When I first saw Zoey from Left 4 Dead, I was instantly sold on Valve’s version of the zombie apocalypse. Standing in an elevator, hordes of the undead outside, she turns to Louis and goes: “Game over, man. Game over.” Not only was she good with a rifle, she also was an Aliens fan–a character after my own heart.

This isn’t an analytical, introspective post. I’m not going to talk about ludonarrative dissonance or pretend I care about agency on some deep level.

No. This is a love letter to Zoey—and to those before her as well as those after. To Aya Brea, to Impa, to Lilith, to Claire Redfield, to Regina, to Kerrigan. This is about how they made me who I am today by simply existing and giving me something to aspire to.

Unfortunately, it’s also about how disgusted I am right now thanks to Rockstar and Ubisoft. How let down I feel. How tired I am of their excuses.

And how I’m done accepting them.

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Lara Croft sits on the chair in the shadows, her face obscured by her hoodie. A man is talking but she isn’t listening. Her leg and hands twitch involuntarily as he drones on. He’s her therapist and he’s telling her important things, but like I said, she’s not really listening. She’s somewhere else thanks to PTSD; a darker place, a place with torrential downpour and arrows flying and blood.

Lots of blood.

When I was sixteen, I went to therapy and I twitched and I was somewhere else as well. And then I was diagnosed with PTSD–the flashbacks not of rainy cliffs and murdered men, but flashbacks nonetheless.

That’s precisely why I’m excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider which was announced at E3 today. I mean, in addition to the amazing gameplay, graphics, and unique story it will undoubtedly contain. I’m excited because it’s nice to see the series continuing the path on which it started in making video games’ first dynamic and realistic heroine.

At least, as realistic as a fictional character with infinite lives can be anyway.

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This isn’t the article I wanted to write about Tomb Raider. In fact, I had an article that was a lot more poetic; there were lines about agency, the environment becoming a character, and how Tomb Raider truly was a next gen title that was my game of the year.

Instead this is an article about Lara Croft being choked to death.

There’s a scene fairly early on in the game where our young, intrepid heroine is being stalked through the forest. Her innocence is shattered; her friends are being brutally shot around her, their screams echoing in the distance as they’re murdered. She crouches against some old ruins at one point, finding a brief reprieve from the horrors she’s witnessing unfold. Suddenly a man surprises her, grabbing her and lifting her up by her throat. His hand clamps over her throat and he begins to choke the life out of her. She starts struggling. She has seconds to live.

If you don’t hit the right series of buttons, she’s choked to death in front of you. Her body goes limp in his hands, her face goes blank, and he laughs the cruelest of laughs.

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The Final Fantasy MMORPGs: Roads Less Traveled

Written by Ashelia | October 3rd, 2010 |

My overall conflicted experience with Final Fantasy XIV still didn’t stop my jaw from dropping the first time I saw a dust storm settle over the sky of Ul’dah at night.

But for better or worse, Ul’dah and its dust storms are something that many gamers will never see. Unfortunately, not many saw its distant cousin Bastok either. The roads to the cities of Bastok and Ul’dah, to the games of Final Fantasy XI and XIV, are one and the same. They’re all roads less traveled in a world covered by interstate. Still, I like to believe that the scenic route is worth taking time to time–if you aren’t afraid of getting lost.

And I mean really lost–nearly everything in both games works differently from what you would think, creating what can be at times a frustrating of experience. However, if you know Final Fantasy’s history as an MMORPG, this may not be a new revelation.

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The Collector’s Conundrum

Written by Ashelia | September 17th, 2010 |

Civilization V is coming out soon and I feel like I’m ten years old again on Christmas Eve; unabashedly, I brimming with excitement. For me, the series represents the very foundation of gaming. It was also one of the staple titles of my early youth, something that grew up as I did–from my years in middle school to my years at college, some version of Civilization was on my PC and being played. Watching Civilization evolve with each entry has been a great experience and I’m excited to see what Jon Schafer has done with time around.

Despite my enthusiasm, though, I’m a little disappointed right now. I just finished preordering Civilization V and I found myself paying extra for an exclusive civilization and its leader. I had a brief internal monologue in which I told myself lunch at Starbucks was out for this weekend to make up the cost and then added the deluxe edition to my cart against my better judgment. I’m not completely sure who to be mad at, myself or Firaxis or Nebuchadnezzar II and his ridiculous surname, but I’m still mad. And a little embarrassed.

In fact, this leader’s inclusion for an extra sum, repackaged with a digital soundtrack as a special edition, seemed to speak to a bigger problem in the videogame industry: the cash cow syndrome.

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