Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Gaming Exploits!

I made an attempt to work up an interesting blog post today. But it's been one of those morning that I wish had ended the moment the alarm clock went off.

So instead, you get an early link round-up with a list: 8 Notorious Game Exploits, brought to you by IGN. Why? Well they made me giggle. I used the Super Mario and Mario Kart 64 Rainbow Road mishap all the time. That trick is a time saver if you nail it - or it completely screws you if you miss the jump and fall off the track. Rainbow Road is an evil mistress.

But I also learned about other exploits that I was completely oblivious about. Skyrim with 'Bucket Head Burglary?' I need to try it now! And the flying tank in GTA3? I knew that once you got a tank in GTA3, you were nearly invincible and you could do a lot of crazy things with it. But flight? Yep. I need to try it now.

Edit: I fail at life. The English version of the first Katamari game was released Sept 21st, 10 years ago! All hail the Katmari!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Destiny Bug Letting Users See Some Upcoming Content

Sort-of...but if you've been playing Destiny, the MMO from Bungie, a lot lately, then you have probably maxed out your Guardian as much as possible and trying to figure out what to do with all this free time you now have. Bungie is taking care of that after forcing to announce 2 DLC's after a few bugs were found in the game. While the content has not been unlocked for users, they have stumbled upon it through messages such as "requirements not met" and "expansion required" over new maps and missions that have popped up during a patch over the weekend. Whoops.

If you're really interested in the full rundown of what's to come, this reddit post has the best comprehensive overview of all of the happenings. While it is always the warning that nothing is set in stone, having a bug in game that is active and allows people to see where the content is going...it's fairly safe to assume that what's being seen is going to happen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Weekly Link Roundup

Time for another weekly round-up. There are a few...interesting stories surfing the internet this week. And it would be wrong of me to keep them all to myself, so it's time to share!

Video games may influence war in the future - This is according to the U.S. based think tank Atlantic Council. In a project titled "Art of Future Warfare," they are data mining narrative fiction and interactive media for real-world insights. The idea is to alter the perception of war from how we traditionally view it, and in turn it may change the face of conflict altogether. They even called in Call of Duty director Dave Anthony to assist. So war may, one day, be an alternate reality video game...maybe.

Kabedon - Awkward translated it means "wall thump," and a Japanese marketing firm is using that as a way to sell dating simulation games. How does it happen? Well take a semi-agressive, but still endearing, gentlemen, and trap a woman against a wall. Tell her how pretty she is and there you go. I know, it sounds weird and kind of scary but it's something that's done in movies and in a LOT of Japanese anime and manga all the time. There's a thrill and sensation to being cornered in such a way, but to still feel safe because the man before you is handsome and not likely to hurt you. >.> Yeah it is weird. But leave it to the Japanese to make it a thing that they use real-life simulation to promote video games at the Tokyo Game Show. Prepare to be uncomfortable!

Video Game Incubator - It really isn't what you think it is, but it sounds very strange. I almost wish that they used the term "think tank" or "educational council" instead of incubator. Because, again, it sounds strange and it's probably confusing people. But it's a group of developers and gamers that want to educated and build a technical community. Incubator. Bad word choice. And it's used all over the article!

Venezuelan steel workers are demanding video games in their contract - It's actually something they proposed in their contracts, along with more pay to improve their living conditions. Not to actually game on the job, mind you, but to provide for their families.

Oh, and Hyrule Warriors is out. Go forth and game!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bayonetta 2 - Weak Game Sales?

According LazyGamer, via a report on game sales in Japan, Bayonetta 2 is tanking right now. After just one day of release, it has pushed 38 thousand units. For one day, that's not bad. It's in third place behind other Nintendo titles Super Smash Bros. and Yokai Watch 2, both on the 3DS. Given the international popularity of Smash Bros. and the rising fame of Yokai, that's still pretty good. I wouldn't call a first day of 38,000ish sales bad at all!

Smash Bros. over a 7 day period (September 15-21) sold 321,363 units. That is roughly 45,909 units a day on average - only 7909ish more then what Bayonetta 2 sold on one day. Yokai Watch 2 has sold over 56,000 units within that same 7 day time-frame. The day Bayonetta 2 released was the end of the weekly cycle, so it was settled into third place when it easily could have overtaken Yokai.

Personally, I think LazyGamer is overreacting just a bit. It has only been ONE DAY. The rest of the numbers will come in. It released on September 20th in Japan and will be here in the U.S. on October 25th. Let's let the sale cycle continue for this week and check the numbers for September 22-28 and then a more accurate statement regarding the numbers can be presented. Chill pill everyone. I know the Wii-U is still trying to find it's foothold and could use third party developers, but at least give the non-Nintendo games more then a day to impress the public.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Titan MMO Cancelled

My Facebook feed blew up yesterday when the news that Blizzard was cancelling the 7 year project dubbed Titan, the next MMO in their lineup. It was a game that wasn't publicized, but everyone knew about it. When one of the largest companies that hosts the biggest MMO game out there is making another one, it's difficult to keep it under wraps.

So what went wrong?

After reports last year that the game was going back to step one, sadly, it was inevitable that this would happen. Seven years is a long time to develop a game, and after spending 6 of them, only to start all over, was a huge setback for the company. Even for one as profitable as Blizzard, you have to look at the cost and effect. It was costing much more for the do-over then what the company was raking in. And it may have been another 5 years until the MMO was released. Would it have been worth the financing?

Money aside, CEO Mike Morhaime points to a big problem with the game: lack of fun.

"We didn't find the fun [.] We didn't find the passion. We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that's the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no."

And it's better that Blizzard found that out now, even though it's 7 years into development. They have cancelled games before, such as Warcraft spinoffs and StarCraft Ghosts, and they turned those failures into learning experiences and presented better games to the public. Because they owe that to their customers. They would rather cut a game that has taken them years to build if it's not up to their standards, then to destroy the trust of their consumers.

I'm okay with it. Titan sounded promising and a good concept as a whole, but the little details concerned me. I guess I was right.

