c.e. taillefer

September 12, 2013

Villainous Vixens: Rebutting the “mad maidens” principle

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(See WoW Insider’s “Open Letter to Jaina Proudmoore” for backstory. Be warned of 5.4 spoilers!)

If it comes as a surprise to anyone that I love ladies behaving badly in Warcraft (and other storytelling mediums), then I invite you to take a gander at my two Blizzard Story contest entries, where I think about Blood Queen Lana’thel and Leyara’s histories, respectively.

It’s hard being Alliance for all your WoW-playing career and having a fascination with villainy, because they tend to either be a part of the Horde (Sylvanas) or quest/dungeon/raid bosses (Keristrasza, Leyara, BQL, ad nauseum).  The Blizzard Story contest is, at the moment, defunct, but I had been planning exploring a Sylvanas story after reading Dave Kosak’s short story, Edge of Night, because I did find it very interesting that she wasn’t present at Arthas’ death.

A lot of this is born out of my frustration that women in Warcraft tend to be pushed to their limits by the storylines, and then callously abandoned to their fate (often death, at the hands of us “heroes”) when they’re deemed irredeemable. Keristrasza was captured, abused and forced to be Malygos’ consort after she murdered his previous one, and you have to kill her in the Nexus, an act which the wiki entry for her states “a sad, but necessary end.”

so much dragon rape in this game!

so much dragon rape in this game!

Lana’thel is forced into service for the Lich King when she faced him at Northrend, armed with her former friend’s blade Quel’delar, which she was overwhelmed by Frostmourne, and forced to serve him. (Sensing a theme?) Leyara’s grief and anger at the Horde, and her father-in-law’s madness leads her to ally with the minions of Ragnaros because she doesn’t feel she has anything left to live for (and she doesn’t even make it into the dungeons, you kill her during a quest chain.)

This female madness issue didn’t start with Wrath, nor end in Cata.  In Pandaria, where strong emotions are made physically manifest in the Sha, both Suna Silentstrike and Liu Flameheart become infested with Sha, and the players are forced to kill them. It would not be so very telling if not for the fact that Tarah Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, is similarly affected, but in the dungeon where you encounter him, all the player needs to do is drive the Sha out of his body, and defeat it.

If that’s the case, why did Suna and Liu have to die? Their grief and doubt – at the loss of a beloved husband, the fear of failing your god – are perfectly reasonable within the context of their stories, which were created by the writers and quest developers. Why do the women of Warcraft only get one chance at redemption, and then only through death?

What’s even more fascinating is that this is a narrative that’s not just played out in the game and supplemental materials, but also in the fan base. Jaina factors into this because like Suna and Leyara, she’s lost loved ones, people she was a leader to. Her story has always been one of courage and of loss.  SPOILERS for 5.4 to follow the cut:

Read more ››

June 28, 2013

Sorry Not Sorry 3: I Play Animal Crossing

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Okay, this is kind of a cheater entry into the SNS series because in terms of problematic content, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has very few, barring the lack of customization for skin colour. (And many other writers than me have already tackled it.)

But being absorbed so thoroughly into a game (I’ve logged 131 hours since June 9th!) has left me a mostly-unresponsive meat envelope, intent on getting that perfect fruit, or completing that furniture set, or getting as many bells as I can to stuff into Tom Nook’s greedy pockets – which can be a problem.  I described ACNL to someone as “easy to learn, but difficult to master”. Mastery, unlike a lot of other games, doesn’t come so much from skill, but from time invested.  Many of the projects you want to complete only occur in real time – if you want to upgrade your house, work isn’t complete till the next day.  If you finish paying off a public works project, it won’t be built till the next day. Everything happens in real-time in the game, unlike other sim games where time is accelerated.

I missed a date with Flurry and that makes me the Worst Mayor.

I missed a date with Flurry and that makes me the Worst Mayor.

