I see that WordPress has kept innovating – I really like the simplified layout. I wonder if it costs more in management functionality. Ramble, ramble, ramble (spoiler alert: the rest of this long post is kind of like this).
You guys. You keep following me on Twitter and including me in your Follow Friday tags and it’s just a lot; naturally I am super grateful for it.
I’ve read many “State of the [insert whatever your medium/project is]” posts all over the internet since this is a new year. I feel disinclined to post something similar (although this might as well be considered that I s’pose) – I’m terrible with goals, because I don’t think being accountable to myself is good enough motivation to do anything. I’m just me, you know? Why do something for me? And sadly I know how thoroughly over-saturated video game blogging is, and how difficult it is to take it to a level to make money from it. I recognize that multiple times (probably all on this blog) I’ve tried to talk about how you can have a different end goal than making money. And sometimes that’s really manifested itself – sometimes I’ve just written to write here because I want to wax eloquent about video games. Unfortunately those moods are few and far between. I know I started this blog to create a polished portfolio to present to Kotaku or Polygon or some online gaming news outlet, to then be hired. But sticking to as schedule feels like a chore, and not sticking to a schedule reduces most any chance of getting virally known (even mini-viral).
Plus, you know, my job is going real well in my real life. I get to write stuff, now I’m managing people, leading development direction in a small number of cases, and getting free break room food every day which helps my grocery bill. The motivation to write to get out of a situation wanes when the situation is pretty good.
The other conundrum is that I might still use this as a dumping ground for thoughts on video games except I find myself playing video games less and less, which is shameful. I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft in my spare time. My girlfriend is loving Splice, which is super heartwarming. We tried to play through Cogs the other day but god damn that game, am I right? So hard. I suppose I could do a write up on Cogs . . . haven’t done that yet. Aside from that, I finally tried Battle Block Theater (same team that put out Castle Crashers) and I Maed a Gam with Zombiez!!!!111!! Or whatever/however it’s spelled. Okay, okay, I could write up some thoughts about the very minimal amount of gaming I’ve done, you’re right. You’re right.
You know what has really been catching my interest lately? Game casting. Right before I really dove off this blog/the internet, I recorded about an hour of me playing Remember Me (which I “rented” from Gamefly, and still have, and have been paying for without using for . . . many embarrassing months now). I was going to edit it down to at most 30 minutes and then see how people liked it – either keep going with Remember Me or pick another game with a female protagonist (without giving it away, it was kind of the point of the series to play games with female protagonists). The other day I was thinking about that (because I have a to-do task in my Gmail to cancel my Gamefly subscription) and I was thinking what if i just did like 5 minute highlights of playing games with female protagonists? More work on my end . . . but potentially a funnier option.
And I started thinking of that because I made a goal that in 2014 I would get more involved with charity work. I do nothing to give back, and everyone who can, should. I definitely can. But I realized that my primary interests were helping further Child’s Play or like, Extra Life. Their official websites say either go volunteer at a hospital, or be the one streaming games and getting sponsors. Who would want to watch me play video games for 24 hours? I don’t think my mother would even want to watch me play video games for 24 hours, and she’s the most supportive, longest-present person in my life.
Unless I had an audience base. And then, the 5 minute video thought – I’d have to keep them always thirsty for more, so 24 hours was a real treat – something to entice donations, you know?
But we’re back to the original problem/premise – it always feels like work. I get home from work, and watch a ton of YouTube. People doing what I’d like to be doing (e.g. RoosterTeeth and Achievement Hunter). Maybe some of us are just consumers, and some of us are just producers. If only I could get paid to write ramble-y blog posts . . . That’s where my voice shines, but I suppose everyone’s does when they ramble. But I like to think mine stays coherent, which might give me a leg up over other ramble-y bloggers.
