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Stephanie K's blog

1:14 PM on 10.29.2013

Ominous Conflicts for Gaming Journalism?

(Disclaimer: This article is written solely on personal opinion and experiences. I do not claim to be an expert or have full understanding of how the game industry and media work. I also understand that this topic could be a conflict in interest here on Destructoid. If the topic is deemed to be inappropriate  for such reasons, I would be happy to remove it. I do want to point out that in no way, shape, or form am I asking for a journalist's comment on the subject out of respect of the business and any possible agreements between companies. I simply feel this is an interesting topic that I wish to bring up for general public discussion.

Readers, please respect my wishes and do not bombard Twitter accounts or emails asking for clarification on the subject.)

I am not sure how many of you have been made aware, but something serious started getting hinted late Saturday night/early Sunday morning that may or may not impact us as consumers. Around 1:17am Eastern time, Adam Sessler started posting ominous tweets regarding a future direction for gaming industry and his role within it:

A lot of theories have been swirling around the internet since then stating that the sudden panic attack is tied to the PlayStation 4, especially when Sessler later replied for a few tweets confirming that it had nothing to do with the XBox.
Everything ranging from the rumors of Sony tightening up the ability to edit recorded video of PlayStation 4 games to possible new copyright restrictions to Sony wanting to do limited review sessions over giving out early copies of games have been guessed. However, none of this has been confirmed and it seems that the most web sites are being very quiet. Very few journalists have been expressing verbal concern while everyone else doesn't seem to be saying anything. You would think that with one of the most ironic leaders in video game journalism starts to have a public breakdown, there would be a bit more information shredding some light on its source.

Yesterday, Sessler came out with a new video centered around explaining how Rev3Games would be reviewing the next-generation consoles. He remains cryptic about his Twitter explosion but while not providing direct confirmation, his statements  feed curiosity. It seems very believable that reviewers would be overwhelmed with the massive amount of content that will be needed as both systems are launched. Sessler states that they will be working viciously hard to get their reviews and opinions up as quickly as possible, but one thing is said that may confirm that source of the issue he began hinting at over the weekend. He says that in order for these reviews to be done it does require having the system and the games available for them to review. Upon which he then adds that they are working and hoping and settle any complications that exist at the moment. It certainly does raise an eyebrow, but he quickly moves away from the topic yet that still leaves us guessing a bit, doesn't it?

Since the video was posted, I have seen a few people nearly bashing it. I have essentially seen people complain that Sessler is "whining" (for the lack of a better word) about the possibility that he and other journalists may now need to purchase their review products out of pocket. There has also been some aggression towards Sessler since he is mostly remaining quiet about the situation. So I would really like to take a moment to tackle just a couple of the complaints that I have seen from others while opening the discussion open because frankly, I find it surprising that no one is really talking about this.

1. Transparency

I noticed there has been some complaints that Sessler is not being direct with his response. You think you need to remember - and as he pointed out in his Twitter - feeds and videos are monitored. Even if it is a personal, yet publicly displayed account, you need to have some form of professionalism and respect for your employer and employer's partners. That is business integrity 101. He probably does not want to risk bringing too much negative publicity to the situation since it seems like they are still working with the company to fix the problem at hand.  Even though we are aware indirectly that the other party is Sony, he still is respecting the company by not pointing them out and putting them in negative light to the public.

However, as a media source and having an audience rely on him, he (and other journalists) still have a sense of duty to set up proper expectations for their viewers. I am sure he still wants to put his viewers in a position to notice that there is a possibility that they may not be able to provide the latest, update reviews to their viewers just in case there are people waiting for their reviews to decide what to purchase.

We also need to keep in mind that an embargo or restrictions could exist for certain information regarding the system. If a contract has been signed or an agreement has been made between the media outlet and Sony stating that they would not discuss certain things, it is up to the party to follow that rule. Very much like how many employers warn employees to not bash the company or release confidential information on social media networks. Same principle is being applied here.

2. No Early Access/Free Product

As someone with some experience in the media field and having worked alongside public relations from gaming companies before, I am a bit torn on this. I understand that not all reviewers are not entitled to free and/or early products - especially with how there are literally thousands of game "review" web sites and YouTube channels. Pretty much anyone with a cheap video camera or HTML skills can claim themselves as video game journalists nowadays it seems; it can be overbearing for a public relation or media relation representative to filter out the smaller, "independent" outlets over media outlets that actually have some sway in consumer decisions. So I can see where it might be easier for a large company to deny access to their products to avoid needing to deal with people begging for free games.

I have heard of an argument stating that businesses do pay for their supplies meaning that games would equal the needed supplies in this case. However, businesses can also run off of partnerships as well. This is how game journalism works at least from my personal experience and having had a chance to mingle with multiple journalist over the years. Partnerships are formed between the developer and the media outlet where the outlet is granted a privileged in order to better drive a product's profit by ultimately advertising that product.

In other words, you need to prove that you are a profitable source for the developer to want to invest in you; and I doubt that sites such as IGN, Kotaku, Joystiq, Destructoid, etc... provide such little profit that a company like Sony would want to completely cut off their resources. Especially when some developers advertise directly on those sites with paid ads which brings me to the next point...

3. Profit and Paying Bills

What is interesting about this whole situation is that I have not seen many other gaming journalists come out expressing concerns or fears regarding this situation. Neither on the possibly of not getting early Sony products nor even on the rumored restrictions for video uploading and sharing. I know Sessler's tweets specified that only people "who practice a particular form of coverage" would be effected. This makes me believe that the source of Adam's panic comes from a more isolated incident. Perhaps maybe Rev3Games is having issues obtaining an early system or games. Right now the guess is still in the air...

Regardless, if you know anything about what he now does, he mostly does videos and a very good point was brought up in this video. As Editor-in-Chief and Executive Producer, Sessler has a lot invested in Rev3Games not only for himself but also for his staff. I highly recommend listening to the brief 7-8 minute video because the presenter does a very good job at breaking down how ad revenue works and allows internet-only companies to sustain themselves.

It does not matter if Sony puts up video capturing restrictions, creates a new policy that would make any YouTube video infringe on copyright, or cuts off early affordable access to their products. No matter what route they take or what combination of corporate decisions go into play, a company like Rev3Games is at risk at losing a lot of potential profit. Without the capability to provide the services their audience is wanting, they will lose viewers and readers. A lack of viewers and a lack of readers translates into a less money which translates to the potential layoffs.

I also find it incredibly interesting that retail managers are receiving free systems when there's a chance a media outlet may not. Granted there is no confirmed word on rather or not GameStop managers will be getting their systems before or after release, but I don't think the issue at hand steams from Sony cutting off early review copies of their products. They do not seem to be shy about handing thousands of systems over. Yet this farther strengths my first point because GameStop is the number one (if not only) video game retailer that also has a strong history of profitable success. In other words, GameStop is guaranteed to product customers for Sony and Microsoft from this generous offer.

Right now, gaming journalism doesn't know what it wants to be. It has tried TV and has failed. It has tried paper media and worked for a long time but is now fading into the digital world. A world that is becoming over saturated with video game journalists; people who think they can slap a web site together and automatically get free products. That just is not how the world works and the industry itself has become very greedy over the recent years. It is almost heartbreaking to see something like this forming, especially when Sessler is involved. He has been my inspiration to want to get into the game industry for a very long time and it has already proven to be an incredible struggle to get anywhere. Seeing how it may (or is) becoming harder for game journalists is only deteriorating my hopes of beginning able to follow my dream of being a journalist myself. I guess we will just need to wait and see what happens and hope for the best for those who will be impacted by whatever happens.   read

10:17 PM on 08.28.2013

A Small World After All

Final Fantasy XIV has a bit of a bad reputation. When it was initially launched in 2010, it received heavy backlash from subscribers. Many players and media outlets that tested the game in beta pointed out a wide variety of critical bugs that could potentially ruin players' experience if it was released in its stage at the time. Square Enix gave it a shot and released the game on schedule over delaying it to work on the long list of tweaks suggested by beta testers. As a result, a lot of players complained that the game was not enjoyable. The PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV was delayed "indefinitely"as the PC version went free-to-play in about two months of its launch due to the repulsive feedback the title was receiving. Perhaps some of you recall the shift in the development team that occurred at the time as Square Enix desperately tried to prevent the game from crashing and burning for good.

Almost immediately the company went to work on improving the game. An official forum went up to give players the ability to make complaints and suggestions for improvement. Updates started getting released that enhanced the game's mechanics alongside its visual appeal. With time, we began to see Final Fantasy XIV evolve into a more solid state - though rather you still enjoy the gameplay is purely up to personal opinion. The game was recently re-released on both PC and PlayStation 3 as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.  It also returned to a full subscription-based MMO but has given players incentives to keep their subscriptions going and to thank them for their dedication to the game. Every 30 days players are given some sort of in-game item. Though even with more positive reception than before, it seems like Final Fantasy XIV cannot get cut any slack.

