Tuesday, March 29, 2011

DA:O - ... And Thus It Begins

If I die before I wake, I pray the Stone my soul to take ...

With a new ruler of Ferelden on the throne, the time has come for our final battles.  The rest of the game is divided into three recognizable parts.  Thus, for convenience sake, and in order to accommodate my graduate school schedule, Perra's story will also have three final entries.  Today's entry is particularly pivotal since it has a major impact on how the game ends.  The rest of this DA:O story is a mystery to me since I have no idea exactly how it will end.

There are spoilers after the jump.  Continue reading at your own risk. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Search for Fuel 4

My hunt for the perfect gaming tea continues. A month ago I reordered a larger package of Rum/Plum/Lycii Berries Tea and it is now a staple in my kitchen, but we all like variety, right?  This time around I went with a chocolate theme.  Below is my assessment of these flavors.

Orange/Chocolate with Rooibos Base - This is a very mildly flavored tea.  Despite its extra emphasis on the orange, it still does not taste extremely orangy.  I can tell that it is orange chocolate, but that is about it.  The tea is very smooth, and actually tastes a bit like orange/chocolate cream if that is even possible.  It is a pleasant enough tea, and I'll enjoy drinking this flavor but I probably would not order it again.  This could, of course, be an issue with the tea base I chose as well.  The Orange/Chocolate tea would probably have a bit more oomph to it if I had ordered it with a black tea base instead of red tea.
          Current Verdict -  Pretty Good.  Do not re-order.

Cranberry/Chocolate with Rooibos Base - This is an excellent tea.  The first time I ordered it, I said that it was a bit too dark flavored for me.  The flavor has since grown on me, however, and has since become another favorite.  It tastes equally delicious with or without cream, and with Design a Tea emphasizing its cranberry flavor per request, the chocolate flavor is prevented from becoming too overpowering or bitter.  This time around I accidentally purchased tea bags instead of looseleaf.  Since all the tea is mixed at the time of purchase, however, the only real difference is the amount of actual tea I received.  Next time I'll just have to triple check to make sure that doesn't happen again.
          Current Verdict -  Staple.  Re-order before it runs out.

Chocolate/Hazelnut with Oolong Base - I'm going to preface this by saying that I really don't drink a lot of oolong tea.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I drank it at all.  The decision to use it as the base for this tea was a snap judgment based on little foreknowledge of how the flavors might mix together.  That said, I really quite like this tea.  The flavor is a bit ... different then I had anticipated, but it is by no means unpleasant.  Only time will tell what my overall opinion of it will be, but right now the verdict is "tasty, but won't be re-ordering."  The tea is delicious, but it's just not necessarily what I was looking for.  Maybe it would taste better with a regular black base?  I'll get back to you on that.
          Current Verdict -  Good.  Possibly re-order with black base.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Let's Watch - Morrowind's E3 Trailer

I'm just going to leave this here.

Let's Visit - Ardalambion

Continuing along the vein of what seems to have become Academia Fridays, I'm stepping away from video games for a moment and venturing into the world of high fantasy/sword and sorcery.

From The Website - For the complete ignorants: Once upon a time - from 1892 to 1973, to be exact - there lived a man by the name of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In 1937 he published a children's book, The Hobbit, that sold quite well. [...] In 1954-55 Tolkien finally published the ultimate fantasy novel, the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Following Tolkien's death his son Christopher edited and published a constructed mythology, The Silmarillion, from his father's manuscripts. This provided the "historical background" for the two other books. Together these books describe an entire imagined world, complete with geography, demography, history - and languages. The languages are absolutely crucial.

