In memory of John “TotalBiscuit” Bain

I was saddened to hear of the passing of John Bain, better known as TotalBiscuit, earlier today. He was only 33 years-old. Yea, fuck cancer.

Since I’m sure social media will be flooded with tributes from those closest to him, I want to simply acknowledge his contributions to the indie game community. While I didn’t always agree with his commentaries on games, I admired that TotalBiscuit recognized the position he found himself in. That he had the power, all by himself, to make or break an indie game. And yet, he never once abused this position, nor did he seem to take it for granted. It’s rare that someone finds him or herself in such a position, and even rarer when those people don’t at least explore the potential for abuse.

It was that integrity that was his greatest gift to gaming culture.

And so, on this day, I tip my hat to John Bain and offer my condolences to his family, friends, and fans all across the world.

Let the example he set be the benchmark for the next generation of gaming media personalities. When those he inspired become the next stars of gaming culture, I think we’ll all be grateful that TotalBiscuit’s star shined as brightly as it did.

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Beware: gamerchick.contact@gmail.com is not me or anyone associated with me.

I’ve gotten a ton of notices at this point over the last few days from developers trying to verify that I requested a review code of their game from the email address gamerchick.contact@gmail.com

That is not me. That is someone posing as me trying to score free games. As my FAQ states, I don’t take review codes unless the game isn’t out yet. And typically when I do request reviews, I do so on social media, specifically from @IndieGamerChick on Twitter.

By the way, this tactic is super common, so to all indie developers, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Make sure the requests are coming from the authentic source, not someone posing as the famous (or in my case, pseudo-famous) gaming personality.

The Turning Points That Weren’t: The Most Overrated Moments in Gaming History – Part 1

Toys R Us is shutting down, and gamers everywhere are now asking themselves “what places will I not be shopping at for my games, now?” It’s weird to me how our community is making such a big deal out of this when I have to believe most of you haven’t set foot in a TRU since the Bush administration. Look, I’m sorry for all the jobs lost that comes with a major, iconic company shutting down, but this was a long time in the making. Nostalgia is the only reason any gamer in 2018 is shedding tears over that damn giraffe being shot down by big boxes on safari. I don’t get nostalgic, even though Toys R Us is directly tied to my status as a gamer. In July of 1998, my parents took soon-to-be nine-year-old me to browse at the store and figure out what I wanted for my birthday. After I spent roughly thirty minutes playing Banjo-Kazooie on a kiosk, my decision was crystal clear.

But, as important as that is to my gaming heritage, Toys R Us is completely inconsequential to the history of gaming. No different from the closings of KB Toys or Blockbuster Video or any other once-powerhouse source for games.

Actually, I think the death of Toys R Us is a great chance to teach young children about life and death. And in that spirit, I propose that TRU use whatever funds they can round-up to purchase giraffes for the purpose of euthanizing them in front of children on the final day before closure of each location. This will also act as an effective form of revenge against the competitors that put you out of business since any child who witnesses this won’t ask parents to buy toys from those stores.. or for that matter, any toy from any retailer at all.. ever again. I fully release this idea to you, Toys R Us. Go out with a bang. Or a very large syringe full of barbiturates.

And it got me to thinking: what are the most overrated moments in gaming history? Stuff that people make a big deal about, but ultimately don’t even matter all that much. I came up with six, which I’ll now present in no particular order.

Various Hardware Busts

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. No, it doesn’t really matter all that much when consoles don’t capture the public’s imagination. Take the Dreamcast, for example. It flopped so badly that it knocked Sega clean out of the console business, right?

Wrong. Sega’s days in the manufacturing business were numbered before the Dreamcast even launched in North America. Isao Okawa had been advocating to become a third-party for years and only relented on going forward with the Dreamcast on the grounds that it experimented with internet options. When he became the CEO of Sega in 2000, that was the end of Sega as a console maker. Before an official announcement was made, the heads of Sega’s first-party studios were openly talking about hoping to see their games on other platforms. They never would have said that type of stuff in public if the winds of change weren’t already blowing. It would have been career-suicide to undermine the Dreamcast like that. While I do still firmly believe Sega would have stuck it out for another generation if Dreamcast had included a DVD drive and sold better, Sega insiders I’ve spoken with insist that engineers who talked about the next generation were shut down immediately. I’ve heard it enough that I figure it has to be true. Hell, I’ve even heard rumor that part of Sega’s deal with Microsoft for the DC’s Windows operating system included a handshake commitment to abandoning manufacturing at the start of the next generation.

It’s worth pointing out that Okawa was dying by time he made his ruling on Sega’s status. And that Sega’s biggest problem wasn’t the money lost on Dreamcast, but the money lost on SegaNet. Remember that? Well, if the lost money of the Dreamcast was equal to a firing barrel, the lost money on SegaNet was the sun. It was so bad that the only way Sega could survive the transition to being a third-party (stay tuned for more on that in part 2) was if Okawa forgave all the loans he had given the company out of his personal wealth AND returned all $700,000,000 worth of shares in the company he had. Which he did. Nice guy.

