PS3 love

Way back in the day, I was a Sega person. Like everyone else at my college, I had a Genesis (Jenny), but I followed Sega into the Saturn (good system, far too expensive, some memorable games), and the Dreamcast (outstanding system, some fantastic games). Then Sega came to an end due to their own pricing, strange marketing, and lack of third-party support… oh, and the relentless PS/PS2 juggernaut. Afterwards, I had to find something else. On a weekend where my wife (girlfriend at the time) anticipated us being snowed in and unable to escape from visiting her parents house, we picked up a PS2. It was Sony who killed Sega, but the whole "love the one who defeats you" vibe is strong here.

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The lure of large-group raiding

My casual/raiding guild is starting to build up to 25-man content. They're raiding with a bunch of ex-guildies who have drifted through a handful of other guilds before running out of options and trying to start their own. This splinter guild doesn't have enough people to raid even Kara, never mind their goal of beginning 25-man content, so they proposed an alliance to start the 25-man track.

There's enthusiasm in my guild. New content! For many people in the guild, this will be their first big raid ever. For others, this would be a way to relive the glory days (cough) of Molten Core/Onyxia. The 25-man track is the big boy raid track! Whee!

There are a few problems, though.

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Minipets are joy

I have to admit that my most coveted drop that I want from Magister's Terrace is the phoenix minipet. Minipets are probably the silliest thing in World of Warcraft. A non-combat pet. Window dressing.

For my wife, I think minipets are about 20% of why she plays the entire game. When I passed on the rumor of minipet bags, she was thrilled. She is that person who has 20 minipets, in her inventory. Chickens, robots, elephants, glowing balls of light, bugs, old chewing gum, and a ball of string. I have a mere dozen. Only four on my inventory at a time (less on my bagspace-starved warrior, he only gets three) Our love of minipets is strong, and it turns out that we are not alone.

The best minipets have a noise you hear when you click on it. Like with Willy, you get a groan. Mechanical chicken, you get a robotic clucking noise. And so on. It's something fun you can do if you're on a raid and the raid leader has to explain an encounter you know to the new person.

Come to think of it, the baby panda is partially what sold my wife on the game in the first place. You have these majestic, imposing characters, with huge shoulder armor and glowing effects and fearsome weapons and so on. And then you have a humble prairie chicken pecking the ground next to you. There's something about that pairing that's just perfect. Before we got her a computer of her own (and a game client of her own), my wife and I would play together, with her riding shotgun. We chatted up someone in Ironforge who had a baby panda. "That's so cool!" "Yeah, but he doesn't really do much." And at that moment, the baby panda took a nap, laying down with the green zzz over its head. We laughed for a solid ten minutes. That was the beginning.

Minipets factor into our guild's raid strategy as well. When we encounter difficulty on a new boss, the wipes can get tedious. Someone always suggests different minipets, and everyone in the raid says "Ah yes. Minipets." A different contingent of (useless) minipets will certainly make this attempt much easier. Like I said, we're casual/raiding, and we should probably be talking more about whatever's killing us, but how can you turn down a guaranteed smile and laugh before rushing in to die again?

You can't. It's just one of the silly parts of WoW that make it fun.

Game Riding Shotgun

What happens when you've got two gamers (me and my wife) who can't play a game together, but you both want to play? Someone rides shotgun. This can be due to the game being single-player, or more recently, due to the need for someone to hold an infant.

The person who rides shotgun doesn't have to focus on controls or the repetitive tasks that take up a lot of time on gaming. They focus on the big picture, missed details, and so on. If the game is something you're both interested in, you combine to become something of a superplayer. For example, I can't spot those hidden flags in Assassin's Creed for the life of me, but she'll pick out one that's under a pile of hay, which is itself under a tarp… three miles away, through dense fog, around the corner. She spots the tiny corner of that flag, and we get closer to completing the game. In Pixeljunk Monsters, I point out that she tends to stand next to mobs, waiting for them to die, when she could be three steps away, upgrading a tower while she waited. And we get closer to getting a rainbow on that level. (Yes, you can play PJM with two players–and we often do–but when I get home from work and she's playing, I don't say, "Drop that and let's play together." I fix myself a drink.)

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