The Sims 4 Goes Live at Midnight: Here's How to Pass the Time Until You Can Play

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

There's something extra stressful about waiting for a highly anticipated game to be released... On a holiday. Every hour you should be relaxing can feel absolutely agonizing when all you're thinking about is playing that damn game. Well I've got good news and even more good news if, like me, you're chewing your nails and watching the clock until The Sims 4 is released.

First of all...

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Weekend Reading: Catch Up on Some of the Best Responses to Gaming's Recent Anti-Feminist Drama

Tropes vs Women Background Decoration Part 2
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It's safe to say that August 2014 has been an absolute nightmare, and I'll be glad to see the whole thing end. The past couple weeks in particular have been bad in the gaming corner of the internet, and the only consolation I can draw from it is that 1) compared to everything else that's happened around the world this month it could really be so much worse, and 2) at least some absolutely outstanding articles have come out of it all. Too many to share individually, in fact.

If you want to catch up on what's been going with August's lesser calamities in the world of video games (or just get a fresh perspective on the subject), here's your weekend reading list:

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I Love Games, But I'll Never Be a "Gamer"

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

When I talk about my childhood spent in the back seat of a minivan playing an imported Japanese copy of Tails Adventure on my Game Gear, or on the living room floor meandering through the levels of Gauntlet Legends, or scouring anything resembling an arcade with my fingers crossed for a Hydro Thunder machine, you might mistake me for a Gamer. When I talk about slightly more recent events -- eliminating challengers in one hit with my overtrained Absol in Pokemon X/Y, almost miraculously sniping enemies off with a shotgun in Fallout: New Vegas, completing the entirety of an Assassin's Creed game without ever using anything but the wristblades -- you could be forgiven for again thinking that I'm a Gamer.

But I wasn't, and I'm not.

I'm not trying to prove my gaming cred here, nor am I trying to make a point about how easily my interests can be dismissed by someone with an agenda. The fact is that I've been playing video games regularly for as long as I can remember, but I've never called or even considered myself a Gamer... And I'm not about to start any time soon. 

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Woman Who Criticizes Violence Against Women in Games Now in Hiding Due to Real Death Threats from Gamers

The best evidence Anita Sarkeesian is basically right in her videos about sexism in games, it occurred to me yesterday, is any time they're posted, you wind up with long comments from angry males complaining about her anonymously online, almost invariably making assertions that are patently inaccurate or ridiculous, if not outright wrong.

There's a much darker point of evidence: Anita Sarkeesian is the constant target of death threats from angry male gamers, the most recent of which happened after her latest video went online.

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The Newest Episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games is Hard to Watch, but it's Well Worth Your Time

Tropes vs Women Background Decoration Part 2
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The latest episode of Feminist Frequency's ongoing Tropes vs Women in Video Games series is out today, presenting part two of the women as background decoration trope. This episode also comes with a pretty strong content warning, as it depicts a lot of very graphic violence against female characters. It's absolutely brutal and some viewers may want to skip this particular episode as a result, but it offers some very important critical commentary on the ways that violence against women is used in games.

Watch the full episode for yourself:

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Cubic Castles: A Free-to-Play Sandbox MMO That's Like Minecraft, but...

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

Minecraftbut. That's the term that Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Alice O'Connor recently coined (in the same vein as roguelike) to save us all from having to say "It's like Minecraft, but..." one more lousy time. It might just be my favorite piece of gaming shorthand since "Abilitease".

Cubic Castles (a new free-to-play game that you can snag on Steam, the iOS App Store or straight from their website) is one such Minecraftbut, with an emphasis on building, crafting, puzzle platforming, and easily shared massively-multiplayer worlds. The problem with writing about Minecraftbut's is that defining one thing based largely on how it's different from that other thing is a difficult and often unhelpful way to explain any thing. There's a comparison to be made... But it's much better just to see the thing in action for yourself.

With that in mind, I did a dreadfully unprofessional (it's been a loooong week, you guys) stream of Cubic Castles earlier today so I could share the experience with you. Check it out:

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Iris' Most Anticipated Game Releases for Fall-Winter 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity Notre Dame
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Summer can be pretty slow when it comes to games... And just about everything else. It's hot, it's humid, it's sticky, it's sweaty, and it feels like there's just nothing new and exciting to play. So every now and then when the weather and the restlessness are equally unbearable, I like to close my eyes and think of all of the releases I'm anticipating this fall. Pretty much as soon as August ends I know I'll be on a roller coaster of releases straight through to Christmas, and I absolutely can't wait. Here are the ten games I'm looking forward to the most in what remains of 2014:

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Try Out This Shortcut for Super Cute Sims in The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim Demo

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

I'm going to share a clever trick for The Sims 4 that a friend pointed out to me this weekend, in case you're having any trouble creating the perfect sim. Although the game itself isn't out yet, last week the Create-a-Sim demo launched for everyone on Origin. It's the perfect opportunity to hone your character-customizing skills with the new tools and techniques the game will provide. They're fairly intuitive, but it's still pretty easy to find yourself in a position where you're not 100% satisfied with the sim in front of you. Something's just a little bit off, and you aren't quite sure how to fix it. That's where the trick comes in.

Here's how you can use The Sims 4's Genetics feature to fudge your way to a cuter sim face:

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Just How Big is Procedural Space Exploration Game No Man's Sky Going to Be? Well...

No-mans-sky
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It would take a person five billion years of non-stop exploration to spend one second on each of the possible 18 quintillion plus planets in the upcoming game No Man's Sky. At least, that's what Hello Games co-founder Sean Murray told IGN at Gamescom last week as he explained their choice to generate the game's universe based on a 64-bit number rather than 32-bit. 

That kind of scale seems jaw-dropping, but even more so when you compare it to something a little more familiar. For example, Second Life sims...

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Life is Strange: The Developers of Remember Me Are Back With a Game About Time Travelling Teenagers

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

For me, one of the most exciting pieces of news out of European game industry conference Gamescom this week has been the next project from DONTNOD Entertainment, the team behind Remember Me. Life is Strange is being pitched as a story about teenage girls, relationships, and time travel, and here's why I can't wait to get my hands on it:

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