Thursday, October 30, 2014

Twitch Clothing Rules Questionable

In taking a step closer to being "Amazon-friendly," Twitch is now banning users who are nude or wear sexually suggestive clothing while streaming through their services. The nude part I understand. While Twitch does have the "mature content" button for M rated games and excessive swearing, it's also not a pornography site. It's not billed as that to it's consumers, and it wants to take the right steps to ensure that such behavior is removed.

It's the "sexually suggestive clothing" that can raise a lot of questions, and fighting back from the users.

"Dress...appropriately. Nerds are sexy, and you're all magnificent, beautiful creatures, but let's try and keep this about the games, shall we?" From the Twitch Rules of Conduct.

While the approach is lighthearted, it doesn't really give details on what's considered "suggestive" and that definition can change from person to person. I don't think my fitted t-shirt and cropped pants are sexy, but someone watching me could think it's showing too much skin, or it's too tight. That could result in a report and potential ban. I don't know what Twitch's suspension system is like, but I can't imagine that the appeal process is easy.

I know it's safe to say "don't be naked, cover up your bikini tops and underwear" but is that the hardline rule that Twitch will enforce? What about tube tops? They cover the bits appropriately. They're not underwear or swimwear, and they show off some skin. Someone is bound to find that offensive and sexual. Or tank tops? Men and women wear these. What's to stop a person from complaining about tank tops? Or what about cosplayers that game through Twitch? Will Dante no longer be allowed? Or Moxxi? They are sexy characters and fully clothed - are they worthy of the ban hammer?

If Twitch wants to follow-through, they need to make the rules more cut and dry. They can put their own humorous spin on it. But the lack of detail is asking for an increase in nonsensical bans and more burden on the channels.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

X-Wing and Tie Fighter Are Back!

Initially, I was going to post about one of the fastest turn-around times for a game court case, involving former Panama Dictator Manuel Noriega - it was thrown out by the way on the grounds of, well, absurdity.

But greatness happened yesterday.

Star Wars: X-Wing and Star Wars: Tie Fighter were re-released.

Holy f-balls!

The 1994 and 1998 PC games were the shiz in my time. I realize that it's been 20 years, but I was a kid back then, and I LOVED X-Wing and Tie Fighter. They were the only flight simulators that I could handle that didn't completely screw with my spatial awareness. Which is funny considering that the games take place in space (Bazinga!). Flight simulations and I have never gotten along well. I have astigmatism and it really began developing around 1992/1993. It has always caused me to have difficulties examining the size of the area around me in my peripheral vision. Which, in turn, has made me a much better driver because I spend so much time checking my mirrors and craning my neck to ensure no one is around me while I change lanes. I put forth extra effort to keep myself and others safe...something Texas drivers could learn a thing or two about.

Star Wars fan aside, I should hate X-Wing because flight simulators fail for me. They just do. My eyes can never properly adjust to the system and I end up crashing or getting blown up by a missile more then half the time. They're infuriating.

Not X-Wing and Tie Fighter.

I think the lack of confines made it easier for me to dive into the games. There wasn't a set course or path. I didn't have to worry about barricades to my left and right that prevented me from making reasonably adjustable turns. I was in the vastness of space, and it was awesome. That may seem trite to some of you; today if a flight simulator didn't include "wide open spaces" we would think the game is trying to cheat us of it's value. But back in the 1990's there were limitations. A diskette could only hold so much, and the Star Wars flights were above and beyond any iteration of simulators for it's time. You could control the location of your shields, the guidance of the laser system, change the boost in your engines, key lock targeting with your enemies and allies - X-Wing and Tie Fighter made use of every damn key on your keyboard! And the joystick too, because hardcore pilots need the joystick (some that is required in order to play the games properly). I was ecstatic when a Tie Fighter version came out: glory for the Empire by shooting down the good guys and defending our way of life! Or something to that effect. Both games were a joy to play for hours on end, leveling up with each mission and challenging my brother to beat the others score. 360 degrees of space battling at it's finest.

the games are still in circulation, if you're lucky to find the CD-Rom versions. However they require a lot of tweaking just to get your system to run the games. Most modern computers, even those built in the earlier part of the 2000's, over compensate on the power and make the games difficult to play (from clipping issues to unexplained overclocking). So the re-releases are a welcomed addition to 2014, and have updated coding to work on existing computers without compromising the integrity of the games.

