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5 Reasons Not To Zerg Rush EA

Gamers seem to love to hate EA. The behemoth publisher behind The Sims, Dead Space and Madden franchises, to name a few, takes a lot of heat and has won The Consumerist's Worst American company for the second year in a row. Yet, with all EA seems to do wrong, there are reasons to not totally annihilate them.

  1. FUSE- Celebrated developer Insomniac Games' first foray into multi-platform gaming with their class based third person co-optastic shooter looks to break some of the publishers standards. Sure, the multi-player aspect is there, but with the announcement of no online season passes or microtransactions, this could be the new leaf many were waiting for from EA and publishers in general. The game also has two strong female characters that shoot stuff, break necks and blow shit up good. That's always a plus.

  2. Acknowledgment of their Mistakes- It's no secret that Sim City's launch was a failure for the video game history books. EA and Maxis released the game half assed. Yet, instead of just saying oh well, EA offered a compensation, in the form of a free game, to those who registered the game by the end of March. They've listened to people wanting a single player element to the upcoming free-to-play Command & Conquer and decided to add it. Oh and the COO outright said they're not perfect.

  3. EA Supports Gay Rights- In April, 2012, EA announced that they were against the Defense of Marriage Act. They're also longtime supporters of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Games they've published developed by company owned BioWare also have the options for the main character, male or female, to be gay.

  4. Frostbite Engine- Let's face it, this bit of game design tech is damn nifty. Sure, what they've done with it so far is mostly more of the same tired corridor shooter/ MP frag-fest type stuff, but the shit does look awesome. With Frostbite 2, and Battlefield 3, bringing consoles and even mid-grade gaming PC's to their knees, the graphical potential of the engine in its current format makes it all the more impressive.

  5. Big Name Franchises (The Legacy)- Mass Effect, Dead Space, The Sims, it's hard to not spit in a game store and not hit something with the EA logo on it. Ranging from racing games and RPG's to sports simulators and action titles, EA has a long line of franchises, many of which are highly regarded. There's a reason why EA remains one of the largest video game publishers for 20-plus years.

Any massive enterprise is bound to go astray in one area or another. Granted, EA has been bad to their employees in the past, they've lied to their loyal fans and haven't made the best game-requirement decisions. Yet, they make up for that by standing up for their employees, making up for their bad decisions to us gamers and continue to give us some of the best gaming franchises out there.


Woodward Part 1 (Fiction)


Of course people don't believe the more extraordinary parts of my story. I can tell they think I'm just another crazy girl. I'm still not sure I believe some of the things happened myself. Like some kind of **** up dream, some parts are more clear than others. I definitely remember that weird girl and the creature she kept hidden in that damned cabin.

My brother, David, had been released from the psych ward about eight months before. I'll leave it to you to find the cruel irony in releasing a sixteen year old right before school started. Luck had, for once, gone my way and I was deemed guardian of my baby brother. He was in there for two years.

He was the one who was stuck with our shit, down trodden, parents before he went in. I've never seen two people work so hard to pay for needles to stick into their arms. David was the brave one. I ran away to college in Florida. It was the furthest I could get and still be able to get back to Virginia in a day if I needed to.

At college, I thought I could be an artistic big shot through visually expressing my lifelong hidden rage. I did fine, for a while, then I got that damned phone call. The fourteen hour drive back was the longest of my life.

Finally, Frank and Francine, sorry, our parents, overdosed. Unfortunately it was David that found them. If people thought he was a quiet kid before, he would have qualified for a mute after. With the not talking came the not eating, not bathing, not going to school. He just stayed in that room.

About two weeks after our beloved parents cremation ceremony, at which David and I were the only two, relatives came out of the woodwork. I don't even remember Frank talking about a brother and sister-in-law, yet here they were calling me poison and dragging my brother away. Two weeks later, he was in the mental hospital in Fairfax.

I dropped the life I had been building for myself for three years so I could be there for him. I hated Virginia and everything associated with it, even the fact that it's my name. I practically raised myself and David, so I was able to get a shit job and apartment and still knew my way around, despite some major teraforming.

When he would talk, he'd tell me that he saw our parents. That they weren't dead. I don't know where I found the strength, but I did the best I could to not be that person to demand to know what the doctors were doing to my baby brother. Over the next few months, he started getting better, though he still saw our parents, be it less frequently. There was no word from our mysterious relatives, good riddance.

Vic, he called me, he was the only one that could. Dad was asking about you.

