TY Girlz – Virtual Worlds for Girls

The most recognizable product that Ty Inc. has produced is the Beanie Baby. Ty produces a long line of unique plush toys. In 2007, Ty Girlz first appeared as a plush toy, quickly followed by the Ty Girlz website. Both the toy and the website are aimed directly at girls from age 8 to 16. Non-members can check out the website for free; however, this limits most of the activity they can have in the virtual world. Unlike most other virtual worlds, Ty Girlz does not offer monthly or annual memberships. Instead, members must purchase a Ty Girlz doll which has a secret code attached to the tag. The code can then be entered on the website during registration, unlocking full membership benefits. Currently, the price for a Ty Girlz doll is $14.99, though this price can change and may vary.

Features

Ty Girlz is a very pink website, specifically tailored to girls. The website is actually modeled after the dolls and operates for two reasons: to gather the owners into an online virtual world and to further market the dolls. The dolls actually look like dolls – with serene and happy expressions On Ty Girlz, the avatars do not look like dolls – they look like they were modeled after teenagers with little respect for themselves. Once girls purchase a doll, they input the code from the doll into the registration process and fully activate their membership. Members choose an avatar to be their online personality. This avatar can be customized with accessories and a unique look. The avatar gets their own room, the ability to decorate it, a choice of major cities to live in and $500 in virtual Ty Dollars.

Though most of the website exists for girls to talk about the Ty brand and interact with other girls, there are games to play. These games earn players Ty Dollars, the website’s virtual currency. The more games people play, the more Ty Dollars they can earn. This currency allows players to buy room furnishings, personal accessories, clothing, makeup, games and other commercial items. Chat is the most popular feature on the virtual world. Chat Around the World restricts members from typing their own words. They must use pre-selected words and phrases. In the Freestyle chat version, members can type their own phrases, but they are limited to words found only in the Ty Girlz dictionary.

What’s Good

The website will appeal only to girls in a wide age bracket who are interested in fashion and social chatting. The graphics are quite good – clean, clear and crisp images. It flows quite well. It’s a bright website with vibrant colors. There is no violence, drinking, drugs or smoking on the website or in the games. Chat filters eliminate foul language. Other than testing simple memory skills, there is no real educational value to Ty Girlz.

What’s Bad

The comparison to Barbie is unmistakable. Isn’t there more to a girl’s life than makeup, fashion, beauty and shopping? Certainly, Ty Inc. doesn’t think that this is all that will come of the girls who buy and parade their Ty Girlz – or do they? There are no positive role models or messages contained in the virtual world for girls that will empower girls to become nothing more than vacuous shopaholics. Girls can have some fun on this website, but it must not be taken seriously.

Online Safety

Ty Girlz has no control over who joins their website; however, they do have control over what members say. In this regard, Ty Girlz is to be commended for at least trying to put strict safety measures in places to protect girls. The safest mode of chat only allows users to choose pre-selected words and phrases. Even in open chat, only words chosen from their restricted dictionary are allowed and moderators patrol this area. Members are encouraged to report inappropriate behavior and parents are required to give their consent prior to a child using open chat.

The Adult Child Inability to Ask for Help

Ask an adult child who endured dysfunction, alcoholism, or abuse during his upbringing what the idea of “asking for help” evokes, and he may respond “hesitation,” “restriction,” “trauma,” “confrontation,” and “distrust.” But why?

Reasoning, I realized, is in the wiring-of the brain, that is-and my own was soldered during my upbringing-in other words, the wiring contained the ‘why,” or, in my case, the why not when it came to asking others for this help.

How, it is certainly fair to wonder, can you expect help from others-and especially strangers-when your own parents were not there for you? Parental “help” may have been more synonymous with abandonment.

My father was a para-alcoholic, who was exposed to the same erratic, unpredictable behavior he subjected me to, yet neither knew that he was an abused child nor that there was anything wrong with the treatment he received. And my mother, while caring and loving, grew up with a father who himself suffered from an explosive personality that could only be quelled with a quick gambling fix (translated as a full-blown addiction) and she was just as powerless-not to mention frightened-when the insanity played out in my home environment.

Based upon this ostensible normalcy, how and why, I often wondered, would those who did not know me from Adam endeavor to “help” me or even acknowledge my existence? This was what I knew. It was never questioned or corrected, and certainly seemed to configure my brain’s circuitry at a pre-school age, perpetually preparing me for rejection and trepidation.

Subconsciously transported back to my original parental betrayal and the trauma it created, help equaled harm, causing me to feel exposed, even in present time, to a person who may have treated me in a similar manner. Who, I can only ask, would want more of this?

The sheer thought re-erects that impenetrable wall that separated me from my father and, ultimately, others-the one that rumbled, “Step over this line and you’ll be sorry that you did!”

