PAX East Day 3

This was my third year at PAX East, but it was the first time I’d been able to stay for all three days.  The first year I had a three day pass, but commuted and was exhausted by Sunday.  Last year we only had Friday and Saturday passes, and Sunday was Easter anyway.  This year we had a nearby hotel and three day passes and believe me, we took full advantage of it!

MLHawke’s husband drove down to meet us, and brought along Bard’s sister.  I didn’t do a cosplay, but after two full days in costume it felt nice to wear jeans and a t-shirt (and my snazzy new N7 jacket) and just my normal hair and makeup!

Bard and I met up with his sister; MLHawke was in line for the Elder Scrolls Online demo, but from the point she was at, it was a 3 hour wait.  She wound up getting out of line, and she and her husband went to wait for the Education Gamification panel (since he’s a teacher, and her job involves a lot of classroom/curriculum work).  I wandered around with Bard and his sister for a bit, then joined MLHawke for the panel.  I’d gone to the games and education panel on Friday, and this one was also awesome.  It gave me some incredible ideas and links for resources.  I left inspired to roll out an experimental learning model to my classes.  More on that later though.

Sunday’s panels were a little sparse for me; I didn’t really have much I wanted to do.  Bard and I knew we wanted to paint miniatures again, so we put our names on the 2-hour waitlist, then headed to a panel done by OC Remix.  He and his sister are really into them, so it was nice to see them really enjoy the panel.  I found it interesting for certain; I love when things are mixed up and done in different genres and such.  We got back and did our mini painting.  Bard, myself, and his sister all painted minis of our current D&D characters.  My bard, Indiana Jenn, is a human and an archer who occasionally pulls out a rapier, so I picked the archer figurine (even though it looked a touch elven).  Bard’s a fighter and his sister is a sorceress.  MLHawke, her husband, and one of our friends came over, but the wait was another two hours and by then it was nearly four o’clock.

IMG_0283

Most of the last couple hours was spent in classic console, chilling with our friend Ted and charging my phone.  The day wasn’t quite over, but I was already starting to feel withdrawal symptoms.  I kept trying to think about my new ideas to roll out at school the next day, rather than the drive home, or the amount of laundry I was going to have to do.  The last day was relaxing, but at the same time it was a slight downer because there was none of the crazy excitement of the first two days.  No, that won’t be my incentive to make three separate cosplays for next year, however.  I think it was the knowing it was ending; we’d had two days full days of complete awesomeness.  This day was also awesome, but there was the knowledge that we would have to be leaving.

However, when we did go to leave, we found that though we were done with PAX, it wasn’t done with us!  My car battery was dead!  We ended up being delayed about 45 minutes while we waited for AAA and let my engine run and recharge the battery.  By the time we finally got back home it was about 9 and we were exhausted.  Neither of us (nor our companions for the weekend) took Monday off, so collapsing into bed was met with the knowledge that the alarm was going off in mere hours, marking our return to the real world.

Of course, the return to the “real world” means the onset of post-PAX withdrawal.  Withdrawal is pretty common after any con, from what I’ve heard (and felt after things like PAX and ICON).  You go nearly nonstop for a whole weekend, set apart in a world of people who mostly think like you and have the same interests as you.  You see amazing things and make new friends.  You learn new information.  You want to burst with excitement from it all… and then it’s back to jobs and classes and people who don’t always feel the same way about these things.  Oh, and the con-cold.  I’ve kind of been fighting something off since the Sunday of PAX, but thanks to vitamin C, rest, and fluids, it’s not really turning into much.  Still, it’s a reminder that I had such an awesome weekend my body wants to punish me.  Hehe.

PAXGroupShot

While Day 3 was a lot more relaxed and low-key, and there was much more sitting around, it was still a good day.  I got that one last day to wander aimlessly and see the show floor and experience it with Bard’s sister at her first ever PAX.  She really had a good time, which is awesome.  Our PAX contingent is growing!  And the nice thing is I left not only with some great merchandise and awesome swag, but also with knowledge of a new model for my classroom.

The event may have ended on Sunday, but the lessons from this year’s PAX East will carry through for far longer.  Now it’s onto thinking about next year’s PAX East.  And of course, the costumes!

