Category Archives: Opinion

My Top 30 NES Games

Today Nintendo announced the NES Classic, a mini-replica of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, that will come with a pre-loaded library of 30 games. The 30 games selected are not surprising (for both licencing and popularity reasons) but it raises the question – what are your top 30 NES games?

I came up with a list of mine. My total NES games played probably tops out short of 50, so most of the games I’ve played will appear on this list. Inclusion doesn’t necessarily denote quality 😛

  1. The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants
  2. BreakThru
  3. Legendary Wings
  4. Hudson Hawk
  5. Maniac Mansion
  6. Dr. Mario
  7. Bubble Bobble
  8. Tengen Tetris
  9. Galaga
  10. Adventure Island
  11. Super Mario Bros. 2
  12. Duck Hunt
  13. Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers
  14. Classic Concentration
  15. Flintstones: Suprise at Dino Peak
  16. Gun.Smoke
  17. Super Mario Bros.
  18. RBI Baseball
  19. Klax
  20. Kirby’s Adventure
  21. Panic Restaurant
  22. Tetris
  23. Monopoly
  24. Mega Man 2
  25. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
  26. The Guardian Legend
  27. Super Mario Bros. 3
  28. Star Tropics
  29. Felix the Cat
  30. Gun-Nac

It looks like there’s an overlap of 9 games between my list and what’s going to be offered on the NES Classic.

Mourning Rant

David Bowie has died. It hit me pretty hard, harder than any other celebrity death. He always seemed so ethereal, whether he was playing Jareth the Goblin King, Ziggy Stardust, or Phillip Jeffries. He’s an artist who was always evolving, always re-inventing, and the world is poorer for having lost him. Luckily, the influence he has had on music, popular culture and ideas about gender and sexuality aren’t going anywhere.

Content warning for the next part: discussion of underage sex/statutory rape

Yesterday, amidst bouts of crying over the Bowie’s death, and reading other people’s thoughts and memories of him on social media, something infuriating kept popping up. A few people kept bringing up a tumblr post, referencing a VH1 special that mentions Bowie had sex with a very young girl (13 or 14) while he was 23. Like, “hey everyone, I know you’re sad that an artist who means a lot to you has died, but check out this bad thing he did 45 years ago.” I saw a couple people tweet out this post and I just wondered…why? Why is it important to share this right now? Is it to tell people their heroes aren’t perfect? That they make bad decisions and are problematic like every single other person on the planet? Is it to detract from his career or his death? To say don’t feel so bad, he wasn’t that great a guy? I just don’t understand the motivation here.

While I agree that the trend of rockstars sleeping with young teenagers is gross, and something to be discouraged, it’s also important to take the thoughts and feelings of the girl in question into account. From the post:

at one point, Pamela Des Barres, the women who made the documentary, brings up Lori Mattix being young at 10:39 and that she may have gotten “overwhelmed” by the scene, but Lori gets very defensive and says she felt much older – it’s clear Lori Mattix doesn’t see what happened to her as rape or assault and as consensual…

My point here isn’t to defend the bad, most likely illegal, decision to have sex with a minor that the recently deceased made many years ago, but to question the decision of people who are still around to bring this up right now.

First of all, this is shitty timing. It’s just generally disrespectful to broadcast out to people who are in mourning that the person they’re grieving for did a bad thing once and try to undermine their feelings.

Second, I think it’s also shitty to the woman involved (Lori). Legalities aside, Lori didn’t see her sexual relationship with Bowie as a problem when she was a teenager, and still didn’t see it as a problem many years later during this interview as an older, and hopefully wiser, woman. It would be different if she looked back and said she felt taken advantage of or abused. There’s a huge problem in our culture of people not listening to women when it comes to sexual assault. Women are not believed or are blamed when they say they’ve been raped or assaulted and as a result, crimes go unreported and unpunished. The message, which is one I believe in, is that we should believe women. However, it also goes the other way. If Lori maintains the feeling that it was consensual, and doesn’t feel like she was taken advantage of, maybe we should believe her and not impose our own indignation on her experiences.

