Thursday, May 30, 2013

Damsel in the Fridge!

What an interesting turn the Tropes vs. Women series has made. We went from a light-hearted, casual romp of a basic set-up into something deeper, darker, and sad. It’s amazing how often games and media rely on the “damsel in distress” trope in order to propel the plot forward. The onslaught of references in the second video in Anita Sarkeesian’s series with Feminist Frequency brought home the point at how prevalent this aspect is in gaming stories.

Bottom Line: Game plots are really flippin’ repetitive.

So many of them utilize the damsel in distress trope to a varying degree. For example “Damsel in the Refrigrator” as Sarkeesian calls it, takes the concept of women in the fridge (a female character who is purposefully killed in order to propel the male character on his quest), where instead of extracting revenge for the dead wife/girlfriend/daughter, their soul needs to be saved because it is trapped. Dead body, trapped soul, all in a box. Or a closet if you’re R. Kelly. The God of War series is completely driven by this concept, and a number of other games follow this path as well. Even something as simple and innocent as Ico completely relies on the damsel in distress where you, Wanderer, have to escort a girl to safety and her stumbles, falls, and pains drive the story and action.

The one thing that I wished Sarkeesian extrapolated on in the video is the masculine identity. As one point, she briefly engages with the viewer that many of these plot devices as tropes are used to give the male character meaning: i.e. that he needs to fulfill his assumed male roles and save the girl in an attempt to regain his masculinity. In a number of ways men are objectified as much as women in video games. However their objectification comes at a point of reverence. We glorify their bodies, their violence, and their actions much like we do with art. Think of Greek and Roman statues that attempt to depict the “perfect” body. All male. All muscular and toned. All pale (this isn’t just a rock choice, but from a style perspective pale skin was idolized because it meant you had money and didn’t work outside like the lower classes). It’s this worshipping aspect that causes male characters to be objectified, and forced into following “society ideals” in regards to how men should act. Whereas women are objects of desire, and become victims because of the perception that they are weak, helpless, and defenseless (and thus driving the male desire to protect and exact revenge even more).

This is where I would love to put in a photo of a fanart I purchased over the weekend at Fanime of Princess Zelda doing a super awesome attack of DBZ proportions, but the reality is that this will probably never happen for her, and that’s sad.

Not all games follow this trope. Fighting games such as Street Fighter, Persona, and Guilty Gear tend to be exempt because women are on equal footing with their male counterparts. Clothing is an entirely different subject manner: this video was focused on violence used on women in gaming for story/trope purposes. But even games such as Mass Effect (Liara in a bubble), Tomb Raider (Lara Croft from the second you gain control of the character), Metal Gear Solid 4 Anything involving the four beauties and the painful state of The Boss’ death), that try to provide empowerment to the female characters in order to stand out in the crowd of games, and still they end up falling back on these tropes. Women in danger: she needs to be rescued if not by a male character then as you, the gamer, which is more often than not assumed to be male.

If you’re too lazy to watch the video (it’s only 25 minutes guys, come on now), what you should take away is that Sarkeesian is really stepping up her game and pushing the trope back on us to really analyze our games. It’s surprising even to myself, someone who examines games for a living, how often the damsel in distress trope and it’s underlings are abused in video games. It’s a wake-up call to us and developers that we need some change.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Latest "Tropes" Video Removed Due To Trolls

Sadly, this is further proof that we need to keep discussing these issues. Even if these are a minority in the community, they are incredibly vocal. If we can’t stand up for ourselves, they will overrun us.

Also, I don’t appreciate the generalities the article used.

Gamers were apparently enraged by the idea that someone intended to highlight sexist themes and narratives in their favorite form of media.”

‘Gamers’ is way too general of a term in this context. That could be, well, everyone that has ever played a video game and identifies themselves with the culture. Because I’m a gamer, and you’re probably a gamer if you’re reading this. And if you are reading this then chances are that you don’t agree with the harassment Sarkeesian has had to go through. But based on the article, we all agree that we don’t want feminists looking at our games. -_- I really do hate the news at times. Generalities will not help us. So stop lumping us with the people that are causing the problems!

I hope to have a review of Sarkeesian’s newest video later today~

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

UKIE To Start Including Digital Sales

UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment) is wanting to make a change to their system. They currently update weekly gaming sales for the UK, but the system is based on which companies sign up with their services to provide the data. This isn’t like the Nielson system in the U.S. that looks at the collective data from all television networks. The UKIE doesn’t have the means to research this information on a week by week basis. Instead it asks for help from the publishers.

But now they want to include digital sales. As the market has changed, so much content we receive is online and downloaded without a disc. Without these sales numbers, the results are skewed. UKIE is also wanting to include DLC purchases. It still requires the company to sign up and provide the sales data, which will then be verified through a series of sources, but when it’s free, it’s not a bad idea. It can give indie developers a chance to showcase how well their products are selling now that they have an authoritative source confirming their stats.

UKIE plans to expand to include MMO’s and mobile games based on subscription fees (i.e. how many people signed up for WoW this month) and Steam. Currently Steam downloads are not included, but will be soon-even though Steam does not share it’s sales data with anyone, UKIE has ways to verify them. This change in the system could really open up how mobile games are considered in our ever-expanding universe.