For now, Blizzard doesn't have any plans to start up another MMO and will redistribute the team members to other projects. But there is always a chance. It could happen.

And there's still World of Warcraft. That will not go away anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Panama Dictator Suing Activision

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, you may know him as the mayor with the best name ever, and his law firm are joining Activision in a legal fight against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom is suing the game company over the use of his likeness in CoD: Black Ops 2.

Noriega, who is currently in prison for a multitude of charges ranging from trafficking, drug possession, to murder, claims that the game used his image and depicted him as an "enemy of the state" without his consent. Giuliani argues that if the dictator's claim is upheld in court, it could set a precedent for all media and historical figures: i.e. their heirs could have veto powers over every instance of their use. Ever. No more Abe Lincoln movies for us. He also doesn't want the dictator to prosper while in jail. The man was convicted of murder, after all.

Activision is arguing for free speech protection. The company has used many historical figures in their games before, such as John F. Kennedy. Fidel Castro hasn't raised a finger about his depiction. Noriega is in the game aiding the primary villain, but only appears for a few moments and was never included in any of the game's marketing material. Honestly, you'd have to know who the guy is for gamers to have paid attention.

This isn't a new area for Activision. No Doubt sued them over their music series when their in-game avatars were allowed to perform other songs, when they believed they were to only be available to players for No Doubt music. They're still in a feud with Axel Rose about the appearance of Slash in Guitar Hero 3. Why? Well Rose contends that in an agreement (though none can physically be found), Slash or his band Velvet Revolver were not be allowed as a playable character at all. That case was thrown out, but Rose is still going through appeals.

Because Noriega is considered a historical figure in this instance, Activision has a stronger case. Particularly when you tag on "fantasy" to Call of Duty and present it as such, their defense will hedge on how well Noriega's attorney can argue that the use of his client's likeness was done with the intent to harm.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Games For Ice Cream To Raise Domestic Violence Awareness?

Throughout the month of October, the Marin County California will have a buyback program for all violent video games and toy guns in exchange for ice cream. Why? Well to raise awareness for Domestic Abuse. Because, you know, abuse starts with kids playing video games and toy guns. Right?

Well that's pretty much the thought process we've all concluded from this attempt - another one from California to pull video games from the hands of kids. District Attorney Ed Berberian had a firearm buyback program 2 years ago that was so successful, they had to find donations to help cover purchases towards the end. This time he is joining with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and the Center for Domestic Peace to get families to live a "violence-free" lifestyle by turning in their games. Again for ice cream, because that will always motivate kids to give up their toys. Any cash donations will go to the Center for Domestic Peace. Not sure what will happen to the games or toy guns. They'll probably get sent to a landfill.

"As we know domestic violence incidents almost always have children present and these children develop over time imprinted images of the family violence[.] These children then carry those experiences into their adult lives and often repeat the pattern of violence in their own family units."

Basically, he's equating violent games to affecting children and in turn, they'll grow up to be violent adults responsible for domestic abuse.

Yes. It's backwards logic given that we have no decisive evidence that violent gaming can affect children negatively. A quick search through The Geek Spot and you can see the results. For as many articles that exist that 'try' to prove it, there are twice as many that rebuke the claims with facts.

Now this isn't to say that we shouldn't focus on domestic violence. It's good to see a community coming together to talk about the issue and bring awareness to it. But by lumping in video games and toy guns overshadows the true reasons on why violence happens in the first place: family life, mental illness, substance abuse, etc. By shifting the focus onto video games, the buyback program is doing the opposite of its intent. Video games are not the problem. Dig into the family situation to understand why the violence is occurring in the first place.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Temp Home For VGM - Possibly

Frisco, a suburb of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metoroplex in Texas, is looking to have a permanent home for a video game museum. City leaders want to donate up to $1 million dollars in funds towards this endeavor. If the Smithsonian accepts games, then why shouldn't other museums?

The Video Game History Museum, established in 2009, has been a roaming cornucopia of gaming history, and now boasts one of the world's largest collections. Even their 2011 Kickstarter campaign gave them worthy internet buzz to keep the project alive. But since it's creation, founds John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli have been looking for a stable home to house said collection. There were rumors of it popping up in Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, but none of those panned out.

But Frisco wants the collection to take up a permanent residence in Texas. The site is expected to be the Sci-Tech Discovery Center, which also houses a children's museum and an art gallery. Renovation of the space is estimated at $1 million (thus the funds!) and start-up costs. City planners are dubbing it "National Videogame Museum 1.0" as a 'beta' version to see how well the idea sells with visitors, and if a permanent home should be built for just the museum. Yeah. I thought that was a corny name too. Una McKeen, the Video Game Museum's director of development, is excited at the prospect, and it sounds like they are already moving forward with...moving in to Frisco. They have already estimated that visitors for a yearly basis will be 42,000 (which seems low, but that's pretty normal for a non-profit museum), and look to open their doors in April. Space will be a factor, since it is a building housed by other non-profits. So the entire game collection will not be made available. If everything is finalized within the upcoming month, DFW will officially have the first gaming museum in the United States. If it does come to fulfillment, I'll be there opening day to experience everything the museum has to offer.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I Will Not See Frozen...Yet.

Geek blog. Not a full on gaming blog. I dive into other topics too. So if this is not your thing, I'll be back tomorrow with another gaming moment. But today, I want to talk about Frozen, the animated Disney movie that exploded snow and glitter all over the faces of American children. The film released nearly a year ago, November of 2013 to be exact, and every aspect of the movie is still overwhelming our senses. Visiting department stores with the Christmas gear going up, you can hear the soundtrack overhead; it has become that involved in our daily lives. "Let It Go" is no longer a simple phrase to say when someone should get over whatever is bugging them. Now it's a song that sticks in your head all day long. If I hear that playing at a store, I start heading out. I have heard so many parodies that the original context of the song has lost all meaning.

