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Full Force: Fandom and the Fan Experience

Full Force is GFN’s in-depth look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists take a look at the fandom in general and what it means today.

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To you, what does it mean to be a “fan”?

LadyCroft3: To me, being a fan is simply liking something enough to go beyond just watching/playing/reading something, to have a passion for the thing you are a fan of. It’s hard to explain really since every fan handles the thing they are a fan of differently and there are varying degrees of being a fan. Some fans may just watch every new episode of a show while others dedicate all their free time to being an active part of message boards or getting deep into character backstories, etc. I guess to put it plain and simple it’s liking something a whole lot more than just “Oh yeah, that’s a cool game” or “I read that book, it wasn’t bad”.

Cary: LadyCroft3 really hit the nail on the head. Fandom can take many forms, from the people who live their geeky loves to those who enjoy them a little less flamboyantly.But one thing that separates the fans from the rest of the general populace is the “must” factor. Being a fan means you “must” accomplish things for the sake of your fandom. I must have this book for my collection. I must watch the latest episode of my favorite show. I must attend the latest convention. And just as our interests evolve over time, those “musts” change too, and can become stronger or lighter depending on one’s life goals at any given moment.

Ashley: I totally agree. We all have different levels of “intensity” with the things we like, but I think being a fan means you really feel passionate about it. You want to talk about it. When you meet somebody else who likes the same thing, you feel an instant connection with that person. Being a fan can be kind of an emotional experience!

Chris: Yeah, intensity is one of the words that comes to mind for me as well. I don’t think you have to be a crazy ultra super supporter to be a fan, although there are a handful of franchises that I certainly get that excited about. Do you enjoy something to the point where you go back for more? Then you’re a fan in my book.

simpleek: I agree with what everyone has said about how they define what it is to be a fan. From my personal experience, there are things I “like” and then there are other things I “love” to the point I’m seeking any and all information about it. I’m also more likely to want to buy or collect merchandise on the fandom I’m really passionate about.

Grumbl3dook: You people are all crazy. Being a fan involves steady rotation at a set pace around a central axis while suspended from a ceiling…

The internet age has made fandom easier than ever, with forums, websites, message boards and Twitter accounts to give information on your favorite media. Does this access cheapen the experience, or simply make it more accessible for everyone?

LadyCroft3: I think social media makes everything more accessible. There are things that I am a fan of now that I never would have even known about if it hadn’t been for the internet. Plus, with message boards, fan pages and the like we can communicate with other fans and discuss ideas for the next game/book/episode/whatever or talk about our favorite characters and why we like them while seeing other people’s opinions too. I think it’s a good thing, but in moderation. As is the case with most things internet related.

Chip: This can be a tough spot for so many people, since being a fan of something normally means that is a part of your identity.  Some people can embrace the community of like-minded folks and use the various outlets of the internet to learn more about their favorite media and share in joy with other people.  But there are many people who feel threatened by the thing they love so much belonging to a bigger community. It can cause feelings of lost identity or begrudging others who aren’t necessarily just like you for enjoying the same piece of media.  Speaking personally, I have felt both sides of this coin with several of my favorites.

Cary: I’m very bad at wearing fandom on my sleeve…or social network, so I tend to keep my distance in that regard. Short of the things I write about online, I don’t usually take to the Internet to repeatedly proclaim my love of this or that. But while I may not be an initiator, I will gladly jump into existing conversations in order to become part of a fan community. So the Internet has, for me, made fandom a little more accessible. (That still doesn’t mean I’m ready to take to the proverbial mountaintops or anything.)

Ashley: I think social media makes things more accessible. For me, it’s a fun outlet to be a “fan,” since I’m pretty shy in real life and try not to ramble on too much about, say, Dragon Age if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know anything about it. Online, you can find more people to connect to who have the same interests. That being said, it can feel like overkill a little bit to scroll through pages and pages of Sherlock gifs on Tumblr. Some weeks, I love it; other weeks, I feel like I need a break. But it’s awesome that it’s out there, for sure!

Chris: Though it’s a fault of my own and not anyone else, I tend to rebel against things that become extremely popular. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve never picked up a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings book (or seen any of the movies) — by the time I had the chance to jump in myself, I had heard sooooo much about both of them that I didn’t want anything to do with it. The internet has been responsible for a large part of that problem. Still, objectively, I think it’s a massive improvement for fandom. You can find other people who love what you love and discuss the subject matter to death, even if no one in your area happens to like the same thing.

simpleek: The internet has been great with giving people access to the fandom they love. You have the option to either read other people’s discussions on the very topic you’ve been thinking of or participating in the discussion to get your own opinion out there. I used to participate in public forums back when Sailor Moon was huge and I’ve had a positive experience of just talking back and forth with people about a character or plot in the series. There’s a nice sense of community and inclusion when I used to frequent forums. These days, I don’t participate in forums all that much anymore, but I do read other people’s opinions about other fandoms I’m into when I feel like getting someone else’s perspective. Another great thing about the accessibility aspect is if you aren’t initially a fan of a particular video game, book, film, etc. but are interested in seeing if you want to give it a shot, it’s much easier to find the opinions of fans who have been into the very thing you’re looking into for a while online. It’s how I ended up deciding to buy certain video games or books. I discovered something new to love I probably wouldn’t have if there wasn’t much information and discussion about them.