Placing the potential help on one side of a seesaw and the potential hurt its asking could yield on the other, I often assessed the lesser of the two evils, even if that risk were nothing more than irrational in nature, whose seed was planted in childhood. As I continue to pursue my recovery path, I have begun to realize, of course, that it was.

Desperate times lead to desperate measures, it has often been said, and I usually had to fall into the former category before I even contemplated the latter of asking for help. I can only imagine the perplexity of a person who is the product of a safe, nurturing childhood when he tries to understand how seeking a helping hand from another could be considered a “desperate measure,’ much less a dangerous one. The person, I am sure, would not blink an eye at asking, “Could you help me with… “

Then again, that person never had the need to cross his brain’s wires the way I did and then experience and expect the opposite of what would have been considered normal, reasonable, and rational. There were times when my father went ballistic at the sheer thought of aiding his “enemy.” I thought I was his son…

Exposure to any later-in-life authority figure was an instantaneous lighting, like a switchboard, of those circuits, followed by the emotional drop into the pit known as ‘victimhood.’ If being victimized and perhaps harmed could be equated with “help,” then I would rather do without it, thank you.

Indeed, there were times when my father seemed intolerant of my sheer presence and asking him for things was sometimes nothing more than a race between the rational request and the rise of his defensive wall, leaving me unable to reach him. (I later suspected that he was the recipient of the same rejected treatment when he dared the same interaction with his father.) It was hardly worth the successful delivery (of whatever I needed) if I had to fear another retriggered explosion to achieve it. This was certainly one of the circumstances which had me think twice-if not ten times-about ‘bothering” others for this aid, even as an adult.

It also did not breed any sense of self-esteem or worth, implying that I was just not good enough to even give the time, attention, or help to.

Adult children negotiate life, hiding their deep-dark secrets about the deep hole in their souls and the flaws they believe reflect their intrinsically faulty endowment. They are unaware that this rift was progressively created by parents who suffered from the same deficiencies and projected them on to them. Asking for help, to an adult child, is thus the equivalent of advertising it, a scream, if you will, of “Hey, world, look at how unworthy and inferior I am! I need your help because I can’t do it myself!”

“I was intimidated by step five, because it meant revealing my darkest secrets to another person,’ according to “Courage to Change,” the Al-Anon text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 127). “Afraid that I would be rejected for being less than perfect, I put so much energy into hiding the truth that, although no one rejected me, I was as isolated and lonely as if they had.”

The adult child syndrome forces a person, without choice, into a state of isolated self-sufficiency, which serves as an outward expression of distrust in others, an inability to have relied on them when he needed them, and the ultimate attempt to create an environment of safety, security, and stability. Ironically, the more he believes that he is inadequate and incapable, the more he must dig within himself to find the “Jack of all trades” resources to individually achieve what he needs, transforming him from incapable (in belief) to autonomous (in ability).

Trust is a must, but requiring help returns him to a state of helplessness, when the very parents who should have aided him were the very ones who caused his plight and may have become the ones from whom he most needed protection.

“One effect of alcoholism is that many of us are reluctant to get close to people,’ according to ‘Courage to Change” (ibid, p. 363). “We have learned that it is not safe to trust, to reveal too much, to care deeply. Yet we often wish we could experience closer, more loving relationships.”

It may require a significant amount of recovery, during which a person’s childhood-bred fears, traumas, misbeliefs, and distortions eventually dissolve and enable him to view others in a non-authority figure, parent-emulating light who care and are concerned, so that he can see their good-intentioned actions of help for what they are and not the potentially detrimental offer his rewired brain tries to otherwise convince him of.

The ultimate help may come from his creator or the Higher Power of his understanding. But turning to him may be the most difficult act.

A disconnection and fall from him may, first and foremost, have been the initial subconscious step toward his disbelief. Leaving him vulnerable and powerless to shaming and damaging parents without intervention certainly did nothing to instill his confidence in an entity who could have protected him from danger and aided him during his greatest time of need. And finally, whatever he associates his earthly parents with he eventually attaches to his eternal one, assigning the same condemning and punishing qualities to him, until he can no longer see through this distorted filter.

Once again, it requires a considerable amount of recovery, during which his distortions are dissolved and he rises to a level of wholeness, before he can re-embrace God and regain enough faith and trust to ask him for the help he needs.

“I have an important part to play in my relationship with my Higher Power,” according to “Courage to Change” (ibid, p. 48). “I have to be willing to receive help, and I have to ask for it. If I develop the habit of turning to my Higher Power for help with small, everyday matters, I’ll know what to do when faced with more difficult challenges.”

Article Sources:

“Courage to Change.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992.

Low Level Druid Gear – Strength Vs Agility For Feral Builds

When you start down the path of building out your Feral Druid the question of strength or agility comes up pretty fast. This simple question has sparked huge threads all over the web, hurt feelings, some crying and all in all a ton of discussion. As a relatively young Druid reading some of these threads and forum boards seem to require a Masters Degree in Advanced Mathematics. On top of that very often these are talking about very high level raiding and end game Druid builds which can be confusing as well. Here is a very simple break down of the two stats and how they compare. Consider this like a 101 course. You have more to learn but this will at least get you going.  

