SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
What I’ve Been Doing 14 Jan 2014 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jan 14th, 2014 by Dan

American Hustle

Heck of a movie! (Picture by Yunus Emre KARTAL)

January continues to go strong this year! Got in a fantastic movie this week along with plenty of good reading. Can’t complain about that at all.

Movies

American Hustle – I hadn’t heard a bad word about this movie and I will say that it did not disappoint. Just phenomenally done. It’s yet another super fun heist movie. I didn’t love the voiceovers that were peppered throughout, but otherwise I’d call it a mostly flawless and fun movie. Go see it before it’s out of theaters!

Babies – While we were watching the Amazing Race, Katie noticed a Botswanan baby and it made her immediately call for a rental of this short documentary. It was definitely cute and, interestingly enough, there’s not a single narrative line of dialogue. They let the universality of humankind and human babies speak for itself.

TV

The Amazing Race – Our trek through season 22 continues. I’m loving watching my teams compete again. Trying to keep a lid on spoilers for Kate is tough, but I think I’m managing well enough.

Justified – I’ve only got about 10 mins left of the final episode of the season left, but I haven’t found the time to finish it. I like the way they resolved the Nicky Augustine moment, but I don’t know if I’m gonna enjoy the way they tie the season up at the end.

Music

Bought me some Paul Simon tickets this morning. Enjoy “Obvious Child”

Books

Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die – There have been some dark, tragic moments in this collection along with some neat, life-affirming fun moments of truth. The premise is so neat because everyone dies, right? Should knowing how change anything?

Video Games

Bravely Default (Demo) – On the last boss now and it’s been loads of fun. Turns out that linking with Min gives that character full job abilities that he has.

Civilization V – I’ll probably end up smiting Rome from the map by the time this publishes. Good times and good luck catching up, Dave.

Long Live the Queen – Managed to get into the Old Forest, but I haven’t done too much more here. Gonna get into this more this week, I think.

Left 4 Dead – Kate and I finished all of the L4D campaigns this weekend. I’m glad that she’s really enjoyed it and we’re gonna push right into L4D2 really soon to have even more fun.

The Walking Dead – I somehow managed to end up losing the save file that Katie and I generated, so I pushed through and replicated episode 1 really quickly for the next time I play with Kate. You hear that, Min? Super quick. By the way, the second battery is on the floor of the pharmacy.

What I’ve Been Doing 16 Dec 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 16th, 2013 by Dan

LEFT 4 DEAD

Brilliant game. (Photo by Eddie Shannon)

Thanks to a snowstorm Katie, Min, Lee, and I got to play some Left 4 Dead. I’d forgotten how sharp that game’s design was!

Movies

Nein.

TV

The Amazing Race – I was spot on with my predictions last week. Super fun episode and, surprisingly, Tim and Marie ended up my favorite racers by the end.

The Daily Show – Watched a few eps here and there, but the white/black Santa bit was…HILARIOUS. Definitely watch the opening 10 mins or so of the Evangeline Lilly episode. So hilarious.

Plays of the Month: April – We had to start somewhere. I was hoping for more Marlins/Orioles highlights, but it was still loads of fun. Under 60 days to pitchers and catchers!

Community – Saw a season 5 trailer and decided that I should actually watch the last two episodes of season 4. I didn’t really enjoy the retcon of the way the characters were all related, but at least it was funny enough. The finale was a little silly (it’s all a dream, seriously?), but I like where it sets up the show to go in S5. Plus darkest timeline Annie…wow…

Homeland – I’m baffled by how much critics seem to love the finale of S3. I thought it was kind of safe and convenient and every happy outcome that you’d expect happened. It felt too happy. Plus Carrie is a terrible employee of the CIA and shouldn’t be a station chief. I also would have liked to see the rest of the Brodys and how they reacted to Nick being on tv as a propaganda tool and his execution. Anyway, I found the season to be vastly inferior to the first and normally inferior to the second.

Project Runway: All-Stars – It feels weird that I recognize so many of these designers. As I’ve said before, still a decent show. Plus it teaches me a little more about fashion.