Why study these languages? In my essay Tolkien's Not-So-Secret-Vice, found on this website, I list several possible reasons: "The very fact that no real Elvish grammars written by Tolkien have been published makes it a fascinating challenge to 'break the code'. Or it may be pure romanticism, a special form of literary immersion: By studying the Eldarin languages, you try to get closer to - indeed into the heads of - the immortal Elves, fair and wise, the Firstborn of Eru Ilúvatar, teachers of mankind in its youth. Or, less romantically, you want to study the constructions of a talented linguist and the creative process of a genius engaged in his work of love. [...]  though people have been studying Tolkien's languages quite seriously for decades, I found that there was relatively little information about these languages on the net. What there was turned out to be mostly amateurish, incomplete, inaccurate and outdated, or in one case - namely Anthony Appleyard's work - very concentrated and technical, excellent for those who are already deep into these things, but probably difficult to absorb for beginners. This lack of good information on the net was all the more surprising considering that the Tolklang list has as much as seven hundred subscribers, more than the regular Tolkien list! So I set out to make a site devoted to Tolkienian linguistics. An attempt is here made to extract the purely linguistic information from the published writings and present it in a form that is hopefully easily accessible.  (Excerpt from the lengthy page By way of explanation...)

A Few Thoughts of My OwnOh Ardalambion ... where do I even begin?  The average person casually surfing the internet for information on Tolkien would probably pass this website by without much of a thought. No one, after all, will ever accuse it of looking attractive, professional, or even reliable at first glance due to its use of eye searing green, red and yellow lettering over a mottled field of electric blue and navy. Appearances, my friend, are not everything.  Turned off by its looks, this hypothetical surfer would have thoughtlessly passed over what is quite possibly the most valuable resource around for J.R.R. Tolkien's languages.

I will admit from the get-go that my love of this website is tinged more than a little by a heaping dose of nostalgia.  When the first Lord of the Rings movie reached theaters almost ten years ago, I was only slightly interested in the trilogy.  I had read the Hobbit a few years prior and loved every second of it, but for some reason reading the trilogy itself was like trudging through thigh-deep mud.  That all changed with Peter Jackson's interpretation of the saga.  Coming out of the theater I was so invigorated by what I'd seen that I shut myself in a room and plowed through the entire series in a day and a half.  That taken care of, I hit the net fully determined to learn everything and anything there was to find about Tolkien's languages and the tengwar writing system.  Leaving tengwar for another day, let's focus on the languages.  Imagine how disappointed I was to discover an utter dirth of reliable knowledge available on the interwebs.  Most websites repeated the same lines about Quenya being high elven and Sindarin being grey elven, but they had little to offer beyond that.  Ardalambion, a site I'd previously dismissed, on second-look proved to be a completely different story.

My warm, fuzzy feelings for this site in no way change the fact that it is undeniably valuable to any Tolkienian linguistic enthusiast.  Home to a Norwegian gentleman named Helge Kåre Fauskanger, this website is clearly a labor of love.  Unlike most LotR sites that sprang up in the wake of Peter Jackson's films, Fauskanger's site is truly scholarly in nature.  Moreover, it was in existence well before 2001 and remains an active site when many have been long since abandoned.  Most people generally know Ardalambion for it's Quenya Course which introduces you to high elven through a series of twenty downloadable lessons and exercises.  This course is indeed singularly impressive, but it alone does not define the website.  I've never had a knack for learning new languages, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating them from afar.  For this alone I am tremendously thankful for Mr. Fauskanger's website. Below are a couple of links that continually stir my interest.  Maybe you will find something there that excites your imagination as well.

Newest Content - 21 December 2010
Practical Neo-Quenya [downloadable file] - "my comments and observations on the largest Neo-Quenya translation project I (or anyone?!) has ever undertaken, the rendering of the entire Johannine corpus of the Bible into a form of Quenya."
Items of Interest
The Writings of St. John [downloadable file]- "a Neo-Quenya translation of the entire Johannine corpus"
The Qenya Lexicon Reviewed"comments on Tolkien's earliest Elvish wordlist, as published in Parma Eldalamberon #12"
The Evolution from Primitive Elvish to Quenya - "A Comprehensive Survey. (This treatise [...] attempts to list the sound-changes that occurred as High-Elven was evolving from the earliest forms of Elvish. This is a revised, updated and expanded version, edited by Vicente Velasco and incorporating his extensive annotation on my original treatise (still available as an RTF file)."
Reconstructing the Sindarin Verb System -"The Reasoning Underlying the Suggested Conjugation"
 Image: Ardalambion 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let's Visit - Goodnight Dune

Goodnight maud'Dib ...

