Overwatch: Super Early First Impression

•May 10, 2016 • 2 Comments

overwatch

It’s here, it’s finally here…Overwatch open beta weekend has arrived!  I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this game since I saw the early promos but was not fortunate enough to get into the closed beta.  Upon seeing the first clips and trailer it’s pretty apparent that this is Blizzard having a go at a Team Fortress 2 styled game.  I love TF2 like few other things in this world, so I was very excited.  Blizzard has a bit of a track record for making games that are derivative of previous titles from other publishers while putting their own spin and a high level of polish on them.  Heroes of the Storm, their riff on DOTA and League of Losers Legends, is a prime example.  How would they fare with a class-based team cooperative shooter?  Here are my quick takes from playing for about 10 hours over the weekend.

THE GAMES ARE SMALL, SO TEAMWORK MATTERS

Overwatch features a 6v6 format as opposed to TF2, which can see upwards of 15 players per team.  Because the teams are so small, it is imperative that you balance classes and work together.  A team with 3 snipers is usually going to get slaughtered, as will a team with few hit points (no tank) or no support classes.  Finding a team that communicates and properly balances classes can be a challenge as the quick matchmaking system means players are always dropping in and out.  Playing solo can be frustrating and I was fortunate to have 2-3 buddies to play with most of the time.  The game does have VOIP chat, but I had it turned off in favor of using Teamspeak with my mates.

It’s very easy to spot Call of Doody Duty players in Overwatch because they are always chasing kills rather than playing the objective.  My team lost a number of rounds in the Escort game mode because teammates were chasing enemies around the map instead of gathering at the payload to push it the last few feet.  In one particular game, we only had 9 feet left to go with over 5 minutes on the clock and lost as half the team played Team Deathmatch instead. PTFO, Kids!

Hanzo is a great asset to your team. Three Hanzos are a definite sandbag.

Hanzo is a great asset to your team. Three Hanzos are a definite sandbag.

A GOOD SUPPORT PLAYER CAN CARRY A GAME

Doing damage and killing mans is an important part of any shooter.  You can’t clear a capture point or advance the cart without murdering the fuck out of the enemy team.  A competent offensive character like Pharah or McRee or Reaper can certainly leave piles of bodies in their wake.  It’s very difficult, however, for sheer firepower to carry a team to victory.  It’s the support players and their level of competence who really decide who wins and loses.  If your team is without a healer and has to keep trudging the full distance from spawn to objective with every player death, it gives the other team plenty of time to take the upper hand.  Symmetra’s teleporter can also provide a shortcut from spawn to objective and helps you keep the pressure on as your players magically appear back in the fight after respawning.  Zenyatta and Lucio’s buffs and de-buffs can amp up your team’s abilities while handicapping the opposition.

As this is beta, many of the players out there are focusing on damage dealing characters in the Offensive, Defensive and Tank categories.  Support is usually neglected as those characters have relatively limited firepower and require a team first approach to play.  My play has skewed heavily toward Mercy the healer.  I give Maximum Effort toward keeping my teammates healthy and using Mercy’s revive power to pick up the fallen.  With so few players on the field, keeping you team healthy maximizes their ability to put boots to asses.

Mercy, Mercy me...healer is the class for me

Mercy, Mercy me…healer is the class for me

BLIZZARD NEEDS TO PUT THEIR OWN STAMP ON THE GAME

Aside from the number of characters and the way their powers charge, Overwatch feels like a re-skinned version of TF2.  That’s a good thing in a lot of ways, because TF2 is one of the most perfect shooters I have ever played.  Overwatch feels so much like a clone, however, that I’d like to see Blizzard add something unique to the mix.  The game modes are lifted from TF2, as are the classes and even the majority of the maps feel like TF2 maps (Route 66 is almost exactly Badwater Gulch, amirite?).  Certain characters were cloned from TF2; Tracer is Scout, Pharah is Solly, Torbjorn is Engie, etc.  I know there are some seriously brilliant people working for Blizzard and they need to be turned loose to wreak creative havok.  Don’t get me wrong, I already love Overwatch and can’t wait for it to be released on May 24th.  I’d still like to see something separate it from the original to make Overwatch truly its own game.   At the very least, give us a new game mode.  I’ve been playing Payload and King of the Hill since 2007, for fuck’s sake.

There will always be comparisons back to Valve’s masterpiece, but I’m still waiting for the first time I feel like “ah, now THIS is Overwatch.”

This all seems very familiar...

This all seems very familiar…

Bye, Celexa

•April 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

**DISCLAIMER** This post is a summary of my personal experience while taking Celexa.  This is not intended to be a denunciation of Celexa or other SSRI medications.  Celexa and SSRIs have made life better for many people but I didn’t happen to be one of them.