Players might have recently found it to be extremely difficult to log on, in particular players on North American/European servers. The high volume of users has caused horrendous congestion making it nearly impossible for some players (such as myself) from being able to access their servers. Square Enix has placed restrictions on many servers.  New players are not granted admission to select servers including legacy servers (which makes sense since it was intended for legacy servers to be available to 1.0 players only). Yet even if you have a character made on one of these restricted servers, you are unable to create additional characters despite the game allowing you to have up to eight characters. Square Enix has claimed in their launcher updates that these limitations are set to scatter users so that servers do not experience too much overcapacity particularly in stating areas. By corralling new users towards less populated servers, they hope to cut back on the log in time on the higher volume ones. The idea makes sense on paper but in practice, it causes a lot of frustration.

The main issue that is arising right now is that paid subscribers are almost being denied the ability to play the game they paid for. It is also incredibly frustrating to try to invite new players to play with you because you might be on a restricted server. This means that if a friend did not take advantage of the beta and make a character on your permanent server they might not be able to play with you, especially if you were already on a legacy server. I hate to use the term entitlement but in this scenario the term is rather fitting. Those who have paid for the game and are considering long term paid investments to play it, we are entitled to being able to use the product we paid for. This is not an instance where a part of the game is purposely cut out for the sake of the developer profiting off of it by releasing it as downloadable content; this is an instance where subscribers do not have any access to their product without sacrifice.

Your options right now are to either wait out the long queues or get lucky to be able to play during down time, or constantly create a new character on one of the few available servers every time you want to play. The greatest work around people have found is to just play on a Japanese server since their traffic is a lot less.  However, if you already have hours invested into a character, you should not be forced to start all over just because you want to use a product you spent money on

Neither of these resolutions really aid in fixing the issue at hand. By creating a new character every time, you are only increasing the amount of low level characters in high concentrated starting areas. The migration of North American and European players to Japanese servers are adding to the head count on formerly medium to low populated worlds. More worlds are finding themselves falling victim to restrictions because of current users just trying to feel like they are somewhat getting their money's worth.

Even worse, Square Enix has suspended the ability for people to purchase digital versions of the game. They ensure that this suspension is only temporary until they can get better control of the unexpected, massive amount of users. They say that they wanted to "prioritize the quality of service"current subscribers. A bold yet foolish statement because you know shit is broken pretty badly when you will not even let people buy it. They have promise that they are working on  improving the log in process two ways. The first way is by introducing new worlds (or servers) for users to access. The second simply states that they will "enhance performance" for log in and matchmaking methods for both regions. They have not revealed how they will be doing this. I can only hope to see the addition of an instant queue that will allow me to wait and automatically be logged in once a spot opens; even if there's a few hundred people ahead of me. (Constantly playing the guessing game or mashing Num0 has gotten old very fast.) Square Enix  states that all of these changes should be in effect by the early part of next week.

I think it is safe to say that the biggest mistake Square Enix made was combing North America and Europe into one group of servers. Square Enix has a total of twenty-five servers per region. So at the moment with only the Japanese and North American/European categories, we have a total of fifty servers for players to be able to access. If North America and Europe were separated, we might have seen less traffic since the player would have been a bit more dispersed on an additional twenty-five servers hypothetically.  Instead, we have to now wait for Square to now give us those additional servers and hope this solves the problem. I personally remain a bit skeptically only because so many people already have characters on existing servers but I guess we shall find out what happens after the new changes are implemented.

So what should we expect from all of this? It is hard to say since Square Enix is keeping their bad news very short. Nothing currently points to any additional benefits or "we're sorry" gifts for those who have experienced inconvenience when attempting to play. World Transfers will be an optional service available at some point. According to A Realm Reborn's web site, this server should go live sometime near the middle part of September but restrictions may still apply. A price point has not yet been placed on this service though if you ask me the first transfer should be free in order to let people move their whole Free Company to a less populated server once all the log in issues are resolved.

Needless to say, the current status is not a good way to start off a re-release of a game that already has put a bad taste in some people's mouths.  A fee of $14.99 is quite a lot to spend on a log in gamble. It is understandable that Square Enix might have underestimated the amount of active players, but at this point, it seems almost like an excuse for not being properly prepared. After all, this is the second time some subscribers played this game.

Update: The links to some of the images are coming up as a "404 Not Found" file. All the images are located in the blog's gallery in case you have trouble viewing them.   read

2:57 PM on 04.21.2013

Violence: Mind Games and Escapism

Time for some Self Reflecting

Violence and entertainment go hand in hand, regardless of the form of media. Rather it is video games, film, or even novels, the theory that what we play, watch, and read ultimately shapes our capability to comprehend situations in reality has existed for years. Book banning spans back to as early as 428 B.C. with the philosophers finding their works burned and themselves exiled or executed for questioning religious beliefs. As society progressed, acts of violence and sexual themes replaced spiritual viewpoints. The banning of films for extreme gore, violence, and sexual content is far from anything new. Video games have been treated no differently.

Desire to prevent children from purchasing mature rated games seemed like a noble, agreeable cause, but the unjustified allegations of how violence in games were linked to vicious acts in reality became offensive towards the general public. Statements from political representatives and supporters essential stated that all people who enjoyed video games lusted for bloodshed. However, that is not always the case.

Evidence entertains ideas on both sides. Research both supports and disproves the connection between how media can alter our judgment over time or effect our mannerisms. Armies rush to the digital battlefield to siege our freedom of expression and clash with the cyber soldiers prepared to defend our rights. Though both parties only find a rotten horse carcass. Everyone - professionally and publically - is not afraid to express their opinions on video game violence, but we hear so much about the physical violence video games supposedly make us do; or talk about the mental distortion they cause. What about violence outside of the game and the consoling solitude that they provide?

When we hear the word "violence", we generally think of an aggressive physical act against another being. Hostility can come in more forms than just physical attacks. Arguably, emotional scars run deeper than physical ones. The events that we live through shape ultimately shape our personalities and perspectives on the world. A world we cannot always escape from without a bit of help from a television and a gaming system.

I had a fairly normal urban lifestyle while growing up. Our duplex was located in a slightly rough part of town. Not enough to deem it unlivable for safety reasons, but it was surely a place where I could not wander outside by myself. There were not many other children my age that lived around me. Occasionally, I would get invited to play in the backyard of the girl who lived next yard but I cannot recall the reasons why she was not always there. My parents lived on alternating schedules. My mom worked days while my dad worked nights. I would see them throughout the day but for the most part, I was left to amuse myself since during the day my dad was asleep and in the evenings, my mom did her own thing.

Though as a young kid with limited social interaction, this did not seem to bother me. My room felt like a personalized paradise filled with stacks of comic books and toys, and got even better when I was allowed to have a colored television in my room for the PlaySation. I was generally left to myself for most of the day, but the bright fantasy worlds I explored with my virtual friends like my Pokemon or Spyro kept me company. I never felt alone but little did I know that my "prefect" life was a recipe to set me up to become the stereotypical nerd.


During the earliest years of school, it seemed like what I like did not matter. It did not matter if I liked playing with Legos over playing with dolls or that I preferred sitting alone with a GameBoy instead of playing sports with the other kids. Tolls started to take though as I got older. Going into second grade, that magical moment of mental awakening happened. Our childish minds that were once centered around just having fun became more aware of society standards. Gender roles began to emerge and suddenly my once acceptable behavior turned me into a social outcast. Boys did not wanted to play with me because I was an icky girl; girls did not want me around them because I was weird for liking boy things.
I was automatically labeled different.

Throughout grade school and middle school, the classroom was pretty much ran by two groups of girls: the best friends that had grown up with each other and the token popular girls. Both groups I did not fit into since I was not the prettiest girl or the most athletic, but I was among - if not - was the smartest. Just another thing that set me side from the rest of them. I had friends, but when peer pressure is constantly on you, you do not always rise to stand at a friend's side. So most of my battles were fought alone and I was greatly outnumbered.
I suffered silently from daily harassment and bulling, like most geeks did during the mid-90s.

Since I did not wear name brand clothes or have my hair in fancy hairstyles, I was often told how unattractive I was. I was made fun for the way I looked and the clothes I wore. I was constantly put down to the point to where I began withdrawing myself from them because I became self-conscious of how I looked. I started wearing baggy clothing to hide my body in hopes that it would deteriorate their desire to want to point out my flaws. However, the awkwardness of my scrawny frame in the oversized shirts and jeans only gave them more of a reason verbally attack me.

The late-90s into the early 2000s can be argued to be the greatest years in gaming. Some of the greatest games of our time started came out and it began to highlight my hobbies. While these other girls were going out to the mall to shop, I stayed home to play video games. I isolated myself over socializing which singled me out. I freely chose to play games over going out because I found them to be fun and wanted to enjoy them; though it seemed to have given all the others the wrong impression. To them, it showed that I was alone. It made me come off as being weak which gave them a reason gang up on me. I would get surrounded by two or three at a time and be overpowered by hateful comments. I would be put down or shunned for even the smallest of reasons like walking too close to them in the hall or sitting in the seat one of them wanted on the ride home. Whatever reason they saw fit, they would explode it no matter what.

Daily, I was humiliated in front of our peers which was embarrassing and my presence then turned into a disease. Soon everyone saw me as an anti-social leaper. Since I was labeled unacceptable by the two popular groups, it would tarnish their view of you if you were caught around me thus causing most people to migrate away from me. I have no doubts that there was not some sense of satisfaction that came from knowing they had the power to manipulate people's opinions about me before someone would even get to know me.

