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nintendoll's blog

Journey to the Omegathon Part Two: Photo Op
3:40 PM on 02.22.2013
Getting the Call: Part One of an Omeganaut's Journey
1:06 PM on 02.18.2013
Why the New Xbox 360 Dashboard is Killing Indie Games
2:09 PM on 01.27.2012
Memoirs of an Ex-GameStop Employee
11:28 AM on 08.21.2011
East Vs. West - The Quest for Character Empathy
2:44 PM on 08.12.2011
Why The Beatles Rock Band is More than Just A Re-Skin
2:51 PM on 09.12.2009





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About


I'm a woman who loves her video games. I'm also pretty much a nerd for all that is nerdy: MST3K/Riff Trax, Star Wars, Anime/Manga, Kevin Smith, X-men Comics, and of course all things video games. Someday, I would look to get paid to write for and/or about video games. I'm awesome, so it'll will probably happen.

I have a strong hatred for the Atlantic Ocean.



Yoshi BBFs forever: Me, Suff0cat, Wardrox, and ScottyG.

Preferred games are RPGs and puzzle games. I like the occasional FPS (Timesplitters: FuturePerfect being my favorite) and some racing (Burnout Reveeeeenge).

Current Games:
Burnout Paradise
Left 4 Dead
Space Invaders Extreme
Harvest Moon Island of Happiness
Chrono Trigger DS



My Project 365
That link is to some of my photography/photoshop art done for Project 365. If you don't know what Project 365 is, GOOGLE IT DUH.

Notable C-Blogs:
The Start of the Affair: Harvest Moon

I also write a bit for Negative Gamer.


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A few days after the initial phone call, I was scrolling through my gmail and got my next contact from Penny Arcade. A few of the organizers sent out a notice that they would need some basic information, a headshot for the program, and for us to sign some sort of agreement/waiver type document.

My eyes scanned the document fairly quickly; it wasn't very long. But towards the end, I found one of those necessary but slightly unnerving "Penny Arcade is not responsible for any injuries sustained while competing the Omegathon" statements.

I had a flash of some rather unpleasant scenes playing through my head: myself, flailing around with playing the inevitable dancing game; myself, falling of the stage like an idiot; myself, bleeding out on stage, filled with ninja stars of my competitor's hired assassins.

I though back to my conversation with one of the past Omeganauts, Pork Buns, on what to expect from the competition. Her response was chilling:

"Terror. Lots of terror."

Well then.

My first instinct was to disguise myself. The best offense is a good defense right? Hmm. Something about that sounds off. My point is, i was going to wear some sort of mask in my photo and submit my first name as 'Mystery' and my last name as "Challenger." I felt very smart, and for a short time, very safe.

And of course I remembered that in my bout of maniacal excitement at being chosen for the Omegathon, I told everyone who even vaguely knows me through the internet that I had been picked.

Here are my plans, currently full of wrench.

So I resigned myself to taking a normal photo. I got my camera ready, put on something cute andOH MY GOD IT'S BEEN A WEEK AND I NEED TO SEND THE PHOTO IN TOMORROW!

I browsed through photos of myself on my computer. I found some good ones, but it needed to be 4" x 4" at 300 dpi. I have a DSLR camera, so I figured somewhere I should have a good quality photo to use. Imagine my dread, dear readers, when I discovered that 90% of my high quality photos are on my external 1TB hard drive....that is currently missing its USB cable.

So, no photos with the Destructoid helmet on, no photos of me making silly but somehow cute faces, no photos of me in any of my pretty rad cosplays. Balls.

Short on time, I was forced to ask my lovely mother for help getting a decent headshot for the program. Maybe this goes without saying, but let me just put this out there: if you need a headshot for some reason, never, ever ask your mom to take your photo for you.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mother dearly. She's funny and loving and great at helping me and my friends paint Warhammer figures. But, like many mothers, she thinks I am the cutest child alive and everything I wear is adorable and I'm her little baby.

For reference, I'll be turning 26 this year.

So, instead of taking ten minutes to snap a few photos, it turned into a 40 minute ordeal. Changing my hair around, switching the lighting, getting shots from at least eight different angles. Total, my mom took about 60 photos. I felt like I went through some sort of Olympic event. You know, the type where the goal is to smile a bunch without blinking or twitching, you are the only competitor, and there is no prize for winning.