Attempting to make decisions on stats can be maddening. As soon as you think you’ve got an answer you’ll find someone else saying something totally different. The first step is to simply try and get a feel for the numbers. Remember that you can always get different gear and you can always rebuild your talent trees. Experiment and see what works best for you and your playing style. Let’s take a look at the very basic definitions of these stats and how they affect your Druid.  

Strength: The Strength attribute increases your Druids attack power on a scale of 1 strength equal to 2 attack power. For every 14 points of attack power you have your damage per second (DPS) for melee attacks increases by 1. For example if you have an attack power of 140 you’ll have an increase in DPS of 10. It might be easier to think of 1 point of strength being equal to .14 DPS.  

Agility: This stat does a great deal for us. First of all when a Druid is in Cat form he gains 1 attack power for each point of Agility. Secondly 1 point of Agility increases your armor by 2 points. This attribute also jacks the critical hit chance with weapons and increases the chance of Dodge. Again, in a different expression, 1 point of agility is equal to .07 DPS.  

So what should you gear your Feral Druid with? Looking just at attack power it would seem that loading up on strength is the way to go. The more attack power the more damage you’ll do, right? Well that is true however what do you give up by ignoring agility? You will miss out on the dodge for one. (Your dodge chance is just what it sounds like; it gives you the possibility of dodging a melee attack.)  

The basic deal is that at lower levels the best investment you can make as a Feral Druid is in the Strength stat. The harder you hit at low levels, basically, the better off you are. This does not mean to completely ignore agility however. When the decision comes up for gear with strength or agility lean towards the strength boost. At some point, at much higher levels, the favor tips towards agility but don’t get too concerned about that just yet.  

Is there more to discuss on this topic? Absolutely. This does not even scratch the surface of the issue but it should get you going in the right direction as a low level Feral Druid.   

Text Based Online Games – English As a Second Language and RPG Games

One feature of text based online games is the chance to meet many people from around the world and to form friendships, bonds, and even to learn more about your own culture through another player. Yet one of the most striking lessons one can learn is that the textual RPG game is a place where one can learn English as a second language. Since British English is often the main language of choice for RPG games, players will find themselves interacting with native and non-native English speakers.

Like many Americans who play textual RPG games, I am constantly surprised to meet others in games who demonstrate a high ability to speak, to write, and to express their intentions so well. Of course, for those who write or speak English as a second language (and sometimes a third or fourth), RPG textual games are a perfect space for players to create characters and practice language skills. In all, the textual RPG game becomes a worldwide community that bridges cultures, and allows players to interact and to learn more about various elements in and out of game through written expression.

As some new users will discover, online RPG games are populated by players who often help another non-native English speaker with his or her language skills. Many player run organizations have guides and mentors. If the player tells his or her guide or mentor that English is not the first language spoken the mentor will make it known to others to help the non-native speaker with language skills. What remains amazing is the willingness established players have to assist others to make the game an enjoyable diversion and to help players learn more about the language written (or spoken) in game as well as the game culture.

While some who read this may be timid to try an online RPG game because of English being the choice language, they will find that many clans and private clans are created by other users in games where they can speak native languages too. While English remains official languages in most MUDs, it does not prevent clans from setting rules to where other languages are spoken. So, players will find that they are never truly alone because there is always someone in game who speaks one or more languages besides English. Furthermore, some mentors and guides are fluent in two or three other languages and are willing to bridge the language gap. Plus, if they make friends with someone who speaks a language they may not know- all the mentor has to do is ask other characters who may speak the common language and the online game becomes personal and enjoyable.

While serving as a house mentor, I have often discovered that my own language skills in French, Spanish, and Italian have improved if I meet a character in game who speaks one of those languages as a first language. In private conversations (often referred to as TELLS in game) we will help one another bridge misunderstandings and even correct one another. Either way, it is a win-win situation because the learning process never ends. The player improves his or her English skills and I improve my skills in other languages.

I know that many who read this speak English as a first language and may be shy about trying an online text game after reading this essay. However, you should not fear it. Even if you are a native English speaker and you feel that your writing is, either bad, or that you do not express yourself well in text, there are many in game that will assist another. So many players come from various walks of life that you often find players ranging from teenagers to doctors, lawyers, engineers, information technology and other professions play the games as well for fun. They are willing to extend a hand with proofreading, writing skills, and even referring you to others who can help with certain in game topics. Language can cross barriers, help forge friendships and even teach us about one another. This is one element that textual RPGs have that many graphical games do not- and that is a feeling of community, friendship and assistance. So many graphical games rely on various servers so some players never leave the confines of a server that is a single language focus. If a player dares to enter the world of text based online games, he or she may discover that language skills in English will improve, and he or she will even help native speakers improve skills too.