Sunday, May 31, 2015

Patreon Supporter Thank Yous For The Month

As detailed in the post below, every month I'll be thanking my loyal patrons that give as little as a dollar a month to my Patreon campaign.

Here are those awesome people I'm thanking this month:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo.
  • Daphy Drucilla Delight David! Her Patreon is here and her blog is on the blogroll!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Here's Why You Should Support The Code (And Get Free Stuff)

I have over 13 years of experience in graphic design and web design & have been a prolific freelance writer on geek culture in general, and video games in particular, since 2006. My writing was published on, featured on the front page of, and in the magazine PC Gamer. I was also a weekly columnist for 411 Mania Games, a Featured Video Games Contributor for Associated Content (now Yahoo! Voices), and co-hosted the Geekly Weekly podcast for a year with James Neives, Staff Editor for the New York Times Photo Desk.
I have also worked as social media consultant to small businesses, and my digital design work spans everything from role-playing game supplements to logo, t-shirt and poster design for professional wrestlers.

I also like to help people!
  • I co-host bi-annual charity fundraisers with The Baron Von Munchausen Society at Wicked Faire & The Steampunk World’s Fair
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions that I attend
  • Helped organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad’s panel on disability for Bronycon 2014. It was so sucessful he's been invited back this year.
  • Assisted artists like macncheesecabra set up and sell artwork & t-shirts online
  • Consult with small businesses on SEO optimization
  • Wrote personal essays on being a male survivor of abuse
  • Created business cards for everyone from indie games designers to computer engineers
  • Ghost-written over 200 articles for Textbroker clients
And of course, there's The Code which I focus on marginalized voices and advocates more more inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures.
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I’ve set this campaign to pay monthly– no matter how much I do or produce, you’ll only be spending the amount you chose once per month.

Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month.

If you want to help out but  don't want the monthly commitment, you can also make a one-time donation of any amount by clicking the donate button in the sidebar. Thanks!

Friday, May 29, 2015

You Can Now Watch Kung Fury Online for Free? Radical!

Photo via Laser Unicorn
After the trailer concept for Kung Fury, an explosion-drenched tribute to ridiculous action movies of the 80s went viral and took the internet by storm last year, the newly-formed production company Laser Unicorn took to Kickstarter, where they raised enough to make a full length short. The movie clock in at 30 minutes and features explosions, kung fu, dinosaurs, Norse gods, bikini Vikings, fights against Nazis and a theme song performed by David Hasslehoff. Check out the full movie below:

Leigh Alexander: "All The Women In Games I Know Are Tired"

Photo courtesy of Shuterstock
Leigh Alexander is the former news editor of Gamasutra, as well as an author, creator of Lo-Fi Let's Play, and her writing on video games has appeared everywhere from Kotaku and Polygon to Variety and Time magazine. She hosted the "1 Reason To Be" panel focusing on how to encourage diversity in the tech industry in general and video games in particular. She has years of experience in writing about the nature of video games as a medium and as a creative force, and has worked with many other women in video games, from writing projects to memoirs to illustrated histories and more.

She's also noticed something she's had in common with her colleagues: they're all worn out and worn down, as she talks about in her personal essay "All The Women I Know In Video Games Are Tired":
"Every woman I know in games right now is really tired. Careful: That is 'every woman I know,' not 'every woman.' You must be very careful. It's the kind of fatigue that isn't so easily explained by our fist-shaking male colleagues who earnestly empathize across their social media platforms with how 'we get harassed a lot'. Some of us get harassed a lot and some of us don't... For the most part, I still have the same job that I have always had (not that I'm not proud of the growth I've had within it over the years). For my friends, the Twine revolutionaries and the vocal Tweeters and the other writers, a great act of deception has occurred: We've been in the New York Times and been invited to conferences and told that we are Important Voices, doing Important Work, we've been on the news at night and in magazines. We are awash in social capital. But none of it translates to real capital."
She talks also about her frustration with the impermanent nature of gaming's history, how so little is curated and so much writing about it disappears, and how so many interviews and panels want to focus on the issues she faces as being a Woman In Gaming to the detriment of her work in gaming:
[Another problem is] our ongoing memory crisis -- this field maintains little permanent record of either projects or conversations, reinvents the wheel every five years -- means we are all afraid to stop lest we be swept away and forgotten. If I were ever to stop, then five years from now, someone quite like me will not have known of me. Women, especially marginalized women, who had so much more to lose than I ever had and who risked it all to make their contributions, to do their important work, fear this too, probably far more. So we endure the interviews about The Harassment. But The Harassment is not our biggest problem at all...I have been here long enough to know that this article about Being A Woman will be more widely read than nearly any heartfelt work of pure games criticism I could do. That knowing is a low and constant ache.
The entire essay is a bracing and personal read. Please, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Other" Histories of Fantasy: Legend of the Rest of the World

