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SlimKirby Goes to PAX-Land!

Hello everybody, SlimKirby here, and it has been awhile since I’ve given you guys a proper update from my front. I really wanted and tried to give more updates, but there was just so much going on and I don’t really know where to begin! Thankfully though, only one aspect of this past month will be important to you guys, and that is the part I will be talking about in this post; PAX East 2014!

No Stranger to PAX

For those who have been following my channel for awhile, you guys should know that this wasn’t the first time I attended PAX East. I went to the convention back in 2012, and while I did have some good times, there was also some personal trauma that accompanied that trip. I’m not going to get into all of the details of what went down, but safe to say, I did make some mistakes that ended up ruining the trip for me. Because of that, and some valuable hindsight I received from a person who is very close to me, I didn’t even attend PAX East 2013. It was a personal decision I made and stand by, and because I didn’t go for that trip, I was able to save my resources for two trips to Europe in the same year; two trips that ended up being way more worth it. In 2014 though, I felt a lot more comfortable attending the convention, especially since I was attending event with my girlfriend and two very close friends of mine, and as a result, I was en route to Boston before I knew it!

The Dorkly Four

There was another big happening amongst the gleeful chaos that was PAX East. This was also the first time, in ten years, that FiyahKitteh (my girlfriend) was going to be visiting the United States. She lives in Germany and is not able to afford very many trips across the pond that is the Atlantic Ocean, which is a shame because a large majority of her friends live over here in the USA, so this was a very special trip for her as well. Not to mention, this was also her first American gaming convention, so I was very interested in seeing/hearing her thoughts and impressions. Alongside us, we also were attending the convention with Youtube users PowerToMario and ThePastaKing, both veterans of the Crystal Star Studio cooperative channel that I collaborated on for a few years. We had discussed this arrangement for months prior to the convention, had a very organized schedule of what we would do during the weekend (including what panels to attend and where we would eat our meals), and were even staying in the same hotel room. Also, as a group of four, we are all really close and have gone through many hardships together, often helping each other out during the course of those hardships. Safe to say, we were all looking forward to meeting and spending time with each other, and by the end of the weekend, I can safely say that we all got closer.

Underwhelming Chaos at the Convention Center

For months leading up to the convention, people were saying that this particular PAX East was going to be the biggest and busiest event so far, and my god, in terms of people, they were not kidding in the slightest. The show floor was packed and the League of Legends section alone had people stacked on top of each other like totem poles. Back in 2012 when I went, there was still a massive crowd of people, but at least I felt like I could actually move around without being pushed around by the people behind me. It also didn’t help that a lot of the stuff that I really wanted to see wasn’t present in the slightest bit, or if it was, not to the extent that I was hoping. This is why I say that the convention was chaotic, yet underwhelming at the same time. It was just a mess of people and booths and there just wasn’t a lot for me to personally enjoy. Because of this, kitteh and I actually left the convention center pretty early on Friday because I just wasn’t feeling it…in fact, it quite literally made me feel ill. The fact we had to walk (although it was more like rushing) to the convention center didn’t make it any easier either.

Saturday of Satisfaction

Saturday went a lot better than what Friday did. Friday just felt like chaos in every way, shape and form, and on Friday, the group and I at least had a general plan for what we were going to do and what we wanted to see. It also really helped to see Tommy (PowerToMario) in his cosplay (Apollo from Smite) all day because that guy really knows how to have a good time when he is in the zone, and he was seriously in that zone the entire time he was dressed up as Apollo. There were also a bunch of other really awesome moments that happened on this day, but I’ll get into them in the future sections of this article.

About the Panels

So not only was there an expo floor that had various booths featuring the latest creations from popular gaming developers and indie developers alike, but there were also panel discussions that were held in the various conference theaters throughout the convention center during the weekend. I will go ahead and say right now that I didn’t attend any of the huge panels like the RoosterTeeth panel or the “Thrown Controllers” event hosted by TheRunawayGuys. I actually attended panels that were more important and relevant to me and the type of work I do on Youtube. For example, the first panel I attended was called “Why No One Will Game With You,” a panel discussing the difficulty in finding gaming partners and groups for multiplayer games. This topic really spoke to my group and I because we are all really interested in the MOBA Smite and we’ve all had problems in finding people to play with so we could have a fully functional team that can cooperate and work together. I also attended a panel with kitteh about podcasting. We had done podcasts and discussions before, but not very frequently, and we have been interested in doing more stuff in that realm. The panel was very helpful in giving us information about what we should aim for and try to do when it came to making our podcasts a regular thing. We also attended a panel about pitching a gaming story to game developer. Although this was not necessarily in my realm of work, this was something Nima (ThePastaKing) was interested in watching and kitteh and I were actually more interested in watching another panel that was going on at the same time, but since it filled up before we could get inside, we decided to go with Nima instead, since the topic was kind of interesting. It was a good replacement though and was definitely not a waste of time, even in the slightest bit. Overall, the panels we attended were actually really informative and fun to listen to and can be a good way to relax after the unavoidable pain your feet will experience as you walk around for hours.

