All posts by Michelle Ealey

Michelle Ealey is a freelance writer and part-time science teacher. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and television, and she’s been playing all sorts of games since she was a kid. Her work has appeared on various places on the internet, including her own site (http://michelleealey.me/). You can follow her on Twitter (@michelleealey) at your own risk.

What I Saw at PAX East 2013: Female Protagonists!

Pax east logo

At PAX East 2012, the only game I played with a female character was Borderlands 2. I did play a couple of games with a first-person POV with no emphasis on gender, but I encountered a serious lack of female characters last year. This year, I found six games with female leads, and three games with the option of playing female characters.
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A Conversation with Shawn Trautman, Creator of Cherry Creek

Note: This article contains details of Cherry Creek; the game is short, and you can play it here.

Over the past year, some game designers have created games with the focus on personal stories (dys4ia and Lim) and on ordinary experiences (Cart Life and I Get This Call Every Day). New tools are making it possible for more people to produce games that deal with issues and explore topics not covered in typical AAA fare. Taking advantage of these new tools is Shawn Trautman; he has made a game about an experience many wish they never have to deal with—being homeless. Cherry Creek, his new Twine game, places the player in the shoes of a homeless person trying to get some sleep. Continue reading

Kickstart This – Delver’s Drop

At PAX Prime 2012, I played a short demo of Delver’s Drop. At that time, the demo was a few rooms of a dungeon, but I was impressed with the fluid movement and physics-based interactions between the character and the environment. When the character hit an enemy with a sword, both were knocked in opposite directions based on their physical properties. The top-down 2D action RPG is the first game from Pixelscopic, and the company has a Kickstarter to help them finish the game. Continue reading

Long Live the Queen – Review (PC)

Long Live the Queen title screen

When I was younger, many of the stories I was told were about princesses. According to those stories, princesses needed rescuing, attended lavish balls wearing elegant dresses, and had to get the guy in order to live happily ever after. None of the stories I was told as a child dealt with the abilities required to rule a kingdom, but Long Live the Queen does. Long Live the Queen is about a princess who must learn how to survive numerous threats and live to be crowned queen.

Elodie is the crown princess of Nova, a land whose influence and power have waned over the years. After her mother’s death, Elodie is taken out of school and brought home to the castle. Her father, Joslyn, is king, but in Nova the queen is the one in charge, so the crown is passed from mother to daughter. Elodie has 40 weeks to her 15th birthday, the day of her coronation. During this time, she has to learn skills that will allow her to rule wisely and will help her survive to her coronation. Many want Elodie to fail, and she is vulnerable during this time before her coronation. Nova has enemies outside and inside its borders, and Elodie never knows when a simple gift could be from an assassin.

Long Live the Queen is a life simulation game from Hanako Games. You are in charge of Elodie’s decisions. She has two classes a week, one in the morning and one in the afternoon; she can participate in one activity on the weekends. At the beginning of the game, Elodie is depressed because she mourns her mother. Her moods impact how fast she can learn certain skills. For example, being depressed gives her a bonus to Expression skills but a penalty to Royal Demeanor skills. Her mood changes depending on what activities you select for her to do on the weekends, and events can impact her mood as well, so you want to keep track of her emotions. If you select a skill and her mood penalizes the progress, then you would have wasted a week.

Mood screen in Long Live the Queen

You shouldn’t select skills for Elodie to learn randomly. Each decision you make influences the story. If you have her learn skills in certain areas, then she might not survive a trip to a friend’s birthday party, attending a tournament, or opening a gift. If Elodie is not skilled in Court Manners, she might inadvertently accept a man’s proposal of marriage. Every choice opens different options and closes others, so a lot of strategy is needed to navigate the intrigue. I ended up taking notes. When Elodie succeeds or fails, bubbles appear to let you know what skills were necessary for an event. The feedback is essential. I would write down what skills were connected to what events so I could improve the next time I played.

I started over many times. Why? Because there are many ways Elodie can die. Until the major events are revealed, a lot of trial and error is required. I got to week 36, confident that I was going to win, but my choices weren’t good enough, and Elodie died again. I eagerly started another game. Not only did I want to figure out how to win, I liked Elodie. She thought she had years before she would have to be queen; she is reluctant, but she understands she has a duty to fulfill. Elodie is in transition from child to adult; she still wants to play with her toys and sneak out of the castle, but she knows spending time at court is a necessary part of her royal education. Willful, playful, sad, angry—Elodie is a fully realized individual, a person I wanted to see succeed and reach her coronation day.

Elodie's Coronet outfit

Long Live the Queen surprised me by how much planning and strategy is essential to get Elodie to her coronation day. Equal parts frustrating and satisfying, the game forces you to seriously consider and contemplate each decision. Save often and take plenty of notes, so Elodie can reach her 15th birthday and hear the Novan people cheer, “Long live the Queen!”

Note: Hanako Games provided a review copy

Blaming [INSERT CHOICE OF ENTERTAINMENT HERE] Solves Nothing

After the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians, the NRA, and others started pointing fingers at the violence in entertainment, especially video games. We have to accept that we do live in a violent culture, and we can’t deny that consuming entertainment doesn’t have an impact on children. However, we have to be careful of focusing just on products of the entertainment industry. Many influences shape a child’s life, and if we ignore all of the factors, then we are not doing enough to stop the cycle.

During my time in the classroom, I’ve overheard countless conversations between students about the horror films they saw over the weekend, with or without their parent’s knowledge. Many students would look at me with confused expressions when I asked them to stop describing how a killer ripped off limbs, gutted a victim, or ate a body part. I’ve had to send students to the office because they were wearing a T-shirt celebrating Scarface; I’ve seen Al Pacino holding a gun in a variety of styles. Many students, both boys and girls, could recite lines from the film and reenact the famous last scene. Many saw the culminating scene in the Brian De Palma film as a glorious and awesome way to die; it’s a goal, not a punishment. I don’t know if the 1983 film is as popular with teens across the nation, but in my area of Southern California, it was basically required viewing.

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