Hey-o! I made a Facebook page so as to not spam friends who were uninterested in this blog, but to also give my mom a chance to quantifiably show her support even though she doesn’t probably want to read much about video games. So, if you use ye olde Facebook and want to boost my numbers but unsubscribe from the actual activity, or you want to read my updates in your news feed instead of your WordPress reader, “Like” my page! The URL is, you guessed it, http://www.facebook.com/LittleSisterGaming
Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed the widget on the right side of the screen but I also have a Twitter account, for letting everyone (i.e. 10 people) know when I have a blog update, but also for posting thoughts about gaming that are too short to comprise a blog post. For example, I tweeted about E3 and said “Short thoughts on E3 (no blog post): best games from Ubisoft, less excited about Wii U, Aisha Tyler is a cool gamer but a terrible presenter” So, pick your poison. If you prefer Twitter, check me out here: https://twitter.com/littlesisgaming
And finally, if you prefer your own RSS reader, here’s a FeedBurner URL to follow these in Google Reader, or wherever kids these days follow blogs: http://feeds.feedburner.com/LittleSisterGaming
Okay, enough of this administrative garbage. It’s Saturday morning! There are video games to be played!
The end truly came. I played the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC last night, and watched all the possible endings. Before starting the final mission, I thought about the finality of what I was about to do. I love the Mass Effect series so, so much, and now it was about to be completely and finally done. I mean, I suppose there could be another spin-off game or something, but I think it would be cheap of Bioware to do that. I hope they’re smart enough not to. Despite what people think of them now, after the ME3 ending fiasco, I think they have enough integrity to walk away gracefully from the series.
I’m torn how to approach this post because I have a lot bouncing around my mindgrapes about the original Mass Effect 3 endings, the game as a whole, the series, and the DLC. Anyway, as I work my way through this: spoilers to come. Feel free to stop reading if you haven’t finished the game or the DLC yet, and want to experience it on your own.
I’ll start at the beginning of the turmoil: the original Mass Effect 3 endings. When I finished the first ending (I believe I chose to destroy the reapers [i.e. the “renegade” red option]) I sat there in stunned disbelief. Did I really just hear three options that all had essentially the same consequences? As I played through the next two endings, my disgust grew. All three endings were next to identical, with a few minor animation differences, and a big ball of light changing from blue, to red, to green, depending on your choice. I could probably have swallowed the actual conversation from the spirit child douche, and his patchy explanations, but I couldn’t take that Bioware had so lazily slapped together some ending sequences.
To be completely honest, I was disappointed, but not mortified like so many other Mass Effect series lovers. I thought “Hm, this is a poor ending, but whatever.” What bothers me more about the ending as a whole are the inconsistencies. How is your crew on the Normandy when they were all making the frakking assault on Earth with you? How the HELL is Anderson on the Citadel with you? “Oh, I was right behind you.” B.S. sir. B. freaking. S. Those are my two biggest gripes, although if really pressed, I could think of some more.
And that’s why this DLC was still disappointing to me. I actually appreciate the gesture from Bioware, to try to appease fans at all. And some of the extra explanation from the spirit child devil was helpful, but overall the DLC was still kind of a patch job which took away from its value. Like why did we need a cut scene of Admiral Hackett recognizing that Shepard made it into the Citadel? And back to one of my biggest gripes, why couldn’t he tell two people went through the beam!? Perhaps to prove that it wasn’t a dream, like the indoctrination theorists were claiming.
My first wish would’ve been for Bioware to confirm the indoctrination theory, just for those fans that put so much thought and time into it, despite the flaws in the theory. My second wish would’ve been for the company to just put out a Q&A of the leader writer and designer, or whoever else was responsible for the holes in the plot and the inconsistencies, to address questions from fans. They said they were surprised by the fan outrage, which to me implies that they thought their ending was perfectly reasonable. Explain to me how it was; defend your case. Maybe you’ll convince me.
At the end of the day, it felt as if Bioware was handing out buckets to scoop water out of the bottom of the boat, instead of patching holes. But that might be the best we could hope for, without too much overhaul that would’ve proven cost prohibitive for the company. You know what, though? Despite all of my gripes and grievances, I started my second run through of the game as soon as I finished the first. I plan on playing tonight, even though I finished all the DLC endings last night.
