I'm a science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer by trade, but aside from writing, video games are my biggest passion. I also write over at Gamer Limit.
The first console my brothers and I ever got was an SNES for Christmas one year. Since then, we've owned an N64, Playstation, PS2, and an Xbox 360. I got a Gameboy Color one year for Christmas, but my brothers are more into handheld gaming than me. Every time they upgrade to the latest system I get their hand-me-downs. That's how I obtained my GBA and my two DS's. Handheld gaming for some reason doesn't interest me even though I know there are great games out there. The first console I've ever been the exclusive owner of is my PS3. The first games I ever played were Super Mario World, F-Zero, 7th Saga (which I've written about), and Out of This World.
My favorite genres are RPGs (Western or Japanese), FPS, action/adventure, and RTS (even though I suck at them).
Letís face it: scarves make anything cool. Case in point, Fred from Scooby Doo. Do you think he became the leader of the gang because of his brains? Hell no. Itís because of that devilishly stylish scarf he wears. This doesnít just apply to TV and movies. Proper scarf use can make or break a videogame characterís ability to resonate with an increasingly demanding audience. Come with me on a magical journey as we explore the best scarves in gaming!
Note: These are in no particular order.
Pikachuís Red Scarf
Pikachuís pretty cute, right? Right. You know whatís even cuter? Pikachu in a little red bandana neck thing! I mean look at himóhe looks like a little explorer! If it wasnít for the adorable line of scarves and bow ties the Pokťmon wear in the Mystery Dungeon games they wouldnít nearly get the same amount of critical acclaim.
Journeyís Magical Flying Scarf
Iíve written about Journey before, but not about the best partóthe scarves! Part neckwear, part tail, part magical source of flight power, Journeyís scarf deserves to be part of this list. Not only does it keep my characterís neck (does it even have one?) protected in the desert sun, but it also keeps them warm as they climbed up that icy mountain at the end of the game. And damned if they didnít look mighty fine doiní it too! Plus you could find fabric scraps that made your scarf longer, and everyone whoís keyed into the scarf world knows, longer = better.
Nathan Drakeís Scarf
Technically itís a keffiyeh, but he wears it around his neck, so it qualifies. Whatís more important anyway? Wrapping it around your head when youíre in the desert to keep the sun and dust off your entire face or keeping it around your neck as a stylish accessory? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Strider Hiryuís Scarf
Ninjas and scarves go together like tequila and regret. Not only does Strider avoid that monochromatic thing most ninjas gravitate toward, his scarf also doubles as a mask. Plus that deep crimson color probably works really well to hide any bloodstains. Fashionable and practicalóitís the ninja way.
Proto Manís Scarf
Robots are cool. As has been established by the previous entries and LOGIC, scarves are cool. Put them together you getÖI dunno. 2x cool or something. Anyway, Proto Manís a badass, and his flowing yellow scarf only complements his red and grey color scheme and adds to his badassittude. Would he still be cool without it? Yeah. But as cool? Thatís a definite hell no.
Hope Estheimís Scarf
A rare miss for a piece of neckwear that normally has the power to make any character cooler. Even with his dapper blue scarf, Hopeís still an insufferable character. The less said about him and his stupid quest for vengeance the better. Actually, the less said about Final Fantasy XIII in general the better.
There you have it--a sampling of gaming's best neckwear! Next time you're playing a lackluster game, just imagine how much better it would be if your character was wearing a scarf.
Iím going to GDC this month, and to be honest, Iím really nervous. Itís my first GDC. Hell, itís my first big convention. I mean, Iíve wandered around Comic Con down in San Diego a couple of times, but that was always just for fun, and I either had a friend or my fiancťe with me. This time, Iím heading up to San Francisco by myself for the full week.
So hereís where you come in, Dtoidóawesome people that you are. Give me your advice! Give me tips! Help me figure out how I should prepare, what I should bring, who I could meet up with, and what parties sound the coolest. Help me plan for my first GDC.
So hereís my dilemma. Ostensibly, Iím a ďmember of the press.Ē Whatever that means. Iím not a journalist, thatís for damn sure. Iím a writer. Iíll admit that. But Iím not really going to GDC for the ďjournalism angleĒ Ė the whole writing news posts, crafting previews based on the games at the expo, that sort of thing.
Iím going mainly for the panels, the talks, the bootcamps, and the networking. For me, writing about games isnít as exciting as writing for games. As a novelist and storyteller by trade, Iíd love the chance to get my foot in the door and work with games. The thought of penning a story and helping shape an interactive experience is enough to make me feel a bit giddy. So thatís why Iím going to GDCóto learn more about game design, narrative design, and meet some awesome people.
