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Böcker

I recently set a challenge for myself: start reading again. Don’t get me wrong, I read things all the time. I read street signs, news articles, forum threads, work reports, even receipts. But not novels for some reason. I used to read fiction all the time as a youngster. I consumed so many books I was often told to go play outside “for once.”

But as I went through university and was forced to read “their” books and as the internet became more of a thing for me, my reading habits died down. A lot. As someone who writes a lot, this is a bad thing. If you want to be a professional basketball player, you don’t just practice your layups all day; you have to watch pro games and analyze what you’re seeing. So, with that analogy in mind, I started a bookclub.

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hohokum screenshot3

After reading a review on Polygon and sinking a few hours into Hohokum, I’m not sure what I think. One part of me agrees with Phil Kollar when he pines for a decent map system or some new gameplay mechanic after swirling in a circle for the ten thousandth time, but another part of me really loves the way this game just meanders here and there.

One thing that this type of game always brings up for me is the now-exhausted argument of whether or not video games can be considered art and, consequently, whether or not we as a culture should treat them as such. As much as I want the answer to that question to just be “yes, let’s move on,” it really doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case any time soon, especially with the way “comfort food” video games are pretty much the only ones that get mainstream attention. Still, Hohokum was a nice little break that let me philosophize on what it is to play a game.

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woman1Meeting a woman who plays video games is no longer a cause for surprise; instead, it’s gone through a weird variety of reactions from “you’re obviously a poser” to “man, I wish I could wife that!” Both are equally generalizing, obviously, but the concept of women in the field of video games seems to fascinate people.

For anyone who’s perused my author page, you’ll know that I have a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature but what it doesn’t say is that my specialization was in feminist and gender studies literature. I’m not an activist, I’m not even an outspoken person, but I am interested in watching out gender dynamics play out in everyday life and more and more lately, the video game world has become my everyday life.

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Even though I grew up largely on action-oriented games like Wario World, A Link To The Past, and Pilotwings, there was always something about Final Fantasy that drew me in. As a writer, I like to tell myself that it’s the intricate storylines but that’s just not true. The reality is that I love menus. I’m not ashamed to admit it: if there’s a bunch of different classes, armour materials, crafting gems, weapon types, you name it, I’m there.

When I opened up A Dark Room by Doublespeak on my phone, skeptical because of the crummy-looking screenshots, I was immediately turned off because it was so far from the pixel-art, one-touch controls of so many other games out there. But I forced myself to play it a bit more, trying to get into the menu system a bit. It was about half an hour in that things really opened up and that rush of manipulating menus kicked in.

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Dissidia 012 Duodecim

After seeing a number of articles on the upcoming Hyrule Warriors, I can’t contain my frustration anymore: we need new intellectual properties. My biggest encounter with rehashing an IP came when I was looking for games to play on my newly purchased PS Vita and stumbled on Dissidia 012: Duodecim. I didn’t really look too much into the game but it came highly recommended so I eventually downloaded it. I was in for a surprise.

I booted it up and felt a wave of disappointment wash over me: it was a fighting game made entirely out of Final Fantasy characters. Why does this bug me? Why does it deserve such derision? Why is this guy such a stuck up snob? The truth is, I really like the game as a standalone entity. That being said, I have a theory about the relationship between creativity and reusing IPs: they are inversely proportionate. Basically, the more you reuse an IP, the less you have to care about the way it’s presented.

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mario and luigi dream tream 2

I recently picked up Mario and Luigi Dream Team for the 3DS and was kind of shocked at how condescending it is. I was walked through so many menu tutorials and explanations of basic RPG elements that I almost put it down out of exasperation. To be fair, I had just come from playing games like Bravely Default and Bioshock Infinite, so it’s possible I had maybe forgotten what it was like to play a video game made for children.

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the walking dead season 1

A while ago, when Season 1 was finally all done coming out for The Walking Dead video game on PS Vita, I remember buying the season’s pass and settling in for what a lot of people were describing as a “fantastic” game. I had my doubts, seeing as how the gameplay videos looked pointedly boring. I was wrong. So wrong.

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Vandana Shiva

I recently attended a talk by environmentalist Vandana Shiva, hosted by Public Interest Alberta in a packed hotel ballroom. She spoke–after glowing introductions–about things like GMOs (or genetically engineered organisms, if you will), economy, the term “progress”, and feminism. I won’t lie, she is a very good speaker: very friendly, easy to relate to, and most importantly, she appeals to the already existing values of the audience. How do I know what the audience thinks? First, in my city, for about 50% of the population you can tell who’s liberal and who’s conservative just by how they dress and how they react to events that tout “revolution” and “anti-establishment” as main topics. I do consider myself a liberal person, but, after looking into Shiva’s past claims, I find myself conflicted as to whether or not she was really taking a realistic approach.

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Dungeons and Dragons

The talk I went to last weekend, the one with the two Bioware writers, talked about using Dungeons and Dragons as a pathway to understanding how writing for video games work. What they meant, as I understand it, is that writing adventures and acting as Dungeon Master in a game of D&D is very much akin to writing a plot and dialogue for a video game because you need to account for choices that player’s can make, choices that don’t necessarily follow a rigid structure.

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And now, for the not-so-encouraging part two of my experience at the talk by Bioware writers Sylvia Feketekuty and Luke Kristjanson. I find myself procrastinating on writing this just because I don’t want to face the crushing reality that is how hard it actually is to get a job as a writer for a video game company, according to some of the things these two writers had to say.

Firstly, and maybe most importantly, there was a discussion as to whether or not positions as full-time writers actually existed in big studios (which is pretty much a dream job, in my opinion). The impression I got was that, no, there aren’t really a lot of companies that will just hire you off-the-bat as a writer. It’s much more likely that you’ll have to work in some other faculty and then be asked (or volunteer) to write for the game you’re already working on. Already this demands a set of skills that veer away from the ones I already have: I can write, I can imagine stories, I can build characters, but designing, programming, play testing: these aren’t really anything I would call myself “skilled” at. I won’t lie, my heart fell a bit when I heard them talk about that sort of required multi-tasking ability. However, there was a good deal of talk about being a freelance writer and being hired on contract to write for a game in progress.

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