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Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

I love FPS games, multiplayer and solo.  It’s a hard tossup between them and RPGs for my favorite type of game.  This means I have to be picky in the games I choose because I have neither the time, nor the money, to get all the games I would like.  For solo shooters especially, this means I’m looking for something that’s part of an established franchise I already know, or something new and unique.  I’m looking for something with a twist on classic mechanics, like the shooter that isn’t a shooter, Portal.  It also helps to have a unique story that gives the game more to offer than simply “kill the waves of bad guys as you navigate down the hall.”

Shooters that are primarily multi-player get a bit of a pass from me, because I know I’m not buying say, Battlefield 4, because I am looking for a good single player experience.  For single player shooters (or mostly single player) I’m looking for something like Half Life 2, DOOM, or to a lesser extent The Division and Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  I want a good world to play around in with a good story, a reason for your protagonist to be fighting the good fight.

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May’s feature game seems to be one of these.  After a rocky start, cancellation, name and engine changes, and settling on a reboot, Prey is finally coming out early in May.  Originally, we were to get Prey 2 from 3D Realms, then Human Head Studios.  Finally, Bethesda announced that the Prey reboot would be made by Arkane Studios, and while it would borrow the setting and lore from the previous game, it is going to be a complete reboot without any previous elements of the cancelled sequel.  It is being developed by part of the team responsible for Dishonored, and has been built from the ground up around the original game’s concept.  It is being described as more of a psychological thriller than a horror game.

In Prey you take the role of Morgan Yu, a character you can customize from appearance to gender at the beginning of the story.  You’ll navigate the halls, and the outside hull, of Talos 1, orbiting the moon.  In Prey’s alternate timeline, Kennedy survived and the space program went much further than reality.  During events of the original game, an alien army called the Typhon was imprisoned on Talos 1, and now you have to go back and fight the aliens trapped there.  The developers promise different endings based on your choices in the game, and a non-linear experience.  I like the concept, and the promise of a story with multiple paths.  If Arkane can deliver, they may just give us one of the better FPS games this year.  It will be available for all systems early in the month.

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Why I’m Excited

I am loving the alternate timeline part of the story.  I’ve always liked books and movies that show our world but with a ‘what if’ twist.  Of course that’s most of sci-fi or fantasy, but a lot of them deal with the ‘what if’ of things happening in the future.  What if the world were taken over by aliens, or people had to abandon the planet because it blows up?  Prey goes back and asks what if Kennedy had lived and the space program became one of our top priorities.  The repercussions of expanding into space, of course, is a war with the Typhon, and the building of a joint space station to hold them.

Watching a couple videos, the graphics are great.  What little bit I saw looks suspenseful, but not on the level that Doom 3‘s Mars base was.  It’s more like the sterile creepiness that made Portal fun to explore.  I like how big it looks, at least from the videos I saw, and how clean the textures look.  We’re not dealing with a run-down mining station in space, or an old military outpost (anymore).  The Talos 1 station is meant to be a corporate outpost, and it looks it.  Of course that may change as you progress through the game, but I like the looks of it.

I’m also excited because it promises to fit all the criteria I have for a good FPS.  That doesn’t mean it will deliver, but a multi-path story, mix between FPS and RPG, and a game that’s good to look at.  If Little Nightmares (last month’s feature) doesn’t take too much of my time, I may get this when it comes out.

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Notable Releases for May

Injustice 2 – The sequel to Injustice: God’s Among Us releases on May 16.  Like the first game, this will be a DC Comic themed fighting game featuring all your favorite DC heroes and villains, with a lot of new additions.  Along with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman you’ll get to play as Black Canary, Deadshot, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Swamp Thing and more.  The game will be available on PS4 and XBone.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – Coming to 3DS on May 19th, this is a full remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden.  This is a Japanese tactical RPG and is said to incorporate all of the elements that set Gaiden apart from the rest of the series.

Disgaea 5 – Another tactical RPG coming in May, but this time for the Nintendo Switch on May 23rd.  Players will travel the Netherworld to build an army to fight the Void Dark.

Ys OriginYs Origin is coming to Vita on May 30 and is the prequel to the 7 previous games, taking place 700 years in the past.  The game features three characters with different fighting style with a distinctive story for each that you play in succession to open up the entire plot.  It was previously released on PS4 back in February.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew – This is a VR title coming on the 30th as well which will put four players in control of the U.S.S. Aegis, a starfleet ship in the Kelvin Timeline.  Players will take the role of captain, tactical officer, helm and engineer and work together to operate the ship.

