Shit I Have Enjoyed Recently

Worst blog owner ever. Shout out to my friend Dan for holding me accountable

ANYWAY here’s some stuff that’s been occupying my brain recently. A spoiler:

heart eyes

Downton Abbey movie

When I saw this announced I made A Noise. I think the tech guys I work with thought someone was slowly letting the air out of me, like a balloon.

brandpBrando doing an impression of my actual face.

I’m refusing to let myself get too excited until I hear that Brendan Coyle is going to be in it. Please lord above, don’t do this to me.

Barcelona

Sean and I have been together for three years and this is the first trip we’ve been on together to visit his brother. I had an absolute BLAST in Barcelona – I’ll write another post on it specifically, but it’s a great city and I already want to go back. Patatas Bravas, I miss you…

patatas bravasGet this shit right into my face.

Mental Health

Not poor mental health as such, more poor planning and an inability to get hold of my GP. I ran out of Sertraline for nearly a week. It’s not the worst situation (my entire life doesn’t fall apart immediately) but the physical side effects of sudden withdrawal are HARSH.

If you’ve ever had brain zaps, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

WRITING STUFF

I’ve still been writing. I started what has the potential to be a novel-length…something, and I’m about 7000 words in. I’ve been messing about with various other wee things when I need a distraction. Some of them will see the light of day. Many will not. I don’t really care, I enjoyed myself.

Gaming

I made the mistake of downloading Pokemon Go in Barcelona. Now I’m hooked again. It makes the morning bus journey through Edinburgh more exciting.

pokwmon goEvery day’s a Pika Party in my town.

I’ve been getting into legacy games as well – we started playing Pandemic: Legacy, but we’ve taken a break from it so we can crack into Gloomhaven. I’m REALLY enjoying it – Sean’s been obsessed with it for a while so he’s quite thrilled that he can play it with me as well as his dungeon crew.

Plus Magic: the Gathering continues to dictate my life from multiple angles. I played in my first competitive event for years at the weekend, I’m going to be on staff at a comp event for the first time next weekend, and in between I’m usually talking about it, organising it or playing it.

*

Tell me what you’ve been up to recently. GO.

International Women’s Day – MtG edition!

Happy International Women’s Day! I can already hear the eyes rolling like marbles in the heads of several men. This is your periodic reminder that if you put half as much effort into supporting the issues that are raised during International Men’s Day that you do into being so offended by IWD, the world would be a much better place.

(It’s November 19th, by the way.)

Anyway, in honour of the occasion let’s talk about some of my favourite and most inspirational women in the Magic: the Gathering community.

Magic: the Amateuring

I stumbled across the Magic: the Amateuring podcast on the back of an article by host Meghan Wolff about women in Magic and the subsequent…well, you all know what happened next.

(Episode #126 of Magic: the Amateuring discusses this and many of the issues raised in Meghan’s article about the various – often very subtle – ways in which women are treated differently and in some cases made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, so if you’re on the “why are the women complaining AGAIN” side of the fence, I would recommend listening and please, educate yourself.)

Maria and Meghan are my heroes. They’re hysterically funny (I’ve had to leave the office and sit on the toilet midway through listening to an episode because I can’t stop giggling) damn good players and two of the strongest advocates I can think of for opening doors in the game. My favourite moment is hearing Maria go on an impassioned rant in the above podcast about how being a Pro Tour competitor isn’t a necessity for someone to be a strong member of the coverage team, and how there are numerous women out there who are MORE than qualified to take on that role, and now she does Pro Tour coverage for Wizards of the Coast. SLAAAAAYING.

Stef Dolan

HI STEF! Stef is the first woman in Scotland (and to date, as far as I know, the only female player in Scotland) to win a Pro Point. Aside from that, she’s a huge cheerleader both for Team Murphy’s Vault and for the Magic community on the whole, and I think she’s great.

Plus she loves Stormbreath Dragon, which is everything I look for in a friend.

sbdg

Dana Fischer

Okay, so Dana Fischer is only seven years old, but she’s my hero. She’s a seven-year-old Magic player, a regular on the US GP circuit. Her goal is to be the youngest player to reach day two of a GP, and I have absolutely no doubts that she’ll achieve that. She is the future. Get on board.

