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    • Video Game Review: American McGee’s Alice
      After the recent release of “Alice: Madness Returns,” I  picked up a copy. With each copy, console gamers also got a free download of  the original “American McGee’s Alice.” Before playing the new Alice, I had to  go back and beat the original again. While many things were just as I had  remembered, I’m glad […]
    • Video Game Rant: Donkey Kong Country Returns
      One of my favorite games of all time is Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2. When I heard they were making a new one, I was super excited, but also somewhat skeptical. So a few months ago, I picked up a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns to try out the new game. My fiancee also joined […]
    • Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: Movie Review
       (Warning: some spoilers) When they decided to turn this Canadian comic into a movie, I’m not sure they were aware of what a cult smash hit this would be. Topping the charts for Blu-rays on the first day it was released on home video, it’s also been on several top ten lists. It appeals to […]
    • Good Kitty: WoW Feral Cat DPS Rotation
      ***Note: this information is from before Cataclysm. There have been major changes to the class. See my sources below for more updated information.*** When I rolled Druid on the first character I legitimately got to level 80, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I leveled Feral Cat, and when I hit 80, I realized […]
    • Finding a Job
      This is a digression from my usual topics, but I wanted to share some of my strategies with other unemployed or soon to be unemployed people out there. My job search has been the focus of my free time lately, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for my next post. 1)      Assess […]
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Finding a Job


This is a digression from my usual topics, but I wanted to share some of my strategies with other unemployed or soon to be unemployed people out there. My job search has been the focus of my free time lately, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for my next post.

1)      Assess yourself.

The first thing you should do when looking for a job is decide what you want from a job and what you have to offer. What skills do you have? What have you learned and gained from previous jobs/experiences? What do you want to learn? Where do you want to go from here? Identify a few possible career paths that sound interesting to you, and come up with first steps to getting on that path or determining if these paths may work for you.

2)      Develop your resume.

Take your self assessment and apply it to your resume. Include relevant details like professional development, related coursework, outside interests to diversify your resume, nonprofit work, international experience, etc. Look for job templates online, and make sure your formatting is logical and not distracting. Don’t forget about making custom cover letters too!

3)      Broaden your job search.

Include newspapers, classifieds, online searches, and databases. Sign up for online searches to send you job updates right to your email. Ask friends and family to let you know if they hear of anything, and go back to your college’s career center if available. Social media is a great new way to make contacts, and while networking sounds like a dirty word, there are ways to do it that are less pushy and more about keeping your options open.

4)      Practice the interview.

Get some sample interview questions online, or draw from past experience. Practice your answers to some common questions so you sound confident, but don’t memorize them or you’ll sound too rehearsed. You can also make yourself some notes and practice on the way to the interview.

5)      Stay positive and keep trying.

Don’t use the economy as an excuse, keep looking for jobs and just keep perspective. You will find a job eventually, but it may not be exactly what you imagined. Keep looking, and if you get discouraged or feel like you’re in a rut, make a list of what you’ve been doing and brainstorm some new avenues or consider new approaches. Good luck!

TBC!


Hello readers, I just got back from vacation and I’m working on a project currently, to be posted later this week! Stay tuned.

Also, let me use this post as an opportunity to gauge reader interest. What topics do you want to read about? Gender, language, story, reviews, retro games, etc.? Post your suggestions/comments please; I like to give my readers what they want!

Top 5 games to play as a couple


Plus there's always rhythm games like Rock Band.

Play video games for the health of your relationship. It’s a great activity to do together—a fun, relaxing, competitive, addictive, bonding experience. It may be a habit or a hobby, a shared passion, or something you’ve never thought about before. Either way, here are some suggestions for games to play with your significant other.

Left 4 Dead

L4D is a quick and dirty zombie FPS. High customizability is a plus: choose your difficulty, play campaign or versus, play for 30-60 minutes or more, etc. Because it’s co-op, you can practice teamwork, cooperation, and communication. Isn’t every guy’s fantasy to save his girl from a Hunter pounce, the whole knight in shining armor thing?

Dokapon Kingdom

For more on this underlooked party game, click here. A little healthy and fun competition can be a good test of your sense of humor. And you can play two player versus bots. Monopoly plus RPG equals win.

Borderlands

For more experienced players, Borderlands is another good co-op that is a bit deeper for the more narratively-inclined, and is a nice combo between the shooting fun of L4D and the overwhelming details of WoW. Check out a review of Borderlands here.

You can easily make Mario Kart a little more interesting.

Mario Party & Mario Kart

Mario games are classics; most people have played them in some form, and can easily transition into the newer versions. There is also a ton of Wii shovelware games that may serve the same purpose, such as Wii Fit or Wii Sports.