Also, Amazon is offering gaming Gold Box deals today, and some pretty good titles are in the mix including Injustice and the latest Tomb Raider.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Xbox One Revealed

Note: In light of the E3 presentation, some edits have been made to the original post as of 6/12/13.
Weird ass DVD Player?
Nope! It's the Xbox One.

So yesterday Microsoft announced their new console. I didn’t really watch the live-stream. My computer was in rendering mode for a podcast episode so I couldn’t watch and render at the same time and expect to understand what the hell was going on. (Lag fairies of doom and all.)

Microsoft is presenting us with the Xbox One.

Seriously the Durango sounded way better. We have the Xbox, the 360, now we’re going back to One? What? Though granted 720 wasn’t any better of a name, but I’m starting to think these guys are intentionally naming these things to confuse and overwhelm us.

Names aside, Microsoft is pushing this as not a console but an entertainment system to take over virtually every aspect of your electronic life. In fact they spent the first 30 some-odd minutes of their presentation on just that. No games! The system has been designed to integrate applications such as Skype, live TV, and the like. The specs are a heafty hard drive (500 gigs), 8-core processor and blu-ray (no one can escape that these days). They are trying to do what the Playstation does, but with Microsoft products.

Gaming-wise, well we’re up in the air. Because here is issue #1:


Okay seriously guys? Did you not learn from Sony’s mistake with the Playstation 3? Why the f*** would we drop money on a new system if we can’t play our old games? Hell not even the digital downloads of older titles will be allowed. That’s just lame times a thousand. Sony, ball is in your court. Make the PS4 backwards compatible and you’ll be a hit. It’s as simple as that.

Microsoft’s reasoning is that they want to provide a completely different experience to their consumers and…well it really doesn’t matter does it? A lot of us have dumped thousands into our Xbox 36 library and now we can’t play them if we move over to the Xbox One. So why bother “upgrading?”

Issue #2: A Kinect is required to use the Xbox One. But your old Kinect won’t work. Nope!

Issue #3: You have to buy a brand new Kinect specifically made for the Xbox One. Yep. That money you spent getting the Kinect and games last year? Complete waste now!

Good things to take away from the Microsoft FAQ: Those rumors about the “always online” internet connect are false. A net connection is not required to play games on the Xbox One. That will still be in the hands of the game developers. Second is that used and traded games can be played on the system. There won’t be a DRM installed to prevent that. Even better is that your game won’t be locked to your system. With the Cloud based save/storage set-up, you can play your game at a buddy’s house, so long as you are signed in to your account.

Any current account with a Gold Membership will retain all of it’s playtime, and your gamertag and gamerscore will transfer over.

As a whole, I’m really disappointed in this system. It’s as through Microsoft did 0 marketing or testing runs to really ask people what they wanted and are making baseless assumptions. I’ve spent years building up my collection for my 360 and now it’s all moot? What’s the point in upgrading? I’ll just stick to my 360, thanks.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When Trolling Is Good

I'm going to link this article on Kotaku Australia because it's not just good, it's damn good. It brings me back to the days of the old Kotaku that was focused more on video games, less about popular culture in nerdem. That not the newer Kotaku isn't bad. I enjoy it. But I do miss seeing pieces like this.

When Trolling In A Video Game Is A Good Thing.

Read, respond, and review the comments. It's worth the time.


Also, pictures from Dallas Comic Con 2013. Damn you Flick for changing your interface! *Angry fist*

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best And Worse Violent Game Theory EVER!

Spit-Take Warning.

Whatever you are drinking, swallow it now before you read the following sentence. Because I nearly spat coffee all over my monitor.


Ready?


Professor Dong Won Cho from a college in South Korea believes that violent video games are physically harming our bodies because, get this, they make video cards run hotter and therefore emit more radio waves. 

Kay.

They tested this by running different games on a video card. At idle mode it’s about 36 Degrees C, which is about normal. 45 Degrees C during a racing game. But it jumps to 57 Degrees C during a “violent game.” Which completely ignores the hundreds of thousands of users that utilize graphic cards for design, video and digital editing, and what-not. Hell I probably output more heat editing videos for my podcasts then I ever could for a game.

He seems serious enough about his findings that he wants to present his paper to a symposium. But this is also apparently a man who said watching porn will cause unmarried men to have liver damage. Well, I hope you enjoyed the laugh on another crappy Monday. Yea!

Friday, May 17, 2013

EA Dropping Wii-U

Short post today because I’m totally spazzing out about Dallas Comic Con this weekend. And yeah...excited does not even begin to explain my emotions. I’m looking forward to having a fun weekend out and being a giant dork!

So here’s some more news about EA. I’ve posted previously that some of their products were not going to the Wii-U because the system could not handle the new engine they have developed. Well now they’re taking it a step further. Kotaku confirmed with EA that they are no longer producing content for the Wii-U at all. 

Oops.

They were buddyign up with Nintendo back in 2011 at E3 to partner with the release of a few games. And now it’s coming to an end. It’s not an issue of EA’s recent swing of layoffs and trying to do better as a company. The Wii-U just can’t handle the power of the next gen games.

Nintendo, time to put the head to the grindstone and figure out this mess.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

EA Says: No More Online Pass Required

Warning: NSFW post as it will be language heavy in the cursing department.


