June 21, 2012

State of Assassionista

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been posting as much content on here as I used to. It really saddens me, but I've just got so much on the go. I'm running Console to Closet full time, working at a marketing agency, finishing up my degree AND attempting to love a somewhat normal life. With that being said, I want to keep Assassionista alive - it just might be a quieter blog. I'm going to personally aim to post one or twice a month on here, and I can promise you, these will be awesome articles. We might not have quantity, but definitely quality.

The podcast will continue more regularly than the postings, and I will try to be on as many as I can - but I think DarkSnip3r does a pretty good job with them (Doesn't he have the best radio voice?!).

Either way, please don't be sad - I haven't given up on Assassionista. It's really been the best thing I've done, I've learned so much and I want to continue to provide unique content and a fun community on here!

As Always,

Lesson #3: Embracing death...and other failures online.

This post follows nicely on the heels of "Embracing the 'rage quit'" (What? It's on it's heels...figuratively) because it involves the same themes to help you enjoy your gaming: embracing certain temporary "failures" and patience, with yourself and the people with which you play. 

For the longest time I dreaded dying in games, it twisted my stomach to think of my gaming failure to the point I avoided it: I didn't play First-Person Shooters or RPGs without 'god mode' or a cheat of some kind. When I moved to original Team Fortress (that clunky Quake engine) and then Counterstrike (the mod, not the stand alone) and learned a hard lesson: cheat codes are not a good substitute for gaming skills, especially in the competitive, clan ridden landscape of online gaming. But learn from my fragged corpse...

Mass Effect's Critical Mission Failure music haunts me to this day.

"Sorry I'm dead."

If it's your first foray into online (console or PC) gaming, FPS, MMORPG, or any other genre understand this simple truth: you're going to die...a lot. If it's your second foray into online gaming: you're going to die...a lot. If it's your four hundredth  jaunt into the online game play: you're going to die...maybe not as much. The good news is taxes are not certain in online gaming. My advice? Make peace with the fact that your virtual avatar will die, enjoy the rag doll mimicry of your corpse as it tumbles through the air after a grenade has helped you shuffle off the virtual coil. There's no magic bullet (pardon the pun) to get over dying online except to dip back into the well of w0lfspiritt's Lesson: If you’re starting to get frustrated, simply walk away. 

If you don't want to walk away (I've been in many matches that I just cannot divest myself from) take a look at your settings: most online lobbies have options to select the map and level of difficulty; sometimes MMORPGs will have information in a codex or other method to display difficulty. You can pick and choose your online experience, dial down your difficulty by picking easier maps until you get used to the game, or choose players closer to your skill level until you're more comfortable with online play. Tribes 2 was really my first step into online gaming and it took me many a games to realise why I was dying early and often: I chose large maps with a lot of players, that attracted higher level players; eventually I had to cut back the participants so they were limited to the lower level players.

Sometimes no matter how much you tweak the settings, you'll still end up dying more than you'd like. The best advice I can give you is watch the scrolling tally, you're not the only one dying and you might not be the one getting picked off the most. There's always another map, match, raid, or PvP area...you'll get 'em next time.

"Prepare for unforeseen consequences."

There are many types of online play, I don't mean cooperative or competitive, I mean how people play. Online anonymity (in relative degrees) is a dangerously annoying thing in online gaming; invariably you will run into some players that just ruin your  online fun. They may be combinations of generally accepted stereotypes but the bottom line is that you will encounter them; there's a reason the ESRB cannot rate online interactions. Google 'types of online gamers" and you will find a varied list revolving around similar archetypes. They are referred to by many names (I'm borrowing the  most common) but they really break down into fairly simple categories with variations on similarly annoying themes. 

My personal feelings are that the number one problematic play is what are called the Griefer/Glitcher. To give you an idea of this player's actions: They don't follow along with the game objectives; I don't mean mission objectives, I mean generally speaking this type of gamer will intentionally disrupt other players games. To give you a perfect example, playing Grifball online (it's a Halo:Reach thing) is pretty simplistic, hit the other team with Gravity Hammers to stop them from placing a bomb in your goal at the end of the field; really not much to it, but a lot of fun. Without fail I will encounter a Griefer that instead of playing the game just chases his own teammates around killing them; while one of the greatest YouTube afternoon-killing pastimes is to watch other people succumb to Griefers it's more than a little annoying when you're on the receiving end. Reality is, there's not much that can be done but finish the match and then change games, or quit early. You do have ways to complain though, Xbox Live has a complaint system for the more serious infractions and Gamertags carry 'Rep' as a player review system, both of these can be abused but really are in place for a good reason. 

