Let It Snow! 10 Wintry Scenes to Celebrate the Season

Mass Effect
[Art by Matt Rhodes.]
It’s officially the holiday season, and some parts of the world are experiencing colder weather. For those of you who don’t want to brave the outdoors (or who live somewhere that doesn’t have chilly weather), here are a few of the best, but coldest video game environments. It also doesn’t hurt that many of them may help gamers get into the spirit of the season!

Noveria, Mass Effect

Noveria is the location for one of the main story missions in Mass Effect. When you arrive, the normally chilly planet is in the middle of an ice/snow storm. Frankly, it’s one of the most effective “cold” planets I’ve ever had the joy of playing in. When you are outside, the planet is loud, windy, and covered in snow and ice. Inside doesn’t seem much better, though. There are windows in almost every major location showing you the frozen wasteland outside. Not only that, but the lighting is dark and mostly blues, giving the feeling of being cold even inside. Bundle up before you take your crew to this planet.

Repugia, Costume Quest

“Grubbins on Ice” is the Christmas-themed DLC for Costume Quest. In it, the kids visit a world inhabited by the monsters from the main game, Repugia. The title of the DLC should give you a hint as to what to expect—Repugia is cold. The entire world is made up of snow and ice, and even introduces a few winter-themed enemies and challenges.

Continue reading “Let It Snow! 10 Wintry Scenes to Celebrate the Season”

Push to Talk: When Gaming Online as a Woman Basically Guarantees Harassment

League of Legends

When I first held a controller in my hands, I felt such a rush of excitement as I stared at the Nintendo GameCube accessory, its large triggers and buttons gleaming brightly. Mashing those buttons while playing Mario Kart or Mario Party 6 was mind-blowing for five-year-old Shel. Then, something absolutely magical happened: I got a second controller.

I’m pretty sure I invited my elementary friends at least three times a week. We’d sit on my tattered couch in front of a tiny TV screen as Mario and the rest of his friends dashed through race courses, throwing banana peels and shells. My aunt would occasionally join in on the fun. I spent many hours on that couch with friends. My mom would sometimes get out an old video camera and record me playing with friends or by myself. Looking back, I was a terrible driver. It was always the bombs and banana peels that got me.

Now, however, things have changed.

With each new generation of consoles, the relationship between the internet and gaming has grown exponentially. We can now record our gameplay right from our console and upload it to Twitter, YouTube, and other media sites. Online gaming has also grown, going from simple two-player to four-player to large parties of friends and strangers having a good time slaying dragons and hoarding gold. Here’s where the problems arise. “Mainstream” online gaming—or at least what the majority imagines when they hear “online gaming”—consists of a bunch of men with headphones playing World of Warcraft or League of Legends. Now, what happens when you add a woman or two into the picture?

Continue reading “Push to Talk: When Gaming Online as a Woman Basically Guarantees Harassment”

Party Camp: Celebrating Earth Day By Sharing Our Favorite In-Game Maps

Myst III: Exile

It’s Earth Day! That means, of course, that we’ll be waxing lyrical about our favorite in-game maps. From sprawling, lush woodlands to the wide open sea, exploration can be one of the most rewarding experiences when playing a new game. These maps stay with us long after we’ve powered down our preferred system, and often, returning to these digital worlds is like returning to a second home. You can almost taste the salty sea air just hearing the well-loved refrain from the original soundtrack. If you explore these places for long enough, you just might learn more about yourself than merely which direction to walk in. Naturally, I put the question to our writers—and they shared what maps inspired their exploration and shaped their gameplay experience. What about you? Tell us the game that changed your perception of exploration!

Mir ()

My favorite world comes from one of my favorite games as a child, Myst III: Exile. One of the first worlds you can go to is Edanna, a small place created to impart a lesson on its visitors. From the outside, Edanna looks very blank: it’s a massive, hollowed tree trunk that’s isolated in the sea. But inside, it teems with life, and all of it interacts together to let you go from the top of the trunk—a canopy with colorful birds and flowers that spread heat—all the way to the bottom, where things get very dark, and most plants reflect light or conserve water. Everything spirals downward sharply, so each progressive level gets larger and darker as you get closer to the roots of the tree. The only way down is by understanding the plants and animals around you: you need to use some plants as stairs, others to bend light through dark areas and open up pathways, a few will help you bring water down the tree, et cetera.