Almost exactly 6 months ago, I talked to my GP about finding a medication to treat my persistent anxiety and bouts of depression.   After some discussion, the decision was made to start me on a low dose of Celexa (Citalopram) because it is reported to be more effective in treating general anxiety and panic disorder.  The dose was increased after 2 months to improve efficacy.

I was seeking to reduce what I call the “background noise” anxiety which is present nearly every day.  That noise may be a legitimate concern, or I may manufacture a point of worry, or I may experience a general “something is wrong” feeling that leaves my stomach in a knot and makes me somewhat frantic while trying to identify the source.  The end result is that I am often irritable or distracted and use alcohol or cannabis to relax or take my mind off my current worries.  The anxiety is sometimes accompanied by periods of melancholy or depression which I have also tended to treat with alcohol and cannabis.  After self-medicating for almost 20 years, I really wanted to take a healthier approach to improving my mental health.

EATINGMy decision to stop taking  citalopram was for 2 main reasons.  The primary reason was an insatiable urge to consume.  I was constantly eating and no amount of snacking made me feel satisfied.  Getting ready for bed usually meant a 15 minute rampage through the cabinets before hitting the sack.  Consequently, I put on 25 pounds in just a few months.  This has been very upsetting to me because I had lost 30 pounds in 2014 and now I can’t fit into any of my “skinny” clothes.  Every t-shirt feels tight and there are only 2 or 3 shirts left in my wardrobe in which I feel comfortable.  The overwhelming feeling of self-consciousness about my weight and appearance has a detrimental effect on my state of mind, even when I’m just at home with my girlfriend.

The second reason only manifested itself once it was recommended that I sexmehstep up from from a 10 mg dose to 20 mg.  Once I upped the dose, I lost almost all interest in sex.  On the rare occasion that I found myself in the mood, my performance was pretty lacking.  When added to the significant weight gain, the side effects no longer seemed to justify staying on the medication.  I stopped taking it completely.  I found out afterward that you’re supposed to step the dosage down or risk a crash, but I wanted it out of my system so bad that I just stopped.

Once the medication had a chance to leave my system, I discovered another downside to taking it.  I did not realized how emotionally flat I had become and how washed out and fatigued I had felt nearly all of the time.  As the days passed since my last dose, I felt more alive, energetic and happy.  The citalopram had done a good job of tuning out the “background noise,” but it had also muted the emotions that make life exciting and worth living.  I felt like a cloud of eternal meh-ness had been lifted.  The only remaining side effect at this point is my gut, and I’ll have to work like hell for the next few months to get rid of it.

Despite all of the negatives, I’m glad I tried it.  That first proactive step towards dealing with my anxiety led me to a lot of discussion with my therapist about how to deal with worry using healthy coping skills and a big dose of mindfulness.  I’m not inclined at this point to try other SSRIs or other types of anti-anxiety meds.  I know they work great for some people, but they didn’t do anything positive for me.

 

It’s Almost Game Time!

•October 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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November 7th is rapidly approaching, and with it comes Extra Life Game Night!  From Noon on Saturday the 7th until noon on Sunday the 8th, gamers of all kinds from coast to coast will be raising money to help sick children in their communities.  I will be taking part by holding an 8 hour streaming session from 4pm until midnight (Eastern Time) on November 7th. I will be streaming gameplay from several of my favorite games including Team Fortress 2, Hearthstone, World of Tanks, World of Warships, and Heroes of the Storm.  Several of my friends and gaming buddies will be joining me as I play for charity.  I am still accepting donations toward the goal of raising $200 for my local Childens Miracle Network hospital, which is Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA.  I greatly appreciate any and all donations as well as anyone who tunes into my Game Night livestream, even if it’s just to rag on me in the stream chat.  Donations can be made through my Extra Life Pageand you can tune in to the action on my Twitch Page.  I’m very excited to be taking part, and I can’t wait for Game Night to get here!

 

Uncharted Waters

•October 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

CitalopramCome tomorrow morning, I will be sailing into uncharted waters.  After years of using marijuana and alcohol to mitigate (and often exacerbate) the general anxiety that has plagued me since childhood, I will take a doctor prescribed antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication.  It’s called Celexa, which sounds suspiciously like a model of car made by Hyundai or Kia.  The doctor is starting me on a very low dose (10 mg), but I am feeling some trepidation because I have no idea what to expect.  I have read the list of side effects, which quizzically include insomnia and anxiety.  Those are two major things I’m trying to overcome, so it worries me a little that they may get worse.  Also listed are weight gain and loss of sex drive, which caused me to ask the doctor if this is a medication or a marriage simulator.  Apparently, the Hippocratic oath prevents doctors from laughing at their patients’ jokes, because I got no reaction to that one.

