Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Newest paper sculpt project!

Sonic Screwdriver trio for my friend's birthday.

An interview with Adam Harum of Transolar Galactica.

They achieved their Kickstarter goal, and now the world gets more of their award winning sci-fi comedy!

Doctor Who themed lip balm!

Brought to you from Earthtastic! and A Bit of Geek.

Minecraft paper sculpt!

My submission to the Mojang community art contest. Watch the video!

A TARDIS desk lamp!

Instructions and babbling on how to make a TARDIS lamp from foam core!

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's always exciting to play Dungeons and Dragons.

There's a chance that I still don't have computer or internet access. If that's the case then I'm really sorry, but more importantly I really miss all of you! How's it going? Has anything exciting been happening in my absence? We should be talking again soon. To pass the time, here's a favorite entry of mine about playing Dungeons and Dragons!


June 26th, 2010

It finally happened!

The stars have finally aligned because Dungeons and Dragons is back in my life! I have wanted to play for over four years, ever since my original campaign was dissolved. My friends have never been interested in playing and even if they were I don't know how to DM. My friend Andrew is in town from California and he plays DnD, he knows that I'd like to get a campaign going. Too bad he lives in LA or else the two of us would be able to get something going. He suggested that while he's here we play as many times as we can, and I am all for that.

On Thursday night we started up a game with his brother and some of his brother's friends. It was fantastic fun! I played my human barbarian, a character that I rolled four years ago after my original character, an elf rouge, was murdered by a giant. I don't play a rouge well at all but I think I'm doing alright with my barbarian so far. We played for a good four and a half hours and I am anxious to play again!

Last night Andrew and I, with our powers combined, convinced Jake to join us for DnD adventures! We didn't play but we did make characters. I rolled one for our friend James just in case he can pop in and play with us. We spent a good two hours just making some characters and I had a pretty good time. Jake has never made it past the character making phase so I'm really excited to actually get to the campaign.

On Thursday night I found myself in a party of adventurers setting toward the forest. A blight had settled onto the forest via the magical water source, causing all flora to wither and all fauna to become deranged and violent.

We trekked toward the center of the forest, aiming for the main tree of life and the magical water's source. As we moved along we encountered an Owlbear, a black bear, a Tree Ent, and an unnamed evil vine being. Our evening wrapped up as we finally approached the main tree and we laid eyes upon the source: goblins!

Dun dun dunnnnn.

Most likely this campaign will not be continued, which is sad, but I'm hopeful that a new one will begin this very evening!

I have more that I want to say but my mind is incredibly scattered right now.


Friday, April 27, 2012

I've talked about this 'geek' thing before, apparently.

So long as I haven't been bitten by a snake, stabbed by a scorpion, or run into the cold desert night and gotten lost after encountering a tarantula during a late night pee session, then I'm still camping in Joshua Tree! Please pray for my safe return, and in the meantime enjoy this entry that I wrote a few years ago about the whole 'fake geek' thing. You can read my most current thoughts on the subject over here.


June 5th, 2010

What's in a name? (That was lame)

I realize that this blog is called "a bit of geek" and therefore what I'm about to write may seem hypocritical or counter-intuitive. This is a rant, a pet peeve irritation of mine. I do have a few specific people in mind but my "thoughts" have been applied to many situations so I'm being extremely general here. I think it's also worth noting that sometimes I myself do what irritates me in other places/people/things. Hopefully this is a sufficient enough disclaimer.

I cannot stand it when someone decidedly non-geeky declares themselves to be a geek, nerd, dork or what have you, especially when what they're "doing" that apparently calls for just such a label isn't even that fitting. I like what I do, this was covered in a previous post. If someone wants to call me a geek/nerd/dork because of my hobbies and lifestyle then whatever, fine. To my knowledge though, I don't run around declaring that everything I do is "so geeky" or, "I am just such a dork" or, "this is a nerdy thing to do". In general terms I try to just say what it is that I like or what I'm doing.

Right now I'm listening to the Ocarina of Time soundtrack.

I still haven't gotten dressed for the day because I want to keep reading the Penny Arcade archives.

Even though I'm finished with classes and I'll be graduating in just about a week, I still have final evaluations to write. I'd really rather play WoW and I've been wrestling all morning over whether or not I should do the right thing or the fun thing.

Yesterday I talked with a friend and classmate about how exciting it was to learn website coding.

This is my second or third post today on my dedicated "geeky" stuff blog. This is one of those situations where I can be called a hypocrite because I used the word geek in reference to myself. I accept that geek, along with dork/nerd, are viable words in many situations. In this case it acts as a very adequate catch-all for my delicious hobbies.

I don't want to qualify any of these statements by prefacing them with a phrase such as, "I know this is really dorky but..." and I don't want to end them with, "I'm such a nerd I know".

I will happily call my friends dorks and nerds and geeks when the situation warrants it. I have a great friend who is the president (and creator) of the Star Trek club at her University. What a dork, but man I love her and I think she's awesome. She does not go around screaming to the damn rooftops that she's a dork or whatever. She is who she is and she's awesome. It should also be noted that her boyfriend is president and creator of the Pokemon club at the same University. :D

My best friend does many nerdy things on a regular basis and I love when she tells me about it. She's in bed with her boyfriend and they're both playing Pokemon? She went to a convention dressed as Chun Li? They have more comic books than I can even count and she frequently goes "huurrr hurrrr"? I LOVE HER. I love telling her how much of a dork she is when these things occur.

