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Top 10 Video Games I’ve Actually Beaten

10. Dragon Age Franchise

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I almost didn’t add Dragon Age because, even if I have beaten every game, I didn’t want to add another RPG to the list. However, not only is RPG one of my favorite types of games, Dragon Age is an amazing series. Even the second one – oh yeah, I said it – which was rushed did well with that they had (YOU CAN’T RUSH ART!). I can’t wait for the 4th one!

9. Civilization Revolution

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So Civ Revolution is one of those games that doesn’t really have an ending, you just win rounds. Well, I’ve won it a ton and it’s probably my favorite of the series. It is different than most of the Civ franchise games and still a wonderful game to play and one I’ve put many, many, many, many hours into.
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8. Borderlands  1 & 2

I LOVE Borderlands! Both games were exceptional for totally different reasons. I had a lot of trouble getting into Pre-Sequel, which I know is a great game but it wasn’t capturing my attention at the time. Not only was it great to play, I miss a lot of the characters and hope they do so much more in the future. If you like FPS RPGs then you HAVE to play this series. Full of badass women and men, tons of inappropriateness and more guns than you can literally shake a stick at!

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How do I find a Dungeons & Dragons Game?

Written by: Paige of the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Facebook
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tumblr_npvpsuixei1roy0lqo1_250The 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Facebook
group is about 85,000 people strong, and the number one question we see in that group is, “How do I find a game of Dungeons and Dragons?”  Over the last year and a half, I’ve been collecting the advice that people have given each other, and have a standard list of hints and tips on how to find a tabletop game.  Considering the source, this is focused on D&D, but the advice also works for many other games. As always, when meeting new people, meet somewhere public and be sure to take the steps you think are necessary to stay safe.

 1. Start with a Friendly Local Gamestore.

Wizards of the Coast, the company that publishes D&D, has a listing of local stores by zip code. You may have to make friends at store games before people are willing to invite you to home games.
http://locator.wizards.com/#brand=dnd

2. Try looking for Facebook groups for D&D or games in your area.

(If you use the search below, add your city or state to search in YOUR area).

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=dungeons%20dragons

3. Look for local conventions in your area.

Obviously Google is the way to go, but also
check Warhorn and the Wizards convention finder.
https://www.warhorn.net/conventions
http://dndadventurersleague.org/ConMap

4. Reddit and EnWorld have dedicated “looking for group” sections for both online games (see below) and offline games (face-to-face).

You can search by city or state name. Just ensure you format your post according to their guidelines.
https://www.reddit.com/r/lfg/
http://www.enworld.org/forum/memberlist.php

5. A lot of stores and groups use meetup.com.

Try finding a suitable group in your area.  If there are no local D&D or RPG group, look for board gaming groups or Geek culture groups as a starting point to make friends with similar interests.
https://www.meetup.com/topics/gaming/

6. Consider online games.

The basic Roll20 platform is free, and many DMs have a Fantasy Grounds Ultimate License, which lets you join their game with a free basic Fantasy Grounds license.
https://app.roll20.net/forum/category/22
https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/forumdisplay.php

7. If there are no Friendly Local Gamestores in your area, try posting an old-fashioned “Looking for D&D Group” ad at a video game store or public library.


8. Here are a couple of good articles on finding groups:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/how-to-find-people-to-play-d-d-with-1732749132
http://geekandsundry.com/finding-a-dd-group-how-do-you-want-to-do-this/
https://nerdarchy.com/2014/12/find-gaming-group-tabletop-rpg-games/

9. There are some websites that offer gamer locator services.

http://www.theescapist.com/findinggamers.htm (page of options)
https://www.obsidianportal.com/map
http://nearbygamers.com/
https://www.findgamers.us/
http://www.penandpapergames.com/

10. There is often a shortage of DMs. Consider starting your own game!

The easiest way is to start with an adventure module. The DM’s Guild has many cheap adventures you can buy to get started (http://www.dmsguild.com/), or you can buy one of the official hardcover campaign books from Wizards of the Coast.
Best of luck out there! And you’re welcome to come ask who’s in your local area in the D&D 5th Edition Facebook group any time! https://www.facebook.com/groups/DnD5th/
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~Paige was amazing in putting this article together for us & you. She is one of the many moderators of the DnD5th group

Review: Ace Attorney Trilogy

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Written by Iris the Keyblade Master

If you’re looking for a video game that’s not too difficult to play (at least not in the way that video games usually are), has an engrossing story, and phenomenal character development, you can’t find much better than the original Ace Attorney trilogy.  Originally released in America for the Nintendo DS, all three games can now be purchased as a collection from the Nintendo eStore for the 3DS.

