Friday, March 29, 2013

YouTube Jumping Into Live Game Streaming Soon

As Twitch.TV has become the mainstream go-to source for streaming video games, competitions, and conventions, YouTube is not farbehind. They were seen at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (GDC) discussing integration of their software with streaming games online in a more seamless transition.

You can currently do this with Call of Duty Black Ops 2, but they want to expand on this idea. As we are seeing with the PS4 and future consoles being all-inclusive machines, YouTube wants to be at the front, not lagging behind Twitch.

Details right now are sketchy. Currently YouTube needs to have a contract with the game publisher to have the software already built into the product. But they are looking to expand it into an app that can be used on consoles, PC’s and mobile phones. Streaming games is a hot topic and it’s only going to grow. This would have been nice to have when I started my Let's Play session with Mass Effect. Then you all could have laughed at me as I flail with the Mako. "Go up the damn hill you stupid fright train!"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Let’s Play a Vidya Book

A new Kickstarter project reached its goal in 4 days for $10 grand taking the video game support phenomenon to a new level. Joe Booth, founder, wanted to create an interactive reading experience for kids, particularly as one who has struggled with dyslexia. He knows that reading can be a challenge for most, and video games were his savior.

The concept is simple. The product will be an iPad/iPhone ap with videos and interactive elements to bring stories to “life” in a virtual realm. Vidya Book will take elements from multiple genres, choose your own adventure, classic novels, modern action games, etc. and develop new stories. You can touch the screen to manipulate words and interact with them. What you do while reading can change the story.

The project will be released in several phases. The first is to build the initial first book and branch out from there. It sounds promising, and similar to my Master Thesis (where your interactions with the Flash project determined what happened next in the story). Best of luck to this team; it’s a promising idea but it will hit a lot of hurdles. Even with LeapFrog, not many people are too keen on books being anything other then books.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SquareEnix Boss Also Stepping Down

Yoichi Wada, who took over as the president of SE since 2003 when Square merged with Enix. He’s taken the company on a roller coaster ride with some highs and lows acquiring Tomb Raider, Hitman, and the rights to produce the Batman Arkham games. However internal sales targets (which like EA are ridiculously high for any company because we expect a lot out of Square) have fallen short from an international scale. As such, Wada, probably at the push of the board members and stock holders, is stepping down at the end of June and will be replaced by Yosuke Matsuda, a former director for the company.

So far Tomb Raider and the recent Hitman: Absolution games have been selling pretty well. 3.4 million and 3.6 million is nothing to be ashamed of. Those are high numbers. But again, this is Square and like EA, they expect 10 million sales right out the gate, not 3. What that will mean for future franchises? Who knows. It might help if they stopped setting the bar so damn high for their internal predictions. Being nicer to your fans couldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We Are The Line - PAX East 2013 Overview

This was the line at 9am. Not even a fraction
of the massive-ness that it grew into by 10.
If I can summarize PAX East in a word it would be this: Lines.

I was unable to attend some of the non-dev panels because of it. There were just so many lines. Long lines. Swirly lines. Zig-zag lines. Twisty lines. Everywhere lines. I don’t mind the waiting, it’s to be expected, but others in our troupe are not line friendly. It had to be something really worthwhile to do the line game over and over again. Attending a panel about Gamification wasn’t really on the top of the priority list. (Some panels were live-streamed and will be online. Hopefully I can view a few of the ones I wanted to see.)

I have already learned that if I attend next year (which I want to, and will make the effort to do so) it has to be all 3 days. There just isn’t enough time to really see and experience PAX in 2 days. Camping out the site for the 3 day passes next time. :D

Because of all of the lines, the big booths like League of Legends and Elder Scrolls online were benching at the 5-6 hour mark for wait times. It was impossible to get access into the booths. So we did a lot of passing by, photos, and tried to jump over the shoulders of others to see a few seconds of gameplay. The booths that were the most open were Nintendo and SquareEnix.

But let’s roll back a bit and do a day-by-day, play-by-play. Word-smithing not intended.

Friday we got up and moving just before 8:30. PAX recognizes that a lot of people show up and are spread throughout the city, so they offer courtesy shuttles during peak times in the day to help take people to and from the convention center. Which is nice and awesome! We found out that even if you get there by 8, you’re still too late to line up for panels. The Blizzard DEV panel closed off before 9 (doors to the convention were open at 8, but none of the events began until 10). Other panels that I wanted to attend that morning, which I thought wouldn’t be at a high capacity crowd, were also full. The Expo floor had a line wrapping all the way around the halls and then some.

paxeast13-019Gamers are devoted. We’ll get up before dawn to stand in line and play your product.

We opted to walk around, explore the convention center, and see what it had to offer. We wanted to hit up the Square panel in the early afternoon, so we knew that going down to the Expo floor was out of the question (there was still a line to get in an hour after the doors opened). But it did give us a chance to really experience the PAX community. There’s a mutual understanding true gamers have with each other. Love of the game. I know for as much as we all have been discussing issues of sexism recently, the core group of gamers are respectful to everyone. It doesn’t matter you age, size, race, gender, religion, etc. You’re a gamer. That’s all that matters.
So after roaming and eating lunch, we grabbed a seat in the line to the Square Enix panel at 11:30. We were pretty much near the front, and the line was capped about 40 minutes later (with 40 minutes to go until programming began). I borrowed my friend’s 3DS and played Theatrythem while talking to others in the line about Final Fantasy 14, and how my group and I met on Final Fantasy 11.

