The Race

Last night, there was a minor epiphany over my gaming lifestyle. In the past year or two I’ve bought a handful of games, none of which have been played with any seriousness, or indeed at all.¬†The reason, of course, is simple; not enough time to do the things that really matter, and still fit in the writing, because most of the titles picked are not easily put up or downable. They take hours to get right and master, and then to retain relevance require you to keep playing. In effect, they consume existence.

It took a blast from the past to remind me of what matters most for gaming as relaxation.

Although some of my friends would argue otherwise, doing¬†modern gaming properly ends up as a job.¬†Even casual playing requires an investment of time and attention that is often enough to drive the sane, rational minded individual away, because they grasp how important it is not to be lost in pixels at the expense of actual reality. I am looking for a part time, voluntary position when it comes to enjoyment right now, and as it transpires a bunch of old DOS games on Steam are probably the simplest solution, because I’m the one who decides what matters and not a group of my peers.

This way, nobody gets hurt.

If you wonder what I’ll be doing as relaxation across the Summer Break? It is time to rediscover the past without destroying the present.

The Winner Takes it All

Apathy is the single biggest problem on the Internet. 

It isn’t trolls, toxicity, or the corporate giants who decide they’re going to algorithm us all to extinction. We, the vast majority of ‘normal’ users, are the ones with the potential to ruin it for everybody, and we do.¬†Most of the time you won’t even realise this is happening either, until someone turns up on your feed suggesting a course of action you disagree with. If you’ve already got a beef with their actions, that’s pretty much a guarantee that something is going to kick off.

Life is hard in the affluent Western World right now. There’s an almost daily assault of terror incidents, natural disasters and threats to national security. My country’s trying (and largely failing) to successfuly¬†leave a fourty year relationship. The American people are being governed (between rounds of golf)¬†by a white supremacist (allegedly.) In all of this, people continue to pin their affinity and loyalty to a dizzying array of virtual saviours, or pray at the altar of corporate churches with the the belief their brand loyalty maintains a safe and trusted output, however much money that might cost.

It is no surprise therefore that¬†compassion fatigue¬†is becoming recognisable in larger sets of online communities with each passing day. The main upshot of all this trauma is individuals becoming less and less willing to consider a contrary set of beliefs to their own, being more likely to fly off the handle with the slightest provocation, and feeling that as long as they don’t name names or continue to hide behind a virtual persona, they can get away with being toxic because nobody cares enough to call them out.

So, what happens when a safe and trusted organisation does just that, shaming the nasty people for what others say they are? Overwatch is big news right now, and the level of ‘toxic’ game play is never out of my Twitter feed, reported third hand by person after person.¬†So, when a company (that has never really been that keen on labelling anyone who pays for their games as anything other than a customer) takes the bull by the horns and starts calling out the bad people (and encourages players to do the same) what could possibly go wrong?¬†Why would anyone complain about a company taking steps to eliminate the toxic element in a game that’s clearly full of just that?

Here’s where I stop one train of thought and ask you to pick up a second.

For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a jocks vs nerds fight happening somewhere in my earshot. Whether it is disdain for ‘sportsball’ or esports being a ‘joke,’ the two groups seem to have nothing in common, and continue to be pitted against each other whenever possible. The fact that so many sports fans play games is neither here nor there: they come to the table with a natural advantage, which is often overlooked. It is only by understanding the psychology of team games, the importance of playing as part of a whole, that individuals really begin to understand the need for co-operation and empathy.

The basement nerd, used to playing alone, has a hard time grasping the mechanics of team sports. She’s not been taught how to play well with others, and immediately becomes a disruptive, confrontational force. This has one of two results: people either attempt to help her understand how to play, or they reject her as a disruptive element. Then, it doesn’t matter whether what she says about others’ game play is right or not, whether she’s prepared to do as she’s told becomes irrelevant. You choose to play by the rules of the game, or you don’t.¬†If the latter is your path, and there are rules in place that dictate these actions are against the spirit of this game?

Like it or not, you lose.

