Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dongle Physics

Okay. I actually had a serious post that I was working on...

And then I saw LazyGamer's...um...piece about male genital physics in an XboxLive game called Mount Your Friends.

I nearly fell off my chair in laughter. This is so ridiculous, and awesome. Why awesome? Well for too long gamers and reviews have focused on the female anatomy and the so called "boob physics." Games such as Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball excelled at this by including options to either increase or decrease the boob bounce ratio. And now the men have a turn to have their parts be subjected to gravity and reality.

Or as real as a "physics based competitive climbing game" that involves goats.

Poppycock on Addiction to Gaming!

To show that these are not an anomaly, there is a piece in the Christian Science Monitor under their Modern Parenthood section about the recent study regarding ADHD and autistic children are more likely to become addicted to gaming. One parent, Lisa Suhay, said poppycock and wrote her experience with games and her children to CSM.Truthfully, it's a refreshing read to see a parent that is active in their child's media habits. Someone who doesn't immediately judge a game until they take the time to research and play the product. Who would have thought a parent being responsible was even possible!

Sarcasm aside, it's good to see alternate points of view when it comes to these researches.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When Backers Fight Back-Kickstarter Game Goes Under

The Doom That Came to Atlantic City was a tabletop idea that went to Kickstarter. It started with modest ambitions of a $35k goal. It blossomed to over $120k.  That was a year ago and the project has been cancelled. Erik Chevalier explained in the project details that "every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues, and technical complications." Thus resulting in booting the project for good. While Erik is working on getting original figure molds back to the artists, backers on Kickstarter are not happy.

Unfortunately, the details as to why is still unclear. The best that I can assume is that Chevalier wasn’t very active about keeping his backers updated. A number of the posts on the project’s page basically concur with this train of thought. If you check out the website, The Forking Path, the last update about Doom AC was over a year ago when the Kickstarter project was initially announced.  

Kickstarter projects fall through all the time. So now the question is, do the backers have a right to file lawsuits against the creator? The Attorney General of Oregon and Oregon Department of Justice are now involved. People want their money back, and a few of them state it’s because they feel that Chevalier really didn’t do anything with the project. It’s hard to say for certain. In accordance with Kickstarters TOS, as long as Chevalier made some progress with his campaign, he doesn’t owe a refund to any of the backers. That’s part of the deal guys: you donate and you don’t see your money again. Much like a charity, you are not going to receive a refund. Now, if the court does find that Chevalier really didn’t do anything with the funds he received, then there are actions and steps to be taken that could result in some money being return. Not all.

This is a situation where a lot of misinformation is being fed, as well as a great lack of information. Chevalier is in a position where he needs a lawyer. Until things are cleared up, there’s not a lot that can be done. But! This is a great example of making sure you read the TOS before you jump into a project. And as a Kickstarter project head, always release updates. Even if they are minute, your backers would rather see something then nothing at all.


Aside: Whomever wrote the article for GMA needs to be sent back to grammar school. To use the word “raising” 3 times within 2 sentences is not only overkill, but poor sentence development. Also, a tabletop game Is NOT a video game. Tabletop Video Game is just…all kinds of confusing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

WoW is Still Losing Subscriptions

World of Warcraft is starting to falter in its numbers. It’s still the top MMO with 7 million subscribers. But for a game that use to boast 12 million, that’s a big drop in a short time frame. A few months ago it lost nearly 1.2 million.  In the last quarter it’s down another 600k. The release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion helped boost numbers temporarily, but the game has been on a steady decline.

The company is still doing well, there is no doubt about it. Just a week ago Activision bought their freedom from Vivendi so they can better control their finances. All $5.83 billion’s worth. We might see Blizzard take more risks, and Activision will still produce the annual Call of Duty games.

But anyway! I don’t believe WoW will go anywhere soon. They still have a pretty loyal fan base. They also have the newbie friendly factor. In that, the game is really easy for anyone to pick up and play with little to no gaming experience. Two months later you’ve spent money  on the game, expansions, and 60 days of game time. Blizzard got their money’s worth. It also doesn’t have a progressive story-line that requires you to be active at every moment in the game (which is one of my big issues with WoW and why I can't last for more then 2 months without submitting to boredom-not to mention level 40 in less then a week with a full time job and school? Yeah. Too easy). You can quit for 7 months and come back without worries. So some of these subscribers that have left will return. The margin may be small, but it’s still likely. WoW is still king of the MMO’s even as other’s start taking over the market. We won’t see it leave until Blizzard’s Titan is release. When that will be well… maybe 2016. Their current competition is League of Legends, an MOBA not an MMO. So really…WoW is doing fine.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dev Tools For XboxOne

In an interview with GameInformer, Microsoft has confirmed that the XboxOne will have development tools to potentially spur the growth of independent gaming.

"Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development.“ Chief product officer, Marc Whitten.

That’s pretty impressive considering where the XboxOne was standing just a bit over a month ago at E3.  With the nifty features removed and the crappy ones…also removed, Microsoft has been doing damage control to make the system more appealing. And having a product with built in tools to develop a game is the wave of the future. The Ouya has been selling quite nicely because of it. More detail regarding how the development works, selling said games on XboxLive and revenues with the creators will be better explained at upcoming Gamescom.

Now the devkit won’t be fully functional at launch. Bits and pieces may be available, so don’t expect fully access when you get your shiny new system. But it is something to look forward too while Microsoft rebuilds the brand they managed to destroy within a 3 month time-frame. All of this is coming off the heels of Microsoft’s change in policy regarding independent developers on their systems. We’ll start to see more new content on Live  as developers are allowed to release their own prices and dates , while allowing them to handle their own marketing. And! Debugging tools. Nice. They’re really trying to sway the market that has been recently shifting to the Ouya and PS4 for new content.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Girls Should Play More Games, But Don't (the real reason why)

I’m a little perturbed at the article Time released: Girls Should Play More Video Games. I clicked on it because, as always, the titled grabbed my attention and I was hoping that maybe, just maybe that it would give some insight into something we didn’t already know. Because the facts and figures are out there. More women are playing games today then they were a decade ago, and it’s not like women are just discovering gaming. So many of us had our start in the 80’s, when games were a big deal even back then.

So the piece from Annie Murphy Paul kind of threw me for a different loop. The claim boils down to this: girls should play more games because it helps increase spatial skills, which in turn could get more women into advanced fields such as engineering, science, and math. Okay. Explain please.

Paul does provide some links and research to back up the importance of spatial skills and the gender-gap between boys and girls in learning these techniques. They tested 13 year olds and using that data they could predict the number of scholarly papers and patents they would produce up to 3 decades later. And! They could also determine the likelihood that the individual would develop new knowledge in spatial fields. How does this relate to video games? Well the kids are all playing them these days, and when it comes to manipulating 3D objects, what better way to do this then to pick up a game?

What Paul contends is that because men and boys play games in their leisure time, their sense of spatial awareness is much stronger compared to women and girls. Okay. I get that. But it’s not just video games that create spatial skills. Building blocks, LEGO’s, Lincoln Logs, 3D puzzles, model building, all of these are just as important and equally applicable in developing said skills. They are also stereotypically masculine items. So are video games. It’s not a question of getting girls to play games. I know many who do and want to. The question is why aren’t they playing?

Girls want to play with LEGO’s, they want to build things, and they want to run around in a digital world. The problem is that we are discouraged from doing so because they are not considered feminine. Hell, it’s even hinted at in Paul’s article: “Parents of daughters may blanch at the idea of actually encouraging “years” of action-video-game play.” It has nothing to do with the fact that their children, but they specifically use the word daughter, as if being a girl means you can’t play games. Heaven forbid! While I understand and agree that special knowledge is a needed skill for higher levels of thinking, the direction of the article completely avoids the reason on why girls typically stay away from games: they are discouraged from doing so. We don’t have as many female engineers, scientists, and mathematicians because we are told we can’t. We are told we don’t belong. We are told not to be these things because they are not “girly.” I can't even begin to count the number of times I have been told not to play with LEGO's, or not to play this game, or to 'shut up and go back to the kitchen' just because of my gender. So I'm not at all surprised that a number of girls and women feel they shouldn't be touching games. Let’s start with the gender issue first before we can move to spatial equations.


If you’re looking for something maybe not so…gender disparity in your critical thinking today, JoyStiq has a piece about how video games can teach children, particularly MMO’s, that requires parents to be active participants in the gaming experience as well. It focuses on social co-viewing, parallel play, and joint media engagement. 

Also, Howard the Duck will be in the Lego Marvel video game. Sweet

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How Gearbox Handles Music

I think I like Gearbox a little more now. In the development of the latest Borderlands 2 DLC, also known as Tiny Tina’s Assault,had a challenge to overcome when it came to the music. Tiny Tina is very much a play on the Dungeon’s and Dragon roleplaying genre. It takes elements of the table top and infuses them into the action-roleplay-adventure style of Borderlands 2. And music was a concern.

”There was some back and forth initially on whether to go overboard with all sorts of fantasy music tropes and make much of the music silly, or do something that sounded a bit more interesting. There was also a question of whether to just score the environment or somehow try to follow the story and bring some of Tiny Tina’s craziness into the score somehow.”