These two great friends of mine are fine with who they are and they love their hobbies. Neither of them run around proclaiming their nerdiness.

It makes me happy to be able to crown these words on my beloved friends. I personally take pride when someone christens me as such. Again, I love my hobbies; it just feels wrong to self title.

When I was in junior high I was talking to a friend of mine, I forget the context of the conversation, and I said that I was a nice person. He looked at me for a second and then told me I couldn't really make that assertion, that it had to come from someone else. I could think I was nice, but until other people believed or agreed that I was a nice person, it didn't really mean anything. I remember thinking that this was extremely strange because I really did believe that I was a nice person. I still think I'm a nice person, even though I certainly have my not-so-nice moments. I'm pretty sure I see his angle though: Do self-proclaimed people have the same genuinity (that's not a word) as people that have been dubbed something by other people? This all is dependent on how that specific person feels about these labels though. I'm perfectly OK with someone saying that I have a lot of geeky hobbies or that I'm a total nerd about some things. That's fine, I would agree with that statement, in fact it makes me happy to think about someone saying it.

I am aware, though, that there are many many people who far surpass me in the geeky realm.

Did you ever know that random guy in junior high or high school who always talked about how "crazy" he was? No one ever told him he was crazy or wacky, but he sure liked to tell others that he was. He would do stupid shit and be like, "I'm so crazy I know". Everytime I see those shirts that have a computer wearing glasses with the words "Talk nerdy to me" I just want to scream.

Am I being elitist here? I'm not trying to be and now I find of feel bad. These thoughts are infecting me though, they need to be purged.

Mainly I get all riled up when I meet one person who has no hobbies related to this except for maybe they play Pokemon. Then they proceed to talk about how they're such a dork because they play Pokemon. Not that dorky, really. Or perhaps they really enjoy watching Youtube videos so suddenly they're a total computer nerd. No, no you really aren't.

Am I worried about posers? Geek posers? Yikes.

Maybe I can liken it to music enthusiasts. They're very particular about their bands and their scenes. They don't take very well to over rambunctious newcomers who claim their "title" right off the bat.

I think that's how I feel here. I think I feel a little better too. I could really use some feedback, if anyone would like to provide.


If someone just is a huge fucking dork, it doesn't bother me if they call themselves a dork. It's legitimate and it's true. It's not like people need my permission anyway, this is a rant afterall.


I keep thinking of more things. I WANT to be a huge nerd, I just want to earn it. Does that make sense?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Throwback to World of Warcraft.

This week I'm out camping in Joshua Tree. It occurred to me belatedly that there's probably not going to be internet there, but even if there were, I don't know if I'd want to take my computer with me while camping. The point of camping is to be in the wilderness. To enjoy nature! To stay up all night terrified of scorpions, tarantulas and other horrible desert beasts. You know what? Maybe I won't go camping. But just in case I do, here's a backlog entry that I quite enjoy, so I'm sharing it again!


June 4th, 2010.

Things did not end well for Yvanik.

I'm a little irritated right now.

Currently, copious amounts of effort are being spent on getting my character to level 20. It would be really great to finally have a mount, what with all the walking that's required in WoW.

A lot of my adventuring tonight had me exploring new territories and attempting to find more flight paths to cut down traveling time. My mage is level 19, so so close to 20, and I've been feeling pretty good about her. I ventured down the coast west of The Crossroads to tackle a low level quest. I found myself at a fortress with all level 14 guards. I picked them off one by one with no issue. I guess what happened next was my fault, I was getting cocky.

Seeing as it was getting late, and time was drawing near for me to upload my 365 image, I thought it wise to find an Inn nearby and rest for the night; I could finish the quest tomorrow night.

What happened next? Well I will tell you.

Imagine young Yvanik the mage, wandering about the craggy ocean coast, exhausted from slaying so many guards, her core hound pup scurrying along behind her. She spots a lot of stranglekelp in the water, but it is heavily guarded by vicious giant blue beings, including one loch ness monster look-alike. "I must find an Inn", all other thoughts, including those of precious herbs, are pushed to the side.

Before too long she breaks new ground, discovers a new area. Rain begins to fall. The map shows that a new region has been entered. "There must be a town nearby". And then, I am being viciously murdered by a spider so huge that I didn't immediately register that it was a spider. Would you like to respawn? FINE.

Usually when I get my ass kicked the graveyard isn't very far away from my pathetic corpse. I was not so lucky this evening. For the first time since starting WoW about two weeks ago I chose to resurrect and take health and equipment damage. "It won't be that bad".

She finds herself in a swamp, the swampiest of swamps. She is far away from where she started, it is completely new territory. "There must be a town nearby".

Yvanik sets off down the path and not five steps in, a startlingly large crocodile... thing crawls out of the water to the left. "I'm on the path," the confident thought arose, "I'm safe over here".

This was yet another learning experience for me. That.. thing, which was so strong I couldn't even see its level, tore me to pieces in barely two attacks. I resurrected again and then used my stone to go back to The Crossroads.

