A whole new (digital) me!

I’ve been online for a LONG time. My first experiences were with Compuserve and GENie in the 1980s. On GENie I had 2 accounts and one of them was “JadedGamer.” I was pretty active in GENie’s gaming section and was an (unpaid) part of the staff of the video games roundtable.

At some point I went to work for a computer gaming magazine and this was when the Internet was just starting to become widely available to the public. The magazine I worked for (Strategy Plus) set up a forum and I was volunteered to help moderate it. I stuck with my JadedGamer moniker.

When that shut down, I started my own forum called The Jaded Gamer’s Pub, or Jaded’s Pub for short. I shortened my own handle to Jaded. By that time it was just a name…I wasn’t really feeling all that jaded any more.

When Xbox Live became a thing, I had to pick a gamertag so Jaded was the obvious choice. I’ve had it since basically Day 1 of public access to Xbox Live.

Lately though, I’ve had people contacting my bugging me to sell them my gamertag. I’ve also had (though this was some years back) creepy emails written to me because one of the female pro gaming teams had a member using the handle “Jaded” and creepy xbox live users thought my account was hers. For the most part I’ve just blocked anyone who asked me to sell my gamertag just because I didn’t want to be bothered.

Even more recently though, I’ve started to feel a little embarrassed about sharing my gamertag. My days of thinking it was cool to be jaded and cynical are far, FAR behind me.

For a while I made a half-hearted attempt to change my persona to PapaSnark, but that gamertag wasn’t available. Last night I was once again playing around with the ‘change your gamertag’ feature and realized PappaSnark WAS available.

But then I hesitated. I thought “PappaSnark” was kind of catchy, but it was another gamertag that colored a stranger’s perception of me. “Jaded” implies that I’m jaded, and PappaSnark implies that I’m snarky. While I definitely am both those things from time to time, I don’t want to be defined as either of them.

So in a kind-of snap judgement, I changed my gamertag to Traellan. That’s a tag that has no real meaning; it’s a random name I made up for a character way back in Dark Age of Camelot and it’s the name I generally give my characters in single-player games (when they let you create your own character). So to me (and a few close friends) it has some history at least, but to most people it’s devoid of meaning.

It’s also relatively short…one of the reasons I kept Jaded as long as I did was that it was only 5 characters. Adding 3 didn’t seem too bad. On PSN my “Dragonchasers” tag takes up half the screen when it is floating over my head in a game and I hate it.

So the weirdest part of this story is how happy I am now that I changed my gamertag. It’s like I am free from this baggage I’ve been carrying around. I can just be me and love the games I love and not have strangers referring to me as jaded whenever they address me by gamertag.

Now I need Sony to finally let us change our gamertags over there and maybe I can get the same name on both services.

Switching to Windows 8? Read this before you fire up any game apps!

So I took the plunge and installed Windows 8 on my laptop today. Windows 8 allows you to log into your device using a Microsoft Account (formerly called a Windows Live Account). I had one I created back when outlook.com opened up, so I logged in. Everything was going great.

Then I downloaded a free game app, Jetpack Joyride. As soon as I started it up, Windows 8 announced that it had generated a temporary gamertag for my Microsoft Account.

Ha, I hadn’t even been thinking about Xbox Live. I do have an Xbox Live account of course, but it’s associated with a different Windows Live Account.

I did some research and I can “migrate” my gamertag from one email address to another, so I decided to migrate my ‘real’ Xbox Live Gamer Tag to the Microsoft Account I’m using on Windows 8. But I can’t, because now there’s already a gamertag associated with that account. So first I have to migrate the gamertag that Windows auto-generated for me off to another Microsoft account. This is an account I’m creating just for this purpose. Dumb right?

But wait! It gets worse. Since my temporary gamertag was just created today, I can’t migrate it for 30 days. You can only move these things once every 30 days.

So basically I have to wait 30 days before I’m willing to buy any gaming apps from the Windows 8 store, because if I do so before then they’ll be associated with this gamertag I’m trying my best to throw away.

I’m generally happy with Windows 8 so far, but MS really blew it with this one detail. I can’t believe they don’t prompt the user before generating a gamertag….

If you only have one Microsoft account this won’t impact you, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that had an old cruddy hotmail account for my Xbox Live account and would rather use a swanky new outlook.com account for my new system.

First Look: Anomaly – Warzone Earth for XBLA

If you’re a PC or mobile gamer, 11 Bit Studios’s Anomaly – Warzone Earth might be old news to you. The game originally came out on PC about a year ago, on iOS last summer and on Android earlier this year. Now it’s finally made it to Xbox Live Arcade and in turn I finally got around to giving it a try.

Anomaly is a tower defense game, inverted. Instead of placing towers to ward off incoming attackers, you control the incoming attackers trying to get past, or take out, fixed emplacements. You’ve got two tiers of control in order to accomplish this.

First there’s a strategic map, accessed any time by hitting the Y button, where you plot your route to your destination. Your troops all follow roads in a single file line (at least in the first half dozen levels that I got through) and at each intersection you determine whether they should turn left, turn right, or go straight through the intersection. You can jump in and out of this map at any time, tweaking the route your troops take in response to battlefield conditions.

