Author Archives: Emily

Three Cheers for Zombie Army Trilogy

Zombie Army Trilogy

I recently bought Zombie Army Trilogy (henceforth ZAT) and am wonderfully surprised by it. It always looked interesting back as a standalone DLC for Sniper Elite V2, but I was not prepared for just how fun and interesting it is. They have taken something which in recent years become more of a gag and actually made it terrifying. Admittedly, I have tried to play it solo, and there is a real sense of fear there because there are no second chances, but even when I finally do get a friend to play with me I doubt the game will get any lass scary. From the music, character design and environment, everything just screams at you “Death is inevitable, why fight it?” Doesn’t help that the Zombies literally scream at you too. Even though most of the Zombies are slow and cumbersome, they still send shivers done your spine as the absorb bullet after bullet, and seem to care about loosing a limb about as much as the Black Knight (Monty Python reference achievement unlocked!).

But that’s not all ZAT does well, and nor is this meant to be a review, because I don’t really do reviews. Rebellion have added a cast of female characters to the game, and done them really well. New to this remastered version of the game are four ladies, who are brilliantly both believable and varied. From the American War Artist to the presumably Polish Woman out for revenge, each has a different story to tell. Admittedly these stories meaningless in the actual game, but do add a bit of personality to the characters which we don’t see through game-play. They all also fit the period and world in which ZAT takes place, and don’t seem forced or ridiculous. The mentioned possibly Polish woman Hanna Schulz back story is perhaps the most interesting and pushed, but still makes sense. An orphan, her family meant everything to her. A German officer killed them, and so she presumably killed him as she wears his uniform. Now she fights to save others from this tragedy, getting caught up in the Zombie apocalypse with the others. I guess she is polish, possibly even Jewish because of the name and story, one short paragraph gives me more of a feel for her than many Triple A games managed to do with an entire trilogy. But the interesting stories are not all, they also look the part.

I could find an image of Hanna, but above you can see Anya Bochkareva, Beth Coleman and Marie Chevalier respectively. Notice something? Whilst definitely attractive, they aren’t you typical eye candy action girl. The are fully covered and look like they are in a war zone, no heels here. Considering what some games try to get away with I actually think this is an incredibly brave move on the part of Rebellion. Most game pander to a male audience, so there characters cater from them. While here I would happily play as and indeed BE any of these characters, well maybe that’s not quite true in Hanna’s case due to her story, but the point is these ladies are wonderful role models. The display courage, independence and are more than eye candy for men.

So yeah, well done Rebellion, ZAT has not only rekindled my love of Zombies, but also shown me a Triple A company can doe female characters I enjoy and even look up too.

Magic, The Gathering just got a lot more awesome for me.

I have always been interested in Magic, The Gathering. I even played a little of the video games to  gain some understanding of it. The variety of possible play styles, and the fun ways of making cards interact was more interesting to me than Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh. I actually considered starting a deck, but had no one to really play with. Now however, they have added a card and character to their Mythos that makes me think I shall find people to play with.

Magic card art is very well done.

I love this image, it looks awesome

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Cool name, but its how she gets the name that is awesome. She is Magic’s first Trans character, born into a clan that favors glory in battle, she had no name until she gained her first kill. Seen as a young boy, she calls herself after her grandmother, and no questions are raised. Here is an excerpt of when she claims herself.

“It had been a day like this, a battle very much like this, when Alesha won the right to name herself. With blood running down her back where the dragon’s claws had raked her flesh, she pulled a spear from a dead man’s back and plunged it into the beast’s mouth, up into its brain. The spear shaft splintered, but the dragon died in an instant. She didn’t remember if she had been afraid as the monstrous head lunged at her.

What she remembered was the panic that came after. Earning her war name had been her only goal. When the fight was over, she stood silently among the other young ones who were boasting of their accomplishments and the bold, grisly names they would choose. Headsmasher. Skullcleaver. Wingbreaker—Gedruk had been among them. Some of them, mostly orcs, boasted of their ancestors’ deeds and spoke of their pride in adopting those ancestors’ names. She had been so different—only sixteen, a boy in everyone’s eyes but her own, about to choose and declare her name before the khan and all the Mardu.