Eventually, the bullying settled over time but only through the naturally progression through school. It finally ended the day those two groups and I went our separate ways in high school. For almost a decade, I was trapped in a classroom where I was constantly tormented. The worst part about it is verbal abuse and consistent put downs do not leave scars. No one saw the aftermath of the psychological beatings I endured since there was no evidence to prove it even happened other than my pleas to certain teachers and adults to make it stop, but for all of us who have been in a bullying situation, we know how that goes. We are simply told that kids are just being kids; that their violent outbursts are caused from simple social and mental ignorance because they do not know any better. We are told that the pain will come to an end when they (the offenders) grows out of it leaving the rest of us (the victims) to silently accept it.

Resident Evil 2 - A Game from my Childhood

Current news and some political movements want us to believe physical violent acts like murders or shootings are caused by ideas inspired from video games since they glorify death and gore. Yet, school councils, parents, teachers, and even law enforcement willing accept non-physical violence as a natural growing stage for children. In other words, every human being is allowed to be mentally disturbed to a degree as long as their hateful verbal and emotionally ruining acts do not turn into physical attacks. When these acts do turn physical, then everything else is blamed for causing the person to be violent other than the person's own will.

What people do not realize is that those years of verbal abuse have shaped my personality far more than the video games I played during those same years. Both violent ones and non-violent ones.

I will be turning twenty-four this October; I still have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror without picking out every flaw in my appearance that was pointed out to me nearly 14-16 years ago. I have managed to escape my shy shell a bit, but I still favor quiet nights in over parties with a small group of close friends because I still feel so withdrawn from the world. When it comes to meeting new people, I do not have issues with listening to them or communicating about common interests but I have little to nothing to say about myself since I find myself to be dull and uninteresting. Why? Because of years of being told that the things I liked were "stupid" or I was wrong for liking them in the first place. I think my blog on here is only a handful of sentences because I truly do not know what to say without having sense of fear of being judged.

For those who read my Blossoming into Womanhood, you know that part of the reason I personally am not offended by must sex appeal of female characters is because I liked feeling like an attractive woman. After all, I was told that I was not for over half my life so the ability to be one in a game allowed me to cope a bit. Being a desirable damsel made up for the fact that I was generally overlooked by my male peers in school. The loneliness I felt in school was batted away by the dozens of friends waiting for me at home and came to me the moment I turned on my gaming system. Whimsical stories and vibrant worlds to explore occupied my mind, thus giving me brief moments of solace from the horrible thoughts that plagued my mind.

We are so quick to jump to conclusions and connect media influences to behavior that we ignore the fact there are far deeper, psychological factors that come into play regarding violence. At times, society seems to not even recognize non-physical violence or fails acknowledge it as being as severe as physical violence. Those girls that picked on me growing up never really played games and their behavior was normal in the eyes of society. I was told that they just did not know any better even though they would tear me down to the point of tears. Even the most ignorant of minds should have noticed that something about that was not right.

Yet, my enjoyment of games makes me the bad guy due to a few horrid acts caused by some very mentally disturbed, psychotic individuals. Me choosing to play and liking something like Bioshock, Resident Evil, Call of Duty, or any game with violence in the privacy of my own home is corrupting society. The thousands of bullies that roam the playgrounds and pick on other kids for fun are not. Something about that concept does not sit right with me, especially when those very games I am scolded for liking are what allowed me to escape the emotional torment I endured so no one else was there to save me but myself and my games.   read

11:06 PM on 11.19.2012

First Ever Amnesia Fortnight

Want to be apart of gaming history?
Want to be an early tester for four future Double Fine titles?
Want to vote on what those future titles will be?
Want to own six limited release prototypes for Double Fine games?

Now is your chance!

An annual ritual at Double Fine is upon us and this year Tim Schafer wants to share it with you. Amnesia Fortnight was created back in 2007/2008 as a way to boost employee morale after the company was dropped by Activision and signed with EA during Brutal Legends‘ development. For two weeks the Double Fine staff is split into four teams. Each team then “forgets their current project” (hence the name ‘Amnesia Fortnight’) and becomes focused on a prototype for future games. Schafer saw it as away to expand the company’s revenue by ultimate making the four prototypes into complete downloadable arcade or PC games. A task that has proven to be successful.

The past Amnesia Fortnights have lead to the creation of some of Double Fine’s current quirky little games including Costume Quest, Iron Brigade, and helped form the basis for Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. While in the past Schafer has normally name picked the winners, he wants to do something different this year by including you in the process.

Double Fine has partnered up with the Humble Indie Bundle to create the first public Amnesia Fortnight. For a simple donation of $1, donors can be active participants of the whole experience. The first week (which is currently going on) grants you access to the voting process. A total of twenty-three game ideas have been presented to the public; each one thought up and presented by a Double Fine employee. Small descriptions as well as a video pitch are available for the public to see regardless if you are a donor or not.

After the week is up, the top four games with the most votes will move on to phase two. The Double Fine staff will split up into four teams like they do every year and will begin the prototype process. 2-Player Productions will be filming the whole 2 to 3 week process which will also include a live stream in order to keep the gaming community involved with the games’ production.

I have yet to see a post from Double Fine explaining whether or not the video aspects of the project will be for donors-only or be open to everyone. They have, however, expressed that those who do donate will get the prototypes for Windows with Steam keys – meaning that you have an opportunity to be apart of the early production of a future great game or be able to brag that you own a extremely rare, limited release of a game that will never be completely developed.

On top of the four prototypes, donors will also be given prototype copes of Happy Song and Costume Quest to catch them up on a bit of Amnesia Fortnight history that they can mess around with now. It doe seem that a second Humble Indie Bundle will be released once the prototypes are released giving the general public a second chance to jump into gaming history.

Double Fine is greatly encouraging player feedback to farther help these titles in the future. So why miss out especially when its only a $1?

And, of course, like every Humble Indie Bundle, donors can choose how much is given to the developers, Humble Indie Inc., or charity. On Double Fine’s official post about the project, they made sure to highlight the “donating to charity” option, somewhat encouraging donors to favor Child’s Play over them.

(Also on   read

7:43 PM on 10.04.2012

Lions, Tigers, and…Pomeranians?

Does anyone remember Life After People? It was a documentary that aired on the History Channel a few years ago that explained how the planet would naturally alter itself if humanity instantly vanished. Over the course of two hours, the documentary explained how vegetation would break through cement, climates would change, and animals would inherit the earth once again. Instinctive behaviors would be triggered in house pets as they readjust to the wild. Cute, cuddly dogs are forced to brave the concrete jungle in search of helpless rabbits for survival...before a Dilophosaurus eats them.

Tokyo Jungle is a quirky new game about the basics of survival in such an environment. Advertised as one of the few games in the "urban based animal survival genre", Tokyo Jungle takes place in an undefined year where people have disappeared. The streets of Tokyo sit in ruins leaving pets abandoned and giving animals in captivity an opportunity to escape. Instead of lush green forests, animals wander crumbling buildings as the need for survival drives them forward. The Survival mode is the main focus of the game. Here players can pick from nearly 80 different types of animals and 50 breeds. You can be anything from dogs to cats to lions to horses, cows, wolves, kangaroos, giraffes, and even dinosaurs, though most are locked until you have completed challenges from the previous animal in the chain.

Once your furry creature has been selected, you will be thrown into the middle of the streets of Shibuya, a Japanese neighborhood. Your goal is to live for as long as possible. To do this, you will need to monitor your hunger levels that consistently decrease. It is vital to eat as much you can whenever you can; if you fail to satisfy your hunger, your health will begin to decrease until you perish from starvation. Carnivores will need to hunt while herbivores will need to graze and hide from predators. Both have the ability to go prone either for stalking or to sneak past enemies. Points are then earned based on what you consume allowing you progress through three rankings that increase your stats, which also improve every year you survive.

The second goal is the core drive of all living beings: the need to reproduce. Every animal has a life span of fifteen years before old age kills them. In order to replicate, you need to claim territories by marking four points in whatever area you want to take over. Once the territory is your's two mates will appear on the map for you to pick from. Desperate mates are easy to pick up but will produce a smaller litter and can pass on fleas to you that will slow you down. Average mates are among the most common. They require a bit more convincing via a higher rank but will birth up to four offspring. Prime mates are harder to find and require an extensive amount of points at max level to mate with. However, they will produce the most offspring giving you up to six members of a pack to use. Your newly formed pack essentially double as extra lives. If you die you will jump to one of your siblings to continue your game where the cycle will repeat until you finally fail at life and die.

Random challenges will appear throughout your playthrough adding a bit of variety each time. You may be asked to take down a specific animal or reclaim a territory. By completing these challenges you unlock other animals to use in future Survival mode games. Items also drop at random that can provide back up when situations become tough. Clothing items and accessories boost stats as long as they are worn but deteriorate over time. Newspaper clippings can be collected that unlock chapters to the Story mode.