“Fan” comes from the word fanatic, which usually has a negative connotation. The word “fanboy” (or girl) seems to be heading in the same direction. What can communities do to stay positive and welcoming while keeping a unique identity?

LadyCroft3: First, I think people should stop using fanboy or fangirl as a way to demean other people. I know that’s hard to do, but for example I don’t mind saying things like “I’m a huge Dean Winchester fangirl” because I am. I don’t see it as a bad thing, even though that word typically means you are over the top or blinded to everything else. To me it just means I really, really love Dean Winchester and consider myself a huge fan of his character. Aside from that, it’s always important to be as welcoming to new fans as possible. Being inclusive and not exclusive is really important and draws in larger crowds, making the community as a whole more diverse and open rather than snobby and uptight, which turns people away from liking cool things sometimes.

Ashley: I always associate “fangirl” with being a fan of a male character or group, but mostly for shallow reasons. Like how, when I was 12 years old, I was an N’Sync fangirl. (OKAY?! I loved them more than the Backstreet Boys.) That’s not a bad thing, but I always shy away from the term because it seems frivolous the way I think of it. However, I am totally a Garrus fangirl for a whole lot of reasons. And if these terms just means “fan,” I think they’re great. I also agree with what LadyCrof3 said, that it’s important to be welcoming as a fandom. The worst thing about fandom, for me, is that it feels like you have to pass some test to prove that you know everything about the subject at hand. But honestly, I have not had time in my life to watch every single episode of every single season of every single series of Star Trek. That does not mean I can’t be a true fan. I think the more we accept people at all levels of knowledge, the more positive the fandom experience will be for everyone. It should be a fun and inviting thing based on feeling connected to something, not necessarily knowing every single detail about it.

Chris: I’m a firm believer that words are only as important as the meaning we give them. So “fanboy” and “fangirl,” on the surface, are completely fine in my book. The problem is that like so many other things, these terms can be used in a derogatory fashion. I know that for many people, being a fan is a deeply personal experience, and some people feel threatened when others try to jump in as bandwagoners. But to me, if you really do love something, shouldn’t you want as many other people to take part in it as possible? If that’s the case, folks should stop deriding others who like similar things — and likewise, if you DON’T understand why somebody loves a series so much, don’t pass them off as a crazy fanboy/girl and demean the whole experience.

simpleek: I don’t mind calling myself a “fangirl” of let’s say Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Sailor Moon or whatever because it’s true. I get really excited about these fandoms because I love them to death. That doesn’t mean I’m a crazy person who can’t function in “normal” society either. Being a fan should, as everyone has already mentioned, be an inclusive experience. I love when you find other people who like the same things you do and you’re united in your passion and devotion to that fandom. When people start getting hostile against “fanboys” or “fangirls” because people either don’t get the hype or that person may not know everything there is to know about a series, then it sucks the fun out of loving a fandom. It’s a terrible feeling when you feel like you’re either a freak or not a “true fan.” It really comes down to respecting the other person for liking what they like and always being open to newer fans who are just discovering a fandom for the very first time. Connecting with other like minded people may actually give you a new friend you never would have met otherwise if it wasn’t for your shared interests.

Full Force: The Board Game Revolution

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists talk about the revival of board gaming.

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Board games are back with a vengeance, featuring more elaborate experiences than ever. Do you prefer the simpler games of olden days like Sorry and Monopoly, or the newer, more intricate releases such as Arkham Horror?

Crystal: I’ll admit that I haven’t played any recent board games. I did, however, play a lot of Sorry and Monopoly as a child. Some card games are fun too… I’m just more involved with video games now. I think in a sense, we as social people have transformed the way we communicate and interact with others. Maybe it’s because I’m growing up and I just don’t have the time to sit at a friend’s house and play board games, but it’s so much easier to hop online and play a quick game or two.

Grumbl3dook: I think there’s a little corner of my heart that will only ever be filled by the rattle of dice and that smell of cardboard and plastic you get when opening an old board game. Personally I don’t think complex board games will ever really catch on – sure there’ll be some obscure, cultish following XD but board games don’t necessarily appeal because they’re intriguing or complicated, they appeal because they’re a social activity you can play with a bunch of people IRL. That’s much easier to do with Monopoly that Advanced Quadratic Dream Coil Calculus Bot 57 or whatever crazy games are being brought out now!

