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2014 CON CALENDAR

SEPTEMBER
Wizard World, TN
Nashville, TN, Sept 26 - 28, 2014 Wizard World, Nashville, TN, Sept 26 - 28, 2014

OCTOBER
GeekGirlCon, WA
Seattle, WA, October 11-12, 2014 GeekGirlCon, Seattle, WA, October 11-12, 2014

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Monday
Sep222014

Episode 130 - Tim Weaver, author of "Never Coming Back"

Rhonda here. Mark joins me as co-host this week. We were thrilled to have as our guest, The Sunday Times best selling author, Tim Weaver.

Weaver contacted me after I posted my review of his first U.S. publication, Never Coming Back, and I responded like any fangirl would by asking him to be on the show.

Never Coming Back is the fourth in Weaver's David Raker series and I hope that Penguin will publish the rest of his books in the U.S. as well.

  1. Chasing the Dead
  2. The Dead Tracks
  3. Vanished
  4. Never Coming Back
  5. Fall From Grace

OTHER LINKS

Entertainment Weekly's 2014 Summer Thriller Recommendations

CONS
WizardWorld, Nashville, Sept 26 - 28, 2014

GAMES
Resident Evil
Golden Eye
Grand Theft Auto V
The Last of Us

MOVIES
The Boxtrolls

TELEVISION
The Good Wife, CBS, 9/21
The Big Bang Theory, CBS, 9/22
Sleepy Hollow, Fox, 9/22
Gotham, Fox, 9/22
Scorpion, CBS, 9/22
Forever, ABC, 9/22
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC, 9/23
Bones, Fox, 9/25
How to Get Away With Murder, ABC, 9/25 

Until next time, game on! 
Rhonda & Mark 

Episode 130

Friday
Sep192014

Gaming Terminology Primer: Shooters

Today we are going to tackle the genre of shooter games. This is the genre that pulled me hook, line, and sinker into the realm of online PC gaming. (In this instance “PC” means Personal Computer and not Player Character.)

Shooter Games: A game genre where the player's avatar, either in first person or third person point of view, uses a weapon, typically ranged, to progress through missions or survive as long as possible in arena type settings against other players.

The thing about either having seen a shooter played, or having played one yourself, is that it's fairly easy to think that once you've seen one shooter you've seen them all. And I believe there was a time when that might have been true. During the early to mid 90s, for example, id Software pumped out several popular first person shooters that may have differed in setting but looked very similar stylistically.

Thankfully, times have changed, and with them the sophistication of gamers and game developers alike. Whether it be the hyper-realistic style of shooters set in the present like the Call of Duty or Medal of Honor franchises, or a more cartoony series like Borderlands that is set in the future, there is more than likely a shooter out there for anyone's particular tastes.

How about we take a look at some different styles of shooter and examples of games within those?

 

FPS: First Person Shooter

This style of shooter takes its name from the point of view of your avatar. You see the game environment exactly as you would if you were that avatar. Typically the only part of “yourself” that you might see are your arms, hands, and the weapon you are wielding.

Examples: Pretty much anything by id Software, Left 4 Dead series


TPS: Third Person Shooter

Also taking its name from the point of view of your avatar, the third person shooter shows all of your avatar, usually from behind as if being followed by a camera. Though, occasionally it might go to a first person view if you sight in with iron sights or a scope on your weapon.

Examples: The Dead Space Series, Warframe


Shooting Gallery

These are also known as Rail Shooters because the player usually doesn't have direct control of their avatar's movement, if there is any movement at all. This genre is probably the precursor to all other shooter games. It typically utilizes a gun that emits or detects light to determine if you hit your target. These games are usually found in arcades or on gaming consoles.

Examples: Duck Hunt, House of the Dead series


MMOS: Massively Multiplayer Online Shooter

So, this style of shooter is very like your RPG version of an MMO in that they combine lots of other elements: open world/sandbox style of play area, either first or third person point of view, and hundreds or thousands of people playing simultaneously.

Examples: World of Tanks, Planetside 2

 

LEXICON

Admin: Administrator. A person whose job it is to enforce rules, change maps, and game mode on a server.

Camping: A style of play where the player stays hidden in one location and shoots any enemies that come into their field of fire.

Cap: Short for capture. The act of capturing a point in a “Capture the Flag” match.

