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Jaded's blog

4:05 PM on 03.26.2012

Reclusion, Addiction, and Blowfish

Hello? Testing. Is this thing working? It feels like a lifetime since I sat down and attempted to update anything on my blog. While others have been cranking out blogs at an alarming rate, mine has been left neglected, collecting dust, forgotten – even by myself. Shame since I managed so well to storm in here and make myself at home, then promptly hitting the forum until being dragged out like white trailer trash attempting to gain entrance to a high end club. I lie. Everyone was surprisingly tolerant. Perhaps the white trailer trash is true considering my current living conditions. Things get better with age, right? HA! You'll all learn the hard way. Guess I've never been the type of person who's afraid to just jump in and join things, although I suppose it can get me into trouble at times. Then again, I was forced to sit back and wait for things for damn near 15 years so I can't see the point in wasting anymore time. Life is an adventure – unless you refuse to participate. not going with the Forest Gump line here.

I've been kind of a recluse as far as social gaming the past couple months. After hours of nonstop multiplayer action I felt I needed a break. I've been spending time getting lost in games like Skyrim and Mass Effect 3. Skyrim's like crack – I don't understand anyone who's completed the game and moved on already. I could spend hours wandering around the world with no set destination to complete a quest. This is a good thing considering the amount I paid for the collector's edition. Speaking of collector's editions – I 'm getting damn tired of every game that's released having one, or more so the lack of what we get for our money. It seems of late all you get is maybe one or two small items, like a tiny art book, or a couple patches, and then the rest is DLC.

Know what the best collector's edition I've bought in the past year is? The Witcher 2 for PC. Keep in mind I can't even play the game on my worthless, inadequate piece of shit computer without it blacking out my monitor after 10 minutes. The items I received in the box more than make up for it. I kept finding more and more little trinkets as I dug my way through the box, and even without those the art book is awesome on it's own. I'm talking a REAL art book. Not an art book that resembles an overstuffed wallet stuffed in a fancy-schmancy metal tin. Speaking of THAT game....since it's the hot topic of the month and everyone else has chimed in with their own opinion, I'd like to share a few choice words I have about the whole incident...

Moving on. Remember the Mass Debate topic we had last year about video game addictions? My family had the opportunity to live through such an experience just recently. If you were to take a guess you'd probably come to the conclusion it involved my son or my daughter. Nope. My mom was the victim of addiction. Let me just say that if there ever were an evil spawned from hell and released on earth, it's definitely named Farmville. It all started innocently enough. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get my mother to understand the enjoyment of playing video games. We tried several times beforehand with games like Mario Kart for the Wii, and Pokemon. (to be fair, she actually enjoyed that one a tad bit) We even tried Tomb Raider on the old PS2. Of course, the fact she freaked out and fell into the pit with the grizzly bear, leaving us to flail on the floor in uncontrollable laughter as she screamed upon being face to face with the creature, probably didn't do anything to contribute to her wanting to attempt it again. But I digress - the fact is, she just didn't get it. Then along came Facebook with friends wanting her to join them on Farmville. So began a happy peaceful time within our family unit with everyone enjoying a game during the evening hours.

All went well for a month. Then began the invites from her wanting me to join Farmville. I politely said no. She attempted to sell me on the fact that she could make more money if she had one more person to add and join in quests or harvests....or whatever they do. She was successful in talking me into letting her get on my account in order to farm another farm. Despite being bombarded with requests on a daily basis that read something on the lines of “so and so sent you a tomato” or “you've just received a gold medal for sheep mastery”, I let her continue to use my account. I'm still not sure to this day what the hell sheep mastery is, but I'm probably better off not knowing. All I know is when I do begin to question it, my mind talk goes into “la la la” mode. At any rate, two months into this venture and I begin to have people question me on Xbox Live as to why I've been ignoring them on Facebook. See they think I'm online when it's actually my mom...who's just been closing out the conversation windows when they pop up. Three months in and it's my birthday. I log onto Facebook only to receive this message on my wall: “Tina wished you a Happy Birthday!” Yes, I had been wished a happy birthday by myself. Mom had been on my account, forgot she was on my account, and proceeded to post on my wall.

Five months into Farmville and my mother had forsaken every TV program she ever loved. I'm talking a helluva lot of TV here. She watched Dancing With the Stars. She watched American Idol. The Bachelor, Desperate Housewives, Say Yes to the Dress.....all forgotten because she had to harvest those crops before she went to bed or she'd lose all the money and time put into them. It didn't help matters that Zynga upped the ante by now offering not only the standard farm, but now you could have the English Countryside farm! Heart be still! I suppose all the middle aged, flannel wearing women in the world broke out the Domaine Romanée-Conti for that one.

Er....or maybe not...

After that it spiraled downhill rather quickly. She took money that should have went to bills and bought Farmville cash to buy worthless virtual items for the farm. She wouldn't go anywhere until her farming was done, even if it was an appointment she'd be late for. She became a mean spirited, somewhat hateful person in that time span, but perhaps the breaking point for our family came shortly after my aunt passed away from breast cancer. My aunt had also agreed to let my mom use her account to farm. Let me tell you – there's nothing more eerie than getting a message from someone who's recently passed away, wanting you to join them in an activity on Farmville. Thankfully my mom's become bored with Farmville, mainly because everyone else has moved on to things like Words With Friends and Angry Birds, the latter being another game I don't understand all the commotion over. Yes, I've tried it. Yes, it's sorta fun. Fun enough to sport a t-shirt and play it during lunch break, or in transition from one location to the next on a daily basis? No.

I am, however, quite pleased with my recent purchase of the new Playstation Vita. I painfully narrowed my choices down to two things in which to spend my income tax money on. My first choice was to upgrade my PC so that it could run games ( Witcher 2) or second to get the Vita and then have some money left over to deposit in savings for a rainy day. Of course you'll never have extra cash for a rainy day because every damn time you get that extra cash something you own breaks down, and it's always something that costs a fortune to fix or replace. (Case in point, shortly after running out to pick up the Vita our water heater crapped out on us.) I was able to pick up a used copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Raymond Origins with it. I then purchased Mutant Blobs Attack from the Playstation store, and those three games alone have been worth every penny spent on the system. I'm still looking for a game to push me towards dusting off my PS3. There are a couple people here on Destructoid I've been wanting to join and get to know a little better, but I'm sorry – Battlefield 3 is not my game, and the other games I already own on the 360 so it would be foolish to buy a second copy for a different system.

Speaking of the Vita - I was able to give it my utmost undivided attention during my little dental adventure. How fun that was! You know when you get a toothache and you mislead yourself into believing it will all be fine and dandy in a couple of days? Yeah, no. So I made a call to my dentist, which I had only seen once before because my insurance seems to think changing my dentist on a yearly basis is the most cost effective method to take. I was greeted on the phone by a receptionist with the personality of school marm who hasn't seen any action in a decade. She informs me I can't get into the dentist until the middle of the following week because he's so damn busy right now, and he doesn't have time for these emergency walk-ins. Her exact words. I went ahead and made the appointment. I told myself I'd be fine. I believed I'd be fine because I had a little bottle with some leftover naproxen in it. This was a very bad idea. The problem with naproxen is not only does it help relieve pain, but it's also an anti-inflammatory medication. The second problem was that I only had enough to last till the end of the current week, leaving me with 4 days till the scheduled appointment.

Come Friday, when my little bottle of magical pills ran dry, the right side of my face exploded out like a balloon left on the helium machine too long, and that dull, throbbing pain that reminds you you're in for a world of hurt, set in full force. I had no other option but to head to the emergency room where they registered me and took me to the back waiting room, all the time looking me over in disdain like some worthless piece of trash that doesn't have the common sense to visit a dentist on a regular basis. Three hours later and a piece of paper for a prescription of penicillin, Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, and Cleocin thrown in for good measure, I was able to return home in a lot less pain. It took one more visit to the emergency room, a threat from the doctor to admit me into the hospital (which I talked him out of) and 3 days before my face was back to normal. Needless to say – Monday morning I found a new dentist. It took some bitching to the insurance company, but I believe I made my point crystal clear, and the lady I spoke to will remember me for some time, I'm sure.

By the way, all those drugs mixed together, in the amount I had to take them......whoa! Don't do drugs kids. Play video games! Then again, maybe I should have picked up a game like Children of Eden?


9:03 PM on 01.17.2012

I'm Not Afraid of Elizabeth

Being a single mom and raising two children on my own I’ve had to go through both ends of the spectrum when it comes to peer pressure, how society views each gender, and making sure my children have a strong self-esteem. I can honestly say that raising a girl is a far harder task than raising a boy. When it comes to raising a girl, a parent is at a constant battle against movies, TV, models, advertisements for clothing, the music industry, and countless others that force the issue that beauty sells, and the more looks you have, the better figure you have, the farther you’ll go in life. Yes, there are all sorts of outside influences that are harmful to our daughters, and sometimes even ourselves.

