Emily On A Hot Carpeted Floor

I started writing this through the use of a secondhand power source, because my house was too weak to withstand a storm that took out the power of..I don’t even know how many homes, because at the time I had to get my information through secondhand sources as well (and I’m too lazy to research it now that I’ve got a post in the works). But, I’ve heard that two thirds of my own county has been affected, and the same of the other counties within the state and in the surrounding states. That’s a lot of power outages for Pepco to deal with, and while I understand that, it was difficult for me not to be angry with them when I was lying on the floor in a 120 degree house in front of a cheap misting fan with foam blades like the kind you get on a hot day at Disney World. That kind of thing makes you say goodbye to your rationality.

It started off badly, because the storm cut off my video game time in the rudest and most frightening of ways. Rude because I have to restart Fallout: New Vegas enough already (it likes to freeze on me), frightening because it happened while I was literally in the middle of waiting for the load bar on the save function to finish. Which is the little screen where they tell you not to disconnect the game or turn off the system.

It was made worse by the fact that I had no power to find out if I had a corrupted file, or maybe a disc that was crying because it felt mistreated (and because it was trapped inside the Playstation 3). After all, the system does yell at me for it when I start it back up. I wish I could tell it that I didn’t turn the thing off improperly, the power outage did. 

So anyway, I was already bothered by the storm, but I thought that the power would come back shortly. My neighborhood never seems to suffer much from storms, and my house hardly ever loses power at all. Unfortunately, it lasted all night..and the following day. And the one after that, and..well, you see where I’m going with this. My parents and I tried desperately to stay in our house without roasting alive.

Leaving my father to suffer with the one small battery operated fan that we managed to have at our disposal, my mother and I went out the next morning to forage in the desert for food, ice, and other fans, hopefully of a bigger variety.

Driving around the area, there weren’t a lot of places that had power. There was the McDonald’s, sitting in a group of darkened stores as the only one with power; which in my opinion backs up the joking I was doing about blaming the government for the power issues. That was where we were forced to buy breakfast, since we couldn’t use our appliances or open our fridge. Driving farther away from home, to the next towns over, we found traffic lights out and hardly any stores open. But we did manage to find a Walmart and a few gas stations. The Walmart had no ice, and no battery powered fans that weren’t larger than the Disney spray bottle variety. So we bought two of those and a Styrofoam cooler. Then we tried several gas stations until we found one that had a few bags of ice. So we brought all of that home, put ice in the cooler that we already had, and in the Styrofoam one. We had coolers full of groceries and a hot, hot house only combated by the three tiny battery operated fans. My mother and I watched a movie on a dying laptop, and during that time she begged me to find a friend with whom I could spend the night, so that she’d be free of my ‘incessant complaining’. I found a friend who had power and a willingness to put up with me for a night.

I thought I was safe. I let my guard down. I forgot that the relentless insect menace is stirred up by heat and my being in an unfamiliar environment, with nowhere to run.

It was very fast moving. That was probably why they voted it into the lucky position.

They’re sneaky. While I was perfectly comfortable playing a video game with my heterosexual mate for life, they sent out a scout to find out what level of danger they would be facing with the two of us being present in the room.  Though they had the element of surprise, they did not expect my finely tuned, perfectly honed bug radar to be on with full power, as it always is. So I spotted the scout, but they were willing to lose one man. The real test was for them to see what we would do with their captured brother. Would it be a fatal blow? Would we simply flee?

Well, it so happens that my friend is much more..peaceful (toward the bug scourge) than I am.  The scout was taken care of, in a rather humane manner, and I am of the opinion that he could eventually find a way out of that rolled up brown paper bag in the trash can. Which was exactly what bothered me from then on. I knew that it was the first sign of attack. And judging by the suspicious lack of the appearance of insect kinsmen, I could tell that they were planning to attack when I was on my own. They had learned from the fate of their scout. They were adapting. And I was nervous.

She lasted as long as she could, but my ally eventually grew tired. I stayed downstairs, in a room that I felt was safe. But they had picked up my scent, they knew that it was time to strike. It started with a Silverfish, blending into the carpet. I thought, no big deal, I’ll kill it with this magazine that happens to be here. Crafty insects..crafty…for the magazine contained a camouflaged recruit which fell just near my foot and scampered beneath the couch upon which my things were piled. Backing away toward the opposite couch, I glanced toward the ceiling and noticed another recruit in one of the corners, spying from above. I was surrounded. Doomed. I curled up small on the couch in a pile of the things I had barely managed to move, and tried to focus on Netflix to calm myself.

 A few hours later, my mother needed me to come back early to assist my father. I left feeling that I had won, that I had managed not to flip out and wake the entire house with psychotic demands that all small insects be killed so that I might be able to put my feet on the floor again. However, because of the heat and lack of power, we did not go back to my own home. Instead, we were borrowing (with permission) the vacant house of one of my mother’s friends, who was away at a vacation cabin at the time. A house that happened to be sort of..almost..in the woods. It was so early in the morning that I just thought, “Of course.”
The house was very nice, though, and I quickly felt comfortable there. I spent the first day with my father watching television shows, the two of us staring at whatever we could find that both of us could stand. When it was his turn to choose, we watched Judge Mathis and the News (to find out the power situation). Often he would try to sleep, so my turns came up more often, and we would watch things like Malcolm in the Middle, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Spongebob, and Everybody Hates Chris. When there was nothing that either of us really cared for, we sunk so low as to watch a few episodes of Maury.