Raison Varner, Gearbox’s lead sound designer took the challenge, focusing on quality and settling on a few ground rules: no brass or leading French horn sections, strings are okay only as a plot device, and electric guitars encouraged! He pulls in multiple sources of inspiration, everything from Uematsu (the FF6 soundtrack inspired him to get into music), to Ni No Kuni, and Alice in Chains. Versatility was the key to this DLC’s music and it really worked well.

Verner also goes into the discussion on how developing music for a game is vastly different from a movie (mostly because movies are linear and games are ever-expanding universes that need to have constant musical attention). The audio needs to be about the player’s experience, and it’s measured on how the person reacts to the game while playing. Music is a big part of the interaction of the game.

And you know me. I’m an FF fan girl. I love that something as “hardcore, men only, bombs, and blowing up stuff rawr!” can have such a diverse team that inspiration came from Uematsu.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

International Gamers For US Visas To Play

Just when you didn’t think League of Legends could get any bigger, they have successfully lobbied with the US Citizen and Immigration Services to begin issuing visas for professional gamers for tournaments. The visas are good for individual players only and are temporary, but this is a big leap forward not only for Riot’s fame, but in recognizing gaming as a sport. It may not be basketball, but you know what? Curling is a sport. Chess is a sport. Scrabble is a sport. So why not gaming?

Dustin Beck, the VP of eSports at Riot, was glad to see that the ruling was in their favor. Even Canadians coming to the US for tournaments would get held up by customs trying to prove that the reason for their visit was for a sporting event. In this case, playing a game tournament. Going through the process multiple times a year is a burden mentally and financially for gamers. Many eSports professionals do this as a job. They make a living playing games. Missing a few tournaments because of custom hold ups can affect their livelihood.

The change can, over time, apply to other groups such as the Major League Gaming association. Even world-wide tournaments such as Starcraft could potentially loosen up the restrictions that hold back other gamers from joining. So while this may not been a hoorah moment, it does give us something to think about: gaming is becoming a more legitimate sport that the government recognizes it.




Oh and being a video game critic really doesn’t mean squat until we get Leigh Alexander a Pulitzer. Time to start bribing the committee!

Monday, July 22, 2013

FAN BOYS! Prepare For the Dead Space Movie

Because it might blow.

So at SDCC this weekend EA has decided to move forward with the Dead Space movie and is looking to partner with DreamWorks, whom will be releasing the Need for Speed film in the upcoming year. But guess who’s penning the screenplay? Justin Mark. The same man that graced the world with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.

I can hear the groans of gamers and movie goers of decent tastes from around the world.

Even better is that Mister Mark feels that the film adaptation should not be too close to the source material. That actually explains a lot about the Chun Li movie, so thanks for clearing that up.

The video game movie phenom is a tough subject to handle, as I have explained on multiple occasions in a myriad of posts. Seriously just go to the Search box on the left and type in “video game movie” as your key words. I understand from the perspective of Hollywood that you need to make your money back and a lot of things that are popular in a game either don’t translate to film or audiences have a difficult time responding to. The Resident Evil movies are doing so well because of their lack of ties to the original material. I think most people would have bailed out by the 5th movie if it were in conjunction with the game. On the other hand, it’s also the same reason why so many game movies have been crap. Need I remind you all Super Mario Bros.? (Granted this is now a cult classic, but it is still considered a really terrible game movie by comparison.)

Knowing now who the lead scriptwriter is, I have no faith that the Dead Space movie will be worth the effort to watch. EA is so good at destroying their own franchises!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Critic Dump

This Friday post I wanted to showcase a few gems on the internet focusing on video game theory, philosophy, sociology, and criticism. Basically, you have to think a little bit if you read these articles. But it's worth it! I promise!

Let's start out with Zombie Genocidest. A mom tests the waters by letting her son play Left 4 Dead 2 to allow him the experience of the game while avoiding desensitization.

Nightmare Mode brings an interesting piece about the male gaze in video games. This is a subject I have broached on several times in the past, in particular with conjunction with film. But what I really appreciate about the article is that they take on different types of games. It's not just an RPG or an FPS, but multiple types of games that the concept applies to.

GameCritics has a one-off piece about the shooting mechanics in Bioshock:Infinite and how they relate the the story.

And a personal favorite now: Growing up with Animal Crossing and nostalgia. How the adult audience's love for the series and our desire for a simpler time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big News! NCAA Ending Gaming Deal with EA

That’s…wow. For those who have been living in a hole for the past 20 years, EA basically owns the sports market. Football (U.S. and the international game of football), Basketball, Baseball, you name it. The series began in 1997 with NCAA Football 98 and it has been successful ever since. Now the NCAA is citing legal and business concerns, and that seems reasonable. As a player in the NCAA you can not earn income. They are very strict on how players are expected to act and portrayed, and that includes no licensing deals or kickbacks. So part of the NCAA brand of games is to keep the physical football, basketball, soccer, etc. players out of the game. So no using their names and likenesses. The cover art are former sportsmen who are no longer NCAA eligible due to graduation, or moving to the big leagues.