But for $10 a piece, I can't imagine a better way to spend that money. Except for gas for your vehicle to get to work, to make the money, and then buying said games. I know what I'll be playing this weekend. You can buy X-Wing: Special Edition and Tie Fighter: Special Edition at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wal-Mart: A Growing Gaming Empire

Remember way back in March that Wal-Mart began accepting used video games for store credit, with the expectation that the average trade in would be $35? And how I laughed at the notion because not even will meet that pricing, usually matching at $10?

Well today Wal-Mart is now selling those used games. All stores across the United States will have "Wal-Mart Certified, Pre-Owned" labels to mark used games. They have accumulated enough of a stock pile to begin selling the products. This will be like GameStop stores in that not all locations will have every game. Stock is going to vary and some older titles from the PS2, Xbox generation will not be included. You're looking at more of the PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One cycles. Pricing will vary, but no word yet on how they look compared to GameStop nor do they mention how these games are tested, what the return system will be and if it will vary from their normal policy. But this is a big deal - Wal-Mart caters to a large portion of the population in the U.S. and can potentially make a dent in GameStop's Christmas sales of used products.

And if that doesn't excite you, Wal-Mart also announced that they will be selling the latest Call of Duty (Advanced Warefare) one day before everyone else. Over half of the stores will have a pre-release party with swag such as CoD patches, Doritos, and Mountain Dew, plus an additional 50% of trade in value for any games going towards the purchase of Advance Warfare.

I bet GameStop is pissed about that. That is a lot of sales that will be lost to Wal-Mart. CoD fans are always antsy at release dates. Always.

Monday, October 27, 2014

When You Smash Fantasia and Video Games Together

Now this is a music game I could be interested in: Disney Interactive teamed up with Harmonix, the developers of Rock Band and Dance Central, and made a video game sequel for the movie Fantasia. The 2010 movie, not the original, but sprinkles some of the 1940's in between. But still, that's a pretty cool idea given how music drives the narrative of Fantasia. Fantasia: Music Evolved is an XBox 360/One exclusive that allows the use of motion controls for you to conduct the story.

You, the player, are tasked as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and must animate the new worlds that the Sorcerer has created. As you move forward in the game, you unlock new gestures, elements, and music. One thing I can appreciation about this collaboration is that Harmonix does not half-ass a product. They are all in when they develop a title. When you talk to fans of music games, people tend to choose Rock Band over Guitar Hero. Why? Better song choices and solid controls. If you want straight up guitar rifts, then GH will be superior. For the rest? Go for the band. So this mash-up with Disney couldn't be a better fit.

The game was recently released, so reviews are a bit scarce right now. I don't have a Kinect so I can't play, but I'll see if I can bum off of a friend to test this out. The music was composed by Inon Zur, who also did a spin on Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' for the game. Yeah. Queen is in a Disney game. It's a mixture of classical and pop culture. And to take it a step further, you can customize the music in the game.

"In each song you’re going to hear a different soundscape and you’ll be able to customize it and then record a solo, which will loop back into the track at intervals that fit with each particular song." ~ Jonathan Mince, lead designer.

When you have the composer in-house and able to give that artistic freedom to the gamers, that's pretty damn cool. One of the downfalls of music games, I find, is not being able to integrate your spin on classic songs. This game encourages it.

If you've picked up a copy, post your thoughts. I'm curious to try this out.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Video Game Search Engine Expands On Google

Google is catching up on the times and expanding it's search engine to include video games. Now I don't mean that you couldn't find game info via Google before this recent update. What it means is Google's Knowledge Graph will now provide more specific details on a video game after you hit that Search button. Release dates, publisher info, review scores, platforms, and more will now be listed to the right of the search terms, just as if it were a movie or television show search. This also expands into voice searches as well.

But not mobile games.

With the update, you can even ask questions for Google and it will determine the best answer with the detailed databases it is now pulling from. The "People also search for" feature is included as well to lead you into more games that maybe you wouldn't have considered in your playlist before.

Good work Google. Keep at it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Play-Through Reviews-Borderlands:The Pre-Sequel Part 1

Not the longest title for a post, but it's a start. I'll shorten it next time.

*clears throat*

Welcome to an exciting first installment of a new review series that has been titled "Play-Through Reviews." What does that mean? Well instead of a 5 minute reading of a game review, you're going to get an action-packed, play-by-play, joke-savey insightful review as the game is played. Each Play-Through Review will span multiple blog entries as I go in-depth into the product and provide responses as they occur. The idea is to give you all, the readers, a more realistic perception on what goes through the reviewers head as s/he plays the game. You'll be able to see the highs and lows, and everything in between that you don't normally receive from a one page post.

