My Reviews are Biased

This is going to come as an incredible shock to my dozens of readers, but all the reviews I’ve ever posted at Indie Gamer Chick had some degree of bias in them. And I’m not talking about that ridiculous “objective review” nonsense, though I suppose that requires a quick addressing: no reviews are objective. They are all 100% subjective. Every single review you’ve ever read or watched, by every single critic, in every single field. All of them subjective. There’s no objectivity in them. None. Zero.

If a critic claims any degree of objectivity, they’re both lying and full of themselves. Believing you are objective about your opinions while everyone who disagrees with you is subjective is a sign of clinical narcissism. This applies to gamers too. When someone is mad about one of my reviews, about one-third of the time they’ll try to use the classic “the game you bitched about is objectively good” argument. I find it hilarious that people who are so in-love with games that their entire life is based around finding all dissenting opinions so they can white-knight for them will say you are the one not being objective. Because their slobbering fandom that forces them to base their self-esteem around everyone else liking the game as much as they do came about entirely through objective means.

Uh huh.

No, actually your opinion is just as subjective as mine AND you’re a narcissistic asshole just for thinking you’re at all objective. That’s just how it is.

But that’s not why I’m here today. We need to talk about this notion that games are reviewed in a vacuum. That a critic has to be a complete blank slate when playing a game. This is such a ludicrous notion that I literally can’t believe I have to write an editorial explaining just how absurd thinking this way is, but it comes up all the time. All the time.

In over seven years of being a game critic, I’ve never once had someone who agreed with one of my reviews tell me I needed to be more objective. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I’ve been writing game reviews since July 1, 2011, when I opened Indie Gamer Chick. But, I started playing games much earlier. I’m lucky, because I know the two most important dates for my gaming upbringing: December 25, 1996 (when I got a PlayStation with Crash Bandicoot under the Christmas Tree) and July 11, 1998 (when I got a Nintendo 64 with Banjo-Kazooie for my 9th birthday). The former planted the seed for my gaming existence. The latter could arguably be the most important day of my entire life, because that’s the point where gaming became my passion. I was lucky growing up too, because money was never an issue with my family, and gaming was the one thing my parents spoiled me with. I got a lot of games. Mostly because it was such a positive influence on my life. The only thing I wasn’t allowed to play was M rated games (besides Perfect Dark and Halo, which I played entirely multiplayer), because my parents were afraid that if I was allowed to play such filth I might grow up to be someone who regularly uses vulgarity and jokes about arbitrary murder. The results speak for themselves.

So, if you do the math, between the start of my full-time gamer existence and the time I became a game critic, that adds up to 4,738 days I was a game player but not a game critic. Apparently, the argument about game criticism is I’m not supposed to allow any of the opinions, preferences, or biases that I formed on the thousands of games I consumed in those 4,738 days to shape my opinions of the games I play now. Not to mention the thousands of extra days since then that I’ve been an actual critic.

Seriously?

You guys realize that game critics aren’t robots, right? We can’t just turn that shit on and off. If a critic claims they can, that critic is lying, either to you or to themselves. You shouldn’t read them because they can’t be trusted. They’ll spend their entire review more focused on trying to come across as neutral and not enough on making sure their opinions are expressed honestly and articulately. I’m going to tell you the truth: my reviews.. all of them.. are in some way tainted by my cumulative gaming experience. When I play any game, I have some form of an expectation of what a game should or shouldn’t do.

For example, I just played a title called Emerald Shores for PlayStation 4. It’s a platformer that has RPG mechanics. Within just seconds of starting the actual gameplay, I realized Emerald Shores would have problems. The controls were incredibly loose and floaty, which meant precision movement would be very difficult. So naturally the game, right from the opening stages, relied heavily on very narrow platforms with spikes or pits surrounding them. The collision detection is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. You can have what appears to be a comfortable amount of distance between you and the spikes and still take damage. The enemies in the early stages require jumping on them as much as fifteen times to kill. FIFTEEN! Even the first enemies take around eight jumps. Imagine if the first two Goombas in Super Mario Bros. took eight jumps each to kill. It’d be horrible. And Emerald Shores is horrible. It would have to be in the discussion of the worst games I’ve ever played.

You’ll notice in this picture I’m taking damage from the spike in front of me. The one I’m not even grazing. Emerald Shores might be the worst game on PlayStation 4. I’ve spoken with quality indie developers who are downright distraught that such a piece of shit of a game can get a listing while they can’t.

