Gaming Girls Needed for More Than Simple Sex Appeal

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This simple question struck me while I was trawling through old Kotaku updates for info on Dragon Age II, whereupon I caught another look at the new female version of Hawke, the game’s protagonist. Much like Mass Effect 2’s Commander Shepard, players will be able to choose a male or female version of the same character when the game drops next year. Supposedly this allows for better immersion as the game’s NPCs and party members can refer to your character as Hawke, rather than having to fall back on “you”, “my Lord/Lady” or “my friend” which most RPGs have to resort to. Of course, its understandable why this has to be the case, but it does sometimes feels as if everyone is treating you like the dullest guy at a party whose name they’ve already forgotten, and not the world’s most legendary of heroes. This kind of choice is all well and good. Creating a story that fits a male or female character equally suggests that BioWare have left opportunities for love interests open on either side of the gender fence (and the sexuality fence too), a bonus for fans of Dragon Age: Origins pixelated pounding shenanigans. However, leaving the multi-gender Shepards and Hawkes aside for a moment, are there enough purely female protagonists in games? Sure, there are some iconic female games characters who immediately spring to mind: Samus, Lara Croft, Jill Valentine, Bayonetta, Nariko. There are a number who are the supreme heroines of their respective adventures. Obviously there is also a multitude of female characters who are in “supporting roles” rather than being stars of the show, but despite having not sat down to do the math, I think it’s safe to assume that female protagonists are massively outgunned by their male counterparts. Is this an imbalance that needs to be addressed? As already mentioned, there are plenty of games where the choice of character gender remains open (especially in the RPG genre), allowing players to choose whichever avatar sex best suits their current mood. However, games being developed that are purely from the player perspective of a woman are still few and far between. Now I’m no PC freak (at least, not in the political correctness sense) and I don’t want a 50-50 split or anything, but a few more top game titles where well-constructed and eminently likeable female protagonists would be a welcome occurrence. They don’t all have to be kicking ass and taking names either, though playing that sort of heroine is thoroughly enjoyable. The addition of female protagonists in more cerebral games such as your Professor Laytons and Phoenix Wrights would likely be as well received. Questions concerning sex appeal sit heavily upon female characters. How much is enough? What’s too much? Is that outfit too revealing or that bosom too full? Game developers often get unfairly battered with the “objectifying stick” when bringing out new female characters or models for players to create their own female avatars in RPGs. There are examples where the sex appeal card has been played as strongly and repeatedly as possible. X-Blades is one such game, since the designers made a creative decision to have the camera stick rigidly to protagonist Ayumi’s ass at all times, regardless of ensuing combat or other such minor distractions. Certainly, this style of design and imagery can help initially attract a male audience (witness the image choices in this article) as sex appeal sells. However, it’s certainly not a game-saver in its own right. A jiggling pair of butt cheeks wrapped in the skimpiest of leather or mail bands do not distract the player from flimsy plots and poor combat systems forever. While I don’t believe that creating a female protagonist who is a thoroughly plain and dowdy creature just to buck the trend is necessarily a good idea, they don’t have to be designed to pop out of their bodices every time the player performs a sharp left turn. Mind you, a little bodice-popping action is healthy now and then. Especially if you need something to lighten the mood after a tragic NPC death or town-burning cutscene. Put simply, there seems to be plenty of room for more games with compelling stories played from a purely female perspective. Feel free to declare your favourite female game protagonist and a choice moment or aspect of their character that makes them awesome. Fast Forward to 2019 and things are looking much more realistic!

Deus Ex Human Revolution is Game of the Year Material

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Every now and then a game comes along that grips you, shakes you up and makes you think differently about video games entertainment as a whole. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one such game.

After a veritable assault of pre-trailers, cinematic trailers and gameplay trailers, I already had a pretty good idea what to expect from DEHR. I was prepared for an adaptive stealth shooter RPG with a heavy emphasis on storytelling, player choice and variety of playstyles to experiment with.

What I was not prepared for was just how perfectly DEHR would present and perform each of these elements.

I am now 8 hours into the story and it was genuinely difficult tearing myself away in order to write this up. So I hope you appreciate it, internet people! I could be hacking terminals right now! Or breezing past guards while cloaked, unloading fearsome amounts of firepower or slicing enemies up with foot-long arm blades!

The most important aspect of my first impressions of DEHR that I can share is that its gameplay mechanics work extremely well. If  you’ve seen one of the multiple gameplay trailers then you already know that as Adam Jensen, Sarif’s augmented security chief and all-round lethal weapon, you can pick from a variety of combat approaches: aggressive, stealthy or adaptive.

