Platformers are sort of this weird thing in gaming. It’s like a super niche band that people like enough to sport the vintage throw back tee, but don’t actually listen to all that often. I can’t get enough of platformers, though, and I especially like when they reinvent some element of game play to make them fresh.
Here’s three I suggest you try if for no other reason than they aren’t the simple platformers you’re used to:
Bit.Trip’s Runner 2:
Why It’s Awesome: Well, running shouldn’t be this fun. I’m serious. The speed and difficulty of the Runner games always accelerates so quickly that you honestly wonder how you managed to complete each level immediately after you completed it. Like some kind of platform amnesia. This sense of accomplishment is addictive, so keep running!
What’s New About It: So Runner is all about running, but the thing that’s new is the additional moves beyond jumping which up the difficulty. The dive feature is something we’ve seen in other platformers, but the ability to extend the dive position for long periods of time is totally new. It also serves as an attack of sorts, which is rad.
Thomas Was Alone
Why It’s Awesome: It’s super rare for me to feel like…deeply depressed about a game about blocks to be over. I mean, this may be because there are so few games about blocks. But, you get my drift. The story is weirdly heartening and the game play is so well-integrated that you start to feel for these various colored shapes.
What’s New About It: Part of the challenge and fun of this game is that each of the named shapes have different skills. Individually, they can’t do much, but together, every level can be tackled. Instead of leveling up to get new skills, you essentially level up to acquire new characters with new skills. This creates a certain amount of favoritism (Sarah is the best.) - but it also keeps you engaged in the story. Also, it’s now available on Android, so you should probably get on that.
Ibb and Obb
Why It’s Awesome: Let’s talk about gravity. It’s not nearly well-examined enough in any game of any kind. Pretty much, it exists and all games obey it. That seems short sighted. Thank goodness Ibb and Obb came around.
What’s New About It: Ibb and Obb takes our universal concept of gravity and says: eh, enough of that. The most important element of the game experience is that you can play both on the top and the bottom of the platforms. Sometimes, it’s to avoid enemies or blockades and other times it’s simply to get rewards. Either way, I don’t know why we haven’t always been able to run on the bottom of platforms.
But perhaps Carmichael’s coolest, and most geeky adventure is with Classcraft. She’s the community and social media manager for this ed-tech startup that’s redefining classical curriculum. Classcraft is an online role-playing game that teachers and students play together. Playing in teams, students can earn points that can give them real-world perks like using notes on a test. Students with behavioral problems or those who let their academics slide loose points for their team.
Want to know more about Classcraft, or curious how you can get involved? Go ahead and tweet Carmichael at @wita.
In the meantime, check out her dynamic interview with BGC!
Q: How did you discover your passion?
A: That’s a tricky question to answer as I have so many!
I first laid eyes on video games when I discovered my sisters’ NES in our basement as a kid (my sisters are eight and 10 years older than me), but my first true virtual love was Crash Bandicoot 2 for the PlayStation. I still remember how in awe I felt sitting cross-legged before our old, huge living room TV as my dad hooked it up and the start screen roared to life.
Books for me used to always be a private passion, but I always treasured and remembered the ones that were given to me as gifts — including my favorite of all time, A Wizard of Earthsea.
As for comics, it all started with cartoons — Batman: The Animated Series (huge, HUGE fan of the Bat), the ’90s X-Men show … I actually got into comics a bit late but absolutely adore the medium and its power for storytelling.
At some point, all of these things just collided for me in a way that told me that whatever I did in life, I wanted it to be about them somehow. Writing helped pull it all together. I’ve always been a creative and analytical person, so I naturally gravitated toward that skill.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a freelance writer?
A: Being a freelance writer certainly has its challenges, but the best part is getting to set my own schedule, work from home, and constantly shop my work around to new outlets. You flex a lot of new muscles that way and meet a lot of great people. And I love being able to take a quick nap, get out and walk around the neighborhood, break for some kitty therapy, or watch Netflix during my lunchtime. Because I can.
Contrary to what many people think, freelancing is tough work. You definitely put the hours in, but I love the freedom that it offers me.
