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Episode.26 – Simpleek Stunning

Happy Day, Skype Call Recorder lives again! To celebrate, we have blogger and fan of the show, Simpleek, joining Joshua for Episode.26. The duo chat about gaming, coming from common backgrounds,  life in general and the why everyone LIKES the show, but isn’t IN LIKE with the show enough to leave some of them there communications on the Twitter. Also, with the restored function of Joshua’s Skype recorder, the door is very much open for guest hosts if anyone’s interested. Thanks always for listening!

  Show notes:

Sticher

Playing “Evil” in Video Games

It’s inFAMOUS weekend, guys! I’ve been excited for Second Son‘s release for quite a while, but here’s the thing: I decided to tread the infamous path by being basically evil. And it’s so hard to do. My heart can barely take it. I won’t give any Second Son spoilers here, but that first choice you have to make? Ughhhh.

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So many video games these days let players make moral decisions and choose “good” or “bad” routes, and I once wrote on my blog about how much I love playing the hero in games. The thing is, in games like the Mass Effect series, even choosing Renegade options (the “bad” options) won’t prevent you from being a hero in the end. You might be tough on people, you might punch reports in the face, you might hang up the phone on the Council… but you’re still Commander Shepard, hero of the Citadel and humanity’s last hope.

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When the story is set that way — when your character is fated to be a hero — it frees me up to be a jerk for most of the playthrough. I love going for the Renegade, intimidate, badass side. It’s totally unlike how I am in real life, but that’s part of why I love it so much.

In real life, I’m a nice person. Probably way too polite, sometimes. I like to think most of us who play video games are nice, yet our games let us act out in ways we never would in the real world. That’s the fun of role playing.

I also have fun choosing an alignment that I never would in real life, even if it’s “bad,” and being a generally good person within its confines. For instance, I’m all for playing an assassin and making really tough choices there, as long as my character can be loyal to her friends and believe in her cause. The Dark Side can be fun, and it’s a world all its own.

But for some reason, when it comes to inFAMOUS, I have a really hard time treading the evil route. It feels much more “good” and “evil” than “polite” or “jerk.” And I don’t want to be evil. I can’t just run up to civilians and kick them. I can’t betray the people I care about — even if they’re not real. It doesn’t feel like an alignment choice, either. It’s just straight-up not-very-nice person — unrealistically so.

The funny thing is that I know a lot of people must feel the same way I do. In fact, Sucker Punch devs were surprised to see that the majority of inFAMOUS 2 players chose the heroic sacrifice ending rather than the more selfish ending.

It’s such a silly thing, but there really is a moral line that I have trouble crossing even in a virtual world, which must say something about how deeply ingrained morals can be. I’m trying to do it for this playthrough of Second Son… but it’s making me realize I really do like playing the hero in games!

— Ashley

Video Games: What I’ve Been Playing Lately

The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy, but that just makes me treasure my video game time more than usual! Taking an hour or two to dive into a favorite game has been my retreat. Here’s what I’ve been playing lately:

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Kharjo, my newest follower...
Kharjo, my newest follower…

I’ve played Skyrim a couple of times before, but I’m vowing to keep my new character as my main and try to level up much more with her than I have with past characters. She’s a Khajiit named Sabe, and at the moment she’s around Level 22. I got the Hearthfire DLC last weekend and purposely jumped into the Dawnstar quests (“Waking Nightmare”) so I could become thane of Dawnstar and build the Hearthfire mansion in the Pale. It’s the snowy location, and on a clear day you can stand in a tower and see Dragonsreach in Whiterun, which is pretty cool. But now that I’m building, it makes me want to get out there and complete some more quest lines so I can decorate the house!

Also, can I just say that this new playthrough has been tiding me over until Elder Scrolls Online comes out… =)

Fire Emblem: Awakening

fire-emblem-awakeningWhen did I first start playing Fire Emblem: Awakening? According to my blog, it was sometime last March — which means I’ve been playing it for almost a year! And that’s the same playthrough. Which is crazy. It is an RPG, and it is long, but the real reason it’s taking me so long to play to the end is that I keep picking it up and putting it down. It actually works well that way. I’m savoring it as long as it lasts.

The Wolf Among Us

the-wolf-among-us-1With the second episode of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us out this week, I’m super excited to be playing through more of the story tomorrow morning. It took what felt like forever for this episode to be released, but I don’t want to replay the first episode quite yet. I want to have one playthrough — no chance to go back and “fix” mistakes or try things a different way. As with The Walking Dead games, I like to have one canon playthrough before I redo any single episode!

I really enjoyed the first installment in this series. The Telltale Games format works really well with a mystery, and I love the art style of the series. I’m reading the Fables comics (The Wolf Among Us is based on them) this month to learn a little more about this world.

And speaking of Telltale, I’m looking forward to playing The Walking Dead season 2, too! I might wait until all of the episodes are out and play them all at once, though. Waiting so long between The Wolf Among Us episodes is hard enough!

Game of the Month…

I’m also getting started on my New Year’s Resolution to play and actually finish one new game a month from now on. (I’m going to say one two-hour episode of The Wolf Among Us doesn’t count!) I have a few possible games in mind, but I think a Phoenix Wright game might win this month… I will keep you posted on my blog and publish a review when I’m finished with the February game. =)

What’s everybody else been playing lately?

— Ashley

Listmas 2013: Snowy Environments in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

It doesn’t snow in California. I’ve come to accept that, and having lived in places where it does snow, I comfort myself with the firsthand knowledge that as pretty as it is, snow can be a hassle too. But around this time of year, I find myself gravitating towards video games, books, and movies that feature cold winter weather. For some reason, the snowy settings help set the mood for the holidays. That’s why my computer backdrop for the season is this:

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It’s Skyrim. And that just happens to be my first choice for my favorite sci-fi and fantasy worlds that make awesome wintry vacation spots, even if it’s just in my imagination.