A Glitcher is very similar to a Griefer except in the method of their annoyance; these players will find an exploit or glitch that allows them to kill you without being able to be killed. An example of this is from (again) Halo: Reach, with the development of player maps there is inevitably more multiplayer maps out there with little areas that can be accessed but are not meant as part of the game. In this case, a player could make their way up a cliff to a point where they could then pick off other team members but not be hit as they were outside of the field of play. While one might say this isn't really a Griefing situation because they found the exploit let them use it, keep in mind that their actions are detrimental to other player's enjoyment of the game.

More than likely Grief/Glitch players act as Mic Spammers/Trash Talkers/Child Gamers/Blamers too. Mic Spammers: These players will pump their own music, conversations with other people in the room, and stream of consciousness into the game. Trash Talkers are something we've all encountered and more than likely been the target of at one time or another and range from good natured ribbing to outright insulting. Child Gamers run the gambit of annoyances, not all but some are great conscientious gamers, but more often then not they use their limited vocabulary of curses to shout them through the mic or just run insults that the pesky online anonymity allows them to. Blamers tend to either need to justify their own loss or the loss of the team by picking a scapegoat. Either someone has done something that caused them to lose (there was a glitch/cheat, teammate got in the way, etc.) or there's blame elsewhere (lag, cat knocked over drink, etc.) essentially not taking responsibility for the a loss in what must be the deadly serious business of online play. These types of players really become a non-issue after you find the mute for each of them, I seriously doubt any would contribute much to the overall game.

The last typeset is a little controversial: "Girl Gamers". Now before I am shouted down as chauvinist let me be clear, I am not putting forward women in gaming is an issue (though I am sure some women would fall into any of the other categories) what I am saying is that reaction to women gamers can be used as a cautionary tale. When I hear a woman's voice in game I know with an almost unfailing certainty that there's none to intelligent mic spamming, stereotyping, and abysmal comments looming. These types of comments keep fatuglyorslutty.com and notinthekitchenanymore.com running and unfortunately will for some time. What makes having a women gamer in game problematic for the enjoyment of online play is really only about your own sensibilities. For my part having another player be ridiculed doesn't really allow me to enjoy the game if I am constantly shaking my head at the audacity of the comments or if I am now targeted for defending a gender's right to play games. Of course the flip side to this coin (and I do want to acknowledge it) is that you might be uncomfortable with a female teammate or opponent, which I suppose is your right (Freedom of thought and expression...)  but then I would say if it bugs you that much: quit the game and find an all male game. If you feel the need to let your feelings known that's fine too (freedom of speech and all that...) but perhaps detracting from the enjoyment of someone else isn't the best outlet or means to get your point across (A blog perhaps?) All that being said if you are dealing with this kind of abuse (and it is abuse under the Xbox Live Code of Conduct, I've not read the PSN Code yet...) report it, mute the player, and in some cases games have settings to avoid players all together.

It occurs to me that much of this advice is reactive for the victim of harassment and poor playing etiquette; To speak to that, perhaps if we move proactively as a majority to say that this kind of behaviour is wrong it might stop...eventually, things like this are hard to change...hmmm maybe there's an article there....

Again, I am meandering toward a point here: Embrace the old axiom that there's always someone better out there, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to enjoy your game. Embrace the fact that you cannot control people's opinions and actions, but you do have a right to play free of annoyances either by block, mute, or switching games. If you see yourself in any of the categories I've mentioned my advice is to look at how you're gaming: is your enjoyment at the expense of someone else? then maybe it's time to change how you play; yes I know you paid for the system and the game and the online membership but that doesn't make it a very expensive hall pass on common civility or a soapbox. It's a big, big gaming world out there, we are all bound to cross paths with someone with which we don't much enjoy being in the same virtual space, but there are methods to fine tune your experience and there's always another round.

April 30, 2012

I Am Not A Gamer

I love video games. I say that outright since I want to establish that fact before moving on.Okay? good. Now stop calling me a 'gamer'.