Nah honey, I'm not in the mood.  The Celexa is kicking in.

Nah honey, I’m not in the mood. The Celexa is kicking in.

On the plus side, I’ll have to avoid alcohol, which I’ve been attempting (with quite limited success) for some time now.  It’s been difficult to tell myself not to have a drink just because I shouldn’t have one.  With a more explicit disincentive, namely that drinking quantities of a depressant while on an antidepressant is counterproductive, maybe it will make it easier to say no to the random Wednesday night bourbons that often find their way into my hands.  Of course, with less anxiety grabbing hold of me and giving me that icky tight stomach that only booze or bong loads can dispel, maybe I won’t feel like I need my vices as much.  Whatever the outcome, I need to at least give this a shot.  Self medicating doesn’t work, I just end up fat and feeling guilty.  I’ve been down that road over and over in the last 20 years and it’s not getting any more effective as I get older.  In fact, while a big ‘ol bong toke used to make the world feel like a better place, indulging increasingly makes me unhappy and leaves me feeling like I’ve wasted a lot of time and many, many productive hours.  We’ll see how it goes.  Maybe this stuff will be great and will give me the breathing space to learn how to defeat anxiety on my own.  Maybe it will be a disastrous piile of side effects and I’ll be forced to try some other medication.  At least I’m taking action and that in itself feels pretty damn good.

Gaming + Altruism = A Win for Sick Kids

•July 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment
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Click for more details about Extra Life

Soooo I’ll be trying my hand at something new in the upcoming months. I’ve never tried fundraising or stumping for donations for a cause, that’s always been left to people who are cheerful or optimistic or don’t want the world to burn.  I’ve finally found a cause I can get behind, however, and I’m going for it.

Extra Life uses the social connections forged by gaming of all types (video games, tabletop/RPG games and collectible card games) to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.  The drive culminates in a 24 hour game-a-thon on November 7th 2015.  Extra Life gamers can choose to gather in groups at local businesses that are kind enough to donate facilities (like The Quarters and Modern Myths), or they may participate on their own.  I haven’t yet decided if I will be gaming as part of a group or streaming my participation from my home PC on my Twitch page.  Being involved with a group sounds appealing as does streaming my session for any donors or curiosity seekers to watch.  I’ll probably decide on that closer to November 7th.

The hard part for me is asking people for money.  Luckily, Extra Life makes it pretty damn easy.  You can visit my donor page and click the Support Me button.  You can choose a donation level or enter a custom donation.  Extra Life accepts donations via Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover or PayPal.  I’ll be posting regular reminders on all of my social media outlets, so don’t worry about forgetting…I won’t let you.  Since this is my first year gaming for Extra Life, I have set a modest goal of $200 in donations.  I’m hoping that through the generosity of my friends, family and fellow geeks that I can meet or exceed my goal.

Thanks for reading my spiel about Extra Life.  I hope I can count on your support as I try to meet my goal!

 

The Hartford What Nows?

•July 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies will have a new AA affiliate in Hartford next year*.  The Hartford club just unveiled its new name and logo, and both confirm that Connecticut is a very strange place.

yardgoats

 

Yes, that’s a goat.  Its not just any farm goat or barn goat or wild goat either.  Nope, the Hartford club’s mascot is specifically a Yard Goat.  Seriously, Connecticut, what the fuck is this?  Your drivers are dangerous and your liquor laws are downright nonsensical, but this is some bizarre shit.  Are Yard Goats a species of fauna endemic to Hartford?  Or maybe I’ve missed something and the team is taking its name from a new street gang?

Yard Goats.  Whatever, Connecticut…just stay off our roads.

 

*Technically, the team is not new.  The New Britain Rock Cats (another head-scratcher of a name) are relocating and rebranding.

Another Drinking Song Update

•June 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I was able to keep my promise yesterday.  For the first time in quite a while, I went an entire day without a drink.  I’m going to try to repeat that feat tonight.  I have no grand expectations for the future, I’m taking the somewhat cliche “day-by-day” approach.  I didn’t drink yesterday.  I’m not going to get caught up in wondering what I’ll do for the rest of the week or during the long holiday weekend.  Tonight I’m not going to drink, and we’ll see what the plan is for tomorrow when the sun rises on Wednesday.

Another Drinking Song

•June 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Almost every day as I get ready for work,  I stand in the shower and make a simple promise to myself.

“I am not going to drink tonight.”

As I drive to my job, I repeat my promise in my head and come up with all kinds of reasons why I should keep it.