Meeting New People and Seeing Old Friends

Another big highlight of the weekend was getting acquainted with new people and becoming reacquainted with old friends. I had shared a room with Tommy when we attended PAX East 2012 and have spent several months with kitteh when I visisted her in Europe, so there were no surprises when it came to those two. However, this was the first time I met Nima though and meeting him was quite the thrill for me. He is honestly a really great person to be around and can be the life of the party when he is in that comfort zone, and he must have been really comfortable because for the life of me, I couldn’t stop laughing and having fun when he was around. We had played some games together during the event and he was always fun to play and compete with. He is definitely a guy I would love to spend more time with. Although I spent the majority of my time with those three, I did run into some faces from my past, including Natalie (MadameToadstool), Allison (Littlefu68), Autumn (GaiaCrusher9), Scott (scottman895), and Eric (ShadowMarioXLI). It was really cool seeing them all again and talking to them for a bit, as it had been awhile since I last had contact with them. I even briefly got to talk to Bethany (MadameWario), but it was quite literally for only a minute when we were leaving the airport on our return-trip home. It’s always a shame when people start disappearing from your life due to the different directions you will undoubtedly take, but it’s cool to see and talk to them again, even if it is for just a moment. As for other new people, I finally got to meet Kyle (Odinspack33), Alicia (Xenonia11), and Jamsie (Skinl3y19), but these meetings were so brief that it was almost kind of sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with them, especially Kyle and Skinley because they are people I would really like to work with and collaborate with on a regular basis on Youtube. Here is to hoping we will be able to hang out more during other conventions!

Making Days

One very important detail I left out of the Saturday adventure was a particular booth I got to visit. Frogdice, the creators of “Dungeon of Elements,” a game I have been showcasing on my channel every now and then, had a booth on display on the show floor. Because of this, I was determined to meet with them and see if they had anything cool in the works. I had been in discussion with Frogdice before, in fact, one of the reasons why I decided to show off Dungeon of Elements was because I was in a casual discussion with the president of the company after he told me that his daughter was a fan of my channel. After a bit of talk, he told me was an indie developer and was working on promoting his company’s game. After taking a look at it, I was honored to showcase it on my channel. At PAX, I got to meet him and his wife (who was the vice-president of the company) and give them one of my “merch-packs” to give to their daughter. I also stuck around and got to take a look at their newest game, Reign Maker, which looked pretty awesome. I’ll have to cover it on my channel someday, in some fashion. I also got to meet some other fans of mine who were looking forward to meeting me at the convention. I really only got to meet two people in this fashion, as I wasn’t there very long on Friday and Saturday I was all over the place. I hope you guys enjoyed the “merch-packs” though! =)

SlimKirby: The Cosplay

This was also my first attempt at “cosplaying,” but I’ll go ahead and say that my efforts were pretty casual as a first timer and there was nothing incredibly complicated about what I was going for. You see, the original plan was for me to go as a companion to accompany kitteh’s “Tenth Doctor” cosplay that she was wearing on Saturday. As a result, I didn’t exactly have to wear anything super complicated because the companions always wear very casual clothing. However, I got a pair of blue suspenders over Christmas to help with my pants falling down (after losing over 100 pounds over the last year, my pants are suddenly too big me XD), and whenever I wear a red or green shirt alongside these suspenders, people always tell me that I look like the Mario Bros. I took this opportunity to cosplay as Super Mario on Friday, but with a slight twist. Because I needed a red cap of some kind, and because “SlimKirby” wears a red cap as well, I did a double cosplay of both Mario and SlimKirby as I brought a pair of sunglasses too. To be honest though, the cosplaying didn’t do very much for me and almost seemed like more effort than it was worth. It could have been because my cosplays were very minimal in execution, but even then, I was pretty uncomfortable in extremely casual wear and would have much rather wore something else. On the flip side though, Tommy’s Apollo cosplay was completely badass, and I still have very heartwarming thoughts of kitteh’s “FiyahKitteh” cosplay that she wore on Friday. I have to say…that FiyahKitteh is one beautiful gal, especially when she is dressed up! =3

Overall Thoughts: The True PAX Experience

Now that I’ve covered a lot of of the small things that went on during my PAX adventure, how did I feel with the trip overall? Overall, I had an amazing time, but honestly, very few of the best moments could really be attributed to the convention itself. I honestly had more fun hanging out with my group of friends than actually attending the convention. In fact, the convention actually kind of took away from the experience because we were separated from our group for a large percentage of the time, and getting prepared for the convention and traveling to the convention ate up a lot of unnecessary time as well, especially on Friday (although Friday was a really weird day as it was). However, I think that is what ultimately makes the conventions as fun and as hyped as they are. It gives groups of friends a chance to meet-up and hang out at a place where they can embrace their inner-video game passions. The conventions aren’t really even that necessary as you can honestly schedule a cooperative trip amongst a group of friends whenever you want, wherever you want, but with the way these conventions are set-up, particularly for people like me, kitteh, Tommy, Nima, and the others, this is a perfect opportunity to meet up with everyone, do some networking at the convention itself with other gamers, and have everything going on at pretty much one place.