My adventures in Azeroth were not particularly productive this evening. But boy did I learn a lot.

P.S. yesterday I made a new friend.


Monday, April 23, 2012

A Bit of Geek Episode 5!!

This is a preview for your preview. Enjoy!

It's here and it's time to watch!!


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Bloggess book tour - This *totally* happened.

the bloggess let's pretend this never happened book tour

Last night I participated in what I'm calling my first ever LA "thing" (even though the event took place in Beverly Hills, but I don't think that's relevant).

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, aka hilarious woman, aka bringer of Wil Wheaton collating paper set out on a book tour this week for her newly released title "Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir".

To my delight, and slight trepidation, she had an LA spot scheduled, and so I decided that I had to attend. I'm not a long time reader, but I am a huge fan, and it's not really my fault that I'm not a long time reader because she started her blog ten years ago, and I can't help it that her content is wildly inappropriate for teenagers even if I had discovered her corner of the internet when I was sixteen.

the bloggess clown porn
See what I mean? Not about the depression thing. The sex thing.
It's generally inappropriate for teenagers to read sex columns. Right?

So, armed with my audio book and the address to the Writers Bloc LA location, I set out in rush hour traffic snorting and screaming with laughter to Lawson's hilariously narrated memoir. As I inched along 110 North, my exit for 10 West slowly coming into sight, it occurred to me for the first time that I was in the car. alone. attending an event. alone. This is when I started to feel a little panicky and extremely aware of the fact that I hadn't been in downtown LA alone before (I don't care if I ended up in Beverly Hills, that's not the point!).

I was determined to remain calm and upbeat, because if The Bloggess could kick away her crippling social anxiety and intense fear of public speaking, then I could keep my fear of going place alone and feeling like a loser in check.

After circling the block once and running a red light at an unprotected left, I parked under my destination and walked confidently to the elevators while feeling so proud of myself for arriving early in spite of traffic. Once in the lobby I inquired as to where the Writers Bloc speakers would be that night and I was met with some... confusion and silence from the guy at the front desk. He asked me a few probing questions that I was unable to answer, and then he called for some advice from someone else.

It's times like these I'm sure front desk workers wish they didn't have to deal with the public. When you're on the phone it's so much easier to put someone on hold and then transfer them without their knowledge.

It turns out that my phone directions had taken me to the Writers Guild of America, West, and I wanted a different building that was about fifteen minutes away in Beverly Hills. I nodded and thanked the man, legitimately holding back tears while feeling incredibly stupid and more worried that I was going to arrive late and not be allowed into the book reading and Q&A with The Bloggess.

the bloggess juanita weasel
Juanita the Weasel, appropriately acting out my desperation.

Fortunately for me, and my bladder, I made it to the correct location in record time. Except then I got lost in the parking structure.

It was kind of poorly signed. There were indicators for stairs, elevators, and exits, but nothing telling me where to go to get into the building. (I realize that I listed 'exits', but those were vehicle exits, not pedestrian exists. Totally different.) I ducked into a stairwell and went up three flights, ending up on the roof of the parking structure. Completely baffled, I ran to the elevators that were on the opposite side of the parking building and rode them down to the first floor, where I was greeted with the worker who had given me my parking stub upon entry.

I stared at him confused for a moment, unsure of how to best phrase the fact that I was lost in a vertical building with no where to even go in order to get lost, when he kindly directed me to walk straight ahead and then turn right. I thanked him.

After a quick trip to the restroom and a cursory glance around the theatre, I took a seat in the front row, stage right, and hoped that Lawson would be seated in the chair on stage left (she wasn't). After some mild fidgeting and ultimately relaxation, The Bloggess herself appeared along with Soleil Moon Frye, the moderator for the evening, and a woman who was the head of the theatre. Brief introductions were had, everyone's clapping for Lawson drowned out the introduction for Frye (for which I felt bad), and then the evening was kicked off with Lawson doing a reading from her memoir.

jenny lawson soleil moon frye writers bloc la
They're not looking at me, but that's them I swear. Jenny Lawson
is the one sitting closest to the front of the image.

I've been listening to her narrate for the past few days, which has been entertaining enough, but to hear her read her own stories out loud and in person was a new level of hysterical that I didn't think was possible.

She paused to great comedic effect in all the right places, and I really could have sat and listened to her read all night. Everyone in the theatre laughed loud, and hard. I felt so comfortable with the audience, so many other people with full, booming and appreciative laughter.

Frye asked Lawson a few questions about her inspirations, her reasons for starting the book, and further information about certain stories within the memoir. Suddenly it was time for an audience Q&A, and my heart started pounding. Only two people stood up to ask a question and I felt stricken with fear that The Bloggess would feel down trodden about no one having questions for her. My mind raced, placing myself in her shoes and imagining how horrible it would feel to be up on stage, nervous and ready to bolt but drugged into submission, and watching as no one wanted to ask me anything.

