Girl Game Let's Play Series Goes Out With a Bang (and a Crystal Clear Lesson About the Objectification of Women)

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

I've been thoroughy enjoying DeviousVacuum's Let's Play videos for some of the most ridiculous browser-based "Girl Games" since I first wrote about it in January. "DVac" and her co-hosts have easily played over a hundred of the most appalling flash games targetted towards young girls over the span of nearly two dozen episodes, not to mention the thread over on Something Awful where fans contributed LPs and commentary of their own.

But all good things must come to an end, and DeviousVacuum has delivered a serious one-two punch for her Let's Play finale.

In the second to last video (embedded above) she's doing the same thing she always does with one important change, just to make sure everyone is on the same page about what it is that makes these games so problematic. While she's still plucking and preening an array of cartoon women, she's cut away the co-hosts and the jokey commentary and instead reads the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition of objectification... Which often lines up eerily well with the gameplay on screen. As for the last video in the series, well, that one you'll really want to see for yourself

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Iris Wants to Know: What Are the Best Tricks in Your Second Life Snapshot Editing Toolbox?

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

A few months ago fashion maven and legal eagle Vaki Zenovka shared a work-in-progress shot on Plurk. It was a shading layer for a Second Life snapshot she was editing at the time, and it looked like a drawing in itself -- stark whites and blacks were layered like conte crayon on a grey sheet, which would then be overlayed on the original snapshot to give it significantly more oomph than it would have on its own. I typically spent more time fiddling with color balances than with hand-shading my pictures but ever since then, whenever I'm playing around with my own SL snaps in Photoshop, I can see Vaki's WIP shading layer hovering in my mind, pushing me to add just a little more highlight here, a little more shadow there...

Everyone has their tips and tricks, and the more I think about Vaki's the more I want to know everyone else's, too. Me? My go-to Photoshop move is to take the sharpening tool to the fine details of the face. With a very light touch, I like to sharpen the brows, the lips, and most important of all the shine in the eyes. Sharpening these little details, as long as you're careful not to overdo it, can really make your avatar's face pop. It works just as well for details on your outfit, too. Just remember that this technique can be a little misleading to the viewer, making them think textures are much crisper than they are, so you absolutely, positively should not use it on pictures intended for reviews.

What clever little methods have you picked up along the way that make your pictures stand out from the crowd? Share your favorite snapshot-editing techniques in the comments below!

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Watch It This Long Weekend: GDC Vault Now Freely Offering Informative (and Inspirational) Content from GDC 2014

GDC Vault Michelle Clough
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The long weekend just ahead of many of us is a great opportunity to catch up on shows we may have missed, to indulge hobbies we may be neglecting, and of course to spend time with family and friends. But if you're interesting in all the clockwork behind gaming and game culture you may want to use your free time to dive head first into the GDC Vault, where footage and resources from many of the panels from this year's GDC are now freely accessible.

The #1ReasonToBe panel headlined by Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander is considered one of the must-see panels from the 2014 section of the Vault, but there's loads more of interest too. You can learn about empathy games; you can learn about male character sexualization; you can learn about interpreting feedback without compromising your vision; you learn how to survive internet negativity... You can even learn why Gone Home is a game and not, as some people like to call it, a "walking simulator".

There are four pages of media in the 2014 Vault to sift through, including slides and audio, covering everything from broader social topics to nitty-gritty technical analysis. Check it all out for yourself here.

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Second Life Cosmetics Makers Gear Up for Spring With Colorful Virtual Manicures

Action Cosmetic Fair Nail Appliers
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Something about spring just makes me want to paint my nails. Okay, so I don't exactly stop painting them in the winter, but when you have to worry less about heavy gloves and dry cuticles and all that shovelling and scraping, it's much easier to enjoy a fresh coat or two of polish for more than a day at a time. Even with winter casting about in its death throes this week, it's hard not to get inspired by the vivid spring colors popping up in time for Easter.

Evidently quite a few Second Life designers are feeling inspired by impending May flowers too, as the latest round of Cosmetic Fair (open until April 30th [SLURL]) is packed with colorful manicures, ready to be applied. Among all the pastels and patterns available, the offerings from two brands in particular stand out from the crowd...

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If This Video Doesn't Make You Excited About Tomodachi Life, Nothing Will

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

Right now, every day until June 6th is just another day to cross off my calendar. Why? Because June 6th is when the English version of Tomodachi Life will be released for the Nintendo 3DS in North America. Tomodachi Life, of course, is the sequel to 2009's Tomodachi Collection for the DS, which was never released outside of Japan... And that's a real shame, because these games are absolutely wonderful. Just take a look at the video above if you want to see just how wonderful it can get.

