Sunshine Blogger: The Four-ening

We’re continuing our Sunshine Blogging spree by taking on the questions that Red Metal posed for us in his nomination.

And frankly, if you hang around this place, you know Red Metal.  He and I have been blog allies for quite some time.  He does a lot of video game reviews, pulling some rather unsung parts of games history out of the pile as well as the traditional classics.  On top of that, he’s been doing film reviews as well.  Guy puts a lot of content out.  So go check his blog.  You won’t be sorry.  And thank you, Red Metal, for this honor.

Other than that, rules are the same as the last three times.  Or, frankly, any of the many other awards we’ve gotten.  Questions are different, however.  Let’s go!

  1. What do you feel is the ideal length for a studio album (or LP)?

Roundabout an hour is the perfect length for me.  Substantial enough to be getting at an artist’s sound from a variety of angles and to make for a full experience in the car, which is where most of my albums get played, but not so long that you start to get tired of it.

2. Have you ever accidentally rendered a physical copy of a game/film/album unplayable?

Aaaaahhhhaahahahahaaaaaa…. all the time.  Let’s see.  I think first was with a copy of SimCity 2000.  Dropped the disc underneath my computer chair, and in attempting to pick it up, ran the chair’s wheels over it.  Never got that recovered.  My copy of Saints Row wasn’t running as smoothly as I wanted it to, and I had my Xbox in the vertical position.  I wanted to see if it’s work better if it was horizontal, so moved the console while the disc was spinning, and that put in a thick circular scar that made it unreadable.  My local game shop was able to fix it, though.  A similar thing happened with Fallout: New Vegas, when the cat knocked the console over while I was playing it.  Game shop guy came through then, too.  Later, he went out of business, and I bought my own disc grinder for those knocks and scratches.  Got a lot of use out of it, but a few missteps.  I had a used copy of Eternal Darkness that was always in poor shape, but it had degraded to the point where it just couldn’t read anything past a certain point in the game.  Tried to get it in the disc doctor, but the tiny little Gamecube discs didn’t mount correctly, and it ended up in worse condition than ever, to the point that it wasn’t even readable.  And the used disc I bought for Yakuza 4 has a slight scratch in it that had absolutely no effect on the game except for one late game cutscene that it prevented from loading, completely ending progress.  I ran it through the grinder and got the disc in absolutely pristine condition, except for the fact that it didn’t work at all.  Apparently you can’t just grind down the scratches on blu-rays the same way you can with CDs and DVDs. I had to replace the disc entirely.  Save data was on the console, luckily enough.

I swear, I am truly an elegant and graceful person.  These missteps are totally unrepresentative.

3. What series do you feel has a confusing naming convention?

Godzilla is absolutely the worst at names.  The. Worst.  Seriously.  Let’s see if you can follow along with this.

Godzilla (1954) is a different movie from Godzilla (1985), which is different from Godzilla (1998), which is different from Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and Godzilla: King of the Monsters are different movies.  Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra are different movies.  King Kong vs. Godzilla is different from the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.  Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are different movies.  Terror of Mechagodzilla is the sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which takes place in a completely different timeline than Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was notable for having a direct sequel in an era where otherwise every other film around it completely restarted the continuity, but the sequel was titled Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and didn’t refer to the previous title at all.  However, Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Thing are different titles for the same movie.  Same with Ebirah, Horror of the Deep/Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Invasion of the Astro Monster/Monster Zero, All Monsters Attack/Godzilla’s Revenge, and probably a lot of others I’m not perfectly aware of now.

On top of that, and this seems like a really minor issue now, most over the films are titled something in the structure of Godzilla vs. Other Monster which is only helpful if you can distinguish the names of the monsters.  Do you know the difference between Megalon and Megaguirus, and can tell me whose film features the coveted Big Dumb Godzilla Dropkick?  Becoming a Godzilla fan requires a guide of some sort.

4. What critical darling do you feel completely failed to live up to the hype?

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I remember people raving about Psychonauts.  I remember people bemoaning the fact that it’s not talked about more, didn’t sell enough, doesn’t take up enough space in our collective consciousness.

