Random Encounter #5 – Tropes Vs Me

Is there a sexual sickness at the heart of geek culture? Olivia squares up against the latest controversy, and the gloves are coming off…

Recently I’ve been trying to write something on this Tropes vs Women in video games debate that’s being raging on the Internet. For those not in the know, Anita Sarkeesian, who runs a popular YouTube series called Tropes Versus Women, recently asked for funding to produce a series that looked specifically at video games. While Sarkeesian received the funding she needed (and then some), she also provoked a backlash of the most poisonous kind. Every aspect of her online presence – her YouTube channel, Facebook profile, Twitter account and her own website, to name but a few – was flooded with misogynistic comments, threats of death, sexual assault and violence. There were event attempts to have her YouTube channel shut down by flagging her videos as ‘terrorism’.

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Random Encounter #4 – Why Video Game Movies Are a Stupid Idea

Cap’n Tightpants IS Nathan Drake. Almost.

Video game movies have a terrible track record but, as the games get more cinematic, the movies should get better, right? Olivia Cottrell doesn’t think so…

As a fan of video games, I’m often asked if I’ve seen any of their big screen adaptations – the Tekken or Street Fighter movies, for example, or the truly, truly awful Doom movie (I did watch it but, for my own protection, my brain has blanked most of the memories out). People also tend to assume I’m excited by the prospect of a Mass Effect movie, or disappointed that the film based on the Uncharted franchise floundered and died.

The truth is, I’m glad when these movies never see the light of day. Not just because the adaptations seem to be universally bad, but because they play to the assumption that film is a higher form of entertainment. True, films are more mainstream than video games (but not, I’d argue, for much longer, thanks to Facebook-based casual gaming and the rise of the Wii as a family console) but there’s no reason why a film should perceived to be a more valuable or significant cultural property than a video game.

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Random Encounter #3 – Don’t Stop Believing

Journey video game title card

Can video games be good for the soul? In her ongoing examination of the state of gaming, Olivia Cottrell wonders if we couldn’t all do with a bit more soul…

Video games and religion are not what you might call natural bedfellows. Even as games have grown up in the last few years and started to explore questions of race, sexuality and the more basic issues of morality (good vs evil, the needs of the many or the needs of the few and so on) religion has been a topic that most games try to avoid. As a gamer with a vested interest in religion (being a Christian), I find it frustrating that so many titles still shy away from a frank look at this fundamental aspect of the human condition. And that, when they do attempt it, they often fall very short of the mark.

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Random Encounter #2 – Tell Me a Story

Monkey Island

Welcome back to Random Encounter, the monthly digest of gaming’s hot topics. This month, Olivia Cottrell wants to know where all the good scripts have gone.

Last week, I had a very strange moment. I was sitting in my living room, controller in hand, and I cried. Not big, dramatic sobs, just a sudden overflow of emotion that left me scrabbling around for a tissue. This was not prompted by anything melodramatic. All the game had done was build a character up through interactions and dialogue, then scripted something for them to say that touched me in a way that only a few things ever have. This had never happened to me in a video game before – but perhaps I should have seen it coming. Continue reading

Random Encounter #1 – Girls, Guns ‘n’ Games

Welcome to the very first edition of Random Encounter. Running as a counterpoint to our retro games column Visual Memory, this new monthly feature tackles the issues facing gamers in the here-and-now. Podcaster, reviewer and hardcore gamer Olivia Cottrell kicks things off with a matter very close to her heart…

All the Mass Effect news lately – especially the trailer featuring the female version of Commander Shepard – has gotten me thinking about the first game in the series. Mass Effect introduced me to gaming as a hobby (some might say an obsession), but why did I latch on to that particular game when I had played others before it and have enjoyed others since? What made Bioware’s space opera so special? Which buttons did it press that others didn’t?

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