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It all started with a break and enter…

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

There was no such thing as “pc graphics”. The computer was a black screen and you could input text. It was a wonderful invention that made my work day so much easier. No longer did I have to use carbon paper to make a copy of a document while typing it, and I didn’t have to use “whiteout” – a product where you painstakingly painted out a typo, then inhaled those wonderful fumes and got high before you had to realign the letter in the typewriter to make your correction (which was therefore always crooked). Computers let us make all the revisions or corrections we wanted before simply pressing print and watching it slowly come out of the printer, then ripping off the tracks on the sides and having a perfect letter! Then, something even more truly incredible and amazing happened. You put in a big ole floppy disk and this appeared:

Read more…

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… but it’s just fantasy

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Boobs…
Yeah, Ivy’s got em. Well, in 2010 in the United States alone, apparently over 318,000 women also decided to get them. Since 1997 that has been a 155% increase in the total number of plastic surgery procedures in the United States. The number one procedure was breast augmentation… followed by liposuction, eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). An estimated 5 to 10 MILLION women worldwide are now walking around with cosmetic breast implants… regardless of the cancer risks, the leakage/burst risks, the other health issues associated with this procedure. Our media shows us that apparently men find big breasts attractive… and many women are willing to pay a lot of money and disregard the health risks to become the fantasy. Read more…

FPS games are all the same…

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The stoic soldier, with gun pointed down… walking away from a hazy wartorn backdrop.There are too many shooter games. North Americans are obsessed with their stupid FPS games. AAA games are all becoming FPS games. FPS games are all in shades of gray or brown… they’re all about war… they’re boring… they’re all the same. FPS games are ruining gaming! I see these statements littered through the comments, and frankly, it pisses me off . Usually the person making the statement has not played a lot of FPS games and their only exposure to the shooter concept is aiming for the toilet bowl… and probably missing.

Shooter games involve shooting… and that similarity extends through the genre in the same way that RPG games have quests, or that platformers involve moving, jumping, exploding or rolling from one platform to another, or that fighter games involve mashing some buttons to pull off combos. As with any genre, when one game become inordinately successful, others unfortunately seek to copy it. How many Mario clones are there out there? Why are many JRPG games all similar in some way to Final Fantasy? Why does Bayonetta seem like Dante with boobs? Why do Two Worlds 2, Divinity 2, Dragon Age and Fable all seem suspiciously similar to Oblivion? Yes, the incredible commercial success of the Call of Duty series has had an impact, but this has always happened in gaming. Ideas are often stolen and used as a genre of games grows, evolves and changes.


Sometimes we see the back of the stoic soldier… walking into a hazy, wartorn backdrop.

First off, games like Portal, Borderlands, Half Life, Bioshock and Fallout 3 are all FPS games. They all involve shooting from the first person perspective. Secondly, even among the “typical” war based FPS games there are huge differences. I realize that people generally tend to have a problem with the second part… the war based “realistic” shooters, so I’ll restrict myself to discussing those.

Let’s look at the single player element. FPS games tend to borrow from a variety of other genres which often makes them all a little different and keeps them interesting. Most tend to have a convoluted story of sort, and yes, the story is usually shitty and often involves Russians or some random terrorist group, not unlike the usual crappy RPG story line of save the Kingdom. Many even involve a quest structure, like Far Cry 2 where the game is very much like a WRPG with a main quest and optional side quests in a fairly open world. The only real difference between Far Cry 2 and Oblivion is that there are guns and jeeps in Far Cry 2 instead of horses and swords.