There were some really great moments at the convention though, don’t get me wrong; watching Tommy walk around like a rockstar in his Apollo cosplay. Meeting the president and vice-president of Frogdice was another moment that I’ll remember forever. Spending some quality time with kitteh at the top of the skybridge, looking down at the convention and watching life and time pass us by was also a really sweet, cool and memorable moment. And then, meeting some friends of mine from the past was also extremely awesome, being able to catch up with those who I have not talked to for what felt like ages! I can’t say that the convention did “nothing” for the trip, but there were definitely moments that stood out a little more for me.

The parts of this weekend that really stood out for me though were spending time with kitteh, Tommy and Nima; exploring the Boston area, playing video games in our awesome Jr. Executive hotel room, eating some really excellent food, and having some really awesome talks and laughs along the way. That’s the stuff that really stood out for me and were the things that made this weekend as awesome as it was. And you know, I think that is the beauty of the PAX conventions….by themselves, they don’t really do a whole lot, but the people you meet and you go with, that is what stands out the most. In other words, if you plan to go to a convention all by yourself and have no plans to meet up with anybody, I think it’s going to be really hard to enjoy yourself. I’m sure there might be a few people who will disagree, but at least for me, that is what it feels like.

What would I do for next PAX? Well, I would try to schedule a little extra time for me and my friends, maybe even an extra day or two that we can use just to enjoy ourselves and have a little more fun. As for the actual convention itself….I’d do a lot more street passing on my 3DS. Seriously, every year they give you more and more puzzle panels and more street pass games…it’ll take me forever to complete those at this rate. X_X

But seriously, I look forward to what future PAX conventions (and maybe just gaming conventions in general) will bring. But until then, this is SlimKirby, signing out!

 

If you would like to take a look at another PAX East 2014 perspective, you can check out FiyahKitteh’s summary of her trip and her favorite moments of the trip!

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Freemium Gaming: Too Smart or Too Greedy?

One of the most popular ways to play video games today involves the use of mobile devices. When I say mobile device, I’m not referring to handheld gaming like the Nintendo DS, 3DS, or even the Playstation Vita. I’m talking about iPads, touchpads, iPhones, phonepads, touchphones….basically any device that has a screen, a touch pad of some kind, and a million other apps that come along with it. These days, it’s almost a rule that every family member must have a device of this caliber, and if you don’t have one, I applaud you for not allowing the greedy hands of technology take you to their underworld.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with these devices. I wish they would stop upgrading to a new device every month, or at the very least, I wish all of these companies would join together on one front to just release one brand so we could cut the need to offer several choices of a very expensive device that is no different from any other one, but that is very unrealistic thinking. I think it’s great that mobile devices have come such a long way from what used to be the cell phone, and with the inclusion of games, the Internet, touch technology, and a variety of other programs and functionalities, the technology is quite impressive considering. The only reason why I do not own any of these devices though is the simple fact that; I already have a perfectly working cell phone, laptop computer, and a variety of different video game systems. Perhaps I could see the need after the very unlikely scenario that I would happen to lose all the aforementioned devices at once, but even more than that, I’m an individual that does better when functions are distributed to specific platforms and not all on the same one.

However, because this is a gaming website, I would like to focus on the games that are on these devices. And you want to know something, I think a lot of these games are really, really good. My favorite mobile game would have to be Plants vs. Zombies. I know the game initially came out for the PC and not mobile devices, but I think it’s a perfect example for what these mobile games are striving for. It’s the type of game that allows you to pick it up, play a few a levels and get a decent amount of enjoyment out of it, and easily put it down when you’ve had your fill. I’d much rather play this game on the PC or my Xbox 360, but I can see how and why it makes good, mobile entertainment. In fact, the sequel to Plants vs. Zombies was also only released for mobile devices, a move that actually made me very sad at first, until I found out about specific content in regards to the game. A lot of these games also fit into the puzzling genre, with games like Bejeweled, Peggle, a variety of different Tetris clones, and most famously (or should I say notoriously) Candy Crush Saga.