I have played games for as long as I can remember; I have prognosticated about games, complained about games, and discussed the games 'they really should make' (my long time friend Gord and I still maintain George Lucas stole the idea for Star Wars: Rebellion from a late night conversation we had at my cottage. The outcome of George's version notwithstanding)

I have played the old Ultimas, Crusader: No Remorse, the even older Sierra adventure games (Codename: Iceman, and Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist anyone?) on PC; I've played Infiltrator on NES. In my Xbox library I have a vast array of games, these days they lean towards the roleplaying genre, but there's Halo: Reach in there too.

I have an excellent memory and I can remember some of the best times I've had with old friends has had games at the center of them. I remember sitting at the computer (a 486 at this point I believe) playing Origin Systems: Strike Commander. If you don't know about Strike Commander, it was Origin's attempt to carry over the success of Wing Commander: Privateer  into a modern/near future setting. This time I was watching my friend Gord in a dogfight, a light on the instrument panel started flashing with an alarm; Gord half shouted "What is that?!" I thought for a second and said "I think it's a missile alarm." Gord then pulled hard left on the joystick as a virtual missile screamed by the canopy. We laughed hysterically at the near (virtual) death and still bring it up fondly to this day as the "Strike Commander Incident", that was almost 20 years ago.

With memories and shared experiences like that why then would I not want to be identified as 'gamer'? Because for my part I don't identify myself as a gamer; it is not the whole of my personality, and therein lies the problem by labeling a gamer: you negate the rest of the person. Take our fearless Editoratrix in Chief: LadySnip3r, a large part of her life is gaming but she's also a student, talented costume maker (check out her cosplay here) and a budding stylist (Console to Closet as featured on Kotaku, MSNBC, and Reddit

Don't get me wrong, the power of the shared experience and inclusion in a group is alluring and can be incredibly beneficial but as you place a label on someone you constrain them to the preconceived boundaries of that label. 

 Take the Penny Arcade Expo, it really is the Mecca for gaming culture now that E3 is on the decline; and the some 60,000 attendees really do represent a diverse cross-section of socioeconomic backgrounds with the common denominator being they all play games. What Pax East really did was crystallise a few thoughts for me: as much as the label of 'gamer' unifies and gives a sense of acceptance and belonging, it can be a curse. The mass media, and even the gaming media feeds us and the uninitiated a view of gamers that places us somewhere between The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy and a Jack Thompson/Anders Behring Breivik gamer archetype. We perpetuate it, even celebrate it in shows like The Big Bang Theory : a show that (with Halo nights and a thinly veiled World of Warcraft analogue) in trying to celebrate the geek subculture has turned it into a bastion of stereotypes.

A perfect example is the case of Jennifer Hepler: a Bioware writer that quite openly discussed that while she worked in the gaming industry, she didn't have the time or the inclination (for perfectly legitimate reasons) to play games. The interview (given six years ago) resurfaced in 2011 on Reddit as out-of-context excerpts  that created a flurry of posts to the point of death threats, calls for her to commit suicide, and the worst kind of fanboy rage. Most sensible gamers will say that the posters on her Twitter account and Reddit were a minority (and you'd be correct) but it doesn't matter to the wider audience: they are gamers and because so many have championed that moniker, as a whole we're now lumped in with them.

I used to be quite active on the Bioware Social Network, right up until the time community members there started finishing Mass Effect 3. Without too many spoilers, by and large the endings are considered a disappointment and lacked a feeling of closure we so wanted from the end of the trilogy. It's a sentiment felt by Darksnip3r and  myself, as well as many others; the difference? Darksnip3r and I haven't launched a spam campaign to get our fanfic ending made canon; nor have we started belligerent threads on the Bioware Social Network, nor have we tried to get Bioware and Electronic Arts sued for false advertising. These efforts have garnered mainstream media attention and like the Jennifer Hepler incident have cast a negative light on gamers as whole; portraying us as entitled players who are having a tantrum because they didn't get their way.

As big a frustration as it is, the stereotype is long entrenched into North American culture and like all preconceptions long kept, it is hard to change. That being said, actions taken by people like those in Hepler incident and the more mild reaction to Bioware's intellectual property not agreeing with their own vision of how Commander Shepard should go out aren't helping our case. 

 I'm not saying don't express yourself or your opinions; I would never say be ashamed of playing video games, or going to conventions (I'm not, I've explained what Pax is enough to laymans). What I am saying is that gaming is not a counterculture; it's definitely a subculture with its own language, code of social behaviour, fashion and peripheral works of art (one that I am happily embrace) but there's no revolution here. The point I'm meandering towards is that playing games, as entertainng as it is and how beneficial the subculture can be to develop a sense of belonging is, simply put an activity people do, not a totality of a personality. 