The real bottom line is this: I love this game. I love the gameplay mechanics, I love the voice acting, I love the dialogue, I love all the characters, I love the terrible decisions you have to make, I love that even on my third run through, I get choked up when Thessia falls to the Reapers. I still get choked up when Mordin sacrifices himself to cure the genophage. And I still cheer like a kid when I run and butt slide over a box while I’m running to and from cover (because seriously, it’s so bad-a). I love modding the weapons and I love getting new powers with every run through. I love the cut scenes, like watching the mother of all thresher maws, Kalros, choking out that Reaper on Tuchanka like a boss.
Mass Effect 2 was where I started this series, after a co-worker highly recommended it to me. It was the first series I started on my brand new Xbox, the first system I had purchased without my brother, and the first series I had tried without him. Don’t get me wrong, I wish he played so we could dominate multiplayer and we could have more immersive discussions about the series (although he patiently hears all my ramblings about it without playing it), but for the first time, I have a little bit of ownership with Mass Effect, and that makes it a pretty special series to me.
I heard one fan say she could never play Mass Effect ever again because the endings had soured her opinion much. I don’t think an ending of a series as epic as Mass Effect could ever erase all the wonderful moments from all three games that have created such an immersive and beautiful universe to explore and save, again and again and again.
I had such great momentum last week, meeting my 3-posts-a-week goal on this blog. But then the date for the new Mass Effect 3 DLC was announced and came out on Tuesday and last week and this week I’ve been playing through ME3 one last time to make sure I’ve seen all the endings, and playing multiplayer finally to make sure I get to see the “perfect” ending in my own right and not just on YouTube. Last night I downloaded the Extended Cut DLC and will be playing it tonight (if you post a comment with any spoilers, you will bring dishonor and travesty to you and your family).
And because I haven’t really thought of exactly what I want to say about ME3 (because I do have to say something about it) and more specifically, how to say what I want to, I haven’t published anything about it (yet). But that also means that since that’s all I’m playing, this blog has been silent this week (lame), which brings me to the thought that has been bouncing around in my brain for some time:
There is a special mix of video game nerds, bookworms, movie buffs, and those that actually go to work and make money doing something entirely unrelated to their hobbies, all while maintaining relationships with real life people through tabletop gaming. These are specific activities that I’m using for the sake of example, but the general principle I’m getting at is the super geek. The super geeks seem to do it all with time to tweet about how they love drinking bourbon in their downtime (I’m looking at you, Wil Wheaton). I’ve always been perplexed by how these super geeks get it all done.
Disclaimer: I do not mean the terms nerd or geek to be derogatory. Webster tells us that geek can mean “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity” and that nerd can mean “one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” True, I just omitted some choice, negative words from those definitions but I embrace them as part of my identity and don’t mean to put anyone down for any activities they pursue.
When I started this project, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to it, and so far, I’ve been right. Although, to be frank, I’m kind of lazy so this might have less to do with a lack of time and more to do with my disinterest in something once it becomes a requirement. But it’s also due in part to the fact that I have varied interests. Maybe not that varied, but varied enough that I didn’t know if I could commit the majority of my free time to just gaming. I have a full-time job, I enjoy a few TV shows, I like watching old and new movies, I love reading, I enjoy tabletop gaming with friends, I love sleeping, and I occasionally go on dates with eligible bachelors. Throw making Mac ‘n Cheese for dinner into the mix, and I’m booked every night of the week.
In reality, my social life isn’t much to talk about. Tabletop gaming usually for a handful of hours on Saturday is the best I can say about that, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen. I also haven’t read any books in way too long. But I do work eight hours a day, I do make food for myself when I feel like I’m about to die, and I do spend too much time watching TV and movies on Netflix. And dating has been a mixed bag recently, thanks for asking.
So the adults reading this just say “prioritize your time, do some things some days and other things other days, dedicate a few hours to each hobby every night, this isn’t rocket science!” and they’re right, of course. My obsessive personality keeps me from seeing this all the time but it’s the absolute truth: all things in moderation, right? Don’t play Mass Effect 3 until 4 a.m. for two nights in a row, right? When you say it like that, it sounds so simple!