From the SE Flickr page. There's me!
Nabbed a front-row seat to the SE panel, dressed as Celes. Hindsight: I should have worn Lady Lilith. While no one else on the floor would have had a flipping clue who she was, the guys holding the panel were all from the 11 dev team. They would have appreciated it. Well somehow had to. I got no love down on the Expo floor in the SE booth. They had to ask me who the character was. “Hello guys. It’s Celes from Final Fantasy 6. Come on now…” There was a Rydia, Black Mage, and Noel in the panel as well. I think our status as cosplayers was pretty low on the totem pole but at least amongst ourselves we enjoyed having that connection.

What I got out of the panel is that FF14 really has been re-worked from the ground up. It’s going to have some pieces of the original game still there, like the races, job classes, and those weird crystal quest points of interest. But the game is being developed as a fan’s game. Pieces from other Final Fantasy games are being pulled in to pay homage to the past , while bringing the franchise to the future.

paxeast13-044For those who don’t know, FF14 got a somewhat WoW + Star Wars:Galaxies treatment. When the game was online, they created an event where a comet, holding Bahamut, crashed into the planet and created a cataclysmic cyclone which officially killed the servers. To help save the race, you, the player, were transported 5 years into the future. That is where FF14 2.0, A Realm Reborn, takes place. Key cities and locals have all been transformed by the timeline. The job system where swapping weapons changes your class is still in effect. But now there is more emphasis on being able to fine-tune your class and create any multiple combos of fun jobs. They’re also introducing a pet system where you can have a Chocobo fight alongside you in battle as a melee, healer, tank, etc. Protip: Everything is way cuter with a baby Chocobo. You will get people to play when you add those into your game. For those who don’t know, FF14 did not have Chocobos or Moogles. They’re in there now.

What really makes 14 stand out is that a lot of little details are being thrown into the game. Things like clothing design, helmets, weapons, and tools that are pulled from other Final Fantasy’s (such as the Warrior of Lights helmet from FF1, Magiteck enemies from FF6, Limit Break combos from FF7, just to name a few). Those little bits are really going to help shape the game.

After we left with our shiny new art cards and beta codes, we went down to the Expo floor. I left with some new pieces to my Final Fantasy collection (an original Mystic Quest Nintendo Box, mint condition), and some swag. We tried out the MOGA, a controller for Android based phones that allows you to game anywhere. I was pleasantly surprised at how light it was. They were handing out mini versions of the controller but again, such a long, packed line, it was impossible to make your way through it. It supports a 15 hour battery life. You basically dock your phone at the top of the controller, much like your iPhone or iPod to a docking station to charge it up, and within a few seconds it detects your settings and off you go. Apparently I’m a bad gamer because I play inverted. *shrugs* Sorry guys. When I push the up button, I want to look and move forward. Up is Up. Down is Down. You can’t convince me otherwise. It’s available now at most major retailers, and if you’re an Android gamer looking to beef up your experience, I recommend it.

We hung out around the Expo until just before closing, picking up even more swag, checking out the booths, and watching others game. Really if you didn’t get into a line by 8am you weren’t getting anywhere. But it was nice to see Pikmin 3 (which runs just like the other games, but with smoother graphics), Lego City (everything you expect in a Lego game, but in a giant city), Dead Island 2, Saints Row IV, and the latest Monster Hunter. Unfortunately there weren’t exclusives being released or announced. It’s all content that you can find online. The Capcom booth was a disappointment. They had a demo of the current Resident Evil Revelations, and other recent releases. In fact, almost every booth with the exception of Elder Scrolls Online had content that was already out in stores, or you could see the demo videos online.

Saturday was another early day in a desperate attempt to get to the lines as early as possible. I dressed up again, of course, but went into Mass Effect mode as Aria T’Loak from 2/3/Omega DLC. Immediately that made the day better because people wanted my picture (though it was nice to roam around the halls in costume and not get pulled over for photos constantly. It’s good sometimes to just relax.) We grabbed a spot on the Expo floor line early so I was able to walk through to the RoosterTeeth booth and pick up another Griffball, this time for my brother. Gus and Miles were there, and complimented the crap out of my costume. Even took a picture of me. That was nice. I just wanted a Griffball. :D

paxeast13-073 We also got a better look at some of the smaller devs and independent booths. Plants vs. Zombies had a carnival game set-up with a Zombie kissing booth, Test Your Strength game, and other activities. We got free downloads of their newest PvZ product, and lots of plushies. One involves an alien. I’m not sure how or why, but we’ll roll with it.

There was also a Bunny Samurai game for iPad. That’s the code name. I’m sure you can find it pretty easily on Google. In fact mobile games made up most of the indie dev floor. The one game that looked the most promising was the new Penny Arcade game that looked like RPG Maker mixed with a hack and slash. And it was just funny to read through the dialogue.

We made another sad attempt to get into the League of Legends booth, but that was moot. Picked up some t-shirts, more freebes, and it was off to BioWare. They had a full day of programming involved and we didn’t want to miss out. In the early afternoon they had a Mass Effect Retrospective, giving their favorite moments of the series, taking Twitter questions, and showing off some amusing stats from Mass Effect 3. I was surprised that the split between Paragon and Renegade players was fairly even. And even the Renegade players cured the Genophage. Only 8% chose not to. That's astonishing.

