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    Character Profile: Lara Croft

    TheMommyGamersRiseoftheTombRaider20Year

    Here’s a riddle for you. What do you get if you combined the X chromosome from Indiana Jones (before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, of course) with the X chromosome from Bruce Wayne, toss them in a blender with a just a dash of Annie Oakley, and finally pour the whole thing into the mold of a British supermodel? If you guessed Lara Croft, the star of Eidos Interactive’s insanely popular Tomb Raider franchise, you’d be absolutely right. For the past two decades, fans have joined Lara on her globetrotting adventures in video games, comic books, and even two major motion pictures, with a third on the way.

    From the heights of the Himalayas to the depths of Atlantis, facing off against deities and doppelgangers or tigers and T-Rexes, Lara Croft has “been there” and “done that”.  Gamers were first introduced to Croft’s world back in 1996, when video game publisher Eidos reached out to her with the tantalizing offer of bringing her various adventures to life as a video game, allowing gamers the opportunity to walk (and run and jump) miles in her shoes. The first Tomb Raider hit store shelves and, before long, fans couldn’t get enough of Lara Croft.  

    One game wasn’t enough to stave off gamers’ thirst for adventure and their craving for this new heroine. So Croft and Eidos expanded their deal, leading to the release of a second Tomb Raider game … and a third … and a fourth. Games started popping up everywhere,  from PC to Mac, Dreamcast to PlayStation, Game Boy to PSP, PS3 to Xbox 360, and even now on iOS to Android and PlayStation 4 to Xbox One … if there’s been a gaming platform within the past twenty years, Lara Croft probably been on it.

    So what’s a girl to do after she’s conquered the digital world? Why, go after the entertainment world, of course. Just a couple of years after the success of the first Tomb Raider game, Hollywood started to take an interest in Lara Croft and her international exploits.  Of course, with Croft keeping herself busy travelling the world in search of rare artifacts, it’s not like she could take time out of her busy agenda to work around a film’s shooting schedule.  So who would filmmakers pick to fill Lara’s … er … holsters?  

    None other than Angelina Jolie.  Jolie’s look and attitude brought Lara to life on the big screen, not once but twice, in Paramount’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 and the sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003.  Fans seemed to enjoy the live action take on Lara Croft, as both movies earned sizeable box office receipts. Even now, Warner Bros. and MGM have green lit a new Tomb Raider feature film reboot for 2018, with Alicia Vikander taking over the role of the intrepid adventurer.

    After twenty years, Lara Croft still inspires people to overcome obstacles, to face their fears, to become better and stronger in the face of adversity, and to believe that they can accomplish anything. And Lara’s story is far from over.  With her new movie in the works, an upcoming PlayStation 4 release of The Rise of the Tomb Raider, and the ongoing comic book series from Dark Horse Comics, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be The Year of the Tomb Raider. And the most famous spelunker in video game history shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

     

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    What Is It with This Pokemon Go Thing Anyway?

    pokeGOlogoYou’ve been hearing about it ad nauseum, and you’re shaking your head at the bands of kids trespassing on your property in search of the Pokemon that’s apparently hiding in your backyard. You put up this meme:

    pokemongo

    Nevertheless, at least half the people walking down the street with their phones are clearly not 10, either. Some of us even have jobs. So what is the deal with Pokemon Go? Why do you hate it so much? Why does it feel so invasive? Why is everyone playing it in inappropriate places? Well, before you out yourself as the grumpy old person yelling at kids to get off your lawn, here’s what you need to know:

    

The Basics

    pokemonteams

    The teams are Valor (red – discipline), Instinct (yellow – intuition, and Mystic (blue – intellect). Players can choose a team at Level 5.

    Pokemon Go is a free app available for smartphones, an “augmented reality” game from The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc. This basically means that it puts virtual gameplay onto a map of the real world, and players interact with both. Pokemon Go is designed to get people out and about, to make them happier and healthier. It does this by generating virtual “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokemon stands for), well known from previous Pokemon games and thus already favorites with fans, that appear on the phone screen.

    Players catch Pokemon with a flick of the wrist – throwing a virtual Pokeball toward the target. 

