Category: Gaming Reflections

So to continue what appears to be an accidental series of blog posts writing about Gearbox Software’s Borderlands games, I wanted to get something down on paper regarding the newest title, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel. Now, if you follow my writing and Twitter and such you probably already know that I recently reviewed the game for Paste Magazine. My verdict, which I will summarize for you here, is that Pre-Sequel hews pretty close to Borderlands 2 but has enough new gameplay features and narrative/comedic elements to keep my interest.

Also, one of the things I mention in the review is that Pre-Sequel includes a number of queer lady characters, way more than I am used to encountering in stuff made in the AAA dev space for sure. Not that this is a particularly high bar to clear; I have a hard time thinking of explicitly queer women in games full stop, let alone in big industry titles — a number of Bioware characters come to mind, and of course there’s [SPOILERS] the recent The Last of Us DLC and Gone Home. But by and large when we get queer characters at all, they tend to be men. So I was pretty happy to see queer ladies with varying degrees of story importance appear in Pre-Sequel.

Borderlands the Pre-Sequel's Janey Springs

Borderlands the Pre-Sequel’s Janey Springs

This is Janey Springs (I’m vaguely grateful that the folks at 2K Australia didn’t run the ball all the way down the field and name her “Alice”). Janey lives on Elpis, the lone moon of Borderlands‘s typical setting of the planet Pandora. She’s a black marketeer, junk salvager, tinker, amateur childrens’ book novelist, and a lesbian. She’s also one of the first major NPCs you meet in the game, and the first one you meet after actually arriving on Elpis itself. For players who’ve gone through Borderlands 2, she serves a similar early-game feature to Hammerlock in Liar’s Berg, taking you through a series of quests that introduce you to the nuances of Pre-Sequel‘s mechanics and quirks before settling in to being an intermittent presence for the remainder of the game. Interestingly enough, both Hammerlock and Janey are queer characters, something I literally realized while typing the previous sentence.

Janey presents an interesting opportunity to talk about how Pre-Sequel represents queerness in its world in a way that draws on multiple approaches to doing so (compared to the “background” approach I’ve previously written on). While this post is primarily spoiler-free for Pre-Sequel, I’m gonna add a cut anyway just in case. Thus, more about Janey after the break!

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So I wrapped up Lightning Returns and in the process I had some thoughts about how the history of the FF13 meta-series has gone down. Thus I just sort of sat down and poured them onto the page. In the absence of having any new or interesting critical commentary to post, I figured I’d just throw it up here in case any of you were interested.

The following warnings apply:

  • Spoilers for FF13FF13-2, and Lightning Returns
  • This was not meant to be a coherent blog post; it’s more Exposition-Fu. Just bear that in mind.
  • WALL OF TEXT.

With that in mind, feel free to jump in after the cut:

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This has been a long time coming. It’s time… to blog about Saints Row. Specifically, the latest game in the series, Saints Row 4. We’re going to get there in a roundabout way, however, so bear with me until this is over.

From SR4 mission "Millerspace"

From SR4 mission “Millerspace”

I want to talk about how Saints Row 4 is a game, about games, about games. If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic, feel free to join me after the cut. Definite (though not Earth-shattering — puns!) spoilers for Saints Row 4 and potentially for Saints Row: the Third ahead. (more…)

So earlier today on Twitter, Denis Farr and I were discussing how mages in the Dragon Age universe have a lot of queer readings, especially in the sense of political queerness in the 70s/80s. In the process I mentioned that I got a similar vibe from the much-maligned cast of Final Fantasy 13, specifically the relationship between “fal’Cie” (power supernatural beings in the setting) and “l’Cie” (e.g. the heroes of the game). In keeping with a drive to shorter stuff more often, I figured I’d delve into that tonight.

REMINDER: This blog is a no-FF13-hating-for-the-sake-of-hating zone. If you don’t like the game and aren’t interested in criticism of it don’t roll up in here telling me about how it’s awful, I’m awful, and especially not how Final Fantasy is dead. We’ve already covered that ground. So my rule is: if you’re going to read/comment on this, do me the favor of backing your assertions up with examples instead of inarguable affective things like “it’s awful.”

