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I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Personal Notes

 

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What I Learned from Neopets

ponyI use to play Neopets every day. I’d log in, do my dailies, play some games, then do something else only to come back later in the day to play my favorite games again. I figured if I was going to play those silly little flash games I may as well get something for my trouble. That “something” was a digital pet with color patterns, digital toys, digital books to read, and hours of time… wasted. Right?

I do check in with my Neopets now and then. Now it’s more to waste a little time in between writing, or when I have a spare moment available. Usually my pets are starving when I get there, and they stay starving more often then not. But as I was playing today I realized there were some things about Neopets that reflected lessons I’d learned in my every day life. Lessons that a child playing Neopets could easily understand and use later on.

Buy low, sell high!

This could be a stock exchange commercial. But seriously, it works. It works when you’re buying supplies to make jewelry or trinkets to sell  in your Etsy shop. It works when you’re sourcing the paint for your canvas, or the fabric for your dress. It works when you are scheduling your time for working on your novel. Put in less money then you sell it for. Money includes effort, time, etc.

But remember, the first few are usually the loss leaders. You don’t make money on them, you make money on volume. So don’t out price yourself. Realize that you probably will have to settle for breaking even for a little while until you manage to gain a following and some fans, and then you can go hog wild and make a living.

The more stock the more sales

This was the one that got me thinking about this article. Neopets gives you your own shop where you can sell the digital items you’ve gathered. I was filling up my shop, setting prices, when it dawned on me: the more items in my shop the more likely I was to have sales.

It wasn’t just that my shop would be more visible because I was more likely to have the specific item someone was looking for. It was the fact that the more I had in my shop the more people might just find my shop organically, and the more spur of the moment purchases they might make. Even if the prices were high. Even if they didn’t necessarily want that copy of “Babaa Care”.

It’s the same with my own Amazon store. The more books I have in there the more likely I am to get a random customer. The more likely he is to just pick up a couple of things instead of just one while he’s there. It works with other types of merchandise as well. Who goes into a shop that only sales milk? No, we want a store where we can get eggs, bacon, and cheese too. So give your customers what they want. Create more things for your shop.

Work a little every day for the best rewards.

A big part of Neopets is the dailies. Every day you can go to a website that has a link to all the dailies, or you can remember them. I preferred the websites to start with, though few of them listed all the daily activities you could do. Each activity gave you a new item, a few neopoints, or an avatar. Each one got you closer to the million neopoint mark in your bank.

But this applies to the real world as well. Every day, adding a little bit to your art, or writing, or music.. every day studying or going to your day job. It all adds up, little by little, till you have something to show for it. It’s just another reason for me to write every day, even when it sucks. Even when it’s hard.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Neopets often add items that are limited time, or seasonal. They change games, update areas, add and subtract things. Everything changes, both online and off. Nothing lasts forever. And one of the things you learn in Neopets is that it pays to collect those things that are limited. Just like comic books in the real world. If only a few people can get them, or if they disappear over time, then they slowly become more valuable.

Gambling doesn’t pay.

There is a bit of controversy around the gambling available on Neopets. They have their own version of the Lottery, and scratch cards. You rarely win. In fact you make more money from scratch cards by selling them in your shop then you do by actually scratching them off. Other things, like Poogle Racing and Keno allow you to pay in money, but rarely pay out. Thankfully it’s all neopoints, but you get the picture.

The virtual doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stay virtual.

Some time ago Neopets added real life items to their catalog. Plushies, console games, wearable, etc. Working in digital media as I do with books this is a great lesson for me as well. Digital items shouldn’t always stay digital. There should be some branching over to the 3D world. What if I made a plushy that I could sell? Or a poster? Or wearables? It’s a great marketing strategy and makes the real life and digital life closer to each other because you have something you can touch and feel on this side of the screen. What’s more, they always gave a digital item with the real world item. Tokens, free items, and digital merch to go with the plushy you bought. These items were FREE for Neopets to give away, so it made sense to add value to their real world objects by having digital items go with it. As a writer/artist/etc you can do something similar. Add QR codes for free books, or digital backgrounds. Give something digital away with every real world purchase. At the very least a free (or greatly reduced) ebook with every print book.