In addition to roaming Pokemon, the game also includes PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. PokeStops are basically stationary rings that you can spin to get free items such as Pokeballs, which are used to catch Pokemon, along with eggs, which hold Pokemon inside and can be hatched if you do a certain amount of walking, and other enhancements. Gyms are places where players can battle each other. If you win a battle, you can take over the gym.

    Playing Pokemon Go is easy. Open the app, and the GPS finds your location. Your screen shows you which Pokemon are close, and where nearby PokeStops and Gyms are located. Start walking. You’ll find Pokemon along the way. At level 5, you can join one of three teams – Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). Think of it as being sorted into a house at Hogwarts – your identification becomes tied in with these groups.

    

The Good

    artinst

    The Art Institute of Chicago posted a controversial Facebook post this week encouraging visitors to come find Pokemon inside – in this case, in front of its iconic Chagall windows.

    Pokemon Go is a game of discovery. It makes people get out and explore their neighborhoods, and it encourages socializing. My son has actually been getting off the couch this summer and going outside. Last night I took him to Ravinia Festival for an outdoor musical concert, and he talked to at least ten people about the game. We went to the zoo, where I’ve been volunteering every other week 20 years, and I didn’t recognize half the PokeStops because they were at statues and landmarks I’ve ignored in all my visits there. I had no idea they existed. In my hometown, I discovered a war memorial I must have passed 100 times, and never noticed before.

    Anecdotes already abound about how Pokemon is helping people’s mental health. And it’s giving local businesses a boost. Because Pokemon Go is so popular, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to utilize it for their own purposes and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales from people coming in the door to find Pokemon. Pet shelters and museums and retailers are advertising the presence of Pokemon to get people in the door. (If you are looking for ways to leverage the popularity of the game, I recommend making an in-app purchase; spend $1 – 100 PokeCoins- and set off a lure, which will attract Pokemon and customers for 30 minutes after you activate it.) Also, T-Mobile just announced that data used to play Pokemon Go will not count towards its users’ data allowance.

    Ultimately, the addictive appeal for Pokemon can be a good thing. The goal of hatching eggs is already making more inroads than my Fitbit Alta in getting me to walk places, and I’ve never seen my son so excited to go places that might have Pokemon. The zoo! The botanic garden! The hardware store down the street, which has a gym! And there will be more ways for small businesses to leverage the game’s popularity, too, such as sponsorships that will turn them into portals.

    The Bad

    Screenshot_2016-07-14-23-02-49

    Here’s a screenshot of my phone, with a promotion that showed up on my feed from Binny’s Beverage Depot.

    As with any other engrossing app, Pokemon Go has people looking down at their phones instead of ahead. This can cause problems, because people not paying attention can cause accidents and such (although that traffic accident supposedly caused by someone playing the game is totally false, bad things are happening to players who are careless or who are putting themselves in danger). In addition, Pokemon tend to spawn everywhere, even places that aren’t necessarily friendly to the public, and Gyms and PokeStops can be located in unexpected locations.

    This is because, by the way, Niantic put out a previous game called Ingress, in which users submitted “portals” to be included on the virtual map that’s now basically being used for Pokemon Go. There are rules for these submissions, so PokeStops and Gyms do not interfere with private property, emergency services, or schools. Not all of these locations are completely current because things change so often in the real world, which is why players may end up in locations that don’t truly exist anymore (Please note: you can now submit requests to create portals in the game).

    There are other issues (for example, click here for the word on the game’s overly broad permissions ask). Different Pokemon are found in different locations, and at different times of day. So it can very well be dangerous for some people to play. I know a white man who feels uncomfortable loitering around parks where women and children are clustered. I’ve heard stories of black men who feel the game is too dangerous for them to enjoy, given the present climate. I’ve heard tales from physically disabled people who literally cannot access places where where Pokemon are found. It is not a perfect situation.

