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Boycotting PAX Because of the Owners? We Can Do Better

I guess we can add this to my newfound multipart segment on “Social Responsibilities in a Connected World”, because I can’t seem to stop talking about it. So, remember when the Chick-fil-a owner made it public that he donated funds to anti-gay groups? People got mad, and so did I. I mean, not ‘lose my sleep’ mad, but I was disapointed. See, here we have a well-off and presumably well-educated man that feels that because someone is different, they don’t deserve the same rights. Everyone has opinions and they are entitled to them – but something like this doesn’t settle well with being a part of modern society. You can’t actively engage in disrupting the lives of others because of a harmless choice they’ve made. You just can’t. There’s no justification for it. In 2014, we have resources from every which way that can detail facts, for any human being, to bring their minds back down to earth to understand the choices of fellow human beings on any subject. There is no excuse – for either party. OK, I can go on and on with this, but this leads to my greater argument.

Penny Arcade, known for their crude and sometimes funny video game based comic, has been around for 15+ years. They’ve created wildly popular gaming conventions and the Child’s Play Charity foundation, which no one could deny its awesomeness. But the guys at Penny Arcade have done some controversial things. First, we have the “Dickwolves” comic. A line in the comic referred to getting raped by Dickwolves. Now, this was in context of a video game world. Since I can remember dirty, smack-talking in video games, ‘raping’ has been a term used. It’s not the prettiest word and can be offensive to some depending on historical traumatic events, but like anything else in the human language, we use words and adjectives to embellish scenarios with an obvious, harmless intent. This was the intent of the guys at PA. They weren’t being purposely harmful, like the owner of Chick-fil-a. They were making a joke within the video game subset. First response, which you almost can’t blame someone for, was a backlash at PA for the use of the word. PA was accused of promoting rape culture. I don’t know about you, but that is a rather far-reaching statement to make. Not only that, but to any normal human being, it is quite offensive to claim someone as being a promoter of rape. It’s not hard to be defensive of that.

The defense of those offended was then in turn used as defense of the PA guys. They don’t want to be called “rape culture” promoters. No one does. But now that’s how they were being painted. And knowing the online community, especially the seemingly self-righteous gaming community, we then have a tidal wave of emotion-driven backlash. Just like the offended were offended, so were the PA guys. Their first responses may not have been the most carefully crafted, but the exact same needs to be said for their detractors.

At a previous employer, I was having a discussion with a fellow employee – most likely something not related to work. I forget what it was exactly, but it ended with me saying, “he/she was born that way” in relation to homosexuality. I was looked at in a puzzling manner. I was told that people choose to be gay, and if people were born gay, animals would be born gay too. Instead of blaming him for being a bigot, my first thought was that it’s something he wasn’t familiar with. Growing up in the south, as a religious man, it’s possible he had no reason to come across these explanations. I just told him I’d find him some data. I presented him some articles on animals in nature found to be homosexual. After looking at this, he admitted to me he was wrong. We resolved an issue and I didn’t retaliate by assuming he was a bigot. Different than the scenario with the Chick-fil-a owner, using context, it was pretty obvious it was just ignorance. This is something everyone has and should not be ashamed to admit to.

So, we get to what has sparked me to bring this up again, and it was a few tweets made by Frank Cifaldi:

He’s upset with the history of how Penny Arcade has handled past situations. The above referenced “Dickwolves” is one. But there is another that closely resembles the situation with my co-worker. There was a game proclaimed to be made for anyone with a vagina. Gabe took to twitter and mocked that, in traditional Penny Arcade sense. He basically said “vagina havers, being women?”, which was taken as an attack to the transgender community. Now, this dives into my previous Adam Orth article, where someone with a lot of influence needs to be extra careful about what they say on twitter. Though, with 15+ years of Penny Arcade, I saw this as Gabe being Gabe – but also being ignorant. There was quite the backlash to this. People were saying hurtful things and accused Mike (Gabe) of being transphobic. But is that something someone wants to hear? Is it okay to just label someone as being hateful? I harken back to my previous life experience. I educated someone with information that they wouldn’t necessarily come across, but politely as possible (without coming across like I think they are dumb) let them know how society generally feels about an issue. I avoided claiming bigotry and spouting off in a hateful manner. I won’t call you lazy if you don’t use it, but context is a powerful tool and it is a responsibility given to our cognitive nature to use when dealing with societal issues. I use this context when I read anything from Mike and Jerry. My thoughts were Mike was being the vulgar gamer that he is and he’s ignorant of this specific subject. Because this was all done online, the odds of everyone peacefully educating one’s ignorance are very, very low.

