Archive for Editorials

My Final Fantasy VII Remake Wishlist

We were all so, so overjoyed to hear about a Final Fantasy VII remake finally being confirmed. However, some wind was taken out my proverbial sail when articles started popping up confirming that they will be ‘adding’ to the story.

I’m sure that, at this point, I am far from the only person thinking about what things I do not want Square Enix to change, and some things that might be nice to see, given how video gaming as evolved. So, after some awesome discussion with my friends, I decided to make my own wishlist for the FFVII remake.

Some of this I am sure you will scream to the heavens in agreement with. I am sure you will threaten me with bodily harm at some others. Regardless, here is my wishlist! Please keep in mind that I may add or alter this list in the future.

Please, Square Enix, DO NOT RUIN:

  • The Materia System. I know you will be tempted to want to enhance this, but please don’t go throwing my materia into a sphere grid or some shit. Equipping it to my stuff and leveling it up is just fine, thank you.
  • The Battle System. ATB was fun as hell for me. At least keep it turn-based, please!
  • The Don Corneo Fiasco. I know that SJWs are going to come around and rage at themes from a game made in 1997, but please do not bow to that pressure. Things like Cloud cross-dressing and lining up for Don Corneo as a potential bedmate after escaping a hot tub full of mostly naked, burly men is the kind of magical thing that makes FFVII so great. Let’s leave it that way, please?
  • The Gold Saucer. Please do not fill it with in-game purchases, DLC unlocks, or any crap like that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  • Snowboarding. Snowboarding for days. Don’t fuck it up.
  • Barrett and Cid’s Cursing. If you’re going to censor them again, find a creative way to do it, please. I will be heart broken if ‘DRINK YOUR %&#%@ TEA!’ does not come out of Cid’s mouth.
  • Aeris’ Death. You will, I’m sure, be tempted to give us a way to bring her back to life. Don’t. You’ll cheapen her death, and have to change the ending to boot, and that is a slippery slope to a world of pain. Just ask Bioware about Mass Effect 3.
  • The Turks. I love them. Do not break my heart, Square Enix. Do. Not. Do. It.

Hey, Square Enix, It Might Be Cool To See:

  • A Not-Shitty Version of the Motorcycle Mini-Game. I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but that mini-game sucked. Hard. It’d be cool to see it not suck.
  • Less Confusing Chocobo Breeding. I remember this being a pain in the ass. What are the best Greens and Nuts to feed these guys? What combination of what Chocobos make what colors again? If we could have an in-game way to get this information, that’d be awesome, thanks.
  • A Better Translation of the Script. However, it’d be kinda cool to keep some of the more famous errors in there. ‘This guy are sick’ is just iconic at this point.
  • A Well-Paced Version of the Fort Condor Mini-Game. I found this game painfully slow, boring, and tedious. If you could find a way to make it engaging and pace it nicely, it might be a cool addition!
  • Uematsu Return to Remaster the Soundtrack. The music is perfection. Why not get the master to make it even more perfect?
  • Better Achievements. People love their ‘chieves, but the ones for the Steam version were terrible. Some more creative ones that we would actually have to work at would be sweet!

In the end, however, let us keep in mind that this is a remake, not a remaster. Things are going to be changed, and we should be open to it and welcome it. There is no way anything Square Enix creates is going to replicate the feelings we all had playing FFVII when it first came out, so expecting it to do so is simply pointless. As long as it is a solid game that stays true to the spirit of the original, I will be absolutely thrilled.

Please feel free to share your wishes and/or other thoughts for the Final Fantasy VII remake in the comments!


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How E3 2015 Made Me Realize How Much I Love the Gaming Industry Again

It’s been rather easy to become disenchanted with the video game industry in the past few years. We’ve seen many huge, beloved series’ such as Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed fall flat in the eyes of many fans over time. We’ve seen the advent of DLC, in-game purchases, console exclusives, and early access games, all of which have sparked massive amounts of controversy. We’ve experienced GamerGate, which opened up several cans of worms and other nasty things that have circulated a lot of negativity into the community and the industry. Konami fired Hideo freakin’ Kojima. Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria!

So you can imagine my surprise last night when I found myself literally crying with joy over E3.

It started Sunday night with Bethesda, who had their first ever E3 conference. We all knew that they would be discussing Fallout 4, which everyone was more than excited about to begin with, but then they just went insane. Like Collector’s Editions of games? Here, have your very own Pip Boy! A Fallout mobile game sound good to you? You can go play it tonight! Can’t wait for Fallout 4 to come out? How does November 10th, 2015 sound to you?