And the stupid thing is, I looked ridiculous in almost all of them.

In the end though, I got a decent photo, and that's what really matter. Now all I can do is wait until the games list gets posted, and listen to the Burning Rangers theme song to get myself pumped.









Hey there Dtoid community. For those of you who don't know, I'm Nintendoll, long-time site member. I haven't been very active recently; working two jobs and going back to school can do that sometimes.

But! I thought now may be the time to get to know the community again as I will be attending PAX East....as an Omeganaut!

My first PAX with Destructoid members was PAX Prime 2008 and I can't even describe how awesome it was. From stealing Niero's beer at the bar, drinking the Red Lion dry and meeting the man who would be my boyfriend for the next two years, it was an insane experience that only god crazier. Gay bars, Destructoid stickers on strippers, people getting set on fire, and finding out I could out-drink Hamza...the best memories.

I miss those times.

So I've decided to chronicle my time spent training, preparing, and competing in the Omegathon. You can get to know me, I can get to know you, and we can keep the magic going.

(Disclaimer: the following is a dramatic re-enactment of the events that transpired February 15th, 2013).

So Part One: The Call

It was a Friday night like any other. Over the last few months I've been drawn into the world of painting tabletop figures by my friends. In the afternoon, I purchased my first figures of my own: the Waldgeist from Malifaux. I was still finishing a Menoth figure (Warmachine) which belonged to a friend and is my first painting project. At first, I was worried about messing up every little thing, having never painted a figure this size before. But my tiny lady hands did not fail me, and my handiwork was looking pretty solid for a first timer.

So the scene is set: there are about five of us, watching Adventure time, painting as carefully as is possible with a hyperactive dog wiggling everywhere, when a sound interrupted our merriment.

The CALL.

My phone came alive with the sound of....whatever default Verizon ringtone I have set. The mystery deepened when I realized that the incoming call was from...RESTRICTED. Who was reaching out, from beyond the reaches of time and space, to contact me anonymously?

I removed myself from the room discreetly, so as not to disturb the unbridled gaiety around me. I trembled slightly as I answered the call.

"Hello?"

"Hi, is this Chelsea?"

"This is she."

"This is Gabe calling from Penny Arcade."

AN MY WORLD WAS FOREVER CHANGED.

It's honestly a little blurry from that point on. I know my legs started to feel weak and shaky. I know everyone in the room got quiet after Gabe asked me if I'd like to be an Omeganaut and I yelled, "OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" fairly loudly. While still on the phone with Gabe, I announced to my friends that I was being called to participate as an Omeganaut. A loud cheer erupted in the room as I accepted.

I couldn't paint for the rest of the night because I was shaking with excitement.

I'm still a little shaky, truth be told. I'm going to start rotating through some of my game catalog to prepare (although past Omeganauts have recommended waiting until the list is release).

I have no idea if I'll win. Heck, I have no idea if I'll make it past the first round. But I am definitely excited to compete, and celebrate my 7th year attending the Penny Arcade Expo!








So now, after the new Xbox dashboard has pushed forward through all the hate, people seem to be quieting all their grumbles and life goes on as normal, right?

WRONG.

The new dashboard has completely destroyed the market for Xbox Live Indie Games. Once prominently featured in the game section, it has slowly been pushed farther and farther away from the public eye.

Do you remember this?



It seems a very long time ago that the indie (or community, or XNA games as they once were called) were featured right at the forefront of the games section. When XNA Creator's Club and the community games first were launched, it was a huge step in fostering console game innovation. A mere three days after launch there were already a reported 45 games released. I mean, wow. Developers could not wait to show the world what they could do on consoles, and now they had a wonderful vehicle to do so.

Fast forward to November 1st, 2010: the launch of The New Xbox Experience.

Microsoft takes a page out of Apple's design book and the "blades" of yesteryear and replaced with 2D content squares in a 3D space. While certainly not the "color TV phenomenon" that MS was hoping for, it did seem to make browsing the dashboard a little easier. Plus, OH BOY! AVATARS!

So what happened to the XNA Community games then? Well, let's take a look:



According to MS, Indie titles no longer have a place in the "Games" section of the Marketplace, but have now been lumped in with avatar items and music downloads in the "Specialty Shops" section. Fortunately for indie developers, lots of complaining paired with extensive media coverage prompted Microsoft to move the Indie Games back into the games section of the Marketplace.