1. Skyrim

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It might be a dangerous place if you’re on the wrong side of the civil war or facing an unexpected dragon attack, but Skyrim is the most beautiful video game landscape I’ve ever seen and would make an amazing vacation spot. Though parts of it are sunny — a ‘crisp autumn day’ type of sunny, that is — much of it is covered in snow. In fact, Windhelm can look downright bleak with its gray walls and murky skies, but it has an intense atmosphere that draws you in. Personally, I love climbing snow-topped mountains and looking for ruins partially buried under the snow when I play Skyrim. And when I came across a little village along the way, the chilly atmosphere only makes ducking indoors feel cozier.

2. Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia)

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The world of Narnia felt so magical when I was a kid, and I still love it. This place is one where animals can talk and magic abounds. There are witches and centaurs and unicorns, and the change of seasons feels important. For instance, there was a time when the White Witch covered Narnia in ice and snow for 100 years, which caused all kinds of hardships for the people. But winter is exactly the time I would want to step through my wardrobe into Narnia, just to experience that thrilling chill of discovery in an atmosphere that so suits it.

3. Pandora (Borderlands)

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Pandora is another video game setting that oozes charisma. It’s not always the prettiest of places, but its dingy settlements, psychos, and monsters have a visual appeal that’s part art style, part amazing atmosphere. When I play a Borderlands game, I completely lose myself on the planet of Pandora, and my favorite areas are always the snowy ones. Seeing massive glaciers and tramping through snow with crackling ice nearby is the perfect way to start off a playthrough of Borderlands 2.

4. Hogsmeade (Harry Potter)

Hogsmeade

Who wouldn’t want to get away from school and drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade? That’s what Harry Potter and his friends do when they get to spend a weekend day in this little all-wizard village of snow-covered cottages and shops. Hogwarts students bundle up in their coats and scarves to make the wintry trek to the village — and then they escape inside where it’s warm. Plus, enchanted candles nestle in the trees during the holiday season to make the place festive. It might be wizards-only, but this town would make a cozy winter getaway for anyone’s imagination.

5. Noveria (Mass Effect)

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Noveria is cold — so cold that people stay inside pretty much all the time. When you first visit the planet in the first Mass Effect game, there are severe storm warnings, but of course you brave the weather to complete your mission before it’s too late. While I enjoyed exploring the industrial-looking facilities built on Noveria to shield the people there from the elements, getting into the snow outside and seeing the glaciers up close was even better… even if it did involve driving the Mako.

— Ashley

So I Finally Watched the Sci-Fi Cop Show “Almost Human”…

This past week I came down with a bad case of the flu and couldn’t do much other than sit and stare. But the good thing that came out of it was that I finally got around to watching the new science fiction show on FOX called Almost Human.

Created by J.H. Wyman (who worked on Fringe), it’s basically a cop procedural set in the near future (the year 2048 to be exact), a time when every cop is assigned an android as a partner. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) wakes up from a coma with memory loss and a synthetic leg. He doesn’t like the idea of partnering up with a robot, so he has eccentric android technician Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) hook him up with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an android model that was discontinued for being almost too human.

almost_humanThe pilot episode is a lot of Kennex adjusting to life back on the police force and getting into arguments with Dorian, who he calls “synthetic.” At one point, he tires of talking to Dorian and tries to turn him off — but besides not working, this seems to offend Dorian. By the end of the episode, Kennex is starting to like Dorian for his natural, emotional responses. Besides that, Dorian isn’t like the other androids on the force; he thinks on his own and sometimes breaks the rules. That’s the kind of partner Kennex appreciates.

To be honest, I’ve been missing another sci-fi show lately: Continuum, which returns with its 3rd season next year. Part of the reason I watched Almost Human this week was because I wanted to watch Continuum so much, and it turns out they do have a similar feel. I like the slightly futuristic tech they both feature… and they’re both cop shows.

imagesSetting police procedurals in the near future is an easy twist, but it works surprisingly well. You can’t think too hard about the technology — for instance, I’m not sure we’ll still be carrying cell phones around in 2048 — but the addition of fictional drugs, androids designed as prostitutes, and futuristic weapons and armor is always fun to see in these shows.

Plus, these shows always include some type of future-tech nerd. In Almost Human, Rudy fills that role and adds a lot of humor to the show. In the latest episode, “The Bends,” he goes undercover for the police, posing as a drug cook — and his oddball personality actually helps sell his disguise until things start to go horribly wrong, as they inevitably do in these situations…

Kennex and Dorian are also funny as they try to relate to each other. Dorian’s usually calm and composed but has a dry sense of humor when he teases Kennex. Meanwhile, Kennex gets irritated when Dorian points out things that people don’t normally talk about. A great example is in the latest episode, when Kennex tries to teach Dorian human manners at a Japanese restaurant — only to have Dorian retaliate by having the chef serve Kennex a meal that’s still alive.

Almost-Human

Sure, the show can get a little cheesy sometimes. That’s the way of low-budget sci-fi. Some of the plots are also very derivative, and I wasn’t into the latest episode’s Breaking Bad homage with the fedora and the genius cooking drugs (although I did like that the episode centered on Rudy!). And while I think the acting is good — particularly Ealy as Dorian — I feel like having the protagonist be a man with a troubled past, depression, PTSD, and a major chip on his shoulder is a little overdone.

But it’s working out okay so far. I’m getting into it. Mostly I like Almost Human for being an offbeat choice and filling in the gap until Continuum starts back up. I’m also looking forward to finding out more about Kennex’s past as his memory comes back to him. I’m sure it involves a major conspiracy…

— Ashley