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Posts Tagged ‘linkage’

HabitRPG: gamification works, yo

“Gamification” is a bit of a buzz-word these days: the idea that, hey, games are a really great psychological tool (challenge, risk, reward), so what if we harnessed their behavioral-modification powers for good?

HabitRPG is built around precisely that idea. And I’ll tell you up front: the rest of this post is me raving about how useful it’s been for me, so if you don’t want to read something that sounds like an enthusiastic infomercial, you can just skip this post. 🙂

The basic notion is that you can earn gold and XP and treasure by doing stuff in your daily life. The game divides these into habits (either positive or negative, i.e. things you want to encourage or discourage yourself from doing regularly), dailies (things you intend to do on a set schedule, either every day or on certain days of the week), and to-dos (one-off items). If you indulge in a bad habit or fail to complete a daily, you take damage to your Hit Points, but completing things lets you level up, which improves your stats, as does the gear you buy. It also gives you a chance to find eggs, hatching potions, or food; these are used to hatch pets, and feeding a pet can turn it into a mount for you to ride.

Your stats matter because you can form parties with other people on HabitRPG and go on quests; these take the form either of collection quests, where you have a chance of finding a specific object every time you complete a task, or boss fights, where you inflict damage by completing dailies and to-dos. The latter gives you more incentive to finish your tasks, because if you miss a daily, not only do you get hurt, but the rest of your party also takes damage from the boss. Add in a small chat-room function, and you’ve got the basics of social networking to help keep you engaged and playing.

I will not pretend this works for everybody. But for me? HECK YES. Oh my god. Early on, I would find myself doing things like taking out the recycling before the bag was overflowing, because if I was very productive today I might be able to buy an upgrade to my gear! These days I’ve bought all the gear for my character class (at higher levels you get to pick a class and obtain skills that can help you or your party), but I still motivate myself to complete all my dailies by remembering that if I miss one, I lose the buff to my stats that comes from getting everything done. I’ve made attempts in the past to keep a to-do list, but never managed it for longer than a short period of time; having it online (there’s a mobile app as well as the web interface) helps, but linking it to rewards helps even more. Recently I’ve found myself hunting for things I can easily complete because dang it, I am so close to getting the Beastmaster achievement (hatching all the basic pets), but I haven’t been getting enough zombie hatching potion drops.

Press bar, get pellet! Dance, little lab rat, dance!

The major flaw in it so far — apart from the mobile app, which is only slowly acquiring full functionality — is that once you’re a certain distance in, some of the motivating aspects lose force. I worked hard to earn enough gold for all my gear, but once I had that, gold became pretty useless. There’s a solution to that, which is that you can design your own custom rewards and set a price on them; the difficult part is figuring out what rewards will be effective for you. I don’t, for example, want to make “read for an hour” a reward, because it would be detrimental to my life and career if I positioned that as a special treat I have to earn, rather than a routine part of my existence. My best idea so far is actually “flake out”: I can, for fifty gold, buy the right to skip a daily without taking damage for having done so. Because sometimes you need a break, and this is one I earn by not skipping things all the time.

HabitRPG includes a subscriber option, where you can toss five bucks their way each month to help support the service. This gives you the ability to buy gems with your gold (though there’s a monthly cap on that), and the gems can purchase other things, like treasure or character customization. I think I’d been playing for less than a month when I subscribed. Am I getting five dollars a month’s worth of benefit from this?

Heck yes.

Modern Confederacy

Sometimes you read something that spins your understanding of a topic around like a whirligig and when it stops, you see things in an entirely new light.

Here’s what my teachers’ should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.”

Which is really just the lead-in for the part that has very direct relevance for today:

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

(See also “The New Racism: This Is How the Civil Rights Movement Ends.”)

The Cluster&#$@ of Xanth

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have described the Xanth series as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that got kind of creepy about sexuality later on.

Now? I would describe it as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that has had really awful attitudes about sexuality and gender baked into it from the start.

The change started with this post. If that isn’t enough, you can follow up with this tag, because she’s continued on into the later books (she’s partway through Castle Roogna now), giving me more than enough evidence to say this isn’t a fleeting problem. It’s pervasive. Xanth is horrible. In addition to the constant male gaze evaluating every female character (including human-animal hybrids) for their hotness or lack thereof, you have pretty women being stupid, ugly women being totally not worth anybody’s time, and the very few women who are both pretty and smart being untrustworthy schemers. You have women, countless women, who only exist to be used for men’s gratification. You have women’s protests against mistreatment being explicitly described as an act women practice to make themselves more attractive to men. You have marriage and raising a family being dreadful fates men are expected to run away from. You have men pretty much wanting to rape every woman they see, and being held up as wonderful paragons of morality when they refrain. You have a farce of a rape trial that is I guess supposed to be funny . . . somehow.