Chandra Nalaar

Because COME ON.

chandra flamecaller

 

Actually…now that I think about it, literally all of you.

Y’ALL. (I wish I could stop saying y’all. Nobody says y’all in East Scotland.

It’s never easy going into a space that’s traditionally been aimed at a male population (look at some of the early cards and some of the current playmats if you need convincing), especially as it’s a space that some men feel obliged to defend like it’s their firstborn and anyone who isn’t A Man is a dingo, but I like to think we’re slowly improving. And we’re doing it! Yay us.

Special shout out, by the way, to all the ladies in the UKISA judge community – Liz, Roisin, Erin, Sophie, and everyone else I have shamefully forgotten. We are killing it.

*

I am, as I’ve said multiple times, incredibly lucky to be part of a community that isn’t full of assholes. The Scottish community on the whole is 99% of the time is awesome – very inclusive, very willing to stand up and and shout if they see otherwise. We’re lucky here. But I’m aware, both from witnessing and hearing peoples’ stories, that the same isn’t true for all communities.

And that’s why I do why I do. It would be easy for me to let someone else take charge of what we do at Forth Magic, someone with more experience in tournament organising and judging, or someone with more experience competitively who’ve been to a variety of tournaments and seen what’s good and what’s not.

But I want people to see the fact that I’m here, I’m standing up and making myself the first person people likely interact with if they’re coming along to the events or just enquiring. If the fact that I’m there is enough to make even one woman feel better about coming along, that’s a success.

*

I stream on Twitch and I’m learning to be a better drafter on MODO. Sometimes my friends come round and we drink and draft. If you want to see my cats and hear a Scottish accent you can find me at twitch.tv/worstartist. Slam that follow button and you’ll see when I’m back on my bullshit. PEACE.

Destiny 2: why “Becoming Legend” is no longer an option.

Oh man. You know when you meet one of your heroes and it turns out they’re an asshole? That’s how I feel in the wake of Destiny 2. I’ve tried to write a post about numerous times since it was released, but I wanted to defend it until I was blue in the face, the same way I did with Destiny.

I’m coming to the conclusion that I can’t.

It made all the right noises at first. Better story and the characters that we loved actually being characters and not just NPC vendors. The same gameplay that made Destiny so much fun. I just wasn’t expecting to find that everything else had gone to shit.

You might think that’s an overreaction, but the soul has been ripped out of this game. It’s hollow. Among other minor disappointments, everything past the main story mission feels flat and doesn’t inspire the sort of time sink required to progress. The gear system is demoralising. There’s no real PvP endgame anymore.The Grimoire lore has been removed from the Bungie website and in game the lore is either watered down or completely non-existent.

You read that correctly. After three years of complaints that the excellent, rich lore of the Destiny universe wasn’t taken advantage of or accessible in-game, they made it worse.

The first expansion, Curse of Osiris, dropped last week, and it was the first time I’d loaded the game up in just over a month. I was looking forward to it, but my expectations weren’t hugely high, mainly because I knew that it was unlikely to magically fix everything.

Even so, this thing nearly flatlined me.

destiny 2 mercury
Salute to the sun.

It’s a subplot that does nothing to expand or advance the overall lore of the game. The almost unbearably cool sounding Infinite Forest, while looking incredible, is a series of running through triangles, opening doors and hopping from block to block until the end. There are mobs to fight along the way, but you can just as easily run past them, with the exception of a handful marked as “Daemons” which must be killed before you can open another door. It’s more like a uninspiring platformer than an open world RPG.

I mean come on, we never find out what the titular Curse is. Osiris himself barely features. The most famous and notorious Guardian in the game’s lore and he’s barely got a cameo in an expansion named after him. Really?

destiny 2 triangle
Destiny 2: Curse of Triangles.

I know I’m biased. I know. I was obsessed with Destiny and it’s probably not fair to expect D2 to be the same game. But Destiny made huge leaps from the vanilla game to get to where it was when the sequel dropped, and Destiny 2 feels like it’s going backwards at a rate of knots. It breaks my heart.

The next expansion is due in Spring and is widely speculated to involve the Battle of Twilight Gap, which is one of my favourite parts of the lore. Bungie have indicated that they’re listening to feedback from the community, so I’m hoping – desperately, furiously hoping – that it’ll be better.