CTF: Capture The Flag. A game mode in shooter games where teams earn points by capturing a flag that is usually guarded by the opposing team.

DM: Death Match. A game mode in shooter games where everyone is against everyone else. The object being to get more kills than anyone else. Also known as Free For All or FFA.

Frag: To kill another player or to be killed by another player. The term, originally coined in the military, was used by id Software in its FPS games.

Gib: Derived from the word giblets. To hit an enemy so hard that they literally explode into pieces.

GG: Good game.

Run and Gun: A style of play where the player is typically on the move at all times and shooting enemies wherever they encounter them.

Spawn Point: The area or areas within the playable portion of the game map where players' avatars are spawned into the game. This happens both at the beginning of the game and anytime the player might respawn after being “killed” in the match.

TDM: Team Death Match. A match in a shooter where the object is for one team to get more kills than the other.

 

It is worth noting that shooter games are set in just as many settings as RPGs. There are shooters that fall into sci-fi, horror, western, modern day criminal settings, and sometimes even mixes of those. If you think you would like fast-paced competitive game play, you should definitely give shooter games a try if you haven't yet.

Please feel free to check out Regina and Rhonda's podcast episode on first person shooters.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below, or contact me at mark@gameongirl.com or on Twitter @MarsUller.

Monday
Sep152014

Episode 129 - Brianna Wu from Giant Spacekat Studio

Revolution 60's All Female Cast

We are honored to have Brianna (Bri) Wu join us on the show this week. Bri is co-founder and head of development for Giant Spacekat Studio. Their chose your own adventure like game, Revolution 60, is now out on iOS and soon to be available on PC.   

We talk about the studio, how important it is to properly animate hair, and a host of other issues, including the struggles experienced by women working in the game industry.

Revolution 60: "Broken" Trailer from Brianna Wu on Vimeo.

Rhonda and I WRaP up the week with what we're Watching, Reading, and Playing. We're looking forward to the return of our favorite fall shows this month! 

Let us know what you think about the show and how you're geeking out this week in the comments below. You can also get in touch with us on facebook, google+, and twitter

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda

Episode 129

Friday
Sep122014

Baby = Spider-Woman #1; Bathwater = Manara variant

There's usually at least one new thing I learn in each con panel I attend. Any tidbit that expands my education or adds to the context of a discussion is of great value to me. (For instance, when I attended the Screenwriting panel at DragonCon I picked up the method of writing your screenplay first as a short story and then converting it.)

Besides being a thrilling gathering of Captain Marvel and Kelly Sue DeConnick fans, the Carol Corp meeting at DragonCon also taught me something.

The Milo Manara variant cover for Spider-Woman #1 was mentioned by the audience and DeConnick made a wonderful observation: there are a lot of creators associated with Spider-Woman who are suffering from the negative press.

(Kelly Sue DeConnick talks about the cover in an interview with SparkNotes. Forward to time 5:28.)

This is so true and something I was happy to be reminded of. The objections to the Manara cover have been heard by the appropriate people and responded to, but don’t forget there is a hopeful and creative writer, Dennis Hopeless, and cover artist, Greg Land, among many others, who are vested in the project but did not have a part in Manara’s cover.

Being a firm believer in creative expression and the devil's advocate in most of our feminist discussions, even I find this cover a complete cluster. Manara is a really great artist who has done Marvel covers before. If Spider-Woman #1 is erotica or intended to be vampy, then there's no argument from me. But it doesn't sound like that was the writer's goal, at least.

Buy the issue with Land’s cover. Read Hopeless’s story. These may be the artists you really do want to support. Believe that Marvel has heard you and let them show you what they heard and what they think about it with future issues.

The hope is always that people learn and become better people, so don't throw them out. Ever.

Release: November 2014

Wednesday
Sep102014

Misogyny Missive: Red Dead Sexism

rdrA couple of weeks ago saw the release of Anita Sarkeesian's latest Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which tackled the complicated issue of women serving the role as "background decoration" in modern AAA games. I haven't played the majority of the titles Anita covered in the episode, but I have played a few: Bioshock and Red Dead Redemption.

I happen to like both of these games quite a bit, but seeing the depraved acts male NPCs delivered to nondescript women hit me really, really hard. Having played through all of Bioshock and most of Red Dead Redemption, I can now see a major issue that somehow blurred by me before. And that bothers me a great deal. I'm going to focus on the latter for this piece, and may return to Bioshock later on.