And that’s just Xanth. That isn’t even getting into his horror novel Firefly, which goes so far with the pedophilia that merely reading descriptions of the content (and the author’s justifications for same) has guaranteed I will never read anything written by Anthony ever again.

Sorry to rain on the parades of the people who remember the early Xanth books as being Not That Bad. They are. They really, really are. I mean, the original edition of A Spell for Chameleon contained the following passage (taken from that oh-so-funny mockery of a rape trial):

Bink felt sorry for his opposite. How could she avoid being seductive? She was a creature constructed for no other visible purpose than ra—than love.

Case closed.

Hear ye, hear ye! (Also see, maybe buy)

For the Driftwood fans out there (I know there are more than a few of you), Wilson Fowlie has read “The Ascent of Unreason” for Podcastle. If you missed it when BCS podcasted it, or when they published the text version, head on over and give it a listen!

Also, in the “good causes” category of links: Pat Rothfuss, the brain behind the Worldbuilders fundraising charity for Heifer International, has decided he isn’t pouring enough time and effort into benefiting the world, so he’s expanded his enterprise into selling signed first editions from authors who wish to donate a few. I think I sent in ten copies of The Tropic of Serpents; no idea how many are left, but (as of me posting this) there’s at least one. The money goes to charity, so if you want a book and the warm glow of knowing you’ve done something good, this is a splendid chance to get both at once.

(I don’t have five things to make a post, but I do have this: another shout-out for A Natural History of Dragons over on io9, this time in the context of “10 Great Novels That Will Make You More Passionate About Science.” It’s a list that makes for some pretty interesting reading, I must say.)

All Around the Internet

I’ve done a number of interviews and guest posts lately, so here’s a quick link dump:

Five Underused Mythological Creatures at Fantasy Cafe, in which I talk about weird things in bestiaries that show up all too rarely in novels.

Interview at Fantasy’s Ink; they ask me about my favorite characters and what I consider to be the most important element in a book.

Another interview, this one with Mike Underwood, who leverages the fact that we’ve known each other for more than ten years to ask me a lot of fabulous questions about gaming, Driftwood, and what martial arts master I would train with if I could.

“Time, Writing, and Tricks of the Trade”, a guest post at Bookworm Blues where I talk about the challenges of writing a sequel fifteen years after the first book.

“Kick(start)ing Myself into Scrivener”, a post at Book View Cafe on my first-ever attempt to write a novel in a program other than Wordperfect.

And finally, one that isn’t mine, but mentions me and makes for entertaining reading: Science in Fantasy Novels is More Accurate Than in Science Fiction.

Updates: Kickstarter, tour, sale, SF Novelists, WisCon

Five updates make a post . . . .

1) The Chains and Memory Kickstarter is a bit over halfway to the first stretch goal. The pace of progress has (unsurprisingly) slowed down; I welcome any signal boosting, and/or suggestions for other things I could do to spread the word.

2) While Mary and I were on tour earlier this month, Tor sent a camera crew to film our Portland event and interview us afterward. It was a fascinating experience; this wasn’t the “sit and have a conversation in front of the camera” kind of thing, but rather raw material for the following video:

If you’d like a sense of what our events were like, check it out!

3) Driftwood fans take note: I’ve sold the audio rights for “The Ascent of Unreason” to Podcastle.

4) My SF Novelists post for this month was “Pleaser Don’t Doed Thising”, in which I take aim at Bad Fantasy Latin, Bad Fantasy Japanese, and other such linguistic sins.

5) WisCon! I went. It was a thing.

Sorry, that’s just the tiredness talking. Going to WisCon was a good idea; going right after being on tour, less so. I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of the experience, partly because I was going easy on myself, partly because I’m new to the con’s culture and therefore didn’t know in advance about things like the Floomp. It was fun, though: lots of interesting people, some good panels (and some I really wish had dug further into their topics), some &@#$! awesome GoH speeches, etc. The good news is, now I know what to expect and can get more out of it in future years. Will I be back in 2015? Dunno; I’ll have to look at my schedule. But I do intend to be back eventually.

post roundup

Things I’ve been saying in different places ’round the interwebz . . . .

“Seeing the Invisible” — this month’s post at SFNovelists is a review of Invisible, the ebook collection Jim Hines put together of guest posts and additional essays on the topic of representation. Proceeds from sales go to charity.

“The Gospel of Combat” — an excerpt from Writing Fight Scenes, which will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog. You can comment there for a chance to get a free copy of the ebook, though!

Interview at My Bookish Ways — in which I talk about a variety of things.

“The Dreaded Label ‘Mary Sue'” — guest post at Far Beyond Reality, talking about female characters who don’t apologize for their awesomeness.

Posting makes the Internet go ’round

I’m not doing a giant blog tour like last year, but I have contrived to be in a few places around the Internet recently:

1) On the Tor/Forge blog, These Are a Few of My Favorite Dragons. Can you guess which ones I picked? (Before you click on the link to see, of course.)

