Fable: Anniversary and my relationship with sequels

I had ultimately wanted to blog twice per month in this new year, but I have been in the midst of making a number of significant personal and career decisions.  Whenever I have personally or professionally important matters ruminating in my mind, I tend to lose my focus and wind up not accomplishing much other than the bare minimum.  In this case, I guess it’s better to do that rather than nothing at all.

Just after its release, I played about 10 hours of Fable: Anniversary.  I had intended to finish it, but the significant load times and frustrating controls got in my way.  The original Fable was terribly important to me as it was one of the first games I got totally absorbed in when I started playing video games again in 2005/2006.  I fell in love with it, warts and all, and played through the main story 3 times.  I was, of course, very excited about Fable 2.

I think I played about 2 hours of Fable 2 before I dropped it.  I didn’t even get the dog.  I just didn’t like it.  I had become so accustomed to the first game’s crappy controls that while the sequel’s control scheme was simpler and far more intuitive, I just couldn’t compute the differences and thus I had a negative play experience.

These kinds of subtle differences have always been problematic for me and sequels, particularly to games I really love.  I played games when I was a kid (I had an NES and later a Genesis and did play some PC games growing up), but I was never all that good at them and the medium never grabbed me the same way it does now.  I spent my teens and early 20s reading history texts and classic novels, watching pretentious movies, and hanging out in weird internet communities.  I did not spend my youth with a controller in my hand, and I didn’t get involved with hobbies that required any kind of strategic thinking.

So, when I got in to games, I had to learn each game I played from the ground up.  Each new game was a slow and laborious learning process, unless it was something simple like a visual novel.  For a long time, this made it difficult for me to process subtle changes in control and strategy.  Fable 2 was, at the same time, too similar and too different to its predecessor.  Had it had a completely new control scheme, or had I had different expectations, I may have initially liked it better.

The combat in Persona 4 was also a difficult challenge for me.  I wanted to play Persona 4 using the same strategies I used in Persona 3, using my protagonist as the primary magic attacker, but that just didn’t work in Persona 4 due to the subtle changes they made in the combat.  The growth of the P4 protagonist’s mana and health made him more like Junpei where the P3 protagonist was more like Yosuke.  He’s better suited to physical attacking and avoiding using magic all the time.  Not to mention that Persona 4’s combat just doesn’t lend itself as well to the basic strategy of analyze, knock everything down with magic, and all-out attack.  These types of subtle differences just weren’t obvious to me when I first started playing games again.

And now, of course I’m much better, but it’s taken me quite a long time to actually get comfortable with approaching both new games and sequels.  I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy certain types of games like first person or third person shooters (for a lot of reasons), and I will always prefer less twitchy, turn-based experiences, but I don’t feel like I have such a difficult learning curve ahead of me when I try out something new anymore.  I’ve been wondering over the two weeks since I tried out Fable: Anniversary if I should try out Fable 2 again.  This time I think I might like it a lot better.


SINATRA’S COLD IS CONTAGIOUS: Hostile Subjects, Vulnerable Sources & The Ethics of Outing


NOTE TO READERS: I corrected a couple errors in the below: “Transgendered” is changed to “Transgender” and I apologize for getting it wrong in the initial draft of this post. Suicide statistics (error in sentence formulation) were changed to suicide attempt statistics. If you see something egregious, and are a generous person, send me a tweet at @MariaDahvana, and I’ll try to fix it ASAP. Many thousands of people have seen this post, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and it would appall me to put an offensive term up by accident. If you see one, trust me, it’s an accident. I posted this because I spent most of a day feeling troubled by the piece it’s about, and by the ethics of writing and publishing a story from the angle it is written and published from.

Thank you for showing up.



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Skyrim, 2 years on…

One aspect of my New Years Resolution for 2014 is to write more often.  NaBloPoMo 2013 was an excellent way to get me writing again after a significant time away, but I want to ensure that my writing won’t get stale and laboured again, so I will be trying to blog twice per month from now on (and hopefully at least once per month).  I will be talking a bit more about changes I’m trying to make in my second post for the month, but for now I want to talk a bit about Skyrim.

