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2:13 PM on 01.02.2015

DK King of Swing (Virtual Console)

I decided to pick up this game on Wii U two nights ago, and I seriously cannot stop playing it.  DK King of Swing was originally released on GBA in 2005, but now it's available on the virtual console for $6.99 in NA (released 11/20/14).

At first glance, the game is pretty ugly looking, but everything that makes this a special experience is part of the gameplay anyway.  You can play the entire game with just the L and R buttons, and the d-pad.  L controls your left hand, and R controls your right hand.  If you hit both buttons together, you jump.  You progress through the game by grabbing the colored pegs and swinging around each level in a truly unique combination of platforming and puzzling.  Holding with your left hand makes you spin counter-clockwise, and holding with your right hand makes you spin clockwise.  

That's really all you need to know to jump into this game.  It's almost like Nintendo's "Angry Birds," in that it takes an extremely simple and accessible concept and makes a game around it.  But they take it so, so much farther.  The platforming feels fantastic as you really get a unique feel when traversing through the levels only with your hands.  The grabbing feels extremely precise.  You have to grab each peg at the correct time.

What continued to impress me is how they take such a simple concept and then manage to build on it with creative puzzles.  There are valves that only open when you swing the correct direction, so you need to grab it with the correct hand.  You can grab rocks and throw them mid-swing.  There are jack pegs that have to be cranked repeatedly to open various aspects of the levels (see this video below).  There are boss fights, and various enemies, secret collectibles in the levels, and more.

I haven't gotten past the second main world yet (around level 10 at the moment) but the instructions say that you can also play as Diddy, Dixie and Funky Kong at some point, so I'm looking forward to that.  It's possible they're limited to just the mult-player levels, so I guess I'll find out as I progress.

I had never even heard of this game on GBA, and I had a ton of GBA games.  It doesn't have the best art style or graphics, so I imagine a lot of people probably skipped it even if they did hear about it.  That's why I felt so compelled to recommend it, because it truly is a fun, and extremely original game.  

Don't miss it.  This is the most fun I've had climbing in a video game since American Gladiators (NES).


2:51 AM on 12.21.2014

Personal Top 10 Games of 2014

2014 was an interesting year of gaming for me.  It was a year of transition, personally, and in gaming.  It was the first year I got a PS4 and tried out "next gen" gaming.  But instead of PS4 leading the way, many of the best experiences were seen on other systems.  

1) Rusty's Real Deal Baseball (3DS)

April 3rd, 2014

I feel like this is the most underrated title of 2014.  This is the "Wii Sports Resort" of the Nintendo 3DS system.  The game was built entirely to capitalize on 3D vision, and is structured in a bite sized format that is perfect for handheld gaming.  

Iwata pitched the game in Nintendo Direct by describing how hard the team at Nintendo worked on capturing the "real feel" of specific baseball actions.  When you see a game being pitched to the public not on story, graphics, or premise - but instead just on the quality of the controls and the feel of the gameplay, you know you have something special on your hands.

I logged probably 50 hours into this game and still didn't finish all the various trials, or tire of going for more high score challenges.  But in addition to the gameplay, the game is probably the funniest and most interesting depiction of a working class comedy I've seen in gaming in the last several years.  This is Nintendo at their weirdest - depicting a canine version of the 90s sitcom "Roseanne," with a litter of juvenile delincquint pups out to terrorize their over-worked and hopeless father as he runs his business on the razor's edge between staying open and bankruptcy.  It's silly, it's goofy, but it's got a feel all it's own, and it's not something you're likely to see in other games any time soon.

In addition to the phenomenally polished gameplay, and the quirky story, the game innovates even in the pricing model - with the whole game incorporating haggling to lower the real life / real money price of the mini-games you purchase by persuading the father to lower his store prices in the story.  It's pretty ingenious to see them set the story up with the ultimate loser underdog, but then encourage the player to haggle him down to the bone so he doesn't make any profit at all.  Almost every aspect of this game is fun.

2) inFamous: Second Son (PS4)

March 21st, 2014

This is pretty much the most gorgeous looking game of 2014, and the game that showed off what the PS4 is really capable of.  Not only is it visually stunning (I mean .... REALLY visually stunning), but it incorporates some of the most original and unique super powers I've seen in any comic setting in a long time.  It's more reminicent of the television show "Heroes" than it is a video game, and each power is gorgeously depicted and fun to use.

Another big surprise for me was just how likeable Delsin was as a main character.  I'm sick of Troy Baker, but this felt like the role he was born to play.  This felt like he was closest to playing a version of himself in real life.  It was charming, natural, believable, and engaging.  It was infinitely better voice acting than he did in The Last of Us with that awful fake accent, or in Shadows of Mordor, where he was good but largely monotone and forgettable (not to mention outclassed by the voice acting of his game co-star Celebrimbor).  Delsin wasn't a tortured anti-hero.  He wasn't raised by a pack of wolves and misunderstood by society, with a chip on his shoulder that justifies mass murder.  He was just a normal guy that suddenly got access to incredible power, and he had fun with it!  And he tried to do the right thing.  That simple premise was power, and believable, and more importantly, just fun to play as.

The story also had a great villain who had her own interesting motivations, and was one of the only middle-aged women I've seen in games.  It had interesting side characters like Eugene, Reggie, and Fetch (played by my favorite voice actress ever, Laura Bailey).  And it was set in a very cool city that we don't see enough of.

Speaking of Seattle, the game also had the second best OST of the year.

3) Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)

February 11th, 2014

This, on the other hand, was the #1 OST of 2014. That's one track out of 80.  This could literally win a spot in the top 10 just from the music alone.  It outclasses everything else this year easily.  It's a mix of 3 top tier composers going for about 10 different styles.  You could spend 3 months just digesting the music alone.  There are single tracks that pack in more emotion than anything in The Last of Us.

I loved this game, despite some obvious imperfections that come with the package.  It has some graphical blemishes, and some side quests are trial and error, but it's easy for me to overlook flaws like that when the total package is so fearlessly original, creative, and full of fun and emotion.  

I actually loved the story.  I followed the story throughout all 3 games, and read all the datalogs, and debated about the mythology, and wondered and speculated and dreamed about where it might go.  And this game tackled that mythology head on and doesn't hold back.  It introduces wild new concepts and most importantly, it really makes Lightning a likeable character.  There were moments before the first boss fight where I was almost jumping out of my chair because the dialogue was so badass.  There were other moments where it was campy, silly, and totally cheesy.  But at no point was I bored.  At no point did I set the controller down or leave the game unplayed.  I was sucked into the world and it was unlike anything else I'd ever played.

The exploration is vast and provides a ton of space for discovery.  But at the same time, you have a clock ticking in your face and the urgency to push on where ever possible.  It's the odd feeling of having a vast open world, but at the same time - constantly timing your sprint button so you don't lose max fatigue, or jumping over railings on a staircase to shave a second off your traversal time as your round a corner around town.  That combination of opposites is unlike anything I'd played before.  Do I want that in every single game ever?  No.  I'm not someone who traditionally loves time limits.  But as a unique experience to play once in a while, it is definitely different.

The battle system pushes farther into action than the series ever has before.  And did I mention the game is diabolically difficult?  It's literally the only game besides Soul Calibur V that I needed a strategy guide for since 2006.  And I didn't use a guide for Demon's or Dark Souls.  

4) Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition (PS4)

August 19th, 2014

I have played several top-down view action games like this over the years, but actually never got into Diablo before.  I was way more into Hunter, Champions of Norrath, Dungeons and Dragons (Xbox), and X-Men.  That all changed with this game.

It's a 10/10 game.  There aren't really any flaws.  You put it in the system, and you're going to keep playing without downtown, with perfect pacing, until you hit the ending credits.  And you'll be shocked at just how long the game actually is.  Then when the credits are done, you'll keep playing for hours and hours more.  Then, you'll start all over and do it again with a new character.

The game is that good.

5) Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4)

March 18th, 2014

This is the perfect example of the "year of transition" that was 2014.  This game is a demo.  But it still absolutely belongs on the top 10 list of anyone serious about gaming.  That's a statement about how weak the launches of PS4 and Xbox One have been this year, and also a statement about just how truly insane this game actually is.

Yes, you can run through it in 2 hours, or 10 minutes.  But I probably spent over 40 hours just playing this stage over and over and over again.  Each time I'd find some new, subtle detail that fascinated me.  The guards would react in a way I hadn't seen prior.  I'd find a new item.  I'd find a new pathway.  I'd find a new order of events.  I'd find something I knew I could do better next time if I played it just one once more.  The gameplay is insanely polished, and it all feels fair.  When you lose, you feel the urge to immediately try again.

Nothing else this year really compares to the feeling of pure wonder and excitement I had when I did my first extraction under heavy fire in this game.  I was playing for about an hour, doing a perfect stealth run throughout the whole base.  I rescued all the hostages - battered, and broken as they are.  I snuck into the heavily guarded base without killing or even alerting anyone - pure ghost run.  I got to the main target to extract, and saw how brutalized and tortured she was.  Then as I'm trying to extract her from the base, I get spotted and draw first blood.  Do I restart and try again?  No, I was sucked into the moment and pressed on.  This girl needed out of here, no matter what it took.  I was in the middle of an intense firefight while I was trying to call in a rescue chopper on my iDROID.  I tried to hold them off as they attempted to flank me and call for backup.  As I saw the chopper approaching I knew I had to make a move for it so I tossed out smoke grenades all over to cover my escape and grabbed the hostage and ran through a hail of bullets to get on the chopper.  They're firing on us as we fly off, and I'm firing back from the open doorway, all with no loading, all totally seamless.

And it's all 1080p, 60fps.  And MGS V will be 200x bigger.  

6) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

February 21st, 2014

Pretty much among the top 3 most polished 2D platformers in the history of video games.  What does this game actually do wrong?  I can't think of anything.  Running left to run is engaging, because it's so silky smooth, and the controls so perfectly weighted.  Just the simple act of jumping in and out of water as you transition between land and water blew my mind ... because it's just flawless.

That sums up this game.  It's just platforming P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N.  A 10/10 game.  There is really no weak link.  The graphics, the OST, the characters, the gameplay, the level design.  It's all there, and it's hard as hell too.  Probably still the most difficult Nintendo franchise out on Wii U.  There's no holding back for casual gamers here.  They can buy power-ups at the shop if they want which is nice for them.  But everything about this game's design is for serious players wanting to master the gameplay.

