Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Xbox

At dinner with a friend last night, I was asked what games I’ve been playing lately. It forced me to vocalize something I had been bothered by and not wanting to say out loud to anyone – I hadn’t played any of the new games I bought over a month ago. The plan was to become a tumor on the couch and breeze through Rise of the Tomb RaiderUndertaleFallout 4, and a bunch more I purchased but didn’t have the time to play until after my semester ended. Alas – none of that happened.

What happened instead  was I also purchased the Legendary edition of Destiny to try and get back into the game (I gave up on vanilla around level 20, a few missions short of the end of the main storyline of the game) by playing with friends. And get back into the game I did. It’s been the first MMO I’ve been really hooked on (despite trying World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2). A few days ago I spent all day farming bounties and getting resources for upgrades and a sword. Most of my winter break from school was spent farming levels to get my first character somewhere reasonable for strikes and the first few raids.

So this friend asked me what I’d been playing and I had to say “I’ve been playing nothing but Destiny and Smite.” Smite is a 3rd person MOBA made by Hi-Rez Studios, and is the first MOBA I’ve ever been hooked on. Late last year I succumbed to peer pressure and tried to play a big friendy in-house of DoTA 2 and hated it. My conclusion was DoTA 2 is for smart people, and Smite is for us common folk. Before that encounter, I tried League of Legends a few times in years past and never got into it – going back to it for a few games with friends in my program it’s pace didn’t capture my interest like Smite did, I would assume because of the camera angle.

This is the first time in my life I’ve been stuck in a spiral of live, online games that don’t just end. This is also the first time in my life I’ve had friends I felt comfortable playing games online with. But even so, my all day farm session in Destiny recently was solo, intentionally, and I was so happy for it to be so. I do a lot of solo queueing in Smite because I don’t play a lot of their traditional 5 v 5 map (the rage from sub-par players toward all the rest of us sub-par players is too aggravating for what should just be a game). I finally did join a clan but the few times I’ve been online since joining, anyone that asks to queue together, I just ignore.

This also boils down to deeper considerations like, why do I feel guilty enjoying a game, even if I dump hundreds of hours into it? Why is that bad, when to some, it’s the most cost efficient game I’ve ever purchased? I’m sure part of it goes to being in a game design master’s program. Like all disciplines, you have to be well versed in it to have the most tools at your disposal to create new and/or interesting things within that discipline. I.e. read often and widely to write, watch often and widely to create films, and play often and widely to make games. But here I am, returning to the same killing fields over and over and over again every day.

So in the academic sense, is there a parallel to playing these games incessantly that’s akin to reading deeply? Analyzing texts requires becoming immersed in all the minutiae of the text. Can I claim analyzing the minutiae of the game, which requires playing nothing else? Maybe. If I were really doing that. Smite lends itself to that, as a competitive eSport. It demands to be analyzed to improve or be halfway decent at – if I didn’t learn something deeper about the game 90% of the time I played then I would be getting stomped every game. And I take pride in saying I only get stomped in 50% of the games I play. Ha HA!

Spiraling deeper into this rabbit hole of self-reflection, I also acknowledge that I don’t play games very deeply in general. My introspection is around the level of “why was this enjoyable? What did it do well? What could it improve on?” not “What was the intent behind these systems to inform my player experience?” Throughout my program, I’ve been adamant that I am not a game designer. Mostly because true game design positions are a lot of spreadsheets, testing variable changes in slight directions, and seeing how those effects propagate out through the game. I don’t have the patience for that. Give me a to-do list, and I will become possessed with the notion of getting list completed (again, part of my recent infatuation with Destiny) regardless of what the end product actually is, so long as it actually fits the quality benchmark set forth at the start of the project.

That infatuation also speaks to some my addictive tendencies. Why can’t I enjoy an hour a day of a game and move on to another game? For me, that will be a learned skill at some point. I feel the height of immersion at around the 4th hour. So jumping in for an hour and jumping out just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I definitely play video games for escapism; due to that, immersion is my preferred state of game playing. And that is a state easily achieved when I have an infinite number of checklists, ala Destiny.

In the end, what am I saying? Mostly nothing. Just rambling my thoughts because I realized recently I missed this site. Ultimately, I know I shouldn’t feel bad about playing whatever I want, even if it’s the same thing day in and day out. I should’t feel guilty about not getting through my Steam/console/mobile backlog, regardless of my student status. Having said that, it’s not a bad thing to consider taking a break from games that offer little novelty and diving into critically acclaimed alternatives, even if it requires forcing myself to do so. If for no other reason, it’ll give me more fodder to come back to this page with.