The other half of this is that I desperately want to be a super geek. I want to read all of the Game of Thrones installments so I know what’s going and am involved with that and I want to play the latest video games and I want to finish watching Battlestar Galactica. I want to be a “good geek” but what the hell does that even mean? Why am I trying to compare myself to the super human/geek known as Felicia Day? I suppose the first step towards recovery of my own geek identity is realizing how foolish it is to live by anyone else’s definition of what a geek entails.
I suppose this is just some rambling about my own personality flaws, which makes for super interesting reading for you, I’m sure. /sarcasm. I just want it all, internet strangers. I just want it all, immediately, at no cost to me. The super geeks seem to be able to do it, and I have not attained that zen level yet. Or maybe I can’t really trust the status updates and the tweets of the super geeks when they discuss they’re perfect balance of life and hobbies. Maybe, like the rest of us, those social media tidbits are the idealized of their lives and they’re sweating all the great media and content they’re missing too.
Seriously, I want to hear from you guys. How do you juggle all of your hobbies or all of the kind of standard geek culture that you love to be a part of but is really time consuming? Leave me a comment or suggestion or commiseration or reprobation.
In previous posts, I think it’s been obvious that gaming was a big deal in my house while I was growing up, but for the most part, it was relegated to video games. We had board games but as the youngest child, my siblings weren’t really interested in playing a lot of board games with me (although I distinctly remember the times that they did, and they were great times). Clue was (is?) my favorite board game, but the biggest roadblock was that I could never gather two other people to play with me. My mom loved Scrabble and Rummikub and we played those sometimes on lazy Sunday afternoons. We were all also fairly competitive, but genial enough that if there was little trash talk, we could finish a game (but someone would probably be annoyed because they were losing in the end). In high school, I played Cranium and Apples to Apples with friends and remember some really fantastic nights with friends playing those party games.
I stole all of my parents board games when I moved to college, imagining a group of people wanting to hang out and play games together for fun. I don’t know what kind of weird college fantasy I was imaging, but we really hardly played any board games. Occasionally, Apples to Apples got busted out but that was about it. Mafia and Werewolf were popular, and for one glorious summer we enjoyed Ticket to Ride, Killer Bunnies and Bang! fairly frequently. Otherwise, my tabletop gaming experience is limited and sad to think about, because I love playing tabletop games and rarely do.
Some months ago, a friend mentioned how she always wanted to learn to play Dungeons and Dragons and she found a group to play with, with players we actually had acquaintances with. I admitted that I too had always wanted to try Dungeons and Dragons (“with so many people playing, it can’t just be a one-off weirdo game, it must actually be fun” was my logic) and asked if I could join the next campaign. A few weeks later, I got invited to go to the DM’s apartment to get help setting up my character before the first session of a brand new campaign.
I confided in the DM that I was a little nervous. I expected quick turnaround time and having to be clever and come up with storyline and character conversation. I suppose some people really do play like that but thankfully, the DM I would be playing with pointed out that most of the players in our small group were fairly new, or at least fairly quiet. Expectations wouldn’t be too high and any interaction I as a player would want to include would be welcome but not required. Also, the DM explained that he would be coming up with plots and quests, players wouldn’t have to think too extensively about those aspects of the game.
A few days later I showed up on a Saturday morning for the first session and to get the details on the adventure we were about to be starting. I had decided to be a wild elf ranger, named Vseqra (thanks, randomly-hitting-the-keyboard, you gave me a cool name with a silent V), who was a guerilla fighter and escaped slave (that’s the extent of my back story for this campaign. I realized that for future characters, I should work a little harder to come up with some motivations for my character). I wield a longbow to control enemies and their movements and am actually pretty freaking powerful.
We’ve been playing for . . . months now, with a short month-long hiatus a little while ago due to a traveling DM. We usually try to get together once a week. We picked our own characters to a certain extent but knowing we were noobs, the DM intervened a bit to make sure we had a balanced party that could explore multiple facets of combat and the game. We even got an additional noob halfway through (which was good because she’s our tank and she’s awesome).
