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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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Monday
Jul072014

episode 120: White Willow Films

We've got fantastic guests for the show this week. We chat with the directors and producers of “No Princess in the Castle,” Natalie Rossetti and Dave Danzara. “No Princess in the Castle” is “a new documentary on the lives of women in gaming who, against all odds, punched through the peripheral shadows and entered the gaming world center stage.”

Check out their website and both their gaming documentaries:

White Willow Films, LLC
"The Video Craze"
"No Princess in the Castle"

SUMMER BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

BEACH 

Regina: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 
RhondaSaga, Volume 1, by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (illustrator) 

MOUNTAINS 

Regina: East of Eden by John Steinbeck 
RhondaWorld War Z by Max Brooks 

INTERNATIONAL

Regina: Whiteman by Tony D'Souza 
RhondaTigana by Guy Gavriel Kay 

Until next time, game on! 
Regina & Rhonda 

Episode 120

Wednesday
Jul022014

Misogyny Missive: Lufia II: Rise of the Sexism

Selan's artwork doesn't really portray strength, but trust me: she can bring the hammer down.As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to play as female characters in video games, if the option presents itself. I’m still searching for the exact motivation for me to do so, but I think I’ve recently come to one of the reasons: it allows me a glimpse into a perspective I don’t get to see as a male. Despite being a feminist and despite my zeal for equality among the sexes and genders, I am still shackled into male conformity in society. People who don’t know my beliefs often spout some sexist or stereotypically-gendered nonsense when talking to me, and it’s frustrating beyond words. Occasionally I slip into such garbage myself; an unfortunate side effect of growing up in this misogynistic culture. I hate it, but I can’t erase who I am in the real world.

I can, however, step into a virtual space and embrace different viewpoints: those of a woman primary among them. Oftentimes, this has its own burden: sexualized costumes or bouts with what is perceived as “feminine” can wreak havoc upon my experience. One such example of the latter was in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals for the SNES. I had been enjoying the game quite a bit, but noticed some subtle sexism underlying the narrative. Some NPC’s made some disparaging comments about some character’s physical traits, or bluntly questioned the choice of female lead Selan as the general of the Parcelyte kingdom’s military. I shrugged those off, as Selan was an awesome character in battle and more than proved herself as a valuable component of my team. I gave her all of the strength bonuses I had floating around in my inventory, and they gave her a damage boost rivaling anyone else in my party. Alongside her array of spells, Selan was a force to be reckoned with in my playthrough. Her stoic personality was all about business; she got the job done, and she did it well. She too had her own doubts about her effectiveness as a leader, but she overcame them as she defended her kingdom from harm.

Alas, this empowerment was not to last. As a crucial plot point presented itself, Maxim (the male lead) made the chauvinistic choice to send Selan and Tia – another female character – away from the party. His logic is dubious and misogynistic: they would come to harm in the fights ahead, and only the men should go on to tackle this threat. I cringed as Selan and Tia suffered this indignant command and shirked away from playable status. I lost the two most valuable members of my team, and only because the narrative felt compelled to rely on the “weak woman” trope. Selan dealt more physical damage than Maxim or Guy by this point! Both Selan and Tia had magic spells capable of damaging entire rows of monsters; their replacements did not. Maxim was feebly gifted with some magic, but he alone could not carry the party’s HP burden. And, as much of a cliché as it is, Selan and Tia could heal the entire party and they could do it well. On top of that, Guy and Dekar were packed with overwrought machismo that was a bit sickening to bear. I tried tackling the tower that followed this roster switch, but I couldn’t stomach it. The challenge was too great without Selan and Tia -- the men proved ineffective at their task. I sold the game off after this; I had no desire to play it any further.

Games allow me to witness and feel these things women feel every single day: the doubt; the anxiety; the unfairness. It’s a perspective that grants me insight and motivation to do all I can to try to alter these misconceptions about gender in games. It’s disempowering in some ways, because I’ve seen these actions inflict so many narratives and cripple too many characters over the years. The industry has dug itself into a mighty rut. However, that doesn’t mean that things will never change. What I witness is what other like-minded people witness. And more and more of those people are becoming engaged and proactive. They’re creating games, criticizing faults through writing and other forms of media, and speaking out about the injustices. I’m proud to be counted among them.

