Monday, October 20, 2014

Extra Life Day

Extra Life Day is this Saturday, October 25th, and I have decided to participate this year and help add to the donations. Last year after a DDoS attack crippled the website for several hours, preventing people from donating, we proved that pranks won't stop us from helping out fellow video game fans and children in need.

For those who don't know, Extra Life began from a very simple start: helping a gaming fan through a disease by giving her video games to keep her spirits up. The project grew from there and is now heavily involved with The Children's Miracle Network.What I appreciate about Extra Life is that they do not make a single penny off of the donations. Not one. 100% of the proceeds go directly to Children's, which is amazing. Private donations help keep the website up and running, and allow for the system to keep going.

So if you need a few laughs on Saturday, come watch me flail around and swear like a sailor on Twitch for Extra Life. Even if you can only spare a dollar, every cent helps kids in need. In the infamous words of Kidd Kraddick, think of it as a good health tax. A number of us are fortunate to have minor health inconveniences or no issues at all. As a way to thank karma, God, or whatever you believe in, help give back to those in need who are not as fortunate. Sometimes something as simple as a video game can brighten a child's year.

After a poll on my Facebook page, I've narrowed down my screen time to include Dead Space and Goat Simulator, the 2 most populist answers. But I've been in super nostalgia mode this week, and the majority of my game time is going to go towards Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.You can't go wrong with Mario and Square. And me, swearing like there's no tomorrow. :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Gaming Stamps For Collectors - Now International!

A change of pace today - we won't talk about the topics that have been blowing up the internet this week. Instead, I have done a little bit of digging and found us some stamps to collect.

Yep. Stamps. People still use mail to send things small enough to fit into a #10 envelope, and that requires a stamp to be placed upon them to pay for the service of shipping. If this is a foreign concept to you, then you are probably too young to be reading this blog.

Yesterday, An Post (which is the Ireland postal system) released 4 stamps to commemorate and honor the impact video games had on our culture. And they went with the classics that changed our views of games: PacMan, Space Invaders, Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog. The stamps were designed by Dublin based ZINC Design Consultants. Their webpage is undergoing renovation so there's no way to see what other cool things they have created.

The stamps are only available in Ireland, of course, but for collectors you can purchase them online and they do ship overseas. And the designs are pretty classy. Simple and statement driven. They say "Yes. I am a gamer and I'm paying my water bill. What of it?"

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are Threats Necessary? The Side of #GamerGate That Few Are Discussing

Pissed off video game fan is pissed.

I don’t want to be labeled as a “gamer” anymore because the word is so heavily filled with hatred and anxiety these days with the hullabaloo that is #GamerGate.

In my overtly opinionated piece yesterday morning, I expressed my displeasure at the entire situation.

Those who support #GamerGate, I get it. You all are afraid of change. You like your video games just as they are. Some of you feel that sexism isn’t really involved and people are nitpicking at every detail to find flaws in a hobby that you enjoy. Some of you do see the sexism and don’t think it’s a big deal – that it’s a part of gaming and there’s no reason to cause a fuss over it. And some of you are dicks. I don’t know how else to put it, because if there is anything that I’ve learned about #GamerGate is there are a lot of dicks on the internet who also play games – if you don’t conform to their standards (white male) then you are beneath them and it should always stay that way.

What I’m disturbed by is just how vitriol this whole situation has become. What started as a Twitter hashtag has blown into advertisements being removed, death and violence harassment, and now a school shooting threat?

This morning I left a retro gaming group on Facebook – their focus is on buying and selling classic gaming material and open discussion on older games. Most of the users are fairly civil. There were a few bad apples, but they posted so rarely that they were easy to ignore. Someone posted an article about Sarkeesian cancelling her speech at the University of Utah. What followed was a slew of comments ranging from vulgar to asinine, and a few people approving of the school massacre threat stating along the lines of “obviously it wasn’t going to happen but it’s the only way she’ll be stopped.”


These aren’t 12 year old boys but grown adults anywhere from age 30-60. This is ‘gamer’ rage on a new level of insanity. And it sickens me that people consider it “the norm” to issue threats of violence and death against others because it’s part of the gaming scene.

