Why I Bought an Ouya (Even though it might totally suck)

August 17, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 11

So, I realize that I have been out of things for a week or so (blame my husband who has weird human urges to visit the people that spawned him) so I just wanted to start off with a hello! I’m happy to be back! Thanks to everyone who visited my site while I was gone, and for all the views I got yesterday when I announced that I was back. Who says the internet can’t occasionally be a welcoming place?

So today I’ll be writing about the upcoming new console system: the Ouya.

Limited Edition that’s going to be delivered to my house next spring!

This system has been completely kickstarter driven (similar to the Rift which looks like another very interesting addition to the gaming world) and the Kickstarter closed last week, so anyone who wanted an awesome bronze Ouya instead of the normal grey metal one: suck it! If you couldn’t tell from that last statement, or the title of this article, I am one of the 63,416 backers of the Ouya. I opted for the limited edition brown brushed Ouya, because at the time I decided since the regular console only cost $99, I might as well shell out an extra $40 to make myself feel special, while still spending far less than the initial prices of the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 when they were the new consoles on the block. My husband paid $500 for his PS3 when it first came out, and I’m only spending $140 – seems like a good deal to me! So besides just cheap, what is the Ouya? Luckily there’s an awesome video that pretty much explains it:

Specifications:

  • Tegra3 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB of internal flash storage
  • HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0 (one)
  • Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad
  • Android 4.0
  • ETHERNET! (Announced by Muffi 7/18)

The Ouya is a console, built on Android, that can hook up to your tv. So all those fun Android games that you get to play because you have a sweet phone and an expensive data plan, I will get to play (in March) for much cheaper. In addition to just hosting Android games, Ouya has teamed up with several big companies like OnLive, TuneIn, XMBC, Square Enix and Namco Bandai to bring music, tv, and some awesome launch-title games to the system. I’m personally super excited to be able to watch League of Legends matches on my tv. Ever since we got our desktop its own monitor, I’ve missed being able to watch/play League on a 40 inch screen. With all that going for it, I decided that it was at least worth it to spend a chunk of money to test it out next March.

While I am super excited about it my concerns for the Ouya are its android origins. Will playing android games on a huge tv be fun? The pacing of many phone games is such that they they can be played on the go, in brief moments of free time, and not necessarily for extended periods of time because hey, that would drain your battery pretty quickly. I’m wondering how well Android game-developers will be able to work out a new sort of pacing for the Ouya. While the thought of playing Temple Run on a big tv initially excites me, I can see games like that getting stale after five minutes. It’s fun when you’re on the go and only have a few minutes to spare, but when you sit down for your weekend fun time, will you really want to boot up a game like that? Of course, there are android games out already that call for a different type of pacing than Temple Run and throwing all phone games into the category of fast and fluffy is unfair, but I am concerned about whether or not the games offered on the Ouya will be able to hold my attention. That is, after I spend many hours of my life playing FFIII.

My second concern about the Ouya is the whole “Free-to-Play” model. All games in the Ouya store are supposed to have some free-to-play function. If you’ve played any games on facebook recently you’ll realize that yes, free games are fun, but no, they’re not *really* free and they’re designed to frustrate you into buying something! I’ve been playing Outernauts (don’t judge me, I’ll play anything slightly resembling Pokemon) on Facebook recently, and I run out of  “energy” after about 15 minutes of playing and then I have to quit. This drives me insane because I just want to sit and mindlessly kill time for a couple hours, but I can’t because I’m stingy with my money. I think free-to-play games like League of Legends or TF2 have developed a model where people can enjoy the games without feeling pressure to buy skins or hats, but I am worried that we’ll see more games like Outernauts where the free-to-play model severely limits gameplay rather than the League of Legends/TF2 model where buying things is just fun and silly (but still clearly makes a lot of money).  However, since the Ouya is “hackable” we may see a lot of completely free and bizarre new games too, but it’s still too soon to tell.

The post was getting text heavy. Here’s a look at the Ouya controller.

