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Category Archives: Opinion Piece

Fighter’s Block: The Best Game to Play During NaNoWriMo

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So, show of hands: who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual challenge that writers take to create a 50,000-word novel in one month. One epic month where you are not allowed to tell yourself, “This is terrible. I should throw everything out and write it again.” A month of late nights and early mornings, a month of word sprints to see how much you can write in ten minutes, a month where you find yourself cancelling plans with friends because you have to work on your novel, a month of spontaneous plans with friends while you are procrastinating on your novel.

Which I am not doing by the way. I am sacrificing the time that I could be spending working on my novel to help you, my fellow WriMos. Please stop judging me. I have plenty of time to reach my word count goal for today. So there.

So, here’s a fun game that can help you raise said word count each day. I especially love to use it when I know I’m going to have a full schedule during the day, i.e. work and streaming. It’s called “Fighter’s Block.”

“Fighter’s Block” can be found here. You start at Level 1, fighting the “Not-A-Block” monster. And how do you defeat this monster? By writing!

You set a goal for yourself based on how many words you’d like to write. Personally, I like to set my goal for 500 words, but it’s completely up to you. The number of words is the amount of health that your enemy has. As you type in the text box beneath the “battle,” the monster loses health. But when you stop typing, your avatar loses health, and will continue to lose health until you finish mulling over what to write next. So the game forces you to write fast without concern for whether it’s “good enough,” making it perfect for WriMos.

If you need to stop for any reason, that’s not an issue. You can always pause the game until you’re ready to start again. Additionally, you can change the speed of the monster’s attacks, the size of the text, the font, and the color scheme of the page where you’re typing. And the more you write/play, the more you level up, and you can unlock new avatars to use.

All of these settings are great additions, but the real value of “Fighter’s Block” comes from its concept. It provides a fun way to increase that word count and get your thoughts down without worrying about the quality of them. (For now, anyway. Revision comes after the work is finished.) So, if you’re a gamer and a writer, check it out, and have fun!

Staff Favorites: Horror Games

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Fatal Frame. I vividly remember the first time my brother and I turned out the lights while playing it… That didn’t last long.
– Oresan Fells

 

 

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I would have to say that one of my favorite horror games is Eldritch Horror. It combines two of my favorite things; the Cthulhu mythos and tabletop gaming. Players choose a character and then set off o try to stop the ancient evil from rising. Players are faced with many horrors and even if they win they will probably not leave the game with all of their sanity. Play if you think you are strong enough, if not when then “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Happy gaming and always keep sparkling!
-Thia the Bard

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I love Alice: Madness Returns because it’s a twisted Alice in Wonderland. Everything is spooky, crazy, and wonderfully dark. You get to stab mobs with knives, smack them with a horse head or fire upon them with a teapot. Plus, you block with an umbrella. Not to mention the costumes.. Steampunk Alice is the best! -Azkadelya

 

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Damn it, Karen, stop writing on the wall

Layers of Fear is my favorite horror game. The story is engaging, the jump scares are minimal, the building terror is enough to make my skin all tingly, and it doesn’t make me motion sick since it’s basically just a walking simulator.
– Vanri The Rogue

 

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Growing up I got this board game called Nightmare. Very early 90s, mind you. A VHS board game and I loved every second of playing it. I made my neighbors play it with me over and over again. We recently played it on stream and I still love this game, no matter how old I am or it is.
– Crymson Pleasure

10 Self-Care Tips for Streamers

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I started my streaming journey three years ago on the RealWomenOfGaming Twitch channel. I didn’t know much about streaming, but it seemed like fun being able to hang out with people while playing games in the privacy of my own bedroom. I remember the day well – which is saying something, considering I can’t remember what I had for breakfast.

I lived in Los Angeles at the time. It was a Tuesday afternoon. I played Funcom’s The Park for the first episode of a horror series called “Wanna Don’t Wanna.” I finished the game in about an hour, then I ended my stream.

Three years later, I still stream horror games for Real Women of Gaming. I’m on the Mixer channel now, with occasional appearances on Twitch. I also stream on my own 3-4 days a week under VanriTheRogue.

In my time streaming, I’ve come up with some self-care tips that help me. I’m really hoping they can help you too:

Read the rest of this entry

Why I Came Back to Overwatch

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Vel got Overwatch on Xbox One to play with his friends. I spent one night going through the tutorial and playing different characters against the computer. I enjoyed it, it was fun, but I was too nervous to talk to my teammates. I may have said “Hi” once, but two very important things were swimming through my head:

  1. Every time I’ve talked to a bunch of people I didn’t know over Xbox, it ended badly. Usually in trolling through the entire match, mostly because I am female. I am used to harassment, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put myself in a situation with the potential for harassment when I’m not streaming.
  2. Overwatch is considered one of the most toxic gaming communities. To me, that just screams that the above-mentioned harassment is bound to happen. Plus, I’ve left several games ( League of Legends is one of them ) due to that elitist attitude.

