Attack of the sleeping sexist: the corruption of the gaming industry

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In light of the recent attacks on female gamers, this article is a slightly exasperated reflection on the downright disturbing sexism and general misconduct that have been plaguing gaming culture for far too long.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – an adventure overlooked by many

Trip reflects on Andy Serkis and pyramids

Trip reflects on Andy Serkis and pyramids

My latest article puts the spotlight on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a game that never reached the fame it deserved. Read it here.

 

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Medusicah and 16bitkings, a love story.

I have rather randomly become a co-writer for 16bitkings and I would love for my followers to come with me as I will post my future articles on their website. I may still post the occasional rambling here, especially since journalism is still very new to me. Regardless, you can find my first contribution here.

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Quick flashback: Need for Speed Underground

I must admit, I’m not a racing car kind of gamer. I remember being coaxed into playing Colin McRae Rally when visiting my cousins (who actually do car racing for real although not at the insane speed used in video games I would hope) at a very young age and being beyond bad. On a side note I also remember how they got me to play Turok and as much as I loved dinosaurs it scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t until years later and a second-hand Gamecube (that I wanted in order to play Zelda) that I got into a car game properly. That game was Need for Speed Underground by EA (who are the publisher for the entire franchise I believe), released back in 2003. I’ve never played any other NFS games but I came to really enjoy the Underground series. It combined gorgeous scenery with a variety of racing modes. I built a ridiculous pink car and modded it up as much as I could and I can say with honesty (?) that I was pretty damn good at that game. At least that’s how I remember it.
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I have flashbacks of drifting like a pro and carefully gearing up when playing the shift mode. Well, not quite, but it takes some kind of precision to steer your car, break and accelerate in the exact right moment. I picked up a PS2 copy of both NFS Underground 1 and 2 quite a few years ago and today I woke up and felt a serious need to play the first game in the Underground series again. You get thrown into the game with a quick countdown and if you don’t start racing like a pro straight away you’re doomed. My first lap failed miserably because I didn’t even remember the controller settings, the second one had me ram into a tree pretty much straight away. I kept on banging into cars and fences and when I finally managed to take the lead on the final lap I then couldn’t make out where the directions pointed and drove in the wrong direction. It did not make me feel very clever. I found myself shout angrily at all the damn cars that kept on getting in my way. Why are we driving on streets occupied with non-racers? IT’S DANGEROUS! I despaired and had to take a break (brake?) and I made some coffee and calmed my nerves before I gave it another go. And lo and behold, I won! My brilliant racing skills introduced me to a blonde lady on the other side of the street, smiling seductively. I forgot how old school these games are. How racing and sexy girls used to be a thing. This realisation actually lead to me subjecting myself to some frightening encounters with old interviews from the time when NFSU was released but we’ll deal with that in another post. For now, enjoy this example of a super cool customized car:
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After that first race, which is actually a day dream, you start your genuine career and your new best pal Samantha  informs you that you need to have a serious think about your reputation and in order to do so you should really look into pampering your car. There are a multitude of rims, tail lights, decals and accessories that could potentially result in some serious street cred. The game is as much about pimping a ride as it is about working your way to the top. Oh, and you have quite a lot of rivals that you have to compete against. The main antagonist being Eddie who is not only a superb car driver but also quite a mean kid.
100px-Rsz_eddie_avatarLook at that smirk. Eddie knows he’s ultra cool and that you’re totally not.
 I still find myself enjoying the beautiful scenery and yes, I must admit that for a minute or so I did feel kind of cool when Rob Zombie, Fluke or Asian Dub Foundation was playing in the background and I finally took the lead. Then I remembered that there was a guy in the town where I grew up who used to cruise around in circles in town, playing one of the game’s most iconic songs “Get Low” on repeat. Then I mostly felt silly.
NFSU was never a groundbreaking or praised game in any way, I think that this quote (it’s from Wikipedia, don’t sue me) sums it up pretty much as it is: ‘The Official PlayStation 2 Magazine made much of the illegal nature of the gameplay. They praised the speed, but said that it was “at heart, just another driving game with added Hollywood sparkle“. NFSU is a pretty decent game to revisit should you ever feel the need for some racing that’s fairly effortless (despite my initial failure) and easy to get into. The graphics still work, the game mechanics are straight forward and it doesn’t require you to travel all over Skyrim to finish. It doesn’t get overly repetitive due to the different nature of the various challenges either. For me personally NFSU is mostly an entertaining flashback to the only racing game I’ve ever played properly and actually enjoyed, at least at the time. As a sidenote, everyone’s favourite Walter White’d out kid Jesse from Breaking Bad aka Aaron Paul recently starred in a Need for Speed movie. Yeah, there’s a movie too. And no, I will not be watching it.
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From confinement to freedom, Jesse’s road has been a long one but now he’s got a sexy car and he means BUSINESS.
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Dormant relays?

