Archive for the ‘Conan’ Category

Getting it Done

Friday, October 5th, 2018

speakerHumans have many needs. There are the basic needs, like food, water, air. And then there are the more complex ones, the ones that aren’t exactly needed to stay alive, but seem to be definitely needed to stay healthy, especially mentally healthy.

I’m sure you can list some of these. We need companionship. We need dreams. We need hope.

But we also need to know we are accomplishing something, We need to know that we matter. We need to know our lives make sense, and part of that is knowing that we have an impact on our universe — that things are happening because we made them happen.

And this is another interesting way in which virtual reality is affecting us. I wake up every day needing to know that i am accomplishing something, The interesting thing about this is that as far as my brain is concerned, what it sees and hears is real — even if what it sees and hears is being synthesized by a software environment.  The brain trusts its sources (i.e., the senses) and so when we see a person smile in a movie it is the same thins as seeing a person standing in front of us smiling, as far as the brain is concerned.

The same principle applies to other virtual things, like accomplishment. Solving a problem is an accomplishment, whether the problem involves real-world objects and situations, or whether it only exists in a video game. Think about that. When you defeat a monster, build a habitat, or complete a quest in a virtual-reality game such as World of Warcraft, you are using far more than your mouse and your keyboard. You are using your mind. You are using the parts of your brain that model the real world and plan ways to interact with it in order to accomplish things in it — to reduce danger, to acquire resources, to construct artifacts, and so on.

This could be both a good thing and a bad thing. People who dislike video games could point out that game players are only accomplishing imaginary things. They are substituting virtual work for real work. When they log out of the game, theses things they have accomplished make no difference in the lives of others. So you mined a thousand pieces of imaginary ore. You forged a hundred swords. you slew dozens of dangerous beasts. Great. But what did any of it do to help your fellow human beings in the real world?

This is a valid question, of course. But while i won;t try to say people should interact with others in the real world, let’s not bee too hasty to condemn them for enjoying virtual accomplishments. Instead, let’s look a the potential benefits of gaming.

First, gaming provides an outlet for aggression without harming real-world people. Parents might moan that violent games are encouraging violent real-world behavior, but the evidence for this seems pretty thin. If you feel the urge to kill something, isn’t it better that you kill something imaginary?

Second, gaming provides stimulation for the brain that the brain needs. There is plenty of evidence that keeping elderly brains active helps prevent the kind of degeneration that leads to senility. Solving problems, especially new problems (such as learning a new language — or playing an unfamiliar game) forces the brain to work harder instead of vegetating. Use it or lose it, remember? Games help you keep using it.

Third, games can inspire. Maybe you don’t believe that. Parents see their offspring sitting glued to a TV set and wish the kids would be outside playing with other kids. But kids playing video games can play with others without leaving the safety of the home. Think about that. Would you rather have your kids playing in the street…or playing with other kids in an  imaginary world where the worst that can happen to them is their computer crashes?

There are many ways to get things done. Some are imaginary, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


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The Darklord

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017


There are many rumors about the Darklord, but few certainties. Some say he was a Warrior. Others claim he was a Slaver. There is evidence for both of these, for he has been spotted wearing armor dyed red, and armor colored in blue and yellow. But now he merely wears black or dark gray and gold.

There are those who say sometimes he speaks as might one highly educated. Others contradict this, saying he speaks with the pithy vulgarities and casual crudeness of a commoner. And again, it appears that both of these claims are true, at times.

Many of us Exiles are secretive about our past, either because we do not want to admit our crimes or because, for all we know, old enemies might also be here in these lands. It is hardly surprising that the Darklord is not eager to discuss his former life in detail.

But all men talk, whether it be in the exhilarated closeness of a narrow victory against a common enemy, or in the relaxed unguarded moments that follow a pleasurable interlude with a willing partner in the sleeping furs. From such scraps, accumulated patiently by our operatives over time, we have pieced together an approximation of the truth that will serve for now.

The Darklord has known military service. That much is obvious by his bearing and his forceful stride, as much as it is evident in his ability to command and his skill with weapons.

He also has skill with the acquisition and training of slaves, as he has demonstrated with the ones he has captured and put to work for his Clan.

The very rapidity with which he has assembled both his workforce of thralls and his cadre of loyal clan members indicates he has held positions of substance either in Imperial armed forces, or private enthrallment contractors, or both.

But there is more to this man than a history of authority. It seems that he is a fallen idol, a man disgraced by schemers and jealous competitors. Were it not so, he would not be here.

There is a persistent story that his success was such that those who desired his power and position resorted to that most base of weapons – money. It seems that even Imperial judges can be bought. I know, it is shocking! But true. His competitors apparently succeeded in either bribing a judge, or a member of the royal family who had power over a judge. The Darklord was arrested on charges of conspiring against the Empire. There was no trial, no legal proceeding that might be overturned. Instead, we are told the record shows he confessed, although no one believes that, not even his enemies.

Since a confessed traitor receives no trial, but proceeds instead straight to sentencing, he received straightaway the most serious punishment available – banishment to the Exiled Lands.

Many of those sent here have perished quickly. But like some of us, the Darklord has held on grimly and fought through the dangers and predators of these lands to a place where he can build a home for himself, in the Three Rivers area.

Here he has assembled the Three Rivers Outlaws, known simply as the TRO Clan. He is the undisputed leader by acclamation, and while he enjoys his position and its privileges (particularly with regard to the female members) he apparently takes the responsibility of leadership seriously. Enemies fear him. Clan mates admire him. Women hunger for his touch.

Perhaps he is doomed, as are we all, to die here without ever seeing old friends and family again. But the Darklord is building a new family, teaching us that our lives, even here, are what we make of them. Together, we are stronger. Together, we fill the empty moments with stolen pleasures. Together, we become a force to be reckoned with.

We wish him well.

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