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Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Jessica Chobot

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Jessica Chobot gained exposure in the gaming world when a picture of her licking a Sony PSP surfaced in 2005. That photo has been parodied heavily since and has been attempted by many as an example of the “fake gamer girl” stereotype. Little did anyone know what Chobot would acomplish. Instead of letting that break her. Chobot used it to fuel her career. Since, she has worked for IGN, become a writer, a voice actress for games, and also works for the Nerdist.

There is always a risk of being mocked when a person is un-apologetically excited and open about loving “geeky” things. For women, it is even more so. That is why it is important to share the stories of people who have taken that passion and turned it into a career.

Chobot was hired by IGN full time in 2006. She quickly won over fans with her fun personality and knowledge of video games. As her popularity grew so did her role in IGN. Chobot was able to foray into The Daily Fix, IGN Strategize and IGN GameBreaks for FOX Television.

nerdist-jessicaChobot has been able to traveled for IGN and represent them in multiple forums. She has also gotten to write for; FHM UK, Mania.com and MAXIM print. She has also appeared on many shows such as but not limited to; Attack of the Show, ABC World News, EXTRA!, FOX News Live and CBS News as an industry expert. Chobot has been a weekly commentator on multiple radio shows and has also had guest star appearances on the Syfy channel’s Sci vs Fi.  The Nerdist also currently benefits from Chobot adding her talents to their roster.

Chobot is a very passionate fan of anime. She has been able to use her fame to appear on commercials for ADV’s Anime Network. Chobot continues to find new forums to live her passions. She has also gotten to show her love of gaming by guest staring on Geek and Sundry, including a one shot D&D game with Vin Diesel.  

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Jessica Chobot has shown how important it is to geek out and follow your passion. If you work hard and let your personality shine you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to. 

Always keep sparkling! 

Review: Ready Player One

Review: Ready Player One

ready coverReady Player One is the highly anticipated movie based on the book of the same title by Ernest Cline. It is a love letter by Cline to many aspects of nerd culture. By creating a futuristic world of destitution where the only prospect of bettering yourself is through a virtual world Cline is able to incorporate many of his favorite things.

Cline’s world takes place in the year 2045. The real world is low on natural resources and space. People live in cramped trailers stacked on top of each other. There aren’t many jobs available forcing most people use the online world, The OASIS, to acquire any kind of currency. Upon his death one of the creators and the owner of The OASIS, James Halliday, declared a contest to see who would become his successor. A series of three “Easter Eggs” have been hidden in The OASIS for those who can find and win them. The winner of all three will gain control of The OASIS and all of Halliday’s assets. People called “gunters” search for the eggs. Some through the corporate sponsorship of IOI, others in clans and a few search independently.

One of those few is a teenage boy named Wade Watts. He has nothing. Well nothing other than a love of games, everything from the 1980s and an obsession with finding Halliday’s clues. Using the gamertag of “Parzival” Wade emersess himself in all things Halliday and plays his way through The OASIS.

The movie did differ from the book. I do not want to go into too much detail and spoil the movie. What I will say is that I liked most of the changes. In fact, it is one of the few circumstances where I preferred the movie to the book.

I really enjoyed the movie. I loved the pace, which was much faster than the book. The graphics were amazing. Ready Player One is such a joy to watch. The transitions from the gritty life of the real world to the vibrance of The OASIS alone make the movie worthwhile.

The soundtrack was full of fun tracks that fit the storyline. I felt other members of the audience around me moving to the music. 

I would highly recommend going to see Ready Player One. If you haven’t read the book you will still enjoy the movie. The book version has so much more of the lore if you want a more indepth look at the world that Cline wrote.

Always keep sparkling!  

 

Kickstarter Preview: The Primary by Mountaintop Games

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Do you have what it takes to win the nomination? The Primary is a strategy game for 1-4 players currently on Kickstarter. Travel the country, host rallies and fundraisers, and predict your opponents’ strategies in order to earn the most delegates and win the game! And – no politics involved!

This week I chatted with The Primary’s designer, Matt Quock, to talk game design, diversity, and the election process.