I suppose that’s something that’s also worth note – out of our playing party, we have three women and one man. The DM is a man. The stereotype of “girls don’t play D&D” is actually pretty accurate, and it’s incredible that the majority of our group is female. But it’s great; we’re pretty silly (I referred to an ice mage Kobold as Val Kilmer for an entire session) and we bring food (ugh, that sounds so sexist . . . we buy food and bring it because we’re thoughtful). Anyway, it’s a great dynamic, and I love playing in such a new and inclusive group (which is due in large part to our mostly patient DM).
What’s the point, Laurie.
I wanted to include you all in the magic that is our small group, but I also wanted to make a point, so the bottom line is this: Dungeons and Dragons is the most fun I’ve had in a really long time. When I started playing, I was in a rut socially and emotionally and getting a small group of insta-nerd friends was a dream come true. Actually, better than I could’ve possibly dreamed. Going to those weekly sessions became my one bright spot in the week. And even now, after those initial sessions have helped pull me out of that rut, I still look forward to them so much.
Aside from the social implications, I love being a part of yet another fictional world, just like what I get to do when I play video games or read books or watch movies. I love the creativity and the twists and turns I would’ve never saw coming. I love that our DM requires us to say things like “I look around” instead of assuming that’s part of walking into a town (that actually led to some bad news for our party, but now it’s a great inside joke). I love everything about playing D&D with these people, and it’s something I want to continue doing the rest of my life.
I was thinking about D&D as I had the thought for this post, but I also think about tabletop gaming a lot more in general recently because of Wil Wheaton’s show (Tabletop) on Felicia Day’s YouTube channel (Geek & Sundry). It’s a great show where Wil Wheaton gathers popular figures in geek-ish culture to play a board game every week. I had heard about Munchkin but never felt compelled to play it until I watched that episode, or Settlers of Catan, or Small World. It makes me want to first save some money and then buy these games and host tabletop gaming nights. Anyway, so ends a small plug for the show because it’s great fun, and for as much as I love and talk about video games, there’s room for tabletop gaming in life as well.
I’ve heard the name Rayman for ages and never had the dough to give the series a whirl. I had heard Rayman: Origins for the Wii (released in 2011) was the best one yet, and I thought what I saw during Ubisoft’s E3 demonstration looked pretty cool for the next installment in the series. So GOG.com read my mind and put 1-3 on sale this past weekend so I could blow $6 (which if you’re as poor as I am, that should be going towards bills or something lame) and give the series a try out.
Rayman Forever is the title of the first installment, and everything I thought and subsequently write while playing has to be taken with a grain of salt because the game was released in 1995. Instantly I love the adorable protagonist with his floppy hair and handkerchief around his neck. So French. The music throughout is sparse and when it does pop up it’s relaxing and light. Of course, I haven’t gotten that far in it but I did listen to the soundtrack thanks to the bonus material that came with my GOG.com purchase. Additionally, I liked the incremental powers. First I could punch, then I could hang on ledges. I thought it was a smart way to prolong the introductory levels a little bit. Overall, it was fun. Very 1995 gaming, what can I say?
And if you don’t know what I mean by that . . . think the Aladdin game. Gameplay from the mid-90s is all about jumping across platforms to beat levels, hanging from ledges is a big deal, you can do a few auxiliary moves like throwing things, and the art is very cartoon-y. Personally, I love it, which might just be nostalgia from becoming cognizant of video games for the first time around 1995, but it was also just a great stepping stone to the great animation and 3D build-up we got in the N64 just a few short years later.
But for all of that nostalgia, I did have some beefs with Rayman Forever. We’re given no background to our little Frenchman! I have no idea why he’s punching creatures or why he wears his scarf or why I’m trying to fight my way through this place. Additionally, for all of the great things about gaming in the mid-90s, it was still pretty difficult, like many of the early NES games. I get bounched back when I get hit by something but bouncing me back puts me straight in the water which is insta-death. Not cool, Ubisoft. And 1995 games had their place in 1995. In 2012, I was getting a little bored and was hoping the next installment would be a little more engaging.