Story mode is a more objective version of the Survival mode where players will need to complete a single mission. Eight animals are available to play and each has a small plot to them. (You might be a Pomeranian needing to evolve from a simple pet to an adjusted killer. Or you might be a sika fawn searching for his mother. Or maybe you are a lion trying to regain lost territory from rival males.) Combined with the archived articles you gained from the Survival mode, the truth behind humanity's disappearance is slowly pieced together. The plot is a fairly generic post-apocalyptic tale but the presentation of facts creates a surprisingly elaborate silent narrative.

Despite its pure fun, Tokyo Jungle is not without flaws. Variety comes from different strategies that are necessary for survival for each animal but the core gameplay is the same. Things can get repetitive fast as you end up following the similar pattern every playthrough. Animal placements and challenges are randomly generated turning the mechanic into a double edged sword. It adds a bit of irregularity to the otherwise repeating gameplay style, but there are periods where no objectives are given thus leaving you with no optional tasks. You will find yourself running around in circles waiting desperately for an event to happen to give you something else to do.

At the same time, the random predator spawns can feed into the unpredictable difficulty spikes. Tokyo Jungle has a habit of becoming ridiculously challenging without any warning. Hazards such as pollution, acid rain, and droughts can occur at any given time and can span multiple areas. Toxic foods poison you when digested and can kill you if not diluted before fully entering your bloodstream - forcing you to take deadly risks if you find yourself surrounded by poisonous air with little hope of escaping.

Regardless of the high stress and frustration that Tokyo Jungle might fuel, the game's outrageous charm makes up for its mistakes. It's one of those unique gems that are worth having if only for the novelty it possesses. Fans of Darwinism will love this game and as someone who harvested all the Little Sisters in Bioshock because I was the superior being, I have found Tokyo Jungle to be one of the most enjoyable experiences this year. With a leaderboard, local co-op, an extensive selection of animals - including extra downloadable ones - and plenty of hidden collectables, it is a hefty PSN title. For $14.99, there is no excuse to not pick up this incredible piece of entertainment.   read

10:55 PM on 09.09.2012

Damsel in Distress: The Sarkeesian Dilemma

Sarkeesian and her research material

Feminist Frequency has been an ongoing web series for nearly three years. Consisting of nearly thirty-two videos, the series explores sexist, racist, and religious representations in fictional media and advertisements. Though Anita Sarkeesian's claim to fame has spawned from her recent Kickstarter to gain support for her mini documentary series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games. The project's page provides a rough outline of the twelve videos that will make up the documentary series as well as rough information regarding their contents. The description states that each video will be anywhere from ten to twenty minutes long and will be available to the general public for free. It also states that "a lot of time and money" will be needed for the production; Sarkeesian states that she will personally be "researching and playing hundreds of titles" and ensures that all pledges would be used to cover the cost of equipment, production, and research material (games and downloadable content).

The Kickstarted launched on May 17th of this year. In less than twenty-four hours, it reached its $6,000 pledge goal. Backers continued to grow over the month resulting in Sarkeesian raising nearly $160,000 for the project by June 16th. From there, all updates were promised to be available only to those who backed the project; she went on to publicly display her research materials, over 300+ games, and provided an official update expressing her excitement. "I can now commit full-time to Feminist Frequency and to this video series which is truly a dream come true for me", she writes. "I can now also hire my producer full-time for this project. Plus we are in the process of bringing another writer/researcher on board part-time." With such passion and staffing, one would think that Feminist Frequency crew would be ready to tackle their production with full force.

Then there was silence...And then there was insubordination.

Nearly a month followed where no updates were given. Backers began posting comments on the Kickstarters' page and reaching out to her Twitter account asking for some confirmation that the project was at least underway. Most questions, however, went unanswered. One backer mentions in the comments that he captured a screenshot stating an estimated date on one of the Kickstaters' goals and Tweeted it to Sarkeesian asking for some explanation as to why the paid backers were being kept in the dark. The backer was then blocked from her Twitter and was ignored as a result. "I would be absolutely fine if she just responded to my tweet with a simple 'Still working and capturing footage'," wrote "Mike".

"Mike"'s sceencap of his banishment

The screencap had then been leaked, and rumors began to spread that the Kickstarter was a scam with no real intention of ever being completed. Only then did Sarkeesian take the time to respond.

Four days ago she took the time to clear up the rumors and tried to rebuild the trust that she was beginning to lose amongst her supporters. She debunks the claims that her research was being taken from backer surveys instead of independent investigations, while also tackling other accusations. I can understand the frustration and anger that arises from backer's leaking information, but in their defense, neutral inquiries were being ignored. An unintentional drastic measure had to be taken in order to receive any form of response which leads me to ask: Why has it taken this long to shed some light on the situation?

After discovering the weeks of silence and apathetic responses, I did some research on the progression of her full-time commitment. Her web site has sat untouched since her last Tropes vs Women update on August 1st. At the time of writing this article, her YouTube channel had not been touched since August 12th with no new videos being uploaded since the initial promotional video for the Kickstarter. Up until a week ago, there had been no updates since the pledges were closed. However, she - or at least Feminist Frequency staff members - frequented Twitter (@femfreq), Facebook, and Tumblr regularly. While there is no doubt that such a project is difficult and time consuming to produce, she still had plenty of time to discuss Doctor Who with fans, promote other feminist blogs, and post pictures of herself with gaming memorabilia. Despite all of this activity, she was unable to provide any sort of update regarding the Tropes vs Women production.

"If she can't take 10 minutes a fortnight (seeing as how it has been 19 days since the last update) to update her backers, then wtf," commented backer "Bryan" on the Kickstarter comment page A statement that I can agree with even when being an outside viewer of the documentary.

Leaking information is not appropriate behavior - especially when the benefit to being a backer is that you gain access to these restricted updates. After the discoveries regarding failure to provide adequate updates, I cannot help but feel that the actions are justified to an extent. Supporters are entitled to the details that are being withheld from them even while reaching out to the producer. I am not encouraging future leaks but nonetheless, the backers have right to have become suspicious. After all, if Sarkeesian was capable of going into detailed arguments against negativity and harassment against her...Why has it been so difficult to share some insight on the documentary's progression?

Sarkeesian's Tumblr photo

Backers are obviously not looking for full outlines on Tropes vs Women's production, but just want some acknowledgement to calm their fears that their donations might be wasted. She claimed and promised that these games were going to be personally played for research, right? If so, then why could she have not taken thirty seconds to Tweet, "Playing <insert game> for TvW!" or "Filming has begun"?

Perhaps this outburst and backlash will be an eye opener on how the production team needs to handle their project. It is their responsibility to keep their backers informed. I give them credit for engaging their followers and allowing them a chance to personalize their experience by sharing their own opinions. I forewarn that if they continue to shun the backers, these generous efforts will mean nothing to them and ultimate lead to a continuation of disapproval from the gaming community. If disorganization is making it difficult to even give small updates, how can these supporters have faith that their funds are being used effectively?

After all, if Sarkeesian wants to keep this project in positive light, then a certain degree of professionalism needs to be constantly demonstrated, certainly more than is currently being shown.   read

11:45 PM on 08.11.2012

Revenge of Cybershark Week

Dun dun.

Dun dun.

Dun dun dun dun dun dun duuuun!

It's back. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for the second annual CBlog week dedicated to our fantastic Director of Communications, Hamza Aziz. It's time for the Revenge of Cybershark Week: This time it's personal!

In correspondence to the Discovery Channel's dull Shark Week, we will do something each day in dedication to our very own cybershark. This year things will be a tad different because now we have prizes. Monday through Friday I will be giving away two codes for the Shark Attack Pack for Saints Row: The Third on Steam. These will be given out with warning on my Twitter so be sure to follow @zomg_its_steph.

The way it will work is that I will post the following phase: "It's a shark attack!"

The first two people to respond with, "Suck my dick. I'm a shark!" and include their Steam ID will get a code.

On top of that, we have daily activities. Below you will you find our schedule for the daily contests and rules (located at the bottom).

Sunday: Change all your profile pictures to something shark related. Facebook profiles, Steam avatars, Twitter profiles, etc... Show your support and wear it with pride.

Monday: Using the tune from the Jaws theme song, write a little jingle in honor of Hamza. You can write it out but will get bonus points if you record yourself! (But that will not automatically make you a winner.)

Tuesday: Write an origin story for the cyberhark. It needs to be less than 500 words and build up to the glorious creation of the cybernetic beast. It can be sad, comical, a horror story...Whatever you'd like.

Wednesday: Find a shark-based video game and review it. Make sure to include how awesome it is because it features a shark.

You do not need to program the game, of course, but include a nice detailed summary of the plot, explain the gameplay, come up with a title, include an ending.

Thursday: Artists! And non-artists...Show us your skills! Make a piece of art with anything you have and submit it. It can be a drawing, macaroni picture, sculpture, or anything you want to use.

Friday: Come up with a concept for a video game. Hamza needs to be the protagonist but here is the kicker... Jim Sterling needs to be the villain and Jonathan Holmes is the damsel in distress.

Saturday: Community pick. We have till Saturday to think of something badass.

