Well, I wasn’t expecting this

30 May

The wonderful ladies over at Geeky ‘n Girly have nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award.

sunshineaward

A big thank you to Britney and Kelly!

Here’s how this all works: 

  • Use the award logo in this post.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Write ten “pieces of information about myself.”
  • Nominate ten fellow bloggers ‘who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.’
  • Leave a comment on the nominees’ blogs to tell them about the award.

10 Facts:

1. I’m terrible at coming up with facts about myself.

2. I was an English major in college and had a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. (Gee, I wonder why I wanted to write this blog.)

3. I’m very allergic to both dogs and cats but have two of each. There’s lots of Zyrtec in my life.

4.  The first video game I can remember playing is Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo.

5. The last one was Half-Life 2.

6. I procrastinate before doing trivial things but do important things way ahead of time. In college, I would do all of my reading a week ahead of time but might miss dinner because I was too busy browsing tumblr or finishing just one. more. day. in Harvest Moon. (If you’ve played it, you’ve been there.)

7. I can spin in circles forever and never get dizzy.

8. When I was younger, I read all of the time. Literally all of the time. There are Campbell‘s Chicken with White & Wild Rice stains on my Harry Potter books because I refused to put them down.

9. My least favorite chore is folding laundry.

10. I only eat Cheerios without milk.

Ten Blog nominees!

I’ve been reading a few of these blogs long before I had an account with WordPress. Sadly, that means not all of them may be as active as they once were. But I have found them to be so insightful and helpful in the past, that I’m still going to include them. There are also some newer blogs that I’ve been checking out. Going through and making this list has reminded me how great all of these writers are. You should definitely take the time to check them out.

Bechdel Gamer

Cake and Other Such Delights

Complaining About Things I Like

Game Design Journal 

Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog

Male Feminist Gamer

Resident Anthropologist

Space Crip 

Token Minorities

Trans.Nerd.Feminist.

And don’t forget to check out Geeky ‘ Girly!

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How Telltale got it (mostly) right with The Walking Dead

26 May

The Walking Dead: Part Two

I can’t think of a better game to start this discussion than Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

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WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.

The Walking Dead does many, many things right, and I hope that it’s popularity spurs other game developers to be a little more daring in some of their choices. (Heck, I hope it makes the TV show a little more daring.)

This is a game where the characters have supreme importance. It is not about bombastic gunfights or stunning scenery that you travel through while completing an epic quest or even a game that challenges player’s skills or reflexes. At it’s core, The Walking Dead is about character interaction.

The interpersonal tensions between characters and the growth of Lee Everett as a person are the story. Each character — their experiences, traits, and desires — creates the game world and narrative in ways that are not common in most modern, popularly and critically lauded games.

I really want to commend Telltale for what they’ve accomplished. The point-and-click adventure game isn’t a particularly lucrative genre these days, but they still took risks with their characters in a medium that is notorious for the cocky, white, muscular soldier/space marine/adventurer.

It would have been very easy to make The Walking Dead with a more homogenous, commercially acceptable cast of characters. I doubt many people would have commented — at least not with enough power to negatively impact sales. (Again, I’ll point to the TV show. It’s very successful despite the apparent lack of black people in Georgia.) But if Telltale had gone that conventional route, I believe the game would have suffered and been a less uniquely enjoyable experience.

Race

There was a moment in Episode Five where I realized that the main cast consisted of three black characters, one white character (my Ben died in Episode Four — there would have been two white characters if he had lived), and one Persian-American character, meaning that the majority of the cast was non-white. At the end of the episode only two black characters and the Persian-American character remained.

While the game had already been doing a great job with keeping the cast racially diverse throughout, I was struck by how unprecedented this is in games. How many times have you played a game where all of the important characters are non-white? (If you have examples, let me know! I’d love to try these games out.)

