Category Archives: Video games

Coming Out on Top: The Review

Mark Matthews, the protagonist of Coming Out on Top, is a senior about to start his final semester at Orlin University. But he’s been hiding a secret from his best friends (and roommates), Ian and Penny. He’s gay and it is well past time to tell them. From that initially nerve wracking yet happy moment, the next few months are a whirlwind of study, tutoring, drama, the search for a boyfriend, sex, and maybe love. Coming Out on Top is a fun, crazy game that I cannot help but be addicted to. I love this game.

I play the game in the manner I promised. I pursue all of the guys at once. However, the game does not allow for going after multiple guys past a certain point. To date, I have completed Brad, Ian, and Jed’s stories. I’ve gotten some way into Alex’s and have yet to get to a third date with Phil.

Brad’s path is endearing and cute. Ian’s route is hot as hell (the final scenes are reason enough to buy this game). Jed’s story is sexy and ultimately sweet (and not what I expected). Alex’s path is, so far, revealing of a vulnerable man hidden behind a hyper competitive facade. Phil’s route, though I’ve read he lightens up, is still hampered by Phil’s initial bad attitude.

I really enjoyed the three stories I completed. But I cannot say I’m terribly fond of Alex’s story so far. And I am still not fond of Phil, even after a second date.

The writing draws the player in and doesn’t let go until he or she finishes the particular path. For a first foray into video games and video game writing, Obscura does a rather remarkable job. The various plots are interesting and well researched. The characterization is good and subtle, though the secondary characters lack depth.

I do have problems with the narrative. The explanation for why Mark waited so long to come out to his friends is still problematic for me, given that he has known Penny and Ian for years. Another problematic poor explanation is Mark not knowing that Penny’s extended family is biracial with all of its attendant baggage (not that this is the only moment where Mark comes across as being racist).

The dialogue is problematic at times. Conversations between characters are often well written. But there are moments where the dialogue bogs down in trying to be so hip that it plunges into artificiality. The worst offender, so far, is Jed’s story line where the argument for independence and authenticity comes across as cliche (I would not be surprised, however, if Phil’s story doesn’t come out as the worst offender. The second date is a pain in the ass to read through).

The biggest problem I have with the writing is the amount of text. Yes, this is a visual novel, but the amount of text, especially descriptive text, and the usage of the second person takes away from the enjoyment of the game. Especially when the reading experience is more akin to telling than showing. Again, more cut scenes would have been preferable.

Turning to the art, I’m actually torn by the cutscenes (by Doubleleaf). The scenes I have seen have all been hot and well done. But I don’t know if the anime style is really the best. Alex, Ian, Jed, and Brad are all very well done (barring Ian’s beard in some scenes). But I cannot stand how Alex looks in the cut scenes. He looks too young.

The game rocks, but it can use a more interconnected story. If you play for all the guys, you will get Alex. If you decide that you would rather swim or run the treadmill at the second gym scene, Alex’s route is cut off and you will move on to Brad. I assume if you refuse to tutor Brad after the first tutoring session, Phil’s path will open up for further advancement. If you refuse to go on the second date, Ian’s route becomes available. Finally, if you don’t go to the frat party with Ian, Jed’s story becomes available. The order of the romantic options is determined by events following the second gym scene (and if you attend the second date/ tutoring session). The fact that the various romantic options do not interact is, honestly, a disappointment. A minor disappointment.

I still love the game. I am proud I bought it. I am about to play it again after I post this. Hopefully, this game is a success and we can look forward to many sequels or follow ups to Coming Out on Top from Obscura.

Isn’t There a Video Game Review I Should Be Doing?

I should be reviewing Coming Out on Top right now. Or, if not that, playing the hell out of the game. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait a few more days before I can purchase the game. Which sucks. I want the game now.

While I wait, I’ve been reconsidering my game play plan. I originally wanted to play the game by selecting the options/ answers that I would give first before breaking the game down into specific love interests. (From the comments I’ve read so far, it does not appear that any other player has taken this route. They have, is seems, played the game targeting a single love option to “good endings” before moving on to the next love option.) I’m also looking forward to checking out the Brofinder (if that is an option for the just released version of the game and not an extension).

Next week cannot come soon enough. Look for the review to come about a week after that.