In the first episode that we watched, there was a woman who had slept with this guy, and gotten pregnant, which caused him to leave her. Then she started sleeping with her hairdresser – who turned out to be the first guy’s father. The guy was convinced that she had slept with his father knowingly and before the baby was born, so he thought that the baby was his father’s instead of his own. Awkward. At first, my dad was scoffing at the idea of watching the show. It took about ten minutes for him to get hypnotized by the human failure spiral that is the Maury show. We bonded a little over the synchronized Schadenfreude (which is what I believe keeps that show going). So, what I mean by saying all this is that I was getting comfortable there. I was losing the initial “I’m-in-someone-else’s-house-and-it’s-so-awkward-I-need-to-be-extra-careful” feeling, and feeling calm enough to put my feet up. Which is, as I said, when they strike.

I saw what might have been the biggest spider I’ve ever laid my eyes on (aside from a Daddy Long-leg), crawling at a very fast pace on one of the cupboards in the kitchen. Luckily my mother was around to dispose of it. But I might as well have waved goodbye to my comfort. That was the second day that my family had spent there, but my first day after spending my first night, since I had come from my friend’s house. And luckily, that was the day that I managed to get our own answering machine when calling home, which meant that we had our power back. So I didn’t have to spend the night talking myself into lying down and forgetting about spiders and the large families I’m sure they all have. All of whom want to avenge their death after they are killed by humans.

We came back to a one hundred and ten degree house when it was in the process of cooling itself down (meaning that it was at around 80 after having a few hours to work with). Because our upstairs Air Conditioning had recently broken, eighty was like an ice bath to us, especially in comparison to the sweltering, record-breaking heat we’d tried to power through when we lost..power. We cleaned out our indoor and outdoor fridges, both of which held rotted food and tidal waves of water. That night, with the help of my fan, my room felt normal again.

But still I refuse to get entirely comfortable, for two reasons.
One, the power is still acting funny. The night that we came back, it went out for a few minutes, long enough to make us thoroughly frightened. Two nights ago, the power went out for seven hours for no discernible reason. And two, I saw a spider in my room, my safe-zone, that night.  And when I killed it, I felt thoroughly bad for it afterwards. I hope the heat hasn’t warped my brain. Let this serve as a reminder: Spiders are the enemy. And so is heat.

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Exposure (in the form of video games, gasp) Promotes Intelligence

This was something that I previously posted on a site called “Hubpages”, under the name “Three video games that prove you can learn from playing” or something of the like. I’ve since cancelled my hubpages account, because I was on it to make money (and was not doing much of that) and not out of desire for pure enjoyment and a chance to say whatever I want and feel liberated, which is what I’m here for. Still, I figured I’d repost it here, because I think there’s something worth reading about it.

Enjoy!

Video games have, for some time, been almost universally considered to be a waste of time. The image of the “typical gamer” calls up – to the minds of those inexperienced in the world of gaming, and who must therefore rely on stereotypes – an unfortunate image, different for a male or a female. The typical male gamer is of an overweight persuasion and quite likely lives in the basement with his parents. The typical female gamer is an extreme, but just as insulting opposite – a scantily clad woman who seems to serve more as a masturbatory aid to the man that imagines her, rather than actually being interested in video games. There is a third characterization, which I have often heard from adults looking down at teenagers – the operative word here is ‘immature’. (Again, these are the stereotypes that I have commonly heard.)

However, the truth of the matter is that all of us need to spend some time on leisure, and all of us crave entertainment. Entertainment is as much a part of our culture as anything else: we spend countless dollars on sports, and well-crafted, intelligent television shows (the stupider shows, the ones meant to portray ‘reality’, come at a much cheaper cost). Just like other forms of entertainment, video games seek to improve; they have evolved from the simplistic product that was being sold only years ago. It is a quickly growing industry, and strives, for the most part, for a better, more intelligent product.

I am not here to ignore the use of violence in gaming (which is a point that is often brought up in the condemnation of gaming) – it’s alive and well. Nor am I here to argue whether or not violence is a good thing in measured amounts and certain circumstances (I would be here forever – but for those who want to know, I’d argue for the violence.) All that I wish to prove here is that, by playing multiple games over the past few years, I have found some that easily prove that there is redeeming value, for anyone, in the gaming industry.

The “Uncharted” Series

Background: Uncharted is a series, developed by Naughty Dog and exclusively produced for the Playstation 3, which begun in 2007 with the release “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”. The game went on to great acclaim, selling more than one million copies in ten weeks, and was subsequently given the addition of a sequel, “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”, in 2009 and a third entry, “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” which came out in 2011. The game is praised for its high production values and cinematic feel, and each game has won several “Game of the Year” awards. A feature film has recently been announced.

Plot: The game follows treasure hunter and supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake (Drake didn’t have any kids, but Nathan insists that ‘history can be wrong sometimes’), Nathan Drake. To explain the plot from there would be to explain the history of a lot of treasure associated with past figures such as Francis Drake, so I’ll sum it up: Drake hunts for lost treasure alongside his mentor, aging ladies’ man Victor Sullivan, and they are always under fire from a group of people who want to reach the target treasure first. Simple enough, yes?