Advertisements

PAX East Day 2: or, on being a fan

PAX East is always awesome; from the demos to the panels, and everything else, it’s just awesome to be a fan of gaming surrounded by thousands of other similarly-minded individuals.  Day 2 of this year’s PAX, however, truly drove home how awesome it is to be a fan who is deeply passionate about something.

First off, today was the day of the BioWare costume contest, so Bard and I donned our matching Jowan and Lily (from the mage origin in Dragon Age Origins) cosplays:

jowanlily

paircostume

We wanted to head over to see PopCap as well; they’d just released the mobile Solitaire Blitz app, and it was the one year “splashy-versary” of the game, so we wanted to show off our Otis the worm plushie.

I was initially going to go to a panel about showing off your love of gaming in real life.  But… I already do that.  A lot.  So instead I headed down to the show floor to meet up with MLHawke, who was in line with our friend Amanda for Assassin’s Creed 4. I wasn’t too interested in seeing it, but the booth did have a free photo stage.  Chantry sister plus coffee plus pirate gun equals a little crazy!  Next I was going to hit a panel about geeks and crafting, but since I do a lot of that anyway, I decided I’d go to the BioWare panel about The World of Thedas.

It was a good talk, and makes me even more excited to get the book; Dragon Age has such a deep, richly detailed world that something like this was a long time coming.  I’ve done my share of scouring lore and codex entries and writing my own analytical pieces about it, so having a definitive work from the developers themselves will be an excellent resource.  And it’s only volume 1!  When the panel was over I hung out a little talking with some other fans, and got to meet and speak with Sheila of the cosplay duo Aicosu. Her tutorials on makeup and wigs were extremely helpful, particularly with Day 1’s Serana costume.  She was extremely nice, and after viewing and admiring her cosplays it was awesome to stop and say hello.  Plus, her Dishonored cosplays were incredible.

Bard and I had time to kill, so we headed back to the show floor with Otis.  The PopCap carnival booth was in full swing, but we found a marketing person who loved Otis and actually called out the Solitaire Blitz community manager!  Tara came out to see Otis and absolutely LOVED him!  We explained how we loved how cute he is in all his little outfits, and how we were hoping to have a chance to show him off.  And yes, we’d downloaded the app the previous day!  She took pictures of him to show at the office, then handed us Solitaire Blitz card decks and Energy Eel energy shots.  Later on we found out she’d told people it was the highlight of her weekend.  That made me so happy to hear, because I’d really enjoyed making Otis back in the summer, and being able to bring him by the PopCap station was a lot of fun.

IMG_0232

We headed back to the hotel for some light costume repair, then it was over to the BioWare base for the Dragon Age signings and costume contest! We weren’t too far back in line, but as we were waiting, Chris Priestly, a community manager, spied our DA costumes and invited us to jump the line and go in early.  I love how much BioWare understands its fanbase, and appreciates things like cosplays.  We hung out for a bit; I was able to get a signed postcard from Raphael Sbarge, who voiced Kaiden Alenko in Mass Effect.

When the DA developers came back, I got in line to get my DA2 game signed (got DA:O ultimate edition signed last year) and scored a hard copy of “Asunder”, last year’s DA novel.  They commented on my Chantry outfit, and I was able to explain how, because of DA, Bard and I met.  (Long story short, I played DA, got obsessed, joined a Facebook community, met MLHawke, who then introduced me to Bard).  It was nice to be able to share with them what the game meant, not just as a game, but as something that helped as a catalyst for the most important thing in my life.

The costume contest started a short while later.  Let me tell you, there are some VERY talented people out there!  What they are able to accomplish, and how they are able to bring the game to life, is amazing.  I was and still am impressed by how many people make the Shepard N7 armor from Mass Effect; it’s a difficult costume to pull off, requires a lot of material, and is multipart.  And that’s just the armor; never mind if you want to add on weapons, which most do for accuracy.  LOTS of amazing Shepards were there, as were quite a few Asari!  I’m also an admirer of Asari cosplayers, because not only do you have the armor issue (if you’re going that route) but then you have the headpieces and makeup.

There weren’t many Dragon Age cosplayers; maybe only four of us or so.  There was me and Bard of course, but then two Wardens in the blue armor uniform introduced in DA2.  One was my friend Gabby, whose armor is amazing!  The scale work, hand riveting on the shrug, and overall attention to details is great (even down to a leather belt case for her iPhone!) And she even had the rose from Alistair.   She looked like she could have just stepped right out of the game.

