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    J.K. Rowling Makes Missteps, But I Still Heart Harry Potter

    Thoughts on Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America”

    pottermagicnaNot too long ago I joined my very first Harry Potter-based fan group, a Facebook group called Platform 9 3/4 (for those of you who care, I was sorted into Hufflepuff). As a result, my feed is full of Potter-related memes these days – everything from silly jokes to tributes to Alan Rickman, and I’m part of a community of passionate fans. I was as excited as anyone to hear about J.K. Rowling’s release of information, in four parts this past week, regarding North American wizards. It comes in anticipation of the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a movie trilogy slated to begin later this year. The movie series is set in historical New York.

    As you may know, the very first installment of “History of Magic in North America” (which, by the way, does not at all mention Mexico or Canada), titled “Fourteenth Century-Seventeenth Century,” caused an uproar almost as soon as it showed up on Pottermore, the official Harry Potter website. Unfortunately, J.K. Rowling made some mistakes here. The most obvious one for me, as a non-Native American, was the way she identified the whole population of indigenous people as one big culture. There are other issues, such as her treatment of the legend of the “skin walkers,” a distinctly Navajo tradition that she says has a basis in fact because they are actually Animagi.

    Basically, her blunders in this piece can be summed up to generalization and appropriation. She takes a non-mystical culture and claims it for her magical Potter world. She’s guilty of treating Native Americans the way that most stereotypes in literature and other forms of media have done for hundreds of years. (You can read more about this on the Native Appropriations blog and at National Geographic).

    I’ve been privy to some discussion about this piece through Platform 9 3/4, and the general consensus of people who don’t get where I’m coming from is this: “It’s only fiction. What’s the big deal?” Coming from people who’ve invested so much time, energy, and emotion into the Potterverse, this is a bit ironic. The problem is that stories have power, and they educate just as much as non-fiction does – maybe more, considering how many people read Rowling’s stories. So many fans missed the whole point of the criticism because they’ve been hearing this same sort of thing and seeing misrepresentation all their lives. They didn’t even notice that the piece was problematic. THAT is the “big deal.” That we don’t know our history, and we accept the homogenization of an entire culture without questioning it at all. If you don’t think this has real-world ramifications, check out the support base of one Donald Trump. The Mary Sue explains the whole controversy better here.

    ilvermornyI believe that Potterheards are bristling at any takedown of Rowling, whom they refer to as “the Queen.” Rowling has historically been sensitive to issues of race and gender. She defends Serena Williams, thinks its great that the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will have a black Hermione, and defends her decision to make Dumbledore gay (selections from her Twitter feed can be found here). But she’s still a white woman who lives in the U.K., not America, with all the privilege that comes with that identification, and she’s human. I don’t think she’s a bad person at all – she just drank the Kool-Aid, and she shouldn’t have. As the creator of a world loved by so many, I wish she’d done better.

    This isn’t the only error Rowling has made, although it’s the biggest. As a lover of her stories, I have tried to rationalize other (mostly small) Rowling mistakes. For example, snakes don’t blink in real life, and that bit has always bothered me about the first Harry Potter book (see the scene, early in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Harry meets the snake at the zoo). I’ve always explained this away to kids at the zoo where I volunteer by saying that “maybe magical snakes don’t blink.” The most glaring example of this in these four short essays that make up the history of North America appears to be the formation of MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, in 1693. I suppose I’m willing to believe that the wizards influenced the naming of the U.S.A….but the thing is, we were still just colonies all the way up to 1776.

    My criticism doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the rest of the history, which is interesting both in terms of the differences between Rowling’s English world and the American one, and in its own right. It’s clearly a rich source of potential story material. She goes into the witch trials, segregation, even Prohibition. In doing so, she mentions some of the magical creatures of America, such as Sasquatch, and groups of evildoers such as the Scourers – wizarding mercenaries that played a role in the Salem witch trials.

    Rowling clearly tried to incorporate some of the major themes of American history, although she skates a bit over things like slavery (sounds like the Scourers may have been involved here, too), the massacre of her mystical Native Americans, and our wars. She doesn’t even talk about Ilvermorny, the wizarding school, much. I mean, I realize she has to limit the scope just for the sake of brevity, but I’d have liked to know how those issues played out in the wizarding world, and can I get sorted into Ilvermorny or WHAT?

    Overall, I liked delving into the American Harry Potter world. “History of Magic in North America” did what it was supposed to, which is to psyche me up for the release of the “Fantastic Beasts” movie and spark my imagination about what wizarding would be like in my own country. I love the world Rowling has created, and I am glad to be part of a community that’s so fiercely loyal to it. I do hope “the Queen” herself, based on the progressiveness she has shown in public, would challenge herself in the future to do better in understanding and representing marginalized cultures, and so I have no trouble doing the same.

