Sorting your video game preferences

Can’t deal with all the news of the past few days. So instead, I’m taking online quizzes and distracting myself with my self care regimen of video game consumption.

Sorting 100+ games in order of preference is no easy task, but it can be done with some perseverance. Go here for the quiz. My results below the fold. The top 20 are not surprising at all. I’d maybe sort some of the ties, of course, but the results are really uncanny otherwise.

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How to survive Fallout

Our friend Dr Raychelle Burks features in this video about the science behind the lore of Fallout. Considering I just wandered back into the wasteland myself, I shall take careful notes!

How would we ACTUALLY survive a nuclear apocalypse? Well, certainly not by eating the meat of every mutated creature you kill, and every can we find of two hundred year old CRAM Processed Ham Product.

Ethical Gamer: Axiom Verge

I love retraversal games — games where, as you explore and gain powers, new areas open up. Metroid, and later Castlevania, refined the genre to an exceedingly high degree. Knowing that this indie game Axiom Verge, was made by one lonely dev named Tom Happ — including the incredibly atmospheric Geiger-like graphics and Metroid-influenced music — I should be fairly lenient on the parts of the game that I found to be less polished. I can’t help but fixate on some of them, though. They were few and far between, but there were several moments that seriously took me out of the game.

Huge spoiler warning for Axiom Verge. Can’t be helped, though.

(Notice how people won’t freak out about a spoiler warning, but might about a trigger warning? Yeah, that’s not lost on me either.)

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Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy

(Content note: ableism, slimepitter and GamerGate bullshit.)

Gotta discuss some housekeeping first. Skip to the fold for the review if you’d prefer.

While I didn’t exactly go looking for it, incoming traffic on my post eventually clued me in to this thread on KotakuInAction (CW: transantagonism within the first few comments — this is Reddit, and a GamerGate forum on Reddit no less, so it’s bound to be awful, right?) announcing my first Ethical Gamer post reviewing Mercenary Kings. The thread contains people simultaneously decrying Freethought Blogs and me as being unethical, expressing outrage that a Social Justice Warrior could possibly play video games and want to review them from a social justice perspective, and, strangely enough, comments lauding my outright expressing my biases up front. A few of them even calmly point out that most of my problems actually came from Mercenary Kings controlling poorly and becoming stale way too quickly. Judging by the name, the thrust of the original post and subsequent comments, the person posting it to that subreddit is clearly a slimepitter well versed in Freethought Blogs’ history and their mythologies about us, so it’s replete with the sort of Googlebombing of character assassination you have likely come to expect from their ilk.

It’s one of those Big Lie situations where they repeat any slander they can about a person as often as possible and to as many audiences as possible, to poison the well against us potentially being right about their rubbish ideologies. The goal, naturally, is to get the fence-sitters and people on the sidelines, to destroy the credibility of anyone who might present a valid criticism of their philosophy. And of course, to achieve its goals, it’s full of the least charitable interpretations of a bunch of things I’ve freely and under no duress discussed about my own past, about what shaped me into the person I am today and what gave me my ethical compass, misinterpreting and reinterpreting these events in order to paint a funhouse mirror distortion of me that hopefully someone might get outraged about because, you know, I’m Fair Game for being a Feminist Suppressive Person on the internet. Because, you know, Freeze Peach for thee but not for me? It’s a bit funny that a Slimepitter tried to sic Gamergate on me as His Personal Army, thinking he’d get sympathy because I dared use the phrase “ethical gamer” as my name, and most of them wouldn’t take the bait. It’s a bit difficult to tank for their more vulnerable targets when not even the slimers hoping to sic them on me can convince them my Threat is higher than, say, Anita Sarkeesian. Oh well.

The reason I named my series what I did is actually quite simple, and it has to do with ethics as a concept — especially, as a concept that right-wing reactionaries do not have a grasp on. Ethics is about having a sense of right and wrong that goes beyond simply what is within the laws or customs of society, about more than preserving the status quo for people like you. Good ethics requires empathy to work at all. Having good ethics means attempting to maximize good for as many people as possible — it’s about more than just revealing your personal biases or keeping liberal political statements out of video games, as the Gamergate narrative goes. It’s certainly not about getting revenge on a woman who dumped someone you’re sympathetic with, especially not by lying to everyone repeatedly to maximize her pain. It’s about looking out for the people who are traditionally disadvantaged, trying to make sure everybody gets a fair deal out of a transaction — especially when those traditionally disadvantaged folks are being stomped on for no good reason by a medium that’s actually just supposed to be about fun and pleasure. That’s why I started this feature, and why it has the focus it does.