Try that against a government official and see what they have to say about your “playful threats.”
We live in a country that gives us the freedom of speech, which is fantastic. But we also live in a post 9-11 world where any threat is taken seriously. You can’t joke about it. If you even hint at violence against another living creature, you are going to be investigated and found. It’s as simple as that. And I expect the legal bills are quite daunting.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Everyone. You don’t have to agree with what is being said and you have the right to not listen. Throwing around violent memes is not going to force a person to back down from their point of view. And frankly, all it’s doing is lumping ‘gamers’ into this extremist group which is not at all who we are. The majority of ‘gamers’ are fairly open and laid back.

I don’t expect this post to change people’s point of view regarding gaming. If you like things as they are now, then keep playing your games and make your opinions know. NOT VIOLENT OPINIONS. I’m sure you would be equally afraid if someone threatened you or your family because it is not funny. Ever. And if you want things to change with gaming, that’s fine too. Make your point of view heard around the globe.

The bottom line is our response to opinions should NEVER lead to violence. It’s perfectly fine to be passionate about your perspective. When you threaten people, that’s crossing a line that is serious and never funny.

Our concerns right now should be not about making changes in games (as difficult as that is for me to say) but at our culture that is promoting and glorifying these acts of violence and harassment.

Note: I have been critical of the Feminist Frequency videos and other gaming critics. Being a feminist does not mean that I need to share the same point of view as others like Alexandria Leigh. I’m allowed to openly asses their work and provide rebuttals. I don’t always agree with their opinions, nor do they agree with mine. This piece was written not in defense of writers who want to dive deeper into video games, but as a plea to bring sanity back to ‘gamers.’

Today's additional reading material:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FF7 Midgar Minecraft Completed!

 Here is today's clean post:

After 2+ years of work, the FF7 Midgar Minecraft world is complete!

And it is glorious!

Initially started as a pet project under the name Aegis Gaming, the group eventually disbanded but that didn't stop user Killerx20 from moving on to see it through. The focus was on the sectors that appeared in the Final Fantasy games, FF7, Crisis Core, and Dirge of Cerberus. Over time, Killerx20 would like to make an interconnected sewer network and additional transports that fit the game's theme (right now the only way to get around is walking, or flying your avatar). And instead of claiming full victory, he acknowledged the help of his cohorts even as they dispersed and could no longer offer assistance. Good man. You can download the map here and install it under Minecraft Vanilla 1.6.4. Almost 85% of the blocks were hand placed. Some of the core shells of the outer plates were heavily modified.

Enjoy the pretty images:

Sarkeesian Cancels Utah Talks

Warning: Foul language and very opinionated piece incoming. I'll have a cleaner post later today.

To all of those who oppose those individuals who are questioning video games, actively looking at them from a scholastic point of view, and promoting diversity, I say this...

Go fuck yourself.

I've dealt with enough harassment being a gamer that would last 10 life times. To see gaming grow in the academic field over the past 5 years has been a dream I never imagine would happen. To actively discuss the concepts and theories of gaming is extraordinary now that people are listening to us and realize that "hey - this is a real field of study."

And then shit happens like #GamerGate happens. Now they're fucking with our academics.

Anita Sarkeesian was to speak at Utah State University for a series of talks via the Center for Women and Gender Studies. But someone decided it wasn't appropriate and sent a violent threat to the school to prevent her from appearing. Sarkeesian has cancelled, not because of the threat, but because she didn't feel the security would be adequate given the school's limited resources and not wanting to put others in harm. For those who don't know, Utah is a concealed gun-carry state including on campuses. They would not be able to check everyone for weapons at the event. Sarkeesian and the Game Developer's Choice Awards were threatened last month under bomb terrorism for similar circumstances: we don't want her around. The event went off without a problem - but they also had the money to screen for extra security.

People of the world who support #GamerGate, what the fuck is wrong with you?

It's bad enough that you're going after individuals with threats of violence and death. But now you're targeting academics as well? Are women and minorities not allowed to study gaming either?  Apparently they're not allowed to learn at all if they have to threaten a school to get their point across.

Go fuck yourself. Never mess with my scholastic endeavors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Semblance Augmented Reality

Moving gaming outside of the confines of the home has been a long-term struggle for inventors. The best has been hand-held portable devices such as GameBoy, Nintendo DS, and the Sony PSP. Mobile phones have been the most active lately, but tend to be relegated to simple game-play for ease of starting and stopping while you're taking the train to work - they're not meant for long term Battlefield matches. As companies push for virtual reality, Occulus Rift, and full-body motion sensors, gaming continues to be defined by what happens in the home. Mark Skwarek wants to change that.

