Friday, 10 December 2010

Hugs and Puppies

It's been a while, I know. After a hiatus which involved graduating from college and getting a job, I'm diving back into writing. I got so wrapped up in my new job at the veterinary hospital that I haven't had the time to edit and post my photos from waaaay back at NYCC. I also still have to do my Nukezilla NYCC contest with all the sweet stuff I got. I might re-brand it as an X-mas contest since it's gotten pushed back so far (sorry about that! ;_;).

ComiCon was great, but I'm not sure how I feel about shoving NYAF and NYCC into the same event. It was ridiculously crowded at the con and difficult to find...well...anything. It took me 20 minutes to find the press registration because everything was so poorly marked. Granted, I haven't been to a ComiCon in a few years (I'm such a geezer) but getting lost just kind of takes the fun out of a con.

In the Anime sector, I'm having some trouble finding good stuff to watch this season. I am dutifully trying to follow Yumiero Patissiere Professional but...to be honest this season is a bit lacking. Any suggestions as to what's looking good this season would be much appreciated.

In terms of gaming, I've been pretty strapped for time so not a lot has been going on. I bought Dead Rising 2 a few months ago and while I think it's an excellent game, I've found I'm not actually very good at it (which makes me a sad panda). So if anyone has time to multi it up with me, I'd be much obliged.

So the next event up for me this year is MAGfest, which I've already bought a ticket for a requested off from work. Hotels are almost totally booked so if any of you folks out there are planning on going, DO EEEET. I'll be there, which will make the even 934750394572x more awesome. After that it's PAX East then WHO KNOWS?

Short post today will be made up for in the future, I promise! In the mean time, all you gamers keep on rocking over at Nukezilla.com!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

New Anime for Fall

I can't be a gaming nerd all the time, can I? I love my anime too. What's really difficult though, is that I am SUPER picky about my anime. I tend to watch the first few episodes of a bunch of different series then end up dropping all but three or four. Last season I was totally blown away by Pandora Hearts. It had all of the dark intensity of Vampire Knight without being as overly dramatic. I ended up dropping a TON of series like Shugo Chara, which seems to be suffering from the Sailor Moon syndrome of too many filler episodes.

So here's what I've picked up this season:

Letter Bee (Tegami no Bachi)
While I'm still a little bit on the fence on this one, the first episode was really intriguing. I'm on the most recent episode (fifth) and I'm starting to feel a little bit frustrated with the slow pacing. I really do enjoy the characters however, so I think I may be willing to wait a little longer until the story actually starts.

Hanasakeru Seishounen
I'm pretty much just dropping this one. Again, problems with pacing. While I love a good reverse harem (don't judge me!) this plot is becoming a little overly complicated and political without being interesting. Series like Saiunkoki Monotagari manage to weave complex politics into the main storyline while still managing to be exciting and fairly simple to understand. The intrigue in HanaSei is beginning to feel stale and almost forced, and the series can't seem to decide whether or not it's a romance.

Fairy Tale
I have never watched Naruto (too much of a back catalog for me to catch up with) but this series seems as if they switched the hair colors of the male and female leads and substituted wizards for ninjas. That being said, the characters are likable, the dialog funny and the episodes aired so far seem to be some good quality stuff. I can see the potential for this to get boring though.

Yumeiro Patissierie
I haven't read the manga for this one, but I am a HUGE fan of Kitchen Princess, and I love my reverse harem, so I thought I'd give this one a go. I don't think it has quite the same charm as the Kitchen Princess series; it feels a lot like a cooking version of La Corda D'Oro. It's pretty cute and the first couple episodes were decent so I'll stick with it for a while.

Kimi ni Todoke
This one I actually stumbled on because I was tired of waiting for new episodes of the other animes I was watching this season. I have to say, I was completely surprised out how good it is. This series is probably my favorite so far; the only word I could use to describe the story and art is "gentle." It makes the fangirl in me squee at the quiet romances and friendships.

If anyone is watching something different or has recommendations, feel free to comment :)

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Gamer Connection

There's plenty of commotion after this year's E3. Nintendo disappointed (again), Sony busted out some big titles, and Microsoft concentrated on the social software of the Xbox 360. But in the fray, what really caught my attention was Takahashi's comments in the Eurogamer article where he talks about Katamari and consumerism.

Takahashi is really a man ahead of his time. While other developers are making games as simple entertainment, he is making games that intertwine fun and social commentary. Katamari Damacy is a game that I (and I'm sure many others) have not really taken a lot of time to think about deeply. This is probably because as gamers, we are trained not to. Most games are about quick reaction time or strategic thinking, leaving no room contemplation or interpretation. To me, Takahashi's games are reaching in the the realm of classic literature by manipulating these standard components of gameplay. This may sound like a strange comment, but bear with me while I explain.

