Grrrr…..Time's Top 100 Games List

November 15, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (0) 82

So, if you haven’t heard the news, today Time deigned to publish a list of the top 100 all time video games. Too see the full list go here (and check out those poll numbers!).  Don’t get too excited. As one commenter points out,

List should have been called:  100 most ground-breaking or industry-changing computer games.  Best?  Not so much.

So, the list isn’t absolutely amazing. There’s only one Zelda game, one Final Fantasy game, yadda yadda. Your favorite game might not be on the list, and it probably won’t include enough of the games of your favorite franchise. However, it is a good list of ground-breaking or historically important video games, and I find it absolutely FASCINATING how many of the indie games have been downvoted for importance. I’m also not understanding the Animal Crossing hate, but that’s neither here nor there. But let’s get to the main point. How many of these games feature female protagonists????? I bet you can’t guess. Oh alright, I bet you can. Fine, I’ll just tell you. There are 5 entire games out of 100 that feature a sole female protagonist. So a mere 5% of the top 100 (and this list is clearly disputable) games feature a lone female hero. But wait, you say, you’re skewing the numbers! How many of those games even allow you to play a protagonist? Let alone a gendered one! Fair point. So, I made a graph!

For those of you who prefer words here is the break-down sans graph:

Male Protagonist: 55 Games

Female Protagonist: 5 games

No Protagonist/Gender Unspecified: 23 games

Choose your own gender: 17 games

In essence I went through the list and categorized the games based on the playable characters. This was not an exact science. Donkey Kong is clearly a monkey  but he codes male when later compared to Dixie Kong. Games like Starcraft don’t really have protagonists per se, although there are  humans in the game. So there were some intricacies and judgement calls involved in the process. I decided Donkey Kong is a dude and Starcraft (and similar games) fell into the “no person” category due to the lack of protagonist. If you want to nitpick the process or count the games up yourselves go right ahead. No matter how you wrangle it, I bet you can’t wrangle enough off the wall reasons to justify even 10 games as having female protagonists! At the end of this process, I was left with four main categories:

  1. Games you Play as male
  2. Games you play as female
  3. Games where you can choose
  4. Games where there is no protagonist/protagonist is unsexed

Out of 100 games, you could play as a male 55 times. So well over half of the games on this list feature a male protagonist or an all male cast. The category with the second-most number of games is the no protagonist/protagonist is unsexed category. This category included 23 games. So, about 20% or in other words 1/5 of the top 100 games featured no recognizable protagonist (like in asteroids or flower) or the protagonist was unsexed (like frogger). So in essence, if the games don’t feature a male protagonist then it is fairly likely they’ll feature no protagonist at all! Only slightly behind the “no sex” category is that of “choose your own gender”. This includes games like mass effect where you build your character, or games like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat (most racing or fighting games) where you choose between several pre-made characters. This category came out fairly strong with 17 games to its name. Fairly respectable, but still in third place. Also, if the statistics for Mass Effect 2 can be applied to other choose your own gender video games (and they may not apply) then when players can choose, typically 80% of players choose to play as male while a little under 20% play as female. So we could count 80% of choose your own gender games as male protagonist and 20% as female protagonist…but that would involve more math..and I already made a pie chart!

These three categories make up  95 of the 100 games on the list. Out of 100 games, you are 78% likely to play as a male or an unsexed character rather than a female, with only a 17% chance you have the option to play as female, and a 5% chance of playing a game with a female protagonist. Also, while I counted the metroid games as playing as a female, I’m never sure if they count. Clearly, I’m playing a bit fast and loose with numbers and categories here (and if you have better suggestions for categories, different numbers please comment!), but 55 male led games to 3 female led games is a staggering number no matter how you twist it. You could do a similar tallying for different identity groups. Out of 100 apparently very influential games I can’t spot a protagonist of color, a queer protagonist, or a disabled protagonist excluding the games which allow customizable avatars. However, this list does span the past 40 years of gaming.  If we made a list of the 100 most influential games of the past 5 years do you think there would be a more diverse character set? Do you think the customizable characters truly count as diverse?