 

All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

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All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

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Hello, gamers!  In (belated) honor of Valentine’s day I’ve decided to get sexy and talk about porn: specifically the erotic and controversial visual novel Ladykiller In A Bind.  But, before we get started, let’s talk about art, pornogrophy, and what defnines each of them.

It seems that everyone has an opinion as to what does or does not constitute ‘art.’  At the first PAX convention I attended, an audience member asked Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins if he considered video games to be art.  Holkins thought (and I agree) that this was a silly question: how could something that hundreds of artists work on for months possibly be anything but art? This school of thought has been spreading, especially since Anita Sarkeesian has so famously subjected video games to the same thorough analysis that academics have used to look at literature and film for generations.

So, assuming we can agree that video games are art, we still haven’t answered the question of what ‘art’ actually is.  It’s a question I’ve thought about a great deal, especially while I was working on my BA in a creative field.  Novelist and educator John Green describes art as ‘something someone put into the world to make my life more interesting(1).’  My personal definition is similar, though not exactly the same.  I believe that, on the most basic level, art is a form of communication: something created by an individual to inspire a reaction in an audience.

This is why I’ve always thought the dichotomy between ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ to be false.  Many years ago, I found myself interviewed for a ‘man on the street’ segment of some sort, where I was shown a series of pictures and asked I considered them to be art or pornography, and why.  I probably skewed their results, since I classified every single image as ‘art’ (though I recall describing a few of them as ‘art with pornographic subject matter’).  Putting aside ‘I’ll know it when I see it,’ pornography is generally described as media designed to titillate or sexually arouse.  Which, going by my definition of art, doesn’t separate pornography from art at all.  It places it as a category: a form of communication meant to instill a particular response in the audience.

So is a pornographic video game art?  I would unequivocally say ‘yes.’  Mind you, that doesn’t mean it has to be good art.  We can probably all agree that film is an artform, but that doesn’t mean all movies have equal artistic merit.  Some films are thought provoking while others offer little more than base escapism and toilet humor.2906863-ladykiller+in+a+bind+2016-12-17+2_38_02+pm

Ladykiller occupies a nuanced position on this continuum.  It stars a young woman (the Beast) who has been forced to masquerade as her twin brother while his high-school graduating class take a cruise ship across the Atlantic.  If she acts too suspiciously she’ll be thrown into cargo hold, ending the game.  The mechanics revolve around accruing ‘votes’ (for an in-game contest that may or may not be BS), while avoiding ‘suspicion.’  Conversation options appear and disappear as they occur to the player-character.  There are two main romance storylines to chose from or combine, as well as a number of side-stories involving minor characters.  The player gets to chose the names of each character as they appear, either from one of two default options or by entering a custom name.  For the remainder of this article I’ll refer to the characters by the default names we chose in our longest playthrough.

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Volumes with Vanri: Faith, Vol 1

Written by: Jody Houser51bsrdz8b5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_
Art by: Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage
Published by: Valiant

While I’ve never read a comic before in my life, I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies. I know, I know, they’re not the same. I just want to get my point across. I grew up with the film, television and cartoon adaptations of Marvel and DC superheroes. From X-men to Batman to The Avengers, I’m acquainted with a few heroes. That being said, after reading Faith: Hollywood & Vine, my new favorite superhero is Zephyr, the lovable and relatable Faith Herbert.

Faith, who goes by the alias Summer Smith, is a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman who not only saves the world but also dates buff, attractive guys (it’s not impossible, ladies!). As a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman, I identify with her more than any other hero I can think of. She’s just like me, but is comfortable with and proud of who she is, which is something a lot of women and girls struggle with. She’s goals, basically.

Faith: Hollywood & Vine contains the first four issues of Faith Herbert’s stand-alone mini-series. From my research, I found that Faith’s character first appears in Harbinger #1, where she joins The Renegades to fight for good after she learns she’s a psiot (think mutants from X-Men). In her stand-alone series, however, Faith has left the Harbinger Foundation to attempt to fight crime in Los Angeles on her own.

In the first four issues, we see Faith attempt to hide her real identity as she keeps a day job at an entertainment blog called Zipline, come across a new alien enemy called the Vine, and basically just be a badass body-positive role model.