In relation to my recent ramblings about ME4 and the trilogy, here’s a snippet from an article written Matt Beaudette for Hardcoregamer.com 
The Citadel races are unwilling to risk activating new relays because of the possibility of stumbling upon undiscovered hostile species, which is how the Rachni Wars began 2000 years before the series began. If this game does in fact take place after the trilogy, part of the effort to rebuild the relay network could include activating dormant relays, which could have been undamaged by the crucible if they were offline when it fired. This is all speculation, but if these dormant relays are being activated for study they would most assuredly open up new regions of space within the Milky Way, regions untouched by the galactic community since at least the time of the Protheans, fifty thousand years ago.”
 
The dormant relays makes for an interesting theory, in fact, it would make a lot of sense. Read the rest of the article here.
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I should go

It’s not easy being Shepard, or Elsa from Frozen for that matter. Sometimes you just feel that you probably need to let it go. Alternatively, after having spoken to someone on the Normandy for quite some time; patiently listened to them open up and confide in you, you might find yourself a bit tired of all their talk or that you are out of options as for what to ask them next. At that time it’s probably best to tell them, like you often do: “I should go”.

This Mass Effect/Frozen parody by Andi Canterbury is hilarious and you need to listen to it:

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Mass Effect 4: what can we expect after Mass Effect 3’s ending?

At the moment GTA V has gone hipster, a huge amount of Assassin’s Creed fans are raging over Ubisoft’s lazy comments regarding the lack of women in Unity… And yet here I am, returning to one of my favourite topics of all time: Mass Effect. It is slightly more relevant than usual though because we were recently presented with the first ever trailer for Mass Effect 4! So, here we go…
In case you haven’t seen it yet
The ending to Mass Effect 3 caused a storm of (mostly) rage amongst the fans. Whereas a few could appreciate the endings from a slightly more philosophical view, most fans felt that they had been cheated. Tons of theories about what might be implicated with the endings stirred up almost overnight. Shepard was actually dead, Shepard had become indoctrinated, the final scenes were some kind of a dream. The indoctrination theory gained a lot of followers and some of the fans have gone to great lengths to provide evidence to support this theory, which is actually very interesting but not necessarily true. I’ve watched and read hours of worth of discussions and musing about the endings but I am still none the wiser. For me the issue lies in the fact that I succeeded with getting the geth and quarians to work together. I saw EDI transform into something else, to become truly unshackled. And that damned little kid still told me that unless I decided to play god and rewrite the future or completely destroy all technology, a future would not be possible.
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Shouldn’t the Catalyst and the Reapers have rejoiced because Shep showed that it ISpossible for organics and synthetics to live side by side? It made a lot of development in terms of plot and story moot, in fact, it was completely counteractive to the entire theme of the game (to overcome prejudice, to stand together, to learn from each other etc). “Without us to stop it, synthetics would destroy all organics.” Not quite, kiddo. I will probably never understand how the Catalyst pretty much overlooked every piece of evidence for the contrary. Was it simply set on carrying out the same solution it came up with when it was created? Why did it feel the need for such an extreme alternative when part of its desired future had already been partly conducted? Was the outcome of all three games simply dependant on an old fashioned creation stuck in its own comprehension of things? Or maybe the catalyst was a big damn liar and in that case all the information it offered was unnecessary and only served to create confusion. I should clarify that I don’t hate the endings, I simply think that they betrayed the general theme that made the trilogy so damn good.
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Anyway, I’m not actually here to talk about the endings today, I am here to talk about Mass Effect 4 and where it could possibly stand in terms of the time line and previous events of the ME-universe and furthermore what this might mean for many of the species and characters we encountered in the original trilogy.
The short and far from substantial trailer shown during this year’s E3 implied a new galaxy map, settings that showed clear evidence of destruction as well as seemingly untouched garden world (leaves… hmm). Oh and some prothean constructions at the very beginning. And then there was a pretty damn cool krogan roaring, which at least confirmed that the krogans will return (and I should hope so, Wrex and Bakara had babies!). From the look of it the playable race will yet again be human but it’s too early to say for sure if we won’t be able to explore the galaxies as turians, asari or any other of the species that we encountered in the trilogy (wouldn’t it be pretty hilarious to be a volus? Maybe that’s just me).