The khan had walked among the warriors, hearing the tales of their glorious deeds. One by one, they declared their new war names, and each time, the khan shouted the names for all to hear. Each time, the horde shouted the name as one, shaking the earth.

Then the khan came to Alesha. She stood before him, snakes coiling in the pit of her stomach, and told how she had slain her first dragon. The khan nodded and asked her name.

“Alesha,” she said, as loudly as she could. Just Alesha, her grandmother’s name.

“Alesha!” the khan shouted, without a moment’s pause.

And the whole gathered horde shouted “Alesha!” in reply. The warriors of the Mardu shouted her name.

In that moment, if anyone had told her that in three years’ time she would be khan, she just might have dared to believe it.”

Notice something? Even though this bit is at a stage where she would have been seen as a young boy, the writer kept the correct pronouns. Its more than can be said of most media, which often ascribe Pre-Transition accomplishments to our dead names (our names given to us that we stop using) and use the wrong pronouns for anything Pre-Transition. The whole thing is very well written, and perfectly places issues with identity into a fantasy setting. Indeed, Alesha deals with one Orc’s own issues with his identity, but in another way. Said Orc originally leers at Alesha for berating him for failing to kill a dragon and not gaining a chance to claim his name and who he is. The Orc tells her “You tell me this? A human boy who thinks he’s a woman?” Its harsh, but the story expertly plays upon it.

Alesha surprises the Orc with her ferocity, smiling as she single handedly takes down a Dragon, allowing her to point out to him she knows who she is.Through out the battle, Alesha watches the Orc and sees while he never went for a killing blow, he saved others and provided openings for them. By the end she calls on the Orc tell his battle story, but he claims to have none, and hence no name to claim. So Alesha asks those around him, who all talk about his bravery in saving them from certain death, or providing openings for a killing blow, whilst never actually killing something himself. She scolds him again for not knowing who he is and reminds him she knows she is no boy. The Orc then comes forward and calls her Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Read the full thing here.

Its a brilliant story, that helps to show the importance of self determination, and even deals with how societies ideas of what identity is meaningful conflicts some people. Alesha and the Orc are Opposites. Alesha knows who she is and claims regardless of the views of others, the Orc probably knows who he is as well, but is conflicted as it goes against the Clans ideals. He strives not to be the killer, but to aid his friends, meaning by their laws he would never gain glory. Yet he is as glorious as the others. It is a well played story that deals with identity well by actually removing the issues of self determination from the Trans person. Frankly, I think its amazing.

A game has been chosen!

That’s right! After a little while of waiting, I have decided upon what game I plan to make from my previous blog post.

And the winner is: Sea of Monsters!

With an amazing 100% of the votes (with a total of 2) this one hands down in the poll. Ok, so I didn’t get as much feedback as I expected, but the fact is I liked this idea, and have some grounding to base it off of. A friend of mine has done research into Classical cultures views of Trans People, so has a lot of knowledge and references I can pull on. Some things will need to b drummed up though, like a fully fledged story, and a new name (Curse you Percy Jackson!), but it all shows promise.

Unfortunately I will be moving out soon, so I may be away for a while, but when I return hopefully I will have a grounding to base a game from.

See you all soon!

So many games, what one do I make?

So time for my small community to give something back to me. “But what?” you ask all horrified and scared. Just your souls that’s all… insert evil laugh here. Ok, you probably guessed from the posts title, but I need help selecting the Trans Inclusive game to build. There is no point in me building one no one wants, so getting an idea of what people like would be good. So I am going to outline a bunch of concepts, and see if I can set up a poll for people to give feedback on what they would like to see. Bear in mind these are all concepts, and some don’t even have real names. Got a better idea? Fire it into the comments, I won’t be offended and if everyone likes it and I go and make it, I’ll even give you credit!

1: The Trans Horror Game

Simply look over some of my posts and you get the jist of this. A game looking at issues plaguing Trans Folk today in a horror context. Designed for anyone to play and meant in a more serious manner as a form of understanding, it would be fun to challenge myself to build a game in a genre I can’t play. Honestly I can’t play horrors, I get too scarred. Anyway some issues I understand is the potential triggering of the game for Trans People as it could dig up some harsh memories.