Pointing everyone to this extremely cursory post condemning a man who just died seems really cheap and opportunistic. And I honestly still don’t understand the motivation for doing it. Please don’t do this.

Early Access, Beta, and Information Overload

My latest vlog brings up the issue of how much pre-release information about a game is too much. I’ve written about this before, but have had some new thoughts on the matter. What raised this was the possibility of taking part in the beta for Torment: Tides of Numerera, one of the games I’m most looking forward to this year. There’s a small part of me that wants to see things first, but a bigger part of me that wants to wait for the final product.

How do you feel about this topic?

One Girl Gamer to Rule Them All

Walk with me, if you will, into the mire that is YouTube comments…

Well, that’s a shitty invitation if I ever heard one. Are you still here? As my YouTube channel has been growing, so has the amount of terrible comments. I guess you can say that’s to be expected, though that’s really fucking sad. Some comments are so awful they can be immediately brushed off as coming from terrible, sad, angry people, such as “Fuck this dumb hoe” or “Die you cam slut whore”. Though, I would ask everyone not to refer to these kinds of comments as trolling. “Die, bitch” isn’t trolling. It’s harassment. I share the worst comments on Twitter because I like to call out this stuff, but it’s kind of losing it’s novelty. Can you believe at one point I thought to myself “Hey, my first harassing comment, I’ve made it.” The Internet is gross.

Anyway, those aren’t the comments I want to talk about. There’s another kind of comment, a more sneakily sexist kind. It intends to be complimentary to a woman but it does so by putting all the other women gamers down. Things like:

“You’re the first girl I’ve seen review video games, and you’re great at it!” This one is puzzling and makes me assume you live under a rock.

“It’s nice that you don’t get too much into gender politics and focus on content.” As back-handed as it gets. I like you, because you don’t talk about things that try to make me see the world from someone else’s perspective. Also, it assumes that anything outside of gameplay mechanics is not real content and makes me want to talk about gender politics more.

“Nice to see a female gamer  who is about something more than sex appeal.” I suppose that if I were to wear more low-cut tops (of which I own many), my credibility would fly out the window. Everyone knows that being interested in games and wanting to look hot are in direct opposition to one another (just as these kind of comments are in direct opposition to the ones I receive that focus solely on my looks and ignore what I’m talking about).

“It’s so nice to find a female YouTuber who’s actually a fan of gaming” or “Wow, a girl who knows about games!” Because all those other women talking about games (which don’t actually exist according to commenter 1 above) are faking it. Hours and hours dedicated to videos and streams on a topic they don’t even like, those liars.

This last one is the one that bothers me the most. A compliment that depends on comparing you to other women and putting those women down isn’t much of a compliment at all. I’ve gotten it on my channel, I’ve seen it on many other women’s channels. A man will decide that this woman is the one true female gamer, to be put on a pedestal. This woman knows what she’s talking about, she really loves games, she doesn’t spend too much time talking about things they don’t like. She stands head and shoulders above all the other women, who pretend to like games for attention or to push their social agendas. She’s real, and the rest are fakes.

This kind of thought process is really sick and kinda scary. Women gamers aren’t some special fucking unicorns.  They’re everywhere and what they wear, or the games they prefer, or whether they’ve been playing games for 1 year or 30 doesn’t make any one of them better or more real than any other. If you like me because I talk about retro games, shitting on the women who don’t doesn’t make me feel special, it makes me think you’re an asshole.

There’s this pressure to respond positively to these kinds of comments because hey, they like my stuff, they’re trying to be nice. But these really aren’t compliments, this isn’t nice. I mean, at least they’re not calling me a whore? That’s a pretty fucking low bar, because comments like these are indeed sexist. What if men on YouTube were treated the same? What if each viewer felt that there could only be one true male gamer, and the rest were garbage? There would certainly be a lot less content to chose from. Want to see more women talking about games? Stop making it a competition. Of course, I don’t think that seeing more women in games is really the desired outcome from the people who make these kinds of comments.

