I want to talk about the part of Dragon Age: Inquisition that made me cry, or at the very least to tear up and force myself to not cry.

There are a lot of narrative beats, a lot of moments, in DA:I. I am sure you might expect that this emotionally-impacting scene is one of many in the rather large, global scope of the game’s story. Right?

Nope. It’s about a woman. Specifically this woman:

Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry

Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of the Chantry

Probably my biggest, tear-jerking-est emotional moment in Dragon Age: Inquisition came when Cassandra Pentaghast had finally had enough of my flirting and had to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t meant to be.

While this post is mostly spoiler-free, I’m still going to put everything behind the cut just in case.

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So, this is an open missive to the creators of HBO’s Looking, about their upcoming second season of the show.

Now, I know that on the eve of the premiere tonight is too late to reach them before these episodes were filmed. Consider this gesture symbolic, perhaps. Certainly, I feel like it’s a necessary step for my own peace of mind. And in light of my current trend toward trying to feel more body positive about myself and to speak up about these issues more, it’s a necessary step forward for me.

Basically: I saw you include a bigger guy in your trailer for the second season, show. And I’ll be watching you.

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So I’ve been doing everything in my power to… well, power through the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, since I’ve already sunk 70 hours into it. With the sudden reversal of the games press’s game-of-the-year sentiments, it seems like now is the time before my motivation evaporates.

Probably the most widely-discussed critique of DA:I to make the rounds lately was by Patrick Klepek in his new job at Kotaku. I didn’t get along with that article terribly well, not because of its sentiment — which I agree with, as we’re about to discuss — but its phrasing, as I bristle whenever there’s the implication that some ways of engaging a game are “meaningful” and others by extension are “meaningless.” But that’s neither here nor there.

Certainly, the discussion right now seems to be centered on what I am calling the game’s “MMO bullshit:” pointless fetch quests with no strong narrative ties, no meaty rewards, no fun party banter. Just, as I said on Gayme Bar’s year in review show for 2014, “endless runs to Wal-Mart in the Wal-Mart Hills.” And like Klepek I think they don’t do much for DA:I, which is a problem because the game is full of that content. The main storyline, what would normally be called the “meat” of the game, is quite small by comparison.

However, the point of this blog post is to point out that this sudden explosion of “MMO-like” content doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is, in fact, a positional response to critiques of Dragon Age 2. And it is that situation that led me to make this tweet, this afternoon, as I tromped through the Hinterlands in DA:I

Since there are some potential spoilers (and uh, naughty language) involved here, more after the cut.

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Sorry again for a not-about-gaming post. As before, if you’re here mostly for games crit, you’re free to go.

So if you follow me on Twitter, you know a few things about me. One of them is that I live on Twitter, basically, and the other is that I decided for the month of December, to close out the year, I was going to take a selfie a day and post it, without fail. I technically decided this on the 2nd, but to my surprise I actually kept it up.

If you’re interested, you can read every post I made with the associated hashtag, #LadyBossProject, which has all the pics (including a couple bonus shots).

This blog post is my wrap-up now that the experience is over. I’m going to say this: a lot of these thoughts are raw and untempered, so please indulge me before freaking out. Nothing here is set in stone; I am basically working through my observations in blog form.

More after the cut:

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Hey there. So normally I use this blog for like… 80% games criticism, 15% general media criticism, and maybe 5% personal stuff I just need to talk about. This post falls in that last 5%, so if you usually come here for games stuff you’re free to go.

Also I wanna warn you that it’s impossible for me to talk about this subject without going into some personal stuff about myself. I’m not saying this out of embarrassment — to be honest, part of me wishes we could talk about this stuff more — but because it might just straight up be things you don’t wanna know about a stranger or casual acquaintance. If so, that’s cool! I will not be offended.

Okay. Warnings delivered, here’s what I wanna talk about: body types in gay manga. Details after the cut.

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Okay. It’s 2:30am, and this has been stewing all night, and on the heels of my GaymerX talk hitting YouTube and my expanded version of it getting into GDC, this feels like the right thing to do. So I’m gonna make a quick blog post to talk about a thing that bothers me, and perhaps pre-emptively address some of the critiques of why I’m angry that are gonna pop up.

This is about a Weight Watchers commercial that I saw tonight during Peter Pan Live (shut up). More info after the cut.

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[“Bayo-Sutra” is a week-long series of short blog posts on Bayonetta that leave discussions of her body and sexuality behind, in the hope of finding more about this fascinating game series to discuss than one issue alone.]

I want to close out this week-long project with a discussion of one of my favorite things from the Bayonetta series:

Relationship status

Relationship status

Umbran sistership.

