Ethical Gamer: Undertale

That’s it. I’m doing the big one. The one I’ve been waiting to talk about for a long time.

But, I’m going back on my word — in the last installment of Ethical Gamer, I said I was going to have a bad time. Couldn’t do it. Not sorry.

There are a number of reasons why I couldn’t, but the biggest reason is, there’s a meta-narrative woven into the texture of the game that works in such a way that I can’t bring myself to actually press that reset button.

This game is impossible to discuss from a morality standpoint without heavy, HEAVY spoiling. If you haven’t played it, it’s $10, it’ll take you about 10 hrs to play through to the “good ending”, and longer if you decide you want to also see the “bad ending”. And it is worth literally every penny, I swear to you. If you are a video gamer of at least the SNES era, this is aimed square at you — you are its target audience, and it’s a love letter to everything you love about video games. But the why of it all, I honestly can’t tell you without spoiling the game, so I’ll be doing this below the fold.

Fair warning. Don’t click here if you haven’t played it.

THIS ESPECIALLY MEANS YOU, LUX. Do NOT click! Ah, ah, I saw that! Go finish your Lux Play instead.

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Ethical Gamer: Undertale

Sorting your video game preferences

Can’t deal with all the news of the past few days. So instead, I’m taking online quizzes and distracting myself with my self care regimen of video game consumption.

Sorting 100+ games in order of preference is no easy task, but it can be done with some perseverance. Go here for the quiz. My results below the fold. The top 20 are not surprising at all. I’d maybe sort some of the ties, of course, but the results are really uncanny otherwise.

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Sorting your video game preferences

How to survive Fallout

Our friend Dr Raychelle Burks features in this video about the science behind the lore of Fallout. Considering I just wandered back into the wasteland myself, I shall take careful notes!

How would we ACTUALLY survive a nuclear apocalypse? Well, certainly not by eating the meat of every mutated creature you kill, and every can we find of two hundred year old CRAM Processed Ham Product.

How to survive Fallout

Ethical Gamer: Axiom Verge

I love retraversal games — games where, as you explore and gain powers, new areas open up. Metroid, and later Castlevania, refined the genre to an exceedingly high degree. Knowing that this indie game Axiom Verge, was made by one lonely dev named Tom Happ — including the incredibly atmospheric Geiger-like graphics and Metroid-influenced music — I should be fairly lenient on the parts of the game that I found to be less polished. I can’t help but fixate on some of them, though. They were few and far between, but there were several moments that seriously took me out of the game.

Huge spoiler warning for Axiom Verge. Can’t be helped, though.

(Notice how people won’t freak out about a spoiler warning, but might about a trigger warning? Yeah, that’s not lost on me either.)

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Ethical Gamer: Axiom Verge

Tony Hawk 5 is a disaster on four wheels

In fairness, I haven’t played it (ergo why this is not an Ethical Gamer post — that’s only for games I’ve actually played). I don’t know how prevalent these bugs are. But from all accounts, the physics engine in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 is a complete mess. Never mind the graphical aesthetic, which is like if you took a photograph and tried to cell shade it, then make all the objects more pointy so they’d work in a last-gen rendering engine — I can get over a weird set of graphical choices and a blocky art direction and even, horror upon horrors, a frame rate under 60fps. What I can’t forgive, though, is a giant price tag on a triple-A release from a venerated game franchise like Tony Hawk that looks, well, like this. I mean, just look at this nonsense.

Also strangely, the game shipped with 4.6 gigs on disc, and its day one patch was 7.8 gigs. Generally, these are to patch bugs that have been discovered since the disc shipped, though some conspiracy-minded folks seem to think it’s to keep people from shipping a game early. By some accounts, the only things that were playable pre-patch were the tutorial and the editor mode; others say, the game is fully playable without the patch. Either way, the physics is apparently still a wreck even with all the patches. AND, to make matters worse, it shipped without ever sending review copies to reviewers — a move widely recognized as an admission that they knew it was a mess internally before shipping. Remember when Hollywood tried to tell us that texting during movies was responsible for their poor showing? Seriously, Hollywood tried to blame viewers’ ability to rapidly warn away their friends for Gigli’s flop, because if it weren’t for all those easily-accessible reviews, nobody would know the movie sucked and they’d have been able to grift more people.