If you have a mobile device, or at the very least, an account on Facebook, you’ve probably heard a variety of things about Candy Crush. You may remember such classic lines like, “Your friend Tommy has beat Level 32,” “Tina has created a striped candy,” or “Mark needs some help in accessing the next level!” If you’ve seen these lines and have no idea what they mean, you have a friend that is addicted, or has been addicted, to Candy Crush Saga.

For those who are unaware, Candy Crush Saga is a puzzle game, developed by the indie gaming distributor King, that works pretty similarly to the game Bejeweled. You are given a grid with several blocks, or in this case, candy, and your goal is to achieve the mission objective by swapping/switching candy. Whenever there are three candies that are adjacent to each other (vertically or horizontally), the candies will disappear and any candies above the match will fall further down the board. You also can’t switch any candies unless they make a a match, requiring you to deal only with the moves you are given from the get-go, and not allowing for a lot of strategy in between. The mission objectives vary from stage to stage. For some stages, you need to get a certain amount of points before you run out of moves or get a certain amount of points before your time runs out. Other stages will require you to bring down specific items from the top of the board to the very bottom, or in other cases, collecting a set number of each color of candy before you run out of moves. Then there are my least favorite levels, the jelly levels, where you have to clear out all of the jelly on the board by making matches on all of the spaces that have the jelly markings on them. The game seems simple enough in concept, especially once you see it in action, but the recipe for difficulty is one that will throw you through a loop, particularly when you first leave the tutorial levels.

The fact of the matter is, every level is completely random in terms of what blocks you will get and what blocks will appear on screen once you have made a match. This means that you don’t necessarily have control over what happens after every move. There are some scenarios where you can look ahead and think, “Ok, well, I need to make a 5 candy match of purples, but I have to move this other purple candy over first so I can place it in the middle of these two sets of 2 purples,” and that’s all nice and dandy, but while you are moving the purple candy over, you run the risk of another match happening while you are setting the combo up, effectively ruining your progress. Plus, because you only have a specific amount of moves (or time) for each stage, every time you move one candy to set up a combo, you are effectively running the risk of your game getting cut short, and depending on a match, that may or may not give you enough resources/points to actually win. The game is based on luck so much that there are times where the game just prematurely ends because there are no more possible moves you can make, when you are right in the middle of an extremely good run. I see what the developers were going for, and honestly, it was a good marketing strategy for the casual crowd of gamers as it meant anyone could clear the levels without having to rely on huge Tetris Attack styled combos. However, this gimmick is also one of the most annoying aspects of the game for everybody in general, because it makes the later stages of the game almost impossible to complete and introduces the most controversial feature of these types of games, the fact that Candy Crush is a “freemium” game.

What is a freemium game, you may be asking? A freemium game is a game that is free to purchase and play, but only allows you limited content. However, in order to experience other aspects of the game, you need to pay money to actually use these features. In most cases, including Candy Crush, the entire game can be played without having to purchase anything, but you can use your own money to purchase items that can make the game easier. You could almost compare this to the “Super Guide” feature in newer Nintendo games, but there aren’t any negative implications to using the items. Sometimes though, the items may not be able to help you finish the level at all, requiring you to waste even more money to get more or finally manning up and cutting your losses before you spend every cent you own.

Now, for gamers who think it is stupid to pay money to get a small advantage that may or may not help you, let me remind you that it is completely optional to do so. Like I said before, the entire game can be completed without purchasing a single power-up, or spending a few extra bucks on getting some more moves. However, like I also pointed out, this game is incredibly difficult and luck-based, so for those who are passionate about reaching the end of the road, the idea of spending some of your hard-earned cash may not be so one-sided. Just imagine reaching the end of a very difficult level, a level you’ve spent days trying to beat, and the only thing standing in your way is one more match. However, you have just ran out of turns and it may be a long time before you even make it to this point again. This makes the decision to spend money a lot harder, but I feel like people are more prone to actually spending the money just to get it over with. They feel like, “I’ve been doing this level forever and chances are, I’ll never get hung up on a level like this again,” so the decision seems easy.

This just so happens to be King’s marketing strategy though, and to be honest, it’s quite good as it allows them to use that kind of thinking to their advantage and possibly end up making more money than they would if they put the game on retail. One aspect I forgot to mention is that there are more than 500 levels in Candy Crush Saga, and it’s a number that continues to grow as they make new levels and redesign old levels to be put into the “Dream World” mode of the game (which consists of level repeats from the main game with a new gimmick in play). Due to the luck aspect of the game, there really isn’t much of a difficulty curve. Whenever you start a new world, the first few levels are generally pretty easy because they introduce a new gimmick and want to make sure you understand how it works. After those introductory levels though, you are on your own, so you better be ready for action…those stages aren’t going to mess around. When I played Candy Crush, I got stuck around Level 80 for the longest time, but once I made it past that level, I didn’t really have any issues with a level until I was in the 300 and 400s, and even then, I wouldn’t say the levels have been much different in difficulty.

