Diary of a Lapsed Gamer

So… blogging. I remember you. Sort of.

I am trying to find something to say about gaming, but truth is I haven’t really been doing much gaming or reading about gaming. I played a ton of Magic The Gathering 2012 on the PS3. Oh right. I got a PS3 as a “I’m a Great Mommy” award from my husband and kids. Got a few old school PS games. Haven’t finished them. Got Catherine. Haven’t finished it. Excited for Skyrim.  Batman Arkham City looks great. Should pick it up soon. Maybe.

Why the ennui? Last time I was on maternity leave, I was doing significantly more gaming than I am now. What has changed?

Well, this time around I am much more busy. Two kids>one kid. I KNOW! Math! And it’s not just that two kids is twice the work of one, it’s that the older one has such different needs than the younger.  I work different parts of my mind in order to give each one the things that they need. But, really I do have stretches where I have down time that used to be filled with games. So what am I doing?

Better technology keeps me more in touch with my friends than the last time I was on mat leave. My downtime during naps is now taken up by Facebook on the iPhone. And my reader on the iPhone.

Netflix on the iPhone (OMG! Xena! Quantum Leap! River Monsters!!!1!)

PocketFrogs on the iPhone. (What, it’s damn fun. Don’t knock it. )

Before, if I wanted to connect on-line I had to move to the desktop, connect, wait, point and click.  Gaming was easier. press button, turn on TV. Done. Now I have so much more in my pocket; I am entertained and engaged wherever I am. Now, on the other hand, if I want to game, it means moving to the console, connecting and finding the controller amongst all the toys. Exchange Tinkerbell and The Great Fairy Rescue DVD for game disc. Remember what the eff it is that I am supposed to be doing in this game. Hopefully accomplish something before naptime is over, but probably not. iPhone is so much easier and has such a wider variety.

Am I suggesting that Steve Jobs ruined gaming for me? Yes, yes I am. 

Obviously there is more to it than an update in some amazing technology. Last time around I was also very involved in a gaming community. Excitement is infectious and without clan members and day-to-day gaming buddies to yap about the game everyday I lack that feedback.  On some perverse level I enjoy being angry, I like the excitement. Where I used to get angry about the sexism and racism in gaming and gamers, I now get all angry at US politics. I’m terribly fun.

But on a good note I have found some amazing blogs and voices of feminist gamers out there. In my old community I was the only feminist gamer, the shrieking man-hater that I am. Once I left, I found that I wasn’t the only one. I am proud to say that I am not as articulate or educated as half of them. I’m not alone and that has taken a load of drama from my mind.

Also, I just haven’t seen anything that I really want to have yet. Except Skyrim. I’m out of the loop and I start down the gaming boredom spiral. I don’t see anything I like, so I lose interest so I don’t see anything I like.

So, low excitement means that I don’t want to game. In the competition for the TV, my lack of conviction means I don’t feel the need to press my need for gaming, especially when there is a fresh hockey season. Football is underway. I can always watch something on Netflix or heaven forbid I actually work out.

All things in life ebb and flow. Now is the time for me to do other things. Gaming will come back. Did I mention Skyrim comes out right around my birthday?

Persona 3: Wowie

So I have been in a bit of a gaming rut. I am stuck in AC2, and I really had the need for something low key gameplay-wise. Something new. Or old. Or whatever. Just something that didn’t test the boundaries of my twitch reflexes on a few hours of sleep. That was when I thought of handheld games… cause handheld games NEVER have anything more than turn based strategy (she said ironically holding her PSP and God of War: Chains of Olympus). I happened to be in an EB, and saw Persona 3.

Persona 3 is by Atlus and I loves me some Atlus. This game is an odd combo of your typical turn based JRPG. Your character is a typical high school student: you know, the kind that has a busy social calendar by day and fights demons at night? That kind. What makes the gameplay interesting is it’s a JRPG combined with a social simulator. One of the many ways to power up your summons is to strengthen social links: friendships you create and maintain during your daytime life as a regular high school student. 

If at the outset someone would have said that it’s a social simulator on the one hand and a JRPG on the other, I would have thought that the social sim would have been the worst part of the game. I am happy to say otherwise. This aspect of Persona 3 can be a lesson in game theory. You only have a certain number of actions that you can take in this part of the game, undertaking any action advances the clock and calendar and you only have one in game year to complete the game. There seems to be too many social links, I don’t think it’s really possible to max out them all. This pressure fits in nicely with the narrative. Will you go to volleyball or attend student’s council? Walk home with a friend or go to your part time job? Will you study for your mid-terms or get a much needed decent night’s sleep. It’s actually fairly intense, and makes you feel like the student who is just taking on too many priorities.