Photo via
Phenderson Djèlí Clark, an Afro-Carribean-American spec fiction author (with my personal favorite work being the amazing short story "Skin Magic" feature in the sword and soul anthology Griotts) has long been a force in the speculative fiction market in general and sci-fi and fantasy in particular advocating for a richer representation in the genre of history and milieus from all over the world, not just the most often-seen "America in space" or "medieval Europe with dragons and magic". As a fan of the genre, it has been frustrating to see that on a planet with such a rich tapestry of histories and governments and cultural perspectives that so many settings are under-represented, or not even represented at all. With that in mind, I think it's a good idea to revisit his post "The 'Other' Histories of Fantasy":
From the clothing, to the weapons to the names, to the folklore, fantasy is dominated by a fascination with medieval Europe. When I was a kid, I would often place myself into my favorite fantasy realms from literature–the lone PoC, complete with knight’s gear, somehow sucked into a medieval European-based world. As I got older, and a bit more cognizant on the issues, I’d actually root for the swarthy bad guys–because at least the Haradrim and their giant mûmakil came from someplace that veered away from the Eurocentric norm. Yet even then, as I tried to create my own fledgling fantasy tales early on, I found my mind sometimes unable to imagine beyond broadswords, armor, medieval castles, dwarves and lots and lots of SNOW...
...[other writers] have mostly asked if the genre can perhaps spare a glance at the Earth’s other five habitable continents. Just a smidge. Medieval Africa sees the rise and fall of large Western Sudanic Empires like Ghana, Songhai and Mali. There’s the Fatamid Caliphate in the North, not to mention other polities like Kanem-Bornu and the Swahili States, or the Kongo Kingdoms further South and those of Zimbabwe. We have Axum/Abyssinia in the Northeast, along with the Nubian Christian kingdoms. All of these feature “fascinating, dynamic, cataclysmic and downright exciting events” for which any fantasy writer should salivate. Abyssinia even has a castle called Gondar–no kidding! Gondar!

The whole post is a great read, and there's some pretty fascinating discussion in the comments, so by all means-- read the whole thing!

That's No Starship. That's An Office Building!

Chances are, if you read this blog, that you're either a Star Trek fan, or you know someone who is. The collectibles connected to the series are legion: action figures, costumes, model starships... if you're a die hard fan, you might even have an authentic movie prop.

If you're the Chairman of Netdragon Websoft, you are such a Trekker that you make your company headquarters look like a replica of the USS Enterprise... with CBS/Paramount's official blessing. It was an undertaking that took a little over six years and cost over $160 million dollars. It was finished last year.

And yes, it has automatic doors that slide open with a little "whoosh" when you approach.

The video below gives an even better look at the building overall:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

No "Queens" In Afrika: Steamfunk Writer Gives You A History Lesson

Photo courtesy of ProfessorOfTruth
Balogun, an important name in the category of steamfunk (a mix of African-American culture and steampunk), also penned an interesting and insightful essay about the role African women rules played in actual history and how that impacts African-inspired world building in general and also Charles Saunders' Soul and Sword series in particular.

The biggest assertation? That even when it's done with the best of intentions, when you look at women rules in African history-- from Hatshepsut to Nzinga of Ndongo (pictured at left), if you call them "queens", you're doing it wrong! Why? Well, for one thing, African power stuctures don't always map neatly, one to one, over European based power structures:
Traditional rulers throughout Africa were not always given the title and responsibilities of rule by birth or by blood. More often than not, the people chose their ruler and if the ruler did not serve and / or represent the people well, the ruler could be removed from his or her throne. It was the people who governed and, to the people, gender was rarely a factor in who they chose to lead them. Among the Yoruba, anyone born under the Odu – the 256 patterns of life / containers of destiny in which all creation exists – Irete Ogbe (aka Irentegbe, or Ategbe) is destined to be an Ǫba, or “king”; gender be damned. The term “queen” is a product of recent history and the English language. In Ancient African, Asian and Pacific cultures, and even some European countries, women rulers were given the title king or its equivalent, such as pharaoh.

The essay then gives a quick overview on a number of rulers, where they fit in African history, how they ruled and where they fit in society, from Hatshepsut to the modern era. Whether you're  looking for a good starting point for world-building of your own, or are just interested in history, the entire article is a great read.

Incredible Lego Vampire Hunter Kit

Photo via Guy Himber
For the Lego enthusiast that also has the grim duty of hunting the (tiny) undead, V & A Steamworks has unveiled this incredibly detailed Lego-based "Steampunk Vampire Hunter's Kit".  V&A Steamworks, also known as Guy Himber has done some incredibly detailed work on the kit, with everything from a crucifix and tiny bottles of various potions to a stake-shooting gun and holy water bombs-- all in an attractive looking case that gives a satisfying creak at the hinges when you open it!

You can check out more photos and get more details at his flickr page for the project here.

