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I got portals in my portals, man.

Since finishing Batman: Arkham Asylum, and starting the slow, arduous work of getting Final Fantasy XIII back to where I’d been before the burglary last year, the husband and I have talked it over, scraped up some savings, and managed to afford (thanks to the great 2fer deal on Steam) Portal 2. Let me tell you that I’m excited!

What I’m more excited about is that I’ve got two copies of Portal to give to some lucky Steam users! Yes, two free copies of Portal, in case you missed that particular bus full of GLaDOS driven awesome. If you’re that person, I need to know. If you know that person, I might also need to know. At the very least, I need a couple of Steam IDs to hand these copies of Portal too. If I get more then two (and as I will be putting this out on a couple of social networks, that’s highly likely) the lucky folks will be chosen at random and contacted on Steam, by me, with a friends request for their copy of Portal. (That would be ‘AlmostAMurder’ on Steam, in case you didn’t know.)

So, let the ‘me, me, oh me! i want it!’ begin.

~Amanda

Editing for great update: As of April 14th, one of these copies of Portal has been claimed. Apparently the rest of you cool gamer cats got on the ball and got this with the Orange Box back in the day. But if there’s someone out there who wants to join us cool kids with our portals, there’s still one copy left… If you have Steam, anyway.

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This Ain’t No Place For A Hero

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you: I like Batman. Now, I’m not a slavish devotee and I’ve been more interested in one-shot stories or graphic collections then I’ve ever been in the recurring tales, and I’ve been a fan of (most) of the movies about him. (I’m a slave to the Mirage TMNT comics and some of the derivative works, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

But hot damn, Arkham Asylum’s followup, Arkham City, pretty much pushes all of my ‘dribbly brained fangirl’ buttons. Sure, it’s going to probably be Same Bat Game, Same Bat Play, but I’m okay with that. If you build a winner, you should probably work on that winner and make it more shiny, but don’t remove what MAKES it a winner. We’ll see if this sequel can carry on it’s predecessor’s legacy — I’m not sure we want it to move into ‘chain’ territory (that was lies the path of suck) but it certainly does look like the first game grew up and go more of those wonderful toys…

Sad fact: I own and have only barely played Arkham Asylum. Hey! Something else to do while unemployed — get Arkham Asylum wrapped up while I get a new job and finish school! The trailer’s the perfect inspiration!

Anyway, I’m just gonna leave this shiny thing here. Isn’t it pretty?

~Amanda


Things to do in gaming when you’re unemployed

Yes, folks. Unemployment has reached out and grabbed me like it grabbed so many Americans. So how does the gamer cope when one’s funds are at a stranglehold?

The gamer does DLC, MMOs, and goes back to old games unfinished. For me, that means: World of Warcraft (50cents a day for one account, people, you don’t get cheaper entertainment then this), Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy XIII, Little Big Planet, Dragon Age: Origins, Fallout: New Vegas, and wrapping up the last missions of Mass Effect. So, seriously? Not going to be hurting for keeping myself occupied into the wee hours while I wait for the phone to ring or my unemployment check to hit.

Ironically, I had just bought the Dead Money DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, and loved almost every minute, except for that cheese-ass fight at the end and the race against the clock, which I did not love at all, and which is why I stopped playing it for a while. I have a ton of unfinished or unplayed DLC for Dragon Age. Hell, I think I still have unfinished DLC for Fallout 3.

All of these were pretty cheap, and they provide me with several hours of entertainment. But nothing, nothing beats an MMO subscription. With the average cost about $15 a month, that’s a pretty good per-day cost. Now, not everybody will consider keeping their internet as a non-luxury, but around here if you want to job search without trucking to the library (with gas prices rising, also a craptastic option) you’re going to keep your internet, and cut just about everything else.

Tabletop gaming also remains free, so long as you have the books or can find them on the internet for cheap, or whatever. PDF downloads can be cheap or free, depending on the company, and hey, you just need some pals and some dice.

So I think I’ve got enough to keep me relatively entertained between waiting for rejection letters and interview calls. Here’s hoping I’m not unemployed long enough to finish playing them all, though. That would be quite some time to be unemployed.

~Amanda


Things have died. I was not one of them.

It has been months, Femme Gamers, and for that, I am shamed. I wish I had an excuse — and maybe I do. Work, school, husband, new dog, novel. Those are a long list of things. But it’s not like gaming stopped for me, and thus, I should have kept up here. I mean, there’s a lot of things going here, both good and bad.

