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Defending the Finches & Wonder Woman #36

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"Right after Thanksgiving, Molly Jane Kremer reposted an article on TheMarySue (originally posted on DoomRocket) entitled “The New Creative Team on New 52 Wonder Woman Turns the Comic into an Utter (Sexist) Disappointment” (Thursday, November 27, 2014). Since I didn’t consider issue 36, “War Torn,” to be sexist, I thought the creative work deserved some defending and to call out some of Kremer’s finger wagging by applying my Voldemort Axioms.

Brian Azzarello writes a gripping story in The New 52! "Wonder Woman," issues 1 to 35, which are beautifully drawn by Cliff Chiang (and other artists†). The new creative team includes a freshman writer Meredith Finch and her husband, David Finch, as the artist. The story didn’t peak my interest, but I do remember admiring David’s art work and the coloring by Sonia Oback. In Kremer’s article she points to comments made by the Finches as “ignorant,” Meredith’s “moody” story, and the “lechery” in David’s drawings among the book’s flagrant sexist sins. But Kremer’s critique makes me wonder if she’s just looking for someone to browbeat.

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"

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Change is Good, Change is Hard

I'm a keeper. 

I don't mean in the sense of the Harry Potter, magical flying broom game. (But that would be seriously cool!)

I keep things. Things that are generally meaningless to other people. For example, I have carried a nail in my makeup bag since I was in college. My friend, Gretchen, gave it to me to remember her by when we were on a field trip in Hawaii. I cannot, for the life of me, remember her last name but I kept the nail and remember the look of manic joy on her face when she pressed it into my hand and told me to keep it as a memento of her. 

The problem with being a keeper is it sometimes makes change really difficult. It's easy to hold on to things, even after your time with them is long past. My sock drawer can tell that story better than I can since it is full of mismatched socks that I can't quite let go of just in case I might find their mates. 

So letting go of the podcast, stepping away from one of the greatest creative endeavors in my life, has been terribly difficult for me to do. It's been a week since we decided and recorded Episode 145, and I am still in many ways mourning it.

There was no long-term plan here; the decision to stop producing episodes was quick and final, very much the speedy pulling off of a band-aid. 

But the feeling of needing to let go, of needing to refocus has been present for awhile now. Writing, apparently, is something that must consume a large chunk of my time. If I have the reason for distraction, the "oh, let me do this for Game on Girl first" state of mind, I don't ever get focused to putting words to the page. 

I have lots of natural talents and I tend to be good at the things I put my mind to and writing has been the one thing in my life I have always wanted to be the best at.

I have always wanted to write and publish a book. The time to do that has come. I need to put fingers to the keyboard, instead of voice to recording, and make it happen. 

I am looking forward to seeing where this part of my journey takes me, and seeing how Game on Girl grows and changes along with it, because even though it is often hard, change is the only constant in life. 


Episode 145 - Changes

Hello Everyone, 

This week, Rhonda and I discuss some important changes that are happening around these parts. I will write more about it later in the week but for now, please listen to the episode and leave your comments here. 

You can find us on facebookgoogle+tumblr, and twitter.  If you haven't done so already, please consider leaving us a rating and/or review on iTunes

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda

Episode 145


My 2014 Game of the Year: Shovel Knight

2014 has been a relatively good year in terms of gaming for me. I did pick up a few releases that came out this year — I typically pick things up later on, as they tend to be a lot cheaper  and one of those was Yacht Club Games' wondrous Shovel Knight.

If my euphoric adjective wasn't indication enough, I loved this game, and I'd like to take some time to share why.

Shovel Knight does three things beautifully: the game looks, sounds and plays like the classic NES games of yore, but subtly is a vast improvement on many of those titles; the game's plot subverts the trope of a damsel in distress in a rather remarkable way; and the gameplay treads the perfect degree of challenge that rarely frustrates. Let's break that down.

Shovel Knight, as evidenced by the screenshot above, mimics the style of the glory days of the NES. Pixels rule the day visually, with amazing animation and charming designs pouring over the eyes. Jake "virt" Kaufman (frequent Wayforward musician) and Manami Matsumae (composer of the original Mega Man) combine their talents to create one of the most amazing tributes to the sounds of the 80s video game. And Yacht Club borrowed elements from several games of that era, namely Ducktales' nifty pogo mechanic, to power the gameplay to glorious effect. This is a labor of love, and every minute detail drips with that love.

Secondly, Shovel Knight twists the oft-used damsel motif into something novel. USGamer's Kat Bailey noticed this herself in her article on the game's plot (massive spoilers at the link!), and in her discussion with Yacht Club Games' David D'Angelo, the developer confirmed that the company decided to avoid lumping the female lead, Shield Knight, into the same kind of trope as "Roll, Peach, Zelda, and other Damsel in Distress models from the NES era."