Please, Bungie?

The State of Magic: It’s Time.

Well. Where do we even start here.

In case you’ve missed it, at the weekend Magic cosplayer Christine Sprankle publicly retired from the game after enduring ongoing harassment following a game of “flip or rip” at a GP. Thus follows accusations of lying, accusations of deleting the posts in question, a number of well-known personalities in the community speaking out to corroborate Ms. Sprankle’s experiences, fans of the accused responding.

Yesterday it was revealed that a post on a secret “shitposting” MtG Facebook group invited its members to “draft” well known MtG women – women who play, who make content, who compete in tournaments and do well – based purely on how much they wanted to sleep with them. The comment thread that followed went about as well as you would expect, and included some particularly awful comments around the members of the LGBTQ community.

I’m not going to write about those in any more detail, because there are a multitude of responses from people who’ve been directly affected that are much more important than anything I have to say on the subject.

I’m writing this because boy, are we tired.

I’m tired of people calling out shitty attitudes being dismissed as a “social justice warrior” or a “cuck”. I’ll let you into a secret: if someone calls you a “cuck” it’s because they frightened. You’re coming too close to underminding them.

I’m tired of seeing people saying things like “she’s wearing a slutty cosplay to try and lure in vulnerable young men for their money”. Spoiler alert: she’s almost certainly not. Women don’t have secret meetings to come up with new and exciting ways to ruin the lives of men.

I’m tired of people relentlessly slamming Wizards for “becoming political”. If you think that responding to people noting that they tend to be treated differently to their male counterparts by increasing visibility and attempting to create a more balanced society is political, expand your world a little.

I’m tired of people being told that “it’s just a joke, if you don’t find it funny that’s your problem” (remember that?) or “grow a thicker skin”. As I’ve said before, if multiple people who stand as the butt of the joke are telling you that it’s not funny and you continue to make that joke, it’s not a joke. You are an asshole being an asshole on purpose.

I’m tired of people immediately dismissing any sort of feedback around inclusive MtG with “well, I’ve never had a problem” or “I’ve never been sexist”.

Just because you’ve never seen it happening at your local store doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all. I’m part of a community – locally and nationwide – that excels in being welcoming and inclusive but I’m not close minded enough to ignore the fact that we are a very small country and therefore very close-knit. What we experience is not the overall experience. This is just one of a multitude of points that people are either choosing to ignore because it doesn’t fit what they want, or they’re genuinely unable to grasp the concept.

People are bitching at Wizards of the Coast for not doing anything. That’s fine. You can do something. You can tell such an individual to stop, even if they’re not targeting you. You can report them to a judge or the tournament organiser if they don’t, or you feel uncomfortable doing so. If you don’t know who the judge or TO is, you can ask at the event. If nothing happens, you can escalate it, either through the judge programme or through WOTC themselves. Local game stores are their own little communities but they’re not islands, and any judge or tournament organiser worth their salt has that role because they want to work with communities to make them fun, welcoming and positive places for everyone.

That is how you fix it.

 

I’m upset. Over the past few days we’ve seen what the MtG community really is when you kick the stone over, and last night was the first time in over four years I’ve had to evaluate whether this is something I want to continue to be involved in.

I think I do. Because this community has done so much good for so many people. Look at all the testimonies of people who’ve found solace while they were being bullied, or while their lives were falling apart, or while they were desperately lonely. That’s the community I want to be part of. That’s the community I want to build. But half-assed tutting and saying “well that’s gross” isn’t enough. It’s time to actively challenge this behaviour. It’s time to stop ignoring it and letting it slide because it’s a little bit uncomfortable to speak up. It’s time to stop this bizarre idea of “alpha” and “beta”.

It’s time to get proactive instead of reactive.

It’s time to get angry. Not  death threats or abuse over the internet, because that’s not on, and it’s slinging lighter fluid onto a fire that’s already out of control.

It’s time to change. Please help us.

 

“The Problem”: old jokes, community, and girls who game.

Most people who know me have probably heard me talk about a trading card game called Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been playing since 2013 and I’m currently heavily involved in running and sustaining our local player community.