What’s to be learned: There’s no question that this game has a lot of room to teach. Important historical figures such as Sir Francis Drake and Marco Polo are the motivation for much of the action: it’s their treasure that we’re setting out to find. Because of this, a lot of places are also visited. Here’s a short list: El Dorado, the Amazon, Istanbul, Shangri-La, Borneo, Nepal, the Himalayas, Colombia, Yemen. The history isn’t glossed over, either. The cinematic scenes that occur to get the story across often focus on Drake and his partner, or another character, extrapolating on history which actually took place. Much can be learned about the routes that Sir Francis Drake took during his explorations, as well as about the man himself. There’s also a little side-game (in each of the three titles) that involves finding artifacts all throughout the main game. History aside, the game also teaches through the use of puzzles, which of course, it requires skill in logical thinking to finish. I’ve often found myself quite stuck on how to get those puzzles finished, even with the clues (that often come from Sir Francis Drake’s ‘personal journal’).

Uncharted is a title that manages to successfully integrate history with a thrilling, action packed experience. Not to mention the fact that it’s just a very charming game – all of the characters are fully formed (personality-wise, meaning that none of them are stock creations) and there are a lot of witty bits of humor that I just love. I can, and have, played these games over and over, and I think that they do a good job of fostering an interest in history.


The “Assassin’s Creed” Series

 

Background: Assassin’s Creed came out with its first title in 2007, and since then four more games have been added to the main line, with a number of supporting titles joining the ranks as well. The games are published by Ubisoft, with the main games coming out of Ubisoft Montreal. The franchise has reached overwhelming success; the first and second games have both sold 8 million copies to date. A 3D motion picture has been discussed.

Plot: The story is of a historical nature that begins with a framing device. I don’t want to give too much away to those who haven’t played, so I’ll be brief. A man, Desmond Miles, who is being held captive by a secret organization is forced to take part in the use of a device that allows him to be synchronized with his ancestors and learn what they learned, see their experiences. Through this method we come to the real story of the games, which is told through the playing of his ancestor(s).

What’s to be learned: Again, a lot about history. Desmond’s ancestors are assassins during the Crusades, and 15th century Italy mainly. (Though there is also a character from the American Revolution.) Whenever a new building is discovered (which is often, as the city is very expansive), the history of said building comes up in full, factual detail. A lot of historical figures are encountered, such as the Medici Family. One of Desmond’s ancestors, Ezio, the main playable character for the most part, spends a lot of time with Leonardo da Vinci, and employs the use of his devices, going so far as to use his actual flying machine(s). Leonardo’s workshop is a place that is often visited. Character profiles can be accessed as well, providing full background for Da Vinci and the other characters that were actual people. All of this use of real history aside, the game fosters a great interest in history by connecting it to the, for lack of better words, frigging cool life of a stylized assassin. It’s easy to draw gamers in with an assassin to play as their character, and behind that there’s nothing but substance. Leonardo da Vinci was one of my favorite characters in the games that I have played in the series, and if I wasn’t already pretty well informed about his history, I’d probably want to go out and learn it.

Whereas Uncharted fosters an interest in history, Assassin’s Creed not only does that, but it actually makes it come alive, to quote an old saying.

“Fallout 3″

 

 

 

Background: Fallout 3 was published by Bethesda Softworks in 2008. It has earned several “Game of the Year” titles and experienced great acclaim, outselling the previous (and also popular) production by the same company, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game was praised for its open ended game play and flexible character development/leveling system. (In other words, you can choose what skills are most useful to you, what you want your character to be good at.)

Plot: The game takes place in the year 2277, 200 years after the world was devastated by nuclear fallout as a result of international conflicts between the USA and China. You play as a young man or woman that has grown up in a ‘vault’ – which is basically a bomb shelter meant to hold about 1,000 people (though vault-tec, the company that produced them, used most of them for terrifying experiments. For example: 1 panther, and 1,000 humans, or 999 men and 1 woman.). One day, your father (voiced by Liam Neeson <3) escapes from the vault, which is said to have never been, and is never to be opened. You escape death by following your father out into the Wasteland.

What’s to be learned
: The game takes place in the Washington DC area, which means that there’s a lot to be learned about the history of America. Some of the missions involve important parts of our history – for example, upon discovering a certain city, the character is commissioned to bring the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives so that they can complete a collection of famous works. Upon arriving at the Archives and making it through the elements of danger, the character encounters Button Gwinett, the second governor of Georgia. A dialogue about, of course, history ensues, with Gwinnet protectively claiming that he’ll never let the document or country fall into ‘red’ hands. In the end it is possible to convince him that you are Thomas Jefferson. There is also a series of missions involving the liberation of Slaves who worship Abraham Lincoln as a near God. This, of course, affords a lot of historical fun facts – it also integrates adventure with history (which, as you can tell by now, is something that I find very entertaining) as one tries to bring back treasures from the man himself, such as a recording of his voice or his hat.

Aside from that, I want to point out the merits of imagination, and how this game promotes that. Creativity goes hand in hand with imagination, and is an integral part of our lives – especially in the work force. I think that, because this game offers the player the chance to customize their player to such an extent, it affords them the chance to think as if they were in a post-apocalyptic world, the chance to really connect with their character. The ability to effectively put one-self into any situation is a pretty good definition of imagination in my book.

 In Summation:
The fact that video games, in general, foster the development of imagination (not to mention hand eye coordination) is, in my book, enough of a reason to keep them around. However, as I’ve tried to prove here, video games are only getting better, using more complex elements to perfect their stories, like history. While there is always an exception to the rule, the ones that become very popular are usually highly story driven and realistic – in other words, they can add as much to intelligent thought as a good movie can. (They’re also the only kind I buy, since I look for a good story, and most of them end up taking Game of the Year titles.)

