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Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek


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Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek | Howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com.

So, there is this story making the rounds where Paul Dini on a podcast explains why execs do not want female viewers for their super hero shows. There’s a link in the resources below. But the gist of it is basically “Girls do not buy our merchandise.” Sounds horrible right? People are shocked! Yeah, well, it’s worse then you think.

Here is the reasoning, that drive execs and marketers to pro-actively exclude women from their audiences and to pro-actively encourage a culture in which women do not feel welcome.

This is why we can’t have nice things… or can we?

This is an excellent article about marketing and how it’s often seen to be better to exclude demographics than it is to be inclusive.  A lot of this discussion began after Paul Dinni, one of the creators of the classic Batman Animated Series, revealed that TV execs don’t want girls watching their super hero shows.

For more on that, here’s a link.

Paul Dini on why execs don’t want girls watching their superhero shows.

This article was published on howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com.  Howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com provides resources, critical analysis and commentary for game designers, game artists and gamers. Written and edited by Anjin Anhut.

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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Life, randomness

 

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Features of the game


So I got a pleasant surprise over the weekend while playing Star Trek Online (no really, I’m not obsessed with the game, I just like to play it).  This is one of those things where a person could say “hey, that’s really cool” or “wow, now people can obsess about an MMO without actually logging into game”.  I honestly don’t know if this is the first MMO that’s done this or if it’s been done before, but the easiest way to explain it is through pictures.

This is completely online and seems to be flash based.  But the interesting thing about this once the loading screen finishes, is that this site will keep a list of your characters (don't worry, it's run through Cryptic not some third party).

This is completely online and seems to be flash based. But the interesting thing about this once the loading screen finishes, is that this site will keep a list of your characters (don’t worry, it’s run through Cryptic not some third party).

Once you log in, there are you characters ready to be viewed.  I clicked on my main character, my Federation Vice Admiral.

Once you log in, there are you characters ready to be viewed. I clicked on my main character, my Federation Vice Admiral.  As you can see, it has access to all the information about her, such as ship specs, personnel files, what accolades I’ve achieved with her and what fleet she’s a member of.

There's the ship, the U.S.S. Ocelot, tactical escort retrofit, Defiant Class.  And there's all the systems that are used to help give the Ocelot her weaponry and defense.

There’s the ship, the U.S.S. Ocelot, tactical escort retrofit, Defiant Class. And there’s all the systems that are used to help give the Ocelot her weaponry and defense.

This is the beam cutting weapon, and the basic information is given.  It does not, however, give the information about it being part of the Omega set nor does it give the extra specs that comes with having each piece.

This is the beam cutting weapon, and the basic information is given. It does not, however, give the information about it being part of the Omega set nor does it give the extra specs that comes with having each piece.

Personal page, giving all of the information about the character, such as rank, biography, weaponry, shields, armour, and so on.  You can even click on each piece to get more information about it, just as you could on the ship page.

Personal page, giving all of the information about the character, such as rank, biography, weaponry, shields, armour, and so on. You can even click on each piece to get more information about it, just as you could on the ship page.  Little disappointed that right now it has a generic figure displayed instead of my character.

You can even examine the bridge crew, clicking on each member for more information.

You can even examine the bridge crew, clicking on each member for more information.  This displays similar to the view of the main character, the one the player plays.

You can even take a look at your accolades, though it does not give you progression of accolades you haven't completed, just the accolades you've fully completed.

You can even take a look at your accolades, though it does not give you progression of accolades you haven’t completed, just the accolades you’ve fully completed.

You can even examine your fleet page, which can detail the roster, the fleet description, events that are going on (which is helpful if you want to check what's happening with the fleet so you can work that around plans).  You can also examine your star base construction progression.

You can even examine your fleet page, which can detail the roster, the fleet description, events that are going on (which is helpful if you want to check what’s happening with the fleet so you can work that around plans). You can also examine your star base construction progression.

This part's rather interesting, because you can actually contribute to whatever projects are taking place without logging into game (I  did not actually give over 10,000 dilithium to that project, I did that as an example, besides, I need that dilithium for personal projects).  You can also view the leader boards for star base and embassy projects to see who is doing most of the work (or contributing most of the resources).

This part’s rather interesting, because you can actually contribute to whatever projects are taking place without logging into game (I did not actually give over 10,000 dilithium to that project, I did that as an example, besides, I need that dilithium for personal projects). You can also view the leader boards for star base and embassy projects to see who is doing most of the work (or contributing most of the resources).