Recently an article was brought to attention that pointed out the character of Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite. Words such as sexist, bigot, and misogyny were thrown around. Suddenly Elizabeth was tossed into a whirlwind of protest against the way females are portrayed in video games, let alone the suggestion that she was constructed showing a hatred towards women. Now do not be mistaken - I will be right there at the front with the rest of the group in agreeing that the media is indeed very harmful to our gender, young and old. I can not however, point out Elizabeth and agree that she portrays an image of hatred towards women, nor would I pick Elizabeth as a prime example of how women are overly sexualized in video games.

What started Elizabeth down this spiral of outcries from both male and female gamers? Her outfit. Yes, Elizabeth’s corset is the spark that started a fire. We don’t know about Elizabeth yet. We’ve been given a small glimpse of her character in which to draw conclusions, and it seems the conclusions drawn have been that of a weak, hated, and over sexualized female. Now we do know that Elizabeth has been imprisoned on Columbia for her entire life. Could the corset possibly represent imprisonment? What about control over her? Hate? Hatred towards women?

Now the fact that Elizabeth shows some cleavage does fit into the common image of how women are portrayed in video games - big busted with tiny waists in order to appeal to men. But let’s be honest here. Elizabeth is no Lara Croft. Or Ivy, for that matter. In fact, I can think of a least a dozen female game characters that are drawn more voluptuous than poor Elizabeth. When I look at her character I simply see a female character dressed in appropriate clothing for the time period being represented. Yes, the corset led to serious health problems as a lot of women laced them tighter than needed, not to mention the idea that women were suppose to be a certain size and shape. But aren’t we forgetting one little detail? The majority of women choose to wear corsets because that was the appropriate fashion for the time. The only forcing done was often by a girls own mother who would train her into the corset by having her wear it to bed. Let’s not forget that it was common back then for men to wear corsets. Yes, men used them too.

Go online today to Victoria’s Secret and you can find any number of corsets for sale. If the corset represents imprisonment, control and a hatred towards women, then why are they still being sold? Because women want to look and feel attractive, to be the image of beauty that the media tells us we should be. Or maybe they’re just self-confident enough that they’re not afraid to flaunt their sexuality. So how does drawing a female character in a corset represent hatred towards women? If anything it just strengthens the argument that female game characters are created to be appealing to men. Do we even need to get into the whole BDSM outlook? Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves then?

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the whole Elizabeth controversy is the fact that we don’t know because we haven‘t played the game. We don’t know her entire story or how she’ll turn out to be. We don’t know how her relationship with Booker will transpire. We are walking a thin line and acting like those that accuse our games of being something they’re not when we react without knowing the complete story.

So does Elizabeth deserve to be included with all the other female characters that poorly represent the female gender? Personally, I think not. And although I get tired of seeing overly sexualized female characters in my video games, I understand that they are the result of how other media throughout the years has influenced the image of women. Video games are guilty of following suit, but it’s the fashion industry, movie industry, and other outside sources that I feel we need to worry about more. Our sons and daughters are constantly bombarded with images of beautiful people, even more so since the majority of teenagers spend most of the time on the net. There are real idols that our children look up to. Real people in real jobs they dream of having. Although we can’t control all the outside influences our children are faced with, we can try our best to raise them with enough self-esteem not to give into it, or alter their appearance to fit in. If we’ve done our job then all the Elizabeth’s in the world aren’t going to matter.

Misogyny? BDSM? Or just a bad advertisement?

It's not only breast implants. Girls are starving themselves to look like this.

Do we need to keep on the gaming industry to change the way they portray female characters? Yes, we do. But not by grabbing up the torches and going after something we’ve yet to learn about. And what about praising them when they do it right? Why must we take something in our favor and tear it apart even more like we did with FemShep? Why are we complaining when we’re given a female character to play in one game instead of asking for say a female character in a popular game like MW? Change will come, but we need to approach it in a sensible manner. I don’t feel we did that with Elizabeth.   read

11:55 AM on 01.04.2012

Bad Dreams, What The Hell Is Skyrim, and New Year Wishes To All

I've been having this weird dream for the past two months. My dream begins rather serene, as I've no recognition of time or everyday demands to hinder the journey in which I'm about to partake in. In my dream large snowflakes fall around me as I make my way to a new destination. I know it's a destination that will likely be similar to the past 15 I've already visited, yet I could care less about the familiarity for they've all been enjoyable. My subconscious mind breaks in briefly at this point to remind me we've had no snow in this part of Ohio, but the information is quickly pushed aside as large words pop up overhead to inform me that I've found the location in which I seek. I enter a lighted doorway while wondering where the heck a light would be coming from.

My mind focuses on the whistling of the wind making its way through a cold and desolate cavern, although as I travel farther along this cavern I become aware of other sounds which tell me the emptiness was only a facade hiding what lies ahead. A clicking sound draws closer, or perhaps I draw closer to it. Whatever it is varies in my dream. Sometimes it's large. Other times it's small. Sometimes I get my ass handed to me on a big platter, yet my dream will always bend so that I am the victor.

I always find something shiny by the remains of whatever it is. I like shiny. In fact, I'm usually the partner in game that goes running off to collect the gems or a new gun, often returning at the end of the battle to angry outcries from teammates of how I promised I wouldn't do it again. Perhaps it's the reason my dream begins to unravel at an alarming rate after picking up the shiny reward. It's like my subconscious mind is playing the guilt card.

Turning around to walk away from it which I've just killed, my dream twists so that I'm holding a lancer and Marcus Fenix is standing beside me. He's yelling, "Grow some balls and get back in the fight!" At this point in my dream my subconscious mind is questioning what the hell, and I'm desperately trying to rev up the chainsaw while a Lambent Berserker heads our way. There's a brief second in the dream where I'm trying to taunt the Berserker before I feel a tap on my shoulder. Suddenly I'm in full camouflage and Marcus has magically transformed into Captain Price.

"Where the hell have you been?" he inquires. I inform him I've been busy while I load up an AK 47. "Bullshit!" He yells, and I'm vaguely aware he's missing an accent. Actually, I'm pretty sure in my dream the voice is still that of Marcus Fenix, but whatever. He goes off on a rant of how others have been taking up the fight for months. I'm behind he tells me. I explain to him that I haven't figured out the numbers yet. "If you haven't figured out the damn numbers yet, son, you're never going to figure them out," he replies while fading into the same lighted doorway I originally entered, and I wonder why I'm being called son, when I'm a full grown women.

I continue arguing over numbers while Captain Price fades from my dream, when I suddenly realize I'm sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of Calvin Klein underwear packages that need to fit on a display already filled to it's limit. There's a buzzing noise as I franticly cram the packages into the display case, while I bitch silently about how the majority of men who visit our store could care less about wearing Calvin Klein briefs, which is a shame. Or maybe not, considering some of our customers. It's at this point in which the buzzing of the alarm clock jerks me from my slumber, and I hesitantly roll out of bed to prepare for another early morning of going into work. Ahh the holidays. How I love them.

Fantasy vs. Reality

So Christmas came and went. I trust everyone had a wonderful holiday and received everything you asked for, and then some. I can honestly say that working retail during the holidays is one of the hardest jobs you'll find. It kicked my ass. Everyone should work retail during Christmas once in their lifetime. Perhaps then they'd be more understanding and look at the intended meaning of the holiday, instead of getting angry over mundane issues that are bound to happen during the season.

Games - I've barely played them. Modern Warfare 3 has been out for almost 2 months now, and if I've put the disc in for more than 20 minutes, well I can't recall. I'm told it's a good game. Now I'm at a disadvantage because I'm unfamiliar with the maps in which the majority of players know well at this point. I hope whichever group I get teamed up with knows what they're doing, as I promise to be their weakest link for a while. I was heavy into Gears of War 3 before the holiday hit. Not sure if I finished the campaign before being dragged away, but I'm one DLC late with another about to drop. It's all kind of fuzzy around that time period.

I have been enjoying a tad bit of Skyrim here an there. What can I say about the game? Amazing. I don't care if you don't like it. Go away. Although, I have developed a terrible little habit of clicking down on the analog and throwing myself into sneak mode while in the middle of a battle. It makes it difficult when facing an opponent, especially when it's a dragon. I'd like to say I'm a pro at playing the game, but often my means of victory while semiconscious from exhaustion aren't as heroic as I'd like to pretend.

My experience with Skyrim has been on an offline account, as my severe lack of free time hasn't left much room for socializing and still being able to make any progress in the game. Usually I have 30 to 45 minutes at most. Top that with my router giving me grief. There's nothing like leading your team in points and to victory, only to be thrown offline, disconnected from live, and then to return and sit while watching the game ending and your score at 0. However, I'm happy to say that for Christmas I received a new router (actually I bought it for myself) and I should be set for all the new multiplayer experiences heading our way this year. By the way, screw Cisco. After 3 routers from them I'll never buy another. My new router is a Netgear - easy to set up and open NAT from the get go.