Other FPS campaigns include racing elements, vehicle sequences, and boss battles. These are very similar to boss battles in other genres – a boss or mini-boss with special powers and you must figure out their weakness through trial and error. They require the same persistence and skill to defeat, although the boss isn’t always a specific person – sometimes it’s a large group, or a new class of enemy with a specific weapon, a stealth section to get through without being spotted, or sometimes it’s a large creature or vehicle. Just like most RPG games, conquering a mini-boss or boss often unlocks a new skill or weapon or alternatively you are given a new weapon/power that must be used to defeat this boss. Many FPS games are based on real-world weaponry, but others like Halo, or Resistance: Fall of Man are based on incredibly fun and imaginative weapons – sniper rifles that can slow down time, bubble shields, or a gun that can shoot through walls. In some FPS games you are alone, in others like Rainbow Six you have a “party” or squad that you can control. In still others, like sections of Modern Warfare, you follow the lead of another character who gives you specific instructions, and in Battlefield: Bad Company you had a hilarious group of A.I. sidekicks that often made me laugh with their humour.

My main point is that FPS single player games are NOT all the same. They are not even all in shades of grey and brown. While they tend towards a more realistic look, I think that the colors of Resistance 2 were closer to a Ratchet and Clank-ish colorful world, than the sepia tones of the first Resistance game. Far Cry 2’s jungle areas were alive with bright greens and colorful flowers.

While the single player campaign portions of most FPS games have quite a wide variety of styles, and lean more towards the “adventure” genre, many gamers tend to buy FPS games, not for the campaign, but more for the online portion. Again, these games may seem to be all the same to the view of a more casual outside viewpoint, but they simply aren’t any more similar than the platforming in Mario when compared with Super Meat Boy.


Sometimes the soldier is even pointing his gun… against a hazy, wartorn backdrop!

In general, FPS gamers are not attracted to these games because they are violent sociopaths who want to kill (well, maybe a few of us are), they are attracted to these games for the same reason that MMO’s are so addictive – it’s the social aspect. The game is continually changing depending on who is on your own team and who is on the opposing team. Clans form and people gather together to share a social evening of chatting and teabagging some opposing team. Like MMO’s, FPS games also tend to incorporate the hook of “leveling up”. There are new ranks, or guns, or classes to be unlocked. For the money spent on a game, FPS online games tend to offer value… hundreds of hours of value.

Yes, most have similar modes. There is deathmatch, team deathmatch and then various objective based modes. No, on closer examination they are NOT even remotely the same. Some are team based games requiring team cooperation in order to win the match (MAG), others are squad based (Battlefield) and others are more individual, where players play mostly on their own for killstreaks and a high score (COD). Additionally there are co-op games like Left for Dead or Resistance 2 which are again similar to MMO’s where members group up to take on a quest against A.I. Some FPS games are “twitch shooters” or reactive games that are extremely fast paced like Halo and other arena style shooters, while others are proactive – slower and more strategy based like SOCOM. There are even some FPS games where a high score is not at all based on kills, but can be based on points gained by reviving teammates and repairing team assets. Playing each of these differing game types within the FPS genre requires a substantial shift in how you play. Those used to getting high killstreaks in COD will often find themselves placing last in MAG games because they’re not running with their squad getting objective points, revive points or repair points. Those used to using vehicles merely as a form of transportation in MAG will be reviled in Battlefield or Homefront where the use of vehicles is more key to decimating the opposing forces, and using a tank as a taxi to the front lines is a waste of a team asset. In Killzone, the choice of class is often key, not just to a team’s win or loss, but also your personal points within a game. There are many variations of FPS games and they can’t all be played in the same manner.

In conclusion, before you ever type the words “FPS games are all the same” please don’t make an idiot of yourself. There is a reason that FPS games are so popular, there is a reason that a lot of developers create new FPS games – the reason is because they are not all the same. The genre is growing and evolving. In addition to RPG and MMO elements, we are increasingly seeing RTS elements also entering into the category of FPS games. There is room for growth not only in gameplay, but also in social elements. There is a large variety of single player and multiplayer forms of FPS games, creating a vast genre. For fans of the genre there are nuances and substantial differences to the games. Yes, there are lots of sequels in the genre… but who can complain about FPS sequels while they’re playing Final Fantasy XIII, Mega Man 9 or the most recent Pokemon, Mario or Madden game. Any genre looks somewhat the same at first glance, that’s what makes them part of the same group, but if you think FPS games are “all the same”… then you either don’t play them – or you’re playing them wrong!