So what do I do there? Am I obligated to write articles even though thatís not my real focus? But what about if that can help me get a jobówriting timely articles, demonstrating my writing abilities, etc.?
Okay so thereís that, but letís take a step back. How do you even prepare for a big convention like PAX or GDC? I mean what are you expected to take with you into the convention center? My laptop? Pad of paper and some writing sticks? Business cards are a given. How am I supposed to dress? I imagine fairly casual and with comfortable shoes because Iíll be doing a literal shit-ton of walking. (Yes. Thatís an official unit of measurement. Bigger than a crap-ton).
And what about the times in between the panels Iím attending? What do I do then? Because Iím going to this thing by myself, I have this (possibly irrational) fear that Iíll end up just sitting by myself whenever Iím not at one of the scheduled panels.
This fear extends to the after parties. Thereís a bunch of them, but Iíve never been one for big parties and going to barsóespecially if Iím by myself. I realize I just have to take the plunge and go for itóthatís where all the serious (slightly tipsy) networking friend-making happens. The question is: which party do I go to? Iím staying outside the city at my grandmaís place to save money, so my options are limited. BART only runs so late after all. If Iím limited to one party, which one should it be? That Destructoid GDC Hangover Party sounds like a good bet. Itís got Dtoidís approval after all.
There ya go, Dtoid! Themís all my anxieties about this upcoming trip laid bare. Help me out. Shower me with adviceóserious or not. Iíll take whatever I can get! Help me not make a complete ass of myself (for the wrong reasons) at GDC 2013! And let me who else is going to be there. I want to meet as many of you fine, fine specimens of humanity as possible.
With Valentineís Dayóthe contrived greeting card holiday day of love and romanceóupon us, I figured now would be the perfect time for us gamers to reflect on those characters we desperately wanted our avatars to be with but things just didnít work out.
This post is for those times where we loved the ones we couldnít be with.
Why does it always seem to work out that you want what you canít have? Maybe itís something with the way our brains are wired. I donít know. Iím not a love doctor (Mario). However, I can name (at least) three times this console generation where I wanted one thing and the games themselves wouldnít allow it.
Iíve written about my thing for Tali before, but itís worth it again. During my time with Mass Effect, Zoe Shepard might have shacked with up Liara (mostly because Kaiden was about as interesting as soggy bread), but she only had eyes for the Quarian down in Engineering.
She went out of her way to make sure Tali got to come on all the best missionsóVirmire, what up!óand had only the best equipment and armor. Shepard asked nothing in return, mostly because in the first game, Taliís not a romance option for either male or female Shepards.
At the time, I had no idea what she looked like, so it was all up to the stellar script and voice work to make the magic happen. There was just something about the way Tali evolved as a character that caught my eye. She starts out naÔve and out of her depth, but by the end of the game she showcases a dry wit that had me cracking up.
And she only got better as the series went on. By the time Mass Effect 3 came out, my Shepard had broken up with Liara on the off chance that somehow Taliís (literal) programming had changed to allow her to be a potential partner for female Commander Shepards. Nope! Instead, I was treated to a funny and sad scene of Tali and Garrus making out before the final mission on Earth.
Letís move away from games where you get a little more agency when it comes to creating and defining your character. Hereís an example from Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3, two games in a series known for telling a focused, linear story with pre-defined characters.
I never played the first game, but right off the bat in Uncharted 2 I liked Chloe. She was sarcastic, in control, and looked out for herself first. All qualities I admire. Whenever sheíd suggest the sensible thing like running away, not dying, or not risking her neck, I always nodded along. Thereís a reason that Tom Cross praised Chloe so much in this Gamasutra article.
According to the developers, Chloe was supposed to ďbe a foil for showing not only what Drake could have been if was a little bit darker but also to play off Elena, because Elena's the good girl that does the right thing all the time.Ē
Good! I for one was bored when Elena was introduced in Uncharted 2, probably because she was a new character to me. She always wanted to do the noble thing even if it was dumb and dangerous. Thatís not me. But the game didnít let me shape Nathan Drake as much as I did with Commander Shepard. So by the end of the game, I was shouting at Nate to go with Chloe. Obviously she was the better choice and a much better fortune hunter. They could be rich and have awesome adventures! What was he going to do with Elena? Journalism and stuff? How ethical and boring.
Things only got worse in Uncharted 3. By the start of that game, you learn that Nate and Elena have broken up, are on a break, or something like that. Great! So he ditches the superior lady in the last game, and now heís single again? It was like pouring salt on the wound when Chloe showed up again and Nate still went after Elena.