It’s also like a very slow-paced MMO – your town gates can be opened so your friends can visit, look around your town, shop the wares on Main Street, trample your flowers and scare your villagers.  Alternately, they can open their town gates, and you can go visit them.  You can trade furniture with one another, send letters to them or their townspeople, or have really intense conversations:

This dude knows the way to my heart.

This dude knows the way to my heart.

Hans, let's lay around and read comics all day.

Hans, let’s lay around and read comics all day.

H-hans-senpai...

H-hans-senpai…

This I think is the killer crux of the game – the possibilities are pretty much limitless.  No matter if you’ve maxed out your house expansions – you can always change the exterior, or completely redo a room.  Clothing designs in the shops seem blah? Design your own! Share them online.  Keep talking to your villagers to unlock new projects to build, and shopping at your stores to expand their wares and selection.  Holidays and festivals have special events and items.  Try and get horrible villagers to move, or keep ones you like in your town forever.  Save all the bells and get achievements and rewards.  Try and max out your bug collection, or your fish one.   Collect (genuine) art for your museum.

Same.

Same.

Alternately, if you’re not a perfectionst with an addictive personality, Animal Crossing is a great game to pick up and play for a few minutes a day. Of course, if you’re susceptible to emotional manipulation, your villagers tend to get sad about your lack of presence, and your town gets covered in weeds.  But there’s nothing stopping you from just playing the turnip market once a week, or checking now and then to water your flowers and check your mail.

Plus who could forget this video?

So yeah, I play animal crossing.  And I’m only sorry because sometimes I have to push Gary off my stomach so I can catch a rare golden stag.  I’m sorry little buddy.

Gary: "Same, weird frog guy."

Gary: “Same, weird frog guy.”

March 22, 2013

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry (But you don’t seem to like when I’m polite, either)

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There have been a lot of reasons to be angry this week. Truly, legitimately angry.  Most prominent would be the Stuebenville verdict and the backlash Jane Doe has faced. (And her compassionate response to everything continues to be an incredible inspiration to me.)

Or how about Adria Richards, who tweeted a request for PyCon employees to deal with some con-goers making sexual jokes. She did it via twitter in order to not disrupt the on-going presentation, and tweeted a picture IDing the perpetrators.  As you can see, it was handled! Excellent. However…not only is PyCon in the midst of changing their code of conduct after the fact to avoid similar firestorms, but Adria also lost her job (as did one of the men making the jokes) over the incident after internet heroes started ddosing her company’s website, not to mention the ubiquitous threats and slurs.

Or the release of Anita Sarkeesian’s first video in her Tropes versus Women project, which is wholly (almost to the point of blandness) the bare bones of feminism 101, and still received and continues to receive a shitstorm of threats, not to mention just plain absurd accusations of being a Fake Gamer Girl.

Right, so here’s the thing.

I do not, as a matter of course, wake up angry. When I got married, more than one person signed off their cards with, “never go to bed angry” and I try to hold to that. (I guess they meant towards my husband and not existentially, but eh, what’re you gonna do?) I do not even engage in people saying things I disagree with angry.

But I sure do get angry fast when my (to my mind) relatively mild disagreement becomes phrased as “too angry” or “an attack” or, my personal favourites “irrational and/or hysterical”.  Nothing in my entire experience prepared me for how easily people will call you angry – and then suddenly, other people see it too! Whatever the topic of conversation was, it falls to the wayside in the wake of a discussion on whether or not I was angry, am I justifiably angry, how much literal venom am I pouring into innocent bystanders ears. “You’re right,” I murmur, “I was angry all along. I retract my position because this anger is unbecoming and causes frown lines.”

Okay, maybe not the last part. But I do, at that point, start get angry. Anger has perhaps even become a default starting point, if only so I can skip the song and dance about exactly how angry I am. It’s like cutting out the embarrassing stumbling around after someone asks you if you’re pregnant. (“No, just fat. welp, you must be embarrassed.”)