… or maybe you’re just judging the book by it’s cover, cause yeah, I’ll agree that the box art on a lot of FPS games is pretty similar! LOL!

 [originally published 11/01/2011 on my Destructoid.com blog]

Ugotkilledbyachick got killed by … a chick.

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment
While playing MAG last week, I took note of two gamertags… ugotkilledbyachick and agirlkilledu. Their gamertags irritated me. In fact, “irritated” is probably too mild a word as I think I said something to the effect of “I just got killed by “ugotkilledbyachick” – I f’ing hate stupid gamertags like that… sounds like some 13 year old frag girl wannabe”. Later in the game I took actual pleasure in sniping her in the forehead.
Later on, I thought over that incident and thought about how hypocritical I was. I’m the one that often says that women shouldn’t be afraid to be visible in gaming. Women are there in the games, but so often are invisible because they use gender neutral nicks and often don’t use a mic. If men realized how many women are there, gaming alongside of them, we would cease to be as much of a novelty. As the novelty aspect disappears, so too does much of the harassment. So I guess it was somewhat hypocritical to be irritated by gamertags of very obvious female players who actually used their mics (I could hear them on prox chat).Being hypocritical doesn’t sit well and those nicks still irritate the shit out of me, so rationalization has begun to set in. It’s not the “chick” or “girl” parts of the gamertags that bother me… I’ve seen “gungirl” and “chickwithagun” and neither of those names make me feel bile raise in the back of my throat. It’s not the “killedu” part of the nick… “grandmakilledu” is an awesome nick (and an awesome lady). “killedbyElmerFudd” was a nick that actually made me laugh (great visual there!), so it’s also not the “killedby” part of the nick. I’m not even sure why those nicks bother me until I remember “blakguykilledu” and realized that this gamertag irritated me too. I think it might be the inherent racism or sexism combined with the arrogance of assuming the kill that bothers me.

The arrogance is the easy part… “gonnateabagzu” is irritating simply because it assumes superiority, like “elitesniperz” and all those gamertags with “pro” anywhere in them. That kind of arrogance is usually annoying, especially when they actually are good and keep killing you! (though it should be noted that not all pro and elite gamertags are bad… “protargetdummy” did make me giggle!) The sexism/racism is more difficult. GayParade was the nick of a guy in the Warhawk tourney and he was awesome.. but a gamertag like “gayguy” has a generic quality that I do find irritating, like somehow he’s the only gay gamer out there or represents all gay gamers or something. I think that’s part of my annoyance with those two ladies… “ugotkilledbyachick” and “agirlkilledu” have a generic quality that implies sexism combined with the arrogance. Those nicks just seem juvenile and aimed at irritating people, but I guess that’s part of what gaming is about. If a gamertag is irritating, then you do notice it, remember it…. and within the game you may even be more inclined to skip the easy kill and instead shoot that irritating gamer tag right in the ass while they’re busy teabagging one of your teammates. In the end, I guess it’s even more juvenile to be irritated by gamertags like these. Getting killed by “ugotkilledbyachick” shouldn’t really be any more annoying than getting killed by “Elsa” or “nobody” or “plonkplonk”. Maybe I just have to grow up a bit.

Though some gamertags do require banning and I’ve only once ever reported a gamer to Sony… and that was a guy named “aidsisgodsvengence”, because that gamertag was simply wrong on any level.

Still, I do love noticing interesting gamertags… though it’s interesting the opinions I formed based on nothing more than words…

Anything with “weed”, “grass”, “dope” or “stoner” in the tag:
They think “weed is cool, and therefore so am I”. I think “aw crap, another stoner who plays his music too loud and won’t shut up about how stoned he is… at least he’s easy to kill because he’s just standing there like a tool”.