It sounds beautiful. Thank you, Bethesda.

That wasn’t all they had to offer, of courser. Doom looked deliciously gory and gorgeous, and it’s letting us create our own levels to share. Battlecry‘s global beta sign-ups began. Disohonored 2 was announced, and it’s predecessor is getting a Definitive Edition! Cries of ‘Bethesda Won E3!’ rang into the night. Many who find themselves disheartened by E3 every year thought it wouldn’t get better than this.

Then Monday came and smacked those people in the face.

Microsoft put Fallout 4 mods on their console and Minecraft on a table (and reminded us that it’s pronounced ‘Mo-yang’, thank you very much). Dark Souls III was announced, sending masochistic gamers everywhere into a frenzy. Oh, and they’re finally doing that backwards compatibility thing that Nintendo and Sony have been doing for years. Good for them.

EA announced that Mass Effect: Andromeda would bring its swanky space cowboy self to us during the 2016 holiday season. Mirror’s Edge got a sequel. Star Wars got, like, an army of new stuff. Oh, and sports. Lots and lots and lots of sports. Then, things got really real. Like, really real.

A sweet little Swedish developer by the name of Martin Sahlin came on stage to talk about Unravel, a game he created starring a little creature made of yarn. He pulled a real-life version of his yarn-made character out with shaky hands, holding it as his eyes gleamed. He spoke passionately and honestly about his inspiration for the game. You could see how nervous and scared and elated and joyous he was. It radiated from every word he spoke. The crowd felt it. They cheered for him. It looked gorgeous and promising, but it was the creator who stole the show.

When was the last time we had seen such raw, honest passion for gaming? This game stood out among everything else at E3, not just because of how great the game looked, but because of how the experience of watching a creator share his creation made us feel.

Then, the excitement kept rolling with Ubisoft. South Park: The Stick of Truth got a surprising sequel. We got Tom Clancy’s Tom Clancy: The Clancying. A new IP, For Honor, took everyone’s breath away. We learned that Ubisoft gave the new Assassin’s Creed game enough of a budget to afford a female main character (we know how expensive those are to make, after all!). To top it all off, we got a game with a cat riding on a goddamned unicorn with a triple rainbow in the background.

Then came Sony.

And oh, Sony. Sony is known for knocking it out of the park every year at E3. I’m pretty sure, however, that they knocked it off of the planet, out of orbit, and into some unknown corner of the galaxy which we will surely explore in No Man’s Sky (which looked absolutely incredible, by the way).

First of all, they started their conference with The Last Guardiana game that many were convinced would never even happen. Yet, here it was, a legendary myth come to life. If this is how they began, I wondered, what in the world do they have to show us after this?

Well, as it turns out, they had a warrior woman hunting mechanical dinosaurs. This exciting gem is called Horizon: Zero Dawn, and it’s a new IP that took everyone by surprise. They also had Street Fighter V and a new Hitman to show us, but that seemed timid to me compared to everything else. Dreams is an abstract-looking game that not everyone seemed to get. Sony seemed to be losing steam at this point.

Then, they start talking about a beloved franchise, coming back fresh and new. I felt a chill go down my spine. My pulse began to quicken. What could it be?

Oh, it’s World of Final Fantasy. All the character together, looking adorable, and it’s on the Vita. That’s cute. Geez, for a minute there, I thought they were going to announce a Final Fantasy VII remake. Stupid thought.

At least, it was a stupid thought, until they announced a Final Fantasy VII remake.

Those of you that have read my previous posts here know how much this game means to me, not because of my nifty pair of nostalgia goggles, but because FFVII was the game that turned me into a gamer. It was the beginning of my love of the industry and became the gateway to all of the games I have experienced and loved throughout the years.

The Internet went insane. I was crying. Everyone was crying. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I took a deep breath. It’s the middle of the conference! Why did they announce this now? How could they top this?

With a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter, that’s how.

At this point, I felt numb. I didn’t know if my heart could take much more. Yeah, we got yet another Call of Duty, and the new Uncharted looked awesome, but my mind was still reeling. Sony basically did a mic drop and gave Microsoft and Nintendo the middle finger as they backed off of the stage.

That was how I found myself crying at 10:30 at night, unable to sleep. I had witnessed video gaming history. I saw games announced that I never thought I would ever see. There was an astonishing number of female characters shown. Most of all, I was excited.

