Dragon Age and a Mandatory Life Update

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Okay, so I have been extremely busy for the past week and it’s meant that I have had to put my writing on the back burner. This is partly due to the fact that Christmas is coming up and I’ve had to get presents and things sorted. But also because I started my new job last week and am currently completing my training, which has been very mentally draining. (Though I think I’m starting to get the hang of it now) Also, I have been immersed in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

I don’t want to dedicate the whole post to Dragon Age because I haven’t got that far through the main quest yet and I don’t want to spoil it for those who are waiting for it to be patched or are getting it for Christmas. (and I can’t decide who to romance. Though if it goes by all my other DA romances,it’ll probably end in disaster) But I am enjoying it so far, even though the game lags on my poor laptop and I’ve encountered a few bugs, one that almost made the game unplayable. (But luckily found a work around.) It does feel a little bit like an MMO with some of the little fetch quests you have to do (I hate fetch quests) but I am getting to the point where I’ve started getting attached to the characters. (Dorian and Iron Bull are my BFFs and Varric is my bro.)

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Anyway, enough about Dragon Age, now it’s time for a life update. So, I’ve finally got a job and I am doing the training. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but now I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. The thing is that it’s full time and quite brain-stretching (in a good way) so when I come home, I’m completely tired (I am hoping I’ll get used to it though) which means that I haven’t had as much time to write my novel. Especially as I needed to focus on my training as I have had to revise for assessments for the first time in about three years. (Which I passed. So I am theoretically now fully qualified.) Also, with Christmas coming up, I won’t have much time to write because I’ll e spending it with friends and family/ keeping up my Christmas tradition of spending the day reading and waiting for everyone to fall asleep so that I can watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. (It won’t be good. The Christmas specials are rarely good.)

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But after Christmas, I should be fine. Hopefully, by then I will have gotten into some kind of routine and gotten used to my job so that I won’t feel so overwhelmed. Once I do that, I can find the time to write my novel and, who knows? actually finish it. There’s no way I am going to just let my characters fall into oblivion and I don’t want the past year to be a complete waste of time. Whilst the job I’ve got is not what I want to do, I still want to pursue my writing and I can do that now by actually having money to pay for things like electricity and food.

And I think that’s it. I haven’t got anything else left to say except that hopefully I will update my blog more often and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.

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GamerGate: The Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things…

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Okay, so I wasn’t going to blog about this. Partially because I didn’t want to get internet hate for it, but also because the amount of complete and utter stupid involved in the whole scandal makes me want to hit my head against a wall. Also, I don’t think I’ll be able to hold back my sarcasm and will probably end up insulting someone. But I will try my best.

*Deep breaths*

Right, for those who don’t know, GamerGate started when an ex-boyfriend (who’ll probably never have another relationship again. Just saying.) of Zoe Quinn, developer of the game Depression Quest, published a blog post accusing her of sleeping with games journalists who recommended her games. Understandably, this led many gamers to question the ethics of games journalism and whether game developers and journalists are too closely connected to be objective. (Which is fair enough) You would think that gamers would ask for ALL the people involved in these accusations to be investigated to, you know, see if there’s an truth to them.

Hahahahahahaha! No. Are you kidding? It’s the internet!

Instead, a small yet highly vocal minority of gamers decided that it was appropriate to not only to harass Quinn online, but send her death and rape threats, attacking anyone who calls them out for being misogynistic. This also expanded to the further harassment of feminist critic, Anita Sarkeesian as an episode of her web series Tropes vs Women in Video Games was released amid the scandal. All this under the guise of fighting ‘corruption’ in games journalism and claiming that the issue isn’t about gender at all.

Okay. Right. Keep telling yourself that.

You can claim that you have a  just cause and I’m all for being against corruption in not just games journalism, but journalism in general, but that does not give you the right to harass ANYONE (Not just women) or send them death threats. By only targeting the woman involved and anyone who defends her, you ARE making it about gender and misogyny. Not only that but you are not endearing people to your cause. People won’t give you what you want, if they just see you as irrational bullying extremists who are prone to knee-jerk reactions when they read something based off someone’s word. Not people you would want to deal with.