 

My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant: The Demo Reveiw

My Ex-Boyfriend, the Space Tyrant has been lurking on my computer in demo form for almost a year, or more. I finally decided to play the demo last night. And damn it all, did it stink.

The game stars Tycho Minogue, a retired captain in the Space Navy, who is mustered back into the service when his ex-boyfriend goes on a spree of galactic conquest.

The problem with the game is that it wants to play the point and click adventure “straight” while at the same time attempts to be a campy parody of the genre. It doesn’t work on either level.

The story is, honestly, boring and uninteresting. And the gay element of the game is, frustratingly, tame. The men are scantily clad but nothing happens save some flirting, or so I’ve read. In other words, the game is toothless.

The selling point of My Ex-Boyfriend, the Space Tyrant is not that it is a good game. Not even that it is an adequate game. Rather, the argument is that the game is explicitly designed for a gay audience. But the copious flaws that mare the game destroy any desire on my part to buy.

Absolutely there needs to be more games for the gay market. But it is vital that those games actually be good.

Unfortunately My Ex-Boyfriend, the Space Tyrant is not one of them.

Thinking about Media and Genre: What Interests Me?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for two days now. And I’ve been rather distracted by life. And time. But now I’ve got some to spare, so I’m taking it. Tonight, I want to write about media and genre. I want to explore why I want to write in certain media and focus on certain genres. But as I’ve written before, never say never that I won’t migrate to media or genres I have no interest in now.

Media

Poetry: I’ve written poetry for creative writing course assignments. And some of my favorite literature courses have been centered around poetry. But I have no real passion for writing poetry.

Prose Fiction: Let’s divide this up in two, shall we?

Short Fiction: I know I should be passionately in love with short fiction. But I’m just not. I like to read short stories and novellas when I get the chance. But I have no real passion for them. And even less in writing them. I just don’t know. . . I just don’t dig it.

Novels: Now this is what I’m passionate about! I love getting in depth and exploring characters and worlds. Many of my ideas scream to become novels. Novels take a lot of work, though. There is a demand for novelists to have an eye for detail. And an ability to keep the readers’ interest for hundreds or thousands (yikes) of pages. When I develop ideas and projects, they are always divided in two categories: novels and. . .

Comics: To be honest, I’ve had a fraught relationship with comics. Comics were among my first loves. But I’m a fickle and inconstant fan. In recent years, I’ve fallen back in love with comics. Hard. And I want to write them. Now, my main focus is on creator owned projects. I have several ideas for comics series I want to develop. Would I ever want (or love) to write for the Big Two? Hell yeah. I would love to write Catwoman, Red Robin, Young Avengers, Storm, etc. Never say never.

Video Games: Much like comics, my relationship with video games is fraught. I love video games. And I suck at them. Really badly. I’ve only ever beaten a few games. More often than not, I quit at some point in frustration. That doesn’t mean I don’t love watching other people playing. Nor does that mean I’m not interested in how video games are made. Would I ever want to write for video games? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the industry. But, never say never.

Television: I currently have an obsession with serialized fiction (of which comics and television are the prime examples of). But do I really want to put up with a team of writers, producers, show runners, etc.? Probably not. But who knows?

Movies: Again, I’m not too interested in writing for film. My brother once tried to get me to write a few movies with him. But I’ve never really felt an impetus to want to write a screenplay. I mean, I’ve written a play before. Didn’t like it though. So, I think I’ll pass.

Genre

This post is starting to go on longer than I really want (and I don’t want to write a two part post), so I’ll speed through this. Any questions, please leave me comments.

Given the nature of this blog (and my interests), I’ve always wanted to write speculative fiction. I’ve tended to naturally focus more on the fantasy side of things compared to science fiction. And as I’ve gotten older, that tendency has started to grow.

Perhaps the issue is that the type of science fiction popular with the internet circles I frequent are not the types of science fiction I would like to write. I’m more of a space opera guy. I’m not overly interested in hard science fiction or near future dystopia. Do like a bit of punk, though. If the writers actually know what the hell punk is. . .

But that is not to say that I’m exclusively interested in speculative fiction. For a long time, I wanted to write literary realism. I gradually abandoned that to focus on speculative fiction. But there are inklings of an idea that may be calling me back. I don’t know though. I could still somehow make it speculative in some fashion. You never know with me. I mean, I read a history book and I automatically get ideas for fantasies.

