Less than a week to go

So I have my appointment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center next Friday, which is only 6 days away. I’m really excited. Like, really excited. Super-stoked. Anyway, in light of the fact that I’m going to soon be on massive doses of estrogen, I’ve decided to give quitting smoking a second shot. (More like an eighth shot, but maybe the eighth time’s the charm.) I’m doing it by cutting down my smoking by about 25% a week until I’m all done. I start today.

Also, I have been working super-hardcore on my female voice since school got out. This last semester was really crazy hectic, which cut down on the time I could spend doing vocal exercises and suchlike. It was really discouraging. But I think I’ve gotten the right voice now and I’m working on fine-tuning it. It’s really weird, because now I’m looking for excuses to talk to people just so I can practice it. To be honest, it’s much easier when I’m alone and only talking to myself, because then I’m not worrying about what someone else is thinking; when I talk to other people I find myself worrying about it and having a difficult time maintaining it. However, I think that problem will be solved as I become more confident with my voice.

All in all, this is shaping up to be a great summer. My transition is really going to take off, which has me super-excited. Plus, despite the fact that I was disappointed by the fact that this past semester was my worst grade-wise since going back to school, I realized that I still got a 3.87, which is still a ridiculously good semester average. At the very least, it’s good enough for the Dean’s List. Also, my dad is thinking of starting a web-based software/app company and wants my help with it, so this could be my in to the video game industry. At the very least, it’ll be a fun father/daughter business venture. Things are going pretty well for once.

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Some big ups to some progressive games

So my recent post about why I want to design video games got me going on all sorts of crazy issue which are very dear to me: namely, geekery and progressive social reform. Anyway, it got me thinking that I have a lot to say about the issue of how games could be more marketable to queers and that I can see it being something that spurns a lot of writing, so expect to see more on this issue, at least in the near future (until my next big project comes up and I find a new white whale). Anyway, I thought I’d start by giving some big ups to some games which I think have at least tried to buck tradition and be more woman-friendly (although not necessarily queer-friendly), as well as some of my favorite games which would be my favorite-est games if they made a few small changes.

Mad Props:

Xenosaga I, II, & III: So I must admit that I only play Episode II when it’s been so long that I’m fuzzy on some detail or other of the story (about once every 14-16 months), but the first and third installments are probably my two favorite games ever. I play Episode III more than any other game, even more than Final Fantasy III, Silent Hill 2,  and Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, which were my previous favorites before 2006. Anyway, there’s very little I would change about this game to make it more woman-friendly. Shion is a strong woman who is not necessarily independent yet, but she’s working on it and ultimately gets there when she helps to save the universe from imploding or whatever. She may be a bitch at times, but give her a break: she’s got a lot on her plate. I’m even fine with the fact that she’s straight, because the guy she pines for and thinks is dead turns out to be King of the Über-Douches, so it sends a message of “don’t always count on the knight in shining armor”, which I like for being decidedly un-sexist. Her friends are the ones who’ve always got her back, even her flaky big bro. And Allen, the other love interest, is pretty much a woman, so it’s sort of queer, right? Also, chaos strikes me as queer, so there’s that. And then KOS-MOS is the mother of all strong female characters. She’s one badass weapon of mass awesome, even if she is objectified a bit. I guess they could’ve toned the robo-erotic stuff down a bit, but still, it’s got some major pros in pro-woman category. If the Gnosis ever strike again, maybe we’ll even have a queer leading character.

Silent Hill 2 & 3: So Silent Hill 2 is another of my all-time favorites, and I think it’s got a fairly feminist message. Sure, the main character is a man–and not just any man, but the Emperor of Misogynistic Assholes–but it’s his blatant woman-hating that gets him sucked into a creepy demon-filled hell-town. The game is loaded down with more Freudian imagery than an Early 20th Century Avant-Garde art show, and it all revolves around James’s objectification of the lady-folk. The message is what makes this game pro-woman, and that message is: “Dudes, don’t treat your ladies like pieces of meat and then murder them when they can no longer satisfy your desires, or else they’ll turn into demon ghosts and try to kill you.” As for Silent Hill 3, it’s a game about a teenage gal who has to save the world from Evil Demon God and His Crazy Cultists (after carrying him in her womb! talk about a compelling argument for a right to get an abortion) with little to no help from others. How often do you see that in video games?

Needing Improvement:

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature: This would rank right up there with Xenosaga Episode III and Silent Hill 2 as Greatest Game in the Universe if only for two simple changes: Be whatever gender you want, and marry who the fuck you want. They could release a game that was identical in every other way–including graphics–and I would still pay $60 and end up flunking out of school after wasting 6 months of my life on it. It would just be that good.