I don't know if in is mind he was confusing one of the doctors with Frank because of one of the medications or what. He started being more of the David I know in my heart as time passed. He got taller, started eating more and spent more time outside. By the time he was released, I hardly recognized him by looking at him. He was now a good inches taller than me.

So, we decided we'd sell the old house, buy a new one with what little money had combined from the house and what was left to us and start a new life. Things were going well, for the most part. David started school the week after he got out. I started getting in touch with the local artist community in Herndon. He was socializing, I was turning down dudes wanting to talk about my tattoos. It was the best I remember things being.

Then, he met Further Henceforth. The girl was something else. She seemed to exude an air of wanting to be living in the 1970's or something. Though she drove a Corvette, everything else seemed uber granola crunchy and off about her. Even David's best friend, Eric, was put off by her and he was staring at my **** since he came up to my belly button.

She's a nut job, Eric told me one time when he was over. David was getting ready for them to go out and do some urban exploring. No offense. I just mean that she's different in a bad way. Sure, she's a girl, she doesn't look bad in tie dye shirts and has nice long hair. There's just something creepily other worldly about her, like she's literally not all there.

Of all the details I heard after that about Further Henceforth, that's the one that stuck. That's why it came as a surprise that in March, David told me that she invited him to go out to a cabin down in Roanoke, just the two of them. After talking on the phone to someone claiming to be Further's father, I talked myself into a chaperone job for Spring Break.

The Bad Gamer Soap Box - On Reboots

Perhaps Christopher Nolan was a bit more of a trend setter than any of us expected. Sure, series' have seen multiple iterations, especially in comics and TV shows. With video games seeing reboots of franchises such as Sim City (does that count?), Tomb Raider and the upcoming Thief, chances are good that gamers will be caught in a loop of what's old is new again limbo. What would come with that could be a lot fewer new franchises with the next generation right over the horizon.

Let's put one fact out their: gamers are fickle beasts. Arguably more of a niche hobby than even music collecting (I spent years obsessed with music... and movies), gamers are very hard to stay consistently pleased. This could be due to the fact that as opposed to music, comic, or movie hobbies, gaming is the most pricy. As gamers, we expect to get our hard earned $ out the product. Due to this, we tend to stick with what we know. Franchises such as Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed and Call of Duty have become familiar in a lot of our homes, even with those who don't necessarily play games.

The continuation of a franchise means things need to eventually change. Gamers often complain about the carbon copy feel of Call of Duty. When Devil May Cry was rebooted, however, people complained that the game had changed too much: Dante apparently wasn't Dante and the game play was toned down. The recent Tomb Raider game, however, seems to be praised as a better balanced continuation/ retelling of the franchise. In these examples, to me it appears game play hasn't changed much with the continuations, rather it's the stories themselves that changed and evolved.

In the Sony conference announcing the PS4, a large majority of games highlighted were franchises already established. There were new franchises announced as well, but for the most part it seemed to be a continuation of Sony franchises that fans know and love. Sure, the new properties were teased, but the bulk of time was spent on the new Infamous and Killzone.

Original franchises being introduced at the end of the current generation, such as Watch Dogs, Fuse and The Last of Us show promise as to what we can expect in new stories going forward. The proof will be in how well they hold gamers interests. As a creative person, it's hard not to compare anything with anything else anymore. Originality is a lot harder to come by and you can't talk a new franchise to publishers without heavy reluctance. I don't believe that game play and originality limitations are due to technology limitations, rather that they're more market driven depending on what the largest niche is.  First person shooters, action and strategy games will always headline because they have massive followings.

The thing I love about being a gamer is there's such a thriving community. Sure PC gamers and console gamers don't always get along, but if something important in the franchise needs to be spoken on, for better or worst, it's mostly widely discussed. I look forward to seeing the new franchises and sequels/ reboots that come about, I just hope there's a lot more new than what we've seen in recent years.

The Bad Gamer Soap Box - Problems With the One Way Road

With the increasing volume of people crying for gender/ sex equality in games, it's surprising how quickly people forget the subject of sexuality, including those who are asexual. I'd argue that the gender/ race argument and the sexuality argument are the same. It's all or nothing where I'm concerned.

In Tell Tale's the Walking Dead, character plays a huge role in how things end up. There are emotionally strong and weak characters, male and female. In a world where the human population is in decline, sexuality matters. A strong gay or asexual character would bring a dynamic to the complications of the situation that haven't been touched on that much, if at all.