As a convention-goer, Frozen is everywhere. In that setting, you are guaranteed to see at least 5 Elsa's and Anna's on a daily basis. Minimum. I have yet been to a convention this year where I haven't seen a Frozen character. Even at PAX East, a video game expo, there were cosplayers dressed up from Frozen. Don't get me wrong. I applaud anyone who dresses up as their favorite character and would never single them out for their choice. I was even asked as a judge at a costume panel I was hosting "what cosplay I am tired of seeing?" My answer was Frozen, which made the questioner distraught. Guess what her contest cosplay was? You got it. Elsa, with an Anna to boot. I didn't penalize them for their costume choices. That's not fair to them, and something I would never do. You must be objective as a judge. They have every right to wear those costumes, and I focus on the craft, not the character choice. Digressing a bit there; seeing Frozen costumes at every convention, constantly, and having no break from the onslaught of the movie in my daily life, it gets tiring.

My friends talk about it enough to insist that I watch it and be amazed. It fills my Facebook feed. At least now it's weekly. It use to be daily. But if the conversation on the movie isn't from them, it is somewhere else.

I have been saturated by Frozen to the point that I no longer want to see the movie. I know some of the songs, but do not care to find out about the characters that sing them. I have been smacked in the head once again with, what I dubbed as, 'Citizen Kane Syndrome.'

What is CKS?

Have you have ever been told how "awesome, amazing, fantastic, wonderful" a movie is, only to go watch said movie and become dissatisfied at the results? "This was the 'best movie ever' that everyone was talking about? This is terrible!"

You have just experienced CKS. It is the plight of every film student. Each semester we were forced by at least one professor to watch Citizen Kane. We were always told it was the best movie ever made. He or she would go on, and on, and on...and on about the history and legacy it left behind that all movies should be compared to.

And then we watched the film.

It was crap.

And every semester we had to bs a 10 page essay on why we feel it is the greatest piece of cinema of all time while questioning the sanity of our professors. Why this movie? What makes it the "best movie ever?"

It is because we have been built up to this forecast of greatness, that the movie has no where else to go but down. We are filled with expectations and beliefs that best fulfill our scenario on awesome films. Anything less and we will hate it. Only when you have no pre-conceived notions are you able to appreciate the film for what it is.

Personal opinion: Citizen Kane is still a 'meh' movie. From a sound designers point of view, it is very unique from its predecessors. It brought in a new era of sound production that focused on the effect sound and music can have on the audience. As a story, it was lackluster and floundered between Orson Well's performance and directing style.

This is the state I am currently in with Frozen. I know that if I go rent the movie today and watch it, I will not like it. I have been tainted by the rest of the world that no matter how "great" Frozen may be, I will see that movie as crap. The movie is in the now, hip and culturally relevant, that any additional contact I have to it will further taint the outcome of watching said film.

So feel free to continue going Frozen crazy in your corner. You can keep trying to pressure me to see it, but I think it is in everyone's best interest that I wait until the commotion dies down so I may appreciate the movie for what it is - not by the influence of others. I've had enough CKS to fill 5 lifetimes that new films should not suffer the same fate.

I will not be convinced to build a snowman or to let it go.

It is not the first time in forever, nor will it be the last. Sadly.

My heart is frozen, solid on this.

And you really don't want me to be that anti-Frozen person. I'm a founding member of the EA hate train. You can see how much I dislike them. Imagine that with Frozen posts. Let's not add to it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Photography - More Stuffs!

While still not a common sight, taking photos within video games to express an artistic viewpoint within that world is still a thing. A cool thing. I probably spent more time in The Old Republic and GTAV taking photos with the in-game camera equipment then playing the games themselves. Okay maybe not GTAV. I do a LOT of driving as well. And even without modding Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (though most do), you can get some amazing stills that could be 100% art in their own right.

So seeing the headline from Time Magazine "This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game," I was curious. Rarely do we see known journalistic publications take a stab at gaming that doesn't cover product reviews or media's effect on violence. But what I did find, I was a bit disappointed by. Ashley Gilbertson is a known war photographer. He (and yes, that is the right pronoun) has been in conflict zones and areas of the world we wouldn't dare to imagine, to capture life as it happens when war takes over. But this idea of going into a video game, immersing oneself into the environment like he would in reality, was not his idea. It was Time's. And they chose the game too: The Last of Us, Remastered. For me, this is problem one. We have a journalist who wasn't interested in the content. I'm not saying that he had to be a gamer in order to get involved with the project. I like seeing alternate points of view. But by being placed with this task, he wasn't able to keep an objective perspective. At least if there was interested in the project, he would have been more in-tune with providing full coverage. The first few paragraphs read like a typical gaming critic (in this case, I'm using critic in the negative sense as one who thinks all games are bad), using lovely buzz words of 'hyperviolent' and 'pseudo-sexual.' Okay that last one was in reference to a zombie, and zombies are never to be viewed as sexy. Ever. That's just...ew.

Second thing that bothered me was Gilbertson handing the controls over to someone at Time who was a gamer, and he became the passive observer. While I can understand from a photographer's point of view this can make sense in the real world. You're not the one holding the gun, you're taking a picture of the guy with the gun. But in this change, the photographer is missing out on the heat of what makes video game art so different from everything else out there. The fact that you experience the action as it happens, and you're in control of the events around you. Is it possible that you'll miss great photos while you're dodging zombies? Absolutely. But you can also capture breathtaking moments during those tumbles and falls that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise. And when you play as secondary viewer, you miss those experiences. Instead you start focusing on angles, composition, colors, and lighting. Your brain goes into "photographer mode" and can't separate it from the game in front of you. The beauty of gaming photography are those moments where you are diving, ducking, and weaving between enemies. There is so much to be captured there, and now you're missing it because you are a bystander looking over the gamers shoulder.

Third was this quote: "None of the game’s characters show distress[.]" Well...duh? But this is something where if Gilbertson had actually played the game, he would understand why the characters were not showing as much emotion in-between cutscenes and on the general "battlefield." This is an infection that has taken years to spread. It's become commonplace to see zombies and the infected. Humans have become numb to the situation presented to them, much like one would in reality. So yes, your "virtual daughter" (argh! if you're going to be a spectator, at least pay attention to the story!) is lacking emotion when it's not in cutscenes or a Clicker creeping up behind you.