Avalon Code: This hidden gem is one of the biggest unsung heroes of the RPG world, which is saying a lot since a lot of great RPGs slip by unnoticed in the seas of Final Fantasies and Elder Scrollses. It’s one of the best portable games I’ve ever played, and if they made one simple change, I’d think it was one of the greatest games ever. It’s the same thing as Harvest Moon: I dig that I get to save the universe as a young lady, but why the fuck are my romantic options limited to things with digital dicks? I mean, seriously, I can marry a freaky midget fire-spirit, but I can’t marry a girl? WTF, mates? Again, make that simple change, and it’d be Game of the Millennium.

Anyway, I could go through the list of all 80 of my games and tell you what’s sexist/heterosexist about all of them, but that’d take forever. Maybe that’ll be a new book project. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creative nonfiction…

Why I secretly want to become a video game designer

Okay, so to people who’ve known me my whole life it’s not such a big secret. I nearly flunked out of high school because I spent most of my free time writing text-based adventure games for my TI-83+. Anyway, just this afternoon I finally decided to take the plunge and upgrade my lame old Google account to a fancy hi-tech Google+ account, despite the fact that most of my friends are on Facebook or Twitter. You see, I’m a huge Google nerd, especially since I’m either smarter than most tech nerds or much dumber (take your pick) and think that Apple’s only innovation was in combining other people’s ideas into “better” ones and then marketing them better than anyone else so people actually want to pay $1300 for a laptop they could get for $800-$900 if they didn’t just want an obscure Alan Turing reference that they don’t even get. </hating> Anyway, while perusing the Google+ world, I stumbled upon this post lamenting the dearth of women video game designers. It got me thinking about something that really pisses me off about video games, despite the fact that I spend exactly three billion hours a year playing them: they’re not only sexist, but heterosexist.

It’s something that’s been bugging me since I was 9 or 10 years old and my two best friends, the Heistman brothers, turned me on to what is now one of my favorite gaming franchise: Harvest Moon. The first game had just launched on the SNES (yes, they were still making SNES games in 1996) and Casey and Josh had just purchased their very own copy of what I thought would be an incredibly lame farm sim. Turns out, it’s one of the best games ever. Anyway, the one thing that bugged me about it was the fact that you couldn’t play as a girl. You see, even though I didn’t exactly know what transgender was or that people actually could switch sexes (I had just given up prayer as a viable route for fixing what ails you), I knew that I was really a girl, and I’d always had a hard time relating to guys, despite the fact that my two best friends were guys. When I watched movies and played video games, I always felt this disconnect between me and the male characters–and I still do. However, I also got pissed off by the fact that it seemed like the only female characters I had to relate to needed rescuing and marrying–sure, there was Samus Aran, but she was one fine lady in a sea of hairy dudes. That’s the first part of the Harvest Moon franchise that pissed me off.

Later down the road, Harvest Moon added a title with a female lead. This made me happy, however the fact that you could only marry dudes pissed me off. One thing I get touchy about as a trans lesbian is the fact that people assume I’m into guys. If they’re confused when the find out I was born a man yet identify as a woman, I don’t know what the fuck to call what they get when they find out that I am only sexually attracted to women. For some reason I’m into games that allow me to have a virtual love life, probably because I can look up what my partner wants on GameFAQs (that’s probably something I should work on in therapy). However, it’s very rare to find a game that allows me to both be a woman and marry women. The Fable games may be the notable exception, except I didn’t figure this out until after I’d played most of the main story of Fable 2 and realized by accident that I could propose to a lady-time. Sure, I’ve heard about the legendary “Best Friends system” in some Japanese Harvest Moon game, but they dropped that for the American port because they thought it would raise the ESRB rating. Why is it that virtual farmer dude can marry virtual pink-haired lady and make virtual babies and it’s still an “E” game, but when people of the same sex like to hold hands and live together the rating suddenly goes up? Granted, it never actually happened, but the fact that it’s even a major concern of Natsume’s should be a sad indictment of the state of our society.

So, the reason why I secretly want to become a video game designer: I want to make video games for queer folks. Epic fantasy adventures where you choose your own gender (I’ll even include gender-neutral options!) and you choose the gender of the love interest in the story (why does it have to be a love interest? why can’t they just be Best Friends? I’d do more for Josh than for any woman I’ve dated, with perhaps one exception) and you can save the world and marry the guy/girl/androgyne of your dreams in your own style. It would probably be a space opera, since the world is always in need of a good space opera.