Finally, if you feel a bit soul-crushed after becoming aware of the harsh reality of statistics, or you’re bummed out because you want some pie and you can’t actually eat a pie graph, follow the #1reasontobe trend on twitter. You’ll see posts from some amazing men and women in the gaming industry that are fighting to increase the diversity of protagonists gaming experiences and everywhere.  Also kittens:

Continue Reading

Borderlands 2: My Cel-Shaded Romp through Pandora

September 21, 2012 Reviews, Video Game Reviews Comments (0) 79

At about 11:50 p.m. Monday night I was standing outside GameStop waiting for my turn to pick up my pre-order of Borderlands 2. Sadly, I didn’t get the loot chest…although I was tempted to tackle a guy leaving the store with one. Being a vault hunter has taught me to fight people for loot, and I was definitely tempted to fight that guy for his…especially after the people ahead of me in line starting smoking. Once that happened I was about ready to take just the garden variety copy of Borderlands 2 from someone just so I could fill my lungs with fresh air. Luckily my group was called quickly and I got my hands on my copy and sped home to play. Full disclosure: I haven’t finished playing through Borderlands 2 yet. Between school, teaching and well school…I’ve only been able to get to level 14 so far. If you haven’t noticed me posting recently (or commenting…or responding to comments) it’s most likely because graduate school is kicking my ass right now. But I have been able to play Borderlands 2 enough to get a feel for the game, and to fall in love with Pandora all over again.

So instead of a review, I’m just going to list some details of the game that I have fallen in love with, and I’m fully expecting all of you who are currently playing to share some of your favorite things as well. So here’s a list of things, in no particular order, that are great about Borderlands 2.

1.) The things Bandits yell as they are dying.

Bandits have always been a combination between absurd, hilarious and downright disturbing. The fact that I can shoot a Goliath’s head off, and it might grow back is terrifying and bizarre. In addition to the bizarre way they die sometimes, Bandits also have some hilarious lines in the process. For instance, when I shot one of the little guys in the face with my shotgun, he yelled “Yoooouuuu suuuccck” as he started running and I shot him a second time. It’s good to know that some insults just don’t go out of style no matter what planet you’re on.

2.) I love the word “minion”

The fact that Claptrap calls your character a minion throughout the game makes me giggle. I own the game Overlord for the Wii, and one of my favorite parts of that game was getting to control minions and having them call me overlord the entire game. Claptrap calling me a minion is hilarious for so many reasons, but mainly just because I could blow him out of existence. It’s just so darn cute when he tries to boss me around!

3.) Lilith

To avoid spoilers, let me just sum up this point in one word: cult.

4.) The Weapons!

So, I am playing as the Gunzerking and I use a lot of shotguns. My favorite shotgun has a passive that whenever I reload, I throw the shotgun like a grenade (it explodes and everything) and then magically another gun appears in my hands. I’m not sure who thought of that. It’s infeasibility is ridiculous. But it is just so much fun to do, and it has saved my life on many occasions. In general the weapons are creative, and some of them look pretty cool. I also really enjoy some of the grenade mods. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun throwing grenades at people in games.

5.) Salvador

I am currently playing as Salvador the Gunzerking. I haven’t had the time to try out the other classes yet (although I can’t wait to try out Zero), but I am definitely in love with Salvador. What I didn’t realize about him until I was playing co-op was that he is much shorter than all the other characters. This is reflected in game when sometimes you can’t see all the way into a box because you’re just not tall enough. I really like the consistency between his character design and the way that works in-game.

6.) Finally, the co-op is amazing. I can play split-screen with my husband and still hook up with some other friends online. It’s super easy to invite people, join games, etc and you typically get better loot! Here’s a video of some people playing co-op, just in case you were wondering how it worked.

I may do a longer review when I get further in the game, but you should probably stop reading my blog now start racing to your favorite gaming store and to purchase the game.

