The Mommy Gamers

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Nicole Tanner

    5 Ways Kids Are Like Boss Battles

    Photo Credit: gtrwndr87 via photopin cc

    Photo Credit: gtrwndr87 via photopin cc

    Becoming a parent means many different things to different people. To me, it’s invigorating, frustrating, challenging and fulfilling all at the same time. Recently in a rare moment of quiet when my daughter was taking her afternoon nap, all of my professional writing and editing duties were finished and the dogs had settled down and decided to stop bothering me, I realized the act of raising a child holds a lot of parallels with fighting a boss battle in a game. Here are just a few of those similarities.

    Their arrival is met with both anticipation and trepidation

    Being pregnant is like living in a constant state of anticipation. Besides your own feelings, everyone around you is also eagerly awaiting the arrival of your child – friends, family, strangers who suddenly feel the need to talk to you and touch your belly. In many games, I’m often eagerly awaiting the next boss battle. After defeating the hydra in God of War, I was on the edge of my seat to see which fantastical mythological creature I would be battling next.

    But then at some point, the anticipation turns to trepidation. Games achieve this by giving you glimpses of the creature you’ll be fighting before you actually fight them. To stick with the God of War example, throughout the game, you can see the hulking figure of Ares causing death and destruction in the background, knowing all too well that you’re going to need to be the one to bring him down. There are certain times during pregnancy that can do the same thing. Perhaps you see the blank, exhausted look in the eyes of a mom who is pushing her screaming child in a cart in the grocery store. For me the trepidation started when we set up my daughter’s room. For some reason, the relative permanence of the furniture was a sign that this was really happening. It was that “Uh oh. Here we go” moment.

    They drain your health and energy

    Bosses in games are always powerful, and a direct hit from one can often take you down to half health or less. But besides your in-game health, fighting a well-designed boss can be mentally fatiguing as well. Your alertness and reflexes need to be hyperfocused, and in some games (I’m looking at you Ocarina of Time) the sounds associated with running around with low health are enough to drive you insane. Kids are no different. Even after you successfully navigate the sleep-deprived newborn stage, your kids will have an uncanny ability to catch all sorts of nasty illnesses that will then be passed on to you. Not to mention the mental and physical energy it takes to deal with a willful toddler who insists on doing the exact opposite of what you say and then finds it hilarious when you get angry.

    They require you to make use of all of your skills and abilities

    Often, fighting a boss battle will require you to come out of your gaming comfort zone and put to use some things you may be able to get by the rest of the game without doing. Personally, I’m not very good at using ranged weapons in games, so whenever I would come up against a boss that had some element that required me to use a ranged weapon, I would always groan. Similarly, my daughter has forced me to be extremely patient, more empathetic and markedly less sarcastic than I’ve ever been in my life before.

    Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they change things up

    Kids are notorious for this. A child that has loved to eat a certain kind of food will suddenly refuse to touch it, or a baby that has been peacefully sleeping all night long will start waking you up at 2 a.m. again. I’ve personally found if I feel like I’m cruising along comfortably when it comes to my daughter, then I better watch out because some new challenge is just around the corner. Bosses are the same way. Most traditional bosses have at least three different stages, each of which requires its own strategy to defeat or survive.

    Finishing the battle is both exhausting and fulfilling

    Defeating a particularly challenging boss can leave your in-game character low on health and your hands feeling like those of an arthritic old man, but it’s satisfying all the same. In parenthood, the battle is daily. At the end of each day I often feel like I’ve been running in circles while accomplishing little, but then my daughter will give me a hug and tell me that she loves me, and I know I wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything.

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    Twin Moons by G5 & Cateia Games


    Twin Moons is a “point-and-click” adventure game that was recently released for iOS devices. While this is the first adventure game I’ve tried on my iPhone, I’ve been a fan of the genre on PCs for years, and I found Twin Moons less than impressive and very conventional in a number of ways.

    You play as a character named Jack who has lost his memory. This story set-up has been used so many times, I’m utterly surprised when a new game uses it. Besides being overused, it’s also a copout from telling a really engaging story as it happens. Jack is in search of finding out who he really was and goes to an abandoned location he inexplicably senses he needs to go to. The rest of the story involves Jack finding out multiple things about his past, including his participation in a weird science experiment. The majority of the story is told through flashbacks as you enter different locations. The writing of the dialogue is ok, but it’s nothing to squeal over.