The relationships that you form also provide layering to the narrative; the summons (personas) that live inside of you are strengthened by relationships with others. It seems as though your persona colours your own personality. For example, your volleyball team mate is too intense for the rest of the team. they want to go on dates, she wants to hit spikes. The social links that you create with her strengthen The Chariot summons: the most powerful of the personas. Her intensity is due to her inner persona. The story that is told while ranking up in the social links are well done. We see high school students who are all at odds with themselves and they all feel out of place with their classmates and with the school. It does bring back memories of high school, all that drama and awkwardness.

The other thing that I note with this game is it has a really, really odd ERSB “feel”. It’s rated M, yet it;s very high school. Supposedly you can have sex as part of the storyline, but that’s only after maxing out a certain social link and it’s blacked out. Also the way in which you summon a persona is by basically pointing a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. Shards of blue ice fly out like blood. Oh, I mean they call the gun an “evoker” and say that it’s not a gun… but it’s a gun. This is the first time I have seen something rated M for what so far seems like an art direction decision. I am not complaining, not at all. It does look fantastic and it does highlight the intensity of what you are doing. You aren’t fighting baddies by waving a magic wand. No, no, no. You have to shoot yourself in the HEAD.

It’s also odd in that parts of the game seem “rated T”. For instance one of the battle cries a guy says “Come here you son of a…” instead “Come here you son of a bitch.” It’s just weird.  I am not convinced that the translation was really done properly. One guy talks about his drunk father and he says that his father used to spank him, when I *think* he should say his father beat him. It’s an important difference, one is a form of discipline (no matter what you think of spanking) the other really is child abuse.

Anyway: so far, it’s one kick ass little (actually, really big) game. Highly recommended.

How about you guys? Have you been surprised by an aspect of a game that you weren’t sure you would enjoy, but it turned out to be the best part of the game?

Dickwolves and False Equivalency

So… Been a tough week for women in gaming .

The most recent controversy to hit gaming concerns Penny Arcade, and a comic concerning the Dickwolf.  Check out this link for a very detailed timeline, including links, of this debacle.

I think by the tone of this blog, you may get where I stand on this issue. However, I have been trying to figure out the other side’s argument. I gotta practise what I preach.

Let’s see: A piece of art is accused of promoting rape culture. Accusations of censorship arise.

Wait. I think I have heard this one before.

A piece of art is accused of promoting violence. Accusations of censorship arise.

Is this JT (Jack Thompson, noted anti-gaming activist)all over again? Is this why members of the gaming community have circled the wagons on this one? If this is the reason why some gamers are supporting PennyArcade, here is why the dickwolves-promote-rape-culture controversy is a false equivalent to violence-in-games-make-people murderers controversy.

1. Bringing down the dickwolves t-shirts or even calling for a retraction of rape jokes is not censorship. Calling upon the judicial system to make it harder to purchase games is censorship.

Remember, you or I can’t censor anything. We can make our displeasure known. We can implore others to boycott. But we can’t censor anything: only the government and the lawmakers can censor. The dickwolves controversy is some gamers stating (loudly) that certain actions aren’t okay, in their eyes. There was a business decision in response to stop selling the offending merchandise.

JT bringing an argument before the Florida judicial system is trying to censor games. Not the same thing.

2. One argument stated that the art would cause an individual to act in a reprehensible manner. The other argument stated that the art in question adds to a culture in which reprehensible acts are minimized, such that victims no longer come forward to report crimes, and thus further victimized. The minimization of the act makes it easier for reprehensible people to justify their reprehensible acts.

No one said that the dickwolves joke, or the t-shirt would make a person rape someone. Rape culture is a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women is common, where sexual violence is excused and encouraged. A quote from shakesville on a description of rape culture:

… Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what they wear and how they wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you are in a group, if you are in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you carry something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you are wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what kind of jewellery you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door for the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sounding-machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert, to always pay attention, always watch your back, always be aware of your surroundings, and never let your guard down lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and you didn’t follow these rules it’s your fault.