In the same game, there's a child that is in almost constant risk of being killed. I've ranted a lot in the past about ethical dilemmas in games and our responsibilities as gamers. I've become more open minded about it, but there's still a sliver of uneasiness about playing as someone who has a child's life in his hands. I think that's developer's intent, and would argue that there would be a similar dilemma if they introduced a likable character who's sexual orientation went the other way. What would happen if they came across a human community?

In thinking about strong female characters, going way back (1999), there was Fear Effect. Fear Effect put in control of three characters, two of whom were lesbians. If I remember correctly, and I'm not honestly sure I do, the game took some heat for having two attractive lesbian protagonists. It also received critical praise for it's story and deep character development. There were two games and a third one was canceled.

I'm an easy going guy who doesn't believe that either gender should be put on a pedestal. I believe we should all be equal, but we all do have our roles. Men and women are different and that's fantastic. Gay, straight, asexual, a person's a person and those dynamics are what makes each of us interesting. I'd be the last person to say it doesn't matter, because having a gay mother changed my life drastically as a child and forced a new perspective on me. Luckily, it's made me a more diverse person and arguably contributes to my better qualities as a human being.

However, much like the diversification of a main character's gender and race, it's a very delicate process. Fear Effect arguably didn't make it as a major horror franchise because the two gay protagonists were all up in gamers grills about it. I'd say it was ahead of its time.

BioWare took major heat for including the playable choice of having your character be gay or not. It didn't change the story or how other characters interacted with you, but it was there and that was enough to tweak many a nerve. People still weren't ready for it.

With how far we, the USA, have come as a society over the last hundred years with equality, we still have a long way to go. Those who argue that race/ gender equality in games is important and not say the same for sexual orientation are failing to see the bigger picture and are making a one way argument. Of course, context matters and it shouldn't be shoved down our throats, but to me the arguments are one and the same. It may take baby steps, but I'm willing to wait and see how character development evolves into something most people can agree on.

GI Joe: Retaliation (3D-Imax) Review

 There are some light spoilers ahead. Ye be warned!

GI Joe: Retaliation may not be a genre defining, thought provoking, action film, but damned if it's not a good pop-corn movie. Gone away are the action figure play-sets of the previous movie, replaced with more realistic locales and a stronger focus on the Joe v. Cobra conflict. That and Cobra Commander looks like Cobra Commander, despite the fact that it's still weird to hear him have a deep voice.

Set a few months after the events of the original, the Joes are sent on a mission to grab WMD's from Pakistan. Not knowing that the President of the United States (Jonathan Price) is a fake (Zartan in disguise), the mission goes well, but a surprise attack all but destroys the small troupe of Joes. This is where Dwayne Johnson comes in (as Roadblock) and commands the other three surviving Joes (Flint, Lady Jaye and Snake Eyes. D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki and Ray Park, respectively), to seek (wait for it...) retaliation.

The movie has some great action moments, not all of which go well with the 3D if you do choose to go that route. The first encounter between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is intense and fast, but the intense movement was blurred and hard to follow in 3D. In the same scene, however, there is an impressive cliff-side fight that captures the point of 3D and provides exciting, eye-popping spectacle.

The players all act their roles with a knowing wink, playing into the respective stereotypes well. Characters such as Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) don't get much screen time, but they fill their roles respectively and feel a little more than simply stock characters. The big surprise, for me, was seeing Ray Stevenson attempt a southern accent as the devious Firefly. Even Bruce Willis seemed to have a blast hamming it up playing a full-sized action figure.

It's nice to see things reverted to a more Joe vs. Cobra feeling ala the 1980's. It makes up for the last Joe movie and better defines what the franchise is all about. It's not Shakespeare, but it's not all dumb entertainment, either. Absurd? Definitely. But it's the kind of absurdity that's nice to see in an age where more movies reach for realism.


Rating: C

Pros: -Return to franchise form

- Fun performances 

- Awesome action


Cons: - Not enough Cobra Commander

- 3D used liberally

- Not for those who want a thought provoking movie


Hi, My Name Is Bad Gamer...

And I'm an Oniomaniac.  It's true, I have spending problems.  Spending problems so bad, my fiancee has put our status in limbo.  I've apologized, done my best to not be too self demeaning (did call myself an **** though).  Though by this point, she's sick of the lies and finding out **** the hard way and I can't blame her.

At this point, I'm on the couch.  I deserve worse, but she's a good person and I know she still loves me.