I was opening up my e-mail this morning, scrolling through the news stories that trickle in for gaming and media content. The first one I see in my pile, the one that stood out more than any others was titled Electronic Arts discontinues Online Pass


I quickly clicked on the link. This can’t be true. EA is listening to its consumers? We must be trapped in a The Twilight Zone episode because EA never gives in to its customers. 

Sure enough, it appears to be true. Several news sources have picked up and confirmed the story and EA is stopping their horrible Online Pass program that has plagued us gamers for years. For those who don’t know the Online Pass system was basically a way for EA to profit from used and second-hand sales of their products. Games like Madden and Battlefield 3 would have their online and multiplayer content restricted until you contacted EA and paid an additional fee (somewhere between $5-$15 typically) to receive a code and unlock the content. For something like Battlefield 3 or even Mass Effect 3 where online play can affect your game, it was a real kick in the teeth. Gamers would never get the full experience of the product without paying more money. John Roseburg, EA senior director of communications confirmed via email with Gamesbeat with a very simple message:

“Yes, we’re discontinuing Online Pass[.]None of our new EA titles will include that feature.”

Thanks for making it a simple response John!

“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” Reseburg said. “We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”

I just can’t fucking believe it. EA is killing a program that is probably netting them millions in profit from second-hand sales. They are listening to their customers. Who the fuck knew that they would actually TRY to do better?  I mean…fuck! This is huge. I don’t think Activision or Ubisoft will follow suit but this is a big step for EA, in the right direction no less.

They’re just a little less douchebaggy today. Good job guys!

Fuck. I never thought I would say “good job” to EA and mean it. I need a drink.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Video Games: The Movie!

Another Kickstarter project. This one is a documentary about video games, how they are made, marketed, and the culture that it has created. According to the team behind it, Mediajuice Studios, it’s the insider look at the environment from an unbiased perspective. It’s not the media harping on violence in video games, but an actual, honest, documentary. Which really, that would be nice to see.

Too often video games, gamers, and developers are the scorn of the media. It’s a constant, reoccurring theme. Pick a recent violent event and video games are probably being blamed for them. That’s what “Video Games: The Movie” wants to counteract and let people know “hey, these are some pretty relaxed, normal men and women.”

The Kickstarter is being used to help polish the final product. Mediajuice has already filmed all of the content, from conventions to interviews with Cliffy B, but are begging the wonderfully daunting process of editing. Ideally they want to have it finished by September for the SXSW and Tribecca Film Festivals (bold!), and hell if they make it to $150k they might be able to get Daft Punk to score the soundtrack. Go donate, at least for that. But in seriousness based on what I’m seeing from the content and the interviews this has a lot of potential. It’ll be good to have a realist perspective on gamers and our culture.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ITC Favors Nintendo And Global Distrubition

Nintendo just won a U.S. Appeals Court ruling that makes it just a bit more difficult for patent companies to seek import bans as a means of getting royalties. The case was originally filed by Motive LLC, claiming that Nintendo infringed on a patent for a system that would track a user’s position (sounds like the Wii motion sensor). Motiva originally filed the suit in Texas where we typically favor the patent company (because, you know, we care about businesses and less about people) in 2010. But Nintendo was able to get it bumped  up to the Federal Courts in Washington because of the scope and severity of the issue. At stake would have been millions of Wii systems, something on a global scale beyond the scope that a smaller court could handle.

What it boils down to is this: Motiva was founded with the idea of combining fitness with video games. Their company was unable to produce a product but provided a few patents. These were sold willingly by the company and Nintendo purchased them. Said patents were applied to the Wii, which went on to make a lot of money. Motiva felt they needed to receive some form of monetary compensation for the Wii selling so well.

With this ruling, it can help future companies benefit. The constraints of the patent companies won’t be as severe. Apple and Google have already made a ton of complaints about the push of these companies to constantly ask for reparations and back pay long after the patents are purchased and in the new company’s possession. Basically they want money if the product sells well, and nothing if the patent sits in dust. Yes it’s silly, but welcome to the real world. At least there won’t be an import ban on some Nintendo products as a result of this case.


And if you’re looking to kill a few minutes today, go to Google Images and search: “Atari Breakout.” You’ll be treated to a classic, and Goolfied, game of Breakout, which launched today.

Monday, May 13, 2013

BW: Blasto. Get It Done.

There is only Blasto!
Some of the BioWare peeps held an interview with OXM to talk about, what else, Mass Effect; where it’s been, where they want to go, and some insight into the design process. Needless to say, yes, everyone in the first game needed to have a human skeleton for easier coding.

One thing that they have been postulating in interviews and on their forum hub (they actually do read and get involved on their forums unlike most devs) is creating a series of spin-offs for pre-existing characters. Garrus is taking top spot amongst the team because who doesn’t love the Turian? And if you don’t, you have a problem. And from a story stand point, his would be the most detailed and flashed out. Garrus is a hero in his own right, from his small victories at C-Sec to Archangel and beyond.

But it would also be very easy to flesh out Aria’s story. With the Omega DLC, we got a taste for what that type of game could look like, and her history is chock full of goodies that it would be hard to resist. Or Javik, the Prothean that managed to survive the last Reaper attack and get’s forced from his slumber by Shepard. One fo the dev’s mentioned a more melee-style game with the Krogans. Even the Illusive Man got a nod. His past was fleshed out in a mini comic series and, you have to admit, it would be interesting to play through his rise to power and the First Contact war. 