Itís not surprising that another character from a BioWare game is on this list. In my opinion, they do good work. I also couldn't find a screenshot where she didn't look strange so I decided to use this wallpaper (where she also looks strange).
Like Tali, sheís not a potential partner for a female character. So like my version of Shepard, my Warden had an unrequited thing for Morrigan even though she ended up with Allistair. (A marriage of convenience to become Queen).
However, like Chloe, she has a lot of qualities that I admire. She asks the obvious, but sometimes uncomfortable questions: ďWhy are we helping these people again? They canít do anything for us in return.Ē Sheís powerful and independent, but unavailable during certain playthroughs. Of course that only made me include her in my party more often. Hearing her bicker and make fun of Allistair was one of my favorite parts with Dragon Age: Origins.
I wanted my character to go with her at the end of Witch Hunt, but it wasnít meant to be. Morrigan declined my characterís offer (fondly I might add!) and stepped through that portal. The Warden was left behind with nothing more than memories of their time spent slaying Darkspawn together.
So there you have it. Three loves. They were the obvious best choices, but due to design choices, none of them were ever realized. Oh well. Thereís always Dragon Age III and Not Mass Effect 4 to look forward to. I hope your characters (and yourself) are luckier in love than mine were.
I recently finished my fourth playthrough of Dragon Age II (I previously wrote about my time collecting the gameís trophies), but only on my second of Dragon Age: Origins. Why is that? According to public opinion among gamers (and the gamesí Metacriticscores), Dragon Age II is an inferior product. So why do I feel more compelled to play out Hawkeís story again and again despite having the ďbetterĒ game sitting on my shelf?
Maybe I just like bad games. I donít know. All I know is that Dragon Age II is not the disaster people claim it is. There are things wrong with itóbig, big things. But what some people claim are its biggest weaknesses are what draw me to it time and time again.
Hawkeís got a voice and personality. Maybe I like things dumbed down, console style, but I had fewer ďoh thatís the tone they went withĒ moments with Dragon Age IIís dialogue wheel. I felt more connected with the character just like how I grew attached to Shepard. In DAO I feel like I made a video game character, but I never really roleplayed. There was a disconnect there.
But with DA2 I felt like it was my Hawke siding with the mages in one playthrough or my other Hawke condemning Anders in another. Hawke just has more personality than the Warden. DA2 took a risk by taking away some of the freedom when it comes to character creationóonly be a humanóno origin stories, but in my mind it creates a deeper, more fleshed out character.
The side characters are brilliant. They were good in the first game, but I think they hit their stride in the sequel. I miss Alistair as much as the next gamer, but I think that the banter between all the side characters more than makes up for his absence. I think Varric is a great character, and Merrill is a delightóshe walks that fine line between naÔve and downright ruthless when it comes to her magical abilities.
Even though the development team used the gameís single setting to cut corners and reuse assets and maps (side bar: thatís a huge glaring flaw), I think the gameís Kirkwall setting is stronger than the cross-country tour of Ferelden you get in the first game. Kirkwall has personality beyond the standard: elf camp, drawf city, and human medieval city of the first game. Sure itís pretty damn empty for being ďcrammed full of refugees,Ē but the history behind Kirkwall and the Free Marches felt much more detailed than the individual towns and locations in Ferelden.
Kirkwall is a city built on blood, fire, and chains. Itís a former slave city, itís been sacked multiple times, undergone a few revolutions, and finally it experiences the upheaval of the mages vs Templars fight in DA2. Itís a city that has battle scars and a dark past. Thatís more than I can tell you about Lothering or Denerim. Um, Denerim is the capital and has a king and some nobles in it. Thatís about it. Kirkwall feels less like a sightseeing tour through quasi-medieval fantasyland. Personally, Iíd love to go back for a little bit during the upcoming DA3 and see how my choices affected the city.
By limiting the game to Kirkwall and the surrounding area, DA2 feels tighter than DAO. The choice of a single setting mirrors the choice to narrow the focus and scope of the story. Again this is to the gameís benefit, but more on that later.
Make no mistake, Dragon Age II is smaller and narrower than its predecessor, but at the same time itís the biggest game in the franchise (of two games). In Origins you played as the Warden, a pivotal figure with magical Grey Warden powers and destined to stop the Fifth Blight. Because the game is a western RPG with all its tropes of increasing player power, for the most part, you had no doubt that youíd be successful. Oh sure you could lose and maybe get a ďbad endingĒ or certain well-loved characters might die, but your ultimate victory was undoubtedly going to be canon. I mean, otherwise the franchise is over. Everybodyís been killed by the Darkspawn. This means DAO has high stakes, but ultimately the conclusion is fairly neat.
