Gamer Social Media


Love for Anook


So anyone who follows me probably knows of my love of twitter.  Over the years it has become the only major social media network that I really interact with on a regular basis.  Technically I have Facebook, and G+ and essentially an account on every single social media network because I am always curious about the next big thing…. but rarely do they actually make an impact.  What has happened instead is that I seem to have become more and more entrenched in niche social media.  Firstly I have to talk about my love of Anook.  When this site first launched it confused the hell out of me.  In fact I was shooting off my mouth like I often do on twitter, complaining about me not really understanding its purpose….  when the Anook account started messaging me trying to explain it.  My attachment to this network is entirely thanks to one man, Lonrem the social and community manager for the site.  The site itself does a lot of things…  but it also has so far to go before it “grows up” into the site that it could be.

I have a long list of things that I would love to see on it, but I continue to use it as it is in the hope that someday the rest of the world will realize just how special this network really is.  It is built on a strange dynamic of forcing actual interaction with the site, rather than allowing folks to just auto post content.  This is cool because it means that folks are actually there and posting and commenting… but the negative is for content providers like myself it is frustrating to have to do extra work just to support them.  Each week when I publish AggroChat I go out and manually syndicate the content to our AggroChat Nook.  The first change I would love to see is for them to integrate with RSS feeds the same way they do with YouTube and auto format a post in a way as to showcase blog content.  The other big one for me is that their system only allows you to tag one game per post… and you all know I cannot seem to make single game posts like ever unless it is an impressions piece. In any case…. the community on Anook is amazing because Lonrem works his ass off to keep it that way.  Spammers, Bots and Trolls do not last long because the network is curated by hand.  I just hope that they get the funding to expand features and integrate with more things.

Slack: Private IRC Thingy


The next social thing that has taken me even further away from traditional social media… is Slack.  It is kinda hard to explain just what Slack is, but I tend to think of it as a private social network.  On one hand it is almost like having a private IRC server, and on other hands it is like having a private version of google drive or dropbox.  I was originally introduced to the tool through the staff who uses it for coordination of articles and such.  I then started using it at work with my own development team, and we have pretty much switched to communicating exclusively through it so that if someone tags into a discussion late they can use the channel backlog to catch up on what is going on.  Finally I convinced the AggroChat crew to start using it to discuss and coordinate things during the week, and from there it kinda grew into me being in a huge number of private slack groups each of them with their own dedicated focus.  The end result is that I use other media less and tend to use slack as my key focus.  It has a bunch of benefits, like the fact that this site is largely used for business purposes around the world, and as such happily passes though most corporate web filters.

What slack does extremely well is text chat, and while they can integrate with a dozen other things and are even starting to move down the voice chat path…  they are the king of text allowing you more options than pretty much any other service.  For programmers this is amazing because it allows you to post snippets of code and then have it formatted and color coded for the language you posted it as.  This is huge when collaborating on development, and we even end up using this from time to time among the AggroChat crew.  You can also see in the above image that we have it integrated with twitter so that anytime someone sends a message directed at our AggroChat account it shows up in a specific channel.  The feature we have really gotten addicted to is the custom emoticons and I am not sure what I will do without my Vault Boy Thumbs Up icon to use as a reaction.  The piece of the equation that most people don’t know is that the team behind Slack… is Tiny Speck the company that built the amazing 2D MMO Glitch.  They essentially took the robust chat infrastructure behind that game… and turned it into a business product that honestly makes me feel a little good inside to be using.

Discord: New Voice Contender


Over the years we have shifted back and forth between the three major voice providers for gaming purposes:  Teamspeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble.  Each of them has their own positives and negatives.  They all share a big negative however in that it requires you to either find someone willing to host a server for you, or pony up for server hosting costs.  For years during World of Warcraft raiding, I just ate the cost of a voice server because it was something like $45 a quarter.  However that still adds up over time, so when we were offered the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server I jumped at the chance to jump to no longer having to pay this fee.  That server has been awesome and we record AggroChat from it every Saturday night.  However deep down inside… I know that someone out there is having to foot the bill for our fun… and it kinda bothers me.  Recently a new app called Discord has somewhat taken the gaming world by storm.  In so many ways Slack and Discord seem to spawn from the same desire… to have server less communication for their users.  Slack went in the direction of replacing IRC, Instant Messenger and Email…. and Discord went down the path of trying to replace Teamspeak, Ventrilo and Mumble.  There is a huge bit of overlap between the two technologies but for the most part Slack is my daytime network, and Discord is rapidly becoming my night time network.