Anything with “sniper” or “sniperz” in the tag:
They’re probably thinking “I’m that cool lone wolf guy”. I’m thinking “crap, another idiot that’s going to sit at the spawn and snipe and not bother taking the objective”.

Anything with urMom or urSister in it… usually of the “doinurmom” type tags:
Yeah, “doingurmom” was in the same game as the aforementioned ladies…. and while he’s probably thinking “I’m such a clever troll”, I’m thinking “your doing my 70 year old mom??”. The “doingyoursister” tag is even funnier to me, because my sister is bossy. She’s much, much, much bossier than I am… and any guy doing her is likely being told he’s doing it wrong and how to do it properly. I laugh to myself because I figure this guy is pretty brave… and stupid!

Anything with random letters and numbers that make no sense:
They think … no wait, I don’t think they were thinking, because when a gamer tag isn’t pronounceable, then they invariably get called “hey Dickhead”.

There are great gamer tags though… I do love ones that make me laugh. I’ve been killed by “atoiletseat”, “nobody”, “daffyduck”, “27ninjas” and other nicks that did make me pause and chuckle for a moment. To those that pick annoying gamertags… ok, you win. I was annoyed. In future, I guess the only way for me to win the game is to not get annoyed and to ignore the gamertag.

… dammit, that’s hard though… so many annoying people out there. Maybe I’ll just give up and change my gamertag to “StonedEliteGrlSniperKilledUwhileDoinUrDaddy”.

 

[originally published 02/11/2012 on my Destructoid.com blog]

The Tipping Point in Games

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve never been a real fan of the Call of Duty Series. I’ve played the campaigns for most of the recent games and particularly enjoyed the Modern Warfare series, but I’ve just never enjoyed the online play. I tend to like team based shooters where people talk about the objectives, enemy movements and try to coordinate and work as a team. I enjoy the social aspects of shooter games… the social aspects that aren’t full of little kids asking me what my nipples look like. Call of Duty tends to move too fast for any real team based chat to be effective. I didn’t like jumping into a game and getting killed over and over and over and over again. The graphics were beautiful, the guns feel effective and are responsive… but the game seemed to lack soul. Modern Warfare 3 is the first time I’ve actually stuck with Call of Duty and achieved a rank higher than 10. I like the support killstreaks. No matter how bad I am, I do tend to get a couple of these in a game because killstreaks don’t reset upon death. I like that I get to experience the fun of actually having some form of “killstreak” reward without the need to sit and camp for kills. Ranking up also brings all the usual rewards of better guns, better perks, better scopes… better everything. Again, this rewarding good players has always been a negative for me in the series. I almost feel bad killing some n00b with a basic gun and few if any decent perks. I definitely do feel bad when I get killed by a high level player with a really good gun… and I get to see the replay and want that gun so at least I would have a fighting chance!

Still… last week I reached the tipping point. I’m a level 59 and I unlocked the thermal scope on the GC36 assault rifle… and I was actually excited that I unlocked it! I now tend to place in the middle of the pack in most games. I often place last on my team, but usually I’m just sitting there near the bottom and on a few wonderous occasions I’ve actually placed first on my team (usually because everyone else has dumped for the game or else because I’ve had a really good run with the recon drone!). I don’t tend to use my mic at all in Call of Duty… I have it on, but generally have myself muted because I don’t like the sound of others talking coming through the TV. The tipping point came when I unlocked that scope and realized that I like this game. It’s a rather mindless game… just jump in with any group and simply play. The game is very much based on “first shoot, first kill” but after awhile you tend to know the usual camping spots on many of the maps and check them before blindly running anywhere.


(WTF? How did he manage to see me to shoot me?? I say this a lot in COD!)

