Maybe the “Fake Gamer Girl” is Just Afraid She’ll Be Called a “Fake Gamer Girl”

who are you to say she's not

As a kid, I played video games with my older sibling…only to find out years later that the controller was never actually plugged in and all those times I thought I was a gaming prodigy…I was actually just a kid with an unplugged Sega Genesis controller and a lot of enthusiasm for Sonic the Hedgehog.

After I stopped not-actually-playing video games with my sibling I just sort of…stopped. By the time friends at school were asking me to play, I was so convinced that I was incapable of playing video games that I would just refuse. I loved to watch friends play (usually guy friends or my sibling) but l always sat on the sidelines. At first it was because of my own doubts, then those thoughts started being reinforced. Guys would offhandedly say the things I was already afraid were true: I was horrible at video games because girls just aren’t as good at them. And the cycle would just take another turn.

By the time I arrived at college, I was still convinced by internal and external forces that I was just too horrible at video games to try. But somehow during my sophomore year, I ended up in an Honors Hall dorm room surrounded by friends and being handed an Xbox controller to start the Walking Dead adventure game. Needless to say, it was a sink or swim situation and I loved every second of it. It occurred to me that maybe not all games were beyond my capabilities. Maybe adventure games that were mostly dialogue options could be the little niche I found for myself.

Something in the back of my mind kept me from committing, something that had grown over my entire geeky life made me doubt. Somehow I had convinced myself, had let popular gaming culture convince me that I was inherently bad at video games because I’m a woman. It boiled down to the dichotomy within geek culture of open to everyone but still often mirroring the mainstream ideas on gender and capability divides. And that just doesn’t sit right with me.

Then, a very close female friend of mine convinced me to play Dragon Age: Origins and let me tell you my friends, I fell headlong into it and have yet to resurface.

It took reading about the extensive lore and a lot of encouragement from other girls who game and have experienced similar things as I have (because sadly my experience is not unique) to get here. But with enough encouragement and learning the that the game has six different prologues depending on the combination of race/class/gender you pick for your character, I quickly became entrenched in Dragon Age.

dragon age header

And your Origin isn’t where the lore stops, so much else gets explored throughout the game and this convinced me that suffering through being horrible at video games would be worth it. Because after all, lore is what I geek out about the most.

And here’s the incredible thing.

I’m not bad at it.

Ok, I was. The first few days involved a lot of dying in battle and frustrated noises. The learning curve was steep and after the first day or so I really questioned why I had left the sidelines of gaming culture and thrown myself head long into a fantasy rpg that would require hours upon hours of my time. But something incredible happened. I got better. And I keep getting better. I don’t get stuck running into things, I usually survive battles, I can even plan ahead in the plot instead of focusing on “do I really need to save as often you told me to?” (The answer is yes. Save a lot, save frequently, and then save one more time just in case.)

The incredible thing that I’ve learned is that gaming is for anyone who wants to play, no matter what you’ve been told or told yourself. You don’t have to be a whiz from day one. Also that some scary, experienced gamer (probably) isn’t going to pop out of the woodwork, call you a fake gamer girl, and demand to see your filled in combat tactics slots. Sometimes, the fear of being called a fake gamer girl is enough to keep girls from actually gaming. But it shouldn’t. “Fake gamer girl” shouldn’t even be in our vocabulary as a geek community. Being a geek is all about being able to enjoy whatever we enjoy, and if there are “geek gatekeepers” that try to decide who is and isn’t a geek, that just doesn’t fit.

Sometimes geek culture inadvertently (and even sometimes intentionally) works against women who want to participate. But the incredible thing about being a geek is that if you enjoy something or if you get excited about something, you’re already a geek, and no one gets to tell you otherwise. You didn’t have to earn the title, and gender isn’t going to stop you from being a geek or a gamer girl.

Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Summer Sales 2014

It’s been a while but now I’m back to bring you news of the yearly summer sale and all that it has to offer.  As I write this I can already see the tide of regular sales receding as sites like Steam and the Humble Bundle prepare for the biggest sales of the year.  Other sites, like GOG, have already started the sales to try and beat the rush that will be upon us in the next few days.  In this post I will go about describing some of my favorite summer sale sites, what kinds of sales they feature, and how to make the most out of each sale.  So PC gamers sit back, relax, and get ready to watch your gaming library boom!

When it comes to summer sales you cannot beat Steam, they are at the pinnacle of the summer sales market offering some of the best sales on what is perhaps the largest catalog of games.  Steam usually starts off its sales by putting a base discount on just about everything in their catalog.  Each day they pick a few games for their front page sales.  These include their daily deal, flash sales, and community choice deals.  Daily deals, like the name implies occur once a day, flash sales last for a few hours, and community choice deals last for a few hours but are voted for by the community.  The games that make it to the front page sales are always given an increased discount putting a few up to 80 or 90% off.  When it comes to Steam it is important to wait until games reach the front page sales to buy them otherwise you will end up wasting a ton of unnecessarily wasted money.  After all the sales are through, Steam will usually have a Best of Sales, where the best sales are repeated for one final time.  If you are looking towards buying from Steam remember to wait for games to reach the front page or, if they don’t, buy them the last day of the sale (the day before the last marked sale day).  Sources say that the Steam sale will start on the 19th and end on the 30th, but these rumors have yet to be confirmed by Valve.

