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Influential Females Character: Alice Liddell

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Alice Liddell is the protagonist of American McGee’s Alice, a game that takes place years after Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. While Alice has been away, Wonderland has become corrupted, or maybe Alice has. Now, she has to return and fight to make things right again. That way, she can save Wonderland and herself.

American McGee’s Alice was created by American McGee and released in 2000. The game is inspired by and takes place in the world of Lewis Carroll’s works, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Thankfully this world lends itself well to the gaming genre.

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Alice has lost everything since her return from Wonderland. Her family and home are gone due to a fire. She even seems to have lost her sanity. At the start of the game, she is being treated in a mental institution called Rutledge Asylum. Alice’s guilt has put her into a catatonic state. The only thing she has from her childhood is a stuffed white rabbit.

Alice is then sucked back into Wonderland by the White Rabbit.  Apparently, Wonderland has been turned into a twisted and macabre version of what it once was under the rule of the Red Queen. With the help of the Cheshire Cat, Alice must bring Wonderland, and possibly her mind, back to rights. She completes tasks and fights her way to her enemy. Only then can Wonderland be restored and, hopefully, Alice’s sanity.

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Alice has always had a soft spot in my heart. I love the idea of taking a such a well known character and being able to say, “well, what if?” What if Wonderland is real? What if Alice is insane? What if the two are tied together? Then, making a world from there that is full of danger.

The fact that Alice is allowed to question her sanity makes her a very important character. So many people deal with different mental illnesses every day. We fight our way through each hour. Alice also has to fight to be sane. That struggle has not always been a focus in story lines.

Alice is a strong character who is allowed to struggle.

The game is also well constructed with an interesting take on Wonderland.

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Always keep sparkling!

Why did I cry During the Action Scenes in Wonder Woman?

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caption: Me rn all the time

Two months ago, I had the great pleasure of watching DC’s new feature film, Wonder Woman. It was a hell of a good time, combining the best aspects of Captain America, Thor, and Xena: Warrior Princess.  There has been a lot of buzz about this movie lately: feminists love it, comic book fans love it, even some Marvel fans love it.

My family is on Team Marvel.  We are deeply loyal and have even begun indoctrinating our two-year-old daughter (ask me about her Princess Spiderman birthday party).  But we still shelled out over $30 to see Wonder Woman and boy was it worth it.  The film made me proud, unstoppable, and powerful, but the reaction that will stick with me was a sense of seeing myself on screen for the first time.

You see, I’m a Gamer Girl, and I play a tank.  ‘Tank’ in this context refers to a party-role in cooperative gaming.  In order to form a successful team, a gaming group must consist of a balance of characters with differing abilities.  At minimum, a party will typically contain a healer or support character, a damage-dealer (DPS, short for damage per second), and a tank.  The ‘tank’ is a heavily armored character capable of absorbing a lot of damage.  The tank is often the first one into the fight, aggressively drawing fire from enemies to keep his (it’s almost always a ‘his’) allies safe.

If you play a lot of games, you start to see these roles appear in fiction as well.  It can be a lot of fun to categorize characters from movies or books into roles, especially if a diverse group of characters are on an adventure together.  The thing is, when you do this, you start to notice that women fall into particular roles.  The lone female member of a team is usually the healer.  I call this the ‘why’s the girl always got to play the cleric?’ trope.

This trope plays into the stereotype of women as caring and nurturing, existing only to support the men around them.  It shows up a lot in games.  Very often, female players like me, who actually want to beat up enemy pixels, are forced to chose between a character that suits their personalities and one that matches their gender (I never got into Black Desert Online for this reason).

The girl doesn’t always have to play the cleric, though.  Sometimes she gets to play DPS.  She can be a sexy sorceress like Lulu in Final Fantasy X, or a sexy rogue like Black Widow in The Avengers.  They stay on the outskirts of battle, dealing out heavy damage to opponents, avoiding being hit and looking good doing it.  This type of character can be fun to play, but when I try I always get killed because I rush in to melee a group of enemies without the hit points or armor to stay alive.  Sometimes I manage to take the mobs down with me.  Sometimes.  But deep down, I was always meant to play a tank.

There is a scene in Wonder Woman where Diana and her sidekick, Chris Pine, are in a tavern forming an adventuring party.  Pine’s character is a rogue, and they recruit a bard, and then we learn that their next group member is engaged in a bar fight.  “At least he’s good with his fists,” says Diana as she watches a large man pummel a much smaller man.  “Oh,” say her companions.  “That’s not Charlie.  That’s Charlie,” and indicate the smaller man who at this point has fallen to the ground, unconscious.

