Steam’s Malware Slide

Malicious use of player’s computers in cryptocurrency mining may occur in Steam’s poorly patrolled marketplace.

At the end of July, Valve removed a game called Abstractism from Steam. Seemingly, the game was hijacking players’ computers to mine Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, as well as faking expensive TF2 (and other) marketplace items. For more about this particular case, check out the Kotaku article or this explanatory video from SidAlpha.

The Abstractism situation is interesting, but I’m more concerned with how the situation indicates the unhappy future (present, even) of Steam.

Considering this game, and more generally the explosion of content on Steam, brings Gresham’s Law to mind. In summary, this Law states that ‘bad money drives out good’ — in other words, any amount of counterfeit currency in circulation devalues the entire economy.  In the long term, the value of any coin or token in an economy with counterfeits in circulation approaches zero.

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The Escape Game

Eve Online pod

It’s been busy, and I’ve been thinking of escape. Of packing a few small things, and just driving off…

I won’t do it, though. I’m too well behaved!

In America, there is a literary tradition of men disappearing — shirking their responsibilities, usually to family. Hitting the road. These men — walk-out fathers — are usually canonized for seeking the freedom they desire — deserve, even.

There is no similar tradition that lionizes women making similar choices. The media respond with shock when a mother leaves her children (even if they’re safe with their father) and goes off to pursue her career or life 2.0. It’s newsworthy!

I don’t want to make the mistake of celebrating anyone who walks away from their children. But I also recognize that these decisions are made by stressed out, burned out parents who see no other alternative, no escape.

Escape. The word makes me think of my favorite game genre — MMOs. These, along with other games, can be a healthy way to let off steam, momentarily lead an alternate life, with few consequences.

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Inventory Management

I’m coming off a long weekend of real-world inventory management. In the Northeast US, as in many other parts of the world, we’ve been experiencing a heat-wave, making hauling and sorting through things particularly trying. So I’ve been away from blogging and from gaming for three days, and it’s been NO FUN at all.

This reminded me of something in-game that’s equally not fun: inventory management.

Even that name sounds un-fun, no?

Furniture in a U-Haul trailer
Real World Inventory Management
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Comfort Food in Video Game Form

In Search of a Lighthearted MMO

I’ve read that, in times of war, people gravitate towards Classical or Baroque (Bach, Mozart) over Romantic (Beethoven) music, while societies at peace showed the opposite preference. The idea behind this is that the more predictable, major key pieces of the Baroque or Classical period were comforting in times of crisis. I can’t find any sources to back up this possibly apocryphal tale. But the story rings true, and also has some relevance to my gaming experience, so I’m going with it.

In my preferences for MMOs, I find that the more challenging or chaotic my personal life or the political scene becomes, the more I look for simplicity and an upbeat atmosphere in my games. True, in the United States, we’re not ‘at war’ in the sense that Europe was at war in 1916, say. Or even in the sense that we were at war ten years ago. But, nonetheless, the last couple of years have left me seeking a bit of comfort-food in video game form.

Wildstar should fit the bill for overall tone, but has some other issues that keep me from exploring more.

This means either a goofy, lighthearted title, or else a good dose of grind. Grind — don’t knock it — can be very relaxing.

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Teldrassil is Burning

Sylvanas's tears freeze on her face as she falls to Arthas.

Sylvanas, transformed — from the Warbringers: Sylvanas animated short.

Yesterday I read a book called The Ox-Cart Man to my daughter. It is a simple story (there is also a version in verse) about a man driving his ox-cart laden with produce to market, and then returning home, coins in pocket. As I read, I suddenly teared up.

It’s a poignant book, especially the point where the man sells his ox, kisses him goodbye, and leaves for home, alone. But that is not what moved me. I realized that I had read the book many years before, and was struck by the memory of how I’d once felt upon reading this passage.

Books are like this — you can return to them a half-lifetime later and have an experience that touches on both who you were at the time you first encountered the work and who you are now. Music, movies, (off-air) television series, most games too — you can return, a changed person, to an unchanged world. On occasion I will roll up a an instance of one of my favorite childhood games on the Internet Archive and spend a few moments reminiscing. This is nostalgia — it is a certainty provided by most media.

With online worlds, this certainty crumbles.

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The MMO Collector

brightly colored jewel cases

It’s tempting to amass a huge collection of games, but what is the point when there’s no time to play?

Yesterday, I surveyed my computer to take stock of the MMOs I am playing, or at least have played quasi-recently. I was surprised, and a bit dismayed, to discover that I have 26 installed. There may be more, too, hidden away on removable hard drives or obscure subdirectories. Besides MMOs, my genre of choice, I have several hundred games installed, sitting there, mostly unplayed.

I am reminded of Umberto Eco’s library.

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