The thread is, naturally, also replete with misinformation about this effort, like that I’m getting any money for reviewing anything. I’m not. I am lucky some months to break two digits in ad revenue for the whole blog, since my flow of content is down to a trickle for the past year-ish — my last cut of ad revenue was ten dollars and some change. These two (now three) posts are an infinitessimal fraction of that total traffic and ad revenue, so you can take that unevidenced rationale for my focus and cram it. I am also not getting review copies of any video games, unlike most of Gamergate’s favorite Youtube vloggers, nor am I affiliated with any of the games I review, like TotalBiscuit, another Gamergate favorite. (Meaning, of course, these actions are perfectly acceptable when they’re done by antifeminists and Gamergate sympathizers. Shocking that they might be tribal, right!?) And in the event that I AM affiliated with a game, I will either abstain from reviewing it, or make that affiliation plain as day. I don’t pretend I hold much sway, but if I’m too close to a topic, I can recuse myself.

I buy these games on my own, with my own hard-earned cash, usually through Humble Bundle purchases. I review them from my own personal perspective, which, since I’ve been blogging for almost ten years, you folks should know pretty well by now if you’ve got the same sort of longevity in readership as I have in authorship. I do it entirely for fun, to tell you about games that I enjoyed or games that I did not, and to discuss aspects of them that I might have found problematic. Further, I do it entirely recognizing — unlike some people — that it is perfectly possible to enjoy a game even if you dislike some bit of pernicious sexism or racism or what-have-you within it. It is also possible to criticize that aspect of a game without wanting to destroy an entire industry (see the preamble to every single Feminist Frequency video, which of course these folks ignore as well). And most importantly to me at least, I’ve stuck to only reviewing games thus far that are playable on Linux, because I’m a huge open source nerd and I’d like to make sure those games that are playable on Linux get a fair shot at being reviewed and treated as being worth your attention.

Having stumbled upon that post reminded me to complete this review of Rogue Legacy and post it.

I’m going to pull a Psycho Mantis on you and read your memory card. So, I see you like Castlevania. You also like platformers generally. RPGs, yes, yes. Roguelike games too? Excellent. Here’s a game that you might find right up your alley: Rogue Legacy. Plug your controller into port 2 and join me below the fold.
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Livestream of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link tomorrow! #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

I’m looking forward to Geek Girl Con‘s DIY Science Zone, where I’ll be volunteering to do demonstrations of buoyancy and water displacement all weekend on October 3rd and 4th. But between me and that weekend stands my Acts of Whimsey, torturous little tasks I’ve signed up for in exchange for us reaching certain fund-raising goals. Since we passed the $3500 mark, my next task is to livestream play through the entirety of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.

You might remember last year’s livestream of Battletoads, which, sadly, Twitch has expired off its feed. I still have the complete video though, in two parts, where I beat the game in about 16-ish hours over two weekends — with the only cheat being infinite lives. I’ll compile them and post them someplace, perhaps.

Zelda 2 is torturous, but not in the same way as Battletoads. First, the game is significantly different from every other Zelda game you’ve played. It’s a side-scroller, it has experience points and leveling, and Link moves like a dumptruck that can jump (without a Roc feather, even!). It also has a number of the most unfair and patently absurd challenges for a game of its ilk, including the first iconic battle between Link and his evil shadow doppelganger. Ganon never appears, and his name in the Game Over screen is spelled “Gannon”. Its clues are mired by the fact that they had to pack text into tiny 40-ish character boxes, which they couldn’t change from the original Japanese layout in translation for space reasons — meaning the translation is the equivalent of condensing several complete sentences into 1/3 of a tweet. All the nuance of “GET CANDLE AT PARAPA PALACE. GO WEST.” is destroyed — you’re supposed to FIRST get the candle at Parapa (which is northeast of start), THEN go west to the next town.

I will not use any cheats in this playthrough at all — no Game Genie codes, anyway. Anything that the game allows me to do (e.g. using the Fairy spell to fly through a keyhole) is not a cheat. I will, however, since it’s been over twenty years since I owned this cart personally, refer to a walkthrough fairly liberally so you don’t have to watch me retraversing areas over and over desperately searching for the next place to go.

I’ll also try to actually have the microphone volume up loud enough this time that you can hear me talk this time, but there’s a few physical aspects of the setup that I can’t really work around at the moment — my laptop has to be closer to the TV than to me, and I don’t have an external mic that’s at all viable. But I’ll see what I can do.