There is strategy in the game, but it’s strictly a personal strategy… and there is a wide range of strategies to use. The game does rock, paper, sissors quite well. Having a shotgun or close range weapon is lethal up close, but useless at a longer distance. Sniping is often a one shot kill, but anywhere you can snipe from generally has multiple entrances that are difficult to guard, so being knifed in the back becomes part of choosing to be a sniper. Each of the perks serves a purpose and tends to counter some of the other unlocks given. The restriction of only 3 perks generally means that you will have a weakness somewhere. The number of guns, unlocks, perks, etc. can be rather overwhelming and confusing but it does add some depth to the game and allows people to change their playing styles. I’ve not reached the level yet where I can prestige and don’t know much about choosing that option… but again, this does seem designed to again add depth to the game for those that play a lot… or too much I guess!

I don’t even know that I would call the game “fun” for me… but since hitting that tipping point, I find I want to play it… pretty much all the time, too much, and more than is good for me. I want to try out the different guns, I want to rank up a better gun and unlock the scopes I like. I want to try some of the other perks or even try different killstreaks. I want to play some of the game modes I haven’t tried yet. I’ve reached a zen state where dying rarely bothers me now… I almost zone out while playing and in some respects it’s like playing a game with annoying bots rather than real people (especially since the voice chat quality is very poor when compared to a game like MAG where it’s crystal clear).

This “tipping point” has occured in other games. I didn’t initially like MAG and found it confusing… but at one point I looked around while playing the 256 player Domination mode and that tipping point was reached… I was addicted and to date I have over 1400 hours in the game. With single player games I tend to find the tipping point more quickly… I just started Skyrim and I KNOW this is a game I will love. With multiplayer games it often seems to take much longer. With Call of Duty it took a lot longer and I’m actually a bit surprised that I even reached it. With some games I never reach that tipping point, or I give up long before it’s reached. I like Uncharted. I’ve played UC1 and 2 and have played a bit of the online for 3 (and will play the campaign later). I don’t think it matters how much or how long I play Uncharted, I’ll never reach that tipping point where I want to play the game constantly. It just doesn’t hold that addictive factor for me. I’m not even sure if this tipping point is personal taste or design. I started Skyrim and was immediately there – full blown addiction, I can’t put the game down. It seems that others too feel this same response. MAG and Warhawk took a bit longer but there are others too that obviously feel this addiction because both games still have active online communities years after the game’s release. Call of Duty has a fanatical online following so it seems that those that have reached this tipping point into a love for the game are quite willing to transfer this adoration to each new game in the series to a some extent. The online gameplay is similar enough, yet different enough to retain those that love this game – and this is surely purposeful design. This tipping point… it’s a cash cow. If developers can achieve it, it not only seems to assure sales of the game, but can also assure sales of the next game. The Oblivion, Final Fantasy and Call of Duty series point to this.

The odd thing is, is that this tipping point is a different thing for me in each game. In Call of Duty it’s the fact that I am not playing with a group. It’s a solitary experience where I can just zone out and play. With MAG and Warhawk it was the opposite – it was the group experience of playing with friends and being inter-reliant on them. The early SOCOM games relied on this social aspect as well… with large clans that formed to regularly play the game and not just socialize, but work on the game as a unit that worked well together. With Skyrim, it’s the exploration… on my way to one location I come across a cave… this constant input of newly discovered locations keeps me constantly going in the game (regardless of the glitches and other annoying aspects). I’m sure that devs did wish that there was one answer to what the tipping point is, but I guess fortunately for us gamers, there is no one answer. This means that devs will keep looking and will continue to bring us a variety of different games in the hopes that the game will have that elusive addictive factor that can assure sales.

In the meantime, my addictions are piling up! Skyrim… or Modern Warfare 3… or MAG… or trying the Starhawk beta again because I’m pretty sure I’m close to reaching the tipping point there. I need more time… I need… ugh, I need to get a life and quit spending so much time gaming. Meh… I’ll get back to real life right after I check out that new town I haven’t been to yet in Skyrim… the one I’ve been heading towards for the last couple of days but keep getting sidetracked!

… just like real life.

