Posts Tagged ‘rika’

Girl on Girl : Rika on Miranda Smith

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Miranda Smith

Girl on Girl is a series of interviews with girls involved in gaming culture. Rika finds the girls, lures them in (with the promise of video games), gets them talking (about video games) and documents the action. Forget what you read on the Internet. It’s time for a window into the minds of the fairer nerds. (Disclaimer: Rika is only responsible for the opinions that come out of her own mouth. Check out Rika’s You Tube for more!)

Miranda Smith already knew what she wanted to show me in her interview. She wanted to show me a good time, and she invited over some friends and their 360′s for a Modern Warfare 2 party. Xboxs, controllers, and TV sets were carried in, furniture was moved, and Miranda picked up an M16 and became her alter ego- VivaciousSaggi.

As I found out more about Miranda’s life and activities outside of gaming, I became even more appreciative of the time and effort it takes to get a house full of gamers together on a weeknight. Miranda maintains a 3.9 GPA at the Art Institute of Ft. Worth, as well as making a living. “I currently work building software installation wizards, doing web work, designing product packages (graphically), doing administrative work, all for the same company, and on the side I am a musician photographer,” she says. Since the interview, she’s also been hired as a blogger by indie game maker 24KT studios. She’s also a mommy to three-year-old Layla. “I’m a busy person but wouldn’t change it. I hope my daughter can learn from me to find a healthy balance between work, education, family, and fun.”

Miranda and boyfriend

Being a mom means that sometimes new games and consoles have to take a backseat to all the things that kids need, but Miranda makes time to devote to gaming, and getting other people excited about gaming. She has also, of course, shared her love of gaming with her daughter. When asked if she worries about what Layla sees watching her play, her answer was clear- “I don’t really worry about what she sees when we play, although I do worry about what TV shows/movies she is exposed to. She loves playing video games too and she is as competitive as I am. She may be a little young for me to be letting her play FPS games but I am a definite NON-believer in the theory of FPS games causing high school shoot outs, violent temperaments, etc. A person’s behavior is a reflection of their need for guidance, and some people that have no guidance will withdraw and internalize themselves— and what better way is there to get away from the world than playing video games? Gamers are misunderstood by society, and many mistakes some people make are blamed on the fact that they play video games when the issue clearly lies deeper.” But she does believe in using a bit of caution. When Layla is old enough to start asking for her own games, Miranda says she will definitely play them herself first. “I would play any game she would ask for before she does, just to make sure it would be suitable for her. I’m not so much worried about the violence as I am sexual content.”

“Layla picked up the colors Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green very quickly, lol. And on the Sonic racing game she played when she was two, she learned the directional difference between left and right.” Miranda sees benefits beyond the easily measurable as well. “Gamers see the world in a different way… from a vantage point. They are trained in problem solving, and they always find a better way to do something as well as a way to get what they want or need. This will be advantageous to her as she gets older.”

Miranda loves getting everyone in on the video game action- whether it’s instigating her friends who game to put together MW2 or Halo nights, or converting her non-gamer girlfriends into new gaming buddies. If you’re a girl, and you think you don’t like to play games, be forewarned- stay away from Miranda, or she will have you addicted to FPS before you can resist. According to her, all you need to really enjoy a game is a little practice. “I think it’s growing rapidly,” she says of gaming among females, “but just like men, being a beast takes skill. There are some guys I can’t beat, and there are some girls that I can’t beat, sex doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

IRL, she’s the friendly, cool instigator who will have everyone in the house join in the fun. But in game, she will shoot you in the head. She frowns upon cheating and exploits, believing instead in the accomplishment of succeeding through skill. But she does ask that you don’t judge her by her kill/death ratio- it seems she’d rather go out in a blaze of glory than be safe in the shadows. “I shoot straight M16, but I also have a fault among gamers-” she confesses, “I enjoy playing more than I care about my scoreboards. I will run out there even if I know there are four people of the opposite team waiting for me and think “NINJA!!!!” and try to take them all on myself, sometimes it works and sometimes I am defeated… badly. I genuinely enjoy the rush of running out there  knowing I may kill or be killed in an instant, so if you are ever looking at my scoreboard.. just don’t pay any attention to my K/D ratio.”