SO many games I've yet to play, and so many coming out this year that I want. I need to finish Batman: Arkham Asylum so I can start Arkham City, which everyone seems to be raving about. Haven't finished Black Ops yet, so it seems wrong to start MW3. (Of course that's because I get caught up in multiplayer, and I can say without a doubt I'll be on MW3 within the week.) Think I started another play through of Mass Effect 2 that I need to finish off before ME3 hits in March. I'm halfway through Uncharted 2 so I'll be ready for Uncharted 3 by the time it arrives from Gamefly. Of course there's the 3DS games my son received for Christmas that I'd like to play. Guess I'll be adding more to my backlog. Damn. Almost forgot about the Vita. And then there's Skyrim. What was the question?

Speaking of new (and to wrap up this long rant) - I want to wish everyone here at Destructoid a Happy New Year! To those I've spoken with, and to those I may never, here's to another 12 months of gaming expectations, disappointments, arguments, but most important a wonderful community that allows everyone to have a voice. Oh, and perhaps we'd all better get to work on our backlog of games. If the Mayan's are correct, we're running out of time! :P


10:21 AM on 09.19.2011

Calling All Female Gamers! Delta Squad Wants You!

Tonight at midnight our local GameStop will be packed with a crowd of hyped and impatient gamers who can't wait to get their hands on Gears of War 3. I will be one of those hyped and impatient people. Unfortunately, I'll be picking up my daughter's Epic Edition of the game that I promised her for an early Christmas gift. I'll have to wait until Thursday for mine....when I get paid again. Yes, she's spoiled - that's not the point! There are a lot of female gamers who enjoy Gears of War, so it saddens me that the majority of people that will be out tonight in my area will be guys. It also bums me out knowing that even with all the female players, I'll only run into a handful of them in multiplayer matches. And that's a shame because Gears of War is fun, fast paced, and it's SO easy to learn.

Maybe you've been waiting to give the game a try, but you've heard it's brutal and hard core so you've passed it by for something less intimidating. Perhaps you feel it's too late to join the fun. Nonsense. It's never to late, and like I've stated - it's easy to learn. There are 6 simple things you need to know before jumping into a multiplayer match.

#1 - Don't Go In Blind

If you've never played Gears of War then jumping straight into a multiplayer match is NOT the way to go. Getting into a game of team deathmatch without a clue of what you're doing is a sure set up for failure. I know. It's how I learned to play the game. It wasn't pretty. Play through Act 1 of the campaign to learn the basics of switching weapons, reloading, taking cover, etc. Usually everything's covered there so you don't have to worry about playing through the entire campaign before jumping into multiplayer games.

[b]#2 - The Shotgun Is Your Friend]/b]

Maybe, maybe not. Honestly, don't listen to other people. Just like any other game, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Some people love using the shotgun. Others enjoy the Lancer. I happen to like the Retro Lancer. And keep in mind, the Shotgun isn't going to do you any good unless your opponent's in your face - something you may not want if you're a new player! With a Retro Lancer you can do a charge attack. I happen to suck using the charge attack. I also suck at using the Torque Bow. The point I'm trying to make is it doesn't matter how good a weapon is if you're not good at using it, so DON'T be afraid to play around with all of them.

There are also weapons you can pick up in certain locations of each map, such as the Torque Bow I mentioned previously. Give each one a try when you come across them to see what they can do. Some are pretty wicked. Just keep in mind that other players will be making a dash for them at the start of the game, so you may have to fight for first possession.

#3 - One Grenade O, Two Grenade O

There are 4 types of grenades in Gears of War. Incendiary, Frag, Smoke, and Ink. The Frag Grenade and the Smoke Grenade are the two most used in multiplayer matches. The Smoke Grenade can be used as cover or as a distraction from your opponents. Use the Frag Grenade when you want to get someone else out of their cover point. I've run across numerous players who never use grenades, which is silly IMO. It's a basic weapon that can be used for offense or defense. Practice using them and then move on to planting doorways and tagging other people.

#4 - Be Quick With The Reload

Gears of War features a mini game called Active Reload. Instead of running out of ammo and finding yourself in a nasty situation, simply hit the right bumper on your controller to trigger it. You'll notice a bar on your screen which has a black area, white area, gray area, and then back to black. If you're fast enough to hit the bumper a second time while the line moves into the white area, you'll succeed in a perfect reload. This not only gives you a quicker reload, but it gives you an increase in damage per shot. Hitting the bumper in the gray area also results in a quicker reload, but if you hit it at any time the line is moving through the black area then you'll have to wait a short period of time to use your weapon, which puts you at a disadvantage in game. It's really not hard to pick up on after a few attempts, but it should be one of the things you practice at if you're having trouble hitting that white area.

#5 - That's How You Roll

Practice, practice, practice learning how to roll out of danger by tapping the A button. It's not going to save you all the time, but it could buy you some time to make it to cover. There's also a new weapon in Gears of War 3 called the Digger Launcher. It has a projectile that travels along a straight path and then pops out of the ground like a Bouncing Betty, and cover won't save you - it goes under it. Knowing how to dodge and roll out of it's path is vital because in the beta it was used a LOT.

Taking cover is something you should have learned in Act 1 of the campaign, and doing a Roadie Run is as simple as holding down the A button. (Another thing that should have been covered) Very useful in getting to those weapons I mentioned early on the maps.

#6 - Revive Me!

Please revive your teammates if you have the chance. It's a simple matter of tapping the X button while standing next to them. I know they cover it in Act 1 of the campaign, yet so many people ignore their teammates. You won't bleed out and die in most of the multiplayer matches now, you'll slowly recover, but there's nothing more annoying then being downed, vulnerable and unable to to do anything to defend yourself, while a teammate is close by doing his or her own thing. If you want to piss your teammates off then ignore them while they're downed and beside you.

Those are the basics of getting started in Gears of War 3 multiplayer. The game modes are pretty straight up and similar to other multiplayer matches. I'd suggest starting off with something simple like King of the Hill because your capture points spawn in various locations, and it gives you a chance to learn the map layout. Nobody jumps into a multiplayer match, having never played the game, without dying multiple times, so don't let that discourage you from having fun learning your way around.

I hope to see some of the more hesitant players giving Gears of War 3 a chance. In the meantime, I'll be trying to pry my daughter's copy of the game from her clenched hands while she's sleeping ,and praying that Thursday comes around quick.   read

4:26 PM on 09.15.2011

Relaxation: My Personal Journey Around Spira

"Every story must have an ending."

"I don't care about your stories."

"I see. Sorry you feel that way. Fine then, come or don't come, it's your decision."

"What am I suppose to say? You say it's my decision, but I don't have a choice, do I? You're the only one who can tell me what's going on here. I have to go with you, I have to, I HAVE TO!"

"Irritating, I know......or are you afraid?"

Sadness. Joy. Despair. Hope. Disbelief. Faith. Death. Peace. Love. Loss. Mention any one of those words and I can relate them to Final Fantasy X, for no other game since has allowed me to completely get lost in it's world like I did back in 2001.

That summer had been generous to us as far as finances were concerned, so my one and only wish for a Christmas gift from my husband was a PlayStation 2. I remember him asking me which game I wanted to go along with it, and my response had been to ask the person working at the game shop which they'd recommend. We spent two hours on Christmas morning watching the kids open their gifts and playing with them before I opened my own present. I was surprised to receive two games along with the system, but if you ask me now what the second game was, I honestly couldn't tell you.

After the kids were tired out from the day's excitement and the husband had fallen asleep on the couch, I hooked up the PlayStation, made a pot of coffee, and took my first steps into a world I'd never forget. I remember the music, the Blitzball stadium, the first glimpse you get of Auron. It was beautiful compared to other games I'd previously played and I got sucked into it, wanting to explore, talk to everyone I could, and before I knew it - three hours had been lost. But in those three hours something had happened. All the everyday stress, problems at home, and concerns over family, had all vanished from my mind. Considering everything that was going on in my life at the time.....well, it was quite the accomplishment for a game to have such a deep effect.

I'd only be able to sneak in an hour of the game for the next two nights. It was pretty much the same routine of getting the kids to bed and waiting until my husband had called it a day, then settling in with a final cup of coffee to enjoy while learning my way around the areas and the Sphere Grid. And then something terrible happened.

Our family would take turns every year hosting the family Christmas party. That year it had been our turn to host. My grandmother had passed away 5 years before that, and it had been on the exact night that my son was born. This year we had talked my grandfather into coming down for the family party. It was wonderful having him there to celebrate with us and be able to spend time with my children since he lived a few hours away and didn't get to see them on a regular basis. I remember just finishing up dinner and getting ready to settle down to exchange gifts, when suddenly we were called into the front room. What followed was a mad rush to call 911 for an ambulance, several hours of painful waiting in the emergency room not knowing what was going on, and 5 days later I would be attending my grandfather's funeral.

