Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame, usually enjoys feasting on the shivering carcasses of mediocre games. However, for his Duke Nukem Forever review his words were colored by a genuine sadness about the state in which it was finally released.

The review’s parting words, I think, summarize the feelings of many gamers out of gum back in 1996.

“So, this is how the anticipation ends, people. First show of the long awaited comeback tour, and the singer’s hang himself on the microphone cord. But he’s trying to sing anyway, forcing on a smile and choking out lyrics inbetween grotesque spasms. And you wonder if it’s kinder to cut him down or swing on his legs to help him on his way.”

Facehook, line and sinker: Day one

A week without Facebook. Should be simple, no?

Well, the damn site’s got me hook, line and sinker. It’s been clear to me for a long time that I waste far too much time browsing the web, reading articles, comments and Facebook updates. The general problem is the web, but Facebook is probably the site I return to more often than any other. Cutting out Zuckerbergville for a week should be interesting.

So much of the time I could spend on reading books and writing short stories and texts – and even playing games and watching movies – is wasted on the white noise of the Internet. I’m missing out. I’m missing out on good things, on things I want to do and things I want to learn.

But there are other issues as well. How does it affect us to constantly jump between nuggets of information on different websites and chat windows, and to be fed updates from Facebook and Twitter through smart phones whenever we’re out? I fear that losing the ability to focus for longer periods of time is becoming the plague of our generation.

We got the false belief that multitasking is a) efficient and b) possible.

I fear that this is having an enormous effect on us. Humans ability for longer periods of focus is not only important to perform well at work and in other arenas, but what will it do to our intellectual abilities if we lose it? If we cannot focus long enough to fully grasp a complex and demanding train of thought anymore, we become dangerous to both ourselves and the rest of civilization.

We waste so much of our lives on this crap.

The first day is almost over. So far so good. I really wanted to check Facebook this morning, but the urge seems to have died down during the day. More than a few times I’ve opened a browser to do something and instead entered the adress to Facebook, only to realize what I’m doing as the site begins to load – leading to a quick shutdown of the browser.

The worlds we were promised

It began in a simple village. Just a few houses in a field, hardly worth calling a town, was still a lot to take in for someone who had never before set their foot in such a place. My jaw dropped as I arrived for the very first time, watching a fellow player approaching to offer his aid to the newcomer.

A fictitious world whose characters were made of real flesh and blood. It was amazing!

My first MMORPG was new and exciting and bursting at the seams with unexplored possibilities. I was absolutely captivated and immersed by it. It was a fantasy world, but because it was populated by real human beings it was also a real place, somehow. What I did actually mattered, because I was part of a community. Because when I went to bed, far too late in the morning, the world kept going even as I slept.

This kind of nostalgia, and love, is really quite common among gamers reminiscent of their first MMO. It could have been Ultima Online, Everquest or Anarchy Online. For me it was Asheron’s Call, with the quirky and enormous world of Dereth.

But it’s more than nostalgia. Sometimes I look back at the continent of Dereth and feel saddened that the genre stumbled into the territories of accessibility and growing numbers. Pick up a mainstream MMORPG today and you will be led by the nose from start to finish, each square meter of the land crafted for a spectacular tour. What was once no more than a metagame of the RPG, gaining experience points and leveling up is now designed to be the dominant motivation.

Perhaps they have transformed into great games, but they are no longer worlds. Asheron’s Call was not about racing to the end, but about participating in a living realm.

It’s likely that Dereth, and the promises it made about the future of gaming, influenced the choice of my life’s craft. I am thankful for the never fading ideas it etched into my mind, but I mourn the worlds we were promied.

Can you stomach it?

image“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”
—James Stephens

This is cow stomach soup. It is a traditional Bulgarian dish, often eaten by the youth after nights of heavy drinking. As my time in Sofia drew to a close, I ordered a bowl. Exotic or simply awful, it is a cultural marker and I didn’t want to miss out.

In Rome, do as the strangest of romans.

It’s not bad actually. The soup is fairly good. That is, until you get to the “meat”. The pieces of cow stomach. Chewy, spongy and slimy — quite disgusting.

Still, disregarding the remains of a cow’s stomach, the soup itself was surprisingly tasty.