You’re harming the gaming community as a whole. You’re giving gamers even more bad press; that we’re miserable, appalling immature entitled babies that feel the need to bully and harass others when they voice an opinion that we don’t like. Worse, you’re tarring male gamers with the same sexist brush. Men who are otherwise accepting of women playing video games, who don’t really care whether the person they play with has two x chromosomes or not. You are illustrating the points that anyone has ever made about the games industry (and geek culture in general) being sexist. (Well done there guys.)

But! More importantly, your campaign of online harassment and death threats completely misses the point. Newspapers and journalists are ignoring your cause, choosing instead to highlight the appalling behaviour that you’ve shown instead of investigating the notion that maybe, yes, games journalists are a little too chummy with game devs and that maybe that isn’t right. Your actions have taken attention away from the issues that you have been trying to raise. *slow claps*

Not only this, but you’re scaring away people from the games industry; talented people who might have made amazing games. People who may have wanted to get into gaming but now won’t because they’re scared they’ll get bullied. I mean the fact that I was reluctant to write this post in case I got hate, shows that the gaming industry isn’t a safe place for anyone right now, regardless of gender.

So yeah, stop using the whole ‘we’re trying to end corruption in games journalism’ spiel as a way of justifying your misogyny. You’re fooling no one. If this wasn’t an issue of gender, then why are you targeting the only woman involved? Why aren’t you harassing the male games journalists who, if the allegations are true, are as much to blame as Zoe Quinn for all of this?

The sad thing is, it probably won’t get through to the self-righteous morons who are doing this, they’re too set in their ways to really listen to any criticism or differing opinion. They’re too busy accusing people of being white knights and social justice warriors to be open to any kind of irrational debate. (If they’re anti-SJW, what does that make them? Social Injustice Warriors? Yay for social injustice!)

As someone who dabbled, but only got into gaming in a big way in the last few years, I’ve found that most male gamers have been accepting of me. Hell, most of them don’t actually care about the fact that I play video games and I happen to be female. (Though a lot of them seem to assume I play JRPGs for some reason. I don’t. I just can’t get into them. Sorry.) I guess I’ve been quite lucky in that I haven’t experienced much in the way of sexism in gaming or geek culture in general. In fact, two incidents only particularly stick out for me; one where a guy asked me what a nice girl was doing playing violent video games (Oh how scandalous!) and one where some guy told me that I shouldn’t worry, that lots of girls these days were getting into gaming and sci-fi and fantasy. (Um, really? Thanks for that reassuring piece of information, it’s not like the majority of my female friends grew up playing video games or loving fantasy and sci-fi or anything.) It just depresses me when people who belong to a community that has been friendly and accepting towards me pull crap like this, it reinforces my lack of faith in humanity.

*Sigh*

So you may mock me and call me a fake geek girl or a gurl gamer or whatever, I don’t really care. (I have a habit of out-geeking a lot of the geeky guys I meet. Besides who gave you permission to decide on who is a geek and who isn’t?) What you’re doing isn’t really trying to raise an issue about the ethics of games journalism, it’s bullying and as everyone knows, the worst bullies are the ones who stand by and watch without ever saying anything so that’s why I’m calling you out. I refuse to let something I love be spoilt by toxic people who have to resort to bullying to get their point across.

*Deep breaths*

Thank god that’s over with. I’m sorry about the rant, but it had to be said. Here’s a picture of a funny dog to lighten the mood.

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Swooping is Bad…

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Okay, so you know that I am a massive Dragon Age fan because I don’t shut up about it. (Sorry, but not really if this annoys you.) Anyway, E3 was last week (or the week before. Time becomes a weird thing when you’re unemployed.) and whilst I didn’t watch the majority of it, (not that I didn’t have time. Just couldn’t be bothered.) I did say pretty much the only thing, apart from the disturbing lack of actual gameplay for The Sims 4, that stood out for me was Dragon Age: Inquistion.

Now, that may be an obvious thing as I am kind of a huge Dragon Age fangirl. (Not rabid fangirl. Everything has flaws.) But I was really hesitant when I first heard that it was in development because of all the problems with the second game. I was also really worried when I heard that it was going to be open world like Skyrim. Don’t get me wrong, I love Skyrim but for very different reasons and I wanted Dragon Age to be it’s own game. But I was really excited when I found out that they were letting us pick a race again in the game and that the Qunari are playable for the first time ever. This is a big thing because the Qunari have always been the mysterious Other that you can’t quite get your head around in the game, especially with regards to their religion. Also it means that I can finally play as a female Qunari mage and yell ‘Saarebas!’ whilst flinging fireballs at my enemies. (Side note: Saarebas actually means “Dangerous thing” in Qunlat, quite apt considering. Yes, I am that sad or awesome depending on how you look at it.)

