Seriously, it looks like Pac-Man is about to eat an impact crater.
The Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn for the better part of a decade, dropping probes into other worlds, finding extraterrestrial methane lakes and dunes made of hydrocarbon sand, documenting storms bigger than Earth - and, in 2010, finding out that Saturn's moon Mimas has a heat-signature that looks like the spitting image of Pac-Man.
Now, Cassini scientists have found a second one, as you can see above, meaning that both Mimas and Tethys are in orbit around Saturn like some sort of celestial Pac-Man arcade game in Predator heat-vision. But seriously, the presence of two planets with such a strikingly similar, and strikingly unique, heat signature is proof that the effect seen on Mimas is no fluke, but that something more systematic is going on around Saturn. Scientists postulate that both moons are being regularly bombarded by high-energy electrons in select areas, decreasing the ability of those areas to absorb heat from the sun. Therefore, when viewed with Cassini's infrared spectrometer, those areas appear darker and lead to the effect shown above.
FYI, Tethys is named after the eponymous Titan and alleged mother of the ancient world's rivers, and whose real-world history may be related (in the way that many Indo-European gods are related) to the Babylonian primordial goddess and embodiment of chaos, Tiamat; and Mimas, which rather famously looks like the Death Star (thanks to that prominent, Australia-sized crater), is named after the serpent-legged giant son of the Greek creation goddess Gaia.
And with the trifecta of video games, space, and mythology completed, my Saturday can officially end.
By now you've likely seen and heard about Wootini's adventures picking up a Wii U on launch night in New York. My introduction to the system was significantly more...well...Canadian. That said, I purposely avoided getting the system in my home town, Toronto, where launch days tend to be a different kind of Canadian than people are familiar with. Picking up a home console on launch day in Toronto is a lot like this; frenetic, shall we say. Instead, I pre-ordered one out in the middle of nowhere and was treated with typical Canadian politeness. A Futureshop employee even called me the day before, just to let me know he had my system in his hands and was writing my name on it as we spoke. I could pick it up any time within 72 hours of Sunday morning.
That policy made for the most civilized launch-day experience of my life. I got dropped off at the store Sunday morning, sauntered in and had my system in my hands in moments. A younger couple (they might have been roommates, but they were a bit too touchy-feely) was behind me and wanted to get some accessories for their iPhones too, so one of the staff escorted them, their system and games, to the cellphone section, helped them pick everything out, and walked them back.
So that bit of it was quite pleasant. How about the rest?
I figured I would be in dereliction of duty if I didn't give some impressions of the Wii U, but I find myself as conflicted writing these things as I do reading them. So, I will promise you that I won't do the stuff that drives me nuts when I read reviews. I won't pretend to tell you I know what you should spend your money on. I won't give it some numbered rating, as though there were any kind of interrater reliability with reviews. I won't pretend I can see the future, and tell you whether this console will do well or not. And I certainly won't pretend that I'm unbiased.
But, what do I think of the system? Am I having buyer's remorse? How many crudely-drawn penises have I seen in the Miiverse? Follow along, after the jump.
On the eve of the launch of the Wii U, it's somehow easy to forget that the Wii is about to sail on to Old-School territory. With the industry's eyes focused on the future, whether it be the Wii U, the PS4, or whatever the next Xbox is going to be called, it feels like a lot of air is getting sucked out of the current generation's room. Thankfully, Rob Crossley at CVG has produced one hell of a look back on how the curious Wiimote came to be - and fittingly so, as Nintendo's shiny white toaster looks to surpass the 100 million units-sold mark.
In 2001, Nintendo bought in to a tiny American company called Gyration that owned a world-wide patent on the motion control technology that would end up being the foundation of the Wiimote. This was after Gyration's owner had pitched the tech to both Microsoft and Sony, thinking that Nintendo was on its way to being an also-ran in the video game world. The tech was rather tersely rebuffed by both companies, and only then did Gyration go to Nintendo. The timing was ideal, as Nintendo was struggling to compete in the home console market against its much larger competitors, having seen a drop in overall hardware sales and market share in every generation since the release of the NES. It wanted out, to innovate and expand the market rather than go toe to toe with companies in much higher weight categories.
