Monthly Archives: April 2014

Coming Out on Top: The Second Demo Review

This post might not be safe for work. You have been warned.

I want to be reviewing the finished version of Coming Out on Top, the gay dating sim from Obscurasoft. I really want the game now. I’m super psyched for it. And the demo has only whetted my yearning for it.

So, what is Coming Out on Top? It is a gay dating sim that follows Mark Matthews, a newly out gay man beginning his final semester at Oberlin College. From coming out to his two roommates, Mark must navigate a dizzying and nerves inducing dating scene with five romantic possibilities. It is a dating sim, after all.

The game is played through scroll text and decision making. At various times during play, the player is given several options to chose from. Some of those choices lead to increased chances of dating the romantic possibilities and others lessen those chances.

Gameplay isn’t without its flaws. The narrative text is at times repetitive and slows down the action. And at times, the narration seems to have a decided preference for Mark to act in a certain way. This is best illustrated when players compare the narrative takes on interactions with Alex and Jed. The narrative indicates there is a strong infatuation towards Alex, the first possible romantic interest. (So he may have the benefit of time). But, Jed is the first (I suspect) romantic interest that Mark can have sex with. However, the narrative text doesn’t seem as touched or affected by that event as one should expect.

I don’t know if this is a narrative bias or the demo still being (slightly) geared towards Alex (as he is the sole romantic interest introduced in the first demo). Hopefully, the narrative text will show a greater range of adaptiveness as Mark’s character changes based on his romantic choices.

Another issue is the interrupted jacking off sessions. I know these scenes are intended for humor, but they are more troublesome unless they serve the plot (like the introduction of Jed).

A final concern, as pointed out by Gaymer, is the fact that Obscurasoft is a woman creating a game featuring a gay man as the protagonist. The concerns raised are valid. The five romantic possibilities do tend to conform to some stereotypes of gay men. And I’ve expressed some concerns about Mark’s characterization. Whether or not these stereotypes will evolve into fully functioning characters will have to wait until the game is finished and released. (Gaymer also raises the point that Obscurasoft, as a woman, might have added more women to the cast when a gay man creating the same game might not have. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. But until we see a similar game created by a gay man, the question will remain unresolved.)

So, who are Mark’s romantic interests?

Alex is an attractive older man Mark meets at the only gay bar in town. They hit it off, but Alex is the professor of Mark’s anatomy class.

Jed is the hot upstairs neighbor. He’s a “bad boy” that forces Mark outside his comfort zone. (He’s also the easiest to have sex with, I think).

Phil is Penny’s (one of Mark’s rommates) cousin. He is in the military. Penny tries to set them up.

Brad is a football player who Mark is hired to tutor.

And finally Ian, Mark’s other roommate, who may not be so straight himself.

When I played the demo, I found Alex, Jed, and Ian the most likeable of the five. Phil and Brad don’t come off as exactly likeable in their first meetings with Mark, but it is entirely possible that they will grow on the player as the game progresses.

Outside of the five romantic possibilities and Penny, several other characters are introduced. What role they play in the game remains to be seen, but I have some guesses. Mr. Bluetooth, I suspect< is either investigating Alex or the football team. Zoe will be a roadblock to a possible Mark/ Ian relationship (she is Ian’s ex-girlfriend). And the football team will likely cause trouble for Mark and Brad (if his doucheness doesn’t scare Mark off first).

Despite my criticisms of the game, I’m passionate about it. I want the game now. And that is all that matters.

(These criticisms aren’t the negative kind. They’re the positive kind. They’re the kind of criticism that wants to see a project be the best it can be. And it is also the fuel that can light the fire for one’s own projects. Tempting. . . )


The Innocently Disturbing World of Cardcaptor Sakura

CLAMP are among my favorite manga writers and artists. Among their works is Cardcaptor Sakura, which I binged on yesterday. I enjoy the series immensely. But, at the same time, I find the series, despite its innocence, greatly disturbing. 

By far the largest source of disturbance I have about the series is the depiction of romance. While some of the romances are perfectly sweet and innocent, many of the relationships are not. 

