During the Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft I spent most of my time playing some decently hardcore PvP (player versus player content- battlegrounds and arenas) on my holy paladin. I wouldn’t say I was amazing, not by any means, but I certainly achieved a higher than average ranking, and I worked pretty hard to get there. Read more »
Power Hour Review: Five Nights at Freddy’s
Have you ever thought of what animatronics do after closing time? How do they preoccupy the midnight hours between the rounds of screaming children? Do they need some release after being poked, prodded, and pulled by greasy fingers? Do the smiles of those kitschy mascots stay innocently cheesy even in the dark, or do they […]
Commenting on the Conversation
It’s been a rough week. As I started trying to compose this week’s post, I knew wanted to talk about comments. I wanted to use this story as a lead-in to my conversation: The Real Problem with Sex Workers in Video Games. I wanted to talk about women’s voices and how this article’s comments start […]
Aren’t we all “Always Sometimes Monsters”?
Always Sometimes Monsters is an interactive narrative-style game that attempts to tackle several very serious issues through its focus on player choice and the consequences of those choices. Indeed, the game carries a content warning on its Steam page that says “Always Sometimes Monsters has content dealing with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, mental health, sexual […]
Sexism and Hardware: It’s Not Just for Pink Screwdrivers Anymore
In the same way that medical research on breast cancer, uterine cancer, and heart disease (see Leslie Laurence’s book Outrageous Practice for some history of gender bias in medical research) have done a disservice to women as a whole by focusing medical studies solely on men and then attempting to apply those results wholesale to […]
What Depression Quest Has to Teach Us About Living with Mental Illness
*Trigger Warning: brief discussions of suicide follow as well as discussions of depression below.* The news of actor and comedian Robin Williams’ death by suicide came to my attention from all sides this week. My family was talking about it in person as it buzzed across the daily news. Across my social media dashes pictures, […]
After months of being a homeless transient, often literally living in a van, down by the river, I have a home and an internet connection. I have really missed blogging and podcasting with you folks for the last couple months, and I’m ready to come back with a vengeance. Ok, well maybe not totally. But I do think I have a perspective here that many of you might disagree with. So, without further intro, I’m back!
There are many, many things that annoy me, make me angry, and make me completely fucking irate. #womenagainstfeminism is sooooo not one of them. For those who haven’t heard, #womenagainstfeminism is a movement of women on twitter who are backlashing against things they perceive are tenants/outcomes of feminism. An example would be, #womenagainstfeminism because I can’t actually open my own pickle jar. Or, #womenagainstfeminism because I like getting treated like a woman. Or #womenagainstfeminism because men and women ARE different. Or, #womenagainstfeminism because I actually like my husband. Of course, not liking your husband isn’t a prerequisite to any type of feminism I know of, but the “man-hater” label has always (and maybe will always) been widely applied to feminists.
When it comes to “good” writing, we’re told to avoid tropes and clichés. The given reason is that they are over-done, flat, or ineffective, but that’s not really a fair picture. The reason that tropes and clichés have become tropes and clichés is that they are effective…when they are complicated and fully integrated into the core of the text.
The issues with clichés come about when they are used as a shortcut to affect the audience. Ominous music, lighting cues, or common narrative tropes can become campy, rather than effective, when used poorly. And when it comes to characters, these clichés often combine to create the Mary Sues (or Gary Stus) of narrative. These are the Bella Swans and the Anastasia Steeles, the empty characters who are (debatably) likable because of their lack of development. As far as character creation goes, whether for movies, TV, written works, or video games, these are “bad” characters only so much as they can be called flat. And, mostly, we really only care about 2-D characters when they are protagonists (such as Steele or Swan) or the main supporting character. No one really puts up a fuss if Reporter #3 doesn’t have a well-developed personality and backstory. When it comes to a fully developed world, those stock characters become essential to avoid overwhelming the reader/player/viewer with extraneous information and irrelevant tangents. In their proper place, these clichéd characters are essential to “good” writing. They allow us to focus on the main characters and storylines while also filling out the world where the protagonists live…
…and stock characters make great victims.
I’ve been watching a lot of Mortal Kombat this week. Watching, because I never really played fighting games, growing up (I’ve always been more of an RPG kind of girl), and because I have a mild aversion to my boyfriend’s XBox (because it’s an XBox. Not because it’s his…I prefer my PS). It became something of a nighttime routine. We’d read. He’d do work while I programmed. And then he’d beat the hell out of people while I built a mountain fortress via Minecraft.
Still, for all that I was pretty invested in that fortress, I kept finding myself drawn to the TV. Maybe it was the swearing coming from the other end of the couch, or the fascinating morbidity of the fatalities as they flashed across the screen, but I just couldn’t look away.
I’m breaking the rules a little this week and doing Max and the Curse of Brotherhood (Press Play 2013) a game that was released in December of 2013, but just went free for XBox Live Gold members. I have to admit that I didn’t buy the game at release (digital download only) because of the reviews that stated that the puzzles and nitpickiness of the controls made the game all but unplayable. After the game went free this month I decided to give it a try anyway because Pea wanted to play, so we downloaded it and fired it up and gave it a try.
