News & Editorial
Sentris, a new spin on music gaming, is in its final stretch this week on the crowd funding site Kickstarter. Game developer Samantha Kalman explains how her game is an innovative new way to venture into music game play.
What makes this game different from what is currently available on the market?
“The biggest difference between the musicality of Sentris and other music games on the market is a matter of composition. Usually in music games you are pretending to play someone else’s song without a great level of variety in the musical output. It’s really fun to pretend to play Bon Jovi in Rock Band, but with Sentris you are literally creating your own song. What you play is going to sound different from what your friends play. The puzzle mechanics themselves are also based around music, how songs are simply a collection of notes layered together. I think that players of Sentris are going to learn something about how to make music that they can take with them after they turn off the game.”
Will there be any support for listening to Sentris created tracks outside the game?
“Yes! This is high on my list of features to implement. I really want players to be able to save and share songs. Downloading a track you’ve just finished is an ideal way to build your collection of your own music. I’m still working on the engineering challenges to do that, but it will be done before the game ships.”
What influence do you think this game would have on those not musically inclined? Would it be difficult for them?
“It’s my goal to turn everybody into a musician, whether or not you’ve played music before. Learning how to play an instrument is a huge challenge. There’s so much to learn. Sentris will lower the barriers of learning how to play an instrument down to pressing a single button. When you don’t have to think about how to operate a musical instrument like a keyboard or a guitar, you can focus on the other parts of music — structure, progression, rhythm, arrangement. All these concepts I hope will become more accessible to players who don’t think they can make music. They actually can and, I want to help them realize it.”
What will be the nature of the copyright on songs created in game? Will be players be able to monetize compositions?
“I would be so happy if players form bands and start sharing their music made with Sentris! Burning your music to a cd or publishing an album on bandcamp are both activities supported by the spirit of Sentris. It’s all about unleashing your own musical creativity. I’m really excited to see what happens as the player base grows!”
What was the motivation behind Sentris?
“Initially I just loved Rez, and I wished I could make a game that had so much style. Sentris started out as a shooting game (where you brought life to the world instead of killing things), and I kept having visions of this circle. I didn’t know what it was or what to do with it, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I didn’t understand it for a long time, until a couple of years later I started playing in a band. One day after we’d been playing for about six months, we had a rehearsal where our music started to sound really good. I could hear and feel the beautiful music, and I knew it was something we were creating together, right there in the moment. After that jam session I knew that this was the point of the game & the circle. It was all about letting people make their own music and experience this feeling of musical creation.”
Lastly we have to ask, since this project is on Kickstarter there may be some hesitation to contribute. There have been high profile Kickstarter failures in the gaming world. How did you determine the needed budget for Sentris?
“It’s tricky, you have to look at costs of programming, art, sound, marketing, beta testing, all these things. I’ve been working alone so far but how much longer can I do that? The truth is I want to be able to keep focusing on Sentris full-time (and paying my bills in the process) while also paying collaborators. And of course demoing the game at conferences is costly. The Kickstarter budget might cover all the costs, and it might not. We’ll see! The important thing I want my backers to know is that if the campaign is successful, Sentris will ship. It’s going to be made, because they’re helping to make it a reality.”
As stated at the beginning, this game is in the home stretch. The Kickstarter closes on Thursday Nov 21, 8:00pm EST. That’s just one week away from the time of this publication.
Sentris is going to be available on a variety of platfroms including, Windows, Mac iOS, Linux. Also, due to the funds received, Sentris will also be coming to Ouya as part of the Free the Game Fund.
To find out more about this upcoming indie title, stop by its Kickstarter page here.
This piece goes out to the Junior girls of a good acquaintance’s health class. Pardon me while I elaborate, but rest assured that it’s worth a laugh.
A lovely experience came my way over both the internet and the short space of a friend’s living room. Upon realizing we had enough gaming capable PCs on hand, four other friends and I decided a StarCraft II LAN party should commence. We’re all amateurs. There was live streaming, there was embarrassment, and people discovered how hard it is to do commentary with all the players in the same room. There was oddly no alcohol.
After my collaborator Grethade uploaded the evidence or our silliness, an online friend who shall be known as Coach ended up watching it… during free time in class. In no time, he’d gathered a gaggle of students interested in seeing how the match played out, so with his finger on the mute button, betting commenced. Gambling over money in school would be in ill taste, so they bet on the right to demand “Any Time Push-Ups” of their losing peers and Coach. Apparently the my friend was banking on me, and was rewarded with the joy of making a young man do push-ups in the middle of the cafeteria lunch line, the loss a symptom of not thinking a girl could beat the guys.
Though for the record, I’m a “girl” that’s been gaming for 15 years at the time of this writing.
A few young men making their bets based on the gender of the gamer is… a hint at a bigger topic for another time. As I said, this is for the girls of that class that asked their Coach to put a question to me: what game has the strongest positive female character?
As easy as it would be to prattle off the first name that came to mind, I sat down to write up something a little more detailed. All of us look for role models in our media when growing up, and I’m happy to report that while gaming does see its saddening share of poor portrayals of women, there are some great ladies out there in our games. This is far from a comprehensive list as it only contains games I’ve played. Hopefully there’s enough here for any up and coming gamer (or their parents) to find at least one game to their taste, thus the inclusion of genres and ratings.
First up: games where the pre-determined protagonist is a woman.
April Ryan – The Longest Journey
(Third Person Adventure/Puzzle) (M for Mature)
From confused college student to “Shifter,” April Ryan had more transitions in her life than just moving away from home. Discovering a whole new world parallel to the one she knows by also learning she’s one of the few that can make the jump between them, April quickly finds she bears a lot more responsibilities then she thought possible. Led to believe herself Guardian of the Balance, the fate of two worlds are on the line. The fine line between science and magic relies on her, lest they combine and be abused as they were in the old days when “Stark” and “Arcadia” were not separated by the Divide.