LadyCroft3: Like Crystal, I must admit that I haven’t played any really recent board games (unless Scattergories counts). I prefer games like Clue or Sorry, my family is actually rather partial to Parcheesi actually so I have played a lot of that. In reality I never really played a lot of board games as I child or as an adult, I guess it wasn’t my thing. When friends and I get together to play a thing that isn’t a video game it’s typically Cards Against Humanity.

Murf: Oh, I am a huge board game fan. Honestly, the more recent classics are just as simple as those past experiences. Sure, you can get into the really elaborate titles that rival Risk and Monopoly in TIME TO COMPLETE ONE GAME, but games like Dominion and Ticket to Ride are super fast as well as challenging.

If I have a preference, it is for simpler titles. The older I get, the less opportunities I find to have my buddies over to play 5+ hours of a single board game. It can be incredibly difficult to get new players up to speed on some games too, so it is best to stick to those that are more pick up and play friendly.

Chip: I fall somewhere in-between the past and present of board gaming.  I grew up in a family that regularly brought out stuff like Cranium, Apples-to-Apples, and Clue.  Anytime I make the pilgrimage to visit my relatives, there is a guarantee of some form of family board game night.  It’s probably because of this early and frequent exposure to these titles that I have made friends with people who keep me up on the latest board games that hit the market.  We will regularly get together for game nights packed with hours of newer offerings like King of Tokyo, Dominion, and Settlers of Catan.

But my true preference for tabletop gaming is definitely card games.  Whether it’s collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering or classic playing card games like Euchre, I love the strategy and chance of the cards.

Chris: I like the collection of games you mentioned. There will always be a spot in my heart for the classics, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the board games that have come out in the last 5-10 years. Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Castle Panic, Smash Up, King of Tokyo, Formula D, Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Ticket to Ride, Last Night on Earth…the list goes on and on.

Now, that comes with a caveat — it can’t get TOO complicated. Arkham Horror doesn’t get played much these days because we got like four expansions for it and now games are three-hour marathons that are near impossible to explain to newcomers. But I’ll take something like Agricola over Sorry any day of the week.

Wrong Button: Both of our families were really into the classic board games when we were growing up. Emily: I remember playing a ton of Monopoly during family vacations. We were all so competitive though, that sometimes it turned into a yelling match. Like I would have Park Place and Boardwalk and my Dad would land on it and have to pay a $5,000 and would just walk away. Or that the games would last for 2 days because no one would give up. Peter: My siblings are quite a bit younger than me, so it was always easier to play the “family” games like Monopoly and Sorry!. When I was a teenager though, I got really into Yu-Gi-Oh with my friends and my brother, and my tabletop gaming progressed from there.

Now we’re definitely more into the newer tabletop games. We really like Forbidden Island, the Dragon Age RPG, Magic: The Gathering, Pandemic, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Munchkin and others. We’re huge fans of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop on Geek & Sundry and find out a lot about new games from watching the show.

Ashley: I love the new elaborate board games and the quirky RPG-style board games that are coming out these days. I did grow up playing Monopoly and LIFE and tons of card games — but nowadays I prefer games like the Battlestar Galactica board game, King of Tokyo, etc. I don’t play them a TON, but my coworkers play board games quite a bit, which has gotten me into them. Even during lunch breaks, we’ll play a quick game of King of Tokyo.

Why do you think board games have managed to make such a comeback, even though we’re in an age with immeasurable electronic options for gaming?

Grumbl3dook: Video games are more instantly accessible, but less personal. Until the eSports scene allows you to actually see your opponents weeping after a humiliating defeat (in high def 3d) there’s a savage, untamed part of all of us that’s drawn back to board games.

LadyCroft3: As Grumbl3dook stated, it’s a much more personal way to play with family and friends. I think that paired with the sheer amount of board games coming out based on pop culture shows and whatnot (The Walking Dead board game, The Big Bang Theory trivia game, etc.) it’s fun for the family that watches these shows/movies/what have you together.

Murf: With the exception of Nintendo, video games have pulled back from trying to emulate the ‘everyone in one room having a shared experience’ nature of board games. We all have our own screens, rooms, couches, etc. now that online play is so prevalent. Voice chat helps bring some of that old school feel back, but it isn’t quite the same. Board games will always have a place as long as video games can’t affordably be played en masse in a single room.

