On Tuesday night I went to the first (annual?) Utah Game Wars. It was an event for local game developers to get funding to further their projects. Out of I believe a total of 12 submissions for consideration, 8 finalists made it to the evening to showcase their games to judges first, then to any member of the public who registered for the event. The devs submitted their works as either developed (published on any kind of platform, available to the public) or undeveloped (not yet released anywhere), and the public got to cast their vote for a people’s choice award. Developed games could win $10k, undeveloped $15k, and an extra $500 to the crowd favorite.
I didn’t research any of the games before showing up, nor did I read the print and eat the free food that was provided, so it was off to a rocky start when I showed up around 7pm. As I perused the room and listened to developers explaining their projects to people, I was . . . surprised. There was an educational game, a sports stock exchange website, a isometric high fantasy regurgitation for tablets, and other equally equally forgettable games. I was excited to go to the evening because I thought I’d get to see the next Super Meat Boy or maybe something really radical like Hotline Miami or something. Instead, it was all safe, tame, and not very enticing to the stereotypical indie gamer.
Thankfully, the developed game category winner (and people’s choice winner) Tripleslash Studios pulled through and made the whole night worth it for me. Back in the corner of the layout was Magnetic By Nature, developed by a handful of University of Utah students who make up Tripleslash. After a successful Kickstarted seeded them $10k, Magnetic By Nature: Awakening was released on the Xbox Live Indie Games. For 80 credits, I can tell you its a steal. Here was the only game at the event that was by gamers for gamers.
You control a robot in a 2D side-scrolling environment. As the title suggests, your magnetic body traverses the art deco inspired background and a darkened foreground (ala Limbo) by attracting to different magnetically poled spheres. In a word, the whole look is incredibly charming. Although the foreground reminds all of Limbo, the lively backgrounds and obstacles you run by brighten up the gameplay and make the world fun to go through.
I didn’t get a chance to oust a small child off of the demo machine and try the game myself, nor have I purchased the game on the Xbox Live Arcade yet (yet being the operative word . . . I want to buy this game, and I will), but the gameplay seemed to be three primary buttons – jump, attract to a blue magnetic pole, attract to a red magnetic pole, and of course, the analog stick to run forward or backward. Like all great puzzle games, the complexity comes layered into the finesse with which you can navigate spinning sawblades and swirling seas that threaten to end your life, not in the gameplay mechanics.
And if the description and screencaps don’t convince you enough to give this game a shot, then the amiability of the developers should. I chatted at length to two of the gentlemen on the team and they were very willing to answer my questions, hypothesize about the future, and reminisce about the beginning. I was pleased to hear that they have ideas for more games in the future and would love to keep pushing into the industry with their studio, Tripleslash. First priority though, fattening up Magnetic By Nature though. The developers excitement and enthusiasm was infectious as they started talking about sprucing up the artwork and adding more mechanics (one dream mechanic was being able to throw your head and then attract your body to it to get through levels).
I’ve talked about this before but it’s the same every time I get to interact with Good Guy Greg developers – I just want good, nice people to succeed, 100% of the time. Tripleslash Studios are good people, and their victory (including the people’s choice) at the Utah Game Wars just warmed all four chambers of my heart. I hope to watch their meteoric rise with this project and all their future endeavors.
The official website doesn’t work right now but I’ve been assured the Facebook page is a good way to get a hold of the developers if you’re interested. You can also follow their updates on their official twitter account, @TeamTripleslash.
Everyone who read that title should’ve vomited and then unfollowed this blog. In reality, there is never enough vacation, but sometimes, vacations should include some video games, amirite? Let me elaborate.
The first Friday I went MIA on this blog, I went to San Francisco. After an early start Friday morning and running around enjoying every minute of the city, I woke up Saturday morning with no voice, a ton of congestion, and a throbbing ankle. I watched reruns of Top Gear on BBC America all morning before going out to meet friends. You know what I wish I had been doing? Playing video games, before going out to meet friends.
But Laurie, you cry. You blog about mobile gaming all the time; where was your phone? Let me elaborate on the garbage that is my phone’s battery. I’m constantly charging that hunk of junk. So I never game on my phone any more, because doing so would mean not having a phone in critical situations, e.g. getting to and from the airport, meeting up with friends while we’re both out on the town, etc. First world problems, eh?
Last week while I was MIA, I was in Hawaii. On Thursday and Friday afternoons, after mornings of activity and evenings full of plans, I had to take some R&R because I am a weak, lesser human being (read: riddled with Crohn’s disease). It was nice to sleep on Friday, but on Thursday I watched a movie. Also nice, but you know what would’ve been really top during those few hours? Playing video games.
So the bottom line is at the beginning of May was my only window of opportunity for justifying buying a handheld console and I missed it. Now I’m done traveling for at least a year, and won’t have need of a 3DSXL or a Vita, or whatever the young hip hoppers are playing these days. But my eyes were truly opened to the luxury of having a portable console, for coping with whatever your vacation deals you.
What are your guys’ portable consoles of choices? Or do you hate all non-vacationing while on vacation? It’s a valid point, wax eloquent in the comments below!
PS Thanks to all the new followers! You all warm my heart immensely. Looking forward to getting back in the blogging saddle!
I believe other people have blogged about this fairly recently. Part 2 of this series came out last week, a friend sent it to me, I watched parts 1 and 2, and have now formulated opinions about this, then remembered that people might’ve already spoken about this. So wa hoo, I get to add my voice to the mix!