So, yeah, I’m angry.  I’m angry that in the year of our lord twenty thirteen we are still having discussions about whether or not a woman has a right to bodily autonomy; yes, even if she signed a contract. I’m angry that I see women going before me into the tech and game industries and be pushed aside, pushed out or drop out from the sheer exhaustion of dealing with idiot men. I’m angry that most people can’t point out what rape is on a map. Sometimes I take that anger and channel it into a project I’m working on. And sometimes I use it to fuel a discussion about any of those topics long past the point where I just want to throw up my hands, understand that equality isn’t ever going to really happen except on the most superficial levels, and sleep the day away in a pillow fort filled with cats.

I’m tired of fighting in my own circles. I have just as many, if not MORE, arguments with people who want to be allies and other feminists, than I do with Straight Up Card Carrying Misogynists. Sometimes these arguments can be good, a way to clarify and expand on my own thoughts on feminism and women’s rights. Often, they’re infuriating, borne out of a societal drive to promote a Meritocratic Individual who Has Opinions (And opinions, naturally, can never be wrong.) I don’t like being angry at people who are ostensibly “on my side” but I don’t want the half-assed deals they’re offering, either!

When women were imprisoned during the American federal suffragette movement, due to bullshit charges (Obstructing Traffic, for example), when they were issued pardons, some refused to take them, because they hadn’t committed a crime to begin with. Taking the pardons meant admitting guilt in the original instance. There are hundreds of posts’ worth of problems with first-wave feminism, but I admire that particular spirit.  I don’t want fun, sexy feminism. I don’t want to assuage men that I shave my legs, and abhor misandry to get them on board. I want them on board because it’s the right thing to do.

Yeah, I’m angry. What are you going to do about it?

March 20, 2013

Lei Shen’s Supermarket Sweep – Patch 5.2

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There are a thousand and one changes to WoW’s Mists of Pandaria expansion that were introduced in patch 5.2 and I spent quite some time doing isle of Thunder dailies killing dinos wracking my brain to come up with a good post, when all along the answer has been staring me in the face: the Troves of the Thunder King and the introduction of solo scenarios.

You access Lei Shen’s trove of ill-gotten goods by finding a key on the Isle of Thunder in a handful of different ways: you can loot it from one of the island’s rare mobs (but only one per week, this way), you can loot it out of a Trove of the Thunder King (but only once per week), or you can find it in your satchel of arcane crap at the end of your dailies (purportedly unlimited times, but a very rare drop nonetheless).  They also have a chance to drop from any ol’ mob on the island, again, at a very low drop rate.

As you complete the Island’s progression, your reputation with the Kirin Tor or the Sunreavers unlocks powerful items you can use within the scenario to your advantage: slow-fall potions, sleep powder, or best of all, keys to unlock the doors without using the levers located within the scenario.  They cost Elder Charms, but if all goes well in the scenario, you will have Elder Charms in profusion anyway.

There are two ways to complete the scenario: one is to find a good guide to the instance, such as the Icy Veins one below, kill the end boss and loot his fantastic treasure before talking to Tenwu and porting the heck out of there to gather even more fabulous loot in the final room.

Your other choice is to go full vintage American gameshow style and loot as many of the treasure chests you can find before your five minutes are up.

(Bouffant hair required, talk to your nearest night elf faction leader!)

If this is your first few times running the instance, I highly recommend the second strategy. The Icy Veins video is great, but the creator noted they had plenty of practice on the PTR perfecting their run, and that keys were fairly easy to get there.  Looting the chests while learning to move easily through the traps will net you plenty of charms and gold, and when you’ve unlocked some of the more powerful Kirin Tor items, you’ll save a lot of time on your runs.