Music

I like Straight No Chaser’s version of the “12 Days of Christmas”

Books

Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value, and Meaning – I finished the Super Mario Bros. section, but I found it to be a little to simplistic. It was covering stuff that I already knew too well. The Advance Wars section is more interesting and I’m appreciating some of the game design stuff I’m learning, but I’m hoping things get more in depth, a la David Sirlin’s writing about game systems.

Video Games

Super Mario 3D World – Just a few mins of this. Really excited to get down with it in Florida.

Rayman Legends – A few levels of this too. I liked the more complicated Murphy wheels.

Left 4 Dead – Kate got her first games in and she loved it. Makes me really happy because I’d talked up how good it was before. I hope she continues to love it and digs part 2 as well.

XCOM: Enemy Within – New game seems to be going better, but I’m losing some good men. I’m hoping for better luck on the council missions, because they’re really tough.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – I’m pretty sure I mentioned that I beat case 3, right? Well case 4 involves…ASTRONAUTS! So cool. I wish I hadn’t seen a spoiler about the culprit, but it’s still been an interesting case so far and I’m a long way from that spoiler.

Rock Band 3 – Busted out this bad boy once again to play with Katie and Min. She dug drumming and I started to recover my strumming abilities. Just gotta start singing too next time. Our new band is awesome

Spelunky – I got cocky about beating David’s score and then…I died. Goddammit…

The Last of Us Trailer [GO/ER]
Dec 12th, 2011 by Dan

So this is Naughty Dog’s big new secret? The music at the end echoes some of the banjo musical cues of L4D2 as do the running zombie types. The overrun NYC reminds me of Enslaved. The young girl reminds me of a younger Drake (and also a little Ellen Page) while the old guy is a little Drake meets Bill (from L4D). It’s easy to think it’s derivative and dated now, for sure, but I’m genuinely interested to see how this turns out. Naughty Dog proves in about a minute that they’re excellent at building characters. I wanted to know a bunch more about these two and why they hang out with each other. They seemed cool.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be a survival horror game and (especially if it’s co-op) I think I’m already sold on it. Nice work piquing my interest, Naughty Dog.

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 18th, 2011 by Dan

Cloud Cosplay Otakon 2010

San Diego Comic-Con is coming up this week, so I thought I'd make this week's post some cosplay

San Diego Comic-Con is upon us and for once I actually read comics. I’m excited to learn about Marvel’s new December event, but, in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Movies:

Out of Sight – Steven Soderbergh’s Elmore Leonard adaptation was a pretty solid flick and about the only thing I’ve ever seen Jennifer Lopez do a fantastic job in. George Clooney turned in a great performance playing his usual role as well. Worth watching for their intriguing chemistry. Love noticing the similarities to other Leonard works like Justified (he loves him some US Marshals, huh?)

Role Models – Decent comedy. Nothing to write home about. I liked it well enough, even if Jane Lynch’s role is a little tired. Also funny to see Ken Jeong before he’d fully developed what’s become the Ken Jeong character. I also really like Elizabeth Banks in anything. She’s funny.

TV:

The League – FX’s comedy about fantasy football is reliably funny most weeks and laugh out loud funny on occasion. I started watching it thanks to commercials during It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and I’m returning to S1 since it’s on streaming. Always interesting to see the actors figuring out the characters before they have a real feel for it and also neat to see how pilot sets differ from real sets. A nice half-hour distraction.

Books:

FF – This month’s Inhumans origin story was lukewarm to most readers I know, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of them and I’m intrigued by where Hickman is going with this origin.

The Red Wing – Hickman’s new mini-series shows promise with a premise about wars fought across time. Could be neat.

Amazing Spider-Man – I found the writing in this to be juvenile and a little too “explain-y” for my tastes. You have art and pictures, use expressions and subtlety to do your work, please!

Avengers vs. New Ultimates – The end of this mini resulted in (Ultimate) Spider-Man dead and Nick Fury put back in charge of SHIELD. Too bad. I liked Carol Danvers a lot more. I worry that this is to have Fury in place when the Avengers movie comes out next year.

Ultimate Fallout – Bendis gets busy setting up the universe for the Reborn relaunch. Spider-Man’s funeral is a tear-jerker and the book has promise. Best thing is its weekly status. Can’t wait for book 3 to find out who the new Spider-Man will be.