The best part? I got VIP seating right next to Rana – The Face of Samara/Morinth, who is so ridiculously nice it is insane. Why did I get VIP? Because I was in cosplay and representing their game. Glorious. All of the cosplayers got front row seats. Yippie!

Aria T'Loak. Official member of the Foot Clan.
Saturday gave me a brand new respect for BioWare. While EA is trying to reign them in and beat them down, they are still about their fans. They want to talk to people, sign things, ask questions, and take any feedback they can get. They respect the opinions of the fans, and that’s awesome. Friday I was getting awkward looks at the SE booth, a company that I loved back when it was SquareSoft. Saturday, I was treated like a true fan. I was even able to hang out in the BioWare base as I pleased-as if I were an employee and had full access to everything. Do you know what was even cooler? The dev’s wouldn’t leave until every person that waited to see them had their turn. Past the cutoff time? No worries. They'll still talk to you and sign your stuff. That was amazing.

BW, you gave me hope as a fan that being a fan is appreciated. So thanks.

So the rest of the day was basically love on BioWare. We hung out around the Base, took photos, talked to other fans, and enjoyed being there, in that setting, away from the nonsense of the world. Fans being fans.

It was a great time at PAX East. I would love to go back and get a third day in, hopefully to snag some more gaming time. Maybe next year they’ll have more new, unreleased products available to demo.
We met a Nyreen. Fangasim ensued.

Oh, and this really happened and we’re still fangirling!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ouya - Back With Console Release Info

Back from PAX East. I’ll have a full write-up as soon as I have pictures uploaded. Because talking about PAX is pointless without the photos. Though my highlights would have to be the Rooster Teeth, aka Red vs. Blue guys spazzing out over my costume when I picked up a GriffBall (you’re welcome bro!) and meeting a Nyreen (Mass Effect 3, Omega DLC). Glorious.

The Ouya system running off of Android will be launching this week on March 28th. And what are the first games that will be available to customers? Well how does an NES emulator and Super Mario sound? One has been submitted to the Ouya team for review and should be available by launch, including a Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 emu.

Whether or not Ouya will approve them is another story, but it would be a stance for a console that could easily garner it sales. Legally, well that’s another story. Nintendo can deal with them about it. But really, who hasn’t played an emulator? Every system, every phone, every OS system has one. And if Ouya doesn’t give the nod, people will still develop and share the coding. It’s going to happen. May as well embrace it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PAX East. I'm Cool/Not Poor Enough To Go!

I’ll be skipping off to PAX East this weekend, which means no new posts from me until I return. I have this thing about not using my phone, or borrowing someone’s tablet to type up a post. I need to have a keyboard. I need to be sitting down in front of a computer in order to communicate my thoughts. And a tablet or a phone just doesn’t work.

PAX East is huge. 60k+ people guaranteed. It’s the start of the gaming season where geeks converge from around the country and companies show off their wares. The thing that I appreciate about PAX is that they showcase indie developers. While some companies get larger booths because of their spending (Capcom looks like it ate a quarter of the floor space), indie devs get an equal amount of respect, and that’s awesome.

And I was surprised at the amount of panel content made available and not solely focused on future releases. Gamification and Learning. Do JRPG’s Still Matter. Sex in Games-dealing with sexism. Narrative Design. Just to name a few. They’re being held by all walks of life: game journalists (Kotaku and Destructoid will be there), university professors, gave developers, etc.

If I find anything of awesome interest, I’ll log into my phone and shoot out a blog message. Hopefully a photo or two. Expect a full report when I get back!

Oh and there is a Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart 7, and GoldenEye 64 tournies. Done. Signed up and going!

What Artists Do To "Relax"

Steel Wool Games are 5 Pixar artists that use their free time to make games. These guys love their day jobs, as it says in their press release, but wanted to make some games too! The studio has 0 affiliation with Pixar. They are just 5 artists having fun.

Their first game, Flyhunter, is set to release this year. Information about it is limited, but we do have some art concepts. It looks like the main character is one of the minions from the movie Despicable Me, but furry with ears. And he swats flies. Whoo!

Okay well at least the art concepts are pretty nifty. Steel Wool Games is calling the style “grimisical.” I’m guessing grim or grime-like with whimsical. The fact that it’s 5 guys from Pixar you already know the animation style is going to be amazing to see. I wonder what the gameplay is like…

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oh Local News...Stop Being Anti-Women

I just.../sigh. I have no hope for our future if this is what we can expect from news stories and what they teach kids. At least here in the U.S. and possibly Canada. Though I think Canada is way more sensible then the U.S. could ever be.

Jason Schreier, who should be at PAX East this weekend, painfully posted this mash-up of news reporters covering a story about the Major League Gaming Tournament held in Dallas last weekend. It's brutal. Go watch the mash-up. I'll wait.

Now I'm sure you have seen this on Conan, news reporters saying the same thing and squishing it together in an agony filled montage. And if you don't watch Conan, why are you reading this blog? But anyway, here's how it works in television news. Much like newspapers, there are multiple resources available to pull national news stories that may be too big or expensive for a local paper/television station to cover money-wise. So they purchase a story from another group, such as the Associated Press (who have the funds to cover multiple stories on an international scale), and use that in their paper/newscasts. This is why we get situations such as "girls play games, wha?" segments copied and pasted over multiple news stations in different states. And why there may be the same article in the NYTimes, USAToday, and the Dallas Morning News.

