During last week’s podcast I chose the Borderlands series as my “guilty pleasure” games. The series as a whole is pretty irreverent, the characters are exaggerated, and the games repeatedly present unabashedly non-serious and goofy situations. In many ways, the series reminds me of classic cheesy horror movies- bad, but in the most entertaining and enjoyable sort of a way. And, at least in the case of Borderlands, it takes a lot of talent and creativity to make something so wonderfully “bad”. Given all of this, Borderlands: The Pre-sequel was absolutely on my must play list. Read more »
Because Everything’s Better in Space, AMIRITE?
During last week’s podcast I chose the Borderlands series as my “guilty pleasure” games. The series as a whole is pretty irreverent, the characters are exaggerated, and the games repeatedly present unabashedly non-serious and goofy situations. In many ways, the series reminds me of classic cheesy horror movies- bad, but in the most entertaining and […]
Power Hour Review: The Evil Within
I’ll admit I was pretty excited to get my hands on this game. I was so excited that I got up early and went to Target right after they opened, and then I played it for most of the day. (Thank you whoever invented fall break!) It’s the perfect game for October, and yesterday was […]
Tonight I Killed a God
WARNING: This post may be a little bit spoilery for the Destiny storyline, but it’s definitely worth the read Unless you’ve been under a NYMG you know by now that Alex and I have been playing a lot of Destiny (Bungie 2014)…and I do mean a lot. I won’t even begin to tell you how […]
Leveling Through Loss
Grief is a funny thing. Caught up in the throes of loss, every day can feel like you’re living through Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. When we lose something precious, it’s not just an emotional blow. It’s a physical and mental attack that can leave you feeling a […]
I’ll admit I was pretty excited to get my hands on this game. I was so excited that I got up early and went to Target right after they opened, and then I played it for most of the day. (Thank you whoever invented fall break!) It’s the perfect game for October, and yesterday was a rainy, dreary day. Fantastic!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this game, as I didn’t actually put any research into it before buying it. I was already sold based on title and cover art alone. I will say this, though: it’s bloody, really, really bloody, especially in the beginning. I can’t say I was particularly scared during the first hour, but it is pretty violent and graphic. Especially when you die. Dying is violent.
I did feel a lot of déjà vu while playing. Kotaku noticed this as well. As I was playing, I felt like I was playing a sometimes weird combination of a lot of other horror games. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. At times, I felt like it was pulling directly from other games, and at times it still seems somewhat unique. But, at various points, I felt I was playing Resident Evil, Dead Rising, Outlast, Silent Hill, and even Alan Wake. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in some sense it added to the experience. I love all those games though, so I didn’t mind seeing and playing elements from them. I guess the Resident Evil similarity is purposeful; I’m not sure if the others were. The game just felt a lot like a Silent Hill game to me; you can run or fight the monsters, much like Dead Rising; when I was in the woods, I felt like I was playing Alan Wake (except the lights won’t save you); and, I don’t think it’s to spoilery to tell you that you need to hide in cabinets, a la Oulast.
I didn’t really love the controls though. The character seems somewhat slow to respond sometimes, and because part of what you need to do is get away from monsters, the slow response was somewhat frustrating. It never resulted in my character’s death, but I did find myself yelling, “GO, come on, Go!” a couple of times. The game itself also lagged sometimes. One time when I knew I was going to die, I had to wait for what seemed like minutes for the graphics to line up correctly. The lagging isn’t a fatal flaw, and the game is still playable through it (so far anyway), but it’s a little disappointing given that I’m playing on Xbox One. I guess I have high expectations for this console.
The game is pretty easy to navigate, and I found it pretty easy to figure out what I needed to do. There is a lot of sneaking around, and you can get through a lot of it just by sneaking past the monsters or simply running past them. So, if you don’t want to fight, it’s not always necessary. Sometimes the sneaking is necessary though because you are just not going to win. I did find myself once just going around in circles trying to figure out what to do next, so it’s a little more open world than say Silent Hill, which often seems to be forcing you in the right direction, but at the same time, I learned you can’t always backtrack.