My third concern is that the Ouya is where gaming is going to be in the future, but perhaps we’re not ready for it *right* *now*. It does appear as if software rather than hardware is becoming important in gaming. Most new releases are offered in physical disc form but also in software only form. The Nintendo 3ds store offers many fun, downlodable games, and I think I buy more games from PSN than from my local GameStop. The Ouya is trying to circumvent big name developers by making their console free to develop on, as long as the developers make their game free to play in some form. This could be pretty awesome, but this could just make Ouya the Linux of consoles. A few, elite, dedicated people may have the patience and drive to use it, but the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles might still have all the flash. It’s possible that the Ouya might inspire a new software only console that will play AAA titles, but that console most likely won’t support a “free-to-play” model. So, the Ouya might be a stepping stone,  or it might end up being Linux. Both of those options may be more likely than the Ouya becoming a fully-fledged competitor to Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox, but again, it’s too soon to tell.

So why did I throw down $170 (I had to get the extra controller. 2 player android games seemed worth it)  to buy a system that I’m not sure will succeed? Mainly because at this point, there’s still just as much chance that it will succeed as there is that it will flop. To me it was an even bet, and with the media support through OnLive and XMBC I figured that it wouldn’t be a total loss even if developers and gamers never took to it. I also wanted to put my money where my mouth is. Many people have been critiquing the current console system and the way that big title games are currently made. As many of you know, a lot of current games are stale repetitions of previously made games. To me, almost all FPS games are the same game, and there’s not a lot of incentive for me to buy any of them. Since these titles take so much money to make, developers want to spend their money on something “safe” which usually means non-innovative. If we buy these games, then we are supporting this “safe” model and not forcing developers to reconsider what types of games they design. If you like FPS the way they are then that’s great, not trying to dig on those, but you will continue to support that type of game with your money. I wanted to support something new and innovative, to perhaps call video game companies to be more aware of new developments in technology and gaming. With 8,596,475 dollars raised for the Ouya, I think that the system will at the very least force big developing companies to re-think some aspects of the current business model, and I’m glad that my paltry $170 has something to do with that.

For more information here’s the Ouya kickstarter, and homepage

 

[Edit] Kotaku just reported that OnLive is going bankrupt. I wonder what kind of implications this will have for the Ouya?

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Not You Average Three-Way: Alice, Chell and Faith

August 2, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 16

So, today we’ll be looking at some of my favorite video game heroines, Alice (yes that Alice) from American McGee’s Alice and Alice: Madness Returns; Chell from Portal and Portal 2; and finally Faith from Mirror’s Edge. Unlike last week where I didn’t choose a winner, I think one of these women will emerge victorious over the others.

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Who Would Win In A Fight: I included three women in this week’s feature because I honestly wasn’t sure who would win in a fight between Chell and Faith. Chell has the portal gun which would allow her to forever run away from Faith, while Faith is usually unarmed and is trained to run from combat. If they met in combat, I feel like they might take one look at each other and GTFO. They each probably have better things to worry about.

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She’s holding a messed up doll and a bloody knife, c’mon!

Alice, on the other hand, is quite literally insane! And she carries a knife. A big knife. Did I mention there was a knife? If you compare their images above, clearly Alice is the only one covered in blood. Confronted with each of these women, I would probably high-five Chell, move out of Faith’s way, and scream and run if I met that particular image of Alice. If the movie/book Carrie has taught us one thing it’s that girls with slight mental problems should not be toyed with lightly. Alice carries the only offensive weapon, and she would hands-down win in a fight with Chell or Faith. And with the weird physics of Wonderland at her disposal, she could probably catch one of them too.

Who has the best personality? Chell is clearly at a disadvantage in this competition due to the fact that she NEVER EVER TALKS. I know the whole ‘silent hero’ thing has been around a long time in video games, but it gets old. It’s hard to determine who Chell is other than just a shell for gamers to imagine themselves in. Chell is obviously intelligent and nimble-bodied, she has to be (for the sake of science!), but it is much less clear what drives Chell, and what goes on in her head.

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Faith, on the other hand, is much more fully fleshed out. Faith is concerned for her sister, Kate, and proving her sister’s innocence is one of Faith’s key motivators. She is intelligent, driven, spunky, everything a successful protagonist needs to be. She also has to make hard decisions as some of her colleagues become implicated in the conspiracy she’s trying to solve. As an added bonus, we get to see more of her through the cut scenes of Mirror’s Edge than we get to see of Chell.