Chell [REDACTED] - Portal series
She wasn’t the smartest or the strongest test subject trapped in Aperture Laboratories when it was locked down, but Chell was the most tenacious. Not much is known about her. Implications litter the little nooks and crannies of The Enrichment Center implying she was the daughter of an employee, trapped with the rest while still young, at some point evaluated, and deemed an unsuitable subject for testing. A woman that doesn’t give up is a danger to a system designed to end in failure, making Chell the last hope of the stranded without her even knowing it. The only certainty? The cake is a lie.
Jade – Beyond Good & Evil
(Action/Adventure) (T for Teen)
In the poor districts of Hillys, war is a constant. The head of a local orphanage, Jade protects the children not only from the threat of the DomZ, but also guards them against the more mundane threats of the world by keeping the power on and putting food on the table. Spearheading “Jade Reporting & Co,” her most valuable weapon is a camera. As an investigative journalist, Jade has the potential to do more then crack heads: the truth could do more to end a war then any fight ever could.
Kate Walker – Syberia series
(Third Person Adventure/Puzzle) (T for Teen)
Sometimes you don’t need to fight at all to be someone’s hero. Kate Walker was just a lawyer and a good one at that, but when an assignment sends her chasing the heir to the Voralberg estate across half of Europe, it forces a person to take a hard look at their life. Chasing a man many thought crazy, players get the chance to see not only the melancholy remains of many people’s dreams, but also get the chance to see those fantasies resurrected. In the best portrayal of a mid-life crisis I’ve seen in a video game (yet still a favorite when I was young), Walker is an engaging character is how she is forced to question if she’s truly happy with her life, what more she could be doing with it, and what is really important. If a mad man could leave a trail of inventions that bring so many so much joy, what good might a little chaos do her?
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider series
(Third Person Action/Platformer) (Ranging from E for Everyone to M for Mature)
While somewhat controversial when taking her entire history into account, Lara Croft truly did throw open the door for female protagonists in games a long time ago on an original Playstation far, far away. There were ups and down… the media loved her, but her proportions were ridiculous. She was a strong character, but seemed to be made up of nothing but quippy one liners. The former Tomb Raiders were cheesy, but they were fun in much the same way an action film is. All that changed in early 2013. Lara has always been a character people could look to to break barriers and a new one was shattered when the series was rebooted. Going from a character that was simply entertaining to one gamers could truly feel for was an arduous journey, but a good one. I’ll always have a soft spot for the old days of laughing as I tumbled around the feet of a T-Rex, but nothing quite beats this new college grad turned hardened survivor that just wouldn’t give up on the people she cared about even in the face of impossible (and sometimes supernatural) odds.
Nariko – Heavenly Sword
(Third Person Hack and Slash) (T for Teen)
Scantily clad she may be… but Nariko is one character whose capabilities players will never have to question. Many of us have found ourselves on the outside looking in, and it makes her all the more relatable a character. Born on the day a boy savior was prophesied to be delivered in a divine birth, Nariko stood as a violation to her people’s very religion and all theirs hopes, and so grew up a reviled outcast. In the end she is willing to tolerate them, defy them, and even bleed for them because in the end they don’t deserve the war at their door despite the injustices they heaped on her over the years. While the supporting cast and villains aren’t nearly as well fleshed out, Nariko is a character that stands apart not as some cliche prophesied savior but rather as a woman willing to write her own destiny regardless of the disapproval of others, and comes out the better person for it.
Sarah Kerrigan – StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
(Real-Time Strategy) (T for Teen)
Through much of the StarCraft series, Sarah Kerrigan’s character was very much defined by others. A powerful psychic whose memory was wiped, trained to kill, liberated, then used and betrayed by her rescuers, it’s ironic that she didn’t have much of a chance to make many decisions for herself until she was overrun by the aliens known as the Zerg. As she began to return to herself, she didn’t flee the Zerg… instead, she took control of them. Kerrigan is a good character, but not what most people would think of as a good person. While not the most noble motivation, an awful lot of fans will be disappointed if she doesn’t get her revenge by the end of Heart of the Swarm.
Zoë Castillo – Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
(Third Person Adventure/Puzzle) (M for Mature)
A college dropout trapped in the limbo of indecision, Zoë is one of those characters you’d think would grate on your nerves if it weren’t for how genuinely voiced she is and how relatable her uncertainty. Eventually, circumstances call for action and she can’t help but step up. When her former boyfriend, investigative journalist Reza Tamiz, goes missing she finds herself chasing down the story that may have been his undoing because, “I may not like the Zoë I’m turning into, but I would have hated the Zoë who just abandoned her best friend like that.” Caught in a conspiracy spanning two worlds, that resolve will have to hold if she ever hopes to wake up.
Visit us later for the next installment: whether giving a few preset options or letting you build a character from scratch, there are games that leave the choice in your hands as to who you’re going to play. Man or woman, the experience is sometimes different, but never lesser.
After beating the new Tomb Raider, the first question I received was literally, “Was it all rapey?” With the game released and in hand, I can firmly say no. Questions like this make it obvious that the controversy is still steeping and addressing it is still prudent, especially since the game’s sales have apparently fallen below Square Enix’s expectations.
Originally, this was just going to be a dry follow up to the article I wrote about the marketing that started the debate prior to Tomb Raider’s release. However, when a writer like Ashelia over at Hell Mode publishes an article she didn’t exactly want to, it made me realize my original piece just wouldn’t cut it.