Now I’ll have somewhere to send someone if they ask me why I “waste my time” with gaming. I consider it an intellectual pursuit (and okay, I like to shoot stuff. It’s a healthy balance.).

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Personal to Fictional Comparison: Disney Heroines

I spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. When I read books and watch movies, they become especially vivid because I naturally place myself in the situation that the characters are facing. This often leads to things that, perhaps only I, find amusing. I wanted to try and post some of them on here, and I’m hoping to do more than one post about it – and clearly this first one is presenting how I think things would go if I was put in the place of various Disney Heroines.

Ariel
Kiss him whether he likes it or not!

Jasmine
I don’t have much balance, and I doubt a floating carpet would keep me in the air long.

Rapunzel
My hair is already ridiculous to maintain.

Pocahontas

 

Tiana

Mulan

Aurora

Snow White

Belle
I love Gaston.

Esmeralda
Not that I’d recommend watching the second movie, but the kid is in that.

Jane

Megara
I always thought Meg had the background story and snarky wit of a vigilante.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God, that took a lot of drawing with a touchpad mouse.

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Max Payne(s me a little) 3

When my parents asked what they could give me for my 21st birthday, I told them that I wanted to own Max Payne 3. Of course, I was committing the crime of buying a game without first having played the other two, but being a big fan of the Rockstar company, (favorites being Red Dead Redemption and Bully) and having watched videos of and read Wikipedia pages about the other two games, I felt it was only a misdemeanor. I knew the storyline and had seen the action, so the only thing I hadn’t done was pick up a controller for the other two. I planned to make up for that with the amount I’d be playing the new one.

Now, before I had purchased or read up on the game, I hoped that it would be an open world thing, in the grand tradition (pardon the pun) of Grand Theft Auto and L.A. Noire – the latter of which is, in my opinion, as close to this game as you can get in the Rockstar bundle, as Max Payne seeks to use a film noir technique in the first person narrative voice over of Max, and L.A. Noire uses it in the tone and backdrop of the game. Also, both games focus on the disenfranchised cop, though they approach it from different angles, L.A Noire being the before picture, Max Payne 3 being the after. In L.A Noire, we see Cole as the glory boy, the young star of an officer that soon goes down a darker path and loses everything. In Max Payne 3, Payne has already gone down that path, laced with alcohol and abuse of prescription drugs (hell, they’re the health source of the game).

Anyway, MP3 isn’t open world. However, I’m not listing that as something that I dislike about the game. I won’t state anything that I don’t like about the game as a ‘problem’ because each of these things are a matter of preference. They’re all things that you could get over, or even like. And frankly, the open world thing is just one style of game, and it’s not the only type that I like – I’ve played games like MP3 before, where you’re set into an environment and given freedom within it, along with a lot of bad guys to shoot. I cite Uncharted, one of my favorite recent series of games.

This leads to something positive. A game that uses the style of MP3 and Uncharted needs strong environments,  and strong character dialogue to keep it interesting. It also needs something between shoot-outs so that this isn’t all that the player is doing. I can say with confidence that MP3 has all of those things. The environments are colorful and realistic, the narrative of Payne is often provocative or humorous, and always entertaining, and between shoot-outs the player is using detective skills to find clues that will help them in their environment and situation. I like the collection of golden gun-parts as a little side game, similar to the collection of artifacts in Uncharted. Also, the style that the game chooses to use is good for the story of Max Payne, since he is on a mission to find and save someone, is meant to be a one man army, and most of the game is spent gunning people down (which I never get sick of..virtually). The slow motion is also a fun little effect to use.

Visually and content-wise, the game is an all-star. But it has a few, admittedly small, problems that frustrated me to no end, and severely hurt my perception of and ability to like it.

1. Max’s basic inability to run
I literally had trouble figuring out how to get him to run – and that was before I realized that I wasn’t having trouble, he just..was running. At basically the same speed that he walks, but with his gun arm pointed down. It’s better to bypass running entirely and just make him roll along walkways and down stairs. That way you actually stand a chance of not getting shot repeatedly on the way to your destination. It made me feel very tense (and not in a good way), because I was sitting there inwardly yelling at him to get a move on. 
2.  Unfair enemy approach
Some people might see this as adding to the realism of the game, but I find it very annoying and unfair as far as the unwritten rules of gaming go. At least, the rules how I see them. When you play as a one man army, like Max Payne, you’re basically pushing your way into enemy territory, leaving the space behind you as a safe zone. The safe zone grows as the unsafe zone shrinks, because you’re killing enemies and therefore making the new territory safe. Now, there can be second waves, even waves that come from different directions, but the game has to alert you that this is happening in some way or another – panning the camera to them, having them make a lot of noise..something. In MP3, I’m sitting there happily shooting at enemies when I realize that I’m being hurt from behind, and often before I can properly turn around, the dude that showed up from the zone I’d already cleared out  has me either dead or nearly so. The game has a method of combating its own unfair practice – which is that if you get killed, but you can gun down the other guy and be the last man standing, you can use prescription pills (health) to stay alive. But, if you’re out of pills, or ammo, you’re done. So even with this, I still find myself incredibly annoyed in most circumstances.

3. The lack of available healing items
It’s very difficult to find healing items, and there is never a steady supply. Often I find them in the most random of places, places where I might not have gone if I hadn’t been a bit of an item hoarder. I don’t feel safe without arms full of delicious healing goodness. (For those of you who have played the game, in Fallout 3, I don’t do anything important without over 150 stimpaks.)

It makes me look a little sick, what with the prescription pills and all.

