Friday, March 30, 2012

Assassin's Creed III and Women

This isn't going to be a long post but just a sort of mini rant based on something I stumbled upon yesterday. Earlier in the week I saw a handful of gaming posts that had something to do with Assassin's Creed III and women but I filtered it out. ACIII looks like a super cool game but that's not really something I'm a big fan of. Either way, I finally settled down and read a Forbes article about it and was rather surprised.

They discussed a bit of why a woman lead wouldn't jive with this game. In particular, creative director Alex Hutchinson said:

“In this period it’s been a bit of a pain. The history of the American Revolution is the history of men. There are a few people, like John Adams’ wife. They tried very hard in the TV series to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes.”

Just this would have been irksome enough but then the Forbes author added on:

"Of course, this applies to essentially all of history up until the very recent past. History is largely the story of a bunch of dudes, though this is hardly the point."

Okay, what? I can almost expect that developers aren't going to think outside the box. I have come to mostly accept that they will add in all sorts of unrealistic elements to a history (league of assassins spanning the globe and time periods, hello) but not allow women to take a leading role (you can be a woman assassin in multiplayer). This is expected even though it's a cop out. However, to see the Forbes writer suggest that women have played only a small role in "all of history" is incredible.

For some reason I thought Forbes was a smart people publication written by other smart people. Anyway, this barely has to do with games but I thought I'd point it out. Of course history we get in schools is full of men - who do you think is selecting topics to write about for the textbooks?! You'd think with women being, you know, half the population that they would obviously have a large contribution to the world around them.  I guess people who accept their history classes as the complete history of everything worth knowing just assume women sat around doing nothing for centuries like they were supposed to and only started becoming autonomous lately.

It's just so incredible. Without any thoughts otherwise, both these men completely accept what they've been taught over the years. Sure, the things that do get taught are highly factual but what they leave out is telling. Gosh, I hope sometime people with different mindsets and life experiences will be given the chance to create triple A games. We need to see truly different stories told and dispersed to the gamer masses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dys4ia Deserves to be Played

For a while I've been in love with the works of Anna Anthropy - known often as just "Auntie Pixelante". Lately she's been focused on making a lot of "mini" games but they're still pretty fun all the same. For a while now though she's been talking about work on a game about her trans experiences and that really interested me. Finally on Friday it arrived on Newgrounds so I thought I'd share a link to it now.

The game's called dys4ia. "Dysphoria" is often a term used in the trans community to describe someone having feelings of dysphoria with their own body. Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria, which of course would be joyous emotions. One of the common labeling of "transgenderism" these days is "gender dysphoria". So that's where the title comes from.

While it is really just a bunch of small interactive vignettes, it stands as a very strong piece of work. It's certainly not a typical game but how could one be made over such subjects? The game travels through Anna's life pre-transition, attempting to transition, and where she is heading now. Although I'm not a transwoman I could certainly understand where she's coming from. Aside from woman-specific things I definitely have felt like she has, such as feeling like a spy in the bathroom or being so thankful to have someone with me along the way.

There's just so much about dys4ia even though it only lasts about 5 minutes. It brings up things that I'm sure most people have never even thought about, much less expected to be reality for certain people. It also leaves with a nice message for trans and non trans people. If you have a few minutes to spare I strongly urge you to try it out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Vita Impressions

The PlayStation Vita is a system that I knew I needed from the moment it was announced. The PSP never did me wrong even though it took a great deal of time to build up an excellent gaming library. Because of that past positive experience I was fully prepared for a more modern but equally wonderful affair with a Vita.

So, on launch day I picked up the Wi-Fi version. I grabbed a memory card and game (Lumines) a few days later. These are mostly the things I realized while messing with the system without having a game to really "enjoy" the system with. As such, I was able to focus much more on the hardware itself as well as the basic functionality.


It's heavy. Much heavier than I expected after reviews came in suggesting that it really wasn't as bad as you might expect. Sure, it's still not going to knock you over but it's strange to hold such bulky tech after getting accustomed to things like MP3 players, smartphones, and a PSP-3000.

Holding it in the way my hands naturally want to is wrong. I have no game to check this out with but when I rest my fingers in the way that seems the most comfortable they are all over the rear touch pad. You're meant to curl your fingers up onto the little pads near the edges of the unit, but that is so strange to do. It didn't hurt to move my fingers there initially, but I haven't spent any good amount of time with that position. I'm hoping it doesn't turn out like the 3DS where holding it cramps my hands up after a little bit.

