February 29, 2012

African Americans that have encouraged my inner nerd

It's the last day of Black History Month, and I rarely pay enough attention to it here.  So today, I'm going to list some of the black nerds that I appreciate.

Nichelle Nichols--Not only can black women go to space, but they can look fabulous doing it!  And as season two and three of the the original Star Trek Series went on, she got more spotlight and made sisters look intelligent with poise and respect.  This was a great thing to see when I was in junior high becoming a woman: black women can be smart and pretty at the same time.

Dr. Mae Jemison--She may not have had as huge an impact as some of the others listed, but as a kid having a black woman succeed in the field of space means that I can do anything.  And believe me, there were a lot of people down the road telling me I couldn't, whether they knew it or not.

LeVar Burton--Obviously, he played an engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  But he also was the host of Reading Rainbow!  So not only can I be good at math, I can be well read too!

Octavia E. Butler--another person who I had limited exposure to, but reading Parable of the Sower is inspiring in the tapestry that she weaves with character development and how to write a future world.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson--He is this generation's Carl Sagan, which is something we desperately need at this time.  He will lead us to the future of Galaxy-rises.  Also, the only person who I would like to officiate my wedding.  It's never going to happen but a girl can dream.

Finally of course, I have to make a nod to my grandfather and my mother.  They saw in Sci-fi a world where we can all be equal, or worlds that showed why not making that choice is disastrous.  They saw in it the future they wanted their children to have, and in that encouraged their families to do anything and everything they wanted to do.  Specifically thanks to my mom.  I don't think I would still be pursuing my writing dreams without her encouragement.

February 23, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Demo: Multiplayer

A lot of us fans were very worried about the idea of a multiplayer.  We didn't want it to affect the universe.  We didn't want it to affect the story.  This is Shepard's story.

And it still is, but it doesn't mean there are no other people kicking serious ass.

I like the multiplayer.  It keeps a lot of the stuff you like about the game, including the powers and the weapons, and is well designed.  The maps are easy to memorize but hard to master, and making sure you have a varied team is great.  And if you're in the middle of your Vanguard playthrough but you miss using  Engineer's powers, it's a great way to feed that need.

Also, lack of glitches when I played, so win!

Mystic was nice enough to record our session, where the two of us and couple friends had a great time and then heroically all died in front of a turret we forgot existed.  Enjoy!

February 22, 2012

One of the reason nerdom can be male dominated.

Once again I have a thing I found on the internet that got me thinking.  This time it was a video discussing the horrible choices Lego has made in marketing with their new line of Lego Friends for girls.  There are two videos, but the first one is the one that I want to post here for you all to watch.

Here is a link to part 2, and both the videos are rather fantastic at analyzing how Lego, through their own choices, alienated young girls from their market only to try to bribe them back with weak offshoots.

This got me thinking about a lot of my hobbies and choices, and how a lot of the problem is how the producers of game, whether table top games or video games, or even a good amount of fantasy and sci-fi, assume that women are just not interested in the genre.

Now when it comes to the stuff on television, it's a 50/50 chance that your going to have something that doesn't address societal gender roles in a semi-thoughtful way.  For every great character that is a strong lead regardless of gender  there is one that obviously advertised as a hypersexualized fantasy for the "male audience" to gawk at and drool.  I use quotes because again, it's generalizations taken to an extreme in the hopes of making more money. Luckily shows like Buffy, Fringe, and Star Trek exist to help break those stereotypes that media first thought necessary for ratings.

Video games are entirely different story on that front.  Part of it may be that the medium is younger, but you would think that all the progress that has been made for television series to stop writing women in a specific corner, video games would be able to use that progress to their advantage.  Instead for over 50% of whats out there to play you have two reasons for women to be in a video game:  To be hot enough to look at or two be saved.  And why is that?  Because video games are part of a boys club that their a lot more blatant about than many other mediums and markets.

You have games totally devoid of women,  games that only have women in background as stereotypical supporting roles, or games that hypersexualize a female lead in hopes of enticing their target audience.  Some game series try to rectify the situation, but most don't and the ones that try rarely ever scratch the surface.  I feel a lot of this is done under the assumption that men wouldn't want to play a game where a woman is just as capable as he is, as if a woman who is strong or smart or has choices is a threat.  