Chip: I agree with everyone thus far that board games provide a more personal way to play with your loved ones, but I also think it’s a matter of nostalgia and accessibility.  Not every person has played a videogame before (particularly older folks), but it seems like every person I have met has played a board or card game in some form.  Since there is a previous experience with cards or tokens, the challenge of learning a new game type seems less daunting than learning every button, key, and rule of most modern video games.

To look at it from another angle, think about some of the most popular mobile games.  Many of them are directly based on a board or card game (Words with Friends, Draw Something, all of those hangman clones).  These games have also brought board games back to the limelight, even if it is just tangentially.

Wrong Button: Everyone nailed it. Tabletop and board games are more personal and a little more accessible. For instance, Emily’s mom or sister would never sit down and play video games with us, but they’re down for a good game of Battleship. And with board games, you have to rely more on lucky draws, strategic planning, and working with other players, more so than you would on a video games. So even the most experienced gamer could lose if they get dealt a bad draw in Magic and even the most casual of gamers can win something like Ticket to Ride.

Ashley: Yep, I think playing board games is a fun built-in social activity. The electronic age has only made us like more kinds of games, but board games are still the best for a social experience. It’s super fun to play with friends and family, but also busting out a board game is a great way to break the ice if you have a group of people who don’t all know each other. I’m totally an advocate of having a board game on hand at a house party. But then, I only go to nerdy parties.

Chris: Can’t disagree with anything above. Board game nights are still a thing even now that I’ve moved out of the dorm stage of my life (and even the apartment stage). It’s an easy way to bring together a collection of people that don’t necessary overlap in their friend circles. What better way to get to know someone than to see what horrible combinations they put together in Cards Against Humanity, for example?

You’re stranded on a desert island, and a leprechaun steals the only item you brought with you. But a wizard murders the leprechaun and then offers to replace your item with one board game. What’s the one game you would play to fill time for the rest of your life?

Grumbl3dook:  Risk. No, Warhammer. No, D&D. No, wait, I have it: HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS. Also why is that damn wizard not just giving us our item back? Also, is it too late to change my answer to Jumanji?

LadyCroft3: But board games aren’t fun when you are alone… If I had to chose, I suppose I’d pick Mass Effect Risk. I could develop a second personality and play it against myself. That game can last forever.

Murf: As much as I love Risk, the thought of playing it on repeat with a bunch of monkeys and pirates for dibs on coconut and rum gives me a headache. Assuming I can have the expansions too, my preference goes to Dominion.

Dominion is a deck-building game. Players draw hands and use their hands to perform actions or buy new cards from a set of cards that are available to everyone to buy. To win, you must acquire as many Victory Points in your deck before the game concludes (based on a few factors mostly tied to cards running out).

It is incredibly varied and strategic. Each card you can purchase has the potential to shape your deck in radically different ways, completing changing your strategies for acquiring even more cards. Unlike most board games, it plays quickly but with depth. The cards might get soggy in the salt water though!

Chip: Ooh, Dominion is an excellent choice, Murf (especially if there are monkeys and pirates for opponents).  I also enjoy the variety of play styles and strategies that come from this deck-building game.

If I had access to a more literate and creative group of tropical animal companions on this deserted island (let’s use Disney logic), then I would prefer a game closer to Betrayal At House on the Hill.  I am a sucker for unpredictable, story-driven titles, but not everyone goes in for longer, more involved board games.  But if there’s a wish-granting wizard on the island, I assume he’d be down for a narrative-type board game.

Chris: I might have to go with Dominion as well, if only because with a full complement of expansions, the replayability value would be through the roof. It’s a simple concept that has a ton of intricacies to it. If I’m stranded with a group of people, it’s either Dominion or Catchphrase. If I’m by myself? Well, Arkham Horror has one-player rules, I suppose. It’s going to be a sucky existence no matter what.

Wrong Button: Hands down it would be Munchkin. We have sat around the house playing that game for HOURS. It’s really fun and funny and I think with all the different expansion packs (we’re counting those), you’d never really get bored.

Crystal: I’d be the loser that ended up playing Solitaire or building card houses in sand storms for the rest of my life.

Full Force: Twitch Plays Pokemon

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists take a look at the phenomenon that is Twitch Plays Pokemon.

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Twitch Plays Pokemon managed to beat Pokemon Red, a feat that took about 16 ½ days and more than eight million button inputs. What did you think of the social experiment (anarchy/democracy, working together, etc.)?

Chris: When I first heard about it on day three, I thought it was silly. Just another way to waste time on the internet, I figured. But I underestimated the community that built just about as quickly as the stream went viral. Inside jokes and religions sprung from nowhere. Even in times of strife (like the epic battle against Misty, for example), the collective somehow managed to string together the correct inputs. Whatever data the creator was searching for when he first created the Twitch channel, even he had to have been surprised by the end result.