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    Star Wars Cast Spoils The Force Awakens (Just Kidding)

    A NERDIST Fake

    I’m not an obsessed Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the movies and will probably be marathoning through them machete order soon, I just haven’t been waiting at the edge of my seat for this new movie to come out. I haven’t minded that my facebook feed has been flooded with Star Wars memes, light saber profile photos, or even Star Wars branded fruit. What I have minded are all the silly declarations of unfriending and attempted murder over potential spoilers being released. With all that being said I find this NERDIST Fake pretty funny.

    Hot Topics, Movies
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    Lays Flavored Chips: Southern Biscuits and Gravy + West Coast Truffle Fries

    Do us a flavor and vote for your favorite

    Lays Flavored Chips

    If you haven’t heard yet, Lays potato chips does this crazy thing called “Do Us a Flavor” where they ask people to come up with outrageous flavors which are later voted on by the community. In podcast Episode 98: One Armed Ninja we briefly discuss some of these peculiar flavors. In an effort to take things one step further (and gross Marcia out at the same time), John and I decided to make a tasting video of the two flavors we purchased. Said video is featured below. The review itself is about 4 minutes long and the rest is… well, you’ll see. Enjoy!

    Women and the Future of Gaming


    Back in the ’90s, I was a young woman working in the gaming industry – specifically, I was online editor for Electronic Gaming Monthly and a liaison to Gamespot. I faced challenges, of course, but it was fun work. I deeply respected the people (still do) and loved the environment. I truly believed that my bosses weren’t utilizing me to my full potential, but I felt like a bit of a pioneer because I was the first woman on the editorial staff (although we had great female copy editors, graphic artists, and support staff). Even if I only changed a few attitudes, and I hope I did, it was enough for me.

    I was full of optimism as an employee of, then EGM. I hoped, as I played networked Duke Nukem 3D with work friends after hours, for games that didn’t so obviously exclude my point of view. I hoped my supervisor, who apologized for moving me to EGM work because “I know you don’t like games, Helen,” would see how dedicated I was to the cause. I hoped, when I was moved to EGM, that my work – including a much-sought-after interview with Tom Clancy (I made the first media request Red Storm Entertainment ever got) and a feature on game controllers for an EGM annual – would lead my bosses to realize I could be an asset. I hoped I was involved in an industry that was going places – one that defined the future and could show us what was possible in terms of technology, in terms of human development, and in terms of storytelling.

    At this point in time, my involvement with EGM was more like a novelty than anything else. I was insulated in many ways, and the Internet was new. I never got the hate the women in the industry get now. I didn’t receive one single rape or death threat, even though I posted news stories on Gamespot daily. In associating with me, people were overly polite or perhaps unwittingly exclusionary, but no one attacked me. I never had to deal with the “fake geek girl” assumption. At least, not to my face. I’m fairly certain the higher-ups didn’t know what exactly to do with me, and my prospects probably weren’t all that good in the end. Still, I felt comfortable at EGM.

    Ultimately, my career hopes were not realized. I got laid off in late 1997 and moved on, with all my stories about being a girl at a gaming magazine untold. Even then, I still felt optimistic as an industry-watcher when I saw all these smart, savvy women come in to start making games, reporting on games, becoming names in the industry in the way I never did. Progress, I thought. Maybe I’m not really part of it, but it’s awesome.

    I moved on to bigger and better things, but I never forgot my roots. I stayed away from the industry until 2009, when Ziff-Davis, Inc. stopped publishing EGM. This freed me. Within two months, I was writing about games again. For several years after that, I dreamed about getting back into the industry in some more important capacity. I helped with some gaming journalism start-ups in my spare time, wrote reviews and interviews and features of the type I was not able to do at EGM, developed a gaming news-gathering operation, helped produce game preview videos. Et cetera. It felt good to be back.

    However, I’ve discovered something interesting. Over the past year, thanks to a seemingly constant glut of articles alleging harassment, threats, name-calling, and general bad behavior involving the male detractors of women in the industry – along with news of women leaving toxic male-driven gaming environments and my own personal experiences interacting with gamers online – I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want a larger part in the gaming industry any longer.