Not just ‘oh cool, Aisha Tyler is hosting Ubisoft again!’ excited (she was awesome as always, by the way), but truly, deep in my bones, bellowing from the dark cockles of my heart excited. I still feel my entire body buzzing. My mind is just filled with emotions. Nintendo and Square Enix haven’t even had their conferences yet! Nintendo might be a legitimate risk to my health at this point.

This is an incredible feeling, and an extremely exciting time for the gaming industry and the gaming community. Not everything that we saw was perfect, of course (early access on consoles? Yeesh!), but that certainly doesn’t tarnish the experience, at least for me.

I am so, so joyously happy. Amazing games are on the horizon. There is true passion injected into the developers this time around. There’s far more positivity buzzing around than there has been in a long time. I feel like a breath of life has been pushed into the gaming industry, and I could not be more elated to see it happen.

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The ‘Dragon Age’ Franchise: An Editorial


Let’s face it: Bioware makes great games (most of the time, at least). One of their biggest franchises is the Dragon Age franchise. The first game, Dragon Age: Origins, was a huge success, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest role-playing games of all time. It’s sequel, Dragon Age II, was…well…not so well-received, for several reasons.

So, what made DA:O so popular? What made DA2 not so popular? Does the second game deserve the bad rap it gets? Most importantly, what could possibly be in store for Dragon Age‘s future?

Dragon Age: Origins

On November 3rd, 2009, Bioware’s newest game, Dragon Age: Origins, hit shelves for the PC, XBox 360, and Playstation 3, with the Mac version hitting stores about a month later. It was an instant success, pulling the player into what Bioware described as a “dark heroic fantasy” set on the continent of Thedas in a country called Ferelden. It offered six origins to choose from: a human noble, a human or elven mage, a city elf, a woodland elf, a noble dwarf, and a commoner dwarf. Factoring in the additional choices of gender and character class, along with different weapon and ability specialties, the possibilities were so vast that it felt like you could literally do or be anything you wanted. There was, however, a specific goal.

Regardless of your origin, you wound up as the newest member of the Grey Wardens, a group of warriors dedicated to protecting the world from the evil demonic creatures known as ‘darkspawn’. When a supremely powerful darkspawn, known as the Archdemon, rises and begins to give direction to the darkspawn’s normally random actions, it signifies the beginning of a Blight, or an all-out war waged by the darkspawn against all living creatures. As luck would have it, a Blight is currently upon the land, and after the king of Ferelden is betrayed by one of his closest allies, it is up to you, the player, to unite Ferelden in the fight against the Blight.

The storyline progresses in a way that delivers a truly epic, sprawling adventure, where you learn about the history and people of Thedas, and then subsequently carve your own name into history. It’s a beautiful, incredibly well-done introduction into the story’s universe, focusing on two main aspects of the game: combat and social interaction.

The combat in DA:O had its flaws, but was a good system overall. It focuses mainly on tactics, and allows you to either micromanage each party member’s moves, or set up a system of tactical directions for them to follow automatically. Creating a strong, balanced party that can take advantage of other party members’ powers and the layout of the battlefield is the key to mastering the fighting system. Add into this the ability to enchant your weapons and armor with runes, as well as the ability to craft poisons, bombs, and other nifty little items to use in battle, and you have a well-rounded combat system that literally has something for everyone.

Not only does leveling your character affect you in battle, it changes the way you interact with the residents of Ferelden. With enough powers of persuasion or intimidation, you can weasel your way out of (and, in some cases, into) battles and other tricky situations. You’ll find yourself very surprised with how wide-spread the effects of your words and actions are. Bringing certain party members into certain situations can also change the outcome, and your party members even have personal quests and gifts that you can give them to help your rapport with them. Along with different conversation options, a solid system is built that tracks your relationships with your party members, which can range from being passionate lovers to mortal enemies. Cross your companions one too many times, and you may find yourself on the wrong side of their weapons.

There are also a plethora of side-quests that earn you lots of items and gold, as well as access to other quests or recruitable characters. The map system does a fairly decent job of tracking where you need to go, using arrows to show you where quest goals and quest-giving NPCs are located. You can hold down the ‘Tab’ button to highlight any clickable items or objects to help you if you’re stuck as well. Several towns also have a Chanter’s Board, which holds several side-quests that can earn you gold, among other things. The map also houses your campsite, where you can go to heal your injuries, buy or sell items, and interact with your party members.