Then I played it.  And you know, I get what people like about it.  It’s got good ideas, it’s got a lot of creativity, it’s really high concept.  It’s just not very fun to play.  The controls are clumsy, the environment is often unresponsive, the challenges before you are really uninteresting, etc.  This is a game that’s a blast to watch, to absorb all the good parts behind it.  Just not to actually get your hands on the controller.

5. Which work do you feel should have deserved more attention?

Time is starting to correct this, but Fire Emblem has long been one of gaming’s unsung treasures.  I love turn-based strategies, but you very rarely get a good series going.  Fire Emblem has earned it’s place as one of the best.  I can understand why it never got much love.  Nintendo didn’t have faith in it on the American market until their character’s placements in Smash drove demand for it, and even then, the rampant permadeath, minimal developmental advancement between entries, and really basic presentation makes it hard to recommend for the general player.  But the strategic gameplay is really solid, and the series always deserved more than just surviving on the very edge of profitability.  From Awakening on up, though, the series has been getting a lot more success, and that’s really nice to see.

Now, if it would just get enough success that you could manage to find a copy on sale or for something less than MSRP even years later, that would make me a pretty happy man.  Nintendo doesn’t really cooperate with deal hunting.

6. Do you prefer a foreign work to be subtitled or dubbed in your language?

Film and TV, I prefer them to be subtitled.  I have a lot easier time with my film-industry burnout stress issues when watching a movie if I don’t understand the language being spoken, for whatever reason.  Video games, I prefer them dubbed, usually, especially if they’re going to be delivering any spoken content outside of cutscenes.  Given that I’m interacting with the work and my attention needs to be going in a couple different directions, having the dialogue draw too much of it away by making me both read and listen and mentally attach one to the other through translation conventions just doesn’t work on the fly.  Video games seem to get higher quality dubs than film and tv as well, that helps.

That said, I’m not super picky on it, and there are times when dubs can improve or reduce the quality of a work.  I just want the best experience available, and I can go between them as needed.

7. Can you remember an instance in which you managed to succeed in a game by the skin of your teeth (e.g. beat a difficult boss with barely any health remaining)?

Lots of times.  I think one of the most glorious times of that was in fighting Artorias in Dark Souls.  And you know what?  You guys were there for it.  Nice to have it recorded for posterity like that.

8. Can you remember an instance in which you got completely robbed playing a game?

Yes, and it still burns me.  No More Heroes has the absolutely worst overworld I have ever seen in games.  It’s big, expansive, takes forever to traverse, and mostly empty.  You have to deal with it, though.  It’s not an optional part of the game.  Specifically, to get your story missions, you have to grind for them.  You have to pay money to get your missions, and the only way to get sufficient amounts of money is through the inane minigames that are scattered around there.  To access them, you have to sign up for them at a central location, drive through the lame overworld to get to them, do the worthless thing, drive back, sign up again, rinse and repeat.  It’s not fun, it’s not engaging, and no matter how anyone tries to say it’s really satire, this is one of the dumbest and most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen anyone include in a game.  The core gameplay is pretty good, so you deal with it, but as you have to do more and more grinding to get to your missions, it really starts to wear thing.

Halfway through the game, you have to pay about $800,000 of game money to access a mission, if I remember correctly.  Tons of grinding.  Contrary to every other mission you’ve been through, when you start this one, it’s just a big long hallway.  No open areas, no twists and turns, nothing really to capture your interest, just long hallway that you fight basic dudes in.  But then you get to the end.  And the boss comes out.  And the bosses are the best part of the game.  This guy looks intense.  This is going to make up for it all.  But who’s that other guy in the cutscene?  And why did he just slice the big boss in half?  And now he’s leaving?  You never got to fight the boss?  Oh well, mission success, now grind $900,000 for the next mission.

I turned the game off then and I have never been back to No More Heroes.

9. What is your favorite arcade game?

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I have not played this since I was a kid, so nostalgia may well be twisting my perspective, but Ninja Baseball Batman was my favorite arcade game as a cub.  The only place I ever saw it was my local Pizza Hut, but I spent so many quarters on that game.  I don’t know if I ever beat it, but I do remember coming really close to the end multiple times.