I hope you all enjoy this first installment with the latest release from Gearbox Software in conjunction with 2K Australia:

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

As I attempt to be the objective reviewer, I was intrigued at the notion of having an in-between game that bridged the gap between Borderlands 1 and 2. Few games dive into interguels. And if they do, they are small flash and/or mobile titles that are lacking in stable content. As a Borderlands fan, I've been eagerly awaiting this since April when it was officially announced at PAX East. Officially.

The general synopsis is you are a gun for hire courtesy of Handsome Jack, the primary antagonist in Borderlands 2. The plot follows Jack's journey from Hero to Villain, focusing on his escape and capture of the Hyperion Company's base centered on Elpis, the moon of Pandora. NPC's of choice are all characters that appear at one point on another in the other BL games. Clap-Trap, Nisha, Athena, and Wilhelm. Yes. Clap-Trap is a character option. Yes, he is quite useful, mostly for groups based on his skill trees.

Okay. Done with the serious journalism stuff. Now let's get to the game!

I'm roughly 6 to 7 hours in, just past Chapter 5 and have a fairly good grasp on where things are going - or so I believe. The beginning of the game starts sometime after Borderlands 2, where one of the primary Player Characters, Athena, is captured and being questioned by some of the original Vault Hunting crew on Sanctuary. You end up playing the game through Athena's point of view as she becomes the narrator from here on out. Even if Athena is not your choice of vigilante and not in your group of friends, she'll always be there. She's the "Angel" of the Pre-Sequel.

This is one aspect that I'm still trying to adjust myself to. Since the game is playing as a flashback, it makes sense that having a self-imposed narrator is the way to go. But it is a bit jarring when you don't have Athena in your band of misfits. You're not self narrating nor is it the voice guiding you on your path like Angel. It's almost like you're experiencing multiple personality disorder because another person is talking about your journey...and it's not you. It's weird.

Weird overhead voice issues aside, it's been an interesting journey.

One thing you should know is that everyone on the moon is Australian. Everyone. And that's because the game was largely produced by 2K Australia. Go fig. But that's okay. Everyone adapted to the native moon culture. Except Nurse Nina. She still holds that Russian accent quite well for a moon-goer.

Into the actual game play, you begin by assisting Jack as he flee's the Hyperion space station being laid siege by The Lost Legion (essentially the big baddies at this point in time). For new-comers to the franchise, having the game start out in a normal environment was a safe call. It allows for an easier transition into the insanity of Borderlands fights before you throw in lasers, Oxygen bubbles, and that pesky thing called gravity.

From the beginning the story feels a little flat. I think The Lost Legion are brought in a little too quickly, and leave just as fast before you figure out who they are and why they're shooting at you. And for being so insistent on getting off the Hyperion station, Jack is perfectly okay with staying behind while you go to the Moon and disable the overrides. As much as the game tries to ease in newcomers, if you have no idea what went on in BL1 or 2, this whole space mission can be incredibly confusing.

But if you have played the other games, you'll find everything fitting in with the back story gamers sort of know.

As of now, I'm not fully convinced on the story. It's essentially the same set of fetch and shoot quests that Borderlands is known for. When you get shot to the moon, you go through the crash course (hah!) with your first NPC companion, Jaine Sparks, who explains all of the fun that you get to have with gravity and Oxygen. I'm passive about the game from this point because the story is just not gripping me nor as humorous as the previous  games.

What is holding my interest is the game play. Gravity, lasers, and freeze rays add a new level of insanity to Borderlands. You can take more of a tactical role in combat, something you really couldn't do as often, or cleanly, in the past. For example, lasers are essentially beams of light. In a low to 0 gravity environment, they don't spark when they cause damage. In an O2 enriched space, they can catch your target on fire, ensuring additional damage over time. Want to handle a Super Badass while you pick off his friends? Smack the O2 insta-rig, shoot a laser, and let him flail. With the ice weapons are equally entertaining for giggles but! tactical assessment as well. The freezing is just what you would expect. Shoot the enemy, they turn into a giant Popsicle for a few seconds. If they are lower level mobs, they will either die from DOT or with a quick gun shot to blow them to bits - also enjoyable when there is no gravity to watch the ice chunks float away. Bosses and larger mobs are sometimes unaffected, but can succumb to the slowness associated with the freeze effect; great in battles where mobs are swarming your teammates.

