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CON CALENDAR
AUGUST
DragonCon, GA
Atlanta, GA, August 29 - Sept 1, 2014 DragonCon, Atlanta, GA, August 29 - Sept 1, 2014

PAX Prime, WA
Seattle, WA, August 30 - Sept 2, 2014 PAX Prime, Seattle, WA, August 30 - Sept 2, 2014

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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Tuesday
Sep022014

episode 127 - Headlines

This week, Rhonda and I hand picked some news stories to discuss on our Headline Show. There is tons of news out there and we love chatting about the good, the bad, and the geeky. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

HEADLINES

Indie Studio Vents: Gamers Aren't Very Nice People
Sofia Vergara at the Emmy's
Adult Women Gamers outnumber Male gamers under 18
Spider-Woman #1 Cover Variant Art
The cover redrawn
Web series, "Frankenstein, M.D."
Lois Lane Young Adult novel, "Fallout" by Gwenda Bolt

CONS

Wizard World, Nashville, September 26 - 28
Rose City Comic Con, Portland, OR, September 20-21

STREAMING

"The Recruit", Netflix
"Barbarella", Amazon Prime
"Starring Adam West" movie trailer, Hulu Plus
"The Box Trolls" movie trailer, Hulu Plus
"Selfie", pilot, Hulu Plus

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda

Episode 127

Friday
Aug292014

Gaming Terminology Primer: RPGs

In my last article I mentioned I would teach you to speak like a professional elf. So, let's get to it, shall we?

Role Playing Game: A game genre where the player takes on the role of the main character or guides a party of characters through a storyline in a fictional setting.

Seems pretty straight forward. However, it seems to me that you could make that definition work for a lot of video games that you wouldn't normally categorize as RPGs. So what makes an RPG an RPG then? In my opinion, it's the fictional setting. When I think of all the RPGs I’ve played over the years, most of them take place in a fantasy setting (thank you Mr. Tolkien) with the remainder falling pretty squarely in the realm of science fiction. All of that having been said, there are exceptions to the above. Cartoons, comic books, post-apocalyptic, and horror are some of the other settings you might find in an RPG. And there are probably more.

So far it seems like pinning down a game genre is some slippery business, right? Well, guess what? It gets even trickier when you add in sub genres, which is what we are about to do.

 

JRPG: Japanese Role Playing Game

This style of game is not always made in Japan. South Korea, China, and even European countries have been known to produce this type of RPG. The defining characteristic of a JRPG is that rather than there being only one character the player controls, there is a party of characters. Often times members of the party will leave or be substituted for another as the plot of the game unfolds. This style differs from most Western RPGs in that it uses a team dynamic rather than the lone protagonist approach.

Examples: The Final Fantasy series, Divinity: Original Sin


ARPG: Action Role Playing Game

This type of RPG is all about the hack and slash. Your decisions don't really effect the plot of the story. (Unless you decide to stop playing altogether.) All of the character development tends to happen in the scripted story line. The only things you have to do is kill all the bad guys, although, looting and assigning your skill or talent points might help you with all that killing.... 

Examples: The Diablo series, Marvel Heroes 2015


Sandbox RPG

The Sandbox RPG genre gets its name from the concept of a, well, sandbox. The idea being you have a large area to play in with just a few outer boundaries and you can go and do pretty much whatever you like. This style of game typically still has a main plot line to follow, but how and when it is followed is left to the player.

Examples: The Elder Scrolls series, The Fallout series


MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

Okay. Take your Sandbox RPG, cross it with the hack 'n slash of your ARPG, the party of your JRPG at times, and add several hundreds to thousands of other people, and you will have a typical MMORPG, or MMO for short.

Examples: World of Warcraft (duh), Eve Online

 

LEXICON

Attribute: One of the defining characteristics of your character. Usually given as a numeric value and used to determine your effectiveness at a skill, combat or otherwise.

Class: Typically what your character does or what they are. E.G. Warrior, Healer, etc.

DPS: Damage Per Second. This can refer to how much damage a character can deal in a second or it can refer to the job of a character to deal damage within a party of players.

Experience Points: Also commonly referred to as XP. These are points that are gained by completing tasks, killing adversaries, exploring, etc. They are used to level up your character which can boost your attributes, give you talent points, new abilities, and so on.

Healer: One of any class in a game that can heal or the person whose job it is within a party to heal the other players during combat.

NPC: Non Player Character. Any character not directly controlled by the player or another player.

Party: A group of player characters working toward a common goal.

PC: Player Character. Any character controlled by the player or another player.

PVE: Player Versus Environment. When the player character is dealing with problems and/or adversaries that are controlled or generated specifically by the games programming code.

PVP: Player Versus Player. A game mode where players actively engage in combat between one another. This can be done in spaces that are specifically set up for it like arenas or out in the “open world” if the game has been coded for it.

Race: The type of people you come from. E.G. humans, elves, dwarves, etc.

Tank: One of any class in a game whose job it is to take the brunt of the attacks from enemies so that the other members of the player party don't have to, thus making the job of healing easier as the healer mainly has to focus on healing the tank.