As this is the first comic I’ve ever read, I have nothing to compare it to. The artwork is fantastic. Faith’s boss is creepily intense when talking to her employees about their stories and deadlines, which is apparent on her face. Faith herself even changes slightly in appearance depending on whether we’re seeing her in her everyday life or in her fantasies (of which she has a lot!). It’s an amazing detail, as I think we all attempt to make ourselves more attractive in our fantasies, while still being us.

The story itself was a great introduction to Faith as a stand-alone hero. It’s a great time in her superhero career to break off as she knows enough to actually be able to fight crime, but is also naïve enough that she fumbles and makes mistakes. She may be a superhero, but she’s a human being who must learn and grow in her profession, just like the rest of us, and we as readers get to learn and grow with her.

If you haven’t read Faith: Hollywood & Vine, I recommend you do so. Not only is Faith funny and relatable, but she’s just the person women and girls across the world need in order to feel like they can do and be anything. I’m glad Faith was my first comic book and she certainly won’t be my last.

Volumes with Vanri is a new spotlight by Vanri the Rogue, who is brand new to the world of comics. All comics featured in this spotlight can be found in various comic stores as well as on ComiXology.

Women in Gaming: Laura Bailey

lb_1950When I started to get back into gaming, it was through Dungeons & Dragons. My friend and DM suggested I watch a stream of a show called Critical Role. He hoped that by watching, I would get a better idea of how to play. To get out of my head, stop worrying about the grid on the map and start being my character. I really enjoyed watching the stream. One of my favorite characters was the Half-Elf Ranger who snarked her way through most of the game. That was my first introduction to Laura Bailey.

Laura is a voice actress by trade and gamer for fun. She was one of the first really successful female gamers I had ever seen. She is what I strive to be when I play. In character and having fun. She is so good at playing in the moment while being filmed. Let me tell you, it is difficult to focus on playing a character while you know you are being filmed.

Laura is as talented as she is funny. As a voice actress she has given her voice to many characters in different mediums. She loves anime, which is where she got her start. Laura voices characters in different cartoons as well. She, of course, also voices video game characters which must be fantastic for a gamer to get to do.

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I have gotten to enjoy watching Laura play other games as well. Mostly she can be watched on Geek and Sundry. As I stated above, every Thursday she and other voice actors play D&D under their DM and fellow voice actor, Matt Mercer. Laura plays Vex’ahlia, who has gone through so much character development on Critical Role. I really enjoy Vex. I love her humor. I love her bear, Trinket. Laura does an amazing character who could have easily been annoying in the start. She gives Vex a lot of personality and emotion. She never holds back while she games and it is amazing to watch.

Laura teamed up last year with fellow Critical Role mates to game for a charity livestream to support MDA. Matt Mercer was the Sheriff, or basically a game master, and led the group through a thoroughly entertaining game of Deadlands. Laura played a gunslinger named Stinky Jules who was basically a Calamity Jane-esque character. She was hysterical and wonderfully inappropriate. The group helped tip Geek and Sundry over its monetary goal. Laura and her husband Travis also played Hearthstone in an episode of Worthy Opponents, which is a great way for newbies to the game to get to learn while being entertained.

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She has also played different games with Wil Wheaton on his Geek and Sundry show, Tabletop. Tabletop is a great show created by Wil to showcase different kinds of tabletop games. It has given me lots of ideas for games to try and also for games for friends in different stages of gaming. Laura also teamed up with Wil to play a character in his homebrew game called, TITANSGRAVE: THE ASHES OF VALKANA.

In Titansgrave, Laura plays a human cyborg named Lemley. Get ready for feels and lots of laughs when you watch this one. Lemley made me realize just how talented Laura really is at RPGs. Lemley is so different from Vex, and Laura gave her just as much love and attention. Titansgrave is also a really great series to watch for new RPGers. Laura and the rest of the cast do a great job of bringing you into the game. You really root for these characters as they try to accomplish their missions, which is a testament to the players.

Laura Bailey is a talented and hard working woman in the gaming industry. She tries to give back to the community. She makes mistakes and, literally, keeps on rolling. Laura really is a great role model for those of us trying to find our gaming style in the world of RPGs. I really admire her for her courage to be so expressive with her characters’ emotions. She also brings so much real joy to her gaming.