My biggest concerns lie with teachers having romantic feelings/ relationships with their students. In the series, there are three such relationships. Fujitaka (Sakura’s father) was Nadeshiko’s (Sakura’s mother) teacher when they fell in love (and she was sixteen when they married). Tarada, an elementary school teacher, is in love with his student, Rika. And, finally, student teacher Kaho has a year long relationship with her, at the time, former student, Toya. 

These relationships are represented as being okay. But they are, honestly, anything but. The relationship of teacher to student is inherently fraught with an inequality of power. The teacher, no matter his or her intentions, has a great deal of power over their students. So, whether or not Toya or Nadeshiko genuinely love their sensei does not matter. Kaho and Fujitaka abused their power. And the Rika/ Tarada relationship? Pedophile. Enough said. 

What Cardcaptor Sakura reveals is a disturbing trend in art that requires romance as an integral element of the story. Even when said romance takes away from the story. Or its presence, as in Cardcaptor Sakura and other literature for children, is wholly inappropriate baring school yard infatuations.

And therein lies the root of the matter, I think. Cardcaptor Sakura makes the mistake of treating innocent crushes as being equivalent to romantic love. But while those crushes may feel that way for the children involved, it is not the same as romantic love. 

And it is never appropriate for teachers to have romantic relations with their students. Period. 

CLAMP’s work is amazing. But often times their writing is more mature than the age demographic they are writing for. And I think this is certainly the case with Cardcaptor Sakura, no matter how innocent the series looks to be. 

Frustration Junction

I don’t know what’s come over me the past few months. Whatever it is, though, has wrought havoc on the blog. Good topics elude me. And when I do capture engaging subjects, I’m not satisfied with the drafts. This is so frustrating. 

Am I distracted by listening to podcasts while I’m trying to write? Am I just not finding interesting subjects? What?

The answer eludes me. For now. 

Maybe I’ll get back in the groove tomorrow when I take on Cardcaptor SakuraComing Out on Top, and a final summation for Young Avengers. And maybe I can unleash a rant on Sundance. Seriously, Law & Order? What the hell. 

And maybe I really shouldn’t write about my writing until I have something to show (or sale). 

Cobra Command

Cobra Command. I’ve been meaning to interlibrary loan this crossover from IDW’s G.I. Joe family of comics. I finally took the plunge and am extremely thrilled with the results. Cobra Command is freaking awesome. This is what G.I. Joe needs to be. 

So, what is Cobra Command? With the death of Cobra Commander, a competition was held among the High Command of Cobra to determine who would become the new Commander. The competition, to kill and damage the Joes, is won by Krake. Cobra Command is Krake’s first move as Commander. He’s taking Cobra out of the shadows and into the light. He accomplishes this goal by targeting the nation of Nanzhao (an expy of Myanmar) for conquest. But that is not the only operation he’s running. He also plans to ensure his authority and remove dissident voices from Cobra.

And, in the end, Cobra wins. Nanzhao is, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. Krake is in full command of Cobra. And all of his opposition within the organization has been removed. 

I freaking love this. The problem with G.I. Joe has always been the fact that Cobra has been depicted as a joke. While this is not really true of the comics, it is hard to escape the far more famous cartoon series. But with this version of Cobra? The Joes are on the defensive. 

Despite my enthusiasm for the crossover, I do have some quibbles. 

The biggest problem is Snake Eyes. He kills a tank company. By himself. Seriously. He is that over powered. And it kills the story. I get that Snake Eyes (and Storm Shadow) is the Wolverine of the Joes, but the problem is that he kills the dramatic tension of the story. The Joes should be on the defensive. They should be losing. Not have Snake Eyes go all lone ranger on the mooks. And Storm Shadow is just as bad. 

Another issue I have is that while several Joes are killed during the operation, their actual deaths are never shown. Their deaths are only revealed in an epilogue. Those deaths should have been shown. 

Besides that, I really enjoyed this story. greatly. Now I want to discover what happens next. And maybe tackle World War III, the last G.I. Joe story from Devil’s Due.