Which is why when I saw this Daily Mash article in my timeline and realised it had been shared by a local store with a slightly patronising “Now remember lads, it’s just a joke!” tagline, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could examine my own spinal cord.

I, along with others, suggested that presenting the article in that way was perhaps not a positive reflection of the community. I was (predictably) accused of not being able to take a joke. The joke, of course, being that men who go to gaming stores are all sweaty neckbeard virgins who panic at the mere thought of a woman, and that the women who go are there for literally any conceivable reason other than they want to hang out and play games. (Spoiler alert: WE JUST WANT TO HANG OUT AND PLAY GAMES.)

I was also told that the problem lies with me if I have a problem. Let’s get real. Anyone who thinks that is missing the point so wildly it looks deliberately obtuse. I really don’t care what people spend their free time laughing at in their own little groups, and if there are people that still actually think this flogged to death meme is funny then crack on. “Lads”.

This is not an isolated incident. Oh it’s rare – I’d go so far as to say almost unheard of – in Scotland, where there’s a tight-knit, inclusive community who aren’t afraid to shout if something’s not right. But widen the net and you see that this “joke” is actually being played out in stores all over the place. Women being asked where their boyfriend is, women receiving comments like “man, I can’t believe I just got beaten by a girl” when they win. Women who, despite making up around 40% of the total player base, are not going to events. Meghan Wolff from the Magic: the Amateuring podcast wrote an excellent article two years ago on this topic, after encountering – as we all have – people who, in her words, “don’t believe it’s even an issue and who don’t want to be convinced”.

Am I looking into this too much? There’ll be thousands who would argue yes, that I’m a snowflake who looks for excuses to be offended, or that I’m a “feminazi” looking for an excuse to throw my weight around and stop all the boys from having a good time. Maybe that’s what they meant when they said the problem lies with me. Maybe that’s what you think too.

But let’s be absolutely, categorically clear. It doesn’t.

The problem lies with sixteen-year-old Sally who’s just come across Magic and wants to know where she can play locally. She is going to see that post and never attend an event. Why would she? It’s not a huge step to assume that the community will be full of men who’re going to patronise her, avoid her, assume that she’s there for a reason other than to play a game she enjoys.

The problem lies with fifteen-year-old Jimmy, who’s going to think that by hanging out in his local store, this is how he’s going to be perceived by people, who’ll make the correlation between “game store” and “any main inept character from The Big Bang Theory”. Even worse, he’s going to see that article being shared and think that his local store will have a laugh at his expense. Because that’s what it looks like.

The problem lies with twenty-two-year-old Molly, whose hobbies exist in traditionally male-dominated spheres, like gaming. Molly has to specifically create a gender-agnostic gamertag because if she doesn’t she’ll get messages saying “get back in the kitchen you whore”. Molly will look at that post and think, what’s the point?

I’ve spent the best part of the past four years watching, actively working to grow our local player base, listening to feedback from people who perhaps don’t feel comfortable or welcome in these spaces and trying to do better. I like to think I have a decent understanding of the nuances of creating a good community, and I’m afraid not being an asshole to your customers when they’re in your store simply isn’t enough. We know this. Scotland knows this. It’s why most of our shops and players and judges and tournament organisers are so wonderful.

And therefore I would ask you to consider, that if you post something and have to double down and argue with the numerous people pointing out the way that it reflects on your community – people who are the butt of the joke you’re inviting your customers to laugh at – that an entirely different problem lies very much with you.

Eyes up, Guardian: the end of an era.

(WARNING: this post contains very, VERY minor spoilers for Destiny 2 as I’ve seen the trailers and played the beta, so if you’re going in completely blind you might want to stop here!)

Destiny. A game that managed to worm its way into my life like few have. If you’ve even a surface interest in gaming you’ll probably have seen the criticisms levelled at it: a MMORPG with no content, a story thinner than the disc it came on, servers that felt like they were running in someone’s garage.

And I hate to say it, but a lot of them were right.

So why, you might ask, did I spend so long playing this mediocre game at the expense of all other games?

The same reason I do most other things: the people. I fell into a group of players of all ages from all across the world (hi Wise Warriors!) and gained many things. A community, many new friends, an increased knowledge of US timezones…

In just over an hour (UK time!) Destiny 2 will drop and we’ll start a brand new and long-awaited adventure, but it wouldn’t feel right to move into the next chapter of the story without paying tribute to the original.

