The Arcade Podcast: The Rise of the Black Main Character

 

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Welcome back to The Arcade folks! We are excited to start the new year off with a new episode. So on the show today we will be discussing the evolution and the success of African American Main Characters in past and present games. We have a new host for the panel, our girl Fujiko aka Fujicakes, let’s see how she does, lol.

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Destiny: How Stale Can Being An Iron Lord Be?

Hey guys, Horus back on the writing block and its been a while. Now that the semester is over, I can get back to abusing my keyboard for something more constructive outside of school work… and I want to talk about Destiny’s new expansion, “Rise Of Iron”, which released back in September (so it was practically a while ago).

 

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Now Destiny is a Sci-Fi shooter; that’s enough for me to be interested in what they have to offer via lore and story. There’s a lot of mystery shrouding certain enemies you fight, or the factions you represent. But one that really caught my eye was the Iron Lords and their de facto leader “Lord Saladin“, who only shows up to present the Iron Banner event at the end of every month (now at the beginning apparently). This event tests Guardians in the crucible and awards them with unique weapons and armor available only under this Banner. The design has always caught my eye and several other players and it shows this illustrious creative form of honor and respect that little else in this game seems to uphold. So with the release of an entire expansion based on this event and it’s character, Saladin really got us excited to see what the Iron Lords were all about.

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Considering the price drop from the previous expansion, from $45 to $30, you would think nothing of it besides “maybe Bungie and Activision decided to do a price drop for our sake”. We could only hope, right? Well the expansion is definitely smaller than the Taken King expansion, which had us exploring the Dreadnought for hours to discover its hidden secrets. This one barely opened up the map for us to really demand exploration. It did add a few things to the game, such as a new public event called The Archon’s Forge, which allows Guardians to do this wave based activity to unlock unique rewards should it be completed. Comes in 3 difficulties to really challenge the players before tackling the new Raid. And with the new raid comes a new set of armor and weapons, including room gimmicks to complete it.

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So new Raid, new activities, new armor colors, new weapons and armor, new story, and the return of the legendary Gjallarhorn Rocket Launcher. What you would want from a new expansion right? The story on the other hand? Fell incredibly short for me. It introduces the new type of enemy for us to fight, which are upgraded Fallen enemies under this new skin called “SIVA“. It’s a kind of revolutionary metal that can “create anything a civilization requires, if controlled properly in theory” according to Saladin himself. Apparently the Iron Lords discovered this metal and tried to use it for the sake of humanity and it turned on them. It’s borderline sentient and very manipulative and thus uncontrollable and many died to seal it in underground vault with Saladin as it’s sole survivor. But the story is incredibly short and you’ll beat it within an hour or so with about 8 story missions for you to complete and thus leaving you to your own devices with the side quests and strike missions. At the end of the story mission you become an Iron Lord yourself and aim to put SIVA to rest permanently via the Raid but it was so lackluster.

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From the start of the game you accomplished defeating the Vex Mind at the heart of their home in the Black Garden, killing what your Ghost claims is a God. Then you defeated the first son of the Taken King Crota, who the Hive considered a God, and I mean Jesus he was such a big deal to them. You even killed him with his own sword at that! Talk about utter disrespect. Then you moved on to hunting a Fallen criminal named Skolas who betrayed the Awoken and, after catching him, they let you fight him in prison. You captured a wanted criminal…..and then kill him in prison. LET THAT SINK IN FOR A BIT. That’s wild beyond imagination! And after all that you think you had enough? Nope. Now you have to fight Crota’s pappy Oryx (who by proxy is also considered a god since he’s Crota’s father so by definition he’s a god too. So you kill nothing but gods all day), who has the ability to turn other alien species into his “Taken Horde” which are like these weird strobe light silhouette kind of enemies that can short warp from one position to the other. They were incredibly annoying to fight, and fighting Oryx was no joke. You had to take him in two parts: once in the story and then again in the Raid. In which, his Raid form is super gimmicky and left some of us with PTSD. All of these practically memorable moments in Destiny history and this new one is almost a complete boring one.