Watch the video to see her enthusiasm in action.

Game Review: Bayonetta

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Bayonetta: BusyGamer Score 3 of 5

First Glance:
Sexy character, sexy action and gameplay, A varied world full of pretty environments and visually well-designed enemies. Hails of bullets mixed with fighting game-style hand to hand combat, mixed with God of War or Prince of Persia-style adventure, delivered by a colder-than-James Bond English witch.

The Short Story:
Let’s address it straight off- yes, Bayonetta has a sexy female lead character. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not enough to carry a bad game. The good news: Bayonetta isn’t a bad game. The gameplay focuses on action and the execution of over-the-top combat moves to propel you on a tour of an eye candy heavy world populated with antagonistic angels that are both grotesque and stereotypically heavenly at the same time. The game is all about the battles, and the battles happen nearly constantly. But there are also scattered puzzles to solve, items to collect, secrets to find, and lore to unveil. It’s fun, it’s pretty, it’s full of action.

The Score:
Bayonetta’s gameplay is divided into chapters, which are divided into verses. The game will autosave at the completion of each verse, so even if you can’t finish the chapter, you can come back to it with a minimal amount of replay. However, your enjoyment of the game, as well as your performance, will suffer if you don’t have the time to complete a chapter continuously most of the time. A player with average skills should be able to complete a chapter in under two hours generally, but for optimal enjoyment, you will want to have time to play in longer stretches at least sometimes. You can also put Bayonetta down for a day or two without completely forgetting where you are and what you’re doing, and if you do, the fact that you can practice your combo moves on the loading screens should help you pick it back up. Because of this, I am giving Bayonetta a Busy Gamer 3. Players will enjoy the game most if they have the time to play about four three-hour sessions a week.

Reviewer Rika Stead by Jim Brown

Body of Review:
Bayonetta is one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I have had in a while, just for the simple reason that there isn’t much in the game that gets in the way of your enjoyment. It’s easy on the eyes, both Bayonetta and her world were designed with attention to detail. But the game also doesn’t err on the side of pursuing the philosophy of “sex sells.. so we don’t need anything else.” While much has been made of Bayonetta’s sex appeal, she’s not just a cartoon sex doll. Yeah, she’s sexy, but she also has a uniqueness to her that makes her more of a real character, less of a vehicle to bring tits into the game. (BTW, in case you can’t use Google image search yourself, there are no flotation-device-like boobs on Bayonetta, and no perceivable boob bounce animations.) Bayonetta’s character is endearing in a way. Some of the lines they gave her are a bit cheesy, as are some of the moves, but they are delivered in a way that makes you feel like Bayonetta is quite aware of the cheese factor and is dropping her lines with just a hint of irony.

And the combat doesn’t suck either. Bayonetta executes over the top combo moves, and can learn special techniques, such as turning into a panther for bursts of speed or dodging while in the air as the game progresses. The combos are made up of martial arts-style moves accompanied by the constant hail of bullets from all four of Bayonetta’s guns. The most important concept in Bayonetta combat is the dodge. Not only is it necessary to avoid damage, but dodging at the absolute last second also triggers “Witch Time”- AKA time stops for everything around you, enabling you to pummel your enemies without risk of reciprocation or to make your way across obstacles that you otherwise cannot.


Getting the Upper Hand on Bioshock 2 Pre-orders

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Bioshock 2 available 02.09.10

The long awaited Bioshock 2 will be out Febuary 9th, and there are plenty of gamers already planning to snatch it up at the first opportunity. But don’t just run into the first game retailer you see and buy it! I’ve sorted through the pre-order deals so you can get your game at the earliest possible moment AND get something extra too.

Here are the retailers who are clamoring for your Bioshock business:

Steam: The pre-order price is 44.99, plus they’re throwing in the original Bioshock for free. And as always, if you buy from Steam, you can get your game right at release without having to wait in line with all those other losers. Or, if you like other losers, and have three friends who also want Bioshock 2, you can get the four pack- four copies of Bioshock 2, plus four copies of Bioshock. If you consider the Bioshocks to be freebies, that’s 33.74 per Bioshock 2. Of course, the problem I see with this bonus is that most people who want to pre-order Bioshock 2 probably already have Bioshock- especially after Steam put it on the holiday sale for $4.99.