7) Velocity 2X (PS4, Vita)

September 2nd, 2014

This is the most shocking one on my list personally.  I hate indie games for the most part.  They're often over-hyped in the press, have shoddy gameplay, and almost always are a lesser version of something I played 25 years ago on NES, or SNES.  

This game is one of the rare exceptions to that rule.

As far as I can tell, Futurlab has managed to create the best and most creative shooter since Ikaruga.  Let that sink in, because I've thought about it a lot and it's absolutely 100% true.  

Everything about this game is pushing the boundaries, and it's pushing it where it counts - the gameplay.  You can warp in any direction, you can warp fast, you can warp slow over long distances.  You can even get out of your ship and run as the pilot in platforming levels and warp there, or throw warp grenades and go over longer distances.  Some of the levels are brilliant speed runs.  Some are elaborate PUZZLES.  Yes, a shooter with stages that are puzzles.  You won't even know what I mean until you play it for yourself.

It also has one of the best boss fights of 2014, without question.  There's a really satisifying gameplay gimmick they throw in the fight that is extremely neat when you first see it.  

Reading about this game won't do it any justice because everything good about it is in the actual feel of playing it, and the gameplay and controls.  It's in the intricacy of the level design, and how it's designed to help you creatively and smartly use your powers.  I didn't even feel like I had a handle on playing it well until level 30.  Then it "clicked" and I couldn't put it down until the game was beaten.  Then I went back and replayed everything and again and destroyed my old scores.  There is a legitimate learning curve to it, and it's so satisfying when you reach the top of that curve.  It's worth the effort.

8) Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)

October 24th, 2014

This one has been covered so much in the press and in GOTY lists that I don't feel the need to elaborate too much.  It's the most polished action game of the year. 

What most won't tell you though is that the story is actually fantastic.  It's a really interesting mythology, and a world rich with history and detail.  Every enemy has an interesting name and history.  Every location has a history.  Every character has a history.  You get to see more history of the Umbra Witches.  None of this is bad.  None of this is cheesy.  It's awesome, and Bayonetta remains one of my favorite characters ever.

Please make a Bayonetta Amiibo Nintendo ...

9) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

May 30th, 2014

This doesn't need to get covered much either as you all know the drill.  It's just insanely polished, and fun to play.  It makes most PS4 games look ugly.  It's gorgeous.  It's fun.  It's a 10/10 game.

10) Strider (PS4)

February 18th, 2014

I almost didn't want to put this one on my list to be honest with you.  If I change my mind about any of them, I'd swap this one out for another one.  Regardless of that, I felt compelled to give it the last spot on the list because it deserves recognition.

Strider has the best 2D action combat and action platforming ..... ever?  Yes, ever.  

I remembrer when I first realized that I might be thinking that was the case.  I was alarmed.  Better than the old Striders?  Yeah.  Better than Ninja Gaiden on NES?  This is a tough one, but honestly, yeah it's significantly better.  Better than Symphony of the Night?  Yeah, it blows it away actually.  What 2D combat is better?  There isn't any.  It's silky smooth and extremely fun.  You have a ton of options and every action feels good to do.  

The game has it's limitations; lackluster story, environmental design that blends together a bit.  But how anyone can put other 2D games like Shovel Knight on their list over something like Strider - that is just massively more polished, I will never know.  The combat in this is just light years ahead - and it all feels responsive, snappy, fluid and fun.  And it's 1080p 60fps.


Honorable Mention:  

The Legend of Korra (PS4), Kirby Triple Deluxe (3DS), Geometry Wars 3 (PS4), Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U), Super Smash Brothers (Wii U), Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (PS3), Hyrule Warriors (Wii U).


3:30 PM on 12.03.2014

Re: 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male

Feminist Frequency has a new video up, so let's break it down and see if any of this is fair criticism and commentary.  One interesting fact about this video is that it has several gaming journalists reading their script instead of Anita this time, including 3 from IGN that I recognized, one from Polygon, the retired Adam Sessler, and Tim Schafer.

I'm skeptical that these benefits they are going to list are actually "invisible," so let's see how it goes.  If they were actually invisible, it would be pretty tough to point them out.  

1) "I can choose to remain completely oblivious or indifferent to the harassment that many women face in gaming."

I don't know if this is really a gender-based privilege at all, considering that anyone really has the ability to be indifferent about people they don't know.  It's basically implying that men have no empathy for people that get harassed, and that women will automatically have more empathy.  It's really not a strong point that I would have placed as my #1 at the top of the list.  For example, anybody, regardless of their gender, that is not into gaming at all will likely be completely indifferent to this point.  Anyone that primarily games on their tablets or phones, or plays offline games, or doesn't spend most of their time reading gaming websites is also indifferent to it.  Anyone that doesn't go to conventions (the overwhelming majority of all gamers do not go) are indifferent to what goes on there.  

Then even if you take the reverse perspective here and describe what it's like to be a male gamer today, you're not exactly given a pass to be indifferent to everything.  All you have to look at is gamergate to see that people get harassed, banned from twitter or gaming websites, doxxed, or even threatened in real life if they don't have the right opinion.  If you're a male gaming journalist, you're not allowed to be indifferent, you're heavily pressured to say the right thing.  And the press is what creates the narrative for the hardcore gaming community's day to day discussion.  So I really don't think this point is valid, for several different reasons.

2) "I am never told that video games and the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I'm male."

I would have maybe had some sympathy for this point if it was 1987.  But it's 2014, and in something I like to refer to as "reality" - even my 65 real old aunts enjoy gaming on their phone, and asked me about what to get this thanksgiving.  Even my 20 year old sorority girl coworkers enjoy playing candy crush and fighting for high scores with their friends.  If you include all forms of gaming out there, including every type of casual game, women make up over 50% of gamers today.  So this point really seems like a relic that doesn't apply in any meaningful way.  Any kids being raised today are being raised by parents that played games growing up.

3) "I can publicly post my username, gamertag, or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender."

This is a valid point.  Harassment is not okay, it's not condoned by the gaming community collectively, it's moderated everywhere, and at conventions, and within the legal system.  I have no problem condemning harassment.  

Now watch as they basically repeat this same point to pad the list.

4) "I will never be asked to prove my gaming cred simply because of my gender."

This one, I don't have any sympathy for.  Proving your gamer cred is part of how gamers socialize with everyone.  Jonathan Holmes can post an article saying that a lightsaber crossguard was in No More Heroes first, and within minutes someone points out detailed Star Wars expanded Universe material using it first.  That is what enthusiastic hobbyists do.  That's literally almost all that they do, and they do it to everyone.  When you get to know a new gamer, you are asking what they like to play, how much they know about games, and if you play any kind of competitive game, of course you are assessing how good they are.

I just don't see how this one matters, and it's never going to go away.

5) "If I enthusiastically express my fondness for videogames, no one will automatically assume I'm faking my interest just to get attention from other gamers."

It's not "automatic."  People trying to assess someone's sincerity and honesty is never going to go away.  When there's a heavy monetary incentive involved in talking about games and gaining publicity, people should be skeptical.

I know it's the new taboo thing to say there is no such thing as a fake gamer girl.  But the politically incorrect reality is that it is true sometimes.  I only say that because I literally watched a friend of ours do it on purpose.  One of my best friends is a hardcore gamer, and she's a girl.  If we're out at the bar or meeting new people, and it comes up that she plays games, it's an automatic point of connection and point of mutual interest for most of the guys she would be talking to.  They find that attractive, and feel like it's easier to talk to her about things they like.  So this other girl would watch this all the time at the bars, and started mentioning how she's all about NES games and was trying to work it in to flirt with guys.  She never was into video games at all, and actually kind of talked shit on us both for liking them at various points.  So yes, she was doing that for attention because a lot of guys like gaming, and want to share that with their significant other.

Is that a majority of women?  No.  She's literally the only person in my life I've met who did that, but it did happen.  Do I even think it's a bad thing?  No.  She's literally trying to be social and flirt with guys on points they are interested in, so I think it's probably the least offensive thing out there.  However, would I want to go to this girl for the latest news on gaming, or opinions on gaming?  No.  The only time I can see this being problematic is if someone without any interest in games tries to use gaming for publicity, and ends up giving out bad information.  If you're not an expert on games, just say that up front, and no one is going to care.  Gamers deal with people every day who aren't experts on games - it's called their friends and family.  Just don't be dishonest about it.

6) "I can look at practically any gaming website, show, or magazine, and see the voices of people of my own gender widely represented."

So, they're saying the gaming media is almost entirely made up of white men?  This is a fact, so I agree.  

7) "When I go to a gaming event or convention, I can be relatively certain that I won't be harassed, groped, or, catcalled, or propositioned by total strangers."

Same as point #3.

8) "I will never be asked, or expected to speak for all other gamers who share my gender."

This just simply isn't true.  This whole video is basically speaking for all men.  Generalizing both genders happens literally all the time.  Most of feminist critique in gaming is actually the most guilty of presuming to speak for all women of their own accord, without anyone asking them.  And they're not afraid to generalize all men either.  This point is a complete fail.

9) "I can be sure that my gaming performance - good or bad - won't be attributed to, or reflect on my gender as a whole."

This is the same as point #8.  People generalize the genders all the time.  If there are lots of good male gamers, that is what is used to generalize the gender as a whole.  If there are trolls online that harass people, that is used to generalize the gender as a whole.  People generalize the gender as a whole literally all the time, for all kinds of things, including gaming performance, and many other more important things.  

This isn't going away, and it happens to everyone.

10) "My gaming ability will never be called into question based on unrelated, natural, biological functions."

I literally don't know what this means.  What biological functions are they talking about?  

11) "I can be relatively sure my thoughts on videogames, won't be dismissed or attacked based solely on my tone of voice, even if I speak in an aggressive, obnoxious, crude, or flippant manner."

This is 100%, flat out false.  See gamergate.  See Jim Sterling 6 years ago.  See Tim Robbins on Kotaku.

12) "I can openly say that my favorite games are casual, odd, artistic, or cute, without fear that my opinions will reinforce a stereotype that women are not real gamers."

It's not a stereotype that women, statistically prefer more casual games.  They are the majority of mobile and facebook gamers, and they have preferences in genre as well.  There are a lot of women who like more hardcore games too, but it's not the majority of women.  It's one of those stereotypes that is based in fact.