Good books are those which are well-written, and can send out a powerful message. Books like these you will frequently find on bestseller lists. But truly great books are those which are not only well-written by standards of language, but also through use of symbolism and allowance of open, personal interpretation. These are piece of literature that allow the mind to explore and make a personal connection with the writing--sometimes one that may not have been intended by the author.

Katamari Damacy is a great game because it leaves itself open to interpretation. Yes, it was intended as a statement on consumerism. Yet it also leaves itself open to a multitude of personal interpretations.

Can it not also be seen as supporting the perseverance of individuals in the face of great challenges? I mean, the King asks you to make the moon in a half hour. It seems like an impossible task for such a measly Prince. The physical rewards giving to the Prince by the King are hardly worth the effort. So the Prince's main motivation is from within himself--whether it is driven by a sense of responsibility for his family or for the larger responsibility as Prince of of the Cosmos. He gets no true reward for his actions besides self satisfaction.

It can also be seen as making a statement on the fragility of human life in the grand scale of the universe. A larger-than-life being makes a simple mistake of knocking out the stars and through the course of the game, the whole world is destroyed for it. People are proud that we have been able to fill the world with all sorts of wonderous things, but it is for this very reason that the King targets the Earth. There seems to be no regret on the part of the King or Prince for loss of human life; in fact it is portrayed as amusing. Isn't it strange to think that we've been playing a game that trivializes human life in the grand scheme of the universe, and never once stop to think about how powerful that message could be?

The key to his game is simply, in some ways, the blatant shallowness of the King and the blind obedience of his son. Neither character takes time to think about the consequences of their actions, just as human being frequently act without thinking. Does it not also reflect our own blindness as gamers, playing whatever is shoved in front of us and not asking what war games or fantasy games represent in the larger scheme of things? Has anyone really ever stopped to think about what games like Call of Duty represent? The horror of war and death, which most game designers have no experience with, is not even truly and accurately portrayed (though I'm sure it is done to the best of their ability). It can be seen as a powerful statement against those who look but don't see the world around them.

Some people may read this and think, "Holy Jesus, you're taking this way too seriously. It's just a game!" But those are the type of people who only set the gaming industry back, preventing it from reaching its full potential as both an art form and entertainment. Gaming is in a very in-between place. There are certainly plenty of games out there that are trying to get a message across. Their methods however, are simplistic and unrefined. The messages are often boiled down to one sentence: "Do the right thing," "Defeat the enemy," "Justice Prevails," and so forth. These messages are often diluted through gameplay that is repetitive and provides no direct connection to the message itself. How does shooting someone in Gears of War represent justice? Does the death of an enemy bring Marcus Fenix closer to justice, or just allow him to make it to the final level?

When we think about what is the most impressive in a game, oftentimes what first comes to mind is either graphics, story, or entertainment value. Most games today lack a personal message or connection with the player. There are very few games today that use the medium to convey meaning while allowing the player to simultaneously draw their own conclusions based on their personal experience with the game. Katamari Damacy as well as Noby Noby Boy are intriguing games because they serve as open ended metaphors for larger life issues.

So the question stands: Why aren't there more games that try to make a personal connection with the player? The answer is simple, one that Takahashi also knows: money.

A game that connects with someone on a personal level means that everyone will have a different reaction to it. I know plenty of people who think Katamari Damacy is a stupid game. That is because their personal connection is different from other peoples'. Games like those done by Daniel Benmergui (Ludomancy) are also a good example of open metaphor games--there are no instructions, you simply must interact with the world as best you can. By not outright telling the player what the "winning" situation is, Benmergui lets the player freely explore the environment and make decisions based on their own emotions and personal preference.

Because games like this have no formal instruction or way to win, they are very hard to market to a wide audience. Those who are less patient will get frustrated easily and give up, saying the game is poorly made. To a degree, it requires the player to care about characters or stories that are difficult to understand--and that is a challenge that not all gamers are up to.

This trend of open-ended metaphor games is one that I hope will only grow larger as gaming becomes more mainstream. There will be room for these niche games. The original Bioshock made it about halfway by installing a twist that made you question your identity and motives. However, this brief moment of a self-contradictory existence is only lightly touched upon, as your character automatically makes the correct "moral" decision (which is more based on self-preservation than morals). Still, this baby step towards games that make you think is much appreciated, as can be seen by both sales and raving reviews.

People seem to be pushing innovative gameplay this year, but what they should be pushing are innovative ways of connecting and communicating with the player. I hope to see more developers pushing the envelop when it comes to games that will make you ask questions instead of answering them. This to me is the only way that a gamer can become more actively (mentally) involved in the gaming medium.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Random Late Night Thoughts

Not everything I write here has to be about games, ne?