I purchased the Legenday edition of Skyrim for the PS3 in November. I wanted to pack my XBOX 360 away to make room for a PlayStation 4, but I was reluctant to do so in case I ever wanted to go back to playing Skyrim. Since I had no intentions of packing up my PS3 and hadn’t yet purchased any of the DLC for the game, I thought that the Legendary edition was my best option. From a technical perspective, the game runs much better after all the patches, though the load times can still be uncomfortably long and the frame rate still chugs when you first enter towns. It is, however, totally playable at this point.

As I mentioned in a few of my NaBloPoMo posts, Skyrim is my favourite game of Generation 7. While I still stand by my choice, I have to admit that until just this week, I had never finished the Main quest line, or the also important Civil War quest line. The meta game of dungeon delving, buying, crafting, and selling was almost always the biggest draw toward Skyrim for me, and it was interesting enough that I didn’t need the mediocre story messing that up. Finally, after two years of back and forth between the two, I was able to complete some of my most significant objectives in the game: both meta and ortho.

I completed the Main quest line. The story, of course, wasn’t particularly interesting, but it was fun to play. I especially enjoyed the environment of Blackreach, an enormous Dwarven settlement. It was a fascinating place to explore, even if Falmer and Chaurus enemies make me terribly uncomfortable. I thought that the armistice discussions in A Season Unending were also interesting, and forced me to read more about Skyrim’s political history like the Great War, and the treaty with the Aldmeri Dominion. I had never paid much attention to these elements of the story before this series of play sessions. I knew that Nords didn’t much like the Thalmor due to their involvement with banning the worship of Talos in Skyrim, but I hadn’t ever absorbed much more than that.

Learning more about the Great War made the Civil War quest line a little awkward for me. While I knew that the Stormcloaks were racist against other groups, my character was a Nord and I had resolved to join tthat side of the war long before I started playing again in December, but I’m not sure if I like how things turned out in the end. The replacement Jarls were a little creepy, even after A Season Unending. I liked Balgruuf and Laila Law-Giver (though I’m assuming she became Jarl again after the Stormcloaks won the civil war — I didn’t check). The guy in Markarth was a little sketchy, but his replacement, Thongvor Silver-Blood was far worse.

There were just so many wider political issues at stake in the conflict as well. I agree that the people of Skyrim should have had the right to worship Talos as they saw fit, and I think that they deserved the right to be autonomous if that’s what they wanted, but I’m not sure Ulfric Stormcloak much cared about any of that. Ulfric seemed far more interested in his own power to me, and even in creating his own empire, than he did for the people of Skyrim. While he was tolerant of other races in Windhelm, I can’t support his segregation of the Dunmer and Argonians in various parts of the city. The racial elements of the Stormcloak cause were a great source of discomfort for me. All that said, I’m not sure the Empire was working particularly well either. I may watch a Let’s Play of that side of the story to see if their aims may have been more palatable, but I’m pretty sure it would also be a mixed bag of motivations and justifications. All that said, I was level 35 by the time I got to the Civil War quest, and it was pretty fun killing off large waves of Imperial soldiers in two hits apiece.

I also felt that both the main quests had difficult endings. I found it hard to accept that the Dragonborn would fade in to obscurity after singlehandedly solving both the dragon problem and the civil war problem. I know that this is necessary to allow the player to continue to explore the enormous world after the main quest is over, but I still found it a little difficult to accept. I wonder if this is something Bethesda will try to think about a little more in the next Elder Scrolls game, though with all the controversy that’s happened around this issue in the Fallout series, I think they may not bother doing much about it.

And so I will now be taking a nice, long break from Skyrim. Aside from those two large quest lines, I finally was able to get the 100k gold achievement, purchase and upgrade all of the city houses (and Lakeview Manor near Falkreath), and discover all 13 Standing Stones. I still have a fair amount I’d like to accomplish, however. I would like to try out the Dragonborn DLC and travel to Solsheim and get the 10 sidequests achievement. Eventually, I’ll get there.

On completing NaBloPoMo

Today is the final day of National Blog Posting Month.  I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Blogging every day, particularly when you’re determined, like I was, to actually write something every day and not just post photos or videos when pressed for time or not feeling like writing something is tough.  The most difficult part of it isn’t the writing itself, because I generally found I was fine writing about something until I’d finished everything I needed to say.  The hard part is coming up with a topic to write about every day.

I was able to find a sufficient number of topics through using prompts, mostly from Plinky.  The first time I did NaBloPoMo, I was against using prompts.  I thought that I should be able to write something every day just by picking out topics that were on my mind, but as I discussed in my second entry the writing I did in 2008 wasn’t nearly as consistently good as I thought it had been.  The secret for me to actually write things is to use prompts to shape ideas I already have.  To really look through large numbers of them and choose prompts that give me a framework or a start to talk about something that interests me.