 

I’m not going to spoil too much on the story end, because there were a few highlights worth enjoying for new players to the franchise… but it wasn’t enough. Destiny didn’t do enough with this new SIVA threat at all. The enemies are nothing new AI wise, with the exception of a few new things, but easily dismissive. It’s just a re-skin for the Fallen and they’re not hard to deal with whatsoever. So the story was lackluster and short, the enemies aren’t anything new at all,  The Forge gets old after a certain light level and thus quickly forgettable, and the new section they opened up in the Cosmodrome isn’t as vibrant and open as the portion that was already opened previously. It’s just snow everywhere with SIVA all over the place. It was amazing sight at first, but then it’s just a bunch of junk and metal parts hammered together, like a few places you might recognize in Mad Max or something but without the post apocalyptic theme. I’m clearly disappointed. But the Raid is actually interesting and fun. It’s not super gimmicky and with a decent team you can get through it relatively quickly… without it being a complete and utterly miserable experience. I’ll tip my hat and say the return of Sepiks Prime strike was also something I looked forward to since he was the first strike boss we ever faced and I never forgot what that was like. We got a few little easter eggs and cool stuff, but not enough to mention as way to save this expansion.

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We are currently going through the winter holiday event, which has a ton of stuff for us to collect and activities for us to do for the 4 weeks it’s available. This includes the return of the Sparrow Racing League, which was a nifty little add on from last year I was hoping would remain moreso monthly than every winter. Destiny still has a long way to go before it can really claim the title of a really good experience, but it’s not entirely boring game either. It’s an unhealthy balance of really good content with medium to low replay value. This requires a lot of in between from the developers to keep us playing. Otherwise, we’ll just leave it there until the next real update.

Gaming is Therapeutic

By: MoonLight Lotus

 

There is a reason why I like open world rpgs with high levels of customization. It lets me be in a place where I can be me.  When you’re a closeted trans-black woman, it helps mentally to have a place where you can be you. This is the reason I say games can be therapeutic for people.

When you’re a heavy set person, you’re not always viewed in the best light. I can remember not seeing positive images of heavy set people when I grew up. This can lead to not loving yourself or feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. Something I have have done to help gain confidence in myself and my looks is always make my characters in games look like me. I used games to make my own positive images.

 

I think one of the best games for this is the Sims . it lets you have your own custom made character. It lets you be you in every which way… which is something I like about it. Now the sims is not my favorite game, it’s definitely up there when it comes to customization. If I had to say my favorite it, it would have to be Fallout 4 or Skyrim with mods.

 

There are a lot of things the world has a way of making you feel insecure about or just down right ashamed of. I have found for me that video games are one of many healthy ways to overcome these issues. Whether it be gender, body weight , that ugly scar, or skin color. So don’t be afraid to give it a try.

Problematic Things in Gaming

By: MoonLight Lotus

 

As most of you may know, I love video games. I can spend hours playing them and even more time talking about them. But… I am not blinded by my love for them. If you truly love something, you should be able to call out its bullshit. With that being said, gaming my love… I am calling you out!!!

  1. Character Models

I play many RPG’s (role playing games) and one of my favorite things to do is make my character look like me. Most games have a body scale were you can move the slider left or right to adjust your weight. Some games have it were you start off by picking the body model you want.  What I have learned over time is that that skinny model is shaped to look more appealing. Where  as  the fat model is not.  Not all body types are the same, whether you’re fat, skinny, or in-between. Having some real variety would go a long way.

  1. Armor equality

Yup its time I talk about this overly beaten horse.

Men and women do not have equal covering armors in all video games.

This is really more of an east vs. west thing. Games developed be eastern game development companies are more likely to have women in skimpy armor overall or a lot of skimpy alternative armors.  This can be heavily seen in eastern mmo’s. If you look at the western Game development companies you won’t see much of this. There may be one or two sexy outfits in the games. In some cases, there is one sexy looking character and people are trying to find ways of getting her outfit for their own.

  1. Racial Representation in Character Customization

Man, do you know how hard it is to make a black character in some of these games? Some games 4 preset race’s  are Caucasian , Asian , Latino, and African American.  I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but making a black character isn’t easy.  A lot of games have it were you are either as light as coffee with too much creamer in it or you’re darker than black. (btw darker than black is a good anime/ manga)  they wont have any in-between . And then when you get to the hair styles, there’re only like 4- 5 if you’re lucky.

