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Power Hour Review: Super Smash Bros (3DS)

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.

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Episode 87

Join us and watch episode 87 LIVE! https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c5s1b092tonvppbnecka5ltps5g

WOMEN-IN-TECH

Hidden Women and Role Models

“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.

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Predicting the Future: MMORPG-style

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 »

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Guilty Pleasure Games: Post Yours Now!

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!

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Destiny: A Love Note

This shit is about to get real. I’m feeling the feels this morning. I couldn’t even muster up enough rage to write Why It’s Sexist Vol. 3: Where Are the Statistics On That? which will be coming next week. This week I want to talk about one thing and one thing only: Destiny.

Destiny is all I think about. I think about it right when I wake up. I play until I can’t keep my eyes open at night. I get little butterflies in my stomach when I log on and see Destiny is there. My heart skips a beat when I hear Peter Dinklage (the narrator/your ghost) whisper in my ear. You know what? I’m in love. I’m in love with Destiny.

Destiny has faults. It’s occasionally repetitive, though it doesn’t necessarily get old. Sometimes you want the familiarity of particular nooks and crannies, something safe to go back to over and over. I have faith that as we grow older, Destiny will continue to evolve. While it will still have those same, familiar maps, it will grow and change and get new ones as well.

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Is It Ever “Good Enough”?

Recently I had a conversation with someone who mentioned that game developers were afraid to incorporate more diversity – specifically, in this instance, female characters – in video games. He went on to explain that, in their eyes, the costs often outweigh the benefits for them. No matter what they do, someone would find fault with the representation they created. So that fear, he proposed, deters them from creating female characters and is an enormous burden in the design process. He even went on to say that someone he knew – a female designer, mind you – received criticism over the design of a female video game character. That fear, the fear of making a mistake and misrepresenting a group of people, the fear of not properly taking into account the unfamiliar experiences people of totally different backgrounds than your own might live through, even just the fear of embodying the role of someone completely not like yourself in the most basic ways, can be crippling. I should know, I’ve experienced my fair share of it. But giving into the fear and letting it prevent you from creating characters and situations that are inclusive of all gamers.

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Don’t Tell Me That My Game is Sexist…

This statement was more of a plea than an imperative and it came from an unexpected source. Let me back up a bit and say that I have been playing a bit of Destiny multiplayer this week and I’ve been playing with the same folks because they don’t mind that I suck. They let me play my support role of going in and throwing grenades and slamming the ground to weaken waves while they come in and finish everybody off (not everybody, but my kills are embarrassingly low). Playing with these folks has been a blast. We laugh, cuss, and sing for hours every night. (Yes, sing…make ‘Tacious sing the theme song from M*A*S*H for you) and none of us seem to care how bad I am or how bad this game actually is.

Allow me to digress here a bit and talk about how “bad” this game actually is. The narrative is simultaneously confusing and absent, the maps are repetitive (and I use the plural there loosely as I am sure that we are playing the same map over and over again), the enemies can be ridiculously hard for what the map is leveled at, the bounty rewards suck, and numerous other things that should make me want to delete this game from my hard drive and cures Bungie’s soul. But, it doesn’t playing this game with friends has been insane. I stay up way too late/early every morning and I have been dragging ass every day to prove it. Let me clear things up a bit, when I say that Destiny is a bad game I don’t mean broken, unplayable, bad, but rather just mediocre. Ironically, it’s a mediocre game that just about everyone on my friends list is playing…a lot.  Read more »

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Power Hour Review: D4

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is an episodic game exclusive to Xbox One. I played the Prologue, which was surprisingly short. I’m not sure it took me even an hour to get through. But, it does come with Episodes 1 and 2. In playing the Prologue, I didn’t feel like much happened beyond the set up of this story in the first episode, but nevertheless, minor spoilers follow.

In D4 you play as David Young a private investigator whose wife was murdered. David apparently has the ability to travel back in time when he finds certain objects, although I didn’t feel this aspect of the game was really explored at all during the Prologue. Instead, in this first installment, we learn to “play” the game, learn a little about the background, and meet a couple of characters that I assume will be key to the story later.

I found this game to be a bit bizarre. Not necessarily in a bad way, but bizarre nonetheless. I found myself thinking about Twin Peaks while playing, and I’ve since read that others have compared it to Deadly Premonition, which also has a strong Twin Peaks vibe. The gameplay in D4 is nothing like the gameplay in Deadly Premonition. The gameplay in D4 feels more like point and click, although I gather that’s not the way it’s supposed to feel. The game was designed for the Kinect, but also gives you the option of using the controller. I prefer to play with the controller, so that’s what I did, but playing with the controller did make the actions feel forced or a bit unnecessary. I don’t know if playing with the Kinect would solve that problem, but I didn’t feel using the Kinect would feel natural either. It seems like a point-and-click game, so waving my hands around felt silly.

But, the story seems at least initially interesting. And, some of the mundane actions are pretty detailed. The dinner scene almost grossed me out with their gluttonous eating. The characters’ accents are also pretty cool. The story is set in Boston, and you can hear that when they talk. One character, in particular, that I found especially bizarre was Amanda the “mysterious stranger” who is somewhat inexplicably living with David. (Minor spoilers here:) She arrives and immediately starts attacking David. (But, he lets her live there?) She is also wearing an outfit reminiscent of a Playboy Bunny, and she ate her dinner with her legs spread open. Hm. It’s bizarre.

Overall, I’m intrigued. I like quirky stuff. If you like point and click, or I guess want to mess around with the Kinect, then you might enjoy this game. I would probably wait for it to go on sale, as $19.99 seems a bit steep for what you get at the moment. From what I’ve read online, Episodes 1 and 2 are also about an hour each, so you are getting about 3 hours of game time for $19.99. I will say, I’m glad they didn’t just include the Prologue because the ending of that left me with a weird sense that it was supposed to be a cliffhanger but yet I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be anticipating. Weird, but intriguing game. I’ll keep playing.

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Why It’s Sexist Vol 2: It’s Only a Bunch of Nerd Kids Doing This Stuff

This is the second in a series about how and why reactions to events in the gaming community, such as the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn are so problematic. It is based on conversations I’ve had with people who I really respect who have a hard time seeing why their “gut” reactions aren’t sexist. These “gut” reactions are built on years being surrounded by a culture that degrades and disenfranchises women and their experiences to the point where you can’t trust your gut reaction anymore because it’s been so heavily influenced by a sexist culture. To give people a taste of what it’s like to game online, I’ve added in some quotes of threats and insults that women have gotten online. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“am sorry 4 asking this but would you send some pics of your bare feet and would you like to see a big cock”

Sometimes I ponder the reasons why many gamers I know, often male, who are otherwise awesome don’t see sexism as a problem in video games. I covered one of these reasons in “Why It’s Sexist Vol. 1: She Made It Up (For Attention). In that post, I talked about the knee-jerk reaction of many gamers to disbelieve women who report being sexually assaulted or threatened when they speak out in the community. The idea that women make up things for attention, ranging from everything from rape allegations to medical ailments, have pervaded the history of Western culture in literature, movies, music, and games. Oh yeah, and in reality. Women’s reports are often questioned and not trusted. At any rate, I explored that in my previous post.

“wow retard r u on ur rag or somethin”

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