Right. Ground rules set, let’s begin. Spoilers for FF13 and FF13-2 follow: (more…)

So, this semester I’m teaching a course on “Game Design for Expression.” It’s really more of a class on how students — especially students with no technology or game background — can make small, personal games. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of guest speakers willing to talk about their work, including Mattie Brice, Samantha Allen, and most recently, Will O’Neill, the creator of Actual Sunlight.

That game, like Depression Quest, is one that I deeply respected based on what I’d heard about it, but in the end couldn’t play, because I wasn’t in an emotional place where doing so would have been healthy. But I assigned it for my students this semester to play and discuss because I thought they would get a great lesson out of doing so. And because I’m their professor, I had to play it too, which I finally sat down to do on Tuesday night to be ready for Wednesday’s class.

This post is the story of how that went. Insofar as Actual Sunlight can be spoiled, this post will have them.

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I had a brief conversation with Kris Ligman this evening about the Game Church, which led to me reading an interview they did with Steve Gaynor of Fullbright about Gone Home. In reading it, I had what the kids are calling “some feels” and while it won’t make a very long blog post (sorry America), it’s too longform for Twitter, and thus I resort to writing what should be a pretty short blog post.

As I am endeavoring to protect people from GH spoilers as far as I can, the rest comes after the cut:

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So Polygon reviewed DuckTales Remastered and then Twitter got ahold of it and, you know, stuff has happened. Since I’m trying to keep in the habit of blogging, I figured I’d write something about it, especially after I had an extended convo with Matt Bremner about it on Twitter earlier. Matt was pretty unhappy with the review, and on a few of the points he brings up I am totally with him on not being happy with the review. Of course on a few other points I differ, and that feeling of division is writ pretty large in the comments section of that review where nobody can make up their minds about anything other than the people on the other side being jerks.

But I feel like my now-boring-to-everyone battle with the death of Final Fantasy is orthogonal to what I have lovingly termed “Ducknado” because they both seem to deal with this notion of console nostalgia, what it does to us as consumers and to the industry as producers, and both its perils and its promise. If you want the short version, I’m scared that nostalgia is going to make DT:R “immune” to legitimate critique in the eyes of many, which is a dangerous place to be. If you want the long story, then check out what I’ve got to say after the cut.

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Okay so Project X Zone (the ‘x’ is read ‘cross,’ as is common in Japanese pop culture loanword-ing) is coming out soon. In fact you can download a demo of it for the 3DS off the Nintendo e-Shop (handy link to a page with a QR code to jump right to it).

Now, I am really excited for the game, but that’s because I’ve (as of now) played everything in its development “pedigree” that Monolith Soft (also the people behind the Xenosaga games and Xenoblade Chronicles) has made. And as I have said before in other venues (such as the latest episode of Gayme Bar) I have a very high tolerance for JRPG nonsense. So there’s that. But I feel like PXZ is actually the end result of Monolith refining their system and approach over 4 very similar games, and having played them, I wanted to talk a little bit about it. At least one person said they’d like to read that, so here it is. (more…)

Right, so Aevee Bee wrote a very interesting short blog post on “The Case for Never Talking About AAA Games.” I read it and I think in many ways she is spot on, but there’s a couple of places where I disagree, and have been urged to do so by various Twitterati I am going to attempt to get them down in succinct and short order.

Be warned you will probably be mad at me after this post.

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I know I probably shouldn’t but I’m going to write a thing on Bioshock Infinite since I played it all the way through, and a theme in the game has been gnawing at me. It doesn’t hurt that the theme now has echoes/resonances in other arguments going on among the beautiful people of gaming criticism, who thankfully will never know this post exists. ANYHOW.

Since there are obvious spoilers for the game (and a few for Tomb Raider, FYI), out of courtesy the rest of this post is behind the cut.

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