Another benefit to low and no gravity scenarios are the super jumps. You will go jump crazy at times, and it can be a bit overwhelming to control at first when you don't realize how much oomph a button tap can do. Initially the super jump is just that: a jump. When you get your first O2 helmet, you earn the power to boost super jump: i.e. you can do your space jump, and tap into your OZ Kit (apparently the manufacturers of the helms thought the #2 looked like a Z so everyone on the moon calls them OZ and not O2), for an extended super jump that allows you to glide across the screen. In my case it has nearly killed me half a dozen times as I sail close to lava-infested ravines. Yes. There is no fire on the moon, but there is lava. Feel free to figure that out. My understanding of high school geology is that some form of carbon and oxygen needs to exist for Magma to be active.

OZ Kits also give you the power of the butt stomp! Jump in the air, do the crouch, and bam! Your feet are on the floor dealing damage to all of those around you. So it's not really a butt stomp, but it's way more fun to say then "accelerated movement in a downward motion." Also enjoyable against frozen enemies.

As of this moment the joy that I have in the game has nothing to do with the story or the characters, and I hope this changes soon. It's nice to see cameos from Lilith, Roland, and Moxxi, but I'm missing the meat of the game. I'm having more fun playing moon-man, law-bringer Nisha. Westerns in space - looks like we have another Star Wars on our hands ladies and gents. Handsome Jack is the new Darth Vader. Let that sink in for a moment. The only thing missing are effective vehicles, which were given me really bad Mako flashbacks from Mass Effect. Try not to hit the walls and run over your enemies. Whoopie.

We'll see where the story goes from here. The last thing I have accomplished was becoming the grand master of butt-slam dunking. Not while on fire - the bonus to the quest because fire does not last outside of the O2 bubble. So there is still plenty to expect in the upcoming chapters, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the story will pick up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Play-Through Reviews. Change In The Way We Review Games

There's a reason why you won't find many game reviews on this blog. I was brought up to seek out knowledge, and not look like an ass doing it. And what is more 'ass-ish' then not playing a game and giving an opinion about it? OCD and my need to complete things aids in the non-reviews. My brain won't allow me to give an opinion until I have finished watching a film, read the last page of a book, or defeated the final boss. Most reviews you'll find of video games, television shows, books, anything that takes longer then 2 hours to digest, are going to be general glances at the product. The reality is no one has the time to sit and play a video game for 60 hours. Even if you're paid for it, the company expects you to plow through 10-15 more games by the end of the week. It's impossible to dedicate 60 hours to every game and expect to get your work done.

For some products, such as mobile games, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Many mobile products are designed for 'on-the-go.' They are quick to pick up, play, and pause to save for later. Which makes reviewing them much easier. After 15-20 minutes, you get an idea of what the game is about - many of them are puzzles or simple action point and click. Large scale games like RPG's are a challenge to review when you only have so much time to spend on them. You have to plow your way through the main story and hope you have enough of a grip on the game play to write about it. I wouldn't be surprised if most game reviewers say that they rarely to never finish a game they are reviewing.

But! I also want to provide more review content on this blog. So I'm trying another experiment. Taking a page from Kotaku as their publication enters a new level of maturity, I'll be offering mini-updates on new games that I'm playing instead of a full-out review.  Think of it like the Let's Play Mass Effect series I started in 2012. As I consume more video games over the upcoming months, having one review really wouldn't convey my thoughts and feelings on the product, nor would they be timely. Again, I only like to post reviews when I have finished the game. Something like Dragon Quest would take me 3 months to complete and post, well past the release date and, thus, no longer making it a timely topic.

I like the idea of being able to provide genuine responses as I play a game. In many ways, our perceptions change as we continue to go through the game; our initial reactions can be replaced by other emotions. That's one aspect of the Let's Play series that I really appreciate when it comes to games people have never played before. Honest reactions. Honest feedback.

Over the next few months, expect to see more of these type of...oh let's call them "Play-through Reviews." They won't be one individual response to the video game, but a series of blog posts that make up the whole experience.

I'll be starting out with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Let me know what you all think. Feedback. Super important. With the change in how press and gaming work together, I feel this would be a step in the right direction for future review concepts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weekly Link Roundup of Porn and F Bombs!