(though it should be noted for those fearing I have a gaming addiction, that while I game a lot and can occassionally lose track of time while playing a game, I have no problem turning off the console to spend time with my husband, friends or family. My housework gets done, dinner gets made and I find time to write blogs and read. Gaming mostly replaces TV watching or other leisure activities… and being retired, I do have a lot of leisure time!)

[originally posted 12/28/2011 on my Destructoid.com blog]

August 11, 2011: “girl gamers” is a dead term – finally!

August 11, 2011 3 comments

I’m going to write this here, in my little corner of the internet where it will likely pass by unnoticed.  I recently wrote a blog on Destructoid about the weekly topic of “esports” where I wrote a half assed blog about how I don’t consider gaming to be a “sport” but think that competitive video gaming is it’s own thing… part sport, part art, part game – something totally unique and it should be celebrated as such and not try to be something it isn’t.  Due to the time constraints of hitting the deadline on the weekly topic, I didn’t really fill out my thoughts well, and it wasn’t a very good blog… but nonetheless it got promoted to the front page of the Destructoid website as the weekly topic blogs often are.

Well… a shitstorm hit and the blog garnered over 200 hateful comments in addition to being picked up and discussed on other sites.  I was called a lot of awful names (including my personal favorite of  “mentally crippled”).  In addition to the insults,  people called for me to be fired (I’m just a community member and was never “hired”); that I knew nothing about the topic (which is the point of being given a weekly topic and just writing our thoughts about it); and that I was a shitty journalist (I’m a blogger… not a journalist) among other things.

In amongst all the vitriol I did notice one thing though… there were few, if any, “go back to the kitchen” or “girls don’t know gaming” comments.  In fact I don’t recall seeing any sexist comments.  People did mention “she” so they were aware of my gender, but overall I was treated the same as any other gamer would be treated.

While this situation is just the usual internet shitstorm that will quickly fade away, I did learn a few good lessons about blogging…. but more importantly I think I can officially say that the whole “girl gamer” thing is offically dead for me.  As a female who games, we have finally achieved equality with male gamers and are finally being treated no differently.  I have found this to be true in online gaming for quite some time now, and it appears that even in gaming communities we are no longer being subject to the whole “it’s a girl” thing.   I think we can drop the “girl” in gamer and just be gamers now.

… and I don’t have to make anyone a sammich! 🙂

July 25, 2011 – Playstation Plus… or Minus

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

So… my “welcome back” free subscription to Playstation Plus expired.  The free trial actually made me NOT want to subscribe to the program because it made me realize that much of the content I was getting was in reality only rented.

In particular, I downloaded the DLC Escalation pack for MAG.  Frankly, nobody plays the DLC so it wasn’t the game mode I was interested in… it was the extra weapons that came with the Escalation pack.  I became addicted to using the Gotha assault rifle and losing it has been difficult.  The abrupt loss of DLC and any free games downloaded while being a member of Playstation Plus seems worst than never joining PS Plus in the first place and simply spending that money on owning the actual content instead of the subscription.  I was only a member for one month and felt the pain of loss on leaving the program … I can well imagine all the content I would suddenly be without if I had been with the program for a year or more.

Apparently the only thing you get to keep is the free avatars or games that you bought at a discount price.  So what do you get by being a Playstation Plus member.. well, apparently you get early beta access, but this seems very limited because betas are often now bundled with other games or available on various twitter feeds.  You get the ability to try a game out for one hour… no big deal as most of these games offer demos anyway.  Early access to demos?  Again, not a big deal as the demos soon come available to everyone.  Some free games, yes, but you lose these when your membership expires, and this applies to the free DLC as well.  Overall, what you seem to mostly get is the rental of some free games (mostly small games available at a cheap price anyway) and some free DLC.  You do get some special pricing, which for some people may make the program worthwhile, but overall I think the withdrawal pains of losing free games and free DLC if your subscription ever lapses is a pain that is difficult to measure, and not worth the small amount of savings you might get on some older games when they go on sale.

Playstation Plus… I thank you for your one month free trial.  It has saved me from making an expensive mistake.

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