In the next scene, we learn that Charlie is an expert marksman.  Oh, I think to myself, he’s DPS. So they have DPS and support, but where’s the tank?  

And that was the moment I realized that I’d never seen myself represented on screen before.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that the party already had a tank from the start: the only woman in the group.  It hadn’t occurred to me because I had never seen it in a movie before.

So, when the warrior princess ignores the warnings of everyone around her and strides in all her glory across the no-man’s-land between WWI trenches, deflecting bullets off of her bracers and shield, I just kept thinking, ‘It’s me.’  Or, at least the me I am when I play video games.  The me I want to be all the time.

Stories tell us who we are and who we can become.  We absorb them and they help us grow.  Generations of moviegoers have been starved for a story of a woman who is brave and strong, who protects the men around her.  That starvation is finally ending.

 

Influential Female Characters: Princess Peach

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Princess Peach is yet one more character that started out as a damsel-in-distress and has evolved into something much more. It is true that Peach has spent a lot of time locked up in the evil Bowser’s castle, waiting for Mario to save her. Nowadays, Peach tends to fight and race for herself. She does it in her signature color of pink and sometimes she even uses a parasol!

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Peach first appeared in 1985 in the game Super Mario Brothers. She is a princess of the Toadstool kingdom and is often kidnapped in the earlier games which, I think, has given her a bad rep in the gaming world. As I have written about before, we seem to have this unfortunate trend that if a character is not always a fighter that they are unworthy in the eyes of the gaming community, and honestly, the greater world. Even though she has been featured more recently as a playable character, Peach seems to be undervalued by players, which is a shame.

Some of my earliest gaming memories with my mom are of trying to fight my way through these old maps to save Peach. My mom, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing those games. I never minded that we had to save Peach. I was mad that the security of her kingdom seemed to be so lax that Bowser kept taking her and that the best person to save her was a plumber and his brother. However, that could have just been my young mind overthinking the games. At the end of the day, I always liked Peach.

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Part of it might have been that she was a princess. Part of that was because when she first became a playable character, she was originally the only female character to play. I always play her in Mario Kart with my friends. I like it when I have a rare win and I get to wave past in a blur of pink and sparkles.

I like that Peach has been allowed to evolve. She is still a princess. She is still “girly” in her design and mannerisms. However, now she gets to race and fight for herself. Peach has even gotten to go rescue the boys in Super Princess Peach! In a great switch, it is Mario and Luigi who are kidnapped and Peach who must save them. super peach

Peach can also be played in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, Super Mario RPG, and Super Paper Mario. Peach also appears in numerous Mario-themed sports games. She is a playable character in many of the Wii games, such as Super Smash Brawl, and even has her own remote now. Yes, it is awesome and, yes, I want one despite being terrible at Wii games.

In short, Peach is a fun character to play. She has a rich history in the world of gaming. Her design has never been compromised while she has been given room to change over the years. Sometimes you just need to play a pretty princess, particularly one who can beat people up with accessories if she so chooses.

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Always keep sparkling!

Guest Post | The Final Station: A Review

Written by: Sage the Cosplaya

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I am a sucker for a good indie game. A nice game that can have a wonderful impact on you, unlike many mainstream games. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon The Final Station, an indie game from Tiny Build. This developer has made a good amount of solid games in the past.

So, what is this game about?

I’d love to tell you, but I don’t know myself! The story is actually the biggest issue. You are not given a prologue or any indication of what the world is like before you begin. You wake up and begin your journey to ride the worst Thomas The Tank Engine ever made.

Okay, it’s more that you travel and deliver cargo that is supposed to maybe save the world from another invasion? Along the way, you pick up rescuers, keep them alive, and drop them off. You also fight off mysterious blackened slimy creatures that were once human beings; that, too.

So what is the good in the game?

What story there is seems fascinating. It has a unique premise. One of the best levels is a mansion, which seems empty at first. You see a few hints of the story in this level. Then, once when you go underground, the real story of this house and its owner, begins. The music is beautiful; it adds the necessary ambiance that makes you feel as though this tragic world is at the end of its days.

The scenery in the train sections are great. It is pixelated art, but when you see it in terms of story for locations or events, it really leaves a impact. The mood and how it changes is done very well.