Do you guys struggle with this phenomenon? What do you attribute it to? I’m genuinely curious to hear your experiences and thoughts on this topic – it’s one I’ve wrestled with a lot the past few months.

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The past two weeks have been kind of amazing. I wrapped up my semester, I got all of my new hardware to build my new AMD PC, the motherboard and/or CPU pooped out on me, so I replaced the motherboard, got the second one yesterday, and it also didn’t work, so it might be both again, or maybe it’s been the CPU the whole time? I dunno but what a whirlwind big city adventure (read: highly annoying and I’ve wanted to pull out my hair everyday and I might have actually shed a tear or three yesterday because I was so. damn. frustrated). But I channeled one of my favorite adages – done is better than perfect.

So instead of waiting for replacement parts, we’re running with Twitch TODAY! On my laptop. Which is super beefy, to it’s credit, but you know – smaller monitor, OBS has problems recording the monitor which is poopy for PC games, etc. etc. BUT WE’RE DOING IT ANYWAY! Done is better than perfect. And to be clear, I worked out OBS so the recording will be great.

Today I’ll be going live with Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor around 3pm Mountain Time (which is also 2pm Pacific Time if that helps anyone). In the future, I plan to stream for about 3 to 4 hours, but today I have a DND campaign to get to at 6pm so I’ll be cutting it around 5:30pm. AND this will all be on twitch.tv/littlesisgaming (different from where I streamed all my Extra Life stuff last year so take note). Can you believe the full sister URL/username was taken? Boo.

My schedule moving forward is Tuesday through Saturday, 3pm (Mountain Time) to whenever I feel like stopping, but most likely for at least 4 hours. And that’s Twitch! The lighting it subpar, the mic is good enough, and the setup on my end is a hodgepodge of cords and balancing monitors on books and speakers, but IT WORKS! And done is better than perfect.

Can’t wait to catch some of you this afternoon!


Last week I decided it was about time to finally put Battleblock Theater to rest on my Xbox 360. I love Castle Crashers, I loved Battleblock Theater when I started playing it, but never put it at the top of my list of games to finish. When I got my PS4 I thought I would never pick up my 360 again because the PS4 was just so damn pretty. Little did I realize when I made the jump to Playstation that my ISP (Comcast) blocked HBO Go on Sony devices which meant we had to keep watching Game of Thrones on my 360 (obligatory reference to Comcast being the devil). AND THUS the last gen console was on, I was browsing my games, and I booted up Battleblock Theater again.

After I got through the campaign I decided to try to go for some achievements because I was here, I was halfway through them anyway, and most of them seemed pretty easy to get in multiplayer. I rarely play multiplayer in games, even co-op. I get self-conscious about how I’m performing as a teammate or even as an opponent. When people leave a match midway, I wonder if they were disgusted with me and so frustrated they left. I realize how self-centered that all sounds, and believe me I’m working on it, but those are the general reasons why I don’t play games online. I also mostly expected that when I would try to get into multiplayer it wouldn’t match me with anyone since the game is years old. Much to my surprise, I jumped into a quick match almost immediately. And there were no emotes or chat, so I couldn’t be harassed even if someone wanted to harass me! Ya hoo! Small victories!

As I kept getting matched with new team members and new opponents, I was also trying to trade with everyone (one of the achievements is to trade with 10 different people) and I realized I was actually enjoying multiplayer. It was low risk, low cost if I messed up, and we just bounce from one match to the next so there were quick chances to redeem myself. Some multiplayer achievements include playing and rating 10 user-created levels, winning 100 matches, and win one match in every multiplayer mode. As I was whittling away at the list I realized one secret multiplayer achievement is to kill a team mate at least 50 times. I laughed to myself and decided I would just jump in to some quick matches to get the achievement. I was sure I was fairly close already, through doing half the game in co-op with my brother when I first bought it, and from accidentally killing my team mates enough times throughout matches when I was actively trying to win.