When it got to us we got to tell the judges (and a room full of people) that we’d met through a friend I’d only met because of DA, and that we were getting married in four months.  And yes, we’d turn out better than Jowan and Lily did!  We got lots of applause and commentary on our costumes (including a note on the paisley fabric I’d found for Jowan’s sleeves) and then went on our way to see the rest of the cosplay.  We scored N7 jackets from Mass Effect for our participation!  THAT was awesome.  Then came the judging.

In a room full of such excellent, well-crafted costumes made by so many talented people (and I will tell you that most all of them make these things themselves) I didn’t expect to win anything, which was fine.  Being in the contest and having the new jacket was awesome enough.  But BioWare took it a step further.  Before announcing the winners they called up the “Dragon Age couple”.  They gave us the two hardcover comics, a deck of Dragon Age cards, and a Flemeth dragon statue as “an early wedding present from BioWare”!  I was floored!  We went to show our appreciation for their games, and then they turned it around for us.  We got pictures with Chris Priestly at the photobooth, who then tweeted them immediately; when I tweeted a thank you for making our day so special he replied!  They truly know how to treat fans and make us feel appreciated; there are so many things they don’t have to do, but do anyway, so thank you BioWare again for making our day beyond special; Amanda later said that it was “transcendent”.  And to top it all off, there was a four-way tie for the contest, but Gabby’s Warden armor took the grand prize!

JowanAndLily1

IMG_0247

Then it was back to the hotel to get changed; after two days in costume it felt good to kick back in jeans and a t-shirt, and my new jacket of course! Bard was in the Tetris Attack tournament, defending his gold medal from last year.  It was a smaller group, and missing some of the guys from last year, but Ted was there attacking away.  The first few rounds went as expected, but toward the end things got intense.  Ted wound up losing to someone, and Bard lost two matches because his opponent psyched him out.  He got back on track though, and won his match, then went up against Ted’s defeater.  It was intensive, but in the end Bard pulled off another victory and got another gold medal to clank against the one he got last year.

When all was said and done, it was almost a dreamlike day at PAX East.  If a day could be perfect, day 2 may have been it.  It was extremely validating as a crafter, cosplayer, and all around fan.  PopCap and BioWare made my weekend, and I was glad I got to share it with Bard, MLHawke, and Amanda (for whom it was a first PAX experience).  Up next, Day 3, or how everything I know about doing my job is about to change!

PAX East 2013, Part 1

IMG_0256

This was my third time at PAX East.  Each year it’s different for me: in 2011 I drove down each day, I was singlemost , and went alone because hey, PAX East, why not!  I loved it and it was amazing, and I was excited to go the following year.  In 2012 it fell on Easter weekend, so I only went Friday and Saturday; I had a boyfriend, we had a hotel, and it was across Boston from the convention center so we had to pay double in parking because we had to drive.  It was also my first year cosplaying, and I learned a lot about the process of costume making and the aftermath of it all.

This year I have a fiance, we went for three days, and we scored a hotel across the street from the convention center, making things extremely convenient.  I had people I met last year and got to meet up with and share our love of gaming.  And I did two costumes for myself.  All in all this year’s PAX may have been the best yet, as this and the next couple posts will likely show.

I came to the decision that I need PAX East.  I look forward to it like most people look forward to a Disney vacation.  There is something exhilarating about being surrounded by 20,000 other gamers; not to mention the bright colors, bright lights, swag, costumes, demos… the list goes on.  And this year I was able to, unlike in past years, truly experience the joy of being a fan.  But more on that later.

So first off: Friday.  Bard and I left the house a little after 7:30am, in costume and me in costume and full makeup for my first cosplay of the weekend, Serana from the Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim:

FullSerana

IMG_0199

(Funny enough, I got a Facebook message later that day from a friend whose wife was pretty sure she’d seen me stopping for coffee, but the black wig confused her!)

We were making good time in light traffic until about Winchester, which is only a few miles outside Boston, when we hit the crawling traffic.  From Winchester to the top of the exit 23 ramp, it took us a full hour of stop and go, inching along traffic.  Good thing we weren’t planning on attending much of anything at 10am!  I’d thought of trying out the Con Cosplay Survival panel, but I’d read a lot on good preparation and such for costuming, and felt fine missing it.  Bard and I found the parking garage for our hotel, and a friend who was,  staying with us met up to stow his gear in my car.  I finished up putting on my costume, we clipped on our badges, and we were off to the BCEC!