So this is kind of neat, but just so long as Cryptic decides to keep it as something you can look at and inspect and that’s it.  Don’t make a mini game of STO with a flash based engine because that will just end up giving people the excuse to play at work (if they don’t already).  There’s other things I could be doing at work.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Fun, randomness

 

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Customer Service


At one time, not long ago, a company would bend over backwards in order to make sure the customer was happy.  Because if the customer was happy, it was a guarantee for the company that customer would repeat business with that company.  That ideology has changed a lot in recent years.

This is especially prevalent in the video game industry.  The video game industry already has a huge number of problems, the first and foremost being a long list of -isms that it doesn’t really seem to be able to figure out how to solve, or simply doesn’t realize it’s a problem.  That aside (and it’s difficult to set that aside, because that’s a huge elephant in the room), the video game industry has another problem.

I know I’ve gone over time and time again about my enjoyment of one particular video game, and I honestly don’t wish to name drop and point fingers, but there are times when a company has to be held accountable.  That company in this case is Cryptic Studios.  They aren’t alone in this, as people have had massive issues with EA in the past and many other game publishers and studios.  Granted, Cryptic is merely the game developer owned by Perfect World Entertainment.  I can tell you, it’s not such a perfect world.

Cryptic has four games under their belt, all within the MMO market.  They developed and launched City of Heroes, then sold off their share to NCSoft and the studio Paragon Studios handled development.  Since then, City of Heroes has had life support cut by NCSoft.  It was a good game, don’t get me wrong, it had a lot of loyal fans which a small amount of searching will show.  But Cryptic struck off to do their own thing which was develop their own game (sort of).  With the licensed product of Hero Games’ Champions pen and paper game, Cryptic went ahead and began working on their second super hero MMO.  Which went fine.  Later, they acquired the rights to produce a Star Trek MMO.  Currently, they have launched a Dungeons and Dragons MMO called Neverwinter, which initially gave many players warm feelings about Neverwinter Nights, developed by Bioware.

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Before I go on, I need to say this right here and now.  I do enjoy Star Trek Online.  But you can enjoy something and still be aware of how problematic that thing is, or how problematic the group or company who owns/distributes/creates that thing is.  People can enjoy a television show while still recognizing that it’s incredibly misogynistic (Game of Thrones, for example), racist, homophobic and so on.  Or even how misogynistic, racist or homophobic the developing team/creative department is.  And that’s where I sit; I really enjoy Star Trek, but Cryptic Studios is the worst company.

In defense of Cryptic, I don’t accuse them of being misogynistic, racist or homophobic.  I’ve never heard devs or artists or management within Cryptic say anything like that.  They are, however, horrible when it comes to customer service.  At present, they are running three MMOs; Champions, Star Trek and Neverwinter.  Two of those IPs (initial properties) are much bigger and have a bigger fan base than one of the others.  No offense to Champions, but it has a long way to go to eclipse either Neverwinter or Star Trek.  Because of that, new development in Champions has laxed a lot.  The driving force of a game, especially an online game, is more content at a reasonable time frame.  Champions (or Cryptic’s) idea of new content is small alerts that take no more than fifteen to twenty minutes and have no repeat value except for grinding to get more loot.  There’s been no additional story content since they made major changes to the Westside arc which happens to be low level content.  So Champions has basically been kept on the back burner with a large group of players who are feeling rather left out in the cold.

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This began when Star Trek launched.  Cryptic released content for Champions and then began their focus on Star Trek Online.  And it’s been that way even when they launched Neverwinter.  When you’ve got two really good stallions in the stable, why do you pay attention to the mule in the corner.  I can’t say much about Neverwinter, except what I’ve mentioned in a review before.  I played the game for all of two days and then became extremely bored with it.  However, this discussion has less to do with the content of a game, and more to do with those who maintain it.

Since beta testing and launch of Neverwinter, the servers for Cryptic have been, at best, mediocre.  There have been constant crashes and near daily emergency service patches to each game.  Since Legacy of Romulus came down, it hasn’t gotten any better.  The three games are set up on their own servers, however, there’s only one gateway to get into those servers.  Think of it like a shopping mall with three really big brand name stores, all three are popular, and all three have good layouts, lots of lighting and decent areas to find what you need.  The only problem being is that all three stores have only one door to get into all of them.  Just one door.  No double doors, no bank of doors that might have three pairs of doors.  Just one.  When people flock to these stores, they run into the problem of getting inside.  And once they’re inside, there’s still more problems.  The lights flicker in certain areas, there’s no proper labeling on some of the merchandise, there’s no staff to help customers.  This is what Star Trek Online is like, and lately it hasn’t been once in a while, it’s been so common you could set your watch to it.