(Two disclaimers. First, as in my other article, a trigger warning as there will be talk of violence both sexual and not. Second, spoilers, which I will try to limit but which cannot be avoided as this piece is partially intended for those avoiding the game due to apprehensions about the content and as such will detail some of it.)
Too often in gaming is “mature” content nothing but “shock” content, inserted as fodder to put people on the edge of their seats. We often look down on it because it seems needless, out of place, and lacking in explanation. Tomb Raider actually manages to circumvent this expectation successfully, much to my surprise. I’ve played many a game with hard moments to ponder in them. Tomb Raider cuts right to the bone though and gets personal. It doesn’t treat me kindly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There were a lot of little things over the years that added up. My mother stopped watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit when I was around. My significant other didn’t quite know if it was okay to touch me, even in a platonic way. My sister was more outspoken about the Tomb Raider 2013 marketing online then she was to my face. All these things changed, pretty quickly even, but it took acknowledgment.
Every one of them looked at me with a question they couldn’t put into words. Each one was answered more or less the same way: It’s ok. I’m not made of glass.
Yes, this game has a divide between its male and female characters. It is actually a part of its story though rather then some arbitrary attempt to appeal to a certain demographic. We are all aware that this game centers on Lara Croft and her crew mates surviving on an inhospitable island after being shipwrecked. It also becomes obvious quite quickly that people have been running aground along the beaches of Yamatai for generations. Where the slowly unfolding story shines and disturbs is in how a society has developed among those that have been trapped for years in this same hostile environment you only just stepped into.
Players are quickly introduced to the legend of The Sun Queen Himiko of Yamatai, and her supposed super natural ability to summon storms to protect her island in ancient times. Lara is quick to note that most legends have some small piece of the truth within them, and players will be tasked with discovering that truth not only through the main storyline, but also through much of the optional hidden content. Without giving away much, the long dead queen’s importance to events is not insignificant, and it leads to the island’s “Solarii” brotherhood having a fairly warped view of women.
Some are true believers, rounding up any woman that crashes ashore for a ritual that before has always ended in death. Others, if you bother to listen to them converse with each other before killing them, see it as a waste. Whether that waste is something they just don’t care about, or are torn over not being able to prevent is also unique to each man. All of them seem to carry some bitterness over this reverence due to its perceived necessity to getting home. Tomb Raider is surprisingly satisfying as a stealth game if for no other reason than to make me care and even sometimes regret killing a man because I sneaked up on him slowly enough to learn something about him even if forced to shoot him in the end.
That’s how many I was told were removed from his home.
The police told me he’d made bail. My parents and I ended up next to him on the main road toward the cities. They were taking me out to try and get my mind off the whole thing and the timing was just bad. To this day, my father doesn’t know if he made the turn fast enough to avoid being seen. We sat for about 20 minutes at a gas station just waiting for him to roll further away from us.
He was later arrested again for attempted witness tampering. Then made bail again. Then the police suddenly realized he still had all his guns. I’m murky on the details, but apparently when released the first time he was simply asked to turn his firearms in until everything was sorted. After the bail violation, they were confiscated.
That’s when the realization hit that he’d had 35 guns for months and he knew where I lived.
It was the first time I’d ever pondered whether I had it in me to kill another person in self defense. Not that I had or could legally own anything that would compare; I wasn’t even 18 yet.
Are the controversial elements of Tomb Raider necessary? No, the plot could have likely been contorted to avoid them. Do they make sense? Yes. Sad as it may be to admit.
Would it have really been more respectful to tiptoe around the subject like it doesn’t exist, or just deal with it? I do stand by my earlier assertion that dealing with the subject of sexual assault head on would be better than poking it with a stick and running for the safety of the next action scene, but Tomb Raider does at least manage to introduce the sense of disempowerment without it seeming like throwaway fodder. Whether it’s a throwaway in the sense that you go from powerless, to scared but in control, but then can later level up to assign brutal finishing moves to every weapon in your arsenal… that’s up for debate.
Funnily enough, the little thing that keeps nagging at me about Tomb Raider is the guns. The violence. The sympathy.
Oh, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for violence in this game. I’m saying Tomb Raider is yet another thing that makes me realize just how much people suck.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Plenty of people had issues with the idea of me getting a concealed carry permit. Some friends and family were either uncomfortable with firearms as a whole, or thought it unnecessary. Others offered to take me to the range. The one reaction that stuck with me though was a boy in my Speech class while in college. We needed to give a speech on absolutely anything we wanted as our final, it just had to be a solid-comprehensible-no rambling please-10 minutes. I did mine on anti-sexual assault organizations. It was painful giving it that personal touch, but in the end I figured that with such disturbing statistics on how many victims there are, at least someone in that class of 30 needed help.
This boy did a talk on firearms in general and during the midday break I asked his opinion on the best places to take safety courses. Of course, the subject of eventually wanting a concealed carry permit did come up. That’s when he dropped my stomach out.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He elaborated that this opinion came from what I’d been through. What I’d just shared with the whole class. He couldn’t really nail down why (or refused to), but some mumbled bits about how it might color my perspective in certain situations and questions of my judgment were not quite raised.
I thought long and hard about why I would want to carry a weapon. Not because they’re “cool;” I have props for that. Not because I want someone to die; I’ve got enough nightmares to sort through in therapy. I want a gun because, like many victims, I knew my assailant, I am well aware of the fact that he knows how to obtain firearms without going through a background check, I know he’s incredibly fond of weapons, and I don’t know what he’s going to do when he gets out of prison.