When we got inside we met up with MLHawke, checked our mutual schedules (MLHawke, Bard and myself all used the Guidebook App–VERY handy for scheduling, mapping, and figuring things out!) and decided to meet back up later in the afternoon to check out the Elder Scrolls Online food truck.  Hey, free lunch provided by #ESO?  Yes please!

My first panel was about education and gaming.  The speaker, Steve Swink, is a gamer, game designer, and educator who really knew his stuff, and was very passionate about where we have things wrong as far as education in this country goes.  We treat our students like flashdrives.  They sit down (plug in), we load them with knowledge that sometimes seems randomized and is often impersonal, then expect we can just get that info back later on in the form of a test.  The issue is that they’re not flashdrives.  Flashdrives process information the same way whether they’re 4GB or 64GB; students are people who process differently.  Swink’s presentation dealt with how we can use games to reach students, and now they don’t have to just be supplementary to the curriculum, but could even be the curriculum itself!  It’s a great idea, though I’m not sure that the district I work in will ever embrace it (or at least get the technology for it) during my time there.  We’ll see.  At least it gave me some ideas to go off of.

Then we all met up and hit the #ESOFoodtruck for lunch.  It was located on Congress Street.  We started walking, all happily discussing our mornings.  It was a bit farther away than I’d thought or expected, and MLHawke and Bard were FREEZING by the time we arrived!  Luckily Serana is a multi-part costume with a lot of layers, so I didn’t do too badly in that regard.  Lunch was good, and they had a photo station with a green screen, where I got the greatest picture of my cosplay:

SeranaBest

We headed back to the hotel after that, and Bard changed out of his costume because he was super cold in it.  Silly wind.  I fixed my makeup and my wig, then it was back to the BCEC.  I went to a panel on parents as characters in video games, on which Mike Laidlaw of Dragon Age sat.  It was interesting, and it has made me more aware of the changing role of parents in games, and given me stuff to work with in class with the books we read.  Bard and I met up again and I saw our friend Ted, a Tetris Attack beast, and caught up on life since last year.  My final panel of the night was on curing chemicals and special effects cosplay, which was interesting.  While I know that some of that will improve my cosplays immensely in the future, it’s a little daunting.  There’s a lot of prep work and measuring involved, but anything worth doing comes with some difficulties, so who knows.  Maybe I will attempt it at some point, just out of curiosity!

Then it was back to the hotel for the evening to make myself human again (sort of literally, since Serana is a vampire after all!).  The night was spent debriefing about our day’s experiences, and plans for the next.

Tomorrow’s recap will cover Saturday, with cosplay number two, and the awesomeness that is BioWare!

I Just Saved the World! (Now What?)

This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided I should sit down and write about it in earnest.  See, I did something important a month ago or so.  I saved the world.  Twice, if you think about it.  And nothing happened.  Life went on.

Okay, so I didn’t save our world.  I saved Skyrim.  But I’m still rather perturbed about it, because it is the most anticlimactic thing I’ve ever experienced.  I spent hours scouring the countryside helping villagers on their quests.  I stole thousands of dollars of merchandise, picked dozens of pockets, altered hundreds of books, and picked a few hundred locks to restore the Thieves’ Guild to its former glory.  I overtook the Dark Brotherhood.  I killed a few dozen dragons, and then I killed the mightiest dragon of all: Alduin.  I sundered the space-time continuum to travel to Sovngarde and meet the beast on his plane of existence, and I killed him and restored peace.

At least I thought I did.  When I came back I was on the top of the mountain surrounded by Paarthurnax and his buddies, and they were like, “Good work.”  And that was it.  So I figured I should fix the whole Imperials vs. Stormcloaks thing, and maybe then I would feel better about saving the world.  And maybe other people would, too.  Because I didn’t get a single thank you from any villagers, even in dragon-ravaged towns, for killing Alduin.  If anything, I had to keep my head down because of all that Dark Brotherhood/Thieves’ Guild stuff.  Everywhere I went I heard, “Wait, I know you!” and I did wait, because I wanted to say, “Yes, yes you do; I’m the badass who killed Alduin and saved your world!”  But as it turned out they knew me because I was a wanted man and I had to bribe them, or else kill everyone in sight.

