Category Archives: Rant

Dragon Age: Injudicious

Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of my favorite games of the year last year. It had its shortcomings to be sure, but there was enough sweet story and charming interactions with other characters to make up for it. Plus, it was a Dragon Age game!

I played through the game once. However, it was a 300 hour playthrough. I did everything. I always meant to play again. I wanted to choose the Templars instead of the mages, I wanted to have another romance (or 7), I wanted to let the Chargers die and leave Hawke in the Fade. I want to find out who the hell this Blackwall guy is that I totally missed. But, after 300 hours of playing I needed a nice, long break from the game.

I finally went back to it this past week when the Trespasser DLC was released. I picked up all three of the DLC packs and hopped back in. I started with Jaws of Hakkon. This was a mistake. I wish I never played (or paid for) this content. The few hours of gameplay it offered put a spotlight on all of the annoying aspects of the game and offered none of the good parts. It also made me re-examine the game as a whole.

We all know where Dragon Age shines. It’s in the conversations, friendships, romances, and rivalries with your companions. It’s in the choices you make and seeing the results of those choices in the world. It’s in the banter. It’s in shaping an Inquisitor into what you want her to be. The rest, looking back at the game a year later, is kind of shit. Open world was a huge mistake. Adding the ability to jump (and making it use the same button as interactions) introduced all kinds of annoyances. Collection quests are bullshit. Inventory management and the crafting process are annoying (even if the gear is pretty). The codex… fuck the codex, I shouldn’t have to read a novel to understand what’s going on. Making your average conversation with an NPC have a free-roaming camera instead of fixed, more “cinematic” fixed camera angles make conversations feel cold and unengaging. Combat could be okay, if every fight didn’t take a million years and feel exactly the same. Also, I’m pretty sure this game gave me a repetitive strain injury from clicking left stick every 3 seconds to look for items.

DAI map

There’s just so much shit to get through in order to get the parts that make the game worthwhile. Jaws of Hakkon just added another huge, open map with more shards to collect and too much combat and travel time, with nary a glimpse of what makes Dragon Age charming. And it made me realize…that’s what 90% of my experience with the main game was.

I continued on to play through the other DLC. The Descent was good. It didn’t fall into the same traps that Hakkon did. It was nice and linear, there was more story and interaction with other characters. I actually got to see close ups of characters I was talking to during conversations. There was still some shitty collecting of gears but there was an actual purpose to it (opening doors) and you didn’t need to get every single one. It did have a lot of boring combat and for some reason there are no walls in the Deep Roads, meaning I Leaping Shot to my death about a billion times. If you don’t play an archer, Leaping Shot is the most fun and visually appealing ability, plus it makes noise like bowling pins being knocked over, so not using it is not a reasonable option. However, the DLC was decent. Some of the Dragon Age Charm was there.

Trespasser is the last story DLC so I expected a lot of story. For the most part I got it. It had a number of charming bits. Seeing my companions again after so long was nice. Though when I met up with my boo Cullen, I said hello then 3 seconds later we were married. That was a bit jarring. It was great to go to the theater with Josephine and the spa with Vivienne, to hear the bard sing again. Then there was a bunch more combat in more high up areas with no walls. Lots of falling. The end was alright, though it’s the narration during the credits that ended up being my favourite part of the whole thing. Cassandra’s great. Makes me almost want to play the game again to romance her.

However, I think I’m done with my Inquisition experience. Going back for the DLC made realized just how much useless, un-fun filler is in the game and I just can’t bring myself to take part in that again. No matter how much I want to kiss all my companions.

Top 5 Gaming Pet Peeves

I’ve got a new video up about my top 5 gaming pet peeves. Who doesn’t like talking about things that bug them in games?

If you’re not a video watcher, my pet peeves (right now) are:

  1. Games that don’t let me invert the Y-axis.
  2. Episodic games.
  3. Durability and gear repair.
  4. People who constantly correct you about minor details, or try to “teach” you about a game that you clearly already know a lot about.
  5. Quibbling about review scores.

Feel free to share your pet peeves!


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?

Show Don’t Tell

This is day 30 of Blaugust.

Yesterday I played Until Dawn for 6 hours. If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s a cinematic horror game that advertises how player choice matters. A group of teenagers has gone to an isolated mountain cabin (in Alberta!) on the anniversary of the disappearance of a couple of their other friends and a whole bunch of bad shit happens. Surprise. The characters in the game can survive or die based on player decisions.

I like the game. Obviously I like it, I played it all day. It’s fun, scary, and the animation is just amazing. However, it does something that really bugs me.

Until Dawn butterfly effect

When you make a decision that’s important the game tells you, loudly and obnoxiously. Bells are chiming, text is flashing. Butterfly effect! The game really wants you to know that this decision has an effect. That you’re awesome for changing the course of the game. That it’s awesome for letting you.