Anyway, I can’t really say much on the companions. I’m glad Varric is back because he was my bro during DA2 and he might possibly be the best thing about that game. For me anyway. As for the others? Eh, we’ll see. I’m curious about Iron Bull though, apparently he isn’t all solemn like your typical Qunari. I’m interested in seeing what that will be like. As for Cullen, I’m not really bothered about him, I don’t get what all the fuss is about where he is concerned. I’m glad Leliana is back (though that was obvious from the end of the second game.) and I want to know what she’s up to. Likewise with Morrigan. I really want to know what happened to the demon baby I made her have with Alistair and I want to know how integral to the plot that is going to be. (Oh and I think we’re getting a Tevinter mage as a companion too. That should be interesting…)

Um, what else? Oh yes gameplay! I like the idea of targeting the limbs of a dragon to incapacitate it rather than just swinging a sword at it’s ankles until it dies. Also, I like that they’ve introduced spells that you can only use once per battle. It adds to the tactical element of the battle. I’m glad they’ve brought the tactics back properly as that is how I play the game.  They’re also bringing it to the console versions too this time round, which is also good because the graphics whilst pretty look like they might chew up my laptop so I may have to get it for the PS3. (I hope not though. I’m a PC gamer at heart.) But yeah, I hope the tactics actually work properly this time round. I hope we get to lay traps again like in Origins, instead of just hacking and spamming fireballs. I hope that I don’t end up having to constantly babysit my companions like I did in the second game.  That would be good. Also no waves of enemies. It makes flanking difficult.

I don’t know, I definitely feel a little better knowing that they’re going back to making it an RPG. I just hope we get crafting back. They’re definitely taking advantage of Frostbite 3. I do have one question though, weren’t they thinking of including a multiplayer element to it? There were rumors circulating around for ages and it hasn’t been mentioned since. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer elements in single player games, I have to say it would’ve been awesome to be able to storm a castle with friends. But eh, oh well.

I just hope that it lives up to the hype to be quite honest. I know there will always be some element of disappointment but I hope that because it’s had a longer time in development that it’s going to be amazing. I just hope that Bioware have learnt their lesson.

 

 

 

 

My Favourite Fictional Universes

As a fantasy writer (and someone who hasn’t really been able to afford to travel much) I love making up my own fictional worlds with their little quirks and details. (It’s exhausting and never ending mind you.) When I’m not using up my energy on creating my own, I love burying myself in others. Especially when they have so much history and detail as they often become as real to me, as well, my own reality. So here is a list of my most favorite ones that I wish were real so that I could explore and what makes them stand out for me. (They’re not in any particular order to be quite honest.)

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I can’t believe how young Nathan Fillion looks…

Firefly

Firefly is probably my favourite Joss Whedon show, I love it to pieces and could watch it over and over, carrying the rest of the story on in my head. There are no characters that annoy me (though Simon and River have their moments, I guess) and whilst I do wish that it had a full season, I like the unfinished nature of it because it allows me to wonder what direction the plot was going in and formulate my own theories about what would have happened. (Yes, I know we got Serenity and that there are the comics. But I like having theories.) One of the things that struck me was the culture of the universe the show is set in.

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Firefly takes place after all the resources on Earth have been used up and humankind has found another solar system to live in. There are the core planets, that live under the governance of the Alliance where their inhabitants are well off, have the latest technology and more than enough to eat. Then there are the outer planets, the ones that rebelled against the alliance in a civil war where life is a lot more difficult. Often the inhabitants are poor, the technology is out of date (by Alliance standards, I guess) and crime is rife. The contrasts of these two different settings are striking; for example the planet Ariel has the look of a highly modern, sophisticated civilization compared to the Wild West setting of the outer planets.  Also the culture of the setting is unique in that it is a fusion of American and Chinese culture as China and America were the last two major superpowers which makes a refreshing change from the generic settings we see so much of in the genre.