The rest is well-known. The Wii, with its innovative controller and appealing price, brought Nintendo unprecedented success in the home console market - selling far more than even the NES - opening up the new, friendlier markets it was looking for. And while it delighted many and changed much, it failed to deliver on everything it promised, and left others deeply unhappy, gamers and developers alike. But, it would seem, nowhere was the upset felt more strongly than in the boardrooms of Sony's and Microsoft's gaming divisions where, following lacklustre sales in the face of a light-weight competitor, heads rolled, hurried me-too hardware was ordered, and (ultimately) motion control was brought in to the fold with Kinect and Move.
I'd urge anyone interested in the gaming industry to check out CVG's article, which provides a very rare insight into the internal workings of the industry's biggest movers and shakers, and a fascinating look at how it came to be that a funny-sounding console from a company many expected to go the way of Sega made such a big splash.
Much of our site's readership may well have a soft spot for Mortal Kombat, though I doubt you guys care much for Santorum in whatever fashion it may make its presence known. And if you were to ask me whether Dan Savage's famous neologism or the deeply creepy Santorum himself would end up in Mortal Kombat, I'd probably lean toward the former. That said, the folks at Slate thought otherwise and shoved several fun-hating, fact-hating Republican presidential contenders in the ring together, ostensibly using Mortal Kombat to tell the story of the the American presidential debates.
Episode one pits Mitt's mitts against Senator Santorum and Herman Cain, who were both once nominees for presidential candidacy. Listen, I'm not going to pretend I know much about American politics, even though we Canadians have a habit of being more interested in the American three-ring political Grand Guignol than our own - in part because the horrific plausibility that those dim bulbs might actually get the chance to put their fingers on the button makes the process hideously compelling, and in part because our own politics wavers from creepy to flat-out boring (though that will hopefully change with the dreamy Dauphin de Canada throwing his pre-Raphaelite curls, glittering eyes, and heart-breaking smile into the ring for the top job around here), so many of the jokes flew over my head. I'm sure, however, that our politcally-savvy American readers will enjoy the sly humour, and perhaps one of you can tune me in to what's so funny about "9 9 9"...
The makers plan on a few more episodes (the second went up while I was writing this), including one pitting President Obama against Donald Trump that I sure ain't gonna miss.
Remember how, back in the day, cover art didn't look anything like the game at all? Remember how the picture on the cover of the box (hell, remember when video games came in boxes?) would be all cool, with muscled-out dudes doing battle with aliens, or dragons, or something like that? And then you'd pop in the cartridge (remember cartridges? S--t I'm old) and you'd be presented with a Dadaist array of squares and rectangles in primary colours that resembled a cartoon version of what you saw on the cover?
It's not that it was ever a let-down. I mean, we all knew that it wasn't going to look like the box art, yeah? And often times the game, in its 8- or 16-bit glory, looked better than the weirdness on the cover - to wit, Mega Man 2's famously ugly box art, and Mega Man 2's great in-game art direction.
True, cover art is with us still. The thing is, it's beginning to look more and more like the game inside - or, rather, the games behind the cover art are beginning to look like the cover art. It is sometimes beautiful, sometimes kick-ass, and sometimes gives you a taste of what it the game has in store for you. It seems, though, that more recently the box art is meant to quite literally show you what the game looks like - a little too literally perhaps - whereas in the days of unsophisticated graphics, artists were free to run with their imaginations a little bit more.
That thought struck me while I was perusing a nice little retrospective about Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, a team of artists who created some truly iconic fantasy imagery through the years - a canon which has been copied (usually poorly) for decades, and is now beginning to get more and more recognition. Bell and Vallejo are responsible for a great many classic video game box covers, and their outrageous imaginations (to wit: bikini-clad warrior wielding flaming sword and riding a pegacorn whilst battling a dragon in space) are truly admirable.
I'm sure much of this is my selective memory, the past getting better as I get older. But there really has been some great, imaginative box art over the years. Pictures that would stand out on their own, without the game's name splashed all over the image.
Do you have any favourites? Please do sound off in the comments section below.
I'm a bastard, and have had my head so close to the grindstone, so to speak, that I didn't get to the fabulous Jaime Woo's Gaming Grindr indiegogo as quickly as I should have. Please, watch this vid and if you like, give! There are 9 hours left, because I'm an asshat.