DA2 throws all of that awayóin a good way! Even though the story only affects the city of Kirkwall directly, the multiple endings have ramifications for the rest of the world of Thedas. In Dragon Age: Origins you save the world. In Dragon Age II you break the world. You just choose which side you support.
While some claim this shows a lack of player controlóand theyíre rightóit also creates a fuller experience. Yes you control the fate of the world in Origins, but it also limits the other characters, the queens, kings, members of the Chantry, etc. They donít get to make decisions that matter. The unique way the plot is structured in DA2ówith all of the choices and variables leading to a pair of conclusions that both deal with a civil war between mages and Templarsóemphasizes that this is a bigger world beyond the player character.
Despite your best efforts to stop it (or encourage it!) the war between mages and Templars is going to happen, and itís going to get worst. Whether you like it or not, your Hawke broke Thedas. That feelingówhen you realize what youíve done, the culmination of all your choices throughout the gameóis so much more satisfying than simply saving the world. Iíve been there. Iíve done that.
So BioWare, I hope youíre listening. Learn from DA2ís mistakes. No more reusing assets, okay? But donít throw it all away. Learn from DA2ís successes too. More choices with relationships. More personality for all the characters. Do these things and make me feel like Iím affecting a living, breathing, damaged world and youíll be golden. At the very least, stay the hell away from a tri-colored ending cinematic.
Some games you win by having great reflexes. Other games you win by remembering sequences of intricate button presses. And others you win just by dumb luck.
But then thereís another type of gameóthe game you win by out-waiting it. But what do I mean by out-waiting a game? Obviously there has to be a degree of patience involved, but itís not the same as being patient as you grind for levels in a JRPG or MMORPG. Out-waiting a game involves patience and a willingness to play the game wrong.
Thereís tons of a ways to play a game wrong. Thereís a certain brand of wrongness created by a player thatís unfamiliar with the game or the genre. The Escapist ran a great article about that recently. Another kind of wrongness comes about when players deliberately cheat or break the game for their own personal gain. Out-waiting a game is different than all those.
I didnít even realize what I was doing until I tweeted this about Assassinís Creed Revelation yesterday: ďThis Mediterranean Defense mini-game has turned #ACR into a standing around waiting simulator so I can send my minions on more missions.Ē
ACR is supposed to be a third person action game thatís full of running, climbing, fighting, and of course the titular assassinating. And somehow in my completionist ways, Iíd turned the game into a waiting simulator. I wanted to win at the Mediterranean Defense mini-game more than I wanted to progress the main story. Now does that say something more about me or about Revelationsí narrative?
Rather than do story missions while I waited for my assassin minions (or minsassins as I call them), I decided to just chill in the Assassinís Den while I waited for the missions to finish. I put the controller down and used those 8-12 minute intervals to surf the internet on my laptop, work on a novel outline, go grab a snack, pretty much anything but playing Assassinís Creed Revelations the way it was meant to be played.
A similar thing happened whenever I decided to renovate Istanbul. Early on, the game introduces you to the Den Defense tower defense mini-game. I donít like tower defense games that much, and the one in ACR isnít very good to begin with. The game lets you play the Den Defense game when the Templars attack your Assassin Dens. They attack the dens when your Awareness Meter fills up.
So what actions fill up the Awareness Meter? Getting into fights with guards and stuff like that, but also renovating shops. Personally, I think this isnít a well-designed system. The game wants you to renovate buildings to increase your income and improve your equipment, but it also feels like the designers really, really want you to play their tower defense mini-game too.
You can get around this by lowering the Awareness meter by bribing heralds or assassinating Templar officials that show up on the map once your meter is mostly filled. Because I donít like Den Defense mini-game, I decided to out-wait the game. Iíll renovate three or four shops, and then when the meter gets too full, Iíll just run around looking for heralds to bribe. At the same time, Iíll continue to check in on my minsassins. Iíve played the game for over 10 hours so far, and Iíve only had to do the Den Defense thing once because the story mandated it.
Maybe Iím wasting my time by working so hard to avoid the tower defense stuff. Maybe Iím breaking the game by just standing around while I wait for my minions to finish their missions. I doubt the designers would want anyone to play it the way I doópurposely skipping this iterationís biggest new feature. Despite ACR wanting to funnel me into a certain play style when it comes to the more strategic mechanics, Iím much more patient than it thinks. I can out-wait it.
Playing the ďwaiting gameĒ with a video game not be the proper way to go, but it certainly works for me.
