This Weekend: Find (or Make) Your Perfect Game Thanks to Pixelkin.org and Sortingh.at

Pixelkin Game Picker

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

If you're looking for the perfect game to play this weekend, but you're not exactly sure what that perfect game is, you'll absolutely want to visit Pixelkin and take their new Game Picker for a spin.

Pixelkin is a website devoted to family gaming, though that doesn't mean it's all kids games and edutainment titles. They cover a pretty broad range of games, with parents, kids, and everyone in between in mind. They also haven't omitted more mature titles (like Amnesia) from the Game Picker's list, so whether you're looking for something to play with family or on your own you should consider giving it a try.

Then again, maybe you're in more of a creative mood. Maybe instead of playing the perfect game, you want to try making it yourself. In that case you'll want to check out Sortingh.at, a tool developed by Zoe Quinn to help aspiring game-makers find the tools and resources best suited for a project they may already have in mind. A large number of those tools and resources are also free, making the barrier to entry for game development a lot lower than you might think--even if you don't know a lick of code.

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Lost Constellation is NOT a Demo for Night in the Woods--and That's One More Reason Why You Should Play

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

Over the holiday lull, the developers of upcoming game Night in the Woods dropped a doozy of a demo, named Lost Constellation. Except... Lost Constellation isn't actually a demo, even though it does demonstrate certain aspects of Night in the Woods. Lost Constellation also isn't a standalone game, even thought it does certainly stand on its own.

In the developers' words, Lost Constellation is a 'supplemental game'. Given the scarcity of game demos (at least compared to how things were a decade ago) that distinction may seem unnecessary, but in fact these kinds of un-demos are an increasingly popular way for indie devs to do a lot of things at once.

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New on Paste: Appreciating the Value of Virtual Spaces in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Beyond

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

In my latest piece for Paste 's Games section, I wanted to dissect the love/hate relationship that players of Dragon Age: Inquisition have with several of the game's maps, particularly The Hissing Wastes. A location that many players consider big and boring became my favorite in the game, and I think that has a lot to do both with what we expect game areas to be and what we expect them to do.

Although my take on this hasn't exactly earned universal agreement from fellow gaming enthusiasts, I'm willing to bet that most Second Life users take this position for granted...

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Janine's Top Five Favorite Games of 2014

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

2014 was a difficult year to love games. If you didn't already know as much, you've probably gathered it from the fact that just about every Game of the Year list is mentioning it. 2014 was a rough year all around in fact, but for those of us who use our hobby as a coping mechanism, a place to retreat to when things are getting a bit too dire elsewhere -- well, we were reminded again and again that our sanctuary is just as fragile as everything else around us.

2014 gave us a lot of baggage to deal with, and we won't be able to just drop it all at 2015's doorstep. But in spite of it all, 2014 also gave us some valuable gaming experiences, and some absolutely priceless escapes.

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Janine's Top Ten Favorite Articles of 2014

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

As 2014 draws to a close, bloggers and writers everywhere are looking back at their year and trying to remember anything that happened before June that might be worth including in a wrap-up post. 'Tis the season for recaps, and we're certainly not immune from that here at NWN. 

While my upcoming Game of the Year post didn't require much digging at all (it's been a very good year for my Steam Library if nothing else) I did have to roll up my sleeves and dive into the archives to find my favorite articles from 2014. I'm entirely too quick to dismiss my own work, which makes these kinds of lists quite hard for me to write... But also makes this an easy choice for a low-traffic Monday.

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Minecraft May Not Be the Best Candidate for Telltale's Next Episodic Adventure Game

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

Today Telltale Games announced that they'll be doing another of their signature narrative-driven games with yet another phenomenally popular license. Hot on the heels of both Tales from the Borderlands and their take on HBO's Game of Thrones, the next property that they'll be working on is... Minecraft. I first read that news in a post-nap stupor, and I wasn't sure that I was properly awake. Maybe this is a strange joke. Maybe Clickhole dipped into videogame humor again and -- look, I don't know. There were a million things you could have told me that would have made more sense than that particular arrangement of headlines did.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Telltale's games and I think they're very good at what they do. I welcome just about any news I hear about what they're working on, especially when it comes to franchises I hold near and dear. But Minecraft is a strange, even ill-fitting choice for their particular narrative-driven formula, and here's why:

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Play it This Pre-Holiday Slog: Words for Evil, a Punchy Little Word Game Inspired by Classic Roguelikes

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

It's pretty hard to get work done at this time of year. There's a lot going on, a lot to prepare for and a lot to look forward to, and sitting down to focus on just one thing can be a serious challenge. When I picked up Words for Evil a few days ago on a whim, it was a couple bucks on Steam and iOS and it looked cute and, most important of all, I was desperate for a bite-sized distraction.

And you know what? This simple, roguelike-inspired word puzzler turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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There's an Ugly Side to Dragon Age: Inquisition's Most Beautiful Virtual Fashions

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

Why is it that feminine fashion in video games always seems to indicate something about the character wearing it? Why is it never just a matter of taste? It's the case in countless games, including BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the subject of my latest article for Paste. As much as I love Inquisition and its stunning fashions, the way those fashions deal with femininity fits a little too well into some all-too-common media tropes.

Beyond the usual handful of narrowminded people who think dissecting a game's style and design choices is more "superficial" than writing a list of its most obvious mechanical elements would be, I've already gotten a lot of interesting feedback about this post. Pleasantly enough, one of the most insightful comments yet has come from a BioWare employee...

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Romance in Dragon Age: Inquisition is Better Than Ever, No Matter What That Guy Thinks

Dragon Age Inquisition Romance
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Few people who know me would accuse me of being a romantic, at least not in the modern sense. I don't think much about stealing kisses at the top of the Eiffel tower or cuddling up under a heavy blanket on a rainy day. I have little patience for breathless musical numbers and, to be perfectly honest, I think The Princess Bride is no more than adequate. But even so, there's something about romance in Dragon Age that turns me into a sappy, squeaky mess. It melts my frigid heart every damn time, and while it's not the only reason I enjoy the series, it's certainly a slice of the pie.

Maybe that's why a rage-filled GameFAQs forum thread that's been going around tickles me to the degree that it does. This thread ( titled "This was the last straw Bioware. I am done.") is a real gem, and it reveals a lot about what some players feel entitled to when it comes to romance in their games. Roll up your sleeves, because we're going in:

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Must Watch: Feminist Frequency's 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male

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

A new Feminist Frequency video is typically the highlight of my day. Even if I don't always agree with every single item presented, I believe strongly in Tropes vs. Women's message and above all (and unlike an alarming number of people) its right to exist. There's a new video up on Feminist Frequency's YouTube channel today and although it isn't the next installment in the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, it's no less worth watching. 

In it, prominent men in the games industry (developers and press) read points from a list presented previously in an opinion piece for Polygon by Tropes vs. Women in Video Games producer Jonathan McIntosh about the invisible benefits of gaming while male. Some of them may be obvious, like the disproportionate amount of abuse that women receive regularly in the community. Others may be less obvious. For example...

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