Games for Change! It happened! Robert Yang was there! This link will take you to his blog post that has embedded video (I can't find the embed code, as it isn't apparent from that particular site, so go have a look). It's not much of a rant, so mch as it is making an argument for a more diverse setting in games. Name-checking some of my favorite designers, Anna Anthropy and Christine Love (as well as his own work), Yang offers such tidbits:
I think me and Anna Anthropy usually treat identity as the subject, as the pervasive context, as identity embodied within the world itself. Take a game about, I don't know, about zooming in and staring at crotch bulges -- saying that game is gay is like saying water is wet. It's the most redundant thing you can say. Instead, these games are more interested in HOW we express / perform gayness, and HOW we live as lesbians, not WHETHER you're closeted with this typical coming out story -- which is important, but we do need more types of narratives.
As a short presentation, it's to-the-point, humorous, and still manages to say quite a bit for a perhaps uninitiated audience. Originally it was meant to be a thirty-minute presentation with Todd Harper (a researcher at MIT-Gambit, which was responsible for A Closed World), but you can read about that chronicle and how the festival's logistics pared that down on Harper's blog post.
I make the assumption that most of our audience will be familiar with the games mentioned, but in case you are not, the following links will guide you to a path of queerness:
Remember this gem? It was the creative director for Assassin's Creed III talking about why his game did not feature a female protagonist. Color me confused when I saw rumors over the weekend that there would be a PS Vita game featuring Aveline, a French black woman in New Orleans.
Assassin's Creed: Liberation, as Wootini covered during the Sony Press Conference, is coming this October, also bundled with a new Crystal White version of the handheld. As someone who has never really considered a bundle, I will admit to actually being tempted (beyond the fact that I don't really want white consoles)! For me, it's more of an issue of support: yes, I want to support more things like this. Particularly since I looked at her outfit and instantly not only didn't feel like I was supposed to be a lecherous straight guy to enjoy it, but liked it much more than her counterpart Connor's outfit.
Of course, we don't know a lot of actual information as yet, so it's hard to gauge what exactly is going on in this realm.
It's been twelve years since I waited excitedly for the Amazon purchase my mother had made for the family: Diablo 2. In that time, a lot has happened not only in games, but in how we interact online. LiveJournal is dead, MySpace came and went, Facebook went from a private network open to select colleges to being public(ly traded). Blizzard has also launched the most financially successful MMO we have yet seen. Every console can now connect online, while most boast achievements that are tacked on to our digital presence, marking us with varying degrees of prowess/interest. With these factors, it is easier to make sense of what Diablo 3 presents us.
Having not played World of Warcraft in five years, but having watched a roommate play for a bit a year ago, I know that achievements now exist; it was among the first things that caught my eye when playing the stress-test weekend beta. When playing this copy, it was no different; as someone who does not see achievements as necessarily evil, I know it already has made me experiment some with the classes, letting me know of different ways I could build a class, without being hampered to solely building towards them (I've already been storing equipment for a battlemage type build). What I did not immediately expect was being told when other friends had achieved something of note, being able to click on that achievement, and being in a different game, but receiving messages congratulating me on beating the game, reaching level 50, or finding some sidequest.
The thing is, I actually enjoy that touch. It can be turned off, but my experience has been bolstered by the camaraderie of playing that particular type of game. As someone who played both previous installments with his family over LAN, and no longer lives on the same landmass as they, it creates a new type of social experience for a game I have always experienced with others. Which is not for everyone, and I imagine will turn off quite a few people; for others it will pass by as something that just is, because they are so accustomed to the social networks that game systems are increasingly becoming.
Which is great, because the plot and writing are on the same level as most of the Diablo novels. I cringed while reading most of those, the exception being Mel Odom's The Black Road. In fact, having read the novels, some of the game's terms and concepts actually made sense to me, where otherwise the game waits forever to actually define them.
Recently I was contacted by, Fun to 11, the company responsible for Miskatonic School for Girls regarding another Kickstarter project he had set up: Flame War. The basic premise is that you are in control of threads on a forum (or a comment section--it's pretty open-ended in that regard), and looking to have the most engagement without things getting ugly.
The measure of success, or how you win, is by accumulating the most interaction: the most single cards in a thread?
How does that happen? In a fairly simple and straightforward manner, you start a thread with any card, and then anyone can post to that thread with a card whose numeric value is equal or greater to the current top card; they likely will, since you can put down two cards every turn. The goal is to close three threads and have the most cards by the end of the game.