Yes, for some men this is a threat, but that doesn't make it right to validate this idea to your market.  It's irresponsible for producers of any medium to perpetuate ideas that hinder or undermine anyone in society. That's what this representation of women in video games does: undermine the equality of women in our daily world.

I'm not saying this to totally rag on video games.  You know I play them, you can even friend me on Steam if you want to help me shoot zombies someday.  But I think there are a lot of things we have to think about when we support a game.  The gameplay may be good and the multiplayer may be bangin', but does it support ideas you're uncomfortable with?  Then don't play it.  There are plenty of other games out there that can suit your needs.  

And we have to do this for any hobby that we participate in. Not comfortable with the portrayal of women in the artwork of an RPG book?  You can probably find a game with what you like that's less offensive, possibly even for free.  Sci-fi series makes you cringe at it's representation of minorities?  There are so many more for you to watch, past and present.  If you want to see women, or anyone for that matter, better represented in your hobbies and interests, you have to work to make sure they get the support they need.  Just because people before decided things worked best a certain way doesn't mean they were right and doesn't mean we can't change it.

I just randomly thought about doing a let's play of games with great female leads or female characters that are not just caricatures and stereotypes.  Use that let's play to then fund a woman's group.  Like a lot of my ideas, it may just go to the wayside, but it definitely is something I wish to consider.  Now that I have whole days off of work on a consistent schedule, I would love to contribute to the greater good of video games (and nerdom) in the future.  

February 19, 2012

To the couple I saw on the road today

To the couple I saw while driving work today who was in an orange Honda Fit that had "GAMERS" as the license plate:

I'm super jealous.

February 15, 2012

Quick thoughts on Mass Effect 3 Demo

I'm working through a headache for you, dear readers!

So I tried out the single player Mass Effect 3 demo yesterday while Mystic watched.  Best Valentines day ever.  It's only 2 hours worth of gameplay so I can't necessarily say what it means for the story as a whole, but I do know that it does give some impressions of the gameplay.


-The femshep that won the votes so long ago looks like an anime character
-The beginning part feels incomplete but it may just be due to the fact it's a friggin' demo.
-The little kid seemed obvious and annoying.  Old trope.  Not super sad he got fried.
-Health is no longer regenerating, but shields are, so be ready to actually use those medi-pacs.
-Vangaurds are going to want to use the fuck out of Nova
-Councils are a goddamn waste of time still
-You are now shooting at Cerberus, not for Cerberus
-Leveling up now has more tiers and more splits.  This is good, for strategery
-You have 3 different ways to play, and that's alright by me because I can still play the way I want
-Walking seems a little slow in the game, I'm not sure if that's just me or in general.
-Yes it's glitchy.  I hope EA allows BioWare to make this a well developed game, rather than rushing everything.  I CAN WAIT, YOU WILL STILL GET MY MONEY EA TAKE YOUR TIME!

Finally, I find that there are a lot of people being nitpicky on the demo.  I understand the high expectations, but guys, give it a break.  Ashley's face doesn't look right?  Really?  I thought she looked like a horse since day one, haven't changed that much.  Some other things have bothered people, including the kid scene and the glitches.  Luckily I don't think that's indicative of what the game will be.  The demo seems to be a repeat of what was at E3, meaning any changes since then may not have been added.  On top of that certain things may have been cut out merely for the benefit of enjoying a brief but exciting demo.  Please don't think the demo has everything.

I will say that the demo didn't suck, so I'm still going to buy the game.  And that's all I was looking to know from the demo.

February 14, 2012

Date Games: For the avid video gamer and his or her companion

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

I've been trying to work on another of my random rants about gender in nerd circles, but technical difficulties and a weird weekend have distracted me.  I wanted to make sure I had something up for this happy day of love when Mystic and I will hopefully be enjoying the Mass Effect 3 demo that is supposed to be out today. The two of us, like a lot of couples, don't feel the need to go out to dinner or get each other expensive gifts.

One thing we have always done together is video games.  Right around the time this blog was started was around the time I finally started getting back into video games.  They were a past time that a lot of friends enjoyed, so I would watch them play and I got sucked into the world.  And then Mystic introduced me to PC gaming and I was sold.  It was nice to finally have the ability to hit what I was trying to shoot at.

