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Mechanized Gender Disadvantages

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New or old-school, hero or side-kick, female video game characters like Princess Peach are too often designed as stereotypically feminine. We most often see female video game characters featured in dresses, skirts or skimpy clothing, wearing bows and make-up, and maintaining dainty, delicate, or over-sexualized dispositions. These features make any character disadvantaged in race or combat. Such stereotypical signifiers, which were specifically drawn into the design of the characters, are then mechanized as disadvantages. These characters not only stereotype women, but also send the message that qualities specific to females are limitations to a character’s ability. The lack of strong female characters present in video games is due to the fact that there’s a sense in the industry that games with female heroes won’t sell. However, it seems that this is only true because of the manner in which female video game characters are designed. It is less the female character that wouldn’t sell, but what is currently designed as the female character. The predominantly male community of game developers designs their female characters as weak, distracted, and as having vices. Male or female, it is obvious that such a hero would never sell. By ignoring the ‘damsel in distress’ connotation from female video game characters and designing female characters that are as capable and badass does work. Women could easily take the role of the hero and could absolutely sell video games in new uncharted territory. My favorite recent example of a strong female protagonist comes from the Sep 4th 2014 release, Velocity 2X starring Lt. Kai Tana.

VELOCITY-2X

GamerGate has opened the debate for gamers and developers everywhere to speak their opinions on the matter. There has been some negative and positive results from this and game makers continue to try and open up the market to more users globally. The connotation of women in the video game industry is a polarizing issue that perpetuates itself. With more awareness on the issue than ever it seems like there will be some dramatic shifts in the industry to address the prominent issue. Myself as a developer take all of these allegations very seriously and hope to bring more maturity and acceptane in the workplace. While women in the workforce is an issue in itself, creating exciting and innovative female protagonists should be the first goal. If developers can create dynamic characters for people to latch onto, this will inturn create an environment where women want to work and support the corporate vision. Video games can be anything so it is important that some big companies begin to support this stance and speak out on the manner actively and aggresivly. Gamers will never be the same after the implications of GamerGate but perhaps that is for the best. Like Anita Sarkeesian says in each of here videos “remember that it is both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy medi while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernacious aspects. Video games must be treated in the manner going forward in all regards and I applaud Anita Sarkessian for her bravery and dedication to stand up and lead the charge on this issue.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions http://www.twitch.tv/dirksteel

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Comic Con International San Diego Official App Navigation

So for those unlucky few who went to Comic Con and did not download this App I really feel sorry for you, but lucky for everybody else here is a link to the free Comic Con App giving a detailed program of panels and exhibits open through Sunday July 15th.

I will be  posting info and pictures from Comic Con shorty.

Click Here for Comic Con App

Assimilate your thoughts, into ours. Post your message into the collective comment center below.

(comment section will only be available if you clicked on the article title link)

Come check out my blog in the {{STAND BY FOR ASSIMILATION}} section and talk video games!

The Strange, Scary, Fascinating, Exciting Future of Video Games, According to A Giant

By Stephen Totilo Kotaku

You are, presumably, a person who plays video games and probably not a rich executive. Maybe you own an Xbox 360 or play games on your iPhone or maybe both.

You have some favorite video games. And there are some series and some types of games that you hate. Maybe you keep up with gaming news on a site like Kotaku. You have an ordinary life, probably. A good one, hopefully. But you’re not a wealthy Chief Operating Officer, and you might not be able to relate to all of the hopes and fears of the average COO.

When Peter Moore, COO of Electronic Arts talks, what he is saying could affect you. It’s even sort of about you. It’s about the games you might play in the future and the way you might play them. But it’s also about how the things you might say make a COO feel. That part, you might be able to relate to. The part about where the COO thinks games are going? That’s the part that might make your head spin.

EA, of course, makes Madden and Mass Effect and The Sims and Battlefield and Bejeweled and so much more. They’re about as massive as it gets in gaming and what they want to do will affect a lot of gamers.

I’m about to dump a whole lot of Peter Moore on you, but I’ve got to set this up first. Moore is an amiable executive who, in a previous incarnation as a top marketing guy at Microsoft, would roll up his sleeves to reveal tattooed logos of whichever major game he was about to hype. He’s frank enough in interviews to say that a key product his company is currently offering might need two more years of tinkering before it’s excellent. He’s relatable enough that this middle-aged, English executive can precede his latest interview with me, conducted a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles at E3 with a discussion about West Coast rap. He’s mortal enough that he admits a weakness for reading all the comments under articles about EA and internalizing the harshest criticism. This is a Rorschach blot of a sentence, but let’s give it a shot: He genuinely seems to care.