The main item you’re searching for in Lei Shen’s All-American Loot Rush is a Burial Trove Key, and the reason why many people recommend getting to the end of the instance as fast as possible. God-hulk Gulkan drops one of these, and the chests he protects also drop them. Reaching Tenwu will net you another. This is great if you have the ability to kill the mobs you can’t avoid quickly and easily, and still take down God-Hulk before your time runs out.  Without some practice, this is not easy to do, and you run the risk of completing the instance without anything to show for it. Even with practice, some healers and tanks will find the timing too tight to execute properly. But those Burial Trove keys are essential for getting a chance at the 502 epics and Kirin Tor rep items!

Enter Golden Treasure Chest.

Most of the chests scattered throughout the instance are the red and white “basic” models. But the golden treasure chests are identical to the one God-Hulk carries on his back! Meaning – a better chance at Burial Trove keys and tattered documents. They also have a chance to spawn a treasure-goblin’esque saurok you have to snare and kill.

Take a look at this video. There’s a nice little ledge all around the room that not only keeps you out of the path of nasty traps, but lets you loot a ton of chests at your leisure. Either loot as many as you like and beeline for Tenwu, or just loot until Tao-Shi automagically ports you out.

Whichever way you choose to complete  Lei Shen’s Dragon Hoard, have fun, and don’t forget the three Big Sweep rules:

  • Some of the Kirin Tor items have stack limits, so be cautious in how you use them!
  • If you run into traps, they can slow or even kill you, incurring major time penalties.
  • Only one player allowed.

Have fun storming the castle! (Also if you’re running the new Throne of Thunder LFR, check out the layout of Lei Shen’s Loot-o-Rama in the trash pack area between Horrdion and the Council!)

March 8, 2013

Tropes versus Women – Damsel in Distress 1

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Hey, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency released the very first episode of her long-awaited kickstarter Tropes versus Women project. Check it out if you have a chance, the history on certain video games (Super Mario Bros 2 was new to me and really interesting!) I’m looking forward to part 2 of damsels in distress, as well as the other topics she’s planning on covering.

February 22, 2013

Diablo 3 Console Edition – Follow-Up

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After a lengthy discussion with @stungravy last night on mumble, I’ve come around to the idea that it’s not as awful an idea as it sounds from the company’s point of view – which is, of course, why they do things.  He pointed out that while consoles can have a pricey entrance point of 300-500 dollars, they don’t always remain that high and that, unlike gaming PCs, the console is all the investment you need to play the next however many years of games that generation puts out.  With a PC, SG said, you are constantly upgrading pieces – or even your whole rig – to keep up with new graphics and game demands on your hardware.

It also reminded me that only yesterday I was reading a very similar argument in T.L Taylor’Raising The Stakes which examines the socio-cultural boundaries shaped within the e-sport genre. I was most especially interested in the chapters dealing with e-sports players aping athletic masculinities, and how that effects female e-sport players (and women who game in general), but also tackles race and gaming.  The findings she cites indicates that Hispanic-American and African American youth are more likely than Caucausian youth to play digital games, but also that their primary choice of gaming method was console over PC (Taylor 2012: 129) @stungravy’s observation that a gaming console is a much sounder investment over time plays into this, but also the talk I had with Gloria at Corgi Island over AIM – console games are more communal, especially now that LAN parties have more or less died out in favour of gaming over Vent or Mumble. All you need to do for a game of NHL 13 is some extra controllers.  While we can all remember a few console e-sports tournaments, it’s hard to deny the bulk of them focus on PC only titles like Starcraft, Warcraft Arenas, League of Legends, etc.

It would be interesting to collect data on other games that have both PC and console ports – Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed come to mind – and see the demographics on those, compared to games that traditionally are only available in one format or the other, and if Taylor’s observations from earlier studies hold true in those cases.

I can’t deny the fact that Diablo 3 on consoles will probably draw more players into what was, despite its dubious staying power – an enjoyable game. Whether or not this will draw old players back remains to be seen: the promised death match system has yet to be released, if ever; there hasn’t been any word to date on whether the auction house systems will remain within their respective spheres or if it will be possible to trade and sell items from console to PC and vice versa. But I will begrudgingly admit Blizzard got one of the biggest rises out of the fanbase during an otherwise lackluster performance by Sony, and retract my initial knee jerk reaction.