So, as you can tell, Dragon Age: Origins is an amazing game, and it’s easy to see why it was so well-received. There were flaws, but no game is without a flaw or two, right? You can’t possibly get mad at a game for being imperfect, right?

You can, however, get mad at a game for messing with your favorite parts of the already established storyverse.

Dragon Age II

The second game in this series, Dragon Age II came out in early March of 2011 for the PS3, 360, PC, and Mac. Many fans were beyond excited for the second entry into the Dragon Age series. The screenshots looked gorgeous, we were getting ready to be itroduced into a whole new area of Thedas, the Free Marches, and there was a laundry list of characters from the first game who would be making appearances both big and small.

Unfortunately, the game fell flat of expectations in the eyes of many of the fans. There are many things that Bioware got both right and wrong by their approach in DA2. So, because I absolutely adore this series, let’s start with what they, in my opinion, got right.

The battle system is much improved in the second game, in my opinion. It’s much more face-paced and exciting, and adding character-specific ability trees truly makes each character unique, which was a departure from the original game where it was possible to teach every character several specialties. They also streamlined the item system, giving you ‘junk’ items that were purely for selling, and offering armor upgrades for your companions rather than having to purchase multiple pieces of armor for each of them. Your character still requires several pieces of armor to protect themselves, however.

It also shook things up in regards to said companions. The main character, Hawke, has two siblings, and their fates differ depending on your starting class and choices you make at a specific point in the game (I won’t elaborate to avoid spoiling). It also offered the ability for a male and female main character to romance any of the four romantic interests (save for Sebastian, who can only be romanced by a female Hawke and is only available via DLC). This was a good thing for many of those who downloaded mods to allow some same-sex lovin’ in the first game, but it was overshadowed by several flaws (which I will delve into a bit later).

As for the companions themselves, I have to say that I love and enjoy them just as much, maybe even more so, than the original game’s companions. I don’t know if it’s the writing, or the way their relationships are presented, but I feel as if the companions in DA2 were portrayed as much more bonded with each other than the original game’s bunch. The issues that do pop up between the characters seem to be a bit deeper and more complex to me than the ones in the first game, save perhaps for Alistair and Morrigan’s dislike of each other due to their obviously differing issues of apostate mages.

I didn’t experience all of the romances in DA2; in fact, I’ve only romanced Fenris so far, and I found his romance with Hawke to be deeper and more developed than that of the Warden and Alistair, or the Warden and Zevran. I enjoyed all three romances, but the one with Fenris was by far my favorite. I don’t want to spoil any of the romances for you, but the Fenris romance in particular is far from the fairytale one, yet it feels more fulfilling and genuine than any other playable romance in either game, save for perhaps Alistair’s.

I feel the second game also improved upon some other smaller gameplay aspects. One of my favorite additions to the game is the ability to not have every interactable item glowing. If you’re the kind of person that likes to discover every little secret for yourself, this is perfect for you, although I will admit that I wound up turning on the ability to have everything highlighted after a while. You can still hold down ‘tab’ to show interactable objects like in the first game, but I found it to be just too tiring on my fingers.

As for the story, although it also had some large issues, it hit on a lot of interesting points that were only lightly touched upon in Origins, the biggest one being the portrayal of mages in society. You got to travel to the Circle of Magi in the first game and see a bit of how they were treated by the soldiers employed to watch over them known as the Templars, but this is a large focus of DA2‘s story. While you did get treated a bit differently if you were a mage in the first game, choosing this class has a much larger impact the second time around. Not to fear, though; the creators did a great job of not letting your choice in class prevent you from participating in any of the larger points of the game.

Another big thing that the second game hit on was the Qunari, a race of large, intelligent, yet almost bestial creatures that come from afar. A Qunari named Sten was an optional party member in the first game, but we get to see much more of the Qunari and the way their society works in the second game. In fact, they themselves also play a rather large part in the overall plot. Add this to the return of many beloved characters, and you’ve got an experience that will delight many fans of the first game.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. With that, let’s look at what Dragon Age II got wrong.

We’ll start with the point I just touched on above. While it was exciting to see many of the beloved characters from the first game return, not every cameo was a satisfying one. Everyone’s favorite rogue elf, Zevran, makes a brief appearance, but with the almost alien-like redesign of the elves in the second game, many of those who romanced him in the first game were unhappy with his new look. There were also a few other favorite characters, such as Bann Teagan and Nathaniel Howe, who were downplayed much more than the fans would have liked. These two in particular were also big favorites of the ladies, and they were remorse (myself included) to find that they were unromancable yet again in this game.