He did not think it was cool at all that his company had been called “cynical bastards.”

I’d interviewed Moore many times before we spoke at E3 but was eager to again to follow-up on a rant of his that I had witnessed while visiting EA’s Los Angeles campus in May. He’d ranted then, in front of reporters, about how day-one downloadable content, micro-transactions and other aspects of modern gaming were here to stay, how gamers needed to cut EA some slack and how he did not think it was cool at all that his company had been called “cynical bastards.” (That last one was a reference to the creator of Minecraft, Markus “Notch” Persson, snarking on EA’s promotion of an “indie game” bundle when the company started promoting a discount bundle of several indie-developed games that EA had partnered with and published. EA = indie? It’s a $4 billion company, one of the industry’s largest.)

“We’re going through, as an industry, just an unbelievably difficult transformation, that is not from one business model to another but from one business model to a myriad of different business models,” Moore said to me as we chatted in L.A.

Business models. Not the sexiest of topics. We were definitely in the realm of Things COOs Care About. But it does involve you, so bear with me.

“It is a very interesting period,” he said. “And I”ll say interesting period in our industry’s history when the conventional wisdom of ‘We’re going through a console transition and, when the new consoles come out, everything is going to be fine again’, is no longer the case. Consoles are still going to be a very important part of what we do. But so are browsers. So are iOS devices. So are Android mobile phones. So are PCs, which are feeling a renaissance. It’s all coming together in this potpourri…”

Moore: “I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free.”

OK, stop again. A little more context is needed. The mood of my chat with Moore was the mood of much of E3. Many game creators and business people with whom I spoke seemed tired of this generation of gaming and said they felt gamers were ready to move on. Some, of course, are excited about selling games to the huge numbers of people who own Xbox 360s now rather than to the relatively tiny number of people who will own a next-gen Xbox in, say, the fall of 2013 when that machine is just getting started. But coming in from the sides, breaching the walls of the hardcore gamer’s paradise that is E3 are the Zyngas and the Apples, the people making games for Facebook and iPad and Android. Companies like EA have been branching out to all of those fresh areas, just as they’ve been trying out new or imported business models—making their games free-to-play (you download the game for free and pay for gameplay-relevant upgrades and/or cosmetic items later); selling downloadable expansions even on the day a game launches, and so on.

Overall, there’s a sense of confusion as to what is really going to take hold, whether one form of gaming—primarily the $60 console game—is going to be dominant in the future. Hell, you’re about to hear from a COO who raises the question of even how relevant the $60 console game will be. In fact, let’s get to that part now:

Kotaku: “How do you balance the effectiveness of any microtransaction-based game design or business model with the anxiety a gamer might feel that they’re being nickel and dimed?”

Moore: “I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free. Ultimately, my goal is… I measure our business in millions of people have bought our game. Maybe when I’m retired, as this industry progresses, hundreds of millions are playing the games. Zero bought it. Hundreds of millions are playing. We’re getting 5 cents, 6 cents ARPU [average revenue per user] a day out of these people. The great majority will never pay us a penny which is perfectly fine with us, but they add to the eco-system and the people who do pay money—the whales as they are affectionately referred to—to use a Las Vegas term, love it because to be number one of a game that like 55 million people playing is a big deal.”

Kotaku: “You’re saying inevitably all games are going to be that model?”

Moore: “I think there’s an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10 years from now, that, let’s call it the client, to use the term, [is free.] It is no different than… it’s free to me to walk into The Gap in my local shopping mall. They don’t charge me to walk in there. I can walk into The Gap, enjoy the music, look at the jeans and what have you, but if I want to buy something I have to pay for it.”

Kotaku: “I understand how that would work for Madden. I can’t imagine how that would work for a Mass Effect. That’s a storyline game.”

Moore: “That’s the point. If the business model… what do you do? It may well be that there will be games that survive and they are the $60 games, but I believe that the real growth is bringing billions of people into the industry and calling them gamers. Hardcore gamers won’t like to hear this. They like to circle the wagons around what they believe is something they feel they have helped build—and rightly so. But we have seen, whether it was with the Wii getting mom off the couch to do Wii Sports or whether it was, more recently EA Sports Active, where we get females who love to work out, all the things that social gaming did—Rock Band did it, Guitar Hero did it—all of the things that elevated it from being a dark art of teenage boys usually sequestered in the bedroom—that it was testosterone-filled content that everybody railed against—to where everybody is a gamer…if you can move your index finger and swipe it this way, your’e a gamer. And that has got to be the way it goes.”