I wish Gilbertson had more of an open mind about the experience and taken charge with the assignment. Maybe then he would have understood how art exists in a video game world. Pretty scenery is nice, but it is those moments where you're on the field, dodging bullets, that you see the beauty in something instinctual to a gamer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meep Beep

Looking for the next Kickstarter project to fund? Beep: A Documentary History of Video Game Music and Sound may spark your interest. Within a few days, the project has already reached it's goal of $40,000 CAD, but can always use more support. Karen Collins, Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo believed in the project enough to get it started. Music in gaming has had a very profound impact on how we view them. Could you imagine Mario without his theme song? Or the dinging when you pick up the Tri-Force? The games would be perceived in a radically different way without the music to support it.

Collins other major drive was to start cataloging the music and creators before they start to disappear. The talent pool for unique music is pretty small, and as we get more tech heavy and rely on pre-generated content, the music is slowly fading away. Collins wants to keep it alive and make these musicians known. It has been confirmed that Tommy Tallarico (Earthworm Jim, Video Games Live), Brad Fuller (Donkey Kong), and Winifred Phillips (AssCreed, God of War, Little Big Planet 2) have agreed to be interviewed as a part of this project.

Want more names? Okay. Grant Kirkhope (Banjo-Kazooie, DK64, GoldenEye64), Martin Galway (Wing Commander, Ultima), Manabu Namiki (Metal Slug, Castlevania), and Hitoshi Sakimoto (FF12, Vagrant Story). And that is only a fraction of the composers listed. Sounds like a worthy investment. The film is set to release by 2016.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Minecraft Now Belongs To Microsoft

And here's your breaking news for the day: Mojang has been bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion dollars. The sale is in the process of being solidified, but Mojang broke the news on their home page. Minecraft now belongs to the hands of Microsoft. Founders Notch, Carl, and Jakob are leaving the company, but unsure if that was part of the terms. It may have been reactionary; "Microsoft has it, they can do as they wish."

Given how popular Minecraft is on PC and XBox 360, with a fast port to the XBox One, I'm not at all surprised Microsoft seized the opportunity.

Man...a lot of gaming oriented businesses are making big bucks and sales lately.

"Swatting" Becoming A Noticable Trend To Gamers

This is about as bad as calling to have your fast food order corrected by calling 911. Why is "swatting" a thing?

For those who don't know, "swatting" is calling in a fake report to emergency services to an extreme level that bomb squads and swat teams are sent out to those who which the caller is taking revenge on. They're all prank calls, and it is a felony in some states to do this because you are wasting valuable emergency resources and time that could be spent saving a life in need. PSA: Don't be a dumbass. Don't swat your friends or enemies.

Lately it's been attracting the gaming crowd, with incidents happening to Alexander Wachs, alias DayZ, 3 times in one month with the most recent episode happening while he was gaming on Twitch (so the whole experience was live streamed). And Jordan Mathewson, alias Kootra, with swat team brandishing their weapons and degrading him at his office for a fake call that he took a hostage. Again, it's not funny. Okay scaring the crap out of someone can be funny around Halloween when you pop out of the ground dressed as a zombie. But when you're abusing emergency services and wasting other people's money and time, instead of allowing police and fire to do the job they are trained to do, it's annoying.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, the FBI has only noted an average of 400 cases annually for each incident dating back roughly a decade. So it's not enough to cause a national outcry, even if it does cost a city a few tens of thousands of dollars for every time this happens. And the original callers are rarely caught: emergency responders at the phone banks are not trained to weed out the real from the fake calls and texts. They see someone writing "there's a bomb at xx place," they are going to respond to it as a real threat to the safety of their city and will act upon it. By then, the burner phone is gone and the original caller is nowhere to be found.

Gamers, it's just not funny. So stop it. I don't understand why it's hilarious to see someone get freaked out when the police break down your door? You would be too, if you were playing a game, reading a book, watching tv, whatever and then BAM! There's a real gun in your face and officers are telling you to get on the ground. I know I would. I don't get the appeal...I really don't. And as hard as I tried to look up comments on forums of people approving the act, there are none to be found. We all condemn it. It's a dumb prank.

And if you're trying to freak out the pro gamer that you don't like, maybe cause his 'street cred' to drop, you're having the opposite effect. Wachs has had an increase of viewers to his YouTube and Twitch channels, and thousands of people have pledged funds to help combat the cause and return those funds back to his local police department. Your joke is failing people. Quit it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Let's Talk About Reproduction - Gaming Style!

"Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable."

Men. We need to have a talk about periods. And as the opening line in Tampon Run, a 8-bit game made by high school ladies Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, shows, we're way more comfortable talking about the rare occurrence of gun violence (which is still an uncommon act in the U.S. no matter how much you see it on tv). But Menstrual cycles? Something that nearly 3.5 billion women, or half of the world population, experiences once a month over 20+ years of their life? Nope. Can't talk about it. Ew. Gross.

Another thing women can't talk about? Their poop. Because apparently girls and women do not defaecate.

Other then the reproductive organs, all humans do the exact same damn thing. Get over it, men.

But these girls have a strong argument. Even now, as assured of myself as I am, it's still uncomfortable to talk about menstruation because I've been brought up with the world telling me the stigma's attached to it. 'It's gross. Men don't want to hear about it. You can't act like you have it. You'll get no sympathy. Suck it up. It hurts more to get kicked in the balls. But it's totally normal for women, so just shut up and deal with it.' I can't even discuss it openly with some women without them recoiling in fear that others may listen in.

Ladies. It's our Period. We all get it. It's completely normal. Get over it. And don't be intimidated by men telling you otherwise. Without it, reproduction would not exist and neither would we. This stigma seems to be fading as gender equality becomes integrated into society, so it's nice to have some female friends that I can be open about with womanly bodily functions. And before you give me that weird look, men, you guys do it too. Don't tell me you don't talk about your farts and poop openly. I've sat in on those discussions.

I'm digressing. Let's talk about the game.