It’s not just Tomb Raider: in almost all of our media we seem to expect our victims to become superheroes, to have that turning point, to get their revenge. Has it skewed the way we see the real world? Many of us have a dark little place in our hearts where we want the worst among us to pay the ultimate price, but if it ever left our fantasies and entertainment outlets, we’d be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law like anyone else. So instead we bicker about our heroes versus our anti-heroes, and how much violence makes sense instead of asking why on earth we’re continuing to find violence entertaining at all. After all, that might imply something is wrong with us.
On the flip side, a story like Tomb Raider’s may have an uphill battle to deal with in a world where victims are blamed and offenders mourned for. Or where Lara’s deaths are supposed to be so gruesome as to motivate you to avoid them, but instead we make montage videos.
Two students approached me after class, by the way.
Ironically, the most poignant moment I had playing Tomb Raider was not the most talked about one that sparked all this hubbub. It was a moment when I actually had a choice.
Not too much further into the game, you’ll end up moving through a bunker crawling with (surprise) people out to kill you. In one particular spot you find yourself behind reinforced glass with the room around you steadily filling with gas. Even as you choke and the edges of the screen begin to spatter with blood, the worst part is that on the other side of the glass is a man. A man whom on first spotting you shouts threats, but after seeing your predicament begins to mock you. He’s not going to kill you anymore. He’s just going to sit back and watch you die. I tried to smash my axe into the glass to no avail. I feared a shot from a gun might cause a spark and kill me. As the joyous heckling of my antagonist continued, I finally realized the air duct I’d originally entered the room through was still accessible and scrambled to fresh air. His shouts followed me though. In such a short amount of time, the writer, level designer, and voice actor managed to make me truly hate this character.
I shut him up with the lantern I found conveniently at my feet.
Chucking it back through the air duct, I watched it shatter on the other side, light the gas, and blow the entire glass window as well as a chunk of the wall into this man. Without a moments regret I looked at the screen, cleaned my glasses, and gave a satisfied, “Heh, go to hell.”
As I walked across the room, the man lay against the far wall, half his body crushed under a slab of concrete. The same person who only moments before was enjoying the spectacle of my anticipated demise… was now begging me to finish him off. I could have just walked away. This wasn’t a quick time event, it wasn’t something that had to be done before moving on. Even so, I still pulled up short at his prompting, aimed down the sights of my pistol, and put a single bullet in his head.
The moment that truly gave me pause though was how my expectations got promptly turned on their head.
Even as I was nudging the thumb sticks expecting some line about how he was better off or how it was merciful to come out of my television speakers, the words never came. Quick as lightning after the shot was fired and I pulled out of the tight aim view , I could appreciate Lara standing tall, glancing down sideways at the body and giving only a quiet, “Go to hell.”
That cut a bit closer to the bone than any awkward groping scene could have.
For all the complaints from one reviewer to the next about Lara becoming too adept a killer, becoming too vengeful too fast, maybe we all should appreciate how quick we are to pull the trigger. None of us had to level up those weapon specific finishing moves. Lara Croft did not shove that shotgun barrel under that random scavenger’s chin, or rake his chest with machine gun fire, or put an arrow through his throat. You did.
So did I.
None of us are any worse people for it though.
I always liked Lara Croft. She was tough, but smart. Bookish at heart. I grew up reading, writing, making art, and playing games. I was engrossed in genre works and fandom communities by my family for years.
I’d also been getting the crap kicked out of me for years. Wish I could have dealt with it as deftly as Lara, but doing backflips off people’s heads to initiate some form of bullet time wasn’t an option.
The jump from elementary to middle school was rough. The children were plenty cruel in those early years with their mean words, cliques, and coordinated exclusion. That was manageable for a kid that could just laugh at their pettiness and go read a book though. Growing up and getting my face mashed into the grating of my locker was… less manageable.
Middle school more or less turned into a several year debacle of wishing to be left alone, getting beaten up instead, going to the staff for help like you’re taught to do, watching my tormentors makes excuses, then enduring it all over again. I think getting shoved down the granite steps was the last straw in a way. It reached the point where my alarm would go off, I’d think of what was waiting for me, then promptly get violently ill and lose all the bile in my stomach before crawling back under the covers until the bus had already left. The school’s solution? Send a truancy officer to drag me in.
In High School, I finally snapped. I was going through the motions, waiting for it to be over. I outright told staff who the bullies were, what they’d done, and that if they failed to impress upon them pretending I didn’t exist would be far easier on them, I’d make it difficult.
I’d always been the type to quietly take everything that would get thrown my way until I felt I had no choice. Bullies never seemed to realize where my lines were drawn until it was too late, perhaps thinking that side of me didn’t even exist. Perhaps all those violent games were the perfect catharsis for someone under constant pressure.
When one problem boy that had been tormenting me for months tried to shove me down the stairs (a reoccurring theme), I grabbed the railing, wrenched myself upward by it, and let my momentum carry through into the punch I landed straight to his nose. Without a word, I walked past and went to class. He never bothered me again.
And we all wonder why violence is so prevalent in our media. Until violence stops solving problems we’re unlikely to move beyond it. I suppose I should thank my parents for that line in the sand, that sense of choice versus no choice, of right and wrong, or I’d feel like a much more terrible person right now.
He had 35 guns.
And I never used one on him.
Not even 18 and I still turned to a system that had repeatedly failed me before and put him in prison.
I do have to wonder if in a few years (or sooner if he makes parole) when my assailant gets out of said prison: even if I know I’m in danger, will my judgement be questioned if it comes to unpleasantries? Or will I be my own worst enemy, choke, and be nothing but a story on the news? Neither is probable: he’ll likely move along knowing nothing more about me, and I’ll probably be shooting something or other in the next Tomb Raider or whatever is hot off the shelves, flexing a trigger finger that I pray will never be needed on anything but a controller.
