I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same

I have this really weird memory that “One Headlight” always brings back whenever I hear it.

I’m in the car. We’re driving by a cemetery and there are tall poplars lining the road. I have this thing when I go by a cemetery where I hold my breath, because I’m really young and I’m scared if I don’t we’ll die. I don’t know why I started doing it, but I’ve done it for years and now I’m furiously trying to hold my breath and it’s a really long stretch of road. “One Headlight” is playing. It’s eerily beautiful, full of a lot of metaphors and despair. My dad starts explaining the origin of the song and points out lines to listen to. It’s a deep song, he says. He starts with the opening line: “They said she died easy of a broken heart disease, I listened through the cemetery trees.” He explains it’s the funeral of someone and the song writer’s point of view is the man. He tells me how rich the imagery is. I stop listening to him–and the song–because I’m trying so hard to hold my breath. Finally I let it all out, the cemetery goes on forever and lines both sides of the road. I wonder briefly if we’ll all die, like the woman in the song, because I didn’t hold my breath. We don’t, the car moves past the cemetery and its endless poplars, and the Wallflowers keep singing. I grew up a bit that day, because I learned that superstitions are just superstitions and cemeteries are just plots of land where we bury dead bodies.

But I still catch myself holding my breath sometimes when I go by a cemetery.

You knew in five minutes but I knew in a sentence

So, well, it’s 2013.

I’m not really sure how I feel. I think cautiously optimistic is probably the best way to describe my outlook on this year. Last year wasn’t a bad year and I don’t want my lack of enthusiasm to be mistaken for misgivings about last year. I thought a lot about it and I’ve decided it was a good year: I changed people’s lives, I worked out more, I moved on from my childhood abuse, I got my company to invest in League of Legends resulting in LolKing (which has been such a rewarding experience for me–professionally and personally), and I fell for someone which is something that hadn’t happened for five years.

But there’s nothing really tangible to latch onto and define as 2012. I love to organize things by one solid emotion that prevailed throughout the year for some reason. I’m a dork like that. 2011 is the year I got my best job (two years in February!), 2010 is where I moved and stepped out of the abyss, 2009 is my great depression, 2008 is my first job in the gaming industry, 2007 is my 4.0 college year and photography experimental year, 2006 is my hardcore gaming and drop out of college year. These things, they fit neatly in my memory banks in a drawer in the corner and define everything…

So 2012 is just like, well, I lived. And I did pretty decently at living. And that’s cool, I guess, but I’d like more.

I would like to work on the following throughout the year:

  • Work out more, I want to start running daily by June
  • Be calmer, work on my attitude in gaming and other high stress situations
  • Be less critical of myself; analyze when I am being hyperbolic and harsh on myself and then proceed to STOP
  • Start photography again
  • Begin to plan to move, move by 2014 (either out of state, city, or at least to a new neighborhood)

They’re not really do or die resolutions. I mean, they actually are; I want them really badly. But they’re not like “get a job,” “get married,” or anything pronounced. Instead I just want to work on being nicer to Rhea and treating Rhea right, because I think I forget to do that a lot–I think I take myself for granted and don’t see how much I can impact my own moods–and I’m sick of being a teenager emotionally. Like really sick of it, because being perpetually sixteen emotionally is so exhausting, and while it’s really refreshing to acknowledge that, I now need to work on it.

I’ve spent enough time licking my wounds. It’s time to let them become faint scars now. They’ve healed–and this year should recognize that appropriately. Now all I have to do is live it and see.

Well I don’t know, but I’ve been told, you’ll never die and you’ll never grow old

Growing up is so incredibly weird. Sometimes I can close my eyes and see the girl who used to wear really dark eyeliner, singing along to “Karma’s Payment” by Modest Mouse in her friend’s basement after drinking vodka for the first time. Other times, I realize that was ten years ago and I have no clue who that girl was.

I couldn’t see her today when I realized that I want to have a kid.

Not now of course. I’m not one of those awesome people who is so mature in their mid-twenties that they can have a child. I mean, I still rage quit League of Legends and I really hate doing my dishes and I forget to check my mail all the time and I can’t mop floors well. I should probably fix one or two of those things (along with finding a husband, buying a house, and tons of other Really Adult Things That Terrify Me that we won’t go into).

But I want to have a kid. Someday.

I’m not really sure what’s changed. A few years ago I was so anti-child it was disgusting. Moreover, I was proud I wasn’t going to be a mother. I looked down on people who had kids in their late teens or early twenties because I was never going to have one and I was never going to contribute to our planet’s overpopulation.