Video Games:

Left 4 Dead (1 & 2) – David finally built himself a new PC which means he can finally play modern shooters with me! We started our co-op experience with lots of Left 4 Dead. We finished all the campaigns in the first game and now we’re working on 2. I’ve been reminded of just how spectacular these two games are and how much fun Left 4 Dead was. Good times.

Torchlight – Finished the main game. Now it’s just kind of grinding for the other achievements and for loot’s sake. I worry that this game is gonna tire me out too much for when Diablo III comes out, but then I remember that Diablo won’t be out until 2012, at the earliest, and I breathe much easier.

Portal 2 – A little co-op with the hermano. Good stuff, even if he smashed me with some giant, movable blocks. Can’t wait for some dlc maps…

Team Fortress 2 – The surprise entry this week. I played for 12 hours this weekend and had a real blast. The Strange Weapons have been the coolest draw for me since they level up as you “feed” them with kills. So much fun. Played a lot with Eric too, which is nice. I don’t think I’ve played an FPS with him for that much time since we played Goldeneye. What a blast.

What I’ve Been Doing [F/FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 11th, 2011 by Dan

2010 Pine Leaf Boys scene from Treme, Breaux Bridge April 30 (23 of 34)

A performance from Tremé

Tomorrow night’s the All-Star Game, but my coverage might be a little different than usual. I plan on watching it with friends, so there may not be a liveblog, but I will cover it in the morning. In the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Music:

Rx Bandits – Saw the Bandits down at the 9:30 Club on Saturday for their farewell tour. I don’t think anything will match the unparalleled emotion I felt at Five Iron Frenzy’s “Winners Never Quit” tour back in 2003, but it was a special show. They’re not writing off being a studio band, but that may have been the last time I’ll ever see the Bandits and they did not disappoint. Great show. The tour t-shirt puts me up to 5 RxB t-shirts. I think I’ve reached excessive there.

Movies:

Carancho - Ricardo Darín’s strong showing in El secreto de sus ojos attracted me to this movie. In it, Darín plays a carancho (translates to vulture), or an ambulance chaser, who scams victims out of their settlements. The story is a little uneven, but it’s clear to me that Darín is ridiculously talented and I love seeing him in anything. Gotta track down more of his films.

TV:

Tremé – Finally got around to watching the season 2 finale. Good stuff. It’s neat to see the differences between Tremé and The Wire. David Simon is clearly not compelled to make this show more watchable by limiting the live music or giving it a more structured plot, but that’s ok sometimes. It’s nice to see the different storylines just play out because, hey, that’s life. Good to also see the Vietnamese shrimp boats as a preparation for an eventual Gulf Oil Spill storyline.

Dead Like Me – As a fan of Pushing Daisies, I was not surprised to learn that this was a Bryan Fuller show. The same little quirks were apparent in the early episodes and although he left the show rather early in its run, his DNA runs through it. I gotta wonder about Fuller’s preoccupation with death and women with masculine nicknames…Anyway, it’s a pretty solid show that my girlfriend is watching and I hop in for an episode or two wherever she is. The premise, that the main characters are grim reapers who collect souls that are about to die, is pretty neat and I dig the characters. I also like that it was a Showtime show, so the writers are free to let the characters talk like real people.

Mad Men – Last weekend I just blew through S3 and S4. This is a fantastic show. I do love it when a show finds itself continually evolving so it’s neat to see how far the characters have come since S1. It was a little troubling in the 4th season to see Don struggling, but I’m excited to see what S5 brings in 2012. This is seriously one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. Very good.

Books:

Chew – New issue (#19) came out last week. Toni appears in this one and she’s rapidly grown on me as one of my favorite characters. The latest issue sets up a lot of neat plot points that I’m excited to see born out and also reveals some interesting secrets about the Chu family. Definitely the best so far in the new arc.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – My love affair with Jonathan Hickman’s work has not abated yet. His examination of the secret history of an organization that a lot of Marvel fans kind of take for granted is very interesting. Could have interesting implications for the greater Marvel universe, but it also ties in very nicely with Hickman’s work in FF. Gotta wonder if Hickman has some serious father issues, because it’s yet another book of his thematically dealing with fathers and sons, but this time with a fate vs. free will wrinkle.