Still though, it's never a good idea to generalize anyone, and I don't ever do that.  Everyone's a unique person who has their own taste in things.  If your biggest worry is "reinforcing a stereotype," I don't know if it's a big problem.  What that is basically saying is that you are worried that your taste in gaming is the same as the majority of female gamers.  Why are you worried?  How about just be yourself and enjoy your casual, artisitc and cute games.  

Does everyone enjoy casual, artistic, and cute games?  No.  Those people who don't like those kinds of games have a different opinion on what they like.  They want to listen to the opinions of people that are like the same kind of media they're into.  I don't see how this is a problem honestly.

13) "When purchasing most major videogames in a store, chances are I will not be asked if, or assumed to be buying it for a wife, daughter, or girlfriend."

This is the same as point #12.  One time after work I went to wal-mart, and someone asked me if I knew where a product was.  I realized that I had on a polo shirt that was blue, and they thought that maybe I worked there.  I politely told them that I didn't work there, and went on with the rest of my day.

People in retail trying to sell you a product are not the bane of your existence.  Honestly, I will just straight up call this one first world problems.  How about instead focus on something important, like the way black people are treated in stores sometimes, as threatening suspects of shoplifting even after they buy the product.  

Not to mention, let's just think for a minute about the proposition raised here.  They are claiming that we will not be asked if we're buying it for a wife, daughter or girlfriend.  Really now?  Well, what about if you go buy imagine babies at Gamestop?  What about if you go buy Barbie's Horse Riding Adventure?  People at retail making basic assumptions is just the epitomy of a first world problem.  Shop on Amazon then like I do.  I hate going to Gamestop because they harass everyone about upselling and get up in your face about it, every single time.  That's their job.  That's how they're trained.

14) "The vast majority of game studios, past and present, have been led and populated by people of my own gender, and as such, most of their products have been specifically designed to cater to my demographic."

That is true, but you have to ask yourself why?  Probably because they are businesses and they are catering to the demographic that was interested in paying for the content, developing it, and reading about it for decades.  As that changes, you see the games changing too.  It's really a non-issue in my opinion.  EA and Microsoft aren't plotting to ignore women.  They want to sell units to anyone who will show up with money.  They are corporations.  They are legally required to do just that.  Film is definitely doing that now, and you can look at the demographics of theater turnout to see why.

15) "I can walk into any gaming store and see images of my gender widely represented as powerful heroes, dastardly villains, and non-playable characters alike."

I can find images of both.  It's not that hard.  Hunger Games is in the theaters too.  Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Portal, and on and on.  It's definitely there, in major AAA series.  It's not non-existant, no matter how much they seem to want it to be.  

This really seems like a case of a privileged class ignoring reality.  Yes, I am calling white women a privileged class in this case.  I imagine that most other minority groups would be ecstatic with the kind of representation that women get in gaming, in terms of the quality of the characters, the quality of the series, and the frequency that they're included.  I can count how many Arab characters there are worth mentioning in gaming on one hand.  They even include NPCs on this point, which tips the list absurdly in favor in women.  

Could there be more?  Sure.  Is it even a priority at this point worth mentioning, when you consider how little representation other minorities get?  Honestly, I can't say it is.  I just can't.  There's already quite a bit of attention on this issue, and quite a bit of major games meeting this need already.  Compare the outrage we saw about AC Unity not having a woman and compare it to the outrage we saw at AC Unity not having any Arabs.  

There's no legal mandate at this point for what artists are supposed to create.  There is no quota.  They seem to be doing okay if you ask me.

16) "I will almost always have the option to play a character of my gender, as most protagonists or heroes will be male by default."

Hollywood and gaming have a bad habit of using the same style of character repeatedly.  Agreed.  

In this case though, there are alternatives out there.  If people want to buy those and make them multi-million dollar series, you'll absolutely see more.

17) "I do not have to carefully navigate my engagement with online communities or gaming spaces in order to avoid or mitigate the possibility of being harassed because of my gender."

Same as point #3.

18) "I probably never think about hiding my real life gender online, username, my avatar choice, or about not using voice chat for fear of harassment for my being male."

Same as point #3.

19) "When I enter an online game, I can be relatively sure I won't be attacked or harassed, if and when my real life gender is made public."

Same as point #3.

20) "If I am trash talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male - nor will my gender be invoked as an insult."

Same as point #3.

21) "While playing online about people I don't know, I won't be interrogated about the size and shape of my real life body parts, nor will I pressured to share intimate details about my sex life for the pleasure of other players."

Same as point #3.

22) "Complete strangers generally do not send me unsolicited images of their genetalia or demand to see me naked on the basis of being a male gamer."

Same as point #3.

23) "In multi-player games, I can be pretty sure the conversations between other players will not focus on speculation about my attractiveness or sexual availability in real life."

Same as point #3.

24) "If I choose to point out sexism in gaming, my observations will not be seen as self-serving, and will therefore be seen as more credible and worthy of respect than my female counterparts, even if they are saying the exact same thing."

I just don't agree, at all.  People are critical of ideas, not their gender.  The guy writing this video literally has his own joke hashtag devoted to critizing him.  #FullMcIntosh.  You would think that might make him pause before regurgitating this point.

If anything, white men are pretty routinely demonized in these types of conversations and seem to have the opinions that are not being allowed on this topic.  As a class, I see them generalized the most.  For example, I am not a white man.  Just stating that adds validity to my blog.  That shows you the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in at the moment.

As far as whether or not your points are worthy of respect, I'm looking for two things.  1) logic, 2) evidence.  

25) "Because this video was created by a straight white male, this checklist will likely be taken more seriously than if it had been written by virtually any female gamer."

This simply isn't true.  Look at how well people responded to Arthur Gies rating down Bayonetta 2 at Polygon.  Not to mention, Jonathan McIntosh writes ALL their videos.  So why is he saying that this is going to be more well received than other videos he's written?  If he thinks that's true, he could open up the comments on youtube and the ratings and we could objectively see instead of empty theory crafting.


Ending) "In order to make change, first we need to acknowledge the problem, and then we must take responsibility for it as a community, so we can actively work together with people of all genders to dismantle the parts of gaming culture that perpetuate these imbalances."

This is where they jump the shark completely.  We've established one major problem on this list that I agree with.  Women are often times harassed in unique ways during online games, or at conventions.  Fair enough, I don't disagree.  My girlfriend still plays online all the time, but she gets weird comments sometimes.  If the goal here is to improve moderation of genuine harassment, I'm fully supportive.

What this video conveniently leaves out though is a description of what the parts of gaming culture are that they intend to dismantle?  What are the parts that perpetuate harassment?  If they're pointing to their previous videos that critique video game content, and are making the leap to saying that fictional content is turning people into harassers, she is leaving the field of science.  That's where you put your sign post in the ground and stop and note the departure from evidence, from objective fact, from every scientific consensus we know of.  That's where we note the rise in gaming happening at the same time that violent crime falls.  That's where we note the rise in gaming at the same time that women's rights and economic standing keep improving.  That's where we note the rise in gaming at the same time that gay rights have advanced with historic speed.  

There is no proof that gaming content perpetuates any of these imbalances.  Zero. Notice that Sommers in this video cites "researchers at UCLA," and shows a peer reviewed study.  She cites another Texas A&M study showing once again, for the 1,000th time that violence and gaming are not linked in any kind of concrete way.  She makes a simple claim, and then demonstrates the evidence for it in a reasoned way.  In fact crime rates and the rise of gaming have an almost directly inverse relationship.  Notice that she's a professor with a PhD in the field, with decades of experience in peer reviewing research, and lecturing on this topic.

Compare how she handles discussion of evidence to the author of this video.  Compare how many times she has been in debates and discussions with people challenging her ideas compared to how many debates McIntosh and Sarkesian have allowed.  Just look on youtube for yourself.

"Amazing" how those peer reviewed scientists arriving at a decades-long support of the claim that media doesn't directly correlate to violence in real life are in "denial."  Luckily the press has decided to ignore scientists and side with a feminist on youtube trying to rally us all to "dismantle gaming" in vague, unspecific terms.

Harassment in real life is not related to gaming content according to science.

They are entirely separate things.  If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, then you need to ask for a whole lot of proof before you turn your mind off and agree to let 25 people in a rapid-fire video think for you.  

This parallels the saga of Jack Thompson extremely closely.  Now look back up at what they claim is point #24.  It's literally almost the exact opposite of what they claim when you look at Thompson vs. Sarkeesian.  Thompson said this decades ago, and went to court over it and the press had a field day with this guy.  Sarkeesian says it on youtube and now multiple members of the press are literally in their video!  Does that tell you that when women raise points like this, it's automatically seen as LESS credible?  Again, what is this based on?  Literally nothing.  Just pulled out of thin air to fit a predetermined narrative.

So we've analyzed the latest moral outrage video objectively and fairly, and where does that leave us?  The exact same place we started.  Everyone is against harassment already.  Even gamergate has anti-harassment teams, and harassment in online gaming certainly pre-dates gamergate so that can't be the cause.

What specifically needs to be dismantled and why?  What is the evidence supporting your claim?  Still waiting ...


6:10 AM on 11.15.2014

The Young Turks React to Chris Plante (Polygon) - #Cometgate

I thought this was a video that gamers familiar with the gender debates of the last several years would like to see; and need to see.  This is a video from The Young Turks, a liberal, feminist-leaning online news site with multiple female staff members.  In this video, they react to an article from Chris Plante, founding editor at Polygon, who now works at The Verge (Polygon's sister site).

Plante wrote an article at The Verge condemning one of the scientists responsible for landing a spacecraft on a speeding comet millions of miles away from earth.  Plante condemns this poor scientist because he was wearing a shirt that Plante found in poor taste, and called the shirt sexist.  

As you can see in the video, the scientist later apologizes and is fighting back tears.

The kicker is that the shirt was a gift from a female friend who makes the shirts.


I just wanted gamers, and especially gaming journalism editors and writers at Destructoid to see what a prominent liberal news site's reaction is to the same kind of feminism the gaming community has been subjected to for the last several years.  If this shirt was reviewed by Polygon, I predict it would have gotten a 7.5.


"Look, every single group has ... extremists, fringe group that's somehow associated with it.  And so ... I hate, I hate that this has taken on the feminist tag because this is not feminism okay?  Real feminism focuses on gender equality."