Continue Reading

Review: Square Enix's Drakerider

September 7, 2012 Reviews, Video Game Reviews Comments (0) 54

Drakerider, an iOS exclusive game from Square Enix dropped today. Like the recent iOS port of The World Ends With You, the game is split up into chapters. The first’s one free, you’ll just have to pay for the other four…which will end up costing you $20.99 for all five additional chapters, or 6.99 for individual chapters. I downloaded the first chapter to play this morning, prmarily intrigued by any game that would let me ride around on a dragon. I mean, what’s up with all those other Square Enix JRPGs that make you walk everywhere? Shouldn’t your entire party have insanely overdeveloped legs by that point? Especially considering how often I made them run places. In Drakerider though you don’t have to worry about that. Like the title suggests, the main character Aran gets to ride a big ole dragon named Eckhardt.

Story:As dragons go, Eckhardt is kinda a dick. Aran has to concentrate at all times to control Eckhardt or else the dragon will go on a murdering rampage, killing his master first. Sadly, not everyone in the game world of Igraine gets to ride dragons. This special power was given to Aran by (you guessed it) a “mysterious girl” dressed in white/pink. She bestows this power on Aran after he rescues her from a dungeon and defeats a monster that is known as a Dread. The Dread are the big baddies in this game, they’re invading Igraine and it is up to the dragaliers (BAMF dragon riders) to defeat them. The catch is, that there’s actually only one dragon. Eckhardt takes a slightly different form with slightly different powers depending on the person who is riding him. Under the mysterious girl’s supervision, Aran is supposed to defeat Dread demons one by one. That is the basic plot, which is fairly straightforward for a JRPG. If that bothers you, don’t worry! This is a spoiler free review, but there are a few twists and turns just in the first chapter for you! Overall the initial story, though definitely full of JRPG tropes, was fairly compelling. It definitely left me looking at my bank account to see if I could afford to buy a $20.99 game for my iPhone.

Behold! The Mysterious Girl!

Gameplay: What I liked best about the game was the combat system. I can best describe it as turn-based esque. Rather than picking a skill from a menu, you control the dragon Eckhardt with chains. By sliding the chains left and right on your iOS device, you’ll be placing the chain in a different color quadrant. Each color quadrant has abilities and attacks already assigned to it. You can disable abilities if you don’t want to waste Crystals (The game’s version of MP), but typically it doesn’t matter too much. For example, the ability “healing” is assigned to the blue quadrant. If you place the chains in the blue area then Eckhardt and Aran will automatically heal if they’re HP is low, or attack if you have close to full HP. You have to quickly move the chain before your attack bar fills up, whatever quadrant the chain is in when the attack bar is full is the ability that is going to be used for that turn. I think it is a fun way to incorporate the touch screen while still relying on a fairly familiar style of JRPG combat. It’s not too hard to get the hang of, and I think its a bit more fun than scrolling through menus for attacks.

Leveling up incorporates a system similar to the Crystarium from FFXIII. Aran starts out with certain abilities, and there are clear paths that you can choose to go with. It’s less complicated than the Crystarium, but still allows you enough options to develop Aran to fit your play style. These abilities are also bought with Crystals, so it is actually not always advisory to buy multiple abilities before a boss fight (learned that the hard way). You need Crystals to fuel your attacks, and if you run out during a boss fight, you are basically completely screwed.

World: When you aren’t in a specific location, you fly around the world of Igraine on the back of your dragon. Instead of being an open world, locations spring up linearly after you’ve completed certain missions. If you’re buying this game wanting to use Eckhardt like a Golden Chocobo to explore all the nooks and crannies of Igraine, it’s not going to happen. You can only go to locations that are available to you…or at least that was my experience with the first chapter. There’s always the possibility that  your options might be expanded in later chapters, although this is an iOS game so the world is most likely not going to be quiet as developed as you may be used to in a typical Square Enix RPG. This wasn’t a negative for me, but it might be for all of you crazy explorers out there.