The Humble Bundle is fairly new to the summer sales ring due to the fact that their Humble Store was only started last November.  Because of this, there is little telling what their sales may be like, but it can be speculated that like their winter sale, the summer sale will greatly resemble Steam’s (meaning daily deals and flash sales).  When the Humble Store does have its sales make sure to check them out because oftentimes they will compete with Steam for low prices, meaning you might find a game cheaper with them.  There is no telling when they might start their sale, but expect it to coincide sometime with Steam’s.  (Note: most games on the Humble Bundle are redeemable on Steam only DRM-free, meaning you are buying the game, not just the license, plus they donate a certain amount of proceeds to charity)

Finally we have GOG who started their sales today as I am writing this post.  GOG has a cycle of flash sales going on with new games going on sale and going off sale every hour as well as some daily sales.  The sales on GOG are ridiculous in how low they are selling games.  GOG as I discussed in my post How GOG.com is Saving the Day, features a variety of older games as well as new gems that are available to play on most computers (GOG provides the programs to play older games) and DRM-free.   Though they do not have as big of a library as Steam, GOG has it where it counts in the quality of its titles and in its mission to serve gamers.  Be sure to give them the love and attention they deserve.

To help you navigate the summer sales I have a few rules to help you get the most out of your money.  They’re the same rules I had regarding last winter’s sales, but condensed.

  1. SHOP AROUND – Don’t rely on any one single site to get you a good deal, shop around and you will find that some sites give better sales than others.
  1. STAY AWARE OF THE GAMES YOU WANT – Most sites have a feature where if you put a game in your wish list it will tell you when it goes on sale.  Utilizing features like this can keep you from having to watch the sales all day long.
  1. PLAY THE WAITING GAME – Wait to buy until the games you want are the absolute cheapest.  This will oftentimes mean that you need to wait until they are featured on a site’s front page as a “special” deal.
  1. DON’T HESITATE TO BUY – At the same time, every now and again mistakes are made and some games that weren’t meant to go on sale go on sale, or games that were only meant to be 30% off go on sale for 50 or 60% off.  If a price seems too good to be true it probably is and it probably won’t stay that way for long so buy it for cheap when you can.
  1. DON’T GO OVERBOARD – It may seem tempting, but don’t buy a game unless you honestly intend to play it.  If you find yourself buying something because you might one day play it, then you probably shouldn’t buy it at all.  Buy the games that you’ve wanted to play desperately but haven’t had the money to, games that will last you a while and ignore the temptation of the sale.

As a final note do your homework on games you’re looking at buying.  Make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting.  No matter how cheap the game was, you will always regret buying a bad game.  Check reviews by people who care (I recommend folks like Yahtzee Croshaw and TotalBiscuit for honest reviews on games of all shapes and sizes) or even reviews I’ve put out in the past.  Developers will keep making bad games if they think people will buy them.  Oh, and also avoid buying the Sims 3, no matter how appealing the sale may be (EA is releasing the next installment of the Sims and will most likely cut all support for the Sims 3 as soon as it is released, leaving the game largely unplayable).  Until next time I have been the Poor Man’s Gamer wishing you a fun and game-filled su

Sandbox #3 – All I really need to know, I learned from gaming

N93All-I-Really-Need-to-Know-Kindergarten-Posters

Anyone remember this poster? I think I remember seeing it adorning the walls of every elementary school classroom I happened to inhabit. You could call it hokey and painfully simple and lame and you’d probably be right on every count. But there’s also just enough truth to keep you from dismissing it altogether.

In a similar way, I feel like I have learned a lot about life from gaming. The number of forums I could post this in without feeling the need to take an insurance policy out on my credibility is somewhat limited. But I think that is probably more a function of how gaming is perceived rather than its relative truth.

So here, for your timekilling pleasure, is “All I Need to Know in Life, I Learned From Gaming.”

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Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Strategy is Key Pt. 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Welcome back to the third installment of my look at strategy games.  This week we are taking a look at a personal favorite of mine, a game that I’ve meant to write about for a while now.  The game in question is XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

I first came in contact with the XCOM series a few years back when I discovered UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994), the first game in the XCOM series.  I bought it on Steam and for a few weeks during Christmas break I tried my best to play through it (it is ridiculously hard and it lacked an intuitive interface, because of which I never got very far at all).  Around the same time XCOM: Enemy Unknown a remake of the original game was released with improved graphics and simplified gameplay.  I picked it up a little while later along with Civilization IV and V as part of a bundle on Amazon.  I instantly fell in love.

XCOM is a turn-based strategy game where you play as a group of soldiers sent out on dangerous missions to stop invading aliens.  You control a squadron of customizable soldiers who you can name, customize, and give different power-ups.  The game switches between two different setups of gameplay.  In the first you control your squadron as you hunt down and kill aliens, in the second you manage your base buying facilities and choosing what to research/build.  Through proper coordination of your efforts you can build up a nearly unstoppable team of juggernauts who remain miles in front of the encroaching alien menace.  If you are not lucky you will find that your soldiers almost consistently die on you, making the game nearly impossible to win.