Other failures get cited often enough that I suppose I should list them. Virtual Boy is Nintendo’s most famous belly-flop in their Scrooge McDuck-style money silo. But actually, Nintendo fully anticipated laying a less than golden egg at least six months before it even shipped. I know, right? They only moved forward with manufacturing because they were so far along in the process that it made less sense to not launch. Unlike the fiasco with the SNES CD-ROM drive, the Virtual Boy was made of relatively cheap materials and the technology they were paying a license on wasn’t really that expensive. Nintendo certainly didn’t overspend on R & D, nor did they suffer insane amounts of inventory crush. Dollar for dollar, Nintendo’s biggest R & D loser ever is in fact the SNES CD-ROM project. It’s not even close. If vaporware isn’t fair, the dishonor goes to the Nintendo 64 DD Drive, developed entirely in-house and a major project within the company that barely made it to market (and doing so in Japan only) and sold under 20,000 units once it was on shelves. So it’s kind of funny that Virtual Boy is the flop everyone talks about when it’s not even in the top two. To put Virtual Boy’s impact on Nintendo in perspective, Sony lost more money on their Ghostbusters reboot than Nintendo did on Virtual Boy.

The Virtual Boy of movie directors. I kid. I thought Spy was perfectly fine.

What about Saturn you say? You mean the console that dominated the original PlayStation for the first two years of their existence in Japan? Botched North American launch and legacy notwithstanding, it was Sega’s only console that actually had traction over competitors in Japan. Hell, in Japan the Genesis (or Mega Drive over there) was third to the TurboGrafx 16 (PC Engine, Christ, how did gaming need so much time to figure out to have one universal name for your consoles?) at the start of its life cycle and stayed that way until NEC essentially bowed-out.

What about the 3DO?  Believe it or not, it was profitable. And then, once they transitioned to a third-party company, they were even more profitable. They died a miserable death when the children who loved Army Men games became old enough to become actual Army Men, but at one point, they were one of the most profitable third-party game companies in the world.

I would argue the most consequential failure of gaming hardware in my gaming lifetime (1996 to the present) was actually the Vita. Sony gave up on development for it quickly and there’s been no talk of them returning to that space. The 3DS line has shown that there’s still a market for handheld games, so you can’t blame the rise of mobile on Sony’s portable exit. And hardcore gamers loved both the PSP and Vita. At one point, the Vita was my primary gaming device. It’s the one flop I’ve witnessed that knocked a major console manufacturer out of the business because of the flop alone and not all the residual bullshit that comes with it, like the toll on share prices or devaluing the brand name.

Dreamcast? Nah. It’s not that big a deal. It sucks how quickly it died, but gaming is probably better off with Sega as a third-party.

Gaming Magazines Closing

I’ve already “reviewed” gaming magazines here. By the way, fun fact: of all the articles I’ve done, that’s the one that got me the most hatred. Not my Sonic CD review. Not my Cuphead review. Saying “meh, who cares about Game Magazines?” is the one that had me fitted for a bullet-proof vest. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, though I do have Brian taste my food for me when we eat out. For all I know there’s still an angry chef out there who has to occasionally bury his face in his hands and cry over the death of Nintendo Power that might still have it in for me.

I had this cover analyzed by a team of scientists and they determined it is not physically possible to put in less effort on a magazine cover.

Personally, I was a big fan of EGM, but by time it dropped dead in 2009, it was already a shell of itself. Plus, you know, the Internet was a thing by that point. A lot of gamers point at the loss of gaming magazines as an almost loss of innocence. My question is, did the magazines really die? Aren’t gaming websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitch, etc, the logical evolutionary legacy of those magazines? Like how the dinosaurs gave way to birds, magazines like EGM or Game Pro gave rise to, for better or worse, sites like IGN, stars like PewDiePie, and independent bloggers like yours truly? That’s why I get a terrific giggle out of how much hate mail I got from my magazine article. Because, when you think about it, Indie Gamer Chick is one of many heirs to the legacy of your childhood gaming rags. Flame me all you want, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

By the way, I’m perfectly aware of the irony that I rag on gaming mags but still did the dance of eternal happiness to have been featured in an editorial in Game Informer last year. Hey, I never said I wasn’t an amazingly two-faced hypocrite.

Hot Coffee

Ah, Hot Coffee. It’s gaming’s version of Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl. A moment in time where the reaction was so much worse than the reality. For those that don’t know what Hot Coffee is, I assure you, I’m not talking about Starbucks.