TWD2

I’m not trying to downplay the rest of the game with this observation. Glenn (Asian-American) makes an appearance, there are non-white minor characters (like some of the cancer survivors in Savannah), and of course a bunch of the non-white main characters, who are the people we get to know the most, survive through multiple episodes. I’ve always liked that Katjaa, although white, is Belgian, lending some additional complexity to a character that could have been a blonde, blue-eyed American.

Perhaps the most important examples of how Telltale handles race are Lee and Clementine. I find these two characters to be such important aspects of the game that I’m reserving the topic for another post.

Gender

Telltale also handles gender exceptionally. The lack of female characters in video games has been discussed to death, and it’s nice to see a game that includes a diverse and interesting cast of both men and women.

Looking through the characters listed on The Walking Dead wiki, I count twenty-six male characters and thirteen female characters in the cast, including the minor characters. When I narrow it down to only major characters that wind up joining Lee’s group, there are eight men and six women. How many men and women are in the group at any given time is a little flexible considering situations such as choosing between saving Doug or Carley.

That’s not too shabby compared to many current video games. But what’s more important to me is the importance of the women in the game. Just like the man, they are characterized as unique, often flawed individuals with useful talents that contribute to the group’s survival.

Continue reading

Welcome to How Many Princesses!

26 May

What is HMP?

HMP is a blog examining and chronicling the maturity of video games and the video game industry. I’ve played video games since I had an N64 as a kid (I’m one of those ubiquitous twenty-somethings), and I think there’s a growing willingness in the industry to treat games more seriously. In that hope, I am going to treat games as a viable artistic medium and examine them critically.

Why?

I could babble on for a while on this topic, but I have two main reasons:

  1. Most of the current criticism that I read is on news sites. Although I fully enjoy and encourage this, I don’t think this should be the primary place to find games criticism. It’s unfair to expect journalists that focus on the news to also be knowledgeable or interested in cultural criticism. I think it’s valuable to have more places that are exclusively dedicated to looking at video games critically and I aim to make this blog one of those places.
  2. The motivation for this blog also stems from my own frustration when looking for discussions of things that I’ve noticed in games. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated with an aspect of a game and went online later and been unable to find even a mention. I have spent too long being annoyed by this — if I can’t find it myself, I’ll create it.

Having said all of this, it’s important to remember that I am one person, and so I can only have one person’s opinion. I have no illusion that I’m some sort of expert. My goal is to participate in a healthy dialogue. I am, always, very happy to engage with other people’s opinions and ideas. Different people’s interpretations of the same events is one of my favorite things about gaming.

What topics?

There are many articles and discussions out there about gender. I’m glad these articles exist, and I hope to continue that discussion on this blog. Along with gender, I want to discuss issues of race, classism, sexuality, ageism, body diversity… honestly, anything that is relevant. I have not personally come across much formal discussion of these topics, and I think they’re especially important now as the gaming industry has the technology possible to create complicated narratives and communicative gameplay.

I will be doing my best to focus on positives rather than negatives. This is partially for my own benefit. There’s a lot of negative in games, and it can be depressing to dwell on it too much. I also think there’s plenty of positive, especially recently, and it’s easier to imagine future directions for the games industry by pointing to examples of what to do alongside talking about what not to do.

What games? 

For now, most of what I have planned has to do with story-heavy games. These are the games that I tend to play and enjoy the most, so I have a lot to say about them.

However, I don’t want to limit myself to a certain type of game and would love any game recommendations, which should be sent to howmanyprincesses@gmail.com.

What’s up with the name?

It’s inspired by the iconic line “But our princess is in another castle!” from Super Mario Bros. The saving of a useless prize of a woman is some ooooold fashioned game design and the sort that I would like to see go out the window (not specifically targeting Mario here — I’m sort of a Nintendo fangirl). The basic idea behind the name is “How many princesses are left in this castle?” How long till the majority of games can move past cliched and damaging tropes and move on to something more fulfilling and artistically interesting?