Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Super 8-Bit Power Hour

Having been a guest on this fortnightly geek-centric podcast in the past, I was delighted to be asked to come onboard as a fully fledged member of it. We talk about all things, TV shows, anime, film and comics.

My first appearance as an official member of the podcast was on Ep.113 which aired on Friday 2nd February.

Please check it and the rest of the shows out on Soundcloud here or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

And please, share, like and subscribe on all social media platforms and maybe leave us a comment on iTunes. Thanks!

Gamers (As Seen On TV)

This rant was published on Forces Of Geek on 9th May 2018. I'd recently endured Ready Player One and was very disappointed in its representation of gamers. It got me thinking about all the terrible TV shows that portray gamers and wondering why they always get it so bad. Hope you enjoy it and please leave a comment if you have any good examples! 

The recent Spielberg film Ready Player One contains a slew of video game nods and references, many of which stirred its audiences nostalgia strings. Personally, I felt it had a lot of issues and despite being a film about a gamer on a hero’s journey and video games in general, I should have been its key demographic yet I was left underwhelmed and extremely unimpressed as the credits rolled. Of course, it’s not just big blockbuster films that fail to represent gamers or portray video games inaccurately, in fact the way they are depicted in TV has been a point of contention for a long time. 

One of the worst offenders is a show which really should know better as it claims to be about geek culture. In The Big Bang Theory, early on in the first series the cast are “playing” Halo 3. I adore the Halo series so seeing it on a mainstream TV show at first felt novel, I was pleased that it had permeated into primetime and yet watching Leonard and Co. press every button in quick succession made my blood boil. If the actors had actually been playing, they’d have jumped in the air, fired one shot and then blown themselves up with their own sticky grenade. To add further insult to the Halo gaming community, none of the actors even had their controller turned on!

Sure, that might just be an oversight by the props department and these are just actors doing their job but in a show that claims to be celebrating geek culture, these things matter. Also, when did actors start thinking that games controllers were steering wheels? So many shows portray gaming as flailing about and mashing buttons. But before you bring up the Nintendo Wii, this phenomenon has been a trend in film and TV for years, hell…it’s possibly even more prevalent in stock photography. 

Likewise, I know some games do actually warrant a small amount of button mashing but these games are either retro titles, where the controllers a stiff or they are quick time events in obscure Japanese RPGs which constitute a niche section of the gaming industry. In mainstream media, these games are not the ones being represented so why is there so much button mashing in commercials and TV shows?

The Big Bang Theory is not the only one to get Halo 3 wrong, I seem to remember an episode of Dexter where Michael C. Hall is playing it on a keyboard (many years before it had even been released on PC). One saving grace was that at least he knew how to use a sticky grenade but surely, it can’t cost that much to ask someone who actually plays games to fact check this kind of stuff? 

Even Breaking Bad has caused the gaming community to collectively eye roll, Jesse clearly distraught after shooting someone in the head is playing the game RAGE, that part in itself isn’t an issue given how cathartic gaming can be but he’s playing it standing up and with a light gun! I know he’s got all that meth-money but I’m preeeetty sure that game doesn’t come with a light gun.

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that actors don’t know how to play or haven't played video games so what’s up with the inability to act like a gamer? Is it directors demanding more movement on screen? I understand that someone sitting motionless, concentrating on the screen and holding their controller perfectly still isn’t particularly exciting to watch. However, if that were the case then Let’s Plays wouldn’t dominate YouTube and Twitch wouldn’t be the successful live streaming service it is.  

And TV commercials, I get it…you need people to believe that playing on your console or game is the single best moment of these actors lives. You’re selling a product, cool…except please understand that actual gamers don’t fall for that, over acting our favourite activity is offensive to us. We buy games based on reviews (that hopefully aren’t paid for) or our love of a particular franchise or on the merit and calibre of a developers previous work.

Despite the overwhelming majority of TV shows getting it wrong, there are a few examples I’ve found that hit the nail on the head. The first are episodes 98 and 99 of the anime Gintama, where gamers are queuing up for the midnight release of the Bentendo Owee, an obvious parody of the Nintendo Wii. Given that the Wii was released just two years previously (one year if you count the manga which was the source material of show) it was an extremely current reference. These two episodes also highlight the passion of many gamers who will line up for hours to wait for a new release in a way that film or music fans don’t.  