Overwatch’s decision to call out bad game play assumes that the majority of players just want to participate in a specific way. I wish them luck in making this stick, but when you are fighting ‘players’ who don’t understand what it means to be part of a team, or why that matters, you’re likely on a hiding to nothing. The internet is full of individuals who believe that their opinion, attitude and outlook are all that matters, that teams need them far more than the other way around. The concepts of loyalty, empathy and belonging are simple flimsy constructs for most; no real ‘friends’ just those who believe in a particular set of ideas, to a point, who refuse to allow reality to damage their persona. This is not just a white male preserve either, before you start giving me that look. I know countless women who perpetuate the shock/bitch persona. White men don’t get to die on that hill alone, oh no.

So what has apathy got to do with all this, the more astute of you will now be asking? This week came a powerful, personal revelation: sitting at a screen, being unwilling to name names when you see someone do something you don’t like because that just causes drama is slowly destroying everybody’s lives. It’s the lump on your arm that might be more than just a mole, but you’re unwilling to get it looked at and diagnosed in case the consequences end up as cancerous as you can’t handle the consequences to begin with.¬†At some point, if you want to be a real human being, there has to be an acknowledgement of what matters most. I’ve realised I’ve had enough of reading social media where individuals aren’t prepared to call others out when there’s been something they disagree with. If you don’t have the balls to put conviction to a claim, then shut the fuck up.

If you won’t, don’t expect people to keep listening.

In effect, I have implemented my own response to toxicity. Watching somebody else complain at others but not rock the boat too much themselves, when multiplied up thousands of times, becomes apathy that destroys communities. If there is a genuine beef with someone, then go talk to them.¬†If, after you talk to them, all that they’ll offer as explanation to your issue is glib platitudes and ‘well, I can hardly be expected to read my feed the whole time’ then it should be apparent your relationship is not as important as it appears was the case, and everybody should really move on.¬†If you’re playing an online games where there are teams of people and you flatly refuse to play by the rules set down by the majority? Expect to get royally owned by those who do, even if you feel you are the one in the right.

If you really want to succeed in the future: be the team player who understands that the rules only work to a point. Play games as just that, and don’t live them as if they mattered more than life itself. Most importantly of all, when someone upsets you online, don’t say a fucking thing about it to anyone, deal with the problem internally or away from social media, and just move on. The real winners don’t need to prove they’re right, they know in their hearts that they’re doing the right thing, and everything else is irrelevant.

In a world where nerds have become their own enemies, the only way to win is not to play.

Even Better than the Real Thing

Occasionally something leaps out at me from my conversations with Twitter with the capacity to change thinking completely. Last night, @_thunderspank linked a trailer for the new PS4 game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, making extensive use of the Unreal 4 ‘engine’ which, for those of you who don’t do gaming, is a software framework in which it is possible to capture and create completely believable virtual versions of reality. This is a system used both by commercial companies and the military to run simulation tech. With the help of a combination of other specialist organisations, motion capture has finally become possible with the minimum of inconvenience to an actor. Sure, there’s a phenomenal amount of work to get to the stage where an individual can manipulate their virtual avatar, but the results… well, they’re amazing.

Viewing this trailer last night it was only at a minute in that I realised I wasn’t watching a real actress.

Things have come a long way from the early days of pixelated avatars: one only needs to look at Mario in his current incarnation to realise the differences and improvements that have been wrought by better processor power and higher resolutions. However, the consequences of this ‘format’ wielded by a true independent member of the game world could allow the door to open for more organic developments of the technology, possibly along unexpected lines. Certainly the game that allows you to play as yourself cannot be too far off, and with the current obsession with image that many people possess and flaunt on a daily basis online, the consequences of going down that path are enough to make me feel distinctly uncomfortable.

However, I suspect the porn industry will be looking at this tech very closely indeed, because with the ability to create hyper realistic humans that can be controlled in real time? The future has to be VR Sex without a single Robot Woman in sight.

This is one of those moments where gaming is at a crossroads: a large proportion of the industry appears obsessed with esports and monetising the planet to exploit that, whilst others have a more theatrical and artistic vision of the future. I know which version I’d like to ascribe to, especially as the former appear to have only passing interest in diversity or anyone over the age of 30. Once someone has the common sense to float a ‘Senior’s esports league, or actively encourages women to take part? Then I’ll listen. For now, the future for me will be gaming where I’m the one who dictates the action. This then raises the question of whether I’d even want an adventure where I was able to be myself.

