Category Archives: Video Games

Sims: Supernatural Expansion – The Sims I’ve Always Wanted

The Sims uses the slogan “Play with Life” and it’s true. Sims is and has always been a giant sandbox with an ever-increasing world of options. It has a variety of appeal. If you like to design and build houses and buildings, you can do that. If you like to give Sims opposite personality traits, shove them in a studio apartment and watch what happens, you can do that too. The Sims 3 Expansion packs have increasingly created richer, more realistic environments and potential. They’ve given us pets. They’ve given us  toy chests and dragon costumes. They’ve given us jobs that you don’t just sit back and wait for, but jobs you do: making over other Sims or remodeling their houses.

But Sims Supernatural is, to be honest, the Sims I’ve always wanted. We’ve had vampires since Late Night, but you had to meet a vampire and convince them to turn your Sim if you wanted to be one. Now you can be a vampire or a faerie or a witch or a genie or even a ghost right out of the gate. This pack gives us historical and faerie outfits and something I’m going to call “Lestat hair.”

This is also the pack that fully gives us magic. Witches can do alchemy and make zombies rise. Vampires can turn other Sims. People joke about “why play the Sims? So you can have a fake person clean the kitchen and go to work and pay bills.” This is the pack that changes the game completely, allowing the player to delve into all sorts of fantasy worlds and create their own stories with fantastical elements.

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Sluts, Gamer Girls, and Booth Babes — Oh MY!

Just when I thought I was being lazy about making new blogs posts, someone was horribly wrong on the internet and has induced both feminist AND nerd rage. That’s a pretty impressive level of heinous douchebaggery right there.

The person wrong on the internet is this dude right here. While he attempts to offer criticism on the phenomenon of booth babes–something I also find troubling–Joe Peacock manages to write a  piece positively dripping with the underlying sexism that is ubiquitous in nerd culture. The lists of sins Peacock commits in this article is long and tragically overshadows any valid points he has. However, I will attempt to address the main points best I can.

Instead of tackling the real underlying problem in my opinion–that corporations think it’s a great idea to use half-naked women to sell their products–he instead attacks the women themselves. Sorry, perhaps “women” is the wrong term. He’s  talking about “wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.”

That's right, she's a REAL gamer girl. Not one of those FAKE gamer girls. (Seriously you guys, WTF does this s^#$ even MEAN?) This graphic has the added bonus of reminding us that MOST "gamer girls" aren't of the "real" variety.

So, what’s the problem with these women exactly? Other than simply not being genuinely interested in nerd culture, they just aren’t all that attractive. Peacock claims that in the non-nerd world, these girls would only measure up to a 6. However, simply by dressing up in nerdy costumes they ascend to a 9. So these women dress up in revealing clothing, think they’re way hotter than they really are,  and bask in the attention of dudes who they totally wouldn’t actually sleep with? Those bitches.

Holy objectification, Batman! Not only did this guy just demonize feminine displays of sexuality, but he goes as far to describe women using a number as if her lack of attractiveness somehow degrades her worth as a human being. Even more confounding is that Peacock goes on to link to the fantastic Fat, Ugly, or Slutty without realizing that he is, in a form much more subtle than that website shows, helping to promote and perpetuate some of the very misogynist attitudes that give rise to the harassment he himself is obviously opposed to.

He does, however, make a good point about an issue nerd boys face in the culture at large. He states:

“As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.”

In another context, my response would have been “Preach it, brother!” But alas, Peacock is talking about the girls themselves –not the people who decide this sort of misogyny draws more money from consumers.

Here is your obligatory booth babe picture. At least, I think they're booth babes. They could be cosplayers. It's impossible to tell because no one has ever bothered actually talking to hot girls in costumes at cons. They just post their pictures on the internet.

But Autumn! He isn’t talking about the ACTUAL booth babes! He’s talking about sluts who go to conventions in order to get attention from nerds when they don’t actually care about nerd culture!

True! That is the target he seems to be aiming his vitriol toward, but guess what: he is doing little more than slut shaming under the guise of defending nerd culture. Defending nerd culture from what exactly? Why, from poser women who conspire to use nerd boys’ boners against them! This is particularly baffling since he admits that this sort of attitude–that boys are helpless thralls of any pretty girl that looks their way–is ludicrous and insulting. What Peacock totally misses is that he is promoting the equally repugnant and insulting flip-side of that stereotype: Girls are petty, blood-sucking succubi who prey on helpless boy victims.

Perhaps the only statement that might prevent me from vomiting every time I read this article is the following:

“There’s no doubt about it – girls in geek culture have it hard, and it’s probably going to be that way for a long time. … Women elevate the culture, and thus, the content.”

You know what is hard for girls in geek culture? Having to downplay their attractiveness and interest in “girly” things like fashion in order to be taken seriously in the community. Being treated as some sort of awful predator looking for an easy kill should they partake in nerdy hobbies. Having to prove to everyone that they are a REAL nerd girl and not just some “slut with a controller.” Feeling shame for dressing nicely or, heaven forbid, sleeping with a dude she met at PAX lest she be forever branded a con whore.