 And chances are that you’ll be pinned down without the appropriate amount of healing items, or ammo that you can get to without being turned into Swiss cheese. Which is fine as long as you don’t mind dying a lot. Which I do.

4. It’s an affront to my gamerhood to die so much
Okay, so maybe I put a little too much stock in my gaming prowess, but I connect with my characters and I hate to see them die. And in MP3, that’s all I was doing. Frankly it happened so much that it broke up the story a little. It was like I was playing a series of trials, the time running out until my inevitable death. It felt like death was the eventuality, and surviving was the fluke. So I started to consider making the ultimate sacrifice..

No! Neveeeerrr!

Anyway, I took the game out and started replaying Arkham Asylum. Overall, I liked Max Payne 3, but it was the little things that started to get grating, so much so that I’m considering trading it for Lollipop Chainsaw.

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Being awake at 4am is how I imagine it is to be drunk or high.

This was written in a Word Document at the corresponding time, while I was really out of it. I thought that it was funny enough to post here, because not posting anything for a few days or so makes me feel uncomfortable and neglectful to baby Blog, so here ya go.

 

So, I’m just lying in bed at 3:55 AM watching Family Matters on mute while listening to my music – because I was really in the mood to listen to music, and I didn’t want to stop even though I hadn’t seen this particular episode of Family Matters, and that was important too, so I’m making up a story for it in my head (for what’s happening) and I’m pretty sure I’m getting the story right but not the dialogue aside from “Did I do that?” because how could anyone properly predict the dialogue unless they could read lips but then that wouldn’t be predicting and..I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, while I was watching a few minutes ago, I saw a commercial for what was apparently a live Diego show. (I am assuming that simply referring to this character as ‘Diego’ fits into common knowledge, but then I started wondering if someone might somehow mistake ‘Diego’ for the ‘Diego’ from Ice Age, because that’s pretty popular too..and I like him better..but no, I’m referring to the Diego from ‘Go Diego Go!’ the Dora the Explorer..spin-off? Weren’t they related somehow? I feel like they were cousins. Anyway, he’s basically male Dora in the jungle. Dora finds the barn and the big apple tree [RIGHT BEHIND YOU DORA YOU CAN'T MISS IT THERE'S LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE THERE.] and deals with that bad ass creeper Swiper and Diego tells you what marmosets eat. (Which I guess would come in handy if you’re a feral child growing up in a Tarzan jungle, or an Irwin, but that’s not really a common demographic.)

Anyway, this live show basically means that some anonymous person in an innocuous giant felt Diego suit is putting on a show for the kiddies. This has been done many times over with many characters..I think recently they did a Toy Story 3 On Ice thing that is probably still going on now, though I’m not sure. Anyway – even though the suit is perfectly non-threatening and familiar (I guess.) despite being..well, not very believable, I’ve never thought about how creepy it is that I don’t know who is inside that suit. But tonight, it occurred to me out of nowhere. I was watching the poor soul occupying the tv Diego costume dancing around awkwardly while the costume head smiled happily, and I started imagining John Wayne Gacy in there. Which is pretty much the creepiest thing I think I’ve ever thought, at least in such an abrupt fashion.

I’m not going to pursue the idea that it would be Gacy in there anymore, because of the freaky connotation, but the point remains – it’s creepy that there’s this happy costume dancing/skating around, worn by a stranger that might have ulterior motives. If you can see the person performing for you, at least you can try to gauge whether or not they’re a serial killing freak. Knowing that I can try makes me feel better.
ImageSee, if Hitler had been in a Diego suit, I wouldn’t have known it was him. Unless he started goose stepping across the stage. That might give it away. Not literally GOOSE stepping..that’s more of an actual Diego thing..you know, with the animals. Yeah.

 

See, this is the reason I don’t get drunk. I’m afraid of the things that would come out of my mouth if I did.

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Harvest Moon (Over Virtual Men): Temporarily Abandoning Violence for Whimsy

Warning: Before you read this, please understand that I know that there are no exceptions to every rule, and that we don’t infallibly fit into stereotypes. Please take everything with a grain of salt, and remember that I’m not trying to insult anyone – just trying to be sort of funny and maybe even insightful. Hopefully no one will get the internet-bred notion to verbally crucify me, or worse, label me as someone who makes sweeping generalizations.

With the way I see women acting sometimes (though I should say it’s mostly in the media, but I don’t go outside, so that’s my sphere of influence), I like to say that I’m more man than woman, excluding genitalia (one step ahead of you, aforementioned..cruficiers). As far as society is concerned, my interests have always been decidedly more “male” than “female”. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a little girl deep inside me that sometimes manages to break out of her reinforced cage.

Which sometimes leads me to purchasing things that fall into the “female” realm of gaming. I wish that it didn’t have to be defined that way, but for all the times I’ve seen shelves marked “girl gaming”, “just for girls!” or something of the like, I’ll go ahead and point out that it is, in fact, separated into apparent gender categories. The reason that I don’t like this, aside from the insulting implications of it (obviously), is that..well, it leads to us getting credited with (at least liking, or wanting) a lot of bad games. In my opinion.

But since I wouldn’t be able to play my way all the way through a game that I thought was bad, I decided to make this about a “girl” game that I think is good, if not a little…weird. I want to use it to help prove a bigger point.