Fatal Frame

It’s like watching a scary movie, only SCARIER. In this single player survival horror, players use a camera to capture the souls of ghosts. With plenty of atmospheric tension and jump moments, you can turn the lights off and snuggle up when you get scared (then laugh when your partner screams like a girl).

Games for Guys


Hope: Because she just might want to hear about your 12th level Paladin.

I keep coming across articles about women in gaming, and a repeated topic is how to introduce women to games. What’s with the supposed hordes of guy gamers who lament their girlfriends’ unwillingness to pick up a controller or keyboard? ‘How to get your girl into gaming’ sounds like a bad romance movie to me. Should women try to get their boyfriends to start scrapbooking and sewing, since those are girl hobbies and gaming is a man hobby? ‘How to get your man to do yoga’ will be my next article. Or maybe ‘How to get your boyfriend to play video games’ would be more appropriate, considering women now outnumber men in online gaming.

Lots of sites have beaten me to gaming for guys, including WikiHow, though it seems to have been written before the joystick was invented. Wiki says: “Find a few games he likes and play the ones he is better at. Mix it up, but always go back to the game he is good at. Racing games are generally easier for you to lose at without showing it.” Purposely lose at a game just because he’s a n00b? Men are our equals, so we shouldn’t go easy or treat them any differently just because they button mash and haven’t learned any combos yet.

WikiHow has more to say: “Consider your girlfriend’s personality when picking out a game. Some girls may prefer the brightly colored, all-ages games like Katamari Damacy, Bust A Move, Lego Star Wars, Sims, or just about any Mario game. But remember that your girlfriend is an individual who could just as well go for Halo, Resident Evil, or Grand Theft Auto.”  This is exactly right. The ‘games for girls’ like Cooking Mama or Barbie Horse Adventures are just recommended based on gender stereotyped hobbies. I like cooking but would much prefer Fallout 3 over Cooking Mama, and I’m sure there are guys who watch football but aren’t Madden fanatics and love Viva Pinata.

So remember, anyone can be a gamer; you don’t need a Y chromosome to hit the Y button. A follow-up on games to play as a couple will be posted next week. Readers, what are your thoughts on introducing men (or women) to gaming?

‘Girl’ is a four letter word


I have sometimes found it a bad idea to reveal my membership of the female sex to online gamers. Sure, it’s a great way to meet gamer guys, but all that attention isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I was playing my Alliance Priest on World of Warcraft, with my boyfriend at the time sitting next to me leveling his Hordie. I was partied with some random people heading over to an instance. Some guy referred to me repeatedly as ‘man’ or ‘he,’ which got my boyfriend a bit upset, so he told me to tell the player that I was not a ‘he.’ I think this can be interpreted by some as being aggressive about one’s gender, which is understandable. Most men would probably be offended if they were called ‘she’ by default.

One player seemed to think that since I was a girl, I would need all the help I could get, so he made it his job to protect me in the raid group. And since I was seemingly offended by ‘he,’ rather than just calling me ‘she,’ I became ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie.’ This didn’t go over too well with me, and it was even worse for my boyfriend.

He felt he had to defend my honor, so he logged onto his high level Horde Tauren Warrior (a most imposing figure) and proceeded to chase us down. Our lower level raiding party was ambushed by a very angry Tauren on a PvP server, though of course the Allies had no idea why.

Some random players came in to the fight, so it developed into a kind of faction war. The Hordies and Allies fought to the death in a prolonged epic battle. I was healing my Tauren “champion” and my allies. Amazingly, in the end we managed to put down the mad cow. I then explained to my party members that the rampaging bull was my boyfriend, and that he was sitting right next to me.

That’s why it’s easier to just let people think I’m a guy when playing online. No stereotypes, no pet names, no being looked down on. Sometimes it’s just easier to let others believe what they want.

But I wonder… is it right? Should I politely correct others if they make the easy mistake of assuming I’m a guy? I’m not ashamed of being a female gamer; in fact I’m quite proud of it, so why should I feel the need to hide my gender?  If more female gamers were open about their gender, maybe male gamers would become more comfortable with encountering us. Perhaps my mistake was in letting the insult stand and in letting my boyfriend defend me. I should have stood up for my gender as equal to his, rather than ignoring his attitude. If someone called me ‘honey’ in such a derogatory manner in real life, I would be offended.

Readers, is it better to ignore sexism or try to correct it?

Busting Down the Glass Ceiling: Female Characters in Video Games


With game companies targeting their growing female audiences more, numerous games have been released in recent years with gender issues in mind. There are many strong female leads to choose from; Metroid’s Samus Aran, Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, Lara Croft, etc. Now it seems the list of weak or stereotypical female characters is limited to the genres of retro, arcade, and fighting.