What is extremely awesome about this is that each game community seems to be adopting Discord, and I now have large communities in Destiny, ESO, Rift, and The Division that are focused that one game.  We recently shifted to using this as a World of Warcraft raid for the Stalwart casual Wednesday night raid and it works wonderfully.  The stability of Teamspeak has been a little questionable of late, and we went through a night where everyone sounded like robots.  This lead us to fire up a discord, and in a few minutes we were all able to chat happily with little to no lag.  There are some caveats here that I feel like I should talk about.  The web client is awesome for text based chat, but if you intend to use it long… I highly suggest downloading the client for your desktop or mobile platform.  The web client push to talk only works if you have focus on the web page…. meaning as soon as you alt tab into your game you can no longer speak.  A side note… if you are not using push to talk…  please god use push to talk.  I raided for years with folks who didn’t and really… we can hear every sneeze, fart, and kid yelling in the background.  I would absolutely jump from Teamspeak to Discord entirely… but as of right now there is no good means of recording a channel.  I’ve bumped the feature up on the request list, so hopefully maybe someday someone will see fit to do that.  Mostly I hate Skype with a passion and would love for Discord to really take over the podcast recording world.

Other Stuff

The thing is… these are the three services that I have now become extremely comfortable with and have integrated into my life.  There are so many others out there like that I have yet to really see the personal benefit of.  Then of course there are all of the services like Steam that we all use… but don’t really use like social networks.  Recently I have somewhat been forced to use Band because it is what my Destiny Clan switched to using.  It seems to have really great scheduling options, but pretty shitty chat or at least it is shitty if you are not using a mobile client.  I try and do everything I can through desktop or web based clients because nothing makes me a sad panda like typing on my phone. I am horrible at responding to non-critical text messages because I really hate the process of typing even with swype on a mobile device.  I know my wife uses the Google speech to text functionality a lot, but nothing makes me feel more of an idiot than talking to my phone.  So in the end… I put off responding to as much as I can until I am sitting back down at a keyboard again.  So I’ve showed you mine… what services do you now use that you cannot give up?  I am curious how these niche media sites are reshaping the way we interact with social media in general.



Gaming Muggles

Non-Gaming Spouse

Last night I kinda barged into an interesting conversation on twitter between some of my fellow TGENerates.  This morning I thought I would write a bit about it, in a very non-standard blog post for me.  While I don’t refer to her as a Gaming Muggle…  I guess that would probably be a potential term for my own spouse.  She doesn’t identify with the term gamer, even though she owned an Atari, a Nintendo, and currently plays more mobile games than I will likely ever play in my life.  However because she tends to play spider solitaire or sudoku…  she doesn’t consider it gaming.  The truth is gaming left her when it went three dimensional, and what I mean by that is… she is capable of dealing with two dimensional planes and moving objects across them.  However since her eyes never fused completely, she struggles with depth perception type tasks… especially in the virtual world where there are far less visual queues so to where an object is in relation to other objects.  So I can remember her happily playing Tetris Attack in my college apartment, but once we moved to the Nintendo 64…  that era was pretty much dead to her.  My wife however is absolutely a geek, and we actually met due to our at the time shared IRC addiction.  We were introduced by a man in Belgium, even though we grew up thirty minutes apart.