This for me, is completely ineffective. If anything, it destroys immersion. Yes, I’m playing a video game. I can tell by the controller in my hand, you don’t need to remind me on-screen every time I make a decision. Explicitly telling me I’ve altered the course of events by snooping and reading someone’s text message does nothing for me. Either I’ll play the game again, make new decisions and see their outcomes, or I’ll only play this game the once in which case it doesn’t matter.

Of course this isn’t the only game that does this. I got really fed up with Telltale games when I played The Wolf Among Us. Snow will remember that, the game would tell me, menacingly. So what? If you have to tell me something I’ve said or done has had an impact on another character via a text message on the screen, you’re not doing a very good job with writing (or animation, possibly).

Life is Strange - This action will have consequences

Life is Strange (which basically ripped off Telltale’s boring formula) does this too. This action will have consequences… Shut up, game. Show me consequences, don’t tell me. I think for most games this is just a way of making the player feel in control when they’re really not but for me, it backfires. After playing The Wolf Among Us, or even The Walking Dead  I saw I wasn’t really making that much of a difference. If a character was going to die, they were gonna die. I could save them at the beginning of chapter 3, but they’d still be dead by the end of it. So this control you have over the story is really a lie, and that’s a bit of a piss off. Had I not been bombarded with messages telling me how much impact I’m having, I wouldn’t be upset at all about my choices not really mattering. I like to play the games, I like to experience a story whether it gives me options or sets me along a particular path. What I don’t like is being constantly, obnoxiously told how important my choices are when they generally really aren’t.

What do you think about these kinds of games? Can you see any positives to constant on-screen messages telling you when you’ve (apparently) changed the course of the game?


This is for day 22 of Blaugust.

Let’s talk about Heroes of the Storm. Again. I was happy for the season reset that just happened. I was experiencing a bit of a pattern in ranked games that was getting really annoying. I’d win my way up to Rank 20 or so, and then lose. And lose. And lose. I’d win maybe 1 in 8 games during my long plummet from rank 20 all the way down to rank 28-30. This happened twice. If rank 20 is my skill-cap right now, that’s fine. I can accept that. But I can think of less soul-sucking ways to keep me out of the 19+ bracket.

Now, this is all just anecdotal. I have no idea how MMR works. Maybe it’s meant to make reaching your skill cap a miserable experience, maybe it’s not. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. The worst part about the huge losing streaks is that I didn’t feel I was losing because the opposing team was really good. It felt like I was losing because my team was terrible. Now, I’m not amazing. I sometimes chase a little too far and die, or think I need to finish of a merc camp instead of doing something more useful. But my teams were full of people so bad I often questioned whether they were trolls. It started right from the draft. No one thought about comp at all. Malf and Li Li? Sure! Double tank? Okay! All melee? Sounds like fun! Then once we were off to a limping start, it got even worse. There were the people who wanted to team fight at level 2 and collected no XP (plus yelled at the people who didn’t join the fights). There were tanks off doing their own thing, smacking away at towers while the rest of the team went 4-5 against the enemy. The people who ignored objectives. The people who exclaimed “gg” and went afk if we were 2 levels down. The people who gave me the impression they had never played their hero before. It was pretty disheartening to run into some variation of this in every single match.

I feel like this is kinda backwards. I should be facing the challenge of better players as I rank up, not the challenge of being grouped with a bunch of potatoes.

I’m wondering what other people’s ranked experiences have been like?

Breaking News: Women Play Video Games

This is day 15 of Blaugust.

Today I was out game hunting with my boyfriend and a couple other (male) friends. We had been to number of places, and I was getting kind of bored since I have no games on my wanted list right now and generally just don’t enjoy shopping or flea markets. We went to a little place we had been to a couple times, and the guy behind the counter was someone I hadn’t seen before.

“You look a little lost, dear. Let me guess, you’re a non-gamer surrounded by gamers?”

I looked at him as his stupid comment took a second to process.

“I’m a gamer,” I replied. “I’m just not much of a shopper.”

He went on asking if people just handed me games to play, as I walked deeper into the shop, away from him.

“That guy’s an idiot,” said my boyfriend once we were out of earshot. “I’m surprised you didn’t go off on him.”

It wasn’t the first time I had gotten a comment along those lines, I doubt any woman is a stranger to the old “Are you buying this for yourself?” question at certain video game chains stores.

I wasn’t looking to buy anything (especially not now), so I took out my phone and started browsing Twitter.

“Oh, I see. You’re not much of a shopper because you’re on eBay.” Apparently the store clerk hadn’t run his mouth enough yet. I wasn’t sure if he was insinuating that I do my game shopping on eBay or that I was price-checking things in his store but it doesn’t really matter.

“No, I just own every single video game I want right now,” I tell him.

“How’d you mange that? Digital?”


“Oh, don’t tell me the only video games you want are Sing Star and Dance Dance Revolution.”

Fuck. He clearly wasn’t stopping so I engaged full-on ignore mode, and went back to my phone.

“Don’t tell me I touched a nerve.”

And then we left. My boyfriend was astonished that the man just wouldn’t stop talking. As we walked away, even another guy that had been in the store commented on what a jackass the clerk had been.