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Easy solution, right.  Get the problems fixed and move on, right?  You’d think that would be the solution, but it’s not.  During these outages (some scheduled, many more not) emergency patches are released that are often 130 meg in size.  And the things that were broken before the game crashed, well they’re still broken.

The common feeling among the player base is that Cryptic, and Perfect World, just doesn’t care.  They’ve got the customer’s money, and that’s all that matters.  They don’t care about helping the player base.  Especially the player base that are lifetime subscribers or monthly subscribers.  They’re more content with just taking the money, and if anyone disagrees with them and the way they operate, then they don’t care.  The Better Business Bureau has even given Cryptic Studios an F out of the usual A+ to F system.  The BBB does note that Cryptic Studios is not an accredited business and is under no obligation to become an accredited business.  Since 2010, however, the BBB has listed 49 complaints that have been filed with them, and of those only 9 resolutions to complaints.

Yet, it seems Cryptic Studios, and to an extent Perfect World, really doesn’t care.  As a side note, Perfect World Entertainment, which is the parent of Cryptic Studios, was also given an F by the Better Business Bureau.  Perfect World is also not accredited by the BBB, and is under no obligation to do so.

I’ll more than likely still play Star Trek Online and Champions Online.  I’ve got memberships with both, and both lifetime, so no more need to pay more money.  I just feel like Cryptic took my money and then didn’t care about giving proper customer service.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Life, randomness

 

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Star Trek Online and the hat tips


Star Trek Online released the Legacy of Romulus pack for the MMO.  I’ve played through it, and it’s actually quite good.  There are some issues, and some things that I think Cryptic went a bit over board with.  Before going through some of it, however, there’s one thing I wanted to mention about the game that’s really quite good.

The developers of Star Trek Online have done an excellent job of giving homage to what has come before.  They’ve taken into account that Romulus was destroyed in the 2008 movie, and have used that to weave an interesting world (or universe).  From the fact that Leonard Nimoy does some of the voice over as you cruise from sector of space to sector of space, to the fact Denise Crosby was brought back to reprise her role as Sela (and Natasha Yar in one mission).  They aren’t the only ones, mind you.  Chase Masterson also reprises the role of Leeta, mind you as a hologram that hosts the Dabo tables as a part of Dabo from Quark Enterprises.  From Deep Space Nine to Drozana Station, Leeta can be found with a Dabo wheel.

It’s not just the actors reprising roles.  It’s also the characters that are mentioned.  Worf is standing in the courtyard of the First City on Qo’nos   The character of D’Tan is the new political head of the Romulan Republic, and D’Tan was a character in Season Five of The Next Generation, the very well known two parter that saw Spock going to Romulus to discuss and investigate Reunification.  D’Tan showed Spock a book and a set of toys with the Vulcan language written on the sides.  There’s even a mission which has Bones and another that has Scotty, both in the past on an old Drozana Station.

But that’s not the end of it.

Many of the accolades that players can get point to many different famous lines throughout Trek.  He’s Dead Jim.  Crossing the line.  Neutral no more.  And many other accolades that call back to every single episode of Trek.

Now, with the introduction of the Legacy of Romulus, there’s more.

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As a Romulan, the player is introduced to a population trying to find a new home after the destruction of their homeworld.  These are the surivors of that catastrophe.  But they won’t be so fortunate as they are hounded by Empress Sela and the Tal Shiar, who believe what they are doing is the best for the Romulan people.  The player plays as a Romulan who is thrust into the conflict, and must make certain choices, even going so far as to align themselves with the Klingons or the Federation.

Right from the get go, there’s a major difference, as this new Romulan Republic has shrugged off the old uniforms of the past and taken up a fresh start.  The player’s ship can even have Remen crew members aboard (and, players can also play as a Remen).  The missions are interesting, which follows a conspiracy that the Tal Shiar is leading.  Even to the point where the player is indoctrinated by the Tal Shiar and Empress Sela (one of the accolades for completion is called “There Are Four Lights” which harkens back to the TNG episode where Picard was held captive by Cardassians).

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There are a great number of episode missions that the players can go through, before they embark on the episodes that are based on their alignment.  Romulans who ally themselves with the Federation go through the usual Federation missions, and Romulans who ally themselves with the Klingons will go through the Klingon set (in some cases, they are the same, such as the missions set on Deep Space Nine and the ones on Defera).

Just like the ships available to Klingon and Federation players, many of the Romulan ships are familiar.  From the old warbirds from the original series, to the massive D’Deridex Warbirds seen in the Next Generation, along with some new designs based on what has come before.  Sadly, there is only one bridge option at present for the Romulan ships, something that may change in the future.