Every time someone apologizes to me for what I’ve been through I tell them they don’t need to be because I won. Game over? Well, yes, at least in regards to Tomb Raider. It will have a proud spot on my shelf though as a classic I refuse to part with in case I ever need a reminder as to how great I can feel even though people suck.
During the month of April, Anime Twin Cities held their annual three day convention, Anime Detour. As the name suggests, the overlying theme of the convention is anime, but as nerd culture has it, there is plenty of overlap with other fandoms, including video games.
Grethade and Theora Craft attended Anime Detour this year to get a little away time from the real world. While there, several gaming cosplays sprung up. Some of which are a cross of anime and video game, while others are certainly video game exclusive.
Photos are courtesy of MJ Webber Photography of Minneapolis, MN. All photos under this brand can be found at Mjwebberphotography.com.
Editor’s Note: Photos are still being added to this album at this time, please check back later for more photos.
In light of this move, the studio’s upcoming release Aliens: Colonial Marines for the Wii U has been cancelled. The port was was due out last month.
There was also a move by publisher SouthPeak Interactive, which challenged TimeGate’s Chapter 11 status, and filed to move the studio to Chapter 7 liquidation. According to the knowledgeable sources close to Kotaku, Southpeak won arbitration, and TimeGate is no more.
When reporters attempt to reach the studio for comment, they are redirected to a voicemail.
The team at Newbcast Gaming wishes the very best to the developers at TimeGate during this difficult time.
It’s been a while since we’ve added a lot of new material to Newbcast Gaming. Some of you may have stopped coming to our site, others may have come back wondering where the heck we’ve been. We hope to shed a little light on the matter and let everyone in on where we are going with our site.
First, the NewbCast Team would like to apologize for the lack of content. The team has gone through a few transitions and we are in the process of recovering from them. As it is, the contributing members all have had things going on else where and as much as we would like the following to not be true, we are doing all this content for free. We had two members switch careers in their days jobs, one member working on their other side business which had a wave of attention, one who is caught in the middle of an intense college semester, and one departure. With that said, we realize things are slow and hope that as our other engagements wind back to normal, we can get back to a regular schedule here.
With ideas we have for our site, we wanted to create an organization which is to be the face of our team. That leads to the next obstacle we’ve hit which has drawn us away from our figurative drawing boards. It’s been time consuming and taking up even more of that valuable element of time, but it was nessacary for us to move forward and to become a registered business. NCG Entertainment is the front for our organization. We will primarily recognized as Newbcast Gaming but we will be looking into other forms of entertainment, mostly gaming related, though we may may extend beyond that slightly in the future.
Now that you are aware of what the team has been doing that has drawn them away from our site, let’s take a look at what where we want to take our work here at NCG.
First, video is a popular format for getting your video game content fix. We realize that, and want to add that to the content creation. One new series that is in the works is Newbify Me. If this title seems familiar, it should. We already did a pilot episode of this featuring TheoraCraft, and GI Community guest, CoachMo. This series, as we finish working out the rest of the kinks, will help us live up to our names as newbs. These episodes will feature members of Newbcast Gaming exploring games that are new to them. Additionally, some episodes will also include NCG members who are more versed in which ever game is featured, to give a slightly experienced view on the same feature.
Additional changes we’re also working on includes a look at a possible nerdy hobbies that several gamers are tied to, video content from live streams hosted by Newbcast Gaming members, big gaming news, opinions on hot topics, possible insights on up coming indie development, and more.
We thank you for sticking with us through this slow time and we hope that all of you are as excited as we are with all these upcoming improvements. Keep your eyes peeled for these changes as we start to roll them out to you.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag has its first game play trailer revealed earlier today, reports Game Informer.
This trailer gives a first hand look at some of the game’s mechanics including: sailing, combat, and the view of approximately 50 different unique locations within the game.
Announced just last month, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is set in 1715, around the Caribbean region, (however, it’s likely to assume you will not being seeing any pearls in the black color range ). Players will be assuming the role of Edward Kenway, the grandfather of Assassin’s Creed 3‘s protagonist, Connor Kenway.
Another tidbit about the upcoming title, since Desmond’s story concluded with the finish of AC3, players will assume the role of the hero in a present day setting. In the present day, this hero will be working with Abstergo to investigate Kenway’s back story.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag will release November 1 in Europe and October 29 in North America on Xbox 360, PC, Wii U, the PS3 and PS4.
Watch the game trailer below.
With the new Tomb Raider now on the horizon, and many questioning whether to pick it up, I feel the need to speak up about the issues surrounding the game out of respect for every game that has made me ask myself a hard question. Events are dragging me into the murky waters of heavy subject matter, so I might as well get it over with and grab an oar to beat this topic over the head with.
(With respect: trigger warning. Discussion of sexual violence to follow.)
For those that have been living under a rock since E3, here’s the short version. The new and gritty reboot of Tomb Raider slated for 2013 has the internet up in arms because Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg used the substantially loaded word “rape” when describing what nearly happens to leading lady Lara part way into the game as seen in the “Crossroads” gameplay trailer. Worth noting is that the trailer came out before the interview in which this was stated and while the sequence was definitely noticed and there was discussion of the uncomfortable scene, the controversy pot did not boil over until the interview.
With 10 years experience on the topic of sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many of the subjects branching off from them, I couldn’t avoid this write up forever and now hope to add a new perspective to the mix. There are points from both sides of the argument (if you can even call it that) I’d like to address individually. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be talked about definitively until after the game’s actual release so I hope you’ll pardon some of the conjecture on some points.
Now, where to start?
You Wouldn’t do this to a Male Character, Would You?