In many ways, Red Dead Redemption fixed the issues I preciously held with Grand Theft Auto. The controls were better, the open world was more believable, and the protagonist was likeable. As I wandered through New Austin, I encountered situations like Anita describes in her video below:

Returning to Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, in most settlement areas players are treated to randomly triggered events in which female prostitutes are assaulted and murdered by johns amid a torrent of misogynistic slurs. Players are presented with the choice to either intervene and save the woman for a small cash reward or simply watch the attack play out in front of them as part of the entertainment.
CLIP: Red Dead Redemption “Help! Someone.”
“Stickin’ whore! I’m gonna cut you a new hole! You think I’m a joke? Go on then, laugh, bitch, LAUGH!”

At the time, I didn't think about the ramifications of this heinous crime; I merely acted. I saved the woman, feeling that the character John Marston would do that given how I was playing him. I tend to role play as the character when I play, trying to make decisions that fit both my ideals and the parts of the character I bond to in unison. I knew that this was a scripted event that would repeat itself, but I performed the good deed and moved on, thinking little of the overall effect this random event conveyed. But, as Anita notes:

The audience is meant to briefly gasp at these acts of brutality before their attention is directed elsewhere, towards the next event or set of enemies to be dispatched. Regardless of the player’s actions in these types of situations, the result always paints women in a regressive light, as they will end up as either “helpless damsels” or “dead victims.”

This is the kicker right here. These moments of violence against women are distractions from the main game — a minor roadblock meant to add a sense of "realism" to the world. However, women are never truly empowered in Red Dead Redemption. My experience with the game was positive when I first went through most of it (although I will admit that I didn't critically analyze these topics when I was playing it back in 2011), but I lost my save file due to an accidental save-over. I had accomplished 98% of the game by that point (including the side missions), so I just haven't had the gumption to commit to redoing all of that all over again. I put it on my Favorite list regardless, and figured I'd be game for another run sometime in the future.

Recently, before Anita's latest video, I was wondering if there was perhaps another reason I didn't feel like replaying the game. I then remembered that the women who were major players in the plot suffered terrible brutalities as well.

Bonnie MacFarlane, a quite capable woman from first impressions, is reduced to a victimized damsel to move the game's plot forward towards the end of the first third of the game. She is beaten, likely raped, and in the process of being hanged as the player works their way through the map to rescue her. Lucia Fortuna, a rebel fighting the Mexican government, is a strong-willed and significant factor in the rebellion, but is quickly tossed into the endgame of the Mexico segment of the game as a mere pawn. Wielding a knife to a gunfight, she is quickly shot down as she tries to free Abraham Reyes, leader of the uprising, leading the player towards a redemptive strike against the perpetrators for her martyrdom.

And John's wife, Abigail, is literally a damsel in distress for most of the game, serving as John's central motivation for doing all of this to the very end, where a stable life with his family is promised and then yanked away by the vindictive Edgar Ross (and the game's writers). John is gunned down by Ross' men, and Abigail is forced to watch. When Jack Marston, John's son, takes over the post-game narrative, Abigail has died from a long illness, making every single prominent woman in the game the equivalent of damaged goods...which is fitting, given how all of the women are essentially objects in the overall scheme of the game... one way or another.

So, Anita's video reminded me of all this misogyny lurking within RDR, and now makes me wonder if I really should replay it. Thus the difficulty of criticism. I liked the game, but I am repulsed by its use of women as narrative objects instead of being, you know, human beings. As Anita states in her video:

These women and their bodies are sacrificed in the name of infusing “mature themes” into gaming stories. But there is nothing mature about flippantly evoking shades of female trauma. It ends up sensationalizing an issue which is painfully familiar to a large percentage of women on this planet while also normalizing and trivializing their experiences.

It's not edgy just to throw women under the proverbial bus. It would truly be mature to not swipe from Hollywood's "adult-oriented" bag of tricks, and instead question or critique our society's standards of gender in less "shocking" ways.

I'm still trying to untangle the implications of Anita's video towards my enjoyment of video games, but I am feeling fairly confident that Red Dead Redemption, for everything it does right, made some very poor narrative decisions that will haunt my desire to ever replay it to completion again. I will still likely enjoy its excellent gameplay and exploring its open-world spin on the American West, but I will definitely not relish its disappointing, cliched portrayal of women that plagues our industry.