(Update: It's worth noting that out of everyone who did eventually get up and ask questions, probably half of them expressed extreme nerves and social anxiety. There wasn't a lack of questions because of a lack of interest: more like, everyone in the room wanted to talk and ask questions, but we were all simply too paralyzed with fear. We were unified in so many ways)

I couldn't think of a single. damn. question. I mean, she's so candid and open that what could I even ask that she hadn't already shared? All I had were 'Thank You's for her, and so with sweaty palms and shaky legs and a pounding heart I walked up to the microphone and waited my turn.

wil wheaton collating paper
This man shared a video of The Bloggess, which gave me the strength to even obtain 
this signed photo. It then, in turn, gave me the strength to go to the microphone.

It's kind of surreal to have the important people that are up on stage turn and look you right in the face and give you their attention.

I started out by thanking her for her coverage and candidness regarding mental illness, and went into a story about how she has inadvertently given amazing relationship advice to polar-opposite couples. If you're familiar with The Bloggess, then you'll know that she responds to her husband in the most baffling, and astoundingly hilarious, ways. It truly seems like a great method for keeping things light hearted and happy.

The audience liked my comment, and I received laughter. After sitting back down the woman in charge of the theatre (who happened to be sitting next to me) told me that she liked what I said.

Once the questions were finished everyone was rounded into the lobby to await the book signing. The line was incredibly long, so I stood off to the side and read The Hobbit. In the middle of the mix I almost banged faces with Frye, who told me that she, too, liked what I had said, and then asked me where Jenny went. I pointed to my right and smiled, then immediately remembered to say (more like shout), "I really liked you in your episode of Friends!" and she smiled and said thank you.

let's pretend this never happened signed by jenny lawson

Almost a full hour later I was at the very end of the line and sneaking ever closer to the signing table. The kind people around me had invited me into their jovial conversation, and we were accidentally joined by Lawson's sister and niece. A pleasant bonus, to be sure.

When it was finally my turn, Lawson signed my audio book case and I immediately blurted out my story about telling Wil Wheaton about loving The Bloggess. Then I told her that at PAX this year hopefully I could tell Wil Wheaton about telling The Bloggess about meeting Wil Wheaton and telling him how much I loved The Bloggess.


She seemed to like my story well enough.

jenny lawson the bloggess and me

I turned and walked toward the door holding my signed audio book in front of me like it was something about to explode. And by that I mean excessively carefully. It was only once I was back in my car that I realized two things:

a. I didn't say good-bye to the nice people that I was with in line.

b. I should have used the bathroom.

"The night's adventures aren't over yet!" I thought to myself, and then left the parking garage.

It was at this point that my phone decided it didn't want to locate me via GPS, so I just... drove down South Doheny until my phone decided to cooperate. I could have easily panicked about being alone downtown LA (Beverly Hills, whatever), having to pee, hungry, and with no idea how to get back home. But, I was on a Bloggess high, so I decided to ride out the wave of potential crazy and see where it carried me.

As luck would have it, I ended up going West and was dropped nicely onto the 405.

Probably one of my best nights ever.


*Please note that the images that aren't taken with my cellphone were all borrowed with love from

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Destination: nerdy locales. What's yours?

Original image via UKresistance.

How many of you out there have been introduced to a new part of the world via video game, movie, book, comic book, etc., and then realized that you just had to visit it for yourself? I may have some eccentric thoughts, but I can't possibly be the only one who has felt this. Now, it would be easy to answer this with a simple, "But Pallet Town isn't real!" and yes, you would be correct, but I'm talking about real places in the real world, not amazing not-yet-real places in the potential world that are incredibly awesome that we all want to visit and if anyone tells you differently then they are liars for sure. Animal Crossing, anyone? Talking animals and breaking new ground in the archeological world every day? Please.

But back to my original thought.

Places that do exist that we are capable of visiting. What's yours? Mine is Scotland, and this is based entirely off of the incredible book series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Currently there are seven novels in the series, with an eighth in the works and a prequel planned. Gabaldon's scope, attention to detail, and narrative style are staggering. If you are a fan of time traveling historical fiction action adventure romance intensely detailed lots of pages tiny print, then this is the book series for you. Full disclaimer: the books contain sex. Apparently I didn't explain this adequately enough on previous occasions where I recommended the series.

I think at this point I have covered all the bases. Original image found here.

Moving right along! The majority of the series is set in 18th century Scotland, primarily the Highlands. Gabaldon describes locations with such detail and accuracy that citizens of Scotland would write to her asking when she had been in the area. At the time of her first book she had never actually been to Scotland, she was just excellent at researching. That may have something to do with her Science Ph.D. I hear that sort of thing requires a great amount of research and research skills. Now she travels to Scotland all the time.

The point is, she has made me desperate to visit Scotland. I was going to go after being in Ireland summer of 2010, but then some things happened and I didn't. It is very difficult to not dwell on this, so when I start to feel upset I just drink more whisky and pretend I'm in the Highlands with some kilted men.

(sadly) Not pictured: bearded men in kilts. Image via

I created a route that had me visiting Inverness, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Inverness and Edinburgh play huge roles in the Outlander universe, but off the top of my head I can't recall if Glasgow is in there. Either way, I have big plans to visit a whisky factory, go to the castle in Edinburgh, find that wily Loch Ness monster, go on night time dungeon tours, see the site of the battle at Culloden, wander the cobblestone streets and pretend that I'm a lady of high class, and drink so much whisky that the locals think I belong with them.