The argument in a nutshell is that the dickwolves controversy is one of a multitude of things that promote this rape culture, a culture that we all live in, and why promote it if we don’t have to? Art A (plus C, plus D, plus E, etc) leads to a place in which act B is minimized to the point where B is normalized and then brushed aside.

The violence in games argument was such that playing a violent game would make individuals who played that game more predisposed to violent acts. Art A leads to individual performing act B.

Again: these two arguments are not the same.

3. The arguments against the controversy in one case held up the theory as true and on one case did not.

The arguments that were made, that the PA guys were in the right and that there is no such thing as rape culture contributed to rape culture. What did we hear? That rape victims should get over it, thus minimizing the effects of rape. That rape victims weren’t really raped and should provide evidence supporting the fact that they were raped. Strawman arguments from PennyArcade saying that rape culture means that guys will go out and rape a woman if he reads a comic. See- rape culture is idiotic! There were people who sent disgusting emails to rape victims saying that they wished that they would be raped to death. Victimize the victim for speaking out. That feminists should get a sense of humour – deflecting the actual argument by attacking the person making the argument.

On the other hand, when JT was making his arguments, no gamer went out and assaulted him and thus confirmed his theory.

All this to say, sometimes gamers, we are just too sensitive to anyone telling us that our passion is somehow wrong. I get it. We have a supreme court date to decide the fate of mature gaming and all that. However, the way in which we can respond to criticism is telling. Why can we not sit back and think for a minute? Why are we incapable of saying that the criticism is correct and maybe yes- we need to clean up our act. When it comes to sexism and gaming, why do gamers deny that it exists?

There is nobility in self-reflection, contemplation and change, it’s not a weakness.

There’s No Crying in Video Games! But Wait. Why Not?

My husband is a great guy, but sometimes misses the mark. Often on a date night, he will download a Top 10 list of some sort. He gets me to guess the list, we debate, and yap about the subject at hand over a bottle of wine. While usually a fun start to the evening, this past weekend he “wisely” chose Top 10 Depressing Disney Moments Of All Time.

An hour and a half bottle of wine later, I am crying my eyes out and any hope of a romantic rendez -vous were dashed.

Only #4... it get's worse. Much worse.

“For every smile, a tear” is a quote attributed to Walt Disney. He knew that the tears you shed during the movie made the comedy funnier, the songs more enchanting, the happy ending that much sweeter.

Sadness and crying in other entertainment is very well established, yet, I really couldn’t find too much on really sad gaming moments. One top 10 listed the Red Ring of Death as a sad gaming moment. Compare this to Disney: Bambi’s mom dying was only #4. Marlon, Nemo’s dad in Finding Nemo, comes home to find his wife and 99% of his children dead; this moment didn’t even make the top 10.

 Say what you want about Disney, they tell a damn fine story and in this important aspect, gaming  can’t come close. Disney can make us weep, gaming at best can make us sometime sniffle.

Why can’t gaming compare to Disney when it comes to these scenes? 50 movies versus an entire library of games. I believe it’s for two reasons. Disney movies commit to being emotionally touching, whereas gaming seems to ease up at critical times. Disney also focuses on the relationships that are the deepest to our emotional condition, gaming has missed the mark.

Commitment to Sorrow

Disney commits 100% to making scenes remarkably touching and sad. Take #5 on the above list: Dumbo visits his Mom in the Cage.

Disney fully and completely commits to this scene. Dumbo’s mother is gone, so it doesn’t add to the plot. But Disney knew better. Their parting was quick, violent, confusing. Over before it happened. Horrible, but you didn’t have time to digest what was going on. So Disney made another scene, one that was slower, that made you see the love that was taken from the two, and juxtaposed it against other happy families. Yes, Dumbo losing his Mom was bad, but saying goodbye is much, much more bittersweet.

Regicide? check. Fratricide? check. Emotional abuse of a minor? Check. It's the Disney Villian Trifecta!

Each viewer at different ages can and will see different aspects of this scene. Children can understand that losing a Mommy would be painful and can fear abandonment of someone they love so much. An older child might mourn the loss of their childhood, remembering pictures of themselves as babies, knowing that they can’t go back to the way things were. Teenagers, deep down, maybe they miss their mothers. Parents can think the unimaginable: what if they had to say goodbye? But as all parents come to realise, parenting is a series of goodbyes. There is one last nursing, one last kiss on a skinned knee, one last tuck into bed. You never know when these last moments will happen, but that’s what it’s all about. Loving them and letting them go. Disney makes us cry on many different levels.