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There’s a few more updates as well.  Players who want a Klingon Defense Force character will now get the option to play from level 1 instead of level 20 as before.  This opens up a few more mission possibilities.  There’s also new UI updates, which make the game look a lot cleaner than it did before.

Plus, there’s promises of more of the same in the future, with the opening of the Cait homeowlr (home to the feline like Caitians as seen in the animated Star Trek series, when they introduced M’Ress), as well as the Trill homeworld, and even making the faction for the Cardassians available.

With all of this coming out, Star Trek Online is in good shape.

Now, it’s only hopeful that Cryptic can treat its other properties in Champions Online and Neverwinter just as well.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Fun, randomness

 

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Achievement Unlocked


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That is a damn fine uniform.  It happens to be one of the really cool things you can unlock in Star Trek Online.  There’s a lot of things you can unlock in the game, more than just uniforms.  There’s weapons, armour, ship weapons, shields, devices to help in space and ground missions.  Naturally, as you progress through the missions and episodes of the game, new missions and episodes unlock (the main story missions are called episodes, where there’s a series of missions that focus on one arc).  If you collect certain weapons, shield and armour types together, they will unlock additional abilities to help you in combat.

The above uniform, I opened up while performing the duty roster missions (what I call XP while you are away from your computer, because you just set the mission and then walk away).  Four ranks in Diplomacy of the duty roster missions and you unlock the uniform, plus the ability to transwarp to DS9 (at the other ranks you can transwarp to Starbase 39 and Deep Space K-7), plus you get the option to have an bridge officer from an enemy faction.  I picked an Orion (I wanted a Ferasan but those are a species you have to buy in Cryptic’s C-Store… which I’ll get to in a bit).

The rankings of the Duty Roster missions.

The rankings of the Duty Roster missions.

You can also do actual missions that help to unlock ship items (weapons, shields, consoles, impulse engines and deflector) which unlock additional abilities, as well as personal shields, armour and weapons.  I managed to unlock the entire M.A.C.O set of armour, shields and weapons for M’iaa (above) which gives the ability to replenish personal shields and remodulate weapons on the fly while fighting against the Borg.

That’s all great, it takes a long time to unlock this stuff and there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you do so.

However, for as much as there is this stuff you can unlock, it’s really annoying to see how much stuff you can unlock just by buying it.  Cryptic has the C-Store, which uses real word dollars to buy in game currency.  It is a lot of in game currency, mind you, as $20 will get you about 1500 which can buy some decent things.  You can buy additional ship skins and types.  For example, M’iaa’s ship is the U.S.S. Ocelot, a Defiant Class Escort ship complete with cloaking device.  There is a Defiant Class ship you can unlock when you reach the captain’s level, but it doesn’t have the cloak.  You can even buy playable races (like Caitian and Ferasan) and certain bridge crew species (like Caitain and Ferasan).  I’ve taken advantage of that, plus I’ve taken advantage of all of the costume add ons.  This I have no issue with, because it’s a quality of life aspect to the game.  Customizing things so that you stand out in the game just a bit.

What really annoys me is one aspect of the game which manages to drop lock boxes.  These lock boxes contain special additions for your character to use.  Weapons, shields, duty rostes to complete your duty roster crew, costume pieces, and in the case of the Ferengi lock boxes, lobi crystals which can be used to buy a few other add ons.  You even have a chance to open a box with a ship (Cardassian, Jem Ha’Dar, Tholian, Ferengi, Mirror Universe ships available).  What picks at me is that the keys required to open the boxes require real world money to buy.  And they aren’t cheap.  Over 1000 in game credits to buy ten of them.  Which isn’t so bad, but at the frequency of which the lock boxes drop, it can get very expensive.

These aren’t achievements you can unlock, but achievements you can buy.  And even then, the chance of getting a ship is remote.

Costumes and ship skins I don’t mind paying for.  It’s an added bonus to the game to help make you look unique.  I do have an issue with being forced to buy keys to open boxes in order to have a chance of something really different.  What I’d suggest is keep the keys in the store, but have certain missions that will offer the chance to get a key as a reward on completion of the mission.  Make that drop rare enough, so when a player does manage to get one, it’s a real accomplishment.  If players want to shell out cash to buy keys, so be it, be at least give players the opportunity to be awarded keys in game.  Even make a key bundle of ten a reward option.

It’ll make the reward actually feel like an achievement.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Fun, Life, randomness

 

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Beta testing and customer service


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I remember the glory days of Beta testing.  You know, a new product would come out and you’d sign up to Beta test it, hoping to be one of the lucky few who have managed to make the list.  Years ago, it was a prize to be cherished.