And I have a migraine. A great way to start the week.

So you all will be getting an early link round-up.

Here is the dog pile for a certain hashtag that is still making an impact on the internet, now that mainstream news has caught on to it:

MarketWatch has an interesting spin on how video game ideas are hitting the bottom of the barrel that developers are now turning them into soft core porn. Fan service aside, I don't buy the argument, but a valiant attempt at page clicks.

Video Games Live has launched a Kickstarter to fund their 4th album. This may be a good push for the crowd funding company to get gamers back into their midst.

And Kotaku starts the hunt to find the first video game that dropped the f bomb. They have a few choices in the early 90's, but are there any from the NES and Atari days perhaps?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Extra Life Day

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Gaming Stamps For Collectors - Now International!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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

Pissed off video game fan is pissed.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today's additional reading material:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FF7 Midgar Minecraft Completed!

 Here is today's clean post:

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

And it is glorious!

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

Enjoy the pretty images:

Sarkeesian Cancels Utah Talks

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

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

Go fuck yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

Go fuck yourself. Never mess with my scholastic endeavors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Semblance Augmented Reality

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

South Park Australian Stickyness

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Growth of the Kotaku

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Minecraft Lego Images Leaked!

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

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

New Hashtag Alert - #INeedDiverseGames

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

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

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

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

Jet packs can be included.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Myst Making A Comeback?

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Forbes Wants Gaming Journalists To Confront #GamerGate

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

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

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

Monday, October 06, 2014

Blowing Up Another DeathStar

As Disney reigns in and cashes out Star Wars products, they have done another sweep of mobile games - this time with developer Nimblebit. The company is responsible for games such as Tiny Tower. They produced one called Tiny Death Star, where you run your own super battle station, make money, and spend the funds to improve your weapon of destruction in cute 8-bit form. They also developed Star Wars Assault Team.

Both games are barely a year old (the tiny Tower spin-off would have seen it's first birthday in November) and according to Nimblebit, Tiny Death Star was a good source of income for their small group. But in a Tweet as of October 3rd, Disney pulled the games from the store to focus the game team on "priority titles" such as Star Wars Commander. Games being pulled from mobile sales is very common. The issue here is how it happened. Disney never informed Nimblebit about it's decision. They just pulled the games. It wasn't until developers saw questions and concerns from customers on why they could not longer access the games, did they realize what had happened.

That's a pretty shady business practice. I realize that Disney has a lot of power, but I'm sure even in their over-sized contracts there is a clause that would at least give the developers 30 days to notify consumers before a product is pulled or something. These were free-to-play games that offered optional in-game purchases that are now completely lost because of Disney's lack of care. It's the wrong message to send to a partner, one that was continuing to make a profit for your company, and could question future deals. If Disney is like this with X company, what is to make them think differently about Y company?

Mostly it's a slap to the consumers. A warning or a notice, even if it were 7 days, would have been appreciated. Come on Disney. You're better then this.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Intel Pulling Ad From Gamasutra - Result of #GamerGate

I’ve been sitting on this news for a few days because I don’t know how exactly to respond to it: Intel pulled a current ad campaign from gaming website Gamasutra on Wednesday because the company was flooded with e-mails with threats of boycott. That had to have been a lot of messages over a 2 month period to create enough concern for Intel to remove the content. Intel is one of the largest chip developers in the world. A few hundred people threatening to not buy their products will not make a single dent in their profit margins. A few thousand, maybe .001%. A few hundred thousand? That would make me raise an eyebrow, but not necessarily remove an advertisement. And why, pray-tell were people boycotting? Well it has to do with an opinion piece written by Leigh Alexander published in August. It has nothing to do with the content of the ads, but the content of Alexander’s article. She criticized and examined the white-male gaming audience that dominates the community and why their lifestyle of internet memes and getting mad at everything is not culture – the concept of “gamers” is dead.

So the boycott is not about the content of the advertisement, but to push Intel to stop paying money to Gamasutra in response for Alexander’s article. No really. Apparently enough people were upset at her words that, instead of going through the gaming site, they went to the sponsors. It would be similar to a movie reviewer writing an opinion piece on why he hates Star Wars, and instead of readers actively engaging him or her in a constructive dialogue, they whine and complain to the newspaper’s biggest advertisers in hopes of shutting down the paper. Without money, the paper can’t run – it’s a similar premise with the website. 