Gaming, on the other hand, does not fully commit to creating sadness. In Fable 2 we lose our dog at the very end, but we actually don’t have to go on without him. We fight the boss, make a decision, and yep: we can bring him back. But we never say goodbye. In fact, we never play the game without him. We never have to run through an open field, alone for the first time. Less emotional impact.

In Mass Effect 2, if you dilly-dally, only Dr. Chakwas survives the prothean stronghold. There is a conversation between her and you as Commander Shepard. She says that it was horrible watching the crew get turned into people soup. Shepard: “We had to prepare for the mission.” Chakwas: “Oh, I wasn’t blaming you.”

Would Disney have brought the horse back? Hell no!

Thank goodness she didn’t blame me… I was starting to feel bad for a second.

Again, Bioware could have committed to the scene emotionally. We know that Chakwas is a damn hard woman, and to have her break just a little would have given this emotional gravitas. Being a soldier prepares you for many things, but not for watching your friends get homogenized while you stand helpless. This feeling of helplessness could have been explored, but it wasn’t.

Teen Angst: Gaming Misses the Relationship Mark

It’s almost a gaming trope now.

Q: What’s the saddest moment in gaming? 

A: Sephiroth kills Aeris.

Player characters have been killed off, but presumably this one is the saddest because of the relationship Aeris had with Cloud. It was a new love type of relationship that was lost early before if could blossom. It was shocking, and yes, a bit sad.

But the point was is was a new/adolescent relationship. An (almost) first love. But here’s the thing about this kind of first/puppy love. It is always replaced, it never ever lasts. One of two things happen. Either you move on, and 10 years down the road you think about that other person, smile at how stupid and young you were and chuckle to yourself. Or it becomes a mature love.

They touch hands - while reading!

Mature love comes from really understanding someone, knowing that this other person is not merely a “girl with a heart of gold that was too good for this world”, but a person with whom you can share a lifetime of adventure, as well as dull days of taking the garbage out. Real love is snotty noses and realising that the other person has flaws, and loving them anyway.  This type of love, and the loss of this love, was at the heart of Up. After a lifetime together, Carl Fredricksen is bereaved of his wife and best friend. How do you complete life’s adventure without your partner in crime?

Disney does explore teen love in The Little Mermaid. The fact that Ariel is a teen is oft-repeated, and her infatuation with Eric is originally shown to be rather adolescent. She talks to the statue of Eric “Why Eric, run away with you? This is all so … so sudden.” Women don’t say that. Girls do. And so, the heart of The Little Mermaid is not the relationship between Eric and Ariel, the heart of the relationship is between Ariel and her father.

It’s a little dusty…

Ariel’s love really isn’t for Eric, so much as it is for the world above. Her first song, Part of Your World is about going on land, nothing about wanting to meet a guy. Ariel wants to go on land, to be her own person, her father wants her safe. This is at the heart of teenagerhood and growing up. Ariel’s wilfulness forces her father’s hand. He doesn’t just smash the statue of Eric, he smashes all of her treasures from the world above and thus, smashes her dream. The father/daughter relationship is now broken. Yet, they love each other. We see Triton’s panic when he realizes Ariel is gone, he is despondent. A king is brought low through his own actions.

Thus, the most important kiss in the movie is not between Ariel and Eric, it’s when Ariel throws her arms around her father’s neck and whispers “I love you, Daddy.” BAM! not a dry eye in the house.

So… Why No Tears?

Okay, some games may make you a bit misty, they definitely can make you care for the characters. But are they on par with the Disney moments in that top 10 list?

The funny thing is, there have been Disney games. Kingdom Hearts tried emotional loss but didn’t hit the mark either. So what is going wrong?

I can only assume that developers don’t put this much emotional depth into a game because they don’t want gamers to cry. Why is that? Are we not comfortable enough in our own skin that a few tears will crush our self-image as tough guys? Are we making and playing games as escapism and we don’t want that kind of depth? Bad business decision? I hope not, because I think that is selling ourselves short.

Has a game made you cry? Honestly, like Bambi’s mother dies kind of cry?