It may sound strange to refer to a survival horror game as comforting, but that’s really what I felt. For me, it was like curling up with an old, familiar book. If you are into horror, I would recommend this game. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but it is creepy, and it is definitely gory. If you don’t want to see blood or graphic violence, than you might want to skip this one. That’s my initial take on The Evil Within but, if you are still on the fence, look for to part 2 of this Power Hour Review next week after Wendi plays; stay tuned!
WARNING: This post may be a little bit spoilery for the Destiny storyline, but it’s definitely worth the read
Unless you’ve been under a NYMG you know by now that Alex and I have been playing a lot of Destiny (Bungie 2014)…and I do mean a lot. I won’t even begin to tell you how much. One of the things that disturbed me about the game was the fact that we were often asked to come in and kill hordes of Fallen while they are actively praying to their god. I mean on bended knee arms up-stretched to the heavens praying. That shit gives me serious pause. What does it mean that I am being asked to come into a sanctuary and murder worshippers who are unaware of my presence because they are communing with their god? Am I supposed to think that this is ok because they look different from me (not that “I” am not different with blue skin, white luminescent eyes, and glowing images of constellations floating just below my skin) or because they worship a different god than I and my ilk do?
I asked myself all of these questions in a split second as I surveyed the scene in game and compressed it all down to “Really, we kill them while they’re praying?” and voiced that to my fireteam. They responded with “Oh my god” and other utterances of surprise and quick snippets of analysis before we did what we were ultimately going to have to do in order to successfully complete the mission and advance the narrative. We killed all of the worshippers and then went on to kill their god. There was no option not to. There was no way to make peace with them. No way to agree to allow their god and their beliefs to co-exist with ours. It was simply kill or be killed and none of us wanted to die.
Grief is a funny thing. Caught up in the throes of loss, every day can feel like you’re living through Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. When we lose something precious, it’s not just an emotional blow. It’s a physical and mental attack that can leave you feeling a bit like you’re drowning on dry land.
I want to say that, eventually, you find your feet…but the unfortunate truth is that, currently, I’m somewhere between going under and treading water. Right now, land feels very far away…which is why I wanted to take some time to talk about the idea of fantasy worlds and video games as “escape.”
For as long as I can remember, Narnia has been the ultimate dream. When life is rough, there’s something wonderful and reassuring about the idea that a passage to another world (far, far away and magical) could be found in any closet or behind any closed door. Let’s face it…pain sucks. And the idea of running away from it is an appealing one. For the past few weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing with my video games and crafts and a whole lot of sleep. It’s escapism…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like continuing to work through sickness or grief, it’s a way of stepping outside of yourself–getting out of your own head–and letting other concerns take over for a little while. For me, video games and novels act as a way of getting perspective. It’s not a one-to-one correlation…shooting down bandits in Skyrim doesn’t solve my frustration for real-world issues, so much as it gives me some distance before I have to deal with them again. It shifts the immediacy, leaving more time and space for healthier, more productive responses. But that’s just the after-the-fact justification. In the heat of the moment, getting to be someone else (anyone else) just feels really, really good. It’s a relief.
There’s a caveat to exploring new worlds, however, and it’s one we don’t often think about when we’re longing for that escape; no matter how or why fictional characters are whisked off to alternate realities, they almost always come back. The Pevensies’ adventures in Narnia doesn’t stop the war back home, or the bullying at Eustace’s
school. Spending the school year at Hogwarts doesn’t change that Harry Potter still has to see his aunt and uncle during breaks. And many times, as with Quico in Papo & Yo, the problems in the “real” world often continue to play a role in the fantasy world. Escaping isn’t enough. You still have to “deal.”
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do is make the choice to at least start dealing by acknowledging that, yes, the door to a million wonderful, distracting worlds is right there on my laptop, my 3Ds, my playstation, and my TV, but that doesn’t mean I have to go through it. Eventually, I had to put down my controllers and remotes and mice and just hurt.
My process of dealing still isn’t complete. Most days I want the distance and distraction games affords me. Some days I need them. But it’s getting easier. And, in the meantime, I’m just a click away from Tamriel, Willow Creek, or my latest Minecraft build when I need them.
It’s not Narnia, but it’s a start.
Episode 87: On Guilty Pleasure Games; Or, It was Destin(y)ed to Happen (“Save As” to download or head over to iTunes to subscribe)
In this episode we talk about guilty pleasure games and what constitutes them.