Monday, 30 April 2018

In Defence Of Nintendo Labo

Hello readers, apologies...I've been away again! I wrote this just after the Nintendo Labo was announced for Forces Of Geek - hope you like it!

Nintendo is the company of nostalgia, the company and its fans absolutely revel in it. From the longevity of characters like Mario and Link to Nintendo’s habit of looking to the past for inspiration. Folded cardboard toys were something Nintendo were making 40 years ago and even those were seeped in history as paper toys in Japan were common during the Edo period.

If you’ve ever wondered what your Nintendo Switch would be like if it had the ability to transform into a piano, a dollhouse, a robot or even a fishing rod then Labo is definitely for you. These interactive kits are the latest contribution to the gaming community from Nintendo and are due for release in April 2018. 

The kits themselves are comprised of cardboard cut-outs and various other materials that can be assembled and are intended to incorporate the Nintendo Switch console as well as the Joy-Con controllers. The end result is the creation of what Nintendo is touting as ‘Toy-Cons’ that will interact with various software and Nintendo games. 

In fact, the robot seen in the trailer for Labo is actually a mini mech suit, with a visor that holds the left Joy-Con for motion sensing, leaving the right Joy-Con in the backpack so that it can read hand and feet movements. This means the player can actually move through a virtual world on-screen as if they were a giant, stompy robot! 


However, many people are dubious of Nintendo’s newest offering precisely because Labo components are made of cardboard. Yet, once you get over the initial shock of paying extortionate prices for corrugated, foldable card what remains is something truly different, revolutionary even. 

Hyperbolic as that may sound, when you consider how much plastic is condemned to landfill and how the games industry contributes to this (look at cases for game consoles and plastic toys, figures and peripherals) this is a better alternative. Sure, Nintendo has always been notorious for the latter but Labo suggests a more environmentally responsible way to play. 

Plus, it is a well known and documented fact that kids love cardboard boxes and often get more joy from packaging than the gifts inside (the same can also be said for cats but you catch my drift) and Nintendo are a company capitalising on this, after all they’re a business and one which has endured since 1889.    

Nintendo is known for taking risks, going against the fold and dare I say…thinking outside of the box. At its core, it has always been a toy company. One which seeks to spark the imagination of children. Nintendo has long focused on family and co-operative play and is always the innovator within the games industry. 

Monday, 5 February 2018

Video Game Characters Inspired By Myths and Legends

Originally written for Forces of Geek and published 26th January 2018.  

Since the dawn of time, humanity has been fascinated with myths, legends and lore, we’re social animals and some of our oldest stories can be traced back to thousands of years. Whether through religious superstition, oral tradition, stories and songs passed down through centuries, written accounts, fictitious embellishments describing strange mythical creatures and legendary protagonists, there’s no doubting humankind loves a good story.

It’s no surprise then, that one of our most popular forms of entertainment has oft looked to myth and legend for inspiration, I want to explore some of the video game characters that are imbued with mythical history or inspired by tales of old.

I’ll begin with an obvious game, one that probably came to mind while you were reading the previous two paragraphs, Pokémon. While not all pocket monsters are based on mythical beasts or creatures, this game series possesses multiple examples. It’s true that the majority of Pokémon stem from Japanese folktales however there are some that find their origins elsewhere. 

For instance, Zapdos, the flying bird that can summon lightning shares an uncanny similarity with a mythical bird found in Native American lore. Many tribes along the Pacific North West believed that there was a bird that brought with it, thunder, rain and lightning. These birds were said to have made a thunderous sound overhead as they flapped their wings, the Native Americans called these spirits, thunderbirds and they often adorned the tops of totems.

Sableye is another Pokémon that shares its origin somewhere other than Japanese folklore (I have plenty of examples of mythical game characters that relate to Japan, which I will get to later). In the late 20th century, there were multiple eyewitness accounts of a small extra terrestrial creature with bright glowing eyes, pointy ears and a slender frame (fun fact, the film Critters was also apparently based on these accounts). 

