I like to think that I'm making progress towards being emotionally mature. Not "grown-up" necessarily, because that implies a great many things about accepting the world as it is and denying how the world could and should be, but capable of meaningful interactions with others and an understanding of when people matter and when they don't. Every once in a while, though, things happen that show me how far I really have yet to go to actually be where I think I want to be.

For those of you who play City of Heroes or who have played some other MMORPG, you'll probably recognize the scenario, if not the specifics. For the rest, here's a quick primer. The character on which I'm currently focused on the game is a Tanker. He's built not to do a lot of damage, but to take a lot of punishment while teammates round up and defeat enemies. He's also my badge-collecting character, which means that there are a lot of game-specific events that I'm trying to get him to do, and some number of these involve player-versus-player combat. Now, I've talked about PvP before and its negative impact on my psyche. I suppose given that I could have said that I just wasn't going to get those badges, but then I really wouldn't have been a badge-collector, now would I? So, I gritted my teeth and took my Tanker into Bloody Bay, expecting the worst.

What I discovered was... odd. He's not good for PvP, to be sure. He's got a lousy hit rate and, comparatively, he does very little damage to opponents. What he has going for him, though, is the fact that he's incredibly hard to kill. That is to say, I was drawing groups of three enemies at a time to a stalemate and fending off groups of four with inspirations. At one point, I was in the "one" in a five-on-one and still survived for over a minute of dedicated pounding. I had villains actively swearing at me and accusing me of cheating because they just weren't doing anything.

Now, another important thing to know about Santorini, the aforementioned tanker, is that he's unofficially my "snark" character. He's the one through whom I express my black-humour gene, that part of my personality that finds Heathers hilarious and empathises with Beetlejuice when he says he's seen the Exorcist a hundred-and-sixty-seven times and it just kept getting funnier. Part of the character of Santorini is this cheerfully dark personality that laughs at the absurd and isn't afraid to call it for what it is. So, when beating off clusters of badguys to a standstill, I'm prone to make wisecracks about the effectiveness of their attacks, the battery life of their laser guns, the cheapness of their special effects, and so on. However, it's always about the characters, not the players. I'm always very careful to make sure that I'm in character.

How quickly and easily I forget that most people don't have characters. Just because I enjoy role-playing and treat Santorini as one of many roles I can adopt in the world of Paragon City, that doesn't mean that any random stranger I meet in-game is going to either understand this or care. So, I'm afraid that in playing the part of a smartassed hero-type, I inadvertently pissed off a great many players who thought I was making fun of them. That in and of itself could probably have been resolved amicably, or at least with minimal altercation. I'm never ashamed to say that I screwed up, even if sometimes it takes me a while to admit it. I'm not perfect, but I at least try to be mindful of my actions.

So, established first is that I'm playing somebody with a big mouth, and I'm probably pushing buttons on people without really thinking about it because to me, at that time, "it's all just a game". I'm not out to hurt anyone's feelings, but I am "in character", something that I don't really realize consciously that most people don't do.

Second, there exists in City of Villains a character class that's basically an assassin. There's also a teleport power that lets you move very quickly and essentially tracelessly. For those of you in the know, the new fashionable build for Stalkers is "Assassin's Strike + Teleport". Hide at the base, run out looking for a hero in the middle of some other fight, wait until zie's at half hit points, AS your target and then teleport out of danger. If you're lucky, you one-shotted your opponent, get credit for a PvP kill despite doing no work, and stand almost no chance of getting hurt. If you're unlucky, you didn't kill your target and have to hope that your opponent can't one-shot you in return, but the odds of dying between the time you recover from your AS and the time your teleport activates is usually short enough that you make a clean getaway.

There were five of these people in Bloody Bay last night, and thanks to a combination of my big mouth and my teammates' general success at actually taking down villains, we became target number one. Not that the people on the server could really do anything to us, as noted, but the string of petty annoyances became almost continuous and a few times when we weren't looking for PvP and instead focused on wandering mobs, we got taken down by the stalkers who saw us as easy targets.

Finally, after a few hours of this nonsense, I finally broke character and called them on it. Over the broadcast channel, I actively questioned their tactics, told them they were acting spoiled, suggested that if they wanted to actually engage in PvP in any meaningful fashion that they should actually go and advance their characters until they didn't have to pull the cheap one-shot tricks to survive, and that it'd be more fun for everyone if they quit acting like children.