In the end

Crap. This post is getting more than a little long. There’s not much else to say except to always remember never say never. And to never try to predict the future.

With that in mind, lets have a preview of what I want to do the rest of this week!

I want to write a post on space opera. I want to explore my obsessions. And I have The Avengers to review.

There is one thing I want to try, though. In the next few weeks, I will hit my 300th post. I would like to give the choice for post 300 to you, the readers. Comment your suggestions, please.

Later.

31 Days of Posts Day 19: On Being a Gay Geek

What does it mean to be a gay geek? I don’t know, though I am one. I think that is because every one is different. Being a gay geek may mean one thing for me, and being a gay geek may mean something else for another person. So, what does being a gay geek mean to me?

Fun. I love being a geek. And I love being gay. It is who I am. Simple as that. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I love comic books. I love science fiction and fantasy. I love video games (though I suck at playing them).

As I explored in my post on sword and sorcery, I tend to direct my interest, my fandom in ways quite different than most fans.

Take He-Man and She-Ra for example. I’ve always identified with Evil-Lyn and Shadow Weaver in ways many other gay men have identified with Judy Garland.

And He-Man himself is fine, though too muscular for me.

I’ve posted some on my interest in adding LGBT characters and themes in speculative fiction, comics, and video games. And in the past few years, the progress has been phenomenal.

But we are far from where, ideally, I think we should be. It is nice that DC approached Alan Scott’s coming out/ kiss so nonchalantly. The ideal, I think, is when the fandom (and the coverage) have the same nonchalance. We’re not there yet, but hopefully the day will come.

This does bring up how these characters (new and old) are handled. I don’t know the context of a Phil Jimenez interview where he criticized the usage of relationships with LGBT characters.

I guess Jimenez’s  issue is that by partnering LGBT characters they are made less threatening. In a way, I agree with him. I like the fact that Wiccan and Hulkling are a couple. But aren’t they a little boring? And given that Alan Scott seems to have lost Sam, is he not effectively out of the dating pool for a good while?

It depends, I suppose, how exactly one likes their representation/ characterization/ usage. I’m in favor of a more in your face philosophy. Like the scene where Congorilla catches Starman in bed and comments on his partner’s appearance. Something like that.

I get that “Klaineing” is less threatening, but it is also so much more boring.

That’s just me, though.

Strangely enough, I’m not as fond of specifically LBGT genre work. As I’ve said, Dryland’s End is one of the worse piles of textual dung I’ve ever read. And Kirith Kirin is not much better. Although I love Grimsley’s Dream Boy, I can’t say much for his speculative work.

And don’t get me started on Class Comics. Nice art (occasionally) but bad writing (usually).

Yes, I admit that I am not immune to male eyecandy/ fanservice. I first got into Fairy Tail because of Mashima’s usage of Gray (and other male characters), remember? Maybe I’ll post about this one day in more depth.

I think next year I’ll try to keep the commitment to post something on National Coming Out Day. Whether it is this or a new post I don’t know. Time will tell. But that’s it for today.

 

I’ll have a post up tomorrow talking about what I like to call “the Octavia Butler Moment.”

And I finally bit the bullet and watched an episode of Glee. Acting, thumbs up. The writing? Oh my, so much that drives me bonkers in annoyance.

 

31 Days of Post Day 15: On Fanfiction

I’m surprised it has taken me this long to finally write a post about fanfiction. My own personal attitude towards the form is, honestly, torn. In a way I agree with George R.R. Martin’s negative appraisal. But at the same time, I really see no problem with it as long as certain conditions are met.

Now, I agree 100% with Martin that it is far preferable for young writers to work on their own creations rather than riffing and reimagining existing intellectual properties and franchises. Especially if one is good enough to publish on one’s own original work.

I want to see what you can come up with as opposed to how you can take Harry PotterGlee, Buffy, Narutoetc. and transform those preexisting stories.

But, I can understand the desire to want to write one’s favorite characters. That’s the allure of working on superhero comics. And I can get that while hundreds or thousands of fanfiction readers will read an awesome pastiche, who would want to write an equally awesome (if not more so) story by the same author under her own name? And that’s what sucks.

To be frank, I’m a bit murky on the financial aspects of fanfiction. If the fan writer is not making any money off of their work (save for the gratification of being read), I don’t see how that hurts the owners of property (whether those owners be authors or corporate entities).