Today the online community Bulbagarden, one of the most comprehensive resources for all things Pokemon, enacted new anti-discriminatory policies in support of its LGBTQ members. Wonderful news for the queer Pokemon fans out there, and a step forward for the gay community at large when it comes to the very real issue of cyber-bullying. But of course, what would a move towards progress be without somebody voicing their disagreement. A group of users, likely the ones whose behavior this new policy aims to combat, argue that the admins of the site should not be taking political stances.
Webmaster Archaic of Bulbagarden announced today a new policy against discrimination, hatred and intolerance toward lesbian, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, queers and questioning members of the Bulbagarden community. Many people, even among those who support gay rights, may feel that this is out of place and that Bulbagarden, as a Pokémon fansite; shouldn't be taking stance on political issues.
But our new policy isn't about politics.
Our new policy is about the teenagers and young adults who begin to realize they're "different". The ones who are afraid anyone will find out what they are, because they live in a place where being what they are can get them shrugged, beaten, and even killed. The ones who have already lost their family, or fear they will lose their family. The ones who can't bear to go to school anymore. The far too many who have been driven to end their lives because of this intolerance.
The policy is about the hundreds of Pokémon fans who experience this everyday, or who experienced it in their past, and who come online to enjoy their favorite games, only to find that even here, they cannot escape being mocked, attacked, condemned and told they don't deserve equal rights. To find that even here, trying to play the games or watch the anime they love, what they identify as is being used as an insult.
Saying those fans deserve to enjoy Bulbagarden as much as any other fans is not politics. Saying that they won't be able to enjoy Bulbagarden as much as any other fan, if we tolerate people saying homosexuality is a disease, or immoral, is not politics. It's being humane.
Going out of your way, on a Pokémon forum, to hound teenagers who are struggling with who they are to tell them they are going to hell; that they shouldn't be able to marry; that they suffer from a disease? That's not about being who you are, it's not about trying to live your life - it's about trying to tell others who they have a right to be, and how they should live their lives. That is politics. Letting it happen is politics. And it's the bare truth that this sort of politics doesn't belong on a Pokémon fansite.
At the end of the day, we don't feel that choosing between these two sides is playing politics.
Who would have thought that one of the most poignant, beautifully articulated, and concise statements on cyber-bullying and LGBTQ rights would come out of a Pokemon forum of all places?
Kudos, Bulbapedia staff! From all of us here at gaygamer.net, Pokemon fans the lot of us, thank you! And keep up the great work.
Gamers: We exist in a world of illusion - awash in a sea of pixels and fancy bloom effects - knowing not of Valentines, flowers, chocolates, or any other silly dalliances. Preferring an endless mashing of buttons to the tender embrace of a lover, we troglodytes of the digital realm fritter away the days of our existence behind the comfort of the screen: an elaborate array of colors serving only to veil our otherwise grey existence.
Yet there are those who claim otherwise - that button-mashers and thumbstick jockeys of Earth can, in fact transcend their station - exposing the terrible secret that in the end, we, like our non-gamer counterparts, all long to have doted upon us those three little words: "Come hither, sexy."
So how best to express your Valentinian bliss? You could bow before the altar of the greeting card industry - that monstrous, corporate hydra, mass-marketing sentiment to the masses, with the implicit notion that refusing to buy their snake oil means that you don't love the object of your affection - or you could turn to the mad, mad world of "free and clever" that is the internet. Suck it, Hallmark.
Indeed, for those among you with a special gamer in your life, the infinite cyberscape has gifted you with some video game-themed Valentine's Day cards. Even Andrew Ryan, whose immense displeasure with "all things love" has been duly noted on the site, finds himself powerless against Cupid's pagan sorcery.
So check out the lovely loveliness after the jump, and prance fancifully (or gaily, depending on that for which the moment calls) through the flowering fields of love, and into the soft, pillowy bosom of Dame Romance.
I hate to sound like everyone's father, but I know what this "Halloween" business is all about. Yeah, you say that you're just going to get together with a few friends, have a drink or two, and perhaps cut a bit loose. Well I've been there Buster, and let me tell you, it goes wrong before you even get a chance to say, "What's your name, Candy*ss?" Soon enough you wake up in a jail cell with a pounding headache, an inability to recall the previous night, and as you will later find out from your doctor, a nasty case of VD.
