Friday, July 17, 2009

Oblivion Madness and Inspiration

Gosh, I really do love Oblivion. Played it some more and yakked about the game on some message boards the past two nights and I'm completely sucked back in. Then I got really inspired and decided to make a journal of Celenya (my new character) and her progress through Cyrodill and the alternate worlds it joins.

While I haven't played my second character as frequently as the first, I like her a lot more. I've run into a psychological problem, though. Part of me wants to grind levels, making each level-up as productive as possible and turning her into a master of everything. Part of me want to simply go adventuring. Still another part just loves to rack up completed quests.

So far, the best compromise I've managed is to do a quest and then base which skills to grind on which have gained the most points through normal activities. For example, while raiding a fort I ended up with mostly blade, block, destruction, and restoration points, so I worked on strength, endurance, and willpower skills until I leveled.

Any advice? You can check out exactly where I'm at and post suggestions here on this post if you have any. Is my compromise a good one or could I find a better way?

Scary how one game can infiltrate your brain so completely and make you want to do more than play it. I have two games like that in my life, even scarier. I LOVE it, though!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obliviated by Oblivion

I started a new character in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in May. I keep marvelling at myself over this, because I clocked almost 200 hours with my first character and got nearly to the end of the main story as well as finishing Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine (plus a ton of other side-quests), but decided I really wanted to use all the knowledge I gained in that play-through to create a better character that levels smarter.

What makes us do this?

I realize that I'm literally late to the game, as we didn't have a PS3 until last Christmas. I got the game for my boyfriend for his February birthday, thinking I would never touch it because I was busy with LittleBigPlanet. Well, it turned out that we both got obsessed, but maybe I did even more so because since he finished the main line he has only played once while I forge on with my still-lame new elf, trying to get all my strategy just right.

Okay, it probably helps that I can't afford any new games right now. Oblivion may be the best value in gaming, it's now cheap and really amuses for so many hours. It's also fun to watch someone else play. It's also fun to talk about, since every player has different experiences according to how they choose to play and what kind of character they want to be. It's also, it's also... I could write a book on my experiences.

Actually, one of my Sims is almost literally writing the tales of my new character. He's a fantasy author, so it makes sense, right? I name all of his books after her.

I haven't been playing Oblivion as much because of the Sims 3, a too-full DVR, and the fact that both the PS3 and the Wii are on the same TV and we both play both, but I do still play and I'm REALLY craving some sword fighting at the moment.

So, as much as I'm dying to get my hands on a few new games, I'm endlessly grateful to Bethesda for creating something that can be so enjoyable for such a ridiculously long time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Addicted to a Lame Game?

I hate to say this, but around here we've been a bit addicted to Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune on the Wii. The controls are clunky, aiming is deceptively tough, and there are a host of complaints and bad reviews about this one everywhere you look, all quite valid.

We can't stop playing it!

Maybe it's just my weird tastes (I also like some REALLY bad movies, like Ed Wood bad) but we're having so much fun with this game. The lame controls make it really difficult so maybe it's the determination factor ("This game will NOT defeat me!") that keeps us coming back. It's also a good game to play when you have 15 minutes until dinner and need something to occupy your mind, as each level seems to take about that long. Or maybe it's just that my boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas, and that makes me want to love it. Hard to say.

So, now that I've embarrassed myself a bit by admitting all of this, is there anyone out there who knows what it's like to be hooked on a game you KNOW is really lame? What are your favorite bad games?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

CraftLass' Law of Video Gaming

As I've mentioned before, I've been gaming since I was about 3. That's about 30 years of experience at this point and games have changed quite a lot over those years. Still, there is one thing that I have found consistent across all platforms and genres, which I have declared a law (sort of on the order of Murphy's) and decided to share:

  1. If you are doing really well for too long you WILL make an extremely stupid mistake. The better the game is going, the stupider and more preventable the mistake.

  2. The stupider the mistake you make, the better you will do on your next attempt.

This Law used to be rather fatal, before the advance of being able to save your games. However, with the advent of saves, you can use this to your advantage as a reminder to save often and save separate files wherever possible.

You should also feel free to use it to console yourself when you make a real doozy of an error. It's not your fault, it's the Law! Plus, it means the next attempt should work out great!

Have you had the same experience, or is this just my own way of dealing with the agony of defeat?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tips for Women Who Date Gamers

I mentioned in my first post the frustration over how many (most?) women seem to not only dislike video games but they actively abhor the grown men in their lives playing them. I've been on message boards (or BBSs, back in the day) pretty much since they were invented and talked to hundreds (or maybe even more) of women about this subject and it never ceases to amaze me how much this frustrates so many. I've also heard from just as many men about their annoyance at women getting in the way of their games.