Toyota Uses Chocobo Theme In New Ad

Photo illustration via
Toyota's been making waves in the past past year in Japan by pairing its line of hybrid cars with iconic JRPG games. Last year saw the release of a commercial using the Dragon Quest 3 overworld theme:

In a cute touch, the car colors in the above commercial match one of the more common party configurations for the game: Hero, Priest, Sage and Soldier. So earlier this week, they debuted a new commercial spot to sell the latest model of the Toyota Aqua X-URBAN (known here in the USA as the Prius C): The Chocobo Theme! Personally, I think this marketing idea is genius? Want to target the gekky thirty-something market with some nostaligia, this is the perfect way to scratch that itch.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stupid Sexy Loki: The Problem With LGBT Villains

So when Loki: Agent of Asgard was announced, hot on the heels of the first Avengers movie taking heaters by storm, Andrew Wheeler noted something about how it could all go down, at least within the Marvel comics universe:

Good news; Marvel is launching a new ongoing series with an LGBT lead character. Loki: Agent of Asgard debuts in February from the creative team of writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett, and Ewing confirmed via Tumblr that the lead character will not only be portrayed as bisexual –but be able to change gender. Bad news; Loki is not exactly a good guy. He’s a trickster, a manipulator, a supervillain. He’s also the second bisexual male to get his own ongoing book at Marvel, and here’s the problem; the other one was Daken, son of Wolverine, and he was also a trickster, a manipulator and a supervillain.

So why was that a big deal? As Wheeler, points out, it's a well-worn storytelling trope with some unfortunate implications in what it draws upon in the name of creating dramatic tension or offering what it attempts to frame as some sort of ambiguity:
That’s the role that the queer villain plays; a threat to the “correct” order, intrinsically maladjusted to the way the world works. It’s a fear that manifests in the real world in dangerous ways. Being gay, bi or trans has too often been presented as a threat; to children, to marriage, to public health, to everything sacred, up to and including God and democracy... Otherness is also one reason why queer kids struggle so much with their identity. Not only does the perception that their existence is a challenge to the status quo make them a target, but being gay, bi or trans often means they feel cut off from the ways of life they’ve been raised to cherish as normal. Works of fiction that draw a parallel between queerness and wickedness can perpetuates that alienation. 

So does that meant that queer characters can't be villians? Wheeler says no, but...
The very qualities that can make an LGBT character seem dangerous and transgressive can also make them glamorous and seductive. Yes, queer identities have established cultural value as signifiers of deviancy, but they also have value as signifiers of radical reinvention, of rock and roll. That’s really the same quality through a different lens. 
Now that that the series has come (and some would say, gone as the lead-in to the new Secret Wars), though, have these worries borne fruit? I caught issue one and two when they first came out and was very impressed.

Follow Me: On The Beautiful and Tragic Weirdness of Sonic Adventure

US Sonic Adventure cover art courtesy of the Sonic Wiki
Sonic, for better of for worse, has been the face of SEGA back in the long-ago when SEGA was also in the console business. So of course there was lots and lots of hype in 1998 when Sonic Adventure was released-- it was the first Sonic the Hedgehog game for the SEGA Dreamcast. Hollywood Video had a promotion that let you rent a Dreamcast system and Sonic Adventure. Fans talked about how sales of Sonic Adventure might just save the Dreamcast's flagging sales. And in a 3-part essay, mammon machine's ZEAL looks at the hopeful hpe and the wasted potential of the series. From part one:
It is immediately apparent, from the first moments of its introduction movie to its title screen logo, what Sonic Adventure is trying to prove. It is a game suffixed with the word “Adventure” because it wants to communicate certain things about itself and its goals. “Adventure” is meant to be expansive... 
...It’s a very peculiar failure from the game, to communicate a simple idea about its setting, and a moment that’s emblematic of Sonic Adventure’s existential dilemma. As Sonic Adventure works harder to convince us that it is sprawling and expansive, it becomes increasingly insular and recursive... The first time we hear Sonic speak is the first of Sonic Adventure’s many, many, jarring moments, the points where the thing Sonic Adventure wants to be and what it unavoidably is crash into each other like a beautiful accident.

And yes, there were worse things about the game's presentation than the above, or the fact that even over 15 years later, that "Open Your Heart" song is STILL stuck in my head:

As they point out in part two of the essay, lots of the level design just doesn't make any sense. They're worse than bad, they're boring, as in the case of the Casinopolis level:

That a Casino is a place where you do a boring, laborious task of endless accumulation to gain a resource, and that the space is somehow built to coerce you into continuing that task, perhaps against your better judgement. That a Casino is a place you can stay in for a long time, but it isn’t designed to end itself, it cannot accommodate the conception of an end. It is a complex thing that would probably need a special area for people who would need to be taught how it works. And that, maybe, Casinos really are just empty, pointless, lonely places to exist in.

What do you think, readers?

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