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Small, short & vertically challenged. TVQ is a 23yr old British ex-pat living in Texas.
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Back in January my XBL account was taken over and I had hundreds of dollars removed from my bank account. I shared my story online and it kinda went a little viral and popped up on gaming sites all over (including Dtoid <3). I've spent the last few months sifting through thousands of emails and slowly posting them to my new site.

Aaaaaanyway, to cut a long post short after some internet research I've gotten to the bottom of the problem. We're not victims of phishing emails, we're not installing spyware on our computers, nor are we handing out our usernames and passwords to Mr Microsoft Employee who decided to chat to us on MSN.

Our personal details are being passed around and abused because of social engineering - But we're not the ones giving the information out!

Shocked? Not really.

Angered? Most definitely.

What can you do to help? Email Microsoft (link on the above article) and demand a new authentication system to be implemented. Simple.

And while you're at it, share the article around and help get our voices heard!

$360 stolen from a young parent (me!) with a disabled kid. Microsoft doesn't care.

You can read my full story here.

If you are on Twitter please re-tweet the link!

Five years in the making, Katawa Shoujo ('Cripple Girl') is certainly not your typical dating sim. Firstly, it was created by 21 members of the most notorious online message board on the internet. Secondly, it is a Japanese-styled erotic game starring girls with various disabilities. Not one to run away from something that would guarantee my place in hell, I decided to get my game on.

You play as Hisao Nakai who, due to a serious heart condition, finds himself attending a High School for disabled people. Katawa Shoujo follows the same path as most dating sims; you meet people, chat a lot, make difficult decisions and (hopefully) get your rocks off. As this game is played from the first person perspective you get to know what Nakai is thinking, feeling and the added bonus of having him describe his surroundings in finer detail. The game uses a traditional text and sprite-based visual novel model with an ADV text box. What that basically means is the game looks like this.

Visually, the game is quite eye-catching and certainly pleasing to my own tastes. There is a mixture of hand-drawn artwork for the character sprites layered with filtered photography for the background environments. It merges together quite nicely and, although I did not expect any less from the home of Anonymous, I was quite impressed to see just how polished Katawa Shoujo is.

They really paid attention to the finer details of what makes or breaks a Japanese dating sim. Namely a "hands free" auto mode that is for the, ahem, adult scenes. You also have a comprehensive menu that allows you to re-read any conversations you have had, skip straight past any scenes you're not interested in and remove the text off of the screen so you can sit enjoy the great artwork.

I haven't gotten to any ~naughty~ bits just yet, but I can tell they are right around the corner. I am both hesitant and excited to see what these 4channers have in store for me. I plan to do a more detailed review once I have played more of the game. From what I have seen so far, it would certainly tickle the fancy of any fellow sim-lovers. If you like your porn in game format and with disabled chicks, this could also be something worth checking out too.

You can download Katawa Shoujo, free of charge, over here. It is worth mentioning too that there is an option to turn off the adult content of the game. Although I am not sure why anyone who actively chooses to download this game would wish to do so.

Are you playing this game too? Comment here with your thoughts so far!
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August 24th 2007, the date is forever etched in my memory. It was the day of the European release of Bioshock. I hadn’t been an Xbox owner for long and I was still naively confident that “it would never happen to me”.

Oh how foolish I was.

The day started out well, I had a productive time at work and was able to utilise my lunch hour to visit my local Gamestation to purchase the highly-anticipated FPS. There was a skip in my step as I made my way home and I grabbed myself an extra treat of fish ‘n chips from my nearby chipper. To say I was in a good mood is a bit of an understatement

My house mates were greeted with a “HI! BIOSHOCK! BYE!” as I ran up the stairs to my bedroom. I was lucky enough to live with geeks so they understood my adrupt welcome perfectly well. I pressed the button my box, hunted for my TV remote and plopped myself down onto my bed with my tasty takeaway meal. My TV screen teased me with static and I pressed a few buttons to double check that I was on the right channel. Then my eyes glanced down to where my box was sitting on the floor..

“Hello, I’m the Red Ring of Death, how may I fuck with you today?”

I was absolutely heartbroken. Bioshock had been a game I had been waiting for (rather patiently too, I might add) for an extremely long time and to have my box die on me the moment it is in my hands was like rubbing salt in an already painful wound.

That’s not to say that I gave up hope straight away though, who really does in these situations? I leapt off of my bed, ketchup-covered chip in mouth, and started what can only be described as a desperate attempt at fixing my 360. I re-wired my whole room, I got the vacuum cleaner out and started sucking away at air vents, I prayed to Whomever Would Listen and I pressed the on/off button an even number of times in case odd numbers upset the beast. Nothing worked. my efforts were all in vain. The flashing red lights and deathly silence mocked me.

It was hopeless, my Xbox was dead.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur to me, I remember sitting on my bed eating my dinner with a sour expression on my face and the Bioshock manual gripped tightly in my hands, torturing myself with what “could’ve been”.

Saturday morning was spent trying to find a suitable casket for my beloved box so it could be shipped off to a place in mainland Europe where they would try to give it the kiss of life or send a younger model back in its place.

The next two weeks were long and rather uneventful. I would check the tracker info at Xbox.com daily, sometimes more than once, to get an update on how my box was doing and where the hell it was. Imagine my delight when, less than two weeks later, I got the news that the problem had been fixed and I should expect a deliver within 2-3 days. Going home from work every night was like playing Russian roulette with my emotions, but the day quickly came when there was a beautiful brown box with a blessed bounty sitting outside my bedroom door.

My Xbox had come home to me.

So, do you remember your first time?
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Pregnancy and gaming are akin to one another; they are life-long commitments that require the utmost dedication from you, they have the ability to make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside before turning into a complete nightmare that you want to escape from and once you have chosen to take the path your bank balance will never be the same again.