I think that strategy has made NaBloPoMo 2013 quite successful.  Yes, there are definitely some posts that are throwaway and that were written just because I had to write something, but they aren’t the majority.  Many of the posts I wrote were about topics that I’ve been thinking about a great deal.  Looking through the list of topics I wanted to write about in my first entry, I managed to discuss most of the issues I had intended to touch on.  I wrote about difficulties moving home (clutter), lack of archival work (least favourite question), cooking and baking, my feelings about how my life has changed (wanting to leave Vancouver), etc…  I think what made many of these posts good and not totally exhausting was looking at them from a particular angle via the use of a prompt instead of just blurting out a lot of nonsense about very personal problems that may not be easily understood or expressed in one blog post.

I decided not to revisit posts from 2010 and 2008 because most of the entries I wrote back then weren’t worth revisiting.  There were a few from 2008 that I considered taking a look at, particularly my series on slash and BL, since my “Thoughts on Yaoi” are always evolving with current trends and with reading and experiencing more of it.  But, I’m also happy with what I wrote back then as a representation of my feelings, and right now my focus is more on particular series than it is on the genre/medium/whatever itself.

I also didn’t write at all about manga, anime, books or television.  There are several reasons for this.  I think it’s pretty clear that I am spending a lot of my free time playing video games right now.  Games are what I’ve been sinking most of my free time in to for most of this year, and I have spent a lot less time with manga, anime, and books.  I do still watch a fair number of TV series, but I haven’t had any particularly strong feelings about what I’ve been watching recently.  This is a significant shift from my 2008 run at NaBloPoMo, where I frequently wrote about manga and anime.  I think the main reason for this particular change is that in 2008, I was still pretty new to manga and anime and, consequently, a lot more enthusiastic about them.  Today, I still like them a lot (though I’m much more in to reading manga than I am in to watching anime), but I’ve just settled in to making them part of my regular fictional routine rather than giving them any particular focus or attention.

Despite not writing about some of the things I intended to cover, I am quite happy with what I accomplished in NaBloPoMo 2013.  I feel like I’ve created a good snapshot of my life as it is right now along with how I feel about it.  I wrote something half decent every day, even if some posts were a little more haphazard than others, and putting my thoughts down on paper has become much easier than it was at the beginning of the challenge.  All in all, I am quite pleased.  We’ll see how I feel about it when I look back at the entries in a few years.  Hopefully I won’t be totally horrified.

On three good things in my life right now

Based on a prompt from Plinky: Share three good things in your life right now.

It’s the second to last day of NaBloPoMo.  Tomorrow I’ll be doing a short recap post talking about how the challenge went, what I think I did well, etc…  Since today is my last real post, I thought it might be nice to finish on a positive note and talk a little bit about a few things that are going well in my life right now.

1. I have a plan

The last time I was unemployed, I was miserable.  A lot of this was because I didn’t have a plan.  I was essentially letting myself rot in my office, applying for loads of shitty jobs I was never going to get interviews for.  It was disheartening to say the least, to just spin my wheels and never really get anywhere.  This time, I’m trying to do things a little differently.  Yes, I’m still applying for jobs, but I’m also exploring new hobbies like cooking and baking, both to continue learning and give me something to talk about at parties aside from being unemployed.  I’m also working on a certificate in Information and Records Management, as I discussed in an earlier entry.

I am, of course, currently on government employment insurance support.  If I don’t have a job by the time that runs out in late March, I will take out a loan and try to finish this certificate program by the end of 2014.  I will keep looking for jobs, and going to back to school full time is not my ideal, but I need to keep moving forward.  I just can’t get stuck again.  That alone is enough to lift my mood immeasurably.

2.  The weather

It may seem silly, but I couldn’t have come home to Vancouver at a better time.  We have had some of the best weather I’ve ever seen here in the past 5 months.  Our summer was hot and dry, and there’s hardly been any precipitation this fall, save for a week or two of constant rain in September.  I’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with my dog, walking in various parks around town, and it’s been an absolute pleasure.