In the past week, while battling demons in Sanctuary, I've flitted in and out of groups with Bauske and EccentricTomboy (hoping to catch Dryden at some point or another), and am still working on a review. In fact, much like the Sonic 4: Episode 2 review yesterday, I am thinking of asking our other writers to proffer some opinions as well, so we get a range for you to select.
We don't do scores here at GayGamer anymore. Partly because we're not aggregated by any sources, so it doesn't matter if we do. Partly because we do still offer a conclusion paragraph that tends to tell you what you want to know if you want to quickly ascertain whether a game is for you or not. It also means we can theoretically have more fun with what we post about games.
Now, about that always-online thing for Diablo 3. Beyond the first day, I haven't had much problem with it, to be honest. A few lag hiccups here and there that make me nervous to ever run a hardcore character, but otherwise it's been fairly smooth sailing. My first day in the game was actually in a four-person group with EccentricTomboy, Bauske, and one other. We didn't get much of the plot: a four-person brawl on screen tends to mean lots of colors, bashing, and fun, but doesn't give much time to actually stay awhile and listen. That may be okay, though.
I've also tried public games, to have people join, sit there, and not respond to me, nor actually play the game. It's worrisome. Anyone who has played has surely heard all the rumors and speculation about hacking through achievements? Or replicating your login session so that they can get into your account without needing your password (thereby ignoring authenticators as well)? Blizzard has released a statement about what to do, but hasn't actually detailed anything.
Which makes sense: why give potential griefers more ammunition?
I'm just not joining public games again until something is cleared up (and maybe not even then--I'm a fan of exchanging Battletags and talking with people I know). So, what about you?
Has your Diablo experience been wrought with lag, disconnects, or being hacked? Is this pretty firmly cementing all the reasons an always-online experience for a game which can still theoretically be played single-player is a disaster? Vent! Let us know.
Over on Joystiq this past Friday, Rowan Kaiser wrote up what makes the Quest for Glory franchise so amazing. Which led me to further thinking on the game series, and how it has influenced other games. Which is to say, in my opinion, I can see influences in a lot of places (particularly in BioWare titles). That is the topic for another post, however, as today I am more interested in figuring out what games have come closest to this particular RPG and adventure hybrid.
Recently I have been trying my hand at writing using ChoiceScript, which is used to make those lovely Choice Of games (Dragons, Vampires, and Zombies, oh my!). In reading up on how they handled choice and advancement, I came across this page, which describes their use of stats.
While the Choice of Games folk want you to make meaningful decisions, they came up with a method that seeks not to have them creating a labyrinthine novel with which you interact. Which is very similar to the QFG style: use stats to deterine a pass/fail option. What that means is your decisions matter in that they determine how your stats will increase, which in turn affects what you will succeed or fail at in future endeavors.
Reading over Rob Zacny's excellent piece on The Darkness II, You Don't Know Jackie, I realized I had never actually written what I wanted about the game; particularly since I rather enjoyed the first one and felt it has been an under appreciated game. I don't necessarily disagree with Zacny, about the tiring aspects of the arcade point shoot-em-up qualities, or the fact that the centuries old brotherhood you're fighting doesn't really propel the plot in an interesting fashion. However, what I took from the game was its thematic concerns with what reality is.
The first game's brilliance came in how it questioned free will, particularly in a videogame. Whenever I am asked about moments in gaming that truly affected me, my mind jumps back to that moment where the titular Darkness stops me from interacting with a cutscene. It is a cutscene: I'm not supposed to be interacting with it, but the fact that the game went out of its way to make sure I understood why, was particularly brilliant. The rest of the game blurs in that fashion, but it was such a defining moment that it had me wonder what exactly Jackie had control over.
The answer was: whatever I could control, and nothing more. Jackie had no free will. He was a puppet not only to the Darkness that lived inside him and controlled him forcibly at times, but my controller, which dictated how he even fought, which powers he learned, and moved him about as a doll in particularly dark set pieces.
Given such, I am less interested in the small pieces that make up an Aristotelian plot diagram for our anti-hero Jackie Estacado, and more interested in what the game tries to push in terms of philosophical questions.
The last time I had a piece on Kotaku I was a bit smarmy/angry. It happens sometimes.