This all paled in comparision, however, to the gigantic blunder that was the return of Anders.

Anders is a runaway mage that you meet and can conscript into the Grey Wardens in the Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening DLC. Many were delighted to find that he would not only be returning, but would be a main companion character, and romancable to boot. The time in between the first and second game didn’t treat Anders kindly, however, as he made a huge mistake that resulted in a horrific outcome for the poor guy. What really got everyone angry about this was his change in personality.

It’s understandable that Anders’ normally flirtacious, quirky, and bubbly personality would be toned down by what he experienced in between the two games, but they took his character into a direction that nobody saw coming. He became a loose cannon, obsessed with making templars pay for their unethical treatment of mages, resulting in huge destruction and several innocent deaths. Not only that, but many people felt as if his romanced was rather rushed, as he becomes just as obsessed about the player character as he is about freeing mages, and in a rather short amount of time. I personally enjoy what they did to his character, and I think that the anger of the fans is more due to the initial shock of the direction they took his character in than anything else.

The interaction with characters in general got revamped in the second game as well. DA2 adapted the conversational ‘wheel’ mechanic straight out of another popular Bioware game series, Mass Effect (which, ironically, has been coined by many as ‘Dragon Age in space’!). I do enjoy the conversation wheel, however, what actually comes out of Hawke’s mouth isn’t exactly what’s written in the wheel (which is intentional, as the system alters what you say depending on how many good, sarcastic, or evil conversation choices you make, but I found it slightly jarring at times nonetheless), and I felt like it was a rather odd choice that they made this game adapt Mass Effect‘s system rather than keep its own unique one.

Another thing about DA2 that irks me is the copious reuse of the same maps over and over again. Whether this was due to time constraints, budget constraints, or just plain laziness on the part of the level designers, I find that it breaks the feeling of immersion in the game a bit. Given, I am fairly sure that there are a lot more side quests in the second game than in the first, and it would take a lot more time to create individual maps for all of them, but I do feel more effort could have been put into this. I’ll just have to comfort myself with the idea that it’s all actually Varric’s fault.

There are a few notable flaws in both games that are worth looking at as well. One of the biggest ones is the plethora of glitches, missing sound files, graphical glitches, and other little errors. These games run on a sort of ‘flag’ system, like many games do, where certain conversation options or other events are triggered by a ‘flag’ that lets the game know that a certain criteria has been met. Many flags fail to initiate in both games, resulting in missing conversations and other issues. One of the most well-known of these concerns Zevran’s romance in Origins, which is riddled with these glitches, and even robs the player of a romance-based last conversation with him before the final battle. Luckily, the fans of this series are incredibly talented and dedicated, and many patches exist to fix these errors and restore lost content.

I myself encountered many glitches in both games, but I find that the glitches in DA2 are more noticable to me. There are several item-based side quests in the second game, where you find an item and simply have to return it to its original owner for a reward. I found that about a quarter of these that I turned in were glitched, having my Hawke say one thing, but having the words she was speaking on the screen say another. I also have found a hefty handful of instances where, right after a scene plays, a companion will say something, but the sound won’t trigger. I have to wheel around and read the words above their head quickly before they disappear and I miss it! I’ve also found a lot of the conversation animations to be a bit choppy when one line finishes and another begins. I could probably find mods created by the fans to fix all of these, but it has yet to bug me to the point that I feel the need to seek such a thing out.

So, as you can hopefully see by what I’ve already discussed, Dragon Age is a beautiful, yet flawed, game series. Do I dislike Dragon Age II for it’s drastic changes? Not at all, actually. I am thoroughly enjoying the game, to be honest, and my brother loved it, too. There are a lot of other people who enjoyed it as well, despite the legions of fans that will try to convince you to avoid it all costs.

As for the future of the franchise, it looks very bright and promising. Bioware clearly has the ability to branch out with the franchise, creating a much beloved mini web series, as well as a Facebook game. Bioware has also made it a point to listen to the fans, and has publicly acknowledged the fan’s displeasure with the second game, and has assured us that they are taking all of that feedback into account to be sure that the players get what they want out of Dragon Age III.

Personally, I just want Bann Teagan and Nathaniel Howe romancable. Please, Bioware? I swear, I’ll be your best friend forever!

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Gamers Solve AIDS Mystery, Too Bad This Article Doesn’t Care!

This post is in reference to this article, discussing how a few gamers “have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade”.

Here is my issue with this article: it has nothing to do with the implications this could have on curing AIDS.