I’m sure there are more, but I am too tired to think of them.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Commentary

 

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Let’s talk about sex

Ever since #gamergate began I’ve been seeing feminism all over the place, and especially people saying video games, and the men who play them, are sexist. This upsets me on several levels, and I’ve spoken about a few but I have one that effects me personally that I’ve avoided for a few reasons.

The spat of feminism, and some of the things people have said, including a few people I use to think of as friends, makes me feel like they think I (and other women like me) am a slut just because I like sex.

Over the last few years there has been a move to say we live in a rape culture. That women are treated as nothing but sex objects, and it encourages man to rape and abuse women. It makes it feel like the “rape culture” enthusiasts have decided that if you are female and sex positive then you are just doing what men want you to do, falling into the stereotypes, and unable to think for yourself.

One of the most vivid memories I have from my marriage was the day I told my husband I thought something was wrong with the way he was treating me. His response was “Who told you to think that way?” as if I couldn’t think of something on my own. As if I wasn’t intelligent enough to think for myself.

Now we have a contingent of feminists that attack anything that shows women in a sexual way. Sexy outfits in video games, Anaconda by Niki Manaje, porn, etc. It’s all made for men, according to this segment of our population. It degrades women. It makes them targets.

“The women who partisipate in these things don’t know any better. They can’t think for themselves. They are just doing what the menz want.” Or so it sounds.

We came so far from Victorian prudence teaching children to hate sex and their bodies, all the way to free love in the sixties. We found a new identity that said women were in control of their bodies and could do what they liked. That women had the power over themselves. They could have sex without fear of pregnancy, get pregnant without a man, have their own jobs, incomes, mortgages. They could be in the military and by and large they had the authority over themselves and their minds.

They could think for themselves.

I do not disagree that there are some men who treat women as second class citizens, nothing more then a wet spot to stick their penis. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with them. They are assholes who aren’t worth my time. But these few men do not change the fact that I still have control of my body. I still have the desire to be desired, loved, and yes,  sexualized at times by my significant other. And there are women who enjoy being sexualized by every man who sees them. They enjoy it, and there is nothing wrong with that.

We are sexual creatures. We shouldn’t allow a few bad apples to ruin all the progress we’ve made over the last century.

Then we have the other side of the situation where this contingent of feminist treat men as mindless walking penises, unable to think with their larger head if there is any depiction of sexy females anywhere around.

Sigh. Any woman who’s been in a relationship long enough, who likes sex, will eventually get turned down for sex. Men have the same issues we do. Sometimes they are sick, tired, stressed, angry, worn out, or just plain not in the mood. Just like women *gasp*.

(As an aside, if a couple have different sex drives, meaning one wants it more than the other, then one party is less likely to turn down the other, ever, because they are afraid if they do they might not get sex again. This happens to men and women. But that’s a different subject.)

And one more thing, to those who say we sexualize women and not men I say: you’re not paying attention. “Why are women portrayed in bikinis and men in suits?” Have you seen a Calvin Klein ad lately? Those men are in underwear, sometimes with button up shirts undone. Topless photos of male actors are just as readily available online as topless actresses. No there aren’t a lot of nudes, but if you insist that women don’t like porn then that’s why. Besides the fact that the flacid penis is just weird, not attractive. (hint, a lot of women do like porn.)

How about Chip’n’dales? Or Playgirl magazine?

The truth of the matter is that sexy men don’t sell stuff nearly as well as sexy women in an ad. Is that because women are less visual? Is it because women are too smart to fall for that kind of advertising? Maybe it’s just that women have such a wide variety of sexual preference that they can’t find the one real “sexy” male body type.

Playgirl magazine does not sale as much as Playboy. A lot of women who do like porn prefer the type of porn that is “directed at men”. Why are we faulting marketers for following tends? If naked men sold product we’d see a lot more naked men. They don’t, for whatever reason. That doesn’t make men pigs, or women prudes, it makes us true to our human nature. Men and women have physical and mental differences.

In short… Sex is natural, sex is fun. Stop trying to inflict your beliefs on sexuality on other people. Last time I checked my body and mind are still my own.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in Commentary

 

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Feminism in Video Games

578253Anyone who knows me knows that I have an addiction. I spend far too much on video games, humble bundles, and steam sales. I play far too many video games when I should be writing. In general… Hi. My name is Crissy, and I’m a game addict.