What we can gather from all of this is that the story of Shepard is done. They are putting that to rest, as they should. I think the fans have way more fun coming up with their own conclusions on life after Mass Effect through art and fan fiction. But with so many possibilities in the galaxy…sh*t. I got it.

Blasto. The Hanar Spectre. Done. Best selling game right there. BioWare, you’re welcome.

Friday, May 10, 2013

CosCast with CosPod Tomorrow!


I’m really excited to announce this. Our video podcast CosPod, the podcast for all things cosplayis thrilled to have some of the members of CosCast, visa-vie Nerd Reactor, on tomorrow during our next recording session. 

*happy dance*

This is an insane honor because we don’t usually expect people of this caliber to come on and talk to us. Ever. Hell just getting a cosplayer or photographer to join in makes us feel special. We don’t think we’re anything that awesome, but hell. We’re honored!

Our topic of conversation will be about cosplaying against your type, i.e. body, gender, height, race, etc. This is something that will be a new experience to me as later on this month I’ll be dressing up as Allen from Escaflowne. The concept is still very strange in my head but I’m rolling with it. For those who haven’t checked out my Facebook Fan Page, go look. It’s over there to the left.But seriously, I tend to stick with a certain archetype and even when I do stray outside the zones, it’s very obvious that I cosplay as female characters. Going male is forcing me to rethink a lot of things about the process. It’s not just about the clothing but the makeup, the styling, and how I pose and hold myself will all be completely different from what I’m accustomed too. And it SUCKS. So hard! Anyone who can pull off the opposite gender deserves a gold medal. This sh*t is hard!


But this isn’t about gender. Race and body type are included in this discussion, which is all the more reason we are ecstatic about CosCast coming to sit with us on this topic. We want different viewpoints and opinions from people who have experience. Mine is limited to being millennia old super villains and blue or purple aliens. Amber is usually an elf or a magical girl so…we’re a little limited on our experiences being another race, gender, size, etc.

Check us out tomorrow! We’ll be recording live at 9pm Central, 7pm Pacific through Google+. You can check us out through YouTube, titled Episode 36 to watch and comment. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Some EA Games Not Going To Wii-U

So expediently but not so much, EA has candidly stated that some of their next-gen titles will probably not make it to the Wii-U. Another scratch on the not-system, system that it really doesn't need right now. Granted that a lot of the content on Nintendo consoles tend to be direct. But third-parties like EA do make up a chunk of their sales. See: Madden and Fifa.

They  have been developing Frostbite 3 and with testing on 2 the Wii-U is sluggish. It's not holding up to the standards and demands needed to run the games properly. So the logical course is to remove Wii-U from the equation. Heck it doesn't even run the Unreal 4 engine, a staple in the gaming economy.

This could be a detriment to the future of the Wii-U, a console Nintendo has been hedging their bets on in 2013 and 2014 to make a turn. The problem is EA is a large company with a lot of influence. If you can't get their games to work on your non-system, system, then what do you do? People will naturally move away from the Wii-U and back to the PC, 360, or PS3 to get their games. EA is just that big and powerful. I don't know how or if Nintendo can resolved this. It'll be another task to add to their laundry list.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

What It Means To Be a Geek

I realize that lately I have been bringing up sexism and feminism in gaming, how gamers treat each other, and all of that. I won’t dump a million links on you because you could easily scroll one post down and oh look! There’s one right there. Okay maybe you’ll get one link.

As I continue travelling across the country, speaking to others in geeky fandoms in person and online, I’ve seen all aspects of geek-hood. It’s amazing to me how much we have evolved over the decades and yet, so much of who we are is still the same. Tracing back to the first Star Trek conventions, that comradery, the need to connect with other fans, it still beats the heart of geek.

So for those of you who need to prompt people to prove their geek credibility, who ostracize others because they don’t like “your” fandom, whom troll and make fun of everyone and anyone that isn’t just like you in gender, ethnicity, or religion, this is your Personal insight warning. You’re not going to like the rest of this post.

Here is how I see today’s geek-dom. The bold and true will agree, what it means to be a geek:





  • Never apologizing for loving something silly.
  • Respecting your series rivals even if you don’t like their movie, tv show, game. (See anything with Star in the title.)
  • Being able to quote a line from your favorite movie, tv show, game, and, as if by magic, someone will jump in and help you finish the scene.
    • Read that as: Any Monty Python movie or Dr. Horrible.
  • Having healthy debates about superheroes at any given moment. And if the argument can’t be resolved, DnD to the death!
  • Accepting all fans for who they are, old and new. A fan is a fan is a fan.
  • Contemplating a future where you buy a stable of horses and name them all after Final Fantasy Limit Breaks. Inbreeding not required to obtain a golden horse.
  • Embracing the label.
  • Allowing yourself to not be normal and not giving a crap about what others think.
  • You don’t have to be into science fiction, anime, manga, video games, or table top to be a geek. Anything and everything can be geeky. (See Kniffting Geek, Origami Geek, Excel Geek.)
  • Not removing yourself from the group because you don’t want to be classified as “a geek” or “nerd.”
  • Admitting openly that you are a dork because you play with toys.
  • Admitting openly that you are a dork because you play with really expensive toys (double bladed lightsaber anyone?).
  • Inclusivity. You don’t shun away anyone who is interested in your brand of geek-dom and/or fandom.
  • Understanding that not everyone is like us, so we know not to freak them out in the real world.
  • Never belittling those who don’t know the fandom or are new.
  • Not being blind to hypocrisy.
  • Offering a helping hand to any geek because they are who they are.
  • Not feeling superior to anyone else. Unless you’re the Dungeon Master. That comes with the territory.
  • Knowing that having a Power Glove will make you a million times cooler amongst geeks. But nothing beats a good ol’ Emulator.
 