 

 

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His Dark Materials

Ahhh, I loved these books growing up. I liked the fact that the protagonist, Lyra was not the perfect child like a lot of the main characters in children’s books. She lies often to get herself out of trouble with her guardians although this trait often saves her life later on in the books. One of the things that made this series stand out for me was the blending of sci fi and fantasy. Lyra’s world is similar to a late 19th Century industrial society but with scientific advancements such as particle physics and of course daemons, animal manifestations of an individual’s inner self. Religion has a large influence on the society and whilst it is known as the Magisterium, it largely resembles the Catholic Church.

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One of the best things I used to love about the books was the fact that the story takes place in multiple worlds. I liked that each one was detailed and unique especially the world with the Mulefa in it. It’s just a shame that the movie adaptation butchered the story. I mean, I get why the books are quite difficult to adapt (and not just because of the controversy that surrounds them.) as they are quite deep. Maybe the series would be better off being adapted into a TV series.

 

 

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Westeros

Speaking of books that are better off being adapted into a TV series, we come to Westeros, the setting of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. As much as I love the TV show, I will always prefer the books as they are more detailed and don’t have the limitation of a budget. Based on a medieval European society, the A Song of Ice and Fire series follows the fortunes of various noble houses vying for control of the Seven Kingdom.

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Whilst the last two books in the series have been a bit weak, the thing that I like most about the series is that George R.R Martin manages to create complex well rounded characters and the fact that he uses multiple narrators means that your opinion on the some of the events and characters change. I like the wealth of detail that he adds to the world such as the heraldry and the history of all of the houses. I also like the difference of culture across the sea in Essos and how each of the Free Cities are all unique. It makes the world feel more realistic than in most worlds found in the fantasy genre.

 

 

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Harry Potter

Although I was already a big bookworm by the time my mum bought me Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (I used to love reading E.Nesbit and Roald Dahl) the book really caught my imagination and pretty much defined my childhood. I spent ages wishing that I could go to Hogwarts (my parents hid my acceptance letter dammit.) and I loved the idea of a secret world of wizards living next to our own mundane world. I loved the idea of there being moving pictures and photos and how the staircases moved so it would be easy to get lost.

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I also used to like how the wizarding world had their own terms for certain things like splinching and that they had their own sport. (I really wanna play Quidditch.) I used to love how relaxed the school rules were considering how dangerous it would be to have hundreds of untrained teenage witches and wizards all cooped up in one building. (I don’t think health and safety exists in the wizarding world) Also it was nice to have a main character with red hair who didn’t have an uncontrollable temper and a female protagonist who was smart, brave and used her knowledge to save Harry and Ron’s life on more than one occasion.

The one thing that used to bother me though was how were the children born into wizarding families taught basic English and maths and things.  I mean were they ALL taught at home by their parents or were they enrolled in muggle primary schools if both parents worked? (Imagine how annoying it would be to find out that your SATs didn’t matter once you got to Hogwarts.)

 

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Thedas

Okay, so I’ve talked about how Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favourite games. (Let’s not talk about how many hours I’ve clocked up on Origins. Not that I’m ashamed or anything.) Whilst it might not be the best gaming franchise out there, it was the first game for a very long time that managed to suck me in and immerse me in the plot and the characters.

But Thedas is one of my favourite settings. I think it’s because that whilst it does take a lot from generic fantasy settings, it does change up some of the tropes. For example the Elves, instead of being some great beautiful race with thousands of years of knowledge are either oppressed city elves living in poverty or members of the nomadic Dalish clans; elves who are desperate to hold on to what is left of their culture and try to recover as much of their lost history as possible. You also have the dwarves of Orzammer a place with so many people vying for political power that it is dangerous to walk around during elections.

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But the thing I like the most about the setting of the games is that there is a lot that hasn’t been explored yet, we’ve been to muddy grey Ferelden and spent hours running around Kirkwall. (trampling through the same dungeon over and over again. But that’s a rant for another post.) The thing that I’m most excited about Inquistion is that we’ll get to visit Orlais, the decadent country where the nobles where elaborate clothes and plot and scheme against each other. We’ve heard a lot about the country from the games and the other tie ins to the franchise, I’m kind of excited to explore somewhere bright and colourful especially after running through the same three environments in the second game. Kirkwall really isn’t a pretty city, everything is brown. I mean, Ferelden wasn’t that bright either, but at least you had the elven ruins.