Chip: Generally speaking, I cannot stand the mindless flow of comments that comes from Twitch chat. During Awesome Games Done Quick, I couldn’t fully enjoy the stream when watching on a mobile device since the flood of inane chatter took up half of my display. That being said, I think Twitch Plays Pokemon has shown that there is a demand for this sort of gaming.

What I would like to see spring up from Twitch Plays Pokemon is a sort of competition or challenge-based livestream where random “players” get dropped into groups to square off against each other. Twitch Plays Pokemon took so much longer to play through the game because there was so much purposefully antagonistic input, but imagine an uncoordinated team working together to finish a game in a race against other random groups of players. Almost like a speed-run challenge, but with the random element of TPP.

Cary: I tuned into TPP a handful of times, and was utterly mesmerized by what I saw, from the stream of inputs to the bizarre actions happening in the game. I can’t speak to the anything specifically Pokemon-related, but watching a collective attempt to progress in a meaningful fashion was really astounding. In my mind, it’s akin to comparing, say, the activities (physical or otherwise) of a single person to the output of an entire group. Sure, we’re all going remember people like Einstein, Tesla, and Abraham Lincoln for their individual contributions to history (just as we remember our friend who beat Super Metroid in less than an hour), but we also have a lot to appreciate from the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement and the inventions of ancient civilizations. True that the output of TPP was the completion of just a single video game (not much when compared to the Mayans), but it proved that when people have their minds set on a singular task and work together, things get accomplished, and this despite the naysayers and inputting troublemakers.

Shaun: Knowing what goes into it a little bit, and considering things like trolls, conflicting inputs, and lag, I’m just amazed that they managed to make any progress, at all, let alone beat the game. It might not be a feat of much importance, necessarily, but it’s a pretty amazing feat nonetheless.

One of the most interesting aspects of Red’s adventure turned out to be the multitude of memes and references that sprung forth from the community. What was your favorite inside joke from the series?

Shaun: I think the early memes were the best, mostly because they took me by surprise, as I had no idea what to expect here. And because, for whatever reason, the events spawned a sprawling religious epic narrative, rife with overseeing gods, false prophets, and the consequences of giving into temptation.

The funniest one for my money was the early story of the Helix fossil and Bird Jesus, culminating in the false prophet Flareon banishing Jay Leno and Abby into exile. The images and jokes created from this phenomenon were hysterical, sometimes simply in the fact that the scenes they were reflecting are depicted with such solemn sincerity and heartbreak.

Chris: In general, I agree with you, Shaun — the earlier stuff was more funny in general. I especially liked the devotion to “consulting” various things; that’s what spawned the Helix devotion in the first place, but we also loved the Secret Key and the Coin Case. Plus, every time they accidentally played the Poke Flute, the chat rained down a slew of “THAT’S A CATCHY TUNE” comments.

Still, I think the highlight of the entire stream for me was everyone’s favorite All Terrain Venomoth (from his name AATTVVV) and his underdog battle against Lance’s Dragonite the first time Red fought him. With the rest of the team dead, things looked bleak. Venomoth had a terrible moveset with only one attack (the pitiful Leech Life) and was 25 levels below. One Hyper Beam and the Elite Four was over. But no! He poisoned Dragonite, and thanks to a little-known glitch, Dragonite was unable to use any attack moves — he kept trying to use Psychic moves for a super effective hit, but they were Barrier and Agility! From then on, our hero became known as All Terrain Venomoth the Dragonslayer.

Now that TPP’s original run is done, the next step was Pokemon Crystal and Emerald. If you were running the stream, however, what video game would you most like to see the collective tackle?

Chip: I am not sure that many other genres outside of RPGs would work for something similar to Twitch Plays Pokemon. I cannot imagine the difficulty in hundreds of people trying to play through a platformer or something with more than six buttons, let alone the programming effort behind the scenes. Additionally, I think what made Pokemon such a good choice is the fact that this series is already strongly tied to a wealth of inside jokes and memes across the internet. From a perspective of just keeping the theme as a sort of online drama, Pokemon Gold was a solid choice.

However, I wouldn’t mind seeing other old RPGs get some time to shine. The key would be picking a title with a limited number of commands, so the amount of options would not be overwhelming. Maybe the original Dragon Quest would work, either the NES version or the remake for Game Boy Color.

Cary: I’m with Chip in thinking that RPGs are probably best suited for this kind of play, maybe a simple (control-wise) one from ye olden days like Dragon’s Lair. But I think it’d be really interesting to see if an old-school shooter like DOOM or Wolfenstein could be played collectively. I imagine it’d be horribly frustrating, but, again, the key inputs would be pretty simple. Oooo, even worse, how about a text-based game? Questprobe or Mystery Mansion? The number of commands would be outrageous and the chances would be extremely high that the game would get completely stuck, but that’d be something to watch.