Another perspective of what it is to be a geek, check out The Mary Sue’s article (2012) 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here? Feminism in Gaming

For all of my posts, for all of the “head desk" moments, for all of the discussions about sexism in gaming, we are reaching a pause. This past year has seen such a boost in discussing women, how they are treating in the industry and their portrayal in games themselves. Even cosplayers are jumping into this movement with their version, Cosplay is not Consent

We’re talking about it. That’s great. We need to bring these issues to the front because things will not get better if we bottle them up. Having these discussions is necessary, but it’s only a start. We need to address the issues and start pushing forward.

My hope was to see more involvement once Anita’s “Tropes vs. Women” videos were released. It was bumped up to a 12 part series after her Kickstarter fund boomed. However, since the initial video was published there have been no further comments. No notes. No updates. 2 months later (literally 2 months, the last post was March 7th) and we’re still waiting. It’s a bit disappointing. I know Anita has been very busy as of late with conferences and public speaking gigs, most recently at GDC. But we’re seeing the involvement and interest waning.  

So what can we do? Where do we go from this point to bring up the momentum?

Action.

What makes the Cosplay is not Consent movement different is that it is prompting people to start standing up and taking a position right then and there. Instead of letting the harassment happen, Cosplay is not Consent wants you to get involved and say “no.” This push for feminism in gaming and resolving the issues of sexism is not going to be an easy change. But we’re at a good starting point. We’ve gathered the people through social media and in game developer’s offices. Now we need to put people to use.

The “How” of it all is still a mystery. Now that we have all of this man-power, what do we do with it? Because sitting and talking about it online, in blogs, or through round tables, doesn’t really resolve the problems. It addresses them and brings them to light, but resolution is far away. But this is a tricky situation. Unfortunately there aren’t enough women, and supporters, in the business that simply up and quitting would be fruitless. We need them there to help make those decisions to get more “mature” about our games. (Note: This is mature in the grown-up adult sense, not in sexual/violent content.) Boycotting games and publishers might be an appropriate step…but as I sit here typing this out, I realize that we need to determine what we want out of this movement. What are our goals? What are we trying to achieve? That may help us figure out what action we need to take.

As gaming girls and women we want to see more female characters in video games portrayed as anything but sex objects, damsels in distress, and toys. We want females that are heroes, strong, and represent a little bit of everything. We can extend this beyond to include multiple cultures, religions, and races: we want more accurate portrayals of human in video games. We realize that games are fantasy and we expect some things to be exaggerated, but by belittling a woman to be “the hot princess,” reducing a man with dark skin to the “token black guy,” these do nothing but perpetuate unnecessary stereotypes that demean others and reduce video games into a lower form of art/entertainment. Video games can be much better than this, and they have been.

We also want the community to accept us as equals. Now granted, after my time at PAX East I found out that the majority of gamers are very accepting people. They don’t care what your gender, skin color, birthplace, religion is. You’re a gamer. That’s what matters. But it is a very vocal minority that make up a good chunk of the issues girls and women face on a daily basis. When you see websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty with mounds of submissions every day, we know it’s a bigger problem and the minority are probably more than a 1% share. More like 40%. But girls and women that play games want to feel welcomed into the community. We don’t want to be harassed because of our gender. We want to play our games, talk to others, and enjoy our hobby.

And for those who are in the industry they want to see the standards change both with how they are treated and how women are portrayed in games. Video games are not a “boy’s club” and women have equally as many ideas about product as a man. Gender doesn’t drive creativity. The mind does. To be constantly pushed aside for speaking out, presenting unique concepts and getting paid less along the way is something people in the industry should be opposing, not promoting.

Okay so now we have a baseline on what we want to achieve. Boycotting certain developers and games would be a start. I realize that a lot of it would be pitting ourselves against EA (and is that a bad thing, really?) but keep in mind that women make up a huge chunk of the purchasing power when it comes to games, casual and hardcore. We could make a big dent if we all came together, and some of our male counterparts that also support us, and stopped purchasing games until changes are made. EA would be super pissed. They own, what, 70% of the companies out there now? Huge profit margin dip! Okay I’m guessing about that 70% but they do own a lot of studios. So while that may affect studios and prompting them to start developing more games with female leads and less stereotypes, that doesn’t deter the gamers that harass others.