The Fullbright Company, which created Gone Home, publicly pulled out of PAX. Which doesn’t solve a problem, but rather, allows it to fester. By proximity, puts the blame on those that want to be a part of PAX, or for dramatic effect, the Child’s Play Charity. So, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. They hate on Penny Arcade. Mike made many apologies, yet the hate was too heavy and few listened. Penny Arcade still has their large gaming conventions where small developers can show off their latest games, gamers from around the world meet to partake in discussions about their favorite hobby. And we still have the Child’s Play Charity that donates millions to hospitalized children. In that context, the detractors are the ignorant ones. Instead of educating or trying to make a difference, they instead distill anger. Letting it boil up inside and still talk down to others – in public mediums. An example:

Physical violence is a serious issue and not one to compare to the use of words from another. This is where the anger takes over and where anger should be absent. We need to be bigger than this and it will take the responsibility of the influencers. It may seem silly, but I can compare these influencers to Batman, Spiderman, or Superman. They are given a power – it is a responsibility, not choice, to use it for good. Mistakes will be made, but as long as we work together, educate, and enjoy our hobby, we will work closer to ensuring our hobby, the gaming culture, continues to promote positivity. If we dwell on the negativity without educating, then we’re only stopping ourselves from moving forward.

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Shmupping and Yoshi’s New Island

For me, there is a drought of new games right now. And that’s perfectly fine. When this happens, I tend to go through my backlog. For now, my mind is set on shmups – my favorite genre (for those of you who are new here). Here is what I’m juggling with:

Gate of Thunder – Awesome TG-16 horizontal shmup with amazing music. Probably one of the best gaming soundtracks ever. If I heard it at the time, my mind would have been blown to pieces. I can get to Stage 6, but I suffer through 5 quite a bit. Still working on that memorization. Also, I’m playing this on the Wii Virtual Console since I sadly don’t have a TG-16.

Gradius Rebirth – Another Virtual Console title within Konami’s “Rebirth” series. This was made as if it was 1989. Though, it is incredibly challenging. I cleared level 4, which then the game proceeded to explain that I need to be doing it on medium difficulty to advance. Medium is tougher then you’d think.

Soldier Blade – This is another TG-16 title on the Virtual console that’s a verti-shmup. It’s actually really, really good. It’s a bit easier than the two others I listed, but after repeating stages over and over I need a few shmups to cycle through.

I got Yoshi’s New Island in from GameFly. It’s pretty fun, but a bit too easy. I was only able to get through a few stages before I put it down. Maybe I’ll revisit later. It feels a lot more tighter and focused than the original, which is a good thing. It’s interesting that the art direction is based on the original – a forced look used as a marketing ploy to be similar to Donkey Kong Country’s pre-rendered graphics.

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I Watched Adam Orth’s GDC Talk – My Thoughts

Here’s the video from the vault. The following post deserves a broader and much more detailed write-up, but here are my thoughts as this video is fresh. For some background, he was being a jerk on twitter. A jerk on social media. It happens a lot, we see it all the time and some of us partake in it. The thing is, Adam Orth is in an influential position of the gaming industry, a voice many hear – and the gaming industry is probably one to most embrace social media over all others. Not everyone thinks about that. I do, as I am, professionaly, a Social Media Strategist. People will make fun of others that do this for a living, but that’s just another example of not understanding.

We’re still in an awkward time right now. Those who have grown up on social media have yet to be an influential consumer voicing an opinion on digital products. Those who were old enough to be involved as social media emerged, still grew up without the accountability of themselves the internet. No one has this sense of accountability yet. You get a whole lot of people without a sense of accountability, and you get the ‘mob rules’ as described in Orth’s talk. Large groups of people say mean, hurtful, and somewhat illegal things online. This is due to the appearance of anonymity. Online avatars are slowly moving to a less private and more transparent use for account holders. Blizzard was toying with RealID. Sony has somewhat with PS4. And Google has the right idea with Google+ and requiring that platform for comments on YouTube. If you say something, everyone will know who you are.

But even Adam felt anonymous. It’s just the internet, right? He admits to having a conversation with a friend on twitter…yet, failed to realize its public nature. Make fun of where people live in front of others in a bar? Dictate how people should use their money? Privately, yes we say these things. But, in a public space like a bar or grocery store, you tend to be more candid or just silent and save the judgement for a private time. Adam Orth is part of that generation that doesn’t understand accountability when online, but does now. It’s too bad he had to learn it this way, but this is how everyone eventually will that hasn’t grown up with socializing online being a social norm, a standard.