3.  My parents

If you know me in person, you know that I have interesting relationships with my parents.  My mother and I are very close and get along very well.  My father and I, well, it’s a different story.  He and I have had a lot of problems over the years and our relationship has been tense at best.  While I don’t think that’s ever going to dramatically change, both of my parents have been terribly supportive of me over the past few years, and in that respect I have a lot to be happy about.  Everyone has to take advantage of their best assets, and two of mine are definitely my parents.


4.  This bloody challenge is almost over, thank whatever.

5.  Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5

On toilet selfies and traumatized Albertans

Based on a prompt from Plinky: Have you ever received an amusing email, text, or voicemail message not intended for you?

Actually, I’ve never been on the receiving end of this particular type of text or email failure, but I have been the person that the message was intended for.  It was an innocent person in Alberta who was recently the unfortunate victim of my friend Byron and his toilet selfie.

Byron is an interesting person.  We’ve been long distance friends for many years and we’re a bit of an odd pair.  He lives life to its fullest: he’s always doing something either totally random or terribly creative, always going out somewhere, always meeting people and making new friends, and is generally well-liked wherever he goes.  I am a lot quieter.  I like to stay in, relax and consume fiction, and people don’t ever automatically like me.  Despite our differences, we’ve had a pretty good, and interesting friendship over the years.

He knows that I’m not all that in to texting.  Years of communicating with internet people using only instant messengers has made me learn the value of communicating as personally and intimately as possible.  I still call people and I still leave voice messages even if I know they’ll never be heard.  If given the choice, I will nearly always choose to hear a person’s voice rather than read words on a screen — the exception being skyping with internet people I don’t know particularly well.  For this reason, I’ve apparently been missing out on a lot of random weird texts from Byron because he figured I wouldn’t like them.

“Send me things!”  I told him.

Not being a huge fan of texting doesn’t mean that I don’t want to enjoy whatever weird thing he might take a photograph of one day or whatever else.  And so he agreed, and warned me that I was definitely in for something really stupid.  Unfortunately, the poor boy hadn’t properly updated his contacts, and I’ve changed my phone number a lot over the past year due to moving away and back again.

So, this happened:


Yes, he sent that toilet selfie to some poor Albertan who was assigned my old phone number.  I don’t think much else needs to be said about it.  My meager wit couldn’t possibly do it justice.

I love you, BJ.  Never change ❤

On my favourite album growing up

Based on a prompt from Plinky: What albums did you listen to most when you were growing up?  Do you ever give those a listen anymore.  Why or why not?

When I was 12-13 years old (in late 1993, early 1994), my favourite album was Last Splash by The Breeders.  As a kid, I had mostly listened to pop music (my second favourite album at that time was Salt-n-Pepa’s Very Necessary).  I knew that bands like Nirvana and many others were out there, but having grown up in a household filled 50s and 60s pop music, I wasn’t really ready for music that had a harsher sound.  The surf-inspired pop rock tracks written mostly by Pixies alum Kim Deal (who of course I’d never heard of before) were the perfect compromise for me at that time, and Last Splash served as my introduction to 90s alternative rock music.

I had been on vacation with my parents, an RV trip to somewhere in the western US — we may have been driving down to L.A. or Palm Springs.  Before I started high school, my parents would pull me out of school and we’d spend about a month in January somewhere in southern California.  Because we were gone so long, and were really just there to hang out and enjoy the sunshine, we outfitted the RV with two televisions, so that the three of us wouldn’t have to fight over what to watch.  MTV was incredible to me: Season 2 of The Real World was airing and Alternative Nation played videos I’d never have seen on Much Music.

This was, of course, when MTV actually played music videos.

It was on Alternative Nation that I first saw this video:

I didn’t really like it at first.  I honestly thought it was pretty weird, but after a few views, I was hooked.  “Cannonball” got its hooks in to me and never let me go.  After I started enjoying the song so much, I begged my parents to buy the album for me (on cassette of course) and I played it constantly for the next few months.

And I’m still listening to it, even now.  I bought the 20th anniversary reissue, and songs from that album regularly make my driving or workout playlists.  Though the album is 20 years old, it still feels fresh and current to me, and is far more consistent with what’s going on right now in music than a lot of the other bands associated with the Grunge movement (though I’d argue the Breeders aren’t really a part of that anyway).  Last Splash started me down a path with music that I’m still on now, with some significant twists and turns.  Without it, I think musically, at least, I’d probably be a pretty different person.  I owe the Deal sisters a lot.