Gaming vs. Gaming

Lately, we have gotten some great feedback regarding our loose coverage of tabletop roleplaying games.  A big part of this is that we are currently between RPG’s, but have four exciting potential games on the horizon, some closer than others.  Because of this, we at the podcast have spent time covering a number of video games, and to be honest, we were all playing video games well before any of us ever rolled up our first characters.  Unfortunately, I find myself, 18 years later, devoting a far greater amount of time pulling trigger buttons on my PS3 than rolling d20’s to attack.  I love to game, in all forms, and find an escape whether I’m delving through a dungeon with a character sheet in hand or trying to maintain my humble 1.84 kill ratio on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.  A few years back, I even sacrificed around 8 months of decent sleep to leveling a Dwarf Fighter (or Tank) in World of Warcraft, but no matter what format I choose to engage in, I find that a solidly run campaign with my closest friends is the most rewarding gaming experience to be had.  All forms have their benefits, and all have their drawbacks, and in this post, I’m going to toss out a few of my observations, based on my personal gaming interests and experiences.


Okay, I admit it…. the picture is a cheap-shot at World of Warcraft, but the truth is Dungeons & Dragons has had the advantage for  a lot longer and at far greater cost.  I enjoyed WoW during the relatively brief stint I played it.  A friend and co-worker of mine purchased the original version for me as a birthday gift after months of urging (he had been playing for about 2 years at that point and was hooked…. like, REALLY hooked….. like getting close to crackhead-level hooked…), so I installed it on my dinosaur of a Dell Desktop and proceeded to spend from around midnight to 4 am, 6-7 days a week running through Azeroth and doing my best to level up and make sense of all the abilities and equipment tiers and whatnot.  I hit around level 45 or so and then finally called it quits.  I had fun playing the game, but compared to others out there, I didn’t have the energy for it!

I wrote about the commitment it takes to be a GM and running your own game, but the time and energy expended to do so is NOTHING compared to what it takes to be even a half-decent and marginally respectable player in an MMORPG like World of Warcraft.  MMORPGs are a powergamer’s wet-dream come true, with everything from maxing out DPS to cornering the silk market in the Ironforge auction house to orchestrating raids containing dozens of players… and don’t even get me started on Guild Management!!  I’m going to have to say that the best players in WoW are either incredibly smart, incredibly insane or a little bit of both.  I’m sure in the next decade or so, we’ll be seeing individuals graduating with MBA’s due to their ability to multitask in World of Warcraft… kinda like this guy.  I’m going to say that this guy falls into the incredibly lonely category.

All in all, I found WoW entertaining, but I’m seeing more former players like myself turning away from it but still finding enjoyment in the comfort of character sheets and polyhedral dice.  However, if some developer out there decides to make an MMO based on the Battlefield or Call of Duty series, I may just have to retire from the real world itself.  Speaking of which, that leads me to my next topic!

First Person Shooters

Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re one of the most popular genres there is.  I’ve been hooked on FPS’ since the original Medal of Honor on Playstation One, and it will undoubtedly remain my favorite genre until the end of time.  While I’ll never get tired of blowing away Nazis through the scope of an ’03 Springfield, Activision‘s Call of Duty franchise finally broke away from the tired Second World War setting when it released the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series developed by Infinity Ward, leaving me awestruck with endless (and admittedly monotonous) multiplayer madness.  Nothing helps me shake off a rough day at work better than sitting down and racking up some headshots on my favorite maps, despite my sub-par performance most times out.

However, one of the most important aspects of any online gaming an individual engages in, be it MMO’s or FPS’s, no matter how good you are, there is always someone better, and that can turn your evening of relaxation or excitement into one of frustration, complete with swear-laden couch cushion beatdowns.  Gaming is about escaping the frustrations of the real-world, and if I’m getting seriously worked over by players on the opposing team, my gaming session can prove to be more stress-inducing than the day of work I’m trying to shake off.  Fortunately, it’s a byproduct I’ve never felt while sitting around the gaming table.