Chris: Yeah, it’s difficult to imagine this working too well for many other games. Twitch Plays Pokemon was something akin to lightning in a bottle. There will be derivatives, and the original stream itself is going through Crystal as we speak (although it’s nowhere near as good). An original Legend of Zelda stream popped up around when TPP was finishing, but even that required exceptions like infinite health to have a chance.

I think something like Dragon Warrior would be a good fit, but the key is that whatever game it is has to be forgiving to mistakes. That’s what worked so well with Pokemon — suboptimal play very rarely resulted in an impossible situation (except Safari Zone, Rocket Hideout, releasing 12 Pokemon on Bloody Sunday, etc.).

Shaun: Pokemon was sort of the perfect play here. Tons of recognition, so the memes could really catch fire, and the stream could attract a lot of attention. Simple inputs, relatively simple gameplay and progression. Not a reliance on reaction times or active health. Plus, punishment for failing wasn’t severe — you go back to the Pokemon Center, sure, but most importantly, you don’t lose the levels or experience you gained. That’s HUGE to a series like this working. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough I could give you another game that could work, but until it happens, I’m not really sure we can find one that will match this phenomenon.

 

Full Force: Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists talk about the full trailer from the upcoming movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Guardians of the Galaxy, set for release on August 1, just released a full trailer and the first poster for the movie. What were your impressions? Continue reading Full Force: Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer

Full Force: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U in Next-Gen War

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists take a look at the three next-gen consoles now that they all been out for at least three months.

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The Playstation 4 and Xbox One have been out for almost three months now. Have you picked up one (or both), and if so, what’s your verdict? If not, why have you stayed away? Continue reading Full Force: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U in Next-Gen War

Full Force: Pokemon X/Y Review

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists give their thoughts on the most recent entry in the juggernaut that is Pokemon.

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Pokemon has a familiar formula by this point, and not much has changed in X and Y. What did you think about the newest entries from a gameplay standpoint? Continue reading Full Force: Pokemon X/Y Review

Full Force: Relationships in Video Games

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists examine the newly announced Nintendo 2DS.

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Romance is becoming a more prevalent option in modern video games, especially as storytelling evolves in series like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, etc. Do you think the introduction of relationships into video games is a benefit to the industry? Why or why not?

Chris: I think it’s a positive overall, because anything that helps people become more immersed in the experience is a good thing. Being able to marry someone and have my own house in Skyrim added to this feeling that I was capable of doing anything I wanted to within that world. Conversely, watching my romantic interest in Mass Effect 1 melt to death made me feel more invested in saving the rest of my crew.

Cary: As someone who likes doing mundane things in games, I’m all for the addition of “real life” qualities to them, including romance options. They absolutely help me become more invested in not only my character but others as well. With the current trend of (mostly indie) games moving away from video games as “games” and towards video games as interactive and social experiences, romantic relationships in games will probably become more prevalent. Sure, we’ll all want to keep stomping on koopas and throwing hadokens at each other every now and then, but having games that include the chance to form deeper connections between characters is necessary to growth and evolution of the industry as a whole.

simpleek: I naturally love good stories and characters, so when I saw that Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins is not only a really involved story that you can shape however you want to, but you can also romance a number of the characters in the game too? I was sold. I became obsessed with the game because a lot of the characters were really well-written and I had such a strong emotional response to every single one of them as I kept playing. The romance system in Dragon Age: Origins isn’t perfect, especially since you can win almost any character’s heart over by just giving them the right gift or picking the right lines they want to hear, but overall, it gives video games a personal touch for each player. It’s a benefit to include these relationships because it adds another layer to the story and you get to learn more about these characters if you choose to romance them. Games like this one might appeal to those who are interested in compelling stories and characters. It’s like reading a really great book, but the only difference here is you can actually participate in the story and interact with the characters. It’s the ultimate role-play experience.

Crystal: This is one of my favorite topics simply for the fact that I love how BioWare integrated romance options inside of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. They became my favorite games because of the romance system and the relationships you could build or destroy. I like it when I’m able to invest myself inside of a complex character, so being able to mold something deeper and more intimate is always something I enjoy. Adding multiple romance options also heightens the replay value.

Ashley: As others have said, being able to pursue a romantic relationship in a video game as your character adds another layer to the story and deeper character development — so I love in-game romances! The cool thing about having control over it is that you can create a character who is a romantic or a character who pushes people away, and then you can kind of destroy the relationship for the sake of your character’s personal journey. So yeah, I get really into it. =)

LadyCroft3: I think it’s important in context. I don’t really want to make these choices in every game I play, but in games like Mass Effect or Skyrim I think it can only benefit the player. Romance and intimacy are ways in which we bond with others on a closer level in reality, it’s that line between friend and more than friend that we cross. Having this in video games that call for it is not only fun, it helps the player further establish a bond with a character they care for in the game.

