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Women in Gaming Industry: Aya Kyogoku

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Women in Gaming Industry: Aya Kyogoku

kyogoku-streetpass-mii-plaza I have a lot of respect for anyone who makes a living writing.  I also have a lot of respect for anyone who makes their living in the gaming industry. Someone who is a script writer for games is awe-worthy to me due to the difficulty of both fields, let alone combining them. Aya Kyogoku has been officially working for Nintendo in that capacity since 2003. During this time, she has helped to give us many successful and, quite frankly, fun games throughout the years.

Kyogoku is a native of Japan, where she honed her skills for working in the gaming industry. After joining Nintendo, she worked for the Entertainment Analysis & Development portion of the company. Kyogoku has been a huge asset to the company in a few different roles since being hired. As well as script writing, she has also co-directed a truly adorable game. Yes, I am talking the ever popular series Animal Crossing.

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Who doesn’t want to become mayor of their own perfect world? Especially if you get to  be around adorable animated characters. Well, that is what you get to do in the Animal Crossing franchise. Kyogoku co-directed Animal Crossing: New Leaf , which introduced all new characters and a new setting. She also used this game as a way to address diversity in the gaming world. In this interview, Kyogoku talks about why she continues to want a workplace where many ideas are able to be shared.Aya-kyogoku (1)

Kyogoku has also worked on two games in the ever popular The Legend of Zelda franchise. In The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, Link must try to save Hyrule from being engulfed by a parallel universe. In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure Link goes to once more restore peace in Hyrule. Both games were critically acclaimed and enjoyed by most fans.

Aya Kyogoku is a hard working and creative force in the gaming industry. She is a voice for greater diversity. We in the gaming world are lucky to have her fun-loving presence in one of our biggest companies!

Always keep sparkling!  

Influential Female Characters: Evie Frye

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Influential Female Characters: Evie Frye

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It isn’t easy being a woman in Victorian times. Neither is being an assassin intent on cleaning up an insanely corrupt London.  Evie does it with grace and snark. Her targets hardly stand a chance against her precision when killing. When it comes down to it there really isn’t a better woman for the job then Evie Frye.

acs-gameplay-og-EVIE Assassin’s Creed is a gaming franchise that has produced many successful games. There was even a movie made from the concept of the games recently. Players have been able to choose highly trained assassins in multiple areas and times in history; including but not limited to the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the golden age of piracy to play. These characters have targets, for various reasons, to dispose of. In Assassin’s Creed Syndicate the player gets to play as both Jacob and Evie Frye.

Evie  is the elder of the Frye twins. Both were trained by their father in the ways of assassins. Evie, however, took her training just a little more seriously. She and her brother are in London trying to rid the city of corruption in their own way. Evie’s way just happens to be using all her training and brains to kill her targets.


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Evie is honestly just a fun character to play. She is beyond capable in a role that we haven’t gotten to see many of her gender participate in. She is sarcastic. She is ruthless at times. She is so smart. She fights just as well as any of the other assassins. If you have been searching for a female character with depth and daggers, I suggest you pick up Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Yes, you have to switch between playing Evie and Jacob but at least she is an option, which has been lacking in the other Assassin’s Creed games, save one.

Evie and Jacob have a great sibling relationship despite being so different. It is nice to see a character whose base concept is that of a killer to also be shown as so human. Her scenes with Jacob help to show that. They tease each other. They challenge each other. The Frye twins keep each other human as they hunt down their targets and I am really happy that they get to have that complexity given to them.

So if you are looking for a femme fatale in a historical setting, I would giving Assassin’s Creed Syndicate a try!

what a cutie

Always keep sparkling!

Games to Get Excited About: June 2017

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June is showing a slimmer release schedule than the earlier months of the year, but there are still a few choice games coming to us for the last month of Spring.  Today, I started playing Little Nightmares, a game I talked about a couple months ago, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  Hopefully, June will also turn out an equally fun title for all of us to enjoy.  Without much more babbling; onto the game that looks to be the most promising of the bunch.

Tekken 7 is probably the most anticipated game coming in the month of June.  Originally, it was released in Japan in 2015, with an expansion called Tekken 7: Fated Retribution released in 2016.  As with previous titles, Tekken 7 focuses on 1-on-1 fighting, but has added new mechanics.  Power crush allows players to attack even when they are being overwhelmed by their enemy, though it doesn’t stop the damage.  The second new feature is rage art which allows the player to trade their normal attack power increase for a more damaging critical hit.

The game’s story features a darker theme according to the producer Katsuhiro Harada.  It is the conclusion of the Mishima Clan saga and will answer the questions about the feud between the Mishimas and Jin Kazama.  There are several side stories related to non-Mishima characters, and Akuma from Street Fighter will have a guest spot.  The cast of fighters is huge and as diverse in technique and nationality as expected of the series.

Why I’m Excited

Why am I excited?  That’s a good question on this one, because fighting games aren’t normally my bag.  Except for Soulcalibur that is.  I won’t be buying Tekken, but there is reason to be excited to see a tent pole franchise get another release with a lot of excitement and discussion.  It means we’re more likely to get another Soulcalibur release before too long.  Hopefully in time for me to pick up the Switch next year or so.  So yah that’s me being honest, I’m excited for this one because it might mean another release of about the only fighting game I liked.

Notable Releases for June

Seiken Densetsu Collection – Originally released as a Final Fantasy game under the title Final Fantasy Adventure the Mana series is an action RPG set in a fantasy world.  The game releases on June 1st and will include Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, Seiken Densetsu II, and Seiken Densetsu III.

Dirt 4 – Coming early in June is the 6th installment of the rally racing game Dirt.  It’s the 12th in the Colin McRae Rally series.  Spanning 5 regions around the world players will race on various surfaces, under changing weather conditions, and can even race in procedurally generated tracks to keep things unique.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – The last expansion for the Final Fantasy XIV MMO comes out at the middle of June.  The base game has been through a roller coaster of criticism, development and redevelopment, and finally success.  This will also mark the end of PS3 support for the game.

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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!