Rules: All entries for the daily contests need to be submitted before 12pm PST the day of. (Meaning Monday's entries will need to be posted here in the blog before noon on Monday.) Voting will then take place between noon until 11:59pm. The top three will get e-fame and a custom made gold, silver, or bronze badge that can be displayed in their CBlog profile to show off. Whoever manages to gain the most badges by the end of the week will get something special...Something that if I told you would not make it a surprise.

All winners will be announced in the blog but will also be notified via a message.   read

11:43 PM on 07.25.2012

Next-Gen: The Hardware Developer Guide to Not F'ing Up

Aging slowly, the current generation of consoles is finding itself wandering crippled through the hallways of its home. A Life Alert pager dangles from its neck and is clenched within its trembling hand; soon the poor thing will need to be shipped off to a retirement home where we will forget to call it and only visit at Christmas. While it drifts off to sleep in its rocker, the rumors of the next generation begin to bustle among the community. The current generation still has some life to it but the temptation of a younger, sexier system is too much to ignore.

However, just like any generation, the new can learn a thing or two from the passing one. The game industry might be one of the most profitable entertainment industries of our time but many of us have admitted that the satisfaction from it has decreased over time. Many of us have grown frustrated with the bullshit we are forced to endure regarding hardware purchases like facing the Red Rings of Death; or have grown bitter at game developers incompetent decisions like cancelling Megaman Legends or refusing to localize beloved franchises. Interest is deteriorating. Doubts are filling us.

So even as we throw our money at companies, most of us do not feel very fulfilled at the end of the day with repercussions of our mistreatment starting to show. Earlier in the year Sony reported a net loss of $1.09 billion last quarter from their PlayStation department due to a decline in handheld sales, thus effecting the whole division. (IGN). Microsoft saw a loss of $229 million entering 2012 after XBox360 sales decreased by nearly 50% (Edge). Wii and 3DS price cuts on top of a slow-selling holiday left Nintendo with a $461.2 million profit loss (Joystiq). With such a decrease in sales, it is reasonable to assume that the first wave of the next-generation will be crucial to all three companies' foundation for the future. Though rumors like blocking the ability to not play used games are beginning to make consumers turn their backs.

What can be done to save the next generation? How can hardware developers regain our bruised trust and get back into our wallets? I mean...Our hearts.

1. Simple Design
XBox360, XBox360 Elite, XBox360 Slim 4Gig model, XBox360 Slim 250Gig model, PS3 20-80Gig models with backwards compatibility, PS3 20-80Gig models without backwards compatibility, PS3 Slim, Wii, Wii with Motion Plus, Wii with Motion Plus but without backwards compatibility, DSi, DSi XL, 3DS...

There are a lot of different models and it does not stop there. The 3DS XL is just around the corner. Rumors from Comic-con have sprouted up regarding yet another PS3 model that is now "officially" the slim model. While having options are great, it confuses the hell out of people and clutters store shelves. It is understandable with this passing generation that we have a few different models. Microsoft desperately needed to clean up the Red Ring of Death epidemic, Sony needed to drop production prices of the PlayStation 3 to drop it to more reasonable price range, and Nintendo realized more needed to be included with their system.

Redesigns of systems might be necessary to fix flaws, but there is also an underline business scheme of making profit off of people rebuying a system in order to get an improved model. I support the need to fix a system if it truly needs an improvement. Though I am not sold on the mechanic of changing a look or adding a few bells and whistles to make me want to spend money on a product I already purchased. With the coming generation, each company has had plenty of time to test the water. Nintendo maybe the grandfather of the three, but each have a minimum of ten years experience with consoles. Therefore, we should only see a new model if it truly is necessary to prevent failure of the system. This generation alone has given each developer a chance to see what consumers want; they should know by now:

* Built-in wifi: there should be no reason as to why this is not included in every system from where on in
* Option to expand memory with the addition of larger harddrives: (I am looking at you PS3 where if people wanted more space, they had to pretty much buy a new system.) While Cloud saving is nice, you cannot store a whole installed game onto it. Sure, you can always delete it and redownload or reinstall it later, but in the perfect world this would not be an option.
* Include everything: Like Nintendo eventually did with the Wii by including the Motion Plus with a new system, there is no real reason as to why consumers cannot have everything right out of the box. I understand the premise of gaining a few dollars from us needing to buy an accessory when we pick up our new system. While something like a Play-and-Charge kit might not be a true necessity, the gesture would easily win points in the systems favors in the eyes of the buyer.
* Please no cosmetic redesigns: We would like a sleek looking system that takes up as minimal space as possible to set on our modern, cluttered entertainment centers. The current design for the XBox360, PS3, and Wii work fantastically; so do not stray far from that.

2. Keep Backwards Compatibility
When it came to cutting back costs on production, all the systems sacrificed the ability to play games from yesteryear. Microsoft did not include full backwards compatibility and eventually abandoned it in order to maintain the XBox360's $200-$300 price range. Sony dropped it not long after the PlayStation 3 was first released in order to dip down from a $600 price tag to a more competitive price. Within the last year, Nintendo removed the Wii's ability to play GameCube games in order to lower the production cost to make up from their profit loss. Luckily, they are already making the right moves with the WiiU by allowing the system to support both Wii games and accessories. This is a trend that both Sony and Microsoft need to follow.

The importance of backwards compatibility is something that I do not believe has fully been realized; or at least, the benefits of it have been ignored. By allowing gamers access to their older games on a new system, it makes them feel like they are getting more of their money compared to purchasing a new system that will only play newer games. Instead of only being limited to a single library of games, they are opened to two or more libraries. This also helps encourage consumers to purchase systems earlier in their lifespan because regardless of the launch titles, they will always have something to play.

On top of that...High definition remakes of older games are starting to get a tad out of hand. It is fantastic to go back and relive through a great moments in a higher resolution but I foresee it as being unneeded going into the new generation. The games of the current generation would not gain much of a noticeable difference if redone for the next. Some polishing maybe and new content but there would not be as big of a leap as going from standard to high definition.

3. Support Preowned
Online passes appeared within the pass two or so years. Much like serial numbers for PC games, online passes are a form of registration for a new products. However, unlike serial numbers, these passes limit the features of a game in order to sway the public opinion to favor the purchase of new games over used games. Despite the similarities, the gaming community has grown more tolerant of PC serial numbers for a few reasons. Most PC games keep their price tags below the $60 price tag when compared to their console counterparts butt importantly, PC titles try to not set limitations regarding personal distribution at home.

Digital rights management (DRM) was introduced to PC gaming within the last four years, not too long before online passes. DRM's purpose was limit the number of times a single game could be installed either one the same computer or other computers at once in attempts to combat piracy. This meant that owners with more than one computer or laptop were restricted to a single device. Protests quickly followed from the unethical concept behind being limited on the usage of a product they purchased. As a result, having DRM can make or break sales for PC developers and have caused most to avoid its usage, ultimately relying on their consumers to purchase their games over pirating them.

However, console developers still set on winning the war against used sales. Mike West of Lionhead Studios seems to feel that used sales cause more harm to developers than piracy (url=]Eurogamer[/url]) since studios see no profit from the sale while the retailer gains 100%. As a result, some studios like EA, Activision, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Ubisoft have begun forcing the use of online passes for their games. A code is included when purchasing a new copy and those who do buy used can pay for a pass with the average cost being around $10. Without this code, users are prevented from using certain game features like the multiplayer or chunks of the single player. Though would what happen if more than just a handful of studios turned their backs to used games? What if the rumors end up being true?

We can expect the industry to collapse. Regardless of your stance on purchasing new over used, the limitation would not sit well with consumers. With no support of used games, game rentals would no longer be available since the game would be unusable after the first rental. This also means that people would not be able to share games with their friends or family. We would no longer be able to let others borrow games from us and vice versa due to the game being tied specifically to a single system. Then what happens if someone has to purchase another system due to their first breaking? Or what if families want more than one system in their home? Does this mean they would need to purchase another copy of the same game or pay an additional fee to get the right to play a game they had already purchased?

It is a ridiculous idea that spells suicide. People want to feel like they own what they buy and want to be able to do what they please. No one likes having their property controlled by other sources than themselves. The community has already shown their disapproval by stating they would not purchase the system. Without sales, the industry would start to crumble. Companies would see extremely decreases in profit which could ultimately lead closures.

4. Creativity and Customization
What do people do when they first buy a new phone? Or a new computer? Or a tablet? They customize it. They make it fit their needs while adding a personal touch to their device.
At the moment, customization is limited for our current systems. We can chance individual idea pictures for our profiles and purchase themes that change the background of our systems. Though we can do nothing else. So what if we had more freedom with our systems?

Dashboards could be treated like cell phones, tablets, or the PlayStation Vita. People could pick and choose what applications they want available on their main menus (Netflix, music programs, installed games, etc...). Then drag and drop them to where they want them on the dashboard, thus adding a personal touch to their property. It also lets users clean up the clutter from their screens by removing features they may not use. While it would be a small addition to a system's feature, for a new generation that seems to be focusing on personalized experiences there is almost no reason to not include some ability to customization.

5. Break Free
Regional locks has been the bane of gamers' existence for years. Constantly taunting players as they have a system that a game is designed for but cannot play it due to its coding being locked out from their part of the world. Even with some Japanese only games being recorded with full English voice acting or games being released in Europe, we still see some games never get approved for U.S release - including some series that have abandon in other countries. If region locks were lifted, it would allow players to follow their beloved series no matter where they live.