Fantastic Four/FF – More Hickman, more awesomeness. I finally got around to reading Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and I was seriously impressed. I mean, we’re talking a breadth of narrative that’s still bearing fruit in his current issues of FF. FF is one of my most anticipated books every month. I can’t wait to see what The War of the Four Cities will bring and whether or not the issues with the Council of Reeds (first introduced at the start of Hickman’s run back in 2009) will be resolved in this arc.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Still cool, but man does it pale in comparison to the work being done on FF. Almost done with it, so I’ll continue for now.

Video Games:

Torchlight – Picked this guy up for $2 or so in the Steam summer sale. and it was well worth the purchasing price. Definitely scratching my Diablo itch with some seriously addictive game mechanics. Playing as the pet class and loving all the summons, but on Very Hard the final dungeons are proving challenging. I’m afraid to try it hardcore next, but the challenge is calling me (for those who don’t know, hardcore mode means that death is permanent for a character. THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!)

Left 4 Dead – David finally built himself a new computer allowing him to play all the sweet games of the past that we couldn’t play before. We played No Mercy last night and it was a real blast from the past. I can’t wait for him to see the ways the game has evolved in L4D2! I’m sure he’ll find it just as awesome as I do.

inFamous – Beat it on very hard on the good track. Considering an evil run for trophies, but, truth be told, this game is middling, at best, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to play it again with more interesting options on hand.

StarCraft 2 – Played a couple of quick rounds with Dave and one of his friends. Still solid, but I’m not always in the mood.

Otakon 2010 [Photographic Memory]
Aug 3rd, 2010 by Dan

Street Fighters

Most impressive ensemble goes to the gaggle of Doctor Whos, but this was definitely my favorite Otakon cosplay ensemble.

The USA’s second largest anime convention came and went and I took pictures of it. Yes, Otakon 2010 happened, but, no, I didn’t want to actually pay admission to go in since I don’t watch as much anime anymore and I didn’t know any of the artists that were appearing, so I freeloaded along with my brother and took pictures of the cosplayers who were coming into or leaving the convention center on Saturday.

Cell

As long as there are anime conventions there will be Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon cosplay.

I’d only ever been to one similar convention before, MegaCon in Orlando, but I was thoroughly impressed by the degree of cosplay on display. Maybe it’s because it’s an anime convention and not a general comics convention, but it seemed like the majority of the attendees were in costume rather than just shlubbing it like I did back in the day.

Phoenix Wright!

I refused to leave until I saw some Phoneix Wright cosplay.

We spent two hours or so just hanging around the front and side doors (we weren’t allowed inside without badges) snapping pictures of cosplayers who didn’t mind the attention, marveling at all the costumes. I don’t have much more to say beyond that, so here’s a gallery of my favorite costumes from Otakon 2010 (sorry dialup users!).

Faye Valentine

Good to see such faithful Bebop cosplay is still going strong

Louis

PILLS HERE!

No Clue, but Cute

I have no idea what anime this is from, but this girl is quite good looking, so I snapped a shot. For bonus points, check out the old man behind her looking at her ass. EDIT: It appears to be a Disgaea 3 Gunner costume.

Zoey!

"I can't get over how FAST they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bullshit on that, you know? They're not...ALLOWED to be so fast." Plenty of L4D cosplay, which makes me a very happy Dan.

Doctors Who

The Tenant Doctor Who on the right was actually a fairly good looking lady. Great costume, too.

Ash and Pikachu

Anyone who visits this blog knows I love Pikachu cosplay.

Servbot Crew

A crew of servbots! Not super complicated, but it works. Makes me want to play Dead Rising...

Ashitaka

One of the most impressive costumes of the show. This is an amazing Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke.

Servbot

A MUCH more elaborate servbot cosplay.

Sazh

All he was missing was a chocobo in his 'fro, but he had the L'Cie brand on his chest and an accurate magicite thing (I forgot what they were called!)

Yoko from Gurren Lagann

Very accurate gun and costume for Gurren Lagann.

Edgeworth

I love all Ace Attorney cosplay! We need to see more Apollo Justice too!

Depp Mad Hatter

Fantastic Burton Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter

Cloud

It's a shame this girl had the huge Buster Sword with her becasue this shot is so far away from her elaborate costume and ridiculously blue eyes (HAD to be contacts)

Shanks

Great Red-Haired Shanks cosplay.