Always keep sparkling, my friends!

Influential Female Characters: Princess Zelda

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I know a lot of people who love Princess Zelda. Why wouldn’t they? She’s beauty. She’s grace. She’ll punch you in the face. Well, that is all dependent on which incarnation of Zelda one is playing, that is. She has evolved and changed with every version of The Legend of Zelda that has been released.

Despite her name being in the title of of the games, Princess Zelda is not the main character. The main character is our own pot smashing Link. In every game, we have a different version of Link. Usually he is saving or aiding Zelda. Then why name the games after Zelda? Because there would be no need for Link to be adventuring if not for Zelda.

Yes, she starts off as a damsel in distress, but in many of the newer games, Zelda handles herself fairly well. Also every Princess Zelda is chosen by fate, though often also a member of the ruling family,  to be charged with the Triforce of Wisdom. So, basically, she is a boss with all the wisdom to rule and a chosen one to boot. So yes, her name should be in the title of all the games.

In the first Legend of Zelda game, Zelda is not even seen until after Link defeats the big boss. However, she guides him throughout the game. Zelda usually has some form of psychic powers, including telepathy and sometimes premonitions. She is always very wise and fair in her judgement, which makes her a wonderful ruler. It, however, does not seem to be able to help her evade being captured.

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Zelda’s age and appearance depend largely on the game and Link’s age. Sometimes she is a child, a teenager or a young woman. Usually she has blonde hair – though sometimes brown – with blue eyes, pointed ears and long dresses. There are a few times where she wears boots and pants. Normally she looks very much the picture of a princess. She is always proficient with music.

Her role in the games also varies depending on the game. In earlier games she was normally a damsel for Link to save. There are times when she even wields Link’s blade. In some games, she has her own sword. Other times she has a bow and arrows.

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She is a kind ruler. Zelda tends to be forgiving of those who have wronged her. However, if you hurt someone she cares about, *coughLinkcough*, all bets are off. Her relationship with Link changes from game to game. Sometimes they seem to be together romantically by the end of the game. She does always seem to care about him and his welfare.

I like how feminine she is. I like how she is always strong, but not always in the way of having to physically fight. Zelda does everything within her power to protect her people. At the end of the day, Zelda is a really interesting character. I think it is important for her strength of mind to be something for gamers to look to as a positive trait as well. Sometimes we push away characters like Zelda because they are not always physically strong. That is is a mistake. Zelda has a lot of positive qualities that we can look to and emulate. 

Here is to Princess Zelda, the chosen princess of her people and overall boss!

Always keep sparkling, friends!

Games to Get Excited About: April 2017

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Did we skip a month? Sort of, but not really.  I realized that giving you games to be excited about in the same month as the article doesn’t give you much time to get excited, so the editor Goddesses have let me shake it up a bit and give you a little over a month to let said excitement build.  There’s a few games coming in April, including another Switch title, but the game I’m really excited about is Little Nightmares.

Little Nightmares is a puzzle-based platformer in which a nine year-old girl named Six is trapped in a creepy old house.  The girl is taken to a place called The Maw, which is a twisted resort for the rich and demented.  Given the chance to escape, you must navigate The Maw, looking for a way out, and solving the puzzles in each room with the items you find in each room.

Why We’re Excited

This game looks like Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro got together and produced a cute, twisted interactive movie.  Watching some of the gameplay videos showed a creepy game with some very cool art style and sound.  It looks like you can explore just about anywhere while to look for ways to unlock rooms and find your way out.  It has a great use of lighting and sound to enhance the experience.

I’m also excited because this reminds me of classic games like Myst and The 7th Guest.  While I enjoy games with combat, fighting, and adventure, sometimes it’s fun to sit back and enjoy something different.  I loved that about both the Portal games as well.  Exploring, solving puzzles, and working my way through a game without having to blow things up and kill imaginary people.

Finally, the art style is probably what hooked me the most.  The game looks beautiful, and unique.  These days any company can give you a realistic world with great character models, and some of them look as real as any CGI in a movie.  It’s getting to where the realism of Battlefield or Arma is the rule rather than the exception.  With Little Nightmares, the art isn’t realistic at all.  It’s got a very unique, exaggerated style that looks like that world would probably look to a frightened child.  Everything is overly large, and strangely distorted.  The bad guys are all grotesque and demented looking.  It looks like something right out of a childhood nightmare, and it’s not like anything I’ve played myself when it comes to the graphics.

