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December 5, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

Skyrim – or how I learned to stop playing video games

I just don’t care for Skyrim. I care even less for the trolls that think I’M a troll for saying that.

Seriously, why am I not allowed to dislike this game?

I have spent the past week wasting my time with it, and while very pretty (as everyone says), it’s not very fun. I will highlight a few things that I’ve not seen in any of the (very few!) negative reviews of this game:

1. I don’t like you. Really. There isn’t a single character I like, or more importantly CARE about, in this HUGE world. They’re all duplicitous (which gets old when it’s EVERYONE), jerks, idiots, or so terribly clichéd that they’re just not believable. Of course, any of those character types (‘cept the last one) can be likable! In my opinion, the game fails the basics of storytelling in that I need to care about someone. Anyone. Even myself – which I don’t since (like all ES games) I’m a blank page for the gamer to write on….

2. The game is way too easy. I don’t mean that every fight is a breeze, though most are, or that all the puzzles have obvious solutions (but most do), but rather that there really are no challenges at all in the whole massive world of Skyrim. I never felt like anything was very important or difficult. Some tasks were longer than others, but length doesn’t equal a challenge.

3. Similar to #2, the stealth system is just dumb. I can crouch in front of anyone in broad daylight and pickpocket them, walk right into what should be a restricted area while DETECTED and the guards (doing their worst Arnold imitation) just tell me about their arrow to the knee. I see two people talking, snipe one of them with my arrow, and the one left alive is like “hmph. What was that? Oh well.” and just stands around…

4. The mountains are annoying as hell. This is really a personal preference thing I guess – I would have preferred to be able to run around more in the wilderness, but the mountains eventually force you back onto the road (at least on foot – horses can climb the sheer face of a mountain).

5. The world feels just as empty as Oblivion. The NPCs are not interesting and the world does not feel more populated. It gets similarly creepy after a while.

6. On day 2 of my Skyrim adventure, becoming bored, I decided I would both marry everyone I could in the game, and kill them on our wedding night. I found that someone had not already done this, and posted his house of horrors to youtube, but had done it much better than I ever could. I then decided I would kill every bard in Skryim. But that never got off the ground. Such are the stupid things you do you in this grand time wasting slice of modern life.

In the end, I have things to do, and it’s high time I put away these childish things, like video games, and get down to business. Reflecting on the 30-or so hours I’ve put into the game, I’m sort of ashamed of myself.

I’m a lot ashamed of myself.

But I do have Skyrim to thank for putting an end to any desire I have to play video games.  In the future, I will remember that the potential for interactive storytelling just never lives up to the dream (perhaps the only exception being the excellent Grim Fandango). I strongly doubt it will for a long time. So, like an addict getting back on the wagon, I say to you (my zero readers) that I shall game no more forever.

September 27, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

West side of Union Station

It still, mostly, looks like this. In the Summer, there’s a tree that obscures the view of the Capitol dome. But in the fall, you can see it pretty much the way it is in the picture – though the men no longer wear hats (but I hear streetcars are coming back).

There’s a great scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when he arrives at Union Station and sees the Capitol building, though I think it’s from the middle entrance. He’s totally blown away by it, in the typical Jimmy Stewart-fashion.

You should be too.

This is a beautiful city. And what happens here is as big and serious and important as Mr. Smith thinks it is.

We move the world from this little town.

I love D.C.

September 27, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

You don’t matter

“If you don’t vote, you don’t matter” reads the shirt of the mustachioed man across from me. He sits next to the trash can and checks out the, rather ample, ass of the lady bending over to empty it.

Hey, man. I grew up here. I was born in DC, and so were the previous 3 generations of both sides of my family. I was here before most of you got here, and I’ll be here when you leave (probably). The sense of everything being political is in the water in D.C., and I’m ok with that. Hell, elections get decided by Redskins games.

But my worth as a human being hinges on my casting a vote?

Because that’s what that really means. It means you don’t matter relative to what’s “important”. You’re useless to the “cause”, whatever that happens to be. It means that “we” need you, but only if you do as we desire.

You are not a “tool” for someone’s use. You should not be measured by your peers the way you are, inevitably (regrettably) measured by your boss.

September 22, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

Overheard on the streets of DC…

…near Union Station.

A puzzled tourist squints in confusion: “What is a ‘Chocolate City’ Tour?”

My God, where to start?

It’s sort of like when your 5 year old asks you how babies are made. If you answer the question, she won’t understand your answer, but you’ll still take a little bit of her innocence in the process.

Best to move on.