But, like I said, now I want to have a kid.

I guess this means that the angry twenty year old Rhea’s mostly left my blood stream and that she’ll be gone by the time I’m thirty completely. For years though, she’d convinced me that she’d never want kids. She’d never want to get married. She’d never actually grow up.

For years, that anger was palatable. It fueled me. It made me feel alive, like really alive–the only thing tying me to this planet and this life.

Then one day on Christmas Eve, I’m browsing Reddit and reading about a guy who got his kid a DSi for Christmas and I find myself thinking I should do that–when I have a kid, you know.

This thought almost doesn’t phase me. In fact, I realize I’ve been having it a lot lately. That’s the thought that does phase me, though, mostly because it’s so honest and natural it feels overwhelming. A complete departure my entire belief system I constructed years ago out of brick and mortar and other permanent fixtures that weren’t meant to change five years later on a whim.

I guess, though, they do change. And maybe that’s why growing up is so incredibly weird.

No matter where we are, we’re always touching by underground wires

Maybe your mid-twenties is an awful time to realize that relationships consist of two people.

That your hurt isn’t uniquely yours. That there’s someone else who has feelings as well. That their feelings matter equally–no more, no less–to yours. That it’s not alright to just react to your feelings in a vacuum. That they’re only human, just like you, and aren’t infallible.

It’s an awful time because it’s something people often get after their first high school relationship. But all these years and a handful of relationships and somehow I never learned it; I always felt like I was an island, caught up in my emptiness and completely isolated in a sea of love. I turned that isolation into emotional distance. So many people have loved me and I’ve loved a couple of them back, I know that, but my love was always broken and faulty and conflicted. Maybe it’s because my dad used to abuse me, maybe it’s because I play video games and I’m emotionally immature, or maybe it’s just because I wasn’t ready.

Like I said, maybe your mid-twenties is an awful time to realize that relationships consist of two people.

But it’s better late than never, right?

While I’m at it, so this post just isn’t intensely awkward and personal, here are some songs I have listened to a lot lately:

Placebo – “Meds”How it mattered to us, how it mattered to me, and the consequences / I was confused by the birds and the bees, forgetting if I meant it
The National – “About Today”You just walked away and I just watched you / What can I say? / How close am I to losing you?
Of Montreal – The Past is a Grotesque AnimalSomehow you’ve red-rovered the gestapo circling my heart / And nothing can defeat you / No death, no ugly world

I’m starting to suspect she likes abuse

Following Katie’s post, but expanding it to why there A) aren’t enough women in the gaming industry and also why there B) aren’t enough women gamers in general.

As a “hardcore” gamer and someone with five years in the gaming industry, with the additional qualification of being someone with a pair of breasts, I’ve seen a lot of sexist shit. I’ve also been a part of a lot of it, largely because it became a coping mechanism; it’s not exactly an unknown phenomenon for women to hate other women in order to fit in with the guys. Far from my best moments, but it is what it is.

Anyway, this hashtag on Twitter took on a life of its own, explaining why there are not women in the gaming field and in gaming. And here’s why there aren’t enough of us:

  • Because if people find out I’m a female in a public game in League of Legends, 25% of the time someone hits on me; 25% of the time someone calls me a whore (or another sexist slur); and 50% of the time people don’t care. It should not be 50/50.
  • Because you are a e-slut until proven otherwise.
  • Because my old boss from my former company freely called me a bitch. If I didn’t like a proposal? I was being bitchy. If I questioned anything? I was too headstrong and too much of a bitch.
  • Because I’m afraid to admit that–because I’m scared it makes me look bad, like I caused it or that maybe I am a “bitch.”
  • Because my old boss from my former company once said “Come to Greece” and when I said I was worried about the rape percentages, he literally said, verbatim, “Just don’t wear anything that’s asking for it.”
  • Because my coworkers laughed at that and made jokes frequently at the expense of my gender, and also because I had to laugh in response to fit in.
  • Because I’m ultra competitive and always have been, and that’s led to many people–even people meaning well–saying I should be more feminine and care less about my score/abilities. That’s “for the guys.”
  • Because when a woman nerdrages, she’s being “a royal cunt” and “probably obese,” but when a guy nerdrages, it’s for the lulz.
  • Because you are not “like those other gamer girls.”

It’s stupid–sexism is, I mean. It feels like it doesn’t need to be said, because to me it’s just my life and I live it and I deal with it. But it does need to be said because it needs to stop someday and it will never stop if people don’t openly talk about it. I mean, just the other day someone complimented me by saying I was surprisingly good at League of Legends and that he’d assumed I would be bad because I was a woman.