I figured that I would feature Goodnight Dune today just in case you have somehow managed to miss it.  For those of you who do not know, Goodnight Dune is a parody of the beloved children's bedtime story Goodnight Moon.  Written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon was originally published in 1947.  As far as I know, it has never been out of print since.  The original children's book was about a little bunny who notices everything in his room before saying goodnight to the objects and falling asleep.  In Julia Yu's version, a little boy rabbit goes through the same motions but his room is populated by objects from Frank Herbert's Dune.  The little boy's room is also noticeably a bit scarier with the presence gom jabbar on disembodied hands and (adorable) sardukar hanging about.

A personal favorite of mine, Dune is quite possibly one of the best science fiction novels ever written.  No one knows what the late-Frank Herbert would have thought about this take on his classic novel.  I do know, however, that if Yu can work out the copyright issues and get her version published, a host of little geeklings will find Goodnight Dune on their bedside tables.  After all, it is our duty to indoctrinate them while they are young ... right?  Right??

Monday, March 21, 2011

DA:O - Things Fall Apart

Let's Do This

The Landsmeet this time around was very intense and yielded completely unexpected results.  From a game play standpoint I have no clue how things turned out the way they did.  I do not know if it was Perra's status as a dwarf or a couple of choices Perra made (like fighting instead of giving herself up for arrest a few posts back), but that doesn't really matter since I wasn't going for a specific outcome anyways.  It just happened that most of Perra's decisions aligned with my past playthroughs.  While unexpected, this episode was particularly interesting for me since it almost felt like I was playing a brand new game.

You will notice that this post, like some previous entries, now has a jump break.  I figured that it was probably the best thing to do despite my distaste for "jumps".  I always have spoiler warnings, but something might be given away anyways when people are scrolling down to the next entry.  With this in mind, from now on any post with spoilers will have a jump break and a spoiler warning just to be fair.  All other posts will remain in their current form.

I'm giving you a heads up that the next part of Perra's story will be up in a week's time.  With multiple significant deadlines coming due and a symposium presentation this week, I will have no chance to play DA:O until the weekend arrives.  I do, per usual, have other posts lined up for mid-week though so don't forget to check back in to see those.

There are numerous spoilers after the jump.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's Watch - Skyrim interview with Todd Howard

Here is a little extra to hold you over until tomorrow night.  This was a rather insightful interview about how mini-quests will be doled out, a refined magic+melee combat system, and real time conversations.  Between this and the recent news that Bethesda has eliminated the Myticism school of magic, it sounds like a lot of good things will be happening in Skyrim to make game play more natural.  Generally I'm against change for change sake, but it sounds like most of the basic game changes this time around have a very specific purpose that addresses a very specific need.  For instance, I don't really mind the way current Elder Scrolls conversations happen, but the way their new system is described makes a lot of sense from an immersion standpoint.  Bethesda got a little bit sidetracked with Oblivion, but these changes and their decision to remove auto-levelling [YAY!!!] make me feel like the company is reconnecting with their core fan base.  More attention seems to be given those who appreciate Elder Scrolls for its unique role-play experience, instead of spending time catering to an audience who insists on instant relatability and having their hand held.  Bethesda seems to be finding a careful balance that doesn't alienate either side, but lets the role-players know that they have not been forgotten.  If that doesn't thrill you to the bone, then their claim that Oblivion sacrificed what made Morrowind special certainly will.  (Morrowind, of course, being the gold standard to which all Elder Scrolls games should be compared.) Only time will tell how well everything is executed, but the more I hear about Skyrim the more I am excited about its possibilities.  All I know is that I'm going to need a better video card ...