Tabletop / Pen-and-Paper RPGs

I’m going to close with my (obvious) favorite, being tabletop RPGs.  While the vast majority of Monday’s posts will be devoted to discussing the positive points of the pen-and-paper format of gaming, there are drawbacks to it as well.  One of the hardest things for (most) players is to join and/or establish a regular gaming group.  Obviously, a gaming group is needed, and I think that the difficulty some face in finding a group is what leads them to MMOs.  There is hope out there for those that want to find a group and experience gaming as it’s meant to be!  I’ve referenced the site on the podcast, and I’m throwing more love their way, because at Obsidian Portal there is a “Map” feature, which will display the locations of registered campaigns.  Any players down and out with setting up there own group can use this function to find a local game, and hopefully ingratiate themselves into a game and make some new friends.  Just beware a group headed by someone like this, you may get more than you bargained for!

The second greatest challenge of tabletop RPGs is the time factor.  One of the greatest aspects of videogames, especially WoW and other MMORPGs, is 24-hour availability.  If you’ve got a hankering to gain a level, just log on and have at it.  Self-perpetuating servers will be happy to provide an adventurer with a preformed world filled with plenty of opportunities to kick some ass.  Traditional roleplaying games, however, are at the mercy of the GM, particularly if the game world is a unique creation.  Gaming sessions can be anywhere between 1 week to 1 year or more, depending on any number of factors provided by life in general.  And while the waiting for a player (and a GM!) can be excruciating, the end result has the potential to be rewarding beyond anything imaginable in a videogame.

Protip #5: Instances can be run and re-run, raids can be conducted over and over, and eventually everyone finds every single one of your sweet camping spots on those multiplayer maps, but there’s only going to be the one time when your character faces their destiny and comes out on top.

“Pen-and-paper role-playing is live theater and computer games are television. People want the convenience and instant gratification of turning on the TV rather than getting dressed up and going out to see a live play. In the same way, the computer is a more immediately accessible way to play games.”  – Gary Gygax


Episode 14 – Convention Experiences with. . . The David

One of the best parts of a new year, besides failing miserably at your resolutions by the second week of January, is the start of a whole new convention season.  Whether you are rabidly anticipating the “Geek Mecca” that is San Diego Comic-Con or like to keep it low-key and hit up your local favorites, we here at the Podcast love conventions, large and small.  From awesome (to awesomely bad) cosplay to getting mad-dogged by The Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, hitting the convention circuit and reporting back to our listeners is definitely a top priority for the podcast monkeys this year.

Join us this week as we welcome our most seasoned Con-goer and close personal friend, The David from the Greenlandic Powerpop band The Maxies, as we recollect some highlights from convention trips past.  Grab your daily passes and stack up your swag while we dive into this week’s look at the convention experience.  It’s both chaotic and fun, just like the convention floor!

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Episode 11 – Monkey Year in Review

So, 2011 is finally winding down and coming to an end.  Another year come and gone with most of us having nothing to show for it but wracked up Christmas debt and extra pounds courtesy of the holiday season.  While this reality gets most people down as the new year turns the corner, we here at Monkey in the Cage couldn’t be more excited!  This year has proven to be a great one for all of the Monkeys, especially since it brought us all closer together and saw the start of our podcast!  Woohoo (or boo, if you’re Robert)!

This week, in our end of the year episode, we look back on all the great things we were able to geek out on this past year (or, from September on…).  From movies and games to babies and houses, join us as we close out 2011 with some great memories and get ready for a geek-filled 2012.  From all of us Monkeys to all of you Internet-ians, have a drunkenly safe and happy New Year and in 2012 always “Nerd out with your Wookie out!”

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Episode 2 – “Can’t we all just get along?” Debunking Gaming Misconceptions

In our second episode, we talk about everything from zombies and bikers to Batman and Buffy.  More importantly, we take on the serious task of dispelling common generalizations about gaming and gamers while simultaneously proving that everyone deep down is a geek, whether they know it or not!

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