I've also spent some time doing a little bit of research.  I fall right into a lot of the characterizations of someone who would have this.  Sad to say, I'm already on anti-depressants, but it's been bad lately, I don't know why.  I've been rethinking focusing more on writing again and maybe more exercise of some sort.  Anyway, this is a quick one, I'm embarrassed and upset and not sure how I'm going to mend her broken heart...

Advocating the Console

Having a decent gaming PC, I find myself often preferring my PS3 over my computer for games that are available for both. Even with first person shooters, the analogue controller plays more naturally for me than a mouse and keyboard. It could be that I've mainly gamed on consoles and never really had a relatively powerful alternative until a couple of years ago.

Having multiple distractions may be a big part of it. Consoles, even now, have the same function they did from the beginning: provide an alternate form of TV entertainment. Even with Netflix, Hulu, etc. as well as media stores, it's easier for me to sit on the couch with a controller in hand and play a game than it is to lay in bed, or even sit on the same couch, and play a game with mouse and keyboard. With the computer, there's Facebook, Twitter and Gamespot, in addition to Hulu and Netflix and other distracting sites. Not to mention the larger library of PC games, though that's not a complaint, but is a distraction.

Controls are a big part of it too. Having to stretch the pinky to the Shift or Control key while holding W to move forward requires more effort than manipulating two analog sticks and pushing a shoulder button. Sure, being more accurate when playing a FPS/ TPS gives the PC Route an advantage, but either way I find myself cursing and laughing just as much when playing a shooter on either.

Another big thing for me is having the physical copy of a game. Sure, digitally downloading games has its appeal, but having the case and disk in hand brings more of a sense of excitement. It's superficial, I know, but with PC gaming becoming more digital retailer dependant, that's more of an argument for me to play certain games on a console.

I'm not going to lie and say that graphics don't matter. They arguably help one get more absorbed into gameplay, story, etc. It's nice for me to play a game on PC and know that I have something that looks better than what I can play on my console. However, much like the quality of the graphics, size does matter. I can't play my PC game on my 36 flat screen TV in full stereo sound, but I can do that with my PS3. Both are always online too and my PS3 has better video feedback than my computer, despite it being a gaming rig.

I enjoy playing games on both, but much prefer the comfort of a controller in hand when given the choice. Playing with a mouse and keyboard just doesn't have the same feel, despite some arguably minor advantages with certain genres. I'm primarily a console gamer, and I like that about myself.

A Bitter Goodbye

 Cartoon Network recently pulled the plug on their two DC Nation shows Young Justice and Green Lantern. While I'm indifferent to Young Justice's abrupt demise, Green Lanterns shared fate leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's arguably the best science fiction cartoon out there and even stands up among the most celebrated shows of the genre. Much like the ill-fated Firefly, Green Lantern was a fantastic ensemble piece that not only renewed my sense of adventure and wander, but made me care about the characters and their adventures.

The show started off with Hal Jordan already established as Earth's guardian. With his former trainer, now best bud, Kilowog, and ship's uber-smart AI, Aiya, they face against the brutal, vengeful, Red Lanterns. In the process, the capture and eventually befriend a Red Lantern, Razer. The crew of four traverse the universe and fight to save it from the wrath of the Red Lantern Corps.

The premise may be a familiar one, but the mixture of familiar comic book elements, clever dialogue and genuine feeling makes Green Lantern stand out. True Science Fiction on TV has become more of a scarcity, even in the recent renaissance of animated shows. This gives Green Lantern a refreshing unique feel, while also paying homage to shows such as Lost in Space and the more obvious Star Trek. There's also creative use of DC Universe cannon such as the barbarian race Hawk Man came from.

It's sad to see such shows go supposedly just because it was hard to market. The movie tarnished the franchise, but the show could have arguably rejuvenated it given the opportunity. It's sad to see promising shows not be given a chance. Sure, buying a Green Lantern action figure may be the last thing on a person's mind in a comic book store, but I believe the show would stand the test of time, it's too bad we won't be able to tell.   

Sim City Review

When I was around ten years old, we didn't have a gaming computer. Sim City 2000 came out and it was all the rage. We did, however, have the original Sim City, so we installed it on our computer and I got lost for hours. Jump ahead almost twenty years, and Maxis' hasn't lost their touch and their formula hooks its claws right back into me.

Sim City is flawed. The elephant in the room has been its understandable but heavily flawed always online DRM. Certain things break, saving doesn't always work right, there is quite an extensive list. However, this doesn't stop Sim City from being an enjoyable and challenging strategic city builder.