I own 281 games on Steam. I have a binder FILLED with more games like Baulders Gate, Settlers, and Might and Magic. Games that I love, and sometimes install just for the nostalgia. That isn’t even considering the consoles I own, and all the games for each of them.

I don’t finish a lot of games. Most of the time it’s because the game looses my interest and I go off to the next shiny thing. Sometimes it’s because the game is too difficult for me and I’d rather just watch someone else play it on a let’s play. Sometimes it’s just not my type of game and I never get past the first few levels. But I’ve been playing games since I was a teenager, and own a lot of consoles to prove it, so I’ve also had my share of completions.

Why am I talking about video games? Because this week there has been a HUGE upsurge in interest regarding Anita Sarkeesian and her “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series. Most of it started because of the controversy around Zoe Quinn and the accusations that her ex boyfriend leveled on her.

Now, let’s reflect for a second that Zoe’s EX BOYFRIEND accused her of things and tons of people just jumped onto it without even considering where the source came from. I don’t presume to know if it happened or not, I honestly don’t care at this point. What I do know is that it is a suspicious situation, and people on both sides of the Quinn debate have been assholes to each other, and especially to Miss Quinn herself.

Then there is Sarkeesian, the controversy surrounding her kickstarter and where the funds went. The rumors about her statements that she didn’t even like video games. Reports that she stole art images and let’s play footage. Then her portrayal of games as “sexist” without even really looking into all the information about the particular game she called sexist. All of that, but she still didn’t deserve the threats and late night calls that she received. So many that she left her home to take refuge elsewhere.

Regardless of what is in video games, neither of these women deserved to be treated like that. No one, man or woman, deserves to be treated like that.

On the video game side: Yes, video games could use a little more dimension in the way they portray women. Yes, video games can sometimes seem sexists to some people. Yes, there is a conversation to be had. But let’s be honest about the portrayal of women in games vs. reality, shall we?  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2014 in Commentary

 

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In app game purchase! Grrrrrr!

I went to goggle play looking for a new, interesting game and saw a list of half off games. I’m okay with paying a little bit to own a game and play it whenever I feel like it.

But no, this wasn’t 50% off to own a game. This  was 50% off in app purchases. Because in app purchases make more money.

You might think I’m pissed off at devs for doing this, and you’d be slightly right. It is annoying as F to get interested in a game and really enjoy it only to get half way through and run out of  “energy” or have long ass wait periods for certain things to load. Even worse; power-ups that cost $1 each.

But no, it annoys me far more that people will actually spend $20 or more on Candy Crush on in app purchases, making this a viable option for devs in the first place.

Candy Crush had over 300 levels. If they split the game up into 50 levels a piece and charged $2.99 for each game package, with chances to win power ups, then I would totally buy it. But I’m not their demographic. The people they want to play their game will spend hundreds or even thousands just to solve one more puzzle.

It seems like more and more games are turning to in app purchases.  Thankfully Google now warns you before you download a game. I rejected 20 different games because of the in app purchase tag.

Sadly they don’t tell you what kind of in app purchase is available. If it was a purchase for an expansion, or for new skins I’d be okay with that. It’s pay to win games that really bug me. Or pay to have an enjoyable experience.

Just put a price tag on your game as a whole instead of doing in app purchases!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Commentary

 

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This morning I watched “Teens React to CaptainSparklez“, and I have to admit… I’m aCaptainSparklez fan. He, along with YogsCast, are the reason I bought Minecraft, and why I come back to it more then any game I’ve ever played.

At the end of the video they asked why people might watch CaptainSparklez, and other play throughs on youtube, and most of the teens didn’t know, even those who watched them. But I know why I watch them.

I don’t watch sports, because I have no interest in watching sweaty guys running back and forth on a field/court, playing an intricate game of “keep away”.  I don’t understand all the fine rules of most sports, not because “you’re a girl”, like most people would assume, but because I didn’t grow up with sports in my home. My dad didn’t watch football, and never sat beside me cheering on his favorite team. So it doesn’t bring me any nostalgia, or happiness to watch grown men playing the game I was forced to endure during PE ever school year for three weeks.

I don’t watch much TV anymore. Not because I have some moral issue with TV, but because I remember when TV was good. When every channel made you feel something, either laughter, love, fear, or awe as you watched your favorite actors and comedians in the shows you loved. Or the documentary about going to space. Or the show with an amazing woman fighting dragons, vampires, and/or gods, and showing girls every week that there was more to life then being a house wife.

