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In Memory of Ercles

I am deeply saddened to announce that Mats Hålimoen, aka Ercles, passed away last night. Erc had been bravely fighting cancer since June but was admitted to hospital last Tuesday. He died peacefully with his family at his side. He was 20 years old.

Everyone I’ve talked to today about this awful news have all unanimously said the same thing: that Erc was very special and that he will be terribly missed. He was an incredibly kind-spirited, warm, funny, generous and brave young man who was loved by his family and friends, both online and in real life. He was always supportive and caring towards his friends, and genuinely never had a bad word to say about anyone. He had a great sense of humour and was loveably geeky.

I regret that I never met Mats in real life. I know that he enjoyed a lot of outdoor pursuits like camping and hiking and was also passionately interested in music. Online I knew him much better, and from all our experiences together online I consider him to be one of my best and closest friends.

Erc was a big fan of computer games and especially World of Warcraft, which he had played since launch. He became a member of the guild Absolution three years ago and has been a close and much-loved friend to many in the guild over that time. Although he was a serious altaholic, his staple character was a Tauren Druid with whom he made an awesome tree healer. Although he branched out into different specs later on, that is likely how I shall always remember him, for I always used to call any Tree Druid I saw ‘Erc’, even if it was somebody else. Of course he was much more than just a healer, but I feel his preference for that role reflected his caring personality. Whilst he was never the loudest or most talkative in the guild, he was always there with a joke or helpful comment, a continually positive presence amongst us for three years.

His death is a tragic loss to us all. He will always be remembered for being an incredible man and a great friend. We’ll miss you Erc.

Portals to Machinima

<BEEP> Thank you for visiting The Barrens Chat. Ercles and Wulfy aren’t in at the moment, because we’re playing games and chewing bubblegum. Please leave a message after the beep, or alternatively check out these cool WoW Machinima movies. I mean who doesn’t like a good WoW movie? <BEEEEEEEP>

1. What Would Warchief Garrosh Do?

OK, OK, there’s a lot of Garrosh hate out there, but this movie (recommended to me by my guildmate Carai)  is a very funny take on the new Warchief. Plus the production quality is awesome.

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Warcraft: Bechdel Tested

I’ve a strong interest in how women get portrayed in computer games; partly because I’m a strong believer in equality, partly because I like supercool ass-kicking women and there’s so few in games. With that in mind I’ve often found myself thinking about the depiction of female characters in my beloved Warcraft. There’s a hundred different ways I could approach such a topic, but for today I thought I would stick with the big picture and look at some trends across the board. To do that, I’m going to analyse some of Warcraft’s lore characters with a doodad called the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel Test is intended a measure of female presence in media. Originally showcased in a comic strip (+1 geek point there) the test examines a film (or in this case, computer game) based on containing 3 simple criteria:

1. Does it include at least two female characters?

2. Who talk to each other?

3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

It’s actually quite shocking how many movies, tv shows and games totally fail this test, which is of course the point. Naturally it is by no means perfect, but it’s useful as a kind of litmus test of how women are portrayed, highlighting the complete lack of well-developed female characters in modern entertainment. So how does World of Warcraft fare under the Bechdel Test?

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So with the news that Patch 4.1 and Cataclysm are not too far off anymore, I figured I should get on with my little project to see all the newbie zones. My final remaining zone to review on the Alliance side was Coldridge Valley, starting area for both the Dwarves and the Gnomish diaspora. This was actually the only Alliance zone I had previously played, having toyed with a Dwarf Rogue once on another server whilst my beloved Argent Dawn was down. I had quite fond memories of the snow-drenched valley and its quirky people so I had decided to keep it for last. This time I decided to try something I never thought I would do and play as a member of that much-maligned (and much-punted) race: the Gnomes!

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Since I posted a detailed examination of my UI a few months back, I’ve  received quite a number of requests for me to make the UI downloadable, which is rather flattering. This is actually something I’d be very happy to do and I thought I would provide something of an update for those people (and anyone else who is interested) in what’s going on with my UI and when it will be available to steal download.

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The Azerothian Atheist

Wow.com has an interesting topic up for discussion today regarding whether there is such a thing as an atheist in Azeroth. I made my token comment there, but I thought the topic was interesting enough that I’d share my thoughts in more detail here. After all Azeroth is a world where gods are real, their avatars are real and people wield amazing abilities via worshipping or otherwise communing with them. The prospect of somebody who does not worship one of the Azerothian deities is a curious one. However, I believe that it could be a more common scenario than you would expect. Here’s why.

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Origins: The Draenei Story

Continuing my foray into exploring all of the starter zones in our beloved game, I next took the form of a species that have been vilified throughout the galaxy, including by me. I have never liked the Draenei. Perhaps it was because they exposed my beloved Shaman class to the filthy Alliance; or perhaps it was because, like the cursed Naaru they hold so dear, the Draenei are just so disgustingly warm and fuzzy. They are probably the race I have despised the most as a WoW player, and I have always paid extra attention to hunting them down in the battlegrounds. I have been known to have abandoned key objectives and lost the Horde a battle, purely because I saw a Draenei Shaman nearby and wanted to kill it in the face. So in rolling one of the hooved blueskins I was committing a kind of personal treason. I was also about to find out that I may have been wrong about the Draenei…

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