Obsessive Rationalization of Unrealistic Genres

I am constantly amazed and disappointed by people’s perpetual insistence on willful ignorance and disregard of logic. It is common to tout that people are able to “distinguish reality from fiction”, but I am finding that hard to believe. This ailment is especially prevalent in fans or supporters of a particular lore; enjoyment of a genre appears to be a debilitating disease that leaves its victims completely incapable of making concessions to critics.

Let’s examine two examples. First, zombie lore. The genre is wide and diverse, but is generally accepted to be a gross fabrication and completely improbable, right? Nope. There is a fixation on coming up with more and more “realistic” explanations of how a zombie apocalypse could “actually” come to be. This is true both in media — we see the introduction of terms like “infected” to make the scenarios seem more authentic — and in the fan culture surrounding it. Look at any article on the Internet pointing out the most obvious reasons that a zombie apocalypse would never arise, and you will see a flood of comments defending the feasibility of such a scenario. Do they think that pointing out the unrealism of the genre is somehow offensive? That explicitly distinguishing reality from fiction (in a genre that is constantly trying to move the latter towards the former) somehow invalidates the fiction? It boggles my mind that people feel the need to defend the feasibility of a clearly fictional and improbable scenario.

But this feeling of wonder is only compounded whenever I accidentally wander near Star Wars or Star Trek fans. Both these franchises are clearly future fantasy (where technology serves only to further the plot, as opposed to hard science fiction, where there is a clear bi-directional interplay between the two). Yet many fan sites are created to help flush out the technological lore and attempt to apply rational, scientific explanations to the events in the media that are clearly only in service to the plot. If you point this out to a fan, they will become indignant and start explaining their way around any obstacle you toss at them. Never mind that the whole thing is fictional and doesn’t actually need to be scientifically accurate in order to be entertaining (and in fact was never intended to be scientifically accurate). This madness continues to the degree that later productions in the franchise may even try to explain some of the happening with science, but 9 times out a 10 this only bungles things up further.

Anyways, I wish die-hard fans would accept that they are fans of a fictional entertainment franchise that not only isn’t realistic or feasible, but in fact doesn’t need to be in order to be entertaining. Being unrealistic does not invalidate zombies or Star Trek or Star Wars in any way. So get over the fact that none of those franchises make any damn sense.

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Minecraft Server: RPCreate

A while back I wrote a post about Minecraft servers. Since then I’ve put more thought into it and I’m thinking about starting a new server. This will be a much more informed endeavor, and hopefully it will turn out for the best. Here are some highlights:

The main idea is that the server puts all the players on an even playing field by allowing all users to use creative mode and basic commands. This will eliminate hoarding and allow players to focus on interacting, not making money or getting resources. It also removes any worry about stealing. However, because players have the capability to get any resources they need, I am hoping they will be more willing to fill a so for economic role (farming, lumberjacking, mining, building, etc) and resort to using legit materials as much as possible.

You need to be able to write!
Number one requirement to join will be the ability to write. This indicates that you are at least somewhat intelligent and able to express your ideas. In addition, it means you can read what others write and grasp new concepts.

You need to relax!
With a guaranteed level of intelligence hopefully comes a certain ability to compromise and handle a situation gracefully if you don’t get what you want or disagree with someone. We also need people who can play fairly and understand the importance of keeping a balanced economy by not hoarding legitimate materials or abusing creative mode.

You need to play fairly, and build sensibly.
As stated before, each member should be responsible. It is their server, and thus they need to actively work to keep it fun. This is the main idea I want to permeate through the server community: the server is merely a utility through which the players, as a community, get to act out fantasies and epic stories. There are no “admins” lording over the players, telling them how to play; it is the players that get to enjoy the world they have made, and the players who have to maintain the server.

This is not to say that I won’t make suggestions about economy and distinguish between responsible building and overbuilding; I’ll be doing it as a concerned player, not moderator. I won’t have more powers than anyone else on the server, and I won’t get the final call on decisions.

One thing I won’t tolerate, however, is plugins and mods. Besides the basic Bukkit server framework, no mods or plugins will be installed, by request or otherwise, that change or enhance game mechanics. This means no currency, no WorldEdit, no seasons or races or NPCs, nothing.

The community will have a say in everything else, though. The players will make the stories, vote on policies, and build the world. The server will be quite open to change. If the players want to institute a new policy, they can. Since there are no admins or moderators, they will be the ones carrying it out. Since there is no higher authority to appeal to, players will be forced to talk out disagreements among themselves.

