Category Archives: Talk of the Ninja

Talk of the Ninja: Steam Badges — Spending Money on Virtual Trinkets

A friend recently retweeted a snarky article from this site called Play4Real, which is basically a gaming equivalent of The Onion. The article is called “Valve Adds Button to Steam That Says Give Us Money, Makes 2 Million Dollars in 3 Hours“. The article bugs me, though not for the reasons you might be thinking.

So Valve has this weird system with trading cards and badges that cost real money and put knickknacks on your profile and give you a chance at getting games you want.

Wait, hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Tell you what, I’m gonna give you a little history lesson about Steam and its monetary infrastructure.

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Talk of the Ninja: No Female Assassins Allowed

Time for another stupid publisher response to a question about representation in gaming! So Ubisoft showed off Assassin’s Creed: Unity at this year’s E3, and people noticed that despite the arguably most prominent assassin during the French Revolution being a woman, all four of the French Revolution Asscreed centerfold characters are dudes. There will be cooperative multiplayer with customizable characters, but everybody will always play as a dude.

ACU_hero

Source. Could you tell any of these people apart if not for costume color?

Alex Amancio, the creative director behind the game, explained that they originally intended to have female playable characters, and that the feature got dropped because of production costs.

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work. Because of that, the common denominator was Arno [the protagonist]. It’s not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar.”

Their priorities are kind of baffling. They make a huge virtual replica of a historical French city with exquisite attention to detail, but female playable characters? Nah, they can’t afford it. They add loads of customization options for the male characters. But female playable characters? Nah, not worth the costs. Women are an extra feature that they’ll work in if they have the time and money after everything else. If not, oh well, right?

I say that’s bullshit, and plenty of other people are saying the same. I propose that rather than including women being an extra feature, leaving women out is an omission. Ubisoft should be held accountable for this, and it’s very heartening to see tons of people call them out on that.

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Talk of the Ninja: Heteronormativity, Social Conditioning, and Nintendo

So, Nintendo decided that gay people don’t deserve a place in their life simulator.

For those of you that don’t keep up with immediate gaming news, Nintendo released a game in Japan called Tomodachi Life, which seems to basically be their answer to The Sims. They designed a system within the game wherein men can marry women, and vice versa. Upon release players found a bug that allowed them to marry people of the same gender, but once Nintendo caught wind of it, they “fixed” it by disallowing gay marriage altogether. Fans demanded that they reverse the “fix” and allow gay marriage, both in the Japanese version and in the upcoming North American release, but Nintendo recently stated that they will not do so.

I will admit that I wasn’t terribly interested in Tomodachi Life to begin with, but recent events have made me decide that I’m not buying it. I mean, I wasn’t necessarily planning on virtually marrying someone of the same gender as my Mii, but it’s a matter of principle. I’m angry at Nintendo over their statement.

“The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”

I’ve heard bullshit like this for years. “These games are just for fun! They’re not supposed to be taken seriously! Why does everyone have to analyze them like they’re part of some sort of agenda?” And since we’re still hearing it, I think we need to put more effort into explaining why that’s not how culture works.

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Talk of the Ninja: Depression Quest

If you’ve been following me for awhile then you probably already know this, but just to make sure everyone is on the same page: I’ve been struggling with depression for yearsI’ve written about my experiences with it on my personal blog, most notably in my two-part retelling of my suicide attempt (part 1; part 2). So I was very interested last year when I heard about Depression Quest, a Twine-made text-adventure-type-thing that purported to convey what it’s like to suffer from depression. But I was afraid it would trigger me, so I put off playing it until just a few weeks ago.

Now I’m really glad I played it, and I’m kind of angry at myself for not doing so sooner. Depression Quest is fantastic. It’s written and designed so well that not only does it give non-depressive people insight into what depression is like, it can also give depressed people like me a sense of comfort and hope. The game uses the capabilities of Twine creatively and masterfully. I want to discuss how and why, but first I want to put up a little spoiler warning.

SPOILER WARNING. Depression Quest is an excellent game, it’s free, and it shouldn’t take more than two hours to complete. Click here to play it.

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Talk of the Ninja: A Game About Love

We praise games for many things. We praise games for having responsive controls, for presenting difficult and engaging challenges, for conveying captivating stories, and for having beautiful visuals and soundtracks. But one thing we don’t often praise games for is their ability to convey themes and tone. Games have an incredible ability to use all its different elements at play together in order to create a particular mood.

This concept is kind of hard to explain, so let me use an example…

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Talk of the Ninja: Plants vs. Zombies 2

Hi! I’m Justin. You may know me for writing on my own gaming blog Ninja Game Den, or my personal blog Ninja Lounge House. Or if you’re from Blue Screen of Awesome, you might know me as that guest writer that wrote the Indie Wonderland piece about Rogue Legacy, as well as half of the Tower Wars piece. Anyway, I like writing, and I like games. Coincidentally, I like writing about games! Jarenth does too, but his writing style differs a bit from mine. I guess you’ll see how as we go along.

My column here will henceforth be called Talk of the Ninja, and in it I’ll talk about games old and/or new, small and/or large, popular and/or obscure. I’ll mostly just be writing whatever I like to write about at the time. Hopefully that will translate to some sort of entertainment value for you.

Now, onto our feature presentation…

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