After the realization of what he went through, speaking out about it is probably the best thing to do for himself. It’s hard to deal with the online populace attacking you in horrible ways – no one deserves this – and being public about how you’re hurt is always a good thing. People make mistakes, and a lot of times the things you mean to say privately you would never say publicly, and Adam Orth was just mistaken on how to use social media. But this is not only about individuals, but the dog-pile that can occur. What do we do?

Influencers that notice these things, like Adam Sessler, Jim Sterling, etc, etc, need to use that influence and educate, with examples, on why and how you should act online. Or, not really telling someone how to act, but to be aware. Because the honest truth is people don’t know how to use their online persona yet. The mentioned influencers complain and complain all over twitter and their videos, but don’t educate. Complaining, talking down to a blanket group who don’t understand, only leads to more toxicity.

Like I said, this could be a larger post, but I hope my main points shine through. I would love to speak on this at cons and shows, if given the opportunity.

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Finally Got Around to Arkham Origins, Blacklist, and Rapsberry Pi Woes

With Arkham Origins and Splinter Cell Blacklist being so cheap, I figure it’s about time to jump on them. Origins came off rather dull at first. I haven’t touched it much. It takes place in much of the same area as Arkham City, so I really felt like I was just back in that game. Arkham City was great, but maybe I’ve had my fill. As for Splinter Cell Blacklist – wow, is it annoying to use UPlay. Even with Steam, you have to use their service for playing UbiSoft games. The agme downloads, then when I go to launch, it checks for update, downloads update, and installs update – each including a prompt. This went on for about an hour, and I have to be there to accept installation. Wow, did I hate that. I finally get into the game…and I really didn’t care anymore. Cutscene after cutscene and blah. I’m done for now.

I’ve had my Raspberry Pi for a couple weeks now. I have RetroPie installed and FTP access for adding ROMs, but I cannot, for the life of me, get a controller to work. I have an awesome Play Sega USB pad, and while I can navigate menus, in-game would mess up a bit. I tried the 360 gamepad, even though I wouldn’t prefer it, and got nothing. Looking online, it seems instructions have changed vastly all the time. But, this is such a niche concept that there’s not much out there. I’m thinking of just re-installing the image and trying again.

Also, I’ve completed my CIB copy of Image Fight on the NES. This required scoring the cartridge one place, the box another, and the manual somewhere else:

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Luftrausers Review – Best Game In March

Luftrausers isn’t necessarilly brand-new. I originally found it as a web-based (flash?) game a couple years ago. I was addicted. I actually got the rest of the office addicted at the time. It was old school but with awkward controls. Yet, the controls are what made it. Though, using a keyboard left much to be desired. Then, I heard it would be released on PC/PS3/Vita. Yessssssss. I’ve been playing it on both Steam and Vita. It is absolutely perfect for the Vita. It controls great and can be played in short bursts, just like your sex life. But let me tell you a bit about it…

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So, like I said, it plays like an old-school shooter, or shmup. More like Time Pilot. But it’s all WWII themed and the ‘up’ button is to propel, with left and right being to turn. So, you turn the direction you want to go and press up to go. It takes some time, but is very rewarding. You fight against other jets and boats, over the ocean – with a few surprises.

To keep things fresh, it plays like a rouge-like. You may die immediately, but you gain XP and unlock parts. These parts go on your rauser for things like engine type, armor, and weapon. Apparently there’s over 120 different combinations you can use for your fighter. And you’ll usually want to aim for the available challenges to get that bonus XP for unlocking things. It’s addicting. The music is pretty sick too. Some adventurous orchestrated sounds with modern electronic thrown in – all depending on your jet’s parts. Each combination seems to have it’s own variation of music.

On both PC and Vita I’ve put some time in – more on Vita. It’s perfect. Even with Dark Souls II and Titanfall, this is the game I’m playing! I will say that the menu system is a little weird in that it’s unconventional in how you navigate. Not something to change my mind about the game, but an interesting way for a developer to go about things. In the end, there is no excuse. It’s cheap and fun to learn, and should be a part of any gamer’s library.

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Turtle Power: I was 8 Again The Other Weekend

Saturday, February 22nd, my bro-in-law, wife, and I went to a party in Dallas. It was known as Jared’s Epic Party, as it was crowd-funded through a dude named Jared who wanted to throw a 30th birthday celebration that meant something. The big deal with this party was that Vanilla Ice would be playing ‘Ninja Rap’ with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle replica costumes on stage. The idea of this blew my mind!

But there was a lot more to this party.