2: Sea of Monsters

I fell in love with the navel side of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, and would love to see more stuff in a similar style.So that’s where this game comes in. As the Trans captain aboard a ship, you raid ships and fight monsters in a world themed around the ancient Mediterranean with groups based on Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.The game itself doesn’t use Trans issues as a theme, merely designed to show people we aren’t things to be gawked at by placing us in a anti-hero role working to save the world from monsters. So while the character is Trans, it is not an issue for anyone in the game world, partially why the setting is ancient because that was a time of greater tolerance for Trans People.

3: Finding Me

A more serious game which explores the journey of a Trans Person through coming out and Transition, but unlike every other story focuses on some one young, a teen most likely. Through out the game the players would perform actions that we all go through, buying clothes, seeing doctors, and coming out, and some which the player can decide how to proceed, such as HRT and Surgeries. The games end would be to build the players confidence bar to the max, done through various actions like seeing doctors and making decisions about the Transition they were undertaken. It would also involve turn based Conversation “Battles” where the player had to keep their self esteem up while being talked to by curious children, concerned family or even random passers by, almost like a Pokemon game. Selecting correct responses would be key to such battles, and as confidence increased, more difficult conversations could be had.

4: Of People and Demons

hat title needs work. Anyway this is an old concept that has evolved a bit over the years. A young Trans Girl, probably 18, makes a deal with the King of Demons to be herself in exchange for a soul. The Demon King agrees and she is turned into a girl, but her sisters soul is taken, not hers. This leads her on a journey to track down the Demon King and rescue her sister. Over the course of the game the Trans girl becomes more confident and by the end is able to return to her old self to undergo a real world Transition than a magical one. Really this game is all about overcoming adversity and gaining confidence with a Trans spin on things.

5: Spaced Out

Dreamed of a silly space adventure romp in which you woke up 500 years in the future due to a failed colony mission? If so this is the game for you! A really zany space game where the player wakes up from cryogenic freezing on a sub light ship only to find humanity has advance to Faster Than Light in the time you took to travel between stars, so your mission was pointless. I planed to let people play who they want but incorporate some of the ideas Mitch discusses here to allow people to play Trans characters. Again no Trans themes beyond “Look, we can be heroes in games too!”

So there you go, just five really quick ideas, I’ll set up a poll so you can give your thoughts, or just leave a comment with you own. Peace out!

 

“Don’t Feed the Trolls”

If you are wondering what happened to the next part of my look into a Trans Horror Game, well I have decided to actually make one, so I am holding off on it until a get a more focused image.

Anyway, onto today’s subject, where I will be looking at harassment, a recent “movement” focused on it, and the crazy defence of it. For those who don’t know, my title is in reference to one of the common defences of digital harassment. You see, people who harass others online are often referred to as Trolls. The common or garden Troll will often leap in randomly to conversation and offer either dissenting opinions or bring up random topics. Their aim is often to de-rail the conversation, for any number of reasons like boredom or wanting the winning side of a conversation to lose. They can be harmless morons, wasting what little time they have in this life, but they can also be dangerous and zealot like in their attacks.

In the latter case they cease being Trolls, and instead turn into Demons, the Demons of society. You want to see the issues still prevalent in society, look where anonymity is preserved. Right now that is the digital world. Across the internet and gaming worlds, open harassment happens on a daily basis to anyone who is unfortunate enough to not be “normal.” I know, as I have experienced it. Last year, I was really into Star Trek Online (no I am not a Trekkie, but I do love the Trek Universe, and the combination of tactical RPG style ground and space combat was really good in my opinion). At one point, while wandering round the social area that is the Space Station above Earth (forget its name) I was invited to join a Fleet, essentially a Clan for questing and so forth. It was the Star Fleet LGBT CORPS (or something similar). I decided to join as, hey, I am Trans and I had written a Trans backstory for my character (visible only to friends). What I wasn’t prepared for was the backlash for having my LGBT status visible online. I had to deal with a lot insults for walking around, raids could only be done with my fleet or I would face ridicule. I eventually left the fleet and the game, which I miss dearly as I felt that it was pretty cool.