Some stations can pay for the leeway where they add in their own banter, but a number stick to the script. That's why so many reports sound exactly the same in that video.

Having said all of that, it's still really stupid that national news from the AP (Associated Press) has to stoop to this for a story. "More girls play games!" Well no sh*t sherlock. Go Google the stats. It's been like this for quite a while. It's an insult to women and gaming. And the intelligence of the people of the U.S.To add additional insult, the fact that most of these stories are read by women is a bit degrading don't you think? "More girls are playing video games? This is madness!" says the anchorwoman. Anchorwomen hold an ideal version of ourselves that we want to achieve. They can be intelligent, witty, forthcoming, dominant, and still look and act like a woman. So when a piece like the "girl play games, wha?" is produced, anchorwomen are essentially shunning the girls in the way they present the story. "These girls are playing video games? Well that's crazy. It's something for boys. They need to act like little girls." This isn't the message we should be presenting to anyone.

So...Canada eh? I'm hopeful they don't have crappy news stories like this running around. But feel free to prove me wrong. Japan is the backup, even with North Korea going all crazy.

EA CEO Stepping Down

I read this through Facebook last night on my brother’s page. The CEO of EA, John Riccitiello is stepping down due to “missed targets” in this year’s forecast for profits. Flimsy excuse. They’re only going to make $1-1.25 billion this quarter. Oh no! Tragedy!

The unfortunate thing in all of this is that this is how EA operates. If they don’t exceed their targets, they get pissy. That is why we have so many Call of Duty and Medal of Honor repeats. We’re at a point in the industry that publishers only want things that guarantee a profit. And with the current CEO bringing EA up and dragging them back down since 2007, stocks have dropped nearly 2/3rds since Riccitiello’s promotion in the company.

Honestly, I think it’s the trend of screw-ups affecting customers that has been hurting EA. They have been so focused on selling that they overlook the people that are buying their products. The Sim City nightmare is just one issue out of thousands.  From a personal standpoint, I still cannot play The Sims 3 on a PC that is capable of running Crisis 2 at full specs without overheating. And apparently it’s still my fault that it doesn’t work. Sure EA tech support. Keep telling yourself that. I think this Google site explains it all

There’s a breakdown in the company dynamics. Something that started out with good intentions is now so focused on money that the product, and its ability to work, no longer matters. And it’s not all 100% Riccitiello’s fault, like we’re being led to believe. This has been an issue for years and stems from all corners of the company. A complete overhaul to the infrastructure is needed in order to improve customer relations with EA. That’s all there is to it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Feminist Frequency and Fat, Ugly, or Slutty Have Taught Me

I ignore the trolls.

It’s something I have taught myself to do over the years because it is the one tactic that works. When you stop responding and prompting the trolls to participate, they tend to dissipate and find another target to pick on. I have done the same thing with online gaming for years, and why I typically remove myself from it. It’s much easier to walk away, not engage, and do something else then it is to try and sit and muddle through the insults and various forms of verbal abuse. No headsets. No female avatar. And honestly I can’t remember the last time I logged into my Xbox Live or PSN account without needing to do a system update, and immediately unplug.

The internet is a cruel place for non-white, male, straight men. So, basically everyone that isn’t the former. That is a ridiculous number of people. And the sad thing is that it’s still going on. The nerd culture for so long was an inclusive community. If you didn’t fit in anywhere else in the world, nerds would still accept you. But since it’s become a fad, it’s now s club where only the elite are accepted. Because so many people are trying to be nerds and geeks, a number have taken it upon themselves to claim that being a nerd means you have to know your stuff. No one can be a nerd without having knowledge in this and that. Gaming and comics are probably the most heavy-handed with this exclusivity. If you don’t fit the mold and pass the test, you can’t come in. Which is ironic considering nerds banded together to do the exact opposite of what they are doing now.

Woman have always been on the bottom of the totem pole, but over the past year as we’ve seen more stand up against the harassment, I’m finding myself coming out of my preverbal “shell.” For so long the answer has been “just ignore them, they’ll go away.” But they haven’t. They are still around and they’re not harassing us, it’s someone else. Maybe it’s another man or a different race, or sexual preference. Maybe a different religion, but he’s still white, male, and straight. There can be any number of reasons why verbal assault happens in gaming. The problem is that it’s still happening. Ignoring it didn’t correct the problem. It just shoved it onto someone else.

My experiences in the past may not have been as intense as what Anita experiences daily, or what the women at Fat, Ugly, or Slutty see constantly, but they are moments that shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not “boys will be boys” or “its’ just a game.” It’s never a game when you threaten someone. And since when was it ok for a boy or a male adult to threaten to hurt another human being?

So I’m making a resolution to myself. I will not sit and idle as I ignore the comments of trolls. I will no longer allow them to make me afraid of going online to play a game and using a headset. I will not allow them to control my with verbal assaults and photos of their male parts. You want to troll me and start something because I’m a woman? Fine. Reported. Blocked. Banned. You’re done and I’m going to continue gaming. I won’t ignore you anymore. The wonderful people at Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will be happy to ban you for your behavior.