Of course, SINCE early reviews aren’t accessible for THPS5, more people like me who remember the franchise fondly would be willing to pre-order or buy this on launch only to find a buggy mess that downloads patches that almost double the shipped disc. Tell me this — which is more unethical, being a woman indie dev who didn’t have sex with a game journalist? Or being a big company selling a grossly broken product for a gigantic fistful of cash? Cross-reference Batman: Arkham Knight on the PC, or Assassin’s Creed: Unity everywhere.

Also of note is that Penny Arcade is now decrying criticizing a medium that you love, where once they argued the exact opposite. They are rapidly descending into a spiral that will inevitably land them in the cesspool of other reactionary right-wingers who just hate, hate, HATE that anyone could possibly think anything’s actually fundamentally wrong with their beloved medium, or, say, with themselves, like with their own Dick Wolves nonsense. (Trigger warnings galore if you decide to Google that shit. Just don’t.)

I’m kinda heartbroken that my childhood memories of Tony Hawk Pro Skater were so, so much better, less glitchy, and — compared to its contemporaries — competitive graphically than what passes for a $70 game today. But, I wasn’t planning on buying this before — and I’m definitely not going to now.

The Forbes article, incidentally, quotes liberally from our good friend Tauriq Moosa‘s twitter account, which, while you should definitely follow because Tauriq is awesome, I’m sure isn’t being written for Forbes’ benefit.

Tony Hawk 5 is a disaster on four wheels

Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy

(Content note: ableism, slimepitter and GamerGate bullshit.)

Gotta discuss some housekeeping first. Skip to the fold for the review if you’d prefer.

While I didn’t exactly go looking for it, incoming traffic on my post eventually clued me in to this thread on KotakuInAction (CW: transantagonism within the first few comments — this is Reddit, and a GamerGate forum on Reddit no less, so it’s bound to be awful, right?) announcing my first Ethical Gamer post reviewing Mercenary Kings. The thread contains people simultaneously decrying Freethought Blogs and me as being unethical, expressing outrage that a Skeleton Warrior could possibly play video games and want to review them from a social justice perspective, and, strangely enough, comments lauding my outright expressing my biases up front. A few of them even calmly point out that most of my problems actually came from Mercenary Kings controlling poorly and becoming stale way too quickly. Judging by the name, the thrust of the original post and subsequent comments, the person posting it to that subreddit is clearly a slimepitter well versed in Freethought Blogs’ history and their mythologies about us, so it’s replete with the sort of Googlebombing of character assassination you have likely come to expect from their ilk.

It’s one of those Big Lie situations where they repeat any slander they can about a person as often as possible and to as many audiences as possible, to poison the well against us potentially being right about their rubbish ideologies. The goal, naturally, is to get the fence-sitters and people on the sidelines, to destroy the credibility of anyone who might present a valid criticism of their philosophy. And of course, to achieve its goals, it’s full of the least charitable interpretations of a bunch of things I’ve freely and under no duress discussed about my own past, about what shaped me into the person I am today and what gave me my ethical compass, misinterpreting and reinterpreting these events in order to paint a funhouse mirror distortion of me that hopefully someone might get outraged about because, you know, I’m Fair Game for being a Feminist Suppressive Person on the internet. Because, you know, Freeze Peach for thee but not for me? It’s a bit funny that a Slimepitter tried to sic Gamergate on me as His Personal Army, thinking he’d get sympathy because I dared use the phrase “ethical gamer” as my name, and most of them wouldn’t take the bait. It’s a bit difficult to tank for their more vulnerable targets when not even the slimers hoping to sic them on me can convince them my Threat is higher than, say, Anita Sarkeesian. Oh well.

The reason I named my series what I did is actually quite simple, and it has to do with ethics as a concept — especially, as a concept that right-wing reactionaries do not have a grasp on. Ethics is about having a sense of right and wrong that goes beyond simply what is within the laws or customs of society, about more than preserving the status quo for people like you. Good ethics requires empathy to work at all. Having good ethics means attempting to maximize good for as many people as possible — it’s about more than just revealing your personal biases or keeping liberal political statements out of video games, as the Gamergate narrative goes. It’s certainly not about getting revenge on a woman who dumped someone you’re sympathetic with, especially not by lying to everyone repeatedly to maximize her pain. It’s about looking out for the people who are traditionally disadvantaged, trying to make sure everybody gets a fair deal out of a transaction — especially when those traditionally disadvantaged folks are being stomped on for no good reason by a medium that’s actually just supposed to be about fun and pleasure. That’s why I started this feature, and why it has the focus it does.