Go quiet or bring the noise, it’s your choice as you determine the best way to outfight or outfox your enemies and complete your objective. Thus far I have experimented mainly with being stealthy and DEHR has rewarded me with a tense and gratifying gaming experience that is reminiscent of the best elements of the Hitman series and Tenchu (that’s going back a bit!)

Stalking from cover to cover is smooth and fluid, as a simple holding of the right mouse button allows you to stick to walls and objects like glue while positioning yourself for a stealth takedown or a surprise barrage of fire. Firefights are not that impressive visually but they work perfectly well and there’s a certain satisfaction in using your surroundings well to outfight your foes. Despite Adam’s sleek and shiny array of augments, you will die very quickly if you don’t respect the rules of taking cover.

This leads us nicely to the augment system itself. As the game progresses, Adam earns experience points and cash credits. While the creds can be used to buy a multitude of essential supplies, xp is useful for one thing only: lovely, lovely augments.

To me, an upgrade customization system has been well designed if you agonize over every choice you make. By this measure, DEHR’s system is a work of art. Every time I gain enough for a new augment, I’m deliberating for at least a good few minutes on what technological wonder tool I should take.

From standard things like improved energy and damage reduction to more esoteric items such as an incredible personal cloaking device, every augment seems like a vital investment. DEHR really does give you the tools to suit your preferred playstyle. As you progress, you can turn yourself into a deadly ghost, an unstoppable combat juggernaut or any shade in between.

So, the gameplay works but what about the meat that surrounds the bones of DEHR? Well, I’m not going to give any spoilers but what I will say is that the story is compelling and extremely well told. DEHR already has my vote for the “best intro of the year” award, as the process of Adam’s reconstruction is utterly gripping.

Mass Effect style dialogue response wheel guides you through each conversation in-game. While this may not be to everyone’s tastes, in DEHR’s case it seems balanced and nuanced so far, allowing you to pick subtle shades of grey as well as stark black and white when it comes to your chosen moral path. For example, early on you are asked to help a fellow Sarif employee break free of a blackmailing attempt, as he has been stealing company pharmaceuticals to help needy people. Moral conundrums abound in DEHR, giving the player plenty of scope to enjoy picking their way through them.

The environments of DEHR are hauntingly beautiful as well. While I’m sure the best is yet to come, so far I’m being almost assaulted by a million different little details that clamour for attention: posters, advertising billboards, even the memo’s and newspapers cluttering people’s desks, everything makes me want to stop and examine it, despite a yearning to delve further into the plot.

My one gripe is that the faces and lip-synching of the game’s characters are relatively basic. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by L.A Noire, but DEHR’s faces simply don’t to do the quality of the dialogue or voice acting justice. Never mind, it’s bearable and not game-breaking at all.

As well as looking great, DEHR sounds incredible too. As mentioned, the voice acting is varied and engaging, but the background music perfectly complements the cool cyberpunk future that Adam inhabits. Here’s a link to the music score. Click it, enjoy it, thank me later.

Overall, I cannot sing the praises of Deus Ex: Human Revolution enough. Developer Eidos Montreal have forged a bold, beautiful and strikingly different kind of game that excels in all aspects. Combat is impressive enough to satisfy FPS fans, stealthers will have a ball and RPG addicts will likely be completely drawn into the story. There’s something for everyone here, something very special indeed.

I will return for a full analytical review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution once I’ve finished my first playthrough. The first of many, no doubt. Now, time for me to get back to another tough choice regarding augments!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is now available worldwide for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Was Charlie Chaplin a Romany Gypsy?

Charlie Chaplin, the enigmatic star of silent movies, is recognised worldwide and remains a household name to this day.

Who was Charlie Chaplin?

Most remember Chaplin for his iconic character The Little Tramp – a scruffy moustached figure who unwittingly falls into all manner of disastrous situations.

However, the real Charlie Chaplin was a cut a different figure entirely. From an early life on the streets of London plagued with hardship and poverty, Chaplin’s talents for entertainment and performance catapulted him to worldwide fame.

In later life, he received a knighthood and even dabbled in politics, but found himself increasingly surrounded by controversies both in his personal and professional life, even being banned from entering the USA due to his outspoken political views.

Discovering Charlie Chaplin’s Origins

However, throughout all this time, Chaplin’s origins remained somewhat mysterious. Whilst it’s true that he grew up poor in the late Victorian London, even entering the workhouse at a young age, his birth certificate has never been found.