Needless to say, it would be several months before I would once again venture into the world of Spira. A lot had changed by the time I did. Our financial problems had returned. I knew things weren't right concerning my marriage. I hadn't, yet, dealt with the loss of my grandfather, for I blamed myself for talking him into traveling the distance to come visit us. I remember on the night I decided to start Final Fantasy X back up it was the first night of another lengthy trip out-of-town for my husband, which usually left me dealing with the kids and problems on my own.

Once again I let all the troubling thoughts and confusion leave my mind as I found that I needed the Jecht Shot in order to be any good at Blitzball, learned about Kimahri's shameful departure from Mt. Gagazet, and finally, the sacrifice that Yuna would have to make in order to stop Sin. Playing the game every night was something that I looked forward to during the day because it was only then that I felt any kind of relaxation from everyday problems. Some nights I'd stay up until the sun rose, getting lost in parts of the story. Like Yuna's sending of the dead after Sin's attack. Her dance to provide guidance for the souls of the dead to the Farplane made me think of my grandfather. I realized it wasn't my fault, but what he wanted. He knew he was dying. When I look back at how he acted that night, how he looked......he knew. Being with his family, all of us there together, that was what he wanted before he left. He had become at peace with his life and was ready to move on.

I soon became a beast at Blitzball, winning every game I played and recruiting players around the world of Spira to partake in glorious victory. It only took me two tries to dodge 200 lightning bolts in the Thunder Plains with Lulu, something that a lot of people found irritating, but it was relaxing to me - well, the first time. See, the first time I had made it to 199 and then I missed the last dodge. I meticulously plotted each character's route on the Sphere Grid. And with Auron always in my party (because he was that much of a bad-ass) we traveled from the Thunder Plains, through the Calm Lands, all the way to Zanarkand Ruins.

Final Fantasy X was the game that my daughter would catch me playing one night when she was suppose to be sleeping. Shortly after, my son would wake up to catch me playing the game and my daughter watching. My mom (who started spending the night when my husband was out-of-town) demanded that I didn't start the game without her in the room, for she had forsaken her book in order to follow along with the story of Yuna and Tidus. She also cried at the ending, but I don't tease her much over it....much. Yet, despite having my nights revolve around trying to fit my gaming schedule so that 4 other people could watch, I never once felt stressed.

My journey around Spira would, of course, come to an end. And shortly after I would start my own journey that would parallel a lot of the emotions dealt with in the game. My children would become gaming addicts, like myself, and I'd never again relive the peaceful nights of settling down in front of the TV, fresh cup of coffee in hand, and the relaxation of letting myself get lost completely into a game. Soon we'll be able to enjoy Final Fantasy X once more when it's released in HD for the Vita and PS3. I know I'll never be able to mirror the exact experience I had with it back when it was first released, but I plan on buying it for the Vita when it arrives, and then, for a second time, I shall walk the land of Spira on an epic journey to defeat Sin.

"Outside the dream world, life can be harsh - even cruel, but it is life." - Auron


4:13 PM on 09.06.2011

My Labor Day Weekend Without Gaming - Scrapbook Style

Everyone loves holidays, right? Who doesn't enjoy getting an extra day off from work and school, and I'm no exception. Despite having to work Friday and Saturday, (Long 10 hour shifts both days) I was looking forward to spending Saturday and Monday doing what I enjoy most - gaming! I had originally planned on spending both days getting knee deep in Deus Ex, since it's been out for how long now and most people have probably finished the game at this point. After all, GameFly had already screwed up my previous week by not getting the game out when it was first released and leaving me with only older games to play, which I had little interest in for some reason. So despite grabbing up some time with Black Ops and several calls to the child support office demanding they get off their lazy rear ends and go after my ex, my free time was basically spent hanging out with George.

So bright and early Saturday morning I headed out the door and went straight to the post office. Alright, maybe not. It was Saturday after all. Friday had been a rough day at work with the weekend coming up. I slept in till around 11:00 and ended up having to rush to make it to the post office before they closed. And what did my rushing get me? Absolutely freaking nothing! (Except bills) Because of the holiday weekend the game must have been delayed by a day, meaning I wouldn't get my hands on it until today, Tuesday. My Saturday afternoon ended up with me looking at a blank TV screen.

However, all was not lost. The kids had been bugging me for months to make my chocolate chip cookies, which normally I hold off on until it gets closer to Christmas. (Did I mention that even though I'm good at cooking that I hate doing it?) So after going through the cupboards and making sure I had all the ingredients, I got busy on making a double batch to keep the peace in my family. Now because I hate baking I have a tendency to make BIG cookies. It gets done faster that way. The first batch started off at a decent normal size, but each batch after I'd add a little more trying to get through that stupid bowl of cookie dough as fast as I possibly could. We ended up with only 40 some cookies when we should have, with a double batch, ended up with twice the amount had I been more lenient with the cookie dough. Oh well. Christmas is right around the corner.

Now Monday was suppose to be nice and sunny outside, so we called up some friends and planned to get together with them and head to Hartville Flea Market for the day. Now Hartville Flea Market use to be a wonderful place to find a variety of antiques, collectibles, and miscellaneous items for cheap. Heck, back when Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies were all the rage you could find those items for prices that weren't stupid and unreasonable, even though everyone else was trying to milk it for all they could. The flea market was held out in an open field and traffic would be backed up for hours, leaving you waiting in long lines if you didn't get there early (like 7 am) in the morning. Well someone decided since the flea market was such a big hit, that they should move it closer to the restaurant and gift shop and build it up into this big tourist attraction. It's still fun to go there and walk around, but you can't find the great cheap stuff you were once able to, and a lot of it has turned into just another extension of Amish Country Shops with outrageously priced food and gifts. And the crowds have doubled....making your arrival time more vital than ever.

So after driving around (for like an hour) looking for a parking place, we were finally able to get out and enjoy some wonderful Ohio weather.

We were able to get in a couple hours of walking around and looking at things before the clouds broke loose and drenched everyone to the bone. As expected, it was mostly a bunch of overpriced crap that I had no use for, but I did see a few unique items worth taking pictures of.

The motorcycle wasn't for sale, but it was kinda neat how the owner had managed to attach so many feathers, rattlesnake tails, teeth, and um.....other things to the handle bars. A few of the venders must have concluded that with the rain, their business would die. So those that weren't covering up the tables and moving merchandise to a dryer location to hold off a little longer, went about packing up their vans and calling it a day. One merchant decided to skip the hassle of repacking entirely, and just dumped his goods on the ground for anyone who was interested to grab for free. Considering what he had maybe he should have kept the book? (In case you can't read it, it's titled Changing Careers for Dummies.

We all decided to head into the buildings next to dry off and buy some coffee and mochas, maybe grab a little snack before looking around at the inside shops. It was crowded. I'm always amazed at how rude people can be when they're looking for a place to sit in a crowded seat yourself establishment. You basically need to send out a scout to hunt down a table first. Then you must have at least two people join you at found table, so other people don't get the illusion you'd like to share the space with strangers. Two more people can then be sent out to question nearby individuals or groups as to if any of their empty chairs will be needed by someone they've sent out to scout. It's a delicately orchestrated procedure that's learned after attending several big flea markets.

After drying off, warming up, and refueling our energy, we began the process of tackling the indoor booths. Yeah, there was nothing worth looking at. Except this:

My daughter and I headed back outside to pick up a couple things we'd passed by previously. She didn't get what she wanted. The merchant had already packed up because of the rain. So we had a mad rush clear to the other side of the flea market to get her second pick. That guy had already started to pack up things into his van, but he was nice enough to unpack the item she wanted.........except she had lost her money. Some where between running to one end of the flea market and then back to the opposite end, the money had fallen out of her pocket. We apologized and walked away empty handed. Halfway back to the building I looked down to see...........her money. Another mad rush back to the packed up van and we scored what we were looking for to begin with. (The guy still had it in his hand. He must have figured if we didn't find the money, that perhaps I'd lone it to her and we'd be back.) After six hours of walking the flea market, dealing with crowds, and being out in pouring down rain, it was time to go. My mom, my daughter, and I headed back to the truck.

We met up in Canton with our friends to grab dinner and say our final goodbyes before heading home. So after all that what did I end up buying?

Don't judge me! I collect Halloween things by the way, and with a fresh coat of black paint to get rid of that ugly gray, he'll be as good as new. Think I'll keep the face though.

So that was my Labor Day weekend. 100% game free, being social....and all that. Now today I'm sitting here with not only my copy of Deus Ex, but my copy of Dead Island, as well. Since they both arrived at the same time my daughter and I will not have to sit and argue over who gets to play, but instead rotate turns on each game. I hope all of you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have two weeks of gaming to catch up on!