10.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would make a world tour, and visit the homes of the significant others of all my enemies and take them all on their dream dates.  No romances are so sweet as the one that ruins the life of someone you hate.

11.  What critics (in any medium) do you find to actually be reputable?

These days, not many.  I would much rather get an opinion from one of my fellow content creators than trust a review.  I trust the staff of PC Gamer more than anyone else, however.  It used to be because they were the only outlet I would see that would be openly negative in previews about a game that just wasn’t fun to see.  Everyone else, no matter how they trashed the game when it was released, you could always go back and see those same staff doing their jobs of being good industry outreachers and talking up that exact same game in previews, but PC Gamer would openly state that the games not good.  I don’t see as much of that these days, as I’ve moved away from traditional video games media as a whole, but I still see them taking a more balanced line than other outlets, not so much trying to partner with the publishers until they switch sides so they can milk a bad game or controversy for the big bucks then ingratiating themselves with the publishers once more to start the cycle over again.  I’ve gotten a little bitter about that, haven’t I?

Well, in the interests of sparing LightningEllen, no nominations this time.  Yet.  We’ll see if anyone displeases me first, then they’ll be staring 121 questions down as well.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

So, as we mentioned last time around, in addition to the Mystery Blogger award from Red Metal, we were nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award by master of the mental science, bloggess extraordinaire, and dominator of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Athena. Ran out of time to get my response together for that last week, so let’s address that now.

Rules for the Sunshine Blogger award are:

Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.

Athena is a woman of impeccable taste and decision-making. And also she likes Dragon Age. Thank you very much, Athena, for this recognition. I appreciate your consideration.

Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

Questions are:

1. If you could change one thing about AAA gaming, what would it be?

This is one of those somewhat trendy business management things, but I would increase the focus on Human-Centered Design. For a quick 101-level summary, the philosophy there is that generally, there’s three directions most people start from when designing a new product. There’s the business side, which seeks to build things that are economically viable, the practical side, which builds things you’re capable of doing, and the human side, which builds things that people want to use. Any product you release has to satisfy elements of all three spheres to be successful, but when you’re just in the early stages, planning things out, you typically start in one of those spheres mentally and move into the others after you’ve started prototyping and actually testing those projects out. Whichever one you start with has the biggest influence on what shape the product tapes. I get the feeling that a lot of AAA gaming starts more in the sphere of seeking financial viability rather than something that’s going to have an impact on the end user, and I’d like to see that shift.

2. Do you think pineapple belongs on pizza?

Absolutely. Pineapple and onion pizza is one of my favorites.

3. Is there an article on your site that you would write differently, knowing what you know now? Which one?

Eh, don’t think so. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that I wouldn’t stand by. Some of them I’d have plenty to add to, my opinions might have changed on a few, but I can’t think of any that I’d re-write.

My post about being unable to identify as a player in my professional life, though, I feel that one I’d have the most to add to with the way time has shaped up.

4. What’s the weather like near you today?

Warm and sunny. Which has been the case most winter. And that’s a problem. I live in an area where the economy strongly relies on the ski industry. So while parts of the country has been absolutely dumped on, we’ve been pretty dry. Our slopes have spent a lot of the season green. Without snow, we haven’t been getting our usual tourists, which has slowed the economy, which has made my job in workforce development a bit more interesting than usual.

5. Do you like pancakes or waffles better?

Waffles, typically. Evenly cooked all over, crispy instead of floppy? Yes please. Pancakes are good too, though.

6. Is there anything about your gaming hobby/habits that you don’t like?

The time available, mostly. As I mentioned in my last post, I am a multi-faceted individual, with multiple interests and responsibilities, and it’s hard to fit them all into a given day. It’s usually not until 9:00 p.m. That I’m able to start playing something, and I’ve only got a few hours to spare for my favorite pasttime. Even then, I often find myself combining activities, such as playing and exercising or playing and listening to something at the same time, if the game is of a kind to allow for that, just to fit in everything I want to before the day’s over. It’d be nice to have a few more hours added to each day so I can deal with that.