Q: When did you discover you were “geeky”?
A: Definitely in high school. For a while I was totally into Think Geek everything, and my friend and I would have legitimate “geek fests,” where we’d stuff our faces and watch geeky shows and movies, like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. Nowadays, I don’t label myself — I’m very comfortable with the fact that what I do and what I love is who I am. It’s just me.
Q: If you could take any fictional character out for a drink, whom would you choose and what would you drink?
A: Oh, man. There are so many good characters out there! I have lots of favorites. But I think by far I would like to go for a drink with Fox Mulder. I have a huge crush on his character, and I would just like to pick his brain for an hour.
I’m not much for beer, so it would probably be dry, red wine or a White Russian for me.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: That it’s OK if not everybody likes you — life changes a lot as you grow up. And to value every friendship more. Remember to treat people with kindness and to put yourself in their shoes and embrace their differences. I think that’s something you don’t quite realize how to do well until you get older.
Emma Bauer is a Being Geek Chic Contributor. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. Follow her on Twitter: @emmalynnbauer
I’ve recently realized nearly all my fashion icons are actually fictional women. That doesn’t mean I don’t admire the style sense of Lily Allen or Ginnifer Goodwin or any number of other famous women - but the truth is when I’m feeling uninspired about my look, it’s characters I look to most. These 8-bit women come to mind:
There is really no 8-bit lady more impressive, more tough or more important than Samus Aran. She should have been the Doctor. Ok, Ok, she’s not British so maybe not, but that’s how much I look up to her. Here’s a few reasons why:
Samus Aran teaches me:
Of course, I have to give Princess Peach props for:
But the real pioneer is Ms. Pac Man, because:
Who is your 8-bit fashion icon? Is it Luigi? He gets a lot of props from me for his green overalls. Green is my favorite color after all.
In 108 minutes, Wreck-It Ralph accomplishes something the entire video game industry has failed to achieve for more than 30 years:
Three major consoles. Hundreds of major and indie developers. Mobile and handheld gaming. Thousands of writers, programmers and artists. Millions, maybe even billions, in marketing dollars. All schooled by one movie.
I applaud the filmmakers, but I’m utterly baffled, because they made it look easy. And for so long, we have been told it’s “hard” to sell games with female characters we can look up to, care for and relate to. I think $49.1 million at the box office, which is Disney Animation’s highest opening weekend in history, tells a very different story. Listen up gamers, it’s time for a revolution.
Let’s start with Vanellope Von Schweetz and her home game, Sugar Rush.
Vanellope is funny. She’s smart. And she has confidence, despite her condition, pixlexia. She is driven and willing to fight for her rightful place in Sugar Rush, which is largely made up of racing girls - not boys. The aesthetics are a marvel: the racers’ outfits and vehicles may be sugary, but they aren’t princess-y and they aren’t racing on some simplistic puff course either. These girls know how to compete and they talk trash. They want to win - and they aren’t cheering on the sidelines for their man.
It honestly made me tear up - SPOILER ALERT - when Vanellope was transformed into a princess after winning her race, but opted to abolish her dolled up status and instead be President of Sugar Rush. Do you understand the sub-text here? Are you listening, America? Women, girls, OUR GIRLS, they don’t want to be princesses - they want to be president.
And then there’s Calhoun. An argument has been made online and elsewhere that she’s modeled after Samus Aran of Metroid. That could be true, but here’s a key difference: she’s not in hiding. You know she’s a woman. You know she’s in charge. It isn’t some big shocker at the end of the movie that Hero’s Duty has always been led by a strong, tough woman.
And - SPOILER ALERT - it was her husband who got shot, because she failed to take care of him. She put her gun away and he needed rescuing. Not the other way around.
The primary male characters, Ralph and Felix, love these women for these very reasons. They admire them, respect them and even fall for them - because they are a true representation of our modern social relationships. It’s OK for men to be sensitive. It’s OK for them to wreck things and then feel badly about it later. It’s OK for a short dude to fall in love with a taller woman. And most of all: it’s OK for men to ask women for help.