September 19, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

I am not Joe Gould…

…but I, too, was pissed when I learned that he never really wrote his Oral History. While I don’t claim to be carrying his torch (because he never carried it either), what you overhear in bars, coffee shops, etc., is real life, right now. And I’m going to keep recording it, and my thoughts on what I hear, until I get beat up by someone who figures out who I am.

September 19, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

Torn asunder

I saw an old friend on the Metro today. We both were getting off at Metro Center, and as we made the short trip from Gallery Place to MC, he waved to me from the middle of the car. I had been asking other friends about him for quite some time, as I don’t think I’ve either heard from him (or much about him) for the past year. I did hear some cryptic news, but I didn’t know why he’d fallen off the face of the earth. As we walked to the Orange Line transfer, I shook his hand, and did the “Hey, how are you doin’”, and was immediately struck by something. He was definitely a different person. You can just tell, and I just told. Turns out, he is recently in the process of a divorce – that explained the change. People change DRASTICALLY after a divorce. They often say, as he did, that they feel more “like their old” selves. I’m not really sure what that means, but people say it all the time. He had this edge to him, that I’m not quite sure I like. I hope that’s not what he meant.

The news really upset me. I hate to hear of breakups – they really tear me up. In fact, I don’t really like to hear of any personal failure. For instance, have you ever seen a new business move into a space that you KNOW is going to fail? You know, that cursed property, where the coffee shop, and the restaurant, and the bookstore, and etc., all failed? Someone’s hopes and dreams – and a lot of money – are sunk into this new business. And it’s hopeless. And when you inevitably see the “For Lease” sign again, you sort of pat yourself on the back, flattering yourself and your business acumen. But if you don’t also feel horrible for the poor business owner, than you really lack empathy. Because it’s the same as a breakup.

How you start and how it ends are so very different. The beginning often feels so un-real, and the end often feels so VERY real. Almost like it was inevitable. It comes crashing down, and it’s over. And even though it may have been building for years and years, like a cancer, the end seems to come at the speed of light. But you really get torn in half, I think maybe literally, when it’s concerning a failed marriage.

As I write this, from a coffee shop (I really need to stop eavesdropping), there are these two women next to me. The woman doing most of the talking was complaining about how her husband didn’t really love her. She was going on about how they were each flying from two locations back here to DC, and how he could have organized his itinerary to be with her, and to have “much-needed sex”. But instead he left early, as her flight was coming in, and they missed each other. She went through a number of other ways he was cruel, or unloving to her. And she really seemed to want him to love her, and to show it. I gathered from their conversation that she had kids, but it wasn’t clear how long they’d been married. Then she went on about her lover.

Turns out she’s seeing another guy, who is himself married, and is comparing him to her husband (and the lover seems to be winning in most categories – notably not all, though). But in the end, it’s obvious that she really wants her husband. What the heck? I don’t even know where to start, the whole thing is so fucked up. And so sad (literally sad, not “pathetic”). There’s no way that marriage is saved, but I suppose miracles do happen…

It may be because I’m a parent of young children, but I want to rescue a person who is about to hurl themselves down 3 flights of stairs on their bike. They just have no idea how hurt they’re going to get.

My heart breaks for you fucked up people. I mean it. I hope your heart breaks for me when I get there.

I offered to get a beer with my friend, and just talk with him. No judgement, or anything like that, just hang out. I hope he takes me up on it.

September 16, 2011 / districtofcolumbian

Wither the NOOB

Being a noob sucks. You don’t need me to tell you this, of course. If you’ve ever had your ass kicked by a 12-year old kid in an online game, he’s likely called you a “NOOB!” while he skull-****s your dead body.

But it’s awful to want to be a part of something, and to either not be good enough, cool enough, whatever. It’s more awful to be the guy calling someone a noob, but it never feels like it at the time.

But the worst is to have that voice in your head, calling you a noob, when no one else is looking. Because, let’s face it – the only damage getting called a noob does to you/me is to remind us that we’re not as great as we want to think we are. It’s a 100% pride-wounding exercise and that’s it.

So why do we care when the only person calling us a Noob, is us? That little voice in your head that is telling you that you suck, to give up, that you’re never going to do…yada yada.

I’m trying to write something that I KNOW is a fantastic idea. And it sucks so far.

But that’s the nature of writing sometimes, and you just have to plow through it, get everything on the paper, and then re-write etc., etc. But I keep calling myself a noob. And I am, I’m not the best writer and I’m a noob to the story I’m working on. And yet hearing it makes me (maybe you?) want to quit.

Truth is, as a noob, I had more fun in games where I got owned (and called a noob), then after I mastered them. I performed better, but I didn’t have as much fun or as much drive to keep playing it.

I will resolve to enjoy being a Noob today.

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