So I went off and spoke with Ulfric Stormcloak and made Windhelm my new home.  My affiliations with Whiterun were over, and I led the charge on that first fair city that had welcomed me in after I escaped from Helgen.  I betrayed the Jarl and oversaw the change of power there, and then helped Ulfric take Solitude.  I killed General Tullius and freed Skyrim from the clutches of the Empire.  I returned it to the true Sons of Skyrim!

And when I went to talk to Ulfric, he said it would take some time for him to become high king, but now that the Empire was gone his chances looked good.  He thanked me for my help, which was nice, but then… what?

I helped end the civil war tearing my country to bits.  And life went on in Skyrim, much as it had prior to the war and to Alduin.  In fact, I even got attacked by several dragons along the way.  I found myself wandering aimlessly through the land of Skyrim, lacking purpose and function.  Even when Dawnguard came out… wait.  Spoilers ahead.  You’ve been warned!

Continue reading

30 Days of Video Games: Day 30, favorite game of all time

Phew!  It took more than 30 days, but I’ve made it and answered every prompt!  I do apologize for things falling apart in the end, but finishing it up was important to me.  And now we come to the end.  I’ve done a lot of thinking about my gaming history and what makes a game enjoyable for me, and why I have the games I have and play the ones I do.  So trying to figure out my favorite game of all time should be easy, right?  Wrong.  Once again I’m torn between the fact that I like some games for story, and some for gameplay style. In some cases I like a game for its nostalgia value.

So I think I have two favorite games of all time: for gaming style, Tetris.  For story, Dragon Age.

Tetris’s premise is simple, and the gaming style is timeless.  Tetris is a game you can pick up anywhere and the controls are the same, the game is the same, the objective is the same.  It can be played on any platform, and it’s extremely portable.  I can get into a zone and get to the point where I’m dreaming in blocks, but I really enjoy playing it.

As far as story goes, it’s definitely Dragon Age.  I love the storyline and how in depth it is.  I once considered answering Metroid for this, but I have a hard time with it because the storyline is so convoluted and inconsistent now.  Dragon Age has a very long, in-depth storyline with very little deviation from the facts that it establishes early on.  Even the outside material such as the novels doesn’t do much to contradict what’s given in the games.  There are some facts that have some contradiction, but it’s nothing huge and major that makes you wonder what they were thinking—or if they were thinking.

The games are vast without being too huge (cough, Skyrim.  Love it, but…) and the stories and characters have depth.  Even the most minor character adds a lot to the story.  Characters like King Cailan in Origins and Jethann in DA2 have enough personality on their own to be more than just minor side characters.  There are major plots and sub plots, and it all works together very nicely.  Each game sets up for the next without being  a place holder.  They work together as games, and with the peripheral materials such as novels and comics.  It all creates a vast world that’s interesting and has depth of story and character.  I get the feeling that the world is very old, even though the first game was made in 2009.

I also met MLHawke through Dragon Age, and she’s become a wonderful, close friend.  And through her and her husband, I met a larger group of friends.  And through them, I met Bard.  Because of the depth of material DA gives me to work with, I began writing for a DA website.  I started blogging about video games.  It brought me into a whole new world.  And with DA3 on the horizon (but still hypothetical) it’s going to make the world bigger, deeper, and more interesting.  It excites me!

30 Days of Video Games: Day 29, a game I ended up loving

Okay, so I know May is over, but I started this 30 days thing and by golly, I’m going to finish it.  Especially with only two days left to go.  So here goes: this asks for a game I didn’t think I would like, but ended up loving.  Now, I’ve had games that I thought I would love and wound up finding just mediocre, or outright disliking.  But I think for this one I’ll go with Mass Effect.

My cousin had Mass Effect and said it was really good.  My best friend’s husband kept telling me to play Mass Effect.  I kept insisting I didn’t care for RPGs, and I wasn’t huge on space or sci-fi games.  But I was looking for a new game to play, so when my cousin offered to let me borrow and play his copy of ME, I said, why not.  After all, if I didn’t like it, which I thought I probably wouldn’t, at least I didn’t spend any money on it, right?