This is not good for anyone.

So, I'm going to do a series of my own tips on how to cross the divide. This one is for the ladies because, well, there is less advice already out there for them. Sorry about all the stereotyping, which I usually don't like, but this is all about steretypes and you can change a lot of the nouns to suit you.

"All he does is play." I completely understand being frustrated when your man seems to be using games to get out of doing stuff around the house. I know, it's really annoying that men seem to have so many excuses, watching sports being the even more common version (and these days sports are on 24/7 on multiple channels!), and a certain amount of pulling them away from their pursuits is necessary if there is going to be an equal partnership. If your man is doing NOTHING to help, this is not for you, he needs way more help than any blog could give. Most men these days ARE pulling their weight, or at least trying very hard to, and that's why it's very important to allow them time to do what makes them happy. It's no different than enjoying a manicure or watching a chick flick, or whatever you like to do in what free time you can wrangle. Compromise is key from both parties.

The other thing to keep in mind is that when someone is in the midst of a huge event in their game, like a battle or a tough puzzle, they really shouldn't be interrupted unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY (as in trip to the emergency room necessary). A person needs to focus in those moments, just like focusing on the meal you're preparing when it's just about done so you don't burn it. If you do interrupt someone at that point, expect a certain level of anger and resentment that is completely justified.

"I just don't like video games and don't want all that stuff in my house." You need to explore WHY. It's not for everybody, but I've heard an awful lot of excuses that just don't apply to anyone but the person who makes them. If the problem is that he likes uber-violent games that you can't relate to, well, you just have to accept and ignore it, just like, say, "Die Hard". If the issue is that that you don't want to have your TV time interrupted by games, you need a seperate TV option (cheaper than a divorce, lol). If you don't like consoles in your living room or wherever, well, keep in mind that he puts up with your tchotchkes and pillows, which are far more intrusive overall. Consoles can be hidden cleverly away, especially in this age of wireless controllers. If you don't want a giant new HDTV, well, keep in mind that you will get to watch movies in a way that looks WAY better than any movie screen. I was worried about a 50" overwhelming our tiny living room but now I'm almost as in love with it as with him (just joking, well, mostly).

"He doesn't spend any quality time with me anymore." This is the most legitimate complaint that I've heard. It's hardly restricted to gaming, but when a man is playing in your house it's very conspicuous that he's paying no attention to you. The best solution to this is compromise again. Schedule a regular date night, where both of you have to spend time talking (especially important if you have kids) and doing something you both enjoy. Create a schedule for both of your solo pursuits, making it equitable. It's not fair for one partner to get more time than the other for fun under any circumstances. The best solution, though, is to find a game you both enjoy and can play together. In this day and age there really is something for everyone, you just need to get past prejudices and search. A trip to the game store can be a wonderful activity in and of itself if you agree to not make fun of each other's tastes. Besides, how many shopping trips does your guy actually ENJOY?

Around our house we have the problem of both of us loving games that are single-player more than multi-player. We have 3 consoles and a gaming laptop, so our solution is to play games simultaneously in the same room. Even though we are playing seperately it fosters a lot of togetherness, we both tend to spend at least some of the time watching the other and helping with strategies. It's fun and adds a great dimension to both our games and our relationship.

"He spends too much money on games." Okay, another very legitimate complaint, at least in many cases and particularly when you are financially joined, as in marriage or even just sharing expenses. Games have gotten ridiculously expensive when you are talking about complex games on discs and even cheap downloads add up rather quickly. Here's the thing, though, this is the same exact thing as any other financial concern. You need to work together on budgeting, where each person gets a certain amount of "play money" for the things they enjoy according to the amount of money you have left after bills and other necessities. If you are not actually financially tied together, though, you are out of luck on this one and need to examine if he's really overspending in this area. Does he shirk his responsibilities to buy the latest game? Well, that's not a gaming problem, that's a spending problem you need to decide if you can deal with. If he is responsible, though, you have no right to dictate what he does with what he's earned. If he doesn't put dates with you high on his priority list, financially and otherwise, well, that suggests deeper problems that have little to do with gaming once again.

There are plenty more complaints around, but I think those are the most common ones and they are pretty easy to get past if you actually want to. Just remember that all work and no play makes us all grumpy, not to mention that there are far worse ways for him to spend his time and money. Games are an easy scapegoat to avoid larger problems, rarely are they the actual problem.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Which Ghostbusters?

I was actually planning to pre-order Ghostbusters. I can't really afford it right now, but the first movie was my favorite for a long time after I first saw it in the theater as a kid. I was even Slimer for Halloween one year and dressed my horse up as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Needless to say, it just seems like a must-have.