Oh, sure, it’s mentioned, but what this is really about is how shocking it is to these people that someone who plays video games actually contributed something positive to society. Just reading it makes me cringe.

This article paints gamers as some sort of dysfunctional pariah of humanity, specifically pointing out that this “is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem”. Yes, because god knows no scientist in history has ever played a video game.

This article should have been about how this could change the way we deal with AIDS in the future, not about gamers. Maybe this is where my anger really lies, but this was my gut reaction when I read it.

Let me know your thoughts.

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How Minecraft Effectively Ended My Life

That’sssss a very nice houssssse you’ve got there…’twould be a shame if something happened to it…

So, you know, I have this stuff that I do in my life. I write, I blog, I do video reviews, I hang out with friends, that kind of stuff. At least I did, until I gave Mojang $21.95 and my soul for the glorious addiction known as Minecraft.

Two things set me on the path to buying this game: the insistence of my little brother, who is a mod on a fantastic Minecraft server, and the dynamic duo of Simon and Lewis over at The Yogscast, a wonderful YouTube channel chock-full of amazing Minecraft videos and features on mods for the game. Even though I finally gave in and bought the game, I figured I’d get bored of it pretty quickly.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

The first day I got it, I bought it in the late afternoon. I got a hold of my brother, and after finally convincing him that I actually did finally buy Minecraft, he logged onto the server he moderates and helped me buy a plot of land of my own from the admins so I could build my very own house and get myself set up to do some mining. I thought that the crafting was going to get overwhelming for me, but most of it is rather logical, and I even figured out how to craft some stuff on my own just by trying combinations of things. I made a plan for a simple wooden house, took some materials that my brother gave me to start off with, and went out to explore the wilderness.

By the time I looked away from my computer, it was one in the morning.

I knew I was in trouble at that point.

Since then, every time I come home and try to play another game, or watch a video, or write, I can’t concentrate; I simply have to fire up Minecraft. It’s insane how quickly I became addicted to the game. I found myself asking, what is it about this game that draws me in so deeply?

First of all, it’s my kind of game. I’m one of those rare gamers who actually enjoys item crafting, and exploration has always been a big part of video games in general. So, the two biggest points of the game happen to be two aspects of gaming that I love. That obviously makes it a good fit for me to start off with.

What’s also amazing about Minecraft is the community. Literally thousands of players have spent hours creating player skins, adventure maps, and texture mods, and even game mods to add or alter things to the game. What’s also great about this is that Notch, the game’s creator, encourages all of this, and closely pays attention to the community, implementing many of the best ideas the players come up with into the official game patches. In fact, the last patch added pistons into the game, which actually started as a player-created mod.

Another thing about this game that makes it so addicting is the fact that it is truly a sandbox game. You can go anywhere, and do and create almost anything. Don’t believe me? There is a specific kind of Minecraft server out there called a ‘creative server’, which are totally dedicated to people building statues and pictures of all sorts. Go check some out, they are incredible! I also recently downloaded my first ever adventure map, which is a fairly faithful recreation of Castlevania, pieced together from the best parts of the NES titles in the series. Not only did the creator do an amazing job, but he made an 8-bit Castlevania-themed texture pack to go with it, and specifically designed the level so that, once you’re done with the puzzles he’s included, you can make the castle your base and go out exploring like you would in any other Minecraft map. Absolute brilliance!

But the morning sun has delivered this awesome texture pack!

(You can nab the map and texture pack for yourself here.)

Notch also put a lot of effort into making the game friendly for all players. You can choose different difficulty levels to play maps on, or you can put it on Peaceful mode and remove the monsters completely. Regardless of whether you want to simply build, or go killing hoards of Creepers, you’ll be able to get your fix.

This game also inspires true emotion in its players. To illustrate this, allow me to tell you about a dig that I went on last week. Brace yourselves.

There are different towns on the multiplayer server I play on. My brother came to me and said he wanted to show me a new area that the owner of the server had created. It’s a beach area called Sexy Cove (yes, it’s a stupid name). It was beautiful, with an awesome view of the setting sun, beach towels and umbrellas that everyone could claim as their own, and to top it all off, my brother built a beautiful house for the two of us on the edge of the water out of lapis and diamond (they later made him change the lapis. Sigh.).

It was so beautiful…;_;

My brother then proceeded to tell me that there was quite a bit of untouched wilderness very nearby (people are only allowed to dig in wilderness areas, the town areas are protected). I gathered my armor, my weapons, a diamond pickaxe, some torches and some cooked pork, and I was ready to go!