I started in on it, attempting to put my skepticism aside.  The first thing I noted was that, while it was an RPG, it had many elements of a 3rd person shooter.  I could handle that, having played Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.  I picked up on the controls pretty easily, and while some of them were a little clunky, it was manageable.  I got through the first mission on Eden Prime and picked up Kaiden and Ashley and spoke with them.

By then I started getting into the characters and story, and the more story I learned the more I began to like the game.  It was a case of the story and characters transcending the genre.  I try not to always base my likes and opinions on genre, whether it be music, movies, or games, but most times it can’t be helped.  However, sometimes some things transcend their genres, and found that ME was one such game.

While I didn’t do EVERYthing I could in the game, I really enjoyed it and went on to ME2 (which my cousin gave me for my birthday).  And once things settle down a bit I’ll get to playing ME3 as well.  While there are other games I like more than ME, I definitely think Mass Effect is one game I didn’t think I’d like, but ended up loving.

30 Days of Video Games: Day 28, Favorite Game Developer

Anyone who’s been following this for any amount of time will see that I am clearly a Dragon Age fangirl.  I also love Mass Effect.  What do both have in common?  They’re developed by BioWare.

I never played Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights, or and of the Old Republic Star Wars games.  My introduction to, and experiences with, BioWare have been entirely with ME and DA.  But regardless of that, I love the work they put into their games.  There is such depth of story, character, and setting in every game.  Well-crafted writing immerses us into new and interesting worlds.  Good character development leads us to care about the protagonist (which we’ve usually created ourselves) and his or her party members.

Back in April when I attended PAX East, I had the opportunity to meet several people from BioWare.  I was privileged to meet David Gaider, lead writer for Dragon Age, as well as the artistic director, producer, community manager, and many others.  BioWare had a base in the convention center where it was all BioWare all weekend long.  They were kind to their fans, interested in our feedback and questions, and gracious about our criticisms.

I couldn’t stay for the talk about Mass Effect because I had to go check into the hotel, but everything about the Dragon Age panel was wonderful.  They let fans in costume come in early; talked with us one on one, gave us opportunities to ask questions before the general Q&A during the panel.  We got swag.  Most of all I got the feeling that BioWare was glad we were there with them.

As Dragon Age 3 becomes more of a reality and less than a hypothetical possibility, the more interested I am in BioWare and the more curious I am about what they will do with the story.  I know they’ve come under fire because of DA2’s rushed feeling, and ME’s ending, but they’ll be the first to admit where they’ve made mistakes.  They’ve seen the best of all worlds in their games, and seem to work toward doing more and more to combine the best in their games to make the next game they develop even better.

Therefore, BioWare holds the place of favorite game developer.

30 Days of Video Games: Day 27, most epic scene ever

I always cringe when I see “most” and “ever” in a prompt title.  To quote Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, “How can anyone even know that?”  Part of me is hesitant to answer, because I know whatever I choose as the most epic scene ever will differ immensely from what anyone else thinks is the most epic, and while people are awesome about respectfully voicing differences of opinion, there’s part of me that still fears judgment.

But I suppose I should just go for it, because even if I have gaps in my gaming knowledge I still know enough to write about what I feel is the most epic scene ever.

Upon thinking it over, I’ve decided that the final scene of Halo: Reach may just be the most epic scene I’ve ever encountered.  The designers of Reach had some pretty strong nerve to do what they did with the end; Reach was a slight departure from the ‘normal’ Halo games, and it stayed that way up until the very end.  In a lot of ways it was a fitting ending to the series (as produced by Bungie), and a fitting end to the prequel that was true to the Halo universe and to the Spartan way.

In a sense the ending scene is pretty fatalistic, and while someone could easily say, “I invested hours of my time and got blisters on my thumbs for this??” it was worth it.

As you go about futilely trying to save the doomed planet of Reach, Noble Team is slowly picked off one at a time.  The final missions involve getting Cortana to Master Chief aboard the Pillar of Autumn, and then finally seeing it safely out of the atmosphere.  And then Omega Mission begins: Lone Wolf.  The objective? Survive.

That’s it.  No collect x, y, or z… no find an alternate route to place q… just… survive.

The first time I played it was with a group; we were holding our ground against the Covenant pretty well until one guy got shot down.  He waited to respawn, but didn’t.  Then another guy went down, and we slowly began to realize that this was it.  All we could do was try to survive as long as possible until it was last man (or woman) standing, and then all they could do was try and hold on.  And then it was too late.