- Anna Kasparian (TYT anchor) (3 minutes, 40 seconds)

I hope that everyone can listen to the diverse opinions of women on this issue without trying to erase their opinion.  I'd hate to see someone as prominent as Anna Kasparian have to join #notyourshield just to try and prove she exists.


4:39 PM on 10.30.2014

Analysis of the Anita/Colbert Interview

I finally found an article with the full interview up and got a chance to watch it.  I was honestly pleasantly surprised by Colbert's questions and I think this was an interesting watch.  This is the kind of questioning that I wished the gaming media was doing from the very beginning, and I think it's worth looking at this interview critically.  

Link to the video.

We can all agree it was a great PR victory for her just on visuals alone, but the actual content discussed doesn't seem to really back up many of her claims or positions.  Even with this being a relatively softball interview, I think it's actually the most pushback and questioning I've ever seen her get ... ever.  That is a sad statement on how little discussion has actually occured around her videos and her theories.  It's sad that it took a comedian that is completely outside of gaming to be the first to do this in a mainstream way.  

Anyway, let's look at some of the exchanges I chose to highlight.  They also talk a bit more about harassment, and her Utah speaking event that got canceled.  I think everyone but extremist trolls agrees that harassment is not okay, so I don't find it to be a particularly compelling topic to discuss since there's really not much to discuss.  Report it to the authorities, which she did.  Good.  Okay, moving on to her actual ideas now -

I. Colbert: "It's a culture war, it's a sub-culture war."

Anita: "There is something going on, and what it is is women being harassed and threatened and terrorized -"

Colbert: "After you first attacked male gamers for enjoying looking at big-breasted women with tiny armor that barely covers their nipples.  What is wrong with that?  I like that.  I like what that looks like.  I'm a man baby!"

Anita: "Well -"

Colbert: "Newsflash, I like it."

Anita: "Well, one of the problems with that is that it actually reinforces this cultural myth that women are sexual objects and sexual playthings for male amusement.  And, we're not."

I thought this was actually a pretty interesting exchange, because Colbert is basically arguing that heterosexual male fantasies are entirely normal, healthy parts of male sexuality.  "News flash, I like it."  He's arguing that there is nothing wrong with games that are purposely made to cater to male sexual fantasies, because sexual fantasies are healthy, normal parts of what it means to be a human being.  

Anita says that male sexual fantasies are "problems."  They reinforce a cultural myth that women are sexual objects.  I just don't find that compelling at all.  What is the evidence for that statement?  Is there even a way that anyone could scientifically prove that?  It just sounds like an idea that is plucked out of the air and can't be proven.  I could just as easily say that violent fantasy games reinforce a cultural myth that murder is fun and death has no consequences.  But that doesn't prove true in reality.  Violent crime continues to decline nationwide in the US at the same time that violent gaming rises.

I just find her whole message here to be anti-inclusive, anti-sex, and anti-tolerance.  I'm all for supporting any and everyone's sexual expression whether it's LGBTQ or anyone else.  That also includes my support for heterosexuality.  How can we casually demonize someone's sexuality, or sexual art?  Many men are attracted to women, and like to spend their money on fantasy games where they can interact with women they are attracted to.  Would anyone feel comfortable calling a game allowing gay men to explore their sexuality a "problem?"  No they wouldn't, and they shouldn't.  But the same goes for heterosexuality as well, which is being unfairly demonized here.


II. Colbert: "We're saving them.  Damsels in distress.  I'm saving the princess, am I supposed to let the princess die?  Is that what you want?  That's kinda harsh, that's kinda hostile."

Anita: "Well maybe the princess shouldn't be a damsel and she could save herself."

Colbert: "They've got games where - [interrupted by crowd]."

This seems like a very unconvincing comeback from her that doesn't persuade me in any way that the damsel trope is problematic.  As Colbert argues here, most games portray a story of trying to save someone you love, someone that is more important to you than anyone, someone you are willing to risk death to save.  Is that really a story about objectification?  Sometimes it may be in extremely simplified NES games that barely even have the capability to tell a story.  But sometimes, it's a game merely about selfless heroism and risking your personal safety to save someone.  That is a positive message, and she doesn't really have any criticism of that here at all.

Maybe the princess shouldn't be a damsel?  Sure, that's fine for some games, and those games exist already and continue to be made.  Colbert said it right here himself.  Anita even says it later in the video.  So if those games exist, and will continue to be made, why demonize a story about selfless heroism in other games?


III. Colbert: "By criticizing these, male fantasy games, male objectification of women games -"

Anita: "Some of them that would be an accurate description"

Colbert: "So, give me some names, name some names."

Anita: "Well, in the work that I do, I look at hundreds of examples of videogames that -"

Colbert: "So, can you think of 3?"  Can you think of 3?"

Anita: "I can, but I think it's a bigger issue to talk about the industry as a whole and how it perpetuates these ideas of sexism and mysogyny as opposed to just Grand Theft Auto example."

I thought this section was also pretty convincing, since she basically fully runs from repeated, focused questioning here, and simply refuses to answer his question.  Instead, she wants to discuss how the entire industry, collectively perpetuates sexism and mysogyny.  I just don't think that's really true.  The entire industry doesn't perpetuate hatred of women.  If it did, why are 48% of gamers female?  It just doesn't make sense.  How would any prove her claim scientifically?  Can it even be proven scientifically?  It doesn't fit with reality.


IV. Anita: "Women are perceived as threatening because we are asking for games to be more inclusive."

Colbert: "Why not just have a separate game?  Have separate but equal games."

Anita: "Well, we do have lots of different kinds of games that -"

Colbert: "So, what are you complaining about?"

Anita: "That's one of the things that I think is happening here is that, we have this wide range of games that - we're seeing mobile games, we're seeing indie games, we're seeing this influx of different kinds of games, and that's what gamergate is responding to.  They're actually responding to the fact that we're saying that gaming can no longer be this little boy's club anymore.  There are many of us women who have been playing games our whole lives, and so they're lashing out because we're challenging the status quo of gaming as a male dominated space."

Colbert uses charged language here that harkens back to segregated schools and it gets a laugh from the audience.  But his actual question and premise here are perfectly valid.  Lots of content is segregated across gender lines, simply because they have different intrests.  Men don't call Ellen and Oprah sexist because the talk shows don't have enough action segments in them.  They just find something else to watch; seperate but equal TV shows.  That's basically what Colbert is advocating for here; and he's asking if she's even comfortable allowing games made specifically for men to even exist.  In response to that, she basically says that gaming can no longer be a "little boy's club."  Does that mean that no games purposely made to appeal to men can exist?  It doesn't really mean anything specific because it's just a catch phrase.  If 48% of gamers are women, if games where women are the heroes exist, if diverse indie games exist, why would anyone call it a little boy's club?  She basically entirely dodges his question here, which is saying that not every single game will be designed to appeal to every person.  Some games will, and some games will be designed for a more specific audience.  If she agreed to this obvious, non-confrontational point, she would have little reason to demonize games or criticize the industry.


V. Colbert: "What about the accusations of collusion between gamers, designers and journalists?  Do you understand how important it is?  We are talking about ethics in G-A-M-I-N-G J-O-U-R-N-A-L-I-S-M.  Do you understand how huge that is?  I mean, what if there was no ethics in Hollywood journalism?  If we can't trust Entertainment Tonight or TMZ where would we be?  Is that what you want for gamer journalism?"

Anita: "I think that that is a sort of compelling way to reframe the fact that this is actually attacks on women.  Ethics in journalism is not what's happening, in any way.  It's actually men going after women in really hostile, aggressive ways.  That's what gamergate is about.  It's about, like, terrorizing women for being involved in this industry, being involved in this hobby."

Colbert's question here is basically saying, "of course gaming journalism is corrupt, just like Hollywood.  It will always be corrupt."  He is probably right here as well.  But what does that actually say?  That says that there is of course going to be corruption, and so of course the claims of ethical issues in gaming journalism deserve more serious attention because they almost surely exist due to its inherent sensationalist attitude and conflict of interest built in as a consumer press.  Gamers complaining about the press has been a consistent theme for years, and it does exist.  Just ask any game journalist and they'll tell you that a lot of their audience is hostile, and suspicious of them.

But Anita basically dodges that point completely and goes out of her way to really eggregiously mischaracterize the whole gamergate movement with broad, generalized strokes. It's really a very bad answer that tries to blatantly simplify, demonize, and marginalize a diverse and complex collective of people and complaints. 


VI. Colbert:  "As a man am I allowed to be a feminist?"

Anita: "Well, do you believe that women should have equal rights to men and that we should fight for those rights?"

Colbert: "Sure."

Anita: "Great, then you're a feminist."

He asked if he was "allowed to be a feminist."  The answer is yes.  He didn't ask what a feminist is.  Feminism is something you self-identify with, you don't label people as feminists against their will if they don't want to be included.  This is something that feminists have a huge problem with, because huge numbers of people (including large percentages of women), purposely go out of their way to not label themselves as feminists even when directly asked.  For example, I of course think that women should have equal rights to men and that we should all fight for that equality.  But I'm not a feminist, no matter how badly she wants me to be.  Feminism is not that simplistic, and it includes numerous sub-ideologies that have various beliefs and views about all kinds of things that go well beyond this purposely reductionist definition.  She basically ends the interview on a misleading cannard that is parroted online very frequently.

A better question to ask would be, why in the world are so many people purposely against calling themselves feminists?  That would require some self-reflection, and honest acknowledgment of their faults to determine though, so instead they will just use the broadest, most benign definition possible to label others as feminists after they go out of their way to disassociate themselves from the movement.  

Ouch.  And this relatively softball interview represents the most criticism she has ever had in an interview.


3:56 AM on 10.20.2014

A predictable response to political disenfranchisement is anger.

I've been reading about Gamergate and gender / political issues in gaming since the beginning, but for the most part, I've largely done so from the outside looking in.  I don't have a twitter account, and the precise number of tweets I've sent in my life is exactly zero.  But looking from the outside in on this most recent explosion of gender debate and harassment, I think I've finally found a working a thesis that explains what is happening in a way that makes sense to me.

Gamergate is a response to political disenfranchisement.  The political process is controlled social chaos.  That is how modern societies take differing views and peacefully negotiate a middle-ground in terms of policy, law, and the values we hold as a society.  Journalism has always been a key aspect of politics (enshrined in the first amendment), and most political philosophers believe that without a free press, it is impossible to have an informed public, and therefore impossible to have any kind of a meaningful democracy.  

