Your Bioware Crushes & Squishes: ‘Mass Effect’ Friendship Edition

Mass Effect

Welcome to “Your Bioware Crushes & Squishes,” where I report on the FemHype crew’s favorite Bioware romances and friendships! Both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series are near and dear to many of our hearts, so I thought I’d throw a virtual sleepover of sorts where we talk about our ~tru luvs~ and brush each other’s hair. Romance not your cup of tea? No worries! We’re gonna talk about our best buds, too, since friendships are just as valid. After discussing heavy theory and social issues, sometimes it’s nice to just kick back, relax, and cry about video game characters.

This time around, we’re taking a look at your favorite Mass Effect characters to befriend after conducting a poll with 485 total respondents. (My apologies to those who had to deal with the initial technical difficulties, by the way.)

Keep in mind that this time around, we’re focusing on a larger cast of characters in response to previous feedback, and like last time, respondents could choose multiple answers for the same question.

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The Room Where It Happens: Novac in ‘Fallout: New Vegas’

Fallout New Vegas

[Editor’s NoteBritish spellings have been preserved upon request.]

Hey there, FemHype crew! Welcome back to “The Room Where it Happens,” where we take a look at some of the best areas in games — ones that serve as a microcosm for what’s great about the worlds that they belong to. This time around, we are travelling to the Mojave desert of Fallout: New Vegas and, specifically, to Novac.

Early in the game, you — as player character the Courier — will learn that the Mojave is a place that can slalom between deadly and welcoming. You begin the game by being shot in the head, but recover in the small town of Goodsprings thanks to the help of the local doctor. The people there are friendly and will give you money, weapons, medicine, and training until you are ready to head out into the wider wasteland. The first stop on this journey is Primm, which has been overrun by lawlessness after its sheriff was murdered. Not long after that, you are likely to stumble across Nipton, the site of a massacre perpetrated by the horrific Caesar’s Legion.

You would be forgiven, then, for fearing the worst of the wider Mojave. But just beyond Nipton you will see a massive statue of a dinosaur on the horizon. (Permit me an aside here, dear reader: that dinosaur is inspired by a real giant dinosaur in the Mojave, which is a creationist museum claiming humans lived alongside T. Rexes. The more you know!)

At the foot of the dinosaur, you will find Novac. It’s small and run-down, its walls formed by the shells of prewar buses and old tyres with many houses boarded up, but it’s also a home to a community. It has a shop, a doctor, clean water, and security. There’s an old gas station where you can fix or craft items and a ranch with friendly two-headed Brahmin. You might even make a home there yourself in one of the motel rooms.

Novac is emblematic of the communities that have managed to carve a place out in the wasteland, characterising New Vegas as less desperate and more homely than other Fallout games — for better or for worse. Personally, I think it’s for the better. The theme of coming together and making the best of it for everyone is central to New Vegas, and Novac is a symptom of that.

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The Curious Case of Sequels: Revisiting ‘Chrono Cross’

Chrono Cross

Gamers have an understandable apprehension towards sequels. Annual franchises treading water and industry luminaries getting lambasted for crowdfunded, half-baked nostalgia grabs have become normalized through gamers’ cynical lenses. Yet while I agree that it is important to be critical of games that resemble factory-assembled products, this wariness of the sequel has resulted in a trend that conflates sequels with an innate lack of creativity.

The rhetoric — as best I can surmise from the nebulous internet sentiment — is that, since sequels are iterative of their predecessors, they’re hamstrung by a lack of conceptual creativity. It’s natural to be skeptical in climate of exploitative, sequel-vomiting publishers, but I find the claim to be rather unrefined. Original works are typically stories all about establishment and the formation of identity, while sequels are invariably tethered to their predecessor. It’s true that both primary and successive games are bound by convention, but they’re left enough creative freedom to subvert, experiment, or even adhere to their given form.

While even my appreciation for sequels has been strained amidst the messy release of Mega Man’s spiritual successor Mighty No. 9, I got to thinking about Chrono Cross — the role-playing follow-up to 1995’s Chrono Trigger — a game that wonderfully utilizes its relation to its predecessor for purposeful thematic illustration. While many games like MN9 rely solely upon nostalgia to justify their existence, Chrono Cross is a game about nostalgia.

The game starts with the player woken by their mother with Trigger’s emblematic “Wake up…” but the the protagonist is no longer Crono. In Cross, players control Serge. Without the natural line’s natural denouement, the reading feels off — like an instrument out of tune. While a mere call-back on the surface, this small moment sets the game’s alien tone. Something is not quite right in the world of Chrono Cross.

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‘Journey’ Retrospective: A Meditative Experience

Journey

For a long time, I have been a part of the “games are art” crowd, and wore my membership like a badge of pride. While games can be silly and fun, there’s a huge spectrum of experiences that only video games can currently provide. No other medium is so good at putting the consumer directly inside of the narrative, and while the games industry as a whole has had some widely-publicized missteps, there’s no doubt in my mind that games will eventually join films and novels in the realm of glorified media.