So in the end, it was a victory for the little guy! Hooray! Let the spirit and innovation so heralded by the original launch of XNA Community Games live on!

Until....



Wait, where is that again?

Here are some directions for getting to the Xbox Live Indie Games.

Hit right bumper to get to the "games" tab (capitalization is so 2010 guys). Now to the bottom left, "Games Marketplace."

("Are we there yet Dad?" "No. And if you ask one more time, I will turn this car RIGHT AROUND.")

Choose the inexplicable photo of a girl jumping with the label "Game Type." Alternatively, you can check your reflexes trying to select the Indie Games option from the quickly revolving feature panel. Oh, there it is! The Indie games! Time to see what's hot in the community...but wait! There's still more jackassery to be had!

You can only browse Indie titles by release date. Unless you took the time to catch the Indie Games revolving panel, which offers browsing by "Kotaku's Favorites," "Contest Finalists," "Most Popular," and (here it is again) "New Releases." Why these options aren't available from the "Game Type" screen is beyond me. It's the first time I've had to play some sort of weird mini game to allow me to browse games properly.

These are not even close to how I would like to browse through any games. Two basically are "the best games...based on the opinions of a few people." Most popular and new releases are kind of useful but...what happened to "Alphabetical" and "Highest Rated?" I usually use a combination of "Highest Rated" and "Most Popular" to determine what's good.

I think it's truly a shame that Microsoft is trying to push Indie Games aside for advertising space and money. Indie Games are what truly make Xbox so unique and different from their competitors, creating a space for small-time developers to explore and show their creativity to a wide and varied audience. Remember: just because Indie Games don't have achievements, doesn't mean their any less fun or important to the gaming community.









Images sources:
Image 1: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/edunhill/archive/2007/09/03/getting-started-with-xna.aspx
Image 2: http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2010/11/03/xbox-live-indie-games/
Image 3: http://www.indiegamemag.com/satirical-shooter-game-type-mocks-microsofts-new-dashboard/
Photo Photo Photo








Yes, this is in response to the much debated GameStop Employees Are Jerks blog a few days ago. TheManChild's experience working there brought back memories of the good old days, and I thought it was time for a trip down memory lane.

Working at GameStop was pretty much the epitome of jobs when I was in high school. My sister was a keyholder at a different store (she exacted her revenge on the store by hiding pieces of fried chicken in the ceiling tiles), and I had friends in each of the three (yes, three) GameStops in the mall.

I actually got hired there because I used to sit on the floor behind the counter and play DS while waiting for my friend Bonnie to finish her shift. I'd usually end up helping customers find things or start talking game recommendations when I got bored so the manager just eventually just put me on payroll.



I was surprised at the things I could get away with. Like covering the Guitar Hero demo controller with sparkly My Little Pony stickers (see above), getting into a staple war with my coworker, or answering the phone and pretending to be an automated service ("Thank You for calling GameStop! Press 1 if you would like to buy a game. Press 2 to trade in a game. Press 3 to preorder the hottest new titles!).

The store I ended up in was located in a back corner that no one ever went to so it was nice and quiet where I worked....until the damned Babies'R'Us opened up across the hall.



Now, this seems like such a small, unimportant thing to happen to a mall with over 1 million square feet of retail space. However, due to the the wave of horrible parenting gripping the nation, this meant that Mommy would send her children into the videogame store to play while she was shopping (oddly enough, I have NEVER seen a father do this).

So, with the opening of poorly spelled baby superstore, came the arrival of many unattended children between the ages of 6-11. These children would play our interactive Xbox and Playstation displays for hours (screaming to boot), open every single game box, sit on the floor to read copies of GameInformer, and in one case run around knocking as many game cases off the rack as possible.

At first, we developed what we called "Code 16." 16 was the numbered circuit on our breaker that powered the interactive displays. If a kid was sitting there playing the Guitar Hero demo over and over for an hour, we'd simply flip off the circuit. Usually, this conversation would follow:

Annoying Kid: "Hey, the thing stopped working."

Me: "Yeah...that happens sometimes."

-silence-

-Annoying Kid leaves, goes to GameStop across the hall-

A few times, the kids would throw us a frightened look, the bolt out of the store in fear that something they did caused the machine to break. Unfortunately, after a while this didn't seem to work anymore as children would get dropped off already holding their Nintendo DS, and just sit in the middle of the floor to play MarioKart.

