Just One More Zerg – Nothing Serious #Podcast 104

Don’t let childbirth interrupt your video games this week – it’s all about priorities. But how great can your priorities be when you’ll set yourself on fire for a YouTube video challenge, but can be arrested for doing citizen science? Finally, we talk about the Satanists in Missouri that are fighting for religious exemptions to antiabortion laws. And did we mention that Hodson is actually happy this week – WTF?

Stories mentioned in this episode of the Nothing Serious Podcast include:

Male Gamers Only?

Male Gamers OnlyI typically ignore ads that appear on my own blog. I’m almost blind to such ads, beyond checking for suitably, but this advert for Wartune (an online MMORPG that pays strong fealty to World Of Warcraft and it’s ilk) caught my attention.

Now, before you say “of course it caught your attention, look at those digital hooters”, let me say that it wasn’t the overly inflated digital mammary glands that caught my attention – It was the “Warning: Men Only” sign.  (I have a newborn son at home whom Sara is breastfeeding, so I have plenty of engorged boobies to occupy my eyesight.)

I’ve ranted at length about sexism in video games before, and how it adversely affects the impression that women have about the video game industry. Read Epic Upgrades? Women And Gaming if my point isn’t already clear enough.

One thing I haven’t discussed is the idea that what men want from video games is scantily clad women with physics defying bosoms and the voices that make them sound like they have a poor I.Q. for a glass of water.

That’s definitely not what I want from a video game, it’s off-putting, distracting and destroys any sense of realism. Maybe realism is the wrong word considering many games feature aliens, cyborgs and the ilk, but you know what I mean. I prefer games with more realistic physics, where you have to think and actually use skill – my obsession with Call of Duty and Borderlands being exceptions.

While a lot of disbelief can be suspended due to the setting of the game, the idea that men go into battle dressed in full Kevlar armor, while women go in dressed in a see-through lace negligée, a thong, knee-high boots, and proudly challenge their gravity defying breasts to spill out is a pill too difficult to swallow.

Is that really what men want? I suspect it’s maybe more to do with what boys in the 8 -15 years range want, but once we get older we enjoy games for the challenge, the story telling and the sense of engagement they provide. They’re a distraction that takes us away from our 9-5 jobs, our worries, our stresses. Video games provide us a few minutes reprieve where we can lose ourselves in another world free from the cares of this one.

That reprieve, that immersion, is what I (and I’m sure most adult males) want when we play video games. Strong female characters are awesome in games, we encourage them. They add to the realism, they deserve to be there just as much as male characters do. But when your strong female characters resemble bottle blonde bimbos that escaped from the Playboy mansion after Hugh Hefner went mad with a pump and silicon implant device, then it ruins it for those of us who think with the head that is located above the waist.

Am I “Old Skool” Or Just Old? (Revisited)

It’s been eight years, 2 months and 18 days since I first wrote the words below, and it’s either a sad commentary on gaming, or perhaps on me, that as I approach 34 years of age (in October) I still lament the state of modern video games as I did when I was a tender 25-year-old..

Of course, what makes things worse is that I regularly see our children playing video games only to turn them off when things get challenging and the shiny isn’t enough to compensate for the lack of truly great and addictive game-play.

It’s not the fault of or a commentary on the children, just like you wouldn’t blame kids for not understanding why they have to rewind a VHS tape (they’ve never seen one), but I can’t help but wonder if they’d be more appreciative and critical of today’s games if they had started out like this old fart did. Sadly, we’ll never get to find out, unless one of us deliberately excludes our kids from experiencing modern technology and forces them to only use a C64 as some sort of weird social experiment.

Anyway, back to my 8-year-old rant about the state of video games

It’s a sad fact but at 25 years of age I am starting to feel very old when it comes to the computer games that appeal to me.

I started out with computers at the tender ages of 5 and have owned everything from a ZX Spectrum, VIC20, C64 all the way up to the wall of PC’s here in my house. My primary interest in computers has always been coding, but I’ve always been a gamer as well.

There must be community of people who, like me, have been using computers for 20 or more years, and could be considered the old timers of gamers. Now, what I was to know is –  is the old timer “old skool” or just old?

I find that when I’m playing games today, they look great, sound great and generally play OK to crap (with some very notable exceptions!). But I miss the times when games were great. Not good, but great! When all you had was 16 colours, and 2 or 3 tracks to mix 8 bit audio with. You had 64k of memory.. Hardly enough to store 64 desktop shortcuts on todays PC’s.

They looked bad (for the most part), they sounded bad but they had something that most of todays games don’t. Playability! The were simply great fun to play, and you wanted to keep coming back and playing them even though they took up to 30 minutes to load in off of tapes that sometimes didn’t work.

In general todays games don’t have that, and in general most people don’t want to wait for the game to load, if 30 seconds went by without it loading they’d think it had crashed, much less 30 minutes.

What people seem to want is the quick fix of instant action. I like that too, but I prefer to make an investment of my time, and that’s what playing computer games is.. An investment. You spend money and buy a product and then invest your time in it. Well I like a good return on my investments and back in the “old days” that investment required waiting 30 minutes for it to load, so you wouldn’t just boot up for a quick game… You’d boot up and go make a cup of coffee while it loads because you know you’re going to playing this all evening.

Maybe I’m just getting old, and games don’t hold the same appeal for me (and I just don’t realize it) but I want that again today… The investment. The money I spend on the product should not just get me pretty graphics and sound, but something that I’ll spend hours of my time on.. will lock the door and pretend I’m not home, just so I can try “that bit” again… sleepless night… cold sweats.. the addiction of an enthralling game with great gameplay..