    

The Ugly

    Screenshot_2016-07-15-09-04-32

    A game screen, with map. The blue rings at the bottom are a PokeStop; click on it, and a photo of the landmark appears. You spin it to  get items. The darker blue landmark in the distance is a Gym, and it’s blue because right now it’s controlled by Team Mystic. On the bottom right of the screen, the white box tells you which Pokemon are near. If you click on a Pokemon as it appears, the screen changes to a camera image of what’s in front of you, with Pokemon superimposed and a PokeBall ready to “throw.” I caught a Rattata on my bed this morning…

    In the nine or so days that the game has been available, there’s been been a lot of buzz on the Internet, and much of it is bad. Any obsession, enjoyed without rules and not in moderation, can of course be dangerous, and there is etiquette to be learned and followed. The game is new, and people haven’t thought about the consequences of their actions yet (most of them have never heard of Ingress, so they don’t have experience with a game of this type). On the other hand, Pokemon Go gamers have been called many bad names by people who don’t understand the game’s appeal. The Internet is judgey, as usual. The comments sections should not be read.

    If Pokemon Go players are encroaching on your space, you have every right to say something. If they are breaking rules by sneaking in someplace that requires paid admission, that’s wrong. It’s true that there are currently PokeStops in some places that might be viewed as inappropriate – those places were put on the map by previous Ingress players and are only now being deemed offensive because of the number of people playing Pokemon Go. No one even noticed them before. In the past, however, Niantic (once a part of Google) has been responsive about removing them. The people who placed portals in these places most likely had good intentions – bringing people in, for example. It doesn’t mean players are being forced to use those stops, though. As more people play, and as everyone understands the problems of having Pokestops in these locations, things will change.

    But in my experience, it is both possible to stay out of the way of people while I’m playing Pokemon Go, and also be tolerant of people who are, after all, simply enjoying a fun little game that is getting them out and about. Just give players a little time to adjust. I’ll also remind the naysayers that the novelty will wear off – and although there will be updates and changes (an announcement about trading and other improvements has already been made), Pokemon Go – which is, after all, a fun game but not a really great one – will be much less appealing in the winter. At least, here in Chicago. If you live in Florida, you may be out of luck.

    If some kids do cross your lawn in search of Pokemon, feel free to channel the spirit of the game. Instead of yelling at them, why not ask them about it and make some new friends?

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    Yaya Han’s new cosplay fabric collection is out!

    The Yaya Han Collection Fabric (2)

    This past weekend at C2E2 in Chicago, I saw probably more costumes than I ever remember seeing at the comic book convention. Now, I’m no cosplayer myself (I mean, I can technically sew…). However, I can certainly appreciate the artistry that goes into creating costumes, and I’ve often marveled at how lovingly crafted they are. And yes, I’ve wondered, where did she get that material and how does he go to the bathroom?

    P1040532

    Cosplayer extraordinaire Yaya Han, speaking yesterday at C2E2 about her new line of cosplay fabrics, says she was “honored and flattered” to be tapped to help out with the fabric line.

    So, earlier this year when I heard about Yaya Han’s line of cosplay fabric, I was interested in an academic and abstract way. I very well might have gotten more into cosplay when I was younger if I knew at all where to find stuff (I used to dress up as Deanna Troi because it required one low-cut flared dress and one Starfleet logo communicator pin). And I like pretty fashion things.

    Given the coalescing of mainstream culture and cosplay represented by my very anecdotal observation about the proliferation of costumes at C2E2, this feels like an idea whose time has come.

    The Yaya Han collection, an exclusive line created by CosplayFabrics.com with input from Han and available only at JoAnn Fabrics stores and joann.com, officially debuted on Friday. In fact, I hear that some people at C2E2 were already wearing costumes made from them. I had a chance to experience the fabrics for myself on the show floor; now, I have no idea what constitutes great cosplay fabric, but I can tell you many of them do stretch in four different directions as advertised and there are some really lovely colors and patterns.

    “Sourcing fabrics has been an intricate part of cosplay,” Han said at her press conference, noting that in the past, cosplay has often consisted of dyeing, manipulating, and digging deep in terms of research. Finding the very materials needed was a huge part of the process. So, streamlining this part of it helps cosplayers in a big way: “This puts the focus on creativity, instead of running around finding things,” she said.

    Yaya Han cosplay fabrics

    A rep demonstrates the four-way stretch capability of one of the fabrics on the show floor.

    The fabrics are now easily accessible by everyone within driving distance of a Jo-Ann Fabrics store, which is huge. Previously, specialty fabrics like these had to be purchased online, which made it impossible for cosplayers to determine quality, flexibility, breathability, durability, texture, and accurate color-matching. In addition to accessibility, Han believes it’s important to offer a variety of materials and colors in different designs for different genres, from anime and steampunk to fantasy and superhero. And naturally, comfort is a big deal too.