Gamestop and EB Games: Both retailers are offering two bonus multiplayer characters with pre order- Blanche the actress and Zigo the fisherman. If you buy in store, you will get a card with the code to unlock the duo, much as you would expect. The price is also about what you’d expect: $59.99. If you’re really hardcore, you also get this bonus with pre-order of the $99 Limited Edition. Amazon is offering a pre-order price of $54.99 or $55.99 for X360 or Playstation, plus you’ll also get a $10 credit towards future game purchases. That brings the price down to around $45 in a way, but they are twisting your arm to buy more games later. (Which of course you totally weren’t already going to do.) That’s not so inhumane, but they also reserve the right to charge you an indefinite amount for release date delivery- you’ll find out the amount at checkout.

Consumables, IRL

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Gamer Consumables: +5HP or -3HP?

I knew gaming was becoming a part of the larger culture the first time I encountered a World of Warcraft poser. (He said he rolled a level 42 Orc. I said I’d always wanted to play an Orc and asked how he liked it. He said Orcs are the best..)

But now, not only do people want to seem like bigger gamer geeks than they are, but companies also want to sell products that say “I’m such a gamer that even my _____ is specifically for gamers.” Headsets? Sure. Mousepads? Okay. Tee shirts? Been there… now what? Well.. we’ve come to expect consumables in game. Now we can have them IRL too! While I am yet to encounter a product that can truly increase my fire resistance, during a recent expedition to Fry’s I was able to acquire a Mana Energy Potion, a Health Energy Potion, and a little snack pack called Gamer Grub. I fearlessly tested these products on myself, and am now back with my report.

Gamer Grub:
Gamer Grub at first glance seemed to be nothing but a title slapped on a product as a marketing ploy. But on closer inspection, I realized that the pouch it comes in is functional- its meant to be poured into your mouth from the pouch, thereby avoiding greasy fingers and crumbs in the keyboard. That’s something that my abused keyboard is definitely pleading for. It comes in flavors such as Pizza, “PB&J”, Wasabi, and Chocolate.

Tested during: World of Warcraft dungeoning and Mini-Ninjas.

Taste: Very good. I chose the pizza flavor. Like pizza, but with sort of a trail mix feeling of wholesome-ness. It doesn’t suck.

Gamer appeal: Eat out of the pouch- easy to eat while gaming. Scientifically formulated to “support fast cognitive performance.” I couldn’t tell if my brain was working better than normal or not, but the pouch system works well, and it has MAJOR hunger fighting power.

The verdict overall: It’s a good product. I’d eat it again, and I’d try some of the other flavors, but at about four bucks a pop for a 4oz. pouch.. well, I’d rather you bought it for me.

Rika Stead by Brian Hilson

BG Writer Rika Stead by Brian Hilson

Mana Energy Potion
Mana Energy Potion gains instant appeal because it’s cute. It’s blue, and it comes in a little potion bottle. It has 25 calories per serving, and contains various B vitamins, vitamin C, caffeine, and taurine, among other things. Basically, it’s an energy potion because its a single-shot energy drink, and its for gamers because it knocks off WoW without quite being a copyright infringement and non-gamers probably think it’s dorky.

Tested during: L4D.

Taste: Bleh. Popsicles, flat soda, and somehow, Red Bull with dirt in it. It doesn’t make you gag, and it’s easier than a shot of say Rumpleminze, but its not that good.

Gamer appeal: We all need energy for late night marathons of course. Cute potion style bottle. It’s called Mana!

The verdict overall: Mediocre. An hour after taking it, I felt energized but jittery. Two hours afterwards, I got hit with a hard crash. It’s a nice novelty, but aside from that, I don’t see much of a reason to buy this as opposed to 5 Hour Energy, which in my experience, works better.

