The Mask I Wear

For you to understand I wear a mask
Is all that I ask

Everyday I give my all
Not to let the mask fall.

It is the battle eternal
The battle internal.

I am forever tested
At times I am bested.

Despite giving my all
The mask will fall.

I do not mean for you to know
What I am like brought low.

The stress of the fight
Leads me to bite.

The effort of the battle
May sometimes rattle.

I may lash out
Or thrash about.

If I may offend
It is not what I intend.

I am fighting the battle inside
So please with me abide.

Comic Books are Overwhelming…NOT! Vol. 2 #1

So you’ve been hearing some good things about comic books but you don’t know where to start?  This post is all about breaking down your fears and misconceptions and getting you reading without going bankrupt.

Misconception #1: I have to read 75+ years worth of comic books just to know what’s going on!

This is a pretty common misconception.  With both DC and Marvel having series approaching 600 issues and beyond, new readers think they need to read all 600 issues to “get” what’s going on.  You don’t.  In the case of DC they rebooted their entire universe multiple times and have recently reshuffled the deck once again after this year’s Convergence.

As far as Marvel, they generally don’t reboot the whole universe but they do have status quo changing events that set up the next year or two.  They also explain in the comic book itself about events and characters so you never feel totally lost.  Couple this with summaries of not just the current arc but the entire status quo of each character presented at the beginning of each issue.  The recap page will get you up to speed even if you are jumping on mid story.  As a last resort you can always get a coarse summary of the character’s history on wikipedia.

Now is a great time to be getting into comic books.  Marvel is in the midst of a major multiversal shakeup. The entirety of Marvel’s multiverse has been erased and replaced giving way to a world unlike any seen before. In most cases, the tie-ins to these massive events are very much the side show, but with Secret Wars, the depth, breadth, and quality of the tie-ins absolutely steal the show.  No matter what bit of popular culture you love, from Doctor Who to Walking Dead you will find nods and homages here.

DC just finished up their own multiversal shakeup and is now trying to put the pieces back together again. For example, Superman is a bit powerless and Jim Gordon is the Batman.

Misconception #2: Comic books are expensive!

If you want to keep it local, head to your local comic book store.  Odds are their are tons of people with similar interests working and shopping there that are all too eager to guide and advise.  Heck half the books out there deal with Heroes paying it forward by teaching the next generation.  It’s practically part of the DNA.  Make sure you ask them about any sales or regular in store events like 10% off Wednesdays etc..  Also ask about frequent buyer programs like spend a 100 get 20 back.

If the internet is more your thing, you can always subscribe directly to the company.  You will be able to get discounts pretty close to half off but know that not every title will be available for subscription, especially the limited series.  I also highly recommend https://www.dcbservice.com/.  They offer 40% off or more of the cover price on any comic book coming out.  However with them you are ordering two months in advance and are dependent on the short blurbs of the solicits to decide on your choices.

Trade Paperbacks are a great way to catch up or just dip your toes in a little.  Think of them as director’s cuts. They generally collect a limited series or a set of recent story arcs.  They also sometimes include some background information on the development process.  They are a great way to see if comic books are for you.

The best advice I have on how to get started is to just get started.  Pick a character and follow them, odds are they will lead you to other books due to constant cross overs and guest appearances.  If you have no interest in super heroes, IDW and Dynamite have other popular culture icons with current or recently finished series.  Transformers, Doctor Who, GI Joe, Buffy and the rest of the Whedonverse, The A-team, Robocop, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters all have comic books either currently ongoing, coming this summer, or came out in the last year.

So you really have no excuse, no matter what your favorite character or piece of pop culture is, you can find it in your local comic books shop written and drawn by people just as fanatic as you.  So get out there and happy reading!

Zombies Run At Mission 7 With Ingress

Zombies Run At Mission 7 With Ingress

Or how I learned to stop worrying, start walking, and love the Zoms.

Zombies run landing page

 

It’s no secret that I am not the healthiest puppy on the farm. I mean I’m trying to make a career out of sitting on my ass playing video games and tweeting for John Smith’s sake.

At ~250 lbs. and 6’2″ according to the bmi scale I am borderline morbidly obese. Sedentary lifestyle + eating wrong + mental health issues = mid 30’s heart attack. According to the bmi scale, I should be floating at around 170 lbs. that means I gotta cleave off 80 lbs. just to get to “normal.”

So how does an aspiring video game journalist get motivated to stop wandering the post apocalypse and start wandering the pre? Well you give them a game to play. A game that revolves around running in a post apocalypse. Running from zombies. Running from zombies and saving the world.

Zombies, Run! is a streamlined, unobtrusive, immersive experience. All it needs are headphones, location tracking, and a steady pace. Go for a walk, pop them phones in your head, hit shuffle all, and just go. The app does the rest.