10:42 PM on 08.21.2011

Why Yes, I'll Take Some Sex In My Video Game - Part I

Welcome! Why don't you come into the kitchen and pull up a chair. Would you like some coffee? It's freshly brewed. The cups are over in the cupboard to the right. It's serve yourself around this household, after all I'm not your maid. So I invited you over because I thought we'd have a little talk about sex in video games. I'm not talking about nudity, like looking at Laura Croft's pixel boobs, or Cleopatra's giant bosom in which babies were emitted in Dante's Inferno. Oh don't give me that innocent and confused look like you don't know what I'm talking about. It was weird! Seriously. Flying babies and tongues. What the hell were those people thinking! But I digress, for what I'm talking about is the actual act of having sex in video games.

Just mentioning the word sex can result in some pretty funny reactions from people. You sometimes get the previously mentioned reaction of confusion; disbelief that the topic is being brought up. Direct eye contact is broken, you notice slight blushing, and you can tell the person is uncomfortable with the conversation before even knowing in which direction you'll be taking it. Then you have people who are completely comfortable talking about sex. They'll talk openly about it, crack a few jokes, and sometimes tell you amazing stories in which you can turn around at a later date and embarrass the hell out of them. That's always fun. Especially when there's drinking involved. And let's not forget the children. Talking to your parents about sex is usually one of the most uncomfortable situations to be put in as a child. Sure, you've talked about it with your friends, often picking up false information along the road, and you've seen it on the internet, on the TV, and read about it in books. But that first time your parents sit you down for the "talk" all you can think about is running in the other direction.

Now I'm sure everyone's familiar at this point with the segment by Fox News that opened with "Se" Xbox? New Video Game Features Full Digital Nudity." The game they were talking about, of course, was Mass Effect. As an adult gamer and parent I loved that segment! It's probably one of my favorite Fox News segments of all time. And I still giggle when I remember my 15-year-old son throwing his hands in the air and literally yelling, "OH NO! I MIGHT SEE SOMETHING THAT WAS ON TV LAST NIGHT!" I especially love the comment that stated, "In some parts of this you'll see full digital nudity. And the ability for the players to engage in graphic sex and the person who's playing the game gets to decide exactly what's going to happen between the two people, if you know what I mean..."

No, I didn't know what they meant. I mean, I envisioned several different options that ranged from steamy hot sex in the elevator, thus relieving the boredom of the loading screen, to kicking Jacob out of my bedroom (completely aroused, mind you) as payback for all the effort I had to put into getting him there in the first place. What? Do you know how many times I had to talk to that man? Every time I talked to him it seemed my female Shepard was practically willing to lay right down on that table she was leaning against and spread her legs! Was he interested at all the first 20 times of doing it? Hell no! Bastard! But to be serious, that was some very bad voice acting there. I expected it to be done better, considering the other interactions she had with squad members were top notch.

Every now and then the media will come along and raise a fuss over sexual activity in our beloved video games. Parents and church groups will protest, and we'll all stand ready to defend our mature rated games and our rights to them. Now I'm not sure if it's because I'm older or the fact that I'm a parent, but my curiosity peeked (that and I get bored easily) and I decided to ask people of different ages what they thought of sex in games geared toward adults only. I got some interesting results, however, if I were to break it down into two groups, I found that the older the person was the less they liked the idea of sexual activity in video games, where as 20 to 30-year-olds were more accepting. Yes, I know. Hell of a find, right Sherlock? I mean considering that there's a large number of 20 to 30-year-old gamers in this day and age. But my questioning did pay off as I received some great feedback from people in their 60's and 70's as to why they thought M rated games shouldn't exist.

One lady I questioned told me, "My generation wouldn't have kept filth like that in the house. Porn doesn't belong in games for children." Porn? Well we all know for the longest time video games have been associated with children, but I hadn't specified what kind of sexual activity, yet immediately she assumed I'm talking R rated just because I mentioned a game targeted for adults. But maybe she's right. Remember the beloved Atari 2600? Of course you do, and if you don't all I have to say is call yourself a gamer? Now some disgruntled employees of Atari Inc. would end up leaving the company and venture off to form their own independent software companies. In fact Activision, the most prominent of those third-party developers was formed in 1979.

But a little company named Mystique came along and produced a number of pornographic games for the 2600. They developed a controversial little game called Custer's Revenge that was released in 1982. Yep, there be sexual activity in that game, my friend. Mystique was criticized over it appearing to be rape. They were attacked by women's rights groups, Native American groups, and even a group called Women Against Pornography. What did all that do for the game? Well it sold over 80,000 copies of the crap little game; more copies than the company's other two games, Bachelor Party and Beat Em' & Eat Em'. Hey, I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to! Go find out about the other two on your own time, you little freak..

Now you have me rambling again. Why don't you go and grab us a couple beers out of the fridge. Make sure you take the cheap stuff, since you were to damn inconsiderate to pour a second cup of coffee for me earlier. Where was I? Ah, yes. So I can see how she related an M rated game for adults with pornography, even though there may not be anything that risque to see. I still remember my own grandmother telling me to stay out of the one desk drawer because that's where grandpa kept his "mature" stuff. I'd later find out that his mature stuff consisted mainly of old adult cartoon books and shot glasses. They were pretty funny. I still have one somewhere. The cartoon books that is. I know perfectly well where all the shot glasses are.

One other response I got from a younger man, a man in his 30's, was that maybe if developers wouldn't try to hide mature content in games it would be more acceptable. Let's bring up GTA: San Andreas and the little sex scene more notably know as The Hot Coffee. This mini game was inaccessible under normal play in the 2004 release of the game. However, in 2005 the mod to enable it gained public awareness, and boy what a shit storm of controversy came down over it. Suddenly the ESRB, The Federal Trade Commission, Hillary Clinton - hell, even an 85-year-old grandmother, (who filed a lawsuit) went after Rockstar. Hot Coffee is still referenced in Rockstar's 2008 release of Grand Theft Auto IV, but there are no mods for it like in San Andreas..... or are there? Hmmm...

So we keep pushing for more adult themes in video games, but the industry really hasn't done a very good job of representing us in the past. And although most of the time the media makes a mountain out of a mole hill, like in the case of Mass Effect, it's the past examples that still leave a tainted mark on the industry's record. I should note that I'm for adult themes and sexual activity in video games that are rated M. I would not rise up, torch in hand and chant, "Down with Duke Nukem!" I feel it has a right to exist. I would hope, however, that the industry delivers better quality games in the future as it pushes towards more mature content in games. Until that time, when yet another reporter feels the need to stir the pot and get everyone's attention back to saving our children from the vulgarities of the world, we'll have to be ready to stand our ground and fight back for our rights. And the parent's can go to bed at night and feel proud that even if they don't know who their child is sexting with, they at least know there's sexual content in video games. Amen.

I am still curious though. What do you think of sex in video games? Do you think it belongs or should it be left out? And where do you think developers should take it? What would you like to see? More important - what are you still doing here? Do you have any idea what time it is? I do have a life you know. Get the hell out of my kitchen, and put that coffee cup in the dishwasher and the beer bottle in the trash. I've already told you I'm not your maid!   read

2:28 PM on 08.16.2011

What Do We Want?

I'll start off by saying that as I sit here typing out this blog I have no clear vision of the direction in which I want to take it, nor do I intend, in any way, to offend anyone I should mention from this point on. Last week was one heck of a week here on Destructoid. Top that off with the fact that I've been limited on what I could view because of the crappy tablet I had to use while up north visiting family and friends. I can say, however, that there's never been so many instances in which I wanted to jump up, fling my hands in the air and voice my opinions. I suppose I could use the saying here that opinions are like a******s, everyone has one, but nobody wants to see the other guy's. I don't feel that's a correct statement to use regarding this community though, and the fact that so many of our members are willing to not only voice their opinions freely, but also disagree in a respectful and considerate manner is one of the many reasons I love being here.

So where am I going with this blog? Well I've been asking myself over the weekend what do we, as female gamers, want? That seems like it should be an easy question to answer, right? Yet here I sit in front of my computer and I haven't a clue what answer to give you. See it all started with the stupid little poll that BioWare came up with for picking the image of female Shepard. (Stop moaning. It's a brief recap, no need to get your jocks in an uproar.) My feelings about it were like a wave washing back and forth over the shore. Initially I was upset. Then I realized it was silly and I calmed down. Then another member would complain and I'd be nodding my head in agreement like a bobblehead, upset yet again. Ultimately, I concluded it was because of my sign being Gemini, because hey - never have my two sides agreed on anything my entire lifetime.

Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. There was the front page article by Sophie Prell, followed by Lori Navarro's blog, and then in a complete change of direction (but not) we had Beverly Noelle write up a blog about the Frag Dolls. So 3 blogs (maybe more by now) and 494 comments in, and I'm beginning to believe being a female gamer is more complicated now then it ever was. And while I agree with the majority of what these ladies have said, I can't be the bobblehead sitting back and nodding in complete agreement.

Do a Google search for female gamer and this is what you'll find. It's not just BioWare and Ubisoft. It's the entire industry. Beautiful people get our attention.

