Cooking XMas Goose

The first weekend after Christmas was set aside for internet geekery. I’ve been sitting on this post for a while as I wasn’t sure of the start… Or middle… Or end.

When we teach internet safety, one of the first things we drill home is that people online may not be who they say they are and meeting up is a bad idea. So what do we do? We book a massive cottage for a long weekend with 17+ people who have pretty much only ever met online (aside from the couples… Those of us married to each other know each other quite well)… Oh and add to that offering a lift to the guy who lives up the road from us.

As a bit of background for those who don’t know, Mr Geek and I “play” World of Warcraft (when I say play, we sporadically jump on, have fun in guild chat but rarely actually progress through any actual game play). We’ve been playing more on than off since just before the Burning Crusades expansion which means we’re retro. That’s retro, not old. We’re also part of a guild called the Fighting Mongooses in which we’ve made some really close friends and spend an eyewateringly large amount of time with. The last 6 months or so, we’ve not played much since I’m still trying to find a way around being caused pain by using a mouse (Suggestions on a postcard please), and yet when I do pop in for quizards I’m still treated like I never left. These are good people who have seen me through some very unpleasant bed bound days. So what else would we call our Christmas gathering but XMas Goose!

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After driving 3.5 hours north (like really north where the signs point to Northern towns instead of just saying “The North”), we arrived at our cottage. The cottage was a strange conversion of many little cottages on the ground floor and an enormous first floor. The plan was to wrangle me upstairs then spend the next three days without leaving the house so I could scoot about happily in my chair. We arrived having not been full of conversation as I was exhausted from work and more than a bit nervous. The long journey had been counteracted by installing me on the back seat surrounded by my full body cushion (thanks Jo), covered in blankets, and wedged in by bags.

Can you find my legs?

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I was left in the car whilst discussions took place about how to wrangle me upstairs. After a while in a dark car, I was met by progressively larger and hairier men who all greeted me by name.
Sidenote: I’m reasonably sure that had this also included a winged set of Cumberbatch angels, this would be easily mistaken for having died and gone upwards.
I digress. Hello once more hairy menfolk… Oooh with vodka homebrew. Yep. I’m not intimidated, or in fear of my life. My WTF-are-you-doing metre has never been good. Shell was there – it’s all good.

Said hairy men assist with crutches and me onto them then laugh hysterically as I bum shuffle like a toddler up a set of unnecessarily steep wooden stairs until I’m sat on my arse on the floor greeting everyone else. Not wholly dignified, but hey, start as you mean to go on!

After some initial vodka based icebreaking (thank you L), and for the rest of you I know, but it was only a small glass, we discovered that midget prostitutes are a thing in Europe, fruit vodka is yummy, T watches some very dodgy manga, and it is scientifically feasible to build a wall out of cultivated living human liver (but you’d need a gate). It turns out that when you stick a load of socially awkward nerds in one cottage and add alcohol, amazing things happen. They talk for a start. This was an unhealthy concentration of programmers & IT professionals – usually there are normal people to balance out the weirdness, but not this time. Dan The Accountant was no match and so just came over to the dark side.

Card games commenced. Starting with Exploding Kittens, and quickly descending into Cards Against Humanity.

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Shell found the safest place was away from the smut and instructing from afar, much like her pixel driven clothwearer. I know she’ll hate me for including the photo, but she looks awesome in the Jedi slanket & this photo is nice. She looks happy. I like this. Other Mr Geek looks confused.
I never did thank him for helping me upstairs. Thank you other Mr Geek 🙂

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This is pretty much how the whole weekend went. Card games included, but not limited to : Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity, Flux, Uno Accountant Edition, Munchkin….

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It was also decreed that all must wear a onsie at some point over the weekend. J won hands down with his seal. I mean, how could he not win?!?

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Eventually, the nerds needed more distraction than just paper based games and Mr Geek plugged in his PC (oh yes, he’d driven all this way with his gaming rig which someone had to sit in the back with). He’d also brought the Steam box so not only did we have instant PC games, but the ability to connect 8 XBox controllers. The second the OS flickered into life, it was like watching nerdy moths. Nonetheless, whilst most got stuck into a game of Gangbeasts, it gave some of us chance to catch up in person and fully connect people’s online names to their real ones.