***You really could have called this E3 the anxiety E3, the E3 when people wondered and even worried about what was coming next. But why confine that to E3? The feeling’s been rumbling for a while and there are people—younger gamers, I imagine—who might tell codgers like me who grew up playing Super Mario Bros. to get over it and embrace our free-to-play League of Legends era.

Anxiety?

Moore: “We can’t end up being music.”

A big gaming chain went out of business in Europe. So, here’s Moore, cheering for the big chain in the U.S.: “We all love going to GameStop and chatting with the guys. You want these guys to stay in business. You’ve got to provide them with opportunities to play in digital, otherwise they become Blockbuster. Otherwise they become Tower Records. ”

Under threat?

Moore: “We can’t end up being music.” (I’ll get back to that one.)

***Peter Moore, the polished COO, gives the impression of a man who is bushwacking, hacking at the reeds and swatting at the gnats, squinting at the sun while trying to find a clearing. And the last thing he yearns for now—though he likes constructive criticism—is what he thinks are unfair potshots.

Moore: “You’ve got this potpourri of things coming together in this fabulous kind of soup that we need to figure out as an industry… I just ask for patience. You know me pretty well. I read all of this stuff…. I think at times gamers need to understand that we need to work our way through this stuff. They need to be patient with us as we try to figure out what are the business models of the future. I am the chief operating officer of a company that has offices in 70 countries and is responsible for the employment of over 9000 very creative, hard-working talented people. And when you see the things—look, I know it’s the Internet, I know it’s anonymous…

Kotaku: “It’s not all anonymous. Somebody with a name called you ‘cynical bastards.’ You referenced that [in an earlier speech].”

Moore: “I did. I took umbrage to that in front of you. I just read that story and, what we’re referring to—I’m almost doing the interview for you—is the fact that we decided to help some indie developers and bundle some stuff up…”

Kotaku: “Right, those were partner games, right?”

Moore: “Yeah, these were Partner games. EA Partner games… before I even came to EA, I was in awe of what EA had done in terms of EA distribution and EA Partners, to get out there and help provide a platform of distribution for developers that just couldn’t’ put their stuff out on the market. We were the guys that would do that. I don’t know of anybody else in this industry that’s got the record that Electronic Arts have, way before I got here, welcoming stuff. Look, we do it to make money. No bones about it. But we do it so that we can share money and put games out in the market. And you can name a hundred of them that you know EA has published as an EAP or, previously, EAD operation. Probably the biggest one was Rock Band, which was an EAP title which we helped market. We worked with MTV and really helped that little bit of a social change to what gaming was all about. Yes I know Guitar Hero was there, but Rock Band became a bigger… that was an EAP title. So, the ‘cynical bastard’ thing, and, of course, because of who it was and it got so much coverage that I just thought: ‘This is not right for the employees who have worked hard to put this together. My team at EAP had worked with these developers and said, ‘let’s just bundle this together and offer up a deal.'”

Kotaku: “Did you call Notch?”

Moore: “No. ”

An EA spokesperson sitting nearby chimed in, pointing out that shortly after the “cynical bastards” incident, EA announced that EA would waive distribution fees for 90 days for any Kickstarter-funded games sold through its new PC service, Origin. A counter-measure to Origin’s mighty competitor Steam? Probably. A boost for indies? Probably that, too.

It’s weird to hear a COO to ask his customers for patience as his company dabbles with different business models. Moore will vigorously defend charging $10 extra for Mass Effect 3‘s day-one DLC, maintaining that the $60 base game was chock-full, but his answer as to why EA didn’t charge for the day-one DLC for Mass Effect 2 is a meek: “We make individual decisions about individual games and individual business decisions with partners who are involved.”

He certainly respects the enthusiasm of gamers. “There’s no more passionate a fan of a medium than a gamer,” he said. “People love movies. People like music. People love TV shows. Nobody loves their medium like gamers love their medium. I’ve always known that the tallest trees catch the most wind. That’s a fact of life.”

And he doesn’t think his company should be spared harsh words. “None of us expect to be nor do we deserve to be immune to criticism.”

Moore: “There’s no more passionate a fan of a medium than a gamer.”

But the patience he’s begging for sounds like it could be, well, expensive or even just confusing, for gamers who wait for EA to figure out the best way to charge for its stuff.

