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Latest articles
The Division: After Action Report
Mar 25th 2016
Well ladies and gentlemen, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's The Division has officially been out for over two weeks.The reviews from the entirety of the internet and gaming magazines have come out, and they have decreed that it is just ok. Not the greatest game of all time, or setting a new standard that all games now must be measured against... just merely ok. Kind of a let down after those amazing game trailers and previews we all have been watching while we waited for the game. Reminds me of a game that came out over a year ago.
Oh that's right... Now get back into your corner. You had your chance.
So anyway, about The Division... What is that? Why did we not have a review of the game published at the time right before its release or immediately after said release? Hmm I should check with the RCM Legal Department before answering, but what do they know [EDITOR'S NOTE: We drew straws over who had to be the legal department this quarter, and Killer lost this time. He has no one to blame but himself. -J.). Well, we all have been very busy providing all you viewers and fans quality content on our Twitch channel. Also that RCM "fanfic" that Baroness has been posting... yeah that is a sanitized version of things we had to deal or currently dealing with. When we are not dealing with spiders or other things (FYI, if you ever have spider ick on your clothes, just burn them, nothing will get the smell out), the staff does have their own lives and hobbies that are outside of RCM. And finally it is not like we had early access to the game which we could review before the game's release. But what I can do is maybe give some of my thoughts and opinions on what the The Division did right and what it did wrong.
The Accidental Podcaster: Wanderlust
Mar 23rd 2016
I had an epiphany today.
As I went to get my passport renewed, I was reflecting on a conversation I'd had with my mother the week prior. Of course, when I say 'conversation' in this case what I really mean is 'borderline argument," because I made the mistake of explaining I was going to get the aforementioned passport and she considers this to be a veiled threat. There's always been this odd duality in our relationship. On one hand, she's proud of my accomplishments and has said that of her three children, she's always worried about me the least. On the other hand, any time I mention travelling anywhere or the possibility of an opportunity that would potentially cause me to move, she is immediately against even entertaining the idea and will immediately launch into a guilt-laden monologue delivered in the way only mothers can. Most center on how she is convinced that should I actually move forward on such a possibility that I would be throwing away everything I'd worked for up to that point. Not to mention I'd be abandoning everyone I professed to love and would never see them again.
I play shitty mobile games... and I like it.
Mar 12th 2016
Oh hey, here's another writing thing since Baroness hasn't deleted me from the site yet
The eventual sad fact that we all face as we grow into responsible adults is gaming time is more precious and far, far less available. Hell, it's usually a small miracle when I can get more than 90 minutes to play Fallout 4 uninterrupted by errands or sleep. So it's little surprise that I spend more time gaming on my smartphone than on anything else. It's always with me, it doesn't demand more than a few minutes of my time on any given occasion, and there's little to no barrier to entry.
The games I choose to play, however, aren't exactly the ones that mobile gamers seem to prefer. I'm not into the high-score endless-runners like Pac-Man 256 or Jetpack Joyride that the gaming press talk about, nor the life-point limited puzzlers like TwoDots or Candy Crush Saga that constantly top the sales charts. Nope, what gets me interested are generally the games where you collect stuff (like cards or heroes) and use them solve puzzles or complete RPG-style quests.
The Accidental Podcaster: Tell A Good Story
Mar 8th 2016
A long time ago, I came across an old proverb which has since turned into a sort of personal mantra: Those who tell the stories rule the world. It's a powerful idea, and a truthful one. Shane Snow did an amazing TEDx talk on this in 2014 where he talks about the reasons why storytelling is so important. We use stories to entertain, of course - books, movies, plays, many video games, and so on are story driven - but we also use them to teach concepts, to sell ideas, and to tap into emotions. Stories help make things memorable.
In his book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Jerome Bruner noted that stories are about twenty-two times more memorable than facts alone. But why? Because stories, especially (supposedly) true stories, make us care. They spark emotion. They help us to build connections not just to the people in the stories, but also to each other, which in turn forges relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other and the world around us.
If you enjoyed history, or even if you didn't, chances are that you remember some events that happened before your time because of their stories. People with religious or spiritual bents learn their philosophies not from a set of cut-and-dried rules, but the stories and parables that teach that particular way of life. "Ah," you might say, "but what about the Ten Commandments? Those are pretty cut and dry." Perhaps, but people generally don't memorize the rules on their own; what gives the Commandments power is the story that goes along with it. Moses hiking up a mountain and coming back down with some rules etched literally in stone doesn't really provide much encouragement to follow said rules, but Moses coming down with the rules and a story about how God himself personally gave him these rules and told him that the people needed to change their ways OR ELSE certainly packed a bit more of a punch. Toss in a golden cow and you've got yourself something that will stick in the minds of your faithful flock.
The Accidental Podcaster: Learning to Dance
Mar 1st 2016
The scene is a late summer afternoon in 1991. I am seven years old, standing in my grandparents' living room and feeling rather pleased with myself, even though I am in trouble. On my feet are my brand-new school shoes, shoes that we had to visit a half a dozen stores to find because I was insistent that I would not wear anything else. This was exasperating for my grandmother - my siblings' requests for sneakers featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Little Mermaid were fairly easy to accommodate, my demands for pink-and-white leather saddle shoes were not. They were also willing to compromise; Barbie and Batman gear were acceptable alternatives in their school wish-list, but I remained steadfast in what I wanted. Now I stood in the middle of the room in a little sliver of mid-afternoon sunshine coming through the window, admiring the pretty grey shadow pattern Gram's lace window sheers cast on the pink leather uppers.
