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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A Virtual World Where Avatars Are Wordless, Magical Deer

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The Endless Forest is an indie multiplayer game I've never heard about before, but acclaimed metaverse artist Bryn Oh just posted a review, and now I have, and I'm pretty intrigued:

You arrive to a forest as a baby deer or foal. Above your head is a unique glowing symbol which is you, and what others recognize you by. You will come across other deer and will realize quite quickly that there is no way to communicate with them. There is no typing out text to one another but instead you have a variety of ways to communicate with body language. Shake your head, rear up onto your back legs and so on. It is a community embracing the absence of normal communication, and then what happens in that environment.

The wordless, magical communication aspect was a powerful element of Journey, and I'd love to see it in other MMOs. Or why not a Second Life sim where text and voice chat were forbidden, and only gestural communication allowed? What a fricking relief from the voices you hear in Second Life's Welcome Area that would be.

By contrast, here's what interaction looks like in The Endless Forest:

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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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Why Jenn Frank Compares GamerGate to a Massive ARG

Jenn Frank Second Life

On Slate, game journalist Jenn Frank (who'll soon be contributing to New World Notes) just wrote a perceptive analysis of Gamergate, the misogynist movement which temporarily drove her out of her vocation last year. Rather than being bitter about that experience, she takes a philosophical stance, arguing that "Gamergate is the most expansive real-world alternate reality game in video game history." Sample:

The authors of Gamergate’s oral history are a decentralized collective, a conglomerate of modern-day bards with no single leader, who use real-world details from the lives of real-world people to give the mythos texture, verisimilitude and, probably most important, real-world stakes. This is literally what we mean by “gamification”! (It’s also worth noting that Gamergate, alas, cannot be paused.)

Alas indeed. Anyway, Jenn let me share her thoughts for taking this approach on Slate:

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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

Words for evil
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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Janine "Iris" Hawkins for Paste on the Problem of Feminine Fashion in Roleplaying Games

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In case you missed it (and you really shouldn't) our own Janine "Iris" Hawkins has a new gaming piece on the major media Paste Magazine site -- this one on the problem of "feminine" fashion in roleplaying games, specifically Dragon Age: Inquisition, which she's also written a lot about here. She even takes the time to define feminine versus masculine fashion:

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