Tips for Commenting on YouTube

  • Stay on topic. If you’re watching a game review, a comment about the presenter’s appearance is not necessary. Also, unless the video specifically mentions your penis, never bring it up in a comment.
  • If you want to compliment the YouTuber, tell them why you like their video or opinions. Don’t compare them to other YouTubers, or put other people down.
  • Don’t send a private message when a public comment will do. It creates more pressure and is kinda weird. You can’t force a personal relationship.
  • Watch the whole video before commenting. If you’re going to ask a question or try to teach the video maker something about what they’re talking about, and it turns out that gets mentioned later in the video? You’ll look dumb.
  • If you want to insult or threaten the YouTuber, just go take a fucking walk instead. 

Gameplay, Class, and Story in Dragon Age

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bioware games lately, and the role of class and race in storytelling. It was just Bioware month after all – did you catch me on Justice Points? If not, check it out.

In the typical Western fantasy RPG that lets you create your own character, there are two big choices to make at the start – the class you want to play and the race you want to be (and your hairstyle, obviously). Your class – warrior, rogue, mage are the big three though some games offer many more specific classes like druids, priests or rangers – dictates the types of abilities you can use. Your race – Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, etc. – can impact what classes you can choose and may give you certain traits or attributes.

What class you play in RPGs generally has the most impact on mechanics and how you solve problems as opposed to the narrative. Where a warrior may break down a locked door, a rogue may pick the lock or pickpocket the key, and a mage might use a Knock spell. Some games offer quests or things like guilds that can only be accessed by players of a certain class, but these generally don’t have a huge impact on the story. Combat is a big problem to be solved in most games, and class has a huge impact on that. The combat experience of a sword & board warrior is quite different from that of a spirit mage and most players have a preference when it comes to combat style.

Many RPGs can boast that your decisions and character background shape your game experience in some way, but the Dragon Age series in particular takes things a bit further. As evidenced by the name, the first Dragon Age game puts a lot of emphasis on the origin of your character. You can choose to play one of 6 different origin stories – You can be a Daelish elf or a city elf, a Dwarf Noble or commoner, or a Human Noble. Or you can be a Mage. Each of these 6 character types has it’s own unique origin story that acts as the prologue of the game, but the difference in experience doesn’t stop there. If you’re a dwarf from the Noble caste, you’ll have a different experience and understanding of what happens in Orzammar than you would if you were a human. If you’re a city elf you’ll have different conversations when you revisit the alienage in Denerim. If you’re anything but a human noble Alistair will stomp all over your heart after you make him King. Yes, this is a lingering trauma. These little differences based on your origin, along with the changes caused by your choices make the game worth replaying. That’s not where the differences end though, as the Mage class throws you a curveball. While being a warrior or a rogue makes no difference to the game’s narrative and doesn’t impact your origin story, being a Mage changes everything. When you’re a Mage you get a whole different origin story and whether you’re a human or an elf (dwarves can’t practice magic) doesn’t matter. Being a Mage trumps everything else.


Dragon Age Origins mage spells

From a narrative standpoint, this is thematically appropriate and is a great bit of world building. The tensions between the Circle of Mages and the Chantry is one of the defining parts of Thedas. When it’s discovered that someone can use magic they’re shipped off to the Circle where they live under constant surveillance, it doesn’t matter where they came from or what race they are. It makes total sense that being a Mage is going to have a great impact on your experiences in the world as opposed to being a rogue or warrior which really has no impact on story.

Choosing the Mage class in Dragon Age 2 also has a significant impact on how you experience the game. As you make your way to Kirkwall with your family, one of your siblings is killed and who it is is based on your class. If you’re a warrior or a rogue, you go through the rest of the game with your sister, Bethany, a Mage. If you’re a Mage yourself, it’s Carver, the warrior who survives and may become a Templar later on.

Bethany Dragon Age 2

Again, this makes sense from a narrative standpoint. The troubles between the Circle of Mages and the Chantry and Templars is even more at the forefront of this game, eventually reaching a boiling point. Much more tension is created by putting your sibling on the opposite side of the issue from you. Also, it aids in the ability to create a balanced party at the start of the game.