EA has had legal issues with the NCAA and past players for their products. One such example I posted back in 2010 where EA was claiming the First Amendment for being able to use someone’s likeness because a person’s image is not copyrighted, therefore they can legally use it freely. EA didn’t win that one. In fact, they’re still working on the appeals.

In a statement about its decision regarding EA, the NCAA said: "We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA."

To Note: This removes the NCAA name a, logo, and rights from the EA line. Individual schools can still work with EA to develop games under their own decorum. But! Any athlete in the NCAA cannot have their name or likeness used in said games because it could band the player from ever performing in sports again.

And of course EA and the CLC will have a plan B ready for us. Both have issued statements that EA will continue to produce college football games featuring the teams and leagues customers expect to see. Will the NCAA allow their brand to be used by another company? Who knows. The future is a big question mark right now as the NCAA work out the legal logistics that, they hope, won’t force them into financial hardship. It’s just a matter of sitting, waiting, and seeing how EA will proceed. When legal fees outweigh the returns on game sales, that says a lot.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

LEGO Game #??? Announced

We’re already getting SDCC (San Diego ComicCon) video game announcements and the freekin’ event hasn’t started yet! It’s becoming like E3 and that both excites and worries me.

Anyway, the LEGO brand will be releasing another LEGO based game titled The LEOG Movie Videogame. It’ll be set to release in 2014 across the myriad of platforms, including the Xbox 360 and PS3 so for those of us who are not so quick to upgrade will be able to experience the fun of it all. It also helps that it will be released in conjunction with the LEGO film. The game will allow players to be cast as the lead Emmet who becomes the hero through a series of misfortunate events. And you know the rest of the story: evil guy tries to take over LEGO world and you have to stop him by building your way to victory. What? It’s LEGO’s. Building will be involved.

I don’t know how well the LEGO series of games fares in the eyes of the gaming community. They obviously sell well since they keep making them. The Star Wars series has been remade three-fold with LEGO’s, and you have Pirates of the Carribaen, Batman, DC Comics, it’s a plethora of LEGO’s. There is a soft-spot for the building blocks (which will always be superior to Lincoln Logs) and I admit to finding joy in beating up Jar-Jar Binks or throwing Robin off a roof. I’m sure this LEGO game will be another success even if the movie isn’t.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

American Idol Winner Places in SSB Tourney

I don’t even…why is this a story? Of all the things that are happening in gaming, we’re going to focus on an American Idol winner from a few seasons back and the fact that he placed in a gaming tournament. And not very well might I add. 257th in Super Smash Brothers Melee.

Not first. Not dead last. But 257th.

Yep. That was important enough to write a story about.

The only thing I can possibly think of is that an event like this is drawing more celebrities in, even if it was Taylor Hicks and even if he just so happened to be in the same city where he’s the headliner at the hotel Paris Las Vegas adjacent to where the gaming event was held. It might be a sign that more celebrities and some normal people are getting into the gaming atmosphere, therefore making gaming more appealing and popular amongst the general public. As such, our brand of geekdom is being more widely accepted.

Or it could be a sign that there are more bloggers like myself who are just dumbfounded by the story that we’re sharing it.

Checkmate, Polygon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Living Video Game

If you have any interest in the future of gaming outside of the digital platform, you should check out Mashable’s article regarding ‘the living game’. It’s basically taking the principles of game design and applying them to biology and science while using technological elements as basic as wires from a toaster oven.

What makes this an interesting study are all of the ethical and moral questions that they pose. Because, in essence, these “life games” use single-cell organisms that have no neural activity and no nervous system to grow, live, adapt, and eventually be killed off when the game is concluded. Hell this opens up a giant realm of religious content that is begging to be debated. Does the “gamer,” in this situation, have the right to manipulate life in order to gain knowledge? Can we create life for the purpose of a game? And do we have the right to destroy it as easily as we have created said life?

This is something that can’t easily be answered in a blog post, but I do encourage you all to read the piece.

I know. You all can hate me later for forcing you to think on a Monday morning, but I promise it’s worth the discussion.

Friday, July 12, 2013

QuakeCon Content Is Up!