In retrospect, I don’t find any enjoyment in simulations of reality. What really drives interest and longevity for me is the ability to be someone else, or something… in fact, anything EXCEPT what I am. Virtual reality will require an investment from the user in the exact same way any normal game would hope for. The longer you are prepared to invest in a virtual world, the more likely you are not only to succeed within it but get an equal amount of enjoyment in return. Hyper-realism is great, to a point. Like most concepts, it will very much rely on the quality of material provided by developers in order to produce an engaging product.

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My favoured escape is about to launch its latest round of online content next week. One upon a time this would be enough to have me excited, but now there is simply a quiet acceptance of time passing, and the ideals I signed up for effectively becoming insignificant. As long as I remain able to enjoy myself, I’ll keep playing. As to what will drive people to play and spend money in the future?

I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be the target audience.

Ful Stop

I see I’m going to have to explain this to a few people. That’s fine, it is no big deal. I’ve not really discussed the details of my illness with you so, tell you what, let’s do that now.¬†

Anxiety is a big deal around these parts.

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Being ‘not good enough’ is something I’ve carried about, in one form or another, since my teens. Taking the easy route, for a long time, was just how life happened. Only when I met my husband did life start being about better than that, but it is only in the last decade that I’ve really understood what the paralysis of fear and inability has wrought on my life. The whole exercise path has opened up an entirely new world for me to explore, but yesterday I was back in my teens.¬†My PT suggested a series of repetitions using gym equipment, that she thought I was capable of doing, but my brain said no. In the end I was in tears, after 20 minutes of fighting both mind and body simultaneously. I couldn’t do what was asked, even though my body was more than capable of the task.

Sometimes, I am my own worst enemy.

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When you live so much in your own head, reality gets skewed. Because it is safer not to open your heart in case you get hurt, or simply hide yourself away because you feel people will not understand, there is potential for trouble. Inside your mind there is no failure or fault, and nobody will laugh at you if it all goes wrong. The problem with all of this internalising however is that when reality does happen, it can be difficult to live in both places simultaneously. The last few weeks on social media, with the terror of US Elections looming plus UK issues over Brexit and an increase in fascism as a concern… well, there’s a lot of people both unintentionally internalising and and quite deliberately externalising, all over my social media. This is, for many people, what they perceive as a ‘safe space’ for such things, but more importantly an opportunity for opinions to be heard, often by individuals who might have an influence on change.

It only occurred to me recently that I might be one of those people to others.

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The problem I have is believing my own hype. I am well aware that as a result of things I have both written and said, things have changed in the World around me. However, this does not make me an Influencer in my own mind, that ‘label’ is somebody else’s to stick. I just sit here and write shit and occasionally, I hit a target. I don’t think there has been anything I really wanted to change that ever did, either, and that’s the point that gets lost in amongst all the hand wringing and navel gazing. I’ve never been able to make someone like my stuff, and it was never the intention for anyone to hate me. Those are the only two things that matter, in the end, and when it matters most you will not be capable of altering the world to the way you’d like it to be. I wanted a Remain vote but got Leave.¬†Bond’s never going to be a woman. The stuff that matters to me is so intractable, it’s just easier to live in my head for those things and not stress at all.

However, when I’m trying to be happy both inside and out and people won’t let that happen?

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Yes, sometimes it’s an effort to be happy.¬†Fucking hell, people, anything worthwhile takes at least SOME notion of application. I can’t just eat chocolate and become a size 10. You don’t get good at gaming overnight. Maybe, if you grasp this, then understanding why making an effort to be positive is so fucking important, but NOPE that’s no on some people’s agenda. You’re only happy when it rains, when things are complicated and you’re stuck somewhere back in the mid 1990’s in your teens where everything was just so much easier. Well, newsflash Bucko, I did that midlife crisis and it fucking STANK so if you could just shut up and go away… and here’s the thing. Social media is two ways.¬†Otherwise they’d call it ‘listening in an echo chamber’ media and nobody would have the Internet to begin with. All those brilliantly helpful people with their open arms and open hearts who are willing me to greatness don’t need to be told this shit. YOU DO.