I’ve honestly been thinking about posting the following question for awhile, and in sincerity (i.e. please leave a comment with real advice for me because I feel like I’m losing a part of my life and I’m not sure why): how do you get motivated to start/maintain/complete projects? All of these blogs of ours are labors of love, but why can’t I follow through with it? Is that just a personality defect? Which sounds really negative but I can totally accept that – I’m more curious if anyone found themselves in a situation like this and crawled out of it. I suppose the outcomes have to outweigh the costs . . . but I’m unsure if I can achieve the outcomes I want (i.e. at least a little money and a little internet fame)
If anyone has read this far in this post, YOU ARE A TRUE FRIEND. I’m also disproving my false idea that my rambling stays coherent magically.
Honestly, the deterioration of this blog (and my gaming habits in general) always begin when I start dating someone. I don’t think that it’s because I start morphing into the other person, I just have a very strong and specific need to spend every second of every day with that person. So if they don’t want to play video games (and sometimes if they do) I default to doing something else because hey, it’s them. Video games are just video games. Plus, meeting all of their friends, and keeping up with your friends – it all just eats up time, time that I’m happy to sacrifice, but time nonetheless. Is all of that bad, or is it normal? Am I making relationships unhealthy, or is this just a natural evolution?
Here’s the real bottom line: I’ve been really unmotivated and bored at work all day, and thinking about all of this a lot. So I’ve just vomited this all out but I would really love to hear some responses, if you too are bored or unmotivated sometime this weekend.
If you haven’t ever heard of Kentucky Route Zero, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Although the indie title from Cardboard Computer didn’t make a huge splash across all gaming news outlets, I had happened to read a rave review of it on Kotaku. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I believe it’s in a humble bundle of some sorts, but I can’t confirm (is humblestore.webs.com really affiliated with the official Humble Bundle website? Can’t tell).
I bought a this game full price on Steam because after reading it’s description, wouldn’t you?
“Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Gameplay is inspired by point-and-click adventure games (like the classic Monkey Island or King’s Quest series, or more recently Telltale’s Walking Dead series), but focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.”
Fun fact about me – magical realism is MY JAM. I love the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I love the idea of magical realism (inexplicable [“magical”] things happening in a seemingly realistic world), I just . . . love everything about the genre. I haven’t ever been a big sucker for point-and-click games, particularly if they involve guess clicking, but that last clause, “focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill” put a grin on my face as soon as I read it. I knew I had to buy this game.
Since the Steam Summer Sale is well under way, I had to start looking through my unplayed Steam games from last year’s sale and picking up the slack. I decided to force myself to start playing some of the games I had been looking forward to but never got going on, I would install them, so they would be staring me in the face. I finally installed Kentucky Route Zero and started it Sunday evening. Because it’s episodic (five parts), I’ll publish a series of posts as I play through each episode.
The intro menu is minimalistic, asking which chapter to start on – simple Courier New text on a black background. The title displays across my entire monitor, again, just white text on a black screen. Immediately I am charmed by the polygonal, geometric art work. All the colors are muted, and much of every scene is dark, but it helps that much more to see where you click to move forward the protagonist, Conway. The graphics indicating gameplay are clever: an eye to look at a person, animal, or object; a notecard to speak with someone; two stick figures holding hands when you and another party member can interact with an object or location point.
After a simple introductory fetch quest with an old man at a gas station, you jump in your moving van (Conway is a driver for an antiques shop) and hit the world map, which is essentially just a road map. Major highways are numbered, but only by driving down a road do you then learn it’s name. A handy logbook keeps track of your conversations that had driving directions. Your position on the map is indicated by a wheel that rolls along as you click on various roads. Points of interest only come up as you pass them. Some allow you to get out of the van and interact with a new scene, while others are strictly text-based wanderings through buildings (e.g. churches, museums, stores, etc.).