That is not to say that there is not a danger. Especially if one happens to read fanfiction based on one’s own work. I think it was Martin (or maybe another writer) who related the story of a nasty incident involving Anne McCaffery and a fanfiction writer that occurred years ago.

So if there is fanfiction based on your work, don’t read it. Ever.

What if a work of fanfiction, almost completely divorced from the inspiration text, becomes published? This has happened several times before. In this case, I think it is up to the creator of the inspiration text (and their lawyers) to determine whether or not the former piece of fanfiction warrants a copyright infringement suit.

I see both sides in this argument. Fanfiction provides a means for fans of a work to come together and create their own versions. But it can also stifle their own creativity (if they are interested in pursuing a writing career professionally). In the end, how one looks at fanfiction is a personal choice informed by their own experiences and beliefs.

Oh, and by the way: Life is miserable and full of pain.

Curse you Longhorns. And Cowboys. And Texans.

Now I know why I hated sports growing up.

Podcasting the Craft

Most of the podcasts I listen to have become unsatisfying recently. In large measure, I think I’m wanting more from those podcasts. The question is, of course, why?

I’m the kind of geek who, well, geeks out on learning about the craft of things.

What I mean is podcasts that go beyond just news and opinion (and often fairly stupid at that). The podcasts that look at how a creator (or team of creators) produces their art.

Take, for example, Decompressed by Keiron Gillen. It is a very recent podcast that looks at how (mostly Marvel) comic books are brought into being. The James Asmus episode is amazing, the Kelly Sue Deconnick episode is great, and the Marvel Method Special is highly informative and entertaining. That is what I want more of.

Now, most of the comic book podcasts I listen to don’t do this, even if they include the occasional creator interview. Sometimes there may be hints, but more often than not the interviews serve as teasers for what is upcoming in the creator’s various works.

The less said about manga and anime podcasts, the better.

Part of what brings this subject up for me is a conversation I had with my brother last night. I was finishing up with the Marvel Method episode of Decompressed when I asked him if he knew of any video game craft podcasts.

Now, his answer was an expected no. But, to be honest, I would find a podcast that looks at how video games go from concept to finished product extremely interesting.

While I personally am not interested in writing for video games, I am still interested in how they are conceived, written, and produced.

So, as I end this blog post, my question is: are there any podcasts that focus on the craft of their subject rather than previews, news, opinion, and funny (or stupid) tangents?

Getting Back into DC Universe Online

After a few months away from DC Universe Online, I recently got back into playing the game. The game is still as fun as it has always been. But, there are some elements of the game that I would like to see changed or included.

But first, some news. I finally beat Scarecrow! He is still, in my opinion, the toughest of the first bosses. Largely, I think, because players have to go through a lot of stages to beat him. But once the illusions are over, he is actually quite simple. Weaker than most comparable henchmen, to be honest.

So, now that I’ve beaten each first boss, I think my goal of achieving level 30 with each mentor is in reach. Let’s see how long that lasts. The Batman/ Joker level 15 is an absolute pain. And I’ve yet to beat the Wonder Woman/ Circe one yet. We’ll see how this goes, though.

Now, I mentioned earlier that there are a few things I’d like to see DCUO do. Largely, I think it is limited to three things.

The Gadgets power set is still pretty useless. Even with the new editing of the abilities. Besides that, aren’t all the player characters supposed to be metas? How does relying on gadgets have anything to do with being exobyte empowered?

Personally, I’d like to see Gadgets get replaced by a Kryptonian power set (or as a new power set). I know several Kryptonian powers are in the iconic designation. But, utilizing them usually aren’t worth the power points. I want Kryptonian powers that actually work.

The main thing I’d like to see DCUO do is provide for more player involvement. Once a player reaches level 30, what then? Just more alerts? I would like to see more missions added. I don’t know how many players play villains. But I do know this, not one villain will rise above the level of hired muscle/ henchman or woman.

A thought I had, to increase player involvement, is to allow for players to construct their own missions. I really don’t know how it would be done. And I don’t know how many headaches the developers would have. It may be far more of a hassle than it is worth, but I think it would be great fun to develope one’s own schemes rather than have to serve as a mere minion throughout the game.

I greatly enjoy playing DCUO. I think my wish list for changes to the game will make it funner. But, regardless, I’ll still play it.