    It sounds like Han and CosplayFabrics.com are already looking forward to expanding the line, which currently consists of 75 different fabrics across 16 different categories. They include four-way stretch spandex, four-way jumbo spandex, brocade and coutil fabrics. Coatings include foil, leather, and embossed armor plate. So, if demand is high, the Yaya Han collection could be here to stay – and it might get bigger and better.

    For cosplayers, this could represent more than just another step in the right direction. It’s also recognition that cosplaying is an innovative and creative art form, one that’s becoming more popular, more visible, and more mainstream. “The most wonderful thing here is that somebody noticed us little cosplayers,” Han said.

    CosplayFabrics.com appears to be open to feedback on how to improve the collection, once everyone has had a chance to actually experience the materials in real life, so go check it out at your local store and see what you think. I’d be interested in hearing input from actual cosplayers as to how the fabrics really work.

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

    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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    Live Recording of Episode 115

    Recording Episode 115

    You have been formally invited to join Carrie, Marcia and Desirai as they record Episode 115 of The Mommy Gamers Podcast! Not only do you get to watch us as we do our live streamed video recording of the podcast via Twitch, you also get the pleasure of chatting with others in the chat room as we record…and asking us questions during our live Q & A session.

    We would highly recommend subscribing to The Mommy Gamers Twitch Channel here: http://www.twitch.tv/themommygamers

    This way you always know when our show goes live, and while we plan to post one of these each week to remind you about the show, you can never have too many reminders.

    Can’t make the live stream recording?  Fear not!  We post all the videos for you to view on our YouTube channel as well!  You can check out past episodes and other entertaining content there: www.youtube.com/user/TheMommyGamers

    We look forward to chatting with you this Saturday evening!

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    Star Wars Cast Spoils The Force Awakens (Just Kidding)

    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.

    http://nerdist.com/the-star-wars-cast-spoils-the-force-awakens-kind-of/

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    Ride in Mad Max-inspired Uber Vehicles During PAX Prime

    Mad Max vehicle

    The upcoming open-world action game Mad Max from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developed by Avalanche Studios, available Sept. 1, will be bringing The Wasteland to Seattle at PAX Prime, where Uber (just when I thought they couldn’t get any better) will be offering Mad Max game-inspired vehicles for riders to select from in the area. That’s right. I repeat Warner Bros. Interactive Ent. and Avalanche Studios teamed up with Uber and will be offering Mad Max game-inspired vehicles for riders to select from in the area. Not gonna lie, I’m super jealous right now. My husband is an Uber driver and his jaw dropped when I told him about this. Having cupcakes and ice cream delivered is pretty sweet, but this, this is EPIC!

    If you happen to score an Uber ride in one of the Mad Max inspired cars please tweet us some pics @TheMommyGamers. I’ll just have to live vicariously through you.

    Mad Max game Uber vehicle

    Photo Credit: @Swift_sh0t

    Mad Max game Uber vehicle

    Photo Credit: @Swift_sh0t

    What:

    Uber riders will get a chance to ride in vehicles inspired by the Mad Max game at PAX Prime in Seattle from Aug. 28-Sept. 1.

    Who:

    Uber riders at PAX Prime in Seattle

    Where:

    Washington State Convention Center

    When:

    Friday, Aug. 28-Monday, Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. PDT

    About:

    The Mad Max video game introduces an original story set within the universe of Mad Max and features deep car customization that impacts its handling, metal-grinding vehicular action and gives players a vast arsenal of mobile weaponry within The Wasteland. Players become Max, the lone warrior who must fight to stay alive by engaging in vicious on-ground fighting, as well as physics-based vehicular combat, against savage factions who are fighting for domination and survival in this gritty, dynamic open-world.

    Pre-order Mad Max and get The Ripper, a fully upgradable Magnum Opus car body by visiting: http://www.madmaxgame.com/buynow/

    Developed by Avalanche Studios, Mad Max will be released on Sept. 1, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.

    Lays Flavored Chips: Southern Biscuits and Gravy + West Coast Truffle Fries

    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!

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