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. Image via

I want to frolic in the heather of the Highlands! I want to see those craggy, jutting rocks. I want to crest the peaks of rolling hills and reach the bottom of valleys. Within me there is an insane passion to see a new part of the world that wouldn't have existed with such heat and intensity if it weren't for Gabaldon's amazing literature.

Yes? Yes. Yes yes yes. Beautiful image found here.

Where do you want to go?


Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a Minecraft world, and we're just living in it.

Everyone out there plays Minecraft, right? It's such a fantastic game. It has pretty much anything to offer to almost any gamer, especially with the ability to share maps with other players. Thanks to the hard working and creative individuals around the world, gamers have access to just about any map system/world they could want. I thought it would be fun to round up a few just to demonstrate the intense scope of options.

::: A super exciting preview of Disney World.

::: A completed Disney World.

::: A stunning recreation of Winterfell.

::: Are you ready for some nostalgia in Kakariko village?

::: Here's a cute little one-person operation of The Shire in Middle Earth.

::: If you're looking for something more detailed in Middle Earth, then look no further.

::: Hogwarts Hogwarts hoggy warty-warts!

::: This guy is a little strange to listen to, but the castle is GORGEOUS.

::: A very fun and clever TARDIS in Minecraft.

This hardly scratches the surface. Do you have any links to great Minecraft world round ups? Do you have a favorite Minecraft created world that I didn't share? Did you perhaps make a map of your own that you're particularly proud of? I'd love to hear about them!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Why I'm excited and apprehensive about Project Glass.

The development announcement of Google's augmented reality glasses brings about far more speculation than answers or hard facts. It seemed like just another April Fool's pull, but it turns out it's a real thing that they're working on.

My brain raced with questions and wonderment as I watched their preview/demonstration video. After discussing my opinions with friends, it turns out that they think I'm highly skeptical. I prefer to see myself as cautiously optimistic.

Allow me to break down my concerns and excitements for you.

Store Maps

Visual maps of any location? Well, that would be handy I suppose, but most stores have maps, signs, and employees who can tell you where things are. Plus, what size effort would be required to get a map of every store ever built?

Know where your friends are

This has the potential to be a little creepy, I think, but would also be incredibly useful when meeting up with friends. Of course, this brings into question the need for constant connectivity, network coverage, and battery life.

Voice Recognition

How many people out there have issues with voice recognition? I don't know about you, but when I  said "Monsieur Gayno" to my phone, it thought I said "monster game now".  My voice has never played nicely with recognition software, so I do feel very apprehensive about a system that relies entirely on voice commands.

Visual Calls

The video is entirely concept and aspirations, but I still take a moment to wonder how annoying it would be to have things so close to my eye all the time. This phone call indicator is really big! It seems like it would be kind of invasive. And what about driving? Would we be allowed to wear the glasses then? It seems that it would be very distracting. Plus, this kind of technology would work based on eye movement, wouldn't it? And we need our eyes to stay on the road! So yeah, I'm guessing this would be a no-no while driving.

To-the-minute Updates

A constant connection could hypothetically mean that relevant data is sent to you on the spot. This would only work if we looked directly at specific information though. Would this change the way we visually gather information, or do we already look at the necessary data for this sort of technology to work?

Take a Picture

This idea I am one hundred percent in love with. I have wished I could take a photo with my eyes for as long as I can remember, and I know I can't be the only one!

Live Sharing

We can call people from wherever we are (provided there's service, or you have a phone from The Doctor) and now someday we may have the ability to show people what we're seeing. I can't even remember how many times I've said to someone "I wish you were here to see this" or "this is amazing, you should see it!"

Never Get Lost

I use Google Maps on my phone all the time, so this I really like. Plus, it would be like having a heads up display, and that would be so awesome! Gaming has taught me to appreciate the HUD and its values. I've grown to want one in real life.


It's strangely important for me to know what the weather is according to the numbers. It's not enough for me to look outside, I want to know what the professionals say. For me to be able to look out the window at the sky and have a weather readout appear in front of me, well, I just feel tickled. But what if I only want to look at the sky? Would it tell me the weather no matter what? Or could I say "no weather" and have that work? Would it make more sense to simply remove the glasses and look outside?

Image via Pocket Lint

A huge, huge question: what will these glasses look like, and how will they coincide with people who already wear glasses (me)? Is the concept design incredibly far fetched, or will the final product look similar to what we've been shown? The large piece on the side of the woman's head isn't all that different from a bluetooth headset (it's just up higher) and the rest of the hardware is simply frame-less glasses. Perhaps there would be a clip-on version for us glasses-wearing folk?

This article over at Wired offers up an explanation from augmented reality experts who are claiming that a screen that small would be incapable of delivering the visual experience that Google demonstrates in the video. Of course it's incredibly important to remember that what we've seen is concept, aspirations, and things that are hoped for. The actual product is still years away.

The whole concept is incredibly exciting and I hope to see it come to fruition eventually. The technology has so many amazing options, and knowing Google they would deliver the goods. Although my mind does wonder if this means we're just a few steps away from actual implants...

From the wonderful Penny Arcade.

Who else wishes they had a heads up display?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hate mail influx for inclusion of gay relationships in Mass Effect and SWTOR.