One of the common arguments brought up against the use of sexual violence is that if you wouldn’t subject a male character to the same events, it’s a poor choice of direction for your plot. John Kovalic made this point succinctly and humorously, pointing out this double standard in his web comic Dork Tower (more on Kovalic’s point about “lazy” writing later). When Kotaku asked, “Karl, do you think that a male protagonist in that same situation would have- do you think the scavenger would do the same thing, rubbing his hand against his thigh?” of Karl Stewart, the Brand Manager, he admitted that it would not have happened.
While backlash along this line of thought is understandable, it doesn’t entirely ring true to me.
Quite a bit of the progression of equality between the genders is based on equal capabilities, common interests, and universal rights. Commonalities are one of the easiest as well as one of the most positive things to bridge a divide of this sort. It makes perfect sense that people are not happy with the unequal portrayal of women versus men when it comes to this utterly gut wrenching topic. As art often imitates life though you may have a to keep a few facts in mind, hard and unpleasant as it may be.
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Men are victimized in this way as well, and that should not be diminished. Millions of men. Approximately 1 in 33. As much as the tragedy of each individual is as devastating as the next, the statistics are not equal. The fictional depictions will not be equal in number either. This is not a matter in which fairness is even a question because crime is at its root utterly unfair. When something happens more often, it is discussed more often. When it fills a greater presence in the public mind, it makes its way into more of their media. This is not a, “women’s issue.” It’s everyone’s. But it is an issue that affects a disproportionate number of women.
Frankly, some would argue that a willingness to write more about men in these situations would be positive. Many victims are spurred toward seeking help when discovering they are not alone, and men in particular feel that much more isolated without as many examples of survivors to look up to. But featuring fewer women is not how to do that. It is not a zero-sum situation wherein every story told about a woman is stifling one about a man.
Kotaku’s interviewer may have also inadvertently posed the question in a narrow manner; it’s unlikely the exact same actions would have taken place because (on average) men and women experience discomfort in different ways for different reasons. Most offenders wouldn’t think to grope a man’s chest or kick a woman between the legs to give a few overly simple examples. Many forget that sexual violence is not in fact about sex… but rather is rooted in power. The ways in which a perpetrator would exert power, control, and intimidation over a man versus a woman are different. Anyone remember the specifics of how James Bond was tortured in 2006′s Casino Royale? Technically, that was sexual assault even though many people saw it only as cringe worthy torture. Why? Well, everyone could likely use a refresher on an important definition…
“Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.” ~ Studio Head Darrell Galagher, Crystal Dynamics
Note that the exact definitions of rape and sexual assault vary slightly by state in their legal wording, (and in some cases mean the same thing and are used interchangeably) but the generally accepted standard is that sexual assault is, “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.” Go ahead and watch the Crossroads trailer again if you must, but I personally find those few seconds fall quite easily under that definition; the nature of the intimidation was sexual, and the perpetrator did not have our protagonist’s consent. The wording behind the law is actually more stringent than most casual public discourse on the subject; anecdotally speaking, most people I spoke to about the trailer upon release were still excited about the game but found that one scene to be in a murky area between harassment and assault and refused to nail it down. As such, we should likely move forward with the more solid definition for the sake of evaluation and logical discussion.
While we can all understand the PR nightmare this must be for Crystal Dynamics, their campaign has done little to stifle the displeasure of some. If it was working, one would think the matter would be done, settled, and we’d all stop talking about it until the game came out to be picked apart in full. Instead, new stories creep on to my feed, hubs of data on the game see comments tanking the game despite it not even being out yet, and all this adds up until I finally found myself exasperated enough to write this and add to the stream of opinions. So what is continuing to go wrong for Crystal Dynamics, leading to so few pitchforks being put away?
In trying to calm everyone, Crystal Dynamics is falling short with nearly all parties. Assertions that rape is a, “word that is not in our vocabulary,” rather then reassuring people, is drawing ire and raising the suggestion that perhaps it should be in their vocabulary when they have made no claim that the scene shown is going to be changed. The sequence may be so brief that it wouldn’t be fair to call it a “theme” but what’s there is there. Even supporters are annoyed, feeling that the refusal to acknowledge the nature of the content for what exactly it is stands as an, “insult to our intelligence,” as Audrey Drake put it on IGN. Those defenders aren’t left with much of a leg to stand on when the company isn’t even confident enough to use the terminology. Only by acknowledging what exactly is on our plates are we able to fully tackle it whether or not the content is fleeting or in depth.
While some fans remember arguments that were centered around how lousy an archeologist Lara was given her habit of smashing things, the main controversy has centered around her appearance over the years. Yes, we saw a shift in which she became more personable and less likely to kill police officers and security guards due to glaring plot holes, but the loudest objections were raised over her fluctuating chest size and the objectification that was seen to signify.
Despite the developer’s best efforts to rectify this with the new direction in physical depiction and story telling, they are instead being accused of degrading the character in the opposite direction. Where she sat before in the realm of unrealistic perfectionism with cartoonish proportions and unnecessary acrobatics, people were instead seeing a character being subjected to fetishist levels of cinematic violence.
Is the violence excessive? Maybe. We haven’t seen the whole product yet and I’m sure that will be more easily debated once it’s out. A lot of games are facing this question these days… and movies… and even books.
Is the violence purposefully erotic? I don’t think so.
Fetishes as a whole might be widespread, some so common and mundane that people aren’t even willing to hang the word on them, but individual ones by their very nature are uncommon. Especially fetishes centered around violence. Accusing a company of trying to capitalize on this fetishism to sell a product when they have from day one been trying to distance themselves from it is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean sex being used to sell games isn’t done, but when it is, it tends to be obvious and quickly called out. The niche audience drawn to violent sexualization is not enough to drive sales in the face of the large amounts of content they wouldn’t be interested in (why not just buy cheaper and more focused porn?), and from a sales perspective it would fail the company especially when many people are already turned off of Tomb Raider right now due to the passing resemblance to that kind of excitation. Controversy and sensationalism will only get you so far, and only with a particular audience.