In 1991, long after Charlie Chaplin’s death, his daughter, Victoria Chaplin, inherited her father’s old bureau after the death of her mother. Within it, in a locked drawer, lay the secret about Chaplin’s heritage that had remained hidden for most of his life.

After enlisting the help of a locksmith, Victoria was finally able to open the drawer and discover a letter addressed to her father from an elderly gentleman named Jack Hill, informing the then aged Chaplin that he was born on the Black Patch in Smethwick near Birmingham.

Romany Gypsies at The Black Patch Park in Smethwick

Born to a Romany Gypsy Queen

Jack Hill claimed Chaplin was born in a Gypsy caravan – and a good one, belonging to a Gypsy queen. He goes on to explain how Chaplin’s grandfather belonged to a circus which moved around, with Chaplin’s mother eventually settling in London.

So why did Chaplin keep this secret from his family in his last years?

Perhaps because he didn’t want to be attached to the stigma surrounding the Romany Gypsy community at the time, having faced such controversy in his earlier life as it was.

Regardless, his children have embraced the heritage. Chaplin’s son, Michael Chaplin, unveiled a memorial to the Romany Gypsy community at the Black Patch, in a high-profile acknowledgment of his ancestry and validation of the rumours.

Charlie Chaplin in the Peaky Blinders

More recently, Chaplin’s ancestry entered popular culture again, with a feature in the popular TV show, Peaky Blinders, with a mention from the protagonist Tommy Shelby about Chaplin’s Gypsy heritage and links to the Black Patch.

What was Charlie Chaplin’s nationality?

British

Was Charlie Chaplin a Romany Gypsy?

According to a letter received by Charlie and uncovered by his daughter after his death, Chaplin was born in a Gypsy caravan to a renowned Gypsy Queen.

What episode of Peaky Blinders does Charlie Chaplin appear in?

Series 2, epidsode 5.

So What The Hell is This Minecraft all About Then?

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Since its release last month, the efforts of the one-man developer Markus “Notch” Persson have been drawing all sorts of attention, the majority of it very favourable indeed. Not only have the number of Minecraft players rocketed since its launch, but the game’s media coverage has spread far and wide, recently attracting an ongoing series of comic strips from Penny Arcade. This Inception inspired fan-made video provides an exciting intro to the world of Minecraft: Evolution of Minecraft 2009-2019 But why is the game supposedly so addictive? What is all the fuss about? Broken down to basics, Minecraft places you in a first-person perspective of a vast sandbox world of charmingly retro and rudimentary graphics. Blocky mountains, rivers, fields and forests surround you, all untouched, all ready to be shaped. The beauty of Minecraft doesn’t lie in the individual look and feel of its mass of blocks, it lies in the near unlimited potential for what those blocks can become. You, the player, have the tools, the raw materials and the scope to build as magnificently as your imagination allows you. Don’t believe me? Check out some of these gigantic labours of love: The aim of the game, as the title suggests, is to mine stuff and then craft more useful stuff with it. You start small, fashioning basic tools out of wood, then work up to more impressive projects such as building yourself a house or even your own city, until eventually you can move mountains and divert rivers. Here’s the kicker though. You’re only safe during the day, when night falls, all hell breaks loose. Minecraft Zombie While you remain free to build your towering constructions during the daylight hours, the night holds a host of terrors as spiders, zombies and skeletons scuttle across the land, hell-bent on tearing down your lovingly built architectural wonders and using your corpse as a welcome mat to nightmare-ville. So what’s a minecrafter to do? Well you craft weapons and traps of course. Using your crafting skills and your environment to your advantage, you have to fight off the nightly waves of undead horrors in order to live to see the sunrise. Then it’s back to mining and crafting again the next morning. Don’t plan on getting any sleep, because neither you nor your character will have the time! It sounds so simple, chop stuff up, build a house, craft a sword, hit the baddies till they die from it. Using graphics that predate the days of Doom and its ilk should be laughable in an age of visual delights such as Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII and Gran Tourismo 5, shouldn’t it? No, of course it shouldn’t. One-man-band Markus Persson has recognised one of the fundamental formulaic principles of creating a “good” game that so many huge developers have a criminal tendency to forget: Gameplay > Graphics. The heavy focus on creativity is the critical strength of the game. The best part is, it’s not even finished yet. The game has come a long way since we first tested it in Alpha mode back in September 2010 while Persson himself continued to tinker and craft and shape the game further still. Now the only thing minecraft needs to worry about is roadblocks..