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So what is so bad about it?

As I’ve said before: THE STORY. To me, any game, regardless of graphics, can be great as long as it has a compelling story to tell. So, lets break this down.

In each level, you get scraps of paper and messages about the people in that level. That is nice, but it rarely contributes to the overall story. You do get some story-driven dialogue from the passengers on the train. This story-driven dialogue would be great to hear… but you can’t because you have to rush to feed the passengers and give them first-aid kits to prevent them from dying. Also, you have to rush to keep and maintain this train from hurting the passengers. You can not listen to all of the dialogue, which is frustrating.

Also, when you can speak to people, you don’t say anything. Instead, the game just displays, “….” and they respond to it. But not like Groot and Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, where you do get what they are saying despite them not saying anything.

There is honestly a part to the climax of the game where you have to talk to people about changing plans in order to save everyone. The exchange is bascially:

“Hey, glad you made it!”

“…”

“Really? Well, go to this place.”

“…”

“I agree. I hope this plan works.”

What plan? What was wrong with the original plan? What made you want to come up with this new plan? How can we execute this plan? EXPLAIN, GAME!

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The ending is another huge flaw (spoilers at the end). It feels rushed and, at parts, abandoned. Even after completing the game, I have watched others play and still have the same reaction. I have a lot of questions that do not get answered.

“Its the journey, not the destination,” you might say. NO! FALSE! When you spend hours getting involved in a game or in a series like LOST, you’re dedicated. The story has you. There are mysteries that you want resolved. You get to the ending and it is such a let down that it ruins the journey and you feel like you just wasted so much of your life. That is this game.

One final flaw: the money/craft system. Throughout the game, you raid bodies, lockers and bathrooms for loot and money. The loot allows you to craft ammo and first aid kits on the train, which you have to do when everyone is talking about the story. Also, if you keep the passengers alive, you get some cash or ammo as rewards. After every act, you get to a city where you can you buy food, meds, and ammo. At one point though, you go to a city and you can no longer buy anything. Ok? But afterwords you still need meds, and you still go to loot for money and crafts, which is pointless because you can not use them again, and there is not a New Game+ to use them on. It’s pointless.

Overall, I give The Final Station a 3/5 trains. It has so much potential for a good ride, but it derails and crashes.

Ending Spoilers:

Read the rest of this entry

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

Women in the Gaming Industry: Brenda Romero

Brenda-Romero-Courtesy-of-The-Strong-Rochester-NY

Brenda Romero is a highly lauded force in the gaming industry. She is a game developer with a diverse resume. Brenda has also worked as a creative director and consultant for various companies. She has designed many different games, including one inspired by her daughter. Her creativity has been helping to fuel the gaming industry for years.

In 1981, Brenda started to work on Wizardry, a role playing series which helped to launch her fame in the gaming industry. Since then, Brenda has been a major part of many games and worked for various game companies. Some of these companies include; Atari, Sir-tech Software and Electronic Arts. Brenda is now the Program Director of the MSc in Game Design & Development at the University of Limerick. Brenda is also the co-founder of independent game developer at Romero Games, Ltd in Galway, Ireland. 

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Clearly Brenda has a passion for creating neat games for us to play. In addition to her work on Wizard, she has worked on Def Jam: Icon, in which the player uses beats and sound to – literally – crush their opponents with debris. Playboy: The Mansion is a game where the player helps Hugh Hefner build Playboy into the famous company that we all know today by completing different campaigns. Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes was inspired by her daughter. The Mechanic is the Message is an analog game that experiments with the word “game.”

Brenda has won many awards. So many in fact that I won’t list them. I suggest, instead, you go to the awards link on her page to read them. Brenda has also had the privilege of being a TED speaker. 

Brenda Romero is an accomplished game designer. She is a person who finds inspiration in many places. She shows us that work can be fun and that if you do the work you will be successful.

Always keep sparkling!  

Games to Get Excited About: August 2017

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August is looking to be a much better month for game releases with more than 25 games coming out, including Ark, Uncharted, and another Life is Strange title.

There’s a good mix of console and PC releases, and Nintendo continues to slowly add to the Switch library.  A few are continuations of popular franchises, and a couple are re-releases of games we’ve had for awhile, so it’s a mixed bag of new, almost new, and official releases of games we’ve already been playing.