And what was worse was, for a brief second, I honestly felt complimented before I felt outraged.

Girl, look at that body

So this is short–and sweet–but I was realizing the other day that there are people who will always belittle you, interlacing detraction with their compliments. It’s called negging. A good example might be someone saying you’d look prettier if you wore X or Y, if you smiled more, if you did your eyeliner differently. They’re essentially saying you’re attractive, but here’s how you could be better, and because you aren’t better, you’re not as good.

Anyway, here’s something people don’t like to tell other people: they do this for everything. So when someone comes up to you and says your website is cool, but here’s its major flaw, just read between the lines. What they’re saying is they love your site and they wish they had made it. They want to be a part of it. They’re trying to take your power away. And maybe their suggestion is good–I mean, I know I’d look prettier if I smiled all the time–but don’t delude yourself into hearing only their critique. Hear the praise they won’t say because they are afraid.

Don’t let people belittle you–or rather, if they do, don’t let it stick to you. If they’re belitting you in the first place, it means you’re doing something right.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and yours truly

It’s the silencer on the colt that I first notice.

Later on I notice other things. The muddy directional sound and how I can’t tell where the bullet spray is coming from as easily as I could in 1.6. The missing VIP maps. How de_dust now has a stairway that leads up to the tunnel from the underpass. The AK-47′s recoil being ever so slightly off.

Like I said, though, it’s the silencer on the colt that I first notice. It’s gone for no ascertainable reason and I can’t understand what the game developers were thinking when they axed it. Throughout the series of matches I play, I hit my right mouse button absently several times–the action that would add or remove the silencer.

But it does nothing. It’s become a phantom limb, vestigial muscle memory from 2001.

I hit my right mouse button again and bite my lower lip. Finally I ask my friend if he noticed the silencer’s removal.

I don’t know why I do this. I mean, I already know the answer. Yes, he did. Yes, it makes no sense. Yes, this sucks. As someone with a similar background–thousands of hours into Counter-strike 1.6, the type of person who scrimmed religiously years ago–it would be hard not to notice something this small yet so big.

“This isn’t Counter-strike,” he says finally. I sigh and hit my right mouse button again.

Of course it isn’t. We both installed it dreading that it wouldn’t be the Counter-Strike we fell in love with, so while it’s a disappointment, it’s no surprise that it isn’t.

Just like how it’s no surprise that for an outsider, it is Counter-Strike. They don’t remember the Counter-Strike we do.

Counter-Strike was genre defining experience for people that are now in their early to mid-twenties. It was an entire culture, spawned off the early 2000′s and the progression of the first person shooter genre whilst coming to age as a gamer. While console gamers had their Halo or Call of Duty, PC gamers had their Quake or Counter-Strike. These games built us into the FPS gamers we are today and game you sided with flavored your view on FPS games for years to come.

On the flipside, though, if you didn’t experience it–if you somehow missed the FPS movement–Counter-Strike is meaningless and CS:GO will fill your needs perfectly as a tense shooter. Because, ultimately, it is a good game. It’s just not a brilliant one.

In many ways, to understand my love for Counter-Strike and its unexpectedly successful mod origins is to understand my entire gaming history. As much as I grew up on Street Fighter II Turbo or as much as I discovered the RTS genre through StarCraft, Counter-Strike shaped my entire thirst for competitive gaming. It whet my pallette for multikills, spawn camping, and trash talking. It brought me into competitive gaming–to my following the Korean StarCraft scene back in 2004 and to getting world firsts in World of Warcraft in 2006.

It opened my eyes. I was only thirteen, but I played a thousand hours of Counter-Strike before Steam even existed. In junior high, I made my first meaningful friendships on cs_militia on the servers I used to frequent. I remember when eSports was just starting to take hold in North America and I tried to qualify for CAL. I modified config files for the perfect sensitivity for the best aim. I went to my first LAN event with an actual clan.

I even purchased my first gaming mouse–all in the name of CS 1.5.

So I’m being honest when I say that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a good game in a brilliant series. But I’m being more honest when I say it’s not a good game to me–to us–to a generation of hardcore Counter-Strike players. It’s been years and this is what we get: a hollow reiteration. A great game in the wake of something awesome that withstood a decade of time. A great game that could have been a whole lot more.