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Eventually, everyone gathered around the TV for the final few rounds of Gangbeasts before moving onto Mount Your Friends. If you haven’t discovered this true joy of a game, stop reading this and go buy it. It’s utterly childish, but so much fun.

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The word of the weekend has to be “motherfucker”, not only because we were all child free for a whole weekend, but because of the overheard conversation where it was asked if that was actually a swearword. We nearly fell off our chairs laughing.

Over the course of nearly 3 days, we consumed a diet of nearly pure junk food in which my gluten free diet went out of the window, or I’m sad to say into my intestines (I also discovered chicken tikka masala pixza – try getting that in the home counties). There were cups of coffee in there somewhere and Mr Geek consumed more beer than I’ve seen him drink in a long time.

On which note… Mr Geek relaxed. With me installed and Shell quietly looking out for me (yes, I noticed and thank you xx), he stopped fretting and chilled. He regained the colour in his face, enjoyed being with other people, and we felt like a reasonably normal couple, aside from him relocating my shoulder for me after a particularly enthusiastic round of Uno. I won. Totally worth dislocating my shoulder for. As he put it back in, I winced as it tore a ligament slightly (the loud snap probably didn’t help) and I was compared to John Wayne. Ha! The only reason I don’t yelp that much is I know how bad it will be. You scream when the pain is an unknown quantity. It took a week for it to stop swelling – Uno is a dangerous sport.

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When it was time to leave on Sunday, we eeked it out for as long as possible with me having that same twisty gut, don’t want to say goodbye moment that we had at EGX. It didn’t matter that we’d see them all online within a week once we’d all recovered from so much social contact, the magic spell over our tiny nerdy bubble was going to be broken and we’d have to stop laughing. Even packing up was funny, aside from A falling down those damned stairs – I had said I wouldn’t catch him, but every single one of us shreiked like a girl and had visions of him rebreaking his poor shoulder. Aside from S, who true to form called him a penis.

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I dislike that we live so far away from so many of them (although we made a promise to meet up more regularly with those closer… And for reference, meant it :p ). There was a point very very late one evening where we all got a bit of an insight into each other’s psyche and found out that we’re really not that different. Somehow, through all those millions of players, we found a group of kindred spirits there, none of whom were psychotic axe murderers, and all of whom gave me a whole weekend of feeling like a normal person instead of that person who’s ill.

Driving home, I hid under a blanket and watched downloaded episodes of silent witness whilst trying not to barf (gluten combined with slow transit & car sickness is grim). I will admid to a teeny bit of under blanket sniffling.

It’s not goodbye, its au revoir. And if you need me, just put your fingers on the keyboard and just /whistle

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<3<3<3<3

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Why can’t I just be a gnome?

Lots of people have different personas. They are different aspects of our being that all join together to make us who we are. Some are easier to talk about the others.

I’m a woman. I’m a mum. I’m a teacher.
All of these things are reasonably easy to chat about. They’re safe conversation pieces.

I’m also quite frequently a gnome who runs about with a bunch of people from all over Europe chatting over TeamSpeak. One who probably ought to pay more attention to the raid than to taking selfies in front of the big humans.

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I like these people. I chat happily to them just being me rather than an altered version of me. Despite outwardly being a magical gnome. Yeah. This isn’t easy to get your head around.

In a few weeks we’re all meeting up for a weekend of geekery at a games con.  It’s been planned for months. It’s just that aside from a couple, I haven’t mentioned Roboleg or that I’ll be arriving on wheels because walking around a conference floor requires about 4 days worth of spoons. Two of my very separate world’s are about to collide and I’m not sure how well they will gel. Maybe I’m just fretting because losing my mobility is buggering up my standard personas. And after 10 years of being a gnome married to an inappropriate dwarf, I don’t want to be seen differently.

Hello? Was it me you’re looking for?

Actually, having read your search term I’m out right now, please don’t leave a message after the tone.