Perra will be taking over very late tomorrow night when she reports back in from the Landsmeet.

P.S. - Can I talk for a moment about how psyched I am that crafting (specifically cooking) will now be in the game?  I do not know if that means that a reality option for eating/drinking will exist (like it did in New Vegas), but I certainly hope it does.  That would be one less mod I'd have to download.  As much as I appreciate those who build the reality mods, hunger mods always seem to wig out on me after a while where food stops being as effective or I'm cursed with perpetual hunger.  Those bugs probably had less to do with the mods themselves though then they did with a possible mod conflict that Wrye Bash/Mash couldn't detect/fix.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Let's Talk About - Games and Culture

Since I introduced Game Studies last week, I thought that I'd continue that discussion with a talk about Games and Culture: a journal of interactive media.

From Their Website - Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media is a new, quarterly international journal that publishes innovative theoretical and empirical research about games and culture within interactive media. The journal serves as a premiere outlet for ground-breaking work in the field of game studies.

Of primary importance will be bridging the gap between games studies scholarship in the United States and in Europe.

One of the primary goals of the journal is to foster dialogue among the academic, design, development, and research communities that will influence both game design and research about games within various public contexts. A second goal is to examine how gaming and interactive media are being used outside of entertainment, including in education, for the purposes of training, for military simulation, and for political action.

A Few Thoughts of My Own -  Last week I said that gaming journals were a fantastic way for gamers and people interested in games to connect with a more mature audience.  In existence since 2006, I think G&C continues this promotion of gaming as a valid academic interest.  Like Game Studies, this journal addresses a series of issues which vary in their accessibility to the "general public."  Unlike Game Studies, however, it feels like one need not possess a prior fascination with gaming in order to enjoy most of the articles published.  One should, however probably have an interest in philosophy, religion, or the humanities.

Unfortunately for us, only abstracts are available online without a paid subscription.   I generally want to cover things that you can access for free on the internet.  I felt that this needed mentioning though for one main reason.  While its paid status is unfortunate for the causal viewer, the price of its subscription is on par with other scholarly journals I have seen in other academic disciplines.  In that sense it is good to see a gaming journal taken seriously enough that it can demand subscription prices on par with so called "serious subjects".  It says a great deal about the status with which some people hold the subject, and hints at good things for gaming's future within academia.

Keeping in mind that I only have access to their abstracts, I have listed a number of article titles below which caught my interest so that you can get a taste of what is being published.

Current Issue - January 2011; volume 6, issue 1
Past Article of Interest
- Celia Pearce 
- Tanya Krzywinska
- Kevin Schut
- Gerald A. Voorhees

- Olli Sotamaa
- Gordon Calleja

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let's Talk About - GOG.com

Anyone who knows me even a little bit is well aware of my love for the Good Old Games website.  An extension of CDProjekt (another company that you will never hear me say a negative thing about), GOG.com shares its parent company's passion for DRM free games.  It is one of those rare companies that I actually believe when they say "we are gamers too."  With excellent customer service, an ever growing selection of quality classics, lovely bonus content for each game, a DRM-free business model, assured compatibility with Windows XP/Vista/7, low prices that stay constant world wide, and weekly sales to boot; Good Old Games provides a quality service you will rarely find anywhere else.  Like their parent company, GOG actually listens to their customers and actively uses their feedback to shape the site/service.  