No Answers. Just Questions.

This post has no argument. No answers. Just questions. What I want to do with this post is lay out a number of questions that have plagued me in recent weeks and months that I haven’t gotten around to answering to my own satisfaction. Before we begin, for those of you interested in further exploring traditional publishing versus self publishing, check out Rachelle Gardner’s blog posts exploring reasons why authors may choose one or the other. And now, on to the questions without answers, yet.

How do writers and artists decide what form to express their ideas? Is there something identifiable or is it individual to the creator?

Can there be a shonen hero (or major character) who is glbtq? Is it possible to explore gay and lesbian themes without the manga being bl or yuri?

Are there any good shonen and seinen global manga (or OELs)?Is it possible to have a serialized format before the gn/ tankoban collections?

Is the internet a force of social good or social ill? Are good manners in decline?

Keeping with that, why is there an apparent resurgence in racist and sexist screeds in sf/f? How do we overcome the hate?

Does sf/f really need its own Skip Bayless?

How consciously “modern” or “contemporary” should a fantasy be? How consciously in tune with the historical inspiration?

Is the Martin school of epic fantasy troubled by issues of race and sexism as many recent criticisms assert? If so, why?

Can a major debate on the role of women, race, gender, ect. in sf/ f be had without degenerating into trolling flame wars?

Where is the criticism of sf/ f at at this moment? How “laid back” or “academic” is it?

Does there need to be a more consciously “academic” approach with better research and reliance on critical theory?

What about manga and comic books?

Is there manga criticism available in America that is not fan driven?

What is it about Hollywood that they have to butcher Greek mythology?

Why is returning the Amazons to their mythical roots such a controversial thing?

Is it time for the traditional notion of the super hero to be done away with? Especially when a “no kill” rule does not make sense?

In reference to DCUO, how difficult would it be for user generated content (like missions)?

What is the relationship between anime viewership and manga sells in the U.S.? Is the reason why One Piece is not as popular in American compared to Japan because of their initial anime dubbing on Cartoon Network? Or is there something else at work?

Well, that’s it for my questions without answers today. Some of these I may tackle at some point. And some I may never come back to. Time and what I want to blog about will tell.

Breaking In, Hope, and Anxiety

Getting published, in any form, is fraught in equal measure with hope and anxiety. Hope that you’ll make the sell, and anxiety that all you’ll get is rejection slips. As any writing website will tell you, it helps immeasurably if you can follow the preferred submission method. If a magazine wants a submission formatted a certain way, format it that way. Otherwise the editor will reject your story, no matter how good it is, outright. The key is researching what the agent, editor, or whoever decides wants.

A few days ago, I watched Cartoon Block’s video of a Marvel Comics panel at Wonder Con (I think). There, they answered questions about how an artist can get a job at Marvel. And, if you check out the DC submission page, much the same is true with them. Essentially, the various comic cons act as a form of job fair. The key is, again, to know what works best. Personally, I really liked Joe Quesada’s portfolio recommendations.

The convention or trade show as job fair is equally true with video game developers. The key thing is to make contacts in the industry and to really understand what their format is for hiring new writers. This is still an area that I’m unfamiliar with, but from everything I’ve read, it is highly recommended that one goes to trade shows and conventions to get noticed.

It also helps to have your name and your work out there. If you have previous publishing credits or say a Deviantart account, you may have more of a leg up in some instances.

That was breaking in, now lets talk about hope and anxiety. Working in comics, either traditional American style or Manga style, is fraught with problems. Like the Comicvine Podcast mentioned last week, it is rare that creator owned works will become wildly successful. That is not to say that every one should just go work for DC or Marvel. Just be aware of what the risks are and be prepared to deal with the issues that will arise. Much of this is also true of OELs. I will admit that I’m not as familiar with OELs as I should be, but it is clear that they are nowhere near as popular (or as respected) as their Japanese counterparts.

That said, a new writer does not need to have a spectacular, career defining idea or work right off the bat like JK Rowling. LB Gale on her site has an interesting look at George RR Martin’s career. It was twenty or more years after he started writing professionally before he started on A Game of Thrones, the first book of his A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, which works of his are going to be remembered? You got it, A Song of Ice and Fire.

At the end of it all, writing professionally is hard work. You never know when you will make a sell. But, in the end, it is important to keep trying. Persistence does pay off.