There are currently three pillars that support the use of region lock. The first is to allow developers to maintain a set price for their games. Daily irregularities in currencies balances prove to make it difficult to keep a single price around the world. However, with the internet, people could order directly from the developer or select retailers where I universal price decided before the game's release.

Next is the desire to have staged launches or specific street dates for countries. By allowing restrictions on playability in each country, developers have some control over the game's release. The idea behind this is to prevent huge waves of demand from around the world on the title's release. It is easy to say that a developer just needs to produce enough copies to meet the demand and by having an online ordering system, they should hypothetically be able to track the demand before the game's release. Or even offer the game up as an available downloadable title to system owners in other parts of the world - an option that should greatly be considered, especially as the idea of digital distribution continues to be exploded.

Finally is the issue regarding the content of the game. Each culture has a very different views when it comes to controversial content such as violence, gore levels, and sexual content. Some countries may be a bit more sensitive than another particular how America tends to shy away from sexual tones but exploits violence while Germany shares an opposing view. Out of the three reasons, this will be the hardest to overcome mainly due to legal reasons. Even if a game developer was to refuse shipping to a country due to its rating, having it be more easily available would make it easier for people to possibly import illegal media to their country. The only solution that I can think of would be for developers to somehow release a patch that prevents a specific title from being playable on a system registered to a country that it is banned in instead of restricting all games. Even if people found a way around it, the effort would discourage the average consumer; those who would try to cheat the system probably do it already and probably would not stop either way.   read

2:19 PM on 06.27.2012

Blossoming into Womanhood

(Blossoming into Womanhood)

In 1996, the original Tomb Raider was released. I first went on an expedition with Ms. Croft shortly after the game's initial release while at my uncle's house. Like any young girl, I was captivated by Lara's bravery and strength. I may not have had oppressed thoughts at the age of seven but I had already sadly grown to accept a lack of female leads. Lara was not only first character to give my younger self a chance to feel like an independent woman who didn't need no man, but she planted the seeds of inspiration. As a young aristocrat, she held a sense of enchanting elegance that blended fantastically well with her inquisitive mind and strength. She was beautiful, acrobatic, intelligent, British, and desirable. While men wanted to be with her, I wanted to be her. (The fact that she happened to also be a brown-eyed brunette only fueled that aspiration to become a extraordinary woman such as her.) I use to get in trouble for jumping on furniture in the living room when I tried to practice rock climbing; when I visited Mayan ruins in middle school, I made sure to wear khaki shorts and a light blue tank top.

Then I grew up and I realized something: She is kind of a bitch.

Lara Croft might have been an autonomous woman but her character was rather bland when you truthfully analyze her. In essence, she was nothing more than a cold-blooded gold digger. She was an archeologist who did not hesitate to slaughter any who stood between her and the treasure she so desperately wanted. Not because if these artifacts fell into the wrong hands the world would be put into peril, but because she wanted money. Suddenly our beloved heroine does not seem so admirable, now does she?

Her origin story morphed over time from game to game before recently settling on her wishes to discover the truth behind her mother's disappearance. (Defined in Tomb Raider: Legends and in [/i]Tomb Raider: Underworld[/i]) Recent Lara has somewhat broken away from just a girl who wants a lot of money into a woman searching for answers. However, the new reboot is out to set her early past straight and personally, I think it is for the better.

The new reboot is taking Lara Croft back to her roots. Players will get to experience the early years of her life as she endures the hardships of her first adventure. The development team wanted to focus on turning her more human. Not only has she physically been toned down to more realistic proportions, but she has also lost her confident heroism personality - which is causing an outcry from the gaming community.

In the trailer shown at the passing E3, we are given a glimpse at the life threatening obstructions the young Lara must endure physically and emotionally. We idly watch as she is bruised and bloodied before our very eyes as she stumbles and struggles to survive. Quietly, she pleads for help as she stares vacantly into the flames and growing darkness that surrounds her. Then whispers a soft "sorry" before butchering a deer for food. She is lost, confused, and shows little signs of her strength that we had grown to know. Many took offense to the less harsher Lara but I feel it is a necessary step into defining her as a character.

We cannot forget that this is a re-imaging of the very beginning. Her hesitance to want to kill is reasonable. For the most part, she has lived a sheltered life; or at least we can assume based on the collection of personal information the game manuals have offered over the years. According to her array of childhood tales, she spent most of her youthful years in private boarding schools including a Swiss finishing school. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a finishing school is a private institute that does not expand upon knowledge but instead, focuses on defining etiquette and social education. Their purpose to is to mold young women into proper ladies for marriage. In other words, Lara Croft was suppose to be a delicate flower meant to sit quietly and raise a family. Then the plane crash occurred, and our story begins.

Her skills are far from defined because she is inexperienced. Having grown in an upper-class environment, she would have had no need for the skills she would acquire later in life. Therefore is it perfectly within reason that she is struggling as hard as she is. No one seemed to have complained about the flustered way Nathan Drake leaped from ledge to ledge with his arms flailing. Yet, it seems that it is unacceptable to have Ms. Croft follow a similar suit. It is understandable the gaming community has grown to admire the graceful way she soars as it adds onto her estimable image, but her latent abilities deepens her overall. She now goes from being a tyro to a connoisseur while both her development and the series progress making her seem more realistic and interesting than instantly being a badass. After all, this is how she was.

(Tomb Raider manual, page 5)

According to the first game's manual, she had to "learn to depend on her wits to stay alive in hostile conditions away from her sheltered upbringing". This is exactly what the reboot is letting us witness. Not only is she being pushed to her limit but everything she knew is crashing down around her.

The gaming community has begun to throw a fit over a weaker Lara but Crystal Dynamics is truly capturing the image of a young girl who has lost everything. Her reactions and feelings make her feel human; she feels defeated because she is which is what I would believe anyone would feel in such a situation. However, do not go giving up on Ms. Croft just yet. She may come off as softer than we like but in reality, she still is as strong and as brave. Even after the crash and losing her friends, Lara does not just curl up on a cave and cry herself to sleep every night. She pulls herself together and begins evolving.

When analyzing the trailer, we can see moments that start to define her trademark personality. At a minute and fifty seconds when Sam is captured, Lara does not immediately fall to her knees to beg for her friend to be freed. She threatens the man with her bow only to fail by her own stupidity. The trailer shifts to her being captured along with the rest of her crew. Even with her hands tied behind her back, Lara continues onward before finally becoming more of her "older self". She has a brief moment of doubt before realizing that she has the power to survive. The rest of the trailer is full of adrenaline filled action. Her hesitance depletes as she fights back hard and strong, progressing her to badass self eight years later. She emotionally and physical grows the way any human being would.

(Don't f*ck with her friends.)

"After crafting the biography, our goal was to make her as believable and relatable as possible," Brian Horton, senior art director of Crystal Dynamics, told GameInformer last January. "We wanted to make a girl that felt familiar, but still has a special quality about her. Something about the way her eyes look and the expression on her face makes you want to care for her. That was our number one goal. We wanted to have empathy for Lara, and at the same time show the inner strength that made clear she was going to become a hero."

Crystal Dynamics has done a phenomenal at creating a believable, likable heroine. Having felt a connection to a character before, I admire their desire to want to make us feel something for Lara. It recalls my days of playing through Indigo Prophecy and feeling a heavy sense of sympathy for Lucas as he struggled with his torment to the point of purposely throwing Tyler and Carla off his trail to protect him. (Of course my decisions did not matter. Thank, David Cage!) You know a character is well developed when you have an emotional attachment to him or her but their work has been overshadowed by wrongful accusations both from the community and even their own executive director.

In an interview with Kotaku, Ron Rosenberg ruined Lara's new image by wrongfully describing her and their motives. Rather than supporting their beautifully crafted new vision for Lara, he gives off the impression that the reason why we should care for Lara has nothing to do with legitimate compassion but simply because she is a woman. "When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character," he states. He then slips up and mentions an attempted rape scene:

Rosenberg: "And then what happens is her best friend gets kidnapped, she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her, and-"
Kotaku: "They try to rape her?"
Rosenberg: "She's literally turned into a cornered animal. And that's a huge step in her evolution: she's either forced to fight back or die and that's what we're showing today." (Kotaku)

("Attempted" rape scene)

Darrell Gallagher, the game's lead designer, quickly denies the attempted rape scene (which can be viewed at two minutes and nine seconds) by explaining that its intention was not to highlight or glorify sexual assault but to deepen the dramatic tone of the game. "This is where Lara is forced to kill another human being for the first time," Gallagher explains. "In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."

The scene goes no farther than a scavenger rolling his hand down Lara's side before aggressively shoving her against a wall, upon which she bites his ear off, kicks him to the ground, and breaks free. All of which flow in a way that feels natural for the situation and setting. It is not like Lara was sleeping soundly in her bedroom when a man burst through her door and violently pounded her in a safe setting.

I am no supporter of using sexual assaults or rape in media for the sake of painting a grimmer picture, but we have to admit that every once in awhile someone is going to attempt it. The content is rather risky to use but w I feel that despite accusations, Crystal Dynamics has remained tasteful with addressing a serious theme which, they promise, we never see again in the game.