As this feature progresses, I intend to point out these issues as they lurk in certain games, all in the hopes of countering against their use in the future. I hope you will join me in the endeavor and find your own voice and reasons to fight against misogyny in video games. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

Tuesday
Jul012014

episode 119 - utopYA Con 2014

This week, Rhonda reports in about UtopYA Con, a young adult and new adult fiction writers convention she attended in Nashville. Check out these links for a glimpse into the great resources available at this con. 

utopYA Con
Tickets for utopYA 2015: Write Your Own Future
Social Deviants, social marketing company
Gennifer Albin, author, "Crewel", "Altered"
Sylvia Day, author, "Crossfire" series
Myra McEntire, author, the "Hourglass" series
Delphina Miyares, blogger, Delphina Reads Too Much
G. P. Ching, author, the "Soulkeepers" series
Keary Taylor, author, the Eden trilogy, the Fall of Angels trilogy
Toni Lesatz, blogger, My Book Addiction
Celeste Hayes, author, the Sphinx and Trevi Adventure series
Amy A. Bartol, author, "Under Different Stars"
Jennifer L. Armentrout, author

SUMMER BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

BEACH 

Regina: Buffy Season 8, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon (Author) and Georges Jeanty (Illustrator), Dark Horse Books
Rhonda: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

MOUNTAINS

Regina: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou 
Rhonda: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

INTERNATIONAL

Regina: Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton 
Rhonda: My Life in France by Julia Childs

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda

Episode 119

Tuesday
Jun242014

Episode 118 - Kelsey from Nerdy but Flirty

This week, we have the pleasure of chatting with Kelsey from Nerdy but Flirty and Stream Friends! We talk about favorite games, streaming, editing a site, and keeping up with gaming news. Make sure to check Kelsey out on Twitter and watch her streams!

We also started a new segment - Vacation Book Recommendations! We have ideas for your vacation at the beach, the mountains, or internationally!

SUMMER BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

BEACH

Regina: Goddess of Love (Goddess Summoning Series) by PC Cast  
Rhonda: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

MOUNTAINS

Regina: Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
Rhonda: The Troop by Nick Cutter

INTERNATIONAL

Regina: Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott
Rhonda: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King

Let us know what you think in the comments! What are your favorite vacation books?

It's Regina's birthday today and, as always, her wish for the year is that you all go forth and game well! 

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda

P.S. Today is the last day to enter our Xbox Live Gold giveaway! If you'd like, you can also wish Regina a happy birthday on Twitter

Episode 118

Friday
Jun202014

Overrated: Games I Don't Really Click With, Despite their Quality

One of the many beauties of video games, in my opinion, is their subjectiveness. Games can create fandoms and praise no matter how well they are critically received. A poorly reviewed title can find champions for its qualities (no matter how few!), and a critical darling can find detractors willing to argue about any positive aspect. It's quite fascinating how an individual title can generate so much discussion and debate.

On that note, I'd like to share a few games I personally feel are overrated by critics and by fans. I wouldn't say that they are terrible games, per say, but I do not understand the devotion or high marks granted to them over the years. So, without further delay...

1) Battletoads (NES, Rare/Tradewest)

Battletoads was one of the most hyped NES games when I was a wee lad. Nintendo Power gave it its largest strategy coverage during that period, and devoted tons of resources into making the game's universe seem as radical as the obvious inspiration, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I requested the game for Christmas one year, and lo and behold, I got it. And so, I dived into the world of the 'Toads, ready to rescue Pimple and some princess (her name escapes me) from the clutches of the evil Dark Queen. Well, Battletoads is made well enough, I will say that. It has a kooky sense of humor and runs hand and hand with cartoon violence gags. The gameplay is adequate an engaging. The level design and diversity of challenges provides many opportunities to surprise and wow the player. And it clearly was a high-quality production, well funded and excellently crafted. However...the game is too bloody hard. It starts off slow and gives gamers a chance to experience the mechanics and flow of the game's combat, but once Level 3 -- the infamous Turbo Tunnel -- shows up, the gloves are off. Rare's sadistic addiction with difficulty ramps to ridiculous heights here, with precise memorization and frequent death the only solution towards conquering its speed. There are a couple of warp points that allow players to bypass this level (or shorten it), but this moment is when I knew that this may be too much for me to conquer. I did beat this level proper once, but only once, and even with some Game Genie magic I was never able to beat the whole thing. Frustration kicked in, and I'm not all that sad about never playing this again.

2) Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2 (SNES, Nintendo)

This game is one of the few games I rarely, if ever, see any complaints about. And I understand why. It's a lush, deep and cheery platformer that takes the Mario mechanics in a different direction. It controls well, it has a unique and marvelous look, and the levels offer a nice amount of achievable challenge. And somehow...I cannot get into it. I played Yoshi's Island when I was a teen at a Toys R Us kiosk, and failed to grasp the appeal. And, more recently, I traded some games with a forum buddy and got this, in the hopes that I would understand the praise it receives. And I tried. I made my way through the first three worlds or so, and I had a good enough time that I could see why people enjoy it so much. But I wasn't having the time of my life, which is the impression I get from people when they talk about Yoshi's Island being one of the finest platformers ever made. My loss, I guess.

3) Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GC, Nintendo)

Wind Waker is certainly controversial in the grand Zelda mythos. It abandoned the more serious visual aesthetic the N64 titles pioneered, and its "toon" presentation turned off a lot of fans. I wasn't among them -- I considered Wind Waker's graphics to the look of Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, but with higher quality. And this is the sole title out of the five I'm discussing here I've beaten. And for the most part, Wind Waker is exquisite. The combat is incredible; no other Zelda, except possibly Link Between Worlds, offers the freedom and versatility Wind Waker does for Link's options. If Wind Waker was set on land the entire time, I'd probably consider it the greatest Zelda in the series. Unfortunately, it's not. Exploration -- my favorite aspect of gaming! -- was dictated through sailing in Wind Waker, and you're traversing large spans of water with little to no breakup in the monotony to reach far-off destinations. A key component of the game's plot spun around this tedious mechanic: The Tingle Triforce Parade (as I call it). To restore the Triforce of Courage, Link must sail all over the enormous map and find maps. He can't read them, so he has to go to Tingle to have them deciphered. This costs Rupees, so you have to farm money as you hunt down maps. Next, Link must sail to these specific points in the ocean to fish out chests with the shards, and this happens multiple times. A dungeon or six would have been far more fun and clever, but alas, this moment stains the entire experience for me. I've heard that the Wii U HD port enhances the sailing via a fast sail and makes the Triforce quest less of a bore, so I'm curious to try it out whenever a Wii U falls into my lap. The GC original, however? I'll never touch it again.

4) Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, Bethesda)

I adore Morrowind. It's one of my favorite games, and I continue to debate if it's better than Skyrim, despite the gameplay advances the latter brought to the franchise. Oblivion, alas, disappointed me something fierce. It's not a bad game. It's certainly competent, and it provides a lot of game for your buck. It's just...so dull to me. One aspect of Morrowind I enjoyed was the creative bestiary. The native creatures of Morrowind were awesome and innovative, and the Daedric foes even more so. It was a joy to cross swords with Golden Saints, outwit Winged Twilights, and conquer Ascended Sleepers. Cliff Racers were the only enemy that mucked up the pleasure, but even they had some uniqueness. Oblivion mined the fantasy backlog of creatures so much that I had to stop and wonder if Cyrodill actually existed in a different plane of reality than Morrowind. Where's the creativity? Where's the originality? Trolls, ogres and imps are so wrought in gaming lore as it is; why did Bethesda cease coming up with new ideas? The challenging Land Dreugh and Spider Daedra almost make up for it, but not quite. Secondly, wandering about Oblivion's massive environment suffers too much from the "sameys". There's hardly any landmarks or subtle changes in the world that makes one piece of Cyrodill stand out from any other (save the mountains). This carried over into the dungeon design, where the tilesets sure did seem identical in those caves, tombs and fortresses. While Oblivion is cobbled together well enough to have captured several hours of my time, eventually I felt I had done everything I wished to do with it and moved on. I can't say the same for Morrowind and Skyrim.

5) Demon's Souls (PS3, From Software/Atlus/Sony)

Finally, we come to the latest game on my list, Demon's Souls. I completely get why people love love love this game. It's well made, complex and is rife with challenge. It's designed to push players to their limits, and to overcome odds well stacked against them. For me, I just couldn't get over that initial hump of challenge to feel like I was making any sort of progress. Demon's Souls doesn't let up, and mistakes can kill you very, very quickly. If you can recover your soul after your demise, then it's all gravy and you can march on into the depths for more chaotic fun. If you can't -- like me -- the joy slips away and making any strides forward becomes unpleasant due to the fear that death can literally be right around the corner. Some gamers thrive on such adversity, but I don't. I like to have some sense of control over my fate in a game like this, and while I don't mind making mistakes as I play, they typically don't doom me to a huge chunk of replay to make them up. Every death in Demon's Souls where I made any real plunge into a level felt like a loss I couldn't recover from, and it sapped any pleasure right out of it for me. Just not my type of game.

So, I couldn't get into these five games and find them to be overrated. How about you all here in the GoG community? Please share any games that you find overrated, or discuss some of my choices, here in the comments!