I had actually decided to wait to buy the other two Rayman games until I had a decision about #1. Skeptical of my own boredom with the game, I read about Rayman 2: The Great Escape’s reception when it was released in 1999. Wikipedia said it won awards and sold millions of copies, so I knew I was at least in for game numero deux (that’s right, I know French). And I was thoroughly delighted with my purchase. The classic N64 block style on the cusp of making graphics actually look good (maybe not quite to the cusp, but . . . approaching it) brought back a flood of memories playing Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, and others. I liked the backstory I was given, the puzzles, and the music was still great, albeit a little more prevalent and exciting.
The “voice acting” is a little disconcerting because sometimes I feel like the characters are cursing me under their breath . . . but otherwise, this game is 100% a great purchase. I may never revisit Rayman Forever, but I plan on playing Rayman 2: The Great Escape all the way to the finish. If you want to “start at the beginning” of the series, I’d recommend just starting with #2. However, the one thing that #1 did provide me some backstory on was Rayman “gaining” his powers (which he has to do again in the beginning of #2). I recognized that as a nod to the previous game, and appreciated it.
I did purchase, Hoodlum Havoc and was excited to give it a go last night for a few hours but unfortunately I ran into some technical difficulties. However, I’m really trying to stay on this three-posts-a-week bandwagon, so I figured I’d regale and delight you all with the first two games and my thoughts instead of prolonging the post and waiting for GOG.com support to get back to me. All in all, this was a fun romp in the past to cover some old games that actually weren’t on my list but are considered by many to be classics as well.
Have you guys played any of the Rayman series? Thoughts? Hate ’em? Love ’em? Leave a comment!
I’m working on using really catchy titles so people are outraged and want to read, and then really the entire premise of my post is opposite to the perceived stance of the title. Slimey, huh?
A few weeks ago my brother and sister-in-law sent me an old iPod Touch they had lying around and weren’t using any more. For someone as poor as me and as obsessed with gadgets and toys as I am, I was incredibly grateful and excited, despite it being a second generation iPod Touch that can only support iOS 4.2. I immediately downloaded apps I had played and loved before (Temple Run, Fruit Ninja) and downloaded the big name social games that people were playing (Words with Friends, Draw Something). And as I started playing these games, I started thinking a lot about casual gaming, and thus felt prompted to rant about it here.
Flashback: last Christmas, my parents got rooted Nooks with Android ported onto them so they could use them as tablets and not just e-readers. The backstory is that while both of my parents are savvy and intelligent, computers and technology in general aren’t really their thing. So, we thought this would keep them current and be useful for different things they like to do. Neither of my parents has ever really approved of any of their kids gaming, so when my mom started trying out Angry Birds on Christmas day, it was kind of surprising that she was enjoying herself.
Jump back to the present, where I find out my mom has graduated from Angry Birds and now plays Draw Something. We’ve been playing for a few dozen turns now and every time I see a push notification telling me that she’s sent me a drawing, I get excited. My brother articulated it well by pointing out the excitement comes from the fact that she gets it. I don’t mean to belittle her intelligence (my mom is a smart, smart cookie), but there’s a learning curve to touchscreens and gaming and she seems to have picked it right up.
The next milestone was that she had never played Words with Friends, but is a Scrabble champion and avid reader so I assumed she’d love to play the game. The catch was that she has always had my brother help her download apps (they live near each other; I am far away). Throwing caution to the wind, I told her via Facebook Messages that she should get the app and shortly thereafter she messaged me back and asked if it was the Zynga one. A few minutes later, I had a request from her to start our first game. Of course, I also received two other requests a few seconds afterwards, because she wasn’t sure if the other request had gone through, but these small steps were awesome to see.
Hey, Laurie, what’s the point? Great question! The point is that gaming is awesome. All gaming, is awesome. And I say death to the casual gamer because there should not be any kind of label on what kind of gamer you are. You know how many hours I’ve put into Bejeweled? TOO MANY. But you know how many hours I’ve also put into the entire Zelda series and the entire Final Fantasy series, and Team Fortress 2 and the Grand Theft Auto series and the Mass Effect series and many others? A LOT. I say too many hours into Bejeweled just because it’s not my favorite game but sometimes I want to veg out and play something really simple, and for that I turn to my casual games.