The game is made to be addicting, especially when you start building up your forces.  As you progress you will start to feel a bond with all of the members of your squad and you will be devastated whenever one of them dies from a stray shot from an enemy’s weapon (it doesn’t help that the game gives them all nicknames).

The game features a pretty good variety of different levels and enemies and a great story mode.  In my opinion the way to play XCOM is on “Ironman” mode which makes it so you cannot reload past save files meaning that once one of your squadron die, they are dead for good.  This is closer to the way the original game played and lends itself to a deeper and more strategic way of playing.

There are three sets of DLC for XCOM: The Slingshot Pack, The Elite Soldier Pack, and Enemy WithinThe Elite Soldier Pack is a purely cosmetic DLC that gives you new options for customizing your soldiers.  The Slingshot Pack adds a few new story missions to the game that add a little bit of variety, though not that much.  Enemy Within is the big set of DLC for XCOM and it adds all around additions to the original game.  Enemy Within adds more and more of what makes XCOM a great game.  It adds new weapons and technologies, new maps, new resources, and small additions to the gameplay in general.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available for $29.99, The Elite Soldier Pack is available for $4.99, The Slingshot Pack is available for $6.99, XCOM: Enemy Within is available for $29.99, and the original UFO: Enemy Unknown is available for $4.99.

Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Strategy is Key Pt. 2, Rymdkapsel

Welcome back to part two of my ‘Strategy is Key’ series of games where I will take through a series of my favorite strategy games.  Next up on our journey is Rymdkapsel a real-time strategy set in space.

Rymdkapsel is Swedish for space capsule and in many ways this title does a very good job at explaining the game for the most part.  You play as a group of spacemen sent out to explore and study monoliths in a deep, dark, forgotten region of space.  You accomplish this goal by gathering resources to extend your space station and recruit more units to your cause.  As you do this you will start to encounter more and more frequent waves of hostiles coming to murder your entire crew.  Once you have researched all four monoliths your job is simply to survive as long as possible.  Death is inescapable.

The game has a very unique and attractive minimalistic graphics style where most units and resources are expressed as simple 2D polygons.  You expand your base through a series of tetrominos that form your corridors and rooms.

Altogether Rymdkapsel is a very, very simple game.  Beyond what I’ve said there’s not much to it.  In a way I think this is part of its appeal.  It is a very easy game to pick up play for a few hours and then set down without having a long-term commitment to some overly complicated story.  In many ways the gameplay reminds me of Dungeon Keeper except simplified which is in no way a black mark on this game, if anything it is an accomplishment worthy of merit.  Rymdkapsel is good for a few playthroughs perhaps a few more if you are one of those people who cannot help but go back to try and beat your old high score.  If you are interested in picking it up you can do so for $7.99.

Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Strategy is Key Pt. 1, The Banner Saga

When I was a kid I got into chess for a little while, I was never any good at it, but whenever I got a chance to I would play it just for the fun of it.  As I got older I fell out of this phase, but deep down it instilled a love of strategy in me.  Strategy games can be ruthless in their difficulty and the learning curve required to play them, but there are countless games that go beyond this to achieve gaming that is not only fun but also addicting.  Over the next few weeks I will be exploring some of my favorite strategy games and sharing them with you.  To start off here’s a fairly new game.

A few weeks ago I finally got around to indulging myself in The Banner Saga, a turn-based strategy game set in a Norse fantasy world full of horned giants (Varl) and shadowy, armored creatures called Dredge.  In it you play through a set of different storylines as you investigate the never setting sun and the unexpected resurgence of the wicked Dredge.  The game takes place through two main parts: an action-filled fighting part and a party management part.  You change between them as the story progresses keeping your heroes properly outfitted for the ensuing battles.

The Banner Saga has a wonderful art style and story; both are prominent and unique in the current world of gaming.  The art style is in the form of 2D animations reminiscent of Don Bluth-era Disney (Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, and The Black Cauldron all fall into this era).  The story borrows lightly from Viking lore and takes place in a fictional land covered in snow.  The game’s story is deep and branching, engrossing from the beginning.  As you progress in the game you are given different choices that affect not only the story but also your party and your future potential.

As I said before this game is a turn-based strategy.  You take turns moving and attacking with a team that you develop throughout the story.  As you progress you face incredibly harder enemies and hordes as you risk your heroes to try and destroy the Dredge.  The game takes a few missions to get a good feel of the mechanics and a little while longer to understand how each character works best in conjunction with the others you happen to pick up.

Apart from the main story and playthrough, The Banner Saga also offers a free multiplayer mode called Banner Saga: Factions, which implements the games great strategy gameplay in a way that you can enjoy with others.

The Banner Saga puts together a fun and vibrant world full of exciting battle and gripping story.  The Banner Saga is a game that you should not pass up.  You can pick it up for $24.99.