Friday, December 26, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

Or should I say "Snow, Sweet Snow" ? I've been in the US for a little over 8 months now, the longest I've ever been away from home. I knew I was homesick, I just hadn't realized how badly until I got to the Dulles Airport in DC and heard some of my fellow Quebecers speaking French while waiting for boarding. That gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. But I got griefed a couple times on my way home...

It started great with Mesanna and her hubby Michael dropping my Canuck toosh at the airport. So I strut my stuff to the check in counter to have the agent tell me it's going to cost me an extra $100 for my 3rd bag. I'm like wtf? I originally packed 2 bags but Mom warned me the previous night to bring boots and coats because they were getting pummeled with snow and cold weather. My winter coat being Siberian weather proof is quite large and heavy. The coat and boots took a whole 3rd bag on their own. I give the agent my debit card, mumbling the whole time through. Then I go "Hey!! Wouldn't that qualify as a hand bag? It's not too big is it?" He looked at the (fairly big) duffel bag that contained my coat and boots and says "Yeah, that could be considered hand bag." I "yoinked" my debit card back with a big fat grin for saving that bit of cash. He told me that if I had been travelling beyond Montreal with a 3rd bag, Air Canada would have charged me $240 extra! You can be sure next time I'll make sure to verify how many bags I'm allowed!

So after a very annoying and insanely long wait in line to get searched, scanned and w/e the heck it is that they do, I finally get to my gate and start reading Shaman's Crossing while waiting for my flight. I had been meaning to read that trilogy forever but never seemed to have time anymore. I could hardly concentrate because I was getting all fuzzy listening to other Quebecers waiting. But that fuzzy feeling got crushed within seconds as I realized they were all talking about their flights being cancelled because of bad snow storms. Then listening to the anglophones (not sure if they were Americans or English Canadians), their flights too were cancelled. The incredibly long line of people I had seen standing on my way in weren't people lining up to board. They were waiting for customer service, hoping to find a new flight home. Thankfully, my moment of panic was short lived as my own flight was one of the few that had been spared. It was only delayed by an hour!

When the plane was flying over the Dorval Airport in Montreal, I could see the straight lines of lights outlining the streets and the white blanket of snow that covered the ground as far as the eye could see. I got all misty and felt my throat tighten. I never thought I could be such a girly girl. The flight attendant warned us that it was snowy, slippery and cold (-16 C) outside so to be careful. I was curious to see how I would react to the snow and cold not having been eased into it this year as barely 2 hours ago I was enjoying +12 C in Washington DC. Turns out you don't shed out of your system 30+ years of good old Canadian cold that easily. Not only did the cold not bother me, it actually made me all giddy. I loved the sounds of the snow crunching under each step and how my feet just naturally knew where to land to best avoid the slippery ice.

The one thing I didn't remember fondly is on our way home, some of the areas were still burried in snow, the roads a pain to travel through. I've been here a week and every other day we've had over a foot of snow fall, which in fact translates as 2-3 feet of snow to shovel. I would have been miserable without a white Christmas but I could have done without the shovelling :/

But aside from the pains of winter, it was great seeing again such things as a tot being pulled on his sleight by his mom on the sidewalk, our beautiful snow covered parks and just the general beauty of our old stone and brick buildings, which there seems to be so few of in Virginia.

I'm also sad I will be missing all the cool festivals that will be taking place over the next couple of months in Montreal and Quebec City. I was always a big fan of the Ice and Snow sculpting which can be seen at the FĂȘtes de Neiges of Montreal and the Quebec Winter Carnival. Montreal in Lights is another beautiful event where they play with lights and snow and ice to give the city an eery look at night.

In one week, I'll be returning (home?) to VA. It's weird how you can quickly become lost in where's home. On my way here, while filling the declaration form, my instinctive reaction was to write my Montreal address. But that no longer is my permanent address. I did my Christmas shopping in Montreal to avoid the tax headaches at Customs, and every time I showed my Bank of America card to pay, the cashiers would automatically switch to (often broken) English. And even though I would keep speaking French to them, they stuck to English. They assumed I was American and took pride in serving their customers in their native tongue. Trouble is, I was starved for French but didn't have the heart to tell them to speak to me in French or they might take it as a rebuke of their language skills and I wasn't going to go in a story of my life to explain how it came to be that I pay in US dollars.

Part of me is looking forward to be back in my own things and (in a sick kind of way) to be back to work. They always said it takes a sucker for punishment to go into game design, I guess I fit the profile! But part of me feels like I've finally come home from a long trip and the thought of leaving again and especially parting from my family, knowing it will be many more months before I see them again really sucks.