Ultimately what we got after a lot of hype was a fun distraction in some ways, an overhyped novelty in another. Seeing de_dust2 in 2012′s graphics is like seeing my childhood reimagined and the first few minutes blow my mind, but then what? De_dust2 looked this way in my head, when I memorized the different routes and the corners to hide in for each bombsite a decade ago, and now it really looks this way on my computer. I can see the dust fly from the sand with every step my teammates make and count every tile on the vivid mosiac on ornate columns in bombsite’s tunnel.

But there’s no silencer on the colt. And although I’m undoubtedly very rusty, I can still tell the bullets don’t connect with their target the same way. Plus there’s a molotov cocktail that lights the entire tunnel ablaze in one fluid motion and I resent it intensely as it ends the threat of narrow hallways and determined campers around every corner in a cavalcade of fire.

It’s just not the same game that held up for years–the same game that is still played competitively at Dreamhack.

But again, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Maybe it’s time the outsiders had their turn at Counter-Strike. Maybe it’s time I took off the rose-tinted glasses. Maybe it’s time I played a round of de_dust and didn’t think of when I was thirteen for once.

Maybe. But would it really have killed them to stay closer to the source material by keeping that silencer on the M4A1?

(Read this post over at PC Gamer for a way better review. I’m so emotional about CS:GO that this explains it 20x better.)

And if it will be, it will be with you

I’m listening to Bloc Party’s latest album Four. It’s been an album I’ve been really hyped for over the past years. Sometimes I pick up bands from ex-boyfriends, sometimes I pick them up from friends, and sometimes I discover them. I discovered Bloc Party and I loved everything about them and they’re going to always have a special place in my heart.

So yeah, Four is a disappointing album. It’s mostly about a break-up. It’s hard to tell if it’s the band’s eventual break-up, falling back into love with the music, or if it’s between a girl and a boy. It’s sad with an underlying current of hope in nearly every song; some of the songs are about falling in love, some of them are about falling out of love. The lyrics are actually pretty good, some of their best.

Almost every song sucks, though, from a sound perspective. The sound is harsher and lazier, they’re devolving from their Silent Alarm days; they’re a lot less fluid, a lot more rushed, and a lot less consistent. Rushed can be okay sometimes; I mean, Intimacy was rushed, but it was truly beautiful barring a few tracks.

This CD is the opposite. It is ugly. It is a break-up. It is every feeling you have when you either bring someone into your heart or cut them out.

Here are the only songs worth listening to:

“Real Talk”I was so sure, I was faulty and not able to love / But then you crept up on me while I was dreaming
“V.A.L.I.S.”I can hear, I can hear him from my future / Show, show, show show me you gotta show me the way
“Truth”So I am yours now respectfully / I am yours now truthfully
“Mean (bonus)”Sometimes when you are sleep I get the strangest feeling / Of all the things I could do whilst you lay

These four songs are really good. Some of Bloc Party’s best. It’s just a shame the rest of the album falls short.

Tell me one thing you would never do

I was having a talk about what I do for work last night and it was a sudden, positive talk that’s still lingering with me as I go throughout my work day. It made me realize that a lot of my friends have no idea what I actually do for work. I’m “that Wowhead chick” (or LolKing, if they’re of the Summoner’s Rift variety).

It also made me realize I have no idea how I ended up here.

When I was younger, my dream job was operating a cash register. No, I’m not joking, it really was. I owned a real cash register stuffed full of real change and fake bills. I loved playing store. I owned fake fruit and flowers. Sometimes I would take the cans down from our shelves in the kitchen and pretend to ring them up then put them in paper bags we kept around the house. I printed receipts, my mom gave me old Visa cards to slide through my fake credit card swipe, and I would “sell” dry goods and fake food for hours. I kept inventory, I wrote receipts, and I even made gift certificates. Office Depot and Office Max made hundreds of dollars from me and my love of carbon copy papers.

Then I decided by age nine that I was going to be a teacher instead of a cashier. Our first computer, back in 1995, was a goldmine for creativity: it came with Microsoft Access, which meant it had thousands of potential databases I could make. I made a fake school with dozens of fake students; I made tests, report cards, and grade books; and I even wrote answer keys. I would get the test questions from the variety of books around the house, like my “How do Castles Work” book, and then I would get a variety of pens and fill them all out in different handwriting styles and colors. I’d put different answers for each student, adopting a persona. And finally I’d grade them, load up my Access database, and print out their report cards.

At age twelve, I discovered HTML. I loved HTML and I ended up loving Photoshop even more. I made so many websites and I learned so much. A fansite to a Resident Evil character, a layout based off Cowboy Bebop, a mixtape exchange site. Eventually I even made websites for my school–from my debate club to the environmental committee at one of my colleges. Then I even made websites like Girls Don’t Game or Hellmode, moderately popular blogs to showcase my writing.