The sightings were contained to Kentucky and the whole occurrence has since become referred to as the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter giving the critters in question the imaginative nickname of Hopkinsville Goblins. 

How I Became Addicted To Visual Novel Dating Games

I wrote this shortly after I returned from Japan and it was originally published on Forces Of Geek in December. I became quite addicted, very quickly and have only just stopped playing any of these games. The last ones being Korean made, Mystic Messenger which I adored and the other being Doki Doki Literature Club - which was...well, unexpected. If you have any recommendations, please do comment! 

I was travelling around Japan recently and within a day of being there, I started to notice that practically every person on public transport was playing a mobile game. On one occasion, I gazed down the train and found myself watching each individual flicking their thumb or tapping on their screen in almost perfect unison (in silent mode of course, because anything else would be disrespectful to fellow passengers and incredibly rude in Japan).

Japan’s excellent transport etiquette aside, the number of passengers playing games on their phones really shouldn’t have surprised me as I’ve always known they were absolutely huge in Asia, yet I was taken aback by the number of commercials I saw on Japanese television or on billboards. 

Wanting to immerse myself in the culture while I was there, I decided to download a mobile game of my own to play. I had been playing Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and Pokémon Go at home but that was really the extent of my mobile gaming experience prior to what happened next.

My phone was advertising a genre of games to me in Japan that I hadn’t ever given a second thought to. These games were, as far as I could make out, visual novel dating simulators, otherwise known as otome games. The word “otome" in Japanese means maiden which displeased me a little, after all, as every girl knows, games aimed at the female of the species must include romance, pretty clothes and lots of pink. LOTS!

In recent years however, the word has taken on a newer connotation and is now the female equivalent of the word “otaku” which is a term for those obsessively interested in pop culture such as anime, games and manga. Well, that certainly sounds like me!

Personally, I’d rather there was one word to describe both sexes but sadly, Japan is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to perceived gender roles and gender fluidity. Hey, it can’t be as perfect as it’s trains. Despite my initial hesitance and reservations towards these games for their blatant casual sexism, I was still intrigued and in the interest of…science and morbid curiosity, I wanted to see what exactly was being advertised to girls and women in these games. 

I downloaded one, however it was set in feudal Japan so it’s attitudes towards women were that of the historical period so I decided that I had to download another more modern title. In doing so, I realised the right thing to do was download a few more examples of each to make my experiment less biased, as well as downloading one meant for male gamers, a sort of control test if you will. It definitely had nothing to do with becoming addicted to them. 

After playing them for three weeks in Japan and a continued two weeks afterwards, my (loosely) scientific findings yielded a very interesting result and not one I hypothesised. I, Emma-Jane Corsan, female human being of planet Earth, staunch believer in equality with an intense dislike of gender based stereotypes was addicted to otome games.

Normality Will Resume Shortly

Hello, first I must apologise for the small unannounced hiatus. It certainly wasn't intentional, however after having a holiday in Japan for three weeks in October, I've had much more freelance work than I anticipated. As such, my updates on here dissipated.

I intend to remedy that immediately, hopefully you'll enjoy reading the next few posts even if they are late - though, I still can't bring myself to include the Christmas one, I'll save that for next year!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Worst Places In Gaming To Go Trick-Or-Treating

Written for and originally published by Forces Of Geek on 27th October 2017. I love Halloween, it's my favourite event/holiday!  

Let’s face it, if any of us lived in a video game world we’d be regular folk, just your run-of-the-mill boring NPC. The only excitement in our lives (unless the protagonist crosses our path) would be special events or holidays. 

My favourite of which is Halloween, so it got me thinking, what would it be like to go trick-or-treating in one of the various video game worlds? 

The idea of an in-game Halloween sounds amazing on surface level but when you realise that the majority of game worlds are fraught with enemies, obstacles and a severe lack of sugar inducing treats, suddenly the idea loses appeal.  

I’ve come up with the worst places to go trick-or-treating in gaming, some of which might surprise you.