The aesthetic of the whole experience is very minimalist. There is no soundtrack – only sound effects that vary as you move through areas. One outstanding example of creating an atmosphere is when Conway enters a bait shop, and the game informs us that he sees a cashier and a row of tanks filled with water. As this text is populating, a faint water-bubbling sound fades in as though we’re standing near the tanks. If you choose to approach the tanks, the bubbling grows louder. If you choose to talk to the cashier, the decibel level of the tanks remains faint. These kinds of details aren’t new to video games, and we all know that good details like that are the best way to achieve immersion in a video game. All the same, that attention to detail from an indie developer, who is very aware that there are few sensory inputs in their game so every detail counts, is delightful.
By the same token, that minimalism creates a very . . . uneasy feeling as I played through the game. I don’t believe this is in the horror genre, and yet something fishy is going on. There are ghosts, and no one seems to be able to give you a straight answer about this mysterious Route Zero. I don’t ever feel like something is about to pop out at me, but . . . I also never feel completely secure in my chair. As someone who thoroughly dislikes being scared, this is a perfect medium. I am completely head-over-heels into this environment without being forced to jump out because it wants a cheap thrill. The sound effects and lack of soundtrack are what really bring these feelings home while playing through episode one.
My only concern as I gear up to jump into episode II is that there are sometimes a dozen different story options in one conversation. I’m playing by gut, just kind of approaching situations as though I were Conway, but because I’m a completionist (I’ve played Mass Effect 3 four times to make sure I’ve seen every different conversation choice), I’m wondering what I’m leaving behind by not repeating conversations. I hope all hanging plot points (there are a lot) get resolved by the end, but I suppose I’ll wait and find out!
Currently, Cardboard Castles has episodes I and II out, with promises of III-V coming before the end of the year. The two-man dynamo team also has an experience available for free called Limits & Demonstrations: A Lula Chamberlain Retrospective. From the page itself, it says “Marking the first major public showcase of her work in over twenty years, this retrospective exhibition of work by pioneering installation artist Lula Chamberlain comprises a diagonal slice through time, place, and form.” You know me. Any labor of love I’m definitely going to be checking out. Post forthcoming about that title, most definitely. Also, what a great way for me to be introduced to artist, Lula Chamberlain!
Thus far, a huge round of applause to the Cardboard Computer developers, Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is a treat audibly, visually, and intellectually. I can’t imagine the future chapters going anywhere but up. Pick it up now for 25% off at the Steam Store!
My people! I would love to give you something to show my utter appreciation for all that you do for me by just reading my blog, or clicking the “Like” button on a post, or even commenting. I love you all, and that is no lie. So! I figured I have at least one Steam game I can giveaway, perhaps more by the end of this Steam sale, but to make this so super legit it’s like I’m actually getting paid to do this or something (ha, wouldn’t that be great . . .) I’d love to use this chance to get some feedback! Here’s what I would love to see, if you want a free Steam game:
1. Like the Little Sister Gaming page on Facebook (here’s a workaround – just add it, then immediately click the drop-down arrow on a post in your Newsfeed from LSG and click “Hide…” THEN YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO SEE IT, but the Like still helps me! How does it help me? Once a Facebook page has 30 Likes, Facebook starts giving you analytic information about that page. Kind of silly for a blog as small as mine, but hey – it’d be nice).
2. Comment on this post about what kind of video game video content you like to watch. Do you love browsing Let’s Plays, or something more specific? Do you only watch machinima, or do you prefer vlogs about video game issues? Do you only watch video game video content if someone is livestreaming a game you really like?
3. IN THE SAME COMMENT AS ABOVE, say what Steam game you’d love to buy but can’t because you’ve sworn to not spend any money during the Summer Sale. I have a copy of Mass Effect 1 to give away. Old, so probably not a great incentive; if your wishlist game in your comment goes on sale for cheap sometime this week, I may or may not pick YOUR wishlist game to buy and let you choose which of the two Steam games you’d like (if your name gets picked). ALSO, if everyone really wants Half-Life 2 or something and it goes on a daily or flash sale, I’ll DEFINITELY buy it, so there is some extra incentive.
I’ll give this a week! On 7/21/2013, I’ll assign every comment a number in a spreadsheet, use a random number generator to pick a winner, post about it by 7/22 at the latest, and gift that person his or her Steam game.