After seeing this movie, I want to play these games. And you know what? So does my boyfriend. And my brother. And my dude friends. Sugar Rush looks like a riot. Hero’s Duty may just be the very FIRST first-person shooter I have ever been interested in. And yes, I want to find an arcade right now and hand over my quarters for Ralph and Felix.
I know many haters will say, well, Ralph is the main character - and therefore sold the movie. Yeah, I agree and you’re right. But this is why the lesson here is so critically important. The gaming industry can continue to sell their games with strong men on the covers, posters and in commercials. When you play, the men can continue to be the primary characters - but I promise you - your game will be better AND more likable if you surround your male characters with women that matter.
Last, but certainly not least, I need to give the filmmakers props for the fact that girls were playing games in the Litwak arcade in equal number to boys. And EVERY kind of game. Not just the “soft” games or the games marketed to them. (Hey Nintendo, we are gamers too.)
Wreck-It Ralph was a joy to watch, but also a major wake up call for me. If we are ever going to see a video game industry with likable and respectable female archetypes, we may just need to bring in some new voices. I think Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack MacBryer, John C. Reilly, Director Rich Moore, screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jessica Lee might just be a great start.
You know those games that hang you up for days? Maybe months? I’ve been stuck on the final boss of Super Princess Peach for Nintendo DS for approximately 2 months. I should be embarrassed, but time gets away from me easily. It’s a great game, but sometimes when I get stuck, I give up… temporarily.
So how am I going to get the gall up to beat that bad boy?
1. Road trippin’ it. I have a long car ride ahead of me this coming Saturday. Nothing gives me more a gaming rush than knowing that I have a deadline for arrival at which point the game has to return to the purse. Road trips are great for your time management skills and the perfect occasion for handheld gaming.
2. Google the goods. There’s probably a reason why you’re stuck on the game of the moment. The reason I’m stuck on SPP? I can’t figure out how to make Peach jump high enough for one particular section and still retain my cloud floating capabilities. Googling may be cheating in some people’s minds, but to me, you’d ask for directions if you were lost - same applies to gaming.
3. Pick a runner-up. There’s usually a game that I’m watching and waiting for to play next. In this case, it’s October 17th’s Professor Layton and the Last Specter. In order to play it, I’m making a deal with myself that I can’t play until I beat SPP. Now all I have to do is be strong and win.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated to beat a game that feels unbeatable?
A week and a half ago, I posted a worthy read about sexism in geek culture, which has received quite a bit of attention on both sides of the issue. Now, here I sit utterly disappointed in the human race after watching the Gamer Girl Manifesto. The video is now in the 6-digit views range, but despite the fact that the message is getting out, many of those receiving it are proving that sexism in geek culture is more real than ever.
Look at that scoring for starters: It’s predominently thumbs down. What could possibly be so offensive that this gets a larger percentage of thumbs down ratings than divisive political commentary? Or videos of Nickelback lyrics scrolling by?
Why is the message of: “Online we’re all on the same team” is so difficult to understand and accept. All you have to do is take a look at the comments to see just how out of touch the vast majority of the viewers have been. This genius had to go so far as to suggest that humility is the issue at heart.
And don’t forget ladies: if you aren’t “attractive” by some random assholes definition, then you shouldn’t even be speaking.
I wish that these comments were few and far between. However, comments like these are scattered throughout and are a sure way to dig yourself in a deep, dark depressing hole.
If you don’t think there is sexism in geek culture: take a look around. It’s not just this video, it’s on the message boards, it’s on Reddit, it’s in the comments section on TechCrunch and every other damn tech blog. It’s online when women are gaming and it’s in comic book stores. And if a woman says anything about it, we should all point out how unattractive they should feel.
I have a proposal: a new hierarchy of nerds who actually embody the lives that we have found refuge in. Their cause: teaching other nerds why their ignorance to these issues and acceptance of it harms us all.
The protective feelings that we have for our beloved characters, games, books, blogs, etc. should apply to one another. It’s that simple.