Regardless of the dark image that has spawned from this thirty second of video, I hope people realize that it's an incredibly small part of the game that does little to hold Lara back. So why should we let it holds us back from welcoming this more realistic woman into our hearts and our systems?

(Think Lara is still weak and helpless? Just wait till she burns down your house and jungle, then walks away.)   read

8:47 PM on 06.18.2012

Help Wanted

I come to you today not just as a blogger, but as a friend searching for guidance. Earlier in the year, I replied to a previous Blogger's Wanted regarding resolutions for the year. June is almost to its end and I have realized that I am nowhere near where I wanted to be by the middle of the year. Living on my own and working a full-time job has proven to make it extremely difficult to pursue my desire to become a professional journalist. It has proven to become harder to break into the gaming industry than I expected. While I was aware it would be a difficult, but the struggle is beginning to discourage my ambition. The passion remains but the flame has begun to dim; the desire to be dedicated exists but I have found myself in an endless loop of fallbacks.

I wanted to be consecutive with my work. I wanted to have an established series by now and had plans to finish a book regarding some life experiences by the year's end. However, my memoirs have consistently been ignored in favor of other things. PAX East was a disaster on my part. I was completely unprepared for the workload that came along with it. I failed miserable to actively engaging with public relations representatives when I had opportunities. Meetings were not scheduled; a majority of my time was wasted mindless wandering the show floor captivated by the intoxicating sensation of being there, but I did not live up to the expectations I promised and I did no E3 coverage due to personal engagements. A part of me feels I do not deserve the title of "journalist" or even be allowed to continue to have the opportunities I do.

Balancing time has become the hardest part of the job. Five days of the week are almost solely dedicated to work. Regardless of the time my shift begins and ends, nearly ten hours of the day are taken up with work and driving time. This does not include time that is chipped away to do daily necessities such as cooking, housework, and needed shopping. Even on my days off, I find my time being split between my social life and housework with little time to indulge in recreational pastimes.

Gaming normally takes a backseat as it falls on my list of priorities. I have fallen victim to laziness so to say. While gaming consists of nothing more than sitting on a couch and pressing buttons on a controller or keyboard/mouse, my mind wanders to the long list of other activities I could be doing instead. Almost as if playing a game has become a waste as I could be doing something more productive, like writing. Thus this is where the burdening cycle begins...As a gaming journalist, I need to game in order to have material to write about. Gaming is still a hobby I greatly enjoy but I feel as if I do not have the time to engross myself into a quest or epic adventure. The want to spend hours in front of a screen are there. These hours need to happen in order to continue my career. I cannot write a review without completing or at least putting a significant amount of time into them. It is hard to start detailed editorials without much experience or exposure to fresh subjects.

One of my biggest problems, however, is just trying to figure out the right engaging topic to write about to begin with. Anyone can put their opinions on paper but only original thoughts get noticed. Even with the bi-weekly Blogger's Wanted posts, I have a very hard time making myself stand out. I have plenty to say, but the issue that arises is keeping myself focused enough to complete a piece of work. Between juggling household duties, work, social life, and the need to play games to even have something to write about has become a challenge.

More times than none, my drive to write spikes at times when I am unable to sit down and actual put a few thoughts onto paper. Ideas for articles will come to me either late at night when in bed or while I am stuck in the middle of my day job's shift. By the time I get home or have fulfilled my responsibilities, the motivation has faded away. I find myself staring at a blank Word document for awhile before either A) giving up or B) getting distracted with other things before forgetting my train of thought. I have tried using voice recognition software to record thoughts while I worked on other things around the house, and have tried investing in a voice recorder to mention a few notes. Yet, even with a nice outline, it becomes ridiculously challenging to translate my thoughts into a structured works.

I try to remain elaborate and ardent regarding my thoughts but I feel like my work has never really taken off. Throughout the years, I have seen Anthony Burch leave Destructoid to follow a career with Gear Box. I have seen Jim Sterling's podcasts, articles, and videos explode in popularity. I watched as Yahtzee become a household name. So other than not being either a declamatory orator or an angry man with a British heritage, I cannot help but question what I am doing wrong.

What does it take to get noticed in the exhausted field of online gaming journalism?

Adam Sessler had told me at this past PAX East that videos were the best way to get your face out to the public but where does one begin? Youtube is saturated with plenty of video blogs of people doing video game reviews or complaining about the industry. Naturally, I do not want my voice to be drowned out by the internet blather that plagues our browsers. So what can I do to get my career started?

I have briefly spoken to Spencer about Streamtoid. For those who do not know its history, it was another unproductive project of mine from last summer that remained unsuccessful under my management. I am honored that he picked it up. It is thrilling to see the idea thriving. Although, I cannot help but feel disappointed in myself for I should have filled its lifeless corpse with life. Naturally, he has offered to let me have a spot on its programming but what in the world do I do? And when I already feel like I am drowning due to lack of time, how do I keep up with a regular schedule?

So now I come to you. My fellow gamers, my readers, and writers alike to ask for help on freeing the blockage that seems to have formed. I am searching for help in tapping into the well of inspiration in order to get creativity flowing again. How can I overcome these obstacles and prevent myself from being a failure before I even get my feet off the ground?   read

12:50 AM on 03.16.2012

Big Bang Bust

The Big Bang Theory has been a tolerate/hate relationship with me. Like eating Taco Bell at two in the morning, it is something that is best avoided but for one reason or another I give into its delicious, crusty siren calls. I originally started watching it sometime after season two started after being told to give it a try. I am one of those people that I do not feel like I can build a proper opinion regarding something unless I've experienced it. So I gave it a shot. The first two seasons were nauseating to sit through. Overwhelming stereotypes were forced down viewers' throats tainting any possibility of it being enjoyable. However, going into season three the characters started to develop slightly better personalities; acting more like actual people with conflicting complexities instead of just being the "awkward, nerdy" guy or the "super smart but stupid" guy. Even though the geeky jokes are very forced and mainstreamed, the science humor added a slight bit of charm that started to appear which led me to watch through it the fourth season until it went downhill again. Nonetheless, I had invested enough time into it to keep going. It soon became the thing I watched when bored and sleep deprived.

Normally it takes quite a bit to offend me, but the latest episode of Big Bang Theory rubbed me the wrong way. In "The Weekend Vortex", Raj suggests that the men partake in an forty-eight hour gaming marathon playing The Old Republic. The idea of an 'all guys' weekend mixed with Star Wars instantly catches everyone's attention but drama develops when everyone's relationships begin to clash with their plans. The weekend is turned into a girls vs guy battle after Sheldon bails on his commitment to Amy to accompany her to her aunt's birthday party. She spreads her hurt feelings to Penny who helps her crash the guys' weekend as revenge and to set Sheldon straight.

On top of that, Bernadette invades the guys game by tagging along with Howard. She comes over with him with a bright pink laptop and begins to fill the "cute but clueless girl gamer" role. (Clip) While playing the game, we see her making gun shapes with her hands and going pewpewpew before being corrected to use your mouse and keyboard. She banters Howard into dressing like her character so they match to display that they're together in the game and refuses to heal the other members of the party except for him. Ultimately she begins to frustrate the guys by disturbing their questing due to failure. Tension rises as neither Raj, Sheldon, or Leonard want to speak up against her lovey-dovey attitude towards her fiancé nor want to risk hurting her feelings but the irritation is clearly seen on their faces and in their silence.

"The Weekend Vortex" was an eye opener. It made me realize that a demographic being overlooked - the average nerdy girl. Let's take a closer look at the three main female characters in the show, shall we?

Penny is the "hot chick"; this is something that cannot be denied. She's your average person scrapping by to make a living. Not really intelligent or into nerdy hobbies like the rest of the cast, her role is add a bit of sexy spice to the mix and make up for everyone else's lack of social skills. Bernadette is the "attractive, smart chick" whose character pushes borderline-feminist ideals without being overly bold about them. Throughout the series, she obtains her doctrine in microbiology yet has a healthy sex life as well as being pretty. Her career becomes very successful, leading to the development of the strong, modern day woman archetype. She expresses a disliking for children and fears losing her career to becoming a house wife before proposing that Howard takes care of the children as she works; after all, she already makes more money than he does. Her character becomes an example of how a woman can be both smart and beautiful while also keeping a sense of independence. Then we have Amy who is the "bland, smart chick". With a doctrine in neurobiology, she is the least attractive of the three main female characters and is portrayed to be the most pathetic of the bunch. Having very little physical relationships in her life and bullied while growing up, she's the quiet shy girl that no one really talked to who becomes overly clinging and sensitive towards those around her. Personality wise, she's just as socially awkward and strange as Sheldon, thus balancing out the attractive factor that the other two already established in the show.

I appreciate that Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady have managed to steer away from just having eye candy on the show, but I cannot shake the feeling that both are horrible at writing and developing female characters. The scene of Bernadette playing Old Republic with the guys left a distasteful flavor in my mouth. It fed into the negative stereotypes that women who do play games either start to play to bond with their boyfriends or are impractical players. The floral, pink laptop was cringe worth enough but her actions throughout the scene only made it worse. As a woman who has faced some harassment for liking nerdy things, having a show promote stereotypes like this isn't helping to improve the female community's image while empowering the male half.

