by Amanda Webb

Plate Armor Bikinis and Hot Pants: How Far We’ve Come!

As you may know, I’ve been re-subscribed to World of Warcraft for several months now and have been having a great time in the new expansion. One of the things that’s been most enjoyable is seeing the Outlands from a new perspective- this expansion uses a parallel universe as an excuse to go back to the same location (albeit under different conditions) as their very first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Even more enjoyable is the fact that the armor choices for gear this time around have made a marked improvement in nearly every way! As the comic suggests, WoW has had some pretty egregious sets of armor, several of which offer full coverage to male toons and somehow disintegrate when a female toon equips them… Read more »

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The Original Gender Reveal of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard Means Nothing, and Here’s Why

Late last week, Jonathan Cooper revealed on Twitter that, in the earliest animation tests for Mass Effect, the character of Commander Shepard was a woman, and the online equivalent of confetti was thrown by fans who played, and loved, Mass Effect through a female-centric lens. FemShep, after all, is the only Shep, right?

Except that’s not the case, not really. Not now, and not ever… and maybe I’m alone in this, but both the reveal and Cooper’s follow-up that “Shepard was always planned to be both male & female” was not exhilarating, but rather depressing instead. Oh, we could have had a major franchise anchored by a female character with an amazing voice actress, the kind of franchise that could (and did!) spawn major merchandising and had mass cultural impact, but instead we were fed the dominant image of MaleShep?

Oh.

And now, in 2015, I can’t help but wonder: where might we be if Shepard had just been a woman?
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Why Writing and Playing Video Games are Alike; Or, A Public Apology to My Mother

For years I have given folks that party line that I don’t “teach” writing, but rather that I facilitate writing. And, of course, it’s true even if it does sound damned pretentious. You really can’t teach someone how to write. You can model it for them and give them feedback, but in the end people learn to write through practice.

wd_zombiesI say this to say that more and more it is becoming apparent to me that the same is true of video games. Especially after trying to teach my mother to play a console game over Christmas break. My mom owns a 3DS and Professor Layton (that I’m not sure she has ever really played a game on) and she has played Mario Kart 8 with us (quite badly I might add), but those are games and consoles that require very little dexterity. This Christmas I decided that my mom would/should love the narrative heavy TellTale games. So one night I fired up the first episode of Game of Thrones (never the Walking Dead because Shhhhhhh… she is terrified of zombies). For the next hour or so I watched as she got through the first 15-20 minutes of the game and got killed no less than a zillion time. Hacked to death, knife through the neck, arrow to the knee, you name it. She died in more ways than I thought possible even when the game helped her out by ignoring the fact that she missed cues and mercifully (or not) let her live.  Read more »

2015

Episode 92: It Was the Best of Games, It Was the Worst of Games

Episode 92: It Was the Best of Games, It Was the Worst of Games (“Save As” to download or head over to iTunes to subscribe)

Welcome to 2015 and we start with a discussion of our best and worst games of 2014. We are joined this week by guest and NYMG community member, Ashley Barry.

Rise of The Tomb Raider

Looking Forward

January brought a bunch of new LEGO sets (as usual), many of which I’m pretty excited about. I was particularly excited about the Detective’s Office and the new LEGO Ideas set, Birds. I ordered both, and I’m impatiently awaiting delivery today (Out for Delivery!). They also released a bunch of cool new smaller sets, so to ease my wait, I picked up the new Rainforest Animals Creator set at Target. The Rainforest Animals set is so cute, and I mostly wanted it for the bright colors, but even in this small set, LEGO incorporated a surprise: the bird poops, similar to those pooping reindeer toys:

Pooping Raindeer

It’s a small thing, I know, but one of my favorite things about LEGO is how they guide you through building something that is often a mystery until it’s finished. These new sets obviously won’t be the last ones LEGO releases this year, but it’s enough for now. And, while I look forward to what they come up with next (and what new LEGO Ideas sets get approved), I started looking forward to 2015’s new video games.

Last year, I didn’t get excited by too many AAA games. There were a couple: LEGO Batman 3 (loved) and The Evil Within (I guess I didn’t love because I never went back to it.) I spent most of the year somewhat dissatisfied with AAA offerings. Not to say there weren’t some really popular ones that other people enjoyed, like Destiny, just that there weren’t many that I was interested in. At a glance, 2015 doesn’t look much more promising, but I am really excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider and Until Dawn. I’m not buying a PS4, though, so hopefully I can con a friend into letting me play Until Dawn. Rise of the Tomb Raider is probably the game I’m personally most anticipating this year. Lara will never make everyone happy, but I’m hoping she continues with the more realistic character trend.

A couple of other games also stand out to me from the list. Life is Strange, an episodic adventure, looks interesting. I tend to like episodic games, but I tend to like them more once they are completely released. (Still waiting on the second half of Broken Age.) I was a bit surprised to see a few Vita games on the list that seem interesting: htol#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, a Vita exclusive action puzzle game, and Criminal Girls: Invite Only. From reading the description of htol#NiQ: The Firefly Diary, it seems it was made for the Vita and uses both the front and rear touch screens, so that’s intriguing, given many of the Vita games are 3DS ports and therefore don’t use the Vita’s full functionality. (Tearaway is one exception that comes to mind, but I didn’t love that game.)