But, if I could truly play Emerald Shores in a vacuum, like some brain-dead people seem to believe I should, how would I know it was bad? By what standard would I measure it? Would someone look at the fact that when you push the controller in one direction and the character on the screen moves that direction, that the game works and therefore it must be objectively good? That if you push the jump button and the character jumps instead of doing anything but jumping, that the developer achieved what they set out to do and thus the game is successful? I’m asking because I’m often questioned when I post a negative review why I was so harsh and never considered if the game “achieved what it set out to do?”

Achieved what it set out to do? As opposed to what? Crashing during the load screen? Shitting itself? Gaining sentience and attacking you through the screen like the girl from The Ring?

Did it achieve what it set out to do?

Are you fucking kidding me?

Who gives a shit if it achieved what it set out to do? IS IT FUN? Have we really reached the point where you can’t say a game sucks, no matter how lazy, broken, or unplayable it is, as long as it boots up and the stuff the developer wanted to do is in the game, mangled or not? Because if the standard of excellence is being faithful to the developer’s intent, you can’t really consider whether the game is fun to play, can you?

“Achieved what it set out to do.” Oh please. You know, I’ve never heard of a person who set out to build a bridge and somehow made a video game by accident. “Well, I’d like to give this game high marks, but the developer’s intent was to find a cure for cancer and instead they ended up making NHL 2019. Fun game but it’s not what they set out to do, so I rate it a 2.5 out of 10. The .5 is because it might have cleared up my cataracts.”

Once upon a time, I thought Goldeneye (and Perfect Dark) would be untouchable in the realm of first person shooters. But I was 10-years-old when I started playing it, and my sample-size for FPSs was 0. Ten-year-old me played Goldeneye in a vacuum. 29-year-old me did not, and it really doesn’t hold up by any standard today except historical importance, which doesn’t make a game more fun to play in 2018.

I had thirteen years of gameplay experience to draw upon when starting Indie Gamer Chick. That I grew to like some genres more than others should be obvious. But, as a game critic, I’m expected to pretend that none of those things factors into my reviews. If I dislike overly difficult games like Cuphead, people say that I’m letting my opinions get in the way of my.. uh.. opinions? Huh? You guys realize reviews are opinions, right? When people say that portions of games are “objectively” good, I ask by what standard? Because that stuff is all subjective too. Every component of every game is subjective. That the game is a game is the one objective thing about it (well, unless it’s something like Proteus, where it’s subjective as to whether it’s a game or a glorified screen-saver). Whether it looks good or plays good is subjective no matter how universally acclaimed it is. The same people who want me to put aside my personal opinions also want me to dip into my accumulated gaming experience to concede that the game is good by the standards of other games, even if I disagree with that. It seems like a double standard to me, and it’s a reminder that the “objective” argument comes only from self-righteous types with absolutely no understanding of what objectivity means.

I’ve had people say AH HA! like they caught my hand in the cookie jar when I unflinchingly declare that my reviews are biased and completely subjective. Well, no shit they are. Not biased in the sense that I favor some developers over others (my dev friends who had to watch as I delivered scathing reviews of their work might secretly wish I was that type of biased), but biased in the sense that I openly admit I’m almost certain to like certain games more than others. This is true of every critic, but a lot of us don’t admit to it. I think because it sounds unprofessional. Really, shouldn’t the opposite be true? Shouldn’t a professional critic have significantly more experience dissecting games than you or I? Critics are humans, and humans favor some things over others, even if they shouldn’t. That’s why every parent has a favorite child. Long before I was a game critic, I was someone who only read reviews, and I often wished I knew what writers liked and didn’t like going into the game being covered. That’d been nice to know, because I could have weighed that against the body of the review itself. Context is everything.

That’s why, when I know those preferences that I’ve had for years factored into my opinion, I always try to find a way to disclose it within the first part of the review. For my Yoku’s Island Express review, the first few paragraphs provide my readers with the following information:

  1. That I’m a fan of Metroidvanias, so much so that they’re probably my favorite genre.
  2. That I love pinball..
  3. But I don’t play a lot of video pinball.

Don’t you think those three things are important for people to know when I’m sharing my opinion on a game that combines a Metroidvania with video pinball?

Yea, me too.

But, a large population of gamers believes that a critic shouldn’t allow these personal biases to factor into a review. How stupid and/or silly is that? How do you expect the review to be useful without ANY context? Because really, isn’t that what the argument comes down to? Removing context?