Volus

It’s all about the shield boost
I found the ruins and chunks of destroyed ships the most interesting part of the trailer due to one of the massive results of the ending of the trilogy: the destruction of the mass relays.  This was one of the things that made a lot of fans react negatively to the ending of a much beloved franchise. It was implied that all the characters we loved and many of the species that we had grown attached to were now facing a reality where they were completely stuck in the systems they happened to be in when the relays exploded. For example, this would have had a serious impact on the turians and quarians helping earth, seeing as they most probably wouldn’t be able to survive due to their biological composition dependant on dextro-amino acid food. And what about the Normandy crew? Sure, the untouched garden planet that we saw in the last scenes looked beautiful but would Garrus be able to survive there? Would Tali? If the crew would be stuck there, what on earth would they do to survive? Or was this the retreat destination that Hackett ordered Joker to return to? Am I asking too many questions? What matters is that in all endings the relays were destroyed, leaving a massive impact on the future of many species in of the Mass Effect universe.
tumblr_n6x1otBFpf1rm7sbeo8_500This particular krogan appears to be very angry because of all the destruction
 Furthermore, the relays were reaper tech; ancient but advanced technology that allowed the species of the ME-universe to evolve and come together. If the future of a connected universe will make sense or even be possible, the creation of new relays would be paramount. And if we’re talking logic it would probably take a very long time to build new relays or similar tech that would allow interstellar space travel again. What would happen to the species stuck where they were when the relays were destroyed? The only plausible theory would be if the synthesis or control ending was canon and the now friendly reapers would be able to create new relays but Bioware has stated that the destruction ending is canon (and therefore… Shepard lives but everything else has kind of gone to hell). I can see the idea of exploring the galaxy again after building some new kind of relay system as an interesting backdrop to ME4 but in that case we’re talking about a future far, far away from where we left ME3. Although maybe we need to take Hackett’s final words completely literally: the relays were ‘severely’ but perhaps not completely damaged and yes, we WILL rebuild everything. Also, as a side note, where was this rendezvous point that Hackett mentioned? Is it important (probably not)? So many questions!

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Perhaps a more interesting question is what we’ll see in terms of synthetics and technology. In the Destroy ending the geth and EDI were destroyed. Presumably all kind of tech similar to the geth and unshackled intelligences such as EDI have been completely eradicated. What about VI:s? There are tons of VI:s and fairly intelligent machines present in the trilogy, presumably all that kind of tech would have been rendered useless. Then again, schematics would still exist and yes, yes, Hackett is probably right here too- everything can be rebuilt. It would still make for a very interesting change though; to move on into a universe where all species would have to reinvent and naturally improve (thus driving the ghost of all Reapers insane). Whereas ME4 might take place in a very distant future where tech would probably be amazing again it would still be fascinating to see how things would have changed. Would the creation of AI:s still be prohibited? If canon states that the geth and the quarians joined together then what would the quarian stance be to the creation of AI:s? Maybe thinking that they would try to recreate the geth is a bit farfetched but because of their inclination for technology the quarians would be paramount in rebuilding or creating new relays (unless most of them got stuck in Earth’s orbit and died. Oh god). I suppose caution would still be in place but it’s certainly interesting to think about the synthetics and their role in a post-ME3 universe. One of the major things about the ME4 trailer is that there will be new places to explore, this might indicate that a new type of technology hasbeen created that allows for further exploration. Similarly to how technology would have to be recreated there must be some emphasis on how the species involved in the Reaper attack fared afterwards.

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I spy,  I spy with my little eye an N7 logo
Other examples of interesting topics are intergalactic politics, will there ever be another Blasto movie? Are we going to see any new species? I digress. There’s just so much to play with here, so many interesting questions. Will the game take place in the time of the last scene where THE Shepard has become the ultimate space Jesus? Will there be Shepard statues all over London?
Sidenote: if anyone knows where the Shep vs Catalyst picture is from, please let me know! It’s fantastic!
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