I guess I should also mention the fact that in order to progress to the next world, you must do either one of two things. The first thing you can do is get three of your friends to allow you access by asking for their permission. The next time they play the game, they will be given a notification that you are trying to unlock the next world, and if they aren’t jerks, they can give you a ticket. When you have 3 tickets, the next world will unlock and you can continue to play. The second thing you can do is pay money to get to the next world. Honestly, considering how many people play Candy Crush, you should never be in a position to pay money, so do not even consider that option. Just ask your friends…chances are, they have probably already done the same thing. Another gimmick is the fact that there is a system of “lives” for the game. If you fail a mission, you lose a life. If you lose all of your lives, you either have to wait until you get a life refill (every 25-30 minutes, the game gives you an extra life), or pay to get five extra lives. Once again, because chances are that you will be failing on the same level over and over again, there is no need to purchase lives. At some point, your lives will grow back and if you ever spend money on an extra life, and you lose that life, it’s the same as throwing actual money down the drain.

King has done this type of game design with a large variety of their games and safe to say, they’ve probably made more money than what the government of the United States even has at their disposal. Although I think the actual plan is evil and greedy, I can respect a good marketing strategy, and right now, this strategy is kicking ass and taking names. It tempts their consumers in wanting to see more of the game and because of how cheap it seems (you can essentially buy 5 extra moves in one level for $1), people will do it just for the sake of moving on and accomplishing a hard-fought goal. As gamers though, we need to watch out and be aware of what we are giving them in return. It may not seem like you are spending a lot when you do it the first few times, but that is what catches you off-guard and I can imagine people forgetting that the game is taking actual money in. For example, imagine spending $1 on every world of the game; after you get through all of the worlds, that one dollar per world can end up being the price of a Nintendo DS game, and that would just be a best-case scenario. There are packages that can cost up to $20, $30, or even $50 dollars, and at that point, people may just start using their power-ups just for the sake of getting rid of them. This is why we need to be careful. Candy can be an addiction for people, but so can Candy Crush.

As far as the actual game is concerned, I like Candy Crush Saga. It’s fun, it’s very addictive, there is “some” aspect of puzzle-solving, and it’s a game I wish would be more available on different platforms. Not going to lie though, if they do offer it, or a game like it, I would hope that the freemium stuff would not be included just for the sake of being able to play a game without the added desire to spend money when we think we need it. In fact, I think the game would still be a success even if it was in retail and with the freemium stuff removed. They could make the levels a bit easier (and a little less based on luck) and still offer a full-retail price. However, with how many people buying their daily addictions of Candy Crush power-ups, I think King is sitting comfy at where they are now and all of their employees must have some pretty nice beach homes.

King is not the only company making use of the freemium logic in their games, but they are definitely the “kingpins” of this new lane of gaming. In fact, Plants vs. Zombies 2 and the Facebook iteration of the PvZ series have also used this logic in getting gamers to spend no money on the game itself, but lots of money on all of the other bells and whistles. Is this logic just a phase or will it become a new gaming standard? I for one hope it’s only the former though because I feel this strategy actually devalues the actual game itself, showing that the game cannot stand on its own feet and relies on the power of purchasing for a gamer to have any fun with it, or in some cases, actually complete it. I also feel like King has gone a little “mad with power” due to the success of Candy Crush Saga, but that is a topic I would like to discuss another day. For now, I’ve said my piece, and now I am curious to what you guys think about freemium gaming.

Later Star Warriors!

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Twitch Plays A Meme-a-thon!

The Internet has exploded with lots and lots of new gaming trends, most of which consist of the newest hit games. However, there are some trends that are very unique and focus on older classics games. Today I am going to be talking about one of the newest trends, and unless you are a gamer who has been living under a rock, the chances are that you have probably heard something in regards to the streaming channel known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon.”

Here is a little bit of background for those who do not know a whole lot about this phenomenon. Twitch Plays Pokémon was started about a month ago when the channel was first created for the purpose of a social experiment. The idea was to create program a bot that would play through the game Pokémon Red, taking in movement directions and button presses from the stream users who were chatting while the stream is live. The idea was to see how well the stream users would work together and how long it would take them to get to the very end of the game. At first, the results were very successful considering the small amount of traffic and popularity the stream would have at that point, but over time it would get to the point where there would be almost 100 button inputs per second. Safe to say, this led to a lot of situations where the main character would either go way further than intended, or spend up to 10 minutes looking through the item menu. This also led to numerous controversies and hardships; like buying the wrong evolution stone when having very limited funds, or perhaps the most damaging, releasing a decently leveled-up starter Pokémon into the wild, amongst several others.