This hope doesn’t mean that I want all games to be serious. Just as films that buck the norm can get the spotlight at the Oscars (Hello, Mad Max: Fury Road), games that eschew the current trends can often garner critical acclaim. We live in a world where games are more easily produced than ever before — and while this means that there is a lot of sludge churned out by digital markets like Steam on a regular basis — it doesn’t mean that more games is a bad thing.

Take Journey, for example, a game created by the same art director as the recently released Abzû. Journey is a game that I go back to once in awhile to remind myself that however bleak things may become, video games are worth fighting for. While I’ve seen Abzû described as a “zen fish simulator,” Journey was the original meditative experience for me.

Before I started zen trucking with Euro Truck Simulator or finding a strange catharsis in Dark Souls, Journey managed to pack a punch that knocked me off my feet. At first, the game doesn’t feel like it’s anything special. The visuals are pretty, but I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to connect with a game that had no dialogue. It almost seemed like a game that was artsy for the sake of art, but one thing which the Journey team never lost sight of was how it would feel to play the game.

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Sunday Loot: The Big #GameJobs Post Just for You

League of Legends

Happy Sunday, friends! We’re back again with a fun little FemHype jobs fair for all of you. Finish brewing that coffee and take one last look at your awesome resume, because we have a ton of open positions we think you might really enjoy! It can be super tough breaking into the games industry, and even finding new opportunities once you get there, but not to worry. That’s why we’re here!

We made sure to feature jobs of all kinds in this particular post. From coding to art to (you guessed it!) journalism, we strongly encourage you to apply to any and all positions that look enticing to you. The hardest part can often be knowing whether a job is right for you or not, and trust us—these companies are looking for people like you. We wish you luck if you decide to apply!

As always, if you know of an inclusive gaming space or games project you’d love to see promoted on our Sunday Loot series, drop us a comment below or check out our contact list! We’d love to hear from you, especially about new and exciting spaces where all gamers can hang out. ✌

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CTRL+ALT+DEL: Trauma as a Play Mechanic

Curious Expedition

The use of video games in the treatment of PTSD is being covered more and more in recent years. However, what about the use of trauma in games as a play mechanic? How does one interpret the short- and long-term effects — often so hard to analyze in real life — into a usable mechanic to interpret mental distress that characters may encounter?

In games, we are often threatened with fantastic events that would never occur in the physical realm, or situations that would be extraordinary in our real lives. The effects of these situations can be interpreted as a character trait or a penalty to the characteristic numbers needed to interact with the world. Trauma can also be treated as a fact of the world so assured that it wears on an established amount of resistance in the player’s mind, thus, the addition of the ‘sanity’ bar or points present.

In many games, trauma wears down a previously set characteristic or stat. It detracts, makes challenges more difficult, and sometimes makes actions previously taken for granted in the game world daunting or impossible. In games, it is often interpreted into numbers in some way — be they percentage scores to determine the success of rolls and interactions, or negative numbers put against attempted actions.

The numbers game is necessary for game worlds where math in dice-based systems to those defined by physics engines introduces chance into an otherwise completely enclosed, controlled world. Occasionally, games break out of the strictly numerical, such as the cutscenes from the Gamecube release Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, and possible long-term effects on character role-playing codified in the hyper organized roll tables of Dungeons & Dragons.

For the purpose of this article, I am defining psychological trauma as damage to the psyche as the result of distressing events, and the symptoms — both short- and long-term — of that damage. Directly as it relates to games, this damage must be measured in a quantifiable mechanic that affects gameplay in some way beyond abstract role-playing.

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Part of Your World: Through the Years of Exclusivity in RPGs

Oblivion

In my initial contact with role-playing games, the genre held a kind of “mystique” that transcended the on-screen material and established, for me, a tangible allurement; both to that of the games themselves and the people who spoke about them. The narrative and gameplay depth had a captivating air of exclusivity and mystery, so it wasn’t long before I became enamored with the idea of interaction with the people who left YouTube comments I half-understood about that magnificently sprawling game Oblivion.

A critical gem and commercial marvel, Oblivion embodied each facet of my entrenched love of fantasy and newfound infatuation with the idea of role-playing. Of course, this perspective was mostly achieved through the benefit of hindsight and an extensive interaction with the community at large. But at the time? Shit, all I knew was that Oblivion looked fucking awesome.

Human sensibility directly coincides with filters. To varying degrees, we’re all aware of what to say, and the context in which we say it, so our internal filters act as a guide to upholding social propriety. Yet to view the human experience as a continuum of one-sided coffee filters — deciding which grounds are fine enough to let escape — only truly recognizes half of the possible paradigms associated with our ability to filtrate information, and in a vacuum at that.

Indeed, it’s far more apt to perceive humans as a two-way filtration system; that is to say both a representation of the aforementioned “exothermic” information filtration, as well as a permeable endothermic barrier. Just as it would be problematic for an individual to practice their death growls at church, so too would it be for someone to absorb and process all information at all times.

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