The only way to finish the Age is by freeing a trapped mother bird so that she can return to her nest back on the canopy. In exchange, she’ll help you leave so that you can continue with the story. The vertical map design makes progress very linear, but with plants taking the role that technology often does in other games, you’re encouraged and rewarded for experimenting with all of the plants, and seeing how they connect together. Without having any written tutorials, the gameplay in Edanna helps you to learn the Age’s lesson: “Nature encourages mutual dependence.” You are barred from progressing unless you interact with and understand this world around you. 

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There & Back Again: A Survivor’s Journey Through Video Game Culture

[Screenshot by Kit.]
[Screenshot by Kit.]

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, but I remember getting the PlayStation. The first game my older brother and I played on it was Tekken, and I immediately kicked his ass with my invincible six-year-old button-mashing skills. I quickly moved on to cuter games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and let me tell you, those games were my jam. Growing up, the less “realistic” the game, the more time I was going to put into it. The type of gaming I did as a kid was pretty much the type of gaming I do now: I preferred my enemies disappearing in a puff of smoke to excessive violence and gore. Occasionally, I’d play fighting and racing games with my brother or we’d team up in more violent games like Future Cop: LAPD, but I spent most of my time with Crash and Klonoa. I only felt comfortable with more violent games if my brother was there. He would fight boss battles for me because I found them to be stressful and upsetting, which defeated the purpose of gaming for me completely.

Gaming was more than entertainment: it was an escape from reality. My brother and I used video games as a coping strategy and distraction from our lives where we felt helpless. Our abusive father both provided this escapism and the reason we needed it in the first place. My brother played more aggressive games to express his frustrations while my style was more lighthearted, but both of us were just looking for an outlet.

As I got older, the use of gaming as an escape became even more essential. My parents were going through a horrific divorce, and I was severely depressed. I spent most of my time sleeping, because when I was awake I felt completely powerless. The only game I played was The Sims, and I spent hours building a world in which I had control. I was obsessed with The Sims and played it every day until I was 14, when my brother acquired a closed beta account for World of Warcraft. I had watched him play Diablo and Warcraft and they hadn’t interested me, but he worked hard to convince me that this was something I would like, too. And he was right.

Continue reading “There & Back Again: A Survivor’s Journey Through Video Game Culture”

Out of Character: An Interview With Twitch Streamer Kaceytron

When I think of social media hearsay, I instantly recall the intro to the 2002 Missy Elliott banger “Gossip Folks.” Girl that is Missy Elliott she lost a lot of weight / Girl I heard she eats one cracker a day / Oh well I heard the bitch was married to Tim and started f***ng with Trina / I heard the bitch got hit with three zebras and a monkey / I can’t stand the bitch no way.

Kaceytron is a bespectacled, busty, and brash Twitch TV partner who has been a successful fixture of gaming live streams since early 2013. She’s known for playing League of Legends, acting out on stream, and interacting with her chat for several hours most days of the week, just like most well-known and well-established streamers. 

If you do a simple search for Kaceytron on Twitter, you may confuse the 24-year-old retail manager-turned-gaming entertainer with an evil harpy who is out to enslave poor innocent victims (men) with her indecent and impudent ways. Here is a small sampling of the Twitter direct mentions and indirect derisions I found during the past hour while writing this piece:

@kaceytron you say your carrying the team on cs…you can’t even open a door you fat slut never mind fit through one, #Cleavage4Views

“lol that camwhore kaceytron responded to me even though I didnt tag her. God damn what a disgusting slice of diseased pie. Fuck Outta Here”

“I can guarantee 95% of the people who watch her stream just come to hate and she deserves it all.”

What, exactly, is it about Kaceytron that so enflames and enrages some viewers? The people in her stream chat are outspoken in their endless love or seething hatred for her, and she responds to haters just as often as she responds to fans. Yes, she does display her ample cleavage on stream, however, Twitch only implemented a rule to keep streamers from appearing on camera fully nude or in lingerie. One reason they had to make this rule? Men and women were playing “strip poker” versions of games, flashing body parts for donations, or simply playing games casually — stark naked.

Continue reading “Out of Character: An Interview With Twitch Streamer Kaceytron”

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