A lot of these hardships and decisions were warmly welcomed by the viewing public though, looking at the events as less of a crutch but more of a meme or trend of some kind. One of the most prominent jokes is the “Praise Helix” meme, where the main character, while battling or getting through a particular area, would just randomly go into the item menu and try to use the “Helix Fossil” item, an item which cannot be used directly in that fashion, nor can it be thrown away. In fact, another meme would be the evolutionary stone incident I spoke of a little bit earlier. The original plan was to obtain a Vaporeon by evolving an Eevee with a Water Stone. However, because the audience had a hard time actually purchasing the Water Stone, they ended up with a Fire Stone instead, prompting Eevee’s evolution into Flareon instead. As a result, when the group tried to release or deposit Flareon into the PC storage system, they ended up releasing several Pokémon, including their starter and another Pokémon that had been with them for a very long time. Because of this, Flareon was given the nickname “The False Prophet.” This has also prompted a variety of other nicknames, like Pidgeot who is more commonly known as “Bird Jesus” during the playthrough; given the name due to its extremely high level (from being around since the beginning of the game) and being one of the biggest factors in many of the game’s big battles.

Despite all the difficulty, after about 2 weeks of live streaming, Twitch Plays Pokémon Red was completed, a feat that was actually quite impressive considering the circumstances. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am aware that the game can be completed in speed run fashion (without glitches) in about a few hours, however, you have to realize that with the way this was set-up and organized, an extremely long playtime was unavoidable. For one, Twitch already has a very noticeable and recognizable delay in streamer-chat interaction. So as a result, the audience who is watching and participating is at least 15 seconds behind what is actually going on. Second, we can’t be ignorant of the existence of trolls, or people who exist for the sole purpose of throwing a wrench into the works. I think one of the clearest examples of this mindset is when the main character is in a very unfortunate position where there is only a one-square line in between a wall and a ledge that the hero can fall off of. If they fall off the ledge, they have to restart the entire walk and do it over again. And let’s be real here; there will always be that one guy who wants to postpone progress for his own hilarity. Twitch Plays did actually interfere a few times and implemented a few different features to help the game move along, but the features are still pretty damn exploitable and easy to manipulate and mess up. So when it’s all said and done, I’m impressed that that it actually took them half the amount of time I expected them to finish with.

Now, before I get into how I feel about all of this, I will say that I did not watch very much of the stream, nor did I actually get into it. I was introduced to the stream by one of my closest friends who had wondered if I heard anything about it yet. This was at the very start of the second week and they were at the Safari Zone, trying to obtain the necessary items to progress the plot. I wondered if this feat was even possible, considering you have a very limited amount of spaces you can move before you are thrown out of the place completely. After watching about ten minutes of the affair, I clicked away and went back to whatever I was doing before that. It turns out that they did beat the Safari Zone, not long after I clicked away, but I still never had the desire to watch. I guess you could compare it to the “Observant Gamer Complex,” a condition where you are watching one of your favorite games being played, but feel almost irritated that it’s not being done in the way you are used to, or just in a very inefficient manner. You rememember whenever your best friend would come over to play Mario games with you, but you sometimes wish you could just take the controller out of his hand and do it your way? That’s what this stream kind of felt like for me and just didn’t seem like a very good use for my time. Every morning after I woke up and every night before I would go to sleep, I did check in to see how the game was progressing, and most of the time, I was actually really surprised at the results. Most of the time, I did walk in to a major trouble spot, usually the character trying to battle the evil “ledge” or even trying to get out of a Pokémon Center, but whenever I left and came back, usually that part was accomplished or finished in some way, so progress was definitely being made. I was just never around for it, nor did I really have an interest to be around for it.

When it’s all said and done though, I have to give Twitch Plays Pokémon credit where the credit is due. For a social experiment, it has definitely done an amazing job. I wouldn’t say it brought this world together, nor did it achieve anything worth a Nobel prize, but it accomplished what it set out to do, probably in ways that nobody expected. There were definitely a lot of changes and implementations that strayed away from what the original design of the project was, but I don’t feel like it affected the teamwork atmosphere. Various sites and Google documents were created just for the sole purpose of this streaming channel in coordinating with other players, gamers, and participants to nail down a concrete plan of attack for every single situation. When the “False Prophet” controversy happened, everybody was already working on the next plan of attack. When an HM move Pokémon was released, like clockwork, people came up with a Plan B and were ready to aim for a different Pokémon to incorporate into the team. Not only in long-term planning, but strategies were also created in order to control the vast number of inputs being made all at once, making use of the 15-second delay and a nifty “Start” button trick that would allow the character not to move in the wrong direction if it seemed like there would be a case of that.