The reason I am inside is because now that I've gotten the shoes, I'm absolutely refusing to take them off. They were a prize hard won, and I want to savor the victory. This has led to a silent standoff between my grandmother and me, which is in turn interrupting the tranquility of my grandfather's Sunday afternoon. His favorite radio program is being disrupted jointly by Gram smacking pans around in the kitchen as she makes Sunday dinner, and me in the adjoining living room smacking into furniture as I perform a clumsy twirl around the coffee table (I'm not supposed to be doing that, either, because of problems in my inner ear throwing my equilibrium off, but I like watching my skirts swirl and quite frankly, it's fun). Papa is positioned in the doorway separating us, a neutral party trying to keep peace between two headstrong personalities, when a Glenn Miller number comes over the radio. As I accidentally backhand a plant (catching it, thankfully, without Gram seeing), inspiration strikes.
"Gert!" he calls to Gram. "Turn it up a little. Sis, come here. If you're going to dance, you should at least know a few steps."
Losing: Important XP
Feb 24th 2016
If you've been watching the RCM's Twitch channel this February, you know that XCOM 2 was much played and talked about. It is a great sequel to the reboot of the series. What was there not to love about it? Of course when the premise and basic background story back in June of 2015 was revealed, everyone immediately loved the idea that Firaxis Games was taking. In the hardest difficulties of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there was a good chance that players would lose unless they were on their A-game. Firaxis took this idea and ran, so humanity lost and 20 years later you are now the resistance fighting an entrenched alien enemy.
Just like Red Dawn... just with aliens
Everyone likes an underdog story, where the good guys win because of their determination and knowing that their cause is the just cause. Of course, no one really gives much thought about why such a group is in such circumstances: the reason they are there is because in some form or fashion they "lost." For most of the world and especially in America, losing is unacceptable, defeats must never be admitted to, and if there is a defeat, it must be avenged somehow.
The Accidental Podcaster: Walls
Feb 16th 2016
In my hometown in Pennsylvania, on a ridge overlooking the main boulevard, sits a copse of ancient pines that block the glare of the city lights from the old mansions sitting above. Positioned between the auxiliary parking used by the local college campus to its north and just off of a well-used sidewalk to the south, it is surrounded by various shrubberies and flower beds the local garden club has staggered down the side of the steep ridge, an oasis of green and color in the middle of a busy intersection. From there, you could see all of downtown, most of the residential neighborhoods tucked around the hills, and all the way off to the lone tree marking the edge of a farmer's field miles away. For someone the right size, the copse made a perfectly comfortable place to work, offered an interesting viewpoint, and had that rare property of affording complete privacy while being smack in the middle of everything. It was a secret in the middle of a town that held few, a place to observe while remaining unobserved.
It was my favorite place to write.
And then I made the mistake of sharing it with someone else.
The Accidental Podcaster: Little Things
Feb 9th 2016
Little Things
A few weeks back, Vampy and Velvet invited a group of RCM staffers for a special episode of their Saturday afternoon game stream Chaos Will Ensue. As I stated in my last post, some of RCM's cultural values center around responsibility, hard work, a willingness to be helpful whenever possible, and giving back to our communities. It all ties into a philosophy I refer to as RivalCares, and it manifests itself in different ways. In this particular case, the ladies proposed a wager among friends: each of us came with a charity we support and pledged $5 into the pot, with the idea being that at the end of the game, the money would be donated to the charity of the winner's choice. Our charities were David's House, Defending the Blue Line, SpecialEffect.org, Operation Supply Drop, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and my choice, The Good People Fund. It was a simple enough idea that also happened to dovetail nicely with the RivalCares mindset - small gestures can make a big impact.
The internet community as a whole, and gamers in particular, generally get bad raps in the kindness department. This isn't entirely unjustified - a brief glance at the argument (excuse me, 'comments') feed on any news website or the global chat of any major game server gives plenty of evidence supporting the notion that everyone on the web is a twelve-year-old bully with a serious lack of social skills. But what's talked about much less frequently are the positive gestures communities make. Major communities like those run by EVO and Penny Arcade offer yearly scholarships for college-bound gamers as well as run charities to bring games to sick children. On a smaller scale, independent streamers like the members of IlluminateXP raise money for the charity ExtraLife4Kids. Drops in a bucket, perhaps, but again, when they work together over time, those drops add up.
End of the Story
Feb 1st 2016
I originally thought that I was the type of gamer who valued story over gameplay. I usually was motivated to put up with subpar gameplay in many cases (BioShock Infinite and Final Fantasy XI are two of my more infamous examples) because I wanted to follow the story and see what happened next. Surprisingly, I've been having more fun with my limited gaming time by going in the other direction.
My trek through The Last of Us: Remastered has been very slow going because despite how compelling the story is, the gameplay can be extremely frustrating at certain points. Death by clicker is way too frequent for my taste, and I've ended up repeating the same encounters as many as twenty times because of it.
Save The Date
Feb 1st 2016
{ Author's note: This is the post that originally went up Tuesday just before the server crash. I'll have a fresh post next week! }
Holy crap.
RivalCon is now a real thing.