April 25, 2012

Aela the Huntress Cosplay Information/Tutorial

I chose to make this costume about a month ago, while playing through Skyrim. I just loved Aela's outfit, especially the back of it, and thought it would be a challenge for my not-so-awesome sewing skills. At first, I was hesitant because she was dressed very scantily, but as my fiance worked on his Nightingale costume (also from Skyrim), I thought about how cool we would look together and decided to go for it.

I first went out and bought the most perfect suede fabric for both the top, skirt, and arm pieces. I then made a duct tape mold of my body so that I could "build" the intricate top more easily. Here's a quick tutorial on how to make your own duct tape mold:

Tip #1: Try not to look like such a dork while you make it!

Tutorial: Duct Tape Mold
You need:
- Duct tape
- Old shirt
- Scissors
- Someone to help you

1. Put on the old shirt and begin wrapping it in duct tape. I started at the base and worked up to below my bust line. I then went from the top of my chest down to the rest of the duct tape.
2. Once it's covered in duct tape, cut the shirt up the side (under an armpit) so that you can take it off
3. Tape over the cut and the form will retain it's shape.
4. Optional: You can stuff it with what ever if you'd like it to be more durable.

I began by creating a pattern using paper taped together on my duct tape form. I then pinned the paper to the fabric, cut it out, and sewed it all together. It took me quite a while to sew everything, and I had a few problems with the revealing nature of the top, which meant I had to tweak the design a bit to fit my body and to be a little more modest than her version. I used about 2 yards of brown suede fabric and 1 yard of green suede for the arm bands.

Don't worry, I'll do a write up for the Nightingale soon!
I got my boots from macy's, instead of making boot covers because I'll actually wear the boots again. However, making boot covers is pretty simple if you don't want to spend the extra $$ on boots, just be sure to get more of your brown suede fabric.

I made the armor plates, shoulder pads and belt buckle from cardboard. I cut it out, then hot glued twine to create the swirly designs. I then used fiberglass resin to harden the carboard, and bondo to smooth out the edges. I spray-painted the armor with a textured silver and distressed it with black and brown acrylic paint. I actually attached real rabbit fur to the shoulder pads and shin pads, even though Aela doesn't have that, but I felt it added to the huntress look. It also made the pieces pop against the brown outfit. I attached the armor to my outfit with velcro so that I could transport the costume easier.

For my hair and makeup, I simply straightened my hair - as my hair color is very similar to hers. I used black and red eyeshadow to create a smokey eye and used black face-paint to draw on the lines across my face.

For more images of the cosplay, please check out my DeviantArt page. I'll also be doing a writeup for the Gears of War armor that I created and for the Nightingale costume in the upcoming weeks.

As always,

April 20, 2012

Console to Closet

I've started a Tumblr blog called Console to Closet about gamer fashion. As you know, I love video games - but you may not have known how much I love fashion. I decided to combine both of my loves by creating fashionable outfits inspired by video games.

I'm in the process of branching out into guy outfits as well and if you have any feedback on the site, I'd love to hear it! I'm also accepting requests on the blog, so feel free to drop me a line with an outfit that you'd love to see.

Here are a few of my favorites so far...

Of Mass Effect Series

Of Zelda Series

I really hope you check it out and tell me what you think!

As always,

April 13, 2012

Happy Birfday Assassionista!

We did it! Assassionista is one year old!!!!!

Happy Birthday to youuuuu, Happy Birthday dear Assassionista!

I just want to start off this birthday post by thanking you, the readers. You've made this birthday happen. You encourage me to keep this blog going by reaching out with your comments, tweets, likes, questions, etc. And for that, I want to say thank you.

Now for the fun part of the birthday celebration, presents. I've got some super sweet swag from PAX East and will be giving some codes via Twitter and Facebook this week, so be sure to like/follow our pages.

I also want to highlight some upcoming changes for the website (I mean birthdays are a time to self reflect, right?). First, we're going to try to get our podcast off the ground! I promise this time. We've got an awesome team working on it right now and hope to get it on air before May. We're also going to start (somewhat) separating my (LadySnip3r's) cosplay life from here. I figured not everyone who cares about gaming cares about cosplay, so I figured I would keep my cosplays mainly on my cosplay site and Deviant Art page. If you're interested in following my cosplay life and seeing costume progress, I highly recommend checking those out. I'll probably still include cosplay tutorials on here that will hopefully get some of you non-cosplayers into the hobby. Lastly, I'm looking for a few new writers to expand our team so please send me an email at ladysnip3r@assassionista.com if you are interested.