As the title implies, the main character’s a defense attorney, named Phoenix Wright.  He’s driven by a need to defend innocent people, even and especially when nobody else believes in their innocence.

Each game gets broken down into a number of episodes.  The first episode is always a brief one-day trial that acts as the tutorial.  The others switch back and forth between Investigation modes and Trial modes.  Phoenix will learn about a person who’s been accused of murder and all of the circumstantial evidence stacked against said person.  Then you spend the first day gathering clues, questioning other characters, etc.  Once you’ve found everything that you can possibly find, the game moves on to the second day: the actual trial.  You must badger every witness that comes to the stand and use the clues to point out contradictions in their testimony.

But Phoenix will never have enough evidence to determine the real murderer, so that leads to another day of investigating.  Then it’s time for the second and final day of the trial!

The characters are what make these games so much fun.  Phoenix and his plucky assistant, Maya Fey, play off well with one another as you lead them to different areas to search for evidence.  They’ve always got to deal with Detective Gumshoe, who isn’t the smartest man on the police force, but means well.  The same could be said for the judge, who’s willing to swallow the weakest excuses from lying witnesses.  Each of the suspects has a quirk that can range from amusing to annoying.  Phoenix’ exasperated reactions to the antics of the rest of the cast are always funny.

And finally, there are the prosecutors.  They bring so much joy for all of the grief they heap on poor Phoenix.  The first game introduces Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix’s former best friend who turned into his biggest rival.  I couldn’t stand his ego at first.  He’s the first opponent to really get under the player’s skin with the way he just casually dismantles every argument you present.  However, his character development throughout each game turned out to be so good that he ended up becoming one of my favorite fictional characters ever. 

The second game presents Franziska von Karma, a female prosecuting prodigy who starts whipping anyone and everyone who gets in her way.  I’m not talking figuratively here.  She actually uses a bullwhip on everyone.  That includes Phoenix and the judge.  Somehow she gets away with it every single time.

Last but not least, the third game’s prosecutor, Godot, has a fearless attitude, a great backstory with ties to Phoenix’ past, and likes throwing his coffee mug at Phoenix when he gets annoyed.  Yeah, this game can get wacky.

I loved solving each of the cases.  Sometimes the developers really give your brain a workout as you try to find the lie in a witness’ testimony.  In the first game, you get five chances to make a mistake, and once you use them up, it’s game over.  The sequels replaced this system with a health bar.  It will decrease depending on how many mistakes you make and the gravity of those mistakes.  It’s a toss-up regarding which one I prefer.

Although the games tend to be silly, they do have serious moments- after all; the objective is to catch a murderer.  Each game’s final case is an emotional rollercoaster for Phoenix and his friends, and those last murderers are particularly ruthless.  I won’t say any more to avoid some very good spoilers.  I’ll just say that “Turnabout Goodbyes,” “Farewell, My Turnabout” and “Bridge to the Turnabout” are my favorite cases in the whole series.  The music theme that plays when Phoenix uncovers the killer in “Farewell, My Turnabout” gives me chills.

Finally, the series has some excellent female characters: heroes, villains, and everything in-between.  Besides Franziska von Karma and Maya Fey, there’s her older sister, Mia Fey, a defense attorney who mentored Phoenix and gives him advice on his cases.  They have an adorable little cousin named Pearl who tags along with Phoenix and Maya, and never falls into the “annoying child sidekick” trap.  Wendy Oldbag, Adrian Andrews, Dahlia Hawthorne, and Iris are all memorable suspects for different reasons.   Unfortunately, I can’t go into more detail because I’d have to spoil so much of the story.

Good stories and puzzles, well-written characters, a fun, catchy soundtrack, and constant courtroom shenanigans- what’s not to love?  The evidence clearly indicates that you should give Ace Attorney a try as soon as possible!

Games to Get Excited About: July 2017

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As we start through the summer months, the releases to feed our gaming addiction get slimmer and slimmer.  There really only seems to be three actual new games coming in July from any major publishers, and a couple of expansions or re-releases.  That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to, but this will be a bit of a short post since we don’t really have much to talk about.