For those of you who don’t know the lore of the series, history knew two “clans” that kept the balance of the world as we knew it: one clan of light, called the “Lumen Sages,” and one clan of the darkness, the “Umbra Witches.” Each clan possessed one half of the “Eyes of the World,” a treasure that granted them great power. However, 500 years ago the clans, which had to that point paid each other respect, suddenly began to fight amongst each other. The Lumen Sages were wiped out by the Umbra, but the Witches were in turn wiped out by humans during the “Witch Hunts.” The premise of the original Bayonetta is that only one Umbra Witch survived: Bayo herself. But that’s not actually the case. Very early into the first game, another Umbra Witch — the platinum-haired Jeanne — appears.

Sadly, I can’t say much more without spoiling both games, so if you’re interested, follow me after the cut.

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[“Bayo-Sutra” is a week-long series of short blog posts on Bayonetta that leave discussions of her body and sexuality behind, in the hope of finding more about this fascinating game series to discuss than one issue alone.]

So I’m going to come close to breaking my own prohibition with this post, because the topic is going to make it impossible not to discuss, in some small way, Bayonetta’s physicality as a character. However, I’m going to hope that instead of masticating endlessly over the Is it okay to like this?! question I am now entirely bored of (as are plenty of others), it will be a consideration of a design element that I think is really interesting.

To coin a phrase: the camera loves Bayonetta.

If the earlier post on music didn’t make this apparent, Bayonetta is a performer. Her fighting style is based on dance-like movements and they are filled with excess. Her movements are huge and dramatic when they don’t need to be; she is highly vocal and playful (one of my favorite additions in Bayonetta 2 is that when Bayo succeeds a Witch Time-enabling dodge, she’ll make a quip, like “So close!”); the combat is characterized by excess and being over the top through things like Wicked Weaves. This is the essence of combat in the Bayonetta games: it is as much spectacle as it is combat. In fact it might be more spectacle than it is combat.

One of the cute and interesting ways this plays out is in the use of the camera, both as a literal thing and as a metaphor. More on this after the cut:

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[“Bayo-Sutra” is a week-long series of short blog posts on Bayonetta that leave discussions of her body and sexuality behind, in the hope of finding more about this fascinating game series to discuss than one issue alone.]

Luke with glasses, from Bayonetta 2

Luke with glasses, from Bayonetta 2

So both the Devil May Cry games (which are Bayonetta‘s spiritual ancestor) and the Bayonetta games themselves take place in a world where the “trio of realities” is a major shaping force on the world. In Bayonetta, these three realities are Paradiso, Inferno, and the Realm of Chaos, aka the “human world.” Between all three, connecting them to a certain extent, is Purgatorio, a sort of adjacent, Ethereal Plane-like MacGuffin which makes Bayonetta invisible to normal humans while she walks through the cities of Vigrid and Noatun, but also able to interact with the supernatural forces arrayed against her.

In one of the better little jokes of Bayonetta 2, series staple and journalist Luka Redgrave has managed to get a gift from Rodin: a pair of glasses that let him see into Purgatorio. I’d like to believe that Rodin managed to get Luka in the end, however, considering the design of the glasses (which you can see off to the left). The first time I saw Luka in those glasses, I heard myself say “Why hello, Professor Trelawny!” without thinking. You’re welcome.

In any event, the idea is that in the Bayonetta cosmos, the messengers of Heaven (Angel) and the denizens of Hell (Demons) exist alongside us every day, perfectly imperceptible to us except for those humans who go out of their way to acquire the talent or equipment to do so. Those humans who have magic powers, like Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages, can voluntarily enter or perceive Purgatorio with magic.

So how does this cosmology contribute to the series bringing me joy? Find out after the cut (spoilers for Bayonetta 2 as well).

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[“Bayo-Sutra” is a week-long series of short blog posts on Bayonetta that leave discussions of her body and sexuality behind, in the hope of finding more about this fascinating game series to discuss than one issue alone.]

So if you’ve never played a Bayonetta game you probably don’t know the extent to which music and dance are integral parts of both Bayonetta’s character design, and even the way that she moves in combat. If you’re not a fan of video game music, you might be know about or appreciate the intense amount of music that goes into these games; both Bayonetta titles have soundtracks that are 5 CDs’ worth of songs, which is actually kind of a lot. The typical Japanese video game soundtrack is 1-2 discs, usually, for even particularly long games. Final Fantasy soundtracks of yore are the real juggernauts, with FF6-FF10 having 4 CD beasts chock full of songs for games that could take 50 hours or more to finish. Bayonetta, by contrast, takes about 10-12 hours on average to work through.

Suffice it to say: it’s a lot of music for such a short game.

The importance of the music to Bayonetta‘s ability to bring a smile to my face is the subject of today’s Bayo-Sutra post. But since it contains spoilers for both games, read more after the cut!

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