Now I'm not going to get back into the whole female Shepard thing at any great length. I think we can all agree it's been beat to death. I am, however, going to touch briefly on a comment made in which it was stated the anyone who's not upset with the poll because we can customize to our liking, is missing the whole point of Sophie's article. I am a female gamer. I fully understood the article. BioWare did absolve themselves, and I can see how some female gamers see it as nothing more than a beauty pageant. But I'm not mad. I do not feel they have wronged me in any way, in fact I love the strong female characters provided to us by BioWare in their games. When I weigh what BioWare's done in the past vs. the existence of the poll, I don't feel the poll is anything to be fighting against. Am I alone in my view? Absolutely not, and there's a good counter argument by Sevre here.

So let's just wipe our hands of that whole mess, shall we? Let's move on to the Frag Dolls. When I tell you about disagreeing with my other female peers, this is the blog that brought out the most frustration in me. I want to make it very clear here that I respect Beverly Noelle's opinion. I even went back and read her older blogs and found myself doing that bobblehead imitation several times. In no way do I mean to attack her on a personal level or insult her, and I agree slightly in what she's trying to say - I just don't agree with the way she did it.

Now her blog basically states that Ubisoft and their Frag Doll group is a marketing tool, and I quote, "based along the lines of the Playboy Bunnies and Spice Girls." So simply put, they don't represent me, the average female gamer because......they're good looking? Beverly also stated, "The problem is not that a team of attractive female gamers exists; the problem is that Ubisoft has led a frighteningly successful campaign to have this group of carefully-selected spokesmodels represent all female gamers to the outside world." Alright, so it's not a problem that they're good looking.

But reading over her blog again I can't help but notice these other statements that she makes. "The cutesy pink website with its script font and stylized graphics broadcasts Ubisoft's message loud and clear: Women play games, and this is what they look like. (Hot and into the color pink, in case you were curious.)" and "if you're one of the lucky ladies chosen for the real team, you get...uhh..exposure? Validation for being a hot lady who plays games? A gig getting paid to be pretty and pose with a controller while a corporation signs your paychecks?"

Good looking is in the eye of the beholder.

Umm.....alright..... While I get what your message is, Beverly, I can't help but sit here, an average female gamer, and think I'm being told the Frag Dolls do not represent me by a community representative of BioWare, who would look perfectly comfortable sitting on that couch right alongside them! I can't relate to your argument over the Frag Dolls being attractive and how it's a bad thing, when I feel you fit right in with the image they portray - an attractive female that plays games.

I have another question. When did pink become a bad thing? Now I personally don't own a pink controller, but you're going to tell me that there's no female gamer out there that would dare own one, or if she does then she's not a serious gamer? Come on. If you were to be going to a baby shower tomorrow and you knew the baby was going to be a girl, what are the odds you'd buy something pink? What if you were to go on a walk for the recognition of breast cancer? Would you wear something pink like the majority of the participants do? So for as long as I can remember, girls have been associated with the color pink, and boys with the color blue. Mention pink associated with a female gamer and all hell breaks loose. Why? It's just another color, another option for those who want it. Personally, when I see it, it reminds me of my aunt who passed away last month from stage 4 breast cancer.

So here I am at the end of my blog and where does it leave me? What is my point? Simple. Although we may all be female gamers, our views of what's considered average, what's acceptable, how things should be approached; they all vary. As you can see from the above, I do not always agree with my peers. We are a potpourri of mixed opinions. But, this is where I do agree with Beverly - the entire industry needs to stop trying to group us. Period. We already have a group. Our group consists of the voices of women like Elsa, Beverly, Caiters, Sophie, and all the other female members of our society that play games. Again, we don't always agree, but we try to respect each other, and the industry needs to start showing us a little respect. Instead of telling us what you think we want, how about asking us? Instead of trying to represent us why don't you let us represent ourselves? When developers like BioWare and Ubisoft make up our mind for us, we notice. And while all of us may not agree with an individual's argument, we do understand.

We are not alike. We are a potpourri of mixed opinions.   read

8:14 PM on 08.01.2011

Through the Looking Glass

I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting the most adorable little boy. He was with his mom in the store buying clothes for school. As his mom came up to the counter to pay for the merchandise, he fiddled away the time playing on his DSI. I asked him what game he was playing. He told me Pokemon. I asked him which Pokemon game he was playing and this led into a lengthy conversation about the various games, Pokemon he had caught, and the Pokemon TV series. As his mom gathered up her purchase and they turned to leave, I overheard him tell her in an excited whisper, "See mom! Even adults play Pokemon!" Her response was, "You should be more worried about other things, like school coming up." I gave a slight sigh knowing that once, a long time ago, I was like her.

Remember when Pokemon was all the craze? Children drove their parents nuts about the game. Some schools banned kids from bringing their Game Boys into class. My own children talked nonstop about the game to a point where I thought I would go mad. Then came the day my daughter found out about a Pokemon league they were having at our local Toys-R-Us. She begged us to take her. My husband at the time told her that Pokemon was just a silly game, and her grandmother told her she'd buy her a Barbie instead. So it happened that on a cold day in November, at 9 am, I found myself standing outside of Toys-R-Us in a line of boys that extended way into the parking lot. Freezing and not wanting to be there, I told my daughter that there were no girls standing in line, and perhaps this wasn't something she really should do. I then tried to convince her to leave and take her grandmother up on the Barbie offer.

My daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, "Why can't I be here just because I'm a girl? And you know I don't like Barbie."

I realized at that point that I had just contradicted everything I believed in - and everything I had tried to teach my daughter. I had just told her that because she was a girl, she shouldn't do something which she loved. Instead I had tried to push her into something that was more 'girly' because I didn't want to stand there in the cold. Teaching your children to be individuals and follow their passions doesn't work if it only comes at your convenience.

How many times have you seen parents contradict themselves? We spend so much time teaching our children to do the right thing, and so little time realizing we don't always follow our own rules. The say if you ever want to truly see yourself, then take a look at your children. The way we interact with people, the way we handle problems - these are the things that children pay attention to. You could tell your child to be honest, but if you're not it's that action your child will learn from. Not your words. A friend questioned me the other day about why I enjoyed playing video games with my children. She told me that when her son plays she sends him off to his bedroom because she can't stand to listen to it. She found it odd that I enjoyed it. I found it odd that she didn't want to participate in her son's activity. For me, as a parent, games have been a mirror to see myself reflected through my children's eyes. That's why I have a hard time understanding someone with her view.

Fast forward several years forward from the Pokemon craze to when my daughter was a teenager. She and I had just started enjoying multiplayer in Call of Duty, and on this night I had just finished up a match with some friends and jumped into a party with random people. I was greeted with a female voice stating how she was going to lead in points, followed by her making vulgar remarks about turning on the guys. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking to myself oh, another one. For some reason I made it my personal mission to show her up. Maybe it was because, in my mind, she represented everything that was wrong with how female gamers where viewed. Maybe I just had a bad day. I hunted this poor girl down throughout the entire game, ignoring other players that I could have scored points on. By the end of the match I was in second place. She was at the bottom. She quickly left the lobby. I had succeeded at showing her a female player could play the game without announcing the fact to the group, and without flirting just to get attention. My daughter had been in the room watching me the entire time.

"Congratulations, mom," she said. "I just watched you transform into every jackass player I've ever run into during a game." And with that she walked out of the room.

She was right. Once again I had contradicted myself and what I had taught her. I should have played the game the way I normally would have, by not targeting this poor girl, but instead by going after every member of the opposing team. My daughter wasn't beside me cheering me on, but scolding me and letting me know my actions were upsetting and unappealing to her.

We later had a more in-depth conversation about what had happened. It wasn't the game that brought out a bad side to me, but my feelings about how women players are treated, and this girl was setting a bad example of female players, which to me only encouraged the guys to continue harassing us. Although my daughter didn't agree with how the young lady had acted, she felt my actions were no different from the guys in the game giving a female player problems because she was that, a female player.

I don't find violence or sexual content in video games a threat to my children, in fact, we've had some of our more serious conversations after playing video games. Take the airport scene in Modern Warfare, or the romance scenes in Dragon Age with the inclusion to be able to choose a same sex partner. What about Duke Nukem? These games have opened up topics for us to discuss and it's given me a good view of not only my children's thoughts over them, but it's opened up a window for me to see how I've raised them.

When you don't want to take the time to learn about something, then I suppose it's easier to point your finger to something else as the blame. The friend who questioned me about playing games with my children brought up the topic because she was upset with the fact that I had on a Call of Duty t-shirt. I shouldn't have to explain why with all the media about it the past week. She was worried that my son would be effected by the game. Again, I found it odd she would care - considering she sent her child off into the other room so it wouldn't be an annoyance. And my son? Although he's watched us play several different FPS, he doesn't like them. He tells me that it just isn't his thing. He'd rather play Mario, Kirby, or any other platform game. It doesn't matter that his friends enjoy FPS. He's into his own thing, and that's perfectly fine. I don't follow statistics much, and I can't change what other parent's think. I can only share my own experiences, and perhaps I can somehow be an example of the good side of video games. I enjoy seeing what's on the other side of the mirror. Everyone else can stay on the safe side if they like, wearing their rose colored glasses.