Since writing the Yoku’s Island review, I’ve had a lot of people bombard me with “if you liked it, you’ll like..” suggestions for similar games that mix video pinball with other things. Apparently a golden age for video pinball mashups dawned and I slept through it.

If you review games in a vacuum, you draw your opinion from a pool of zero games. Any game you review has to be the best ever made and the worst ever made. In that world, Emerald Shores doesn’t control bad because I have nothing to cite that controls good. The collision detection isn’t horrible, because I don’t know that taking damage from spikes you’re not even touching is sloppy design. If I could erase all previous gaming experience from my head, I might very well be mesmerized by Emerald Shores, believing it to be the single greatest achievement in entertainment in human history.

Want proof that I’m right? Ask any gamer in their 40s about their favorite childhood games and how much time they put into them, and then go play those games now. I recently purchased Atari Vault for Steam, which contains one hundred games, most of which are first-party Atari games for the Video Computer System (aka the Atari 2600). I’ve long wanted to experience for myself the childhood classics that raised the majority of my readers (who tend to be ten years older than me), and Atari Vault has options to remove the dangerous-for-my-epilepsy flicker many vintage games had. What did I discover? The games that owned their childhood are, in many cases, so fundamentally bad on many levels that they’re practically unplayable today. I’m not talking about the graphics or the limitations, but just the raw, naked gameplay. Without any historical context, they’re really bad. But, by the standards of the time, they must have been incredible.

Let’s use Warren Robinett’s 1979 classic Adventure as an example. It’s an undisputed all-timer. Probably the most commonly-cited “still holds up today” game in entire VCS catalog. But, when I played it, I honestly could not comprehend how anyone would argue it still holds up. A bland, personality-devoid maze game. It’s a dot. It’s a maze. There’s ducks. There’s arrows. There’s a bridge you can pick up and move around that you can easily drop in a way you can’t retrieve. Yea, randomly generated maps is nifty, especially for its time. But, like, it’s just kind of boring. At least today, without the historical context. It certainly can’t stand on its own in 2018. And it’s not even fair to try and make it.

Having said that, I’m so in favor of the Dot being added to the Smash Bros Ultimate roster.

But in 1979, gamers played Adventure in a vacuum, because there was nothing like it. The impact it had on their gaming lives, which carries over nearly 40 years later, is every bit as real as the impact Goldeneye had on my life. A game that, at the age of ten, I found no fault in. Of course I didn’t. My sample-size to compare it to was 0 first-person games and probably under 100 total games. Or, going more extreme, how about Crash Bandicoot? It wasn’t the first game I ever played (my family tells me that would be Super Mario Kart for the SNES), but it was the first game I ever wanted. Is it fair for me to say Crash Bandicoot is one of the most important titles of my life? Yes. Is it morally right for me to recommend people buy it today, in 2018, over games that I, myself, would rather play today, now that I have a lifetime of context to stack Crash up against? No. Actually, that seems like it would be a shitty thing to do.

That’s why I prefer to disclose all my preferences and biases in my reviews. It levels the playfield. It gives my readers the information they need to know. If they’re looking for the opinions of someone who enjoys the camp and quirk of classic FMVs, they know within the first line of my review for Press X to Not Die that I’m not the critic they should be reading. “I hate FMV games..” Simple and to the point. Now, all the words that follow have context that my fans can weigh against them. Yea, I hated Press X to Not Die, but I was predisposed to hating it. I admitted it, because otherwise I’m doing a disservice to my fans. I serve at the pleasure of my readers. I have to do right by them.

No, I don’t want to play Crash again. I played it once. Why do people think it’s weird that I’d rather play stuff I’ve never experienced before?

When my readers absorb one of my reviews, there’s not just getting the opinions of Cathy Vice for the hours that I played the game in question. In a way, each review I do is something that my entire gaming life built up to. When I fawn over Dead Cells, I know it’s good because every previous game I’ve played had some role in that enjoyment. Perhaps the fact that I’m open about not liking roguelikes adds extra weight to those words. Or, maybe when I talk glowingly about Axiom Verge, my review means more to some readers and less to others because my favorite genre is Metroidvanias. Most importantly, the experience of playing those will carry over to the next games I review. A critic is the sum of their parts just as much as a game is.