This is one game where it's obvious Maxis wants you to learn most things on your own. Notices of new buildings available pop up and guiding yourself through the menus and trying to figure out what is where is part of the fun. A brief tutorial gives you a lesson in the basics, but they leave the rest up to you.

The game also oozes charm. The smile inducing language of The Sims return as does their currency. The animation is a good mix of real world mechanics and tongue in cheek cartoonish animations. You see buildings in residential, commercial and industrial zones be gradually built while placed buildings land with a satisfying and smile inducing crunch. The music is very calming, making it very hard to gamer-rage when you realize you messed something up.

Sometimes things do mess up on their own. Traffic jams up in certain areas for no apparent reason, sometimes you can't update a certain building or you can't tell how much water/ power/ sewage your city is processing. It often requires exiting out to the main menu to temporarily fix the issue, but hopefully this is something that will be fixed for good. There's also the police criminal chases that remind me of watching something out of Benny Hill as the police icons go in a totally separate direction from the criminal icons.

This hasn't stopped me from putting roughly 70 hours into the game. Abandoning a region and starting another one is easy and runs smoothly. Choosing a region and which city to claim in a region is all part of the strategy. Finite space in each city means more space management than in past games is required. This also plays into the point of the region and the inclusion of multi player into the series.

I haven't experienced multi player, but have had fun building my own private regions and seeing how well (they do alright) the cities communicate. You can send money from a rich city to an up and coming city, send them power, water, sewage use, etc. Overall the simulation Maxis has set up is impressive.

Sim City is somewhat of a wallflower game. There are a lot of reasons to be turned off by all of the flaws, but the deep simulation and city building aspects make this a sexy ass game for me. Warts and all, Sim City is a triumph in my eyes and epitomizes the immersive experience.


Food for Thought - How Relevant is the Bad Ass?

 I just thought up an important gaming question that will shake the foundation! Okay, maybe it won't shake it, but people will notice, kinda like when someone's chair squeaks. Is the stereotypical video game bad-ass a thing of the past?

Thinking about more, well, relatively recent releases, namely Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider, some of the issues people have had is that the main characters both act like they're Rambo as soon as there's a gun in their hands. Another complaint, pertaining to the Devil May Cry reboot, came in the form of Dante's makeover, receiving a lot of skepticism and even more angry words of vile hatred.

Perhaps what the audience craves now are deeper characters. Tomb Raider, aside from Lara Croft's apparent instinct to know how to slaughter people with a bow and gun, received high marks for making Lara Croft more relatable than her gymnastic, older self. One review even praised DmC (Devil May Cry) for its deep story and new perspective on Dante's past.

One of the biggest cries when developer-hell damned Duke Nukem Forever (oh yeah, I'm going there) came out was that Duke himself was overly obnoxious. Making crude jokes, peeing in urinals and punching aliens in the lower region were so '90's and out of place in today's culturally superior games. Read with implied sarcasm as you wish.

Maybe I'm a bit of a fish out of water here. I grew up with games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D and Mortal Kombat. All were big games with bad-ass characters doing often doing horrible things to other bad-ass characters and it was awesome! Maybe people have moved. I feel like in a lot of ways, I've moved on.

Characters like Nathan Drake, Master Chief and Commander Shepherd have taken important roles in this current gen of gaming. All of them seem competent, skilled with a gun and mildly bad-ass. Each also has a detrimental flaw that plays a larger part in their tales: they are mortal. This adds layers to things games like Duke Nukem 3D and Doom didn't really touch on (though you can die a lot in Doom). Time is of the essence and the best offense is a good defense. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, making them more flawed super heroes. Also, Commander Shepherd seems to get more action than Duke ever did (Hay-ooo!).

There are still games that bring the more flat bad ass to the forefront, like the characters of Borderlands. These games are typically parodies (read: tributes) to these games of ol' or they're just not well received.

I think it's our change in culture. There are more people than ever that want to see the medium grow and become better recognized and respected. It's hard to do that when demonstrably shallow characters like Duke are at the forefront. Also, our tastes have changed. We still want violence and sex, we just want it to contextually make sense and sometimes even be deep and meaningful (this isn't a planned blog).

In the end, I think the bad ass will live on. The heroes of ol' need a good ol' rebooting and even makeovers (cough, cough, Dante). Gaming is all about having fun and forgetting the world around you, much like reading a good book or watching a good movie. Having more believable characters who still do extraordinary things is still bad ass, it's just a new kind of bad ass.