This time, I wrote about my experiences with the closetShep playthrough I had of the Mass Effect series. It only reflects my experience, and given other peoples' coming out stories (they are quite individual in most cases), I figured I would provide the link here for those of you who might want to read through it. A quick snippet:
As someone who did enjoy the series, I wanted to lovingly mock it while pointing out its parallels to the thinking behind such policies as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But before I could do that, those points became irrelevant: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is no longer in effect, and there are now options for players to allow Shepard to experience two male same-sex romances.
If any of you attempted a similar run, I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts!
McSweeney's can often be visited for a quick chuckle and guffaw. Thanks to my friends Regina and Alex, I found this particular piece, from the perspective of Samus Aran.
Which is to say she supports same-sex marriage because she herself is a lesbian.
The entire read is worthwhile, but here's a little snippet to grab your attention.
Why have I kept this a secret for so long? That's hard for me to say. The nature of my work forces me to silence. Working as mercenary, it's far better to let my arm-cannon do the talking. Plus, the way I chose to express myself tended towards the unorthodox. I wrote a book of poems entitled Morphing Inside My Varia Suit, which failed to find a publisher. I would flit between one relationship and another, hopping inside my gunship and speeding off to the next planet before things got too serious. Then the Mother Brain decided to outlaw same-sex marriage on planet SR-388. Planets Tallon IV, Aether and my birth planet K-2L followed suit. What year are we living in? Earth Year 2009? It's time for the universe to redefine its narrow concept of marriage.
Either Kickstarter doesn't exist in Ms. Aran's universe, or she needs to get on using it as a way to publish her book of poetry. Who knows, she might give Sappho a run for her money.
Also, I am now looking at that arm-cannon in an entirely new light.
A few months back I finally gave Enslaved: Odyssey to the West a go, and found myself enjoying it, with caveats. What really made the game for me, though, was imagining Monkey, one of the protagonists, and the one you control, as a gay man.
There wasn't any one thing in particular that made me think this, and I don't see it as demonstrably provable--it's just that the game never dispelled me of that notion either. Given his exaggerated hip swagger, it recalled nights in various clubs, or walking down Halsted during Market Days in Chicago. Which is to say, it had that certain male sexuality that people like Calvin Klein have worked to bring into the mainstream; which is not to say it is exclusively homosexual in nature, but it is from where I was coming when approaching this particular game.
So how did the game actually play out?
Well, what amused me is that there seemed some vague plotline about how Monkey and Trip were actually developing something. I say vague because I know in the tradition of these things, I am supposed to believe that the obviously dripping feelings they were exchanging were indicative of a possible romance.
I saw it more as a close friendship, as I have had with many friends, regardless of their sex.
My love for the series started when I was around nine, and my mother had installed the games for me to play, thinking I would enjoy them more than just the traditional adventure games I had already played. There were a few reasons for that. First, there was my love of puns and language, and being able to find all these cultural references and then educate myself on them (these games served as my entry-point into both Monty Python and the Marx Brothers).
Then there was the fact that in terms of adventure games, it wasn't as rigid. This was a game of choice! Not choice as in choosing an outcome for a morally ambiguous question, as in with BioWare's latest, but more akin to what we see in the Choice Of games: choices based on your skill. Many puzzles had at least three different ways to approach them: as a stealthy thief, a cunning wizard, or a brute fighter. Just choosing one of those (or later becoming a paladin) did not block off the other choices, though.
Which ties into the third reason: the RPG elements. There was combat, sure. However, there were stats, and instead of leveling up, if you wanted to become better at a stat, you used it. Wanted to be more intelligent? Cast spells. Want to be better at throwing? Throw things. Dodging? Avoid the cheetaur claws!
So, the game is now available for download for the first time, at $9.99. It comes with all five games. The first game comes with both the EGA and VGA versions (former is parser and typing based, the latter point-and-click). If parsers are not your thing, and you want to go through the second game, there is also the AGDI fan remake to give a try.
P.S. In the fifth game, Andre the fisherman just so happens to be queer. Give him some flowers and watch as he mentions a jealous boyfriend.
Sent in as a tip by reader Steve J., the above video mixes certain nostalgic charm, for those of us who recall the SNES as a most lovable platform, with what appear to be varying doses of photography and Google Maps-esque images. Personally, I would be rather amused to see pixelated street fighters roaming about.
If you happen to enjoy the music, you can thank Triplefox. The album, Level Up! OST is available for free download (with some Creative Commons licenses for the songs)right here.
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