In retrospect, I probably should have kept my muzzle shut. They, seeing no difference between in and out of character, called me on being an arrogant bitch before and couldn't take the heat, blah blah blah. I tried very briefly to explain the idea of role-playing to a bunch of kiddies who just wanted to beat up on other people on the interwebs, then lost my cool. The snark went from being darkly amusing to outright cruel, and I think I publically humiliated a few of them. This did not earn me any Whuffie from the villain camp, though admittedly a few of the heroes did tell me I was doing a good job for actually calling out the kids on their bad behavior.

Then one of them called me emo, and I totally came unstitched. That wasn't the exact word he used, but the gist was on the order of "whiny brat sitting in mom's basement hunched over a computer crying for love". I put my best SubGenius BRAG on, told the kid exactly how and when he could get in touch with me out of game, and laughed about how great it would be to deliver all of the smack talk live instead of through the computer keyboard.

This was not my crowning moment. At least not for intellect or compassion. Monumental stupidity, perhaps. Certainly not forethought.

The fact that I gave out my work number is not at issue. A three-minute phone call to the ITA in the building can get that changed if it becomes a problem. Nobody's called me yet, and even if they do leave me voicemail I'll never get it because I don't have access to my work voicemail box, so they probably think my name is Jeff by now; he was the employee before me who had this extension and locked his voicemailbox, then lost the passcode. I'm not worried about creepy internet stalkers, aside from the kind in-game. I'm more worried about the fact that I let them work me into a frothy lather through a few well-placed jabs. It was as if, knowing that they could do very little to my character, they deliberately turned their assault against me personally, and I was so unprepared for this kind of assault that I fell instantly for their bait.

If anything it shows how easily the human brain, evolved from its primate roots but still possessed of many hindbrain characteristics, can be tricked into behavior patterns that are utterly alien to the dominant personality. That isn't the kind of person I want to be, and yet it took almost nothing but a few jabs to dissolve me to that level of crude interaction, this parody of communication. I quit trying to make sense and teach and expand other people's thoughts, and instead sought only to better myself at the expense of another human being.

Well, I say "human being". This plays directly back into my elitism, perhaps, but I want here and now to question whether or not these people are human. Not to say that they're better or worse, necessarily, but they're not my species. Not my subspecies, at any rate. Physically we may be capable of interbreeding, but culturally and emotionally we're two entirely different groups, if only because I know about my vulnerabilities and want to overcome them, and they neither know nor care about the exploits in their thoughtglands that drive them to such actions.

So, I guess in reference to my previously mentioned post, I suppose it's not that I hate PvP, so much as it's just interaction with Homo semisapiens that I dislike. They look like I do, walk like I do, and follow the same biological functions that I do, but the thoughts that power them are so foreign to my own that continued exposure is physically and emotionally unpleasant. Going out into the world often feels like entering a giant petting zoo, without any signs anywhere warning me that the inhabitants are dangerous when provoked.

I won't be getting the PvP badge any time soon, but hopefully tonight I'll get the time-in-zone badge for Bloody Bay and I can take Santorini out and actually get back to the fun parts of the game.

I miss my heart.


It's a new year, and despite a lot of emotional ups and downs so far, I have to say that I suspect this time around the sun will be far preferable to the one before. Not that I have any chance to go back and revisit the previous year in any meaningful fashion, mind you. Being of strictly three dimensions curved in four-dimensional space, I am limited to monodirectional motion through spacetime's w-axis. This at times seems like a real pity, because I bet I could finally roll over a Pac-Man machine if I went back to 1986 enough times.

Today is, of course, "Friday the thirteenth", which means exactly as much as you wish it to mean. I'm a big believer in make-your-own-magjickq. For the spelling of "magjickq", by the way, I have to blame a friend of mine who apparently got it from her girlfriend's polite teasing of the "schools" of "philosophy" that teach that any "will-to-power" "belief" system use an "alternate" spelling from the "authoritative" one found in the "dictionary" to separate it from mere parlour tricks and making David Copperfield "vanish". So, if consulting your horoscopes or reading your tea leaves or asking the nailbunny a question today means a genuine from-beyond-the-stars answer, do it! Make your own reality. Be or build your own sex goddess. Launch your own head!

Today's featured Wikipedia is on game theory. Game designers, take note! This will help tell you why Monopoly sucks and go is beautiful. I should probably spend a lot of time looking at this, too.