What I didn’t really expect is how bad I’d feel every time I threw a fireball to light my own team mate on fire. This person was legitimately trying to win the match, win their own achievements, and I was being the trolling asshole. I felt as if their frustration was palpable. Afterwards I took a step back and realized how affected I was by someone with a gamertag I didn’t even know. I dunno, I guess there isn’t really more depth to this thought at the moment. It hailed back to some thoughts I had while playing Journey, and the MOBA Smite, but in short – it kind of boggles my mind how game developers have struck on something as simple as “make two players match colors and inherently there will be a bond that will promote a certain path of player behavior.” I suppose that was struck upon before game developers though – just by people developing corporate strategy or team building exercises or education or . . . many other applications.

Like I said this is actually the tip of the iceberg on my wonderment and the relationship that can be created between strangers online. I’d like to re-play Journey and write up how amazeballs I think it is. I think my next installment in the near term though is going to be about the deep dark world of MOBAs that I’ve fallen into. Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar relationship with someone if just for a brief moment while playing silently together online; I’m really curious about this social phenomenon and would love to hear more about other people’s experiences!


Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.

I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!

The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.

Why donate? Why am I doing this?

A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.

B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?

C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.

I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.

Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,

Laurie


I clicked on a Kotaku article the day the Titanfall beta opened, looking for instructions on how to get in on it. I haven’t been following any of the Titanfall hype, except hearing it was about robots and people were generally excited. Skimming the article, I realized that it was an EA title, delivered through Origin. Immediately I was torn. People hate, EA, right? They had done something evil in the recent past, if I wasn’t misremembering . . . but what exactly was it? I honestly couldn’t remember. For a brief second, I thought about googling it or perusing their Wikipedia page but . . . beta sign up . . . giant robots . . . I clicked the link and downloaded Origin. If nothing else, I could get a terrible first-hand experience and raise my voice in a rallying cry to boycott EA yet again.

I loaded Titanfall and it. was. awesome. Seriously incredible. I got the PC beta so I could adjust the FOV to something that wouldn’t make me nauseated. The textures were lackluster, I’ll admit, but the gameplay was so fun. I didn’t play any game type other than Attrition (just kill the other team) but I didn’t even get my fill of playing that, let alone moving on to the other game play types.

Looking at all of the hype, I remember my initial reservation. I haven’t read another account of anyone trying to justify their previously declared hatred for EA with their love of Titanfall. EA reported 2 million unique visitors during the beta. I can’t knock anyone else for going back on their previous lines in the sand – I did it myself. And I don’t even think I have any less integrity for doing so, let alone anyone else (depending on how loudly you yelled about it, I guess . . . ). But isn’t it funny, was all I was thinking about this morning. Isn’t it funny how short our attention spans really are.

People lost their minds over the Origin hatred when it launched. A few level heads pointed out that most people hated Steam when it launched for its spotty service. However since Steam has become ubiquitous with PC gaming, people don’t think about it any longer. And no it looks like people are forgetting Origin and EA’s original evil to enjoy what could be the most exciting FPS in a long time (at least until Destiny launches). It makes me wonder how the tables might turn on EA as a company (especially in light of the Comcast/Time Warner debacle) in the time to come.

Thoughts? General musings? Again, I’m not indicting anyone – I would be indicting myself if I did so (and maybe I should) it’s just interesting the short attention span we all have when something as shiny as Titanfall shows up. Leave a comment, let me know your thoughts about EA, Origin, Titanfall, and whatever else you want.


I thought before I typed this up, I should check out the Wikipedia page, see if anything about the developer stood out to me that could be a better talking point than just writing up how much I did or didn’t like the game (because I know this game is ages old and me talking about it now is poor form). This is a quote from the Wikipedia entry for this game: “He [the developer] did not expect it to be a success, and that he was ‘half-expecting it to fail for being too stupid of a game.'”

Despite his concerns, this game is dirt cheap and a good time so you should definitely pick it up. Aside from that, I’m going to touch on, once again, how much I love indie games. You’re welcome.

You know why indie developers are great? Because they just wake up one morning (might have been years ago, before all of their incredibly dedicated, hard work, but all the same! it started one random morning) and decided, “This idea is awesome. I’m going to make it myself because it will be awesome. If no one else thinks it’s awesome, that’s too bad, but at least it was awesome to me.” I think I love this mindset (or that I’m particularly a sucker for it) because I’m so the opposite. I get defeated so easily (see: my track record on this blog . . . ) and never have confidence in my own creativity. Actually scratch that. I have a lot of confidence that some of my ideas are pure gold – I also just recognize the amount of effort they’d take to execute and I give up before I begin. So when one dude decides he’s going to make a game out in Microsoft XNA and assumes it’s going to be too stupid to even make him any money so he sells it for $1, and then it becomes an underground favorite – yeah. I love that guy, and all of his aspirations. Having said that, I never played his other game The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, but all the same! He’s a boss. Cheers to you, Mr. James Silva. Live your dreams, and long live the dreams of all indie developers everywhere.