Image: GOG

Monday, March 14, 2011

DA:O - Making Decisions

Yup.  This sure looks like a hospice to me.
With the Landsmeet almost upon us, Perra's tale is gradually coming to an end ... for now (I'll come back and play Awakening after a bit).  You know something I've noticed about about Dragon Age: Origins now that I'm nearing the end of my third full playthough,  is that this game revolves a great deal around the idea of life's value.  I appreciate that this game takes at least partial advantage of its "Mature" rating to provide something besides the usual blood and sex developers feel so obligated to dispense.  Dragon Age really wrestles at times with the issue of morality and asks you to draw the line between what your character is willing to do for their cause, and what they simply won't do at all.  Sure it's easy to be a "good" guy or a "bad" guy, but this game wants you to think about the lengths you will go to in order to reach your goals.  Do you kill the enemy?  Do you let them get away and leave them to wreck havoc another day?  Do you take advantage of offers that will solve your problems and save you from having to fight?  Can you justify taking your enemy's life when they are the tool of destruction, but not the cause of it?  This observation does not necessarily have a great deal to do with today's entry, but I figured that it was certainly worth mentioning.   

This goes without saying, but here there be spoilers.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Let's Talk About - The Great Gender Conundrum

Decisions Decisions

The week's end has arrived, but Perra has yet to report back on her most recent activities.  She is supposedly in the middle of a quest, but with my carrier pigeons unanswered I do not know for certain.  I think Shale may have destroyed the poor birds before Perra managed to retrieve my letters.  Either way, there is nothing that can be done about it until late Sunday night so check back then for an update on her adventures.*

In the absence of news to share, I figured that this would be a perfect time to discuss a question that always must go answered when starting a new RPG.  What gender will your new character be?  Some games like CDProjektRED's The Witcher (2007) or Black Isle Studio's famed Planescape:Torment (1999) make this easy.*  You play as a visually predesigned male character.  Other games like Troika Games' Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura (2001) naturally lend themselves to the use of a male avatar unless you want to be burdened by what is considered to be socially acceptable conduct for a lady.  (Granted one can suspect that assuming a Alexia Tarabotti-esque identity might clear part of the whole demure lady issue up for you.  Apparently being soulless and beating people up with your parasol tends to have that effect.)  Most cRPGs released within the past five years, however, give you a choice between playing a man or a woman.  It is here that the dilemma starts.  I usually utilize the following three questions when making my decision.  I also consider other things like goals, motivations, class, past, etc during character creation but those do not usually affect whether my new character is male or female.