It's in everyone's best interests to bring as many people as possible into the political process.  The actual process of political debate is largely peaceful and non-violent.  But when people are shut out of the government, or shut out of the press; when people feel that they have no peaceful means to express themselves and be heard, that is where we see small pockets of desperate people take up extremism, revolution, and protest.  These are political actions you take when you no longer belong to a functioning political system.

I.  the iraq war

As most of you know, a few journalists have infamously compared Gamergate to ISIS.  

This was likely just a crude way of saying that GG is "the worst thing in the world."  But if you actually think about this in terms of political disenfranchisement, I actually can see a few similarities that I think are worth thinking about seriously.

Drawing this parallel is controversial, so I want to first list my source; the fantastic documentary from PBS' Frontline series, "Losing Iraq."  If you haven't watched it, I recommend doing so, as it really does a fantastic job of explaining the key political mistakes made after the beginning of the occupation.

The first road side bomb in Iraq was the very next day after the Baathists (Sunnis) were shut out of the Iraqi government.  It wasn't when the US invaded, or during the first few weeks of the occupation.  It's now referred to as "Order #1," Ambassador Paul Bremmor's first major order after arriving to Iraq; and it is now seen as the largest tactical bluder in the entire Iraq War.

"There are two reasons were wanted to keep the Baathist party intact.  One, they were the only folks that had experience running the government.  Number 2, the Sunnis needed to have a voice.  And, if you don't give people a voice, they have relatively few options. [...] What history tells us is that the next option is violence."   - Col. Thomas M. Gross (Office for Humanitarian Assistance) (15:00 min)

Transitioning from this severely serious example to discussion of gamergate is admittedly silly in just how vast the disparity is in terms of consequence, and severity.  But what we're discussing is uprising, revolt, and if we can learn anything about the crowd psychology of political revolts.  There are parallels worth noting.

II. The gaming press

For several years now, we've seen a surge of feminist-focused gaming stories on all the large gaming websites.  Most of the major gaming websites are run from coastal cities in the US, made up almost completely of liberal, white male journalists.  The infusion of an explicity political agenda into gaming journalism is the turning point.  For several years now, that political discussion has consisted entirely of only one very narrow band of politics.  All other political expressions and ideas have been systematically shut out from all mainstream exposure.  Commenters expressing alternative views have been heavily moderated, whether it is on the gaming websites themselves, or the total lack of comments allowed on Anita Sarkeesian videos.  The consistent theme has been to push one small slice of political ideology onto a large and politically diverse readership, and to silence and marginalize any opposing voices.

After years of this escalating tension, Leigh Alexander declares war on anyone outside of her narrow political spectrum, and declares that they are "dead."  This was so extreme, that even with no representation over the last several years, I think most readers still expected to see dissenting views represented in a response article.  That response article never came.  What followed instead was a media blitz, and a wholesale endorsement of that declaration of war.  Anyone outside of the accepted narrow political spectrum was not given a voice, and they were now under siege.  Comments were censored, forum threads were crushed, dissenting articles never materialized at all.  

You all may be aware of the existence of the "Gaming Journalist Professionals" google mailing list.  It's a semi-secret, private list of email correspondence between gaming journalists from almost all the major sites.  That list has been leaked by a whistleblower, along with several extended email conversations.  In one of these leaked emails, we can see that even allowing a forum thread on The Escapist was seen as a threat that had to be systematically crushed.  Journalists from completely different websites were secretely pressuring the Editor in Chief of The Escapist to crush a forum thread on his site.    I think we can agree that political diversity was being systematically crushed.

III. political desperation, revolt

With no peaceful alternatives left to express their political views, small subsets of gamers have turned to extremism of varying degrees; some appropriate, and some inappropriate.  Why?  Because they were shut out of the political system, and their voices were systematically crushed.  

You see an unfortunate, and dangerously threatening subset of these disenfranchised people take up violent reactionary behavior not unlike that first roadside bomb in Iraq in terms of the psychology of it at least.  They tweet harassing behavior and make shockingly violent threats that have gotten the police justifiably involved.  These people have escalated to the use of force, and have to be shut down by law enforcement.  We can see how political disenfranchisement leads to a predictable backlash, but that doesn't justify violence or threats.

We also see people emailing advertisers in what is the gaming journalism equivalent of a BSD (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) political protest; like we've seen against South Africa's apartheid regime, or more recently, Israel.  That's a perfectly valid form of political protest for someone that is marginalized and systematically excluded from political representation.  What else should they do?  They have no other options.

Understanding the psychology of political representation helps us understand how misguided "gaming journalism" at large has been; and how badly they've misunderstood what is actually happening here.  The solution to this extreme tension is political representation.  The solution is to give these people a stake in the political system because if they participate in politics, then they have a peaceful stress release valve.  They have a way to have their voices heard, and they have no reason whatsoever to move to more extreme measures to express themselves.  The solution is to include their viewpoints in more articles, and to increase their political representation.  The solution is for the press to stop being driven by narrow ideological agendas and activism, and to start representing diverse political viewpoints and include more voices in the discussion.

Just like in Iraq, the solution is not merely a matter of involving the military.  The solution is political.  It is convincing people that they have a voice in their government, and that it represents them.  The press is a critical part of how people interact with each other and with their government, and if if a society does not have a free and fair press, it makes democratic representation impossible.  The last thing we need is a #stopgamergate movement that marginalizes these people even more and limits their political expression.  The solution is more inclusion and more diverse representation of political views. 

The current climate in political gaming discussion is equivalent to having not just one bised station that is a liberal version of Fox News; but rather having every single major station be a liberal version of Fox News.  And I'm a liberal, but I still want a free press that represents multiple political views, and not an agenda driven press that shuts out any dissenting political ideas.  It was journalists who decided to include politics several years ago.  Their mistake was in thinking that once they opened that door that they could only include politics they liked and have no one react to that.  Everything we know about history tells us otherwise.


12:13 AM on 10.05.2014

inFamous: Second Son has One of the Best OSTs of the Year

I was listening to the inFamous Second Son OST today in the car, and I was again struck by just how great it really is.  This is really of the most refereshing and unique OSTs I've heard in quite some time.  It starts with two premises:  capture the feel of 1990s - present Seattle rock, and convert that into an appropriate OST.  So, it's not as straight ahead as most rock.  It's more ambient, a little bit more muted and suited for the background , especially being an open world game.  But, that unexpectedly ends up giving it a really original and refreshing sound.  Finally, they combine electronics work with it, which I always love to hear in combination with rock.  The final product is equal parts relaxing, and rock out, which is pretty unique - dark ambience, punctuated with playful rock.  I can't recommend it enough for curious music fans.  It's one of the only western OSTs I've enjoyed listening to front to back without skipping songs.

Second Son

The Vandal King

Speed of Light

Conflict Resolution

The Bio-Terrorist Threat


Martial Law

Freedom and Security

Serial Tagger

Owning the Future

Smoke and Mirrors


"Second Son" is built for the cinematic intro, and takes me back to that introduction with the skyline and the speeding car as the tension builds up, and it has an awesome melody on guitar.  "The Vandal King" is almost like bluesy southern rock, and maintains a really laid back feel and just has nice warm tones.  "Speed of Light" is super original, almost combining street drumming style with rock guitar and electronic vocal samples.  I can't say I've heard anything quite like this, and it's awesome.  One of my favorite songs.  "Conflict Resolution" is just a solid song, similar to Vandal King with some bluesy rock.  They turn up the heat a little bit and have a more pronounced, rocking chorus.  "The Bio-Terrorist" is one of the best songs on the OST, with a super catchy build up and rock out line that I've listened to probably 100x and it never gets old.  "Cumulonimbus" is the song that hit me the most in the car today, and it's just a really kick ass mixture of dark ambient electronics with rock that I'm in love with.  "Martial Law" has a very cool intro, mixing electronics, drumming, and light bass before the guitar kicks in.  The drum sound is interesting, and reminds me a bit of street drumming.  "Freedom and Security" is one of the main melodic lines in the game, and it's stuck with me ever since I played it.  "Serial Tagger" is also a personal favorite, and really is one of the more complete songs as a stand alone piece of music, and perfectly demonstrates this interesting intersection between OST, electronics, and bluesy/warm rock.  I really love this one.  "owning the Future" is one of the main boss fight rock tracks.  It's fantastic, and despite being one of the heavier songs, has a great melodic line.  "Smoke and Mirrors" is the big climax rock track for the game, adn it's one of the best.  "Alibi" is one of the more relaxed tracks, but I love it.  Really uses some interesting effects on the strings, and mixes it with rock drumming.  

These are just my favorite ones.  They're all pretty good.  22 tracks in total.  Not only great to listen to alone, but really captures the feel of the city for the game.


10:45 AM on 07.29.2013

Why I think Phil Fish has bigoted opinions about gaming

As Phil Fish makes his graceful exit from his career in game design, I feel like a unique opportunity has been created to talk about something that has been plaguing gaming media, and gaming culture for the last 7 years - racism.

1. Edge

Edge posted an article about the whole ordeal this morning that really forced me to reply; but this issue has been brewing for me this whole console generation.

Phil Fish and the hate mob - an internet tragedy

"Phil Fish absolutely fulfilled his side of this bargain, with a big chunk of the web fulfilling the other side. It’s tempting to say that Fish tells it like it is, if ‘tells like it is’ wasn’t a euphemism for ‘is a mad bigot with no off-switch’. Phil Fish isn’t a mad bigot; only the most perspective-challenged self-identified fans of Japanese games would accuse him of being a bigot, which is admittedly still at least 50 per cent of self-identified fans of Japanese games."

Since I said in the comment section yesterday that I do feel he has bigoted opinions, I felt I'd take this moment to point out just how incorrect this article really is, considering he's talking about me, and people like me.  Yes, I am a self-identified fan of Japanese games.  I wear that badge of shame proudly.  My user name is based on a Japanese anime that I really enjoyed many years ago, Rurouni Kenshin.  My avatar is also from a different anime series, Hellsing.  I plead guilty to these two crimes: openly admitting I like Japanese games, and liking some anime series.  

