In Which I Wear a Cape and Fight Crime

About 8 years ago, several improvisers and I were secret superheroes. We would leave whichever theater we were at and say, “See you at Paragon City.” We would rush home, get online and goto City of Heroes.51PYFDVZ9FL._SL500_AA300_

City of Heroes, the online game where you not only create your own superhero, you can team up with other people from around the world! I was so excited for this game that I bought a specific laptop just to play it. I had a HP 17” gaming monster. It weighed about the same as a Hyundai, but man, games just flew on it.

In the troubled Paragon City, you create your own superhero. You choose an origin type, a power set and even design a costume. And you could be like me and spend even more time coming up with a kick-ass name. You would have a city liaison and they would give you missions. Eventually, as you play, it would be recommended that you should team up. Now, as with all online games, you could team up with strangers or try to arrange for a group of friends to meet up. That was the best, teaming up with real-life friends, especially improvisers. Not only was the dialogue hilarious, but also sometimes even the names were great. I remember when we all met in real life to go online together (called a LAN Party) and we decided to base our superhero team on historical figures. All I did was make a John Adams character that was superstrong (a Tank, technically.) I think there were ten of us altogether. It was wonderfully nerdy. Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of a Sloar that day, I can tell you.

You could have your character stand in the middle of the “city” and watch people from around the world have their characters fly, run, teleport about. Sometimes, and I thought this was strange, people would stand around and have conversations. There was a tiny window where dialogue and announcements would appear. In the winter, there would be winterlord event and a giant, demonic snowman would appear and everyone on the server/in the city would attack all together. It really felt like one of those enormous comicbook crossovers.

One night as I was running around as SuperLuthor (in the game just a superstrong bald guy in a blue and red costume with a giant “L” on his chest, but in my mind, Lex Luthor had finally won and stole all of Supermans’ powers. The fulfillment of all his dreams and the onrush of demi-godhood causes him to repent his ways and now he’s a good guy) and there came an all-server announcement that Christopher Reeve had passed away. At 9pm, all the missions would pause and there would be a moment of silence. Everyone was encouraged to meet at their city hall and observe the moment. So, I went to the City Hall and there hundreds upon hundreds of characters (avatars) standing there in silence. Some were on one knee, some were “crying” and others stood in salute. It was one of the oddest, nicest things I’ve ever been a part of.coh-boss-create-5

I did some research and discovered that the Defender class was the least-chosen power set. So I chose it. I majored in forcefields and minored in healing. I was the Guardsman. I would goto City Hall and hand out free forcefields (they lasted about 10, 15 minutes). All of a sudden, older, more experienced groups would ask me to join up for a mission or two and I really didn’t have to do that much; just bubble them up and heal when necessary. I grinded like that for about a month. Eventually, I hit Level 50 (the highest you could go). I would go on patrol and just randomly help other groups. I would give them free forcefields and then fly off with a hearty, “Keep up the good work, supercitizen!”

One time, I was flying about and I saw a character named Dred Scott. I landed next to him and we got into argument. I told him I thought his character was racist. He explained that he wasn’t trying to be and we ended up having a lovely conversation about the Supreme Court. Justice!

So, why this caped retrospect? Today, villainy wins. NCSoft has decided to end the City of Heroes. It’ll all be gone by the end of Friday and that’s a shame. Even though I haven’t played it in many years, I have fond memories of that game and the friends I met online and the friends I shared the game with. So far, it’s still the best superhero game I’ve ever played. City of Heroes, I salute you! Good work, citizens!



Humor vs. Humour

A fascinating take on the difference between English comedy and American comedy by Stephen Fry. Take a listen. What do you think?

To a further extent, I feel like part of the American outlook on life (particularly as portrayed in comedy movies) is that of the misfit, the outcast, that somehow manages to win. For the past 30 years, the basic formula has been

1-    The outcast hero is not accepted by the mainstream group

2-    It is imperative for the outcast hero to win (to save a home, to save a rec center, etc.) but is stymied by the rules (either of a contest or society in general)

3-    Against all odds, somehow, the outcast hero (with his band of weirdos) wins the contest (and society rewards him.)

American movies that follow that formula: Caddyshack, Blues Brothers, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, every Adam Sandler movie, just about every Will Ferrel movie, every Jim Carrey movie…

The weird thing is the celebration of the outcast, the rebel, but how is that protagonist rewarded? By acceptance and laurels from the society that previously shunned him. Which makes no sense to me- be celebrated for your rebellion, be happy in being an outcast. In a strange sense, that’s the reason Napoleon Dynamite was such a success; he’s weird and doesn’t change even though he “wins.” I liked that.

Having seen improvisation in Australia, the Philippines, Canada, England, and more, I can honestly say that there isn’t much difference in what makes us all laugh. There are tiny little things; like a word or a reference, but the basic fundamental act of humans trying to be humans is still the best kind of laugh.