I will admit I have always been more than a little jealous of “gamer couples”, and seeing them in the various games I have played exploring these virtual worlds together.  That said I know in the case of my wife and I we would probably just drive each other insane.  We are both extremely good at the things we do… we just get to the same conclusion in vastly different ways.  For example when we clean the house we tend to divide and conquer, each taking specific rooms.  The reason being if we are trying to clean the same room at the same time we just end up getting in each others way.  My fear is that in gaming the same would be true, with her taking one path, and me taking another…  but ultimately ending up in the same location at the end.  She has this inborn sense of direction that I have always coveted, because I have to navigate based on landmarks… and get completely lost when those landmarks are missing or have changed.  I can enter a subdivision and within minutes have no clue which direction I am going anymore… and somehow she can magically tell me exactly what our heading is at any point during the trip.  So I think she would honestly probably be far better at navigation than I would even in the virtual space.

Keeping Grounded

Over the years I have come to realize that having a non-gaming spouse is actually a big benefit for me personally.  Everquest was essentially my first MMO, and it bit hold of me hard.  Essentially the ability to explore a fantasy world was the sort of thing I had always craved, and giving me an always on persistent world to do it in…  was absolute crack.  The truth is that for most people that got really hooked on that game… it was in fact like a drug.  There were more than a few people that I know that changed almost everything about their lives to adjust to doing things in Everquest.  The ones who had it worse in a way were the ones with spouses also addicted to that game.  I watched my friends alienate other friends, blow off jobs, and ultimately destroy relationships because of it.  While playing I watched more than one marriage disintegrate, as some folks simply forgot to keep checking into the world.  Bills may or may not have gotten paid, kids and animals may or may not have gotten fed.  There was a bit of a dark underbelly to that game, and as a result it made me realize how lucky I am to have someone to forcibly pull me out of some of those mires.

To answer Liore’s question…  how does one balance?  Well having that person that isn’t doing the thing that you are doing… helps me at least realize that there is a world other than the games I happen to be playing.  It isn’t exactly easy sometimes, especially considering that the reason why I game as much as I do is because my spouse is often busy with her own work.  My wife is a rockstar teacher and because of that ends up spending upwards of eighty hours a week working on this or that item for her classroom.  She takes it all super seriously, and because of that they have piled on so many extra duties.  So there are a lot of times where I am busy with a game, and she is busy with lesson plans… and we are in completely different rooms conversing over instant messenger.  It works… because we know we are in this together.  The relationship is in the little things, and the fact that for the most part we “get” each other.  I made the comment last night that “marriage is a strange thing…  you never really know what is going to work… until it does” and that really is the case.  I don’t know how or why it works… but it does and we have been together nineteen years… and married seventeen.

Complimentary Differences

I think the reason why we work is because on some levels we are completely and utterly different people.  There are times it feels like the only thing we share in common, is our love for each other.  I love Horror and Science Fiction movies… and she loves Home Improvement Television and Crime Dramas.  She is very religious… and I am pretty deeply anti-religion in general.  But the strange thing is…  or differences make us stronger as a whole.  We are unlike most couples in that from the moment we go together we were pretty much a team.  Hell in college we pooled all of our resources into a joint bank account and pretty much supported each other, and I know married couples that have never had a joint bank account in their lives.  This common sense of struggle together means that pretty much everything is tackled as a team.  So if I don’t know how to do something, and she does… and then sometimes she doesn’t know how to do something, I do…  we have a wider range of skills that make it easier to tackle things.  I think the fundamental truth is that we have faith in each other, to do the things that we know we can’t ourselves.

What also makes it work is that for the most part we “get” and respect the things we choose to do.  While I may not understand the concepts my wife is teaching… because Math has always been my weakest area…  I get why she needs resources that her school cannot provide her, and never begrudge getting those items regardless of cost.  Similarly my wife doesn’t necessarily understand why I love Star Wars or Lego.. or the countless game franchises I do… but she is constantly on the look out for things she knows I will like.  The other day she found me an awesome R2-D2 skull cap that I plan on rocking this winter when it gets cold.  She has also come home with Legos that she happens to find on sale somewhere, thinking I would like them.  Similarly I am constantly searching for whatever things she is into, and have gone to silly lengths to track down whatever it is that she is hunting for.  So while I might have a “muggle” wife…  she certainly knows the important bits, and at the same time reminds me that there is a world just outside our door as well.