Simple enough? Let’s get crack-a-lackin’! I want to spread some Steam love! A big, fat, serious, thank you to all of your!
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.
Not from lack of games. In that department, I’m actually drowning. I should rather say my gaming writing well is running dry. I haven’t played games in so long! LIIIIIFE. WHY HAST THOU FLOODED ME!? It’s a great thing, really, but seriously, the best gaming experience I’ve had in the past week was playing Fruit Ninja in the bathroom at work. How do you guys do it? How do you carve out time to prioritize games in your life? Teach me your ways!
In lieu of being able to talk at length about one or more games, I’ll just highlight some flash/mobile games that I’ve gotten a chance to check out in the past little while:
Disclaimer: I’m not an iPhone hater, but I do have an Android phone, so all the app links are to the Google Play store. ALSO! Lots of these cost money, but there are really awesome free apps everyday in the Amazon App Store so be sure to check that to pick up some of these for free, like I did!
Pixel Dungeon – My brother put me on to this game a while back (for the subtitle of this site, “Gaming without your brother,” he certainly does come up a lot . . .). It’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler; find the next set of stairs down, go down the stairs, try to find the ultimate artifact, the Amulet of Yendor.
It’s still in beta, but that also means it’s free for the moment! There’s 20 levels at the moment, with more coming in the next update says the dev. It’s difficult! Which makes it fun, but there is perma-death which is heartbreaking. Three classes (warrior, rogue, mage), potions and enemies and weapons and armor and items – all the needed elements for a fun action RPG. And the pixel art . . . gets me right in the nostalgia every time. Well done pixel art is my jam.
Candy box ! – Automated ASCII art?! Get out of town! The key in this game is to just wait until you have more than two options. Then it becomes seriously exciting/addicting because you wonder “WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT!?” You can also “save” which is nice for a browser-based game. Shoutout to friend and reader Susan for putting me on to this super fun game.
Robot Unicorn Attack – Super old, but I figure it’s mildly relevant because RUA 2 just came out, AND, I really am playing this game a lot. Something about endless runners . . . I just want to beat my old high score! I would’ve been hopeless in the 80s, all those arcades around. I also can’t try RUA 2 until I feel like I’ve sufficiently used the original app approximately $2 worth (for the app, free online though). Anyway, an oldie but a goodie!
Continuity 2 – Another oldie but goodie that again my brother put me on to. I had never heard of it, but this a puzzle game I can really get behind. You move around tiles that are snapshots of the actual level to facilitate the character you’re controlling to be able to move through, collecting the key to the last door, as well other little tokens. ALL AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Three factors rank your level success: time taken to complete, how many tokens collected, and . . . moves maybe? I forget, and to find out and tell me how stupid I am, download Continuity 2!
Osmos HD – This game. YEESH this game. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s so good! So addicting! Such a great soundtrack! So hard for me! In general, the object of every level is to become the biggest cannibalistic blob. You can only absorb blobs you’re bigger than, and you die by bumping into blobs bigger than you, which then absorb you. There are some different types of blobs that attract things, and move faster. A cool mechanic is being able to slow down time in the level which gives you a little bit of reaction time buffer. And fo’ real, the soundtrack. Dat soundtrack. Check out the game!
Temple Run 2 – I wasn’t going to include this game because I am a little embarrassed that I play it so often instead of playing some of the other critically acclaimed games in my library, but what can I say? I just love unlocking stuff and endlessly running (virtually that is, never in real life. Have you seen me?) It’s a good game! If you want something mindless that’s easy to play while you’re going to the bathroom at work, this would be my top recommendation.
I enjoy these games that have depth, that I can spend an hour or more on (equivalent to how much time I would spend playing a console or PC game) but can do out and about, away from my TV or monitor. Ya hoo for the increasing caliber of mobile gaming!
What about you guys, what games do you love on your phone, or tablet, or browser? Let me know in the comments!