LGBTQA, Reviews

‘The Arcana’ Developers Cast a Spell Over Fans & We’re So Here for It

When it comes to mainstream gaming, being late to the party is not usually considered a badge of pride. Although attitudes are thankfully shifting, it can sometimes feel as though the flurry of initial engagement has waned for players who discovered an older title too late. Reviews, livestreams, Easter eggs, entire walkthroughs of each and every ending — they’re published with such immediacy that the impact of all this content can bleed into the expectations for a game way before the player has even reached for a controller.

By contrast, The Arcana welcomes latecomers with a gripping episodic storyline, enchanting setting, and gloriously enthusiastic community of fans. And that fandom is still going strong for one very important reason.

The development company is Nix Hydra, which is based in L.A. and founded by women. They are committed to “making magical, colorful, bold products for young women and anyone else traditionally ignored by the gaming industry,” as per their Kickstarter. One of the team’s latest ventures is The Arcana, which is an otome-inspired visual novel for iOS and Android that flirts with a sinister mystery beneath its rich illustrations.

The player character is an adept magical apprentice, honing their natural gifts in fortune-telling. The wandering, secretive Asra is your mentor, and while packing up to leave on another mysterious journey, he entrusts his prized tarot deck to you. Whether you challenge Asra’s repeated disappearances or defer to his judgement, he becomes dreamy and melancholy, tangled up in thoughts of words he should have said.

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Analysis, IRL

Perfect Illusion: The Sinister World of Fame in ‘Tuber Simulator’

As you can see, I'm still trying to become a dragon.
As you can see, I’m still trying to become a dragon.

If you’re not entrenched in the dizzying, Labyrinth-like world of YouTube personalities, Tuber Simulator may just seem like a fun little distraction for your phone. (It’s free, by the way. Just saying.) But if you’re a content creator — particularly one who carefully monitors the number of subscribers they have in hopes of one day scraping together a living wage — this game might make you a little uncomfortable.

And it’s supposed to.

While PewDiePie needs no introduction, his game development company might. The team is called Outerminds, and the concept they came up with is fairly simple: you’re a budding YouTube star who must produce as many videos as possible in order to generate more views, which will allow you to purchase new items. As you proceed to each new level, your chosen handle rises up the list of actual YouTubers who exist in real life. It’s fun to see your own name among such a star-studded lineup, but the road to achievements is presented as far less savory than their perfectly edited vlogs make it seem.

None of this comes as news to the YouTube community at large. Many, many popular content creators have bravely opened up regarding their struggles with mental health in the wake of their popularity, including BFvsGF, Chris Oflyng, Michael Buckley, and the SHAYTARDS — just to name a few. The pressure is real folks, and it’s important to remember that real people are affected by it. I sincerely hope that anyone looking to enter into this tumultuous platform remembers that there are many resources at their disposal.

The siren call of a massive YouTube following can lure you in and consume every part of you, which is precisely what Tuber Simulator does.

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Reviews

5 Free App Games That Are Unexpectedly Charming

Avengers Academy

There are games that I play on my phone to relax, but then there are games that are decidedly not relaxing. I don’t know what the best way would be to classify them. Satisfying? For me, the fun thing about mobile games is just how varied they can be. Yes, there are going to be a million “Match 3” games in the Play Store at any given time, but if when you’re wading through the “Most Popular” lists, you can sometimes strike gold.

Special shoutout to Lifeline, which I played recently, but won’t be gracing this list since it’s not free. If you’re curious about what it’s like to talk to a young astronaut who has crash-landed on a planet, then you can check out Teddie’s article. That’s how I found out about it and what piqued my interest. So, without further ado!

Avengers Academy (iOSAndroid)

Yes, there are corporate cash grabs on this list. While a lot of mobile games that have popular IP used in them are just blatant shovelware garbage, Avengers Academy hits enough of the right buttons that I’m not mad at it. In terms of gameplay, there isn’t any. This game is more of a time management test than anything else. You can assign your students to certain missions, but the missions take different amounts of time. As you play more, you’ll get better at managing your time and your resources. There are still the cash grabs where they prompt you to buy certain heroes or outfits using gems, but they’re ignorable for the most part. Plus, I got Miss Marvel and Captain America already, so until you make Hawkeye available, my money’s staying where it is.

This is a game that’s for Marvel fans and only Marvel fans who are interested in a university AU. Consider it Avengers fanfiction, and it’s much funnier as a game. To add to that fanfiction feel, they have the characters flirt with each other on and off and the game has announced that there will be a romance simulation option, which should add at least a little more gameplay. In my mind, Marvel missed an amazing opportunity to make a Marvel version of The Sims, but you can’t win ‘em all.