7. Do you have a preference between JRPGs and western RPGs?

No. I don’t typically think in terms of genre much, but both can deliver absolutely fantastic experiences. I feel like there’s a lot more half-assed JRPGs than WRPGs out there, but if you reach the heights of both, both genres can be great, and they can be great in very different ways. What I’ll play really depends on my mood.

8. When does an open-world game begin to suffer from open-world bloat?

I think it’s really a factor of time and engagement. When you’re spending a noticeable amount of time doing things that you just check out from, such as travelling through an empty and uninteresting locale, grinding boars for your quest to collect 20 pig asses to craft your Sword of Pork Butt, *ahem combat in Planescape Torment cough cough*, and you’re not actually paying full attention to any of it, I would say that that’s when open-world bloat starts to kick in. Experiences should be engaging. They should cycle mental energy through you. When they stop doing that, when you’re just checking the boxes and checking out, that’s when they start losing you.

9. What is the most memorable line of dialogue in a game?

I’m not a big quotes guy, but I am rather fond of “Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?”

No? You want something meaningful? How about Tales of Phantasia’s “If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of man.”

Still not satisfied? Fine, bonus round. “Only a jackass can change the world.” Probably my favorite moment from Final Fantasy X-2.

10. Quick! You have 3 seconds to grab one game from your collection. Which one to do you grab and why?

3 seconds?! Oh no, what am I… Persona 4. That’s also my desert island game, my game that describes me, my 8th degree of Kevin Bacon, etc. I think everybody has a work that truly means something to them. That’s special to them, no matter what the quality is. That there’s a connection there beyond just the work itself. Persona 4 is that for me, for reasons I went over in my last post. Persona 4 is my game of games.   It’s the one where context has transcended context, and it has touched me and my life in a way few others have.

11. Do you collect anything? What is it?
Can you collect memories? If so, that’s it for me. I enjoy novelty, building up new experiences, trying new things out. I am more apt to do something if it gives me something new to learn or an experience I hadn’t tried before. There’s a lot to life, and although I’m never going to experience even a fraction of it, I would like to build up as much experience as I can.

Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

Again, nah. I’m just not that social. I don’t think I even have eleven friends. And all the people I would nominate either don’t really jive with the social awards or they’ve gotten one recently because we’re all part of the same circle. Sorry.

List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
I don’t know what the award logo is. A quick Google Search shows about a hundred different logos. So you know what? Here:

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And that’s me!  I hope you all enjoyed me talking about myself as much as I did.  And it was a lovely break over a week when I spend half of it away from my writing computer.  We’ll be back with our regularly scheduled content in the near future.

 

The Mystery Blogger Award

This post could have been a couple things. A bit about how I tried and utterly failed to every one of our Fallout decision makers. Something reflecting on Planescape Torment’s unfortunate case of bipolar disorder. I could have finally publicly published one of the hundreds of posts sitting in my blog folder extolling the virtues of my hair. But, well, I’m a pleaser. I can’t help it. Just ask your girlfriend. I like leaving the people around me better off. And when those people around me combine that impulse with my natural enjoyment of talking about myself, well, I just can’t help it.

We’ve been touched by those viral get-to-know-you blogging awards again. You may remember our adventures with these in the past, when we were given the Double Lovely Versatile Liebster award. Well, that’s been expanded by not just one, but two steps. First, Red Metal was kind enough to send us over a Mystery Blogger award, thus guaranteeing we’d have easy content ready to go the next time a week got ahead of us. I was holding on to that in my back pocket, waiting for the most opportune time to slip that into my draw, but then Athena raises the stakes with by calling us for the Sunshine Blogger award, and, well, now it’s time for those cards to be on the table. I am nothing if not efficient, so let’s take care of both of those at once here.

Thank you both Red Metal and Athena. I appreciate your interest in opening up humble old me, the kindness you showed in your nominations and giving me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject, myself.