QuakeCon, the annual gathering of all Quakers and gaming geeks of the country has announced their line-up of content. Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and the newest DLC to Dishonored will be among the games available for demoing. John Carack, id Software co-founder, will kick off with the annual keynote on Thursday (usually tech-heavy, but with the PS4 and Xbox  One announcements, it could be very interesting). There will be a few panels from the Dishonored team and of course, the annual Quake tourney, however the panel info is light-handed at the moment. That’s unusual considering how close it will be to QuaeCon, but we hope that the schedule will be more packed come next month.

Oh, and it’s free. Yep. QuakeCon is FREE. You have to register, but there are no fees. No penalties. No hidden transactions. Your badge is free.

And the BYOC LAN party starts on Thursday at 9 a.m., one of the largest gathering of LAN groups outside of South Korea. So if you’re in Dallas, TX August 1-4th, drop in on QuakeCon. Again. FREE. I might stop in so I can finally play a bit of Elder Scrolls Online. I missed out on PAX East because of the ridiculously long lines.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oh Fine. I'll Talk About Desert Bus

So everywhere I went online this week, I kept seeing headlines for a game called “Desert Bus” and apparently it’s the “worse video game ever.” I didn’t bite because, well, it was everywhere. Even on Fox News

My curiosity got the better of me.

Sometime in 1995 the illusionists Penn and Teller came up with an idea of simulating the bus ride from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Phoenix, Arizona. It’s an 8 hour ride of boredom, as they put it. Not Penn and Teller as out-spoken activists for the gaming community. Penn even released a few papers in the 1990’s showing that video games had no connection to real world violence and social problems. They have even addressed it in on their tv show Bullsh!t. While rehearsing for an interview with David Letterman (The Late Show) they came up with the game concept as a way to prove their point. They wanted something that allowed you to make repetitive tasks just enough to keep you conscious (that was a big key, apparently). There would be no cheats. No save points. No pausing. No stopping the game. You had to complete it from start to finish in one run.  It would be an informative game based on a real-world scenario: driving a bus.

Originally when the game was finished, it was meant to be released on the Sega CD. And then the market for Sega’s consoles went belly-up. They originally intended to have a huge prize available for the person that would manage to make 100 points (which is an 800 hour trip, or 800 hours of continuous play). So the game died, and there were rumors of its existence, but no one had a chance to play outside of a handful of game reviewers. Circa 2005, a freelance journalist and gamer historian was sent a copy of said bud driving simulation. The game was revived for a sketch comedy online act, which turned into a charity run for Child’s Play in 2007, and it just snowballed from there. This year they raised over a million dollars. Penn and Teller support the charity and have donated in the past, as well as offered food to the crew during their first year.

So why is it labeled as the worse game ever? Well, for one, it’s pretty boring. You sit on a bus. You drive. You have to ensure the bus stays on the road. If you stray, you’ll immediately stall and have to get sent back to the start. There are no breaks. And as I said, no pausing. You have to sit the full 8 hours and just drive while the scenery remotely changes. I have no idea how the game mechanics are, but I’m sure there are worse games out there. E.T. for example was pretty badly designed. At least this looks like a bus driving simulation. And hey, money to charities. Always a good cause to game no matter the title!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Would You Want To Be A Game Writer?

Perusing the internet this morning, I found this item on GameDev from a young man looking to get into the business of being a video game writer. More specifically the creative aspect of making a story, writing dialogue, developing characters, etc. not the technical code monkey work. It popped up as a “top” thread so I was interested to see the responses. There have been two so far: one asking if this young man’s school offers creative writing courses. The other from a moderator that gave him the cold hard truth: You suck at writing so that probably isn’t the career for you, linked a few articles on bad writing, and go get a degree in writing because holy crap you’ll need it.

I won’t lie, I laughed. Because who really wants to be a game writer? It sucks. My experiences talking to developers and the lackies behind the scene has shown me how little impact writers have on the final story. Just like the movie industry, the producers control the product. While there are companies like GearBox and RockStar that have encouraged the creative freedom of their staff, those are one in a million companies. You have to conform your vision and words to the company that you work for. EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, they all have a vision, a brand. When you think of Nintendo you think of Mario. When you think of EA you think of sport franchises and giant douches. Okay maybe that’s just me, but the point is, you end up compromising your creative freedom by being a game writer. This fantasy realm that you can create your own video game isn’t as glamorous as people make it out to be. It’s a business just like everything else.

But if you’re serious about being a writer, then I would follow Tom Sloper’s third piece of advice: “Write a lot. Write some more White a lore more. Write well. Get some credits for your writing, in any kind of media you can.”

It’s one thing to write for a game company, it’s another to be a writer. If you want to have that type of job, you need to constantly write every day, every hour, every minute, and never stop. And the only way you are going to get noticed by any industry is to constantly write.