It’s fatalistic, and wicked depressing.  I grant that in a heartbeat.  I was stunned by the bold move on Bungie’s part.  But at the same time it was truly epic, and embodied everything about the Spartans and Halo in general.  It’s sad, but valiant, and there’s something satisfying about the idea that if I’m going to go down, it’ll be going down while fighting and I’m going to take a few of those things with me.

 

30 Days of Video Games: Day 26, best voice acting

I initially thought this prompt would be difficult, since I wasn’t sure where to go with it.  And I’m sure there are better voice-acted games out there than I’m putting down right now, but I think I’m going to have to go with Gears of War.  Yes, yes, I’m a fangirl.  But I’ve always felt that the characters are what really make this game, and a large part of the characters is their voices.

Each of the members of Delta Squad has a unique voice that matches his personality and makes him a fully fleshed out character.  Marcus’s cynical, laconic gruffness adds to his mystery.  Dominic is gentle and soft-spoken, but can tell it like it is when he needs to.  Baird is a pain in the butt, just whiny enough to annoy you, but not so whiny that he grates on you and makes you wish you could turn and shoot him.  And then there’s Cole, whose enthusiasm and exuberance adds humor.  He tells it like it is in a way that makes us shake our heads, but we’re smiling when we do.

All three of their individual voices add a lot to their interactions.  They are all so completely different in terms of personality, and that shows through in their speech with each other and with other people.  The NPCs also have good voice acting, and as you play and listen you get the feeling that these could be real people.  Not only are these characters well-written, but they’re well-acted as well, making them more real than most.

Like I said, I’m sure there are better choices out there, but for me, for now, I’d say Gears of War has the best.

30 Days of Video Games: Day 25, a game I plan on playing

As a teacher who games, I often get students who speak with me about what games are coming up and what looks good, what my gaming plans are, and the like.  Often it’s common to hear, “JayRain, you should play this!” and a lot of times I just sort of nod and say I’ll get to it.  Between a full-time job, choir and voice lessons and my time spent with Bard, sometimes gaming has to take a backseat to life.  More blasphemy, I know.  The gaming gods are about to strike me down tonight if I dare go for a third time!

I think the one game I plan on playing is one I’ve beenplanning to play for over two months now.  That would be Mass Effect 3.

I played through ME  and ME2 and loved them.  The music, the depiction of a futuristic society, the fact that humansaren’t the dominant species, and moreover, have to fight for a modicum of respect: all factors really drew me into the games.  So when the Arrival DLC came out last summer I played it on release day and loved the story and how it set us up for ME3.  When the demo went live for ME3 I played it on release day and was super excited to pick up my copy on March 6th.

Well, March 6th came, and that was a month away from PAX East.  I was heavily engaged with work on my costume, plus choir and voice lessons.  I had work to do for my job.  I thought I’d play it that weekend.  No big deal.  Well, that weekend came, and I found myself spending time with friends and family and working on my costume.  Then the following week Bard and I solidified our joint nerdery, and I added spending all spare time that was not costume, voice, or work-related on him.  Even my blog didn’t have any March entries, because I was working my way up to PAX East.

PAX East came and went and I resumed my blogging and thought just maybe I’d have time to start playing ME3, but April was full of other things that precluded my gaming.  Still ME3 sat on my shelf, shrink-wrapped and patiently waiting for me to play it.  I listened to the complaints about the ending, and not much else.  Seems that’s all people really had to say about it, so luckily the rest of the game has remained relatively unspoiled for me.

Last week, May 17th, I finally did manage to open it.  Bard wasn’t over, my housework was done, my blog entries completed, so I decided to just bite the bullet and get going.  I’ve played 1:59 of the game so far, about half of which is in the demo, so it’s not like I’ve seen much of anything new and/or different from what I already knew of the game.  And between then and now I haven’t had much of an opportunity to play it.  Heck, I was three entries behind on my blog because of some craziness at the end of this week!  Today’s the first full day of a long weekend, and I’ve had some time to game, but after all I’ve been writing about Skyrim, I busted that out after a long hiatus.

So I honestly do plan on playing Mass Effect 3, but it may not be for awhile yet.  My next four weekends are pretty filled up.  My weeknights are full, though a bit better since I no longer have choir rehearsals until we start back up in September.  We’ll see.  But I do plan to play and finish it!