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love playing games, and I play everything from MMORPG’s, to FPS, to C&C style games, and there are great examples of truly awesome games with everything I want in all categories… It’s just that considering the money we spend in games, I don’t want to have to find the exceptions in order to play a great game.. They should all be good…

Take a lesson from the time when we had no choice but to have crap graphics and sound. When code had to be had optimized to maximize the amount that could be gotten into 64k… Just forget about the 30 minute loading times, okay!

So which am I? Old or “old skool”?

Krispy Kreme S’mores Against Crotch Rot

Two of the highlights from the BBQ we had at our place last night (besides the pleasure of having our awesome friends over)…

Krispy Kreme  S'mores

Ryan made the most awesome Krispy Kreme s’mores made with donuts, marshmallows and peanut butter cups (full instructions on how to make them yourself here...)

After stuffing ourselves with those, we then played the awesome Cards Against Humanity for 4 hours, which is an epic game for horrible people.

Crotch Rot

Arrived In The Mail: Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition

Courtesy of my beautiful wife – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary!

Can you guess what I’ll be doing while Sara and the girls are at the cinema watching sparkly vampires at midnight?

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I first played this. I feel old now, but not so old that I can’t kick some n00b arse tonight!

Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition

I May Enroll In the University Of Illinois Just To Play This

I so need this game and the screen. No, really, you don’t understand… I NEED IT!! Need… Neeeed…. I mean, who’s ass do I have to shove my nose up in order to get access to that screen?

BTW, don’t you love how they brought a girl in to play for the video? As if that would ever happen – a girl, playing a Star Wars game??

It’s been developed by Arthur Nishimoto, a student at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Initially designed in 2009 as a simple space strategy game, it soon evolved into a multiplayer project for the TacTile touch-screen display. Which, thanks to the fact it’s not a commercial product, could use Star Wars ships and sound effects.

Via Kotaku.

Epic Upgrades? Women And Gaming

Taki Soul Calibur 4As both Sara and I enjoyed playing Soul Calibur 2, we picked up a copy Soul Calibur IV for the X-Box 360 at GameStop yesterday.

We didn’t do any research into it, just going on the strength of the fun we had playing Soul Calibur 2 together.

Both of us were aware of the rather revealing costumes the female characters wear in 2 and were prepared for more of the same in 4 but when the developers upgraded the games, they “upgraded” the female characters as well.

All of the females clothes have gotten skimpier, some are practically non-existent and they have all had massive boob jobs. Some digital plastic surgeon made a ton of cash on this lot. (FYI: This game is rated teen).

Neither of us mind this. We accept it.

It’s part and parcel of the gaming world and the characters are obviously designed to get teenage boys to part with their pocket money and games companies have been developing female characters in much the same way since drawing the cover art on Commodore 64 cassettes.

Yet, in light of the ever ongoing discussion about the lack of women in tech, I wonder how games like this affect girls wanting to enter the games design industry?

I can’t think of many strong female characters in video games that don’t come equipped with the kind of rack that wouldn’t result in instant, debilitating back pain for any woman who tried to perform strenuous activity without a specially constructed bra.

I also can’t think of many female characters (any?) who’s clothes are impractically tight, defy logic, aren’t ultra revealing or fall off at the drop of a hat.

Again, I understand why the game designers do this but in todays world, where young women and girls are bombarded by the media into comparing themselves to impossibly airbrushed and photoshopped models, why on earth would they want control a character with a body that defies the very laws of physics?

I know men are also “perfected” by video game designers. Bigger muscles, waxed chests, nobody ever has a hairy back or a weak jawline, but you never see a male character with an impossibly large penis either?

We never see Ryu beat the crap of Ken with a bulge in his pants so large that he should not be be able to walk, let alone to kick, but we are expected to believe that these women can stand up without falling over under the weight of their breasts?

In most cases their boobs are so big they couldn’t swing a sword without slicing their own nipples off, well, not unless their arms are long enough that their knuckles scrape the ground when they walk.

Why would young women ever want to enter a male dominated industry such as games design when the characters we create today make them compare themselves to an impossible fantasy?

Sara, rightly so, finds such characters a turn off to playing video games. I have seen Gabby, who is the target age group of the game, deliberately select characters in games that have more clothes on, because the skimpy costumes are off putting.

The argument may be made that in the tech industry, the lack of a strong female to male ratio can be laid, partially,  at the feet of women who simply don’t enter the industry or being willing enough to take risks compared to men, despite preferential treatment in some cases. (Yes there are multiple sides to this argument, men could do better, but then again, so could women and this post is not one that I intend to debate that in.)

In the games industry the same argument cannot be made. Women may make up the majority of social gamers, but they are seriously under represented on the developer and designer front.

Gabby is an  amazing drawer and potentially would make an awesome games designer (if she doesn’t end up as a graphic novel artist first – look out Frank Miller).

Despite the fact that the games industry may be a more lucrative career I can understand why she would not want to go down that route.

Why would she want to enter an industry that actively promotes an impossible physical standard, makes her compare herself to the fantasy of people who we can only assume have never talked to a real women, let alone dated one?

Why would she enter that world when the very games they produce push her away?

Hopefully we will see change in this area. It would be great to see big title games that target women that aren’t just Farmville or bejeweled clones.

How about a Tekken style game featuring women that actually look and dress like the women at real martial arts competitions?