    The gameplay is your standard adventure fare. You explore multiple locations by tapping different areas of the screen, collecting items or solving puzzles needed to unlock new areas. The puzzles in the game are pretty decent, offering enough of a challenge without being impossible to figure out. And if you get stuck on a puzzle, you can skip it. Finding the items you need to advance is a bit more cumbersome. In Twin Moons, you have to backtrack, visiting previous locations once you’ve acquired an item that can help you. This is a standard element of adventure games, but the amount of backtracking you have to do in Twin Moons is excessive. I often found myself backing out of numerous screens to get to the appropriate location.

    This brings up another highly frustrating issue with the game. Some of the puzzles or areas can simply be closed by pushing a red “x.” For others you have to back out of that puzzle or area. This wouldn’t be problematic if it weren’t for the fact that the place you need to tap is right above where your inventory is shown at the bottom of the screen. I found myself constantly selecting inventory items rather than going back, and vice versa. I’ve got really small fingers, so if this was causing a problem for me, I can’t imagine what it would do for someone with an average-sized hand.

    At the end of the day, Twin Moons just didn’t hold my attention. With a clichéd story and clunky controls, it’s difficult to recommend the game when there are so many other adventure games available on iOS.

    Score: 6/10

    The Mommy Gamers were provided codes for this game courtesy of G5 Entertainment.

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    A New Perspective on the Console War


    The internet is a buzz with smack talk about how Sony obliterated Microsoft and that the Xbox One is doomed. This type of banter isn’t new to me. This will be the third console generation to happen while I’ve worked in the game industry, and the talk happens every time, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating or short-sighted.

    Let’s a take step back in history, shall we? This E3 is actually very similar to the E3 following the last console reveals/launches, with the players in different places. Sony, the then market leader, announced an outlandish price for the PS3. Do you remember what it was? $599. That’s right! More expensive than any of this upcoming generation’s consoles will be. During this same time, everyone pretty much considered Nintendo down for the count, because the “gamers” weren’t that interested in what the Wii had to offer. Microsoft was riding high coming out of that of E3. Having already launched the 360, they were able to focus on the games. Now that we’re at the end of that generation, let’s take a look at how it all played out.

    At the start of 2013, worldwide sales of the Wii were close to 100 million. Xbox 360 and PS3 have garnered 77 and 70 million respectively. In the end, Nintendo kicked everyone’s butt because they appealed to a broader audience, and Sony’s ridiculous launch price didn’t put them THAT far behind in the long run.

    Now, we have Microsoft at the highest price point, Sony making competitive pricing decisions, and Nintendo has already launched the Wii U. Microsoft is trying to broaden its audience by releasing a system that does more than just games. Sony is releasing a system targeted squarely at “hardcore gamers,” and Nintendo is revealing its heavy hitting software for the Wii U.

    If previous E3s have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t really predict what’s going to happen because the consoles and their launch prices have very little to do with the long-term success or failure of the system. It’s all about the games, people! The Wii U is seeing a boost in sales after announcing new games in both the Mario and Zelda franchises, as well as a new Mario Kart and a new Super Smash Bros. These are the games that everyone wants from Nintendo. And while the Wii U has been struggling thus far, the promise of these titles should help sales of the system improve.

    Microsoft is taking a different approach with Xbox One, seeing gaming on the same plane as other media, including television, music and movies and wants to make a device that will appeal to people who would like to have all of their entertainment in one place. But, it’s also taking an aggressive approach in the DRM and required connectivity issues that aren’t sitting well with a lot of gamers. Many gamers have said they feel like Microsoft is “abandoning them.” And while that language feels a bit melodramatic to me, it is partially true. The hardcore gaming audience is no longer the primary focus.

    Sony has pulled no punches. They’re releasing a system focused on games. It will have other media features, but the games are the core. They’re also stressing how open the system will be in terms of DRM and online connectivity. Their approach is pleasing to the hardcore crowd, but it doesn’t seem likely to broaden their audience. In the end, that may not matter, but it’s hard to discount if you look at how the Wii shocked everyone.