Things as productive as hate mail: watching paint dry, counting the number of rice grains 
in a bag, pulling every single leaf off of a tree. Image via Slapupsidethehead.

Gamers want choices, reality, and open-ended worlds. The majority of all games (until very recently) were helmed by male protagonists, so any female gamers could just shut up and play as a dude. The first game I ever played where a female lead was an option was Harvest Moon: Magical Melody and I was so ecstatic. Nowadays all MMOs offer both male and female characters, and newer open-ended single player experiences are offering that as well, such as Mass Effect. There are still only a handful of games with just a lady at the forefront; a smattering of Resident Evil titles, Mirror's Edge, and Bayonetta are the first ones to come to mind.

So. Choices. Non-linear gameplay, reality, and options parallel to those in real life. Women have finally been given the option to play in familiar terrain, and games such as Fable, The Sims, Skyrim, and Mass Effect have taken it a step further and provided players the option of a love interest. Now, given that whole "do whatever you want in-game" thing that everyone is so wild about, doesn't it make sense to include homosexual options? YES. That is a resounding "yes".

Amazing image found via Lorehound.

EA has done just that, to the anger and dismay of homophobes everywhere, with their series Mass Effect. Since the most recent offering in the series released late last year there has been a constant growl of disapproval circulating the title, especially since this most recent iteration includes *gasp* gameplay footage of same-sex individuals together. Please note that this "footage" is men talking to one another while in their underwear. The horror! More sexy and exciting things happen in football locker rooms.

Who hasn't seen this at a beach? Image via Gossip Gamers.

Even though EA was voted the worst company of last year, they are being shone in a favorable light this last week as they responded to an influx of hate mail over their inclusion of same-sex romance options and plot lines in-game for Mass Effect 3 as well as their MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The haters and protestors continue to insist that the company is corrupting the youth, encouraging homosexuality, and is marketed at young children: BS line after BS line. While the ESRB may not be perfect, it is still fairly adequate at providing an at-a-glance answer as to whether or not a game is appropriate for a child. FOR INSTANCE! Mass Effect 3 is rated M for Mature. Mature, as in seventeen or over. Over seventeen as in nearly an adult. The ESRB provides more than just a letter rating though, they also give a description of the content that constitutes the letter rating. Mass Effect 3 is rated M for Mature for the following reasons: Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence.

Are you actually telling me that those things are perfectly acceptable for your child, and the only thing that will cause that content to be inappropriate is a man loving a man, or a woman loving a woman?

Excuse me a moment.

Sir Ian McKellen makes everything better. Image via Sir Mitchell.

I hope it's no surprise that what this boils down to is the parent-child relationship, interaction, and how responsible the parent is in moderating and monitoring the child's recreational intake. When I worked at GameStop I sold a truly, disgustingly, unbelievable number of copies of GTA to parents who were openly purchasing it for their ten-years-of-age-or-younger children.

As a person with at least a smattering of moral responsibility (I have a very strong moral compass, just FYI), I felt angry and sickened each time this happened. I warned each and every parent that the content was extremely unsuitable for someone of such a young age, and 95% of the time I was greeted with a flippant hand flap and a casual remark that their, presumably unique, child was smart enough to understand that "it's just a game."

Right. Thanks. I was unaware that I worked in a game store.

This has become increasingly rant-y, and I'm apologizing for that. Not because I dislike rants, but because I didn't set out to create a rant.

It's true that parents should know their children, and if they truly believe that their seven year old is responsible, mature, and smart enough to understand that just because the gun-toting man in GTA is stealing cars and shooting cops, that doesn't mean that that's actually OK, then fine. But then don't have the audacity to turn around and blame gaming companies for "corrupting" your child because they continue to expand to all-inclusive reality by allowing gamers to pick a same-sex partner. The box says "sexual content". It's not the company's fault that you assumed that meant "straight people only".


Monday, April 9, 2012

Is technology making me lonely? I think not.

She looks unwillingly alone, but really she's reading embarrassing fanfic.
Image via College Candy

Lately I've read a few articles covering online socialization and how it affects offline interactions. One write up over at Lifehacker had the author asking the readers how often they use the internet to stage in-person gatherings. This piece over at i09 sites a TED talk about smart phones and constant connectivity making us lonelier.

I disagree on a personal level with a lot of the points in the TED talk, such as the claim that smart phones are "replacing the intimacy of face-to-face conversation with online connectedness." - i09 From a purely technical standpoint online connections do replace intimate face-to-face conversations, but out of pure necessity. I don't live face-to-face distance from everyone I know. I'm in a different state than the rest of my family. If I want to connect with them at all, it has to be online/over the phone. But that in no way has replaced my need for intimate, face-to-face connections.

Since moving to California I have experienced a strange kind of loneliness. I'm here to chase my dreams, cliche as that may sound, and it has taken me away from almost everyone and everything that I know. My computer and my phone keep me close to everyone that I moved away from, and when the internet goes down I feel something akin to panic. I'm suddenly isolated, completely alone and cut off from everyone in the entire world. This isn't a new loneliness though, it's one that has existed for all people that moved away from home prior to cellphones and internet.