Those are just the games I’m looking forward to as a gamer who is more into narrative than shooting. For those of you who like FPS’s, it looks like 2015 will have (as usual) plenty to choose from. 2014 also brought many indie gems, and I look forward to those in 2015 as well. I’m sure many more games will pop up in the months to come (but, not too many I hope; I have to write a dissertation now.) I’m looking forward to a good year in LEGO and in video games.

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Tropico 5 DLC and Hearthstone: Goblins Vs. Gnomes

******pssssst. The Tropico 5 DLC is on sale today on Steam!******

The last couple weeks have been rough, spending most of my time dealing with a personal tragedy. I haven’t been gaming or posting much or following the gaming news, but I have played a few DLCs for Tropico 5 and the Hearthstone Expansion: Goblins Vs. Gnomes.

Goblins Vs. Gnomes

I like Hearthstone. I enjoy having competitive decks (yes, I’ll spend a wee bit of money). I like the rush when a perfect combo comes together for you to unleash on an unwitting opponent. I enjoy that it has multiplayer play with no talking so I can avoid the assholes. But the game doesn’t pull me like some games do. I’m not interested enough in wins or rank for that to push me through, nor do I want to strategize about how to make synergistic decks that surprise and destroy my opponent. I’d rather build things, amass resources, and strategically place defenses to face a wave of NPC enemies.

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frozenwhoduo

Geek Parenting: Holiday Edition

With Christmas vacation looming just around the corner I look on in envy as friends and family tweet, post, and talk about staying up late and sleeping in till noon. I smile and nod because I know that Christmas break is going to mean getting up and making breakfast for a cute, but demanding little girl who is home everyday and thinks that sleeping late means 7, 7:30 at the latest. Christmas break also means lots of free time to fill and as a geek parent I want to fill that time with equal parts fun, nerdy, and educational.

weepingangelPea is really into Doctor Who right now so Santa will be bringing her some really cool Doctor themed items for her stocking. I skipped the freaky looking Weeping Angel made from stress foam because those things would give me nightmares. Pea hasn’t seen the angels episodes, but is begging to. There will also be Funkos of some of her favorite nerdy characters and two weeks of free time to continue to cut her nerd chops. And this requires a lot of supervision and screening because many of our favorite nerdy things are not for innocent 6 year olds. Firefly is a great example. I have a deep and abiding love for Firefly and I’m pretty sure that Kailey would be one of Pea’s favorite characters, but the sex factor puts it out of her reach for at least a decade.  Read more »

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2014 in Gaming Cover Art

The end of the year is drawing upon us and in the first of two posts reviewing this year of gaming, I thought I’d analyze the cover or box art of some of this year’s new console releases. For the sake of simplicity I will be focusing only on some of the best selling titles this year. I will put a disclaimer here: in an era of digital downloads, less reliance on hard copies of games, and extensive pre-release trailers, box art has ceased to play as integral a role in a game’s marketing and sales. Nevertheless, the box art still acts as a “public face” for the game and provides an almost candid look into the presence female characters have in the game and how they are treated. So with that perspective in mind, let’s look at how women are displayed in the covers of some of the top selling console video games of 2014.

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thethree_got

Power Hour Review: Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice (XBox One)

Winter (break) is coming! And that means that there is going to be a whole lot of catch up up going on among gamers everywhere. I think that I am starting off my run to diminish my pile of shame a bit. With the release of the next gen systems my pile of shame has been growing more and invisibly thanks to digital distribution.

So this week I am finally getting around to doing my Power Hour review of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones Episode One. After playing the Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us I have to say that I came to GoT with some specific expectations. And Telltale kinda said, “Screw your expectations!”. GoT doesn’t play like either of the previous episodic games that I played. And I don’t think that it’s necessarily that the mechanics have changed that greatly.

garedLet me start by saying the game is pretty, much prettier than the comic styled Wolf Among Us. The art style adds to the tone of the game. You feel your surroundings as much as you just see them. But I’m kind of putting the cart ahead of the horse. This game is not following the narrative strand of the HBO series or the first book. The game revolves around the Forrester family who have been loyal bannermen to the Starks for centuries and it picks up on the evening of the Red Wedding with you playing as Gared Tuttle, squire to House Forrester (I won’t say more than that for those of you who haven’t played the game, seen the show, or read the books…in other words, those of you living under a rock).  Read more »

boy_girlguide

Episode 91: The Happy Meal Argument: No Such Thing as a Boy/Girl Toy

Episode 91: The Happy Meal Argument: No Such Thing as a Boy/Girl Toy (“Save As” to download or head over to iTunes to subscribe)

This week we talk about gendered marketing of new toys (and the toys themselves) and wax nostalgic on toys in our own past. Join us as we talk about everything from the new Lego Fusion sets to Monster High dolls. Just in time for winter holiday shopping for your favorite children (or adults)!