But many of us who are into video games are dating someone who does not like them as much.  How do you introduce them to the gaming world that many people consider a singular experience?  Surprisingly, finding a date game isn't that hard.  Here are a few games that actually are great to play together.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

This is a great pick if your significant other wants to try video games but isn't sure where to start.  Have the more adept platformer jump around as Mario, and have the other be the star.  You would not believe how helpful that star it.  Killing enemies, holding platforms still, collecting all the star pieces you missed--it is such an improvement to the gameplay experience.  And all you have to do is point your Wiimote!


If your partner is willing to try something a bit more hardcore, Borderlands can be a great start.  If you pick the right character, you don't have to be that good at shooting to kill all the ruffians you come across, and there is a lot of humor that non-gamers can appreciate.  On top of that all the DLC can help you focus on the  funny stories or just shooting the hell out of bad guys.

Mass Effect Series

Mass Effect 1 and 2 are great if you're lucky enough to be with someone who is willing to watch a well written video game.  The series has a compelling story and it's easy to be involved.  One of the best way to play this is to have the person who likes an action game play, but have the person watching make all the dialogue choices and big decisions.  That way everyone is involved and you only need one controller.

Rail Shooters

The genre was made to be played with at least two people.  The Wii has been bringing back the genre a little bit, but sometimes just going to an arcade and reeking havoc onto some random terrorist (which is half of the plots for arcade rail shooters) is great fun.  This is good if your significant other is willing to try something that is easy to learn but hard to master.  Mystic and I will do these from time to time, and will still waste tons of change on it.

Racing Games

If you're a couple into a little bit of healthy competition, it's not actually a bad thing.  Beating each other isn't violent, it's a time trial, so it's more about skill and focusing on your screen than "Haha I got you!".  Also, a lot of racing games have a mode that is less on racing and more on ridiculous goals like crashing cars, which is great if you want to play with someone who doesn't have the speed skills you may have.

Additionally, here are some games that do not bode well for a date night.

Real Time Strategies

RTSs in general are very hard to get into if you're a non gamer, so not a great first introduction to the hobby.  Even if the two of you are avid gamers, the kind of thinking one uses for an RTS is very strategic and economical, not the kind of thinking that fosters togetherness.  Although the two of you may be successful preventing a Protos invasions, it's not going to make the two of you think you make a great couple, just great generals.

"Typical" First Person Shooters (i.e. Call of Duty, Halo, etc.)

These are great games to play with friends that don't mind the competition, but solely with your spouse or who you're dating, and it can quickly become a one on one battle to the death.  Unless you can team up against bots, the potential for frustration at trying to shoot each other can grow a little to easily, and spill over out of the game and between the two of you.

Massive Multiplayer Online Games

It's not that these games are a bad thing to play with a significant other, but they're bad date games.  Any game that reminds you about the downsides of anonymity on the internet is not going to be a great place to bond with your sweetie.


For those of you who play Skyrim, you understand.  For those of you who don't play Skyrim, imagine the frustration of dating someone addicted to an opiate, and now imagine that transferred from your loved one's computer monitor into their brain.  It's that addictive, and although it's a great game to watch, it typically will not be an experience that will bring you closer together.

Of course every couple is special like a snowflake, so these suggestions may not ring true for you and your honey.  However, if you want to get a general idea on where to start, I think the first games mentioned are great if you want to avoid crowded restaurants and overpriced chocolate today.

February 3, 2012

Bloodwing the Hamster

I haven't even told you guys I have a hamster, but the reason I'm posting tonight is not the happiest.  I let him jump from too high a shelf (he is a jumper) and he hurt his hip.  I felt so guilty, and I realized I hadn't let you all know about his existence

I got the little scamp in October, and I named him after the ass-kicking bird in Borderlands.  I do love the guy, but he is an idiot, even for hamster standards.  That is part of the reason he's hurt.  He jumps a lot, and this is the first time he's hurt himself.

The verdict right now is that he's fine, but I want to make sure that if I ever post about him, it's not an obituary.  So while he's recovering, let's revel in a little bit of cuteness.