I absolutely rely on my smart phone. It goes wherever I go and it does lend me comfort. This comfort resides in knowing that my friends and family are only a phone call or a text away. I regularly use Google chat to carry on conversations, but even that doesn't satisfy the need for in-person communication and connection. Am I alone in this? Does anyone out there actually feel satisfied with an instant message exchange?

Simultaneously a fantastic and horrible invention.
Original image via Arvind

However, there's another point in this TED talk that really irks me: Sherry Turkle claims that now people have "feelings in order to share them" as opposed to having feelings simply for the sake of feeling...? According to her, the increased connectivity and myriad of communication outlets online has changed our basic human reaction of experiencing feelings into a need to experience feelings just so we can share them. Perhaps there's a nugget of scientific truth buried somewhere in there, but here's the thing: for me, I have feelings just as much as I always have, and now I have more ways to reach out and share those experiences with other people.

Everyone wants to know that they're not alone. We all want to find someone and ask "have you felt this before?" I think it's great that we have more ways to do that.

We need one another; we need to share and talk and socialize. The author of the i09 article eloquently states that humans are a social being. "Our technology is making us poignantly aware of a loneliness that has been with us all along" is a quote from her that I just love. There's no new loneliness happening, we're only becoming more aware of it.

Technology has changed my life in so many ways, and I believe it's all for the better. It was a less frightening decision to move away from home knowing that I can A. call B. text C. email D. video chat E. instant message anyone that I miss. But I'm still lonely. My smart phone isn't making me lonely, I made myself lonely. Perhaps the real "issue" here is that when we're on our phones and we're connected everywhere we feel that much closer to people, so when we don't have that access we inversely feel that much lonelier. Isn't it similar with highs and lows? The higher the high, the lower the following low will be?

Turkle touches on many larger and important topics such as youths preferring texting over talking, teenagers being uncertain as to how they can have a real-time conversation, and the advent of robots being invented in order to listen to humans talk. Those are valid concerns for sure, but I maintain that my phone isn't the cause of my loneliness. She also says that because we're so used to getting so much from technology that we come to expect less from people. The opposite has happened for me: because of the constant connectivity I expect that my friends and family will be more available and more talkative.

"Are you coming over for Game of Thrones night or not?! I need 
to know how much bean dip to buy!" Image via Brainfroze

How many of you out there feel frustrated and exasperated when someone won't reply to a text message or answer their phone? We know that people are never without their phones, so how can they be unavailable? I feel that Turkle has forgotten that part.

Does your technology make you feel lonely? Do you regularly prefer to be alone, or would you pick an evening with your friends over a night of text exchanges? Perhaps I'm just a crotchety old timer who can remember the days before internet and smart phones. Get off my lawn.


Friday, April 6, 2012

The value and challenge of side quests in-game.

I recently came across this great article on side quests over at Gameranx. In it the author makes the claim that side quests nowadays are boring, uninventive, and do little to add to the overall experience of a game. He points out the potentially large value that side quests can lend, and he sites Majora's Mask as the perfect example.  It is true that Majora's Mask presented a very unique and engaging array of side quests, especially considering the constant time restraints.

There's a challenge for me in commenting on side quests, because when I was much younger I didn't care for them. I didn't understand their presence in a game and always did my best to ignore them. It wasn't until I was much older that I grew to appreciate their existence, and also to understand why they were in the game in the first place.

The first game where I acknowledged side quests was in Ocarina of Time. It was a universe that I cared about, so the quests lent understandable sense to the main story. There weren't many, but, for instance, the long arc to achieving Biggoron's Sword was incredibly fun. Minish Cap was the first game where I was excited by the side quests. Many fans complained that Minish Cap was too short, and compared to traditional Zelda titles it was, but it offered so much in the way of exploration that I feel it was more than acceptable. Who else absolutely loved the kinestones? I found it to be a great mechanic to encourage exploration of the world.

The author of the Gameranx article points out that the reason side quests are so great in Majora's Mask is that the game doesn't hold your hand through the process. Your success or failure depends entirely on your sleuthing skills. There are no indicators on the map, no sign posts telling you where to go for the next step. This is a reason that I actually disliked them; they were incredibly difficult. I wanted to be able to accomplish them, which was not a simple task. Add in the constant three day restart cycle and you had an equation for a game that made me want to flip over tables.

Items consumed in addition to everything: my sanity.
Image via Kyandi.tumblr

I never finished Majora's Mask.

But, he has a point! Even though that aspect frustrated me to no end it was still fantastic. Everyone remembers what it's like to discover something new, right? Find a secret, crack a code, get past a particularly difficult hurdle. Most game side quests take away the triumph and accomplishment and add little to the overall experience.

There needs to be a balance though. Video games appeal to a wide range of ages, experience levels, and interests. I believe that developers such as Nintendo have the right idea in adding "helpers" in case the player is having a particularly difficult time. In NSMB for the Wii, if you fail to complete a level a certain number of times in a row then you have the option of calling on Luigi to show you how to survive to the flagpole. There's a similar mechanic in Super Mario 3D Land, where, again, if the player repeatedly fails a level then they're given a helpful power-up to get them through the difficult aspects and to the flagpole at the end.

An ever comical and poignant take on the situation by Penny Arcade.