That’s changed a lot now, and while there are still the Beta lists of invites, Beta doesn’t exactly mean the same anymore.  Companies now offer preorders which allow you to get in on the Beta testing of a product.  I’ve Beta tested four games in the past few years, two I got in on merit of invite, two others I did preorder (one of which I really wanted to get, which was Guild Wars 2).Some might say I’m being hypocritical to complain about paying for something in order to be involved in it, and yes, I’ll admit the decisions to pay to Beta test were prompted by the aspect of monetary availability.  I had the money, I wanted to try it out, so I paid.

But the problem with this comes from paying for something, which includes a pre-order, to try it out before the official launch.  What if you think it stinks?  You’ve just blown X amount of dollars in order to “try” something out.  In some cases, name branding will help the product succeed.  Knowing that a brand name that’s been trusted will help in the decision making.  That has the adverse effect, as well.  And it’s very confusing when it’s a trusted name brand that is being developed by a company who has a shoddy track record.

“I know it’s X game, and X game has always been cool, but it’s being made by Z company, and they’ve proven to be really shitty with development and customer service.  So, do I sink money in order to play a really great franchise, all the while supporting a really crappy company?”

It’s a very complicated issue nowadays, considering how video game companies are pumping out products which just seem to be complete carbon copies of what’s been done before.  And the consumer has this attitude that the video game companies don’t have any obligation to deliver anything to the players once they have your money.  Well, yes, they do.  They’re still a business and they still produce a product.  When you give someone money to buy something, even if it’s digital, it’s still a product.  There may not be a physical thing to hold in your hands, but you still did get something in the transaction.  And to say it’s just the entertainment industry is nothing more than a cop out.

Consumers are now paying for the privilege (because, that’s what it is, a privilege) to join in during the Beta, and often, unless you’re really confident about the game or product, that’s like playing Russian roulette.  For every one Beta test you get involved in that’s really good, there could be three or four that are just crap.  And is it easy to get your money back from such a venture?  Most often not.  Sometimes a company will claim that the time you spent beta testing, is money to them.  You, the consumer, basically rented time in the beta to play it.

Video game companies have really gone full bore with business attitudes that they are money making machines first and foremost (which, to be honest, all companies are), instead of trying to make a decent product and having good customer service to help out that product move along.  There are cases where some products (in this case, video games) have gone by the way side, but let’s look at one in particular; Neverwinter Nights.  Years after Bioware stopped production of the game, they still made a patch for it, and they still had servers and support for the game after that.  Almost ten years after the game was launched, Bioware still supported it.  And it wasn’t only until a couple of months ago that GameSpy, the company that ran the master servers for multiplayer aspects of Neverwinter Nights, finally shut those servers down.  11 years after the game was launched.  That’s dedication to a product, that’s customer service.  It helped that Neverwinter Nights had a massive community, but they also had a huge respect for that community.

Another example of excellent customer service and listening to the customers was the now defunct City of Heroes.  CoX (as it was called) would often send out Beta invites for their expansions, never charging for it.  Often, however, if you were playing the original game, there was a very good chance you would have gotten their expansions (City of Villains and Going Rogue).  The team at Paragon Studios kept fans and players up to date on events, issue releases (patches or updates to the game were called Issues, like comic book issues), and a whole lot more, before NCSoft pulled the plug on Paragon (both the studio and the game).  And if there was a problem in game, it was often handled fast.  Paragon Studios and CoX was the fastest response time I’ve ever had with support problems, often times while I’m still attempting to find a solution on my own in game.

Those two previous examples seem to be the exception to the rule, as it now seems companies and development teams are less and less interested in customer service and more interested in pushing a product out.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Life, randomness, Rants

 

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Ah, the good ol’ days


Remember the days of video games that you bought in a box and had paper instruction manuals?  In some case, more than one disc?  Fortunately, this was on a DVD, so there was disc changing.  It’s the diamond edition of Neverwinter Nights from Bioware, and took me two minutes to punch in the serial code.

Mind you, I still have the original discs that have been quite badly scratched (thus, why I bought the diamond edition which has both expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), but can you imagine swapping out discs to install a game now?  Especially when the current trend is to digitally purchase it and download it.  But I still have those discs, and the only way to play it now is to have a friend who might have an extra copy (such as me having two copies).

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Along with all three of the original manuals.

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And… apparently a Far Side book was tucked in next to them.

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Light reading material for later, to be honest.

Ah, but forgive my brief nostalgia.  It brought back wonderful memories.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Fun, randomness

 

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