The system is too big! Now, this seems odd because honestly it is quite a luxurious thing. The problem for me is though that the system is so wide that my fingers can't reach the center quadrants of the screen. I only noticed this when trying to use the on-screen keyboard for hammering out messages. Although I don't really like on-screen keyboards, at the moment, that's the only way to type on the system it seems. Either way, with the giant touch screen it should be no problem! Except when I tried I realized my fingers couldn't reach to the middle parts of the keyboard! It was quite a hindrance and I had to shift my holding of it to get there. By then it had killed my whole flow. Probably won't use this feature much at all then, although chatting with other Vita players in a party via text would be fun.

What an awful camera. Okay, the 3DS also has a pretty poopy camera. Still, why even bother when you're going to have such wimpy quality? Cell phones these days are coming out with fully HD cameras, as shocking as that may seem. Sony probably couldn't afford to splurge on the component though, and it still works well enough for augmented reality.

I hate Content Manager Assistant. For those without a Vita, the CMA is a program which you use whenever you want to transfer pictures, video, music, and whatnot between your system and computer. The reason it exists seems to be an attempt to curb piracy. PSPs were exploited via memory cards (as well as batteries - which is why the Vita has no removable battery). Anyway, I understand where they're coming from but it is cumbersome. Not to mention in order to use the program you have to set the Vita to not charge via USB. Charging via USB is convenient as well, so if you want to do that regularly you will have to constantly be switching the setting between charging and transferring. Beyond that annoyance though it just takes too many steps to work this program. You have to set libraries so you can't even just drag items on a whim to the Vita. CMA also requires an internet connection when transferring specific files (save data and games) so it may be able to update your Vita without you even knowing, or at least eventually possibly ban you from transferring certain files it marks as "bad". Open CMA exists to let Vita owners transfer content to and from their Vita without having an internet connection. Of course, that's not a program which was made or certified by Sony so use it at your own risk.

It can barely handle any media file types. I haven't used my PS3 for a while, but from what I recall it could handle all kinds of video files. I'm pretty sure it could tackle AVI and codecs like DIVX and possibly even WMV files if you enabled that. The Vita can handle a couple HD video formats. By a couple I literally mean a couple - two. They are MPEG-4 and H.264. I'm not a video fidelity snob so most of my VHS transfers are AVI files. Why can't you play the most prevalent video format, Vita? I was ready and excited to put some videos on for watching, but now I have to go the extra step of converting them before use. That, or waiting for a media server to be coded so I can stream content straight from it (although that won't work outside the house!).

Vita updates itself. It won't always do this, but the system is able to update system files and games in the background without prompting the user. So far it seems to be the case that we will always be asked for firmware updates, but beyond that Sony has no qualms updating other content on the fly. This is for the best, really, but sometimes game updates tend to bork games further. Beyond that, it worries me that Sony might accidentally flag or ban certain user accounts because they *think* the system is tampered with. For anyone who has Windows and has been flagged by "Windows Genuine Advantage" you're probably understanding my fear. For those unaware, WGA is a program which was included on a necessary Windows update which was meant to target only users who had pirated/unofficial Windows installations. Instead it harassed many legitimate users.


This screen is incredible. It's huge! I'm not used to seeing a screen this large on a portable device. It's so shiny and pretty and looks fabulous when I stream Netflix content to it. Sony really made an excellent choice for splurging on it. Just make sure to pick up a screen cover so you don't damage it.

The styling is pretty nice. The system might be a bit bulky, but it's still pretty gorgeous. It definitely looks like a fancy piece of technology. Somehow, it even manages to make the PSP look kiddy, although the system never really looked that way before. If there's one thing to dog the system about in looks it is for the awkward PS, Select, and Start button sizes and positions. As they don't stand out it is hard to just feel where they are, as well as to push your thumb down and toward your hand to trigger them. Also, they kind of remind me of the superfluous buttons on an original Xbox controller.

Thank god they got rid of UMDs. UMDs were always one of the strangest choices to me. Why would you have a spinning disc in a portable device? Do you remember CD players skipping? The same principle applies here so it seems a bit wild. Of course, the UMDs had a plastic casing around them to help with this, but still, disc based media in portable devices seems quite the dated concept. The SD card-like games are a big improvement. They should also help with loading times I think, although apparently there's still some slow loading going on.
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