Moving away from that notion, the team

"started discussing how we could modernize and improve the model for today. We saw the idea of seeking out a loved one a worthwhile theme, but we felt in doing so, we needed to make Shield Knight just as strong a hero as Shovel Knight. In that way, we felt the connection between the player and Shield Knight would be even more powerful, as Shield Knight wouldn't be just an object—Shield Knight would be as meaningful as a loved one."

The beautiful thing about this statement is that they succeeded in that mission. Shield Knight is a central narrative tool — the means for Shovel Knight's motivation to quest — but there's an actual relationship between the two that the game expertly builds as you progress through the game, culminating in the game's final moments. I won't reveal that to you here, as I think experiencing it yourself is more worthwhile. But the careful, thoughtful crafting of the game's narrative focus turned the game away from "yet another princess to rescue" story into one that shows the genuine force of a strong, equal relationship.

The last reason I adored Shovel Knight was that it was perfectly paced. The game starts you off with a solid tutorial level, and provides plenty of incentives to make the game easier or harder for the player. Checkpoints litter the landscape, but they can be destroyed to earn more treasure. Once broken, they won't be checkpoints anymore, making the risk vs. reward model a very real, crucial gameplay element. Life and magic powerups can be optionally gained. Potions to refill your life meter can be quaffed. If the player fails, a Demon's/Dark Souls "lose some of your experience" concept is put into play in the form of losing treasure which can be regained if the player can return to that spot. There are no extra lives to fret about. The game's levels are rife with hidden secrets, passages and treasure nooks. The bosses are all unique, challenging and engaging to battle. And the game increases its difficulty in a moderate fashion, steadily raising the enemy and environmental threats with each map reveal. There's ample opportunity to gain treasure to beef up Shovel Knight through optional levels and replaying old ones, too.

Hopefully I have explained why Shovel Knight is the ideal game for me, and why I feel it's the finest of 2014.

Its retro decadence, the compelling narrative that gives a woman equal status to its male lead, and a difficulty that straddles the sweet spot all the way through combine for one of the greatest games I've had the pleasure of playing in any year.

If you haven't given Shovel Knight a shot yet, you really ought to consider it!


In Defense of Barbie (and Her Dream House)

I spent a great deal of my childhood playing with dolls. Recently, I was looking back through my baby book and realized my mom had a tradition of giving me a Christmas doll every year. She still has most of them... who am I kidding? She has ALL of them, safe and on display in her living room. These were special dolls, ones I didn't play with, mostly Madame Alexander's, including the First Ladies series (the presidents' wives in their inaugural dresses). They were kept safely in a glass front, display cabinet. I took them out from time to time to look them over, read the names and the descriptions on the cards about their lives. 

The dolls I mainly played with were Barbies. My mom didn't care what happened to my Barbies, if I cut their hair or mangled their legs. She loved dolls when she was a child and was reliving some of her own desires with the Alexander's, hence the need for them to be kept safe.

But that's a story for a different time. 

My Barbies and my Barbie Dream House were some of the most versatile toys I had. I spent hours in front of that doll house, setting up the furniture, rearranging and moving items, acting out scenarios between whatever Barbie was my favorite at the moment and her roommate or friends. I had the obligatory Ken doll and I occasionally had them go on dates, but I was far more interested in Barbie's life on her own than reenacting a romantic comedy. 

Always with the cheesy smile and bad glasses

I have a distinct memory of making textbooks for my Barbie when she was going to vet school. I took paper and pencils and folded and glued the pages together and then wrote several sentences about animals in each book. They were as profound as, "Dogs have four legs and bark." There may have been pictures, too. Ah, my early impressions of what grad school might be like!

I don't remember thinking I wanted to look like my Barbies. I didn't look at her curves, or impossibly small waist, and high heeled molded feet and think, "This is what it means to be a woman."

I know that isn't how cultural norms work, but I do remember needing to be worried about my weight from a young age, not because I was overweight, but because I have many, many memories of my mom talking about needing to lose weight herself. 

Barbies were an outlet for imagination and even though I had watched the Disney Princesses, my dreams and plans for my Barbie had a lot more to do with making her own life. Her dream house wasn't a house she shared with a husband, I didn't dress her in wedding gowns, or have storylines that revolved around Ken at all. He was just another accessory in her fantastic life. Just like that little shower you can see in the picture, kept outside the actual house but fun to fill with water and play with from time to time.

I don't know how I managed to be the child that looked past all the narratives we're told about romantic love and unrealistic body expectations and make my Barbie stories my own. It just seemed logical to me, I think.

It was a Barbie Dream House, after all; not Barbie and Ken's Dream House. 

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