2) On — not to be confused with the Tor/Forge blog — I participated in a series called “That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing.” The point of the series is to talk about awesome moments in other people’s books, perfect little twists or amazing scenes that just blew you away. Head on over to see what I chose. (Many of you, I think, will not be surprised in the slightest . . . .)

3) On Lawrence M. Schoen’s site, another post series, this one with the ominous title of “Eating Authors,” and the much less ominous theme of “writers talk about the fabulous meals they’ve had.” I chose to discuss the kaiseki meal Starlady took us to in Kyoto. Eight tiny courses of phenomenally good Japanese food, enough to make a gourmand weep for joy. 🙂

4) Okay, this one’s old, but I realized I’d forgotten to link to it when it first went up: Timing is the bane of existence” at SFNovelists. On the unexpected pitfalls of figuring out, not what will happen in your book, but when it will happen.

5) Not a link, but a reminder: I’ll be at FOGcon this weekend, and at Borderlands Books on Sunday at 7 p.m. I hope to see one or more of you there!

Five Things Make a Post That Is Not About Supernatural

1) The funny thing about having a release date early in the month is that it sneaks up on you. After all, we’re still in February. That means The Tropic of Serpents won’t be out for a while yet, right? Wrong — it’s out next Tuesday, i.e. March 4th. (For those of you in the U.S. and Canada, at least. UK folks, your street date is the 20th of June. After that, Tor and Titan should be publishing more or less simultaneously, so you won’t have the added wait.)

Kirkus, by the way, not only gave Tropic a starred review; they listed it as one of their Best Bets for March. They even used the cover art as the top image for the post, which is yet another sign that Todd Lockwood and Irene Gallo are awesome.

2) If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll have a chance to hear me read from The Tropic of Serpents at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 9th, at Borderlands Books. It’s my intent to also publicly announce the title for the third book there, as an added treat for my hometown peeps. 😉

3) Also for Bay Area types, I’m going to be at FOGcon weekend after next. I unfortunately had to back out of one of my panels because of a karate belt test on Friday night, but I’ll still be doing several things that weekend:

  • Friday, 3-4:15 p.m. Narnia, Hogwarts, and Oz, Oh My!
    What are our favorite secret worlds? What do we love about them? Why is a secret world so useful for storytelling? What can we learn from the ways used to access these places? What about worlds which exclude some people from accessing them, such as adults or non-magical people–are these worlds problematic or necessary? Or somewhere between the two?
    M: Tim Susman. Marie Brennan, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Naamen Gobert Tilahun
  • Saturday, 10:30-11:45 Secret History and Alternate History; their similarities, differences, and how to write them
    Tim Powers, in books like Declare and The Drawing of the Dark, has brought us into the realm of secret history — the events that really took place around known historical facts. Harry Turtledove, Philip K. Dick, and many others have brought us into the realm of alternate history — the what-if-things-had-been-different. (Indeed, one could argue that Mary Gentle’s Ash is secret alternate history!) What about these works fascinates us, and how do we put them together?
    M: Bradford Lyau. Marie Brennan, Tim Powers, Tim Susman
  • Saturday, 4:30-5:45 Reading
    Marie Brennan, Alyc Helms, Michael R. Underwood

4) In non-Tropic-related news, I participated in the Book of Apex blog tour over at Books Without Any Pictures. There’s a review of my story “Waiting for Beauty,” a brief interview, and a guest post wherein I talk about how writing historical fiction helped me become better at worldbuilding in general.

5) And Now For Something Completely Different: I really love both of these art sets, one of Disney princess in historically accurate costumes (the last image is the best!), and one of celebrities cosplaying as Disney characters.

Jay Lake and a chance to fund SCIENCE!!!

As a goodly percentage of you probably know, author Jay Lake has cancer. He’s had cancer for years now, going through round after round of chemo and surgery in an attempt to halt it; they’ve managed to slow it, but he’s pretty close to terminal decline at this point.


Read this post. It’s about Jay participating in a cutting-edge NIH trial that holds great promise for improving our methods of cancer treatment in the future. It will likely extend his own life at least a bit; it will certainly extend a great many other people’s lives, and possibly even save some of them, as doctors put together superior tools for the task.

As Jay points out, the reason they’re able to take such a good shot at it with him is because of a fundraiser his friends ran before, which pulled together enough money for Whole Genome Sequencing. That data means the doctors in this trial are incredibly well-armed. But the mass of data also means it will take longer to sort through, which means Jay will be in Maryland longer than expected. Since Maryland is not where he lives, this is expensive.

There’s another fundraiser. It has already met its goal, but the goal was to cover the length of time Jay expected to be in Maryland. Which means it is no longer enough. There will be some stretch goals added soon, but you don’t need to know what those will be to donate, do you? You already know the ultimate cause is a good one. You aren’t funding the NIH, but you are funding Jay’s ability to participate in the trial, which will help both him and them. So if you can spare anything, please head on over and do so.