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With Digital Underground, Ton-Loc, Young MC, Rob Base, as well as Partners in Kryme doing their famous Turtle Power song – I already thought this party would be totally radical. I got to hang out with movie-quality turtles, Robocop, Ernie Reyes Jr., Jennifer from Back to the Future – in front of a movie-quality DeLorean! It was just great to be surrounded by others that had the some bodacious interests.

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Besides the main stage, there was an arcade room that included the original TMNT arcade game. Nearby, they were also giving out FREE pizza. They were large, delicious slices from Serious Pizza. I even met co-creator Kevin Eastman, and got a few original TMNT comics signed for my bro-in-law.

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Vanilla Ice’s show was actually pretty good. I never listen to his music or ever felt compelled to see him live. But the beats were good and the energy was there. He threw water into the crowd, which is actually normal for a concert like his, but the venue doors were opened to keep the place cool so the water really felt like spears of ice impaling the crowd. Not his fault.

But, when he went on to play Ninja Rap, he played a modernized version that didn’t sound the same. It was most disappointing. It was awesome seeing the turtles on stage (trying) to dance.

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Overall, it was an awesome type of party that I don’t think has existed before. I’d do it again.

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Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army – A Hidden Gem

I never see these games talked about. So, I did a little ‘LTTP’ on NeoGAF.

I only picked up Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army 1 & 2 because they were around $3 a piece on Steam this weekend. Plus, after a month of NSMBU, 3D World, and playing a ton of the new DKC: Tropical Freeze, I was in the mood for some guns and blood.

It plays like an FPS but is in 3rd person. Being spoiled with gaming on a high-end rig, this game still pulls off impressive visuals. I think it’s in large part due to the art style. The zombies look great, the gore is fun, and they are slow moving (except for some variants). All it takes is headshots (like it should be). It feels like what I always wanted the Call of Duty Zombies to feel like.

The shooting feels great – it controls awesome and the different WWII weapons all have their own feel. I originally started playing with KB/M, but switched to gamepad when I decided to play off the big screen in the living room. It does fine because it’s all AI controlled enemies you fight against. What I really like is when using a sniper rifle, you do the normal aim down the scope with the left trigger, but if you pull half-way, you can just ‘aim’ the sniper rifle instead of using the scope. This helps when the zombies get a little too close for comfort.

After playing the beginning of the 2nd and the majority of the 1st (all singleplayer, no MP yet), I think the games are worth the non-sale price. Dat soundtrack along with watching hordes emerge from the fog is pretty awesome!

Start at 15:30 so you can see what makes this special.

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Rayman Legends, Donkey Kong Country, and Line of Defense: Tactics

I’ve been playing Rayman Legends on Wii U with my daughter and it has been so much fun. She can do quite a bit with the gamepad which is easier for her than to control a character. Though on the Wii U, during singleplayer, you have to use touchscreen controls often instead of character control. Because of this, I did pick it up on the PS4 for proper single-player play. It’s a great game! If you want to play some relaxed co-op, or even co-op with a young one, get it on the Wii U – it’s the definitive version.

I’ve also been playing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze with my wife, and it’s the ultimate marriage test. I thought Returns was bad, but this is too much. I think I;d rather just play it by myself eventually. The graphics are great, as is the level design. But, after playing a ton of Mario and Rayman recently, I think the controls are weak. They were designed with raggle in mind which has been carried over to standard controls. You would waggle to attack, but now it’s a press of a button – and with Donkey Kong, if you attack and move forward, you do a forward roll that has propelled me to my death more than once. It’s easy to do if you just meant to attack someone. The actually run button is separate, which is also used to pick up stuff.

So it’s weird – a run button and an attack/run button. Since I’m player one, I’m always DK, but I’d love to try other characters. Cranky has a DuckTales-esque pogo action, and that sounds fun to me.

Line of Defense: Tactics is a strategy game released on Steam and mobile. My first thought is that it was more of an X-Com style strategy game since that was very popular, but playing it tells a different story. LoD: Tactics plays like the Tanya missions from red Alert, except you have a squad of Tanyas with different abilities. These abilities are reminiscent of infantry control from Eugen Systems’ Act of War – we need more of that! This game is free on mobile with very light and fair micro-transactions. I also have a copy on Steam, but need to play more to see if there’s a reason I’d buy it on Steam over getting it free on mobile. The mobile controls are the best I’ve seen for a strategy game. But, on PC they are exactly the same, which is confusing to me. I’m an RTS veteran (not necessarily good, but I play them all) and I think the PC version of Tactics could benefit from more RTS-style mouse freedom.

