Spam I Am for June 4th, 2012

So initially whenever I got spam I would get annoyed and delete it.  Until one day I was looking it over with Bard and he and I realized some of them were really funny.  So I’ve decided to start occasionally posting some humorous spam and my reaction to it.  Today’s offering:

“I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as noone else know such detailed about my problem. You are incredible!

1.  Hey thanks for thinking I’m incredible!  That makes me all warm and fuzzy.

2. But I’m not your cousin.  Or am I?  I DON’T KNOW.

5. Whatever your problem is, that I know such detailed about, I hope it gets better.

Mostly, I think the bad grammar and the effort at sincerity is what makes it humorous to me.  I know I may be the only one who thinks it’s funny, but… well… 30 Days of Video Games is over and I have to amuse myself somehow, right?  No worries, this isn’t an everyday sort of thing.  Mostly a “I feel like updating my blog.  What spam can I analyze?”

Thank goodness E3 starts this week so I’ll have something gaming to think about and write about.


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!

30 Days of Gaming: Day 24, Favorite Classic Game

I’ve given this one a bit of thought.  I grew up at the end of the Atari age, played Pong, and had an NES.  While PacMan was my first game and I love it for introducing me to pixels, it’s not my favorite classic game.  I’d have to say my favorite is the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.

This may be a surprise to those of you who know about my love of classic Metroid.  Yes, I played it, and played every other Metroid game to come out on all of Nintendo’s systems to date (except for Other M.  We do not speak its name here).  I haven’t played all of the Zelda games; I’m nowhere near halfway through Ocarina of Time (blasphemy, I know), never played Twilight Princess, and didn’t finish Wind Waker.  I didn’t play the SNES Zelda game.  And yet, I think the original top-down scrolling Legend of Zelda would stand as my favorite classic game.

If PacMan taught me about pixels and introduced me to a love of video gaming, Zelda introduced me to what it meant to have a fandom and to be a fan (and that it was dangerous to go alone).  It was a complex game with a fairly simple, now-stereotypical story, and yet for some reason my 9-year-old self loved it.  I loved the land of Hyrule, and the settings around it.  I loved Link, the protagonist destined to save the princess from the grip of Ganon.  I loved finding the Triforce pieces.

But most of all I loved finding ways to start integrating my creativity into the land of Hyrule and the story of Link and Zelda.  Zelda led to my first forays into fanfiction.  Every year my elementary school had young author’s day, and we students would write books that would then be on display for our parents and peers.  I wrote a book set in the Zeldaverse, involving the original character my Barbie would portray whenever my best friend and I roleplayed Zelda with our toys.

I remember sitting through after school episodes of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show Monday through Thursday, bearing the antics of the Mario Bros. just to get the 30-second clip of Friday’s Zelda cartoon, and then calling my best friend so we could analyze it.  Yes, 9 and 10 year old girls analyzing clips of the Zelda cartoon.  Not sure if I’m laughing, cringing, or considering going after the brain bleach!  But anyway, when Friday rolled around I’d run from the bus stop and get inside and sit down and watch, reveling in every minute of it.  And once it was over there was the high of having seen it combined with the letdown of knowing I had to wait another week for the next episode.

Looking back now, the cartoon had little to do with the game; the game wasn’t about story.  There was a token story to lend context to why you were traversing all over this map finding items and solving puzzles and gathering items.  The cartoon had to fill in, but I think that’s what I liked about it.  It filled in what we didn’t yet know, and when it all went off the air, it left questions that couldn’t be answered by anything other than fan speculation.

So in the end the original Legend of Zelda stands as my favorite classic game not because of its merits as a game: but for what it did for me as a fan.  It taught me about being a fan, and made fandom a part of my life early on.  When fandom became a concept that was real and applicable to me as an adult, I already understood what it meant, thanks to Zelda.

Next up: Day 25, a game I plan on playing.

30 Days of Video Games: Day 23, Best Graphic/Art Style

I honestly feel like I’m a bit out of my element here with this one.  I can appreciate graphics as an art form, and can appreciate the importance of graphics to gaming.  But I’ve never gotten my knickers twisted about good versus bad graphics, and I think it’s because my priorities lie more with story.  If a game has gorgeous graphics but a lousy story, I’m not apt to like it as much as a game with mediocre graphics and good story.  But that’s just me, after all.  I’m sure I could get an onslaught of responses telling me how vital graphics and art style are, and I’m not denying it in the least.  Just saying that for me, personally, I’m not that anal-retentive about graphics and art style in games.

Not to say I don’t appreciate it.  I’ve been thinking of the games I’ve played recently and trying to think about games that have nice graphics and style of art.  I thought about being a wiseass and saying Tetris, because seriously, how can you screw up four blocks (graphically/artistically speaking)?  You really can’t.  So then I considered it more.  A lot of games’ graphics suit the style and purpose of the game: Left 4 Dead has a gritty, realistic, ruined look to it.  BioShock’s underwater sanctuary of Rapture is heavily influenced by the art deco style, evoking a retro feel.  Sera of Gears of War has a lot of realism, but just enough of the obscure and futuristic to make it seem unearthly.  Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has a cartoonish, cel-shaded style that matches ic)with the whimsy of the game.  And I could go on.

I won’t be a wise ass, but I do feel like I’m copping out with my final choice.  I’m going to go with Skyrim. I’ve spent countless amounts of time wandering the rugged, untouched landscape marveling at the beauty surrounding me (matched nicely by the music).  It has a strong sense of realism while still remaining otherworldly.  The use of color is fantastic; the textures are beautiful and really make me feel like I am immersed in the world: like I could reach out and touch it, and feel it and absorb it. I play on a console, and feel the impact of this detail; MLHawke’s husband Paladin showed me how, on the PC, one can change the resolutions of the texture layers to make the world even more graphically intense and I nearly had to wipe drool off their office floor.

The various night skies, the sunsets over the mountains, the northern lights, the way every place you venture is a different visual experience?  It’s just amazing.  Aside from being a huge game to play through and absorb playing-wise, Skyrim is an auditory and visual treat.

Tomorrow: Day 24, Favorite Classic Game.  Or, JayRain waxes even more nostalgic than she is wont to do already!

30 Days of Video Games: Day 22, A Disappointing Sequel

We all know the feeling: you’ve played a game and loved it dearly, and then the sequel is announced!  The release date is given; you go pre-order, and may even spring for the limited edition.  You count the days until the midnight release, and come said release date you’re waiting in line eagerly.  You get home, pop it in, begin playing and… it’s not really that good.  So you give it a while longer and you still don’t really like where it’s going.  You begin to pine for the original, the one that you loved so much and got you hooked.  You start comparing.  You become resentful and then angry.  You throw controllers.

Okay, so maybe not quite that extreme.  But the sequel that most disappointed me did indeed have me throwing a controller at the wall.  It’s not my proudest gaming moment, but I think it speaks volumes about just how much I did. Not. Like. This. Game.

I’ve played games that were just okay, or that I didn’t like and just didn’t care for (see my apathy toward Dead Space).  But the sequel that most disappointed me was Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for the Game Cube.

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