So I finished playing, put my controller down and didn’t pick it up again. At the time, I didn’t really have a problem with this because I didn’t know anyone who had it and played it often. Why bother with it? Plus, there is always Paladins, and that’s free-to-play.

Years went by and I didn’t think about it. I occasionally saw a streamer I follow playing it, but that was about it. That was until I started to make friends with the people who played it. Now it was more than just streamers I followed playing, it was my friends. Of course, I’m going to go into their streams, even if I’m not 100% interested in the game because that is what friends do. We hang out, show love and support and never miss an opportunity to watch them get sniped from across the map.

They looked like they were having SO MUCH FUN. I was even having fun watching them play. They would tell me about what characters they liked and why. I noticed that the outfits are amazing and they’ve added new characters. There is so much to see and many events to be had. I wanted to give it a go, play with friends and see if that makes a difference. Pro Tip: friends typically make any game way better. Big problem: all of my friend’s play PC and I have it on Xbox One. I was going to have to wait.

When I started to talk about it, though, an amazing friend sent me a copy. I call it an early birthday present. I installed it and played with them the very next day. I had so much fun! Much more than I had by myself. I played for nearly 4 hours and then came back later that night and played for another hour or more. Right now I have the itch to play, but I have work and no one is on. That also helps me from getting burned out on a game.

The game is nicknamed Oversalt, so of course there were some salty people. I turned off the general chat. After the match, people were a bit salty but mostly they just said “GG” and moved on. I was more concerned with talking with my friends in group chat and opening my loot boxes.

My take away from this is this: form your own opinion. Don’t avoid a game just because of the community, especially if you can play with friends. I feel the same way about Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th, both are games that I love to play but often have to deal with annoying people, just like Overwatch. I’m glad that I had an opportunity to play a great game with amazing people.

The Importance of Black Panther and Movies Like It

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 Black Panther hit theaters with the might of a superhero. People have been flocking to the theater and taking to social media in support of this amazing movie. Pictures of fans in costume, sold out theaters and fans renting out theaters to help more fans see Black Panther are just some examples the influence that this movie already has.

However Black Panther is not the first superhero movie to feature a hero who is a person of color. There has been a long road to get us to this point and it is important to pay homage to some of those movies as well.

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1993’s Meteor Man is the first superhero movie to feature a primarily non-white cast. When a mild-mannered teacher gains superpowers, he tries to rid his neighborhood of gang activity. This movie did not do well at the box office, but it still broke ground for more movies to come.

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Not every superhero movie is going to be serious. Like most slapstick versions of this genre, Blankman did not do well in theaters but is considered more of a cult classic. This Wayans’ brothers movie featured a socially inept repairman who doesn’t gain superpowers but, instead, uses his brains to make his own gadgets. Maybe Blankman can teach us that we don’t need Batman’s money but instead just need some know-how to become our own heroes.

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Spawn came out in the summer of 1997 to modest box office success. One of the problems with Spawn is that even though it’s lead is a person of color, many of the other characters that could have been from the original comic were not. Still, it showed that a serious superhero movie could feature a non-white hero and still have a meter of success.

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Blade is probably one of the most successful film franchises in this article. The Blade Trilogy was a first for Marvel. It proved that a superhero movie could star a person of color and be a hit in the box office. Also, yay for vampires.

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Another well known movie that has done a lot to help pave the way for movies like Black Panther is Hancock. Hancock came out in 2008 and was a huge hit at the box office. It is a dark take on the superhero genre that audiences loved.

These movies helped make it possible for Black Panther to be taking its rightful place in the superhero genre. I think that Black Panther will now be able to help inspire and make the way for even more movies like it.

Black Panther has proven many things with its opening week. A cast that is primarily made up of people of color can be successful in the superhero genre. Fans have been wanting this movie. They have wanted this representation of culture and power. They finally have a movie where they can see themselves and they are flocking to it. Fans are showing how this movie has inspired them to lift up others in their communities to be able to experience it.

Black Panther‘s smart writing is truly a gift to the superhero community. We have a hero who is just trying to figure out how to do what is best for his people while finding his footing in his new role. His younger sister is a respected princess who has found her place in STEM. There are multiple women of power in different roles throughout the kingdom. There are strong allies and enemies who have complex reasons for their actions throughout the movie. The visuals, music, costumes and culture are a thing of pure beauty for fans to witness.