10:39 PM on 07.26.2011

Motion Control: Where Do We Go From Here?

Have you ever watched the movie The Gamer? It stars Gerard Butler as a forced participant in an online game, in which other players control the participants in the game. Logan Lerman plays the young boy who got his claim to fame in the popular online game by the means of controlling Butler. It was a mediocre movie, to say the least. Right now you may be asking what this has to do with motion control. My answer to you would be nothing, yet everything.

Now I have always taken the stand that I do not want motion control invading my entire gaming experience. When you add motion control onto a game that wasn't meant for motion control - well there's nothing that screams gimmick louder. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all been guilty of this. I don't care if you're a fan boy or not. It's true. Let's start off with Microsoft since I'm mainly a 360 person and I'm not above bashing my system of choice.

The Kinect had issues right from the beginning, starting with their presentation at E3 back in 2009. "Project Milo" was Microsoft's exciting way of showing off depth-sensing and pattern recognition capabilities, and was developed by Lionhead Studios. Milo was an AI that responded to spoken words and gestures, and had a built-in dictionary that matched key words in conversations with voice-acting clips to simulate life-like conversations, and it also recognized emotions. Now we were led to believe that this was an actual game, until Peter Molyneux refuted the statement. Flash forward to E3 2011. What promising game does Molyneux and Microsoft reveal to us? Fable on rails.

That's not to say that Microsoft has completely dropped the ball on offering those who've purchased a Kinect something new and different. I, for one, think Child of Eden looks amazing. And it's a game that focuses on what developers should be doing - making a game that enhances the use of motion control. I also believe Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster will be a big hit for families. Those two games are a step in the right direction for motion control and what "Project Milo" promised us. They are not, however, a selling point for me, as a gamer, to run out and purchase a Kinect.

So what about Sony? There are some that think Sony "gets it." Really? Sure, Sony doesn't force you to use the Move with the games that support it. But what has it shown us that's unique? PlayStation Move Heroes? Everybody Dance? I agree that we can use the Move with games such as SOCOM4 and Killzone 3, but the fact of the matter is I don't have to play those games using motion control, and those games were not made purely for motion control. It's an added gimmick used only to convince hardcore gamers that the Move is something special. It does not, in any way, convince me that I need to run out and pick up Move for my PS3.

Finally, we have Nintendo. Nintendo has received quite the bashing from so called hardcore gamers. Why? Because Nintendo did what they told everyone they were going to do. When the Wii first was announced, Nintendo made it very clear that they were going after the casual gamers. If you missed that point some where along the road, then you must be blind. Every commercial they released screamed casual gamer. They did make a statement that they would not forget their core gaming crowd, but their intentions were pretty much set in stone. Yes, they have Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Party - the list goes on and on. But let's remember way back when to Sony's EyeToy. We had things like EyeToy: Play, EyeToy: Groove, and EyeToy Play: PomPom Party.

Nintendo did try to appeal to it's core gaming crowd by giving us games like Twilight Princess, Super Smash Bros Brawl, and No More Heroes. (And I found Kirby's Epic Yarn a blast!) Mind you, Nintendo is not perfect. There are problems with the accuracy of the Wii Remote, and in playing Metroid I often felt the urge creeping up on me to toss the remote at the wall, especially when having to use the grappling hook. Now to top things off, Nintendo has done a complete turnaround from what they set out to do. Suddenly they want the core gamers back and they're golden apple is going to be the Wii U. What?

So how does all this relate to my first paragraph about comparing motion control to the movie The Gamer? Well quite frankly, and most off - I feel like I'm being played. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all guilty of promising me wonderful things with motion control, yet none of them have shown me any reason to want to fully embrace it. Yes, I do enjoy playing some games with motion control. Yes, I believe there is a great potential for motion control in the future. Right now, however, it's more like a wash, rinse, repeat cycle.

Now I can't imagine myself not playing video games, and this leads me to why I do like motion control and what I think Nintendo did right. Nintendo has been the only one of the three so far, to draw in people would who not normally play, or be able to play games. It enables young children to dance around and fling themselves about without the worry of working a regular controller, and most importantly, it allows older people, or people who may have difficulty working a controller to participate in a game. Sony and Microsoft may still be able to do that, but it was Nintendo who brought the fun to the party first.

If you're young then it's probably of no concern to you. But I'm getting older. Right now I don't want motion control in my FPS. Leave my RPGs alone. However, at some point I may not be able to hold that controller and the only means of enjoying a game may just be motion control. Here's what I ask of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and the game developers - stop pushing it in my face by putting it in games that we don't need it in. Concentrate more on games like Child of Eden, or original games that have been developed from the start only for the use of motion control. Don't tell me I can play SOCOM4 using it, make a FPS specifically for it. Let me be Logan Lerman controlling my character in a game by voice and movement alone. Let me interact with my team in an RPG without mixing motion control and a standard controller together. Give me a reason to embrace motion control and do what everyone wants to do - have fun playing games. If you can't do that, then motion control will die the gimmick it's been all along.   read

10:25 AM on 07.23.2011

Morality: A Pandora's Box?

You go into the living room and have a seat on the couch, controller in your hand. It's been a rough day. At work you had to make a choice that affected several people. Try as you may to do the right thing, it ended up being the wrong thing, and now everyone's pissed off. Then you missed your daughter's play because you had to work over. You could have made up some excuse, but your job takes top priority and someday your daughter will understand that. But right now she's pissed at you too. On your way home from work you remembered to stop at the store. You thought your wife would be surprised by the fact you picked up grocery's on a list she left you this morning. You were trying to be a good husband, right? Wrong. You forgot the milk. You ended up having to endure 30 minutes of her complaining about your lack of responsibility. Now all you want to do is sit down in front of the TV and unwind with a game.

So you start up that RPG you recently purchased. You're still upset about the days events and you need to take all that anger and frustration out on something. You pillage a few towns. Kill a few innocent bystanders despite protests from your party members. You horde away the loot and good weapons. Why should you share? They don't need them. You go to the local pub instead of going home. You pick all the morally wrong choices when interacting with the patrons. Now you'll spend your coin on ale and when you're done drinking your fill, you're going to sleep with the barmaid. You're wife won't know. She drives you nuts anyway. You'll probably offer her up for sacrifice tomorrow, but that's no concern of yours right now. The screen goes black for a second and now it's morning.

But what is this? You wake only to find the barmaid ran off with the rest of your coin. Your party is nowhere to be found. Not only that, they've taken all your equipment and left you the damn low stat weapon you received at the beginning of the game. As you wander out onto the street, you decide to steal some coin from a passerby. Music begins to play. Your former party stands in front of you. You're in a boss fight. You are the boss! Your former allies hack and slash at you, taking you down with the very weapons you refused to equip them with through the entire game. The screen fades to black once more and you're greeted with this:

You throw the controller to the floor, sit with a blank look on your face as you try to grasp what just happened. Congratulations! Not only did you have a crappy day in real life, but your fantasy life just bit the big one. Sound like fun?

While relaxing the other day at our local coffee shop, I happened upon an article titled "Angels & Demons" in Games magazine. The article talked about ways in which developers have advanced the medium by introducing players moral choices in games. But how well have they handled it? How far do we want them to take it? I'll share for my example my last play through of Mass Effect 2. Normally, when faced with a game that offers me good or evil choices, I'll do my first run as a holy saint and follow with a second play as the complete opposite. But I wasn't entirely satisfied with the end results of my second run.

The problem was, that try as I may to be a complete ass at the beginning of the game, the majority of my crew still loved me. Oh sure, I lost some loyalty. Miranda was so upset with me for taking Jack's side that except for the brief, "I'm kind of busy right now, Shepard," she wouldn't have any interaction with me at all - up until the point she slept with me. And that's alright. My male Shepard was an egotistical, philandering bastard that would have had sex with every woman on the Normandy, if permitted. Towards the midpoint of the game I started to double guess my choices, sometimes going complete renegade, and sometimes taking a more paragon stand. I entered into a gray area that allowed me to justify my dark ways, yet also allowed me to complete the game and win against the collectors at the end. Sure, I lost a couple teammates. Everyone else still loved me. Satisfaction with end game.

Now Bioware has promised that our choices in the first two games will have great impact in their final game. But I ask how much? And would we feel content if we couldn't finish the game because of a choice we made back in the first Mass Effect? Here's another question - why did I feel the need to slip back into that gray area? Was it the reality of my actions, or was it simply because I was afraid it would affect the game in a way that would alter the ending and leave me unsatisfied? Just how much do we want to be punished for unmoral actions in a game?