My assistant manager (who also happened to be my good friend of 4 or 5 years) was not happy with this situation. She decided to use her friendship with mall security to her advantage: they became the Small Children Relocation Service. All we had to do was tell them we had a lost kid in our store and a few minutes later, a uniformed man would escort the children away like there criminals they were.


This is an actual photo of a security guard from the mall I worked at.

There were many other adventures, of course, so I'll just list a few:

-My sister worked the midnight release of Halo 2. Between 9pm (when the store closed) and midnight, all that separated the crowd from the new game was a pull-down grill. So the staff ordered pizza, popped the game into an Xbox and played for 3 hours, with the back of the TV facing the crowd, talking loudly about how awesome the game was.

-My district manager got so pissed at a customer (who had insisted that when she opened the boxed for her used Xbox, that she found a VCR instead and brought the VCR and demanded that she get a new Xbox for her troubles) that he went into the back room, took the new Xbox out and promptly poured water all over it. He then dried it, resealed the box, and presented it to the crazy lady.

-My friend Bonnie and I both ended up with stalkers. At first it was innocent, like they got us presents and hung out in the store. Then Bonnie got a voicemail on her phone that was almost 20 minutes long from a guy high out of his brain talking about all of the sex things he wanted to do with her. So the next thing she got was a restraining order.

Sad to say, a year or so ago the company finally realized they didn't need 3 stores in one mall, and closed the one I used to work at. They didn't bother to remodel any of the shelving in the store which makes me wonder...have the employees in the new men's clothing shop begun to find the hidden, sparkly pony stickers I left behind in every corner of the store?
Photo Photo Photo










I wanted to start be referencing a specific article, but unfortunately it seems to be lost within the black hole of the internet. In the article, a Japanese developer said something along the lines of, Eastern games are focused around building, while Western games are concentrate on destroying. Now, I don't believe that to be entirely true. Earth Defense Force 2017 is certainly more destruction based, and games like Civilization and The Sims are based entirely on user creation. What strikes me as a major difference in the types of games developed really comes down to the character representation, and how it connects the player to the game world.

This occurred to me while I was playing Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. The Fatal Frame series is largely considered one of the best examples of survival horror in gaming. What makes this game so terrifying? Most of the game play involves simply moving around empty rooms, searching for clues broken up by the occasional ghostly assault. Why is it, that no matter how much I tell myself it's just a game, I still can't play this game at night (besides me being a huge wuss)?



The answer is this: the ability to connect to the character. Seeing the character as a full-fledged human being is crucial to making that connection. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the idea is that ANYONE would be powerless against incorporeal monsters. The player and the protagonist are on equal footing in terms of power within the game world. Think of it realistically: if you lost your sister in a creepy town in the middle of the woods, what would you do? Probably walk around and look for her, right? Because you don't believe in ghosts, so there wouldn't be any danger. By the time you realized you were wrong, it would be too late. Having these things in common with the main character makes it easier to relate to them--as a person, not just as a game avatar.

The character in Fatal Frame isn't a tool to explore the world. How the character interacts with the world is restricted, making the player feel as if they are watching rather than controlling the character's movements. The game uses different camera angles and lighting techniques normally found in cinema to build the relationship between the player and the protagonist. We see her vulnerability because we are able to observe her from every angle without her knowledge. We feel for her because she--like the player--is burdened by the limitations of being human (an example being that she carries the camera as her single weapon). We only see her point of view while she's being attacked: while she is at her weakest state. (The only exception to this is if you bought the Xbox version, which allows the option to play the game from a first-person perspective).



There are of course, other aspects that contribute as well. Probably the most obvious is that your only weapon is a camera. The significance of the camera is that it's a weapon that harms aggressors without actually touching them. It is a reminder that there is no physical protection from the killer ghost townspeople who are wandering around. In addition, ammo (or in this game, film) pick up areas don't regenerate. That's right: if you find all of the film in the game and use it, you're stuck using nothing but the shitty basic film...which is the equivalent of using nothing but a handgun in a traditional FPS.

Now take a game that is developed by an American studio, like Dead Space (keep in mind, I'm not scrutinizing the quality of the game). My experience with this game is a little less extensive, so a lot of what I know of the latter parts of the game are through conversations with others and watching other people play. I already know this will open up to some criticisms, but hey, this game is the best example for comparison.