It isn’t about ignoring you either (though I’ll be honest, some of that has gone on when it becomes apparent that arguing is pointless.) You can only balance when there’s two sides to your scale, or if you have impeccable gravitational awareness, and lots of you can’t even turn on your brain before pressing Tweet, so no chance there. In these cases, I don’t say anything, yet compose Tweet after Tweet in that wee window before deleting every word, over and over again. Part of me wants to tell you how to be better, to put the record straight, to direct your misplaced perceptive reasoning to important shit like cats or memes. Then I stop, and breathe, and know that maybe the reason you did it is that you want just this, me to respond, in one of those ‘notice me Senpai’ moments. Then I remember that the good people don’t need any validation at all. They don’t check Twitter until they’re awake, if at all. Those are the people I need to emulate, and this month I am determined to do just that.

Moan all you like. I just made a choice to stop listening.

Voodoo People

Today, I live streamed a video game to Facebook. As this is a sentence I never thought I would ever type in my adult lifetime, it probably deserves some explanation.

My PC is not old, but it’s hardly bleeding edge technology. It also refuses point blank to play with Windows 10, which I suspect may have something to do with the rather Heath Robinson manner of its construction. I’ve tried and failed on so many occasions to get Twitch to operate with it, and recording to video and editing is a process that I have neither time or patience to entertain. When Facebook Live was announced to work with World of Warcraft, I determined this was probably my best bet for giving streaming a try, because it did not involve real money to upgrade anything or any more technical knowledge than simply a few clicks of a mouse. However, the main reason I’m using a platform I detest is that, like it or not, I can ultimately¬†control EXACTLY who watches, and that’s not possible anywhere else on the Internet.

This is my project, and my rules.
 

 
It’s not an attempt to be popular or special, or become an Internet celebrity (at peak, EIGHT PEOPLE WATCHED ME) it is just a way to chat for an hour a week to people and add content to my arsenal. It works well in lieu of Podcasting. It allows people to see how I play in game and what matters to me. Mostly, I can fuck about and enjoy myself and record this to become a history of what I’ve done. If it works with this platform I can use Facebook Live to do video diaries for other stuff. In the end, it shows willing to give a bit more of myself than I have before.

Mostly, it is rather enjoyable.

If I keep getting people interested? I’ll keep doing it.

Requiem for a Tower

I had a big plan today, lots of words on communication and self-absorption, but after six hours sleep and having to deal with two banks plus a credit card company? It has all just shrunk to the angsty whine I suspect it was always going to be. That’s the thing about proportion: you need something else to stick yourself beside to make it matter. Once I’m forced to go look up account balances and check transactions whilst grasping I could do with more income to protect against the unexpected? Everything else becomes pretty much irrelevant. It is easy to understand why the Renaissance guys never got around to making the big speeches and discovering the mysteries of the Universe when they had early death and hunger to consider first. Once you’re comfortable, then comes the life changing shit, and not before.

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I’ve realised too that because for many people social media is a far too accurate representation of their real self, that suggesting contentious issues as the basis of discussion means I’m opening my self to perhaps more abuse than I ever need to garner. I could quite simply pretend I don’t care about these bigger issues and stay silent, but some days it is satisfying¬†to shake the can of Coke and put it back in the fridge, for the unsuspecting co-worker to come open and get a surprise from. You don’t do it every day because that’s cruel and unusual, but the occasional wake-up call has merit. Trying to reason¬†however with people who have decided that nothing is fair unless everybody wins and nobody loses is, at best, unrealistic in an environment where the exact opposite is proven to be the case. At some point, inevitably, one has to deal with disappointment, and if you can’t? Things get messy.

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The salutatory lesson at the end of this is very simple: if you don’t want people to call you out? Keep your mouth shut. If you don’t want the grief? Don’t write the words and press ‘Send’ ^^ The moment you pop up and engage a random stranger in conversation, anything can and will happen, so unless you are prepared for consequence? Don’t start.

If you do this shit for a living and still get grief?

Learn to communicate betterer.

Go

I thought long and hard, and today I turned on Location Services on my iPhone for the first time since I’ve owned one.¬†The reason?