Let’s start with Red Metal’s Mystery Blogger Award. Step by step, the rules are

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.

You know what, let’s do that, but with a twist.
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  • List the rules.

Check, got it. Man, I’m the best at this.

  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Done already. But again, thank you Red Metal. If you’ve been around for most any length of time, you’ve seen him around in the comments at the very least. Dude’s one of my favorite game reviewers, and takes a pretty in-depth look at whatever catches his fancy on the regular. Check him out.

  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

Methinks that one Okoto Enigma maybe started up this award as a means to Google Bomb themselves. But oh well. I won’t hold it against them. With a quick glance at their blog, they’ve got absolutely no crossover with what we talk about here, so, don’t know that you’d be interested, but just for the webcrawlers, here’s their site.  I chose a random post there, just to make the stats the get a little more random.

  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  1. Like many people, video gaming is just one of my too many interests. It’s the one I’ve kept up with the longest, and devote the most mental space to, but I’ve got a too long list of things I keep up with, such as comic books, physical fitness, men’s style, art, New Japan Pro Wrestling, wine, my hair, and so on. Makes my days a little too full. I’ve kept most of them from here, because, although I consider this more an Aether’s Interest blog than a video games blog, I want to have at least a little consistency, but I’ve noticed some of that popping into a few of the examples or analogies I may use.
  2. I fantasize about leading a band, but I haven’t actually picked up an instrument in years.
  3. I think of myself as pretty socially adept. I can hold my own in a conversation, use my network well, get people talking with ease, etc. Put me in front of a room of people, even, and I’ll thrive. I’ve got this huge block when it comes to approaching people, though. I don’t understand it myself. When I’ve got an in to a conversation, it’s easy. When I’m introduced by someone else, fine. But I just can’t figure out how to put myself out there like that. Social stuff is weird.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.

Nah. That involves approaching people, and see number 3 above. Also, I have a pretty small blogging circle, and most of those whom I would nominate either received a similar viral award recently or choose not to play along with these.

So here’s an inoculation against the viral spread, I guess.

  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay, done.

  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny

Here’s Red Metal’s questions:

Which game proved to be the biggest disappointment for you?

Justice League Task Force. When I was a kid, had a lot of fun with fighting games, loved superheroes, this seemed really interesting from the magazines, a perfect fight. Then I rented it, and it played like garbage. Slow, clumsy, special moves were really unreliable, just not a good experience. I’m sure I’ve been more disappointed by games since, but I remember this one because it was my first learning experience that not all games will live up to my excitement.

Which game proved to be the most pleasant surprise for you?

Persona 4. But this one’s going to take a bit of a story.

Around the time I picked this game up, I was in a weird place in life. Part of that led to me just not enjoying things, including video games, as much. Part of that was just general malaise, but part of that was that it was a lot easier to see the worst in everything than it was the good. And my gaming habits were hitting that wall hard. I was starting to think the whole medium had peaked, and was on its way down in quality. I had been considering giving it up.

I don’t remember why I had picked up Persona 4. I didn’t know anything about it, other than that Persona 3 was reputed to be really good, and I had very fond memories of its Super Famicom predecessor Shin Megami Tensei from a time when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do than to trial and error my way through a brutally hard JRPG that I couldn’t even read. But I gave it a try on a whim, and I was blown away. It was an incredibly tight story that was very well thought out, I built connections to the characters there in a way I was sorely lacking from the people I was with in real life, and the battle system had complexities at a level I wasn’t expecting from a JRPG of the time.

It didn’t exactly turn my life around, but it did single-handedly turn me back into a devoted hobbyist of video games. I had been a proponent for stories in video games beforehand, but that was the first one that really opened my eyes to the depths of just what unique feature the medium had for storytelling.  Not only that, it was fun.  I fell in love with it, and it showed me I still could enjoy video games at a time I really needed that.  I probably wouldn’t be playing today and having this blog here were it not for that game.

What is the most memorable scene from a film you’ve watched?

For me, it’s the climax to Beauty and the Beast. Where the Beast is fighting with Gaston, and the latter falls off the castle to his death. Between Gaston’s blind rage, and the first time I think I was exposed to a death as a kid, that really stuck with me.