    If you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few weeks you may have missed all the news about Zoe Quinn. She’s the female developer who has been the target of horrible personal attacks since an ex implied she might have slept with a games journalist who never actually reviewed her game Depression Quest (see image above). Then there’s the controversy surrounding the treatment of feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian of “Tropes vs. Women,” who felt unsafe enough to leave her home after a series of Twitter threats. I’ll refrain from regurgitating all the details of these stories; suffice it to say, they’re ugly, they’re messy, they’re complicated and I just don’t have the energy. But boiled down, it’s pretty simple: gamer boys are being assholes. They’re personally attacking women in disgusting, unacceptable ways. Whatever the truth about Quinn’s personal and private relationships, she doesn’t deserve this level of vitriol. I don’t necessarily agree with Sarkeesian’s critiques or methods, but she doesn’t deserve it either.

    We all know the Internet can be creepy and hateful. But lately, in the gaming area, it’s become more than that. It’s become soul-destroying for women. We’re talking invasions of privacy and threats of violence using the language of rape.  We’re talking misogyny of the highest order. We’re talking about the fact that every time I read about harassment of women in the industry, my hope dies a little more. Sarkeesian and Quinn are trying to improve things in their own ways, yet the gamers attacking them are treating them like enemies that don’t deserve the lowliest of human rights. This isn’t the gaming industry I ever wanted to see. I used to think this would pass. Now I’m not sure we can fix it.

    I imagine there are other women who feel like me. Women who wish to break into the industry, or do an indie project, or just be more visible in the games that they play. They feel like they can’t, because Zoe Quinn isn’t an aberration, unfortunately. She’s a warning. Message received, immature gaming guys of the Internet. You’re going to keep battering us till we give, and some of us will be beaten. And the gaming industry will suffer for it. Already has, probably – there’s likely no way of knowing how many women have been turned off by incidents like these, whether high-profile or low-level. There’s no way of calculating the amount of ideas, plans, innovations, and contributions we’ve lost as a result. I can’t blame women for quitting the fight under these conditions.

    I guess, when I was a gamer girl in the 1990s, I didn’t realize that some of the changes I’d see in my lifetime would take us backward instead of forward. I didn’t anticipate that I’d feel less safe in a gaming environment in 2014 than in 1997. My hope for women in the industry is at a very low ebb, these days.

    But, more importantly, I see that gaming isn’t the future I imagined. Instead of opening up our worlds to new vistas and explorations, the public face of gaming right now defines all those things we ought to have left in the past.

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    Facebook Messenger Is Not The Devil You Think It is


    Ever since I got on this website called Facebook and started sharing in my very own online community, I’ve been very cognizant of what Facebook offers me – for free. I’ve reconnected with high school acquaintances, discovered that my fellow college alumnae have created an amazing network of groups for every topic from race relations to fashion, and met some super-cool people I now consider my friends even though I’ve never met them in person. Like Marcia and Desirai, for example.

    And every time Facebook makes a change, I can hear the multitudes universally condemning Facebook – for no longer showing posts chronologically or changing its privacy rules or what have you. I always roll my eyes because, you know, Facebook is free, and no one is stopping anyone from leaving (unlike Comcast). Honestly, our society requires constant change to keep itself fresh and innovative. Change can be good.

    I guess I’m pretty laid back in general. Stuff like this doesn’t bother me.

    But naturally, I’m concerned about my privacy. When I first got the message on my lovely little Samsung Galaxy S4 that I was going to have to get the Messenger app in order to send messages on Facebook, I was indeed  irritated. I thought it was a bit high-handed of Facebook to make me download a whole new app to just send messages (I had just gotten my Samsung a few months ago after trading up from a phone that would barely show me any of my messages at all, so even getting my FB mail was an upgrade).

    I held out for a while, then got curious and downloaded it. (PRO TIP: Use Facebook through your phone’s web browser if you really, really don’t want to install Messenger. You can access your messages that way.)  Then I uninstalled it, because I was having issues with battery life that started around the same time and wondered if Messenger was the culprit. It wasn’t.

    So I reinstalled it, and guess what. I LIKE IT. I like the little Chat Heads that pop up and show me Desirai just sent me a message. I like its functionality and dependability. I find Messenger pretty seamless overall, and I use my phone for Facebook now more than even my regular computer.

    There have been a lot of complaints about the permissions that Messenger requires. I get it. It sounds like Big Brother. You look at the list, and alarms go off in your head. For like a minute.

    According to the applications manager in my phone, Messenger is allowed to: directly call phone numbers, read phone status and identity, edit my text messages, read my text messages, receive text messages, send SMS messages, take pictures and videos, record audio, find my approximate location through a network, find my precise location through GPS, read my call log, read my contacts, read my contact card, modify or delete the contents of my USB storage, find accounts on the device, read Google service configuration, change network connectivity, download files without notification, get full network access, view Wi-FI connections, run at startup, draw over other apps, control vibration, prevent phone from sleeping, change my audio settings, read sync settings, and install shortcuts.