Before I move on to my argument, just look at the above quote.  It's important to note that in Edge's dismissal of charges of bigotry, Edge actually says very obviously bigoted opinions in that same sentence.  It's stunningly ironic, and clear as day.  This shows how pervasive racist attitudes towards Japanese games really are.  They have become virtually invisible to many gamers, and especially gaming journalists.

Let's dissect what he's saying.  50% of self-identified fans of Japanese games are extremely "perspective-challenged."  Firstly, why isn't it 50% of all gamers?  If you like Japanese games, it is due to an inferior perspective?  This segments fans of gaming into "us" and "them."  If you like Japanese games, you have a 50% chance of being an irrational fool.  If you don't like Japanese games, we can assume from Edge's statement here that this means your risk of being a fool is probably a lower percentage.  Considering that two out of three consoles out today are Japanese, we can assume that a great many people like Japanese games around the world.  New Super Mario Bros. alone sold almost 30 million copies, which actually surpasses Call of Duty; and it's been a top gaming franchise for several decades longer.  According to Edge, minimum, 15 million people are "perspective-challenged."  You can tell this because they purchased New Super Mario Bros.  Dead giveaway.  This doesn't even mention the 75 million PS3 owners, or the untold numbers of perspective-challenged gamers on Wii, DS, and 3DS.  That's an awful lot of perspectively-challenged individuals.  

Since sexism is the hot button issue these days that gaming journalists and gamers can't seem to get enough of, I'll filter a few statements through my sexism analogy filter generator so hopefully more people can see how problematic some of these statements are.  

"Phil Fish isn’t a mad [sexist]; only the most perspective-challenged self-identified fans of [games made by women] would accuse him of being a [sexist], which is admittedly still at least 50 per cent of self-identified fans of [games made by women]."

Can anyone imagine a journalist writing this sentence in this day and age?  They would be crucified.  More importantly, can anyone imagine a game journalist actually arguing that what he said would not be considered sexist?  But since it's merely implying that a whole race of people are worse at making games than everyone else, it can fly through the radar without much complaint.  

Moving on to my explanation of why I think Fish has bigoted opinions about gaming, check out this video if you haven't already.  And while you're at it, go ahead and read about the response of the person he humiliated.

"They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

Before I start, run this through the sexism analogy filter.  Picture a female developer standing up and saying that she's proud that Indie Game: The Movie is made by a female film director interested in gaming.  Imagine her asking what Fish thinks of recent games made by women.

"They suck.  I'm sorry, you [girls] need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

Can anyone imagine the kind of backlash that he would have gotten from the gaming press if he said that?  More importantly, can you imagine a game journalist actually arguing that what he said wouldn't be considered sexist in any way?  But he's just insulting all Japanese developers, so it's fine I guess.  If you see any bigotry in this, you're perspective challenged, along with 50% of all fans of Japanese gaming.

2. Soft Racism

I make the jump from Fish being rude to Fish being racist because it takes racist beliefs about Japanese developers being inferior to even rationalize saying something that profoundly stupid. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is literally the highest rated game of this gen. Blow even mentions Dark Souls, which does precisely the exact opposite of what he was complaining about. In fact, game journalists first saw Demon's Souls' design as being so foreign, so alien that they literally called it "crazy." It ran counter to everything they were used to seeing in streamlined western games. They would often say it's really only the product of "crazy" Japanese developers, with their zany ideas about game design. To act like that is some random exception to the rule, when its a distinctly Japanese product is absurd.

Or look at any fighting game, whether it's Street Fighter, Soul Calibur and on. Or look at Vanquish, or Metal Gear Solid V, or Bayonetta, Gravity Rush, Soul Sacrifice, Etrian Odyssey IV, Ninja Gaiden 2, Super Mario 3D Land, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Animal Crossing, NieR, Bravely Default, FF Type-0, Valkyria Chronicles, Rhythm Thief, Professor Layton, Okami HD, Lost Odyssey, Trauma Team, Gran Turismo, Ghost Trick, Sin and Punishment 2. Look at the combat mechanics of Dragon's Dogma and Dark Souls compared to Skyrim. Look at Xenoblade. I could keep going and going and going.

The list goes on and on and on, in virtually every genre out there.

Many Japanese games are utterly fantastic, and are some of the very best games ever made, including this generation. They excel in game music, game mechanics, originality, colorful artistry, and gameplay polish. Nintendo is probably still the single best developer on planet Earth, and their critical acclaim, sales, and history of massively original titles bears that out.

Fish at the time he was saying this had literally not even released a single game yet. Blow had only released one. Pick any two good Japanese game this whole gen, and you're already at twice the output these guys had. The only reason they could possibly even settle on what they said is racism against Japanese developers. I'm not saying they're members of the KKK, but they are absolutely prejudiced, and a ton of game journalists are too.

It takes effort to look at what happened in that video and not see an obvious racial component.  A Japanese developer spoken to as "you guys," and Fish taking the mantle of "we," as in "we are totally kicking your asses."  It's very transparently ethnic/nationalistic competition, fueled by racist bigotry and a desire to see his collective race/nation/region seen as the champions of gaming.

3. The Gaming Media

Not only have Japanese games come under attack this gen, but it's gone hand in hand with a full scale attack on Japanese culture as a whole, something that I feel is entirely unprecedented in gaming culture in previous generations.  

Most gaming fans have read Kotaku, and they're one of the most influential sites out there when it comes to pushing aspects of gaming culture and collective gamer attitudes and perspectives.  Kotaku is probably without a doubt, the website most responsible for bringing sexism and gender issues to the forefront in gaming culture.  They're also the website most responsible for shaping gamers' attitudes about Japan.

For years, Brian Ashcraft has ran a series of non-gaming related culture oddity articles overwhelmingly focused on "odd" things about Japanese culture.  These run 5 days a week, Monday through Friday.  Topics covered include blow up sex dolls, erotic games, pin-up models, sex hotels, and more.  You could literally sum up almost every one of the articles with the headline "What the fuck Japan!?", and it would fit.  The purpose is to purposely show only the most obscure, odd, and strange aspects of Japanese culture - 5 days a week.

It is my opinion that stories like these, running for the last several years straight, have "othered" Japan as a whole in the minds of many gamers.  While most people out there have enough intelligence to realize that Japanese culture cannot be summarized by posting articles about blow up sex dolls, I fear far too many gamers have failed to figure that out.  

The tendency to "other" and "fetishize" Asian culture has been around for a long, long time - known as Orientalism.

"Orientalism" is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S.  It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.  Edward W. Said, in his groundbreaking book, Orientalism, defined it as the acceptance in the West of "the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, 'mind,' destiny and so on."

According to Said, Orientalism dates from the period of European Enlightenment and colonization of the Arab World.  Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which "the West" constructed "the East" as extremely different and inferior, and therefore in need of Western intervention or "rescue."

In the time I've been online this gen, Japanese games have been systematically picked apart, insulted, and labeled as collectively inferior along with the whole of Japanese culture.  Look at how gamer language and culture has changed in regards to RPGs since last generation.  Last gen, most people just called all RPGs "RPGs."  Crazy, I know.  Now, we have JRPGs and WRPGs.  And then shortly after people managed to introduce "JRPG" and "WRPG" into common gamer vocabulary, we had the constant debate about how the west can intervene, or rescue the Japanese from themselves, because their game design methods are exotic, backward and comparatively inferior - or so the narrative goes ... but don't count Dragon's Dogma and Dark Souls as JRPGs, even though they are RPGs made in Japan, because the purpose of using the label "JRPG" is to make sure it looks as inferior, dated, and backwards as possible at all times when compared to WRPG.

Let's pull out the sexism analogy filter again and imagine what it would be like if 5 days a week, Kotaku ran articles only about irrational and strange things that women do.  How do you think this might color the opinions of people reading stories on that website about games made by women?  How do you think it might impact the opinions gamers have of women in general?  Do you honestly think articles like that would be acceptable, and would not be sexist?  

These are important questions to ask yourself.  The answer might not be very pleasant, because many gamers and gaming journalists have grown comfortable with a persistent racist attitude towards Japanese products and Japanese people.  It's not uncommon to read a comment on a Japanese game article from a user claiming that all Japanese people are pedophiles.  Where do opinions like these come from?  It's not uncommon to read user comments online claiming that all Japanese games are inherently inferior, and that they are technologically inferior.  Where do opinions like these come from?  
It's not uncommon to read articles written by Destructoid, IGN, and Kotaku editors claiming that Japanese developers are uniquely perverted compared to western developers, and that their games have unusual levels of sexual titillation.  Nevermind the fact that nudity, romance plot lines, and sex scenes are far more common in western games, and that one of the most popular shows on US television focuses on sex, torture, incest, pedophilia and rape (Game of Thrones).  It's far easier to externalize our perversion to the "other."  They're worse, and they're the bad ones, not us.  When western artists use extensive perversion and sexuality in their games and storylines, its seen as mature and thought provoking.

The unfortunate reality is that many gaming journalists have been peddling soft racism in gaming stories for years, and this will lead many to come to Fish's aid, or at the very least to downplay his offenses.  It's articles like Kotaku's culture pieces.  It's "how to fix JRPG" articles on IGN.  It's 7 years of "East vs. West" headlines and tabloid articles.  It's the double standards in reviews.  It's the tone used, the sex jokes, the inferiority jokes, and the continued push for the "west is better" narrative.  People will be quick to admit that Fish was rude, but few will admit that there are racist elements to his opinions, because saying so admits their own culpability in spreading these views, which are unmistakenly race-based double standards based on inaccurate assumptions and generalizations.  

4. Fear of using the word "racism"

How do you feel about recent games made by Japanese people?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

How do you feel about recent games made by women?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you girls need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

How do you feel about recent games made by African-Americans?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

I could go on and on, but there really is no other scenario where this wouldn't be seen as colored by bigotry, except when it's directed at Japanese developers apparently. 
Calling out this hard truth makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and they simply shut down and deny that its even a possibility, instead of engaging in the debate.  I think this is because many people do not understand that there are varying degrees of severity in regards to racism.  Most people in the US especially see racism as the be-all end-all of criticism.  It's a life ending charge that gets people fired, tarred and feathered and collectively shunned by society as a whole, and for good reason.  But not all racism is equal.  Not every person with a racist belief is equivalent to a Nazi or a KKK member.  Some people may just hold on to irrational beliefs because they have developed a specific blind spot in their logic that has not yet been challenged, or countered with education.