Once you’re done on the strategic map, your view changes to a nicely rendered map of the city and you appear on the field as a commander unit. He’s a pretty fast, quite durable unit with no offensive abilities. His job is (minimally) to draw fire, to run around and collect power-ups dropped by air support, and to use these power-ups to help keep your units alive. The three power-ups I’ve encountered are Repair, Smoke and Decoy. Repair forms a short-lived auto-repair circle on the map. Any unit that travels through it gets patched up. Smoke offers limited cover in a section of the map, and Decoy draws fire from all enemies within range (until the decoys are destroyed). There’s a least one more type of power-up that I haven’t uncovered yet. Some kind of Bomb. Yay bombs!

As you travel along the map fighting towers (your units, other than the commander, move and attack autonomously) you’ll also encounter nodules of ore. Destroying those converts them into cash. Cash is used to purchase or upgrade units. You can do that any time by pressing X. You can buy new units, upgrade existing units, sell units, or re-arrange the order of your units. In the 6 missions I played I was exposed to 3 kinds of units: an APC with good armor but mediocre firepower, a crawler with weak armor but good offense and range, and a shield unit that had no offense but placed a shield around the units in front of and behind itself.

As for enemy towers, there are basic machine gun towers, beam towers that you should only take on from the sides or behind (not always easy when you need to factor in the limited choices the road grid offers), Behemoths that are very powerful but slow to aim, and some kind of lightning tower that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

And that’s about it so far in terms of game mechanics. I’m playing through the Story Mode: chunks of an alien space craft have fallen to earth and covered Baghdad and Tokyo in strange domes. What’s going on inside? My military unit has been chosen to go in to investigate, and kick some alien ass at the same time. It’s not an epic tale but it’s enough story to keep your interest and get you to play just one more mission.

The game looks great and plays really well with a controller. It comes with some Xbox-y unlocks like stuff for your Avatar and so forth (I don’t play a ton of XBLA games these days…maybe these are standard features now?) and you get scored on each mission so there’s replayability there as you strive to earn more medals.

Like I said, I’ve only spent a couple hours with the game, so don’t consider this any kind of definitive review, but I had a really good time playing. I’d avoided the game on PC because I was pretty burnt out on Tower Defense, but I was offered a review copy of the XBLA version so I figured I’d give it a shot. I was very pleasantly surprised. Turning the tables and making you the attacker is a nice twist on the genre.

Old hands at the game may be tempted by the 6 Xbox-exclusive ‘tactical trials’ that 11 Bit Studios has created for the XBLA version.

Anomaly – Warzone Earth is 800 Microsoft Points, and of course there’s a free demo available.

Read with a critical eye: XBL Lesbians (rant)

So you can’t have missed all the nonsense about this Consumerist article (I’m not going to dignify it by linking to it) that claims that “Teresa” said she was harassed on, and ultimately suspended from, XBox Live because she put in her profile that she was a lesbian.

It saddens me to no end how many people are upset about this.

Why? Am I a homophobe just like the entire Microsoft Corporation is (according to some comments I’ve read)?

No, quite the contrary. I’m rather disgustingly liberal, in fact.

But I do READ CRITICALLY. And I think about what I’m reading and I think about plausibility and I don’t believe something just because I see it posted on a website. I also understand the economics of websites and ad serving and page views.

Who is “Teresa?” No one knows. If anyone at the Consumerist knows, they aren’t talking or lending any credibility to their story. I don’t think they care. They got a juicy controversial story that has generated thousands and thousands of page views which has translated into “making their numbers” on ad revenue this week. Bully for them.

Teresa says “No one will help me get the word out about Microsoft’s anti-gay policy.” Well, don’t worry Teresa, the Consumerist will and all they need is your story to be juicy enough to get them page views…they don’t need anything as mundane as “facts” to convince them.

Mysterious Teresa. I’ll tell you who *doesn’t* know who “Teresa” is. Stephen Toulouse, Xbox LIVE Policy Manager. Y’know, the person who could fix the situation.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has an opinion about Microsoft’s anti-gay policy, too. XBox Live, Homophobia, and Online Gaming Policy

Sony, Microsoft, and many others have been trying to address this [using the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory fashion, and in general the shitty behavior of the online gaming community towards gays – pete] by putting policies in place to prevent subscribers from using the online shield of anonymity to harass, verbally assault, and generally defame others. Are they the best policies? No. Are they working to improve them?

In the case of Stephen [Toulouse] and Microsoft – they have been nothing but open, welcoming, and willing to discuss ideas for positive and inclusive changes during these conversations. Microsoft has invited GLAAD out to its headquarters in Redmond, WA, for multi-day meetings with developers, executives, and policy enforcers in the upcoming weeks.

Taking that Consumerist article at face value is just plain and simply stupid. If you read it and immediately became outraged at how some (as far as we know, fabricated) person was mistreated, then it’s time you took a moment and reflected a bit about how readily you accept stories as facts.

Your community needs you to think critically, people. Don’t be a sheep, don’t be a doormat. Ask questions, get facts, then make an informed decision about whether or not what you’re reading is true.

If Teresa’s story is true, then you are right to be outraged. But if its true, Teresa needs to come forward and back up her story with some facts.

I’ll end by duplicating Toulouse’s ending paragraph here…let’s get the word out:

Theresa from the Consumerist article, if you’re reading this, I don’t have your Gamertag or any information about you at all, the article was extremely vague. I’d love to get your feedback and talk to you about how we can make the experience better. Please email me at [email protected].

Damned anti-gays at MS…