So how do you purge your soul of the shame and regret accumulated over those fateful few hours? The answer is simple, and frankly, I'm disappointed that you haven't already guessed: BioShock Monopoly. Indeed, free market problems (i.e. lots of alcohol and terrible costumes) require free market solutions - especially fitting for the subject at hand, as one of the major themes in BioShock is capitalism. Keep in mind this is the Randian, "beat the working class until they cry, and then laugh at them for being weak" variety, rather than the regulated form to which we've become accustomed, but the same rule applies. This version of Monopoly comes as a digital download, including the board, all the title deeds and, more important than life itself, money. Unfortunately, as I go through the images in the BioShock Monopoly zip file, I see that it is missing the "Swami" and "Power to the People" cards, which I can only assume are the equivalent of "Chance" and "Community Chest." In fairness, quite a bit of work was put into everything else, and it would have no doubt been extraordinarily time consuming to write up and design them all. One will simply have to make do with the standard Monopoly cards, so long as you refer to the latter as "Venture Capitalist's Chest" - or something along those lines.
You'll probably need to fork over a decent chunk of change to enjoy this creation, assuming that, like me, you are without a printer. When I'm not doing articles for the site, I'm slaving away at a retail store working in the consumer printing sector which, while sending me headlong into a drinking habit so severe that I cough blood every morning not the most fulfilling job, does give me some insight into the cost of these sort of things. Be forewarned: Color printing can add up quickly, and the cost of the board (which will be considered large format printing) can be downright predatory. However, should you feel inclined to bring this beauty into the physical realm - it is quite impressive indeed - know that I will envy you from afar. BioShock Monopoly can be downloaded at this link.
I will give the following caveat: Corvus is a friend of mine, and I have been watching him develop this project for quite some time. What project? This Kickstarter funded project to publish a tabletop game.
"But Vorpal!" you might exclaim, "what does this have to do with these games of video or gay gaming, or--"
Here I would interrupt you. I have spoken with Corvus about this project at length over the years. What he is offering is an open platform: one that operates less on numbers and spreadsheets and tons of rulebooks, and one that puts the focus on telling stories. What type of stories?
I've seen quite the range. From story rules involving Cthulhu, to siblings attending a funeral, and as I have discussed with him, the stories we may wish to tell, whether they focus on being LGBT or not. The name itself, Bhaloidam, which is derived from roots that mean "story", "play", and "community," depends on people getting together and telling stories they want to tell and have a game to play while doing so.
Since I also know Corvus personally, I know he is a vocal supporter of this community, and I wish to invite any who might be interested in supporting him in turn. As of writing this, the project is $5,986 away from funding, and has five days left. Kickstarter campaigns often see surges in the last few days, so here's to wishing Corvus the best of luck!
If you do have questions, please feel free to contact Corvus himself, as he tends to be a pretty chatty, open fellow.
P.S. If you have a project of your own you wish to discuss with us, please feel free to email me and we'll start talking.
Just coming back from PAX and need some warm, cottony comfort to chase away the feeling of being surrounded by non-gamers? Well, Mojang has you covered--they've teamed up with Happy Socks (also Swedish!) to bring you a run of official Minecraft socks.
As shown, they come in a fully stackable, fully destructible little dirt block, and the effect only gets better once you open it and find a wearable piggy face, creeper, or mountain collage. Slip them on, and Happy Socks hopes you'll agree that the singular pixel style of Minecraft has never wrapped your toes quite like this! One glance at the isometric trees and everyone will know your calves are something special.
These may be more of a collector's item than a vanity thing, however: this socks-box will set you back $45. That's not a horrible price when one considers the 'prestige fee' that most official gaming gear carries, but the idea of spending that much and then even daring to break the seal and get some ambient carpet dirt on them is enough to make me shy away - let alone allowing them to wear out completely. But, if you've got the gold ore to make it happen, you should get them while the collab is still good!
Are you gay and working in the games industry? If you are interested in networking with other folks like you within the industry, try joining the Gay Game-Industry Professionals mailing list.
Click here for all the details!