For too long the Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo system of dense against harassment online through their consoles have been limited. You can report a player but does it ever really come to fruition? I still see people on Xbox Live after sending in harassment notifications to Microsoft well over a year ago. The problem is that the systems are antiquated, too few people are being hired to monitor, and the solutions don’t resolve the problem. Take Halo for example where you can mute players online if they start to annoy you. Okay, great. That doesn’t really resolve the issue then now does it? That person realizes they have been muted. They’ll jump the mission and move into the next game to harass someone else. It just pushes the issue onto another person without a resolution. The same with “blocked” lists. Just because you personally block someone does not stop the person from continuing their actions. What happens when you do report a person? Usually a whole lot of nothing. They might get a warning, or a temporary ban, but very rarely do we see them get completely booted. And if they do? Make a new user name. Done.

There needs to be an accountability of actions from the company to follow-up with the report in a timely manner. And an upgraded system of course. A lot of what happens, from what I’ve been told by employees that I know who work at the Xbox home base, is that many of these reports are sent to a pile and left unresolved for months at a time. Honestly? They just don’t hire enough people to handle the overwhelming amount of complaints. Most are legit. Some are stupid. I got those a lot at GameStop. The majority of the complaints were real concerns. There were a handful that were really stupid. “Okay so sir. You’re saying that GameStop sucks because you can’t beat the Lego Star Wars game?” And you know what? The only way to get through it is to hire more people and wade through them all. But it’s also an issue of oversight and lack of accountability. Because it takes so many months to get back to a person about a complaint, why even bother filing it in the first place? That harasser has moved on and still doing what he/she/it is doing. Counter-productive system there.

The best way to have a quick improvement on the current system is to offer a 48-72 hour turn-around time for all harassment reports. Yes that means Microsoft will have to hire more employees. Yes it means that they need to get their act together. But we’re also paying money to play games online with Xbox Live. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to live up to expectations and provide good service, don’t you?

As for the in-game measures a complete overhaul is needed. Muting a person’s microphone is never enough. I realize that coming up with another alternative is tricky. Having a simple boot and ban option is never easy. People are, unfortunately, people and some will abuse the privilege for the hell of it. As technology has improved and we’re seeing a lot of upgrades with the PS4, this would be a good time to start implementing new systems.

One that comes to mind is to record behavior in gaming. Yes, that would mean that you, your game play, and your voice would be on record and sent back to Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo for review. But it would also weed out people that are generally harassing others. Very Big Brother, I understand. It’s much like the convenience store cameras. You put one up and place a sign that you’re being monitored while on the premises. In actuality very few stores actually have those cameras connected to anything. Or the cameras are completely faked. It costs too much money to maintain them. But the illusion of security is enough to make thieves think twice. Compare this to the “Beware of Dog” or home security signs on people’s front lawns. Just having the sign there is enough for people to think twice about messing with your home. If people are given notice that if they play their actions may be recorded and sent back to the home office, that can deter a lot of the harassment. If there’s concern about the amount of data, it would be easy to set it up to only record 30 second increments of a match. Check the data. If it’s clean, delete. If it’s not, keep on file and start the business of getting the harasser booted.

I realize that we still have a long way to go before we can achieve cohesion without our community. But we are at the point now where words will no longer work. Action is needed to move forward. I know I don’t hold the answers and I probably never will. But maybe this will spark something in all of us to drive the change forward.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Disney has turned to the dark side. Um...not The Empire. The Empire would never do this to their own people.

Disney has sold the Star Wars gaming rights to EA. The worse company in America for 2 years running.

NSFW Warning.









Fuck.


Yes BioWare is apart of the EA grouping, but let's face it. TOR didn't live up to expectations. We really don't have a lot of high hopes going into future Star Wars games. And this is strictly EA. This isn't a deal with BW. Big difference.

I don't know if I can handle it anymore. EA. Burn in hell. Please.

Art & Gaming - Local Level

Controller & Canvas. If you live in the Mesa, AZ area, this Saturday May 11th you should drop by this event being held at the Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. Anabel Martinez, an artists and video game fiend, created the event to help showcase how video games are art, through canvas, pixels, costumes, and everything in-between. The event began last year, and it had to have been successful enough to prompt a return.

I would love to see more events like this crop up around the country. This isn’t just a “let’s play games” marathon. People are actively engaged in discussing about video games, their purpose, and their future. Sure there are some gaming mini-tourneys and trivia, all benefiting a local children’s charity and hospital, but as a whole, it looks at the art of video games and promotes creativity.

I want more of this in Texas. Where is this stuff? Gearbox I’m looking at you. You’re just down the street. Let’s make this happen!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Geek Out This Weekend!

Happy May The 4th! Enjoy today with a free comic book! Because today is also the annual Free Comic Book Day.

What an awesome day to be a geek.

For locations on comic stores in your area that will be hosting an event and comic book pick-up, you can check out the official website.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Scare Tactics With Games

ZOMG! All of the kids are turning into
gaming monsters!?!
I have to applaud Kotaku for having the balls to do more pieces like this. Long and short of it: Katie Couric has an “exposé” (to make it sound so fancy and terrifying) about the dangers of violent video games, using 2 extreme cases. Both of them blaming video games with “experts” and not looking at anything beyond “it’s the game’s fault.” The piece is not a simple “this sucks” response, but they break down what exactly is wrong with the Katir Couric episode.