Gonzales and Houser met at the Girls Who Code summer program directed to high school ladies who are interested in learning about gaming and engineering to get more women into computer science. When looking at their final project, they began to brainstorm about swapping bullets for tampons. While the professor loved the idea, he still needed to get approval from the heads of the program.

That alone shows what a taboo it is,” Gonzales commented.

The premise of the game is you throw tampons at the "enemy," collecting more as you go. If you run out of tampons, the game is over. Any enemies that pass you will confiscate your tampons. The longer your last and the more enemies you kill, the higher your score. It's a very simple browser based game, but the fact that we think the subject is so unusual is causing it to gain traction. The developers are looking to making a mobile version of it and include different power-ups such as maxipads, super absorbent tampons, and so-on.

Ladies, keep at it. While I doubt this will be the change that will force the world to realize that menstrual cycles are completely normal, it is a admirable first step.

Aside, Andrea (Andy) Gonzales avatar is fantastic. She's dressed up in a Chewbacca costume. Pure win.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Web Link Round-Up With Will Ferrell

There is a bunch of gaming and tech news out today, so we'll do another link round up for your reading pleasure.

- A new Indigogo campaign began titled 'Will Ferrell's SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer challenge.' No it's not a new game, but an awareness campaign to help raise money for cancer research. DonateGames and Cancer for College are the two charities that will benefit from this campaign, showcasing how gaming helps those in need. So what's the prize in all of this? Well you can get some Amazon gift cards, free downloads, and a chance to play against Will Ferrell via Twitch. If you donate anything over $10 will garner you an entry into the sweepstakes. If the fundraising reaches their $375k target, one lucky person can game against Ferrell. Chances of him doing impersonations? Likely, but I think he just wants to kick the gamer's ass.

- Gmail Hacked? Well not really, but the company does recommend that you change your password if you are concerned. Last night news began to spread that over 5 million accounts were hacked via Google's Gmail. When people began to research and calm their frantic brains, they found that no, Google wasn't hacked. Someone managed to find a list on a Russian website listing Gmail addresses and passwords, so people assumed the company was hacked. Actually the passwords in question are cobbled together from other websites that may or may not work with the email. Basically, the email on the list with adjoining password could have been used at one point in time on other websites. But many of the passwords are so old and no longer valid, that the chance of someone having your particular Gmail password is slim. Still, if you're concerned, change your passwords on all logins where you use your Google email. 2 step authentication doesn't hurt either.

- GameStop Credit Card. Yep. The gaming retailer has joined with Alliance Data Systems to launch a private label credit card that will work in conjunction to the company's PowerUp Rewards program. Some important things about the card: No annual fee. New accounts will receive 15,000 PowerUp points if you are a Pro member. Regular members receive 5,000 points when signing up. No news on if you use the card for purchases if you'll increase your Rewards points versus not using the card at all. Given that 28 million people have the card, and most of those are minors who legally can not have a credit card, this is a risky move. Oh, and there's a 27% interest on it. Yep. This thing will literally kick you in the ass if you miss even one payment.

- Cricket Wireless Available at GameStop starting end of October. Because there has been a bit of GS news this week, I'll also float this by you, fair readers. Cricket is considered the small-fry in the wireless business. While they have their own stores and footholds in many Walmart locations, they are not as competitive as AT&T or T-Mobile. But what they do offer is cell phones and data on the cheap. It may not be the best signal, but you pay a fraction of the cost. So it makes sense to join in to GameStop where...they sell games. Okay that didn't make sense. GameStop has been taking in used cell phones for trades for just over a year now, and sells used phones and tablets. While the trades are not as dominate as games, they warranted enough interest for Cricket to be involved. If you trade in your old phone, you can use the credit to get a new one, or for other GameStop products. How this will work at the store level, I don't know. Employees have a hard enough time keeping up with all of the inventory. Throwing cell phone sales in on top of it is a bit insane. Hopefully, and for once I hope but my hope is non-existent given my knowledge of GameStop corporate politics, they will have Cricket sales reps specifically hired/available for that reason and not shuck it to the current GameStop employees. But I will not hold my breath on that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

EA Sports Removing Booted Raven's Player

I heard this bit of news on the way home from work while listening to the radio yesterday evening. Yes...people still listen to the radio in their cars. I prefer the local shows over the national syndicated attire (they tend to get too dry and repetitive quickly because they have to appease a broader audience). With all of the coverage over former Baltimore Raven football player Ray Rice, EA Sports confirmed to FOX Sports that they will be removing the running back from Madden NFL '15. 
That's a blow to the ego.

With Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension from the NFL, he will be removed from Madden NFL 15. This roster change will take place by this Friday.” ~ John Reseburg, EA Sports Head of Corporate Communications.

This is one of the first times EA has been both public and swift about removing content within a game. Given the backlash of the situation, I'm not surprised, but I am at the same time. Usually the art of video games tends to be left as is. When the product is done, it's done. At most developers will push out patches to fix glitches or to add new content, but not to remove material.

So if Ray Rice is on your dream team in Madden, say goodbye to him. Or never log online with your XBox or PlayStation if you want to keep him on your roster. The update will only affect those who have an internet connection or buying new versions of the game once they begin production (most likely by the end of the month).

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Games For The College Convert

School is back in session for pretty much everyone in the U.S. As a gamer going off to college for the first time, I was leery about fitting in with everyone else in the women's dorm (oh wait. Residential Housing. Sorry Baylor). It is much more commonplace now, but in 2002, it was still weird to have a girl play video games.

What am I saying. It's 2014 and I still get weird looks when I enter a gaming store to buy something for myself. Glad society is keeping up with the change in times.

Anyway! Being on my own for the first time, I didn't know what games to bring, or if I should take anything at all with me without looking like an outcast. I was fortunate enough to have fellow gamer girls just a few doors down the hall from me with the same concern. They were high school friends turned roommates and brought an SNES and Sega Genesis with them to college. Many nights were spent yelling at the television screen in their room. It wasn't until my 3rd year when I became more involved in my degree (core classes were done, yea!) that I found people like me: gamers.