I also think that Twitch Plays Pokémon did a lot of good in the creativity department as well. Although many of the jokes and memes are silly and were created for the sole purpose of humor, I can appreciate the way that the community tried to embrace it. Pictures and art were created, stories and fanfics were made…it turned a two-week session (of what should be a 50-hour (very, very rough estimate) normal game playthrough) of running into walls and checking out helix fossils into a entity of its own, almost a movie or narrative of some kind, and that’s something I can really respect and appreciate, even if it’s not something I am terribly interested in.

One day after the completion of Pokémon Red, it was to no surprise that Twitch Plays Pokémon started working on another Pokémon game, this time Pokémon Crystal. As of the moment I am writing this post, they are currently in the Kanto portion of the game (the shorter “2nd half” of the game after the Elite Four), so they have made a pretty good amount of progress for being this far into the game after only eleven days, especially considering that the second generation Pokémon games are easily twice as long as the first generation. I’m not sure if this means that the viewers are becoming more in-tune with how the channel or trolls work, or if they have just gotten incredibly lucky with the entire journey so far, but you can’t argue with results and progress.

I should also mention that since the creation of Twitch Plays Pokémon, there have been a variety of other channels created for the sole purpose of trying this experiment with other games. I am not surprised by this development, but from the look of things, nothing is as popular as Twitch Plays Pokémon.

That’s all I want to say about the matter. If you guys are interested in the Twitch Plays Pokémon action, check out the live stream located here. If you are like me and not really interested in watching Red/Silver walk into a wall for several hours, consider checking out the Google Docs page which does a great job of covering all of the essential information, including what the current “goal” is, and a link to a page which keeps a very detailed and live status report on everything that happens throughout the day and is updated quite regularly (so that it never feels like more than 30, 20, or even 10 minutes to get an update).

Thanks for reading today folks and I will see you Star Warriors next time!

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Are We Sexist Enough Yet?

It seems that over the last ten years, gaming has taken quite the turn from the days of Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and even the Playstation 2. Games have become more casual and have given people of different age groups and skill sets the chance to pick up a controller and not be utterly confused as a result. I’ve seen people who have never even played video games before, and those who had no interest in the field, get somewhat enamored with this technology after playing just one round of Wii Sports Bowling. It’s a field that continues to grow in popularity, and with the ever-growing accessibility of this medium, especially with the inclusion of social media and mobile technology with gaming, I don’t see an end to it anytime soon.

I could go into a giant discussion over the casualization of video gaming, but I think that is a talk I will save for another day. My focus for this post is a a very specific, but also a very large, group of people that have become quite prominent during this particular gaming age. I am, of course, talking about the “Gamer Girls,” or to be more specific, any female that plays video games.

Before I go any further, I should probably call attention to the fact that I am aware that the prospect of a “female gamer” is nothing new. I’ve known female gamers to exist back when I was only two or three years old. My aunt is the reason I fell in love with Super Mario World (and thus got introduced into gaming), my grandmother played Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with me whenever I came to visit her, and a friend of mine’s mom helped me beat The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening when I had no idea how to obtain the Nightmare Key in Level 2. Even my mom, who has trouble learning how to operate any of the electronics in our living room, played Zombies Ate My Neighbors with me when I was a kid and apparently got really into it. For me, this isn’t really anything new. This only seems like it is such a new thing because it has become so accessible now, and not to mention the age-old stereotype that unless sewing, cooking, or jewelry is involved, a girl would have no interest in being a part of it.

This stereotype is extremely short-sighted and narrow-minded, but despite the few examples I gave, I will admit that compared to the gamers I grew up around back then, female gamers are definitely more vocal about their gaming hobbies now. Is it solely because gaming is so much more mainstream these days? I suppose that could be a reason, but unfortunately I cannot say for certain. As a fellow gamer myself, I am glad that female gamers are being more vocal about their gaming passions. I don’t think there should be any restrictions when it comes to gaming and who can play games. However, I do feel like there are some issues to how this identity is being perceived and utilized.

A very current example of this would be the Nintendo Girl’s Club, an organization started by Nintendo UK to focus on the female demographic of gamers. The establishment of this channel has met with quite a bit of controversy though, and while I feel like Nintendo UK didn’t have any malicious or wrong intentions, I have to say that I agree with the masses. I watched a couple of their videos and I felt a little uneasy, and I am pretty sure the reason isn’t because I am not a girl. First off, they were speaking in a way where it felt like their audience knew nothing about video games, and for a channel that has a pre-determined audience they are making content for, it makes the statement that girls know next-to-nothing about video games. They could make the argument that they are trying to get girls into gaming, but on a medium like Youtube, I don’t feel like non-gamer females, or non-gamers in general, would be browsing those sites unless they already had an intention in getting into gaming (which I think is a small percentage already). Secondly, the content posted on the channel is very specific in nature, as there are not very many games covered, and the ones that are shown are games directed for a more casual crowd. Many videos are guides for small aspects of Animal Crossing: New Leaf (a game that is very safe and neutral in its target audience), or videos for games like New Art Academy and New Style Boutique. With these decisions, it doesn’t really feel they have an idea of what games female want to play and are going with a very safe approach instead.