Now if you'll please excuse me, I've got some partying to do for this birthday celebration!!

As always,

PS. Achievements are back!! We gotta get our Gamerscore up!

April 9, 2012

PAX East 2012: Sunday

The last day of PAX East was one of the most fun (at least to me anyways). I dressed up as the new Lara Croft and got some recognition at the Square Enix booth which was really cool. We covered the show floor for the final time and met up with some more cosplayers. We also hit up the Bioware Base and watched the amazing trivia event. They gave away tons of swag for answering trivia, and oh man, was it difficult. The people who won definitely deserved it. All in all, it was a great PAX East and I cannot wait for next year.

Click read more for the entire gallery!

PAX East 2012: Saturday

Saturdays are always the busiest convention day, especially at PAX East. We decided to not go in costume in the morning so we could check out the show floor. We bought some merch, got some swag, and took lots of pictures. After a pretty relaxed morning, I got changed into my Gears of War Cog armor for the Epic panel. The panel featured Cliff Blezinski and Mike Capps of Epic Games and they answered questions from the online community and audience. Most of the questions regarded Epic's future plans, and they announced that they are working on a PC exclusive title (going back to their original roots). I had the chance to ask my own question which went something like this: "What was the motivation behind adding in female soldiers to Gears of War 3? And will you continue to have female characters in your upcoming franchises, such as Fortnite?". They replied by saying that they wanted to have women in the Gears of War game the entire time, but they really wanted them to have their own animations different from the guy's. After Gears of War 2, they recieved feedback from the gaming community that quite a lot of women were playing Gears and that they wanted to see female characters. They also said that they will definitely be having female characters in their upcoming games. It's definitely a step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing more and more female characters in video games. After the panel, we met up with some Gears of War cosplayers and took some really cool shots. Later that evening, we went to the Gears of War Meet up where we got a chance to meet Cliff Blezinski and Mike Capps. I got them to sign my lancer which will forever hang in my game room. We then went to the Bioware Base, a room off the main showfloor, and hungout with Bioware and Crabcat. They had a cosplay event, so we got some great pictures of all the Mass Effect and Dragon Age cosplay. We also got a chance to get some professional pictures done of our own cosplays.

Click read more for the full gallery of pictures!

PAX East 2012: Friday

PAX East 2012 was a total blast this year! Since we took so many photos and had so many great memories, I'm going to spread it out over a post for each day.

Friday of PAX East was a busy day. I went dressed up as Aela the Huntress from Skyrim and DarkSnip3r went as a Nightingale (also from Skyrim). We attempted to check out most of the showfloor that day, but with DarkSnip3r's scary face mask, he couldn't really see. We walked around and took pictures of as many cosplayers as we could find and ran into one of our friends from last year, cosplayer Dale (You may recognize his Gears of War costumes). We also hit up the Mass Effect 3 panel where Bioware discussed some aspects of writing the third game and answered audience questions. We all had to leave before the audience questions since only one of us had actually beaten Mass Effect 3 - We did not want any spoilers. It was really interesting to hear about how the writers of Mass Effect had to collaborate to write multiple conversations, for both paragon and renegade, depending on which of the characters in your playthrough lived through the first two games. They said it was like trying to write a conversation between two character who could potentially both be dead. There was also a lot of Mass Effect and Dragon Age cosplay at the panel, and we managed to run into Rana McAnear - the face of Samara. Assassionista interviewed her a couple of months ago on being the face of a video game character, and it was great to see her again. She was cosplaying as Samara which was totally crazy and amazing.

Since this post is very picture heavy, please click read more to see the entire gallery of photos!

March 31, 2012

One More PAX East Update

PAX is less than a week away and I've got my definite costume schedule! Here it is:

I'll be on the showfloor most of Friday, so feel free to come and say hi. I'll be accompanied on Friday by a Nightingale cosplay done by my Fiancè, DarkSnip3r. I'll also be at the Epic Panel on Saturday and they're doing a cosplay meetup for Gears of War at the Triforce Booth Saturday at 5.

I also have updated my deviantart page with some pics of the cosplay and have progress shots on my facebook page.

I'm super exicted for PAX and will try to post as much as possible during the weekend, wi-fi permitting.

As always,