So right about now this post is getting way too long and I still have a million more things to say because this is a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about as the Queen of the Über-Nerds, so I think I’ll break it up into parts. In closing, I’d like to say that this isn’t the last you’ve heard on this topic. If there are any enterprising young developers out there, look me up on one of the many social networking site and get in touch with me. My coding is a little rusty, but I’m an award-winning writer. I could make the characters and plot, you could write the code; together, we’d have the queer/feminist nerd market cornered.

 

The simple joys of Pokemon…

So I’m not working this summer, which means that I’m slacking off and playing video games for three months straight. (Also, going to the Henry Doorly Zoo as often as possible.) To kick off the summer of gaming, I went out an picked up Pokemon White Version. Because I’m an über pokenerd. Also, my friend hasBlack Version, so this way we can trade and battle and such. Anyway, I know Pokemon seems kind of like a kids’ game, but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case at all.

I was about 12 when Red and Blue came out. I loved them and played Blue all the fucking time, trading with friends and battling and such. Also, I had Pokemon Stadium for N64, which was nice because it had the fun of battling with awesome killer 3D graphics. Anyway, a few years later I sort of decided I wanted to grow out of it; trading and battling cute cuddly animal-like thingies is all fun and good when you’re in middle school, but high schoolers are supposed to like Grand Theft Auto III and all that nonsense. Also, Final Fantasy X with its obnoxious voice-acting (but awesome gameplay nonetheless). So, I shelved my Pokemon for a few years.

It wasn’t until 2009 when I had some money to burn and I asked my friend, Josh, who is 7 years my senior, for a recommendation for a good RPG. To my surprise, he recommended Pokemon. I was a little confused; he was almost 30, why was he still playing Pokemon? He explained that despite the fact that it was geared towards the younger crowd, it had all the qualities of an amazing RPG. So, I decided to revisit the franchise and picked up Pokemon Platinum Version. My eyes were opened.

Sure, it’s still collecting, trading, and battling cute-and-cuddlies, but the gameplay is where it’s at. The main thing that really takes me back to the days of Final Fantasy III and those games from the early 90s that sucked me into the RPG/strategy world is the difficulty level. You can’t just breeze through the game unless you’re up for a major challenge. In the Pokemon games, each gym represents a major leap in enemy levels, which means you either have to fight an uphill battle and go all-out on the strategy side of things, or you spend countless hours grinding. Honestly, I like grinding, mainly because the RPGs I played growing up all required lots of grinding to build up stats or money for the best weapons and armor.

The other thing that really takes me back about these games is the epic nature of the games. When I first played Platinum, it took me more than 40 hours just to get to the Final Four, and even then the game wasn’t over. I’m a huge fan of epic games when you’ve got such great gameplay. The thing is, once I get sucked into the battle system and the plot, I don’t want it to end. And then, when the main story finally ends, I want more, simply because I’ve devoted so much time and effort to character development and don’t want to just wave goodbye to all my companions. Pokemon totally delivers in this category. On White, I’m about 12 hours in so far and haven’t even gotten to the fourth gym, and then there’s that whole deal with Team Plasma that’s probably going to eat up a fair amount of time. And then the Final Four, and then the after-game jazz, plus playing with friends and such. Not a bad deal for $35.

Also, I love the battle system. With the weaknesses and only being able to know 4 moves and all that jazz, it encourages strategizing. I love games like that. I’m a deliberator; I like to plan things out carefully and go in with a well-formed strategy and everything. That’s why I like RPGs and strategy games.

All in all, Pokemon is a stellar example of an old-school console-style RPG. I am totally happy being a nerd and playing a game designed for preteens. It’s a damn good game and anyone who denies it doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

First post from my new Xperia PLAYA

So I just got a new Xperia PLAY and I must say that I’m loving it. Not only does it have all those cool Android apps, but it has the PlayStation Suite to choose from. Plus a built-in controller. Been playing the Sims 3.

It’s amazing how rapidly technology advances. I can’t wait to see what new gadgets we have 20 years from now.

Look for my upcoming post about Ghost Hunters. I plan on getting it up tonight.

Epic Battle FTW

Just started a new game of Skyrim (I’m thinking of writing a walkthrough) and took an alternate route to Morthal from Whiterun (the more direct route through the mountains) and did not remember that there was a killer ice troll there. And I was level five. Ooops. After many potions I finally whittled him down to a few HP right as he took me down to a tiny sliver, but I was faster on the uptake! Talk about mad gaming skills. Next, maybe I’ll take on a giant without a companion.

 

P.S.– If you haven’t played Skyrim yet, it’s nowhere near as good as all the Metacritic reviews make it out to be. It’s fun and all, but really more of a 7 than an OMFG 10++!11!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!! Gameplay is fine, but really lame story. If you’re a lemming you’ll think it’s genius, but if you want a fun sandbox game, go for Fallout 3 (if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 3 years and haven’t yet played it).