“It’s Monday, there’s no need to drink on a Monday.  Plus, these jeans are digging into your gut and you look like a trussed up sausage in all of the new, smaller clothes you got for Christmas that looked so good on you.  You’re not getting any younger and you need to take care of your health for your sake, your girlfriend’s sake and your family’s sake.  Also, there is no need to drink on a Monday.”

Eight hours later as I leave work, the interior monologue has changed.

“Well, You can have a beer when you get home, but that’s it.  Just one to help you unwind after dinner.  Or wait til you’re gaming with your buddies and have it then.”

Three drinks later, I feel the same guilt and remorse as I do every day when I drink for no reason.  Sometimes I tell myself it’s justified after a hard day at work.  Other times it’s to help a gaming session be even more fun.  Then there are the standby excuses “it’s Thursday/Friday night,” or “you need it to help you sleep.”  After several months of my daily morning lie and evening capitulation, it finally the point where I stop and asked myself “is this a problem?”

Drinking has always been a part of what I do, for better or worse.  I get immense enjoyment out of finely crafted beer, wine and whiskey.  I hate getting drunk, but that happy two beer buzz sure helps cover over a lot of the doubt, fear, anxiety, sadness and self-loathing I feel on a regular basis.  Even when those feelings aren’t there, denying the urge to have a bourbon or IPA often leaves me wiggling in my seat.  It’s not the same full-body, my skin is on fire and I’m going to murder feeling that used to course through me when I was quitting cigarettes, but there’s a definite discomfort if I’m alone and there is no bottle in front of me.

I’m a little frightened by it.  I talked to my therapist about it and he is of the opinion that I can’t just come home from work, nap and then find an excuse to crack a beer.  I have to do more that feeds my soul and gives me the same happy tinglies as a sip of Jim Beam.  So here I am, writing and feeling the buzz of being creative.  I’m hoping that if I can find enough ways to give myself that same happy buzz, be it creative or physical exertion, my daily morning promise will stop being a lie.

I am not going to drink tonight.

The Sound of Failure

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Failure is usually measured in absolutes.  Your tire can fail, leaving you stranded along the side of the road.  A water heater can fail, forcing you to suffer through an icy shower.  A sports team can fail and lose a single game or a shot at a championship.

Those scenarios are very black and white, but how do you tell if a life has been a failure?  It’s not as simple to assess the success of years of decisions and outcomes, and often the best you can do is to compare one life against the lives of several peers.

I have a perverse habit of constantly comparing my own life against the lives of others, be they friends, family, random acquaintances on facebook or even people I’ve never met.  This always ends with me coming out on the short end of the comparison and end up feeling that the sum total of my actions and decisions over 38 years of life has been a complete waste with nothing at all to show for or be proud of.

My girlfriend and I spent the past weekend in a small colony of vacation homes in Old Lyme, CT.  It’s the kind of place where families rent a tidy little home close to the beach for a week or two.  You see all kinds of people either walking to and from the private beach or making the rounds on golf carts.  I spent most of our time there fantasizing about having enough money to rent one of these places and spend a week relaxing and entertaining friends.

Upon returning home and being faced with the prospect of heading back to a job that not only can’t pay for a vacation home but can’t even pay our rent without help, I felt the crushing weight of failure descend upon me.  I can barely pay the bills and put gas in my car while my peers post pictures of their vacations in locales around New England and beyond.  Have I failed at life, or am I just failing to appreciate what I do have?  It’s easy to lose perspective when I am being cruel to myself and playing the game of “How I don’t Measure Up.”  It’s a game I wish I could stop playing because there is no way to win, and the only prize is a big pile of self loathing.

Return of the Mack

•June 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Let’s face it, this song should play every time I walk in a room…

I’m back after a long hiatus.  A lot has happened since my last real post  in September.  I lost a bunch of weight and gained it back.  I lost my job and got a new one.  I’ve been broke, super broke, super ultra broke, and back to just broke.

It was a struggle to find a consistent format for this blog when I was writing for it regularly.  I wrote pieces about food, drink, sports, politics and music.  I’m still not sure if it’s better to cover such a broad range of topics or if I should focus more on personal, introspective posts.  I have been concerned about blabbing too much about myself, my life and my issues…who knows if anyone would even find that interesting.  I’ve recently started down a path of self discovery and getting to the root of the anxiety, melancholy and mood instability that has plagued me since childhood.  Maybe sharing some of what I learn will make for good reading, we’ll see.  I’m not going to put pressure on myself to write constantly, but I do need a creative outlet and will challenge myself to at least find something to say once or twice a week.  It will help me spend more time plugged into my mind instead of my computer.

 
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