(Though not my plea to bring Leah back. Never that.)

February 21, 2013

Diablo 3 on Sony’s new PS4

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Image

I get it, I do. You worked really hard on Diablo 3, and you want people to enjoy it.  If I was still using my old computer, I might even open D3 every now and then, because I find grinding relaxing.  And even think this is a stupid decision.  Sorry, Blizzard. Diablo 1 & 2 got me into computer gaming in the first place because it was so accessible. People who weren’t interested in the game before likely aren’t going to be picking it up now that it’s on an expensive new console.

Unless maybe it’s a prequel where you play Leah doing cool Adventure Things.

ralph

Probably not, though.

February 14, 2013

State of the Union

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See? Topical!

If you’re here, you’ve noticed I’ve moved this blog over to WordPress. This is part of my push to get myself writing more, blogging more, and generally being more present, whether online or off. Welcome if you’re new, welcome back if you’re a reader from before.

Please excuse the mess of some of the posts I ported over from Blogger – the formatting copied in bizarre ways and I’m in the process of tidying them up.

I’ve kept busy, even if I haven’t been writing, doing really important things. World-changing. Life-shattering.

Busted.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t been doing anything super important.  But I’m trying! This week, for example, marks the first time in therapy since my early college years.  I have no doubt she will have plenty of suggestions to keep me busy not being a caterpillar wrapped in a fear-cocoon.

Here is a list of other items on my table for the near future:

  1. Creating an abstract and paper to submit for the exciting-sounding Feminists in Games conference. I haven’t done any academic writing in seven years, so I don’t even really have a thesis yet, but by golly, I have ideas flying out my butt.
  2. Start the complete re-write of Paucity. Yes, two Nanowrimos weren’t enough to get this beast done – the beast, I might add, being a young adult novel that I started writing to take a break from my ~heavier~ novel.  Now I’m trapped in its merciless claws and I won’t be free until I have something resembling a cohesive story.  New additions and changes include the addition of an enormous river otter goddess into what I envisioned as a previously atheist society, a plague outbreak with magical origins and pirates.
  3. Blogging more! World of Warcraft is releasing a major patch soon, and I have no doubt there will be plenty of changes to talk about, as well as publically pulling out my hair when items no. 1 and 2 aren’t going so well.
  4. Reading. Endlessly. I would love to keep up with my Good Reads account, but I tend to finish books so quickly, it would be a part-time job rating and reviewing even just the new books I read/old books I re-read. All the same, I would like to start reviewing writing more often – nothing like reading incredible writing to help tone up your own.

Once again, welcome and welcome back. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.

April 12, 2012

Be the Change, Little Panda

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Hey, remember Ji Firepaw? someone heard the voice of a thousand nerds crying out in faux oppression, and linked me to MMO-Champion that his dialogue has CHANGED. Instead of saying, “Wow, you are some kind of gorgeous!” to female pandaren, Ji now says that you look poised and ready to fight. I’m hoping to get a screen cap later tonight after work, but for now, join the party!

Many, many congratulations and thanks to Apple Cider for being the first to bring this to everyone’s attention. Great job, AC!

April 6, 2012

Sorry for Beta Rocking

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Ye watchers and ye holy ones
Bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones!

There’s not much to report on, but the paladin glyphs look very exciting and showy!  Lots still not yet implemented, but in addition to having four wings during avenging wrath, you can also call down holy fire, and have your judgment spell match whatever weapon you currently wield at the time.

Man, I sure hope that’s conjured water running down my leg.

For laughs, take a look at what happens when the game decides to drop you in the middle of Jade Serpent Temple instead of Wayward Landing like you expected.  If the Sha are one of the major enemies we’re facing in Mists, I don’t think we’ll be disappointed with the models – they are scary as balls.