Think of the Tomodachi series like Animal Crossing meets The Sims. In Tomodachi, you're given an island and an apartment complex to populate with yourself, your friends, your favorite characters or celebrities or whoever else you like. You'll take care of them, customize them, and unlock new features as time goes on, but most of the joy is in finding bizarre litle easter eggs and watching the drama that can unfold on its own.

If you want to see more of Tomodachi Life, last week's Nintendo Direct is an absolute must-watch. I also decided to do my homework, and picked up an import copy of the original Tomodachi Collection (pro tip: they're dirt cheap on Amazon) to catch up on what these games have to offer. Look forward to reading about my experiences with it in the near future!

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Linden Lab Unveils New Avatar Fitting Classifications for Second Life -- But Will They Work?

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

Linden Lab has unveiled a new way for shoppers and designers to identify what will and what won't fit a Second Life avatar. Rooted in this Knowledge Base entry, designers can now find badges like the one above meant to identify products intended for normal and mesh-augmented avatars respectively, as well as detailed instructions for how to access new categorization options on the SL Marketplace that will allow designers to list products that require certain base components (for example SLink mesh feet, hands, or heads) to work properly. 

So will it get the job done? Here are my thoughts:

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Play It This Weekend: Solve Pastel Puzzles Straight from M.C. Escher's Dreams in Monument Valley for iOS

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

Pretty little puzzle game Monument Valley is making a splash on the app store this month, and after playing it for myself it's very easy to understand why. It's clever, it's challenging, and above all else its absolutely beautiful. 

If your curiosity has been piqued, keep reading for the details.

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5 Things to Love (and Hate) About The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online  (8)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The more I time I spend with The Elder Scrolls Online, the more conflicted I feel about it.

Since I wrote about it last Friday I've only gone deeper down the rabbit hole. I still have fun playing (I would have stopped ong ago otherwise), but it seems that for every element I enjoy there's another element working directly against it. Here's what I mean:

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Iris Wants to Know: Which Fantasy RPG Class Do You Love to Play the Most?

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

I've been playing a lot more of The Elder Scrolls Online than I expected to play, and a big part of that has been due to the game's flexible character classes. I'll get into that in more detail later this week (and you can read my launch day post about the game here) but suffice it to say that at some point my two favorite characters became a sorcerer who loads herself up with heavy armor beneath her unassuming cloth robe, and a templar who weilds a shortbow in place of the melee weapons most players of that class favor. These combinations both have advantages and disadvantages, but they've both been much more enjoyable to play than the more "vanilla" characters I've tried.

All this has got me thinking about character classes in general, though. I tend to gravitate towards mages and archers... Even though I still loathe any game that gender-locks female characters into either role. Essentially I want to have a big impact on a fight with lots of flashy effects, but I'd like to remain as strategically placed (and as far away from the action) as possible. That's not to say I don't enjoy melee classes from time to time -- my main alt in Skyrim favored both bows and one-handed weapons -- but I definitely have a preference.

So here's what I want to know: Do you have a favorite RPG class or archetype, and why do you think you're so drawn to them? Do you roll a healer time and time again because you prefer a support role, or would you rather be leading the team, axe-deep in goblin gore? As always, share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Korean MMO Black Desert Might Just Have the Best Character Customization Ever

Black Desert CBT2 Customization
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The team behind upcoming Korean MMO Black Desert have already offered a lot of material for fans and followers to drool over, but their latest tidbit will be like catnip for anyone with an eye on avatar customization.

Up until now, Black Desert's main selling point has undoubtedly been its graphics. Both the characters and the world look so polished and realistic that its screenshots could easily be mistaken for renders from 3D software like DAZ or Poser (seriously). But yesterday, in advance of their second closed beta test phase, the developers of Black Desert released a new video to flaunt the game's unique character customization system. Unlike preset or slider-based customization techniques that currently dominate modern MMOs, Black Desert divides the face and body up onto very precise elements that can be adjusted directly and intuitively. Click here to see it in action.

If you're as intrigued as I am, you'll probably have to wait a while before you can play for yourself. Black Desert's second closed beta period starts on April 22nd but will only be available to players in Korea. The game is expected to be localized for North America after its Korean release, but that often takes a year or more to come together. Until then, you can learn more about Black Desert here.

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