So I've been on this crazy anime kick lately, and decided to re-watch Sailor Moon. I loved that show so much when I was 10. One of my biggest regrets now is giving my complete Sailor Moon manga collection over to my best friend. She used to copy the drawings when we were younger, and she recently got accepted into the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. So...I guess I don't regret it that much. It just means when she's a rich and famous comic book artist, she's going to have to buy me a set of my own.

Anyway, it was just a huge nostalgia-fest for me. As much as it sounds silly to admit it, I miss the little kid side of me that really believed in superheroes. I always loved fantasy over silly dramas or regular romances, even as I got older. Maybe it's just because fantasy worlds just occured on such a large scale; the whole world and beyond. Really spurs the imagination....

...ack, I need to stop, I'll get all day-dreamy <3

Speaking of superheros, I can wait for some sweet PAX cosplay! I know it's a long way off, but I've been trying to plan what characters to be from my favorite video games. I'm going to try Ulala, if my sister permits it (it was originally her costume and it would have to be taken in for me a bit). I also want to do a cosplay of one of my favorite series of all times, Harvest Moon. I've been wasted hours in Island of Happiness and I want to cosplay the main female farmer, though I doubt anyone will get it *sad face*. Someone also suggested Chie from Persona 4, which I'm considering. There's a company that sells the official jacket (DO WANT) but it's about $100 so I'm not sure if I'd be able to afford it. Plus, very few people got my Persona 3 Yukari cosplay last year *more tears*. And I am dying to do a Left 4 Dead cosplay of Zoey, but it would only work if I had three people with me to be Louis, Francis and Bill. Any takers?

If my cosplay choices sound weird, it's just because I really only cosplay games that I'm a huge fun of...and I have weird taste in games I guess. I might be short enough to cosplay as a Little Sister...but I wonder how I would be able to make my eyes glow without, you know, burning out my own retinas.

Waaa, more on cosplay--Limebarb.com just sold their Sue costume (from CLAMP's Clover series)! So sad! I really wanted to save up money to buy it, it was amazing! Seriously, it is one of the best cosplay stores I have ever seen. Expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for.

Now I'm going to have dreams of cosplay I can't afford. No fair.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Drawing The Line Between Fantasy and Reality

It's six am and I have stayed up all night for no reason, so time to feel semi-productive and write something.

In my Victorian Supernatural lit class (best class evaaaar) we got into a discussion about feminism and the different types of views feminists have. More specifically, the difference between the beliefs of second and third wave feminists. Second wave feminists believe that there is kind of an unspoken sisterhood between all women, that we're all fighting the same battle, etc. Third wave feminism sees all women as individuals with different goals, fighting the battle in their own way.

What does this have to do with video games? Well, I know it's been beaten like a dead horse, but it brought up thoughts of Fat Princess, especially since it was playable at this year's GDC. I had a pretty infamous incident where I tried to have an intelligent discussion with the feminists who opposed the game, which eventually led to them being like, "This isn't the place for discussing this, this post was for making fun of trolls. You are a troll hahahahaha you suck."

I don't like the idea that people oppose the game because they claim it is offensive to women everywhere. Blindly grouping all people as either on your side or against you is ignorant. Clearly since I am a woman who has nothing against the game, I am "betraying my sisters" or some nonsense. What disturbs me is the idea that these women feel as if this game reflects society's view on women.

The game is a fantasy, both visually and within the gameplay. I'm pretty sure the developers weren't trying to say, "Women are so stupid that, if offered cake by their captors, they would gorge themselves until they got too fat to move." Just writing that made me feel ridiculous. Such a literal interpretation of a game is laughable. That's like saying Banjo-Kazooie is an unfair portrayal of the relationship between bears and birds.

It seems strange to me that the people who have the most trouble separating the fantasy of videogames from the reality are people who don't actually play them. I have played Call of Duty and yet never shot a gun, mastered Cooking Mama and still manage to burn toast, and played Street Fighter without ever engaging in a real fight. Someone not accustomed to the world of gaming looks at Halo multiplayer and sees a killing spree. I look at it and I see a scoreboard. Blowing up a car in GTA IV would look like terrorism, but I don't see anything that's too different from when I was 4 and made my Hot Wheels cars crash into each other (providing my own sounds effects of course).

Books were considered dangerous at one point in time because of what was held within. TV, which in the course of human history is quite new, is still thought of as a threat. But today, videogames get all of the blame because they are the newest form of entertainment, and the least understood by the general public. I think games are starting to carve themselves a place in our culture and people are eventually going to have to accept that. They have the same function as books and TV: they provide us an escape, a fantasy world where we can be anyone or anything we want. People who are incapable of separating those two worlds have problems much deeper than a simple videogame could be the cause of.

Jesus, I hope some of that made sense. I feel bad because I always write about women and their role in the gaming world and stuff, which I'm sure people are going to get tired of hearing. But I can't help it; there are just so many warped conceptions of women inside and out of videogames.