But throughout all of this, I was pretty deadset on being a lawyer. I still felt I had to do that life path and I worked for it to some degree; I took the right classes, I volunteered for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence where I got valuable work experience, and I wrote countless essays about war, famine, and political regimes.

Until one day I woke up and I didn’t want to do it anymore. At all. The internships I was applying for seemed pointless, the TA position I nearly got frustratingly political, and the idea of spending that much time in school daunting. When a friend got me a job in the video game industry so I wasn’t unemployed at twenty (love you Suzie!) she inadvertently gave me something I was naturally good at and had been practicing for years.

She inadvertently gave me keys to an entire kingdom I was too afraid to access: a job where my sole job was to help make a game and market it, to create its manual and pitch it to companies to publish it. Within a year, I helped get that game on Steam and Direct2Drive as well as Stardock. I wrote comparisons, I researched social games, and I took to the entire process like a fish to water.

I had a job where suddenly my time spent on de_dust mattered. My knowledge about Steam’s early years paid off. Where knowing what a hundred different game manuals look like helped me build our own in my own style.

Think about it: I used to make databases, edit code, and write. A lot. Not only that, I spent my teen years crawling around on the internet and building websites plus fostering communities. I also have put in tens of thousands of hours of gaming–from Counter-strike to Final Fantasy VII, I’ve played it all.

I was basically made to manage a community, to create and cultivate sites–especially those pertaining to video games. It was a huge passion of mine and I never knew it until then. The years I spent in my other job and the time spent here at ZAM taught me that there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

I have this pretty vivid memory of my childhood. We just bought Warcraft II and I was enamored with its manual. You know, video game manuals back then were gorgeous. Drawings of Orcs and Trolls everywhere. I remember reading it, I remember carrying it in my bag to school and opening its wrinkled pages during my history class. That manual and me were totally in a loving, exclusive relationship for at least a year.

But most importantly, I remember opening the manual one day, and saying I wanted to do that for a living. I pointed to a little blurb about what an Orc was. I wanted to write about Orcs and Humans and I wanted it to pay my bills. I wanted nothing more than to be paid to celebrate Warcraft’s existence.

It’s funny how life turns out, isn’t it?

P.S. Sorry for not touching this place for over a month. Worst blogger NA, no problem.

But I haven’t thought of you lately at all

I wanted to post sort of a personal post about what’s been up. A lot of cool things have happened lately work related!

  • We launched LolKing and it’s lived up to my wildest dreams in terms of traffic so far. A new site is always daunting because you’re not sure how the public will react–I found the site back in March and we ended up buying it, from that point on I begged to be a part of its development. A lot of the work I did is in the database, so you can go see all the champions if you want to see something I spent hours on. The prettiest part of the site is probably its model viewer which was done by my coworker Alayton. In general it’s been really rewarding helping map out a site from the ground up! The guys who work on the site are also great, both as developers and League of Legends fans, so it’s been pretty awesome to watch them work.
  • Part of being site director at Wowhead means I decide really random things and that’s by far my favorite part of the job. I got an email from Zarhym with some beta keys. We gave them away and they went fast: nearly 4k posts in a few hours asking for keys. So I emailed him back and asked for more keys, figuring I could get a little contest going. Turns out he’s a generous guy, so he handed us hundreds more. Then I reached out to ZAM’s marketing team, secured us some A40 Astro headsets, and made a contest from scratch all last minute like. Yes, it created extra work, but we also get to give out free things and interact with the community–it’s really awesome!
  • I’ve been playing a lot of Civilization V lately due to its expansion coming out this past week. I really like it, though I don’t really enjoy espionage. I didn’t like it in Civilization IV either. Part of the problem is I don’t play on difficulty levels where the AI has much more tech than I do–they’re usually neck and neck with me, so there’s not much to steal. I love how many female leaders were added, though, especially Boudicca. She’s my favorite Civ IV leader so I was happy to see her back in.
  • My cousin’s fundraiser for her diabetic alert dog went pretty well! She’s at $5.5k. The dog unfortunately costs nearly $30k, but thanks to some people on Twitter and Reddit, I was able to bring in over $1k alone and do my part. They wrote a thank you post to everyone over here.

Not much else to really write about. Just trying to eat healthy, work out (I didn’t do anything for all of May because I’m lazy), and playing a lot of League of Legends!

2012 - Modified Rockwell theme. Background from League of Legends and it's copyright to Riot Games.