Jason: I think anything you can add to the industry is a benefit. I mean sure, not every game gets relationships right; but those games only help make the ones that do get it right even better. Now I’m sure there is an argument floating around on the internet somewhere saying that “reducing relationships to a simple game robs them of their complexity” or some such nonsense. Like somehow games are going to ruin real life relationships in ways that romance novels and movies haven’t over the last century or so. I think every medium of entertainment deserves to touch on every aspect of human life; and that goes double for our social and romantic relationships.

Shaun: So, apparently I’m going to be the odd man out here, but while I agree that romance in games in good (because every sort of storytelling medium in games is good), I prefer something that is totally scripted that I can explore, rather than being given the decisions and dialogue tree to build this. I become as immersed in Mass Effect as anyone, but for some reason, the romances fell flat for me – I just wasn’t sold on the progression, and the build up felt really “gamey” to me (which is also a little weird because I felt like the “bromance” in my case with Garrus was as real as the streets). With that said, I’m still glad it’s something that’s being explored in the genre, because it’s only going to get better with time.

If you had the chance to romance any one character from the wide world of video games, who would it be and why?

Cary: Without a doubt, Lowell from The Last Story. Sure, I love me a good Bioware romance any day, but Lowell was more than just an interesting guy with a nice voice — he was downright captivating and sexy. Don’t think such a thing is possible in a JRPG? Well, The Last Story isn’t just any ol’ JRPG. Its writers wonderful wove together an adult story about friendship with romance at its fringes. Sure, it also involved terrible monsters, fate and fantasy, and all that, but all of it revolved around the bonds formed between the core group of characters, one of which was Lowell. He had quite the wacky and witty way with words, and he was a joy to be around. Plus, he was as great with magic as he was with a sword. Win-win if you ask me!

simpleek: This is a tough choice and I’m always fangirling between Kaidan and Alistair, both from two different Bioware games. Big shock, right? I think between these two, my choice would be Kaidan from the Mass Effect series. I know a ton of people, especially guys, tend to hate on the Bioware men, but I think Kaidan has a lot of depth and complexity as a character. Aside from being gorgeous, he has a sweetness and sensitivity which is, thankfully, different from the usual military men type of characters who are portrayed as being solely tough and macho. It’s as if being a soldier means you can’t have any deep emotions. And just because Kaidan is the sensitive guy type, it doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own in a battlefield. I always take Kaidan with me on missions because his powers come in handy in a fight, at least if I’m not playing a Shepard that is already a biotic. I also think the writers wrote Kaidan in such a way to make the player feel as if a guy like him could actually exist in reality. He has the whole package for me as a romance: sexy, sweet, and strong. As much as I love Alistair, he’s more of your fantasy romance type that wouldn’t exist in real life, as much as you want him to.

Chris: I’ll go with a pick from when I was younger: Celes Chere from Final Fantasy VI. To me, Celes is the most compelling character in a cast that isn’t exactly lacking for interesting stories. Her time on the island with Cid is either a little heartbreaking or a lot heartbreaking, depending on the speed of the fish that you catch. Thanks to some genetic enhancement, she’s more than capable on the battlefield. She’s certainly not tough on the eyes. Best of all, she’s a general, not some opera floozy.

Ashley: Definitely Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect. I always thought he had it all — a great sarcastic sense of humor, a badass side, an awkward side, loyalty. He’s one of the most well-rounded characters ever. And it’s totally okay that he’s an alien.

LadyCroft3: I’m going to have to go with Ashley on this one and say Garrus Vakarian. The last time I played through the entire series (a few months back) I tried to analyze why I like him so much/ Sure, he’s sweet. Sure, I have a thing for aliens with sexy voices and a bad-boy attitude – but what is it really? I learned that he and I happen to share a lot of the same ideals and morals. I mean, I’m not flying around fighting Reapers or anything and he isn’t sitting around in his PJ’s playing video games all day, but we both have similar qualities. We both love justice, we both like distance weapons, we are both trustworthy friends, we both love Shepard (wait, what?), and we both are realists. I may be looking to far into this though. *Zoidbergs out of room*

Jason: God, is it terrible that I too want to list off a Bioware character? I mean, there are certainly a lot of other great ladies out there… bah, screw it. I pick Jack from Mass Effect. As far as I’m concerned, she’s got it all. She’s a BA, she doesn’t take sh!t from anyone, and deep down she’s a big old softy. I mean, I won’t lie; she’s got a rock’n body and I’ve always had a thing for ‘crazy’ chicks. But it goes deeper than that. Jack has overcome a lot in her life and still manages to make the best of it. I admire that kind of adversity. Likewise she’s got a soft spot for kids, and passing on what she’s learned to the next generation. As someone who’s spent a large part of his “professional” carrier working with kids/children, that’s a trait that really gets me right in the feels. Of course I have yet to actually FINISH a romance playthrough with Jack, (cause ya know: Femshep 4 life) so Jack would probably just tell me to **** off and then toss me out an open airlock… and I’d probably enjoy it.