I understand that the premise of the episode was to display the consequences that can follow contradictions that rise when trying to balance a romantic life with a social life. However, like the promo for the episode says, "There's just one problem...The girlfriend." Again, while this is the episodes theme, there have been quite a few occasions throughout the series where "the girlfriend" has come between the man and what he wants. Such as how Bernadette opposed against Howard working on the space station despite it being his life long dream to go to space or constant interferences from Penny with Leonard's other relationships. The show may focus mainly on the main four guys and Penny, but the other two female leads have grown to take bigger parts in the plot. However, the is little to no individuality to them.

It also does not help that none of the women hold any interest in geek-like hobbies. They three always get together to partake in drinking, gossip, and shopping despite having some knowledge about video games, comic books, and science fiction media. In fact, they all seem pretty disgusted by it.

For awhile in the earlier season, we saw Penny become addicted to Age of Conan and beat one of the guys in a game of Halo 3, but her accepting/liking of video games quickly vanishes from the series. She tries to learn a bit about the things Leonard enjoys to be appealing and interested to him, and at times, will make a nerdy reference but she still shows plenty of confusion regarding it. Neither Bernadette or Amy really express interest either, often getting things like Star Trek and Star Wars mixed up or being displeased with their boyfriends' "childish" hobbies and behaviors. For a show that tries to glorify science and make nerds look cool, I find it incredibly hard to believe that that is no female character that likes video games, comics, and science fiction. A few minor characters have popped up here and there but none have been well written or reoccurring.

I do not understand why some geeky traits have not been sprinkled on any of the main female cast. Especially with Penny already having a small background in technological entertainment, they could easily write it in that she picks up gaming as a side hobby even if she played alone. She is a bit of a tomboy so the concept would be rather fitting for her without risking taking her out of character. Plus, with her already displaying some level of skill in earlier episodes, we could see a positive, female geek over the shameful character they have created with Bernadette. Now, it could be argued that maybe they will eventually include a girl who is more like "one of the guys" later in the series. One that Raj could eventually grow comfortable enough around to speak to due to her nerdy habits but at this point, I do not have faith in Lorre or Prady to be that clever and write her all.

Because have you noticed the other reoccurring pattern regarding the female characters...?

All of them are "girlfriends". Each and every lead character that has been a woman was introduced to the show for the sole purpose of being matched up to another character, even if their relationship spanned over a few episodes. I do not mean to write the show off as being sexist because I do not exactly see it in such a way. Relationships always add more to the plot and naturally do occur when people who share similar interests, life styles, and ideals mix. It adds a sense of realism to the storyline but the way The Big Bang Theory has done it has been poor character development. In the very first episode, Leonard had already established a hollow infatuation with Penny to the point of offering to help her retrieve some properly from her ex just based on speaking to her for a few minutes. Bernadette was introduced to the show by being a selected friend of Penny's to go on a date with Howard due to the girlfriend pact: an agreement Penny would set him up with one of his friends. This eventually blooms into their relationship leading up to their engagement. Finally, Amy is introduced by flat out being matched up to Sheldon after Raj and Howard make a fake profile for him on a dating site.

Though of course the train does not stop there. A few other reoccurring women in the series were also implemented into the plot for little reason other than to complicate relationships and add sexual tension. Leslie Winkle (a rival of Sheldon's at the university) only appeared in a total of eight episodes and grew notorious for casual sex between Leonard and Howard before being written off from the show. Priya Koothrappali (Raj's sister) is yet another character whose traits center around an active relationship with another. Filling the shoes as the "uppity, rich bitch", she seems to hold little value to her relationship with Leonard as she hides it from her family and cheats on him after relocating back to India. Finally, there was Dr. Stephanie Barnette; a surgical doctor that Leonard had a brief, semi-serious relationship with. She was written as a date Howard was trying to impress but felt a stronger connection to his friend instead. In an interview, Prady admits that she was "a chance for Leonard to learn that just because someone loves you, doesn't mean you'll love them back" but nothing more.

I cannot help but feel somewhat insulted by all of this. Not only does my niche in the community not seem to be noticeable, but apparently woman are only good for making our male counterparts not lonely. While I do not feel that show is intentionally sexist, I do feel that there is plenty of room for the women of The Big Bang Theory to grow, especially in the geeky department. Poor writing choices have led to rather disappointing evolution of the characters. I do understand that not all scientists or doctors enjoy technology and science fiction hobbies, but this is a sitcom about scientists who do enjoy those things. Why can't we have a woman be like that, too?   read

7:03 PM on 02.27.2012

Endings: Happiness is Boring.

Disclaimer: (Yeah, late again as usual but oh well...)The first part of this article may start off non-game related, but I promise it is relevant to the topic. Just bear with me for this the best example I could provide for my point.

Also, I am going to be doing like I did when I wrote about the Chzo Mythos series by providing a link to an image that farther describes what I have to say without risking unintentionally spoiling anything. So please, do not read the links if you have any intention of playing or watching what I am speaking of.

Thank you, and you may now continue with your reading. Anyway...

Have you ever seen To the Ends of the Earth? No? Well, I am not surprised so allow me to tell you a tad about it, and spoil it. It was a mini-series consisting of only three episodes that aired in 2005 and is based on the book trilogy of the same title. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, it tells the tale of a young aristocrat's voyage from England to Australia in 1812. We can assume that as an aristocrat, Edmund lived a fairly sheltered life but was exposed to a more colorful scene as he is socially forced to interact with his fellow shipmates. His ignorance slowly fades away as we witness a young man grow mentally and emotionally through hardships and others' perspectives.
Half way through the series, the ship ends up encountering a second ship upon which the two spend a night mingling in celebration of the end of the war. During the party, our fine young gentleman meets a lovely young girl who he almost instantly falls in love with. He tries to convince her to travel to Australia with him but she refuses as she cannot go against the wills of her elders. The two are separated when the ships part, leaving Edmund heartbroken but learning to accept that life moves on despite his brooding over faith in love.

After surviving all the struggles of the journey, he begins to settle in Australia which opens a new chapter to his ever growing life. Edmund is forced to face new challenges as friendships are severed from social statuses, leaving him alone with what could have potentially led to him realizing he needs to let go of his dependency and become a real man. However...

Just as Mindy from the network said: I am not happy with happy.

To the Ends of the Earth was a bit of an eye opener for me. My realization of how upset I was over a sweet, romantic closure to such a bleak set up, I took some time to think about my favorite games upon which I discovered a rather interesting (perhaps disturbing) pattern about them. In Resident Evil... Amatersu cleansed the world once again but... Persona 3 ended with you.... Then in Trilby's Notes...And do I even need to speak about Metal Gear Solid 3?!

In other words...I discovered that the games that stuck with me the most were ones involving bittersweet endings where the protagonist was put into dreadful peril upon which they only overcame by great sacrifice or ultimately resulted in their own death. Turning a character into a justifiable martyr is a delicate, difficult process. If the character is placed into danger with the sole reason only to add a tad bit of dread to the plot, the worrisome connection the player has towards the character can be lost.

For example, let's take a brief look at L.A Noire...Throughout the whole game we see Cole Phelps work to create a solid career for himself- working his way up from a standard cop to being an successful detective on Vice. Half way through the game...

Being filled with dread while watching a character you like struggle is far more thrilling than seeing them in a peaceful environment. Conflict gets adrenaline pumping, putting the player on edge and keeping attention locked on the situation occurring before them. The battle does not just involve the character, but it also involves the player as well, making the two work together to overcome the crisis together. You feel the character's pain and suffer together thus strengthening the invisible bond between the two but what happens when the fight ends?

With happy endings, the story just stops dead in its tracks. All loose ends are tied together and little is left to the imagination regarding how the character lives out the rest of his or her life. Though it feels almost too much like cliché; a forced moment of unrealistic harmony just to make the player feel good as a reward for their hard work but I feel satisfaction can come from more than just serenity. Part of the joy that can be felt after a hardship comes from knowing you survived it. Battle scars become your trophies and a greater sense of respect rises from a character who shows the effects of their suffering.

Darker themes have a stronger impact on you than lighter themes. Melancholic endings carry on within you after the credit rolls because it makes you think a bit by leaving some aspects of the story open for interruption. They keep the connection between yourself and the character active because you both share the same pain; or you suffer the loose of a close friend when the protagonist dies on you. With a happy ending, there is fairly solid closure to the plot. It leaves you with wiping your hands clean and saying, "That is the end of that!". Then you move with no reason to look back because the game gave you no reason to.

Mario can save Princess Peach a hundred times but he will never become as an iconic symbol of heroism as a character like Big Boss... As Mario lives peacefully until the next kidnapping upon which he cheerfully rescues the princess again, Big Boss had to carry the weight of his mission like a real man.

Now you are probably thinking, "But, Steph, the tones and themes are so different between the two. How can you possibly compare them?" Well, my dear reader...That is my point. Joyful tones soon fall into the same reoccurring, predictable pattern. You always know the hero is going to win and that is just boring.   read

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