There are settings that allow you to customize the experience to your comfort and fitness level with 25 and 40 minute missions. These are accompanied by absolutely fantastic, immersive radio plays that feel like The Walking Dead by way of Doctor Who. Intrigue and conspiracies abound as you meet fellow runners tasked with scavenging the wastes in the hopes of keeping the settlement alive.

zombies run map view

 

These radio plays serve as immersive world building that allows you to close your eyes for a minute and picture the devastation around you. The app knows how far you travel and peppers the audio plays at regular intervals providing the background and action for your current mission. Whether it is exploring an abandoned, zombie infested hospital or running circles around the camp with a fellow runner to distract the horde, Zombies, Run! provides just the right amount of distraction to keep your mind off the exercise. In between story logs you can use any media player to provide a soundtrack for your run. When you reach the next checkpoint, your media gets paused so you are always immersed in the world.

As you go walk about, the game randomly notifies you of pickups. These run the gamut of edibles, consumables, craftables and other assorted post apocalypse detritus. These can then be used to build the base in a built in Farmville like. There are no paywalls and no timers. The only way you get the supplies to improve the settlement is by walking with the app and collecting them during missions.

It is this system that brings a bit of score counting and gamification, short of just seeing how far you can walk or how much story you can hear. You get invested in providing your improvements and are motivated to scavenge for supplies. Of course without any risk, this may eventually prove too little of a justification to go that extra mile.

zombies run summary view

 

Another optional setting is the ability to add chasers to your run. These are randomly occurring zombie attacks that you literally have to run from in order to avoid having your supplies stolen. Imagine just walking calmly at your own pace, listening to the story or your music, when suddenly the operator screams, panicky, in your ear. “Oh no, they’re right on you!” He says, “You’re gonna have to run!” As the moans and groans and sounds of the horde suddenly get closer and closer in your headphones. Now, you literally have to run if you want to make it home with all of your supplies intact. The feelings of dread as the zombies approach, the thoughts of “Fuck I’m tired but I really don’t want to lose any of this good stuff, the people need these meds!” add a nice bit of activity and urgency to what is otherwise audio book walking simulator.

If there is one criticism I have is that the runs are a bit aimless. You can walk in circles and still receive the same experience as walking to the mall. There are no destinations in mind. The story says go north but the app doesn’t care. There’s no response if you go toward where the story says is a horde instead of the mission objective. These are just static radio plays.

It can break the immersion a bit knowing that you really aren’t walking north to a perceived objective. Keeping that immersion is key to keeping the motivation to continue the run. Getting invested in the story and scavenging pushes you to go those extra few yards. Without it, you might as well be at home playing Fallout.

zombies run base building view

zombies run base construction view

 

It is with an effort to alleviate this problem that I recommend downloading another similar app called Ingress. Ingress tells the story of a hidden war between two powers vying for control of a mysterious energy. You pick your side and are instantly shown a scan of your immediate area. You can see the energy around you and the portals and missions nearby that gamify the experience. Ingress is a worldwide phenomenon, recently featured on LifeHacker, where I first came across it. There are meetups all over the world where fellow players converge and compete for territory.

QuickMemo+_2015-06-17-04-08-20

 

The idea is that real world sculptures and tourist attractions were built because of the presence of these energy portals. A local park, a school, a bit of modern art all serve as real world battlegrounds between the Enlightened and the Resistance. In a major urban area you have a good chance of coming across players in meat space ready to become your new best friend and bond over the common experience.

It is for these reasons that I suggest using Ingress as a companion to Zombies, Run! Ingress can navigate you to any portal in the world giving you a destination to head towards. While there is no official compatibility between the two apps, it is not hard to do it yourself. Zombies, Run! tells you to go north, so you set Ingress to take you to Central Park. All the while collecting Ingress energy and audio logs, and completing your zombie run. Who knows you might even happen upon a massive battle once you get there.

QuickMemo+_2015-06-17-04-09-16

 

I hope I have adequately relayed how amazing these two apps are. The immersion and world building are comparable to the best hardcore experiences. There is no need to rig a treadmill to your Xbox to burn calories while you burn zombies. You can game while you work out and still scratch all of those same itches. All with the added benefit of actually going outside. There are even random encounters between the chaser events of Zombies, Run!, and the chance of meeting fellow Ingress players. Level up your own stats. Actually be the lone wanderer or the chosen one. Couple these with Habit RPG and add even more game to your game so you can game while you game game. The only limits are your stamina and imagination, and you can level them both up just by playing.

So get out there hero! The world ain’t gonna save itself.

 

Both Zombies, Run! and Ingress are available at the Google Play Store.