As I’m digging, my brother suddenly appears underground with me (he’s a mod, so he can fly and stuff. Lucky bastard.). He then says ‘Here, I’ll help you dig’, and proceeds to bust out some TNT. I immediately panicked, screaming at him over Team Speak as I’m running and he’s laughing and my mineshaft is being blown to pieces.

He found a natural cave pretty quickly using the TNT, where there are lots of monsters and lots of resources to mine. I started going crazy, mining red stone, lapis, and my first ever deposit of gold that I’ve ever found! My anger at my brother was quickly forgotten, and I was in awe of all of the goodies I’d found.

I should have turned around and gone back up to stash my new shiny things.

But no, instead, I decide to start digging a bit lower. It isn’t long until I hit bedrock, indicating that I’m pretty much as far down as I can get. It also means that lava is very close by. I of course wind up finding some, but I’m not a moron and I don’t dig directly under me, so I was totally safe. I went to go turn around to leave and finally put my new stuff safely away in a chest.

Then, a skeleton came out of nowhere and shot an arrow at me, pushing me into the lava.

I died.

I lost all of my stuff.

The best part is, there happened to be water right next to the lava. I could have jumped into the water and put myself out and saved myself, if I hadn’t panicked and tried to get on a ledge instead.

I sat there in silence, fighting back tears. All of my hard work, for nothing! My brother simply said to me ‘Well, that’s Minecraft. Just go make more tools and try again’.

So I did.

I found gold again.

This time, I turned around, went back to the surface, and put it in my chest. And it was awesome.

It really is amazing how a simple game can illicit such emotion. Notch really did a beautiful job of creating this game, giving people the power to build anything, with some effort, and to put your heart and soul into it, and then cry as a Creeper blows it to smithereens.

So yes, I am horribly addicted to this game, but it isn’t a bad thing. I’m a creative creature by nature, and the process of mining and creating is actually relaxing enough for me that I often turn to it when I want to play something nice and relaxing.

Until a skeleton knocks you into lava. Douchebags.

So, go ahead and buy Minecraft yourself and play it. It’s 25% off since it’s still in beta, so now’s the best time to pick it up. You’ll want to learn the basics before the next update; it’s an adventure update, adding experience points, a hunger meter, and a bunch of other challenging aspects to the game.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some diamond to mine.

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Nintendo Is Growing Up: What Does It Mean?

There were plenty of surprises from Nintendo this year at E3, the biggest one of all being the unveiling of Project Café, now named the Wii U. What shocked me even more than this new system, however, was the library of games for it. 

Of course, it was peppered with the usual Nintendo fair; Zelda, Mario, and all of our favorite first-party franchises were there and looking better than ever. However, titles such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Online and Ninja Gaiden 3 were also announced for the Wii U. While some of the previous entries in the Wii’s library weren’t totally family-friendly, this marks the first time that we’ve ever seen really hardcore, adult-themed games on a modern Nintendo console, and both the media and gamers alike have taken notice.

This got me thinking. Why would Nintendo make this decision, and what does it say about the company and the direction it’s headed in? The short answer: They’re finally moving forward.

A big complaint that gamers have been voicing in the past few years is that Nintendo seems to be gearing itself more towards young children and casual gamers than anything else. This left a lot of hardcore gamers in the dust, feeling as if Nintendo had just about forgotten them. Many also argued that alienating adult gamers was a sure-fire way to tank the company, especially in these fragile economic times. However, Nintendo used E3 this year to prove that they haven’t forgotten us, and that both they and their systems are growing up.

The obvious benefit to this move for Nintendo is that they can open themselves to a larger audience, who are both older and most likely have more money to spend. The downside, of course, is that they could possibly garner criticism from parents and the media about putting adult content on a line of systems that has largely been known as something that is safe for the whole family. Nintendo will, of course, follow all laws and regulations to make it obvious which of their titles have mature content, but that won’t stop people from complaining (it never does). Regardless, any cries of negativity will probably be deadened by the piles of money Nintendo will be swimming in thanks to the Wii U.

This also poses another question: How did this family friendly system attract mature titles? That answer seems apparent to me: it’s the technology. There are a ton of new gaming possibilities that the Wii U and its touch-screen sporting controller present, and it is to be expected that any gaming company would want to explore what they could do with it. If Nintendo is willing to allow a little blood and violence on their console, why not use it to reach more consumers? Nintendo seems finally open to exploring new ways to reach gamers, and in my opinion, it’s going to pay off, big time.