Through Kickstarter he raised over $30,000 to produce Semblance Augmented Reality (AR). AR is not new by any stretch, but it's become more mainstream thanks to fitness trackers, smart watches, and Google Glass. Skwarek has developed a set of glasses that takes video games out of the television and into reality by allowing the game to overlay on the surrounding environment. Manhattan could be the next puzzle ground as you walk and play. The wearable technology hopes to take things a step further and integrate them into our daily lives from work to school. The example used in the article suggests a repair crew fixing a mud pump on an oil rig, can activate a step by step manual through their glasses or watch to sit over said pump.

It's interesting, but still very much in it's infancy. The general public is not going to immediately jump into this technology. Google Glass is still in the early stages. Since releasing in February of 2013, GG has reached a niche audience. I live in and travel to a number of large cities and only recently (as in the past month) did I see someone wearing a pair. People are not ready to have digital images take over their lives. People still want to see the real world. So maybe in time this will be an everyday occurrence. For now, only the hardcore AR nerds will appreciate the wardrobe.

Monday, October 13, 2014

South Park Australian Stickyness

Even after editing and removing content, South Park: The Stick of Truth is the only game to be denied entry into Australia in the 2013-2014 financial year. Out of 458 titles, South Park was the single game that didn't meet guidelines. Twice. This is even after Australia edited their rules to allow more M-rated (18+) to enter their sacred borders after the content is altered to fit their parameters. Which is really f-ing funny that of all games, South Park didn't qualify. It's not violent. There is a lot of swearing and crudeness, but by comparison to other M rated U.S. titles like GTAV and Call of Duty, it's quite tame.

The biggest complaint by the board that decides which games pass and which are kicked out? Cartman getting an anal probe, the first episode of the long-running series. The game was finally accepted after a third edit where the scene was replaced by a crying koala with generic text explaining the censorship. Satire at it's best, and only in Australia.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Growth of the Kotaku

Kotaku wants to make changes to the way they review games. This month marks 10 years of the website (a part of me is surprised that it's only been 10 and the other part is feeling much older) and it's impact on the gaming and geek world at large. Editor in Chief Stephen Totilo announced yesterday to the world how Kotaku is shifting to be more more 'present.'

In an e-mail he issued to staff members back in June, he writes: "For too long gaming coverage has focused on the vague future, the preview mindset of possibilities and maybes. And when it's involved the present it has been drenched in the dreary falseness of empty interviews, bland producer-speak and executive-hype. It's neither been real enough nor true enough to what is actually happening now."

By that he means most gaming sites focus on the pre-hype of the product, review it a week before or at release, and that's it. There are no follow-ups unless it's a big-name title that has a publicized DLC being released. Otherwise, the writers no longer stay involved in the game and move on.

Over the past few months Kotaku has slowly been changing this model to imbed their writers into the game over a longer period of time: not a few days and out with a review but potentially weeks and months. The Mario Kart 8 review and follow-up stories with another writer best show this example by covering little changes in the game that most sites reviewers wouldn't have paid attention to. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal, "oh hey, they're going to talk about the games after they release," but by comparison to other gaming web pages, it is. 

There is also a call to action on part of the readers for their feedback and help. As Totilo remarks, they're not that great with sports games and usually have to outsource the reviews from an independent writer. They want to change that and have readers and Kotaku staff more involved to cover a broader range of gaming topics. He's opened an e-mail for suggestions. Go forth and conquer young ones!

Best of luck Kotaku. In this weird, haggard time after the #GamerGate explosion, I, for one, am glad to see this new direction the site is steering.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Minecraft Lego Images Leaked!

Minecraft Legos will be out next month, but some images of the pieces were leaked this morning. An online Russian store unintentionally posted photos of the play set before they were allowed to be shown, and of course the internet has pounced on it. While the quality of the photos are not the best, all of the set info is there.

It appears to be several small sets that you can purchase separately. One includes the notorious Creeper, while others contain armor and Mooshroom. While the Creeper could use some work, I love the faces on the pigs and cows. They are spot on.

New Hashtag Alert - #INeedDiverseGames

I'm still looking for the source on this one (found the source! see the edit below), but it has been prominent on Twitter since October 3rd and has not stopped. Which is good. Because we want diversity with our games, right? I know I do. I'm tired of the same Call of Duty every year wrapped in a new package. "We gave you jet packs. That's different!" Sure, but the lead character is still a straight, white male and I'm still shooting Nazi zombies. Whoopie.