Gamasutra is one of the few gaming websites out there with content for critical thinking and open discussion. It promotes and encourages people to use their brains and think about what they are playing. I mean this as more then solving puzzles in Resident Evil, but actively exploring the themes and context of the product to expand our understanding of the piece. Video games have a lot to show us beyond their cartridge walls.

I’m not entirely sure what the boycott is attempting to accomplish. Alexander is the Editor at Large for Gamasutra and I doubt she is going to step down from that position. She has no reason to. Her piece was properly labeled as an opinion. People are allowed to have them. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but last I checked we are in the United States of America…people are allowed to have their own thoughts and feelings just as you have the right to choose to not listen or read them.  

The difficulties in formulating a response to all of this is because I had hoped that society, businesses, and people were better than this. Letting a few speak for the majority never resolves conflict; it creates more. Intel is, in a way, saying that they don’t care what side of the debate they are on. Profits are the bottom line and if having an advertisement on a site will lose them potential dollars, they would rather remove themselves entirely and gain a few customer’s back.

I don’t believe that Intel received such an immense amount of feedback to warrant pulling the advertisement. For the number of people who support #GamerGate and want to stop progression with gaming, there are 1,000 others who want to see equality in gaming – not only in the games themselves but from the players as well. I admit that I’m half-assing that figure because I don’t know the numbers. People tend to focus on the negative posts before all others are included. I am speaking from personal experience at this point – when I read these types of articles regarding gaming “culture” and the spurn against women, most comments either support the writer or actively promote critical thinking and engage in a productive dialogue to verify or contradict the writer’s piece. While yes, there are comments such as “go back to the kitchen” they do not make up the majority. So I’m surprised to read that Intel was inundated with boycott protests. I’ve seen a lot in my time at GameStop. A lot. I read thousands of emails and listen to hundreds of phone calls daily. We ignored the protests and boycotts and you know what? The company is still in business. I don’t know what Intel was sent, but they have given a very clear message back: intimidation tactics clearly work. And they’re anti-feminism. That latter is probably not true, but by giving in to the few radicals, they are telling the overwhelming majority that their interest is to not support women or minorities.

Not to throw around the t-word that holds an error and ends with -ism, but this is how the ‘thing that ISIS does’ starts.

Intel…there’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind. You have made your decision and, obviously, you’re going to be getting a lot of flak in return. You caved in to a handful of people spamming your call queue and emails to get it to stop. In return, you have lost the respect of a lot of people who use your products.

I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. I doubt Alexander is going to be removed from Gamasutra. She’s an integral part of the community that wants to improve gaming, gamers, and how we view video games. No announcements or press releases have been made. I hope that Gamasutra does the right thing. Address it or not, I hope they continue to back their writers. The blow from Intel will hurt some of their ad dollars, but it shouldn’t stop them from producing the content we expect of them.

I wonder if a boycott of the boycott is possible? Maybe force Intel to turn it around again? Though that stems a whole flurry of legal issues and contracts to run through between Gamasutra and Intel.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Video Game Ideas On Kickstarter Decline From 2013

Consulting firm ICO Partners has been analyzing Kickstarter projects for 2014, and have reported a decline in crowd funding video games upwards of 20% compared to 2013.  The 20% makes up the number of projects that didn't meet their funding goals. It also means that the massive amount of money raked in has dropped significantly enough for people to be concerned. Nearly $27 million was pledged in the time-frame ICO Partners researched (January 1-June 30) last year. This year, it's just over $13 million. Those are some serious dollars that have been scaled back.

Has gaming crowd funding hit it's peak? Probably, but that doesn't mean that the new norm is going to die off next year. 350 campaigns have been successful this year. It doesn't beat the 446 compared to last year, but it's still a hefty number of projects that were audience approved.

some of this could be attributed to the fact that people who pledged last year are still waiting on content to materialize. With any design or product, it can take years to make and video games are no different. Many companies post an idea on Kickstarter with a few art images, but nothing concrete. When their goal is reached, that's when they can start applying the funds to get work started. They are not working on the product as their campaign begins, nor are they doing it for free before the campaign. They need the funds to build the game. So yes - it's going to be a few years until you see that game you donated money too. As a result, a number of people are holding back on pledging until their game of choice is released (if it releases at all - there's nothing in Kickstarter's guidelines that states that a finished product is required). When they see the results and if they approve, then they may donate again. Because so many new games went up last year, we're seeing a decline. It's not the end of all things Kickstarter with video games, but if you're looking to crowd funding for helping finance your idea, wait it out until some of those 2013 games are in the public's hands.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why It Still Sucks To Be Anything But A White, Straight Male Gamer

