I don’t think it’s going to come as a huge surprise to anyone who reads this that I have been struggling, not just with blogging, but with gaming in general for awhile now. Although I’ve had a chronic illness for enough years now to have mostly adjusted my life & my expectations, my health has been somewhat worse than usual the past few months, and when I combine that with my social & household obligations, I’m finding it’s not leaving me with a whole lot left over for anything else.
Now, I can appreciate just how fortunate I am that in a lot of ways, I am far less affected by the threat of COVID-19 than your average person. We are able to continue paying our bills, we are food secure and at zero risk of losing our housing. Even still, there is so much awfulness in the world at large, how can I not get on board with celebrating the oh-so-nerdy things that keep us going when everything is kind of awful and you need an escape?
So, I’ve signed up for Blapril. I’m going to make this a priority again.
I would like to start by saying I really hate getting politics all over my leisure activities, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. That said, for all of you out there, this particular post is completely avoidable, so if you just want to click onward, I don’t blame you.
It’s not what I’m here for most of the time either.
The next step, I suppose, is to talk a little bit about the idea of “ethical consumption” (otherwise known as “ethical consumerism“) – I find that a lot of people who are quick to talk about voting with their wallets don’t even really understand it. Heck, sometimes, I don’t think I really understand it. There’s a lot of complexity to it, because a person or a corporation might be really excellent in some areas, while sorely lacking in others.
Take, for example, this completely made up scenario: Maybe you buy all your notebooks from a company that works with 100% recycled paper. That’s great! I mean, recycling is great, right? That notebook maker is sure to slap that information on every product they put out. What you may not realize is that they’re making those recycled notebooks overseas using child labor. Uh oh. Not so cut and dry now, is it?
In a perfect world, we would all have the means to make all of our purchasing decisions based on ethical considerations. This is not a perfect world, and there are a LOT of economic concerns as well. That’s why so many people shop at mass market retailers that consistently pay their employees below market wages and avoid giving benefits – because it’s what they can afford based on their current economic state.
There are things I need, and although I’d like to say I make ethical purchasing decisions, when it comes to needs, I find that I most often have to make economical decisions. I need to buy food, I need to heat my home, put gas in my car and keep the power on.
Because of this – because need and means are so closely tied in a way that frequently makes me more than a little uncomfortable while staring down my non-choice – I make damn sure to allocate my “luxury” spending more thoughtfully.
And here, we get to what I really want to talk about – the ethics of non-necessity spending, specifically as it relates to entertainment media, most specifically to PC gaming.
Being disabled, I probably consume more entertainment media than your average person, as a lot of things people do for fun just aren’t options for me. So I watch a lot of television and movies, I listen to music, I read books, and I play a lot of video games.
Because it’s the Age of the Internet, and everything is recorded and screenshotted and posted online, it’s not really possible anymore to separate the creation from the creator. Still, it’s not new. I vowed to never by anything written by Orson Scott Card after he wrote an essay in which he advocated for laws against homosexual sexual relationships. Even when I was a teenager, I understood that giving my money and my attention to someone who believed that was not something I wanted to do.
But it’s everywhere now.
No longer do we have to wait for someone in the public eye to do something so incredibly boneheaded for us to see the skeletons in their closet. Activism is in, and people are out there actually searching for things to blast folks out about on Twitter and Reddit. So how do we, the consumer, decide who should and shouldn’t get our attention and our money?
I can’t tell you that. I can only tell you how I do it.
Firstly, I don’t get all caught up in the drama surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions, because I understand the simple fact that corporations exist to make money. If someone else is doing something, and it’s making them money, other companies will jump on that bandwagon.
Now, I think it’s shitty to expect your customer to pay full price for a game, and then add in a zillion micro-transactions in order to make the game fun (or perhaps even playable), but here, I think the consumers are just as problematic as the companies. These types of games frequently don’t appeal to me, so it’s not a moral quandary, and when I do play paid games with micro-transactions? I don’t indulge in them.
When I find out something awful about a person or company who has made or published a game I am interested in, I absolutely will factor that into my decision. I honestly don’t spend hours hunting for a reason not to buy things – I tend to stumble across things in the process of trying to find out more about a game. Sometimes, I have a visceral reaction which immediately flops something onto my “never buy” list. Most often, I need to mull it over.
First, I will ask myself if this is an issue relevant to my core values. I am not even going to pretend I’m a perfect person and that I feel strongly about every wrong thing back to the beginning of time. I’m not going to boycott a developer who was arrested once for smoking a joint, because I don’t care. I won’t necessarily decide not to buy something because one of the development team got into a Reddit argument 15 years ago and called someone an asshole (especially not if that person was – well – being an asshole at the time). People are PEOPLE and they’re going to fuck up, but that doesn’t invalidate everything else.
Now, again, these things will mostly apply to small development teams or solo devs, because I don’t want to know the business of every employee that ever worked for a huge publisher. But I won’t be buying a game if there are credible reports of the devs being abusive towards women, children, animals, or people in his or her employ. I also refuse to support anyone who is publicly supporting (and yes, folks, if you can connect someone on social media to their game, that’s publicly in my book) disenfranchising or dehumanizing any marginalized group of people.