However, as much as it makes sense in the scope of the game world, having your class impact your experience of the story so much causes some issues for me. I like being a mage, I find their abilities more interesting than the other classes and I find them more fun to play. The spells have real synergy and you can change your combat strategy quite considerably based on which skill trees you invest in. There are area of effect spells, direct single target spells, spells that hit in a cone, plus buffs and heals for your party. Warriors are really dull to play. Rogues are a bit more interesting, but still rather button mashy. From a pure mechanics standpoint, I always want to play a mage. That means I’ll probably never get to see things as a Daelish elf in DA:O. In Dragon Age 2 I always have to make a choice – play the class I prefer and never get to experience Bethany’s story or choose a class I’ll have less fun with so I can see this other side of the game. It’s a long game and playing as a class I don’t like will definitely impact my enjoyment.

I can’t think of any other games where the class you choose so greatly impacts the events of the game. It makes sense, in the world of Thedas, that being a mage limits your options. But in the real world, where I want to have fun while playing games, it’s disappointing that fun combat mechanics and differing narrative experiences can be at odds with one another.

Saying No and Not Working for Free

Ever since I started making YouTube videos I’ve been running into something I rarely encountered when I was just a blogger. People I don’t know are asking things of me. I get requests to collaborate on videos, to join networks, to post my videos on other people’s websites. It can get a bit overwhelming. I have a hard time responding to these requests. On the one hand many of the people asking seem sincere and enthusiastic about what they do, and I don’t want to be a jerk. On the other hand, a question that has to be asked is – What do I get out of this?

It’s very common in hobby-based content creation for outlets to only be able to “pay” you with exposure. Now, I certainly don’t write or make videos for money – based on the current balance in my AdSense account I should be set to receive my first ever cheque from Google sometime next year. After 6 years of writing here and 1 year of video making. I do it because I enjoy it, I answer only to myself, it lets me talk to people with similar interests, and because I like attention and people knowing my thoughts on things. However as soon as a third party comes in asking to use my work in some way, things change. If I’m asked to share my content elsewhere, do extra work, maybe commit to some schedule, then it turns into work. And honey, I don’t work for free.

What kind of collaborations and such I find reasonable will depend on what kind of effort is required from me, and what I get in return. As of now, the only request I’ve said yes to came from the folks at 1 More Castle (which has, sadly, shut down now). One of the site founders contacted me to see if I was interested in posting my videos on the site. I was really new to making videos and honestly I was just pumped that someone noticed me. So, after some back and forth on the details, I said yes. Luckily, I had only positive experiences with posting there. The requirements from me were minimal – I just made a post in WP to embed my video whenever I had a new one ready (along with some tags and a thumbnail and stuff) and let an editor know it was good to go. My videos stayed on my own channel and there was no schedule or rules to follow. I got a few more hits to my videos, the website readers hopefully had some new interesting content to peruse, and I made a bunch of nice new internet friends.

Currently I post my retro videos as user submissions on another retro gaming site. No one contacted me about this, I just thought it would give my channel more traffic. Again, the videos stay on my channel, I just email in a link and description for them whenever I make them. I get some views from this, but have not really felt any sense of community building. Low effort, low return.

When it comes to sites or people asking for original content with no compensation I have to ask – why would I do that? My bf let me know today that a gaming site was looking for staff writers to do a weekly column. It could be a good source of exposure so I checked out the posting and the application for it. Then I got to the fine print at the bottom, which quietly explained that they could offer no monetary compensation. Sigh. Exposure isn’t pay, and writers shouldn’t be asked to work for free.

Professional writers, especially in the video games industry have a hard time making a living wage. I’m not a professional writer. I’ve never made a pitch, I’ve never worked with an editor. I’ve been paid to write something a grand total of 1 time. However, because I think that writing and journalism should be careers that are viable for talented people, I’d never write for free for any site that collects revenue. The more people that create content for free, the more people think that this is the way it should be. That people don’t need to be compensated for their work. Why pay a writer when some schmuck with no business sense will do it for free?