Why politics? Just an intriguing theme or motivated by the current climate?
I was definitely influenced by the last election cycle and the idea of a game based on the primary election process struck me as something potentially unique. I thought it could make for a neat mechanic how the different states vote at different points in time, as opposed to the general election. I understand politics can be a divisive topic and the theme is probably love/hate for a board game, but after developing the game, I couldn’t seem to find another theme that would match the mechanics as well.
How long have you been working on it?
I’ve been working on The Primary for just over a year. Somehow it seems both like a really long time ago and also like it was just yesterday. As my first “real” game design, it has been a tremendous learning experience – and especially on the business / Kickstarter side of things.

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There’s great diversity in the candidate cards – was inclusivity a goal while creating the game?
Yes, it was. I think it is important for everyone to be involved in the democratic process and make sure their voices are heard. That being said, I wanted to make sure a lot of different people were represented in the game. I also think the same idea of diversity is important with the board game industry and hopefully inclusive / accessible games will help get more people interested in the hobby.

Do you think The Primary would be a good way to teach/learn about the election process? 

I think it will be a good jumping-off point for people to learn about the primary election process. While The Primary doesn’t follow the exact real-life process, it shows how the primary election is unique and pretty different from the general election. It will be a good way for kids and adults alike to learn about how political parties elect their final nominees for President and the News cards also provide some glimpses of more complex political concepts that hopefully create some curiosity.
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With the growing number of people that play solo, the ELECT-O-BOT solo variant is an outstanding idea. Why did you develop a single player mode?
Honestly, a big factor was some of the board game design podcasts that I listen to. I heard a few interviews with solo game designers and the concept intrigued me. It was a unique design challenge, but it’s also definitely a trend that people look for in new games, like you mentioned. I’ve also played a few solo board games (whether a variant or a standalone design) and can appreciate their value.
What do you hope the average player takes away from the game? 
First and foremost, I hope players enjoy themselves playing The Primary. If it’s not fun for them, then there’s not much of point in playing a game 🙂 After that, it would be great if The Primary could be a way to get players curious and more interested in the political process.

The Primary has a week left on Kickstarter – back your copy today! The game is published by Mountaintop Games – keep up with their progress on twitter.

Follow AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps at Girls Play Games. And keep up with all the latest gamer news with Real Women of Gaming on Facebook and Twitter

Recap Review: Tomb Raider (PS1)

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It’s a groundbreaking video game that stars a rare female protagonist. It’s been adapted into two movies starring Angelina Jolie, with a new reboot starring Alicia Vikander coming to theaters on March 16th. Thia the Bard has already written an excellent article for Real Women of Gaming about the impact that it had on the gaming industry with its famous protagonist, Lara Croft. It’s the one and only Tomb Raider!

It’s also a game that I never tried playing until recently. But then, lo and behold, I managed to find a copy in my local retro game store for $6, and here we are.

Tomb Raider, originally released for the PlayStation 1, Sega Saturn, and PC, stars Lara Croft, an adventurous woman who likes exploring dangerous locations and finding priceless artifacts. The game begins with Jacqueline Natla hiring her to find a piece of a scion in the mountains of Peru- but Lara is soon betrayed and strikes out to find the rest of the pieces on her own.

When I first started playing this game, I realized just how much modern games have spoiled me. I’m used to playing through tutorials that hold my hand the entire time, telling me exactly what buttons to press in every situation. Tomb Raider has a tutorial, but it’s not part of the main game. Instead, you can access Lara’s home in the main menu, and she’ll guide you through jumping, running, walking, etc. But even then, there’s no “press X to perform an action.” It’s always “press the jump button” or “press the action button.” You want to know which button’s the jump button? Well, you’ll just have to read the manual or figure it out yourself, because Lara’s not talking.

So I was completely out of my league when I first dove into the adventure and had to backtrack to Lara’s house to figure out what I needed to do. That said, I love the setup. It’s perfect for experienced gamers who don’t need a repeat lesson at the start of every playthrough, and also great for people like me who tend to start games, stop them when life gets in the way, and then pick them up again months later. The tutorial’s there to refresh your memory whenever you need it, and then you can jump right back into the actual game.