    Microsoft and Sony are taking two different approaches. How the world responds to those approaches has yet to be seen. In terms of software, Sony is lacking one important element that Nintendo and Microsoft have nailed down – the blockbuster exclusive that will sell systems. Nintendo has the most going for it in this regard because it has more than one (Mario and Zelda), and their brand recognition surpasses any other gaming franchises. Microsoft has Halo, but it won’t be a launch title. Sony doesn’t have one huge franchise that has crazy sales. Rather, they have a number of popular franchises that sell well, but not as much as Mario or Halo. However that doesn’t mean Sony won’t find its gem this generation.

    So to wrap up, no one, and especially not me, can say with any certainty what will happen this time around. It’s way too early to count anyone out of the game, so let’s ease off the trash talk. I know it plays off the us vs. them team mentality, but this isn’t a football game, folks. A loss of any of these console makers results in less competition, which translates into less innovation. A person who truly loves games should not want anyone to fail.

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    In Defense of Games

    Large Arcade Game

    Photo Credit: Giant Video Game by KB35

    Since becoming a mom, I’ve become all too familiar with popular attitudes toward video games. Since I’ve worked in the industry for 10 years, most of my friends and acquaintances were people who played games as well. Unfortunately, very few of those people have kids, and more specifically babies. Because of this and the desperate need for social interaction that involves more than high-pitched baby talk and being vomited on, I’ve entered the world of the Moms’ Groups.

    When meeting these other moms the inevitable question of what I do for work always comes up. “I’m a writer,” I say. “Oh, what do you write about?” they continue. “Video games.” Most of the moms I’ve met think this is totally cool, even if they don’t play games themselves. But then there are the others – the ones who lift their eyebrows and casually decide to talk to someone else, or worse the ones who feel the need to tell you that games are the root of all evil, and that you’re a terrible person and mother for fueling violence into our kids.

    These debates don’t rattle me because I’ve built an arsenal of knowledge to counteract the common misconceptions about games. So, if you ever find yourself needing to defend your hobby, try these myths and facts on for size.

    Myth #1: Games are all violent murder simulators.

    Fact: Despite all of the attention they get, Mature games make up a very small amount of the entire library of games. According to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, in 2010, only 5 percent of all games made were rated M for Mature. The majority of the games made – 55 percent- were rated E for Everyone. Violent games that involve killing other humans are ALWAYS rated M, meaning they’re intended for games aged 17 or older, just like R-rated movies. While E-rated games may contain a little bit of violence, it’s always of the cartoon variety and is no worse than anything you would see in kids programming on television.

    Myth #2: Games make kids violent.

    Fact: While it’s true that excessive exposure to violence in any form can change the brain in subtle ways, no one is going to suddenly become violent from only playing a game. Other factors play a bigger part, such as psychological disorders and social problems. You can also point back to the first myth. Violent games are not intended to be played by kids. The rating system is in place to make sure parents know what their kids are playing.

    Myth #3: Kids can buy M-rated games despite the rating.

    Fact: According to the Federal Trade Commission, from 2006 to the present, game retailers have a done a better job checking for ID than movie theaters, DVD retailers, and music retailers. It’s much easier for kids to get into an R-rated film, or buy an R-rated DVD or Parental Advisory-labeled CD than it is for them to buy an M-rated game.

    Myth #4: Games have no educational value.

    Fact: First of all, there are tons of games out there whose sole purpose is to educate. Games based on popular kids’ franchises like Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street always have an educational component. But even games that aren’t designed to be educational can help kids in a number of ways. They encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and can help to develop hand-eye coordination. They can even help your speed and accuracy when making decisions. Check out this Wall Street Journal article for more.

    Myth #5: Playing games makes kids overweight.

    Fact: Obviously, sitting on the couch all day whether you’re playing games, watching TV, or reading a book will have a detrimental effect on your health if you don’t get enough exercise to balance it out. But now, game makers are now actively making an effort to produce games that promote movement. The Wii started the trend, but Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have followed suit with their Kinect and Move add-ons respectively. Even games that aren’t solely designed to be fitness games can help you get a work out. The Dance Central series is a good example. Games don’t make kids gain weight on their own – a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are the real culprits.

    Armed with these facts, you can educate other moms about the truth about games. Most of them have simply only believed what they hear on the news, which is often very one-sided. As gamers, we can help the industry get the respect it deserves.

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