For now, I won't dwell on it. I'm off to Mount Royal to do some skating. With luck, I'll get to do some skiing too, some snow angels and maybe even get away with ganking my brothers with snow balls!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This is inspired by a post made by a player who deleted his Companion character after a friend threatened to page on him for attempting to sell it. I'm obviously not going to discuss the details of this specific case, but I would like to share my thoughts with you about these kind of situations.

Case 1:

Imagine you are friends with a former Counselor, Companion or Seer that somehow managed to maintain his powers after the program was terminated. One day, you find out he's trying to sell his account hoping to make a bigger profit due to said powers. What do you do? Do you try to convince him to have his powers removed first? If he refuses, do you threaten to page on him if he doesn't? Do you page on him anonymously? Do you let him make his money then page on the buyer? Do you stay out of it altogether? If you do nothing and the buyer ends up abusing those powers in a way extremely harmful, would you feel any guilt? If/when an investigation is performed and punishment is handed down, if your name comes up should you also be held accountable because you knew and didn't prevent it? Or should you be absolved on the basis that you didn't benefit from it?

Case 2:

A while back, an entire guild was banned, including all linked accounts, for duping an exploiting. Admittedly, not every member in the guild took part in the illegal activities but all of them were fully aware of what was going on. If you were invited to join such a guild, would you? If you joined but neither helped duping nor helped stopping it, was it fair you got banned too? If you broke no rules but just allowed your friends to do so, does that make you accountable? Should you only be accountable if you actively took part in the illegal activity? What if you didn't take part but knowingly accepted gifts of duped items and gold? Would that make you more accountable? What if you didn't accept any actual items but enjoyed the benefits of illegal programs such as scripted ghost cams? When you hear the impact on the victims of your guild's activities, do you feel any guilt?


To me, this isn't so much a matter of right or wrong as much as a question of choices and consequences. For every situation, there are 3 choices: 1) avoid it, 2) ignore it or 3) act on it. Avoiding is often the simplest and safest solution. If you do not put yourself in a difficult position, you will not have difficult choices to make. Ignoring is the deceptive one, because as proven by history pretending not to see what is happening does not necessarily shelter you from the fall out. Acting on it can be both the toughest and the easiest. The wise will carefully weight the pros and cons of his decision: "I will stop this because... and I accept the consequences." or "I will take part because... and I accept the consequence." The wreckless will act first and think of consequences later.

You are the master of your own destiny. You make your own choices and you will have to deal with the consequences. If maintaining certain friendships require you to betray your values, you might want to reconsider those relationships. That includes the "if you were my friend..." guilt trips. Take responsibility for your own choices.

The holidays are upon us. It's a merry time, but all too often also a tragic time because of DUI. Will you avoid it by not going out? Will you ignore the people who are clearly drunk and driving, hoping they will make it home safely? Will you act by taking away their keys or by being the drunk trying to drive?

It's all about choices...

Please have a safe and happy holidays.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Highway

Democratic societies always pride themselves in the fact that the people have the freedom to choose what they will be, who will lead them and which direction their community should evolve in. They essentially promote the right of the individual to be happy, to be prosper, to simply be... And then we enter a virtual world and all of a sudden, everyone becomes a dictator. Anything that isn't going my way needs to be removed. Why?

The Felucca vs Trammel saga is without a doubt the one with the most visibility, but it's hardly the only one in the "my way" category. Every time new content is added or a subgroup of the community voices its displeasure with the state of things, someone will come up and say "who cares? your class/profession/facet shouldn't exist anyways. You guys suck!"

And this isn't even just the random flamer. A lot of people genuinely feel that if they and their friends do not actively take part in certain activities or mini-games, those are a waste of resources. Some people feel that people who take part in mini-games such as gardening, cooking, house decorating, raising fishes in their aquariums or even using the checkers/mahjong game boards in UO are silly, wasting their time and completely missing the point of UO.

Says who?

What is the "proper way" of playing UO or any other game for that matter? Bashing on monsters 24/7? Killing every player on sight? Strip mining every vein in the land? Role-playing your little heart out? Out-talking every banksitter in Sosaria? In my book, as long as they are having fun, aren't ruining the game for others and aren't breaking the ToS, then they ARE playing the right way "for them".

The fact that you do not enjoy or agree with a certain playstyle shouldn't justify you trying to destroy it. The fact that development time is given to a subgroup you do not care for doesn't mean you should feel cheated it wasn't devoted to yours instead. Every cell and subgroup of the community needs its share of love or it will wither and die. The assumption that by killing a facet or playstyle will get people to migrate to yours is flawed. Cutting your leg off isn't going to cause for a 2nd head or a 3rd arm to grow, it will simply make you crippled. A healthy body is one where every organ and limb is equally well taken care of.

It's not because I love meat that I'm going to try to coherce vegans into being like me. Live and let live. The richness of a community comes from its diversity and the respect of our differences.