Alice Liddell is of course mad. Through both games we see her dealing with the death of her parents and survivor’s guilt. In American McGee’s Alice, she is drawn back into Wonderland which has grown dark and tainted. Caterpillar explains to her that her mind is what has tainted the land. In Alice: Madness Returns she finds herself back in Wonderland, and oh gosh, it’s still a dark place. We get to know Alice through her memories and through items collected in the game.

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What Alice clearly has going for her is her imagination. If Wonderland is all in her head, then the beautiful and horrific images of the game must stem from Alice. Players get to see the surface of Alice through her interactions with others, but we also get to see deep into her mind. Faith might be the girl you’d want as your friend, but Alice’s imagination can’t be beat.

Who is the most objectified? None of these characters is particularly objectified, a statement I don’t often get to make about female video game characters! If you ever troll through the top 100 lists of beautiful game characters, Chell, Faith and Alice typically don’t make the lists (well, Faith does occasionally but I’m assuming that’s because of the whole fetish for Japanese looking things).

Both Chell and Faith are games that employ 1st person perspective, we only see the world through their eyes. This means that the player is given very little opportunity to stare at the character and comment on their “fuckability”. When you do see Faith or Chell, they are wearing clothing appropriate to their environments (unlike Lara Croft wearing shorts in the snow). Their proportions seem average, and neither is presented as a sexual object.

Alice, who doesn’t quite look legal, is also presented in a fairly non sexual way. You see her stockings and dress which are all covered in blood. She’s so crazy that no one wants anything to do with her, romantically or otherwise. However, as this picture shows, cosplayers get up to all kinds of things as Alice (Also, this is just an amazing picture).

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Picture courtesy of deviantart’s  AliceYuric

There’s something about Alice that taps into the whole ‘sexy schoolgirl” fantasy, which often gets exploited in cosplay and halloween costumes. So while Alice isn’t particularly objectified in-game, outside of that game people have managed to make her quite the seductress.

Who would YOU choose?

My bias in this article has hopefully been pretty clear, Alice wins this competition for me hands down. She is an interesting character, she has a wicked knife, and the dark portrayal of Wonderland that her mind generates is amazing.

Disagree? Have Suggestions for future features? Let me know in the comments!

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An Ipod/Ipad Controller?

July 26, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 13

So, Thursday’s are usually the day I’ve set aside for posting pictures and other nonsense. Instead of cute nonsense, today here are some pictures from the patent Apple has filed for a dual-shock controller.

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and

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Looks nifty (and very familiar). For more information/speculation you can check out this article from Kotaku and this article from GameRevolution. Do you think this means we’re going to see an Apple gaming system, or are gaming apps just going to get more intense?

 

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Rage Quit: Experiencing Rage in Multiplayer Games

July 24, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (2) 11

This morning I read this article by simpleek called “You Aren’t a Gamer if You Haven’t experienced Gamer Rage”. Hopefully those of you reading this clearly understand what gamer rage means. It’s that moment when both you and a boss are one hit away from health, and you get hit first. The moment when you’re exploring the countryside of an open-world game and suddenly run into a monster/creature/villain designed to keep you from moving past a certain point, one that instantly KO’s you or your party AND YOU HAVEN’T SAVED THE GAME IN HOURS. These moments are often accompanied by faces like this:

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And in general loud yelling: I personally curse like a sailor. Sometimes these feelings happen when you just can’t seem to beat a certain level/boss/area. In Dragon Age: Origins the Brood Mother wiped out my party time and time again before I finally flipped the power switch out of anger.

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Being beaten over and over again by a creature this hideous looking in the bowels of dwarven tunnels was a harrowing experience for me, and I will admit to having at least one unfinished game stuck right before this boss level.

Rage is a natural emotion, and one very common to any experience involving goals and competition. Aggression can be productive and fuel us to finally beat the M*&($#F*#(*$# boss, or it can be destructive and lead us to smash a copy of Demon Souls in half because you just lost all your souls for THE LAST D*&%# TIME!