When it comes to gaming, I don’t really think anyone is truly unaware of what is going on. You grab and hold a controller, you press some buttons, you learn what they do, and if something doesn’t work out, you try something else. That’s the simple logic of how video gaming works. While I was watching the videos, it seemed like they were under the impression that females can’t comprehend anything and need to have every little step explained to them. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, but I’d imagine that being one of the biggest peeves of all time; being told how/what to do when the instructions are pretty damn clear. Hell, even if they aren’t completely obvious to everyone, it could always be one of those natural reactions of curiosity and discovery for the individual. Who is to say they want, or need for that to be explained?

There was indeed a time where women, in general, didn’t have a lot of rights and were seen as the cook, cleaner, and/or child raiser. However, those times are ages past and I would like to think we have evolved past that stage now. I guess to be fair, for videogames it’s not much of a sexist issue, as girls were never restricted from playing videogames, rather they just didn’t play them as often as males. However, in that notion lies another problem. I almost feel like this whole thing is being looked at as a sexist subject when it really shouldn’t be. I can understand that entities, like the Nintendo Girl’s Club, don’t exactly help with the matter, considering that they undermine the intelligence and experience that females may have with gaming. As a result, I can see why female gamers, especially those who have been gamers for a long time now, are insulted by the Girl’s Club. However, can we really call this sexist, or would it fall under being misinformed? Honestly, I think it is more of the latter.

I see a lot of girl gamers who are almost up in arms about these groups, disliking how there seems to be a divide in the gaming world and how females are looked at as inferior gamers. Again, I can understand and respect these feelings of dissatisfaction, but at the same time, I am one of those individuals who feels that the only way to fix an inequality is to achieve an overall sense of equality amongst everybody. These female gamers don’t seem to be leveling the playing field, and if anything, they are just reinforcing the notion that they are different. Isn’t that normally how sexism gets started? Isn’t that how the Nintendo Girl’s Club even got started? I’ve seen these girl gamers go to extreme lengths to defend their identity as a gamer girl, and if they are passionate about gaming that’s great for them, but in that case, being a girl would and should not be a factor of that passion. Guys don’t identify themselves as “Gamer Guys,” so why should women have to be called Gamer Girls?

I could turn this into a cliché rant about how we need a neutral term like “Gamer Person,” or something like that, but honestly there is no need to because we already have one. United, we are Gamers. Race, age and ethnic backgrounds do not matter and have never mattered in the slightest and neither should gender. The sooner that companies like Nintendo UK start to see this, the sooner that groups like the Nintendo Girl’s Club will cease to exist, or perhaps to more neutral extent, they will redefine and alter their mission and their target demographic to appeal to a wider audience, in a more beneficial way.

I do remember the days where it was such an attraction for male gamers whenever they met a girl who was also into videogames. For me, it was never because they played games, but moreso because they had a passion with them that was similar to mine. In a way, you could almost say the same about people of the same gender as well. There probably wouldn’t be any “attraction” so to speak (unless you are into that kinda thing *wink*), but you would feel like you could connect with that person on a common level or subject. Over time, now that females are becoming more prominent with the gaming lifestyle, I think that is going to be way more common, and is perhaps what we need in order to achieve the equality I spoke of before.

In conclusion, I think we need to remove the “Girl” from the “Gamer Girl” name and just unite as Gamers once and for all. Being a female, as far as I know from my personal research, doesn’t really change anything on the gaming front. My girlfriend still likes hacking and slashing demons while playing Devil May Cry just as much as I do, my grandmother still enjoys playing Tetris on her old gray-brick colored Game Boy, and every single day on my Youtube channel, I see female Star Warriors participating in discussion just as much (if not more) than my male audiences. I’m sure there will always be female gaming groups out there who feel entitled to showcase their identity as females, and I’m not saying that they are wrong by doing so. Over time though, as this continues to become a more mainstream hobby, there just won’t be a need for that identity. Basically, this is not a post against them, rather a post in favor of breaking the boundaries now and finally uniting as one. After all, wasn’t that the goal to begin with?

And I think that is going to do it for my opinion on this topic. If you want to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment on this post. If you want to read another opinion on this topic, my partner in crime FiyahKitteh made a blurb about this too (particularly in response to the Nintendo Girl’s Club stuff), so check it out if you want to see another person’s perspective.

Farewell gamers and fellow Star Warriors!
– SlimKirby

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