How Cheating Against my Three Year Old is Actually Good Parenting

Our three-and-a-half year old daughter was feeling left out. Her baby brother was needy and that meant I couldn’t play “running around games” with her as often as I used to. We needed something that we could do together while the wee guy was occupied in a highchair or held.  I bought Monopoly Jr. thinking that it would bring us closer together. Instead I started cheating at a board game, for her own good. 

I like to store the game pieces in the empty spot where my soul used to be.

Board games (and their video game equivalents) are great for wee kids. She has learned some basic math, and mastered a few minor fine motor skills like rolling a dice and moving a piece around a board. But more importantly she is learning the social skills that are hard to come by at this age. I take a turn, then you take a turn: everyone shares the dice and the game. Cooperation: it’s nice when Mommy helps you by moving your piece for you when you can’t reach, not an affront to your personhood. And, perhaps the hardest thing of all to learn: how to be a good winner and a good loser.

She was doing great at the “it’s okay when things don’t go my way in the game” skill set. We played Monopoly Jr. often and whenever she had to pay to use an attraction, she did it with a smile. “I LOVE the ARCADE! Here’s $2 Mommy! I love you!” She would hand over her little Monopoly money and would yap about how much fun she was having.

Yep, my kid reeks of awesome. Not only can she figure out how to add up $4 without using her precious last $4 bill (she likes to have at least one of every kind) she is a gracious little winner. I gleamed.

Here’s the thing. the kid must have horseshoes up her rear, cause she never lost. Not once in over a half dozen games. It’s easy to be full of sunshine and rainbows when you win. I started to get concerned. Part of this venture was to teach her how to lose. You can’t do that if you keep winning. The longer it took to get to that first loss meant that it would be more of a big deal. Losing should be part of winning, shouldn’t it?

It started small. First, I would actually play logically. It makes sense to get all properties of one colour if you can, and so on. Playing illogically will only teach the kid to think illogically. So I play properly. This earned me a raised eyebrow from my husband. She is three and a half! Ease up!

But then it progressed to using tactics that she really couldn’t pick up on. I would take the Ferris Wheel over the Loop the Loop, knowing that there was a chance card saying “Go To The Ferris Wheel.”  My husband would often “cheat” to move the game along quicker. At about the 20 minute mark in any given game, money from his stash surreptitiously made its way back to the bank. “Oh look, Daddy has no money! Let’s count it up and see who wins!” all the while ignoring my death-stares. She has more money, now is not the time! I considered a special signal between us to let him know that I had more money and that now would be an opportune time to fall on his sword and allow me sweet victory. But evidently I married a man with morals.

 Finally I started “forgetting” to give her allowance of $2 when she passed Go. I won, but victory was short lived. Now that she lost, the stench of loserdom clung to her, causing her to lose about half the time. But, this kid is a winner, and she mustn’t go to bed with the bitter taste of defeat. She demanded to play again. Suddenly Monopoly Jr. became a mini obsession with her.

“Honey, win or lose isn’t really the point. Whenever you play you tell the other person “Good Game, I had fun.” Did you have fun? Cause I love playing games with you even if I lose. I love playing with you.” She came around and yes, playing a game is fun, win or lose.

All this makes me sound like a competitive jackass. Honestly, I don’t care if I win or lose, as long as I am having a good time. I watch football and it drives my husband up the wall. “They have two minutes left and need three scores. It’s hopeless.Give up now.” or “There is only 20 seconds left, why do they even bother running out the clock? I would just hit the showers early!” When I play Magic The Gathering: Online I actually enjoy losing, if I am losing to something really cool. “First one out is the first one to the bar” is what I like to say. I am an excellent loser.

 But, let’s be honest here. You play to win, or you wouldn’t keep score.

Competitiveness is a good thing. She will need that as she grows up. That drive to win is the same self control that you need to stick to anything long enough in order to become great at it. Yes, winning isn’t everything. Unless it is. I like the fact that losing upset my daughter, she has a spine, a fire and she won’t shrug it off until she figures out how to master this skill called “Monopoly Jr.”

My father-in-law is a rec league umpire. He loves the league he umps for at the moment. They are older. “Old enough to take the game seriously, but to not take themselves seriously” he said.  What a fine line to walk. This is going to take years for both me and my daughter to learn.

In the meantime, I think she may be getting Clue Jr. for Christmas. Maybe this time I won’t sully my soul.