Black Panther and aforementioned movies have great roles of importance in the movie industry. Here’s to many more amazing films to come!

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Always keep sparkling! 

Microtransactions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Microtransactions in gaming have been around awhile now, and are likely to be with us for some time.  They’ve been covered in the gaming press over and over, and discussed by gamers on various platforms ad nauseam.  I did find a pretty good breakdown of the history of this practice, the whys and hows that I don’t want to bore you with.

If you want, hop over to the Intelligent Economist and take a look.  Despite what we think of them, there is a purpose to some of them and it isn’t entirely nefarious.  We, as gamers, also have to accept that to a certain extent we are responsible for how widespread they are and how long they’re likely to be around.  They aren’t all bad however, so if you’re expecting me to go on a long-winded tirade about the evils of microtransactions, you’re only half right.

The Good
There is some benefit to microtransactions, believe it or not.  The best example I have in my experience is with Guild Wars 2.  If you aren’t familiar, it’s a popular MMO that’s been around for almost 6 years now.  It has no subscription model, and has been receiving constant updates, improvements, patches, and free content updates all that time.  It also has microtransactions.  They’re all cosmetic and convenience items though; nothing that’s considered pay-to-win.  It’s a necessary function of keeping a game going with constant maintenance and updates and it’s all optional.  If you want another character slot, you can get that.  A cool outfit?  They have that, too.  A better sword that you can only get in the online store?  No, not going to happen.

See, there’s a reason to have either a subscription model or microtransactions in this case.  I’m old enough to remember a time before the internet and online gaming.  When you bought a game in the early years of our hobby, it either worked or it didn’t.  There were no updates on the regular, or added content you could just log in and start playing.  We didn’t have servers maintained by the game company to play on whenever we wanted.  Even in the early days of online shooters like Medal of Honor, most of the servers were paid for and maintained by gaming communities and clans that paid a lot of money sometimes to make the game available to play online.

This was well before World of Warcraft revolutionized online RPGs, but there has always been a cost.  You don’t just make a game, put it out there, and expect the initial sales to fund the ongoing support, updates, and server maintenance.  Even now people still play the original Guild Wars on servers maintained by the company since 2005 with no monthly subscription.  Whether we like it or not, microtransactions in Guild Wars 2 help make that possible 13 years after release.

In these cases, I can’t really fault companies for using this model.  We really only have a couple of options if we want our games to be available with that sort of content and care for a long period of time.  It’s not like a game that’s released, and once purchased has no real contact with the developer any longer unless there’s a patch.  Some of these companies hire dedicated staff to do nothing but update a game while they also try to make new ones.  As long as they aren’t dipping into the pay-to-win or loot box model I don’t really see an issue since it keeps me from having a monthly bill just to play the game.

The Bad
Not all pay-to-win is bad, as long as there is a reasonable time gate sort of option to unlock the same content.  I don’t mind a game company offering early access to weapons or equipment for people who want to burn their money if I can do the same thing over a few hours of gameplay.  In a way, I like the feeling of achievement one gets from unlocking weapons and kits in games like Battlefield 4.  Sure, those higher tier weapons are better, and for a time people who paid to unlock those kits would have an advantage but it seemed like a fair trade off.  I’m going to play the game anyway, and I don’t care to spend any extra money just to have a weapon I’m going to get eventually.  Where it gets bad is when the time to unlock isn’t reasonable.

Battlefront 2 was a good example of this, though I thought the game was garbage before loot boxes were even mentioned.  Not only were there microtransactions, but there was also a randomized element incorporated into the loot boxes.  It was likened to gambling by some and in general it was just a bad idea.  The time it would take to unlock everything through grinding was exorbitant, which would leave players at a disadvantage in game for a lot longer than is reasonable.  The feature was met with a great deal of uproar from gamers, and EA made some temporary changes, but ultimately people still bought the game.  Sales for BF2 did suffer, and it has raised questions about what is acceptable regarding microtransactions.

The Ugly
The ugly truth is as long as people keep buying them, companies will keep doing it.  That’s sort of how the market works.  Companies try different things to make money.  If that thing sells, then the company will believe that is what the market wants.  If it doesn’t, then they try something else.  We can rant and rail all we want, but at the end of the day there’s only one language a business understands.  Will the awful sales of BF2 be enough to deter companies from using this tactic?  I don’t know, it’s too early to tell.  I can tell you if the next game from EA or Activision has microtransactions and people spend money on them, they’ll forget about the Battlefront sales.  It’s not a pleasant thought, but we are partially to blame for this marketing ploy.