The article in Games went on to mention game journalist John Walker's challenge to play through KOTOR while making nothing but morally depraved choices. If you'd like to read about his experience then it's easy to find by putting in a search for Bastard of the Old Republic. To put it in a short version, he purposely forced himself to do actions that, and I quote, "turned his stomach." But he did do it. And here's what he had to say about it:

"I decided to find out what happens if I click on the options that make me cringe just to read them, every single one, and it corrupted me. By the end I was positively enjoying being a bastard."

In remembering my own play through of KOTOR, I had also choose the dark side. However, I still recall wandering into that gray area of playing it safe more than a couple times. My character did indeed end up evil by the end of the game, but my path there wasn't pure and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Completing the game was still an obtainable goal. Considering this second revelation, I tried to recall if playing in the gray area was something I had always inclined to do when given a morality choice, and the answer is no. In Fable II I was pure evil. I murdered whole towns. I did offer my husband up for sacrifice. Both of them. But there was a limit in Fable. You couldn't kill children. What punishment did I receive for being a hideous monster? My appearance changed as such. There were a couple towns I could no longer wander into without being chased by residents. In no way did my morally wrong choices hinder the enjoyment of the game, nor did it prevent me from finishing the game in such a way that left me unhappy.

Here's one more thing for us to consider. The article "Angels & Demons" brought up the question of controversy with morality choices in games. How far can developers push the envelope before it's completely unacceptable? Oh, there have been some backlashes already, yes. Take for example the airport scene in Modern Warfare 2, or the deletion of being able to play as the Taliban in Medal of Honor. What about being able to commit murder in your RPG and not have it like Fable, but instead a realistic horrifying experience?

I believe this paragraph of the article in Games paints a good picture. It reads, " games become sufficiently realistic and sophisticated, developers will have an ethical obligation to include comprehensive morality systems, in order to offset the capacity for players to use violence as one of the principle forms of expression. Before you laugh off a notion as ridiculous as 'virtual murder', consider it for a moment. It's not a huge leap to see how disturbing it would be if just one game showed one scene of the realistic effects of stabbing someone. The victim screaming in shock and pain as the knife punctures the skin, the vain attempts to stem the flow of blood that bleeds through hands clamped to the wound, the look of terror and agony on a digitally rendered face and, finally, the crumpling to the floor, whimpering, as blood forms a sticky red reminder of the last vestiges of a life that stood in front of you just moments before. Now consider how that might feel to participate in that; to cause it. The effect is unsettling to say the least, and that's just one potential moment in one potential game."

Unsettling? I'd say so. Would Mr. Walker have done it to complete his goal and still enjoy being a bastard? Would you do it? I'm all for our industry growing up, making leaps and bounds in delivering more mature content, getting us talking and debating instead of sitting in the same stagnant water all the time, but as we wish for this, are we really opening up a Pandora's Box full of problems? And perhaps the bigger question is, as developers push morality at us, and when the world you go in to escape the harshness of everyday life mirrors that same everyday life, is the game even fun anymore? How far do you want the industry to go? How accountable do you want to be for your moral choices in a game, or should we keep that gray area to fall back into?   read

7:35 PM on 07.19.2011

OMG Betty! She's Playing Those Games Again!

So something happened recently and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get it out of my head. I know I'm being silly and childish. I know I'm too old to worry about what other people think of me. I know this argument has been repeated over and over. However, the longer I dwell on it, the more I realize I've fought this battle a hundred times.

Now the incident I'm talking about happens to be a little article posted up here on Destructoid a couple weeks ago. My attempt to web link The article stated how Kathie Lee Gifford made the comment that any person over a certain age that plays video games is weird. Unless you're playing the games with your children, you should have more important matters on your mind. Now this was followed by several rude remarks towards Kathie Lee, and then there were some remarks from people who enforced the who cares, she doesn't know state of mind. I even posted a remark about how I could be falling asleep on the couch every night to some reality TV show instead of being mentally involved in what I was doing. That should have been the end of it, but it's a little more personal for me.

We are at a point in time that being a female gamer is no big deal, or shouldn't be a big deal anymore. Female gamers have had to fight their way through the endless sexist remarks, the "OMG are you a girl? Wanna chat?" ordeals, and game developers just not recognizing us in the market. But how much have we accepted the older female gamer? Yes, here on Destructoid we have a mixed community. It is truly a wonderful place to be and the people are amazing. But what about world wide? What about a smaller town like the one I live in?

How older women should dress compared to how you're viewed if you don't.

Let's start off with an incident that happened to me recently. I had to go into work and pick up my paycheck. Now this was on a Friday that I was scheduled off. It should be noted that I work in a high fashion retail store. I also worked at a bank in the past so dressing up is something I do quite often. On this day I had on my worn jeans and a Call of Duty t-shirt. The very first person I run into responds with, "Did you forget to do laundry and end up having to steal your daughter's shirt?" I suppose this person was only trying to be funny, I mean after all, normally I'm dressed to the max. But I've noticed this behavior on other occasions. I can not throw on a Gears of War t-shirt and go anywhere without head turns and strange looks from passers-by. Would I get the same strange looks if I had on a t-shirt with a big ass picture of a bulldog on it, that read Cleveland Browns? Heck no. It's a sports team so that's perfectly fine no matter your age. Throw any game related clothing on me, or anything for that matter that's not deemed by the majority to be "age appropriate", and suddenly I'm the old lady trying to be young again. This standard does not, however, apply to men.

Widely appropriate for men of all ages.

And what about the cougar syndrome going around since Demi and Ashton hooked up? Now I do admit that I can usually start up a conversation with people of all ages about a game and have a normal conversation. I've done this at work when I see a kid wearing a Pokemon t-shirt. Their response is usually one of surprise that I can name all the Pokemon and talk to them about the games. There have been times I'll see a teenage customer walking through the store with a GameStop bag, and I'll ask them which game they've purchased, which leads to a deep conversation about aspects of said game being good or bad, or games yet to come out that everyone's looking forward to. Then there are the occasions where I get the look - the look like I'm flirting and trying to pick them up. Let's add to that responses I've got on Live when playing a multiplayer game and people find out I'm 45. Just because an older woman is passionate about games and playing Gears doesn't mean she's some creepy old lady out hunting for young bucks. Seriously, get over it.

Jump in baby, mommy wants to show you how to use that joystick.

Now the above two examples are situations that any older female gamer may run into, but let's get to the reason Kathie Lee's statement hit me on such a personal level. I've stated in my introduction that I am 45 and divorced. My marriage started out happy and storybook-ish like most marriages often do, and I remained married for nearly 20 years. (That's a heck of a long time by today's rate!) But the last 10 years of my marriage were pure hell. There was drinking, lying, and being treated like a prisoner in my own home. I'm not going to get into the details. I could probably write a book about it. Anyway, I knew I needed to get out, but I didn't know how to do it. I also had to consider my two children and how it would effect them.

Right around this time period I had started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I ran into a group of people that I quickly became friends with. I can hear it now - "VIDEO GAMES ARE THE NEW LEADING CAUSE OF DIVORCE!" or "Video gamers defend their hobby and point to relationship problems existing to justify their excessive gaming," as claimed on a divorce blog I stumbled across recently.

Just plop me into the box with everyone else because there are no individual circumstances. Serioulsy, stfu..

I'll point out here that gaming for me is like TV, reading, gardening, cross-stitch, scrapbooking, etc. etc. all of which I do. I don't remember them requiring two people, and I'm pretty sure a LOT of people have similar hobbies, and like any hobby, your family comes first. But if you'd like to pick one and begin ranting how it's the reason for divorce, go for it. I'm sure people would defend their hobby, no matter what it is.

But back to my group of friends. They were a light in a time that I felt depressed, scared, alone, and unsure of what to do. They listened without taking sides. They offered advice. They were the support group when I was stuck at home for sometimes weeks with nobody to talk to but my kids. I'm not even sure if they know to this day how they helped me. I was able to leave and restart my life on my own feet. I went from being a prisoner to a free person able to control my own life. Do you know what reason my husband gave to friends and family about why I left? I left because he couldn't pay the cable bill and I couldn't play the Xbox.

20 years of marriage and I left for the Xbox. He has spoken, it must be true!

Now since being on my own I have found a job. I support my 15-year-old son on my own, with no help of child support from my ex. I'm taking care of back taxes he acquired, on my own. I've went back to school, and passed with As. I'm constantly trying to better myself and make something for my family. I have freedom to do what I want, when I want to do it. Except for one thing: I am constantly having to defend playing video games at my age.

So you know what, Kathie Lee? Pretty sure I've had more than enough important matters on my mind. And to everyone else - I'm going to wear that Dead Space t-shirt when I feel like it. I'm going to stay up all night and play that $79.99 collector's edition of the newest game I bought, because I worked my ass off for the money to buy it. If I pass you by on the street and see you carrying a GameStop bag, playing a PSP, or DS, I'm going to stop and talk to you. It's my life baby, and I'll live it like I want to.

Oh, and btw, Kathie Lee - I think you're pretty weird too. That's why I watch Ellen.


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