It’s difficult. As much as I love having this blog, there are so many times where I kick myself at how terrible I write. And I think of myself as a decent writer. This format of writing is much more casual then what I’m accustomed to, but it’s a blog. The reason the blog exists is to be informal. This isn’t the right outlet for my doctoral thesis or a term paper. But I do feel that it has helped me to elevate my thinking processes and allowed for my creativity to flourish. Fan fictions can do this as well.

So if there is any advice that I can give to those who are interested in being creative writers for video games it would be this: take writing classes at a local college, and don’t stop writing. Whatever comes to your brain, just write it down. You will be amazed at how many ideas will pop into your head if you don’t stop writing.

Now if you want to be a blogger, well I can’t help you. All of the good ideas are already out there. So pick a topic that you love and give yourself a deadline to stay active: a month, 6 months, a year, etc. Having a goal will keep you motivated to see the project to the end.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ever Wondered Why Razer Doesn't Cater To The PS3?

There's your CEO of Razer.

Have you ever wondered why Razer, one of the few peripheral companies still out there, doesn’t make many PS3 accessories? Well according to some tweets from the CEO Min-Liang Tan, he just doesn’t play his PS3 enough to warrant making stuff for it. Well…okay then Mister Tan! AT least he’s honest about it. He was recently “dusting off” so to speak his PS3 to play The Last of Us and somehow it turned to that topic on Twitter. The Escapist reached out to him for additional comments, which he was more than happy to provide on Twitter. 

But Razer isn’t like any normal company apparently. They make products that they want to use and offer them to others who probably want to use them too. One fan called them out and said they should market to PS3 users, which Tan replied that said fan is assuming that they think of Razer asa business. They are fans being fans of products that they would want to use, and their system of choice is mostly PC and the Xbox 360. But Tan is encouraged by what he’s seeing for the PS4 and Razer may shift their focus to incorporate more Sony material in the future. But for now he’s happy being a gamer. I can respect that.

GB Co-Founder Passing at 34

With a heavy heart, we wish farewell to Ryan Davis, the co-founder of Giant Bomb and a pivotal player in how to look at video games. While I personally have never met him, hearing from those who have, Ryan sounds like the type of guy everyone wanted to know. No one knew of him ever being mad or angry. He took life for what it was and tried to make the best out of any situation. While no one can replace his persona, he will be missed by many for what he provided the gaming community.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Disney Infinity Truck Tour

I really wanted to read this article from Aussie-Gamer about why region locking is a good thing, because really, that sounds like a load of crap but you know what? I’m willing to give it a read. However! The server is down so I won’t be checking that out right now.We’ll have to save that read for later.

Instead! The Disney Infinity train is rolling with a cross-country promotional tour. The game/action figure mash-up will be working its way from California at Comic Con to Michigan and Boston with a few stops in-between. The huge truck (which you can’t miss, I mean look at it), will offer demos, photo ops, giveaways, contests, and entertainment provided by Radio Disney. Infinity is shaping up to be quite a unique experience for both online and offline modes, with the ability to trade your characters at Disney parks and Disney store locations. I wish it were stopping by here in Texas so I could get a better look. Hell even as an adult I’m interested in this. You can find the full transit info at the Infinity website

Friday, July 05, 2013

Violent Gaming /= Anti-Social Behavior. But We Already Knew That

So we have another research published, this time by the University of Queensland. That’s in Australia for those of you who don’t know, one of the strictest countries when it comes to gaming laws, particularly censorship. Well they have surprised us with a paper that shows no direct links between violent video games and anti-social behavior. The test had the participants, in this case 160 graduate students, which were 55% male, and ranged in ages from 17 to 43, play either a violent or a non-violent game, and then administer a pro-social test. This test was issued without their knowledge so that the results wouldn’t be skewed. What the researchers did find is that there were virtually not differences between the violent games and non-violent game groups. Both groups provided similar results to the social test.

To help solidify the results, the tests were repeated with different games and different groups of people. Some were fortunate to play GTA4, others World Zoo. The researches chose games that were deemed as violent, non-violent, social, etc.

Basically this research confirms that, once again, being a gamer does not make you a rampaging, anti-social lunatic. There are plenty of “normal” people who go to school and work every day that are more likely to snap. If anything, the current state of video games is driving people to be more social. The inclusion of multi-player in more products (even GTA4 has this), online chat rooms, checking friend’s scores for certain missions, this all allows for better socialization then anything we have seen in the past decade. The face of gaming is changing to be social, less single-player minded.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Decorum of Hacking a Game to Add Female Leads

So the idea of changing a game’s content is nothing new. There are modding communities for several games (The Sims being probably one of the more notorious). Usually this is limited to skinning, i.e. where you change the appearance of a character, or adding bonuses to your characters, or even cleaning up backgrounds to make them less pixilated. But the recent swell of people hacking classics to change out the heroes is causing people to take notice. Nintendo for example? Not a big fan of the dad’s that remade Donkey Kong and Super Mario. They like the message! Just not the fact that their content was changed. (I am amused at their response in the article that they will be featuring a female lead in Bayonetta 2. Guys..that game is NOT kid appropriate. Try again. Also the wording of the story, Bayonetta is way more than a witch that shoots guns. But now I’m getting off-track.)