    Whew. Freak-out time, right? I mean, WTF. All these permissions seem intrusive and risky. Until you think about it. The Facebook help page about Messenger says this: “we use these permissions to run features in the app. Keep in mind that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they’re named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them.”

    That’s important, right there. Every permission that Facebook asks for helps Messenger, you know, operate. It’s what makes Messenger a good app. It gets permission to take photos because how else are you going to send them to your friends? Would you rather a statement pop up whenever you want to send your admiring fans a selfie, asking you for permission to upload and send it out? If you got that EVERY SINGLE TIME you posted a picture using your phone, wouldn’t you at some point choose to bypass the permission question anyway?

    If Messenger doesn’t record audio, then you can’t send voice messages and make voice calls. If Messenger can’t directly call numbers, you can’t call people. If it can’t receive text messages, you can’t add phone numbers to your account. If it can’t read contacts, it can’t figure out if a contact is already in your system and sync them. Here’s a nice article from Fidonerdi that breaks some of this down further: The Truth About The New Facebook Messenger.

    I think what’s gotten lost in all this hoopla about being required to install Messenger and accept its permissions is that it’s a good app, and it works well. So, breathe. It’s all okay. Facebook is not the devil.


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    Lococycle Available for Steam/Xbox 360


    Suffering from post Valentines Day blues? Well we’ve got some news to lift your spirits! Lococycle is now available on Xbox 360 and Steam…for only $10.

    If that wasn’t news enough to get your gears grinding, the folks at Twisted Pixel are also having an awesome contest.


    This custom engineered, one-of-a-kind Xbox 360 is designed to glow like I.R.I.S., the motorcycle star of Lococycle. For a shot at winning, simply purchase Lococycle on Xbox 360 or Xbox One now through February 28th. You can find more details online or on the Xbox dashboard.

    You can also check out our review of Lococycle for the Xbox One here.

    After watching “Morning Joe” I’m switching to decaf…


    After watching a clip from MSNBC’s Morning Joe. (Thanks to the guys at Kotaku“)  I was a little ticked off. Actually I was furious. But before I go off on my rant, here is what  Joe Scarborough said about this young generation…

    [quote] Men in their twenties, who unfortunately I think are weak, and stay at home, and play videogames and are weak, weak, weak and un-marriable! They’re just…there are no good men out there! Other than my son and his friends.[/quote]

    He was referring to the opinion of the apparent shifting of gender roles and women breadwinners. And obviously trying to help his son and his friends get noticed by the ladies. (Thanks for the plug, “Dad”.)

    So let me talk to Mr. Scarborough directly… I know many men out there that are in their twenties that have more physical strength and mental fortitude in their little pinky than you have in your whole body. I of course am talking about the men that protect and serve their country in the armed forces … and most of them enjoy video games. (I know that the women do the same thing in our military and are just as important, but since his statement was about men and not ladies I’m trying to make a point that there are more than just a handful of good men out there)

    I also have a neighbor who is in his early twenties. He works a full time job, goes to college making amazing grades. He also loves to play video games and treats his lady with love and a respect that all women deserve. So where do these people fall in your stereotype?

    Maybe you are just generalizing gamers… not the generation of twenty-somethings. Maybe you didn’t say it, but your tone was almost like you’re implying that anyone that plays video games is weak. Well get your butt out in the real world Joe… you obviously have let fame go to your head.  We are not shut-in’s living in our mom’s and dad’s basements. The gamers I know personally are intelligent passionate and hard working members of society. They are doctors and nurses, coal miners and farmers. True salt of the earth people. I would also like to point out that the average gamer is 36 years old Joe… that’s right thirty six.  Sure, maybe the young men that you see on a day to day basis are weak. But wait a second… How many twenty year olds do you hang out with or know other than your son and his friends and the interns that bring your coffee to you? Don’t try and pigeonhole gamers in a decades old stereotype. Gamers cannot be defined by any other way than their love of games.

    I guess what it all boils down to is something more sad than anything. I imagine it must be hard for you… working in your air conditioned TV studio. I guess working for the media, you really don’t get out much hence the white pasty skin that has to be covered up with a boatload of makeup. You’re fed lines on a teleprompter. So you’re basically told what to say, how to say it… and when to say it. You’re just a puppet on a string for a right wing agenda. Not that I’m saying that is a bad thing… it must be easy for you to accept your fate for the ability to continue to be in the limelight after your career in politics. You did leave politics to help raise your children, right? It’s almost like your teaching your son that mocking something you don’t know anything about makes you look better. Kinda like a bully.