I don't think Fish hates Japanese people.  I don't think many game journalists hate Japanese people either.  But I do think that Fish, and many game journalists have allowed themselves to develop a significant blind spot in their logic.  They push objectively inaccurate generalizations as fact; generalizations that demean Japanese people and the games they make.  They push false generalizations about Japanese culture.  They forgive western game design flaws, but criticize the same flaws when present in Japanese game design.  They let nationalism and pride in western accomplishments promote a rivalry of "us versus them" that exaggerates our differences instead of celebrating our similarities.  They take pride in the collective triumph of team western over team eastern, like it is a battle that has to be fought with winners and losers, instead of a sharing of art and culture.  That's not the same as being a KKK member, but it is still race-based discrimination.  

Instead of plugging your ears and running from any mention of the R-word; take a moment and analyze your own blind spots.  You just might find something you're not that proud of.  Learn from the experience, grow, and stop promoting racist, inaccurate generalizations.  Stop championing people like Fish who do. His claims were factually absurd, and they were shameful.

And here I'll end with a few more gems from Edge's article about Phil Fish from this morning.

"We're so used to seeing developers' public personas through a mesh of corporate hierarchy and external comms policy that seeing someone filtered through the mesh of being a sarcastic real-life person is frightening and confusing.  And following this weekend's announcement, it looks as though those meshes were there for a reason; the corporate mesh deflects and absorbs abuse, deforming and ricocheting off to one side like a bullet on kevlar, whereas Phil Fish's normal person mesh just lets everything through unhindered, to grim cumulative effect."

No.  Look at how people responded to Microsoft PR around Xbone One's reveal.  Gamers do not prefer misleading, polished corporate PR non-answers.  And Phil Fish isn't a champion for truth and honesty.  He's hated for publicly humiliating one of his peers at a developer conference for no reason, based solely on inaccurate assumptions about game design based on the race of the people designing.  It's not praiseworthy to be "honest" when all you have to say is that everyone is beneath you, and that you're superior.  What a crock of shit.

Phil Fish's "mesh," is hardly what I would consider "normal person."  I have never sat in a conference of peers, and publicly humiliated someone who was asking a polite question right after complimenting my work.  

The game industry needs more people like Phil Fish, and it’ll be all the poorer for his absence if he’s really gone. The internet isn’t short of people saying things are rubbish, in the same way that there’s probably enough creepy artwork of characters from Mass Effect already, and Sonic-themed erotic fiction is so oversubscribed as to be on a one-in-one-out system. But there are precious few people in Phil Fish’s position who are willing or capable of stirring up such debate, and almost none who are as entertaining. You might hate him, but he made Fez – and as such, he’s probably better than you."

Not only are western designers literally better people than Japanese designers, they are better people than every gamer who reads Edge who is not a designer.  We now define individual human worth by whether or not they have made a western game.  I've saved a human life before (seriously, I have), but I didn't make a western game, so I am an inferior person, probably.  I have not humiliated people in public at a conference of peers, but I didn't make Fez, so I am an inferior human being, probably - 50% likely to be "perception challenged," AND inferior, to be more accurate.  What about Japanese developers?  Are they better than us too, probably?  

Maybe Edge and Fish should stop trying to tell everyone who the accepted class of "better" humans are, and should start treating people as equals.  If you think I'm exaggerating, remember that Fish just told Marcus Beer to "compare your life to mine, and then kill yourself."   read

3:51 PM on 07.02.2013

Keep an Open Mind about GOTY 2013 ... please

I saw this video on IGN yesterday and it struck me as a little sad.  6 months left in 2013, and IGN has GOTY nominations locked already between Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us (really they're pretty transparent about favoring The Last of Us at this point).

There's a whole lot of time left in 2013, and I see lots of GOTY contenders that aren't even out yet.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds

A sequel to one of the most beloved games of all time, built to take advantage of the 3D screen like few other games.  New puzzles involving height, where seeing the height differences is actually possible in 3D.  New puzzles with Link becoming a flat painting that can move around 3D objects - and these are just two of the many items in the game.  If it's anything like Link to the Past, it'll have around 20 items.  

They've also already confirmed that the game has a light and a dark world, like the original game (if the title and the dual triforces in the logo didn't give it away already).  I think this is really one to watch for GOTY, for bringing new gameplay ideas, fresh puzzles, and wrapping it up in a great overall package.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team


I'm going to just let the trailer speak for itself.  This game looks absolutely bananas.  There are so many interesting things going on, and so many original ideas.  Who actually thinks of manipulating someone's face while they're asleep on the bottom screen to impact how they imagine in their dreams on the top screen ... and makes it actually work flawlessly and intuitively in a game?  That's pretty remarkable in and of itself.  The game looks hilarious, and fun, and it's definitely one I'm going to be keeping an eye on.

Super Mario 3D World

Any student of history would be wise to not name GOTY early when a mainline Mario title is coming out before the end of the year.  They're consistently among the highest rated games of all time.  

While this doesn't look like the huge leap forward that I was hoping for, it certainly looks like an extremely fun, polished platformer.  And really, the cat suit looks pretty damn amazing.  

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

If you played Donkey Kong Country Returns, or the 3D release on 3DS, you know that it's literally one of the best platformers ever made.  Extremely polished, and challenging, with fantastic level design and rock solid gameplay throughout.  It had the challenge of living up to one of the most beloved game series in gaming history, and succeeded with flying colors.

This time, Retro wanted to just perfect what they started.  Does that not sound like GOTY material to anyone else?  Swimming levels, 3D panning camera, HD graphics, David Wise is back to compose the music like he did in the original 3 ... I don't know how any serious gamer can write this off without even playing it yet.  Retro's track record is pretty much impeccable, and if they felt like they had more to contribute to DKC, I definitely want to see it.

Grand Theft Auto V

To be perfectly honest with you, it pains me to have to post this because I'm not a fan of these games.  But it'll be in the running, or will likely win GOTY.  That's just how it is these days.  Anyone deciding GOTY before this is out is really prematurely running their mouth off.

Pikmin 3

In Miyamoto's words, this is the perfection of his original vision of what Pikmin should be.  He also said it's extremely fun.  Coming from the best game designer of all time ... I think I'll give it a shot before I write it off.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

This is one of my most anticipated games of the year, and of the generation.  The first one blew me away in every category: art, graphics, music, voice acting, story, menu design (that book was GORGEOUS), and most importantly combat and platforming.  Who would have thought at the beginning of this gen that a 3D Castlevania would have far more solid combat than Ninja Gaiden 3?  But it's true.  Smart use of light and dark magic, puzzles, and whip platforming sealed the deal.  And now, you've got tons more powers that I can't even imagine.  And this is going to be the conclusion to the Lords of Shadow storyline, so expect an ending even more shocking than the first.  I cannot wait.


Gorgeous, charming, and original.  The idea of stages moving around you like a play just seems amazing to me.  Definitely getting this day 1, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be in the running for GOTY for anyone interested in gaming.

Beyond: Two Souls

I thought Heavy Rain was pretty great, and this looks far better.  It looks better than some next gen games I've seen, and I'm sure the story will be pretty captivating if they got Willem Dafoe and Ellen Paige to sign off on the script.  Definitely getting it day 1, and I'm sure it'll be something extremely interesting to see.

Honorable Mention:

Watch Dogs
The Wonderful 101
Sonic: Lost World
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Killer is Dead

So I implore you, keep an open mind and try and look at everything out there before settling in on The Last of Us for GOTY - a zombie TPS without anything innovative in the gameplay department at all, but with great production values and above average story.

There's a lot of other stuff out there, and a lot of it is better than what Naughty Dog is doing, more original, more polished as far as gameplay, and very possibly even better story too.  

There's a whole six months to go. Don't let me down people.  Journey winning last year was depressing enough.  Do we need two years in a row where we worship designers who strip gameplay down to the bare minimum for the sake of "maturity?"  Let's reward innovative gameplay, or game concepts for once.  Let's not reward fungus zombie TPS games with good cutscenes.   read

8:03 PM on 06.21.2013

The Last of Us vs. Nintendo in the Quest for My Money.

This is probably my most random blog post ever, so if you don't want to read a rant and personal anecdote of mine, you can safely move along and not miss anything because that's all this blog post is.

So I got The Last of Us a couple of days ago.  I had seen all the same trailers everyone else had; the shocking E3 trailers showing the stealth gameplay and the graphic violence and realism.  I saw all the perfect 10 reviews, and I read through hundreds of comments agreeing with it on multiple sites.  The game definitely looks gorgeous, but I just wasn't sure if I was going to be happy with how it played.

I asked around online.  "Is it really as great as everyone says?"  99% of the people I asked said it was even better.  "I know the production values are impressive, but what about the gameplay?"  One of the best TPS ever made, right up there with Vanquish - is what I was told by some.  

Vanquish?  Clearly this guy was getting pretty carried away since the game looks nothing like Vanquish, but I assumed it was a solid stealth shooter.  I enjoyed Splinter Cell Conviction, and I figured if the game was at least as competent as that in the gameplay department, save for the mark and execute system, than I was sure I would have a pretty good time.

How wrong I was (no story spoilers, but some light gameplay impressions and opinions on the pacing up ahead).

First I saw an update was ready for the game.  This was after the auto save glitch had been fixed that I read about, so I tried to download it.  It froze my system.  So I tried again.  Frozen.  After two hard resets I gave up on the update and started up the game.

The intro was neat, but it might as well have been a cutscene honestly.  I didn't really resent that it wasn't, but you're basically just walked along a pre-set path with scripted events happening all around you, or moved the camera around as you looked outside the car.  

The next 3 hours weren't much better.  Most of it consisted of following a pre-set path, with scripted AI leading the way, with the movement speed limited to walking.  No sprinting allowed, or even a light jog.  Walk and follow.  Again, it might as well have been a movie.  I like movies.  I like zombie movies even.  No reason for Naughty Dog to avoid trying their hand at cinema I say.  They'd probably be pretty good at it.

The graphics impressed, but I was still waiting for the game to start, probably a good 4 hours in.  I shut it off for that night.

The next night, after having my game freeze during gameplay twice in the same section- requiring a hard reset of my system, I encountered my section with several clickers, and this was the breaking point for me.  