No one should have to hide who they are just to play a video game online. It sounds ludicrous, but millions of women, gay men, non-Christians and non-Atheists (just to name a few) do this every day. To play a game! If that isn’t silly, I don’t know what is. But together we can stop this injustice. These boys and male adults (men would not be an appropriate term here, because what man would ever allow for another human being to be humiliated and ostracized in such a fashion? None) need to be aware of their actions and that they do have consequences. The anonymity of the internet is no more. Stand up for what’s right, victim or not, and let’s put an end to the abuse

No longer should we tolerate and accept the actions of those who’s intent is to harm, harass, and assault those for gaming. If you have never been a victim, stand up for them. Tell the trolls that their actions will not be tolerated. Everyone plays a part in this and if we all work together to say no, we can bring the community back to what it once was: a safe haven for everyone who felt like an outcast. No exclusivity. Inclusive for all.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Should Video Games Be Displayed In Museums?

While reading through the newspaper this week during dinner, (yes I know I still read physical newspapers, I’m weird), there was an interview with Miyamoto (Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda) sitting in the arts section. So of course I had to read it. It went through the usual topics that are hot right now: how to you feel about violence in games, what is the future of gaming, how do you feel the Wii-U is doing. But then it touched on the MoMA (The Modern Museum of Art) showcasing a selection of games for their exhibit. His response?

I still look at video games as entertainment. And it seems strange to me to take entertainment and preserve it as a piece of art per se.

He appreciates the fact that people wish to preserve games when they become obsolete, i.e. the hardware is no longer being used. At the same time, it’s odd to see video games as part of an art exhibit where they may not be played.

He brings up an interesting point, one that a number of film historians, critics, and theorists have been struggle with for decades. Film, television, radio, video games: these are all pieces of entertainment. Placing them on a pedestal in a museum is counter-active to their original intent: for people to listen, watch, and interact. While there is no doubt in my mind that all of us are grateful to see people take the time to preserve these pieces before they are lost to history. But the fact that we have movies in a museum that cannot be watched is perplexing.

The Smithsonian is one of the few museums that allow people to interact and play the games, which is the original intent of the product. But they are not meant to be played for entertainment, but as art. It’s a role-reversal. As we continue to move forward in game theory and critical thinking, we have to start asking ourselves if placing video games in a museum is right?

This isn’t a question about whether or not video games are art. Anyone could easily argue that the plastic can of Lysol wipes on my desk could be a beautiful, yellow piece to someone. Rather, by making something art do we destroy the original intent of the product? Lysol is a cleaning agent. By making it art, do we remove it from its role of cleaning or can it be more? Is it wrong to no longer allow Lysol to be Lysol? The same applies to video games. When we make it art, do we remove it from being a game for people to play?

Critical thinking on a Friday morning. I know. I’m mean.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

EA...SimCity Can Have Offline Mode. Just Saying.

People are, of course, already modding SimCity. While Maxis has said in previous statements that modding the game won’t get you banned, and the creative art director for the game at EA said it probably won’t happen, I’d still be very cautious about doing so. 

But that hasn’t stopped some. UKAzzer published a video on Reddit that shows him messing with the game and adding a few mods. In particular, expanding the highways beyond their boundaries, editing outside of the city’s limits. Even leaving his game for a few hours and coming back to find that they are still there. He has also tweaked with the settings to get an “offline” mode working to an extent. The game has a built-in disconnect timer at 20 minutes. If you are dropped from EA’s servers unexpectedly, you can still play for up to 20 minutes before the game boots you. UKAzzer has tweaked it so you can still play offline. Now granted none of the saving, regional features, or synching will, of course, not work offline, but you can still play the game. EA’s assumption that it would be too difficult to create an offline mode is, well, bull at this point. Someone just modded your game to make it happen. It looks possible EA. What say you?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Feminist Frequency Video 1...and Cliffy B.

Since the video series has expended to 12 videos with multiple parts, I won’t be reviewing each individual piece or segment of the Feminist Frequency Tropes Vs. Women in video games. I do want to touch on the first video at the very least. And talk about Cliffy B. A man’s man who sees merit in Anita’s work. But wait? Cliffy B made Gears of War and all of those other very “brofriendly” games. Yep, he did. But he’s also a man with a brain and not a little boy on the internet throwing around pointless insults. He understands that the industry needs to grow up, change, and so do the gamers.

Us being bullies is counter-productive to the industry. A woman wants to play a video game and talk about it? Blasphemy!

We're the gamers, the dorks. We're the ones who were on our computers during prom. We're the ones that were in the back of the lunch room who were playing D&D instead of tossing a football around on the quad. We were supposed to be the open, friendly ones, the ones who welcomed all into our wonderful geeky circle.

We're not supposed to be a mob that's storming the gates with our pitchforks and torches.

We're not the bullies. And that's what happened to Anita.

Hey, Cliff. We agree on something. Hurrah!

Yes, we are doing a lot of talking about these videos lately, but it’s important because it allows us to grow as gamers and as people when we start analyzing the why and not immediately go into defensive mode/blame game. Our games, our future will not improve until we stop acting like little children bullying each other, and allow everyone to express and research their creative freedom.