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There are those people who are already aware of the power of AR gaming: Ingress (data from which is duplicated for Pokemon Go) has been doing this for some time, the only difference here is that nostalgia + relatively simplistic game play = WIN. It also helps rather a lot that if you use your camera? Suddenly, the World is indeed absolutely chock full of Pokemon.

I’m a fucking cynic, I really am. I *hate* new stuff like this but I walked to get lunch today and the entire experience transformed into something magical and quite amazing. The place I bought my dinner is a Pokestop: place where you’ll have a chance of FREE SHIT. I live in a town where churches are everywhere, and they plus graveyards are also Pokestops. Effectively my normal boring twice daily traipse across town for a sandwich has become a completely different beast. There’s also two¬†Gyms on the way, but I’ll need to be Level 5 to make the most of those. I will. OH YES.

I have caught things too, and that’s just stupidly funny. I can see myself looking back on this years from now and remembering how clunky the graphics were and how many times I had to restart the app for the GPS to sync…¬†But now this is roughly akin to both Christmas and new year all rolling into one. There’s no way to make this about sexism or diversity either, it’s just catching cute animated animals. Really, this is amazing.

I’ll do a more serious post about this once I’ve played for more than a day but for now? Giggling like a pre-teenager now. ALL THE TIME.

It’s Probably Me

No, I really don’t see the problem.

I’ve watched people *all day* try to explain to me why something is bad and wrong, and I can’t see it. I’ve listened to angry ranting, and indignant argument, and yet I am unable to grasp the issue. No, I’m not being narrow minded or stupid. I’m intelligent and articulate, I get why you’re upset, but honestly? Not this. I’ve wanted this for *over a decade* and as soon as it becomes obvious someone objects? Hating is the default.¬†It’s like getting the present you always wanted and watching people tear it up and stomp on it in front of your eyes. Yes, I could very easily lose the plot, but no. Just NO. I’m better than that.

Sometimes, you have to do stuff that’s difficult. Often, choices aren’t a simple yes or no, there is grey to consider and different variables. Then, there’s the moment when you sit back, look at something and say ‘this is brilliant.’ That was me, right up to the point where people completely and utterly overreacted. I could piss on your fireworks but honestly, there’s no need or point. We just disagree.¬†I love it, you don’t, but I’m not going to put you out to dry. However, please don’t think this means I don’t get to have an opinion or a point of view, because I am allowed¬†both, and will present my side with a dispassionate air just because I see no problem with what’s being asked.

If I don’t see an issue with your point of view, it doesn’t make me bad or wrong. It just makes me different.

That’s all.

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I went out with my husband and some friends of his a while back, to a concert at¬†our¬†town’s main venue. In conversation, my relationship with Twitter came up, especially in reference to the number of people I follow. My husband then was asked why he wasn’t nearly as prolific, and his answer was wonderfully simple: it was asking for trouble.¬†The rationale is really simple: when (for instance) you know there’s a fundamental differing of opinion between people you follow on the platform, a mental check goes on whenever Mr Alt decides he wants to respond to an issue. Will this offend someone I know?¬†If he’s at least in some way that¬†it could, he just doesn’t bother.¬†Confident enough in his own understanding of the place he lives and works in, it is not worth the effort if the result will be negative.

That’s the mental check every single person ought to do AS STANDARD.

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Yesterday, someone quite prominent in the place I ‘work’ said something utterly inappropriate to a woman on a livestream. I¬†know for damn sure that¬†similar things have been said to women on TV, in interviews and on dance floors across the planet, and to men too, regardless of either gender assignment or sexual preference. In fact, at any point where someone has found someone else attractive and considered sexytimes with them in their heads? This thought process will have taken place. Talking about this at a Film premi√®re for a movie aimed (at least in part) at a teenage market may not be considered a totally appropriate place for this context. Saying it whilst representing an organisation that markets a bunch of T for Teen games and are about to bring out a YT set of novels is probably a bit iffy to boot. However, for me at least, these are the least of the issues. Considering how stringent this organisation normally is for vetting questions from the public? To allow a host to be that crass and inappropriate just shows that sections of¬†Nerd Culture are indeed still wanking in dark corners after several decades, and that someone failed to reinforce the point that professionalism beats edgy buffoonery, pretty much every single damn time.