Being 100% honest, clickers in The Last of Us are probably some of the worst designed enemies in the entire history of gaming.  Not literally the worst ever, because they're not buggy and they work as intended.  But worst because what the designers intended is just so god damned bad, and promotes such a horribly unsatisfying style of gameplay.

Since resources are limited, you can't go through the game blowing shivs on clicker stealth take downs every time if you want to open up the locked doors scattered throughout the game.  Clickers also give you no kind of reward for killing them, so it becomes pretty clear what the best, most logical course of action is based on the gameplay systems in place.  You avoid all clickers and simply walk past them unless you're forced to dispose of one to access and area.  

So what is it like walking past clickers and not killing them?  It's pretty damn boring.  Stealth doesn't rely on sightlines with clickers, or the use of shadow.  They're blind and can only hear your movements.  So you walk at the slowest setting, and you're virtually 100% safe at all times around clickers.  Try exploring any environment that a clicker is in.  It's like pulling teeth.  You have to walk in slow motion, literally, with zero tension or chance of being discovered.  You're just inconvenienced, basically and forced to listen to their annoying monster sounds, which are not scary.

I could keep going, talking about how counterproductive it is to design an aiming system that promotes stopping and shooting carefully (the target shrinks when you don't move), but then surround the player with enemies that run at you at full speed and one hit kill you, which makes you play in a run and gun style.  I could talk about the "newly infected" zombies that just literally sit there, and can't see or hear you and just wait for you to do stealth kills on them - possibly the most boring enemy of all time.  I could talk about the waste of a level up system that offers you a choice between leveling up ~8 completely useless, and boring skills that barely impact gameplay at all, or the awkward arc for aiming on the bow that is entirely inferior to the new Tomb Raider, or your x-ray vision ability that lets you see enemies through walls more effectively than Adam Jensen  - but my rant would be 10x as long.

I kept waiting for the game to get good, and instead I was just disgusted.  The constant hand holding, and the absence of any kind of compelling gameplay left me feeling hollow inside, and sad - because I know so many people are not just enjoying this game, but genuinely LOVE it, sincerely.

I sold the game that same day; the first time I had sold a game in years.

A couple days passed since then, feeling depressed about the state of modern gaming, and my role in it.  And then out of nowhere, a light bulb lit above my head.

Why not buy a Nintendo 3DS?  I've wanted one for a while, but for some reason I never truly considered putting down the cash to get one.  I went down to my local store and tried out a few of their systems and I was interested, but decided I had to have the 3DS XL instead.  The thing is just gigantic, and I didn't realize how much of an improvement it really is.

So I just took the plunge, out of nowhere.  I got a blue 3DS XL, and I walked out with Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Professor Layton.

I was beaming.  My faith in gaming had been restored.  I already played through DKCR on Wii, but the thought of playing it again was enough to completely cheer me up.

And Fire Emblem, I love that series.  Why did I wait so long?  The more that I looked over the 3DS library available, the more it hit me how much I've truly been missing these last couple of years, and how much I now had to look forward to.

Super Mario 3D Land
Animal Crossing
Luigi's Mansion
Ocarina of Time
Project X Zone
Mario and Luigi Dream Team
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Castlevania: Mirror of Fate
New Super Mario Bros 2
Etrian Odyssey IV
Rhythm Thief
Kingdom Hearts 3D

Just to name a few.  All games that look like they prioritize gameplay above cinematic, scripted events.  All games that for the most part, look bright and colorful, and celebrate fun, instead of misery.  Pretty sure that after I catch up on my 3DS fix, I'll probably get a Wii U early next year.

I realize I probably stand alone in most of my opinions regarding gaming, but as far as I'm concerned, The Last of Us is unbelievably overrated.  It stands a real shot at dethroning GTA IV as the most overrated game of all time.  And Nintendo, they are equally underrated and underappreciated.  I lost sight of that somewhere after Skyward Sword, but I found the light again and I couldn't be more excited about the next few months of gaming ahead of me.

The End.   read

2:09 PM on 12.15.2012

Community Reaction to Gaming Controversies: Violence/Sexism

As we come to the end of 2012, we find our hobby in the midst of another controversy; the claim that playing violent video games leads to violent behavior in real life. This topic has been argued ever since Mortal Kombat hit arcades in 1992. The argument has been exhausted for the most part. What interests me more is how the gaming community has changed in those 20 years, how we collectively react to controversy today versus then, and how most seem to be blind to the hypocrisy they now advocate for.

If the gaming media almost unanimously agrees that sexism is a problem in gaming, then why is violence dismissed so quickly by the media?

2012 saw controversies about sexism elevated to a new level, primarily because of widespread media endorsement. Women in skimpy nun outfits, the Dead or Alive series, Crystal Dynamics developers daring to use the word "protect" in a sentence; these things dominated our cultural conversations for the better part of a year. The argument from the outraged, which was often not even stated clearly, is that these games contain sexist imagery and content, that they lead to sexist behavior and consequences in real life, and they should be eradicated through shaming and PR pressure that impacts sales.

But if anyone suggests that violence is a problem in gaming, for the most part the media quickly denounces it, and even goes so far as to shame the people suggesting it. Why? If you took even a passing glance at gaming over the last few years, you probably would have found several more troubling elements in gaming related to violence than to sexism. Let's just glance at a few of the more notable ones.

New Splinter Cell: Blacklist video shows off controversial torture scene, moral choices
"We've arrived in a strange emotional clime when our popular entertainment frequently depicts torture as briskly effective rather than literally the worst thing one human being can do to another - yea verily, worse even than killing."

"I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bulls*** at all," he added."

Norway mass killer trained for mass killing playing 'Call of Duty'
"In his testimony, the 33-year-old Norwegian said he prepared for a firefight with police in Oslo by playing computer games, focusing on situations where he would be flanked by two commando teams. He said he played “Modern Warfare,” several hours a week, for 16 months starting in January 2010, primarily to get a feel for how to use rifle sights."

Military uses video games for training troops
"“The military was actually responsible for the funding that created video games,” said Corey Mead, an assistant professor of English at Baruch College."

"Video games stem from early preparation for nuclear war and the technologies that were developed came out of either academic research centers or corporate research centers or actual military research centers where the funding was to develop the technology for advanced thermal nuclear war.”

When “Doom,” one of the first blockbuster video games, arrived in 1993 the army started to use modified versions of these games as part of their training.
Today, the army has incorporated video games into their training to the point that every single soldier interacts with them at some point during their training."

'The ultraviolence has to stop' - Warren Spector:
Epic Mickey producer says he left Eidos in 2004 because of proliferation of violent titles at publisher, believes industry is "fetishizing violence."

"We have to stop loving it," he said. "I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately, I think it will cause us trouble."

Urban Tool in Recruiting by the Army: An Arcade
"In recent years the Army has tried a number of ways to increase enlistment, including home video games"

"In recent years, the Army has had great success with using video games like America’s Army to attract recruits."

"He added that the center did not recruit anyone under 17."

Wikileaks reveals video showing US air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians
"The behaviour of the pilots is like a computer game. When Saeed is crawling, clearly unable to do anything, their response is: come on buddy, we want to kill you, just pick up a weapon ... It appears to be a desire to get a higher score, or a higher number of kills."

CIA chiefs face arrest over horrific evidence of bloody 'video-game' sorties by drone pilots
"The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan."

"A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes."

Conditioning? Xbox Poll Shows Overwhelming Gamer Support for “More” Drone Strikes
"Notice the question asks, “Do you support more use,” in regards to sending unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with missiles to bomb suspected terrorists in other countries, not just continuing business as usual killing people at the current pace."

How Do Video Games and Modern Military Influence Each Other?
"White gets to learn about numerous military technology advances long before the public does. But White was quite shocked to see a Humvee equipped with a .50 caliber gun turret that was controlled by what looked like a suspiciously familiar device: an Xbox 360 controller."

"I pointed that out to them and they said ‘Well, of course. We’re not going to reinvent a new way because we get all these kids into the military, they already know how to use a 360 controller, they’re already familiar with it. So we’re just going to use that in how we’re building the technology,’"

“When it was done, it was amazingly powerful because what we did was create a transition from the real world of photographs and reports into the virtual world’s polygons and there was a feeling of ‘now we get it.’ Now we can see what the bad guys are doing and what their point of view was, what the trigger man’s aim point was.”

US Army Creating Their Own Gaming Gun Peripherals
"now the Army is taking a new step forward to even further prepare young cadets for their future life off the couch and in the military. They’ve partnered with CTA Digital for a line of gaming accessories. There are a few headsets, but the eye catching devices are the plastic Playstation Move controller holders shaped like variants of various real life assault weapons."

The Designer of Call of Duty’s ‘No Russian’ Massacre Wanted You to Feel Something
"In a stellar piece about interactive atrocity, game designer Matthew Burns gets Alavi to explain the intent behind that level, a level in which the player is put in a position as an undercover agent to assist or simply watch a terrorist cell of Russians massacre Russian civilians in an airport. The level wasn't designed to create controversy. It wasn't to sell more copies. It was to further the plot, Alavi tells Burns, saying he wanted to: "sell why Russia would attack the U.S., make the player have an emotional connection to the bad guy Makarov, and do that in a memorable and engaging way." He didn't want it to be a movie. He wanted you to feel involved"

That was just off the top of my head.

DESPITE ALL OF THIS, gamers and the gaming media more or less stand united. They do not want to sacrifice the freedom to enjoy whatever violent content they want, even on the eve of the death of 20 kids in another teenage shooting. They don't want to have their gaming dictated by moral outrage and mostly unscientific claims, they don't elevate and endorse gaming critics like Jack Thompson, and rally around him until publishers have to bow to his pressure for informal censorship, or endorse Kickstarter campaigns for him to create video series about violence in gaming.

But if someone uses the word "protect" in a sentence, all bets are off. If a nun wears bondage gear, all bets are off. If you have a fighting game with ninjas in bikinis, ban this sick filth.

Again, why the difference?

If you support the right for games to exist, free from the constraints of moral outrage, unscientific claims, and informal censorship, at least be consistent about it. Otherwise, it's complete hypocrisy to support one and not the other.

Another interesting fact is that both Anita Sarkeesian and Jack Thompson have had flash video games created that allow you to beat them up. Can you spot any difference in how gamers and the gaming media reacted to those two games?   read

2:30 AM on 07.01.2012

Felicia Day adds two things to gaming.

Jack, and Shit.   read

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