This is the thing, harassment can quickly push people away, and now people have caught onto the idea and are using it. Just look at the GamerGate “movement,” if it can even be called that. Some claim that its originators where looking for ethics in video game journalism but I personally find that a little hard to swallow. The only people I have seen using that story are GamerGaters and apologists, mainly as ways of negating the horrible nature of the GamerGaters. And trust me, GamerGate is horrible, and if you truly believe in video game ethics, stay away. I have avoided talking about this for some time, as I fear the implications for my little indie blog. Though never encountering a GamerGate crowd, my post to the creators of Warface, which I recently saw, is as close as I ever got. It confirmed to me that I didn’t want to play that game, considering its fan base.

Anyway, this harassment is being used to push people away from games and discussing games. So far the GamerGaters have pushed three women to flee their homes for safety fears, and cancel talks to protect the public. It has nothing to do with ethics, even if it did “start” that way (as said, I’m not convinced). It is being used to silence those that challenge the status quo of games, which put the white cis het dudes on top. Sure advances are being made by some companies, Bioware has included a Trans Man in its most recent Dragon Aga game (which I just bought, so expect to see something on it in a while), but as long as Gamers still hold these ideas, and most games fail to challenge them, things are grim for me and many of my friends.

And here is the real kicker, apologists and defenders. Why the fuck would someone defend actions and words that have scared people to death? Forced them to run away and sleep on friends couches just in case someone decides to follow through on a threat? I mean what the actual fuck? Commen defences include “It’s just words,” “Don’t feed the Trolls,” and “Just turn it off and go away.” They generally fall into two categories, ignoring the harassment or implying the harassed person is the one with fault. Ignoring the harassment is probably the most common, and certainly done at a political scale. To this day the disproportionately high levels of violence against woman and LGBT people is ignored to the point we need to scream and shout to be heard. Indeed, when I have pointed out Transphobic language on Facebook, they ignore it (then they started blocking Trans peoples accounts for not using their birth names, so I wonder where their allegiances lie?). It is horrible and dehumanizing. Ignoring it is indeed a defence because it allows it to go on. For years people ignored the Anti-Semitism the Nazi party displayed, and what happened? Attempted genocide. Now I am not saying all those who have taken part in the GamerGate are new Hitlers and Himmlers, merely that they are beginning to climb the same ladders they did.

The other group of defenders are worse than the ignorers, because they twist it round to be the victims fault. It is unfortunately very prevalent in our society to blame victims, just look toward rape. “Why where you wearing that?” Why didn’t you come forward sooner?” “Why didn’t you fight back or scream?” These all cast doubt on the victim, and cause almost as much scaring as the incident itself. In games, it is thankfully not as bad, but still plagues us. We are often told we are too sensitive and need to grow thicker skins. Bullshit. It is easy to claim someone is oversensitive, but hard to look at why. You don’t know what has happened in their life that means that something upsets them. Let’s give an example, two in fact. I occasionally use the T word (don’t know what it is? Ask Ru-Paul) in a mocking sense on myself, but a couple of Trans friends mentioned really not liking the word. So I stopped. My Dad kept using the R word (annoyingly it is considered a medical term in America as far as I can gather) and I asked him to stop as my Head Mistress had called me it at school. So he stopped (one of his more decent moves, the Transphobic Bigot (he doesn’t let me wear what I want or call me Emily as well as apparently trying to get my Mother to Detransition me, so I can call him what I like here)). You need to accept that people get hurt by things, and change according to who is around you. On the internet of course anyone could be around you, so even greater care is needed. Merely telling them to switch of or go away for being offended does not improve them or yourselves. In fact it can drive people away from what they enjoy (look at me and Star Trek: Online). By shutting out the voices of others you loose the ability to learn. That is what GamerGate is all about, not ethics, shutting out the voices of others because they don’t want to learn just how horrible things are.

So yeah, I think this was one of my longer posts, but I have been holding this back a bit.