As we begin to see more of this taking place, we have to take into consideration the social implications. Many of these changes are with the intent of giving young girls heroes to look up to when they game. These fathers want to show their children that women are just as strong, just as determined, just as important as men. Princess Zelda doesn’t always have to be saved. Peach doesn’t have to be kidnapped by Bowser. They can fight for themselves. Which is a great message! We need more of that. Girls don’t have many options when it comes to games that contain female leads. In the E category, just off the top of my head, I can only think of Cooking Mama. Lara Croft, while much more toned down in the sexuality, is still an M title. RPG’s are still in the T to M range due to violent content. The options are limited, and having some of these classic female characters flipped and taking the lead is empowering to young girls.

At the same time, do these people have the right to make such adjustments to these games? These aren’t simple mods that add new textures. Now the entire story is changing because Princess Peach is no longer the one being kidnapped by Bowser. She’s saving the man in distress. The dynamic of the game completely changes by making that switch. (And yes, it is sad that we have to do this just to get more female leads in games. Maybe this is a needed wakeup call to developers.)

It’s the same conundrum that I find myself with movies, books, and television shows. At what point does the work no longer become the author’s property and becomes a part of the fandom? That’s essentially what modding a video game is: expressing yourself as a fan. Because no one would spend weeks creating a skin for Skyrim if they didn’t care about the game. But you are defacing that original work by implementing that skin. Does that make you less of a fan or more? Does the author ever truly loose ownership of their work once it is released to the public?

The People vs. George Lucas and Star Wars fan films are a great example of what’s going on in video games. But the content is so pervasive and immersive that it is actively changing the dynamics on how we view gaming. That’s a big deal.

It’s something to think about for today. Personally? I’m in a wonderful catch-22 scenario. I support the fan’s right to express themselves and modify content. But I’m also a film maker. When my piece is sent out to the world, that’s the vision that I have created and I don’t want others to change it. Yeah…it’s an uncomfortable position to be in. Case by case basis: changing lead characters to women-I like the idea and that it’ll help empower girls. I dislike that we have to do this to classic games because developers just won’t listen or pay attention to the majority at large that buys their products. Too many people are focused on “well this sells so we have to make this.” No you don’t. You don’t “have” to make anything. Be unique and original and see what wonderful things happen.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Sexism In Gaming: A Man's Perspective As A Woman

I have to feature this post on Fly Girl Gamers. Men, please take note.

If you’re too lazy to read, though I highly recommend that you do, here is the quick summary: Slaus Caldwell likes to game with his wife. They play Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer quite a bit. He decided to do something nice one day, log into his wife’s account, and help her get some credits to access the premium packs and save her some of the trouble. For those who don’t know, ME’s multiplayer system doesn’t give you much interaction at the Lobby. You can see the person’s gamertag and character details. You don’t see the physical avatar until you get into the match. From the moment he entered the room, his chat blew up because his wife’s gamertag was feminine in origin.

He heard all of the sexist jokes. He had the R-word dropped on him. He didn’t respond to indicate that he was male. Instead he gamed like he had never gamed before, ranked #1, and the two men harassing him just wouldn’t stop. They even turned on the 4th person in the room, who was also female but didn’t have a name that identified as otherwise, who stood up for her fellow “sister” and got slammed for it.

This is the world of gaming that we live in. I read the comments on the story and most of them are in praise for what Slaus did and how he’s approaching the subject. Some…well they could use a moment of clarity.

“This is how it is” or “trash talking is part of the game” is not acceptable when it comes to threats of violence just by entering a Lobby and being a different gender. I’m sure very few men that game EXPECT to be verbally assaulted because of their gender. I say very few because I know gay, transgender, and non-white men sometimes experience this too. (It’s not just limited to women.)  

Do I trash talk in games? Yes. But I also have the common sense of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” I’ll only trash talk to my good friends, and it’s usually no further then “You’re a grenade.” Don’t ask what that means. It’s something I, my brother, and his good friend came up with in a Halo match. You can’t take a threat back. A threat is a threat is a threat. When you say “Hey! You should be R…” that shoves you into a realm of hate that would make Lucifer cringe. And if you believe in Heaven and Hell, you probably don’t want to get on the devil’s bad side. And what warrants such a comment? Well apparently just being a woman and entering the Lobby is enough. Trash-talking typically commences during game-play and doesn’t revolve around one’s gender or sexual orientation. It’s based on your skills as a gamer. The last time I checked, being a woman or being gay or being black or being straight has NOTHING to do with how well you play a game.

