Blogging A to Z Day 25: Video Games

If I’d discovered a way to get paid for playing video games when I was in my late teens, I would be one of the wealthiest people you would ever meet right now. For years, I spent most of my non-writing computer time playing video games. I haven’t been into gaming in years now because work, a grandson, and blogging doesn’t leave any time for them.

Here are the games I spent more time playing than the rest when I was a hardcore gamer.

  1. Morrowind – My favorite game ever.
  2. The early games in the Fallout franchise – Especially Fallout 2.
  3. Civilization Games – My favorites were Civ II and Civ IV.

Morrowind is one of those games you either love or hate. It’s the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series and the only one I ever played. It was released in 2002 and I picked it up year later at the used game shop. Fell in love with it immediately, and it’s pretty much the last game I ever played.

Several things make Morrowind special. It’s set on a island so huge and detailed it takes a single player months to explore. It has a linear storyline and quests, but you don’t have to actually complete any quests or the storyline to enjoy the game. And the game doesn’t end once you finish the main quest. It’s basically a huge sandbox that allows you to do pretty much anything you want.

It has an excellent system for creating custom spells, crafting magic items, and making potions. And it’s one of the easiest games to modify that I have ever encountered. The modding community gave this game a lot more longevity than it would otherwise have had. Want a huge palace or a companion to travel with you? There are mods for that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

Fallout is set on a post-apocalyptic earth which was laid waste by nuclear war in the 1950s. The first game begins 100 years after the war. The player character has grown up in an underground vault, is given a quest which requires him to venture above ground, which is now a wasteland peopled by bandits, mutants, and paramilitaries.

The Fallout wasteland is one of my favorite settings ever. This series is distinctive for its striking iconography and darkly humorous storylines. The first Fallout was simple, and too short, but I remember thinking at the time (1988) it came out that I’d never seen anything quite like it. Here’s the intro to Fallout 2, voiced by Ron Perlman, to give you a sense of what this world is like.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has probably gotten more of my time than any other. I played these games off-and-on from 1991, when the first one was released, until about four years ago when I stopped gaming. These are turn-based strategy games in which you build cities, use them to produce units to defend your civilization and build more cities. The game begins at the 4000 BC and runs to 2050 in most versions.

You can win civilization in several ways: by sending a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, by total military conquest, by domination — which means ruling a certain percentage of the world’s population and territory — or by being ahead in points when the game ends at 2050. You can play on randomly generated maps of various sizes, and choose the number of opponents to play against. My favorite thing to do was upload a pre-generated map of the actual earth and play with as many opponents as possible, because that makes for a long, interesting game of shifting alliances.

I could go on and on about civilization, but I’m already over my word count for an A to Z posts. So, what about you? Ever been into gaming? What are some of your favorites?

Blogging A to Z Day 23: Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 and lived part of his childhood in India. He served as an infantry officer during World War I and went on to become one of the leading philologists of his time. He held professorships at Pembroke and Merton Colleges, Oxford. He died in 1973.tolkien2

Tolkien is far and away my favorite author, and I doubt I’ll ever let an April go by without writing at least one post about him. This year I did three – I also wrote about The Lord of the Rings for L and the One Ring for O. I read The Hobbit, LOTR, and The Silmarillion at least every three years. I blog about Tolkien’s work often at Part Time Monster, and my ongoing series for that blog is so long I have it collected on a page for easy reference.

If my mother hadn’t read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a child, I might still have become a writer. But I doubt I would have developed a passion for fantasy fiction nor become a world-builder. I enjoy Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien almost as much as I enjoy the books themselves, and I’m glad the adaptations weren’t made until the special effects were good enough to make Middle Earth live and breathe.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking to a professor who actually met Tolkien on a trip to England. He said Tolkien had the manuscripts and notes for The Lord of the Rings in his office, and it was several six-foot-high stacks of paper. How cool would it be to have actually seen those manuscripts and talked to the man himself?

I recommend giving Tolkien a try if you’ve never read him. He’s equally good at humor and tradgedy.  He is Victorian and Modern at the same time, somehow. His descriptions and characterizations are excellent, and he has much to say about the nature of evil as well as the nature of good.