Now, don’t misunderstand me when I say ‘finally ready to explore’. Nintendo has changed gaming with their technology more than once, and has more than proven that they are always experimenting with how to step up their products. However, I always found their game libraries to be a bit stagnant and repetitive. In contrast to that, it looks like the Wii U will be a breath of fresh air in this regard, and I for one am excited to see where it leads.

So yes, my personal opinion on all of this is that Nintendo is growing, as is their fanbase. The direction their heading in is an exciting one, and only time will tell how successful it is.

What do you guys think of the Wii U and the direction Nintendo is taking with their game library? Blog about it yourself and share, or leave a comment!

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Growing Up a Girl Gamer

Females are considered an integral part of video games nowadays, as is evidenced by the boom of many things like games designed for young girls and female main characters. However, those of us that have been gaming for a long time remember the days when it was rare to even see a girl know how to wield a controller properly. There was probably more girls playing video game than we thought, but it was nonetheless considered male territory. For many ladies my age, we remember the good and bad sides of growing up as a girl gamer.

I used to rent a lot more video games than I bought because, quite frankly, my parents were much more open to doing so than they were to buying me games (they felt I wouldn’t play games enough to warrant buying them. How wrong they were!). So when a boy who lived a few houses down from me got his very own copy of Mortal Kombat for his Sega Genesis, I was instantly jealous and tried to worm my way over to his house to play. He was shocked that I was even interested, and thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the blood. It turns out I happen to be a permanent button-masher when it comes to fighting games, but that didn’t stop me from spending hours with him looking at move combos and trying to pull them off against each other.

Thinking on it now, that was really the first point where I felt like it was really okay for me to be playing video games. Growing up, gender roles were very strictly enforced upon my brother and I. My mother would get upset when she saw my brother playing with me and my Barbie dolls (he always used Ken of course), and she would get equally antsy seeing me playing with my brother’s race cars. I always helped cook dinner and clean the dishes and was angry that my mother never let my brother do it. However, my parents always let my brother help with outside activities such as cutting grass or cleaning the cars. Even today my father will ask my brother for help fixing things around the house, but will always refuse my help. So, growing up I always had a sense that there were some things I just wasn’t allowed to do or touch because I was a girl.

My love for video games was really the first thing that transcended that. During elementary and middle school, I used to get mercilessly mocked by boys, saying that I had to be telling lies because girls don’t play video games, and that even if I had, I certainly had to be terrible at it. That didn’t bother me too much though; I would simply go home and bust through some Sonic the Hedgehog to remind myself that I was a good gamer in my own right.

However, that all changed when I got into high school. I jumped into a conversation a few boys were having about Final Fantasy VII on the lunch line one day and had corrected them on something. They were in such shock that I even knew what the game was that I was an instant curiosity to them. They talked to me the entire time we were on the line to get our food, and it was probably the longest conversation I’ve ever had a group of people I didn’t really know.

Suddenly, being a girl gamer wasn’t a lie or something that was a joke, it was something desirable! I am certainly not attractive physically, but for some reason this particular passion of mine won me quite a bit of male attention (and yes, I did have my fair share of boyfriends in high school, all of whom were delighted at my knowledge of video games). I went from being wary of even speaking of video games to being rather proud of my skills and being eager to try new and different games.

In senior year I met a guy from a nearby school through a friend that was quiet and shy, but nice. We met once in person and then started talking online out of boredom. The topic of our conversations? Mostly, video games. Those conversations led to talks about our personal lives, and eventually he called me up one day while he was on his senior year field trip and said he wanted to take me out when he got back home.

During our relationship, we bonded a lot over video games, and I spend countless hours with him and his friends playing video games and hopping around arcades. The best part: he was from a private Catholic school, so all of his friends were guys. I was totally accepted for my love of video games. Suddenly, video games wasn’t just a passion or a hobby, it was a way to bond and create memories with friends.

That is really what video games are to me to this day: works of beauty, art, and creativity that can bring people together and bring smiles and memories. It has amazed me how video games have evolved and how female participation in them has evolved as well. The role of women in video games has even changed; nowadays, there are many games that star women (as I mentioned before) or have the option to play as a female character, when back in the day I remember feeling frustration that I always had to play as a male. Not only have gamers seen this change, but members of the industry clearly have as well.

Yes, it’s a great time to be a girl gamer, even if growing up as one was a pain!

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