1. What is the game's time period and/or setting?
As mentioned before with Arcanum, the time period of a game can be very important to what gender you want to play.  Arcanum for example is a steampunk game and therefore takes place sometime during the late Victorian Era.  Most games, however, are rarely so specific. For example, most sword & sorcery games into a very vague, faux Medieval/Rennaisancian period.  The time period dictates the social rule within which the characters will live, and the way that the character reacts to those rules defines how others will react.  One should keep in mind here that often the reaction of NPCs must be dictated by the gamer themselves (i.e. it's all in your head) since most developers have a long and glorious tradition of transforming their NPCs into cookie cutter, feelingless beings.  Bethesda, I'm looking at you.  If you plan on playing a female character who breaks the rules of society (say a rambunctious, war hammer wielding upper class woman who runs about the countryside in a fur bikini when she, by all rights, should be at home in a high-necked dress caring for her spoiled rich babies) and are bothered by the fact that the NPCs do not display horror at your actions, then you should probably reconsider the choice of character's gender and/or mode of conduct.  I generally find that if you do not wish to deal with social strictures at all, then you're best bet is to chose a male character.
With most western RPGs, I find it generally acceptable to assume that the society is largely patriarchal in nature.  Even games like Dragon Age: Origins, whose Renaissance-esqe Fereldian noble class takes no issue with warrior women, still operates under the tradition of men being the head of the house.  When I played as a female human noble, her father had no issue with her chopping up baddies with her sword.  When he was about to leave for war, however, he wanted to leave my character and her mother to hold down the fort.  This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, but it means that if that was going to bother me as a player to no end, then I should have played either another origin story or changed my character's gender.  (For the record I tried playing a male human noble, but was completely put off by the fact that his father called him "pup."  That character didn't even make it out of the origin tale.)
I started the second paragraph off with the qualifier "most", because this rule of course does not always apply.  With space games I still tend to apply the patriarchal filter since my characters probably originate from some vaguely Western European country like England.  With games like Morrowind, however, you find yourself plopped down in a foreign society with completely different social values. (I am aware of the fact that this blog continually mentions Morrowind, but is quite possibly the best RPG ever so I find no shame in doing so.)  In Morrowind your character is already at the bottom of the Vvardenfellian social ladder since you play an Outlander.  As the player you can either choose to abide by Vvardenfell's social norms off the bat (though I can't imagine why you would do so) or utilize the norms of your home country.  The glory of games which place you in a completely foreign land is the fact that one generally finds themselves temporarily freed from social norms altogether.  Your character has a new chance to separate themselves from their (in your head) past, and fashion a new one for themselves.  In Morrowind your character arrives in Vvardenfell as a convict (or in Oblivion begins the game in a prison cell), so the odds that you character has already tried breaking with the norm before are probably pretty high.  The gender which you play at this point is left more to your own whims.  Since you exist, to a great deal, outside of society, you have the freedom of fashioning your own rules.  No matter what you choose, there will be House or faction to suit your new lifestyle.  You can also exist outside of organized society altogether should the fancy strike you.
2. What are my character's values?  What is their approach to life? 
A character's values does not necessarily dictate what their gender will be by itself.  After all, both men and women can be traditionalist, highly religious, conservative, or law abiding.  They can also be manipulative, freewheeling, generally apathetic, etc etc etc.  I find though, that the values of one's character become important to the great gender debate when one combines them with the game's time and place.  This is a bit redundant since we just touched on time and place, but I can't stress enough how important it is for me to consider the setting within which my character will live.  For example, it is fantastic if you wish to break the mold a bit and play a demure, pacifist male character or a gun-toting, mealy mouthed female.  If you can't deal with the fact that those roles are not accepted in the land where your character will reside though, then you should probably consider changing your avatar's gender.  Doing so will generally allow you to keep the back story/personality that you've constructed intact while simply swapping out your character's genetic make-up.  Thankfully, situations like this seem to be less and less of an issue with the advent of grey morality games, since they provide a wide range of dialogue options that suit just about every personality or value set out there.  Well you know ... within reason of course.
3. Are there any significant (read negative) stat differences that will make playing a female character more effort than it is worth?
This is not always an issue with me, because difference do not always exist.  Some games, like those in the KOTOR series (2003 & 2005), do not seem to differentiate between the two genders.  Others actually work in the female character's favor since women may receive a boost in dexterity, constitution, or whatever constitutes as a pain threshold.  This of course is usually accompanied by a decrease in strength, but that is okay with me.  I appreciate the token (very token) efforts that the developers make to add a tiny dash of realism to character creation. Sometimes female characters receive skill boosts in areas that men do not, but then that must of course be true the other way around as well with men benefiting in areas that women do not.  Most games do a fairly decent job of compensating for a reduction in one attribute by boosting another.  As a result, I cannot think of a game that I've played to date that possesses broken female stats.  This does not mean, however, that one should not double check the beginning stats to make sure that the female character will be playable.
At one point in time I played predominantly male characters since that is what I had grown up with.  Things have changed though as the choice to play as a woman has become more and more common in cRPGs.  I still do not mind playing men at all, but if given the choice I will generally run through the above thought process, and then pick a female avatar.  This is largely due to the fact that it is easier for me to get into a woman's head space.  (A discussion with a number of my male friends sometime back was a bit of a shocker since told me that they generally preferred playing with female avatars as well.  I had just assumed that they would role-play male characters more often.  That will teach me to make assumptions.)  I will admit here  that there is one exception to my preference for female characters.  That exception is (take a guess) the Elder Scrolls series.  I generally play with a male avatar about 80% of the time in both Morrowind and Oblivion combined.  I do not know why this is, but it might have something to do with my comfort level in their environments.  That's probably over analyzing it a bit though.