So as you head back to school, or start a new college/university this year, I've created a list of games to help you get through the year and maybe pick up a few friends in the process.

- Mario Kart DS - The 3DS is still one of the most popular handheld gaming devices you will find on the market, and I find that even the most hardcore Sony and Microsoft fans can not resist a bit of Mario in their life. So while you're street-passing as you walk between classes, you'll find a number of people connecting with Mario Kart online. Not only is it a product that is easy to pick up and play, but it's also a social game. I have found many new friends by meeting them via Mario Kart games on campus and running into them hours later in class. The game prompts for interaction with others with team races and challenges. We spent a number of breaks between classes having quick matches. Bonding experience and you get a little bit of your game fix. It's also a game that people won't tease you about. It's Mario. Who doesn't like Mario? While there are multiple iterations of Mario Kart out now, stick with the classic (if you can find it) or pick up the latest release that everyone will be playing.

- The Sims (any version) - If you are more of a PC/simulation gamer, The Sims would be right up your alley. One of the things I enjoy about Sims is how relaxing it can be. No really. It is. You can zone out of the real world for an hour or two and create a life for your digital creations. Let them live in ways you couldn't imagine and de-stress from the real world around you by focusing on someone else's life. It really does help. When you have 5 tests in a week, papers to write, projects to manage with other classmates, you need an hour to get away from it. And a make-believe lifestyle with your Rockstar or deadbeat Sim is a good way to go. It's also a game that you can save at any time and pick up later if you need to run, or play fun social experiments. There was one town I created where I allowed the game to run while I went to class and let The Sims fend for themselves. It's interesting to see what chaos you return to when you've given your project free will. And hey, that's a social studies paper in the making. You now have a topic for your next sociology project. You're welcome.

- Left 4 Dead (1 and 2) - For the first person shooters, Steam is probably your best friend in the digital world. Which is why I recommend Left 4 Dead. Of all of the games available, this is probably one of greatest zombie shooters you can find that anyone can play. What better way to end a hard week of school then by rounding up your dorm-mates and killing zombies? I can't think of a better way. And while the game may look archaic compared to today's graphics, it is one of the few that support the modding community. You can customize your game in so many ways, to the point that new levels have been developed to replicate other games. Raccoon City in Left 4 Dead? Sign me up for the nostalgia train. Also, stress release. Lots of stress release. Rough assignment about the Great Depression? Zombie get's an axe to the skull.

- Super Smash Bros. Melee - If you can bring a console with you, assuming you have the space for it, you can't go wrong with some Melee. If you're into fighting games, you know how rabid the fan base is for Smash Bros. It mixes the nostalgic factor of Nintendo characters with complex fighting mechanics and endless possibilities when you throw in the randomness of power-ups. For new gamers, it's a great way to be introduced into video games on a social level with how intuitive the controls can be. For the hardcore fans, you'll make the time to learn the combo moves and dorm room tourneys. Unlike Mortal Kombat, which some college students do find too violent (hard to believe, I know), or Street Fighter which can be tricky to master if you are new to gaming, Smash offers ease and complexity to the degree that the player wants it to be without alienating their audience.

- World of Warcraft - MMO player? Then you're probably into WoW or have been at one point in time. I suggest this with a caution: know your limits. If you know you are going to be addicted to playing this game, then ignore this suggestion. However, if you need some in between time from Titanfall (where I can already foresee that game causing numerous homework assignments to not be completed), WoW is a good way to go. WoW has freebe time for all of their expansion packs, which allows you to play pretty much everything in the game without sucking down more of your money. There are restrictions of course, such as limited storage and equipment options, but it's a game that anyone can play. No really. Anyone can play. It's probably one of the easiest games I have ever jumped into, before jumping right back out because the lack of a narrative to keep me interested. But you know what? When you're a college student, you need to relax or you have a bit of downtime, WoW could be right up your alley. Dress up in your armor, slay some wild boars, and call it a day.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Integrity Question For Gaming Journalism

Well. This Zoe Quinn/Chelsea Van Valkenburg debate has really riled up the internet. I still don't know who she is, nor have I really taken an interest in it until now...because gamers are telling me to be interested. We still don't know the facts, if what her ex-boyfriend is saying is true, that she used herself to gain favor with magazine writers to help promote her game. But it has prompted responses from around the web. A lot of lengthy responses at that, but important none-the-less. Why? Because it's prompting us to talk about video games on an intellectual level.

That's a good thing. We need it in order for gaming to be taken seriously and not as a passive activity where guns are involved (only sometimes, general public. Only sometimes.)

Kotaku has even updated their disclosure requirements by not allowing reporting where there are personal connections to be uploaded. I have a feeling that will be retracted soon, because who doesn't have a personal connection when your a journalist? When one of the accusations is against your own, you kind of have to take action.

But I do encourage you faithful readers to do your own research and come to your own conclusion. I don't know what to make of all of this. I really don't. There are so many conflicting arguments and points that we don't know who is telling the truth anymore. And with a vicious campaign against Chelsea Van Valkenburg in the form of Twitter harassment and pseudo revenge porn with her likeness attached to the images, it is difficult to decipher where the truth starts and the lies end. If everyone could take a step back, a deep breath, and let the original parties, Valkenburg and her ex-boyfriend, talk with honesty, we'll get somewhere. But I'm doubtful that will happen. So many people have come to their own conclusion in an instant without taking in all of the information. I keep repeating it, but it needs to be said. Read more. Absorb yourself in the multiple points of view being present. Only then, should you come to your conclusion.