Alright letís jump on this bandwagon, full onÖand hard. Bbain wrote a super-awesome blog, and it inspired me (and everybody else it seems) to write one for myself. I havenít been able to meet any Dtoiders other than Cadtalfryn in real life, so this seems like a good way to get to know everyone a little better.
This is me. Behind me is my kitchen. Sorry about the big-ass picture
10. Dumb and Dumber scared me as a child
True story. To this day, Iíve never seen all of Dumb and Dumber. Thereís this one scene where in a dream sequence Jim Carrey rips a dudeís heart out and puts it in a doggie bag. Total Temple of Doom stuff right there. Scared the shit outta me. Reason why? That same scene in Temple of Doom terrified me a few years before.
9. My youngest brother has special needs
My youngest brother is four years younger than me, and he has VCFS. Heís also one of the coolest dudes I know. Plus he plays video games like crazy. Heís got mad Guitar Hero and Rock Band skills. Not living at home anymore, I donít get to see him as often as Iíd like.
8. I love heavy metal
Dunno how I got into metal, but I love it. Probably happened during high school. Funny thing is all those growly, screamy, shouty bands used to scare me the first time I heard them. Now Iím the one scaring other drivers during my commute home. I tend to ďsingĒ along with my CDs on the freeway. People probably think Iím mad at them or something. Strangely, Iím not an angry person.
7. The SNES is the best system ever invented
Hands down. End of story. The SNES was the first console my brothers and I ever got. It had so many great games. We spent hours and hours playing Mario, Donkey Kong Country 1-3, and Yoshiís Island. My mom eventually had to ban all video games before school and then during the week because my brothers and I would end up fighting too much.
6. I originally I thought I was going to study chemistry. I ended up with literature
I was good at science in high school. I hated all my English classes. When I went to college, I thought I was going to study chemistry or some other sciencey thing. I went to the orientation presentation for the chemistry and walked out after two minutes. Best decision ever. I ended up studying literature because of how much I love to read. I may have a somewhat shitty job right now because of it, but Iím glad I chose that major. Itís what led me toÖ
5. Iím a published author
Iíve had a few short stories published. My first one was actually a story I wrote in a literature class in college instead of a final paper. If I hadnít taken that path of study, that never wouldíve happened. I love writing, and my dream job would be able to write full time. I tend to write dark science fiction, horror, and speculative fiction. (Theyíre all kinda the same thing). Iíd love feedback from community members if any of you are fans of SF/F/H. You can see some of my stuff on Amazon. (/self-promotion)
4. Iíve never playedÖ(insert popular game here)
Thereís tons of games that the gaming community as a whole seems to adore that Iíve never played. Letís list a few of them: any of the Metal Gear games, Shadows of the Colossus, Ico, Half-Life 2, Portal, any of the Mother/Earthbound games, Knights of the Old Republic, etc. etc. Dunno why Iíve never played any of these. They just donít seem interesting to me. By this point, I think somebody would have to pay me to play some of the ones on this unplayed list.
3. Iíve read more Star Wars books than Iím proud of
YeahÖ I have a whole shelf on my bookshelf just dedicated to Star Wars books. I got good ones like the Thrawn trilogy, and I have some terrible ones like Children of the Jedi. The original trilogy and things set after it are more interesting to me than any Old Republic stuff. Iíve fallen behind on keeping up with the novels, but someday Iíll catch up.
2. I hated Destructoid and Podtoid when I first heard of it
Wait! Put down the pitchforks and other pointy instruments of pain! I was living in a dorm room with Cadtalfryn at the time. He kept turning on this podcast thing called Podtoid and would listen to it as he did homework. Iíd only half pay attention, but for some reason it just irritated me. He tried to explain to me what Destructoid was, but my response was always, ďYeahÖ so what the fuckís a Destructoid?Ē I just didnít get it. Oh what a foolish squid Iíd been! (If I could find the right Futurama clip, Iíd put it there).
I didn't know what I was missing at first! Honest!
1. I love Destructoid
Iíve been a part of this community for a while now. I used to only lurk, then I made an account, then I posted my first (see also: terrible) Cblog. Since then this community has been nothing but a joy. You guys are all amazing, awesome, wonderful, stupendous, and a whole bunch of other nice adjectives. So yeah. You keep it real, Dtoid.
0. Bonus quick hits! I have one tattoo, but I want more. The one I have is the album cover of one of my favorite CDs, plus there's some sentimental reasons, ya know that kinda stuff.
Beer is delicious.
I'm left handed. It makes me notice when other people are left handed too.