Little Nightmares comes out in April of this year and will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Notable Releases for April

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – A port of Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Switch, this version will feature all of the previously released DLC.  This will bring the franchise we are all familiar with to Nintendo’s new platform on the 28th of April.

Dragon Quest Heroes II – A continuation of the popular hack and slash, Dynasty Warriors style game comes to PS4 on the 25th.  This series combines the play style of the popular Dynasty Warriors with the characters and monsters from the Dragon Quest franchise.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 – Is an open-world FPS in which you collect intel to find missions and complete your objectives.  From CI games we’ll see this on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on the 4th.

Persona 5 – Officially the 6th installment of this popular RPG, Persona 5 comes to PS3 and PS4 on the 4th of April.  The game is described as a social simulation and RPG, as you take the role of the silent protagonist living through a year of high school

Women in Gaming: Carol Shaw

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As an old-school gamer, it’s always been a part of life that women game, and women develop games.  From the beginning, advertising has included boys and girls playing Nintendo together, men and women at the arcade, and in company photos from some of the greats.  While there’s never been an even split, it never seemed strange to me that girls in my neighborhood liked video games as much as I did.  It was only within the last ten years or so that people have not only raised the question “Is it enough?” but also began to inundate our gaming news with so much negativity about being a woman in this industry.

I’ve interviewed female developers and gamers about this, and while their experiences vary greatly, most agree that the lack of positive coverage of women in gaming is a hindrance to making any substantial change.  When young women start looking at gaming as a possible interest, many will be turned away by the lack of any good examples in the media.  Let’s face it, bad news sells, but it also skews our perspective.  Take a look yourself and you’ll find top searches are a mix of contradictory stories, negative and frightening press, and too few articles about the women who have helped shape this hobby we all love.  So I’m glad to be able to do a little profile on one of the first, Carol Shaw.

Carol Shaw is credited as the first female game designer with two titles for the Atari 2600 in 1978.  Polo, which was never released, and 3D Tic-tac-toe.  She worked for Atari, Activision, and Tandem Computers during her career.  Her game credits are not long, but as far as I and many gamers are concerned, they are pivotal in early game development.  Her lesser known credits include Othello, Video Checkers, Calculator, and Happy Trails.

Her early childhood, she notes, was mostly spent with an interest in her brother’s railroad set rather than the typical girl’s toys of the time.  Her father was an engineer and she excelled in mathematics in school, all of which likely lent themselves to her interest in computer sciences.  In fact, her first introduction to gaming and computers was together in high school with text-based games many of us can remember if we’re old enough.  She attended Berkeley, achieving a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and eventually finishing a master’s in Computer Sciences.  From there, it was onto Atari, who was the leading video game company at the time.

Before we talk about the game most consider the best of her work, and one of the top games Atari ever had, I want to bring up Super Breakout.  We had a lot of games on the Atari growing up, but there’s only a handful I remember.  One of those is Super Breakout.  It’s a game where you control a flat paddle, similar to what you find in Pong, and use it to bounce a ball around the screen.  At the top of the screen are bricks you are trying to destroy with said ball.  Let it hit the bottom of the screen and you lose a ‘life’, or ball.  I believe you had three balls to use.  Higher levels added a double layered paddle, and sometimes balls were trapped in the bricks, that once released into play, could all be bounced around to destroy more bricks.  As long as you kept at least one ball in play, you were in the game.  To this day, its one of the more challenging and fun games I’ve ever played, and we have Carol to thank for it.

Then there’s River Raid.  We had this on the Atari 5200, which Carol helped port over from her original design.  This game was by far my favorite, and is probably the reason I later fell in love with flight simulators.  River Raid, if you’re never played it, is based around navigating a plane through an obstacle course inside an ever-narrowing channel.  The screen moves forward and you can speed that up, but you can navigate the plane left or right.  You have to dodge, or shoot, balloons, helicopters, and other planes while avoiding contact with the sides of the channel.  It was probably more difficult than any game I’ve played, and I never did beat it.  This game is considered by many to be the best 8-bit game Atari ever put out.

There’s a great, and thorough interview with Carol over on Vintage Computing and Gaming.

Let us know what you think about Carol Shaw’s games in the comments below!