Bayonetta Cosplay

Bayonetta. Her heels aren't guns, but still a good costume.

L4D2 Nick

Nick's got a bile jar!

Buggy the Clown

The most fearsome pirate on the seven seas, Buggy the Clown

Otakon 071

Mihawk cosplay. Nice sword and costume!

One Piece Cosplay

A great cast shot of One Piece. I took this one mostly because I noticed Water 7 Nami in there.

Rockman X

I could never pass up Rockman X cosplay.

Super Saiyan

SUPER SAIYAN! I love the level of dedication to make blond eyebrows too

Luffy

Mugiwara (Straw Hat) no Luffy. He asked me if I wanted him to pose. I said "Of course!"

Code Geass

The heroes of Code Geass

Sora and Namine

I was wondering why she didn't move out of the shot until I realized she was Namine. Great cosplay pair.

Doctor Who Crew

Doctors Who throughout the ages.

Scouts

BONK! Great Scout costumes!

Scouts

Better Scout Cosplay

Soldier and Engineer

I love that she's even got herself a turret!

Yuffie

Another convention staple, Yuffie the ninja.

Hunter

"I think I hear a hunter!"

Lucario

A fantastic Lucario costume that is crazy detailed. Too bad the Internet ruined such things for me by making me immediately think furry.

Team Fortress 2 Spy

I also photographed a sniper. Wait a second! It's a spy disguised as a sniper!

Dark Sora?

Dark Sora? Elaborate and awesome all the same.

Snow

Amazing attention to detail with the full L'Cie brand there too. Wow.

Wolverines!

Growing out those sideburns takes real dedication.

SUPER CUTE DOG!

Not cosplay, but my favorite part of the convention. So cute!

PYS 2010 and L4D2: The Passing [Game Overview]
Apr 23rd, 2010 by Dan

ECCC 5

It’s been a while since I properly did one of these, but yesterday heralded the arrival of both Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 and the latest campaign for L4D2, The Passing. Both are super fun. Impressions below:

Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010

The comforting thing about sports franchises is that you always know what you’re getting year after year. PYS 2010 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it just makes slight interface changes that all feel sharp and look great. I’m getting back into the groove, getting spanked by the AI, and having fun with this one all over again.

It’s good to have the new lineups and players, but I fear that I’m going to get killed as the Carp in this year’s game, haha.

Left 4 Dead 2

The Passing adds in all sorts of new goodies. New Uncommon Common, new melee weapon, new heavy weapon, foot lockers, and, most importantly, L4D cameos. How great are those? I loved seeing the old crew back again. Their lines were amazing and everything just felt right. I can’t wait for the companion Left 4 Dead DLC to come out too!

Slacked Off [Game Overview]
Jan 15th, 2010 by Dan

Yeah, I'm a huge slacker today like Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice

Like Phoenix and Apollo, I was slacking off last night playing Apollo Justice...

I slacked off hardcore this week, so I don’t really have any real news stories prepared for you this week, but I did have tons of fun last night playing Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. I’ve finally resolved to finish the game’s final case after a hiatus that lasted nearly a year. A new game has been announced by Capcom, but no details have been announced yet. Personally, I can’t wait to find out what happens to Phoenix and Apollo.

Stats!

As requested, here’s an updated look at my weapon stats.

Not too shabby.

Some improvements, some changes based on playing differently.

Based on the things I said I wanted to improve on, here’s how I did.

-Zoey is now at 52%. Playing versus with my friends who insist on random kept this number from rising too far.
-My revive:revived ratio dropped to about 0.3. Not too bad an improvement from 0.5
-Finales improved went up to 15.12%, which is +2% or so. When you play a lot of versus, this number doesn’t rise too high.
-Average damage to teammate is still 49. Still higher than I’d like
-I’ve shot the shotgun a LOT more. I blame Survival mode and having to actually use a more versatile gun in versus mode
-My headshots with the hunting rifle actually dropped to 4%. Since it doesn’t matter where you hit with it, I really don’t care.
-50-50 versus record
-Still not a lot of rocks thrown as the tank
-100% Golds on Survival =]

I’ll analyze my L4D2 stats soon.