Following up on one of the more popular release of 2015, Splatoon 2 is coming near the end of July.  This time the game will be released exclusively on the Switch on the 21st.  Like the original, this will be a 4v4 multiplayer shooter played in the third-person view.  Leading up to the game’s release, you can read the Squid Sister Stories on the official site and catch up on events between the two games.  Players in Europe and Japan will also be able to snatch up pink and green joycon controllers released with the game, though I expect they’ll be available to gamers around the world through third-party suppliers shortly after.

As the story goes, after the first game the sisters go back to relatively normal lives.  They start to do their own thing, but Marie worries that her sister might be having trouble with the events of the first game.  After spending some time together, Marie leaves Inkopolis to see her parents.  When she gets back home she discovers that Callie is missing and the Great Zapfish has been stolen.  Marie believes the Octarians are responsible so goes looking for a squid recruit to infiltrate the Octarians and save the day.

Why Should we be Excited?

Splatoon was popular for a reason.  The game was fun, colorful, and whimsical.  People could play competitively, without the super serious nature of games like Siege or Battlefield.  Those games are fun of course, but sometimes we just want to throw down on some goofy fun, like shooting paint at each other in a ridiculous world of multi-colored squid people.  I think this will be another fun game for people who like to goof off but also have a good time being competitive.  The original spawned a lot of fan art, stories, and even a manga, so it’s likely even more colorful squids are in our future.

Notable Releases for July

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age – Coming out early in July is a remaster of International Zodiac Job System for Final Fantasy XII that was previously a Japanese-only release.  It’s coming to Playstation 4 exclusively.

Miitopia – An RPG coming to the Nintendo 3DS at the end of the month.  It was previously released in Japan in December of 2016.  It is a fairly standard JRPG using the popular Mii avatars for characters.  The characters interactions will affect combat, meaning if they don’t like each other they will be less effective.

Dragon Quest XI – This JRPG is coming to Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and PS4 at the end of the month.  It mixes traditional turn-based combat with exploration like previous titles in the long running series.

Hey! Pikmin – Another game coming to the 3DS at the end of the month this will be a side scrolling adventure game based on the Pikmin franchise.

Game of Thrones Season 8 DELAYED?!

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With the seventh season of Game of Thrones delayed until July, many fans – myself included – are going a bit crazy waiting the few extra months. Thrones fan pages are posting more and more fandom related memes and articles in anticipation, including fan theories and frame by frame analyses of the official trailer.

 

Well, we can take this short delay as a practice run because the creators of the wildly popular HBO series have said that the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones may not return until 2019.

You may be thinking, “We couldn’t handle two months, Vanri. How are we going to last TWO YEARS?!”

I urge you to try and understand.

The two month delay for season seven was brought about by the plot line itself. Winter is here and the set needs to look authentic. The world of Game of Thrones is so large that they can’t simply build a set. They needed to wait until actual winter to shoot the winter scenes. It was simply practical.

Season eight’s delay is something different, though, and we should be happy about it. D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the show’s creators, expect season eight to be so grand that they don’t want to risk rushing through it and disappointing the fans.

As the most popular show in HBO’s history, they have to make sure they go out with a bang. They can only do that with enough prep time. Benioff and Weiss have said it could possibly take them 18 months to prepare and film, which would put the season eight premier date in 2019.

HBO’s President of Programming, Casey Bloys has said, however, that they will know more once the writers begin to piece together the episodes. Bloys stated that there’s a possibility they won’t need the extra time.

I may not know nothing and I may not drink and know things, but I do know one thing… Us Sherlock fans have prepared for this.

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Thoughts on Beauty And The Beast

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(3/22/2017)

If you’ve read my December ‘top 10’ article, you may recall that the majority of the movies I watch are children’s cartoons, and that my family has been playing a game called ‘give all our money to Disney.’  My daughter is two.  Disney movies occupy a great deal of my consciousness.  On the whole, while I think that Disney films, especially those made in the nineties or later, have a positive impact on children and the world, many are also problematic.  It is important that we discuss these problems.  It is perfectly fine to enjoy problematic media, for example movies that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, but only if we are aware of the problems and discuss them.  The discussions take on even more importance if we chose to share the problematic media with our children.

