Sure, call me a shill, but I’m always super psyched to learn about new things with raccoons for me to spend money on. You know, like calendars.
This week I came across a Kickstarter for a (hopefully) upcoming card game called Raccoon Madness. It features weird, but cute, raccoon illustrations on each card. I watched the video about how the game is played but I found it baffling. A lot of card games tend to confuse me. I tried playing one once with a friend that was about warring realms. After a few rounds neither of us was sure if we were playing it correctly or if either was winning. We’d read the instructions and everything!
Getting back to Raccoon Madness, it seems to be based on the element of bluffing from poker. I never understood poker, either. I was always more of a Stratego person. I suppose people with autism might be at a disadvantage when it comes to playing this game, then. Or maybe it’d be helpful to train them to read people better?
At the very least everyone can appreciate silly raccoon pictures.
Anyway, if you’re an avid gamer, and especially a fan of crudeness of the likes of Cards Against Humanity (they’ll even have a NSFW deck,) I suggest backing it. I have. Because raccoons.
There’s a new browser-based from Filmcow, who is the person responsible for those bizarre Charlie the Unicorn animated shorts from years ago. This is a weird one, though: it’s about a raccoon spirit medium who communicates with dead … shapes … with faces. I played it and there was a conversation about the superiority of sides versus a lack of sides (circles.) It’s roughly played like a point-and-click with little the point at or click, and a lot of illusion of choices. Apparently the main character, the sharply-dressed raccoon, is suffering from depression. Many of the dialogue options are kind of smarmy.
Microsoft has a new commercial out for the Xbox One that involves football and/or fantasy football or something. I don’t know. It’s apparently not advertising a Madden game, which is a perplexing approach for a video game system. I find the commercial rather pointless, seemingly seeking to paint a football player as some sort of autistic mute … but one with a pet raccoon that can apparently materialize out of thin air and then vanish just as quickly. I appreciate the random raccoon. I just would have appreciated a better commercial.
The internet has been ablaze lately with the revelation that the upcoming Ubisoft video game, Assassin’s Creed: Unity (ACU) would feature four male protagonists. The resulting outrage at the exclusion of 50% of the population as possible game players has of course been widespread, with people decrying the absence of representation of women for a reason as insignificant as cost and time (forgetting that Ubisoft is, above all else, a business.) However, there seem to be some logical disconnects here:
Video games already feature primarily male protagonists, and the industry has grown (including having female players) despite this fact. Obviously, the lack of female representation has not impacted it.
An argument can be made that the growth occurred in a market very different from the one that ACU occupies (more focused on “core” gamers, console exclusive.) Women seem to dominate as consumers of “social” or “casual” gaming, typically browser of phone based. These are games that usually don’t feature much of a player avatar which the player could feel alienated by (do the Angry Birds even have sexes?).
So if women are half of the gaming industry’s customers, they’re either not bothering with the kind of game that ACU is or they’re already customers who were undeterred by the lack of playable female characters (in which case it doesn’t matter that there aren’t any.) If it’s the second option, and the only thing keeping them from becoming a bigger part of “core” gaming is the absence of the choice to play as a female protagonist, then there’s a problem with that theory: the evidence is against it.
Let’s look at Mass Effect 3 (ME3,) produced by BioWare, who analyzed the player trends in their game to provide us with an interesting look into the behaviors of their customers. As the above infographic makes clear, only 18% of those who played the game played as a female character. This was a series famous for allowing the player to design their own avatar, which avoided concerns about not having a female protagonist (now a homosexual protagonist was a different matter until the final entry.) Where were the throngs of women gamers who are so put off by the absence of females in ASU? Either inclusiveness was irrelevant, and they ignored the game anyway, or they played as men despite having the option not to (I’m assuming the much lauded 50% of gamers are women stat applies to the players of ME3, even though it probably doesn’t.)
Before anyone argues “well, ME3 is a RPG while ACU is an action game” one must consider that women generally don’t like violent games. The ME series focused on social interaction and even lessened the violence if you could talk your way out of situations. ME3 in particular had a “casual” mode which afforded players much easier combat so they could focus on the story. So if anything we should expect more women to be interested in ME3 than ACU, further supporting my point that the lack of a female character is largely irrelevant. However, if action was what they craved, there was 2008’s Mirror’s Edge! The game featured a female protagonist, was fairly well received by critics, and audience met it with … mediocre sales. Again, the throngs of female (and asian!) gamers crying out for product that spoke to them turned a deaf ear. Possibly because, as vocal an audience as they may be online, they’re simply not a substantial one when it comes to actually being consumers.
But then this kind of outrage is usually the result of a vocal minority seeking to aggrandize themselves rather than apply any thought to a situation.
I avoid talking about music save for once a year, and that’s during my annual review of music. Note that this isn’t about “new” music, or even “new to me” music. It’s just a collection of the songs that struck me for one reason or another throughout the year.
I found myself obsessively re-listening to the song “Signal Spark” by Seafood from 2006 (released both as a single and a part of the album Paper Crown King.) I have all of their albums so I must have heard the song before, but for some reason this year I really “discovered” it. The whole thing feels like the soundtrack to a great, cheesy short movie (well, music video) with tentative, uncomfortable stares in the first minute, a kiss at about 1:15, living life through to 4:00 where bittersweet joy kicks in (along with the chimes.) I wonder if I could cut the opening of the movie Up! to this song? Sadly, the official music video is just underwhelming compared to the images in my head (aren’t they always?)
I have an unfortunate affliction of listening to some girly music. I like the female voice more, what can I say? Pop music is not a crime! And I was rather found the short-lived band Saving Jane (now doing more country style music as the Union Rose Band.) One of my favorite songs was the hidden track (damn, though, I hate hidden tracks) on the 2007 album One Girl Revolution titled “Ohio.” For some weird reason, early this year, I dreamt I was singing that song at a bar. That’s kind of gay when you consider the lyrics. My favorite part though is the chorus of the song and its quaint dismissal of what to many would be more desirable places. Of course, as I drove through the state of Ohio on my way to my new home in Denver, I couldn’t help but think of this song.
It would be a rare year for me not to notice something in a soundtrack that I thought was awesome. This year it was the main theme for the movie Pacific Rim (which I have to admit, I saw in theaters three times) composed by Ramin Djwadi. I’m always a sucker for blending traditional orchestration with electronic elements. The song did a great job of musically portraying the battle between the Jaegers and Kaijus, with somewhat distinct “hero” and “villain” themes woven throughout the piece.
I finally played through Child of Eden this year, a spiritual successor to the awesome techno musical shooting game Rez. Of course, it featured some terrific pop/techno music with pretty vocals. Perhaps my favorite moment in the game was at the last part of the first level, with the constant droning guitar riff, underlying the song that’s trying to break free of the techno sounds of the computer virus, and bursts out momentarily as you do well to fight the virus (erupting into the untainted song when you conclude the stage.) I thought it was great.
While we’re on the topic of video games, I also played Braid, which featured the song Build that Wall (Zia’s Theme). Just a woman and a guitar … and it’s gorgeous. The same artists who did that song (Darren Korb, composer and Ashley Barrett, singer) also produced the preview song for the upcoming Transistor. It sounds terrific, too!