I checked put my blog stats this evening, as has become my posting ritual. For someone who claims to crave the peace of being alone, I get awfully cheered up by the number of hits I get on here (I’m sure there’s some Freudian explanation for this). Personally, I blame this on being an introverted extrovert. I love people and being social, it’s just conversation eludes me. I suck at small talk, i just don’t know what to say or how long those pauses should be (pauses are awkward!), am I being too loud? Too enthused? It’s all a bit alien. And this is where being an IT teacher is perfect – I’m like an actor who is improvising the script. I have a basic script to follow, but the actual words are based on how the audience reacts. It’s here that I swim like a fish. And it’s the same with writing – my thoughts are much clearer here and if people are bored then they just stop reading without any of this “so, um, yeah,I’ll see you soon or something…”.

I digress.

Someone found my blog using the search term “naked virtual world”. I am a gamer. I play online, but neither me or my avatar are naked. Aside from that one time in Stormwind… No! And more to the point why are you searching for naked pixels? What could possibly be sexy about your avatar touching some other graphic?!

I know it’s out there (some people make some serious money on Second life with their Female avatars), but I just don’t understand why.

Stand back. I’m about to show my age…

Remember the film Weird Science? That</em was a computer generated woman. And spurred a generation of computer geeks, luring them in with the promise of creating their perfect mate with a few telephone wires.

"Some" years later and so far they've managed this:

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Now let us never search for Draenei woman with safe search off again.

Which just proves my point really. What is wrong with you Internet? Draenei have hooves fgs! Hooves!

Naughty step now. Off you go. Don’t argue. Now just think about what you’ve done.

Go to sleep kids, mummy wants to shoot some semi naked nuns

I ought to start this by stating very clearly that I am not a violent person. I deplore physical, emotional and mental abuse when it’s real. However, I do play some more dubious computer games.

In reality, I rescue frogspawn in the garden in case it dries out, I worry about hedgehogs getting chilly and hold doors open for people. In virtual worlds I shoot people in the face. I throw innocent bystanders off cliffs after stealing their clothing. I eat things off the floor.

These virtual worlds have different rules and my moral compass starts to spin the minute I log in and it’s not just violence. I am a n00b.

Take for instance this evening. I took huge pleasure from throwing knives at people’s heads, or shooting them in the face then throwing their bodies over convenient ledges (a tip – when the lady says kill discreetly, she doesn’t mean throw the dead body into the garden and watch the guards freak out before walking through and shooting them all. Apparently, that’s not very discreet and it leads to re spawning earlier in the game).

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Other nights, I choose to spend time throwing fire from my hands and shouting at things til they fall over. (Seriously, if you’re a teacher and your teenage, predominantly male class is being rowdy, try shouting FUS RO DAH! It has pretty much the same effect in and out of game). Not that I play this properly either… Technically, I could quest and get XP, or I could take the moral low ground and eat stuff off the floor and kill random villagers and hand their bodies over to their spouses having put on their clothes.

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So do I play anything properly? Well, sort of. No. Actually, no. I joined World of Warcraft in 2006 as something to do in the evenings. I became a guild leader. It took me four years to reach a level cap. FOUR years! Why? Because I was busy organising hot tub parties outside the other faction’s main cities, running conga lines around the main city and getting married in Stormwind Cathedral (yeah, we did actually did this on our actual first wedding anniversary – our romance knows no bounds).

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I was that moron who always tried to drive up the pit lane the wrong way, just to see if I could. Or ran off the path to see how far the scenery went. It turns out that my ability to get bored inside the confines of a game with specified outcomes, but the ability to not follow the storyline is immense, and I find random stuff to do. Skyrim lets me eat butterflies, WoW gave me real people to giggle with, hell! Second Life allowed me to buy genitals! (For no other reason than I could).

I am that player that the healer lets die because, well, it’s just kinder on the group to let them be dead for a while.

I’m not unpleasant, I don’t rage quit, it’s just that I don’t take it that seriously, because, well, it’s a game. And I’m a grown up.

(Note: whilst I do appreciate playing the odd violent game, I can do so because I am over the age of 18. Because of this, I can differentiate between reality and virtual and the moral differences between the two. Games have age ratings for a good reason and the sooner parents understand this, the better. Beanpole and TinyPants will have to stick to mariokart and just dance for now. If they want CoD, then they will have to settle for James Pond)