No Skin Thick Enough: Don't Miss This Eye-Opening Article About Online Harassment in Gaming

No Skin thick Enough
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

An interesting piece about gender and harassment in the gaming industry was posted in Polygon's opinion section today. Written by game developer Brianna Wu, the piece cuts right to the quick with a series of case studies from other women in the industry, each one debunking a specific myth about online harassment. If you've ever caught yourself saying "everyone gets harassed online" or "you just need to grow a thicker skin," please carve a few minutes out of your day to read it. 

It's a phenomenal piece, but one quote included from games journalist Carolyn Petit really resonates:

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In the Least Surprising News of the Day, The Sims 4 Will Have Premium Memberships

Sims 4 Premium
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Sims fans have caught sight of something alarming in a recent 20-minute Sims 4 gameplay demo posted to the series' official YouTube channel. A banner advertising "The Sims 4 Premium" popped on screen while the hosts were en-route to check out community content sharing features, promising discounts, early access, and exclusive items. The comparison is being made to the premium memberships offered for the Battlefield series, in essence a subscription fee that provides a good deal for players who plan to buy all or nearly all of the DLC content released -- and a good deal for EA if subscribers who planned to buy decide to abstain. 

But when it comes to this particular community and this particular franchise, I don't think the issue is quite that simple...

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The SIM-ple Life: Here's Why I'm Looking Forward to Losing Everything in the Transition to The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (11)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Fans of any series are surely familiar with the excitement leading up to the release of a new installment, and likewise the concern that somehow, at some point, the developers will mess it up. Maybe it won't be as good as the previous games. Or maybe it will be a million times better. It's an emotional push-and-pull that many Sims fans are experiencing right now, but with an added layer almost unique to them.

Between the base game, the expansions, the stuff packs, the store content, the mods, and of course the sim lives created, every game in the series can be a tremendous investment of both time and money. And then the new game comes out, and you're back at square one. Even though it is a brand new game, even though the older game doesn't go anywhere, it still feels like (and is most often described as) a loss. It's a huge mental hurdle for many players to get over, and one that I personally struggled with when The Sims 3 came out back in 2009.

But this time around, I'm not. I'm actually, strangely enough, looking forward to losing it all. Here's why:

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Assassin's Creed is a Franchise Built on More Than Just Violence (But You'd Never Know it From This Trailer)

AC Unity Trailer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Earlier today Chris Plante shared his thoughts on the latest trailers for Assassin's Creed Unity over on Polygon, and if you're an avid gamer his post should give you a lot to think about. Obviously AC fans aren't strangers to gorey gameplay, but it feels like Ubisoft's marketing material is trying to take it to a new level, and Plante's not interested. Frankly, neither am I. He writes:

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Must Read: The Frustratingly Indistinct World of Gaming With Color Blindness

IGN Gaming with Color Blindness Super Puzzle FighterJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a new article on IGN today about the experience of being a color blind gamer, and I'd say it's a must-read if only for the valuable perspective it will offer. In addition to providing some truly illuminating visual aids like the screenshot comparison on the left, the article also touches on the many ways that developers are addressing (or failing to address) accessibility for the considerable number of color blind players out there.

For example:

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Here's Your Regular Reminder That Skywind Might be the Most Amazing Mod Ever

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

We're long overdue for another chat about Skywind, the ridicilously ambitious modding project that aims to import the entire world of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind into the series' most recent (single-player) incarnation, Skyrim

The Skywind team have begun releasing trailers for their massive project monthly, teasing everything from armor models to environments (like the Ashlands) and even the soundtrack. Unfortunately due to the scale of the mod it's hard to say when (of if) we'll ever be able to get our hands on it, but either way these haunting trailers provide a glimpse into a more updated version of a world that so many gamers hold dear.

Watch all of the Skywind trailers for yourself on YouTube, or check out the TES Renewal Project for the latest news on Skywind, as well as its sister mods Morroblivion and Skyblivion.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Unclear: My First Impressions of The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim Demo

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (7)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

On Tuesday, many members of The Sims 3 community were invited to test out The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim Demo on EA's Origin distribution platform, ahead of the demo's public release later this summer. I was lucky enough to be among them, so I spent the better part of yesterday evening pushing, pulling, pinching and tweaking my way through the very familiar and simultaneously very alien systems. 

So how was it? There were lots of things I loved, a few things I hated, and a couple things I can't wait to learn more about as we approach The Sims 4's launch date. Until then, here are my thoughts on the Create-a-Sim demo:

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Joy Versus Violence: When Child-Like Play is More Mature Than a Gruesome Gunfight

Tengami Waterfall
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a gem of a post by Leigh Alexander up on Gamasutra today, and while it's rather lengthy anyone who found themselves a little uninspired by the guns, guts and goreshow at E3 last month should take the time to read. In it, Alexander presents the idea that the games with content labelled as "mature" may actually be more juvenile than the games that give us beauty, creativity and good old fashioned joy but get labelled as casual or kid-oriented.

Alexander's interview with fellow critic Michael Abbot was particularly interesting, and seems to crystallize a sentiment picking up steam among developers and consumers alike:

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Early Access: Failbetter Games' Sunless Sea is Anything but Bleak... At Least for the Player

Sunless Sea Early Access
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The city glittered like a wet-backed beetle as you approached, lamplight occasionally faltering as though a dew drop had been dislodged from London's polished carapace. At least that's what the zailors would say as they shared in the short-lived comforts of home. If one was already caught up in the romantic notions of a life spent zailing the vastness of the Unterzee, they could be forgiven for missing the tremble in their voices, or the dread that lived in their hollowed eyes. 

Euphemia was a creature who fed on little more than milk and ink. That's metaphor of course. She was a poet, a rather soft one at that, but not to be mistaken by a careless reader for one of the shrouded monstrosities one might find at the Bazaar, carting about carefully capped milk bottles brimming with viscous black fluid. 

If you haven't guessed yet, I've been playing Sunless Sea, Failbetter Games' successfully Kickstarted follow up to free-to-play browser-based narrative adventure game, Fallen London. Sunless Sea was released in Early Access on Steam just yesterday, and boy do I ever want to tell you about it...

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The MMO is Dead; Long Live the MMO

ESO Templar Archer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Paste Magazine's Games section is home to some of the absolute best gaming-related content and criticism on the internet, making it one of the go-to sources for the gamer who doesn't mind turning the gears in their head for more than just a particularly tricky Picross level. This week, Ian Williams posted a piece there about the current state of the MMO. While many think that MMOs are a thriving genre just being held back by their pursuit of World of Warcraft's holy grail, Williams posits that the genre as it stands is a relic of a time and a set of needs we've moved past. As Williams himself says, "It wasn’t the game, it was the moment; not what MMOs were but when. "

World of Warcraft introduced me to a level of internet socialization I hadn’t experienced before. Moreover, I couldn’t get it anywhere else in 2004. There was no Twitter or Facebook, and certainly no hordes of people using that social media which was available. Free video chat with any sort of efficiency wasn’t feasible. It was, in terms of social interactions, a completely different world. [...] We’re older now. We have kids and mortgages and serious jobs. In the time it takes to log in and get something set up with MMO friends, you can swipe your fingers a few times and be both engaging thousands on Twitter while videochatting with your friends at the same time. And if you really got into MMOs for the “ding, grats” style gameplay, it’s worked its way into games of every style and genre, with hundreds of mobile games offering a distilled version of it directly to your cerebral cortex.

Be sure to read the full article on Paste, which explains how some more recent MMOs and notable exceptions fit in to the picture.

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