Summary: People are dumb, I need sleep. ZOMG LIEK GURLZ TOTALY ROOL!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

On a Less Serious Note...

First off, site re-design today! Woo! As much of a geek as I am, I am terrible when it comes to webdesign. I can read enough HTML to alter it to my liking, but I stopped designing my own sites when I was about 15 (I think I started around 12). I do love photoshop and the like, so making my own header was fun, even if I cropped it a little too much. I don't currently have photoshop on my computer which is driving me a little bit crazy, but Picnik.com is a good enough substitute for now until I can go home and get a copy of CS2 from a friend (she got one of the newer versions and didn't need her copy anymore, yey!).

In other news, Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook is the best (worst?) thing that has happened to me this past week. I'll I've been doing in my spare time is playing it, then laughing maniacally in the face of my other gamer friends who are unable to beat my score.

What I like about it is that it's essentially a mini Xbox Live Arcade that all of my friends have and that I don't have to pay for. I can see the scores of all of my friends who have the app, and our scores combined give us a team score that enters us to win a raffle of free stuff! Hooray!

I have to say though...I guess one of the reasons I love this app so much is that I am giving a thorough ass-whooping to all my friends who I'm playing with. My high score is about 132,000. Second place on my friends list is a measly 87,000. Keep in mind that my high score THAT IS CLEARLY THE MOST AMAZING SCORE EVAR was achieved within the one minute timeframe. Casual games can get you hooked worse than the hardcore ones sometimes ;_;

It would be way cool if I won a prize pack. I'm nowhere near the team score necessary to win the laptop, but free games are always good.

Getting Ahead in Gaming

Now, I'm a staunch advocate of girls getting more into gaming, I really am. But what drives me nuts are women who whore themselves out in order to do so. There are plenty of women game writers out there such as Colette Bennet, Tiff Chow and Lauren Wainwright who are able to rock the blogosphere using only their artistic and writing talent. But why aren't these women famous?

Oh, right. Because they don't plaster their ass and tits all over the internet.

Women who pose naked with Guitar Hero controllers ruin it for the rest of us. I've worked hard as a writer to get where I am now, and have been blessed enough to have a few of my articles grace the front pages of larger sites like Kotaku and Destructoid. I blog as much as time permits (keeping in mind I am currently attending school in another country) and I am constantly asking people to critique what I write.

But there's another, easier way for women to gain fame in the gaming world: sexy photos. Either through sexy cosplay or strategically placed controllers, may women first get attention by pretty much whoring themselves out. Men see the photos, thinking "Damn that's hot!"(then as an afterthought check out their writing or personal blog.) "Oh, and she also actually knows about videogames!"

To me, these are real female gamers. They are becoming spokespeople for a demographic that they don't even accurately represent. When I hear Raychul Moore say in an interview

"Don’t always try to beat us at everything or be overly competitive -- play with us not against us. And yes, power-ups and combos help. But cheat codes will get you nowhere."

it drives me a little crazy. Why would I not want a guy to go all-out competing against me in a game? Asking a guy to change the way he plays a game just because I happen to have been born with a pair of brea
sts is stupid. I have rocked the hell out of my guy friends in video games sometimes, to the point where they don't even want to play any more (granted, this is usually only within my speciality of puzzle games). If I asked a guy not to be overly competitive, isn't that the same as "go easy on me, I'm a girl?" Screw that. Also...that last line is so corny ;_;

Women like Hailey Bright of Coin-Op TV are different. Sure, she models in a bikini sometimes--but that's because she started off as a real model. Jessica Chobot may have had a dubious start, simply being known as "the girl who licked the Sony PSP," but she's been doing some pretty admirable stuff with her career....and I have yet to see a picture of her online that features her covering her boobs in anything else but clothing. What makes me sad is that people like Jessica Chobot, who is clearly an avid female gamer, need to kick-start their careers in the industry by doing something blatantly sexual.

Some girls use cosplay as an excuse. "It's just a really good cosplay." I love cosplay and all but there are plenty you can do to show off your fandom and not show off your boobs. My two cosplays of PaRappa the Rapper and Yukari (Persona 3) last year at PAX got a nice positive reaction, even though they weren't at all sexy. This year I'm going a little crazy (going to try to do Ulala from Space Channel 5) but that's only because I freaking love that game. I would just as soon cosplay as one of the Morilians, but the costume would be much more expensive to put together.

I don't really mind the sexism that takes place in games, because it's really a marketing tactic. But we now live in a world where people need to market themselves, which can be a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, women are being given a clear advantage over men as to how to get their name out there. But the flipside is that in order to do so, they must alienate the very demographic of gamer they wish to represent.

I guess in the end, I can't blame some women for posing for questionable photos in order to further their career. For some, it's a small price to pay. I guess I would just prefer to not have to go about getting "discovered" that way.