The thing is that every news outlet in the U.S. follows this formula. It’s a scare-tacular event at least once a week at your local news network, and they do it because it guarantee’s ratings. “Why are your children getting sick at school? We’ll have the report tonight at 11!” There! It hooks you in right from the start. You worry about your kids, a common concern for any parent, and the news has just intensified it. That’s how they suck us in people.


But when you sit down to think about it, most of what we see in the news and media tends to focus on scaring the crap out of you to buy stuff. Are you not feeling pretty? It’s probably because of that zit on your forehead. Buy this acne clenser and all of the men, or women, will want you! Feeling fat? Want a 32 waist? Go to this clinic and we’ll suck out all of the bad stuff to get you skinny.

Fear is used constantly to promote, sell, and reap the benefits of viewers (aka consumers). So none of us should be surprised by the Katir Couric piece on video games. What I am disappointed by is that after painfully forcing myself to watch the episode, there was little to no mention about how the 2 men were suffering from depression. The football player has a huge, and glaringly obvious, problem with addiction, having gambling issues from the past. “But that’s not the focus of this episode. We want to talk about how violent video games destroy lives.”

That’s the other problem with these “exposés.” People want to blame something someone, anything tangible that they can touch and feel to give themselves a sense of power over the object. They can control an object. But something like depression, anxiety, bipolar, a mental condition that has no barriers is an aspect that people don’t, and can’t, attribute blame to because it isn’t something physical. It’s so much easier, and complacent, to point the finger at a person or an object then it is to depression.

So here we have two men in this gaming story who show signs of depression, anxiety, addiction, and possibly other mental issues. But as I said before, these don’t tell the story. The “obvious” connection of video games is where the producers of the episode went.

Do we have to take this kind of low-brow, filler “reporting” that does nothing but continue promoting a scary world? No. But it’s not going to change overnight and I don’t imagine that our media will give up on it anytime soon. If you have a few minutes, try comparing the U.S. news and commercials to that of Japan, China, India, Germany, even South Africa. You might be surprised at just how radically different the world shows the news versus us. You almost have to wonder if there’s a greater connection between media scare-athon and murder rates. We’re all so freekin’ scared of the world, we have to buy guns and feel a need to shoot on sight.

And there’s the conspiracy bug again. Bzzt.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Digital Narrative

In conjunction with my emotional madness yesterday, Beyond: Two Souls, that video game “starring” Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival. A new leap forward for interactive story telling. (BTW, this isn’t the first game to appear at the festival. L.A. Noire was in 2011).

For those who don’t know, this game has been touted around for a few years by the French company Quantic Dream. It’ll be a PS3 exclusive set to release this October. And it’s very much an “interactive story” more along the lines of Heavy Rain, and less about playing a video game. Which makes sense now that you’ll see it at a film festival. Maybe E3 but I’m not going to hold my breath.

So what makes Beyond different? It’ll be more like an interactive novel with an expansive script. Over 2,000 pages Ellen Page noted. The game lets the player control Ellen’s character, Jodie Holmes, over a period of 15 years in her life as she tries to figure out who Aiden, this mysterious entity that follows her, really is. The production team have noted that the story will extend beyond the game and force people to ask questions.

It looks gorgeous and has a movie quality to it. What it’ll lack, at least from my impression, is that the game play will be lacking outside of “choose your own adventure.” We’ll see where it goes. I don’t imagine this will be a leap forward in game design, but it’s a start. Digital Narrative. Appropriate term.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Interactive Dynamics Of Digital Feelings

When this man married his DS, we questioned the sanity.
But really, this only would happen with a video game.
"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss


I’m in the process of replaying Mass Effect 2. I promise there is a scholastic reason behind this; my doctoral thesis focuses on immersion of interactive technology with film, so of course including cinematic video games seems like an appropriate thing to do. The concept of  “choose your own adventure” outside of the book series and games is not new. It’s been tested in the past with B movies and gimmicks from the likes of Walter Reade, AromaRama (pre-cursor to Smell-O-Vision) and ScareVision, where audiences would have a button to push during a sequence in a movie when a choice needed to be made. The projectionist would have a second reel ready to go for the film swap.

You still see this used today on a smaller scale at theme parks. Does anyone remember the Body Wars ride at Disney World? It closed down in 2007, but it allowed guests to select what “mission” they would undertake and their path with the push of a button. I never liked that ride. We always got stuck with the splinter removal task. 5 times. The other people in my group were clearly fascinated by wood.

As I continue researching and analyzing, going into stories like Assassin’s Creed allow me to understand the broad scope of what film is trying to achieve. It wants to be more immersive like video games. Even as the fad of 3D is fading once again, we’re seeing the industry push technology in that direction. Get the gamers into the movies.

Part of the issue that I’m seeing with movie trying to adapt to the changing environment of video games is that they are focusing too much on images, licensing, and getting the picture to look crisp. What they forego in the process is the story and characters. The Super Mario Bros. movie was nearly 20 years ago (oh holy sh*t…I just aged myself) and we haven’t evolved since then. The highest grossing series of films would be Resident Evil, which have almost no connection to the games. And…that’s about it. Hollywood and Western audiences have not been fortunate enough to see the Ace Attorney movie on a grand scale. You were lucky if you caught it at a movie festival in the states. From a film perspective, Hollywood hasn’t done a thing to incorporate gaming the way that it should be: an interactive and emotionally driven experience.