Frankly, anyone who finds fault with anything that Anita Sarkeesian has said in any of her videos are not thinking critically enough. I’ve been binge watching her whole channel now (spoiler alert: I love it) and I can’t recall if it’s in her tropes video or an earlier video, but she points out how just because we critique something doesn’t mean we don’t love it. I think some critics may have missed that Sarkeesian loves the classic games she picks apart in her part 1 of the series. She says she was raised on Nintendo. It’s not that I don’t love video games, but it’s undeniable they need to step up their game in regards to equal treatment of women in narratives.
And I love her point that they need to step up their treatment of men in narratives. It’s weaksauce to pin character development on the loss of a loved one, and obviously so hackneyed. Do more for your Hitman, your Max Payne, your male protagonist!
Her evidence is unshakable – there are way too many damsels in distress in video games, and way too many “killing women to save them,” and all of the other points she brings up. I think people get defensive about video games and this issue because no one wants to be labeled as a misogynist for playing these games or for not noticing earlier. If I was insinuating that, I would be indicting myself as well. I never noticed these things before Sarkeesian’s videos brought them to my attention.
That doesn’t mean I’m an idiot for not noticing, it means someone has given me some new, good information that can improve the future of video and the future of my video game involvement. That’s to be celebrated, not balked at! It also doesn’t mean these things didn’t exist before, or that because you didn’t notice they aren’t there. It’s just a testament to the pervasiveness of patriarchy in all media outlets.
Finally, lots of people like to argue that the developer didn’t want to say that so it’s taken out of context, and she’s digging to meaning that’s not really there. Here’s the thing about that: it’s not about what you recognize, it’s about what you subconsciously absorb. Anecdote: I worked with a guy who let his 4 year old son play Red Dead Redemption. The kid killed a prostitute in the game, then the next day drew his toy sword on his mom’s throat and said something to the effect of “I’m a cowboy like the game!”
I would bet cold hard cash it wasn’t a conscious decision to think “Oh, I have to commit violence against women to embody this new exciting game that I played” but subconsciously, that’s exactly what happened. We’re absorbing and learning behaviors about how to treat women based on the entertainment we consume. That’s why the rest of Sarkeesian’s videos about a broader spectrum of pop culture are equally valuable and fascinating to me. People try to debate this EVERY DAMN DAY to me and while I try to be really open-minded 100% of the time, everyone who disagrees with me is incorrect. We all absorb what we see, consciously or unconsciously. Often these don’t mean we’re going to go out and kill prostitutes (but for some horrendous people in really extreme, unlikely circumstances, it does) but it does mean we just moved the water level of respect of women one millimeter lower in our subconscious. Because people don’t see that in everyday interactions in the minute scale it occurs in, it is ignored, scoffed at, and dismissed.
Here’s the take away: People will make you uncomfortable by pointing out biases you didn’t know you had, and pointing out some of your favorite things that might have really unsavory aspects to them (e.g. I absolutely love Red Dead Redemption, but yeah . . . there are problems in it on a social level, most definitely). So, if you previously ranted against Sarkeesian for her cold hard facts about how women are treated in video games, reassess what made you so defensive in the first place, swallow some pride, and acknowledge your discomfort so you can have an honest conversation with yourself about the content you love (and that I love too) and how it treats women and minorities and how that affects you or others who play the game. It doesn’t mean we have to abandon the games we love. It means we have to be informed consumers of a culture we love and participate in, and perhaps, when given a chance to vote with our dollar or internet comments, we can lean towards making choices that support/further positive women roles in video games, and help others do the same.
A) Can I just rant about the spam comments on WordPress? Double digits! Every day! Spambots, relax, I know you are fake, please leave me alone.
B) Just a quick post today because I actually have some huge deadlines at work looming (hence the lack of post on Friday) but my co-worker and I were just chit chatting about Minecraft and he told me this story and it warmed my heart so I thought I’d share.
My co-worker is married, has one little baby, thoroughly enjoys video games but doesn’t have a ton of down time and would love to play games with his wife rather than spend their precious time together, separated. I’ve met his wife a few times and she seems like a wonderful woman. That is further supported by the occasional story he’ll come in with, like “We bought a random trivia game on Xbox Live last night and she played with me for awhile; she liked it all right! We had a good time.” Small spouse gaming victories like that are always heartwarming to me because I’ve always seen gaming as something that brings me closer to people (my brother, new friends, internet strangers who become friends, cashiers at fast food restaurants [true story]) so when I hear tales of the opposite variety, “My wife/husband plays Skyrim nonstop and I hate video games!” I get sad.
This morning my co-worker stumbled in, told us how he had been sick all weekend, and had told his wife Sunday would have to be a lazy, in-bed kind of day because he felt so terrible. So he started trying the Minecraft demo, having never played extensively before, and so did she, to keep him company. Sure enough, she fell in love with the game, as did he. Of course they bought it.
I laughed at his funny explanations of their botched attempts to build and farm and do other things in their first bout of playing the game. He told us about a sheep that wandered into their home that they couldn’t get rid of so eventually he proposed harvesting it for food, to which his wife exclaimed, “NO! You can’t kill Lamby!” I followed up all of this with the comment, “Well that is awesome that you guys can enjoy that together” to which he said “Yeah, that really is the best part.” D’awwwwww!
Hit me with your sappy, togetherness stories that gaming facilitated! I love to read ’em, I want to read ’em, and I want to celebrate what gaming can create, not what it can break when applied incorrectly.