Actually, I happen to like most of the games in the Harvest Moon franchise that I have played. The games have reached many consoles, but always with a simple objective. Develop a smoothly running and lucrative farm/ranch, while also helping whatever people you happen to be near (and possibly finding yourself a spouse). The newest one to reach the newest system, that I’ve played, has been “Animal Parade” for the Wii. I came up with a few things about the game that prove that, while I do like this game and the series in general, games that are deemed “for girls/women” are often outside usual, or the standard for video games (if not just flat out bad). And, since calling them “girl” games implies that girls want to play them, they promote negative traits as being inherently feminine.

In other words, if the game didn’t fall into that “female” side of the gaming universe, it wouldn’t speak to any differences between men and women. It would just be a weird (but good!) game. I don’t have a need for all games to be ultra realistic. I just don’t like what women are being associated with. It brings down the girl gamer, as funny as that statement sounds. I don’t blame the people who make these games – they do things to serve their audiences. So, if people think that women only like a certain kind of game, certain games will be made that target women with those things, and the whole mess becomes a vicious cycle.


By the way, if anyone thinks of a game that is meant to reach a female audience more than a male one, but that could fit just as well into the “male” sphere or is just good, I’d love to know about them. (Trust me, I’m dying to let go of the idea that games are split up into male or female categories, but what I see around me makes it impossible.)

Marriage as a highly developed, almost integral element.

Now, of course there are “male” games that feature marriage; the one that pops straight into my head is Skyrim, from Bethesda Softworks. It’s only natural to include that element in games that feature open world environments and characters that are highly customizable. However, I see a major difference in how the subject is handled.

In Skyrim, one can get married from a select pool of people, just as in Animal Parade. The method of convincing said person to marry you ranges from very simple to..still simple, but with a bit of time put in. To be considered open to marriage, you must purchase a necklace, or amulet, that alerts people of that desire. Once that’s done, you turn to the possible partners. Some people can be hired to assist you in combat; some of these are marriage candidates who can be convinced to spend their lives with you just by being paid to fight alongside you. At the other end of the spectrum, there are marriage candidates who become interested in you once you complete a series of objectives that assist them with something. It’s the equivalent of marrying a neighbor after you fetch them their paper on the way to their door. (The game does explain the reasons for this kind of rush into marriage, so I’m not putting it down for that.)

In Animal Parade, if you’re not getting married, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of the game. Not only this, but the process includes a series of complicated and time consuming steps.

Materialism (As a means of winning affection)

Again, the idea of giving gifts to someone in a game in order to win their affection is not exclusive to “female” games. In Rockstar’s 2006 game for the Playstation 2, Bully, which fits the stereotypical considerations for being a “male” game, you can give gifts. But, the thing is that you give them, for the most part, to female students in order to win their affection. Gift giving – and by that I don’t mean doing or returning quests, even if they have to do with fetching someone an item – in games is a means of buying someone, and for the most part, that someone is female. (I consider materialism stereotypically feminine because of the weight this gets in popular culture. Sometimes, a man just has to buy a woman the right thing and she’s putty at his feet. Other times, the woman is only interested in gaining something from the man. While of course this is not the omnipresent portrayal, it is the stereotypical norm.)

Animal Parade is the same in that you give gifts to earn affection (though you can play as a female, where you buy the male with never-ending gifts). But it takes the concept one step further in that the whole game seems to be based on materialism – every action, interaction and goal. In order to revitalize the island that you’ve come to live on, which is the main story-line and goal, you have to ring a series of bells to get the “harvest spirits” back to doing their jobs. Some of the bells are easier than others, of course, but for the most part, they require getting to know someone to reach your goal. And the only way to get to know someone is to shower them with their favorite gifts. In order to ring the last bell, you have to get ten people to three “hearts” (the measurement of their affection for you) and learn their wishes. By my estimation, it takes about fifteen in-game days of giving them gifts to get their affection up that high. If you choose to go without materialism to help you, you can level up their affection by talking, but it takes much, much longer.

In Animal Parade, materialism factors in: Getting someone to marry or just like you, getting animals to like you, and getting couples having nothing to do with you together. These three things are the functions through which you will complete every single part of the story-line of the game. Without them, you can improve your barn and chicken coop, plant and sell crops, or spend all your time fishing or mining.

I know that this is done because it’s a simple way to get the player involved in a quest, that it puts in more work for them to do so that they don’t grow bored with the game. I don’t have a problem with that. Like I said before, it’s the fact that these games are associated mainly with women, and the problems that creates, that bothers me. What’s really happening here is that girl gamers are being pinned down to liking one genre. Animal Parade is a farm simulation game. A lot of the games that I see directed at or associated with women are simulation games – relationship simulators, pet simulators, shopping simulators and the like. While I haven’t tried all of those subsections, I do play games like Harvest Moon, because I’m drawn to a good story. Sure, I like to virtually blow things up and put down enemies, but if all a game does is move me wordlessly from one situation to another and ask me to shoot, I would grow bored. And we would all grow bored if we stayed playing the same kind of game for our entire lives – so we switch from genre to genre. A girl may like a relationship simulation game for the story she creates with the characters, and she could easily find that same satisfaction from an action adventure game or a first person shooter. The same goes for a boy.

My basic point here is that gaming is gaming, and a gamer is a gamer. Regardless of gender, the likes and dislikes of a wide variety of people are going to differ. When I see a sweeping generalization being made, about either gender, I am saddened by it, because it stifles us, all of us. A girl should be free to like God of War or Call of Duty just as a boy should be free to like Harvest Moon or Rune Factory. Gamers have enough of a bad image without ragging on each other. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t feel the need to explain why I friggin’ like the game.

To end on a humorous note, here are some more things that make me laugh about the game.