No Kids Allowed

I am about to show how incredibly old and out of touch I am with Kids These Days.  You know, KTD, those runts with no redeeming value, that are hellbent on destroying everything good in this world? Those lazy good-for-nothing .. hold on, I’ve dropped my cane. Where was I? Oh yes, shaking my fist and ranting…

I have heard about how easy KTD give out personal information, but I never really saw evidence of this until last night when some 11-year-old girl gave me her e-mail address and full name: asked me to add her on Facebook. I felt like I wanted to wash with bleach afterwards.

Sweetheart: You don’t have to give out private information to someone you “met” for 10 minutes. Geez, add me as a buddy in-game or something… but giving a 35-year-old your e-mail is creepy: for the 35-year-old. And, yes, she knew I was 35 (our ages came up in conversation).  It gave me the screaming heebie-jeebies: for two reasons.

First, the obvious “you don’t know if I am a rapist/pedophile” hysteria. I think of my own kids and immediately go into “What are you thinking?! You don’t know if I am going to send you porn, or entice you into GAWD knows what with your webcam! What would your MOTHER SAY?!”  But to make things more realistic, she didn’t know if I am just a regular douchebag. Another person would have used her gmail to sign her up for all sorts of fun spam and other stupid, mostly harmless shennannigans. Lucky for her, my brand of evil consists of eating the last box of Kraft Dinner so that my husband is forced to make my child something other than “noodles and cheese” on Saturdays. Which, of course, is almost as evil as one can get.

But why even set yourself up for the internet equivalent of prank phone calls if you don’t have to? What was she trying to gain?

This brings me to my second point, I don’t want to play with children. She wanted to be my friend, and I don’t babysit anymore. I don’t want to be the friend of any more children. I like children. Or rather I like MY children. I play with them all the time. I play nicey nice with their friends. Which is why I want to get away from children when I game. I want to have adult conversations, with adults. Why the hell would I ever facebook friend some kid?

Her actions can  probably be chalked up to internet anonymity combined with being stupid, like all 11 year olds.

I remember as a kid, I was somewhat scared of “the big kids”. They were not going to be my friends, they looked like they wanted to beat me up. They were so different: I was a child and the big kids were on the verge of this thing called teenagehood. They were of a different culture and were more interested in standing around and talking about Important Things than running around and playing, which is an Important Thing.

If Big Kids were foreign, adults were alien, at least their conversations and concerns were so vastly removed from the kinds I understood that nothing resonated at all with me and my friends.

And so, hearing that I was 35 really didn’t mean anything to her, she needed to see me in order to figure out that I am a big girl with my big girl games and my big girl friends that have nothing to do with the likes of her.

So please, children who game. Leave me alone. I know I reek of awesome: but find someone your own size to bug.

Help! Lost Dog

Please help, I’ve lost my dog.  Answers to the name  “Rex.”  He is about hip high, and hates rats and people with hats. Distinguishing features ‘include a visible rotting canine brain and cybertronic limbs. If you see him roaming then Mojave Wasteland, let me know, cause he is holding about 200lbs worth of cooking ingredients.

Seriously folks: any ideas? He is not at my base (the Lucky 38) and he is not at King’s School of Impersonation. I wonder if he is caught on some junk in the Mojave. Next time, Bethesda, all you would have to do is once you are able to recruit a follower, have a quest called “Rex” or “Boone” or whatever that you could activate to put a quest marker on your map that shows where they are. That would be great, thanks.

I also had one of those “ROLE playing game” moments. Cass and I were trying to find out what happened to her caravan. Spoilers: Crimson Caravan and the Van Graffs have something to do with it. You can do one of two things, either find the evidence through sneaking and lockpicking or go all Thelma and Louise and kick everyone’s ass.

We chose Option #2. Cause you know what they say: Revenge is a dish best served by me. Now, the Van Graffs are crazy violent jackasses who have their base of operation in the store that sells BIG BAD WEAPONS. Going in there with both guns blazing would be suicide. But Cass and I downed a flask of whiskey and did it anyway. Holy GEEZ! Super fun times! Once the smoke cleared we had a ton of great stuff to loot and a wicked story to tell. Now we just have to off some old chick and vengeance would be ours. Would be easier if I had my damn dog!