Part of the reason is that, like the feminist movement, it takes a while for people to change their attitudes towards gender roles. Take Half Life as an example. Half Life 1 starred a male protagonist and male scientists, security guards, and soldiers (much like Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy from Pokemon). Half Life 2 introduced Alyx Vance, the gifted daughter of one of Gordon Freeman’s colleagues, who does get into trouble a few times (as does Gordon), but is just as ass-kicking as our crowbar-wielding hero.

Several story and gameplay issues are involved here. One is the nature of video game characters and how we view them. If a game to you is just something to play to blow off steam or play with friends, then gender doesn’t matter. When you play Mario Party, do you really care if you’re Yoshi or Daisy (though her annoying voice may make this a moot point)?

Help me Mariobi Wan Kenobi!It also matters how game developers view games. Does it matter that Mario must rescue the princess from Donkey Kong, or is it just a player navigating a virtual world by way of a sprite that just happens to look like a plumber? If video game developers do not aspire to tell stories with their games, then their characters, male or female, are simply placeholders and nothing else.

As game designers change the way they approach games, their stories have become more developed and thus have room for real characterization, more than just sticking a bow on Pac-Man’s head and calling it Ms. Pac-Man. Let’s take a look at the Resident Evil series. Female and male characters alike are developed to various lengths, and there is usually a male and female lead in each game. For example, Resident Evil 4 had two returning characters, Leon and Ada, and both are zombie-killing machines. RE characters run the gamut from pathetic Sherry to Wesker the badass, and everything in between. Some are stereotypes (Ashley, the damsel in distress) and others have a bit more depth (Claire the biker chick).

The point is that gender is not a factor here. Jill may be stacked like older video game icon Lara Croft, but she can decapitate a zombie faster than you can say “objectify.” And we have a variety of macho and not so macho guys to choose from for our protagonists (there’s a reason Chris has been in more games than Steve). In this series, it is character, not gender that matters. I take this as a sign that video game stories have seen improvement in the way women are portrayed, and I predict we will see even more development in other aspects of storytelling and social issues as well.

Munchkin: Dungeon-Crawling Card Game


The holidays usually mean spending time with your family. That means time you could be spending playing video games is being wasted decorating trees, baking cookies, and getting presents. What if you could play games AND spend time with family, without having to perform the traditional holiday chores or listen to Aunt Muriel gab on about her seven cats? 

Munchkin

Munchkin

Why not try the game of Munchkin, a multiplayer card game where you fight monsters, get sweet loots, backstab your friends, and level up to win? It’s like a simplified, fast-paced version of Dungeons and Dragons, so it’s pretty simple to teach non-nerds, but it’s complicated enough for gamers.

“This award-winning card game… captures the essence of the dungeon experience… with none of that stupid roleplaying stuff. You and your friends compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. And what magic items! Don the Horny Helmet and the Boots of Butt-Kicking. Wield the Staff of Napalm… or maybe the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment. Start by slaughtering the Potted Plant and the Drooling Slime, and work your way up to the Plutonium Dragon…” 

You can customize the rules as much as you want, so you can dumb down the rules for newbs until they figure it out. And because it has some pretty silly descriptions and crazy rules, each round is unpredictable and hilarious and always keeps you on your toes. Wanna be really crazy? Turn it into a drinking game! 

Dungeons!

Dungeons!

The original Munchkin version is traditional D&D/RPG style, but there are 9 other stand-alone versions with expansions, plus you can also mix and match to your heart’s content. Other versions include: Munchkin Cthulhu (Lovecraftian style), Munchkin Bites! (vampires that don’t sparkle in the sun), Munchkin Booty (pirates!), and Munchkin Fu (ninjas!). Included: 168 cards, 1 six-sided die, and a rule sheet, for about $25. Official site! 

Chibithulhuq

Chibithulhu

An average game can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, longer if you’re playing Epic Munchkin (with dungeons, special abilities, and a higher level cap). It’s a multiplayer game, so 3-6 players makes a good match (4 is ideal). The cards themselves are pretty cool too, with cute descriptions by Steve Jackson and illustrations drawn by John Kovalic (my favorites from Munchkin Cthulhu are H.P. Munchcraft and Chibithulhu). 

So if you need a new game to keep your family occupied, for your next LAN party, for the next time the power goes out, or for Patch Tuesday, try out a Munchkin game. It’s a fairly involved game, and once you play it once, you’ll probably be hooked. So kick down the dungeon door and dive right in to the Munchkin universe!