 

The genres and examples above are the most common and popular in the RPG genre. There are some other sub-genres, though, as well as many more examples of games within those sub-genres. Many of them are worth getting to know personally. I humbly suggest you go out and try some of them.

Regina and Rhonda did a podcast discussing the basics of RPGs. You can find it here.

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.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Movie - Roxanne in "Megamind"

FILM:                  Megamind
GENRE:              Animation, Action, Comedy
RELEASED:        2010
DIRECTOR:        Tom McGrath
WRITERS:          Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons
PRODUCTION:  DreamWorks Animation

 

Since beginning the podcast I’ve had the privilege of hearing stories from a diverse group of gamers and professionals. They are always teaching me.

“Megamind” has been played in my blueray player more times than I can count. It firmly holds position as my favorite animation. When I popped it in again this week, I saw something new in the lead female character, Roxanne Ritchie, because of what I’ve been learning from our community about strong female roles and agency.

Tina Fey voices Roxanne, the intrepid KMCP News 8 reporter of Metro City. Roxanne is the damsel in almost every scheme the villain, Megamind, attempts in his quest to eliminate his nemesis and all around perfect guy, Metro Man.

“Megamind” is all about identity and stereotypes and what happens when someone doesn’t fit into our preconceived molds. Every main character in “Megamind” has this issue, including Roxanne. She’s an idealist. She believes you’re a good guy or you’re a bad guy, and that good will always save the day. But she also believes there is good in people, although this belief hasn’t been put to a real test yet.

“Happy Metro Man day, Metro City. It’s a beautiful day in beautiful downtown where we’re here to honor a beautiful man, Metro Man. His heart is an ocean that’s inside a bigger ocean. For years he’s been watching us with super vision, saving us with his super strength, and caring for us with his super heart.”

The dominoes begin to tumble when one character decides that the identity he’s been given is not his own and makes a brave choice to define himself. After this, no one is sure of who they are or what their purpose is without him. They try to replace him but it doesn’t work. They are all in crisis.

♀ STRENGTH

Roxanne is a very strong character. She’s wise about human nature, a tenacious problem solver, an optimist, a motivator, a leader, and courageous. She knows what she believes in her core.

Two-thirds of the way through, Roxanne’s ideas are ultimately challenged and immediately, with awareness and maturity, we see her realizing she has to reevaluate what she believes. She doesn’t shut the contradiction down but examines it as is her nature.

♀ AGENCY

Roxanne is a consistent character from beginning to end. She changes her mind about how good and bad are judged but, from the start, we see she learns and adapts.

Her first crisis happens when Metro Man dies, which leaves no one to battle Megamind. She asks the villain, “What do you plan to do with us and this city?” She holds him responsible for the well-being of others the way she did Metro Man.

Megamind wreaks havoc on the city. In despair at the absence of a good guy, Roxanne says, “We miss you Metro Man. I miss you.” This is not a romantic sentiment but simply a crisis in her faith of the way things should be. She still believes in the stereotype. “What are we supposed to do? Someone has to stop Megamind.”

Of course, she’s not wrong. Someone needs to stop the bad guy but the idea of who that should be is what will fundamentally change.

We begin to see Roxanne’s notions become malleable when someone starts cleaning up Megamind’s damage to the city.

“The city parks restored to their original glory. The streets the safest they’ve been. The banks reopened. Has something happened to Megamind? Has someone tamed this monster. This is Roxanne Ritchie, cautiously optimistic and pleasantly confused.”

Roxanne’s true moment of crisis comes when she learns that Bernard, the guy she admires and has fallen for, is actually Megamind in disguise. Her knee jerk reaction is to tell him, “Do you really think that I’d ever be with you?” But we know from the look on her face that she is asking herself that question.

There’s a brief moment at the end of the film where I thought the writer’s had slipped up and removed Roxanne’s agency for the benefit of Megamind, but it isn’t so.

After Roxanne and Megamind save the day she says, “You did it.” She is completely secure in her contribution to their success. The person who doesn’t have confidence is Megamind and it is essential that he hears “you,” “You did it.” She brought him there, guided him, and made him stop and realize what he had accomplished. He couldn’t have done it without her, which he acknowledges by adding, “We did it.”

These are super powers you can’t invent or inherit, and Roxanne has those in "Megamind."

I'll Give You a Topic

At the end of the film, Roxanne puts Metro Man's white cape on Megamind, a symbol of the good guy. Did the characters learn nothing about stereotypes? Is Metro Man the only one that has truely evolved? (Talk amongst yourselves.)

Monday
Aug252014

The Power of Nostalgia - or Why I Returned to World of Warcraft

Last night, I watched "Frozen Dick," season one episode 12 of 3rd Rock from the Sun. I've never seen the show in its entirety and so I started from the beginning last week when I discovered it was on Hulu Plus. In this episode, Dick is traveling with Sally to Chicago when he discovers she likes to sing show tunes to pass the time on road trips. He's trying to figure out how to woo her and so he bursts into song in the middle of a diner in order to cheer her up. The other guests join in a rousing rendition of the title song from the musical Oklahoma!