It’s looking like a good month, but a difficult one to pick out a title despite the selection.  Ark is certainly a contender for most exciting release, but unfortunately my experience with it has been hit or miss.  Various bugs, memory leaks, and now unable to even join a server due to a strange error after the last patch has worn down my pleasure with the game.  Then there’s a lot of sports and racing games that just aren’t my cup of tea.  I’d be excited for the Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition release, if I owned a PS4 or XBox, but that’s one I’m sure a few are looking forward to.

That leaves me with one game I’m sort of excited about, even though I haven’t played the original series.  Thankfully, this is a prequel, so I might pick it up to play before going back to the first series.  Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 comes to us on August 31st and will tell the story of Chloe Price three years before the original game’s story line.  Chloe forms a bond with Rachel Amber, and together they help solve the mystery of Rachel’s family.  Some of the game mechanics have changed, most notably the removal of time travel.  Chloe will instead have a conversation feature called Backtalk that will allow you to manipulate characters in the story.

Why Should we Be Excited?

Obviously, this is a popular series, and a lot of gamers are going to be excited to jump into this world again.  For those of us who have not yet played the first, this could be a good place to hop on the train.  As a prequel one can step into the story without having to know the previous games.  If we enjoy it then we can pick up the first series and continue the story chronologically.  We’re also going to see an added episode covering a character named Max Caulfield, expanding the world’s lore even further.

Whether you’re jumping in to start here, or continuing the story of Chloe in a way, it should turn out to be a good release for August.  I’m seriously considering adding it to my list.  Maybe it will change my mind about this type of game.

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Notable Releases for August

Ark: Survival Evolved – The official release for a game long in early-access comes to us on August 8th.  It’s unclear if the bugs that have plagued it recently have been cleared up, but we’ll see early in the month.  Here’s to more dinosaur taming fun.  The release is for all systems.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Also releasing on the 8th for Windows and PS4 is a action game from Ninja Theory, who are touting it as an “Independent AAA” game.  The story works with Norse and Celtic mythology and takes place in the underworld.

Sonic Mania – Sonic rolls into all systems on the 15th as a classic side-scrolling game that the franchise is known for.  The game received a good deal of acclaim at E3 and gamers are excited to return to the feel of what made Sonic a hit.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Dropping on the 22nd this installment follows the story of Chloe Frazer, and stands alone as its own story in the world of Uncharted.  Beside the new characters the game will be much like others in the franchise, incorporating combat and platform play in third-person.

Hello Neighbor – A strange release hits the market on the 29th.  This stealth game has the player attempting to enter his neighbor’s house without getting caught.  The neighbor sets traps while you try to break and enter. Interesting, but odd concept.

 

Vanri’s First Convention: TooManyGames

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I know what you’re thinking.

Vanri, how is it you’ve never been to a con before?!

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Money.

As an introvert with anxiety, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to handle a convention. I was assured by Crymson that TooManyGames was a great con to start, as it was big, but not the biggest in the area. When we got our press passes, I was both excited and anxious, understandably.

We arrived at the Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, and it was scorching hot in the venue. There were hundreds of bodies and a strong smell of B.O. We started to walk around to scope the place out. I was getting my bearings.

We found the VIP booths, the vendor booths and the Indie Game Showcase area.

Almost immediately, we heard loud banging coming from the back of the venue. We were informed it was Cosplay Pro Wrestling, so we rushed over. Crymson quickly let me know that our friends over at +2 Comedy helped to organize it and often participate.

We stayed for a couple of rounds before we got too hot and decided to leave, but not before Giovanni and Team Rocket interfered with a match and finally got their Pikachu. After a Sandman Deadpool took on two goons from Team Rocket, Crymson decided to show me the game room.

The game room was separated from the main floor. It was very dark with flashing rave lights. Separated into two parts, the game room was half arcade, half tournaments. It was spectacular.

Over the next three days, we conducted interviews, took literally hundreds of pictures and sat in on some of the best panels I could have asked for at my first con. I met such VIPs as MrCreepyPasta, Keith Apicary and The Gaming Historian. We also sat down with +2 Comedy, SuperBestFriends and one of the organizers of TooManyGames itself.

I was able to preview some awesome indie games, such as Frightshow Fighter and Sombrero: Spaghetti Western Mayhem.

We walked thousands upon thousands of steps, suffered boob sweat and had some technical difficulties. By day three, our feet hurt, we were grumpy and we wanted nothing more than to go home and go to bed.

At the end of it all, though, I have only one thing to say about my first con: it was worth it.