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can.

Blogging A to Z Day 22: Sinestro

What frightens you? I’m not asking for the big things that nearly everyone would name. What are the day-to-day stresses and experiences that frighten you? I’m writing this right now during a heavy and potentially tornadic thunderstorm, so I’m a bit on edge myself. I would not consider myself a coward, but I’ve dealt with anxiety all my life, and about a lot of different things. That’s a big reason certain characters—Batman and Daredevil, to name but two—really appeal to me; they operate in a state without fear, having conquered it long ago. Admiring those sorts of characters led me to the Green Lantern books five or so years ago, and to one character in particular: Sinestro.

It is said that Thaal Sinestro was the greatest of all Green Lanterns—an order defined by its ability to overcome great fear—before his rather dramatic falling out with the Green Lantern Corps’s Guardians. Perhaps his strength of will grew too great once given the powers of a Green Lantern; regardless, it was his forcing of his will, of his sense of order, upon his war-torn homeworld of Korugar that led to his expulsion from the Corps and his banishment to the Antimatter Universe, where the Weaponers of the world called Qward created for him the first yellow ring that drew from the portion of the Emotional Spectrum powered by fear, the opposite of the green light of willpower.

As a former high ranking and well-traveled Green Lantern, Sinestro was familiar with the prophecy of the Blackest Night, and he created his own corps of yellow lanterns in preparation. As he revealed following his defeat in his war against the Green Lantern Corps, his goal was not necessarily to win. Rather, it was to make the universe strong enough to face the darkness to come; either his philosophy—strength through conquering one’s own fears and mastering others through theirs—would win out, or the Green Lanterns would have to adapt and become more savage in order to defeat him. Either way, a powerful army awaited whatever was coming.

Is Sinestro rightly classified as a hero, or as a villain? In all honesty, I have pondered this and cannot rightly say one way or the other. What defines either of those roles? Sinestro may not be the most classically righteous of individuals, but if the ends ever do truly justify the means, then he certainly sees the well-being of others as his greatest priority. Many may shy away from his methods because of the harshness of his example, but you have to acknowledge that when he puts a threat down, it never gets back up again. For all of these reasons, Sinestro is one of my very favorite comic book characters.

That’s it for my contributions to this year’s A to Z challenge. Thank you all for stopping by and reading! I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments below. Feel free to check out some of my other thoughts on Sinestro in my reviews here at Sourcerer of his ongoing comic series written by Cullen Bunn. Do check back in the future, because I have plenty more to say about this character and his stories. Have a good day, everyone!

 

Blogging A to Z Day 17: One Ring (to rule them all . . .)

image by Deviant Artist lucasmt

Since I began blogging in November of 2013, I’ve written at least 25,000 words about the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Most of those posts have been part of a long series devoted to analyzing the way various characters interact with the One Ring. Over the last year, I’ve looked at Isildur and Gollum, and I am working on Bilbo this year.

My basic reading of the One Ring, for purposes of this series, is that it is more than a mere appendage of Sauron or an intelligent artifact. It’s a character in its own right. I’ve identified passages which clearly demonstrate that:

  1. It has a will of its own. Its primary motivation is to return to its master, but it delights in betrayal and in instigating conflict between other characters – especially murderous conflict.
  2. It seems prescient at times, or at the very least, has a limited ability to see what’s going on in its immediate vicinity.
  3. Although it has no power of locomotion, it is able to manipulate its own weight and size, and to attract the attention of living creatures through a sort of empathic communication.
    Click here for the A to Z list Art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts!
    Click here for the A to Z list Art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts!

It is not necessary to read the Ring as a fully-formed character, but I think the texts – especially The Lord of the Rings, more than support that reading. The interactions between the Ring and the other characters are the key to understanding how good and evil function in Middle Earth. In fact, I like this reading so much, I might just write about the One Ring for the Great Villain Blogathon next year.

What you think? Is the Ring a character, or am I pushing the interpretation too far for the sake of some nerdy fun?

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can. And do stop back by on April 23 to read what I have to say about the good professor himself.