I was so mad, I don’t understand how people can be so stupid. If you’re that clueless, at least do everyone a favor and shut up. Besides being horribly sexist and out of touch with reality, it’s a very bad sales tactic to question the “gamerness” people who come in your store.

I’ve always had it pretty good as a woman who plays video games. I’ve really never experienced harassment beyond the very occasional troll-y blog comment, a few “you’re a girl? really?” comments in WoW, or above-mentioned questions about if I’m buying games for myself. I try to surround myself with people who aren’t morons, so this kind of stuff doesn’t come up too often. But it’s pretty shitty when it does, and it’s been building up.

However, these kinds of things don’t make me want to withdraw from public gaming spaces, it’s actually the opposite. Now I feel this urge to make myself as visible as possible. Where I would have ordered a new game online, I now feel like I have to do my buying in person, so people see women buying games and are maybe less inclined to make a stupid comment to the next woman who comes in. When a teammate in HotS exclaims “Good job, fellas” after a successful team fight, I feel the need to obnoxiously proclaim “I’m no fella!”

Of course, then I’ll probably be accused of attention seeking.

If you feel like commiserating, feel free to share your shitty gaming gender discrimination stories.

The Witcher, Diversity, and those darn SJWs

So, this topic has been around for a while, but doesn’t seem to be going away. Damion Schubert at Zen of Design talks about it quite a bit, which is what keeps it on my radar. I’ve written about The Witcher 3 and how it treats women, but stayed fairly silent on the issue of racial diversity since I don’t think my voice in this matter is that important. But I feel like I have to respond to all the “Omg, you terrible SJWs are the real racists for complaining about too many white characters. And also you’re ruining the entertainment industry. And the world!!!”

Jesus fucking christ, I’ve never come across so many people who are so unable to contextualize information and are so incapable of critical thought.

First things first…

Critique is not condemnation.

This seems rather obvious to me, but apparently isn’t to a lot of people. The people pointing out “hey, everyone in this game is white except for one demon lady” are not following it up with “therefore, CDPR are a bunch of racists and you shouldn’t buy their game.” They’re not even insinuating it and I have no idea how people are extracting that from the articles and reviews that have been written. They’re pointing out a lack of diversity, then generally moving on to talk about all the things they love about the game and how great it is.

It’s funny (and when I say funny I mean pathetic and sad) that those complaining about how the game-ruining SJWs are offended by everything are themselves offended by everything. Someone said The Witcher needs more diversity? Someone said Doom was too violent? They get offended on behalf of the developers, the fans, and the game itself, and take to YouTube or blogs to spew bile at those who dare to not thoughtlessly consume the game in question. Many people think Anita Sarkeesian has made a career for herself by being a professional victim, so they then make themselves into minor YouTube celebrities by creating video after video ranting about her. Professional victim vs. professional whiner? Professional asshole? What’s worse? What value are you adding to the world?

No game is perfect, and it’s really no different to criticize a game for its lack of diversity than it is to criticize its graphics. Acknowledging and talking about problematic elements can lead to better creations or at least interesting conversations. Having a problem with one aspect of a game doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it or don’t want others to but, to some, making a comment about diversity is ruining it for everyone.

Hmm, went on a bit of a tangent there.

So about The Witcher 3 and how white it is… I don’t have a problem with white characters (if I did what the hell would I play?), or a game that feels culturally Polish (I am Polish after all). What I have a problem with is the reactions people have to this particular piece of critique.

First, there’s the “historically accurate” response. It’s fantasy. Calling it historically accurate is an oxymoron (and moronic). Next.

Second, it’s based on pre-existing works of fiction. …So? The books do feature a place called Zerrikania, where the people are not white. It was a choice not to feature any Zerrikanian’s in Witcher 3. Also, as I talked about in my post on women in The Witcher, content doesn’t get directly translated from book to game. Developers make changes, choose what to include and what not to, add their own ideas. Source material is a guideline, not a rule.

The third argument is the only one that carries any weight at all with me. Poland, where the developers are, is overwhelmingly white. If all you see is white people around you, it’s not totally unreasonable to think that you would create something that reflects that (if a game was made or set in Toronto and was mostly white I’d definitely have some words to say about that). It’s not a wholly solid argument as you are creating for a global audience, but whether adding more diversity to the game was just something that wasn’t considered or something that was avoided due to a lack of frame of reference, it’s the only argument I’ve heard that I don’t dismiss outright. However, even assuming the best possible intentions in this scenario, the lack of people of colour is still worth pointing out. Maybe the developers will think of it next time. Maybe they won’t care. Either way, it’s worth having the discussion.

It’s rather scary how a whole subset of gamers are so vocally opposed to thinking critically about the media we consume. Sure, 90% of the time I play a game my main goal is entertainment, but just as I’d comment on awkward controls or bad voice acting, you can bet I’m going to comment on things like a lack diversity, and seek out those kind of critiques to read.