Aran..the hero!

Overall:It took me 2-3 hours to play through the first chapter on and off  and I enjoyed playing it most of that time (except for the 20 minutes where I kept dying to the second boss because I needed to go power level). Again, the story was compelling even though the Mysterious Girl seemed way too young to be as naked as she was, and she was a completely passive character (If she had been playable, she would have suffered from White Mage syndrome). Aran fit the stereotype of rogue turned hero, although he was much more Titus than Cloud. Overall, my biggest problem with the game is the pricing. As you can see here and here (and many many other places on the web) no one has really been able to get behind Square Enix’s pricing of their recent iOS games. $30 for Final Fantasy Dimensions, $20.99 for The World Ends With You and now $20.99 for Drakerider seems a bit extreme to most people.

To me this signals that Square Enix is treating the iOS and Android platform as a legitimate gaming console rather than a place to make a quick buck. With most iOS and Android games relying on the  micro transactions model, do you think the high pricing of these games is a new model to counteract that? Would you rather pay $20.99 up front than realize at the end of a game that all of your small $0.99 purchases added up to over $20? I’m honestly not sure it would be possible to change JRPGs to facilitate a micro-transaction system without detrimentally changing the narrative and gameplay that makes those games JRPGs. I’m pretty upset that the whole Chapter format forced me out of the story because I need to pay for more chapters. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I needed to buy some in-game currency to extend/enhance my gameplay. Between the two, I would much rather pay $20 for about 20 hours of a good JRPG than see games like this switch to a micro transaction model. The price is still cheaper than most Wii and DS games (where all the good JRPGs come out nowadays)
and the game utilized the touchscreen well to update turn-based combat a bit. If you need a JRPG fix, I would definitely recommend this game,  but I do understand the price may be a barrier to some, especially people that are broke like me!

If you’d like to see more of the game before making a decision, here’s a video walkthrough of the first chapter. Clearly, there are going to be spoilers.

Continue Reading

Catwoman Gets Armor AND It Covers Skin!

August 30, 2012 Articles, Video Games Comments (9) 86

So for those of you that pay attention to video game news, you probably should have heard that the Wii U is going to have an “armored edition” of Batman: Arkham City. If you haven’t, here’s the gameinformer, kotaku, and comicsalliance versions of the story. To sum it up, the Wii U Version of Batman: Arkham City

Armored Edition
features a new skin for both Batman  and Catwoman, and go figure, it adds more armor to them.

It looks like Batman merged with Cole MacGrath

Catwoman is one of my favorite female characters of all time, and I completely realize how problematic a character she can be. When I heard they were adding “armor” to her I got a bit down in the dumps. Why? Because frequently in video games when a character’s defense goes up aka they add armor, they get more naked. In his article “Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits” Ryan from the Mad Art Lab points out that

Math…we meet again.

For those of us that aren’t math inclined (me) this typically means that the higher the armor quality, the more skin is exposed, and the larger your character’s cup size is, even more skin is exposed. Sure, I like my character’s to be good looking (hey, fantasy world) but this type of armor can be a bit obscene and breaks the fantasy for me because of how unrealistic it is. If you expect to be shield by incoming arrows, fire balls, or lightning bolts, you should probably expect to wear full armor much like male characters do. The tumblr Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor is dedicated to providing images of women in proper armor, and this article by Beck Chambers over at the Mary Sue argues that yes, women can wear real armor just like the big boys. Coming from this sort of background, I fully expected to see Catwoman completely naked (even though the Wii U is a family oriented system). Low and behold, Catwoman’s new armor actually covers up her skin!

Still not sure why the armor glows…

Rather than unzipping her cat suit, the armored edition covers up the cleavage that Catwoman is clearly known for , and glows to boot. While this isn’t my favorite Catwoman costume ever (I’m fairly partial to the costume in Batman: The Animated Series), the armor does what it is supposed to do: cover her body.

Continue Reading