I’ve sort of veered off topic (see? no editor). At least I resisted the urge to go into a tangent about game companies using fans as free Alpha/Beta testers. Oh wait, I guess I didn’t resist. Coming back around to the original topic… if you’re a content creator, how do you respond to requests for collaboration or for you to share your work elsewhere? My current tactic is to ignore anything I’m not really interested in, which is not the most mature response. I don’t want to be a jerk to people who are interested in my content but at the same time, there has to be something in it for me and I want to be sure I’m getting at least as much out of it as I put into it.

Things I Don’t Get About Gaming: Respect for One’s Time

So here’s something I’m becoming more and more perplexed by as time goes on – gaming’s relationship with time. More specifically, the relationship between time and enjoyment.

I’ve talked before about how I find it strange that “short” is so often used as a criticism of games, or something included in the negative column of a review. I’ve actually made a whole video about it. I love short games. They don’t overstay their welcome, you have less of a chance to get bored. There’s less “busy work” like fetch quests or loot grinding. If it’s a story-focused game, the narrative is usually tighter. That’s not to say I don’t like long games too – I love a lot of those but honestly I probably would have enjoyed Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition more if I spent 50 hours with them (which is still a very long time) rather than 100+. Did looking for weapon and armor patterns or shards add anything to the game but extra playtime? Not really.

Destiny loot grind

Today there was an opinion piece about Destiny over on Polygon. My history with Destiny is quite short. I picked it up not long after release and gave it a fair shake. It looked nice – not exactly glowing praise. Are there really any current gen AAA games you can’t say that about? The shooting mechanics were solid. The story was almost non-existent, and what little there was was wedged into a phone app rather than in the game. The gameplay got repetitive and boring real quick. Playing alone was dull. Playing with a friend (who outleveled me) was dull (and full of death). Loot grinds are dull. Plus, the number one strike against games for me right now – it doesn’t end. So I quit. This was not the game for me.

Anyway, one quote from this article made me kind of sad.

I’m like many of you in that I only have an hour, maybe two, of non-working game time every night. So I tend to play games that allow me to make some forward progress in that time. Diablo 3 was a perfect game for that rhythm, as you could play a little here and there and always gain a bit of level or some loot.

Destiny actively pushed players like me away with its endgame leveling scheme, which depended on an arcane “Light” system. You were completely reliant on random item drops to level up and, while there were certain things you could do to maximize your time, if you didn’t pull any good items in your evening of playing, you were sunk. The time was all but meaningless.

It felt like a grind that ended with a slot machine that would determine whether or not you wasted your time. It sucked, and it sucked hard.

I understand that things like gears and levels serve as both goals and rewards in games. However, shouldn’t the simple act of playing the game be something worth your time? Shouldn’t playing be fun? Fun might be a bit reductive – but it should be engaging, or entertaining, or thought-provoking, or interesting. If the time you spend with a game is only worthwhile if X happens (you get a piece of gear, you gain a level, you get an achievement, you win) but is considered a waste of time otherwise, is that a good game? Does it deserve your time?

Say you play for an hour. At the 58 minute mark you get a piece of gear. Whether it’s useful or not will certainly impact your enjoyment and mood for those last 2 minutes of the game. But what about the first 57 minutes, before the loot dropped. Were you enjoying yourself? If not, why are you playing?

My thoughts on this have evolved over the years. I can think of many, many times in World of Warcraft where I spent hours in a raid and was just miserable the whole time (heroic Garrosh springs to mind). These times weren’t contained to a certain tier or xpac, there were lots times I spent in WoW that were unequivocally NOT FUN. But I did them for some larger goal – an achievement, a boss kill, a better arena ranking.

Now I’ve come to a point where if I were to play a game for 2 hours and consider my time wasted I don’t think I’d be going back to that game. Life’s short. There are a lot of games to play.

What do you think? Is it worth it to power through uninteresting gameplay, to do things you consider a waste of time, in search of some bigger in-game goal? The more work you put in, the better the “win” will feel? Or do you think games should always be fun (or at least interesting) to you in some way?