Amicitia sans oris [Mr. Digital]
Jan 7th, 2010 by Dan

Last month I found myself worrying about a friend of mine who was going through a tough time. Kim had just lost a friend and was headed to Louisiana for the funeral, so I wouldn’t be hearing from her for a week. I told her I was sorry and that I was there for her and then she left. Funny thing is, I’ve never met Kim. I only know her because I love to play Left 4 Dead. I’ve never even seen a picture of what she looks like and I’m only 98% sure that Kim is even her name. With all those layers of abstraction, you’d think it would be difficult for me to call her a friend, but I’ve come to realize that there can be value in the tenuous, ephemeral online friendship, so long as it doesn’t replace the ones you have in your physical life.

The first friend I ever had who I never met was back when I was about twelve. My family had moved back to Florida a year prior and I had finally overcome the intense social barriers of being the new kid and starting a new level of school at the same time. The circle of friends I had developed was, oddly enough, composed almost entirely of people who used to torment me at every turn the year prior. One of those friends, Josh, had an elementary school friend who had moved away to Connecticut right before middle school started. I don’t remember the circumstances behind it, but I somehow because friends with Abbe (that was her name) through an e-mail chain and eventually started chatting with her on a regular basis.

It wasn’t the great friendship that defined my life and I don’t think I’ve talked with her since I was 14, but for someone who I’d never actually met in the flesh, we had a pretty decent friendship. She and a friend called my house and we talked on the phone once or twice (she told me once my voice was sexy (for a 13-year-old)), but beyond that most of our conversations took place over AOL Instant Messenger. I don’t remember much about what we talked about, aside from a particularly strange health teacher she had, but I do know that she was an interesting friend in my life who I’m surprised I’ve never forgotten, considering I have no idea what she looks like anymore (I saw a picture once).

I don’t think I made any strictly online friends again until I was 20 during my junior year at Cornell. At the encouragement of my friend Chris, I started playing World of Warcraft again (I had quit the year before the first time Ashley broke up with me) on his server with the intention of hanging out with him and his roommate in-game. My character, Torvalds (named after the Master of Penguins himself), was able to power level up to level 60 during my fall semester and start attempting to join guilds not long after. I eventually managed to make my way into my guild of choice, Revelation (which, sadly, no longer exists on Cenarion Circle), and started working working on the last bit of endgame content before the expansion pack, slowly building up a group of friends on the way.

After winter break, the expansion pack came out and, as one of the junior warlocks in the guild, I was assigned to the B team, which also happened to be the West Coast team. Thanks to my luck, this meant that I was raiding Karazhan twice a week starting at 2300 and going to 0300 the next morning on days when I had an 0800 class. Needless to say, I missed a lot of class that semester (and my grades suffered from it), but the crummy conditions and B-Team status combined to form a strong sense of camaraderie. We used to get yelled at for not completing the dungeon fast enough, but that’s probably because most of our nights were filled with laughter and jokes instead of serious boss planning as we cleared our way up to our weekly boss wall.

Whenever I think about going back to WoW, it’s because of these guys: Moonsbreath, a school nurse from California by day and a Tauren Resto Shaman by night, Samuwen, our Orc Hunter team leader and a copy store employee by day, and Emil, our Undead Warrior tank whose profession I did not know, but whose infant child often made nightly cameos during our raids. On nights when we were mixed in with the entire guild, you could bet that we’d still be joking around with each other either over Ventrilo (we were easily the most talkative bunch outside of the guild leader) or through the in-game whisper system. The night that our guild leader, Athen, disbanded the guild to leave WoW was a devastating blow to everyone. We all tried to hold it together for a few nights, but the loss of direction caused our merry band to disperse to the winds. More than one of us quit the game, myself included, which spelled the end for our friendships since none of us knew each other in real life.

When thinking about these virtual friendships, it becomes clear that the worst part about them are their delicate, ephemeral nature. Their very existence often relies on the medium within which they are created. Just like that, our guild disbanded and I lost three cool in-game friends. When I returned to WoW for a month or two last year, some of these guys were still around, but the construct which formed our relationship was gone and it just wasn’t the same.