In September, the Local Anime Con – which I will not name, because I hate the club behind it and will quicker cut my own throat then give those people free press – put our lives on hold, as it does every year. Most of our gaming group is involved in this and it’s yet another reason I hate it’s very existence. Most of the group goes on an anime-infused exodus to other cons, write what they like about the other cons, and then attempt to apply it to their current local anime con that has a completely different social demographic in another state, with complete lack of success that accompanies taking the science behind bananas and attempting to apply it to pork products.

It also puts our gaming on hold for several weeks, as they apply their weekends to meetings, dinners, and the inherent drama that the con is soaked with. It’s all they talk about. It’s all they can afford to deal with. Let me tell you, gentle reader, that this fucking sucks.

During this time we had three games; Shadowrun, which my husband GM’s, Witchfire, an Iron Kingdoms campaign which my ex-boyfriend (but still pal) runs, and Murderous Hobos, another Iron Kingdoms game which a friend of ours runs. The husband and I are not involved in the con, but the ex and the pal definitely are.

Shadowrun does not go on hold. Hobos does go on hold, for the holidays. The ex puts his game on indefinite hiatus with plans to return to the game after the holidays. Life goes on – drama occurs, the con occurs, holidays occur. Games get put on brief holiday holds, but resume. Our friend has some family issues — an illness with his mother — that complicates his life, but she turns out okay (for which we are all grateful) and life goes on.

The ex never picks up his game. We merrily go along for the next few months, up until February, doing the every-other-weekend games. I game Shadowrun one Saturday, make dinner,and have a good old time. The husband goes to play in the Murderous Hobo game on the other Saturday and HE has a good old time. Good ol’ times are had.

In the interim of missing tabletop games, I play a ton of video games when I have the time; bitterness over the theft of my PS3 and all the time I invested in the games on it, now lost – Folklore, Final Fantasy XIII, Red Dead Redemption, and so forth – have made me bitter about trying to return to them, and while I have picked up each one a few times, I have not gotten near to the completion I had when the systems were stolen. I don’t think I can be blamed for this, but I know I ought to build a bridge and get over it, proverbially speaking.

However, all is not lost: I’m loving Fallout: New Vegas and I got into Mass Effect (finally) and while I watch for Dragon Age 2 with trepidation. I’m not going to be a first day buyer on that one – Mass Effect’s control scheme on PC doesn’t thrill me and I don’t really want a sword & sorcery overlay just because Bioware’s lazy and wants to cash in on their RPG epic the ‘fast and easy’ way by just producing a fantasy Mass Effect clone. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm drops and that’s a whole other post in itself, folks. Another time.

Life settle into a routine. Slowly, as it often happens, discussions crop up about starting a new Friday Game. Witchfire is never mentioned. The ex begins designing a new game sort– very skeletal, very much trying to not be ‘main stream fantasy’. (He’s quite the rebel, my ex. Ask anybody – cue eye roll, here.) He does nothing with it, but talks about running it for a while. Another player in our game goes back to talking about running another, long-dead campaign that quite frankly, nobody really wants to play. All of his games go that way, I’m sad to say, and the group keeps dodging his games – but he still occasionally puts them out as an option. He gets points for perseverance, at least.

Finally, the ex announces last week he’s going to run the ‘new’ world he’s built up– he’s going to have us make characters and let us define our characters WHOLE COUNTRIES and CULTURES and fit them into his ‘existing’ game world, with a few provisos (he has things to say about certain races — things that break them from ‘mainstream fantasy’, of course). He just wants to experiment, he says. Try something new, he says.

So, last weekend, I talk to him over IM about my feelings and thoughts on the matter; I have wanted to return to our past campaign and finish it. Our players are all happy to do so, even though he claims everyone is ‘ambiguous’ or ‘non-committal’; I know both my husband and I want to finish the game, and the others are happy so long as there is dice involved, really. He promises me that come next Friday, we’ll all get together and talk about returning to Witchfire or starting the new, so he’d know what everybody wanted.

Well, let me tell you, friends, that when I walked in on Friday night and found them all building characters for the new game – that he’d been working with the other players for a week, including my husband, on new classes and cultures to cram into the Pathfinder system, I was pretty pissed off. This is not the first time he’s lied to me about following through – there’s a reason he got dumped six years ago, and shit like this factors into it – and spend the rest of the night angry. Everybody rolls up new characters, and I beg off with lack of inspiration.

Later, my husband asks me why I can’t just go along to get along — I say I’m tired of putting up with this shit with the ex; this is part of why he got dumped and it’s tiring of having some of our social life continue to hinge on this person’s inability to commit to anything. I’m not the only one who feels this way– the guys are tired of him saying he’ll do things, but being men, they tend to simply let it roll, because half of them live with them, and none of them are particularly inclined to rock the boat. Also, it’s partially our damage and history together; I won’t lie, it’s a factor.