It may be a little odd to think of Super Smash Bros. as a stand-alone, legitimate handheld title. Although I had bought into the hype long ago and had already mentally committed myself to buying it, I had my doubts about the new Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. Super Smash Bros., after all, was a game franchise that I played with friends while we giggled at each others’ zany antics and occasionally shot death glares. It is an inherently social game and while the 3DS certainly brought an all new level of sharing and social capabilities to handheld games, I doubted its ability to compete with its upcoming Wii U counterpart. Thankfully most of my concerns were alleviated when I finally got my hands on the full copy of the game.
Join us and watch episode 87 LIVE! https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c5s1b092tonvppbnecka5ltps5g
“If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there’s a good reason: It’s true,” begins this article on NPR. I hear this a lot, but I typically hear reasons for this that have nothing to do with the history of tech presented in this article. I usually hear something more along the lines of “women just aren’t interested in tech,” “or women aren’t intelligent enough,” or this, from the comments, “They are choosing not to get the related degrees in college, thus removing themselves from the potential pool of hires. You can’t hire something that doesn’t exist.”
The truth is, though, that many women are and have been interested in technology and math, as this article demonstrates. But, for this post I wanted to focus mostly on this quote:
“When they have been written out of the history, you don’t have great role models,” says Isaacson. “But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace … it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek.”
Representation and role models are so important to me. We talk about this a lot here on Not Your Mama’s Gamer because we want to play characters that we feel represent us. I want young girls to see the role females have had in the tech industry, so they too can see it’s something they can do if they are interested in. So they can envision themselves in the role. For me, playing a female character in a video game can make me feel more involved in the story. (Sometimes too involved, as I felt when I played Tomb Raider.) I want to feel that, yes, I am also welcome in the world of video gamers. I want female children to feel this way, as well. I want to never again have to explain to the cashier at Game Stop that, yes, that game is really for me. I really intend to play that game.
And, it’s not just tech or video game, as I’ve written about recently, I think quite a bit about the representation of females in LEGO. (Well, let’s be honest here; I think about LEGO a lot in general.) But, I got so excited when they released the LEGO Research Institute. I want more of that. Some have questioned: why does it matter? Wouldn’t it be better if kids were just happy playing whatever gender or minifigs they have? For me, that’s fine, if that’s what the kid (or adult, in my case) wants. But, if young girls see female scientist minifigs, perhaps that will help open the door for them. They can then see themselves in that role. Rather than seeing male minifig after male minifig and thinking, “being a scientist might be cool, but I’m not sure I belong in that career.”
When I was way younger (I won’t tell you how long ago), I wanted to develop video games. I was working toward a computer science engineering degree. I was working in my own time, messing around with designs. No one ever told me I couldn’t do it. But, when I think back to my younger self, I get a little sad because now I can see the certainly tough, possibly even impossible, road I would have had to undertake to make that happen 20 years ago. (Ok, ok, it was 20 years ago, showing my age here.)
NPR’s story is about the erasure of females from the history of computer science. Writing women out of history (or the attempted writing women out of history) still happens, as I wrote about here. And, I would like to see people stand back from their preconceived notions of the world. If a female (child or adult) is saying “I want to be in tech; I want to work in video games,” maybe we can give that girl role models instead of constant stubborn excuses for why she “can’t” or “doesn’t want” to do that.
Last night I pulled out some readings for my classes- things which, despite being barely a decade or less old, are already slightly out of date classics by even academic standards on new media. I got a brief chuckle from Nakamura’s Cybertypes and Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds, both of which mention Everquest and Ultima Online when talking about online virtual gaming worlds. How little we knew then. How quickly things changed when World of Warcraft barged in and demolished all competition. At its peak (2010, during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and the last time Ret paladins were awesome…), WoW boasted 12 million players. Recent reports put current numbers at closer to 7 million- quite a decline, but still massive in comparison to other MMORPGs (paladins are also decidedly worse- coincidence?). Read more »
On this week’s podcast, NYMG will be talking about our favorite “guilty pleasure” games. What games do you play over and over that you know are bad, but you can’t help yourself? Respond and we will talk about your game on the podcast!