Of course, sometimes, you’ve already spent the money when you find out that the person behind the creation is in complete opposition to your moral compass. Then what?
I won’t judge you for playing it anyway, I promise. Only you can decide if the end product is still worth your time, and your money isn’t coming back. But for me – personally? If I hadn’t played the game in question already, I’d toss it into the never-to-be-played pile and move on. If I had? I certainly would never ever recommend it to anyone else – while they too can decide where and how to spend their money, I want no further part of supporting someone I find morally reprehensible.
I can’t tell you that it’s easy being an ethical consumer, on any level. It’s not. It’s not a thing I want to think of when I’m looking for a bit of escapism from all the other awfulness around me, but sometimes, I feels like the only thing I can do, y’know?
So I won’t be eating at Chick-Fil-A, and I won’t be buying any Cosby Show DVDs, and I won’t be buying or playing Heartbeat. It doesn’t feel like enough, but it’s something.
Although technically, Blaugust 2019 isn’t over until Sunday, September 7th according to the calendar, for the last day of August, I wanted to make a few notes on how being a Blaugust participant was for me.
Other than Developer Appreciation Week, I paid little to no attention to the topic suggestions. I guess I was overdue to start blogging again – although I occasionally struggled with the actual writing, idea generation was not an issue.
In fact, I’m ending the month with 9 post ideas in my drafts. Some were inspired by other Blaugust participants, but most were things I wanted to write about, but never got around to doing the prep work for.
Despite having a few days where I felt like I produced somewhat low-effort posts, I did manage to post once a day for the entire month of August.
All in all, I am pleased with my writing output during the month.
The other half of Blaugust is, of course, the new blogs I discovered and the enjoyable interaction with the community. I didn’t come anywhere near reading every Blaugust participant’s posts – in fact, I would say that I only read work from a handful of different bloggers. Most of the blogs I started to follow were folks that posted something that caught my eye in the Discord channel for sharing content.
Despite the fact that I made a few posts on topics other than video games, I also found that most of the posts by others I was drawn to read were about games.
I sought out posts about MMOs that I either currently play (Elder Scrolls Online) or used to play (primarily World of Warcraft), and I found myself not really reading posts focused on other MMOs. However, I almost always clicked on posts about single player PC games, whether I had heard of them or not.
I started following 18 new blogs, most of which I expect I’ll keep reading faithfully. I also added a bunch of new folks in my Twitter feed, and plan to keep checking the Blaugust Discord for content that interests me.
Finally, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t toss a shout out to Naithin of Time to Loot, one of my fellow Blaugust participants, who made me aware of this crazy Blaugust thing in the first place, and therefore, indirectly encouraged my return to blogging. I’m always surprised when people I don’t know find me on Twitter (and even more surprised when they turn out not to be Sex-Chat Bots), and I’ve been enjoying his blog for a while now.
I even managed to come up with something of a mission statement while leaving a comment on one of his posts.
Will I keep up with posting every single day? Probably not, but I’d like to find something to jabber about most days. I like my What I’m Playing Wednesday posts a lot, and not just because those quick peeks at different games are fun to write. Blaugust has reminded me not only how much I enjoy writing about games, but how much I like playing them, and it’s been a delicious little loop of returning to things that make me happy.
So you haven’t seen the last of me, not by a long shot.
Part of me can’t believing I’m jumping into the blog-life again, and part of me wonders why it took so long (and an event like Blaugust) to come back to it.
Let’s ignore for a moment my time on Diaryland, my time on LiveJournal, and a couple brief flirtations with Blogger. Let’s just take a quick trip back through my WordPress blogs.
First there was “So Much WoW, So Little Time” – which was, as you might expect, entirely focused on World of Warcraft. I started the blog in February of 2010, and updated it more or less regularly through the middle of 2011. Not the longest blog-run ever, I’ll admit, but it was certainly an interesting time. I did my share of cute little screenshot posts with just a few words here and there, but I also did some pretty detailed tutorials, and more than a couple really emotional posts about the people and guild stuff and many thoughts I had about the more human side of Warcraft.
I didn’t really get the blogging bug again until late 2015, and hoo boy, I had a doozy of an idea. Thus was born “366 Days of Gaming“, an absurdly ambitious project where I decided to play a different game every day and blog my experiences. Occasionally, that blog made me miserable, but at the end? It was such a feeling of accomplishment. I’m glad I did it, but oh lordy, I would never ever do it again.
But the problem with a blog project with a hard end date is that, maybe, you hit that end date, but you still want to do more. Thus “The Completion Chronicles” was born. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 3 months before I resubbed to WoW and stopped finishing anything else (or playing anything else really).
So, since all of my previous blogs have had a very clear focus, you might be wondering why I decided to just go with Nerd Girl Thoughts this time. Me too, if we’re being honest. Mostly, I’m hoping that a broader focus will give this blog some longevity past whatever happens to be the thing of the moment*. I actually enjoy more broadly focused blogs when I’m looking for something to read, so I’m not sure why I always need to have laser focus when I’m coming up with something to write.
So yeah. Here’s to Blaugust and beyond.
*For anyone wondering, the thing of the moment right now is Elder Scrolls Online.