he and my father would play a game called Yacht Race. That was my introduction to more ‘adult’ games (y’know, moving past Chutes and Ladders). I still have that copy of Yacht Race around here somewhere.

Somewhere in my teenaged years I discovered wargames; the ones with the paper maps and cardboard counters. I LOVED those things. I subscribed to a magazine called Strategy & Tactics that came with a game bound inside it (and articles about the conflict covered by the game). At the back of the mag they always had a survey to judge interest in future projects and I remember when they started asking their audience if they owned a personal computer and would they be interested in using the computer to play games. I was still playing solo and the idea of a computer being an opponent was thrilling!

My first computer was an Atari 400 that I bought just to play Star Raiders, though of course I quickly branched out from there. I also bought a 300 bps modem and learned about online services (back then the nascent Internet was only available through colleges or the government). I got involved with Compuserve and particularly GEnie, where I wound up working as an (un-paid) assistant to Scorpia. I guess in today’s terms you’d say I was one of her mods, though my title then was “Assistant Sysop.”

Through my verbosity on the Games RT on GEnie (I assume) I was approached by a fellow named Clayton Walnum who asked if I’d be interested in reviewing computer games. Well duh, of course I would. I wrote some stuff for ST Log, a magazine dedicated to the Atari ST computers. I also ghost-wrote a chapter of one of his books called something like “Secrets of the Video Game Masters” where I did a walk-through of Bionic Commando.

Eventually I moved on to PC gaming, and though I can’t remember exactly when or why, I started doing reviews for Strategy Plus Magazine. From there I got the offer to come onboard as an Associate Editor, which of course I did. My beat was strategy and wargames.

Proof I was there!

Fun fact: Strategy Plus started as a magazine in the UK, but the owner of Chips & Bits, a mail-order game store, bought it and moved it to the US. The reason the publisher bought the magazine was because advertising was so expensive in other mags. By owning the magazine, he got to advertise for free. It’s weird how the magazine business works. When you pay for a subscription, that basically covers the cost of getting the magazine to you. All the real revenue comes from the ads inside.

End digression.

So that was the best job I’ve ever had to this day. I traveled all over the country to do previews on upcoming games. Went to the first couple of E3 shows (and a few CES shows before that). Geoff Keighley, who now does The Game Awards, was one of my freelancers (I had no idea he was like 16 at the time!). At the first E3 I was forced to meet with a bunch of kids who were walking around with a laptop showing off their new game. They didn’t have a booth or anything but had approached the publisher who sent them to me. I was annoyed since I had a packed schedule. Turns out the game was Unreal and in this crowd of kids was a scrawny geek named Cliff Bleszinski plus this mouthy guy name Mark Rein. Man, I should’ve asked them to hire me.

Eventually I was promoted from Associate Editor of Strategy Plus (by this time called Computer Games Magaine, if I recall correctly) to Executive Editor of a sister publication called Interactive Entertainment, or IE. IE came on a CD and was way ahead of its time. Instead of reading reviews, you could watch video of gameplay with a voice over. The CD also had demos of the games. Trust me that this was a BIG DEAL at the time. There was no YouTube, no Twitch. You could download some demos from GEnie or Compuserve or Delphi but it took forever and it was costing you $6/hour to do it.

The only problem was, IE was bleeding money. It just cost too much to send it out. We tried various methods but, particularly in winter when it was cold, many copies arrived damaged (the CDs would get brittle in the cold and then they’d get bent and would break) but in the end we never made it work and IE shut down.

By then “demo disks” packed in with magazines were on the up and up and I was put in charge of the one that came in Strategy Plus. My title was “Demo Wrangler” which remains my favorite title to date. Ironically sliding the CD into a bag with a magazine was the perfect way to protect it. Plus since it was a ‘freebie’ if it did get damaged it wasn’t quite as big a deal.

Then I met a woman who lived in another city and I bid farewell to gaming journalism and moved to be closer to her. I am no longer with that person and while we had some nice times together, I often wonder what would’ve happened if I’d stayed in gaming; so many of the editors from those days when into game design/development. Thus ended my gaming career.