Gonna do Some Jammin!

No I am not a Muscian, I will be Game Jammin. A Game Jam for those who don’t know is where game developers, both big and small, ranging from art to programming, get together to make games under a common theme. This one day Jam is the Love Jam. It is a response to Gamer Gate to basically bring back some inclusion and love into the games world after the general shittyness of it.

My Trans Horror game will not be what I run with, as the focus is on love and inclusiveness. However I will try to create a game centred on Trans people, probably with bright colours and rainbows and plenty of that really overdone butterfly symbolism. Ok, maybe that over the top, but I’ll try to explore the positive sides of coming out and things. My blog will also showupdates as I do things, and likely I’ll plant some images of what I do here too. It starts tomorrow, so stay tuned!

The Trans Horror Game – Location, Location, Location

So after the sudden jump in readers when I posted my ideas for a Trans Horror game last week (readership was up 1000%! (yeah but 10 times 1 is 10) shut up!) I have decided to carry on with it for a while, see if it gets any traction. If it does, I may start a Kickstarter or other crowd funding enterprise to get it off the ground.

So toady I will look at locales for a Trans Horror game. The best Horrors use locales which tie in thematically to the central themes and ideas, or play on peoples fears. They can also play on a cultures own fears to great effect, British Horrors tend to be based in Cities thanks to characters like Jack the Ripper who made Cities dangerous places. Americans on the other hand tend to set their Horrors away from Cities, thanks to the difficulties of small towns as they spread West. So lets look at some places to set a Trans Horror game.

City

You might question this a little, but bear with me. Cities a full of people running around shopping, working and socialising. But what if it was empty? Trans people often feel alone in the world, although this is becoming less prevalent thanks to the internet. It is still a very common feeling feeling when first coming out to yourself, that you are the only one. So by having a City which our mind tells us should be full of people empty you can draw on this loneliness. Also, Cities are always safe for Trans people, public stabbings can and do happen, regardless of whether people are watching. Slurs can be hurled at you from all directions from a faceless mob. Which brings me onto another City design, one full of people, but people you cannot see clearly. All you can see is their staring eyes which burrow deep into your soul because you dare to be different.

 Mental Health Hospital

Or an Asylum to most folks. This works really well not only because they are already creepy places, especially Victorian ones, but they play on the common misconception of Trans People. If you don’t know what that is its that we are all insane lunatics who need locked up. Ok, some are decent enough just to think its a mental illness and we need counselling, but the idea is the same. Given the often clinical nature we are examined by others, especially the media (the ever hated “So have you had your penis cut off yet?”) being somewhere actually medical can tie into this idea. Literally the player could be being inspected and scrutinised for their appearance and genitalia.

Graveyard with Church

This obviously has connotations of death and religion. Death clearly wraps into the violence suffered by Trans people. It also brings to mind Trans peoples own suicidal thoughts and tendencies, as almost one in two attempt suicide (myself included). A world surrounded by those lost and bearing this them would be incredibly heavy and dark, so I think caution would have to be taken, however a Graveyard offers other tie ins. The religious aspects such as cross shaped tombstones, a church and even an overbearing priest can all be used to bring to mind the fact that the religious right wing tries to prevent Trans people being themselves. It would sort out a villain and a world all at once.

These where just some quick looks at different worlds and how they could help to bring forward some themes surround Trans issues. This list is not exhaustive, and was kinda quickly written. I am open to more ideas and will look into this a little more myself as time goes on. Perhaps this game will see the light of day in the future.

Halloween Special! (In November)

So maybe this is because it was it was Halloween on Friday, or perhaps because I have thought about this before, but I have come to the conclusion a Trans Horror game would be distressing as all hell. And really, you want a Horror game to leave a lasting impression on the player.

Now first off, no I do not mean a game were the villain, monster or ghost is Trans. Too often when Trans people are represented in horrors or thrillers they are killers. Just look at Silence of the Lambs or Psycho. In both cases the killer assumes a female identity, supposedly due to mental anguish or some such. Often defended as simply “Men who wish to be woman,” which is a commen trope about Trans Woman, they only help to drive the stigmaof Trans people as “mentally ill.” In games, I think the closest I have seen is Yutaji the Flesh Mage from Draken: The Ancients Gates. He is supposed to be completely mad although he does not don a female identity, merely wears woman’s skin.