Shaun: God…so hard. Annnnnd that was a very poor choice of words. My gut would initially go to someone like Jill Valentine, because she’s awesome – brave, beautiful, resourceful, adaptive, calm under pressure…but she’s seen some s*** and that might be hard to deal with…but if I could help her through it that would be so romantic…

Then I go to Cortana, who is witty, wicked smart, and more genuine than most of the female characters in gaming (who also happen to be, you know, alive). But the fact that she is a computer might be a deal breaker.

So then I go to Tifa Lockhart, but not for the reasons you’d think – I actually prefer the Advent Children version, with the reduction and more emphasis on her pretty face than her sex appeal. She’s stood by her comatose bf through thick and thin, she’s great with kids, super sweet, and also a grade A badass. But she’s SO stuck on Cloud I don’t think I have a chance really…and that blonde spiky hair…

So my answer is Jill.

What is one game or series that you wish would include some kind of relationship element? Or, conversely, what game or series do you think has butchered relationships and you wish they would stop?

Cary: Is it wrong of me to wish that something this side of temptation, or hell, just steady feminine friendship had been set into John Marston’s story in Red Dead Redemption? One of the first people he met in the game in the game was a rancher named Bonnie, and I really enjoyed bonding with her. Not that I expected anything to happen between them, what with all of John’s professions about his wife, but their friendship just fizzled out. (Not that there really were any chances to form extended relationships with any of the characters in that game.) Did I want John to end up in bed with a prostitute? Not at all. But it wouldn’t have been out of line to add a strong, tempting female character to his world. The era of the game was as much about the push and pull between the sexes as it was about the government’s desires concerning the West.

simpleek: I haven’t finished the game yet, but I kind of wish Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had a relationship system. As much as I like having my character fight through bad guys and create her own destiny, it’d be nice if she had someone to come home to after a long day of slaying creatures and saving the world.

Chris: I kind of wonder what would happen if games from our past had been made today. For example, what if you had the opportunity to make your silent protagonist choose between the love triangle of Marle (canon), Lucca (best friend syndrome) or Ayla (rule of life, no change rule) — or any of the cast? Would it add to the game, or detract from it? On the other hand, the Mass Effect series has done relationships extremely well, but I wonder how much would be missed if that element didn’t exist at all. It’d be a less complete experience, for sure.

LadyCroft3: There are plenty of games that have relationships that I hate or don’t have relationships where I want them, but when reading this question the first thing that popped into my mind was Metro: Last Light. There is a really awkward relationship that seems to have just been thrown in for nudity’s sake and to be honest it kind of ruined the game for me. Luckily it was towards the end so I got to enjoy the great gameplay and intriguing story for a good while before being disgusted. Without getting to deep into it, I can really just say that is was one of those “WTF WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS IT MAKES TO SENSE” kind of moments and I wish it was just never added into the game since it demeaned the female and had no real benefit to the male (other than pure, carnal sex I suppose).

Jason: OK so, I love me some Skyrim. It’s really the only Elder Scrolls I stuck with playing. And I love my waifu Aela, she’s the best werewolf woman a man/woman could ask for! But if there is one game that REALLY needs to start upping their game when it comes to relationships it’s the Elder Scrolls. I mean, they have almost literally turned “significant other” into a type of resource. You put on a necklace, they say they like you, you get married. DONE. Want to start a family? Well, better adopt than. Wanna spend time with your wife? Well I hope you like generic conversation wheels where she makes you food you don’t need or buys junk off you. And don’t even get me started on the “Lover’s Comfort” buff you get from sleeping in the same bed as them. Relationships in Skyrim are seriously the most 1 dimensional things ever.

Shaun: KINGDOM. HEARTS.

Okay, look. I know it’s a game that also has to appeal to kids. And I’m not saying I want a sex scene between Sora and Riku. I meant to write Kairi, but you know what, that fits too.

But seriously – all we’ve gotten to this point is that every character is just really great friends. NO! Young peeps are allowed to be in love, even if it’s puppy love. And let’s remember, these characters have saved the world like two dozen times already. Is it too much to ask for them to start exploring a little more complex feelings than “basic friendship?”