The fact of the matter is that it is very common for writers to knock a character down not because people enjoy watching their favorites be abused, but because they enjoy watching them get back up. The developer is not responsible just because someone, somewhere finds the inflicting of violence to be the more stimulating part.
There is something to be said for market testing and opinion polling. Making sure your choice in words, symbolism, and what not are understood and interpreted as you actually intend by the majority of the audience you are trying to reach is never a waste of time… but I would not in my own writing, nor would I want any other writer, to censor themselves just because there will always be a small percentage of the population that will willfully walk away from their work with the wrong message.
We can always call out the worst of them. Frankly, those people will be disappointed as it has already been confirmed that should the player fail the quick time events, Lara will in fact not be raped.
Oh, by the way? The internet as a whole needs to get their ears of the gutter. If I hear one more complaint about cries of pain sounding like orgasms, I may just have to go burn something. That one has been around for years. Ever wonder why the complaints have failed to make a difference? Because maybe it’s you.
Now That’s Just Lazy
Rape as Backstory has become a fairly well known trope over the years, and the degree to which it is used, badly, is high. Often times used as the reasoning to why you should sympathize with a chronically depressed character, it’s been pulled into use more and more as of late as one of the hottest reasons to become an avenging violent malcontent. Apparently having a character’s family be murdered got too cliche.
“Poor” use of sexual assault as a plot point is difficult for people to truly explain but one way to think of it would be like this: the second it becomes a plot device rather then a plot element, you’ve likely gone wrong. Why don’t we contextualize this with a statement from Crystal Dynamics?
“…[By] giving her motivation to become the stronger action-adventure hero and the girl that’s willing to fight to stay alive and move forward throughout the game, we use that device and that intimidation to make her stronger. ” ~ Community Brand Manager Karl Stewart, Crystal Dynamics
This kind of reasoning is implying that for Lara to move from scared college grad at point A to the epic hero that fans know and love at point C, then point B must either be the threat of sexual assault or something equally traumatizing. It implies that the event was chosen for inclusion not for its own story telling potential, but as a tool to get Lara where they wanted her to be psychologically. This is the epitome of lazy writing in regards to sexual assault as it ignores one of the most poignant effects on a person: many are absolutely crushed under the weight of such trauma and those that aren’t and come out the other side stronger do so not because they were assaulted, but in spite of it.
Those that honestly believe that, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” I invite you to amputate an arm and see how much more you can bench press.
Is this a problem with the writing though, or the PR department?
Rhianna Pratchett was revealed as the lead writer on Tomb Raider at San Diego Comic Con 2012. When taking questions from the audience during the Nerd HQ Conversations for a Cause panel on the game, in elaboration on responses from fellow crew to the question as to whether they ever thought they were putting Lara through too much, she showed a great understanding of the human condition. “You can’t have bravery without fear,” she told the audience. “It is about picking yourself up and doing the right thing. Not just because you’re not scared, but despite the fact that you’re scared.” Unfortunately, when the question of this specific controversy came up in the official Comic Con panel (9:52), the response was handled by Mr. Stewart again, with quite a bit of exposition on the importance of context (something I will not deny) despite many being interested to hear the writer’s own response. While the moment may not have had the context of the entire game around it, it did have the context of the trailer in which it was publicly shown. It’s the responsibility of Crystal Dynamics and their publisher Square Enix to make sure that such promotional materials accurately reflect the product. Context is important, but when releasing something that can be misinterpreted so easily, the burden to provide that explanatory material is on them.
While I have a great deal of faith in Pratchett’s work and attitude, games are a collective creation and there are many people that have a hand in deciding what makes it into the final product. The downplaying of the extent of the controversial content is actually more worrisome then if it were given a prominent role in the game. Having the event happen as an isolated incident that is never spoken of again until it’s convenient belittles the topic. Are we going to have quick time events centered around battling PTSD induced sense memories? Are we going to have to stop ourselves breaking her mentor’s hand when he tries to comfort her? Is Lara going to ever question the moment and her own humanity down the road, or only immediately after the event than just up and move on? All questions for when the game releases, but most of those are highly unlikely to be seen.
Immersion and Distance: How Close do you Really Want Us to the Game?
“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character[.] They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’” ~ Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg, Crystal Dynamics
In an age where developer after developer will be thrilled to tell you all about every little effort they have put in to increase player immersion, Ronsenberg’s comment about projection sent up red flags to more than a few in the audience.
The gaming industry has faced ridicule for years for being too closed minded in its marketing approach to gamers, constantly chasing the demographic they think will make them the most money and not realizing this narrow approach may be alienating a potentially larger audience.
Ronsenberg’s assertion that “people” do not relate to Lara in the key way that many, many gamers relate to gaming protagonists (i.e. seeing themselves as the character since they are the one responsible for all their actions) is very easy to disprove. Your results may vary based on internet connection, but it took me 0.11 seconds. No really. Google times that.
Heck, let’s go one better and make this personal. Straight from Crystal Dynamics’ own flickr stream. This article brought to you by the third Lara from the left.
While the rash generalization about gamers and even of Tomb Raider‘s current audience is groan worthy, the true worry comes from the fact that the executive producer has made a comment that leads many to assume that he believes their entire audience doesn’t relate to the lead character, and within the context of the interview can easily lead them to then make the assumption that the game design is built around this generalization.