The thread is, naturally, also replete with misinformation about this effort, like that I’m getting any money for reviewing anything. I’m not. I am lucky some months to break two digits in ad revenue for the whole blog, since my flow of content is down to a trickle for the past year-ish — my last cut of ad revenue was ten dollars and some change. These two (now three) posts are an infinitessimal fraction of that total traffic and ad revenue, so you can take that unevidenced rationale for my focus and cram it. I am also not getting review copies of any video games, unlike most of Gamergate’s favorite Youtube vloggers, nor am I affiliated with any of the games I review, like TotalBiscuit, another Gamergate favorite. (Meaning, of course, these actions are perfectly acceptable when they’re done by antifeminists and Gamergate sympathizers. Shocking that they might be tribal, right!?) And in the event that I AM affiliated with a game, I will either abstain from reviewing it, or make that affiliation plain as day. I don’t pretend I hold much sway, but if I’m too close to a topic, I can recuse myself.

I buy these games on my own, with my own hard-earned cash, usually through Humble Bundle purchases. I review them from my own personal perspective, which, since I’ve been blogging for almost ten years, you folks should know pretty well by now if you’ve got the same sort of longevity in readership as I have in authorship. I do it entirely for fun, to tell you about games that I enjoyed or games that I did not, and to discuss aspects of them that I might have found problematic. Further, I do it entirely recognizing — unlike some people — that it is perfectly possible to enjoy a game even if you dislike some bit of pernicious sexism or racism or what-have-you within it. It is also possible to criticize that aspect of a game without wanting to destroy an entire industry (see the preamble to every single Feminist Frequency video, which of course these folks ignore as well). And most importantly to me at least, I’ve stuck to only reviewing games thus far that are playable on Linux, because I’m a huge open source nerd and I’d like to make sure those games that are playable on Linux get a fair shot at being reviewed and treated as being worth your attention.

Having stumbled upon that post reminded me to complete this review of Rogue Legacy and post it.

I’m going to pull a Psycho Mantis on you and read your memory card. So, I see you like Castlevania. You also like platformers generally. RPGs, yes, yes. Roguelike games too? Excellent. Here’s a game that you might find right up your alley: Rogue Legacy. Plug your controller into port 2 and join me below the fold.
Continue reading “Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy”

Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy

Illustrating male gaze in Metal Gear Solid V

It’s extraordinarily apparent in Metal Gear Solid that the camera treats different characters differently. Quiet is an exceptionally objectified character — not just because she’s scantily clad, but because she’s very much treated as a fetish object in a number of scenes. Some enterprising individuals took the PC version of the game and swapped Revolver Ocelot’s and Quiet’s character models, so that the game treats Ocelot’s model the way it ordinarily treats Quiet’s. It’s very telling.

And that’s not even to discuss Quiet’s origins, that she’s basically a plant who absorbs light and nutrients and water and air through her skin, and that putting clothing on her effectively suffocates her — never mind that her taking a shower should be akin to drowning, as a result. The supernatural elements (explained by a parasite) are there to justify having a bikini babe in the game who’s set up to have sensual showers in front of people on more than one occasion.

This is, of course, a secret cutscene, available only if you spend three days in a dumpster and have a full bond level with Quiet.

Illustrating male gaze in Metal Gear Solid V

Zelda 2 Livestream, Day 2 #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon

Part 2! Last time I got as far as beating Ocean Palace, obtaining the flute, and am on my way to Hidden Temple. I’ve done all the grinding I can in the game, which means it’s all pure skill from here on out. I’ve got about a third of the game left to do — the two biggest, hardest palaces in the game are all that’s left between me and victory.

The rules are: no cheats, no glitches, just pure old-school skill and a walkthrough so you don’t have to watch me flounder about. To save me from disasters I’ll occasionally use save states, but I won’t abuse them and won’t load any if I can help it.

Starts at 10 sharp!

Watch live video from Lousycanuck on

Zelda 2 Livestream, Day 2 #DIYSciZone #GGC2015 #GeekGirlCon