Not to dismiss the coolness of jet packs, there are people who play video games (some may call themselves gamers) that would like more diversity in content - not just with their heroes and heroines but in plots and game play. This is possibly in response to #GamerGate, but of course what isn't with the volatile nature of Twitter and tagging currently. While a number of the Twitter comments are regarding race and male/female main character genders, some people are taking it that extra step and talking about all of the content of the games.

I'm honest to myself when I say that games today do not appeal to me. Not because of gender or race issues, but that I haven't seen anything new in years. It's the same copy and paste formula that so many developers use that prevent me from purchasing new products from the big-name publishers. I'll need to double check the receipts, but the last game that I have from one of the big boys was GTA5. Before that it was the Mass Effect trilogy in 2012 simply so I could have it on PC and it was on the cheap. Earlier then that and I couldn't tell you. I've been focusing my purchases on indie developers introducing new and different content. Sometimes that's a silly romp in Goat Simulator, or exploring the complexity of Papers Please. It may not seem like gripping gaming the likes of World of Warcraft, but it's different.

Being different is good. Being unique is exciting. Embrace if developers! Gamers are asking for change because we're tired of the repeats. You can throw all the jet packs that you want at us; they don't cover up the fact that you're giving us the same old game in an HD package. We want change all around.

Jet packs can be included.

Edit: Well in a fun turn of events, the founder of the hashtag messaged me! I feel special. :D Under the Twitter handle Cypheroftyr, the tag was not created to talk about #GamerGate but general unhappiness with the industry.

"I was just literally mad about games and how I can't be the hero and Ubisoft and their too hard to animate the wimmins, etc. I'm just... not happy with the state of the industry and how it still doesn't see me. In AAA or Indie."

Kojima can give us real time horse poop, but Ubisoft can't give us a female Assassin. (I will continue to use MGS5, horse poo, and Ubisoft in the same sentence for as long as I can.)

And it's a good message. A lot of us are unhappy with video games, not only the sexism, but the lack of anything new or original. We want new shiz!

More content can be found on the 'Why I Need Diverse Games' tumblr. Thanks for the response Cypheroftyr!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Myst Making A Comeback?

I played the sh*t out of Myst when I was a kid. I loved this game like no other and it was the game that made me believe that PC gaming was the wave of the future. And while we still debate on PC vs. Console gaming, Myst is one of those titles that cemented the history of games to come. Legendary Entertainment has finalized a deal with Myst creators Rand and Robyn Miller with an updated adaptation of Myst.

We don't know if this will be another game, a television show, or a web-based movie. All are possibilities at this point. Rand and Robyn see this as an opportunity to bring new life to Myst and develop the story further into areas they couldn't imagine two decades ago. Potentially, a television show (ala Defiance) could spawn a new game and companion tablet games to expand plot points and develop additional story lines.

Legendary currently owns the movie rights to Dead Rising (which will be released exclusively on Crackle and is currently in production), as well as the waffling World of Warcraft and Mass Effect movies. Move over superheros. It's time for video games to shine at the cinema. Maybe.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Forbes Wants Gaming Journalists To Confront #GamerGate

Erik Kain from Forbes spent an hour with other gaming journalists (Greg Tito, Janelle Bonanno, and John Bain) to discuss #GamerGate and to raise a call to journalists to start responding. The reason that #GamerGate is such a big deal amongst "gamers" and journalists is the lack of response from said gaming websites. Out of fear for backlash or drop in subscription numbers, they have remained silent on a response. The few that have attempted to post pieces that question gaming society have been hit with protests. Why would someone willingly want to be involved in that mess? It's best to stay quiet and avoid the conflict.

This is an issue years in the making. Not #GamerGate, but the conflict between gaming journalists and their readers. And instead of actively engaging their readers to try and think outside of their box, they hide and wait on the recent episode to blow over before they go back to business as usual. It's unhealthy for all sides. No one should be harassed/ostracized for having an opinion. Writers of reviews, it's okay to defend your work because they are your opinions. And "gamers" it's okay to not agree with someone's point of view. But don't be a dick. Death threats and boycotts just because someone doesn't agree with you is childish and makes the community look like a bunch of 8 year-old's (still!). I would hope that by now, 2014, people would see that gamers are diverse, but the actions as of late still relegate us to the stereotype of 8 year old boys or 30 year old, overweight virgins, still living at home with the parents.

Kain will be hosting several of these over the upcoming week. I hope that journalists begin to respond. They need to.