When you have a child, neither you or your spouse will stay home to take care of the baby. What I expected was that your spouse would either stay home with it, or take it with them, as you have to take care of an entire ranch no matter what your gender is, but what actually happens is this – if you ask them to help you with ranch chores, they will do so, leaving the baby unattended in the house. If you don’t ask them to do ranch chores, hoping that they will stay home and protect your new child, they will leave the house to fish or gossip or whatever it is that they do, leaving the baby unattended.

You can take walks with your family. It sounds like, and is for the most part, a nice way to connect with your family and bring their heart count up. Unless you decide that walking is lame and you’d rather ride one of the animals you’ve been raising. Rather than just allowing the family member to ride behind you on said animal, the game actually prefers to show them running desperately behind you on the path, attempting to keep up with a horse or an ostrich.  It’s like you’re putting them through some strange Harvest Moon Rocky scenario to train them for an upcoming bout.

The last one might show more about me than perhaps it is wise to reveal. But it’s so funny (to me) that I can’t leave it out. I can take out any ranching tool whenever I want to, and depending on where I’m standing at the time, this often leaves me feeling like a jerk or a pervert. (Normally when I am inside, I take out a tool by accident when I want to access something else.) This has led to such indiscretions as standing over my baby’s crib with my axe out, and standing beside my wife with the cow milker.

Don’t judge me too harshly.

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Fallout (3) of Contact With The Outside World.

As of late, since my birthday has come and gone, and I have lost the start-of-summer energy which propelled me to let my parents propel me into getting my driver’s permit and cleaning my room, the bulk of my days has been spent playing Fallout 3 for around the tenth time through. This, combined with the early hour (3:20) led to the train of thought, “Man, I would not make it in a post apocalyptic, radioactive world.” That is, in essence, the plot of Fallout 3. In intense, first day on the job layman’s terms, there was a big world war, and the world went kaboom. People survived in underground ‘vaults’, and when it was over some came out and repopulated. Other vaults stayed closed. Now the world is a death trap and you’re just an escapee from one of the closed vaults, looking for your father (who left, and is the reason you had to leave as well) trying to survive. Of course, radiation is a part of everything now; the water, the food, some of the people, the-
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..Ugh. Bugs. They’re all giant and junk. Radioactive. And it isn’t as if they just run innocently around your kitchen, eating up the scraps – or, since they’re so big, demanding a place at the dinner table and their own plate. No, no. They actually attack. For what reason, I do not know, but can only assume that they want me for food.  I find this hideously terrifying and would probably perish from a heart attack before a bug would ever come near me. They don’t exactly have ambulances or functioning hospitals anymore, in Fallout universe.

ImageOf course, there are certain bugs that can hurt you FROM a distance, but..why don’t we just move on. There may be working hospitals in the universe I live in, but that doesn’t mean I want to end up in one, and my imagination is liable to send me there if I let it run too far.

ImageI love crab, but I have never been a fan of Maryland crabs, for some reason. Maybe it’s because whenever I eat them, I’m forced to pick through dirty organs to get to the delicious meat I want. Too much work, and a little disgusting. Believe it or not, the Fallout universe managed to come up with something crustacean related that is more disgusting than the dirty innards of a regular Maryland crab – the clean outside of a mutated Maryland horseshoe crab. One day, on my first play through of the game, I was strolling along through the wasteland robbing the skeletal remains of pre-war homes when I saw something heading for me from the direction of the nearest water source. It was walking in a strange sort of way, kind of hopping from “foot” to “foot” and snapping fat claws as it neared me, fixing me with a menacing stare from a little circular crab-face in the upper middle of its gray armored torso. Image
Of course, the first thing to cross my mind was, what in the holy hand grenade is that. And it wasn’t just standing there looking angry, like in the badly drawn picture. It was hop stepping toward me at a manageable rate, but in an alarming fashion – and when it would get close enough, it would lower its armored head and charge at me like a determined football player.

This was when I decided that the wasteland was not a place to be taken lightly. I’m pretty sure that the first time I went up against a mirelurk (the technical term for crab demon), it killed me dead pretty quickly. All I had at that point in the game was a hunting rifle and a 10mm, with a lack of ammo and hardly any way to heal myself. I’m rather sure it was a bug that made it attack me that early on anyway, because I was right near the second suggested location. Either way, I learned a hard lesson, and this just reinforced the idea that I would not be alive in Fallout universe. Like I said, I hate Maryland crab. And I’ve decided I hate radiation, too. After all, it is responsible for almost every single animal that attacks me in the game as well as some humans. Radiation gave us the mutated mole rat, the radioactive bear and the fire breathing ant. And it’s tricky. Image

After meeting up with some of the other critters running around the Fallout universe, I was actually kind of relieved to see that I was fighting an ant. I’d already fought other mutated bugs, so I was like, big whoop. But that’s only because unless you have the good fortune to meet up with the right people before you get to the town of the fire breathing ants, you pretty much get no warning as to what it is they do. There’s only a small chance you’ll meet someone who will tell you about them before you get there, (in fact, I couldn’t find the information kid  when I actually went looking for him in a later play through) and there’s a good chance you will stumble upon the town without realizing it. It looks just like any other place. It’s a serious mistake to make, because unless you’re strong enough for them, the fire breathing ants will..well, end you. Frankly, if this were a reality, the fire ants would end you no matter what. I don’t see how you could handle being repeatedly set on fire unless you were massively irradiated, and that’s keeping in mind that I don’t really know anything about the science of radiation. Not only will your character put up with being set on fire, but they will do it without screaming, and while firing whatever weapon it is you’ve chosen. That is just fantasy. But hey, I’m not here to disparage the realism of the game. (I do love it, after all.)