  1. A horrible looking fade
  2. Whack ass afro of various sizes
  3. Played out Corn Rows
  4. You’re lucky if you get this one: dreadlocs
  5. A bald ass head.

I think it is time developers do better.

  1. Selling Half Games

Now I say selling half games for a reason. You see, when buying some games, the whole game is on there plus the DLC. Then, when they launch the DLC and you buy it,  it sends the unlock code to the disk and boom, you have DLC.  Now there are other games that when you buy them they’ll be missing stuff like bugs fix’s and what not. Then they get the “First Time Update”.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Gaming…

By: Andy Donnavan

Hello, friends and family.  As fall steadily creeps in and the smell of pumpkin scented everything fills the air, I find myself swimming in a sea of nostalgia.  Looking at the lush green foliage, dry into the orange and crimson husks of their former selves, I feel inclined to ponder the new gaming hotness that is supposed to drop this month.

If you are a follower of my Facebook page, Video Games and Pocket Protectors, you will know that I have touched on this once or twice, but now the clock is winding down and we could possibly be stepping into the threshold of history in the making.

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One of the things pumping blood to my nether naughty regions is the impending release of Gears of War 4.  I was initially cautiously optimistic about it but as more time goes by, I find myself soiling my silkies as I become more exposed to previews and commercials for it.  I am excited to see how Marcus Fenix is presented as an old, salty war dog fighting alongside his son.

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Granted, there are some things that I am not a fan of.  I was a big fan of the bulky, over exaggerated, “Ah-nuld” type physiques in the game (as it gave each character a meaty and heavy presence in every scene) but the trimming down of that does little to take away from the overall look of the game thus far, so I suppose I can live with that.

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Another thing that gave me a bit of a nerd stiffy was a glimpse of the signature “WOO!!!” of our token, albeit appreciated brother, Augustus Cole aka Cole-Train.  Seeing him in the mix for half a second in the previews gave me such life and just pushed me over into going to my local Best Buy and initiating the process for reservation.  After the magnum opus that was Gears of War 3, I pray to the gaming gods, near and far, that this one does not fall on its face. (Looking at you Judgement….)

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Now here is the history maker…

PlayStation VR is set to drop this month.  Strangely enough, I am not seeing the buzz that I thought I would for such a history invoking piece of hardware that is supposed to come out in approximately two weeks.  It makes me a bit tense for Sony.  This could either be a paradigm shift for console gaming or it can be another dud.  Once more, I am cautiously optimistic about this.

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Throughout the history of video games, we have seen companies rush to push products out into the marketplace that were not ready.  One of the products that comes to mind is the power glove or the Virtual Boy.  They both fed on the markets desire for a deeper level of interactivity but unfortunately, the technology itself was not quite up to snuff.  I deeply hope that this does not happen with the PSVR.  If it flops, it can take the notion of VR for console out of the fight for another 20 years.  If it blows up, then another level will be reached and the glory of gaming will further expand.  At this point, with all the excitement in me, the curiosity, the fear and so on, all I can do is follow Uatu’s example and watch.

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About the author:

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Andy is a one of the rare few that has made it out of the friend-zone. In his spare time, he loves playing with his children, gaming, reading comics, and virulently debating fictional battles between characters from the comic and anime realms. Andy is a freelance contributor and has been itching to give his two cents on everything through the writing medium since he was potty trained at the impressive age of nine. You can find more of Andy’s musings on his Facebook page, Video Games and Pocket Protectors, as well as on the For The Culture blog.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Review

It’s finally time for me to flex my fingers and get back to writing again. Its been sooo long and I’m glad I can work on things I enjoy instead of being a busybody with little leverage. And oh boy was I happy when the order for two games from my favorite game series of all time finally arrived at my house. “Advance Wars: Dual Strike” & “Advance Wars: Days of Ruin” are the DS ports for the franchise and definitely elevated the style and play for turned based strategy tactics games. So quick fact check and we can move on. 