Sometimes content in a game hits the cutting room floor, but it’s cheaper (or downright needed based on how a game is programmed) to just cut off access to parts of the game than it is to actually delete parts of the code itself. Thus, the content is no longer part of the game, but if you have a means to manipulate the code, you might regain access to it. When I was a kid, Animal Crossing on the GameCube had NES games (among them, the original Legend of Zelda) you could only access with devices like Action Replay. And can you tell I only brought that up because I find the idea of talking about something so cutesy as Animal Crossing in the same breath as bringing up hardcore simulated sex in Grand Theft Auto to be hilarious?

Because I totally do.

And am.

I suspect such content is probably in Animal Crossing anyway. I mean, his name is Tom NOOK. That’s one letter shy of a really good time.

So yea, someone figured out that there was a deleted mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that allowed you to have full on sex. No censorship either. Just straight up baby-making in all its disgusting glory. Here, have a look. Just, remember, this is not safe for work.

And holy crap, did the industry completely lose their shit over this. Even though you needed some form of third-party intervention to access the mini-game, the ESRB upgraded (or downgraded, depending on your level of prudishness) San Andreas to the dreaded adults-only rating and retailers pulled it from shelves. And then politicians got involved, with no less than Hillary Clinton calling for ESRB ratings to be federally mandated. Which is strange since the ESRB is part of the Entertainment Software Association. Which is, you know, a lobbyist. It seems like a weird position for anyone campaigning to limit the power of lobbyists to take. But then again, if you’re a politician that isn’t at least a little hypocritical, that’s usually taken as a sign of some kind of moral flabbiness that should be avoided at all costs.

So yea, it was a shit show of epic proportions. But, what ultimately was done about it? Well, Rockstar deleted the offending code and re-released the game, and for a while developers stopped merely cutting off unused game content and outright mandated deleting it, but that lasted about, well, a cup of coffee.

Personally, I’m surprised CJ could get laid at all. I mean, look at him. That neck makes him look like he’s Groot’s long-lost half-brother.

It’s a shame, really. This could have been an amazing chance for the game industry to grow. To have a much-needed conversation about whether or not we were ready for games that truly are only for adults. This was all back in 2005. Now, here it is 2018. There still hasn’t been a truly adult-only game on consoles. Hell, since Hot Coffee happened, I have played a game where I performed an abortion. On a guy. After fighting undead Nazi fetuses that used Hitler’s actual voice.

That game had an M rating. And I didn’t have to hack anything to access it. It’s literally part of a boss fight. So was Hot Coffee a product of its time? Would it be an outrage if it happened today? Am I actually suggesting some major AAA should hide a sex mini-game in their code and then leak it just so we can find out? Why yes. Yes I am. Look at it this way: your project will get unprecedented mainstream coverage and desirability after the inevitable over-reaction. And if it goes bad, hey, the industry will be no worse off.

Or it will be completely destroyed. Either/or.

Stay tuned for Part 2. I only promise that it’ll make more sense than Last Jedi.

XBLIG invades IndieCade

This is the single greatest pleasure I’ve had in my entire Indie Gamer Chick existence. I am so proud to announce that Xbox Live Indie Games will be getting their own panel at this year’s IndieCade event. Farewell, Xbox Live Indie Games, 2008 – 2017: A Retrospective will take part October 6, 2017 at IndieCade in Los Angeles. Tickets to the event are available now.

The 2008 launch of Xbox Live Indie Games (initially ‘Community Games’) represented a major step in the democratization of access to the console gaming audience. For the first time, individual creators had a route to getting their homebrew games onto the leading games console. How did this come about and who benefited the most? What were the stand-out games and where did the leading creators move on to? As Microsoft prepares to shut down the platform once and for all, this panel explores the highs and lows of the XBLIG ecosystem from its rocky beginnings through to maturity and conclusion.

I’ll have more details in the near future. Until then, check out IndieCade’s website and Twitter.

XBLIG II: The Revenge

“Hey Indie Gamer Chick, did you hear? Xbox Live Indie Games are back!”
-Roughly 20,000 emails, Tweets, and naked skydivers.

Yes, I heard. So Xbox One now has “Creator’s Collection.” Self-published games that don’t have access to achievements, online play, or, for the most part, talent. I kid. Hey come on, XBLIG is back. You’ll permit me to be a little retro-evil, won’t you?

I’ve spoken a lot about Xbox Live Indie Games in the recent past. With the shutdown of the previous generation imminent, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for it. I wouldn’t be Indie Gamer Chick without XBLIG. Without the community accepting me, embracing me, and inspiring me to be a better game critic. And then the community all went their separate ways, and I started reviewing everything but XBLIGs. I mean everything. I snuck-in a review of novelty gumballs into a game review for fuck’s sake.