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Health, Reviews

5 Free App Games That Will Help You Chill Out

Path to Luma

When I need to relax, I don’t tend to turn to my computer games immediately. Maybe I’m too used to sitting at my computer and getting my ass kicked by Dark Souls to immediately connect the computer with relaxation. Either way, I’ve been playing a lot of Android games recently. There’s been a boom of free games that are fantastic, and I’ve been turning to them to find my calm in a very busy world.

The beauty of mobile games is in the name. They’re mobile, you can access them almost anywhere, and so long as your battery lasts, you can chill out with your phone. My phone is with me all the time. I’m never without it, so having easy access to my relaxation tools has been amazing for me. Here are the ones that I’ve been playing the most lately. Best of all? They’re all free (except for one on iOS).

Path to Luma (iOS, Android)

I never thought that I would ever find a game that feels like a simulator of Le Petit Prince, but that’s what this game is. The game is about a cute little person on really tiny planets with a scarf that billows as you solve puzzles. The game will hold your hand too much at first, but when you get into the main game, it’s both beautiful and relaxing. For me, some of the beauty of the game is probably tied to how much I love Le Petit Prince, but it’s a neat little puzzle game that makes me smile whenever I open it.

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IRL

Geek Scene Travel Guide: Tips on Meeting Other Gamers

Dragon Made of Pumpkins in Ludwigsburg, Germany
Dragon made of pumpkins in Ludwigsburg, Germany

For the past seven months, I have been traveling the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. I was excited for my new adventure—hellbent on the hiking I’d be doing, as well as the many different sights I’d get to see roaming each town I passed through. There are many pros to traveling on your own, and I was eager to jump on all of them, but a hefty con was the human interaction.

One of the largest myths of gaming, I think, is that gamers have an aversion to social interaction. If that were always true, how are MMOs and co-op gaming some of the most sought-after games? Halo, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and even Mario Kart 8 are all fantastic examples, and that isn’t even getting into board games. And please tell me you’ve heard of San Diego Comic Con by now. Even The Legend of Zelda Symphony is finally gaining enough notoriety to be on national television (go Colbert!).

Thus, it is no surprise when I travel the world that the top thing I’ve missed most are my gaming friends. After weekly bouts of The Elder Scrolls Online, Mario Kart 8, Dungeon & Dragons, and Settlers of Catan, plus my daily chats with friends on the latest Nintendo event or what games we’re excited for in 2016, I was suddenly without consistent Internet in a completely different time zone. Schedules were difficult to sync up. I was doing my best to keep a balance of exploring the new lands I came to while also keeping up with a hobby that was definitely more akin to a lifestyle.

I know I’m not the only one who has gone through these changes. Maybe you’ve traveled, too. Maybe you’ve moved out of town. Maybe your gaming friends moved to a new town, or they are traveling. Without further ado, here is how I’ve survived wandering the world while doing my best to surround myself with those who spoke my geek language.

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Reviews, RPGs

Stranded in Space: How ‘Lifeline’ Stole My Heart

Lifeline

Before now, the only app games I’ve played have been Angry Birds and Temple Run, so I’m not exactly well-versed in the art of playing games on my phone. That being said, I might just be sold on the idea. Lifeline is an app for iOS and Android (price ranging from totally free to around $1), and it is one of the most engaging and satisfying games I’ve played in a long time. Developed by 3 Minute Games, Lifeline is a genre-bending sci-fi RPG survival horror story mashup … thing. And it’s really, really good.

The game begins when you are contacted by Taylor, a gender non-specific astronaut who is the sole survivor of a disastrous crash on some far-flung moon, and as Taylor’s only point of contact, it’s your job to keep them alive. The narrative is structured much like a choose-your-own-adventure story where you’ll be confronted with situations and given two options to pick from. It’s exactly the right balance of plot and interactivity to keep you entertained. Some of these choices are easy and conversational, and some are much more serious. Sometimes you’ll find yourself confidently deciding on one, where others you’ll be second-guessing both yourself and the game.

A lot of these situations rely heavily on tried-and-true horror tropes, with Taylor hearing strange noises in the dark and wondering whether to investigate or get the hell out of dodge. But although this could have gone either way, it’s actually something I really loved, because the game is extremely genre-savvy. Taylor will even point out the similarities to a horror movie; “Right now, I’m the idiot on the screen.”

In practice, this basically means that Lifeline knows exactly how to play off your expectations in order to subvert them. You’ll have to balance objective logic with your gut instinct, and often, the choices that everything is telling you are stupid—the game and Taylor themselves, included—turn out to be right on the money.

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