Two articles I want to point everyone to this morning to help out. Leigh Alexander via Time Magazine about the culture war that gaming is not winning. And Vox about #GamerGate and what is happening to journalism.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Diversity of Online Avatars

I have spent a decent amount of time discussing gender in gaming, both in the games and the gamers that play them. On occasion I will mention religion and race, but rarely are these topics openly discussed as often as gender. When it comes to video games, religion is typically not at the fore-front of the design. Sometimes you'll find hidden symbols or subtext in quests that relate to Christianity in some form or another (it is still the largest religion in the world, after all), but expect mostly mythology to make up a landscape. We like to keep fantasy as fantasy in our games. The question of one skin's color is a bit trickier. We know someone of every color, creed, sex, religion, etc. etc. etc. plays video games in some form or another. But rarely do we see someone who is not white or Asian decent taking on a lead role. Those of another color are most likely to be spotted in fighting games, ala Street Fighter, as optional characters, but they rarely to hold down a lead role. The first game that comes to mind is Resident Evil 5 in the form of Sheva, who is seem more as an assistant to the lead male Chris Redfield, and less of a lead character. How is this affecting gamers? Are we being limited by our creative options by only focusing on white men as lead characters?

That is what Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee of Ohio State University set to find out in studying diversity amongst virtual avatars by utilizing the SecondLife platform. The study involved taking 56 participants, half of the group defined their ethnicity as white, the other half as black. Lee had the participants read a fictional SecondLife magazine article profiling the 8 "coolest" SL avatars. At random, people read the "all white" avatars or the "mix race" avatar stories. 2 groups. 2 stories. With me so far?

After that, Lee had the participants create their own avatars in SecondLife and then rate their willingness to reveal their real racial identity in the virtual world via the appearance of their new avatar. When comparing the two groups, those who were white were largely unaffected by either the low-diversity or high-diversity scenario, which could indicate that they really did not care the color of the skin of the character (even though they all chose white avatars). Black participants were less willing to choose a non-white race in the low-diversity scenario and created whiter avatars.

Some things to keep in mind:

These people did not actually play through SecondLife. They read a fictional article and created their characters. That's it. If they spent the time being immersed in the worlds, the results could be completely different. Unlike other games, SecondLife has no limits. You can be an 8 foot Liger with purple and green polkadot fur. Unlike other games, SecondLife really does allow you to be whatever you want to be and having been a participant on and off, I don't see more "white" avatars compared to others. It's a good mixture of everything and anything.

It also only focused on one game with a very small group of people. If this were done on a large scale of 1,000 people, the results would be more conclusive and unique by comparison to the small group. The games being played would also have to be adjusted. Pretty much every online game allows you to customize your avatar in a myriad of ways, from race to the shape of your eyebrows. And what about games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy 14 where you can be a different being (like an elf or an orc)? How does race factor into those results?

The results are slanted to focus on the experience of the black participants in the low-diversity group. Reading through the published text, Lee doesn't pay attention to the white or black groups that had the high-diversity SL story. It's almost as though they have been tossed aside, and that's probably because their results didn't match what Lee wanted to show -- that race does matter in online gaming and can affect the avatar's real-world counterparts. It could be that the other white and black groups had positive experiences and were not afraid to create characters of different ethnicity. While it is a concern to not see as much in the way of options for our heroes and heroines, focusing on one aspect of the research does not make for a non-biased study. We need to full results in order to draw up a conclusion.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Intellegent Debate Only Zone

To continue on with the posting from yesterday, I have found a rather intelligent article regarding the push back of gamers against critics, particularly Anita Sarkeesian. And most of the comments have a very active dialogue of debate and understanding. Most. Not all. There will always be trolls on the internet.

The article is basically a spin off of Sarkeesian's work: Tropes Vs. Sarkeesian. They are taking common points of view about Sarkeesian and fleshing them out to provide some form of reality around them, instead of troll spam. For example, the fact that she made a TON of money from the Kickstarter project but it took quite a bit of time for the first video, and subsequent videos, to be produced. Many called her a liar and a fake because of it. "She pocketed the money!" Well...duh? I mean, she initially asked for only $6 grand and received over $150k. She made a profit. Good for her. She's being a business-minded person. If it were a man doing this, no one would have second guessed it.

But for the hard fact: Most Kickstarter projects can take months, sometimes years, before any results are produced. That's the point of crowdfunding. You're investing in a future product. There isn't an instant turnaround for it. Take Reading Rainbow for example, one of the largest projects on KS to date. It has been well over a month since rewards were promised to be released, but issues in production have been causing setbacks. It happens! We're still sitting here, calmly waiting for the updates. If there is an angry Reading Rainbow contributor, they are in the wrong fandom.

While I personally find that the delay between videos is a bit extreme, I also understand that they take time to produce and collect materials. Sarkeesian isn't just spouting information at random, but playing the games and developing the talking points. Being academic minded takes time. Why else would it take 4 years to get a PhD? Those thesis' are brutal to compile.

Take this as another point of view to look at in the entire debacle and form your own opinions. But I approve of the healthy debates. It will raise up the art of gaming.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Harassment For Any Reason Is Still A Crime, Even If You Don't Like A Gaming Critic

A lot of crap has gone down with female gaming personalities over the weekend, and I have debated about addressing it at all. Mostly because everything has been said, and you have, most likely, already formed your own opinion about the situations. What I’m referring to is the death threat against Anita Sarkeesian and the staggering amount of hateful, harassing messages she has received through her Twitter profile within days after releasing the latest Tropes vs. Women episode. The death threat against her and her family was reported to local authorities in her area. Whether or not it was retaliation for the video, who knows. The Twitter profile is a literal “blank slate” with just the user name and no details about the person who controls the account. It could be that he or she is a stalker who picked an optimal time to join in on the hate speech by others who do consider themselves as gamers. We don’t really know, and may never know. It’s subject to a police investigation.

The other is Zoe Quinn, pen name for Chelsea Van Valkenburg who released an online novel titled “Depression Quest.” After a nasty break-up with her boyfriend, he began posting online about things that may or may not have happened that lead to the relationship dissolving. He accused her of cheating, sleeping around with publishers and magazine writers to help gain traction for her online game/novel. There are a myriad of other claims as well, but a break-up gone bad has made Valkenburg a target for harassment by gamers. Read at your own discretion. Again, none of this has been verified that what the ex-boyfriend speaks of is the truth. But we don’t know if he’s lying either. Unlike Sarkeesian, this is a woman who made a “game” and she’s being singled out because she may or may not have done some sordid things to get it promoted. Because men don’t do that, ever. Right? (looks at every sport and sponsorship deals ever.)