These helpers are entirely optional and, in my eyes, are added simply to cover the wide range of player types and ultimately to help everyone have as much fun as they can at a game. Isn't that the point? Games frequently incorporate some form of helping/hinting system for the main story line, but I can't think of it happening that often for side quests. I sometimes think of returning to my Majora's Mask file and tackling some of the side quests, because I know that they are well done and worth playing. I also know that they're going to be incredibly difficult and I'll spend a lot of time attempting the same thing over and over again because there won't be any indicators for what I need to do next.

Really it comes down to playing styles. I'm the kind of person that appreciates a little help and nudge in the right direction. Others would rather figure out everything for themselves and damn any help that is offered up. Of course, even though I prefer help, I can agree without hesitation that no one should be led by hand. That takes out the fun and satisfaction. Let people think for themselves and experience the game on their own.

What about you? Do you partake in side quests? Do you wish they were more like Majora's Mask, or do you prefer hints and help?


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The amazing influence of music in gaming.

Everybody loves music. You'd be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't. (There was a brief period in my life when I didn't, but I was ten years old.) There's something magical about music, something amaranthine and intangible. It's a universally relatable experience to hear a piece of music and immediately be transported to a different place and a different time, with memories dancing vividly in our mind's eye. Science even proved that it's a real thing.

But how many people share the same song with a similar emotional state or memory? I'd say that in the geek culture it's a prevalent occurrence, which just adds to the list of what makes our community so amazing.

Take the original Mario theme, for example. We will collectively remember happy times, frustrating times. I'm willing to bet that the majority of us will see World 1-1, with that first Goomba just waiting to trip us up. I can't help but smile and feel that all of life is simple and good. My mind quickly jumps to Super Mario Bros. 3 to World 1-2, where I was unable to successfully pass that level until I was in my teens. I remember the first time I crouched down in 1-3 on the white platform and ran behind the scenery to triumphantly obtain the warp whistle. Now I can hear the flying ship music and the cannons blasting.

Those two Goombas got me every time. Image via nesmaps.

I think of my sister next to me laughing and narrating as she jumps around 5-1,  pretending that Mario is in a bizarre pet shop. We take turns and she lets me play 5-3 because she knows how much I love Kuribo's Shoe. I could go on, traveling up through Super Mario World and watching my sister successfully make Mario fly with his yellow cape while I repeatedly fall softly to the ground. Now we switch to Mario 64 and backflipping into the paintings, and my sister simply cannot manage to beat Bowser.

I would love to conduct an experiment that contains two strangers who have both played the original Mario: place them in a room together, play the music and see how quickly they are able to bond and have a conversation. Music in gaming is so valuable! Who else out there feels the need to dance and throw their arms up and down when they hear this?


The importance of orchestral music in gaming is becoming more prevalent along with realistic graphics.  Many people feel that it should be a necessity with all new Zelda titles, and I respect their opinions. Personally I have no problem with computer, 8-bit, midi sounds. If it comes together beautifully and compliments the game then I am happy. However I can also absolutely appreciate the heightened value of an orchestra.

My favorite orchestra soundtrack in gaming has to be Shadow of the Colossus. It is beautiful, so so beautiful. Have you heard it? Here's the opening song.

Excuse me for a moment, I'm watching the opening scene in my mind's eye.

I just adore this soundtrack. To me it's the perfect example of complimentary, magical music. The entirety of Shadow of the Colossus is silent aside from ambient sounds. The only time the player hears music is during cut-scenes and battles. This is my all time favorite track from the game:

I literally, no joke, get goosebumps when I hear this song. That first striking note about seven seconds in is so powerful. But more than that? It's the emotions, thoughts and memories that come flooding into my mind, nearly knocking me over. I played this game hard for months on end. It consumed me and presented an unusual change to my regular gaming repertoire. It called to a part of me that had only been touched by ICO before it.

Sometimes in the middle of other intensive tasks I hear this song in my head. It's a power boost. I hear this song and I am immediately clinging for dear life on the furry back of a Colossus, my sword swinging wildly as I keep my eyes trained on its magical blue weak point. And now I want to play. I've got the shivers.

This would be a good time to talk about a different gaming soundtrack before I lose interest in this article and wander to my PS2. *ahem*

Don't you just want to jump on it? Image via wallpapervortex.

How do you feel about orchestrated versus computer made soundtracks? Do you feel that with available technology all games should strive to have a fully orchestrated soundtrack? Does anyone feel that a game with a phenomenal story and graphics is brought down by a computer based soundtrack? Can I end a fourth sentence in a row with the word 'soundtrack'? Oh look at that!

It's not something I've ever really bothered myself with. If the music is good then I'm not concerned about how it came into existence. Of course, orchestra music is very classy to listen to, so there IS that.

Who out there has a favorite track? I mean, hands down, best in your opinion? I've been pondering mine, and I don't think I can come up with one. Here's a list for you.

-I'm drawing a blank... but really any song from Ocarina of Time.

If that list demonstrates anything, it's that I love Zelda. But more than that it shows that I am in desperate need of a video gaming soundtrack expansion! Please, give me your suggestions! I want them!

Also, does anyone have any stories about gaming music and strong memories? Any songs that you just love, that take you to a special place? I would love to hear them! 


Twitter Facebook Stumbleupon Favorites More