    And we all know what happens to bullies… they always fall from their pedestal.


    [box type=”info”] Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinion or position of The Mommy Gamers.[/box]

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    Ingress Coming Out of Beta



    As I cruised around this morning sipping coffee and off-roading in my mini-van in an effort to hack portals, recharge resonators, and establish links and fields, I thought to myself…”Maybe I have an addiction.”  If none of that last sentence made sense to you, then you probably haven’t heard about Ingress.  Ingress is a near-real time augmented reality massively multiplayer online video game created by Niantic Labs, currently only available for Android devices, but rumored to be coming to Apple’s iOS sometime in 2014.

    I have been part of the beta version of Ingress and was excited to hear that the Beta phase is almost over!  On December 14, 2013, when Ingress’s worldwide 9-week, 39-city global player event, Operation#13MAGNUS concludes, Ingress will exit Beta. To me this means more players, more portals and more fun as the competition between the two opposing factions in the game ramps up to a whole new level.

    Prior to this announcement you needed a friend already in the beta to invite you, and those of us playing were gifted with only a precious few invitations to give out. Now, the invitation code requirement has been dropped, and all Android players can enter into the Beta phase. You can join the worldwide action that is Ingress, by downloading the game on Google Play here.  Join me in strengthening the Resistance, or join the Enlightened…either way, be prepared for a whole lot of fun and a cool new way to game.
    Intel Map_Worldwide

    As a thank you, Niantic Labs is gifting agents like myself who have supported them during the Beta a special one-time badge: The Founder Medal. Any Agents that have reached Level 5 by the Beta end date of December 14, 2013 will get this special achievement.

    If all that news isn’t exciting enough, they have also announced The Ingress Elite V challenge. Starting Monday, November 4th and running through the end of Operation #13MAGNUS on Saturday, December 14th, all Ingress Agents will be eligible to participate in a challenge to identify the five most elite Agents from around the world.  Winning Agents will be flown to California for Top Secret Ingress briefings in February 2014, as well as a special interview with Susanna Moyer from the Ingress Report.  Details on the Ingress Elite V challenge can be found here.

    Operation #13MAGNUS anomaly events have already begun all over the world launching a new chapter in global gameplay.  At the beginning of #13MAGNUS, the XM entity known as Roland Jarvis was shattered into 13 pieces. These shards scattered throughout the world. Now, Enlightened Agents, like myself (Viva La Resistance!) must reunite them in order resurrect their leader. Resistance Agents will be seeking to destroy the shards, and by doing so, rid the world of Roland Jarvis forever. This effort is literally spanning the globe as Agents from the over 200 countries where Ingress is currently being played cooperate to achieve their goal, leading to the final confrontation at the end of #13MAGNUS on December 14, 2013.

    The remaining #13MAGNUS Anomaly events will happen in the following cities:


    San Antonio:

    You can find a full listing of Operation #13MAGNUS dates and cities here

    Ingress Players Getting Ready in Seattle

    Ingress Players Getting Ready in Seattle

    I have had an incredible amount of fun playing Ingress and the communities formed for this game, both locally and globally just add to the fun of this experience. One of my favorite things about Ingress is that the game appeals to all ages, and in my encounters, I’ve found that the players are more my age range.  Let me know in the comments section if you are already part of Ingress and what faction you play for, or if you are planning to join us.

    “Ingress is a game of exploration and discovery in the real world, as well as a way to join in with an amazing global community of Ingress Agents,” said John Hanke , VP in charge of Google’s Niantic Labs. “Our journey over the past year has taken us to live events in more than 80 cities around the world, more than one million downloads of the Ingress app, and more than one million Portals discovered and submitted by Ingress Agents. Two ebooks, a comic book series, and a weekly YouTube show, ‘The Ingress Report’ paint a rich picture of the Ingress world. And Agents have made it their own with more than 2,000 Ingress user communities created on global social networks and countless designs for shirts, badges, jewelry and other objects. More than a dozen Agents have gone so far as to tattoo the Ingress logos on their bodies! A huge thank you to all of the amazing people that have been part of the Ingress journey so far. You have helped make Ingress what it is and have inspired us with so many amazing stories about meeting one another and finding new ways to explore and interact with our world. We can’t wait to see how players continue to make Ingress and the real world a more fun and inspiring place.”

Live now! Click to join the party!