What inspired you to begin blogging?

Blazes. Look at my sidebar there. This blog dates back to the start of 2013. For such a simple project like this one, that’s exceptionally long. Long enough that I don’t rightly remember.

I’ve been writing for a long time. Some of which has even seen the light of day. I used to admin for a roleplaying forum, and was a pretty active participant there. I’ve got a few articles scattered around other people’s sites, used to put together fun essays and games on various social media I was a part of, etc. I enjoyed it. I like creating. But everything I did was all scattered around, and it was all on other people’s sites. I had nothing of my own. I was also following quite a few gaming blogs at the time. I was frustrated with most of the forums and what not I had been dealing with, how much discussion went ignored there, but I was enticed by the idea of having my own little place that I could put my own thoughts up, keeping my own small corner of the internet, just having a place for me and whatever from my mind I felt I could share with the world. I figured I’d try it out, see how it goes, and five years later, I’m apparently still at it. I don’t have the time to post as much as I’d like to, and it doesn’t seem to have as much reach as the avenues I used to write through, but I’m very fulfilled with it.

If you could go back in time and see any band that has permanently broken up perform a concert, which one would you choose?

Nightwish is one of my favorite bands. They’re still around, but they’ve gone through a few lead singers, and each time, it changes their musical profile significantly. Would have been nice to have caught them with their original lead singer, with whom they put out a lot of their most notable work.

  • Share a link to your best post(s).

My best post? They’re all great, how can I choose? But I am particularly proud of having what I believe is the most comprehensive list of left-handed video game characters on the internet. It could probably do with an update, there’s two more I’ve come across in games since I put that list together, but it’s still a more thorough list than I believe you’d be able to find elsewhere. Occasionally, I track back the links leading people to the blog, and find that someone else has used that list for their own projects. That’s also fulfilling to me, that it’s started to take a life of it’s own.

Also, I’m really proud of our Dark Souls run here. If you have some time to fill, might I suggest that? The first post probably not so great, because I wasn’t expecting to do a LP out of it then, but from the second onward, should be hitting more our stride. That was the first LP I’ve completed, and I think it went really well. Especially one jumping in blind to a notoriously difficult game.

More recently, I think my post analyzing Nintendo’s business culture is pretty noteworthy. It was fun for me to step back into my business academic shoes, and although it’s mostly conjecture, I think it does come from a perspective and carries information you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

And, you know, because this is long enough already, and because it’s time for me to go play some games, how about we tackle the Sunshine Blogger award in another post.

The Right Time to be Sexy in Video Games

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The upcoming Dragon’s Crown has a pair of ridiculously oversexualized female characters. If you’ve been paying attention to the internet, you may have noticed a small circle of stupidity revolving around those characters. If you haven’t heard of it, some dude at Kotaku said some stupid things about the character designer, said character designer posted some stupid things about Kotaku Dude, everyone apologized. As a whole, the event’s not really worth paying much attention to, so of course video game media is all over this.

It did get me thinking, though. Sexism, against both genders, is very prevalent in our modern entertainment. Video games are no different. We, as a culture, need some good discussion about this sexism, yet it’s almost impossible to have. Both sides of the argument gets so stupidly aggressive whenever it comes up that even if there are good points, they’ve already burnt their bridges and ruined any hope of getting anyone to listen. Video game news sites aren’t any better. So many of them have posted so many ill thought out editorials in blatant attempts at getting hits that it’s next to impossible to tell when an honest attempt at advancing the discourse is being made.

Luckily for everyone, I’m here. I’m still pretty new at this whole blogging thing, and I’m probably not that good at it yet, so I’m not going to be able to end sexism in gaming with a single post just yet. Instead, we’re going to start pretty small, and with a subject matter I know well. Today, we’ll be talking about sexiness in games. Specifically sexy woman characters. If you know anything about me, you know I’m the closest thing we have to proof that God really did create mankind in His own image. I figure that makes me the most qualified to talk about the issue of sexualization in games.

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