I can tell that this game had a limited budget seeing as it’s risky being a brand-new IP and multi-platform. But, if given a larger, yet practical, budget, I could see Tactics (based on the Line of Defense IP) being a popular franchise.

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TMNT Out of the Shadows is Not a Bad Game

This is a copy/paste job from my thread on NeoGAF.

This looked exciting when it was originally announced, then when launched and gamers got hands on it, it faded away. It does have some problems, but…there is an awesome action game underneath. It’s based off the new CG show, but with some changes. The design is a little weird at first, but I think they wanted to keep the world realistic looking, which required an interesting concept for the turtles. It’s weird, but it works. It’s on Steam and XBLA now, PSN TBA.

One, I think if you like TMNT, you’ll like this.

Two, if you like character action games, put some time into it and you’ll realize there’s an awesome fighting system here – though it appears to be unfinished. I’m sure Red Fly was was on a limited budget and Activision wanted this out by release and no later.

Each turtle has their own fighting style based on their weapon. Think like a different weapon in DmC or GoW. You can switch at anytime, but each turtle has their own upgrades and branching paths. I’d say each turtle requires 30+ points to max them out.

There are a lot of moves for each turtle. There’s weapon and kick, jumping, dodging, blocking, countering, special moves, KO moves based on combo counter, and a special weapon move. Plus, throwing stars and PIZZA. You can flip around, jump off walls, run, and do team moves – tagging or simultaneously. Countering is nice here. You have a chance to counter or block, turning those into evades or attacks. Then there’s taunting, you can use it to buff your bros.

There are some stealth sections. You can skip doing stealth if you want, but it just awards more XP. You crouch, tell your bros to move in or stay back, and knock guys out.

I got to the 3rd chapter’s boss and was having a very hard time. I decided to go back to the HQ and practice in the dojo with Splinter. Learning the moves taught me a lot about what to use and when, and how to make the most of special moves. There’s a gleam effect that happens after a certain number of combos. You want to take advantage of that. Just doing combos with no real finish is a waste, and will make fights last too long. Once I figured this out, I went back to that boss and nailed it.

When in the HQ you can go to Donnie’s workshop and upgrade a special weapon for each turtle. You can also go to the Arcade and play ‘classic-style’ TMNT missions. These are more of the side-scrolling type.

The music is also really good.

The Problems:

As I said, it seems to be unfinished. Janky, buggy, and a little unpredictable by normal standards. For instance, distance and timing for some KO’s is all over the place. So it works, but you have to figure out the jankiness so it is predictable. Then, character and enemy models will get stuck, float, flicker, and do all sorts of craziness.

The way the camera is set up is a pain. Sometimes it’s too close and will cause you problems. Again, I really think this had to do with limited development time.

In the end, I think it’s totally worth $15 if you’re the type that can look past problems and enjoy the fun.

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My Thoughts on Titanfall and its Downfall – A.I.

I’ve been playing Titanfall on both PC and Xbox One. It’s by no means an amazing looking game, and not even particularly game-changing. But it is fun. I will play it. But it’s easy to criticize something from ex-Infinity Ward devs that’s being published by EA and getting so much hype.

Since the game doesn’t look that amazing or even ‘next-gen’, it’s passable on XB1 considering the higher-rez on PC. So, that throws competitiveness out the window (and so does the A.I., but I’ll get to that.). But, it’s good enough that it’s not noticeable that it’s not good enough – if that makes sense. It really just plays like CoD, except this time your killstreak reward is a mech. That’s it. And sure, the parkour-style mobility the pilots get is neat to move around in the maps, but the maps are built for that, so it’s not like it’s some exploitable revelation, but a standard for everyone. It is fun though – fast-paced action just like any other CoD, with unlocks, perks, etc.

But what really gets me is the A.I. bots. So, the game’s max player count is 12, so to fill that out they add bots. Because of this, at no time can anything be coordinated remotely to a ‘T’, even considering fall-back plans due to different scenario outcomes. Sometimes the bots are just plain stupid, sitting there allowing you to shoot them or the enemy to shoot at them. I can’t be somewhere on my own and run into an A.I. bot and think, “Ok, there’s a chance he has my back.” A n00b has more of a chance to help me out than these bots. It throws the depth of strategy out the window. Just hope you’re with your friends.

And that’s where I think it will get stale. Since it’s so fast-paced and all about fodder, there’s not much to it. If this came from some small-time dev, no one would be so critical, but gamers have been expecting a lot from this. Either way, I’ll be playing it. But, it’s not amazing.

Though, I hate to toot my own horn, but I called it. I feel the same about Destiny as well.

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