On to the review! Damsel in Distress Part 1 is your atypical set-up on what to expect with the future videos. Under 30 minutes, so you can catch it during a lunch break, but full of nostalgia goodness. Anita even remarks that Mario and Legend of Zelda did shape her childhood and she has a lot of respect for the games, but this isn’t about favoring one over the other. This is about looking at games from a critical point of view to analyze what it’s portraying to the audience.

Are games just entertainment? Sure, but they also sacrifice good story telling by falling into traditional/stereotypical tropes that hamper it from growing. Anita’s first video is a good starting point, and I hope she really dives into deeper analysis as it progresses.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Video Game Pilots - New Wave For Testing Games?

Kojima is a genius. We know this already. With the onslaught of new gaming systems coming our way, he and his brilliant mind have come up with an idea to help reduce production costs. Create video game pilots

Much like a television show, the pilot for a video game would take much less time, Kojima projects no more than a year. It could be then released onto consoles through a download method or streaming and gauge the audience’s purchases. If there’s enough interest, then the full game can be developed. Think about all of the time and money saved from games that flop on the market. Your big name titles will still be there, but it also gives budding developers a chance to break into the business. A mini-episode of the game that can turn into a contract deal with a big publisher because of your initial sales? How awesome would that be.

Why the concern to save money other then the obvious reasons? With the new consoles there is an estimated increase of 5-10% with production costs to keep up with the technology.  Any way to cut those down would be a big help to all sources.

Comments Disabled Tropes vs Women

Gamernax took to the task to collect a few of the comments being released after the start of the Feminist Frequency series about tropes in gaming. Some are pretty brutal. After the huge troll backlash on the Kickstarter project, I can completely understand why Sarkeesian decided to not allow comments on the YouTube videos. It allows them to be more of a thoughtful piece to open debates and less of a flame war.

I'll have my own review of the first video later, now that I've sat down and watched it during a lunch break. But one thing I did want to bring up is that the horrible comments seem to be coming from those who assume that "feminism" or "feminist" means anti-male, when it's anything but. The true definition of feminism or feminists are those working towards providing equal means, laws, and rights for all genders. Yes there are extremists who want it to be a woman's only world, but they make up a small minority. But as with any group, the minority somehow have the loudest voice and people assume it's the majority.

I'm a feminist and work towards equal rights for all genders. But I do fell that it's ok for women to maintain their feminine attributes. You can be a feminist and wear heels, cook, clean, and indulge yourself in stereotypical womanly things. Just as a man can. But there's nothing wrong with crossing the gender lines. Women can play sports and be in the military. Men can be the stay-at-home parent and nurses. When we remove the stereotypes and see each other as humans, as equals, we'll make real progress.

My mini summary for the first video is it: It's a good starting point to something much greater. Ignore the trolls and remember the feminists are not all crazy ax-wielders wanting to kill all men. Most of us are pretty normal.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Pictures Are Better Sometimes

If you want some meat today with your gaming news, check out this article by Polygon regarding industry figureheads in the gaming industry about sexism and equality. 

Personally, I’m tired. Daylight savings time change, both Spring forward and Fall back, always messes with my head. It’ll probably be a month before I’m back on track. It hits me hard and I feel like crawling back into bed and staying there all day. And with such a long weekend packed into it, thinking is not on my priority list today.

Instead, let’s talk about the news using video game images as real-world equivalents. In particular a Danish television news station used a picture from Assassin’s Creed to show the city of Damascus. Basically no one paid attention to the source because if you look at the original image, it’s there in the bottom right hand corner where the source is. Ubisoft. Even if you didn’t know that it was a gaming company, you’re still required to check it out. But journalistic ethics and validating sources is no longer a thing that news stations want to deal with. A few people hit up the social media websites which prompted the station to take another look. Whoops!

Well at least it was a pretty image. Not like taking video game footage and claiming it’s real for a documentary. At least it’s only  a still image and not fabricating an event.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sim City Update: EA Suspending Marketing

Called it. Guess what happened when Sim City launched? The servers couldn't handle it. EA is pulling marketing temporarily until the issues are resolved. It couldn't handle a room full of game reviewers on one server, what made them think they could hold millions of people at once on an international scale? They wanted to learn from Diablo 3's mistake, well they failed at that.

For those who don't know or didn't read the linked article to one of my earlier posts, the new Sim City is always online. If you want to play you have to be connected to the internet. There is no offline mode. So of course when people tried to all log in at the same time stuff crashed. But this was a crashing on an epic scale. Now so many people are in the dark, unable to play a game they have paid for. You'd think they would have also learned from the launch of The Old Republic? No? Ok then. Thanks EA. Way to be smart!

There also also reports through CNET that even if you can log in, you want to be careful. Some people are stating that the servers are not auto-saving as they should, so when the game boots them for a server reset, the hours of work have vanished. Another issues that was seen when reviewers were previewing the game a few weeks back. Hmm...I see a trend. Keep in mind that because the game is always online, saving is done online as well, similar to an MMO. So you can't backtrack to a previous save on your computer. The server is storing it and whatever happens, happens. Another down side: Other people can jump into your city and do as they wish. So if you get booted, and can't log back in for another day or two, your entire city may have been destroyed by someone else. Lame.

Appropriately, a petition has been started online to move SimCity, and future EA games, to remove the DRM rules. Because really, always online is stupid. You get situations such as this and you wonder why you dropped $59.99 when you can never access the game.