 

 

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS by Intelligence Systems as the 4th iteration in the Advance Wars series. It is named “Advance Wars: Dark Conflict” in other countries due to its grittier story telling and setting. There has not been a game made since this installment, much to my dismay.advance-wars-days-of-ruin-art-1

Story

Unfortunately, Days of Ruin doesn’t take place in the original Advance Wars timeline, making Dual Strike the last game in that universe. This one takes place in a different timeline with a different set of characters, world, and setting. It starts off with Earth entering a post apocalyptic stage, caused by meteors plummeting into the planet and practically destroying everything in sight. As per usual after an apocalypse, humanity does what it can to either put itself back together, and/or capitalize on the anarchy and wreak more havoc. Story takes place when Military Cadet “Will” digs himself out of his academy and is saved by “Captain Brenner”, the Leader of the Brenner Wolves, an Army Battalion who acts as a relief force in hopes of helping humanity get back on its feet. Together with Brenner’s “Lieutenant Lin” they rescue tons of people including a strange amnesiac who is then named “Isabella” as they fend off ruthless ex military scavengers to find a safe haven for them to live. But things turn for the worse when an evil Admiral deems himself King of the World and reignites and old war between countries, in addition to a mad scientist who also capitalizes on the chaos to breed more hate and destruction. It gets really crazy and ridiculous in my opinion,  but overly drawn out in certain areas just for the sake of causing conflict.

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Gameplay

It runs its typical turn based style strategy, allowing you plot units on a map and to direct them each day(turn) to combat enemy AI or other players. So if you’ve played turn based strategy games like Fire Emblem (also made by Intelligence Systems), previous Advance WarsFinal Fantasy Tactics, or any tactics game, you can get the gist of how this plays. Plus, if you’re new to the franchise, don’t trip. The first 5-10 chapters work as a tutorial, so you learn as you play essentially. They’ve added and replaced certain units in this game that existed in the previous iterations but because it’s a different universe, certain units are just replaced (Like the Neo Tanks from AW2 are now replaced by the Mega Tank as the strongest Ground unit available). But the addition of certain units change the way the game is played, like the Bike Infantry units that allow you further travel and quick captures of buildings and bases for advances on the battlefield, or the Flare Tank which is useful for spotting enemies hiding in non visible locations during Fog of War. So these new units are essential for new strategies. 

Also new to this iteration is the way COs and CO powers work. Before, you would just select a specific CO who had specific abilities and unit type advantages. So if you liked to play long range and shoot from afar, then a CO like Grit was your matchup, but Max would be your choice if you were the complete opposite and prefer to be a more aggressive in-your-face kind of player. But in this game, selecting a CO would only apply to a specific unit of your choice and an area of effect (AOE). This made your CO choice a little more direct and more cautious, since if you lost that unit, you lose your CO power and will have to build it up again from scratch versus the classic build up over time. I like this method very much because it makes the tide of battle to be a thicker line than that of Dual Strike, where once those CO Power bars is full the anxiety of losing a good chunk of your units because of a power up ability an be frustrating. Especially when fighting overpowered COs like Sturm, or Hawke who punish your units on a massive level. So this game’s angle at CO Powers is more grounded and fair. 

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Conclusion

Outside of my biased opinions on the game I will say this one was pretty leveled. It was steady throughout most of the story chapters up until Chapter 26, where the map gets completely absurd. They use everything they can to make your steady unit build progression a frustrating one, and when you have to destroy specific targets it then becomes a chore, but a challenge as well. After about 10+ resets, I finally beat the game for the 2nd time and it was a mighty triumph. It’s a great turn based strategy game and I dare anyone who loves that genre to revisit this game via emulator or by purchasing the game somehow online or in person (good luck finding it in person though). It’s definitely a game title I will remember in my history of video games with more to come; I cherish it deeply. 

Fallout 4: We can make vaults!!

By: MoonLight Lotus

 

The Work Shop dlc has sucked badly but… it has shown improvement. The last work shop dlc will be out sometime this July. It lets you make a vault where you can safely gather dwellers underground.

There are so many possibilities for this dlc. Some of the things we know are:

1. Raiders and creatures will assault your vault.

2. A Fallout Shelter overview and some activities.

3. You can do experiments on your vault dwellers.

 

Now hopefully this dlc brings honor to the workshop name. Also, I can’t wait to see the mods for it. Here are some of the things I want for my vault:

Assaultron security guards and a robot repair team.

Cool experiments like some from the fallout lore.

I wanna make my own vault suits. Hopefully with custom colors.