And that lifetime of opinions and preferences and biases is what makes your opinion matter. I wouldn’t buy golf clubs based on a review by someone who had never previously swung one up to that point. So, why would anyone expect that from a game critic? Reviews are a dime a dozen. Anyone can do them. It’s not just my opinion that my readers value, but rather everything that led to that opinion. That doesn’t just start when I became Indie Gamer Chick. That goes all the way back to a little girl on Christmas morning playing Crash Bandicoot and having a blast right up until she fell into the acid seven times in a row, flipped the controller in the air and blurted out “FUCKERS” while her parents gasped in horror. I wish when they were taking a belt to me that, someone had been there to tell them that a pseudo-famous game critic had just been born. That context would have been nice for them to have had.

Emerald Shores releases on November 21. A review copy was supplied to Indie Gamer Chick. During the week of November 21, a copy of Emerald Shores will be purchased by Cathy. All games reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick are paid for in full by Cathy.

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Something Incredible

Seven years.

That’s a long time.

As I sat here to gather my thoughts on beginning my seventh year as Indie Gamer Chick, that number kept hitting me. Has it really been that long already? My brain refused to process this information to such a degree that I ended up counting the years from 2011 to today convinced that I simply had to be wrong about the fundamentals of mathematics this entire time. “4.. 5.. 6.. huh, I guess it really is seven.”

It sounds almost wrong. I mean, seven years? That’s how old I was when my parents bought me my first game console, an original PlayStation, for Christmas in 1996. I don’t know. It just seems like the number should feel longer ago. Hell, there were already three Transformers movies when I opened IGC. Then again, Green Lantern had also just come out and that feels like a lifetime ago.

Time is weird. The perception of time. The way it messes with your head. I remember like it was yesterday the moment when Brian and I were going through games on my Xbox 360 and he asked me why Breath of Death VII’s “box art” looked different. It’s what set in motion the creation of Indie Gamer Chick. And yet, I look at some of my reviews from just three or four years ago and I’m like “when the Hell did I write THIS this review?” Given my less than stellar level of review productivity over the last few years, it seems hard to believe that I’ve cranked out over six-hundred reviews and editorials in that time. Most of those came in the first three years.

The vast majority of people who recognize me or know of this “Indie Gamer Chick” person these days probably know me more from social media than from my actual blog. I’m active on Twitter (some say too active) and do my best to reply to everyone who takes the time to message me (for some reason, WordPress insists I want that to read “massage me.” Hey, if y’all want, but I warn you, I’m a bit bony). And that’s weird because I’ve always sort of considered Indie Gamer Chick to be an exaggerated, semi-fictionalized version of the real me. The real Cathy, without a filter. Maybe Indie Gamer Chick is the way I wish I really was. Quick-witted, confident, secure in who I am. It surprises people when they hear that in real life, I didn’t even start to speak in complete sentences until I was sixteen years old. I’m on the autism spectrum, and it’s super obvious for the most part (even though my particular diagnosis of PDD-NOS is no longer really used). I grew out of some of the more intense effects of that, such as the no-complete sentences stuff, but I can’t even hold eye contact with those I love to this day.

I look at what I’ve done as Indie Gamer Chick. Not just the reviews or making fans (which still sounds bizarre to me. I have fans? WTF?) but moments where I know I made a positive impact on someone’s life, and I ask myself how I ever grew up to be that person. I never was fated to be that. One time the mother of a developer whose game hadn’t caught on, who couldn’t get any coverage, contacted me. I had reviewed her son’s game and gave it the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval. He’d heard of me but hadn’t asked me to review his game. I picked it out at random to play, and I liked it. I thought he showed great potential. And I ended up talking with him and told him that very few people will make it as top-tier indie developers, but if he was genuinely passionate and loved making games as much as he loved playing them when he was younger, to keep pushing forward. That was in 2012. Today that guy is a project manager at a major AAA studio. And last week he sent me a note saying “you know, I was going to quit until I saw your review.”

Wow.

Seven years later and I still get stories like that all the time. I’ve loved video games since I was a kid. Loved them. When I developed epilepsy at the age of sixteen, I was considering suicide if the doctors had come back and said I wouldn’t be able to play games ever again. I’m not proud that I was, but it’s true. I loved gaming so much that young me couldn’t imagine a life without it.

Being part of gaming? I never thought about that. I never aspired to it. Just one summer day, nothing to do, no new games coming out, and a chance encounter on my Xbox 360 dashboard with one of the two XBLIGs I had previously bought and my life was changed forever.

Seven years later, and it’s still something incredible.

Thank you so much to the entire indie game community. I love you all. Thank you for the best seven years of my life. And here’s to the next seven yet to come.

-Cathy Vice
June 30, 2018

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.

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.

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