This comic cropped up a few months ago and showcases the troubling dichotomy of a "real" gamer girl versus the fake "slut" girl. This is a destructive and divisive concept that needs to stop.

Peacock meant well with this article, certainly, but guess what? Girls shouldn’t be required to meet a certain threshold of appreciation of your hobbies in order to gain your permission to express their sexuality in a way they see fit. We need to stop trying to shove women into a tiny subset of acceptable behaviors and roles in order to accept them in our community. Need proof of this weird, frakked up dichotomy? Here you go:

“Flaunt it if you got it – and if you’re a geek, male or female, and you’re strikingly handsome or stunningly beautiful, and you cosplay as a handsome or beautiful character, more power to us all. Hot geeks are hot.”

So it’s totally okay if you want to strip down to your skivvies, drape yourself in Super Nintendo controllers, and post pictures of this to the internet… but only if you can complete a speed run of Super Metroid in under 45 minutes. If not, you’re a poser and a “pox on our culture.”

What this whole fiasco exemplifies is the following: it is incredibly hard to not be sexist. Even people who mean well and actively try to not be sexist fall into this trap all the damn time. In her wonderful article describing “hipster racism” Lindy West states that the best we can do is to commit to working our asses off to not be racist. The exact same thing is applies to sexism–it is so incredibly ingrained in us that we don’t even realize it when we’re being terrible little crotch goblins. This is my attempt to point out to a well-meaning dude that he is being exactly that: a crotch goblin.

Fear and Loathing on the Marketing Campaign Trail ‘12: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect: Reapers?

Oh Normandy, if only your elevators weren't so slow.

Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 2 as created by yours truly.

For those of you who live under a rock or have the world’s most thorough ad blocker, Mass Effect 3 is going to be released in just under a week on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. This is the third and final part of the story surrounding Commander Shepard–a character whose gender, appearance, personality, background, and decisions are largely determined by the player. This allows you to play as a character that you identify with or that you want to shape in whatever image you see fit. The basic (spoiler-free) back story from  the first game is pretty simple: A bad dude named Saren is flying around in a ship named Sovereign (a Reaper) trying to bring about the destruction of all sentient life in the universe. Of course, convincing politcal officials that he and his Reaper are a threat is a task unto itself. In the end, it is up to Commander Shepard and her/his crew to stop Saren’s activities and attempt to save the universe.

Needless to say, the story presented to you at the beginning of the game is filled with red herrings and plot twists which I will try to avoid spoiling entirely for you, but basically, the story is good. Really good. Combine this with the fact that you can have player-driven discussions with many of the NPCs in the game and you have a recipe for attachment to your crew and squadmates. (Of course, if you want to ignore them completely you also have that choice.)

Mass Effect 2: Ah, yes… “Reapers”
Let’s move forward two years, both in-game and in real life. It’s 2009 and Mass Effect 2 comes out. Shepard gets spaced in the first couple of minutes of the game and wakes up on an operating table two years later; apparently the organization Cerberus (they’re basically space Nazis) has invested hugely in bringing Shepard back to fight the looming threat of Reaper invasion. Of course, politicians believe that the Reaper known as Sovereign was an isolated case and they refuse to help you (this has turned into a bit of a running joke within the game as well as within the community). So, if you want to take action to save the universe from the Reaper invasion  you’re basically stuck with the space Nazis.

The combat system was vastly improved in the second installment and the game was much more fun to play. There was one feature that really got me hooked on the game, though: the ability import all of your decisions from the first game and have it impact the story of the second game. Not only that, but during the course of the first and second games almost everyone in your party can die. Hell, depending on how you choose to play the game, you can either save or drive into extinction an entire species of sentient beings. Not only that but it’s actually possible for Commander Shepard to die. Permanently. Forever. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Do not import into Mass Effect 3.

That, my friends, is pretty staggering. Ultimately, the choice is yours as to how you want to play the game and you get to live (or die) with the consequences.

Mass Effect 3: Holy shit, Reapers!

Ah yes, "Reapers." We have dismissed that claim.

This is the first damn thing you see upon gaining control of Shepard in ME3. The environments are beautiful, the squad banter is good, and the combat is fantastic. So long as BioWare can deliver with solid story and role playing elements, there will be many satisfied customers.

 


Ah, Mass Effect 3–voted the most anticipated game of 2012. This is a game built on five years of players making plot decisions, replaying the game with different decisions, and trying out the different class and background combinations just to see the consequences. Five years of running around the Normandy talking to the immensely diverse cast of characters, investing time in getting to know the NPCs, and coming to care about the members of your crew. The deep sense of immersion in the universe and your relationship with the characters in it is the real draw to this series. I think most fans would agree with me about that.

So, imagine that the marketing campaign for the game centers around action, violence, and huge explosions. Imagine that they implement an entire mode of play that skips all of the decisive dialogue options. Imagine that the demo they released includes no background, no real story, and no interaction aside from brief acknowledgement from characters who served closely to you in the first game. What are you supposed to think?

I know what I thought: Holy shit, did they turn Mass Effect into a mindless shooter? I mean it’s great that the combat is way more interesting and complex, but what the hell happened to the role playing aspects?

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