One thing I am finding in this game is that you can’t really min/max. In other words, it’s tough to build a character that is “perfect,” as this game encourages you to make tough decisions about character development. Case in point, I lowered my charisma to a four on ten; I also didn’t put any points into speechcraft or barter. After all, I didn’t really need this in Fallout 3, and you can’t talk your way around fiends. But that’s the point. You CAN talk your way around Ceasar’s Legion, the NCR and Mr. House. In fact you can beat final stage of the game without killing anyone. And there are many places in the game where there is some sort of check against speech, barter or other non-combat skills such as medicine or science. Bethesda made Fallout: New Vegas hard to play if you aren’t well rounded, which actually makes sense to the spirit of the game.

So, in this game I am really trying to not min/max as much as usual. I am trying to go with what I will enjoy playing. If that means a kinda screwed up character, then so be it. It’s too much fun to take it too seriously.

Friday Open Thread: Black Friday Wishlists

So, this poor wee blog got ignored quite a bit over the past month, but I have returned. Fear not. My reader (s) were ever in my heart and thoughts. Over the past month I played a bunch of Fallout: New Vegas, got back on Magic The Gathering: Online (although that was very recent) and finished Fable 3.

Oh: Also everyone in the household was sick. Still are. The baby has also begun teething a whole 3 months early. It’s going to be an awesome time.

But that is in the past, and now it’s time to look forward. Black Friday is almost upon us. Black Friday (for my Canadian friends) is the Friday after Thanksgiving, which marks the holiday shopping season. Stores have doorcrasher sales like NOTHING we have here in the frozen north.  Say what you want to about Americans, they have us Canucks beat when it comes to making good iced tea, barbecue and sales.

So, this week is the week to let your friends and family know what you want for Christmas. Wait too much longer and it’s Tim Horton’s gift certificates. Which would be awesome.

This year I don’t want too much *stuff*. I would rather have consumables, services or digital content for Christmas.  I have taken up too much of the Earth’s resources. And besides, I have two small kids; the junk just piles up higher and faster. I have asked for Microsoft Points, cause I know there is going to be lots of DLC coming out for Fallout: New Vegas. Any Fable 3 DLC will really have to wow me for me to pick it up. Very disappointed.

As an aside, if you are going to give Fable a shot, hit me up with a friend request and I will gift you a nest egg to get going.

My mom is a huge fan of the Heroes of Might and Magic series: from what I can tell it’s a turn based strategy game from Ubisoft. She loves it and if I had it that would probably make Mom happy. We could talk about mutual games. The family that plays together and all that.

Other than that I am not sure what else I really want in terms of gaming. A chat pad would be nice, but again I am trying to stay away from getting stuff this year. I was wondering about a digital e-reader. I would save on paper waste, but I would have created electronic waste and that isn’t great either.

But if I WAS to break my “no stuff for Christmas” vow, what *new* IP do you think I should ask for? Or is there something on XBL Marketplace that is a must have?

What are you asking for this Christmas? Any great and wonderful plans? Let me know! Or just post whatever you are thinking about with gaming and such. Anything in particular you want to see?

A Sad Case of Sequel-itis (Fable 3)

It’s been talked about often in the gaming world; there are many sequels and few new IPs. I have always ignored this as a bit of whining. Hey, I am a busy lady, and if I want to go with what I know will work, then that’s my prerogative. Yes, I kind of like the sure thing.

However there is a downside to the sure thing and that is when a company makes a game that is too much like it’s predecessor. “It’s Game X v. 1.5, not v2.0″ is the refrain. Not a whole new game, but a simple reskinning of the old game.

But if I liked the old game, isn’t that a good thing? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

I think the feel of the game must change: if your gameplay rocks, then fine, don’t mess with it. Tweaks are okay, but don’t fix what ain’t broken. But the rest of the game must hit the gamer differently for it to feel like a new game. The emotional impact must be different.

Fallout: New Vegas I found did this wonderfully. As I mentioned previously, the feel is different. The Mojave Wasteland is a very different place than the Capital Wasteland. The area is more inhabited, more civilized. The people of the western United States are further along in creating new tribes and new governments. But it’s still a wasteland and people are struggling to get by; ingenuity still wins the day. The Capital Wasteland on the other hand really felt barren. They have barely stepped out of their vaults both figuratively and literally. Both games have the same basic mechanic, but the notes are different.

