Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Celebration #7

Monday, May 26, 2008

Games for Girl(friend)s?

I spend a lot of time playing with and chatting with other girl gamers. Sometimes I seek them out subconsciously like some kind of strange girl gaming metal detector. A few years ago, I woke up and found that all my gaming friends were men. This was around the same time that I was spending my nights playing Halo online. (And to this day, I can assure you that the Halo crowd is not one that lets women forget their gender.)

Today, women gamers are everywhere I look. Whether it's on XBox Live or waiting in line for Phantom Hourglass. But it's still a sad glance at any end credits when I realize that women are such a minority in the industry—as programmers, designers, artists, producers, or testers. And the review biz is the same way.

There was an interesting article a couple weeks ago in the Sydney Morning Herald reflecting on the growing female gaming demographic and the apparent lack of titles "being made for women." Honestly, there were a lot of good points raised by both the reporter (Jason Hill) and the women he interviewed. But the whole "games made for women" idea just confuses me.

Continued at Game Positive...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Battle of the Bands

Last night was a long, wonderful swing dance hosted at MIT as part of the Boston IndepenDANCE Exchange. I had a lot of great dances with locals and out-of-towners alike. And with two great bands playing live music and so many incredible lindy hoppers out on the floor... The $20 entry fee was definitely worth it! What a fun event.
But my favorite find of the weekend has got to be the song "Battle Royal," originally recorded by the great rival orchestras of the original Big Band era: Duke Ellington and Count Basie. My knowledge of swing and jazz music is woefully limited anyway, but it was so incredible hearing the White Heat Swing Orchestra and Beantown Swing battle back and forth for the whole night and then conclude with this great song.

Here's the original recording. Mandatory listening.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Celebration #6

Monday, May 19, 2008

Arrogant Developers

According to Denis Dyack, the incredible, engrossing, action-packed co-op mode of Too Human will not incorporate the gripping, groundbreaking storytelling of the single player campaign. So, you can either play through it with a friend or you can experience the story.

Apparently, the justification for this "design choice" was as follows: "we pulled that out because we didn't think people would want to sit through the cinematics." What? Thanks, Silicon Knights for so poorly reading the minds of gamers and not even giving us the CHOICE of watching the story.

God forbid I want my first playthrough to be on co-op. Or God forbid I want to introduce my friend to this incredible story by playing a few levels together. And God forbid you include the option to skip the cutscenes—a technological feat that Gears of War co-op, Halo co-op, and even freaking Guild Wars has!

I'm sorry. This makes me so upset. "Design choices" like this show a basic failure of developers to appreciate that some people enjoy gaming as a social experience.

I know many people wouldn't even care or notice this. But social and co-operative gaming is really important to me... I think it's so crucial to breaking stereotypes about gamers and pushing the industry to develop innovative products. Silicon Knights is basically forcing me to play through it alone. Nice one, guys.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Found Odyssey

115 hours is a long time to be playing one video game. I'm not sure I even spent that long playing Final Fantasy: Tactics. But it was no great difficulty putting this amount of time into Lost Odyssey. I'm not going to write a whole review here. (I have to start playing my next game, which I actually do have to review!)

But I need to at least take the time to commemorate two momentous events.

Number one is that I actually got 1000 Achievement Points in this game. My first thousand ever. This is a pretty big deal. In case you don't know, I have two of the most inconveniently contradictory personality traits for gaming... I'm a completionist and I have gaming attention deficit disorder. So, I like to explore every nook and cranny of every dungeon, but if another new game comes out, I leap all over it and the other game gets left to gather dust. This isn't to say I don't sometimes return to uncompleted games. When I'm in a gaming drought or an odd mood comes over me, sometimes I'll throw in some old, half-finished game and give it a go. But I can say with some certainty that I own vastly more incomplete games than complete ones. So... yes. 1000 points is a very big deal.

In Lost Odyssey, these 1000 points are not easy to come by. Several of them require an absurd level of detail. ("Treasure Trove," for instance, means finding every treasure in the game, including combing the bottom of the ocean, doing every side quest, revisiting areas to get previously invisible chests, etc.) And then there's the traditional "max out your characters" achievements—one for each character. Fortunately, this requires each character to learn all possible skills, rather than reach level 99 or something. And I've always loved any game with an SP system. I know plenty of people think I'm silly for spending so much time doing this... but I'm happy as can be.

Momentous event number two is the completion of the story. I call this a momentous event not because it's a game that spans four discs, but because it easily goes down as one of the greatest video game stories I have ever experienced. Perhaps even the greatest. The combination of in-game events, cut scenes, and the 1000 years of dreams side stories make these characters some of the richest, most empathetic protagonists I've had the pleasure to follow. It's true that the villain could have been given a deeper treatment, but the player characters are so fascinating that you can hardly even care about who they're fighting.

And when the final (hour long?) series of cut scenes was over, I had shed more than a couple tears and was filled with such peace and joy.

There is something special that a video game—appropriately called interactive entertainment—can achieve that other media cannot. The inherent participation that's required of the player brings so much more investment to the story, the characters, and their lives. Especially when the game is done well. To feel that you're not just participating, but driving the events of the story... this is something that no movie or book can create. And in the best games of this generation, it's something that is not only created, but nurtured.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Celebration #5

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Poem

The Thursday blues are in my shoes
And socks and bra and sweater.
So someone said a poem instead
Would make me feel much better.

But will the day go by this way?
Is rhyming therapeutic?
Or will each rhyme just pass some time?
Like solving cubes of Rubik?

So then I dote on what I wrote,
Examine punctuations.
And glancing up, cry that's enough
Of questioning sensations!

Is a question mark the kind of spark
I need to find my passion?
Discover pride that's lost inside,
That long went out of fashion?

No more questions, deep depressions,
And boredom as vocation.
To never mention banished tension,
I'll live with exclamation!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


What on earth is a girl to do!? Next week, I have free tickets to see The Huntington's She Loves Me. And Indiana freaking Jones opens Thursday. And the Penny Arcade video game is released. Considering how slow this week has been (and how much laundry and cleaning I still have to do to recover from the last 8 months or so), the impending rush is nothing if not overwhelming.

She Loves Me

It's with sick fascination that we attend professional productions of shows that we've been a part of. I poured many months of sweat and blood into directing She Loves Me. And it was a very good production. Sure, it wasn't perfect. I didn't feel like every moment was exactly as I envisioned it. But there was some incredible talent on the stage and some really great theatre happened. So... why am I going to see the pros do it? Obviously, they have the money, talent, and resources to surpass our little show. I'm not even sure what to expect, since what I'll be seeing is a "better" production that is being performed according to someone else's vision. Basically, I'll be wishing I had directed the Huntington version.

Indiana Jones

When I was in 9th grade, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I don't think this was because of Indiana Jones. I think I just liked history. And puzzles. And the romanticism of ancient civilizations. I starting buying lots of books about the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Incans. And when I applied to colleges, the first thing I did to narrow my search was look only at schools that offered programs in archaeology. Well, one thing led to another and I was at Dartmouth, where the archaeology program was part of the Classics department. And so I found myself learning Latin and Greek and sitting on beaches in the Mediterranean.

Well, since then, I've come to realize that the life of an archaeologist isn't for me. I'm a girl who wants a stable life with a house and a yard and kids and a hammock. I love to travel, but only for short amounts of time and with a home to come back to. But I still love Indiana Jones. I've seen the movies dozens of times and would love to talk to you about why he's the perfect hero. And I'm more than a little in love with Harrison Ford. But not Harrison Ford in any other part. Just Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. And while other people don't want to see him in his "dusk," I'll be happy to see one more adventure with Indy, who always manages to find incredible journeys and always makes it look so hard.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice

I've talked more than once about the sad demise of the pure adventure game. Exploring a world, discovering new characters and new places... If it weren't for the Infocom text adventures, I never would have become a gamer. So, I'm damn excited about the first installment of the Penny Arcade action-adventure title set in a dystopian 1920s New Arcadia. And with the excellent twisted humor of Tycho and Gabe, I'm not sure how this game can disappoint me. I think a lot of "modern" gamers will be disgruntled with the lack of action, but I can't wait to engross myself in the universe of this game.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Sad Separation.

I haven't posted much about my gaming life recently because theater has taken over my spare time. It's been a sad, gameless life...

In all seriousness, though, it's been hard finding time, but I'm relieved to be back to "normal" life and able to play again. I'm about halfway through the GTA IV campaign and it's definitely growing on me. When I first started it up, the driving mechanics felt so clumsy that I was desperately yearning for my days with Crackdown. But now I actually enjoy restraining myself a bit and making liberal use of the e-brake. The world is, of course, phenomenal. And the story is some of the best stuff I've seen in the series. I think it rivals and even surpasses Vice City. A perfect 10 it is not. The best game since Ocarina of Time? Definitely too bold a statement. But it's very well done and I'm enjoying my time in Liberty City.

I also just recently started playing Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings on the DS. (I know I'm late to the party.) It's slow getting warmed up to it, but I'm willing to take the time if it's even remotely as good as its PS2 predecessor. I already like that there are story connections.

And a few nights ago I had my first Team Fortress match in a long time. It was a great one, too! I'm so happy that they've returned some of the splendor to the medi-gun. Now I can heal in happiness again.

So nice to have things returning to normal.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Australian Gamer Girls

There was an interesting report today on female gamers in Digital Life, the tech portion of the Sydney Morning Herald. (I can't wait for the day when articles like this aren't seen as revelations.) But Jason Hill does raise some interesting questions about what games are being developed and how they're being marketed.

What I really like is how Hill attacks the issue from the perspective of recruiting more women into the industry. It's nice to see people actively thinking about the problem. I would love to be one of the women who actually starts changing things...