Oh, and another thing that's equally amusing. The CNET reviewer for SimCity is one of their major editors, Jeff Bakalar. He still has been unable to log in to play the game.

*claps* Keep up the crappy work EA.

5 Stupid Things About Video Games

Let’s make today an easy day. My brain has been processed, compressed, fried, and beaten to a pulp this week. I’d love to review the first Feminist Frequency video released, but I don’t think I can appropriately analyze the piece. Not to mention, I’ll be acting as press at a convention this weekend, while promoting a new business. So my thoughts are really all over the place that trying to provide thoughtful content would be an insult to you, the readers. Instead, we’re going to have a silly day.

Here are 5 stupid things that I think you should know about video games.

They can range from what they teach us (I need to make another list now that I think about it), to things you never thought would exist. Enjoy!

1.)           People will blame games for some really stupid things. The recent violence debate does not compare to the folly of this woman, who claimed that falling off her WiiFitmade her a nymphomaniac

Ok. I’ll give you a moment to digest that.

Falling off your WiiFit = Sex Addict.

Granted this story was released by the UK Daily Star, known for outlandish stories, but this walks the line of dumb. The Apparently the woman was so affected by the 2 inch stumble, she needed to have intercourse at least 10 times a day just to curb the feelings. Uh huh. I bet walking down stairs renders her catatonic. A doctor diagnosed her with persistent sexual arousal due to a damaged nerve. I’m guessing nothing came of this because there’s no mention of suing Nintendo or them ponying up money for the woman. They all laughed at the stupidity just like you’re doing right now.

2.)           Exploding barrels and expecting a car to blow up the moment you shoot at it doesn’t really happen (see #4 on the list). In fact the Mythbusters have proven this as a Hollywood fake More movies are catching on to this and are not so abusive of this trope, but video games still won’t give up.  

Shooting at a gas tank or a barrel will not cause it to explode. Video games just like to make you think that they do. By the way, they’re always striped Red, has anyone else noticed this? I’m always wary about turning a corner and seeing a room of red striped barrels, knowing full well they will probably explode. Damn game designers.

3.)           The cost to produce a disc is mere pennies. Even with Blu-Ray, because Sony made the freekin’ technology, they don’t spend more than 10 cents to make the discs, replicate the item, and build the box. Even back in 2008, it was ridiculously cheap.

Talking to EA, SE, and various other reps over the years, they can sometimes pay as low as 4 cents for each game to be physically produced. The move to digital means squat to them, and why the game prices really haven’t changed. So when someone says that a game costs a lot because of the manual production costs to make the physical game that is sold to customers, don’t believe it. You’re paying for all of the marketing money.

4.)           People are still hung up about inherit racism in video games.  Does it exist? Sure, but I think we’re at the point in game development now that the only reason we believe it exists, is because we will it to be there. More than likely it’s unintentional and I don’t believe there is any intended racism in games today. But because people are so overkill on being politically correct, they see things that don’t really exist. The poster child for this in recent years is Resident Evil 5. Released March 5th 2009…ok 4 years and we’re still hung up about racism in RE5? Really? They were in AFRICA! I mean…sh*t. Testing grounds for a virus in Africa, then yes I would expect that most of the people would be darker skinned.
What is wrong with you people...

The funny thing in all of this is that no one ever seems to complain when the zombies are white, or from a rural village ala RE4. We don’t care about the white ones. In fact, RE5 DID HAVE WHITE ZOMBIES. We just care about the non-white ones. That’s some backwards Political Correctedness.

5.)           This exists. We let it happen. You can still buy it for your Xbox avatar. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for allowing this stuff to be popular. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Tabletop Games - We Video Gamers Love Them Too

March 30th is International Tabletop Day, and Will Wheaton wants you to play. For those who don’t know, Will Wheaton is a geek. Good to know some in the Star Trek alumni are. He is currently the host of a gaming session with other geek celebrities called TableTop with Geek & Sundry. And now he’s helping to promote this year’s ITTD. 

The primary motivation behind making “TableTop” is to share with the world how much I love tabletop board games. And my ulterior motive with the creation of the show is to make more gamers in the world.

That’s the way to go Will!

It’s a day to put down the controllers, grab your friends, and play a table top game. And this isn’t limited to DnD. This can be your favorite board game too! I’m surprised Hasbro and Milton Bradley (are they still around) haven’t jumped in on this. It’d be a perfect tie-in to their Family Game Night promotions.

For many of us, our first memories of gaming are with a board game. Probably Monopoly, Scrabble, or Pictionary while we yelled at mom and dad to guess what the heck it is that they’re drawing.

“It’s a pig! Do you guys not know what a pig looks like!”

“It looks like a typewriter dad…”

It’s good that this isn’t just for the geeky games, but an all inclusive tabletop day. I might pull out Risk. Love that game. Will just wants to spread his love of tabletop games to all, and make a few new converts. There’s nothing wrong with that. :D

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

So About That Male Tropes Kickstarter...

Because yesterday was about the Kickstarter women in video games series, I’ll balance it out with today’s Tropes versus Men. Last year when the Feminist Frequency Kickstarter began, a group started the Men Tropes for a similar project to Sarkeesian, with an asking goal of $3k, with some of the money to be donated to charities, such as prostate cancer research.