Obviously its impossible to completely eliminate a leader who “runs” the server. Someone needs to host it, and someone needs to maintain the bulletin boards and websites. I suppose I would do that, but nearly anything could be changed if it was popular opinion backed by a vote. What I want is a player-made server and community, not a pre-made admin’s framework which has been filled in by the players. That breeds a dependency that ultimately leads to arguments and unrest, and it gives the players something to blame for all the bad things: namely, the admin.

I mentioned in passing a website, which would actually be a key element of the server. In my opinion, a bulletin board isn’t enough to truly let a server grow into a community. It needs independent features for planning events, posting featured videos, screenshots, and stories, and a hub for bulletin board, wiki, and all the other possibly third-party utilities. A website lets the person hosting the server to post updates, which can be emailed to people in case they didn’t catch it on the bulletin board.

If I built my own bulletin board and wiki utilities (which I am interested in doing anyways), the website could have a single account for commenting on news, RSVPing to events, editing the wiki, and posting on the forum. I HAVE been wanting to get back into web programming… maybe I’ll start that this weekend.

Warhammer 40K

I used to play Warhammer 40k, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It’s a tabletop wargame, in which players buy, assemble, and paint their own models. They then battle it out on custom-made terrain using a set of rules, occasionally augmented by custom rules. The main rulebook is a hefty tome, but most of it is fluff (stories, guides to modeling, strategy, and pictures) and fringe cases. There are numerous races, and each uses its own ‘codex’, which contains both the background of the race within the universe, as well as the choice of units and the rules and lore surrounding each type. Although the game is pretty well balanced, it also relies heavily on probability, meaning that even the best strategy is at the mercy of the luck gods (as some gamers say). By this, I mean that every single action (other than flat movement and choosing targets) is dependent on the dice. So I suppose that dice-rolling is a legitimate skill in the world of 40K.

I played Tau, a young race (only 2000 years from sentience) both noble and technologically advanced. While most of the universe is in a dark age in which the most complex technology are relics from the golden age and machines are worshipped rather than understood, the Tau have both sleek and powerful technology, a sparkling civilization, and drive to spread harmony throughout the stars. Also, their units are absolutely amazing. The Tau are on battlesuits, which look incredible (with a great combination of smooth curves and hard edges, separated by engraved patterns) and can tote a deadly arsenal. There is also the fear factor. Tau Broadsides are renowned throughout the 40K community. These battlesuits carry around two massive railguns that can punch through any armor and spell certain doom for its recipient unless they are a heroic character or gigantic vehicle. To top the firepower, it also has one of the longest ranges in the game. Merely seeing a squad of those deployed can make any opponent tremble. You can count on the fact that they will focus on taking those out first; a fatal error, since the other elements of the Tau arsenal are almost as deadly.

Fire WarriorsClose upModified Broadside

The second army I started was Imperial guard. These guys are regular humans in a military pretty close to our modern one. Their lore isn’t as fascinating, and I mostly started with them because they look great (who doesn’t like model armymen) and because I wanted a different playstyle than Tau. They certainly deliver on that point. The strategy behind the IG is cannon fodder. With the exception of Tyranids (ravenous aliens who work off the same principle), IG have the cheapest men (in terms of points cost) and the worst weapons. Great tanks, though.

Warhammer held a great number of interests for me. It had elements of strategy, which led me to devise great spreadsheets for quickly building army lists. It had elements of design, both in the models and also in the terrain. Not only did I get to design my own army color scheme, but I also got greatly interested in modding, which used ‘green stuff’ (a type of putty) and assorted parts to create new characters. I created mods ranging from Tau fire warriors with cutdown battlesuit weapons and a Kroot hit team (for a custom gametype) to an alien infesting a space marine; with his ribcage broken wide open and tentacles taking over his limbs, it was grotesque. Warhammer had interesting and varied lore, which meant I could think up a plot surrounding my army as well as write entire fictions. What finally made Warhammer great for me was that it was analog. As soon as I got bored with the actual game, I could research custom gametypes as well as make up my own; all I needed was the models.

I stopped playing 40k because I started highschool. I didn’t have the time anymore, we were moving (meaning nowhere to work on the models or play the games) to get closer to both the school and my dad’s work, and neither of the friends with whom I used to play got accepted into my school, so I didn’t have any reason to keep working on my armies. Although I got all my models back out, I realized that I no longer have the time or dedication to work on an army, nor do I have anybody to play with (despite my school being renowned for its ‘nerdiness’, I have yet to meet an actual 40k player, rather than people who have merely “seen” or “hear about” it).

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