Now, TV is 80% fake reality TV. Not just fake, but they take the worst elements of our society, and parade them around for everyone to see.

Watching channels like CaptainSparklez, YogsCast, or NorthernLion give me a real look at someone. I get to watch them actually react, jump, cheer, or laugh because of something in the game I want to play.

Watching Let’s Plays is just another form of voyeurism, but it’s on my terms. It’s far more realistic. The people are people I like, and would often love to be friends with if I met them IRL.

Now, I do think Pewdiepie is half show, and half reality. I think he, like me, gets easily scared and is just more willing then I am to confront that fear. (No, I am not installing Amnesia on my PC again, F*CK THAT!) But he does ham it up for the audience. And yet he is the most subscribed channel on youtube. Because he’s an all around interesting guy.

If TV execs would stop working so hard to make reality tv interesting, and just let it be itself, or put interesting shows with good story, drama and feeling back on… we’d probably watch a little more. Especially if you stopped trying to force us to pay $70 a month to subsidize sports channels.

People love good stories! They flock to the theater to watch epic, 3 hour long narratives. They buy books in hordes, listen to tons of audio books, and still they clamor for more.

But they also crave honesty. Something, or someone they can relate to, admire, be inspired by, or just teach them more about how the world works.

It saddens me that almost all of the great science and education shows have been replaced by crap. That science fiction, one of the most inspiring genres ever, has practically disappeared.

But I still have youtube.

 

 

PS! Thank you to Simon who helped me save the post I had accidentally deleted. You are AWESOME!

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Commentary

 

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Sex and Video Games

body_sm_ratios1On Reddit today, there was a game designer asking if his female character was sexy, but not so sexy that it was conforming to the usual female game design stereotype….  So it got me thinking.

“Sexy” is subjective. What you find sexy I might not find sexy. And what is sexy by one regions definitions will not be the same in another.

For instance, this character has the mandatory large breasts, hour glass figure, and swaying hips that western society deems “sexy”. If you go to Japan, or Brazil it won’t be the same standard. They don’t have the same stereotypical “sexy” idea of women that we do in the west.

Now, is it still perpetuating the stereotype of video games? I don’t think so, because she isn’t half naked and her figure actually has a natural curvy form, while still being close to realistic, though not quiet.

Now.. as a woman I find the whole discussion to be trivial in general. “You’re painting women as sex objects” … No, they are painting them as caricatures of the “sexy woman”. That is to say, grossly out of proportion, gravity defying, and completely unrealistic. Some of them ape superhero proportions, but many of them don’t even bother with that. If that is a man’s idea of an ideal woman then he is in for a sad awakening when he goes looking for a real one.

Advertising has done far more to paint woman as sex objects than video games ever have, and yet fem-libers will shout far louder about a woman in impractical armor in a video game then they will about the anorexic looking fashion models, and half naked women in commercials and magazines with photoshopped bodies.

A character in a video game ISN’T REAL! It isn’t even close. It doesn’t paint an idealistic picture of a woman, it paints a fake, unattainable in any circumstances woman. What’s more, it doesn’t just do this for the women, it does this for the men as well.

Women who get all irritated about video game avatars are clearly not versed in gaming and comic book culture, nor do they know anything about the historical trend of art. Both men and women were painted, drawn, sculpted, and shown in the idealized versions of the time and place they originated, and/or caricatures of those ideals. It only sometimes has something to do with sex, other times it’s just something “pretty” to look at, or commentating on society as a whole.

And if they are versed in art history, then why the hell are they so argumentative about the whole thing? Why aren’t they using it as discussion instead of just saying “DON’T DO THAT!”

Superheros are a mans power fantasy? So because I’m female I’m not allowed to have the same fantasy? I want to fantasize that I’m the sexy muscular woman with all the power under my sword, able to slice through dragons, orcs and trolls with one swing of my sword. That’s my power fantasy!

Just because you are offended at something THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT WRONG! Stop fucking up life for the rest of us just because you got your panties in a twist. Let me have my fantasy for one fricking minute, and just enjoy being beautiful, strong, and capable, even though I’m not in real life.

And really, isn’t that what a video game is all about in the first place?

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Commentary

 

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