Let us move on to something other than the creepy crawlies and non-crawling creepers. At this point you might be thinking that the animals and insects are enough to prove my point (that I’d be super dead in the Wasteland). Well..that’s true.

The Talon company are a group of for-hire mercenaries that some jerk has hired to kill you, if you’re a good person in the game. They’re supposed to be hired by someone, anyway, because you can often find the contract on one of the attackers, but when they first attacked me, I don’t think I had done anything of major importance yet, and was highly taken aback by someone’s interest in my immediate death. It basically went down like this:

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ImageImageI don’t remember if I escaped with my life or not. But I think it’s safe to say that if I had somehow survived the bugs, I would have died then in reality. I don’t know when the Talon company starts to attack your character, but once they start they’ll never stop showing up. You could collect infinite copies of your own death contract. It’s a document creatively entitled “Kill [Your Name]!”. It seems funny to me that they’re sending group after group of Talon soldiers who never come back, and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone at Talon central. I suppose the game does that because it’s kind of helpful if you want to sell their armor or tape it together to make a stronger version of the Talon armor. And it does make me laugh to think of myself sitting on the ground taping together pieces of used armor, and then slipping them on somehow. I don’t think I would be that crafty or keen on sitting alone in dangerous territory for extended periods of time. More would probably come for me if I did.

The Fallout Universe has its own answer to the issue of racism (not to solving it, but to showing that it exists without making the game so depressing). People seem to have advanced beyond racism as we know it as far as I can tell, which is nice, but that’s only because a race of mutated humans has taken the place of the minorities. Which is, of course, even more ridiculous than modern racism. That’s like hating disabled people. Hell, that IS hating disabled people. They were mutated by radiation, so to normal people they look like zombies from old movies, with their skin falling off and such. Personally, I love the ghouls in the game. For the most part they’re nice and hardworking, determined. Freedom fighters, even. They kind of have to be. I mean, of course there are a few bad eggs..there’s one that asks you to kill human bigots by shooting them in the head like an old zombie movie.  And then you find out that not all of them are bigots, they just have keys to another location that he wants. But for the most part, I actually really like the ghouls – I’m just afraid that in real life I wouldn’t have as much charisma as my character has, and they’d kill me before realizing I was a friend. I’m pretty inept at social situations.

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I don’t know why people in the game waste their time hating ghouls when they could be hating, excluding and killing the real mutated-from-human assholes. They’re big, yellow, muscular and terrifying, with loud hateful voices and a bloodthirsty attitude that nearly all of them share. (I’ve only met two that don’t.) They have the ability of “intelligent” thought, though it doesn’t mean they’re particularly smart, and make the conscious choice to kill humans or turn them into one of them. People would say that they hate ghouls because the “feral” variety similarly attack humans – but their brains have been scrambled by radiation, and they haven’t the cognitive faculties to make the choice. They just kill whatever isn’t themselves. Without getting too political about it, I can see that if I could manage to make it past the ghoul hate lightning I just made up, they would be my allies in the wasteland. And there are plenty of people besides the yellow death and the talons that you would need to be allied against. Slavery is a thing again. With electronic collars. No thanks. ..This keeps almost turning into a review of the game rather than an explanation of why I wouldn’t survive if the game was reality. I’ll just need to try harder.
ImageSomething that I noticed while I was running around was that everyone in the Wasteland seems to be skinny. Maybe not fit and healthy, but skinny. One would say that this was because everyone is living in a time in which food and water are scarce and need to be scavenged from old vending machines and the like, or hunted and killed – and everything is irradiated. But think about it; your character in the game comes from spending a lifetime in the vault. An underground safe-house where there is barely room to run around and there are a variety of snack foods, and little old ladies to bake you sweet rolls. In other words, you live in your house and you can never leave it. If you don’t actively pursue good health, you’d be fat. In other words, I would be fat. But in the game I didn’t see one overweight person in the vault, and of course, there were none outside. You have to take the clothes you wear off of dead people, or find someone who can make them for you in the vast desert of near nothingness. This fact alone proves that I am not fit for the Fallout world. (Hey, I made a pun.) I would come out of the vault as a fat slob and waddle my way down to the first city I found, if I didn’t meet any irradiated animals along the way, and then have a heart attack once inside when I found a giant roach in my house. Isn’t that a romantic tale? Hell, I don’t even know what I would do if I could manage to survive. What I would do is hunker down in a safe town and never leave it for fear of dying, but if you do that, all you can do for entertainment is talk to people, unless you manage to find a magazine to read from some vendor (to scavenge them yourself you’d have to leave). That means there is no television, and certainly no internet. Could I even make it without the internet? This blog post alone proves that answer to be a definite no. Not to mention the fact that I’m watching television while writing it. But, you know. If you did decide to go out, you could always go and visit the DC ruins, around which Fallout 3 takes place. You know, if you’re not me. I grew up being constantly shuffled to DC to see the monuments and museums and all that in an educational setting, and I think the child in me is sitting on the ground with her hands over her ears and her legs crossed. Still, I do find them a lot more interesting in the game, where it is necessary to shoot your way through.

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 I’d just like to have a combination of the two worlds, with the adventure and heroism from Fallout 3, and the safety and familiar comforts of my life now. But, seeing as that is most likely impossible, it seems I’ll have to stick to playing the game. Ah, well.

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