The other ugly head of this beast is the manipulative marketing.  It’s one thing to present things for people to buy and let them decide.  It’s entirely another to make it so enjoying the game at all depends on spending more money over the purchase price.  It started with mobile games and the whole, “Pay another 99 cents to unlock 30 minutes of gameplay.”  The worst of what I’ve heard is from Activision recently though.  The idea is that, through matchmaking, they will encourage you to buy in-game items.  Pairing players who have good gear they bought, with those who have not purchased items, in order to trigger purchases through envy.  Manipulating our need to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ so to speak.

Personally, I don’t think I own any games with pay-to-win schemes built in, but if I do I can say for certain I’ve never bought any of the items.  I have purchased some convenience items through the Guild Wars 2 store, but as stated above I don’t see that as an issue in this debate anyway.  I think the only way we’re going to change these practices is to stop feeding the beast.  The publishers certainly aren’t going to just stop offering to take our money if we keep giving it to them.  The whole thing is a mess but we gamers have the means to change it for the better if enough of us want to.

Communities for Marginalized Groups: Why This Matters

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“Why have a gender specific group?”

I’d like to think the answer to this was obvious, but it is quite clear that this is not the case. Perhaps, we don’t need to explain, but more so make it clear. Communities for women, minorities, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized peoples exist for a purpose.

The purpose is not to exclude others, but for these groups of people to find a place where those around them have empathy, understanding and experience in the same struggles they have. In a perfect world, everyone would have empathy and understanding for everyone, but no one’s experience in this world is the same. To those that are marginalized, the gaming community as a whole can sometimes be an unkind place. These types of communities help give a voice to those that feel they are not heard and give them strength, power and confidence to face a world that, at times, can be hostile towards their very existence.

We live in a time where inequality is so clear and in our face, yet those that hold the majority, the power, hesitate at times to do anything to help. Such groups finding voices among peers helps them vocalize with those who need to see their value in the rest of the world. We belong, we exist and we are important.

Finding a place where one belongs has always been something each of us strive for. Some of us will find that sense of belonging in various groups made up of various people, others will find that sense of empowerment amongst those that perhaps have experienced the world as they have… what matters is these communities help you grow and find your voice in a world that can make you feel like you’ll never be heard.

When it comes to the gaming world it is a much more concentrated level of negative experiences for those that put themselves out there as female, PoC, LGBTQ+ and those with disabilities.

I know my personal experiences as a woman of color have been nothing like many of my white male counter parts. This was expected when I chose to stream with a camera, but the level to which it came. It surprised my husband and friends who are not PoC. It surprised them more than it could have ever surprised me.

That is where a community comes in. Because, though non-PoC can see what is wrong, they can’t fully understand the effect not only in the gaming world but also in the world in general when so many still think and act in such a manner towards PoC, women, LGBTQ+ and those with disabilities. These are unique experiences in each of these communities. Helping those around us understand that these experiences happen and what those outside such a community can do to be an ally is very much needed.

Communities give strength to those that need it and sanity to those that may question themselves when encountering these negative experiences. They have experienced that feeling of anxiety, anger and hurt when someone joins a public chat and questions your femininity, or calls you a slur. When someone tries to put you in your place with words or even going as far as harming you beyond a computer screen, thinking we owe them something for just existing.

Though we don’t owe you an explanation, we will explain because we want you as an ally. We want you to understand as much as you are able. We want you to realize we aren’t excluding you from something, but finding a place where we feel safe and accepted, even if it’s just a forum online for a few moments a day. Having that kind of touch stone is important for everyone. It is sometimes harder for marginalized groups to find that kind of connection with one another because the feeling of being isolated can become all encompassing. There is bravery in reaching out for help and support. Communities for marginalized peoples give just a bit more help and support then a general community can give.  

In the gaming world, as this pertains to that, our allies are everywhere. They are helping us, supporting us as regulars, mods and larger community members. We value them a great deal. It shows the world is capable of change and can be a better place. Minority specific communities are not meant to block us off from the rest of the world, but to simply help us navigate it. Participating in one, as well as many different kinds, of these communities gives us the perspective and tools to react to the world around us.

In the end, what one should take away from seeing that there are such specific communities in the gaming world is that they are very much needed and many of them are helping to better the gaming community as a whole. Which is a good thing for everyone.

So how can you be an ally? (Not to sound repetitive, if you’ve read my last piece) Be supportive. When in someone’s stream that is getting harassed, speak up, make it unacceptable behavior. Don’t question a community’s existence, but more so ask questions to try and understand those communities’ experiences. You know these people. You are friends and peers with these people and they have a perspective of the world that you may not understand. Most are willing to share their stories so that you might have a chance to understand. Most important of all: listen. Listen to why such communities need to exist. Just that act is so important to those that aren’t as often heard.