Since beginning this blog in 2010 I have been vocal about my stance on women in gaming, both as gamers and the avatars in the stories we love to play. As the discussion grew, so did my postings, and non-postings. I’ve done my best to not get drawn into this disaster of a situation called #GamerGate and plan to keep at it as best as I can. But it is equally depressing to read, for as much as the community has changed over the years to be more inclusive, if you are not a straight, white male, you are isolated from other gamers.

I’d love for change to happen within our community, but frankly I don’t see it happening within my lifetime. Maybe in 3 or 4 generations, and by then I’ll be too old to give a damn. I hate having to hide my profile, disable all voice chat, and resort to male avatars in order to be treated as an equal by the majority of the game-playing audience. Do I have to? Of course not. But I’m choosing to do so to avoid harassment. To provide more honesty, I’m obligated to take these extra steps for my own protection – physically and mentally. Most male gamers don’t have to do this: hide their true selves in order to play online. Some do if they are gay or of a different ethnicity, but they’re less likely to face the same level of persecution as a woman. If I don’t do these extra, precautionary measures, I’m “asking” for trouble. As if I am “asking” to be physically assaulted by the clothes that I wear, or the things that I say. Thank you culture for being aggressive against women.

While I applaud the fact that people are discussing these issues about how women are portrayed in video games, it’s not curbing the actions of those who are playing them. Yes the market is changing and more women are playing games. They’re not the majority, particularly with the hard-core gaming group, but they make up a significant amount. In-game and console measures to report abuse and harassment have not improved over the years. We still have to hope that Microsoft reads our Twitter feeds before we get a response; even then only if they are viral because we re-post it everywhere. It’s an inefficient use of resources that never resolves the problem. Some people think it’s part of the norm for the culture, so they let it be.
It’s not normal to call someone fat, whore, slut, bitch, n-word, f-word, and a slew of other slurs. To assume so is not only ignorant, but a great concern. Is this what we are instilling into our younger gamers? That this type of behavior is okay?
A year plus after my initial post and gamers haven’t changed. We have more women, more religions, more people of color in the mix, but the mindset hasn’t altered a single bit. I shouldn’t be forced to hide myself in order to game online, but I have to. I don’t like being harassed, and I’m not asking for it. I’m never asking for it by saying “Hello” in a chat room before the game begins. But that’s all it takes before the name calling and slut-shaming begins. “Hello.” That’s all it takes for me to be called a whore and to be asked to send pictures of my boobs.
Gamers. All gamers. This is never appropriate behavior. Would you want someone to say these things to your mother? Your sister? Your best friend, male or female? Your boyfriend? Your husband?
I don’t mean for this post to come across as white male bashing. I’m a white female. But because I’m “not” the majority I’m a target. I was born a different gender, considered inferior in the eyes of a gamer. I realize that they are a minority because most gamers don’t care – they just want to play the game. But that minority still makes up a lot of people, and they are very loud.

It still sucks to be a female gamer because I'm guaranteed to be harassed every time I log in and say "hello."

It still sucks because I'm never allowed to be myself. I have to disguise my voice, image, and avatar to not resemble anything different from a male.

It still sucks because I will always be judged as weak and inferior for being a woman.

It still sucks that I'll never be assessed on an even playing field, even if I should win every game tournament.

It still sucks because I have to rely on good friends in order to play online and guarantee that I'm safe from harassment. I shouldn't have to force myself to hide from the rest of the world and only play with close friends, when most men can play with random people and have fun.

It still sucks because the male majority think it's normal behavior. Even if it makes them uncomfortable, they won't report, they won't defend, and they won't acknowledge that the actions are wrong due to retaliation. It singles them out just as much as it does for women.

I'm a woman. That's why it still sucks to be a female gamer.
My hope is that one day people will find a solution to the problem and show gamers that this type of behavior is unacceptable. I’m patenting that VOIP recording suggestion. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, feel free to talk to me if you want to use it. Until then, I'll maintain silence when I play online and hide in the shadows of a male avatar. I do it for my safety and to not be assaulted with the words of the vocal minority. Don't you hate it when one person messes it up for the rest of us?