If you care at all about any of this, you already have formed your opinions and I won’t be able to change them. But what I do think is a shame is that we have anti-women in gaming articles on the rise because of this, and they are gaining traction. The one that I’m linking makes me very uncomfortable to read, and almost encourages people to continue harassing gaming critics of any gender to get them to shut up. What the hell people? We are much better than this. We are not cave men from 6 million years ago. We are fully-formed, functioning humans. We have transformed our world within the past decade to a thriving digital marketplace of thoughts and ideas. We are no longer limited by our physical bodies to create new things to better Earth. And instead, we’re going to harass game critics because they are asking questions and pointing out concerns? Really? Cure for cancer may be decades away because everyone’s head is up their own butt.

I have said it before that I don’t agree with everything Sarkeesian and other gaming critics present to their audience. But that can be said for ANY critic. Movies, music, fashion, television, food, software, etc. Things are tailored to fit their point of view. That isn’t to say they outright lie about a product, but they find the points that fulfill the story they want to present to the audience. My criticisms about video games are going to be different from yours. And that’s perfect fine! We’re all allowed to have our own opinions. That’s a basic human right as far as I’m concerned. We shouldn’t be condemning critics from talking about video games, but praising them for wanting to move the medium forward. Even as video games have overtaken movies as the prime entertainment medium for the past few years, it’s still viewed as a “kids” activity. People do not take gamers seriously. When I go to a gaming convention, I still keep quiet about it. I know the staff at TSA laugh when they see my luggage being scanned and it’s filled with gaming gear thinking “this belongs to an 8 year old boy, not a grown-ass woman.” I know the concierge or front desk employees snicker behind my back when I check in with the “gaming con” rate, and refuse to assist me when I ask for help or for a towel because “I’m not a REAL guest. I’m just some gamer kid.” Yeah…because I’m not paying for this bill with my own hard earned cash or anything. Gamers, we’re still on the bottom of the food chain when it comes to respect. Even though so many marketing teams are trying to get our attention, we are treated like less then ourselves because of our hobby.

So why on Earth would we want to diminish the work of those who want to raise us up? The only way gamers can be truly respected as a part of society and culture is to actively participate in examining games with a critical eye. This happened with television, movies, music, theater, paintings, sculptures, and so forth. All of these areas of entertainment were once considered “less than” and people who appreciated them were never accepted as part of the norm. It wasn’t until we began to analyze the medium, that people gained respect for it. People use to think art was a waste of time. Movies too. Now it’s revered.

Before you go off on a tirade about a critic pointing out the misogynistic views of a game, remember this: they have a right to an opinion just as you do. Be a human and discuss your point of view. Engage with the critic and have a healthy debate. We love debates about games! Not swearing contests, mind you, but people actually engaging in discussions on games. Look up anything recorded with Adam Sessler (former XPlay host) at conventions or symposiums and you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to.

And for f*ck’s sake, quit with the violence and death threats. Even with the anonymity of the internet, you can be tracked, traced, and found. You might be surprised how often internet predators and harassment claims are solved, but rarely reported about in the news. Also, you’re making gamers look bad by being a douche bag. Again, a media thing. One person reports “gamers harassing XX person” everyone thinks all gamers are like this. Let’s grow up and be the homo sapiens we have developed into, shall we?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Geekified Weekend: Now With More Groot

This was a busy convention weekend for the geek world. The largest gaming and fantasy cons for fans were open on opposite ends of the country: Pax Prime and Dragon*Con. And both were ripe with announcements and new things for our geeky eyes to feast upon. I was at Dragon*Con, but having friends and comrades who are gamers kept me in the loop while my 4G service was down. So! Here's the wrap-up on weekend offerings:

- Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell announced. Yes, it's "gat" not "get." I checked a few sources to make sure I wasn't misreading it. The latest in the franchise is doing the only thing that it can to one up the past games, by taking the characters into Hell where they fight demons in silly ways in order to save their souls. Should we be surprised? They made a chair that shoots rockets in Saints Row 4. What other options do they have?

- Nintendo to release a new 3DS. Not only is it lighter, sleeker, and better processing power, IT HAS MORE BUTTONS! Very important. It will come with an analog stick and 2 new buttons to play with, and 2 more triggers. It sounds like Nintendo wants to lure in more console FPS gamers to the system. Because what do we like as FPS fans? Buttons. It will also have a Micro SD slot, improved camera and auto light adjustments, and a sensor system for the Amiibo figurines Nintendo has released for the Wii-U. It's packing a lot of stuff for such a small handheld unit. Something that could easily compete against today's phones.

- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel DLC. Yep. DLC is already in the works with some of the best ideas ever. Gearbox, you're making me into a fangirl and I like it. Like BL2, there will be a Season Pass that grants you access to all of the core DLC's without additional funds. The new thing is that you get access to any new characters as well, so you don't have to fork over more money. Who are the new characters that you can play with? Well, how about Handsome Jack, the villain in BL2? Well the Pre-Sequal is all about Jack's adventure visa-vie his comrades on the moon so there is logic behind it. I was excited to play as ClapTrap, but now I can be Jack? Sweet. Bonus: you can unlock Tiny Tina as your narrator after your first play through of the game. Seriously. Gearbox. Fangirl me.

- James Gunn is making "Grooting" a thing. The director of Guardians of the Galaxy was at Dragon*Con this weekend as part of the Guardians tour, and stopped by the large Marvel photo shoot that takes place every year. And he's starting...a thing. Taking awkward dancing to a new level by getting the giant staircase full of Marvel cosplayers to join in on the craze. If you look closely, I'm in there too. So...I'm contributing. At least it's not twerking. And it's already on Urban Dictionary. We're internet famous.

- Terry Gilliam talks Breaking Bad, and how it changed his perspective on film making. If you don't know Terry, he's probably best known for his work with Monty Python. During a press conference he reveals how binge watching Breaking Bad is allowing him to look at movies differently, and expanding his horizons, while still maintain his geeky, silly cred. Great video, if you have the time to watch.