The stream starts tomorrow morning at 10am CST, and you can feel free to tune in on the blog post that I’ll post tomorrow at about 9:30.

If you’d like to donate to Geek Girl Con’s DIY Science Zone, to help the volunteer scientists with the materials they need to teach kids about science, you can do so right here! Surely showing the kids at Geek Girl Con how to extract DNA from strawberries, how cool oobleck is, or how to make a real comet out of dirt and snow, is worth a couple of your spare bucks, right?

Ethical Gamer: La-Mulana

Writing a review for La-Mulana might be every bit as hard as actually playing it.

Games made by fans of the particular genre of video games known as “Castleroids” tend to be exacting, grueling affairs if done poorly; exacting, grueling and COMPELLING affairs if done exceedingly well. La-Mulana, in both its original (freeware) form and its 2012 remake manages to achieve just about the perfect balance of difficulty and depth, even where it leaves me needing frequent breaks. The Japanese indie outfit Nigoro originally created the game to be a PC retro game that apes an MSX game — the MSX being the Japanese Microsoft home PC during the Famicom era. In fact, Konami and Hudson Soft developed heavily for the system before moving on to the true consoles, including such titles as Metal Gear (an MSX exclusive, at the time).

I’m currently playing the 2012 remake of La-Mulana, having only briefly attempted a playthrough of the original game. Its graphics bring to mind a 32-bit game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, only much cuter and more cartoony. Your character, the one-block-high Professor Lemeza Kosugi, is a Japanese-American ninja-slash-archaeologist. The “ninja” part is evident in his choice of sub-weapons like caltrops and shuriken, and the “archaeologist” part is evident chiefly in his Indiana Jones attire and bullwhip main weapon.

And, I suppose, the setting — you’ve travelled to La-Mulana, the “cradle of civilization” and evidently a single ruin that contains references to numerous world cultures including Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Japanese in a sort of Stargate sort of way. With your bullwhip, laptop and a million shuriken (which you have to buy at a gold apiece), you’ll have to unravel the mysteries of the ruins in order to beat your father and professional rival to the punch.

Content note: I complain about another game by this dev that involves “creepshots” type sexual assault. Highlight where the note is to read it.
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Ethical Gamer: Screencheat

Do you remember playing split-screen multiplayer competitive Goldeneye for the N64? I do.

Do you remember people getting horribly upset because you’d recognize what parts of the level they’re in and zero in on them like a guided missile? Yeah, that was me too.

Here’s a game by a dev team called Samurai Punk that takes that slightly-unethical video gaming tactic, one that’d surely win you a swirlie from the bully up the street even while he does it to you constantly, and turns it into a legitimate game mechanic.
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Ethical Gamer: Mercenary Kings

Welcome to my new side-project: The Ethical Gamer. As a hardened Social Justice Warrior (Tank spec) who just hit Level 47, who also happens to be a person who spends an inordinate amount of time on video games and has purchased a large number of Humble Bundles leading to an expansive Steam library, I figured I might as well jam these two facets of my life together somehow. That somehow, as it turns out, is reviews of video games from a social justice perspective.

What could possibly go wrong?

First up, Mercenary Kings. A game that, by all rights, I should absolutely adore, but I’m finding a major struggle just to bring myself to play any more.

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What alignment are you?

I think this is very proximate to our discussions about gender, given that gender and sex are both social constructs and the problems we’re seeing with having in-depth discussions about these constructs being spectra rather than binary is that it seems those people who can’t answer “trans women are women” think this means we’re creating and reinforcing a binary rather than demanding a spectrum of genders.

Good and evil, order and chaos, are two axes describing spectra of behaviour related to social standing and pro-social behaviour. Dungeons and Dragons has a mechanic wherein you can assign your character Good, Neutral, or Evil, and Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, making a 3×3 grid of alignments. It’s certainly more interesting than a binary Good/Evil choice (or, say, Paragon / Renegade, or Light Side / Dark Side), and it means very little outside of the scope of interactions with other human beings. It’s still by necessity an abstraction. Something like the Kinsey Scale for hetero/homosexuality being a 1-9, or Dawkins’ atheist/theist 0-7 scale — neither of those describes the panoply of positions one can stake coherently.

But, still interesting. Take this alignment test to see how you stack up. A number of my friends (including my wife) got Chaotic Good. I got Neutral Good:

A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Yeah, that does sound a lot like me. Including the sentence fragment in the last sentence! (I assume the “when” is superfluous.)