So, gentle readers: I know when I tell him I’m not going to join his game, there’s going to be drama. If I ‘go along to get along’ my lack of enjoyment and lack of giving a damn about this shitty idea that he’ll drop in less than two months will also cause drama. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So, do I go full damned and let him just how hard he can fuck himself, or do I attempt some sort of politically correct, “Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me,” which is only half true. A lot of this, very much, is him. But no amount of telling him this — even dumping him over his inability to follow through on anything, including our engagement – has ever made him change, and this sure won’t either.

Damned either way.

~Amanda


In Defense Of Offense

Apparently, a lot of people are angry that Penny Arcade did a comic where a slave is being beaten in the morning and raped to sleep by dickwolves, while an uncaring Worgen disdains to do anything about it. The comic’s a comment on questing apathy– if you’re really a hero, wouldn’t you empty those caverns? No; to this worgen hero, everyone important has been accounted for, since he’s got that ‘quest complete’ ready to turn in. What matters is you’re one bubble closer to ding, because you don’t really have to think about how you’d act if you were the prospective liberator of brutally abused slave.

This is a comment about the way MMOs work and how the immersion fails and game mechanics take over. The flavor text–that the slave is being beaten and raped — is just that, flavor. It’s to give an idea that the Worgen’s callous, and the slave is in need. The Worgen is laughable, stripped of nobility because of his actions — reduced from heroic action figure to simply a player in a wolfskin trying to play at hero when he’s probably just as apathetic in real life. Maybe, though, I’m reading too much into it. It’s a three panel comic, after all, not Tolstoy. (I have, I note, read Tolstoy. Just for the curious.)

People are reading too much into it; just as I suggest meaning and symbolism into this three panel comic, some people are just going all out here. People are sending the boys at PA hate mail. Some guy is eBaying all his PA stuff–signed books!– off and promising the proceeds go to charity. Feminist blogsare getting up in arms.

This should, after all, be a day in the life of Penny Arcade. After all, you don’t rise this high without occasionally stepping on someone on the way up.

What I don’t understand is two things:

A: Why, if you read Penny Arcade, why THIS particular comic offended you that you read the comic at all, because there’s been much worse and,

B: Why the PA Team sunk to the slightly more verbose 4Chan-esque ‘U Mad’ rape joke defense.

In response to A — you have the right to be offended. You have the right to be offended by anything you like, and do whatever is legally appropriate in response to it, whether it’s blogging about it, selling your stuff and forwarding the proceeds to an anti-rape charity, writing to the authors of the comic to let them know you’re displeased, and generally whatever it is you need to do personally. If it makes you feel better to voice your displeasure, by all means, exercise that right! It IS your right to express yourself in a way that communicates your point across. (You don’t have the right to threaten a cartoonist, or set fire to anything, though- – so please don’t carry this to an extreme.)

However, they have the right to offend you. Their speech is protected, just like your letter of complaint is. Is this part of rape culture, as some might suggest? Yes, possibly. Does Penny Arcade engage in some level of rape culture? Yes, though they often mock it as much as they mock anything else. This doesn’t get them off the hook — and their less then adequate rebuttal to their dickwolf faux pas doesn’t excuse that they engage in something that isn’t funny to a lot of people.

But nothing is sacred in comedy. We see our sacred cows — whether they be of suvivorhood or religion or political affiliation — sacrificed on the alter of comedy on a daily basis. Somewhere, someone is mocking you or something you love, endure, or are passionate about. That is the nature of life, at all times, everywhere. There are no exceptions. Your personal tragedy is someone’s laugh track. So I expect Penny Arcade to keep doing what it’s doing — comedy, often at the expense of others.

However, in response to B: I expected better. I expected Penny Arcade’s team to let this roll off their proverbial backs like juice off the Fruit Fucker’s glistening spout, and let it go. The smarmy response was unneeded and just as callous as their worgen ‘hero’. While I understand why they’re defensive, it doesn’t actually help them. It simply makes them look like defensive teenagers trying to justify why they just called Jeremy a flaming faggot because he has lisp. It doesn’t actually clear them of anything, and it is not at all an apology. It’s just another rape joke. They’re not going to stop making them, and they’re not going to worry that they offended a reader. After all, if you’ve been reading the comic, offense is their stock in trade a lot of the time. For all that they’re philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and yes, gamer nerds — they’re still human beings. Human beings who have never had to grow up past the base gamer humor that they perpetrate — the same humor that pays for their charities and other ventures.