*This delay is of course in no way related to, or the direct result of, my recent discovery of Zero Punctuation's back catalogue.

*Fable: The Lost Chapters (2005) also requires you to play as a guy, but I no longer find that game to be enjoyable since the PC controls are so extremely broken and counter intuitive.  Just don't get me started on that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's Visit - Game Studies

From Their Website - Our Mission [is to] explore the rich cultural genre of games; to give scholars a peer-reviewed forum for their ideas and theories; to provide an academic channel for the ongoing discussions on games and gaming.

Game Studies is a cross disciplinary journal dedicated to games research, web-published several times a year at www.gamestudies.org.

Our primary focus is aesthetic, cultural and communicative aspects of computer games, but any previously unpublished article focused on games and gaming is welcome. Proposed articles should be jargon-free, and should attempt to shed new light on games, rather than simply use games as metaphor or illustration of some other theory or phenomenon.

A Few Thoughts of My Own -  The number of peer reviewed journals focused on the world of gaming and gaming culture has been [very] gradually increasing since the early 2000s.  I think this is a wonderful thing.  You know just as well as I that there is far more to these virtual worlds than pixels, avatars, and a sleep-deprived geek behind the keyboard. (Granted there is truth to the the sleep-deprived geek stereotype since I, for one, fit that bill perfectly.  This, however, is not my point.)  The "general public" does not always see beyond the stereotypes, and sometimes I wonder if that is partially our fault.   How can we expect the public to take gamers seriously, when we don't bother to address mature audiences (in the sense of over 18) in way that is relatable?  The average, educated adult is probably loath to sift through message boards or game driven sites for information.  They might, however, be willing to read articles about gaming that draw connections between the virtual and physical worlds.  Critically thinking about what we play and actively engaging in an informative dialogue about our experiences are two ways that we can positively present our pastime to an audience willing to listen.  This is where websites like Game Studies come in.  The presence of these e-journals reinforces the idea that gaming is a serious (yet very enjoyable) business.  Below are links to their most recent issue, and a couple of other articles I found to be of interest (and plan to go back and read in more detail later).

Current Issue - volume 11 issue 1, February 2011 
Past Articles of Interest  

-Gerald Voorhees

-Marcus Schulzke

-José P. Zagal and Amy Bruckman

-Mark Rowell Wallin

-Joris Dormans  

Image - Game Studies

Sunday, March 6, 2011

DA:O - Emotions Run High

Why hello there glowy door.
With Orzammar completed and her allies gathered, Perra has begun the last leg of Dragon Age: Origins.  Granted, the last leg is probably another fifteen hours or so (I've never timed it) but it is the last leg nonetheless.  My apologies for taking so long to post this, but I had forgotten how many events occurred in succession at this point in the game, and thus had issues finding a good stopping point.  There were also a number of side stories (of which I'm not covering here) that needed tying up as well.  This was a particularly interesting portion in the game for me since I've only gotten this far with a human noble before.  Where Perra's past lies in Orzammar, the human noble's resides here in Denerim with Arl Howe.  As a result, a number of the conversations were very different, and Perra's reactions were different as well.  I'll throw a bit on that down below since it probably bears mentioning.  

It goes without saying, but the following text is full of spoilers.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DA:O - A Dwarven King

Well folks the moment is here, and Perra's visit home to Orzammar has finally reached its end.  Personally I'm thrilled because the Deep Roads seems to go on forever, but Perra is likewise relieved.  This visit home has been nothing like she anticipated it would be, and she's been forced to make a number of decisions that she wishes she had never even needed to consider.  From murdering a childhood friend to crowning a king, describing her time in Orzammar as a roller coaster ride would be an understatement.  With the Anvil of the Void behind them, Perra and the rest of her party are happy to finally exchange the stone halls of her home city for the open skies of Ferelden.  

It goes without saying, but the rest of this post is full of spoilers.  
Continue reading at your own risk.