Yutaji

This guy was terrifying. The game wasn’t even supposed to be scary!

No, what I am talking about is a horror game which bases the world, challenges of that world and its major themes on issues facing Trans people. With that goal in mind I have thought of some issues and how they could be explored in a horror game context. Warning, things are about to get personal and maybe a little emotional.

Control

Probably one issue common to all Trans people is control. Society tries to force us to behave like the gender we were assigned at birth, or when they do accept us force us to act in a stereotypical manner for our Gender Identity. Even Trans people try to control other Trans people, by telling them they are not truly Trans or their identity unless they have SRS. So how do we explore this in a game? Games have the unique opportunity to be Active Experiences, giving the player control over what they see, so we must break this! Some games already toy with this a little. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, a brilliant moment early in the game has you at the Mercy of a Nazi official. You have no idea what she will do, you can only pick pictures. And honestly, it is one of the scariest segments of the game. But obviously a game where the player has no control is just one long cutscene, so how do we give the illusion of control, while taking it away? Some ideas I have include giving the player a map which depicts a large open world, yet they are confined to a narrow path. Doors are locked, walls crumble to prevent passage, and horrors stop you from exploring that cool looking tower. A eerie idea I like is the idea of a stair way. When you step on it and travel up, it goes on as long as you move up, but when you turn around, you are still standing at the bottom.

Rejection

Another one common to all Trans people, as our families and friends abandon our new found selves. A little more difficult to convey in a game, but it could still be done. Characters, people just out of reach, behind locked doors, walking away constantly. A simple method, and I certainly think I need to think more on this one.

Violence

Sad to say, but Trans people, especially those of darker skin (gah I hate using that phrase, can anyone think of a better one?) are at an extremely high risk of violence. I am thankful I have gone a year nearly full time and only been called “Ugly.” (by a man whose face was falling off, ooh burn) But how do you show violence in a game? Oh wait, that’s what games have been doing for some time. The difference here is of course the player will not be the one dishing it out, but receiving it, and being helpless to stop save to run away (when Trans people defend themselves, they are often arrested, because sometimes the only to stop someone killing you is to kill them). This would result likely in some kind of muscular monster, that stalks you, and you only choice if you bump into him (yes him, as its usually men who attack us, although woman do too, especially TERFs) is to run. Other possible options include the very world trying to attack the player, so they must be on a constant look out. Even then, they may not see it until its too late.

Sexual Harrassment and Rape

Now we get to really shit stuff. Just like violence, Trans people suffer rape to a high degree too. Sometimes it is “corrective” to show them they are wrong. Really, as I have only had to deal with sexual harassment, not sure I would feel comfortable tacking rape without doing lots more research and speaking to those who have suffered it so as to do it properly. Still I think the comic by Erin Lindsey, Venus Envy has had a very interesting way of depicting the horror of it.

Venus Envy

The first time we see any hint of sexual assault, and its terrifying. It comes out of no where. Read the whole comic, its very good.

Misunderstanding

So most people don’t understand Trans people, as is easily evidenced by looking at media portrayals of us. Ironically, bringing in the stupid stereotyped idea of a Trans person could help here. A mirror held up to the player, telling them this is what they look like, when we can see they do not. It helps to perhaps show anyone who is Cis the horribleness of being told you are something you are not. How to make it scary and gamy though? Potentially a room full of these mirrors, which the player must destroy, potentially while avoiding the ire of that muscle bound monster.

So there we go, this was just a wee look at some issues facing Trans people, and how to gamify them in a horror context. This is in no way a complete list, and I am not really a horror enthusiast, more a casual admirer (I am scared of butterflies, how well do you think I do in horror games?). Also, being Trans isn’t all oppression and violence. There are a lot of awesome bits to it to, like being yourself, and speaking honestly, getting the right bra to turn your pecs into boobs rocks!