Fable 3, I am sad to say, missed the boat a bit. It’s really glitchy, like Fallout: New Vegas. I can look past the lag if the game touches me. But it didn’t. In Fable 2, the story made you love your dog, and when he was shot you felt something. It was the two of you against the world and I remember how great it felt to go running through fields with him beside you. In this game I really didn’t feel for any of my compatriots, not even the dog-replacement, Walter.  (spoiler) When Walter was killed there wasn’t that emotional ring to it. Walter being possessed by the big bad felt like what it was: a ploy to get around having to animate the big bad. Why go through all that trouble actually creating a moving,, fighting 3-D model, when the big bad can possess a guy that is already created. Add black eyes and viola! Big Bad Walter.

That felt cheap, not touching.

There were also some inconsistencies in the game that I didn’t care for. I abolished child labour, yet there are still child labourers. I had over 7.5 million in the treasury (more than enough) yet, Hobson still goes on about how the treasury is taking *such* a huge hit if I abolish the limit on drinking. Something didn’t feel right.

The world was also very small. Very few real cities: Brightwall and Bowerstone were the only major ones. I was also surprised at how little of my choices in Fable 2 effected my playthrough in Fable 3. Now THAT will be interesting if in Fable 4, if all the choices you made would shape the world for the better or worse. For the most part all of the good choices were long-term benefits, whereas the bad choices were either evil at worst (take the treasury money for yourself) or short-term (break a few promises to save the most citizens).

I suppose it is with the feel of Fable: but there was really little shades of grey. Your brother was an evil dictator, but once you threw him off the throne they tried to write him as a just a guy who tried to do his best. I didn’t believe it, but I am not sure I was ever supposed to.

The biggest thing that was changed was the multiplayer. And yeah: that’s pretty fun. But the few times I have gone into another person’s game (or vice versa) we really don’t know what to do. Yes, there are a ton of quests, but they kind of all run together after a while.

Maybe I am disappointed because I had such high expectations. Fable 2 was my game of the year (yes, over Fallout 3) the year it was released. This game didn’t hit the right notes and left me a sad panda.

What do you think? Been disappointed by sequels? How about Call of Duty: Black Ops? Is it just a reskinning with new maps? If so, is that okay for you?

S.P.E.C.I.A.L: Fallout New Vegas!

Can’t talk: Fallout: New Vegas.

Okay… I’ll take a few minutes from skulking around the Mojave Wasteland to give a few thoughts on the game.

First: this is more than a re-skinning of Fallout 3. There is a new skill: survival; and this new skill highlights the main difference in the feel of the game. Fallout 3 you were in a city. Yes, a broken battered city but it had an urban feel. This game is much more rural, even though there is more infrastructure.

In Fallout 3, when you picked up clutter, it really was clutter. You could sell it or find someone who would give you caps for the clutter in some sort of side quest, but it was mostly worthless stuff. In this game any piece of junk you find can be converted into something better. That something better might be simple “Gecko on a Stick” but there is that scavenger feel. I pick up something and I really don’t want to get rid of it. Resources are so scarce that everything has a value and everything can be used.

The other difference is in you faction alliances. In Fallout 3, your Karma determined how people reacted to you. In this game, people are more out for their own interests. I don’t care if you are the devil incarnate: if you are saving *my* town from other baddies, you are fine by me. Again, this brings a more complicated feel to the game. More “everyone is out for themselves.”

As for my character, I decided to go with a more Role Play feel as opposed to a min.max. In other words I am playing what feels right, not what makes logical sense. Truthfully, I think games are becoming so complex, playing a true min/max character is becoming more and more difficult. In order to really make the optimal character, you have to plan so far out ahead, choose perks that compliment each other without knowing how they work and so on that it seems like WAY too much work.

But anyway: my character is a bit of a 98lb weakling. High Agility (9), Intelligence (8), and Luck (7). Perception is at a 6, Strength, Endurance, Charisma are at a 4. Initial perks: Guns, Sneak, Repair. This girl is gonna sneak up and get ya before you even know I’m there. Or so the thinking goes. As for perks I took the Wild Wasteland, which is basically a bunch of easter eggs. Why not have fun with the game, right? This is also a Vegas game: so you NEED to have Luck and silly things are supposed to happen. I also took Intensive Training (for another SPECIAL point), Small Frame: the one that boosts agility but makes it easier to loose limbs, and Swift Learner.

I am interested in the Survivalist skill. I think it’s going to be very useful, but I didn’t initially tag it as one of my main 3.

How are you fining the game so far? What build did you go with and what are your initial impressions?

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