In multiplayer games this rage can surface, like in all games, but with the added bonus that you can direct it at real live people which in many cases feels a lot more satisfying. However, since multiplayer games foster aggression between team members and opponents, there can be consequences (not necessarily enough in my opinion) to expressing rage in what I would term, unproductive ways.

For my example here I’d like to look at the game, League of Legends, and some experiences I’ve had. For those of you unfamiliar with League of Legends, it is an RTS game featuring 5 v. 5 or 3 v 3 team battles as your team struggles to destroy enemy turrets and ultimately, the enemy nexus. There is strategy involved, and playing with people that don’t understand the strategy can be frustrating. Sometimes your character dies, and it really isn’t your fault and you often want to yell and scream like this player:
This does lead to a good deal of in-game harassment, which I find completely unproblematic when players  target a person for lack of skill, class/weapon choices, or even sometimes to try to make themselves feel better about how badly they are doing. I think the largest problem is that this anonymity can foster bigotry and un-called for identity-slurs. FOr example, even though League of Legends does not feature a VOIP program for players to talk to each other, doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter people calling others “a stupid nigger” or a “dumb little cunt”. Language which is clearly offensive to identity based groups.
Cursing, raging, and even rage quitting are perfectly understandable reactions to  high-stress situations in team games, my dog frequently thinks that I am having seizures as I play games like League of Legends of TF2 because I am shaking my fists and screaming so loudly as the timer counts down my re-spawn time.
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(Me attempting to look angry for you…probably defeated by the Skylanders poster in the background)
I just don’t think a valid response should be to attack people for things they identities they can’t change, and are also proud of. Skills – totally critique-able. Sometimes noobs need people to tell them exactly what they are doing wrong. Commenting on a player’s race/sex/sexual orientation? Lay off.
(To read more on the subject visit: http://gamersagainstbigotry.org/)

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Would You Rather: Samus Aran or Lara Croft

July 18, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 11

Today I’ll be looking at two of the penultimate (really rad) female video game characters and pitting them against each other. If somehow you have been stuck under a rock for the past twenty years, let me introduce you:

Samus Aran from the Metroid series (by transfuse)

and Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series:

Both characters clearly powerful, Samus has a kick-ass suit of armor while Lara gets not one, but TWO guns, and both clearly beautiful by Western beauty standards. So today, we’ll look at a few different criteria and determine who is the more desirable characters (not like that you perv!).

Who Would Win in a Fight?

Let’s be honest, this is really a no-contest. While Lara is agile and dual wielding, Samus has an entire arsenal at her disposal in the form of her Arm Cannon. With the arm cannon, Samus can choose between multiple beam systems (power beam, wave beam, ice beam, plasma beam, phason beam) and missiles, which can be combined in charge combos. Plus, Samus can enter into a power ball mode (reminiscent of armadillos) with its own set of missiles.  With these weapons, Samus is tasked with destroying space pirates a formidable organization attempting to harness the power of metroids. In comparison, Lara’s weapons (generally two pistols) can’t measure up, and while velociraptors, mercenaries, animals and other treasures hunters pose a decent challenge to Lara, a Metroid Prime could eat all of them in a single gulp. To sum up: there is absolutely no way that Lara’s dual pistols could put a dent in Samus’ armor, let alone match Samus’ arm cannon in terms of sheer firepower. In terms of fighting, Samus could blow Lara into so many pieces, no treasure hunter, no matter the skill, would ever be able to find her.

Who has the best personality?

This question is at first difficult to answer mainly due to the fact that Samus and Lara seem very similar at first. Both Lara and Samus are independent women who are generally assertive in accomplishing their goals. Of the two Lara’s history has been more developed and explored, in Tomb Raider: Underworld we learn about Lara’s mommy issues (we already knew she had daddy issues) and now with the upcoming Tomb Raider set to release in 2013, we get to learn just how Lara became the woman that adolescent males came to love (the answer according to executive producer Ron Rosenberg: attempted rape). Here’s the trailer if you want to delve into the controversy of the scene:

However, as one blogger points out:

This is a woman who we first met traipsing around freezing caves in naught but a pair of short-shorts and a low-cut top. Who has killed hundreds, possibly thousands of men, in her quest for Old Lost Shit. Who thinks shooting one gun at a time is simply not killy enough. A woman who takes an UZI with her on a tourist trip to the Great Wall of China and who doesn’t think twice about filling up every endangered species she meets along the way with hot metal. This, Lara-lovers, is a woman who made the dinosaurs extinct for a second time. She is a bona fide, pathological maniac.