Most of us really hope this is wrong, but words from someone in Rosenberg’s position carry a lot of weight, and will spark a lot of theories and assumptions like this. The whole point of marketing and promotion is to get people talking after all. Stewart has outright quashed the idea that these views on character relation are company wide during his PR damage control tour, but that nagging worry still remains given that Ronsenberg has a different hand in the product then a Brand Manager.
While no piece of media can demand relation from its audience, to not strive for it does a complete disservice not just to the characters but to the rest of the audience whom are open to the connection. This does not negate the fact that there are many gamers, who are quite vocal online, who will not under any circumstances relate to a character who is not some exaggerated mirror image of either themselves or their greatest fantasy of whom they wish they could be. These are not the average gamer though, and given the narrow range you must fall in to meet these fantasies, are not the most cost effective audience to cater to given they will never be satisfied with the iconic Lara Croft. Often, even the narrow minded will still play your game, just not connect in the way intended. Anecdotally, there have been plenty of protagonists in gaming I have failed to relate to, but it has almost always been a failing of the writing and characterization (as proven by many a sequel or expanded universe deciding they’re going to put in the leg work and give me a reason to care). I also still enjoyed those games… sometimes on day one if there were enough praise worthy factors, though usually from the bargain bin until they started getting it right.
Thankfully, Pratchett saves the day again in the Nerd HQ panel as she offers some insight into the goal of the writing while giving us reason to not be entirely pessimistic. “You can feel that hurt, how scared, how terrified she is, and she grows through that and you, taking over as the player character, grow with her, which is just an amazing experience. Just to speak to what Karl was saying about Lara being more human: that’s the story we’re trying to tell as well. This isn’t a story about being female. This is a story about being human[.]”
Who can’t relate to being human?
The Minefield: is the Subject Worth the Risk?
Many arguments have been leveled at Crystal Dynamics as to why they shouldn’t even be attempting to tackle this heavy subject matter. People don’t trust games to take on the material, and screwing up would blemish the industry’s already rocky reputation within the entertainment world. Games are at their core supposed to be fun, and how can something so depressing be fun?
How many are asking what effect this content can actually have on people on a personal level?
Putting the controversy in the trailer is actually something I can give Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix quite a bit of credit for. The clip in question within the trailer is much like the trigger warning I put at the beginning of this article. Within the context of the game, the scene may be enough to disturb a victim, but I would consider the warning to be out there. Personally, being triggered was one of the best things to ever happen to me and led to quite a bit of progress in my life, but not everyone gets the happy ending of a conviction of their assailant to prison. What does media like this do for the general perception of these kinds of situations though?
Some argue that Lara is no victim, but a survivor, given she fights back, takes control, and comes out on the other side alive. Some would praise her reaction as being exactly how one would hope she would handle such a situation. How realistic a reaction is it though? Many cite “Victim Blaming” as one of the greatest reasons sexual assault is such an under reported crime. How many people, man or woman, would actually decide, “Yeah, I’m bound, he’s got a gun, but I’m going to take my chances”? Not many. The moment in the game has been equated to a life or death situation by the developers, and rape has been equated to something as serious as death by society from time to time. Next time a debate about the Death Penalty in the United States comes up, just see how many people would only use it on murderers and rapists. So what am I supposed to think when the game is asking me to hammer buttons and try my luck against a physically superior, better armed, better positioned assailant?
I’m lucky enough to think it’s a game telling a story. I’m unlucky enough to feel that somewhere, someone who plays this game may in the future be asking an unfortunate victim, “Why didn’t you fight back,” rather than asking, “What did you do to stay alive?” These situations are so difficult because they are not as clean cut as a quick time event, or even a branching option tree.
I put more hours into surviving than any gamer has ever put into even Skyrim.
But at least I’m alive.
I’ll also be picking up Tomb Raider on launch night. Ask me later if I’m offended.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with sexual violence, please consider contacting the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, either online or at 1-800-656-HOPE.
It’s been 24 hours since the Sony press conference which revealed to the world, plans for the Playstation 4, which is set for release this holiday season.
The new console when compared to a “supercharged” PC, can hold its own. The Playstation 4 will feature a x86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU and 8GB RAM, this is good news for fans of Playstation, since it makes it a lot easier for developers to programs games, and port from PC less challenging.
The consoles controller, which was leaked prior to the press conference, bears a resemblance to previous Playstation controllers. The changes made with this generation’s console controller includes a touch pad which is located in the center of the controller above the start and select buttons. The controller also has a light bar across the top which serves as an integrated Playstation Move. Lastly, there is a share button which has been added to the controller. This share button may have different functions from sending an update to Facebook and Twitter telling friends which game you’re playing, or it could be used to catch a replay of the game you’re playing so it can be uploaded to Facebook Video or Youtube.
The Playstation 4 does seem to have at least one major flaw in the minds of some critics. The new console will not be backward compatible with previous generation games. That isn’t the end all be all for the Playstation 4, because of the recent acquisition of Gaikai, game streaming service. What this means is consumers will be able to stream games from all previous Sony consoles via this service. There’s currently no details on whether games currently owned by consumers of those previous consoles will be added to an individual’s library.
With any new game console announcement, the conference would not be complete without game announcements to accompany it. Sony made no except during the PS4 announcement revealing: Killzone Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS: Second Son, and DriveClub. (follow the links to the official trailers.) In addition to these games’ announcements, Chris Metzen from Blizzard Entertainment made a cameo to announce the Diablo III will be appearing on the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Lastly, the newest project by Bungie, Destiny, is also planned for the Playstation 4, even if it won’t release until 2014.
While we wait for more news about this new console, here are some hardware specs to drool over in the meantime:
Main Processor: Single-chip custom processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
Memory: GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (read only): BD 6xCAV, DVD 8xCAV
I/O Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0)
Communication Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T), IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)
AV output HDMI
Digital Output (optical)