“I want people to understand that what EA employees and the people who create the games are working hard to do is pick our way through this transformation as best we can,” he said. “We’re a publicly-traded company. We have an obligation to, quite frankly, make money so we can re-invest money in making great games again. The games you saw yesterday [at EA’s E3 press-conference, games such as Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3] are, if you will, pre-paid by us from a development perspective. And it’s only a year or a year and half down the road that we start to see that [money come back as people pay for the game]. That’s why, to continue to do what we do and build the brands and build the business models, again, I’ll ask for patience—the same way you covered me when I said we need 18 months for Origin and I still stand by that.

“We’re just picking our way through and nobody is any way trying to gouge anybody. [Moore slaps hand on the table.] We’re picking through this at the same time that gamers are trying to figure out what he or she likes about game sin the future. and how much they want to spend and what platform they want to do it on and what other genres there are of the future. We’re doing our best, alongside everybody else. ”

***Let’s get back to the music thing. The upheaval of the music industry several years ago is surely what freaks out movie people and book people and, it seems, games people as well. Piracy, downloading and the Apple juggernaut changed everything. Who buys CDs any more? Who waits for albums?

Music is the spectre. So let’s end on this last exchange:

Moore: “We’ve got to listen better as an industry, but at at the same time we’ve got to pick our way through these things. Stephen, we can’t end up being music. Music used to make money selling music. They don’t make money selling music anymore. Apple makes money selling music. God bless them, because they sorted out the problem that was BitTorrents and LimeWire, Kazaa…”

Kotaku: “My kitchen table is LimeWire’s kitchen table, because they went out of business and my wife and I needed a new table.”

Moore: “We’ve got to listen better as an industry, but at at the same time we’ve got to pick our way through these things.”

Moore: “I remember going to a lot of going-out-of-business sales in 1999, south of Market, but this ability for us to learn from the lessons of music… Maybe we don’t sell our games up front and it’s all about [making money later]. Maybe it is like music. Music is now all about going on tour and concerts, go do corporate appearances, sell your merchandise, build your online website, find ways to do it that way, because they don’t make much money after Apple takes its cut, and that’s where most of us get our music.

“We’re going to go through a similar trial and tribulation in the video game industry in which it’s no longer about… we don’t even see ourselves as a traditional publisher anymore. We’re a digital entertainment company. And within that comes different ways we have to drive our revenue, keep our investors happy and make sure that w’ere providing compensation to our employees in the form of the stock price that they’re happy with that is part of their equity package. And all of this is part of being a publicly-traded company.”

Kotaku: “The glass-half-empty reporter would mention that you didn’t just mention as one of your priorities: Make great video games.”

Moore: “That’s a given for EA. That’s what we do.”

Xbox 720 Price, Features Revealed in Allegedly Leaked Document

By Mitch Dyer

Update: The document in question has since been removed from its original source at the request of Covington & Burling, a law firm that advises Microsoft. No word on if it was removed for being a forgery or not, so we’ve inquired with the firm as to why.

Microsoft responded to IGN stating “We do not comment on rumors or speculation.”

Original Story: An unconfirmed document allegedly leaking out of Microsoft reveals the company’s five-year plan, price, and features for the Xbox 720. The 56 page document looks at the possibilities for Xbox 360 in 2011 leading up to the launch of the next generation in 2013, which includes a new Kinect sensor at launch in a $299 bundle. Notable changes include a blu-ray disc drive, as well as a focus on and tablet integration. IGN is already confident that the next-generation will begin in 2013, and the plan for tablets to talk to consoles recently rang true.

Notable goals and features for the Xbox 720 include an improved Kinect sensor with four-player games, accessing your media library anywhere via cloud streaming, and not needing to upgrade hardware ever again. Most notable is the rumored plans to create glasses that give players a heads-up display/virtual reality interface dubbed Fortaleza.

Fun fact: Fortaleza is a state capital in Brazil, as was Natal.

Remember, none of this is information is confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt if you suspect it’s an elaborate hoax. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on its validity.

What do you make out of this alleged leak? Is it totally fake, or is it the beacon of our future?

Source: Scribd via Reddit.

[UPDATE]

Reports around the Internet are surfacing that show an alleged leaked Microsoft press release about an Xbox-branded tablet.

Supposedly named Xbox Surface, the document details a tablet with 7-inch screen and impressive technical specifications that I’m not going to attempt to decode (you can see the full details below). It apparently also supports “up to 4 wireless game controllers”, if it is in fact real.

Overstaying Their Welcome

by Aaron Hobbs IGN

How many times have you had the disheartening realisation that something you once thought was awesome just isn’t very good anymore? Gamers have to contend with this all the time – from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to the peaks and troughs of Sonic the Hedgehog – when series’ that they love fall from grace.