Health Energy Potion
Health Energy Potion is the counterpart of Mana. It has slightly different vitamins, and its red, but its packaged in a similar World of Warcraft-reminiscent style. I went into the Health trial a bit more biased however, because Health got me in trouble in the airport- I got detained at security because I forgot it was in my laptop bag.

Tested during: CoDMW2, WoW leveling, and editing some nerd videos.

Taste: I thought Mana was lack luster.. then I tasted Health. Its the same popsicle and dirty Red Bull flavor, but with syrupy red food coloring and a dash of cinnamon. It’s not over powering cinnamon like Hot Damn, just enough to be unexpected in an annoying way.

Gamer appeal: Once again, energy for late night gaming, and cute potion packaging- but this one’s for tanks!

The verdict overall: So so. After getting jittery off of Mana, I decided to take this one in increments instead of in one shot. It kept the jittery-ness at bay, but I never felt a distinct surge of awakeness. Much like Mana, the only inspiration I see for purchasing this is novelty. If you are putting together a gift package for an obsessed WoW player (esp. if they were a tank during the pot chugging era!) then get it. If you want energy, get 5 Hour Energy.

Game Review: Polar Panic

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Polar Panic : Busy Gamer Rating 5

Polar Panic : Busy Gamer Rating 5

First Glance:
Cartoon-y, winter-y, arcade style puzzler. Kind of like trying to solve a puzzle while playing Pac Man.

The Short Story:
Polar Panic has you playing as a polar bear, trying to navigate through a world filled with ice block puzzles and the goons of an evil corporation on a quest to save your bear-napped family. Choose from Story Mode, Puzzle Mode, or Survivor Mode (which can be single or multi player)- whichever way you go, its going to involve sliding and smashing blocks of ice, smashing blocks of snow, and with the exception of puzzles mode, smashing goons. FYI- Those trappers might look kinda like Santa, but they’re only jolly after they bash your skull in.

The Score:
The phrase “it is what it is” comes to mind… Polar Panic is an arcade-style game, so it should be judged as such. But its not an arcade game so phenomenal that it would tempt hardcore gamers to get caught up in it. It fails to transcend its’ genre. That said, its not an absolutely awful game. I won’t pretend that I didn’t start to enjoy watching the swell of blood as I smashed an enemy with a block of ice.. but I didn’t start to enjoy the game until about an hour in. Up until then, the negative aspects of the game were more apparent to me. I give Polar Panic a Busy Gamer score of 5, with the caveat that you probably won’t want to play it for more than an hour a day anyway.

Body of Review:
I get excited about a game when I hear someone say “I usually don’t play (game genre here), but I really loved (game name here). Now I admit, I am not a huge fan of arcade games aside from those that trigger my nostalgia, and I tend to view puzzles more as an obstacle I have to get across to get to the next part of my game than the fun of the game. But I went at Polar Panic with an open mind, hoping I would find myself surprised at how addictive it was. It fell a bit short. When I brought in a second player (one who is more fond of puzzles than I) to help me test the multi player, his most memorable quote was actually, “Well, looks like that’s about it. Can we stop playing now?”

Click to see more articles by Rika Stead

So what was so unremarkable about the game? The controls largely consist of directionals and XXX..X..X…XXXXXXXXX… and the game itself is overly repetitive. The level of difficulty also seems arbitrary- some levels are so easy you think you’re playing a game for toddlers, but they may be preceded by a level that is so frustrating it really is “mind-numbing”, to quote the game’s own copy. The story is extremely childlike but not in an endearing way, and is more of an encumbrance to the game than anything. In puzzle mode, every puzzle you solve unlocks- surprise- another puzzle, which isn’t problematic in and of itself, but they could have thrown in some different sorts of rewards or different ways to unlock the rest of the puzzles to make it a bit more interesting. In story mode, the save system is such that one small mistake can set you back to repeat quite a bit of game play, and if you quit before you beat every level in the chapter, you have to start back at the chapter’s beginning. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the game weren’t already repetitive. Also, it seems as if the darts fired by the hunters behave a bit inconsistently, sometimes killing you when you think they are too far out and sometimes letting you escape by a very narrow margin.