The problem is that I can't decide which version to get. The PS3/360 version looks beautiful and very fun but I keep hearing that the Wii version may not look as good but is totally different and even more fun. The thought of having a REALLY fun game that isn't sports or fitness-related for the Wii is nice.

I know I will likely end up with both eventually but, as I can't possibly spend $90 or whatever, it's a dilemma. Whichever I play first will have a distinct advantage in my mind, right?

Is there anyone out there who has played both versions and has good reasons for picking one over the other?

Or, should I just wait for the price to fall on that one and go ahead and get Infamous first?

Friday, July 10, 2009

I AM a Girl (In Some Ways)

I am a gamer. I hate the labels "casual" and "hardcore" because I think they are nebulous and divide people who love games, and the world is always better when people aren't so split up. To me, real gamers are any people who love to play any games as much as they can fit such pursuits into their day.

Give me five minutes or five hours of free time and I will find the perfect game to amuse me for that time. That requires an open mind and willingness to try games that may not fit into your usual favorite category, as there are plenty of games where five minutes of play is just not possible.

I'm not a big fan of shooters. As in guns. A lot of people may think that's because I'm female, but it's really got a lot more to do with being a bonafide peace-loving hippie. I've avoided guns in real life because they just seem like bad things in every way, they give far too much power to the human who is holding one. I honestly think I would feel that way even if I was male, it's got more to do with my parents than anything and they were quite gender-neutral in raising me as a pacifist.

It's got nothing to do with the violence factor. At one point I thought it did, but I love sword-fighting, archery, casting magic, etc. (and my favorite acting class was stage fighting, no less). I'm longing to try my hand at Infamous because the methods of fighting seem really imaginative and fresh. Actually, I don't even mind shooting that much if the guns are old-school or silly (like foam dart guns), it's the machine gun thing that gets to me more than anything.

I also like The Sims. I've had every single disc they've put out since the original game. I even tried the online one, although I lost interest very quickly in that. I'm obsessing over The Sims 3 right now, to the point where my consoles are probably feeling a little neglected. Of course, that happens with pretty much any new game I get, my Sims have been abandoned many times over the years (particularly from playing Oblivion). Since The Sims has been credited with being the first game that generally appeals to women this is the other girly stereotype I fit into.

I felt like I had to make this admission right off the bat as I don't want to be one of those female gamers who is snotty about what other gaming women play. My choices are no better or worse than anyone else's, they just make me alone happy. Actually, my boyfriend's tastes are extremely similar, which shows it's not all about gender. Everyone has their own taste and it has a whole lot less to do with stereotyping than an individual's philosophy. It makes me sad to see players bashing each other over personal preferences.

When games are going for up to $60-$80 (for those without special controllers and accessories, at that) and loads of people are counting pennies, our personal choices become even more personal and significant. So, I won't make fun of what you play if you treat me the same way.

The Golden Rule of Gaming. I like it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Love Games

I don't remember exactly when I got my first game console. As I was 3 or 4 at the time, it's not too surprising. I do remember that it was an Odyssey and I took to it like Barney Stinson to a dumb blonde. I also remember going to the store and being allowed to choose one game, it would take hours of deliberation with my endlessly supportive father to select just one, and I loved them all.

When the Atari 2600 came out everything got better. Most of my friends had their own (so I got to play mine more instead of sharing with EVERYONE) and we could trade games. Girls, boys, everyone was entranced by this machine that didn't need quarters. Sure, playing the arcade versions was a special treat, but being able to play in pajamas while my parents were sleeping was pure luxury.

Full disclosure: I never owned an Atari, I had Colecovision with the Atari attachment. My father said it made more sense, and I am glad to have learned the lesson that more popular has nothing to do with better quality. It comes in handy today as the proud owner of a PS3.

My question, as a child of the late '70s and '80s, is when did things get divided by gender? I spent much of the '90s on the road with little access to TV, let alone home gaming, and it seemed like sometime during that time there became a big movement among my female peers to not only abandon their gaming but to actively protest the men in their lives playing them. Do these women not remember the joy of beating Pac-Man for the first time? I'm a bit baffled.

Is it because gaming became so centered around shooters and fighting in general? Is it because women are less subjected to Peter Pan syndrome? Is it because society tells us games are not for women and women are buying that line?

These are just some of the questions and topics I'm hoping to explore in the coming months on this blog. Women, do you game (likely if you managed to find this)? Men, do you wish more women played or are you happy to have this area mostly to yourselves as long as we quit nagging you to stop?