Look, everybody does it, but nobody cares. That is of course until you mention women masturbate too¬†and then everyone gets all flustered and doesn’t know where to look. But, I digress.

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Once we get past all the moral indignation and hand-wringing, plus¬†the casual sexism,¬†misogyny¬†and cisgender¬†backlash, the fact remains that if you’d thought first and kept your fucking mouth shut, none of this would be a problem. Every issue, on every subject, will be solved by just keeping quiet.¬†Someone told me this morning in all seriousness that this isn’t the way forward because it means life will be boring and they’d then have to be productive, rather than trying to start an argument with anyone who wants one on social media, which is clearly far more entertaining.¬†The bigger problem is when people’s bigotry starts showing, over everything and anything, the moral indignation that social media amplifies and exacerbates. If you’d only be like my husband and temper your responses: would the world be boring? Would an increase in productivity and general harmony REALLY be a bad thing?

Of course it wouldn’t, but then you’d have nobody to mock, and THEN WHAT?

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The only way things change is when the people who crave the oxygen are starved of it, and as soon as a fight breaks out all that happens is that certain people come along with cannisters full of O2. You can try and temper stupid, but when even the most morally strong are temptable, it ain’t happening. Then it’s damage control and the polls and the dissection of guilt, but mostly nobody cares, unless the person’s so morally repugnant they’re not considered worth saving. What does matter however, is if anyone changes as a result of the event.¬†Can you learn lessons and move on? Will this incident make you a better person? If that happens then maybe, just maybe there will be progress. However, that’s often a very big if.

Remember kids, every day is a school day, even if you refuse to be educated.

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Of course, tomorrow nobody will care. However, those of us with long memories will stand, shake our heads and realise that however much some organisations might claim they’ve changed, nothing’s really moved forward at all in 20 years. That’s the bigger issue that still remains to be addressed.

Sort yourselves out, Dudebros ^^

 

Bicycle Race

Yesterday,  after much procrastination, I finally joined Zwift.

Husband is, of course, very much on the ‘virtual cycling’ bandwagon, but I’ve largely resisted the temptation until now. However, as part of the #28FitDays Challenge, I have decided to spend some time daily getting some extra calories burned and ‘levelling’ a character. That ‘ding’ you hear on the video? That’s me earning XP :D I did 14k as a starting point yesterday and actually, it was incredibly hard. However, so challenging was it that I’d like to think I could do 15k today and advance my XP bar a bit more: you earn kits at the granting of each new level so that people know how far you’ve pedalled. However, should I make it to L2 (which is 50k travelled) I’ll actually need to pay for a subscription.¬†That means I have until Tuesday to make a decision.

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What makes this ‘game’ that more interesting, especially if you’re a cyclist, is that real-life pros use this system.¬†That means that there is a good chance that at any point you could be cycling alongside a man who’s a part of the Tour De France peloton or a professional woman cyclist. More significantly of all, people don’t hide their identities, quite the¬†opposite.¬†This is all about a level playing field that anybody of any ability can use and participate in. This system has the potential to effectively revolutionise all forms of static activity, and provide those who wish to train with an environment where like minded individuals not only participate together. but actively encourage each other to better achievements. Most significantly of all, if you decide to cheat (and there are ways to do just that) the only loser, ultimately, is yourself.¬†This is a ‘game’ where the reward, ultimately, is your own fitness and nobody else’s prestige or perception matters one iota.

That’s going to be a bitter pill for some long-term gamers to swallow.

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My 15k a day (which is roughly 10 miles) will effectively double my current output of exercise, but doesn’t add to my step total (because, you know, NOT MOVING) but no matter, I can tell the Fitbit it is the rough equivalent of a Spinning Class (which is in some ways true) and I’ll still get the throughput. This¬†is to add some variety to my day, show my husband that I get how important cycling this is for him (and give him stuff to do in sorting the same static bike for two completely different body types) and to push HIM in turn to greater exercise goals, as he’s now into a completely new area in terms of weight loss.

I like the idea of combining technology and fitness, because for so many people gaming means sitting on your arse and NOT being active. Without going into a long and possibly divisive rant about how fitness matters regardless of body type and shape? You need to get up from your PC/Mac once in a while and not be staring at a screen. You just DO.

What you do when that happens? That’s up to you.