There has been no shortage of harmful stereotypes in Disney movies over the years, including traditional gender roles, colorism, and some very uncomfortable portrayals of people of color (…and lack thereof.  Hey, Disney: consider making a movie that takes place in Africa and actually stars African people.  Like, human people.  Who are not white.  I’ll give you even more of my money, promise).  However, one trope that they can’t seem to shake is the ‘queer-coded villain.’  (2)

Disney’s catalog of bad guys is full of effeminate men and strong, single women.  Think Scar, Jafar, and Facilier.  Think Maleficent and Ursula (who somehow manages to check stereotype boxes for both ‘butch’ and ‘drag queen’).  I adore Moana but, given the history, it’s unfortunate that it’s two villains are a powerful female and a male character based on David Bowie.  It doesn’t exactly do anything to subvert the pattern, is what I’m saying.  Sometimes I find myself asking, “can’t we ever have a straight-coded Disney villain?”

Then I remember that we do.

Beauty And The Beast’s Gaston may not be the only villain without explicit queer coding, but he’s unique in the Disney catalogue in that his very straightness and adherence to gender norms are what makes him so villainous.  Gaston is the original Kylo Ren: a man who inserts himself into the female lead’s space, ignoring her signals and insisting that he knows what she wants when he obviously knows nothing of the sort.  He is the epitome of masculinity (there’s a whole song about it), and he wields his male privilege as a weapon against Belle and her friends.  He doesn’t have any magical powers; what makes him scary is his size and strength and lack of empathy.

I think that the ‘realness’ of the baddie is a large part of what makes Beauty And The Beast so popular, even 25 years on.

Of course, with the live action remake hitting theaters, Beauty and the Beast has been back in the news lately.  Specifically, the 2017 film has been making headlines because it features Disney’s first canonically queer character.  After a lot of fan speculation about Cogsworth, Disney revealed that the gay character is LeFou, Gaston’s obsequious sidekick.  Controversy erupted.  Many were outraged at the mere presence of a gay character is a children’s movie; one Alabama theater pulled the showing entirely. (3)  On the other side of the ideological aisle, many were thrilled to have a step forward for representation… but not every reaction was positive.

Teen Vogue’s Ryan Houlihan writes about it in his article, “Disney making LeFou gay isn’t the representation I need.”  He brings up a number of valid points, including concern that the ‘exclusively gay moment’ touted by Disney will be an afterthought that could easily be edited out, that wouldn’t be as emotionally resonant as the reveal in Laica’s Paranorman. He’s also, understandably, concerned that the first confirmed gay character in a Disney film is a villain.  Houlihan argues that Lefou doesn’t break the Disney tradition of queer-coded villains, “he’s simply an admission by the company of what viewers have believed for decades: that if a character is queer, it’s going to be the villain.” (1)

I think that, as Becca Bunch would say, “the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.”  For one thing, LeFou as portrayed in the 1991 film doesn’t fit the mold of Jafar and his ilk.  He’s short, tubby, poorly groomed, and anything but graceful.  There is nothing feminine about him -except for his obsession with Gaston.  So, while making him gay doesn’t really affect the ‘villain’ pattern, it at least shows us a very different kind of gay villain, which is worth something.  Diversity in representation, even among gay Disney villains, leads to the breakdown of stereotypes.

Furthermore, I believe that it was a good story choice on the part of the writers.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but I think there’s a potential for LeFou’s subplot to be interesting and beneficial. There are a lot of things to love about Beauty and the Beast, but, revisiting it as an adult, the thing I love the most is that it focuses on toxic masculinity and how it affects a person. The Beast slowly learns to overcome his toxic masculinity over the course of the film, whereas Gaston acts as a foil/cautionary tale for what happens when a man lets the cultural pressures that come with masculinity take over. I think that sexual orientation, and how it interacts with identity and the societal ideas of what a ‘man’ should be, is a part of the life stories of men all over the world. It’s an idea that deserves to be explored on screen.

Furthermore, I take issue with Houlihan’s assertion that the producers of the live action adaptation, “muddled the issue by making him sexually “confused” – just to hedge their bets.” My last article was on the visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind, and a lot of the conversation around that game is about ‘messy’ queer stories and that they deserve to be told, not censored. Not everyone’s experience is the same. That ‘one day wants to be, next day wants to get with’ feeling that Houlihan references is something that I experience, and that I’m sure a lot of people with same-sex attraction experience. Most importantly, I think it’s a feeling that plenty of young people, still trying to figure out who they are, will identify with when they see the movie.