Speaking of indie developers! My friend made this game called Cyber Heist for his senior thesis/project in a video games development-centric Master’s program and that is awesome that he is in it, and it exists. The game is getting crazy hype and he is getting crazy hype and I couldn’t be more over the moon for him and his cohorts working on the game. Although the premise is tongue in cheek (hackers trying to get into the system to erase all of their student debt), the idea of the second player and first player having complete different gameplay experiences is . . . fairly novel. I can’t think of another game that does that besides Wii U games (people with the Wii U controller in New Super Mario Bros Wii U for example, place jumping blocks anywhere on the screen, and don’t control a character). Comment! Correct me with examples, because I’m sure I’m wrong.

Speaking more about indie games! Tripleslash, the team that made Magnetic By Nature (which I am in love with), is releasing a full version of the game in the next few months. Details seem a little sparse on any official outlet, but it looks like the fully-funded Kickstarter plans on delivering a newly polished, full version in Q3 of 2014 on PC, Linux, and Mac OS. I’m also pretty sure the “Ultimate” version on the official website is for the new, upcoming release, even though the demo video still shows the gameplay of the $1 title on the Xbox Live Indie Aracde (still great, by the way).

Anyway. You know me and indie devs. I’m just a regular fangirl, droolin’ all over people makin’ moves and fulfillin’ dreams without corporate backing. I love you indie devs. Get it, girls.


It’s been awhile. I want to say “I’m making awesome video content!” but what’s really happening is I’m constantly checking my Amazon purchases and my Gamefly account to see if all necessary software and hardware will arrive soon so THEN I can start recording awesome video content. In the meantime, I should be writing up a storm on this blog, but alas – holidays always throw me for a lazy loop. But enough of this! On to the bee in my bonnet.

I was browsing Xbox Live accounts online at work today and I realized I needed to not be lame and just drop some points for some non-lame avatar threads. I started with updating my hair (since I chopped it all off a few months ago) and the thought crossed my mind “Maybe it’ll look weird since I have to choose a guy’s haircut to put on my female avatar.” Without much surprise, the hair looks fine on the avatar, so I moved on to updating my pants and shoes to something less frumpy. I opted for some standard shorts that look like what I wear most summer days, and then I realized that there weren’t any shoes that looked like shoes I wear. I then realized that I was only looking at the women’s shoes options. “Ah, makes sense. I did choose the female avatar body. But I bet I can find some shoes I like in the men’s section.” I came across some Oxfords, thought “Perfect!,” and tried to preview them on my avatar.

ENTER GENDER BINARY OPPRESSION. I got an error message telling me “Oops! These shoes are for the other gender” or something very similar to that message. The “Oops!” was definitely there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to protest Microsoft, and I wasn’t distraught for days. If someone has run across this error message before and has subsequently protested Microsoft or was distraught for days – I feel you. Those are appropriate responses. That rejection of how you identify can be really frustrating and even traumatizing. For me, it wasn’t, but I was bummed out, and annoyed at Microsoft’s short-sightedness.

Gender-specific clothing? Really, Microsoft? I just . . . man. What a antiquated thing to code into your social service. Clothes are just clothes! People make avatars to be a cooler version of themselves. I don’t own Oxfords, but I want to, and I want my dang avatar to wear them, because I hate flip flops and clunky tennis shoes. And if I were a dapper butch lesbian, I’d want to have my tie on my avatar and my loafers, ya dig? Microsoft shouldn’t pidgeon-hole people or how they identify. Free the clothes for all, Xbox Live!

Add me if you so desire: lbizz66 (note that the shoes my avatar is currently wearing are not accurately representative of the persona I’d like to project on Xbox Live. Thank you).

Have you run into a bummer like this before? You identify as a dude that loves heels, or a chick that loves ties? Leave a comment, rant against The Machine (Microsoft), and let’s keep our eye on the avatar editor to see if Microsoft figures it out sooner rather than later.