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May 28
2014

It’s Hard Being Tomodachi With Corporations

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TOMOD
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Recently, an uproar tore out across the internets when Nintendo decided not to include same-sex relationships in their life-sim game Tomodachi Life; people were incensed, Nintendo issued a fairly standard apology, people were mildly more optimistic but also still kind of sore. In response, there have been questions, confusions and concerns from folk criticising the backlash against Nintendo, for various reasons.

Many have echoed Nintendo’s sentiment of “social commentary” by claiming that games are “just games”, they’re escapist fantasies, they’re entertainment, and as such, they shouldn’t serve any “political agenda”. But games are not just “escapism”, they’re not just frivolous forays into time-wasting in between reading “Ulysses” or “Animal Farm”, they’re not “just” anything – there’s an entire side to the games industry called serious games! Games, like any medium, like any artform, like any kind of entertainment – both reflect the culture that created it and influences that society’s perspective. As Anna at BorderHouseBlog notes, choosing to abstain from “social commentary” on an issue IS social commentary — any action in a politically-muddied situation is political action. Similarly, Nintendo’s initial decision not to include same-sex relationships – and their subsequent decision not to – did not happen in a vacuum. They happened in an industry already hesitant about, if not inimical to, LGBTQ representation, in a culture where LGBTQ people are already marginalised, poorly represented and discriminated against.

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May 27
2014

Wootini’s Weekly Video Podcast #174

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Podcast174
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It’s only just now Memorial Day Weekend, but the summer blockbusters have been coming fast and furious for the past month or so. Thankfully, after a couple of duds, the new X-Men movie turned out to be pretty dang awesome. At least, in my opinion. After I rave about Days of Future Past, I then move on to talk about my excitement that SingStar lives on! Watch this week’s episode after the break!

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May 24
2014

Smash Saturdays: May 19th-23rd

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ikevillagersmash
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Greetings fellow gaymers! We’re back with another entry in Smash Saturdays! Towards the end of the week Sakurai gave us some interesting pieces of information and a pretty good surprise! Without further delay, let’s jump into this week’s screenshots.

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May 23
2014

Wootini’s Weekly Animal Crossing Diary

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HNI_0083
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Dear Diary,

There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff that happened this week in Geneva, but there were still a couple of epic moments. One has been a long time coming, and the other was completely unexpected but hilariously awesome! Read on and I’ll explain!

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May 22
2014

SingStar Moving To PS4

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SingStarphones
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SingStar is turning 10 years old this week, but they’re the ones giving us a present!

To celebrate a decade of karaoke gaming, Sony has announced that SingStar is heading for the PlayStation 4 later this year. And it’ll have a new look and new features, including the ability to use your smartphone as a microphone! The app will work with both the PS3 and PS4 versions of SingStar, and on most iOS and Android devices. In addition to using your phone as a mic, you’ll also be able to create personal playlists for the game.

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May 21
2014

Wootini’s Weekly Video Podcast #173

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Podcast173
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This week, I want to talk about the new Kinect-less Xbox One, and whether or not that might help Microsoft in this generation, but first I have a little ranting to do about the new Godzilla movie… Watch this week’s vidcast after the jump!

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May 20
2014

Queer Mechanic #6: Relationships

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queermechanic6
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Relationship mechanics have become enormously popular in recent years, to the extent that it”s not uncommon to see forum threads of speculation about whether certain characters in games can be “romanced”, guides for the optimal way to romantically engage with Love Interests (LIs), or discussing the difficulties inherent in romance options in games. The creation of engaging and interesting romance options and mechanics is something that’s vital, timely, and, most importantly, wanted.

Nonetheless, implementing romance options isn’t as easy as just rubbing one character on another until hearts pop out (…figuratively speaking). For example,the complexity of the sexual politics involved in Dragon Age: Origins alone is staggering, before we even get to what Denis Farr refers to as the “Schroedinger’s Sexuality” of Dragon Age II and the fact that some players had reservations about how the in-game Love Interests were portrayed as “playersexual” rather than bisexual – that is, there is little-to-no reference to their sexual orientation except in the case of when the player-character puts the moves on them. And, in those instances when romance mechanics go wrong, they can go really wrong: case in point, Gaygamer’s Trevor Smith’s discussion of the abject horror of badly-implemented romance mechanics resulting in a deeply creepy ‘romance’ scene.

hawkexisa

So, it’s important that we have interesting and engaging relationship options – but it’s also important that these options don’t undermine themselves by cutting corners, which can lead to perpetuating tired stereotypes without commentary, creating one-size-fits-all mechanisms that take away nuance and context, and sending out mixed messages.

Unfortunately, the games industry has done all three of these things repeatedly over the years, to the point that whenever games include relationships or romance options that aren’t your regular cis-heteronormative man-kisses-woman-and-they-marry fare, they tend to be cliché, crude, or conflicted. And that’s if they include them in the first place.

But in this month’s Queer Mechanic, we’re not talking about “the gay romance option”. We’re talking about romance options, plural – using game mechanics to explore how we could model and represent alternative relationship structures like polyamory, open relationships, D/s relationships and more, and the possibilities and difficulties these bring with them.

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