So XBLIG is back. XBLIG II. And yes, that’s what I’m calling it. Creator’s Collection is a stupid name. CC for short. “Give me 5 CCs of barely functional indie games, stat!” I’m sure it’s not going to be the same as it was in 2011. Different slate of wide-eyed, optimistic dreamers. A different gaming scene. Indies are now a larger part of gaming culture. And, frankly, I’m not the same person I was in 2011 when I started reviewing games.

And yet, it only took me about two seconds browsing the first selection of XBLIG IIs to take me back to that moment many summers ago, holding $100 worth of Microsoft Point cards, gazing upon the marketplace for the first time as a game critic instead of a game consumer. I figured it would be fun for about a week or two, until something else came along. Six years later, here I am. And XBLIG is back. And I’m still known as “the girl who reviews XBLIGs.”

I’m coming home.

Calling on Xbox Live Indie Game Developers: Preserve Our Community’s Legacy

We are less than two months away from the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace on Xbox 360 closing forever. If you’re a fan of indie gaming, you can still purchase many of the best indies you’ve never heard of for as little as $1 off the Xbox Live Marketplace on your Xbox 360 Dashboard or by going here. My understanding is that once you purchase a game, you’ll always have access to it and the ability to download it whenever you want, long after the market is gone. And even if that wasn’t true, come on. Do you really expect $1 to $5 to be a permanent investment every time? Do you still have every delicious Mega Fruit Gum you spent $1 for at the vending machine? (Well, okay fine, I do. I’m planning on turning them into the world’s first functional real-life Katamari ball. Watch for me on a future episode of Fail Army)

Having said all that, there are many Xbox Live Indie Games that will disappear forever in just a few weeks. They have no PC port, no other console ports, and I’m fairly sure nobody has ever actually owned an Ouya.

IndieGamerChick.com was founded as an Xbox Live Indie Games review site. My mascot, Sweetie, was originally just XBLIG’s generic ghost/octosquid-thingy mascot with a bow added to it (I figured “hey, nobody would ever think to take an established yellow gaming mascot, add a bow to it and call it something new and hope nobody notices”) that eventually evolved into my Seal of Approval.

When I hit the scene on July 1, 2011, I never expected that I would not only still be doing this six years later, but that I would have become such a central part of the Xbox Live Indie Game community. Even today, I’m still known as “that girl who reviews XBLIGs”, even though I’ve reviewed exactly one over the last three years. But, like many people associated with indie gaming today, I got my start with XBLIG, and I’ll never forget that. And I’ll especially never forget the developers and leaders who welcomed me and embraced what I was trying to do with my reviews of their games, which weren’t always so nice. I will always treasure what they did for me. And I will always be an XBLIG Chick.

I always have said I’m not a cheerleader. That a game critic is not a salesperson. Our job is to evaluate, not convince. But that’s bullshit of course. There was no person on this planet who wanted XBLIG to succeed more. Who wanted its developers to thrive more. Nobody screamed louder for your victories or cried harder for those hidden gems that went criminally unnoticed. When the opportunity presented itself, I teamed with Desura and Indie Royale to curate a bundle that consisted entirely of ports of some of the best games XBLIG had to offer. I did everything I could to include as many developers as I could. Ultimately, the Indie Gamer Chick Bundle had eight primary games and two bonus games from ten different developers, making it the most diverse bundle Indie Royal ever did in its existence. One of the greatest joys of my life is that the sales for that bundle exceeded expectations and gave a second wind to a platform that always struggled to find its audience.

Xbox Live Indie Games will always be special to me. And the thought that any of the games of it, good or bad, disappearing forever has me completely heartbroken. So, I put out this call, to all Xbox Live Indie Game developers: this is our legacy. We need to preserve it. So please, I beg you, put a PC port of your game(s) somewhere, anywhere, where gamers can access it. Put it up for free on Itch.io for free or pay-what-you-want. Tinker with it. Enhance it. Go all George Lucas on it. Just don’t let it disappear. To show where you were as a developer, to show how far you’ve come along, to remind you that you’re always getting better and how bright your futures can be. Please, help preserve our legacy. I can help you find people to help you with the porting process. Just don’t let our history fade into the Aether. We were here. We changed gaming forever. We were, and always will be, XBLIG.

Effective October 1, 2017, all Xbox Live Indie Games on the IndieGamerChick.com Leaderboard that do not have availability outside of XBLIG will be removed from ranking on the board and instead placed in a special “Gone But Not Forgotten” list under the board. If you want to know where to start with the best Xbox Live Indie Games before the market closes, check out the Leaderboard. Remember, to the best of my knowledge you will retain access to all XBLIGs you purchase on your Xbox 360 after the market shuts down in September.

Game Informer’s Feature on Gaming Accessibility, Featuring Yours Truly

Remember when I said that Game Informer had interviewed me for a feature on gaming accessibility? It was published in last month’s magazine, and is now free to view online.

Go have a read: Gaming For All: How The industry Is Striving To Accommodate Disabled Gamers

Thank you

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