So, they have the right to offend you, and this right to offend you goes only so far as you will let them. Do you want to rock the boat? Vote with your dollars and clicks. Don’t go to their site. Don’t write about them. Don’t acknowledge their comic. Because it’s just a comic. A comic that started a small empire, but still a comic. Low hanging fruit is just that, and most of the people who are engaging Penny Arcade over this could probably do better with their time.

All in all, this is a minor incident. Neither Mike nor Jerry condone or encourage rape. Do they participate in rape culture? Debatable, but probably on some degree– because American culture is STEEPED with it. Should you START with Penny Arcade? No. If the cultural shift happens, it won’t START at a comic, but it will be REFLECTED in a comic.

So aim higher, activists. Aim a lot higher.


My gaming is complete again

The last console was replaced today; a new glossy black Wii has now joined the PS3; the last of the insurance money is spent, and most everything we can replace, has been. Tomorrow my husband starts calling the alarm people and we further protect our home. But now we’re basically back to where we were before (with a few missing games still missing) and getting back on our feet.

So far, games are the the only things not 100% replaces. I’ve replaced several of the games — mostly PS3 — and am now working on the Wii games. We also addde two new titles, though bundles or just want. Little Big Planet came with the bundle of the new PS3 we god, and since we got the Wii today, the husband and I picked up what we jokingly call ‘Divorce: The Game’, and plan on getting more multi-player fun on now that we’ve beaten the terribly disappointing Borderlands… though we do have the DLCs to get through as well; I’m not sure how that all shakes out, though, so we’ll go through that as we get time and inclination.

One thing Borderlands did give us, beyond some bitchin’ tunes (Champion’s No Heaven was really the only thing that made beating the game worthwhile) was the knowledge that we make a good team with flush and snipe. He gets them moving, I pop the skulls. I do enjoy the power of a good headshot.

I think we might be getting back to normal. I’m looking forward to it. Now if we could only hammer out some of the tabletop kinks — which should happen this weekend. If not, well ladies– you’ll hear all about the drama at the table over the last two weeks. Heck, you may hear about it anyway.


If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

The gaming at my house hasn’t been all that great at my house in the last month or so — we’ve been a little pressed with home repair, dealing with insurance, firing our insurance agent and starting the hunt for another insurance agent, and oh, researching a good breeder to buy a dog.

But the last week, we decided we’d get a new game. Or rather, I decided that the husband and I were getting a new game, because it was on sale on Steam; $40 bucks got us both the game, and all the DLC available for Borderlands. It was a clumsy game, but honestly, the weekend of the fourth of July was the happiest we’d been in weeks.

It’d been hard to face facts, but now we broke down and handled things. I ordered a new — bigger and better! — laptop from Dell. We are making a game plan on how to replace the electronics and in what order of priority. (Camera, PS3, Wii, games, etc.) As well as what we’re not replacing, and instead putting the money ito a Puppy Fund. Tabletop gaming is getting back to normal as well — we’d not exactly been shining there, either as hosts or as players — and so life seems to be returning to it’s pre-burglary state slowly.

But then Blizzard came and crapped on my pancakes.

RealID. It’s a bad idea. 4chan, bless it’s soul, easily illustrated why it’s a bad idea– especially for women who game. The general idea is to strip away the veil of anonymity, face John Gabriel’s Internet Fuckwad Theory head on and strip away the anonymity that trolls use to protect themselves.

Only we know that’s not the case. Trolls are going to be trolls no matter what light you shine under their bridge. What they are opening us up to is new levels of harassment, especially for women, transsexual and other ‘unprotected’ classes of people… and even the average dominant white male who didn’t’ know the douche bag who he denied entrance to his guild was mentally unstable enough to hit Spokeo and see what info they could dig up to hurt someone with later. People do crazy things. Gamers, sadly, attract more then their fair share of people who cannot cope with reality and use games to escape it. It’s simply a fact of the fandom, as it were.

It’s pretty scary what you can dig up with a name and an email. I’m not saying how much of my information is in that thing, but it was enough to make me squirm a bit. One of the Blizzard blues found out the hard way when he put out his name to prove it was ‘safe’ and then had his phone number, home address, parent’s home address, Facebook, and other pertinent information all linked within seconds.

So, ladies: What are we going to do about it? Take it passively as our rights to privacy are stripped? Walk with our money to a new game? Scream into the void until something is done? I’m honestly not sure yet — I really like my game, and the people I play with. I don’t want to try and build the relationships I’ve made OR endure the learning curve. I’ve played WoW for 5 years and never, ever missed a payment or taken a break.

But there might be a time for it. This might be that time.