When I met Kim I thought it was actually going to be kind of different. My roommate, Darek, and I liked to play Left 4 Dead online with an old friend of his from university named Eric. One day Eric invited Darek and I to join a game that Kim was in. Her general friendliness with Eric and Darek, both of whom seemed to know Kim, made me assume that she was also a former classmate. Since she was associated with real people I knew, that made her a more “real” friend than the other ones I had made online. I later found out (nearly a year later) that Kim randomly met Eric playing a different zombie video game and that they’d been playing together since.

I wouldn’t say that Kim and I were best friends or anything, but we’ve got enough of a rapport that people who play with us for the first time assume that we actually know each other in real life. We both know what the other does for a living, but beyond that, I’d say that the only two things we know about each other are our personalities and how good we are at Left 4 Dead.

Thanks to the more robust communication tools available through Steam, I don’t worry so much about losing touch with Kim if I were to stop playing Left 4 Dead, but it does worry me that, should she decide to quit games forever, I’d probably never talk to Kim again. That’s where the other boundary with online friends rears its ugly head again. I don’t even know her name, so I couldn’t just friend her on Facebook. If I were to visit Texas (where she lives) would it be normal to hang out with her?

It’s clear that the world of online, anonymous communication can be socially interesting and rewarding, but it’s also full of strange perils and confusing social conventions that seem like they could be just as paralyzingly complex to the socially inept. The lack of real life contact is perhaps the most pressing issue with online friendships. Sure, I can hear the voices of all my friends thanks to fast, cheap VoIP, but with no real way of contacting each other, we could, I dunno, die, and no one would be the wiser. We’d just assume that the other person left our online space for greener pastures.

That’s no way to have real, lasting relationships, in my book, but as the relationships with my former classmates become increasingly digital due to distance, it’s becoming clear to me that many of my relationships are facilitated primarily through 1’s and 0’s, not any kind of human contact. It’s mostly thanks to her job that I find myself seeing Kai so often, but 75% of our interaction comes from blogs, tumblr, and twitter. Some of my other friends, like Lee, Yin, and Duffy, I see far less often and talk to only through gchat. I’m kind of losing my way here with respect to any point I might have, but suffice it to say that I’m infinitely glad that technology has allowed me to make and keep all of these friendships.

The Portrayal of Women in Gaming [Game Overview]
Jan 1st, 2010 by Dan

Despite the growing number of female gamers and older gamers, the larger audience in gaming does lie within the 18-35 (or whatever the range is supposed to be), male demographic, which means that games are made primarily for that audience (fortunately (for publishers), most 14-17 year-olds respond to the same marketing techniques). It follows that what comes out of the industry revolves around heavy action and sex appeal. For every indie game that attempts to take a mature look at female sexuality like The Path, there are at least five games where women are two-dimensional characters wearing ridiculous apparel meant to emphasize their unnaturally oversized assets.

Again, it’s not that surprising, right? Sex sells. It starts getting strange when you look at the results of a recent study by Carrie Lynn Reinhard (Hypersexualized Females in Digital Games: Do Men Want Them, Do Women Want to Be Them?). The results of the study showed that men prefer to play as more realistically proportioned women when they play games. They’re also more likely to recommend the game to a female friend if the avatar is more realistic. Meanwhile, women are more likely to enjoy playing as hyper-sexualized avatars and more likely to recommend these games to their male friends. It’s definitely not what I’d expect, but it makes sense given the cultural assault on women to be hyper-sexual and the empowerment the might feel, while it seems that playing as a hyper-sexualized female makes a man feel emasculated.

I guess I can kind of support those conclusions, at least with the way that I see other people play online. My entire character selection strategy is primarily geared toward emasculating and embarrassing my opponents. In almost every game where such a choice is available, I will always make my avatar either pink or female (or both) for the simple reason that it riles up the competition when they lose. I think that perfectly sums up most of the gaming landscape: sexist and immature.

Leigh Alexander is fond of saying that the immaturity of the gaming landscape is mostly due to the immaturity of the men who run it. In article she wrote titled “Bang Bang, Is Creativity Dead?” she quotes:

“There is a cycle in game development. People making games usually make games that appeal to themselves, and choose from a narrow set of inspirations — Star Wars, Aliens, Blade Runner, Tolkien, World War II, super-hero comics, and a few more. Then, those games appeal to a certain set of fans, and some of those fans will eventually grow up to make games themselves, and those games end up looking like the previous generation, because they were made to please a similar bunch of people. That loop just repeats and stays the same size forever.”