While most people will conjure images of aching, bloated women when they think of pregnancy, I can assure you that outside of the momentous body changes there is a lot to look forward to. Although I had a tough time during my pregnancy, it did discover that gaming was a guaranteed moment in my day where I could take my mind off of the issues regarding my unborn child and just relax.

So, you're pregnant or you've just knocked up your gamer lover/girlfriend/fiancee/wife. Let me share with you a few handy tips to ensure maximum gaming relaxation throughout the next nine months.

Step One: Physical Relaxation

Ladies, gone are the days of gaming while sitting awkwardly on a sofa, legs bent and with a lumpy pillow shoved into the crook of your back as a lame attempt at giving you added support. The bed is your gaming domain now and God help anyone who dares to question otherwise. I was pretty damn good at playing the “But I’m pregnaaaaaant!” card with puppy-dog eyes and so my request for having our bed moved into the living room was granted pretty swiftly. There is nothing more blissfully relaxing than gaming in the comfort of your own bed and I would advise any pregnant woman to poke someone into help shift your gaming setup around so you can lay back and chill the fuck out.

An additional benefit is the handy new table that has appeared in your mid-section. Other items that can be placed on the squishy curvature are; chocolate bars, antacids and your cat. A note to others wanting to use your fold-away furniture as a place to hold your beverage; babies kick. My stained blanket is proof that I need to think things through a little more sometimes.

Step Two: Mental Relaxation

For those of you out there who have been pregnant, or had a pregnant partner, you will already be fully aware of the restrictions that are in place in the later stages of pregnancy. For the benefit of those who haven’t experienced the wonders of an unstoppable expanding waistline, let me give you a bit of insider-info; moving is bloody difficult. You’ve all seen that episode of Futurama where Bender’s “one weakness” was revealed, right? Yeah, welcome to pregnancy. For the last two months of my pregnant I was forced to doing the turtle-roll at any point throughout the day where I decided to recline in a chair or lay down. As my bed was now in the living room for gaming-purposes I tended to do a lot of the above.

This meant that whenever my Xbox froze mid-game or I wanted to change out what I was playing, I would have to really work hard to get out of bed. Having someone simply walk over to the console and swap one game for another meant I could really chill out and lose myself completely in what I was playing without having that nagging worry in the back of my mind that I would have to roll off the bed, waddle to the other side of the room and do it myself at any given moment. I realise this may not sound like a big deal (or sound like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill) and I wont bore you with every single ache and pain that a pregnant woman is cursed with, but once you’ve stopped being able to see your own damn feet than having someone to bend over and put a new game into your console of choice is a blessing in disguise.

Step Three: Extended Relaxation

Epic heartburn, baby karate and pains in places you never knew existed; this is the side of pregnancy that people tend to gloss over. Unfortunately it is all very real and like a pissed-off wasp trapped indoors, it will get to you eventually. It goes without saying that it is extremely hard to sleep under those kind of circumstances (especially with the wasp), but worry not, you now have the perfect excuse to pull some all-nighters and get some serious game time in. Convincing myself that this was 'extended relaxation time' usually helped keep the insomnia worries at bay.

I was lucky enough to have a steady stream of games at my fingertips coupled with a short attention span, so when the pregnancy-insomnia hits I was able to keep myself entertained without stressing over the fact that IT'S THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. The nights flew by and before I knew it the sun was rising, the dogs were licking my toes and my husband was prying the controllers out of my hands, demanding I get rest. It was usually around that time that I realised the baby had stopped his martial arts, the acid reflux calmed down hours ago and my body was too tired to even bother with the usual aches.

Step Four: Costly Relaxation

I don’t think it is uncommon for a woman who is going through the physical and mental changes associated with pregnancy to have odd mood swings, especially when it comes to gaming. This is a hobby that a lot of women spend hours on every week, if not every day, so it is only natural to go through periods of intense boredom with your usual genre of games or to jump from title to title like a flea loaded on caffeine.

I did not suffer from food cravings during my first trimester, nor did I become violently ill. You may think my partner and I dodged a bullet, but suggest that to him and he will laugh in your face. For months I yearned for expansive roleplay games to lose myself in and if I wasn’t given a new one every week to keep satisfied than he would be on the receiving end of a furious hormonal outburst. It’s because of my insatiable hunger that I was able to play a wonderful bunch of new games in the first couple of months of my pregnancy; Risen, Resonance of Fate, Dragon Age: Origins Awakening, Divinity II: Ego Draconis and Two Worlds.

Look at me, I’m so spoilt.

Men, listen to/obey your gamer lady during pregnancy. It's a lose/lose situation otherwise.

Step Five: Parental Relaxation

Forget soothing tunes, forget Mozart, what your child needs to hear while they are in your womb is the comforting sounds of video games and everything that comes with them. Just think about it, every time you unlock a trophy or earn achievement points you are sending happy hormones down to your offspring. They soon begin to associate the noises of your favourite game with relaxation and calmness. Clearly if you are playing something that is causing your blood to boil and adrenaline to race around your body than you will have the opposite of your desired effect (see above during preggo-insomnia), but for the most part your unborn sprogling will find your favourite hobby unconsciously becoming their own.

Naturally, I am basing this on zero scientific research, but from my own experiences thus far. Whenever my kid was causing me hassle from within I turned on my Xbox and low and behold, he settled down and left my ribs alone. Did I accidentally stumble upon the solution to fussy, screaming babies? Who knows, but I plan to get my theory published and go on to earn lots of money creating video games to relax the smallest of our kind*.

I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed..

* I'm just kidding.

I also take no responsibility for corneas damaged by ultra-shitty paint drawings.
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