So in honour of this game that has consumed my life for the past two years, my Warlock is here to walk us through the top five fond memories of Destiny that I’m going to miss when we move into the sequel.

The Weapons

I played the majority of my time in Destiny using three weapons, which given the entire canon (no pun intended) of primary, secondary and heavy weaponry is impressive.

I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to do without favoured primary weapon – Nirwen’s Mercy, the Iron Banner pulse rifle. You could see the player radar while aiming and reload incredibly quickly if you got a good shot. It was the first weapon I saw and felt a deep need for within my soul and I used nothing else once I’d ground my way to it.

We won’t even talk about the shotgun that regenerates its own ammo. It hurts. I miss it already.

gun
Nirwen’s Mercy. My one, my only.

Kings Fall

Kings Fall has always been my favourite raid. Probably because it was the first one I played, but it became the yardstick for all the others. I loved the mechanics, the boss fights, the traditions (teabagging the chest for luck, convincing new raiders that they’d get an exotic if they jumped into the ball at the Warpriest, my emote sign language that everyone understood), the laughs (Lydia getting torn nearly all the time, velcro shoes, that time I sat on my controller and started the Totems by mistake.)

I even miss those awful ships you had to jump from, which took me HOURS to master and still caused me a whole lot of stress right up until the end.

raid
King’s Fall.

Iron Banner

Ah, Iron Banner. I hope I don’t have to miss this for long in D2.

Anyone who’s ever played this game with me knows how excited I get about this once-a-month sweatfest. I usually avoid PVP modes like they’re on fire because I get absolutely gubbed – but I found out that the Iron Banner loot distribution was based on a Random Number Generator system (RNG – the three most frustrating letters in the game) and I decided I could cope with getting ruthlessly crushed by ‘Sniperboi66’ repeatedly for some gear that would level me up for the raid.

What I wasn’t expecting was to both enjoy it and be reasonably competent at it.

IB scores
Space magic. *Blows finger gun*

Sure, it sucked when you came up against the people who were tampering with their own internet connections to manipulate the game, but running riot with five clanmates in an Iron Banner control match is the best.

Plus Lord Shaxx is the best character in the game and I play Crucible matches just so he’ll shout at me. “TWO FOR ONE.”

iron banner
The Iron Lords are watching.

SRL

Sparrow racin’!

This might be THE most fun I’ve had in this game so far. Honestly, I can’t even pick one specific moment to use as an example because they’re all gold. It’s literally just racing what amounts to a Star Wars pod racer round and round a track but with far, far more competition. The hatred of the spinning fans, the indignation when we were racing against random players and one of them had the audacity to overtake us, the sudden acts of violence among friends that resulted in someone getting pushed off a cliff…

This is another one that had better make a comeback in D2. Christmas won’t be the same without it.

sparrow
Couldn’t get into SRL, so I had to pretend. 😦

The Tower

This one hurts the most.

The beta threw us right into the first story mission of D2, which is the Tower under attack and burning in ruins and I am GUTTED. I spent as much time in the Tower as I did in any of the missions, whether it’s turning in those disappointing engrams, throwing weapon parts into the faction leaders in a desperate bid for decent gear, or just hanging out with my friends waiting for everyone to show up for a raid. Hide and seek in that tree, throwing the purple ball around, trying to stand on each other’s heads, dancing in a circle while we chewed the fat for an hour or so.

It burns tomorrow, and I’m really sad about it even though it’s just a video game.

tower

*

I’m genuinely more than a little bit sorry to be leaving this game behind. Even though I know it’ll still be there if I ever want to log in and fly around Venus for nostalgia’s sake, even though I’m going into D2 with the same mad clan I’ve been part of from the start (I’ve even taken two days annual leave so I can play on US time), even though from what I’ve seen from the beta makes for a game that is vastly superior in many ways to the original. I’ve made friends all around the world through Destiny, my entire weekend schedule for a long time was organised around raid runs and Crucible shenanigans and it became a Saturday night social life in its own right. I’ve got so many good memories from this game.

Let’s make some more, team. I’ll see you tomorrow. ❤