Unfortunately, the controls and graphics haven’t aged well. It can be difficult to navigate a three-dimensional environment with a control pad instead of a control stick.  I’ve done it in the past with DS games like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. But Tomb Raider felt clunkier, perhaps because it’s on a bigger screen with wider areas to explore. Fortunately, the developers added the “walk” command that allows Lara to move slowly through treacherous areas, and while walking, she cannot fall over a ledge no matter how much you push her. This helps out a lot.

(Also, yes, some PS1 controllers come with control sticks, but the ones that I own did not work with Tomb Raider.  Lara only ever moved when I directed her with the control pad.)

Obviously, most games from the PS1-era have not stood the test of time in terms of how they look.  So it is with Tomb Raider. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the silliness of polygon characters bobbing their heads up and down as they “talked” in certain cutscenes, if only for nostalgic reasons. The cutscenes that take place in-between levels have a higher quality.  Although, again, that’s not saying much. It looks great for a PS1 game.

The visuals may look awkward, but Tomb Raider has good voice acting for its short cutscenes and Lara’s tutorial. It also has a different approach to its soundtrack compared to other video games that I’ve played in the past. You’ll hear musical themes throughout the game, but only at specific points, and not for very long. It usually starts up when you reach a significant area or come across a certain enemy. The rest of the time, you explore the tombs in silence. In this way, the soundtrack gives you a sense of where you are and how you’re progressing through the game. However, it’s no guarantee of anything. There are situations, such as the final fight in the Tomb of Qualopec, where the enemy attacks Lara with no musical warning whatsoever and you have to act fast.

Finally, there’s Lara Croft herself.  I like her character and how she prefers exploring tombs “for sport,” as she puts it, rather than for riches. Additionally, I think it’s really neat that while Lara does battle a couple of male antagonists, the main villain in the first Tomb Raider is another woman. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

Yes, Lara’s character design is problematic with her unrealistically large breasts shown on the cover.  But, for what it’s worth, the actual game doesn’t focus on her appearance as much as it focuses on her love of tomb raiding and action skills.  As Cracked.com put it in their article, “6 Glitches That Accidentally Invented Modern Gaming:” “Lara is strong, independently wealthy, beautiful, smart, and great at what she does.”  And I enjoyed have the opportunity to go on exciting adventures with a smart, capable, adventurous woman as the playable character.

Overall, I’ve had a mixed experience with Tomb Raider. I love the concept of exploring ancient tombs to find powerful artifacts before the Evil Organization gets there first. I like Lara’s character too. But it’s not a series that I’m dying to continue playing. There’s only so many times that I can miss a jump before I stop having fun and start feeling frustrated. Then again, that’s probably just me and my own lack of gaming skills. I’m still looking forward to the new movie, and I’ll probably try out the Square-Enix reboot on the PS4 someday.

Adventure Framework Part 1: Start at the Beginning

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“A few small, mostly melted candles adorn an old round table at the center of this shadowy room. The candle light flickers lightly as you step into the room through an ornate curtain. The dancing luminescence wicks over numerous porcelain masks covering the walls, their demonic visage accentuated almost seeming alive. A single gold censer hangs from the ceiling, swaying lightly, it’s pungent smoke cascading from it. Sitting at the low table is an ancient man, legs crossed, as he adjusts himself on one of the oversized pillows set around the room. His eyes are glazed and pale white, his beard grey, long, and scraggly. He wears an enormous red turban adorned with silver baubles and ornaments. An ornate red demon mask lies on the table in front of him, his gangly fingers gently tracing its features. His head tilts towards you, looking more with his ears than his eyes. In a raspy yet elegant voice he says: ‘You’ve come! Have you brought it?’ “

This is an introductory event I planned out for an adventure set in a fantastical and far off, foreign land. After gathering some information from the players, I set out to design an introduction to the game WE decided to play. These introductions are an art form that takes practice to get right. They come in many shapes and sizes; though, I much prefer to use these events as an introduction to the game we will be playing. Therefore, when you plan your session 0 this should be the first thing you present to your players. This moment is an accumulation of the story you want to run as well as a representation of what your players ask for in your initial chats about playing the game. (You really should chat a bit with your players before you set up a session 0.) Each introductory event will be different depending on the type of game your players want to play and the story you want to tell.