-Tim Schafer

This concept has appeared many times in her work when talking about mature games versus “mature” games. Something like the upcoming Dante’s Inferno game is rated mature because it contains gobs of bloody gore and bare breasts. A game like Mother 3, which is outwardly cartoony in appearance, is actually mature because of the way it deals with death, family, and its themes of community and isolation.

I’m not saying that there’s no place for immaturity in art, but when it’s all your work has to offer, it’s almost insulting to me as an adult gamer. Take Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, released on the Xbox back in 2003. Never mind that calling it “xtreme” is already ridiculous, but the game itself is pandering to an extreme degree. The most clear cut goal in the game is to raise the friendship levels of the beach volleyball teams so that you can give your partner as revealing a bathing suit as possible to wear. I was 17 when this game came out and even then I was too old to be amused by such obvious attempts to catch my attention.

The first great hope that we were making progress came in Valve’s 2004 epic, Half-Life 2. Not only was Alyx Vance a smart, capable sidekick to the mute Gordon Freeman, she was realistically proportioned, wore jeans, only barely showed her midriff, had no cleavage showing, and donned a jacket that covered her arms to her elbows. To this day Valve continues to render its female characters in a realistic fashion. Chell, of Portal fame, was also not sexualized and Zoey and Rochelle, the two female leads in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, respectively, are also both modestly attired and realistically proportioned, but Valve is in the minority in this industry.

Also in the minority in the industry are women with positions of power. Video game development is unsurprisingly male-dominated (I say unsurprisingly because, in my experience, most computer scientists are men), but there are a few relatively famous women with positions of power. The first really famous woman I can think of is Jade Raymond of Ubisoft. I know I’m about to be super unfair, but Jade Raymond is known more for being hot than for her roles at Ubisoft. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, so I can’t really speak to its quality, but, despite her role as producer of the game, I couldn’t help but feel that Ubisoft was using Jade Raymond as the face of the game for more insidious purposes. I know that almost every video I saw where she was talking about the game was filled with immature comments by viewers about how good looking she is. Again, my statements are not saying anything about how good she is at her job. She’s clearly great at it, since she’s been named president of Ubisoft Toronto,but the immaturity of the medium has prevented some from really taking her seriously.

The other famous woman I can think of (probably because I’m such a fan of her work) is Amy Henning, the Creative Director at Naughty Dog. It makes sense that Jade Raymond has a wiki page, but Amy Hennig doesn’t, yet I feel that Amy Hennig has done way more for women’s portrayal in gaming than Jade Raymond has simply because of the characters that Amy Hennig has created for the Uncharted series.

Like Valve, Naughty Dog’s female characters are strong, confident, and able to take care of themselves. Nathan Drake, the star of the series, does have to rescue them from time to time, but both Chloe and Elena are more than able to handle themselves in the face of danger and both have saved Drake a fair number of times as well. While it is true that Chloe is a more sexualized character thanElena, she’s neither a ridiculous piece of eye candy nor a woman who trades exclusively on her sex appeal to get what she needs. It’s almost incidental that she’s hotter than Elena and, no doubt, a creative choice meant to emphasize Drake’s character arc in the second game as he is forced to choose between being selfish or doing the right thing.

It’s clear through the many interviews and videos of Amy Hennig I’ve heard/seen that she was the driving force behind forcing the moderate and respectful portrayal of women in the Uncharted series. No longer content to continue to watch women being objectified and marginalized in her medium, she was a vocal supporter of the idea that people will still like these games and characters even if they’re not all T&A. To her credit, I’ve never heard anything but praise for the characters of the Uncharted world. T&A or no, I still get hits on my blog on a daily basis looking for dirty pictures of Elena and Chloe. Could it be that men are just as happy with women who are real too? Does everything about a video game have to be a ridiculous empowerment fantasy?

I’m hopeful that the maturation of the field will yield more Zoeys and Elenas and fewer Lara Crofts and Bayonettas (new game set to come out this year focused entirely on the lead character’s sex appeal). It’s not that every game has to have realistic characters, I mean the men of Gears of War are no more realistic than Lara Croft in their own way,not to mention that even popular, respected, mature mediums feature plenty of shallow characters, but it would be nice to start seeing real people in our games.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa