Being Black in Video Games

Being Black in real life isn’t super easy. Sure you always have company whenever you go shopping, even if you started alone. You’re more likely to have a living will or healthcare proxy (at least you should). Because Black folks are dropping dead like it’s Jim Crow again.
South Park’s new game recently introduced a slider that was labeled “Difficulty” and changed the character’s race. The darker you are the “harder” the difficulty. It’s funny because it’s true.

At least Fractured But Whole lets you be a person of color if you really want to. Or if you just really want to see a person of color as a hero in a video game. Continue reading “Being Black in Video Games”

Can't Live Without [July '17]

Crayon Shin-chan

Starting the day with the news is horribly depressing. Instead, I watch cartoons. Specifically, this summer, I’ve been all about watching Shin-chan on Hulu.
When I get up and start my putzing about, I put on the Chromecast and stream Shin-chan.
Completely vulgar, inappropriate, and satirical, this show has it all. Ass dance? Got it. Joking about things that are no laughing matter? Yup. Parents regretting all their choices and just trying not to get sued? All day? Teachers, who only teach because it’s the job they happen to have? Check.
Crayon Shin-chan is a wonderfully cynical and sunny way to kick off the day. Continue reading “Can't Live Without [July '17]”

[PAX East 2017] Survival Tip: Leave and Talk to Strangers

Main Event implies you can leave and find other events… maybe better events.

PAX East is sometimes described as a giant party. I’d think of it like a party in the way that Prom is a party. Sure, it’s “a party” but the real fun is around Prom. Pregaming, after parties, anti-prom parties. Sometime the most fun you can have at an event is by leaving the event.
Every year since we met Kae and I meet up at PAX East with water bottles filled with wine or rum and Coke. Werevel in the awesomeness that is nerding out among your peers over shared interests. Every year except this year.
Foolishly, we though we’d have a joyous time with just the environment and good company alone. PAX, over time, has become less and less the place you go for the environment and company alone. Especially now that they no longer serve alcohol at the bar. Yes, the Sam Adams bar in the convention center was not serving alcohol…
Large companies and innovative vendors have been fewer and further between as the years  passed. Drinking became even more vital to the social aspect of PAX East. Apparently last year an underage youth was served at the bar and now no one can have drinks…

Not super clear on the logic behind punishing adults because children can’t be trusted we decided to leave.

Hungry, bored, and searching for libations lead us to the Marriott hotel next door to the convention center. Specifically, we found the Asylum Gaming Esports at Laugh Boston party situation. We walked in hoping for some overpriced drinks and undersized bar food only to be greeted with an adult nerd’s paradise. It was the PAX we’d always wanted.
Lining the walls were consoles of vintage games like Duck Hunt and Metroid. In the space behind the bar there were two beer pong tables set up. The menu was even gamer themed with drinks like the “Power Up.”  I had the pleasure of seeing a guy order one of these specialty drinks then watch the bartender respond by looking at this temporary menu and saying, “Sure, let me just figure out what that is.”
Kae and I  sat at the bar drinking cheap (but not inexpensive) beer from plastic cups and some basic but delicious buffalo chick tenders and fries.

If you’re going to go to a bar, you might as well talk to strangers while you’re there.

After returning a few stray ping pong balls and meeting the Beer Pong players we were heckled into joining in. I’ve never pretended to be good at any game physical or digital but for some strange reason I was killing it at Beer Pong. Our opponents, Nate (who really didn’t like when I trolled him and called him Nick) and Dude with the beard and yellow hat (who we later found out had a name and it was Colin) were fellow PAX attendees who also wandered away from the main attraction.
This was the scene we’d been craving. We were trash talking IRL and meeting strangers with common interests. There were assists, sweet plays, drinking rules, rules we didn’t understand (Thanks for playing the role of Options and Settings, Ray aka TheHandsomeGinger). It was XBox Live… LIVE
We learned through experience that you might have the  best time by leaving the party and going to a different one.

A slightly unhinged letter to Bethesda, regarding Fallout 4

Here are some random thoughts, theories, desires and wishes relating to Fallout 4, in no particular order.

  • OK, we get a dog right? The video shows a dog. If I don’t actually get a dog in game I will be sad.
  • Do we actually get to visit that house in the announcement video? It looks like it had some loot in it. I like loot.
  • OK, so, like, that flying ship. Do we get to fly it? Or is it cut scene set dressing or something? I want to fly it, or at least loot it.
  • Related to the dog, can the dog die? I won’t take it with me if the dog can die. In F03 I never took anyone but Fawkes because they were so fragile. I liked NV a lot more because if you are a wuss like me and play it on lower difficulties the followers don’t die they just pass out.
  • How robust is the looting? How much random wasteland crap can I fit into my backpack? Can I make the dog carry it all?
  • I really really want there to be a ton of easter eggs and references. Can you do that, Bethesda? Can you?
  • will you please stop putting shitty loot in high level locked rooms and safes. In like, all your games, forever.
  • If you haven’t already got the hint my main priorities are taking everything that’s not nailed down and having a dog friend.
  • It’s in Boston, yeah? I don’t know anything about Boston. Does Boston get snow? I think it does. WILL WE HAVE SNOW IS WHAT I AM ASKING I KINDA WANT RADIOACTIVE SNOW except I don’t because it sounds terrible for looting
  • please don’t fuck this up i love these games
  • FALLOUT 4 FALLOUT 4 FALLOUT 4 OMG
  • I am glad no-one was there to see me watching the video because I squealed and actually threw my arms up and cheered when we got to dun duuuh DUUUUH
  • LOOK, ok, I know it’s never gonna happen but I kind of want a fallout set in England and I have some good ideas to float if you want to hit me up
  • WHAT IS THE PLOT
  • can you please release a stripped-down version of the character generator on your website so that I can play with it a bit I don’t think you understand how important it is that I spend 2 hours creating the perfect character face for someone I will only see in VATS and killcams
  • RELEASE DATE PLEASE

  • dog
    DOOOOGGGG

Signed: a fan

Math Apocalypse is every student's worst nightmare

If the only way to save the world is for me to do basic math, we’re all going to die. Math Apocalypse is an Android app game that tasks you with the tremendous pressure of solving math problems to defeat aliens invading earth.
Seems pretty straight forward and totally plausible to me.
Aliens walk in with a math problem over their head. You tap in the (correct) answer and your character zaps them to death with a bolt of electricity. Seems easy enough. That is, until you realize math is hard.
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Math is especially hard when you’re being pressured because the problems are coming at you, threatening your life. Then the problems get bigger and harder and some aliens have multiple math problems.
This is truly a sick and twisted kind of apocalypse. … But I really enjoyed it.
Math Apocalypse was written by someone who, while strong in the math department, is  probably not a native English speaker. The introduction story has a number of grammatical issues, so if you’re thinking of handing it to a child for training you might want to keep that in mind. Other than that it’s a fun mix of academic challenge and apocalyptic fun.
It reminded me of playing Number Munchers when I was in grade school. It’s not bloody or violent but it gives purpose to brain training in a distracting way that’s enjoyable and makes you want to strive to do better.
You can set the game to just addition and subtraction or include multiplication and division in the mix too. If you want to trick your kid into being smart or you’re looking to exercise your brain muscles instead of just your color-candy coordination, Math Apocalypse might be just the thing you’re looking for.
Best of all, just like the intuition that let me make it into adulthood without the ability to do basic math without my fingers, it’s free!
(It’s also available to play on the web Here.)

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Why Didn't I play Crackdown 2 years ago!?

crackdown 2 - gameplayCrackdown 2 came out in July 2010 from Ruffian Games and Microsoft Game Studios and I never bought it. I played Crackdown and enjoyed it but didn’t feel a second game would offer me much more. Recently, I started to feel there was nothing new I wanted to buy or replay. So, while visiting a friend I raided his collection of games and found Crackdown 2.
The original game was about being a Peacekeeper in a city overrun with factions of gangs and violence. Depending on which area you were in, you’d have to fight a different gang. Through a series of missions and collectible power-ups you grown in strength, speed, agility, and other skills. Eventually you can leap tall buildings in a single bound and throw cars like they’re dishware. It’s awesome and fun. Unfortunately, once you level up it’s kind of just about running through the city being a nuisance savior.

In Crackdown 2 you again play as a Peacekeeper (I love that Peacekeepers are never good guy in SciFi), but this time you’re tasked with defending the city from the terrorist group, Cell and the mutants that come out at night, Freaks. Sure the naming seems a bit half-assed but that’s really one of the draws of this kind of game. It’s not about being deeply clever or building a elaborate world with a life-changing story a la Mass Effect. This is a game like Burnout or SSX where the reality that inspires the game is just inspiration.
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After the city saw an extended time of peace post-Crackdown this new threat of terrorism and monsters is overwhelming the population and the police. Clones are created to combat the problem. You play as one of these clones, simply named Agent.
Your commander coaches you through a training simulation so you know how to use your sweet new body, agency issued weapons, and the world around you. It’s all a very awesome mix of machismo and goofy.
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In the beginning of the game, while the commander is coaching you through the tutorial, basics, missions and whatnot it’s a little annoying how much he talks and points out obvious things and tries to get you to chase orbs while in the middle of missions. Fortunately, you can ignore a lot of the instructions until you’re ready to do things like chase orbs in cars.
Pretty quickly I was a carjacking Cell and Peacekeepers alike and running down Freaks with gleeful abandon. Crackdown 2 really is so much fun in the same nonsensical way that Burnout and SSX are.
Oh, what’s the point of the story? Well you want to save the city, obviously. And… Um. So the Freaks are underground and you have to turn on these UV light machines that bomb the area in light, frying the Freaks where they stand. You turn on three power supply things and then enter a Freak lair to turn on the big light machine. Then you do it again. … And again.
crackdown-2
The action and beat-em-up aspect stayed fun after the missions got redundant and I lost interest. I loved running across rooftops and punching hordes of Freaks to death.
There’s a good a mount of customization (not for your character, who is a clone after all) when you span. You choose your gun and vehicle and more. There are also a few other modes to play like the one where you have all the power-ups and weapons and just rampage through the city. Yay.
If you’re looking for a fun, dystopian game, you can get pretty cheap; Crackdown 2 is your answer.

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Dying Light gameplay walkthrough

Dying Light is post-apocalyptic video game with zombies by Techland and Warner Bros.. It’s slated for release in 2014 on most major platforms and it’s looking pretty good if I do say so my self. However, it also looks a lot like Dead Island but not on a tropical island. There’s even a guy at the base sending you on errands and makeshift weapons.
Dying Light seem to have various game modes planed that you don’t often see in similar games like “Survive the Night.” In this mode the player spends the day scavenging and gathering supplies. Then, at night, the freaks come out and well, you have to survive. I’m not sure if it would be a Last Man Standing style of mode like you see in a lot of first person shooter games like Halo 4‘s Flood Mode.
Official blurb from the official website:

Dying Light is a first-person, action survival horror game set in a vast and dangerous open world. During the day, players traverse an expansive urban environment overrun by a vicious outbreak, scavenging the world for supplies and crafting weapons to defend against the growing infected population. At night, the hunter becomes the hunted, as the infected become aggressive and more dangerous. Most frightening are the predators which only appear after sundown. Players must use everything in their power to survive until the morning’s first light.

Check out the gameplay below and determine if it looks different enough for you to give it a try.

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Gods vs Humans is… an interesting mobile game?

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So I get the objective of Gods vs Humans but it just doesn’t feel fair or clear as soon as I started playing. I want to destroy the tower but no hurt the people because I need them to worship me so I can have the power to destroy their tower…
Le Sigh.
Here’s how it’s officially described in a December 17th press:

In “God VS Humans” humans build a ten-story tower up to the world of the Gods. You embody one of the twenty Gods or Goddesses (four of them are hidden) to foil their bold attempt and stop them from getting into your world. Using different powers, you have to destroy the storeys until the foundations give way. But it’s no easy job. Builders work tirelessly to repair the damage while continuing to erect the tower. You must also avoid injuring people. Paradoxically, to be able to use their powers against humans the Gods must be worshipped by them.
There are four game modes that enable you to vary the gameplay. Use the tutorial to learn the basics of the title and get the most out of it. Once you have advanced through the “adventure” mode, you can access the modes“free” (where you choose a God and the easy, normal or difficult level) and“challenge” (which involves certain constraints). The “adventure” mode comprises seventy-six missions that allow you to consecutively take the part of all twenty Gods and the different goals they must attain.

2_gods_vs_humans
It’s cute little game but, maybe because it’s a port from the Wii, it’s a bit clunky. There’s a bunch of stuff  off to the side that you can use to destroy the building but UGH! How do you no hit the people with super weather?! This is unpossible…
Okay, it’s likely possible. I just hoped it would be more addictive and  engaging than it was.

Pros of Gods vs Humans:

  1. It’s made by people who know how to make games and art. I think a quality look is vital to a game holding a user’s attention and establishing credibility.
  2. Many of the reviews in the play store mention crashing and other software issues that I never experienced (knock on wood).
  3. Destruction in a unique concept. I’m so over playing the same game but skinned differently. I love smashing things and making little virtual characters suffer but I’m not so easily fooled that I don’t realize I just played the same zombie game but with aliens or chipmunks. Gods vs Humans, however, isn’t something I’d compare to any other game.

Cons of Gods vs Humans:

  1. 4_gods_vs_humansIt’s complicated for a mobile game. I want to whip out a game in a waiting room or in a long line (so I don’t start picking up the impulse-buy products they surround you with). This just doesn’t have that flexibility for me.
  2. It is not free. Gods vs. Humans costs 99 cents in the Play Store and the Amazon appstore. I guess I’m just use to apps being free…
  3. Meh. Yes, my final con is: Meh. That’s how I felt when I played it. When I say pictures I thought it looked delightful like Rayman or Ninjatown or ilomilo. But unlike those games, once I got into it the feeling I thought I would have didn’t surface. I didn’t feel motivated or excited or nostalgic or sunny or anything really. I get more excited when I use my calendar or my calculator apps. Meh.

Bottom line on Gods vs Humans:

I wish it was a cartoon. I’d probably watch it. Heck, I’d probably play it if it was a knockoff of another game (maybe Super Monsters Ate My Condo!).

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Dead Rising 2 was free with XBox Gold

screenlg4Microsoft started giving out games to Gold subscribers twice monthly and one of the games in August was Dead Rising 2. Well that sounds like all my favorite things: zombies, action, video games, and FREE.
I downloaded the game and booted up. I was immediately confused. Apparently all this shit went down with a zombie apocalypse and and then it was solved (mostly). People built strong walls and made a serum for people who get bitten so they don’t turn.
My character was this dude who people knew of and has a patchy history and a dead wife. He in this entertainment competition whee he rides a motorbike and does tricks and fights captive zombies. This is kind of the into and tutorial.
screenlg1SUDDENLY, all hell breaks loose and there are zombies everywhere. Ohnoes. Now I have to beat my way through the throngs of zombies and rescue my child who’s waiting patiently backstage. Gah, I hate having to escort children and stuff.
So you have weapons that you pick up wherever like a guitar or an axe or a broom. The more you use a weapon the more it wears until it actually breaks. You’re charged with grabbing your baby and making you way out of the arena to safety. Apparently I was also supposed to be saving some other people along the way… oops. I’m so bad at additional objectives.
I get outside and run around a bit until I find a safe place because there are just fallout shelter kind of places scattered around just in case something like this happens. I don’t know if it was a cut scene or what but they’re totally blamng me for the invasion in the arena. People totally think I’m a terrorist. Rude. I’m under the impression I had nothing to do with it.
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After a lot of back and forth the people running the shelter are like, “Ew your daughter is bitten. Leave her outside.” And I’m like, don;t worry about it. I’ve got
medicine even though I totally don’t.
Now I have to go find medicine. Guy runs through the the shelter until he finds a secret exit that leads to the mall. In a backroom of the mall the is a place to craft weapons (if you find a key) and  a place to  get into the real mall.
In the mall you have to fight your way to the pharmacy and  get the medicine in time to get back to  the daughter. Ugh, timed missions are the worst. Especially when  you’re allowed to detour and try on clothes in the  stores. Yes, you can play dress up and use random objects as weapons. I personally liked the skateboard.
screenlg6Dead Rising 2 felt a little chaotic to me. There were almost too many options. I could run around killing zombies or trying on clothes or doing the mission or exploring the places or playing the slot machines (Yeah, those were there too.)
Normally, I love having options and feeling like a game has an open world but this felt falsely open. If you did too much of one thing then the other things pop up and kept you forcefully on track. Also, I don’t know if it’s because Dead Rising 2 is older but I felt the controls were clunky and not as accurate or responsive as they should be. In a hordes of zombies situation I don’t want to deal with clunky controls!
It was hard to tell if it was a serious game (there’s a dying little girl I’m responsible for) or just a silly game (I can wear costumes and use toys as weapons….
I got frustrated and bored and because it was free I didn’t feel like I was wasting anything by letting it collect virtual dust. Dead Rising 2 was good enough for the price but not good enough for me to  play through. Le sigh.

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First Impressions: FUSE

The final iteration of FUSE is a game for grown-ups with a distinct brand of grown-up humor, weapons, and problems we didn’t see with the Lombax and the robot turning their enemies into chickens.

[wpspoiler name=”First Impressions vs. Reviews” ]First Impressions are based on demos while Reviews are based on entire games.[/wpspoiler]
FUSE_Jacob_Naya
Insomniac Games has finally come out with a game that doesn’t star a Lombax and a robot: FUSE. Though my heart breaks at the knowledge that the more non-Ratchet and Clank games Insomniac puts out, the fewer Ratchet and Clank games come out.

Ratchet and Clank is my very favorite franchise. I often don’t finish video games in story mode, but I’ve finished every one of Insomniac‘s Ratchet and clank games. I only own a PS2 for these games. I play on the treadmill and put a PS3 and the Ratchet and Clank games on my wedding registry. I’m a diehard fan of the franchise and thus a die hard fan of Insomniac Games.

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Therein lies the problem for Insomniac. A brand and a product are two different things but many people, including me initially, were expecting Ratchet and Clank with humans on a new platform. That’s not the game they set out to make or the game it is– and I’m glad.
Initially, FUSE started out as Overstrike which did look like a human version of Ratchet and Clank. People were excited and set their expectations accordingly. But then Insomniac decided to make some changes and finishing touches that didn’t reflect the game that seemed silly in the announcement trailer.
FUSE_Naya_SoloThe final iteration of FUSE is a game for grown-ups[1. Though no amount of distance between the present day and my date of birth with get me to disown Ratchet and Clank] with a distinct brand of grown-up humor, weapons, and problems we didn’t see with the Lombax and the robot turning their enemies into chickens.
Naya is a mercenary and the only thing between her father (also a mercenary) being taken in alive or in a body bag.
Dalton is technically the leader of this pack though from what I can see his leadership consists of being bigger than everyone else and being the first to shout, “go” and “fuck this.”
Izzy is pretty much a supergeek-mage…
Jacob, the black guy, shouts “That is whack,” and “damn.” JOKES! He’s a former LAPD officer ready to take the law into his own hands.

Developer(s) Insomniac Games
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Engine Insomniac Engine v.4.0
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single-player, cooperative,multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, download

FUSE_Jacob_SoloWhat happens when humans gain access to powerful alien technology they were never meant to have? When a volatile energy source called Fuse falls into the wrong hands, the CIA calls in an elite contact team to retrieve it: Overstrike 9. Join up to three friends in team-based co-op play as you take down the rogue paramilitary corporation behind the theft. Use lethal teamwork, coordinate devastating attacks, and provide cover for one another with fringe-tech weapons and gadgets. The unique LEAP feature lets you instantly shift from agent to agent during combat, allowing you to take advantage of each one’s special arsenal. You’ll need your teammates and their firepower to stop a global arms race from spinning out of control.

FUSE Pros:

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1. Because I have the attention span of a rodent, I like that I can easily switch between characters during gameplay. Sometimes I’m a dick and I do it when I run out of ammo.
2. I got healed by my teammates a number of times during fights which totally helped me with my run-headlong-into-danger strategy.
3. There is still just enough of Insomniac’s trademark snark to keep FUSE fresh and fun.

FUSE Cons:

1. Some of the mechanics were not intuitive enough to keep my attention on gameplay. I had to level up each character separately when I was playing them, so I could forget and leave Izzy at 1 and have Naya going HAM at a 10 (maybe, that wasn’t really well explained in the demo). Also I couldn’t figure out how to get my party to get the fuck out of cover.
2. I wouldn’t have hated some set up or a bit more… story. Insomniac is know for punchy exposition. It doesn’t need to be more of the same but let me know what’s up in more than one line. We’re Overstrike 9 and we’re going to ______ the ______ so we can finally ______!
3. It did feel very familiar. I play Halo 4 every Friday night with friends. There’s still a bunch of episodes from the free DLC that I haven’t finished. I play them with my husband…

Overall, what I think of FUSE:

FUSE_Dalton_Solo
I enjoyed the demo and the characters and trying new powers. Unfortunately, for $60 while I already have a first person shooter in my rotation, I need to more than like it to buy it. I didn’t see enough to think it filled a niche I didn’t realize existed like War of the Worlds did.
It was fun to play as a group and I could see having friends jump into your open team slots be a good time like it was in Borderlands 2.
If you’re looking for a snarky FPS, with cartoon-style violence that you can play with friends FUSE might be the game for you. Personally, I want it, just not enough to actually buy it. 
Check out the demo before you decide.