So how does Samus Aran compare to that level of crazy? Well, considering she is silent for most of her escapades…which could be due to the fact that she began life in the 2-d world of the Nintendo Entertainment System…this is difficult to assess. Like Lara, Samus has killed hundreds of thousands of creatures in her employment as a bounty hunter. While her fight against the Space Pirates seems to place here in the morally “right” category, who knows how many other times that she has been contracted to kill “innocent’ creatures. Samus could potentially be just as maniacal as Lara in that regard.

Luckily for us (depending on how you define ‘lucky’) Metroid: Other M the most recent game featuring Samus, provides deep insights into the character of Samus Aran: she’s baby crazy. Don’t believe me? Check out the  opening cutscene:

How many times can we mention the word ‘baby’ in one game? Seriously?? That the entire game of Metroid: Other M is predicated on a distress call coded as “baby” we can definitively put Samus into the baby crazy category (and potentially start to wonder and hope that this entire adventure is just happening in her mind).

So who is crazier in this scenario, the woman who goes on killing rampages for artifacts or the baby crazy bounty hunter? I’m going to have to hand it to Samus for this one, in my opinion most of Lara’s enemies have it coming.

Who is Most Objectified?

For our last, tie-breaker category I will briefly discuss which of these characters is most objectified. For those of you who don’t know, to objectify means simply to present something as an object. When using the term in relation to women, to objectify means to turn a human being into an object available for male consumption. The creators of Lara and Samus are both guilty of this. For those of you who remember the earliest version of Lara, her bust size was originally supposed to be much smaller but supposedly creator Toby Gard increased her breasts 150% instead of 15% and the entire developing team was perfectly happy with that. Go figImage that a male development team would be perfectly happy with boobs increased 150% in size. This “creation myth” (the myth part is that it was possibly not an accident) leaves Lara pretty firmly in object territory. None of her original development team thought ‘Oh, maybe we should take care to make Lara a more realistic, fully developed (in terms of body AND mind) and instead left her with boobs so big that it would be physically impossible for her to exist in the real world due to a thing called gravity. However, in past games Lara’s breasts have seen a reduction in size, and there have been attempts made to flesh out her back story and develop her more as a character (having her repeatedly assaulted by men helps this somehow).

Samus on the other hand was anything but sexy in her first appearance. In 1986 she first appeared in pixels (totally not sexy) AND she was completely covered by a suit of armor. In fact, no one knew that Samus was a woman until the very end of  Metroid, the reveal startled many a player. Since then, however, we have gotten to see Samus in a much sexier way.

In most cut scenes Samus is wearing skin-tight clothing and revealed to be a sexy blonde. Can we get anymore stereotypical here? In general, you get to see this a lot more often in Metroid: Other M than in other Metroid games, but once you’ve seen Samus like this, it’s hard to look at her the same way again, even if she is in her power suit.

So which one is most objectified? Clearly they both are, and both consistently make the top 10 in lists about hot game characters, but in this contest I’m going to have to go with Samus. While Lara may be all boobs, Samus has that + the blonde aspect. Blondes are people too (I am blonde) but the stereotypes are a stigma that gives Samus clear victory.

Who would YOU rather be?

This leaves Samus in the lead of my dubious comparison, although perhaps winning the “Most Objectified’ category should count as a negative point. Ultimately, I would rather be Samus. Her suit is amazing, she’s over 6 feet tall (one of my unobtainable life goals) and she owns her own spaceship. I can deal with baby crazy and objectified if I get to have my own spaceship. Although, I might reconsider if the new Lara Croft game featured Lara like this:

(picture of Meagan Marie. Photo by Victor Gamez)

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