That of course means I’m using logic. Oh crap! Run away!

But seriously, read the article. It’s worth the few minutes of your time, as well as reviewing the comments. We have a ways to go, but if more men could see what women have to deal with well before they even play the game, I think everyone would have a much better understanding on why the culture needs to change.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Is An MMO Really The Way To Go For A Movie?

I’m incredibly conflicted. For a while I thought that the World of Warcraft movie would just peter out. The idea was announced in 2006 and here we are, 2013 and nothing really has progressed.  Most recently, Duncan Jones was signed on as the director. Sam Raimi (SpiderMan fame) was originally suppose to take the helm, but quit after he found out how much influence Blizzard would have in the final product. Because it is Blizzard and yes, they do care about their properties and the end result.

The Gawker tech subsidiary had a chance to throw out a question to Thomas Tull, the chief of Legendary Studios, who will be producing the WoW movie: “how do you make a video game movie that doesn’t suck?” His response was honest, in that people should not approach it as “oh, well if this many people play the game, then they will buy the ticket” because it doesn’t work like that. For them, the focus is on taking their time and really developing a story that will enchant fans of the game and general movie-goers.

That’s all well and good. But then we return to the problem that myself and others have brought up in the case of the Mass Effect movie: how do you decide what stays and what goes? WoW isn’t just an MMO. It’s also a series of books, card games, and miniatures. There are depts. to the WoW universe that are…well, beyond imaginable. How in the living hell do you tailor down such a massive product to fit within the confines of a movie? It’s something Legendary and Blizzard will have to figure out if they plan to stick with this current group of writers, producers, and director (after so much time, people tend to fizzle away to work on other projects).

Here is the harsh reality of a movie adaptation (this applies to theater, books, games, tv shows, and everything in-between). A film cannot include everything. It’s impossible.

If the Lord of the Rings trilogy were really remade sentence for sentence like the book, the movies would be either ridiculously long (we’re talking about 24 hour + on each one) or broken into smaller parts. Two Towers alone could easily make up 15 movies.

Logistically, financially, and realistically, it is not feasible to include every aspect of a book into a movie. Things have to be removed. This is why I don’t get into the “well they shouldn’t have left this out” debate because truthfully there are certain plot points that have to be removed in order for the movie to work.

And with WoW they are going to have A LOT of content that will need to be left behind.

It’s the fact that fans of the game and Blizzard will need to aware of in order for the movie to have any chance of moving forward. If you want to see the movie, you’re going to have to deal with this reality. So get over it. You are probably not going to see a myriad of your favorite NPC’s.

Next issue: Who is the story going to focus on? Typically a movie will center around 1-2 major characters with a triage of minor’s. The Avengers is the most main character heavy movie that we’ve had in a while, and when it comes down to it, the stars were Iron Man, Capt A and Thor. The others were treated as additional/side-characters. The group of characters for WoW needs to be no more than 5 people. Audiences don’t want to have their experience cluttered by having to remember the names and nuances of 20 different people. They can only afford to give up space to care about 1-3 of them, tops. More than likely the script is going to create 3-5 very unique characters that will be placed in to the WoW universe, not pre-existing ones. It’s the best way for the script to maintain control over their characters without muddying up the realm with too much new content.

And the next point: Do we focus on the Alliance or the Horde? A lot of people like to play the bad guys. That is one of the original draws to the game. The most obvious point would be a band of heroes coming together to stop the Horde. However, it could very easily switch roles and make the Horde the stars. But we have to think in movie standards, so the Alliance will be the star team. It’ll be inevitable. There is no way to show both sides in a favorable light. The Alliance is just a little more “gooder” in comparison to the Horde. And people like movies where it’s good vs. evil. It’s just inevitable.

In order for a WoW movie to work, fans, Blizzard, and the movie studio need to realize that there is no way to please everyone. There will be people that dislike the movie because they didn’t include a favorite plot point, or a character, or they spent too much time on this one spot and not on another. Things have to be eliminated and focused in order for a story to develop. Now…an MMO just seems like a really bad idea to try and harness this focus. I can’t imagine taking the scale of WoW and reducing it into a 2 hour movie. It’s not just that task is daunting, but there’s no way to fully convey the depth of WoW in 2 hours, no matter how much you shed. Maybe Legendary should look at Diablo. At least the content is a bit more limited in comparison to WoW and would be easier to translate to a movie format.