In Dead Space, you play as a full grown man with up-gradable space armor with (relatively) convenient access to weapons. This moves the focus of the game away from the character and towards the items and abilities he can utilize. Isaac moves around the environment with his back to the player, severing the connection to the most recognizable aspect of people: the face. On most of the occasions we do get to see his face, all we get is the glow-in-the-dark can he wears as a helmet. Even Isaac's profession, as an engineer on a spaceship, is difficult for the average person to wrap their head around. While the weapons in the game mostly focus on an engineering background, we take another small step away from reality when he quickly adapts to using and modifying the tools of his trade to kill instead of repair. In addition, most people I've spoken to (and many forums I've visited) complain that by a certain point in the game, they felt their character was too powerful and the game lost some of its fear factor.



The second point of interest here is that the camera can be moved around at will. This gives the player a significantly larger amount of control than the character in the game. Putting more control into the players' hands prevents them from from seeing the character as a separate personality. The player controls what the character sees and interacts with (as opposed to Fatal Frame, where the camera is set specifically so the player and the character experience certain events together). The character is now an extension of the player, and is more of a Swiss Army Knife than a character in terms of his function within the game. The times we can connect with him are when there are cutscenes involving the plot. The only problem is, since the player has spent so much time in action-oriented scenarios like solving puzzles and shooting enemies, these moments feel more like breaks for the player than anything else.

In both Dead Space and Fatal Frame II, you control a protagonist searching for someone they love. However, the latter denies the player they control usually granted in third-person games, limiting the character's abilities to those of a normal human being. The former give the player abilities beyond what's currently feasible for a human. The draw of Fatal Frame, and in fact of many Asian-developed games, is the character and story development that pulls you into the full experience. A North American-developed game holds it's own be creating a detailed fantasy world that relies more heavily on the player using the main character as a tool for physically interacting with and exploring that world.

So which technique lends itself better to survival horror? Well, given that Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is a last-gen game released in 2003 that retails for $30 used, and Dead Space was released in 2008 and retail price new is around $20...well, I think the East wins on this one.
Photo Photo Photo








When I heard the announcement of The Beatles Rock Band, needless to say I was quite excited. Whether you like them or not, The Beatles changed the music world. I happen to be a fan, so my excitement was only checked by one lingering doubt: Would this iteration of the series simply be a re-designed version of the older Rock Band games?

The answer, for those of you who have probably read any review or had a hands-on with the game, is a resounding "no." Even at the most basic level, the 60's-inspired visuals and photographs do more than just make the game look pretty. These, in combination with the timeline of Story Mode, really do transport you back to another era. Seeing the appearances of each band member change over time gives the player a new lens in which to view the band's career--a view previously only observed by those old enough to have personally experienced the phenomena known as "Beatlesmania."

The art direction in this game is truly exceptional. Especially noticeable (as Nick Chester mentioned in his review) in the "dreamscape" levels, where the songs will start in Abbey Road recording studio and transport the player into a psychedelic kaleidoscope or an undersea land. My personal favorite would have to be Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends. The amount of work put into these environments is incredible, and the collaborative effort of Apple Corps and Harmonix in recreating the feeling of The Beatles as a visual aspect of the game is beyond words. The whimsical, surreal, and just plain beautiful worlds encompassed in the songs of The Beatles are well represented.

To be perfectly honest, playing The Beatles Rock Band could only be compared to my experience in The Beatles Museum in Liverpool. I felt as if I was looking through a window of time, seeing the faces of young boys becoming men; moving, growing, traveling, and changing as people. The main difference is that at the museum, I felt as if I was haunted by the faces and voices of happy ghosts; boys never knowing how the future would pull them apart. While playing The Beatles Rock Band, I felt as if I was experiencing the good times with them, carefree and ready to embrace the future. Both the Story Mode and unlockable content help in maintaining this feeling of actually existing in the time period.

I think what is truly unique about this game is that it really is more than a game: it's a full experience that draws you into the careers and lives of The Beatles. I don't by any means think this is a perfect game; in fact "hardcore" gamers might even complain about the title's lack of technical difficulty (outside of the new and challenging vocal harmony mode).

If you are a Beatles fan, a music fan, or a history fan, this is a serious must buy. This isn't just Rock Band. This is a music revival in the form of a living, breathing chapter of musical and pop culture history.