Finally, I feel the need to point out that Houlihan’s parenthetical comment describing LeFou’s live-action portrayer, Josh Gad, as straight.  I’m not entirely sure this is relevant, but more importantly, I’m not entirely sure it’s true.  He’s married to a woman (actress Ida Darvish), but I don’t recall ever hearing that ‘straight’ is how he identifies.  It seems to me that Houlihan is making a pretty big assumption about the orientation of someone he’s never met.  Director Bill Condon describes Gad’s performance as “subtle and delicious.” (4)  A friend of a friend even suggested that the entire queer subplot may have been Gad’s idea.  While there’s no way to know for sure without being told, it’s possible that he may have been drawing from personal experience.

Houlihan ends his article saying, “Taking a villain that was already coded as gay and letting him finally, blessedly, come out is a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to do so that LGBTQ people feel truly recognized, not just pandered to.”  I agree.  There is a long road ahead, but I’m glad that this story is being told.  Back in 2015, Vice’s Hugh Ryan wrote, “Personally, I hope we see more gay villains—just ones who are gay gay. Gay heroes as well, and sidekicks and straight men and bit parts, too. I hope the pansy doesn’t disappear just because he’s a stereotype, but I hope he’s allowed to be more than just a stereotype.“  LeFou shows us that those hopes are starting to come true.  At the very least it’s gotten us all talking about queer representation in children’s movies, and that’s worthwhile in and of itself.

 

References:

(1) http://www.teenvogue.com/story/disney-lefou-gay-villain-lgbtq-representation

(2)https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/the-number-of-gay-animated-villains-will-surprise-you-456

(3) http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/03/us/theater-shuns-disney-beauty-over-gay-moment/

(4) http://attitude.co.uk/world-exclusive-beauty-and-the-beast-set-to-make-disney-history-with-gay-character/

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

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Written by Iris the Keyblade Master

The Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games celebrate one of the best aspects of the series: the music.  Both rhythm games are available for the Nintendo 3DS.  Although if you’re interested in giving Theatrhythm a try, don’t waste your money purchasing both of them.  The sequel, Curtain Call, has all of the same songs and lots more.

I debated with myself about whether to get the original Theatrhythm when it was first released on the Nintendo 3DS.   Having gotten booed out of levels of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, and surviving the infamous Little Mermaid sidequest in Kingdom Hearts 2…my experiences with rhythm games weren’t very good ones.  But someone at GameStop encouraged me to give it a try, and that’s how I ended up losing countless hours of my life to this game.  I have no regrets.

The gameplay’s divided into three types of stages: Field, Battle, and Event.  Field songs consist of tracks like “Terra’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, the main theme from VII, and “A Place to Call Home” from IX.  An adorable chibi Final Fantasy character of your choosing strolls along a path to the music, while you try to hit as many notes correctly as possible.  Although the notes can come across the screen quickly, depending on the song and the difficulty level, Field Stages are generally slower in pace than their Battle counterparts.

In Battle, you create a party of four chibi characters who fight different monsters and villains who have appeared throughout the Final Fantasy series.  When you hit the right notes, their attacks are successful.  If you miss a note, they lose health.  (This actually applies to the Field and Event stages too, except you’re not attacking anything. You’re just trying to keep the character’s health bar full.)  The songs you can choose from include the always classic “One-Winged Angel,” as well as “Dancing Mad,” “The Man With the Machine Gun,” and “Battle on the Big Bridge.”

Last, but not least, we have the Event stages.  These stages were more prevalent in the original game, because every entry from the series had one.  In Curtain Call, all of the songs that originally appeared as Event stages got turned into Field or Battle stages instead.  It’s a shame, because even if they’re difficult to play, they’re beautiful to watch.  Instead of battling enemies or walking through a field, you watch a video that highlights the most memorable moments from the featured Final Fantasy game.  The selected songs are popular themes from the game that people tend to think about when they think of that particular entry, i.e. “Sutaki da ne,” “Aerith’s Theme,” and “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV.  The best, by far, appears in Curtain Call.  It’s a gorgeous medley of Final Fantasy themes played over highlights from the entire franchise.  If you’re a fan of any Final Fantasy games, I dare you not to cry while watching it.

It’s worth mentioning that the way you progress through the game changed in a few significant ways from the first Theatrhythm to Curtain Call.  In the original game, you could select any of the main musical stages for each of the games featured in Theatrhythm, from the original Final Fantasy to XIII.  However, once you committed yourself to one of the entries, i.e. Final Fantasy IX, you had to play through all three musical stages before being allowed to go back and play whichever one you wanted.

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