Read the rest of this entry

Review: Herbaceous – a Visual Feast

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As an avid gardener and foodie, I felt a little like Herbaceous was directly marketed to me. While I’m not usually a fan of push your luck games, its gorgeous, watercolor style art caused me to overlook that in order to get a peak at all the beautiful cards inside. I wasn’t disappointed – Herbaceous is a feast for the eyes.

This little press your luck style set collection game is geared towards 1-4 players, and games take about 15 mins. The best play seems to be with max players as it really intensifies the nail-biting intensity of each round. The rules are simple enough that you could teach everyone at the table in less that five minutes.

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How to Play

On each player’s turn they’ll take one or two steps:
The first step (potting) is optional. Each player has a set of 4 pots in which to plant their herbs. Every pot holds a specific set of cards – different herbs, identical herbs, pairs, or any combination of three. Pots can only be used once per game, so when and how much you plant is an important part of your strategy. To pot, the player collects all the appropriate herbs from their personal garden and/or the community garden and places them under the appropriate pot card.

The second step (planting) is performed each turn. The player draws a card from the stack in the center either places it it face up in their personal garden or the community garden. Another card is drawn and and placed it in the location not selected for the first card.

Play continues until all the herbs have been planted. Each player gets one more turn after that and then points for the pots are tallied.

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Opinion

As I mentioned above, it didn’t take much (any) arm twisting to get me to try Herbaceous. What I was particularly happy to discover was that I genuinely like the game play and mechanics just as well as I like the serene herb and potting pictures. Its never taken me more than three or four minutes to completely explain the game to someone else. While game play can occasionally be tense, most turns are both quick and simple enough that you can carry on a conversation easily while playing.

My only complaint would be that it can get repetitive after a few back-to-back plays. To that end I hope to see an expansion in the future.

Most would consider this a filler game or palette cleanser, but its enjoyable enough that I’ve pulled it out just to play a few rounds with the kids. Because of its simple rules and relatively quick play time, it makes an outstanding family game.

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Wrapup

If you like games on the lighter side or are looking for an addition to the family game shelf, Herbaceous is a must buy. If you like denser material or dislike filler games, give this a miss.

Herbaceous was designed by Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, and Keith Matejka, and published by Pencil First Games. Art is by Beth Sobel and Benjamin Shulman.

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Herbaceous Sprouts, a related, stand alone dice game, will be available on Kickstarter this May.

Top 10 Female Magic: The Gathering Players

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So, I was asked to come up with a list of Top 10 Female Magic: the Gathering players. It seems that some people are still living with the (stupid) idea that women can’t play M:tG for whatever reasons they can come up with. While it has admittedly been a long time since a woman won a major tournament (Eda Bilsel of Turkey in 2003 became M:tG’s first National Champion), there are quite a few that place within the top 8 of Grand Prix’s, and the Star City Open series. Go to any Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ), Grand Prix, or other tournament around the world and you will find women and girls of all ages competing.

The current youngest player at Grand Prix to ever qualify for day 2 is 12-years-old and held by a boy; however, this is being threatened by 6-year-old Dana Fisher who, at her last GP, missed qualifying by 1 win. A 6-year-old girl is out playing most of the men 2 or 3 times her age, and is getting better each time she competes. If she can keep up the trend, then in just a few years she will be making top 8’s and pushing for the big win.  So, in no particular order here, is my list of 10 Female M:tG players to watch for or just to watch as some are also streamers.

1. Dana Fisher

2. Emma Handy

3. Gaby Spartz

twitch.tv/gabyspartz

4. Jennifer Long

twitch.tv/mrs_mulligan

5. Melissa DeTora

6. Magic The Amateuring

teitch.tv/magictheamateuring (Also have a Podcast)

7. Feline Longmore

8. Athena Huey

twitch.tw/elantris

9. Jackie Lee*

10. Tifa Robles**

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994 and can say I have lost more than my fair share of matches to women who played better than me. I expect it to happen again in the future as I keep going to tournaments. I look forward to it as Magic: The Gathering is something that everyone can and should enjoy to play.

*Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee both now work for Wizards of the Coast. Jackie helped design some of the current sets, and Melissa is part of a new playtest team.

**Tifa Robles founded the Lady Planeswalkers to help get more women interested in playing Magic: The Gathering http://ladyplaneswalkers.weebly.com/