I bring all of this up in hopes to better explain myself. As part of my research I have been going back through games like Mass Effect, Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire and  even as far back as Chrono Trigger to explore possibilities and place myself in an audience mind-set. “How would I react if this were a movie?” Which also means replaying these games constantly to see alternate versions. It’s not a bad gig.

So it concerned me that I felt guilty about changing up my romantic interest on femShep. I never was gung-ho about the available choices in the first game. It just kind of happened naturally but I never felt a strong attachment to those particular characters. The ones that I wanted to know better on that emotional level I couldn’t touch. So for the sake of unlocking an achievement I chose Kaiden. Well actually I was manShep first and got Liara and the subsequent Overload achievement (it’s still funny). But this is femShep’s story right now.

When I first played through ME2, I picked Garrus as femShep’s love interest. And it seemed to fit the character that I had developed as well as my own personality. And the second time, and ME3 and the multiple plays, I had to choose Garrus. A part of me felt that it was the right choice. We had made that connection between gamer and character that made it necessary for me to see it all the way through.

So this time around I went with another choice. I tried to keep femShep loyal to Liara. I changed up her personality and play-style. She wasn’t as much of a Renegade. She finally had a family and was more focused on saving people’s lives, less on getting the job done and killing the bad guys.  She has a fling with Thane, but still wants to make Liara and her work. It was about switching up the experience and that’s what I’m doing.

But it wasn’t right. From the moment that I started charming Thane, everything felt wrong. From a personal stand-point, I have no qualms with Thane. His character is incredibly complex and I can certainly appreciate the time and effort BW went into making him for the short life he would have in the series. And if this were a different femShep, she would love him. But my new iteration of femShep couldn’t. It didn’t make sense. I still longed to have her with Garrus.

I felt horrible for cheating on a digital character in a previous relationship.

And that’s when it hit me. This is one of the missing pieces of immersion that movies have not grasped, and probably never will. Movies are a passive experience. We watch, we take it in, and we move on. Even if they are dramatic, non-fiction, documentary styles that force us to think about them, unless you are a movie critic or a film scholar, you’re probably not going to contemplate them for long.

We were suppose to have space babies Garrus!
Or at least adopt some Krograns.
Video games require us to constantly ask questions. From the complexity of moral ambiguity to something as simple as “do I go right or left”, these are the types of immersive elements needed that force movies to fall short of ever achieving their goals at being more like video games. Even with something such as Body Wars where it asks the audience to participate in selecting what “journey” they take, that is the most “interactive” as the experience will get. The rest of the ride doesn’t prompt the audience to ask, think, or question. You sit, you watch, and you make your way to Space Mountain in hopes that the line got a little shorter.

Video games prompt you to constantly ask questions. This or that, there or here, which weapons, who do I talk to, where am I going, why am I doing this, why am I following this character, why am I killing this person, can’t I save this one, what if I talk about these choices, etc. The list is endless. Most of this would be subconscious; I doubt few of us think aloud about choosing which path on a road to take, but these simple questions can lead to the more intricate ones such as relationships with digital characters. Something that seems so trite and passive now forces us to actively engage in the game. It’s not a matter of “this person is the female that’s following my character, therefore she has to be the love interest” like so many movies follow in the footsteps of a tried, but true, formula. Video games want us to think about our choices. You have partner A, B, C, who are you going to take along for the ride?

It’s these moments that give us the immersive aspect we crave for in video games. Movies are never going to be able to replicate this. Even my hope with Defiance, the Sy-Fy series connected with a video game that can potentially allow players to alter the course of the series, it still requires a video game element to allow for full immersion. The tv show alone isn’t enough because it doesn’t have the ability to prompt viewers to ask more questions. Why? It was never designed as such.

Television, movies, theater, these were all created as entertainment and to pass along knowledge without extraneous thinking required. Get in, get out, and move on. Video games also began as simple entertainment, but because of their elements of interaction are more in-depth then anything we have ever come to known, it has transformed our expectations and the way we involved ourselves in media.

Which is why I feel guilty about cheating on Garrus. Even though it’s a different game-a new Shepard-a new start, myself as a person has feelings for Garrus that I am indirectly imposing upon the new Shepard. The game has caused me to re-examine so many things about the story, the content, the characters, and everything in-between that I was having such a moral crisis about having femShep hook up with Thane.

Tell me a movie that can do that. Name one. It’s impossible. This is where immersion and interactivity falter. For all of the 3D and smell-o-vision antics, nothing can replicate the characteristics of a video game. The closest we have ever come is SecondLife, a game that I argue has a number of artistic properties beyond conventional gaming because of its ability to allow users to create almost anything within a virtual space, because it connects gaming with everything. Even then, film falters in this medium for lacking full interaction that a game compels us to follow.

So I’m replaying Mass Effect 2 again. I did my time as super goody-goody femShep and experienced the changes in gameplay. After all has been said and done, the scholastic side of me is satisfied. The human part wasn’t happy. I’m going back and getting my old team together. I personally won't be happy with progressing forward in my research without satisfying my personal player goals. Silly? Maybe. it's an ever-evolving question about immersion and where do we draw that digital line between reality and fantasy. But my answer is simple: Because I feel incomplete until I finish the game my way.

There is no Shepard without Vakarian.