This was going to be a post on the general cluelessness of people on the internet, based on the fact that I received an e-mail that I thought at first was asking me for my e-mail address, and I was all prepared to rant about this at length, until I went back and reread it to confirm the exact message and found that the author wanted my "mailing address", which is not a stupid request at all since I'm trying to find out information about a class action lawsuit against one of the companies in which I'm invested. So, I suppose instead I should turn this into a post about always double-checking one's facts before saying or doing anything stupid like posting on about the general cluelessness of people on the internet.

The last couple of days have been a royal roller-coaster of emotion for many reasons, most of which boil down to "Kristy doesn't have her head screwed on right". I'd say I'm under a lot of stress, but the truth is that most of it is generated internally. I am probably my own single biggest source of angst and frustration, mostly because I have all these ideas and no followthrough on any of them. I've had projects languishing for weeks months years too long that really deserve some love and attention:

  • Child of Man isn't dead, but it hasn't moved past chapter eleven since the last time I talked about it in public. I feel stuck on this one exchange that needs to be good because it's the point at which the transition happens from plot points being added to plot points being wrapped up. I'm at the turning point and starting the downslide into the climax, and I really need to make this next section happen well. Part of my problem, too, is that my writing in general has suffered because of the many times I've convinced myself that writing "just isn't appreciated in the fandom", a rant I've made before or at least supported in principle when other people have made it. I used to be able to tell myself I wrote for my own happiness. Once I was happy without needing to write, my output plummeted. It's very disappointing.
  • Doomsday Lotto is still in search of an artist, and a finished site design. I know how I want it to look, but I haven't even updated the headline tracker in a wile, so I'm kind of afraid to go looking at it to find out how much data I've actually lost because the New York Times has changed its layout and I haven't. Any artists looking for an ongoing project?
  • Short stories in general still feel more comfortable to me, but I haven't cranked any of those out in a while either. That whole "writing for money" thing feels like a weird and beautiful dream I had once, and now I'm awake. That's not really the right attitude to take; that should be the awake state, and this should be my unholy nightmare.
  • My investment account hasn't really been touched in a while, which is irksome. I'm still putting some money aside now and again into it, but not as much as I'd like. Plus, there's now a class-action lawsuit against one of the companies in which I'm invested, accusing the management of the company of withholding information to keep the stock price elevated. I may have less than a hundred shares in their business, but they still represented the largest percentage of my holdings at the time they collapsed, and even now they're still the second-largest chunk of my portfolio. Seeing the suit, I'm tempted to sell, but I'm afraid if I do that the money I've lost on the investment will vanish completely; at least if I hold them I'm getting dividends out of the deal, and as a REIT, they're obligated by law to pay those.
  • The big reason that I'm not spending more on investments is my debt. It's down for the year, but it's still over where it should be... which is to say I still have debt. The mortgage doesn't bother me, but the credit card debt does, even if the interest rate is nice and low. Current trend predicts that I'll have that paid off by end of 2007 if I can keep up the payments I'm currently making, faster if I can drop bonus checks and tax returns on it, slower if our expenses keep going up and my income doesn't match it.

I actually had a reasonably long talk with a friend of mine not too long back about money, and more specifically how it is that despite making twice what she does, I don't have any more take-home play money at the end of the month than she does, and often less. So, in the interest of research and discovery, I actually sat down today and updated my budget spreadsheet for 2006. If I did my math right and the guesses I've made about Jessie's and my expenses are anywhere close to accurate and Tanya and Shay both pay their rent and utilities on a regular basis, I should have five thousand dollars left over at the end of the year.

That's five thousand dollars worth of "miscellaneous", for the whole year. No, that's not a mistake. That's around ten percent of my income, a little more net, a little less gross. That doesn't sound like a lot, compared to what I theoretically make, but consider that out of the rest I'm covering two transitions, paying a mortgage, climbing out of debt, paying bills, doing all that stuff that has to be done to keep a house in order. New clothes aren't included, nor are video games that aren't our monthly-payment ones, but eating out is covered under groceries. Basically, if it's fun, exciting or new, it's not in the budget and comes out of that extraneous bucket.

Maybe I should start including an extraneous bucket in the spreadsheet, the fun-and-games budget that gives Jessie and I some psychological constraint on what we can and can't afford to spend. I don't know how much it'll help. Maybe it might even help to get some extra savings accounts. I should start budgeting my investment or retirement options; currently my balance transfer rate is lower than my estimated ROI on the stocks and dividends I've got.

The original intent of this post was to serve as a one-off joke on something silly that arrived in my inbox, and it's turned into a much larger dissertation than I'd intended. Ultimately, I suppose my point is new year, new dreams, new hopes, new changes.

Big money, no whammies.