 

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Middle Earth

Last but not least, my favourite fictional universe has to be Middle Earth. (Yes, I know it was an obvious choice. But it’s my list so deal with it.) I know I’ve talked at some length about how much that the books have influenced me. (I mean Tolkien defined a whole genre, it’s kind of difficult to not be influenced by him.) But one of the things I like the most is the world. I have spent years travelling through Middle Earth, fleeing to Rivendell with the Fellowship, wandering through Mirkwood with Thorin’s company and drinking in the Green Dragon with the hobbits of the Shire. (Both in my head and in LOTRO.)

I like the feeling of the familiarity the setting has now that I have read the books so many times. I like how welcoming and home-y the Shire feels and how awe-inspiring Lothlorien and Rivendell are. (I would seriously like to live in Lothlorien, I like being surrounded by trees, though all the stairs would probably kill me.) I like the dark, forboding sense you get when when the Fellowship journey into Moria and how unsafe the cities are the closer you get to the Black Gate. I also like how barren and hot Mordor was and how uncomfortable it must have been for Frodo and Sam. (Yes, I know there’s farmland in the south. I guess there had to be otherwise how would the orcs feed themselves in the first place?) Though the one thing that niggles me is that I often wonder what happened to the female orcs? Did they fight too? Or did they take up the jobs of the male orcs to help with the war effort? I’m guessing the last one would be more likely.

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I don’t know, I think my favourite place in Middle Earth has to be the Shire. I think I’d make a good Hobbit and it seems like a fairly simple way of life. Though I would like a summer home in Lothlorien.

Okay, so that concludes my list of favourite settings. I’m sure there are loads more that I could add to in the future. (Since there are loads of books I haven’t read yet.) I’m sorry that this post took a long time, I’ve been kind of busy and distracted these past couple of weeks. (But hopefully, I can get back on to the blog posting wagon.) Oh, and a question (mostly to get people commenting on here.) what are your favourite fictional worlds and why?

 

“I Like Big Boats, I Cannot I Lie…”

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I’ve been playing a lot of Dragon Age 2 recently. Mostly because I lost my save when my old laptop, Yorick died. (Yes, I name my laptops). But I also use it as a reward for doing productive things like job hunting and writing my novel. (Otherwise I will just spend all day playing games and not getting anything done.)

Anyway, I think I’m on my fifth attempted play-through of this one. Why? It’s not because some of the characters are annoying. (Looking at you, Fenris and Anders.) Or the fact that I can’t choose the race of my Hawke like I could with my Warden. Or the fact that the game feels so rushed that I get so sick of running through the same six environments over and over and over. (And yet somehow still manage to get lost.) Or the fact that the battles go from ridiculously easy to ridiculously hard after the first act.

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Anders, I hate your face.

No, it’s the fact that I could only feel engaged in the story if I played as a mage. I don’t know why.  I think it’s because mages play such an important part of the story. (Though it is weird that hardly anyone calls on you for being an apostate.) Especially, in the end with all the chaos that ensues. I think it’s because when I play as a mage, the story itself becomes more personal to me. The choices I have to make matter more. In almost any situation in the game, I will always side with the mages because my Hawke would be able to identify with their struggles. At the end of the third act, I felt betrayed by a certain cat loving mage whose actions reinforced the reasons why people mistrusted them in the first place. My Hawke ended up killing that character. Why? Because for all of his whining about the way that the mages get treated, his actions does nothing to improve their situation. He’s a hypocrite because he criticizes Merril for not realizing the dangers of using blood magic,  yet he’s an abomination and he endangers people in a way that she doesn’t.

Anyway, I digress. For all, the problems the second game has. It still got me thinking. What is it that makes people engage in a story? Is it the characters, or the plot? Both are important, the plot has to keep people gripped, but the characters have to be worth investing in, otherwise what is the point? For all the its flaws, I can see that Bioware tried to do both in Dragon Age 2. I just wish the game had been in development longer. It had so much potential to be as good as, or better than Origins. But ah well. I hope they fix those things in Inquisition. I also hope I can play as a female Qunari mage and that they put a female inquisitor on the cover art. That would be nice.