Since their Kickstarter goal was reached, the group that began it has fell off the map. Now their goal wasn’t surpassed anywhere near the level like Sarkeesian’s was. We’re talking maybe a few hundred dollars more than the 3 grand. Stephen Beirne, who writes for Destructoid, Gamerand, and other online gaming blogs, took the next step to research what happened to Tropes versus Men

What he found out is a little depressing and not at all surprising. As a concept, it didn’t sound bad. There are tropes and stereotypes against men in video games. While not as sexist or stigmatizing as the female tropes, it is an area of scholastic study that could, and should, be researched. However the women bashing going on by some of the members and the contributors to the project were not really the right way to go. (Really guys? If you want to be taken seriously, the last thing you should be doing is admonishing women.)

In February the campaign was put under review on Indie GoGo by the site’s administrators. Beirne did his best to track down the history of the project, rolling through Steam and Twitter accounts, even so far as to call up the charities that the group claimed to have donated money too. Apparently, they’re all fake. So whatever happened to the funds is a big mystery. And by the comments on the article, people are not all that surprised.

And thus the drawback to Kickstarter and Indie GoGo. Once the goals have been reached and the money is in the hands of the creator, they can do what they wish with it. While people are generally being honest, there are scammers. This may have been a scam, this may have been mismanagement of funds, or this may have been an idea too big for any of them to handle and it crashed. We don’t really know until we hear directly from the ones that created the project.

So if you’re looking for the other side of the project from the perspective of male video game characters, you’ll have to keep waiting. Nice reporting Beirne. You are making the “real” journalists of newspapers and television look like crap. Keep researching!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sexism in Gaming - 12 Part Series to Release

Anita Sarkeesian’s kickstarter documentary project about sexism in video games has a release date. With the debate that ensued last year for seeking funding to create this series, we can finally see the results.

For those that hid from the internet during that period, her is the too lazy to read version: Sarkeesian is a blogger and avid YouTuber with videos on feminism and gaming. She created a Kickstarter fund to raise money and create 5 videos focusing on sexism within video games. Topics include: Damsel in Distress and Woman as Reward. The trolls came out and started bashing her and all women,   which caused her Kickstarter fund of 6 grand to blossom to over $150k. As a result, she’s expanded the series to 12 videos. And now! They are ready to be released.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results. This is the only project I’ve donated money towards from my meager bank account. You can view the series on Feminist Frequency starting March 7th

Monday, March 04, 2013

We The Critics

Christopher Dring at MCVUK asks do video game critics matter? They do and they don’t. Much like movie, book, theater, restaurant, computer, and any other area that asks for reviewing, it all comes down to the power of the customer.

You can look at surveys, studies, and metacritic to see how people respond to game reviews and if it influences their purchase. The bottom line: No matter how great or insignificant the impact a review has on a game, a person who is determined to buy something will purchase it. Aliens: Colonel Marines got a crappy review across the board. But people wanted to buy it, and they did. Why do you think they keep making the same Call of Duty over and over again? People keep buying it, no matter how tired of it critics (aka me) become.

Versus something like Xcom. Not a big sales hit, but a lot of reviewers appreciated the game for what it offered to the genre. We might see a sequel, we might not. It’ll depend on the developer.

Having said all of that, I do feel that critics offer something to the gaming world: an alternate opinion. Yes there are some that join the bandwagon and either love or hate whatever is “cool to love/hate on right now.” But some do care about passing their true opinion to people. I have an appreciation for Final Fantasy XIII while most of Kotaku dogged on it (didn’t budge the sales numbers guys, just saying), and so did a number of other publications, that is gave FF13 a high score. Critics can provide new insight, points of view, or even flip everything around and drive you crazy. But that’s the mark of a good reviewer. And yes, they can potentially influence your opinion on a sale. When you think about a $10 movie ticket, that doesn’t feel like you are spending a lot-so the opinion of a critic may not matter. But a $59.99 video game that you may spend hours, days, or months on? That’s an investment of time and money that you would never see with a movie or a book. Maybe a nice restaurant and decent seats at a theater, but for most common forms of entertainment, video games are still the most expensive thing out there. So if you’re waffling about whether or not you want to buy the new EA FPS game, a reviewer’s opinion might sway you.

Because I am a reviewer of sorts, mostly a blogger-less of a reviewer, of course I’m going to say that we have value. Not as someone that controls the buying power of consumers, but as one that can provide an alternate point of view to what’s available on the market.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Gaming and The Brain - Continued

See. All of these years of posting about my family, and I was right. We have a new study out that shows how those with dyslexia gain great focus, attention, and can improve their reading skills by playing video games.  So suck it FoxNews. Positive story

The study was held at the University of Padua and the Secientific Institute Medea of Bosisio Parini in Italy. They compared current “therapy” and teaching methods for dyslexia versus playing video games. The group was divided into two, taking 9-80 minute sessions of whatever they were assigned to. The ones in the video game group improved their reading and comprehension skills without the loss of accuracy at a faster rate than the traditional teaching methods. In fact, they were a full year ahead of the kids that were in the “standard” group. That says quite a bit. I still proclaim that video games helped out my family when the schools gave up.

The full research can be accessed through Current Biology by purchasing a subscription. While the cause of dyslexia can be debated and there is no cure, as much as the schools wanted to say otherwise when we were growing up, this is a step forward in researching how video games can affect the brain.