I automatically joined in the singing. Oklahoma! was the first musical I did in high school. I played Gertie Cummings and if you're familar with the show then you know my character had an obnoxious laugh. I am well remembered for that laugh. 

I experienced a plethora of emotions during this scene. My mind immediately went back to the "Little Theater" and hours of rehearsals leading to the thrill of performance. I was at once not the least surprised and amazed that I remembered every word of a song I had not sang for over 20 years. 

I was joyous. 

Those memories represent some of the best moments of my high school experience. I forged friendships during that show that have withstood the test of time and that I cherish to this day. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia... and I liked it. 

Never one to let a simple experience be just that, I started thinking about other avenues of nostalgia and landed smack dab in the middle of a decision I recently made. 

I went back to World of Warcraft

This was a complicated decision for me, one that truly I grappled with for longer than I care to admit. I had to figure out what it was the finally put me over the edge and made me decide to play WoW again. 

I paid close attention to the first few times I played after returning. It was more than a little disorienting going back to a familiar yet changed landscape. I forgot how to "drive," how to move my character with any efficieny. I realized later that was because I had spent so much time in other MMOs with different control systems. I couldn't remember how WoW worked. 

But that wasn't the case for my main's abilities. Sunnybee sprang to life before me, and I remembered the power and the joy I felt lighting things on fire. I started to solo the Pandaria content, basking in the experience of being in a "new" land that was virtually empty since its newness had worn off from those who had not taken years off from playing. 

The best part, though, was watching the lion's share of my friends return to WoW. It was a snowball effect... one person went back, then another, and now we have almost everyone back from our original guild.

Better still, we all seem to be enjoying it again. 

I still don't have a lot of time to play, but I can log on and run a few quests and check out the story for the Pandaria expansion. I'm taking my time with the content and not rushing through like the Mastery Player in me would have done when I originally left WoW. I'm allowing myself to be a Self Player and I am enjoying every minute of seeing myself as Sunnybee again. 

The nostalgia brought me back to WoW, but I know it is my friends who will keep me there.

What game holds this same kind of power over you? What do you return to time and again for the joy it brings you?

Friday
Aug222014

Book - "Never Coming Back" by Tim Weaver

TITLE:          Never Coming Back 
AUTHOR:      Tim Weaver
GENRE:        Murder/Thriller
ISBN:           0525426868
PUBLISHER:  Viking Adult

 

This is the best book I’ve read all summer. Weaver is a great writer and can reveal twists and build suspense in a way that is fresh, but recognizable. Reviewing the book based on female representations, though, points to where he needs a little work.

 

Now I was on the brink of returning to my old life, to the world of the lost. Somehow I expected to feel conflicted about it; instead all I felt was a subtle, magnetic pull.

THE PLOT

David Raker is a missing persons investigator who has been on sabbatical in his family home in Devon, England after nearly dying on his last case. He’s still not sure he’s ready to get back into the game when an old girlfriend asks him to find her sister’s family — husband, wife, and two daughters — who simply vanished from their home.

MAIN FEMALE ♀ CHARACTERS

Having an equal number of male and female characters in a story is not what defines equality for the sexes. Such a simplistic measure would kill the creative process of storytelling (e.g. “Stand By Me” and “Little Women”). Representation is defined by the creator’s world and the audience’s reaction to the world* which is much more complicated than counting characters.

In a story that spans several decades and two continents, and weaves an intricate and page-turning mystery like Never Coming Back, there have to be characters that simply and effectively move that story along. The majority of the main characters in Never Coming Back are men. It is a story of men set on protecting their crimes so they can have an elitist life style. There are almost two dozen men and women in the story whose purpose is to move the plot along for the main characters.

Of the two women I consider main characters, Weaver held back or missed defining their agency, which could have resulted in an even more intense ending to the story.

Carrie Ling is the missing mother, wife, and student in the story. To figure out why the family has gone missing, Raker learns about Carrie in flashbacks and recollections by other characters. For a writer, this is a difficult way to develop a character, but what we do learn gives you a great deal of respect for her and a desire to know more. Weaver has to handle Carrie delicately but I think giving her more would have significantly punched up some of the reveals.

Emily Kane is Raker’s hometown girlfriend from his teens. Her main role is to tell Raker the details behind the disappearance of her sister’s family and give him a new purpose. She’s timid, shy, and needy. Without Raker she has no other meaning. Every time we meet Emily, she is sitting around waiting for Raker. Again, I think a little more work on Emily would have only made the reveals even better.  

I look forward to reading more Weaver novels in the future and shiver at the possibilities if he ever gives those female characters more of his attention.

I’LL GIVE YOU A TOPIC

Carrie and Emily could represent the two sides of Raker himself, which is interesting considering they are both women. (Talk amongst yourselves.)

 

* For now, let’s assume the audience is not a bunch of easily offended trolls just like we assume a creator is not a misogynist.