Sort of. I did run a gaming forum, call The Jaded Gamer’s Pub, for many years. Remember when forums were a thing? Before reddit? That wasn’t a paying gig but it did make me feel connected to the community.

These days, and for the past 25 years or so, I’m just a schlub who enjoys playing games. I haven’t done anything interesting in the gaming world since the 1990s, and I am LONG forgotten by the industry. So sad!! LOL I coulda been a contender! (Though probably not.)

Let me finish by leaving us all with a good solid cringe. Look at this ad I found when searching for copies of Strategy Plus online (since dumb-ass me never kept copies)

I mean, really?

Ah Derek Smart. I spent a day with him once, working on a preview of Battlecruiser. He was living in Miami Beach at the time. He was a very nice guy. Super smart, very geeky but so not the abrasive personality he presents online. Or presented…I haven’t seen him mentioned in ages.

Checking In On Blaugust

We’ve made it to Day 10 of Blaugust. One-third (roughly) of the way through! Although I originally said I wasn’t going to try to blog every day thus far I have, and as expected it is starting to sour me on the experience. As predicted I’m starting to see writing a blog post as a chore I have to get out of the way before I can get to the enjoyable part of my day. At least I know myself and knew this would happen!

What I didn’t expect was the social fatigue that has gone along with this. I’m an introvert. I’ve been trying to stay current on the Blaugust Discord and have been trying to read (and share/re-tweet) as many Blaugust posts as I can and I’ve gotten to where I’d like nothing more than to go to an island somewhere and not talk to another human being for a month. People exhaust me! I need some quiet days now.

Also I’ve been on a mini-vacation which means finding a couple hours to blog, read & share has been pretty easy to do. Trying to shoe-horn that into a regular work day (those start today) seems daunting.

So expect fewer, or shorter, or fewer & shorter, posts for the rest of the month.

All that bummer stuff done, I’m really glad I joined. I’ve discovered a handful of bloggers I really enjoy reading, and it has felt good to write something other than code, emails and tweets for a change.

I will continue to do what I can to support the other Blaugustians out there! Y’all are young and strong and I know you can do it!

Viking Synergy

Late last year I was sitting around at the end of the day, looking for something to watch on Netflix. I picked The Last Kingdom. Turns out it was about the Danes invading what we now call England. Or to put it in pop culture terms, it was about Vikings!

Through a happy coincidence I’d just started playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, a game where you play a Viking invading what we now call England!

I only watched a couple of episodes of The Last Kingdom before I noticed it was based on a book series by Bernard Cornwell, an author I knew from his Sharpe series. I really enjoyed the Sharpe books (they’re historical fiction that take place during the Napoleonic Wars) so based on the generally safe assumption that the books would be better than the TV series, I stopped watching The Last Kingdom and started reading Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series. (I just noticed he now refers to this series as “The Last Kingdom” series…the man knows marketing!)

I’m not a very fast reader. I generally read when I go to bed and I generally stay up much too late, so I often only get through a dozen pages before my eyes are drooping. Because of this, 6 or 7 months later I’m only on book #6 and there are 13 books (to date, anyway) in Saxon Tales.

I’m also not a very fast gamer and I’m not really sure why this is other than I tend to be methodical and deliberate when I game. So I’m still playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, too.

Over the months I’ve taken breaks from both the game and the books, but invariably when I pick one back up, I soon pick up the other. It’s been really fun to read about some location and then go there in the game, or vice versa. Both the book and the game use the names of locations from the time period. (They are not always exactly the same. For example York is called Eoferwic in the books and Eurvic in the game; I’m not enough of a historian to tell you why. Danish vs Saxon name, maybe?)

The point is, the early books and the game cover the same period. Alfred is King of Wessex but wants to unite all English speaking lands into one country. The Danes and Norse are in the north, Mercia is kind of stuck between the two. You encounter the same individuals, at least in some cases. For me it’s been really enjoyable to learn (in a casual sense) about this period of history from two angles and two different forms of media at the same time. (I came into both game and books more or less uneducated when it comes to this era.)

If you played and enjoyed Valhalla I think you’d really like the Saxon Stories sage (or the Netflix series). And if you’ve read the books, you’d probably get a kick out of the game. And if you’ve not been exposed to either, it might be fun to start both at the same time.