Max and the Curse of Brotherhood is a visually adorable game. It feels like playing a Pixar movie. The game opens with Max finding a spell to make little brothers disappear on the internet and surprisingly opening a portal in the wall through which the hand of evil comes through and snatches his little brother, Felix. Oops. Of course guilt instantly gets the best of him and he jumps in after them to save Felix. When the gameplay starts we see a visually deep world that surrounds a standard platformer, which was kind of frustrating for Pea who wanted to be able to go back and forth as well as left to right. Fortunately she got used to the mechanics quickly. This game is a good mix between platformer and puzzle game. The puzzle elements come into play as Max has to use his magic marker (possessed by the spirit of the old lady that he meets in the alternate world) to draw objects to jump, climb, and ride on in order to progress through the game. Read more »
Sometime around the start of the holiday season in 2008 was when I first saw it. Mirror’s Edge had never been on my radar before, but as soon as I saw its advertisement during the commercial breaks of whatever show I had on at the time I became enchanted. Parkour and freerunning wasn’t especially popular yet and the idea of playing a woman freerunner was exciting for me as a gamer. My dad must have been at least somewhat enticed by it too, because the next time we visited GameStop he bought it for the both of us. Although video game ads aren’t as frequently used or as popular a marketing strategy as they are for movies or television shows, the exposure they offer, especially for audiences who might not have otherwise been familiar with the game or franchise, is certainly valuable. If I had never seen those commercials, I doubt I would have come across Mirror’s Edge, at least not until I looked back at games I’d missed playing anyway. Given the power of influence advertising has even had in my short consumer lifetime, it seems strange that games with female protagonists, which developers seem to believe are so difficult to sell, wouldn’t use commercials and other advertising strategies to appeal to increase their sales.
Whispering Willows is a horror puzzle game. The game starts with Elena lost in the family catacombs as she tries to find her missing father. The game starts off pretty slow, but somewhat creepy. The graphics are great: not realistic enough that I found them scary, but they are beautiful. As Elena continues through the catacombs, she collects pieces of the diary that begin to tell her the story. She also finds out that through her amulet, she can change to a ghostly form and communicate with other ghosts to learn a bit more about the story. Switching to the ghostly form is also necessary in some cases to solve the puzzle. The game mechanics are pretty typical for this type of game. I didn’t notice anything groundbreaking or out of the ordinary. If anything, I found the game mechanics a little tedious. For example, when she leaves her ghostly form, she has to go back and rejoin her physical body wherever she left it, which causes a bit of backtracking. I also sometimes get a bit tired of games that require me to constantly change forms to solve the puzzles. But, although I was a bit disappointed in that, it does somewhat work with the story.
Even though the games starts a bit slow, the narrative seems interesting enough to keep going. The game seems to have strong Native American themes, and I’ll be interested to see what (if anything) they do with that. And, of course, I’m also interested to see what they will do with the female protagonist. The first hour didn’t really give me a good idea if she will be strong or not. You learn the story in a typical manner, by picking up notes that seem somewhat disconnected at first. At first, I was skeptical that the game would really be scary (so far it’s not), but some of the sound effects definitely give parts of it a creepy vibe. Read more »
Audio books can be a disappointing experience. When the rich expanses of your imagination can people entire worlds, it can be disheartening to hear that all distilled into a single voice. Or, if a publisher is feeling particularly generous, two: one for either gender. But I still remember when a friend lent me an audio collection of Neil Gaiman children’s stories.
There’s something wonderful about listen to Gaiman narrate his own work. His children’s work, especially, is both strange and charming (reminiscent of how I felt reading Rhoad Dahl’s books, as a child) and that essence is captured in his steady yet wryly expressive voice. It was a lovely experience, and it remains one of my favorite audio books in my collection, so it’s no surprise that I felt a surge of excitement when I saw that Gaiman was going to be collaborating with The Odd Gentlemen to create a video game based on one of his original tales.
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Episode 82: Tears from a Gamer: Video Games as Emotional Catalysts (“Save As” to download or head over to iTunes to subscribe)
In this episode we talk about emotional game, games that have made us cry or just think more deeply about emotional issues in our own lives. Join us as we think about games as more than just an entertainment medium.
Early this summer we did a podcast where we talked about all of the games that we were going to play this summer. My gaming intentions were to play some catch up on the pile of shame that sits on my media stand in the game room. I was going to finish Infamous: Second Son, The Last of Us, and a lot of other stuff. I had enough unfinished games to get me through the summer without having to buy anything new. And then it happened…life. Conference travel (Pea and I traveled with the Wii U and played a metric sh*t-ton of Mario Kart 8), day camp, and general outside time since the weather has been hovering around the 75-80 degree mark. All of those things converged in such a way that just guaranteed that console gaming has been at a minimum for me. At least full sized consoles.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time doing handheld gaming so far this summer. My 3DS, Vita, and new Samsung Note have been getting a real work out. That’s right you heard me right…Android gaming and mostly glorified Facebook games, Farmville 2 in particular. As much as I laughed at Alex for her Farmville theorycrafting back in the day I have now fallen prey to the same monster. I have spent hours farming fruits and vegetables and cooking meals to sell on the open market. It feels so….sorted. Like I’m cheating on AAA titles (or Indie games for that matter). Games like Valiant Hearts sit untouched on my XBox One and AAA titles like Infamous: Second Son sit unfinished in my PS4. Read more »