Even attempts to re-invent a series can fail spectacularly.

Why does this happen? Why don’t developers pull the plug before the rot sets in? The simple answer is that games are a business, and businesses exist to make money. In an ideal world, developers would be free to come up with an original franchise that takes the world by storm, to release a handful of sequels (each more impressive than the last) until the series has run its course, then make a clean break and start the cycle all over again. Easy. Simple. Logical. Everybody’s happy and creative integrity comes out on top.

This, of course, is not how things work for developers making big budget games. (Unless you’re Blizzard, Valve or one of a handful of companies with true control over their destiny.) Despite a notable rise in the success of indie development in recent years, the majority of the world’s game development still relies on a relationship between two parties: the developer and the publisher.

At the risk of massively oversimplifying that relationship, it boils down to this: the publisher agrees to finance the development of a game, in exchange for a sizable chunk of the profits upon its release. Happy days for the developer, as the team gets to live their dream and have a shot at making a mark on the gaming landscape. To keep the finances coming in, a number of milestones have to be met along the way, just to prove the studio can, you know, actually finish the game.

There’s mutual risk on both sides. The publisher risks not seeing a return on its investment, while the developer risks… well, third party developers risk pretty much everything, because a failed project has devastating implications for the future of the company.

Bizarre Creations, a studio many considered a permanent fixture on the gaming landscape, was closed after Blur and 007: Blood Stone underperformed.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a CEO at any major games publisher. First of all, congratulate yourself, because those shoes probably cost more than my car. In fact, they definitely did; I don’t even have a car.

Now imagine that your company has taken a risk by agreeing to finance the development of an original title, and that risk has paid off incredibly well. Reviews are universally positive, gamers everywhere have flocked to its multiplayer servers and sales figures are through the roof. At this point, when you factor in the interests of your company and your shareholders, making the decision not to greenlight a sequel probably wouldn’t be the wisest career move.

The sequel hits shelves a year or two later and the sales figures are even better than last time. The reviews are still amazing too. Good thing we deliberately left the ending open for a third game. Looks like we’re doing the trilogy thing. Everybody loves trilogies.

Game number three is released and the crowds are still eating it up and okay, sure, the critical response may not be as impressive as it was with the first two games but even still, the release of this game totally smashed all the records for sales or pre-orders or post-orders or something, I dunno, who cares? This franchise is effectively a license to print money, so let’s make as much as we possibly can, but let’s not actually start printing money because people go to prison for that.

…Okay so I got a little carried away there, but you see my point. When you’ve got the rights to a franchise that’s virtually guaranteed to bring in profits, it makes perfect sense from a business perspective to keep it going for as long as possible.

But what if the developer has had enough of the series? If a publisher is financing the development and distribution of the games, should it be entitled to choose when a series should be put to bed? Or should that decision be left to the vision and instincts of the developer?

It could be argued that the studio’s inherent attachment to something it has worked so hard on might cloud its judgment. On the other hand, you could also argue that a publisher’s judgment might be impeded by the glare of massive commercial success; remaining fixated on one franchise could cause it to miss potential opportunities for success in new ventures.

Super Monkey Ball isn’t exactly a license to print money, but there’s no doubt that it lost its vitality years ago. Another game? Really?

To bring up a current(ish) example, will Mass Effect 3 really be the end of the franchise? Despite all the controversy surrounding the ending, there’s still a tonne of love for that franchise, so will EA really let this be the end for it? What about Halo 4? Halo 3 was a fitting end to a trilogy, so what are the chances that a new game won’t just be retreading old ground? How will Bungie feel about the legacy of the series if 343 Industries’ effort falls short? Maybe a break before returning to Halo would be a better option? It definitely worked for Deus Ex, Fallout and Diablo. Max Payne has benefited from some time away too. (The series, that is, not so much Max himself.)

Of course, I’m not saying that all franchises get stale. There are plenty of series that turn in stellar titles year after year, and there are a number of juggernauts that have been consistently excellent for decades; Street Fighter, Mario, Zelda, Metal Gear and GTA, to name a few. They’re all still going strong and have managed to maintain their legacy of innovation with each new instalment. What is it about the development teams or publishing mentality that keeps them fresh?

Ultimately, the question I wanted to pose is: whose decision should it be on where to draw the line with a series? The publisher or the developer? The free market or the artists? Should the fans have more of a say? I’m keen to hear your thoughts on the matter, along with your ideas on which franchises would be better off resigned to the annals of gaming history.

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