Also, the label “casual gamer” detracts those who might be looking to get back into gaming. As people get older, unfortunately we just game less (although it might be a bell curve, because I gamed less during college, but have graduated and am going to town on gaming, but will probably game less once I get real responsibilities in life). If you played a lot of video games when you were younger, you know the label of “casual” is like the black spot, so you think “I used to game, but don’t any more” because no one wants to have to tell gamers “Oh, I game only every so often when I can.” That doesn’t deserve a label! That deserves a pat on the back to acknowledge the commitment to gaming even when free time is sparse. Good on ya, mate! We shouldn’t put you down, we should prop you up and let you know you’re welcome as a gamer and we don’t look at anything else like frequency of gaming; we only look at the fact that you game!
And finally, casual games bring people together in much better ways than more labor and time intensive games ever could, and that is undisputed fact. And isn’t that the goal? For the rest of non-gaming society to realize that gaming isn’t a waste of time and it isn’t the ultimate evil that turns your kids lazy or homicidal – it’s just an outlet that can be really challenging and really engaging and really cathartic and really special and most of all, really fun? So if my mom has started to realize that (and to her credit, she probably already did to an extent. My dad was the one who really hated video games) through her Sudoku, Mahjong, and Draw Something apps, then god bless those casual games.
There’s probably much more that could be said about this, but these are the main points I wanted to highlight. Based on some rumblings in the comments when I mentioned casual gaming in a previous post, I think I have some reader support behind me, but for those of you who can’t stand casual games or casual gamers, leave a comment! I love the discussion and would be ecstatic to hear more from you.
I just had to google spelunking because I was unconvinced that it could really just mean exploring caves (which my prior knowledge was trying to tell me was true). It’s true – spelunking is just looking around caves.
Anyway, I’ve purchased the last 3 Humble Indie Bundles (I should’ve posted about 5 because it was so amazing, but hopefully you owned all the games already) and have played . . . an embarrassingly low number of those games. Additional sadness came today when I realized I haven’t listened to the soundtracks from those games or those from my GOG.com games. The other day I received a recommendation to try out Cave Story for it’s awesome Metroidvania style of gameplay so I downloaded it and gave it a whirl.
First thing I noticed was the music. The music behind the opening menu is fantastic! And as I’ve kept playing through the game, the music stays great, but I think my favorite thus far is still the opening theme (to be fair, I’m not really that far). The second thing that I had to notice was the old school art style. Gotta love the classics.
The story took me a minute to get into, I didn’t find myself really caring about Sue or any of these Mimigas for awhile. I was surprised, but maybe shouldn’t have been, by the freedom the game offers. I suppose I associate that art style with older games that stereotypically didn’t give much freedom. Someone was in trouble, you agreed to help them, if you don’t, they kept asking until you said yes, they were grateful. Bad guy asked are you ready to rumble, you said no, and he attacked anyway. Those types of situations. The first “mini boss” you run into asks if you want to fight, so just to try it out, I said no, and he left. Again, that kind of player-driven plot is really the norm in gaming now, right? But it pleasantly surprised me in Cave Story all the same.
My beef? The controls. I like the simplicity, but something about the jump took me longer than it should have to master. And while I love self-deprecation and admitting my own ridiculousness, I felt like I was pressing that damn key just like I should have and the jump wasn’t going as far as it was supposed to. Having said that, every game has a learning curve of varying gradations to get comfortable with the controls, so now I’m a jumping master.
I’m getting more and more invested in this game. I realized I needed to take a break to write this and get started on Rayman (GOG.com weekend sale on the first 3 Rayman games, if you’re interested, and other really great games actually. This a good weekend sale on the site).
If you tried Cave Story in the past and didn’t get hooked, maybe give it a little more time to whet your whistle. If you tried Cave Story in the past and played for a long time and hated it, leave a comment because I’d love to hear your critiques. If you tried Cave Story in the past and loved it, then good on ya. If you tried – nah, I’m just kidding, I’ll stop doing that repetition-in-the-beginning-of-the-sentence thing. But seriously, give Cave Story a first or maybe second chance, and be sure to leave a comment about what you think!