Adorable 3DS life sim Animal Crossing: New Leaf launched yesterday in North America and will be out this weekend in Europe. Who’s playing? Here’s a thread to share fossil collecting tips and exchange friend codes.
I’ve borrowed a 3DS and have been playing Style Savvy: Trendsetters, the sequel to the 2009 DS game Style Savvy. They are both fashion games that are part business sim: players take on the role of a manager of a fashion boutique and are tasked with picking out items for customers according to their taste and keeping the store stocked. With these two elements, the game combines strategy with creativity in a fresh way. A customer will come in and ask for, say, a bold shirt, and if the player picks a shirt of that taste, the customer will buy it, adding funds to the shop, which the player then use to buy more stock. Customers will often ask for entire outfits in a certain style, or if the player puts together a good outfit on her window mannequin, someone will buy the entire thing. That’s the creative part. The strategy part comes in when the player heads to the buyer’s center to stock up on items. There are a number of brands in different styles, and the player needs to decide which items will best meet her customers’ needs. Trendsetters is different from the original in that it adds men’s fashion, a slightly creepier art style as far as faces are concerned, and 3D.
I enjoy both games a lot, and yet there’s also something deeply limiting about them. Items in the game have a number of different attributes, but the most important are brand and taste, which are related. There’s an edgy brand, a gothic lolita brand, a pop brand, a preppy brand, an athletic brand. So when someone comes in asking for a pop t-shirt, the player just looks for the Mint Sprinkles brand and the customer will be all over it. In the original game, the player had to memorize which brand was which (most were obvious, but some were less so), but Trendsetters adds the ability to search the shop inventory based on any number of factors, including brand and taste, which are separate. In the sequel, if someone asks for bold pants, but the shop doesn’t have anything from the bold brand, AZ USA, something from the edgy brand Stage Dive may do.
So there’s a little more freedom this time around, but it still doesn’t quite capture what’s fun about fashion, which is putting together an outfit with unexpected combinations that somehow totally work, or combining styles that balance each other out. In the world of Style Savvy, only the expected is allowed. Successful outfits generally mean dressing head-to-toe in a specific brand. My favorite kind of outfit is to mix girly dresses with tough boots, jackets, and accessories, but in the game, that would be fashion blasphemy. You can’t mix Stage Dive and Cantata Modo! That’s just ridiculous!
But in the real world of fashion, rules are made to be broken. Traditional rules like “don’t pair brown and black” just don’t hold any more. But I’m a programmer, I know how computers work, and computers need hard and fast rules. A computer can’t judge something as subjective as style (not yet, anyway). So unless a game is purely creative, there are going to be these limitations. I don’t fault Style Savvy for having those limitations; after all, it does quite a good job of making the player feel like a boutique manager within them. But I can’t help wishing that the game gave the player a bit more freedom to mix things up, to create something unexpected.
If you’ve watched TV recently you might have seen this set of commercials promoting the Nintendo 3DS as a device that’s not just for gamers. The commercials show one popular female star (such as Sarah Hyland from Modern Family) playing a 3DS as she relates to some real-life experience and connects it to the game she’s playing. At the end, she says “My name is ______, and I’m not a gamer. But with my 3DS I’m a INSERT WITTY THING HERE.”
It’s pretty clear that handheld video games have taken a huge hit by the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android gaming devices. These devices have managed to bring a whole new demographic of people into the world of games-on-the-go, and Nintendo clearly wants a piece of that success. These commercials are an obvious way to attract women who don’t see themselves as ‘video gamers’, trying to set the stage for the 3DS to be a handheld device that the mass market purchases to play games on.
I roll my eyes when these commercials come on, as there is a whole slew of problems associated with them. The fact that women who have a handheld gaming device in their hands, who are literally playing a game have to say “I’m not a gamer” at the end could be read in a few ways. Is that because women can’t be lumped in with the gamer label? Is that because being a gamer requires you to only play hardcore shooter titles on your Playstation 3? Is it because the types of games that these women are playing aren’t legitimate games? All of the above? Here’s the videos, decide for yourself.
I’ve been playing a lot of Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS recently, and while I think it’s a great game, the character choice is extremely frustrating.
Back in 1992, the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES featured eight characters. Of these, seven were male (Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Koopa, toad, and Yoshi) while only one was female (Peach). Almost two decades on, let’s see how far we’ve come.
Mario Kart 7 has either 16 or 17 characters in total, depending on how you’re counting. Of those, eight are available for selection initially, with the others needing to be unlocked through play. So let’s start with the initial eight. These are, it turns out, exactly the same characters as the SNES original. Absolutely no improvement on gender diversity there, then.
The unlockable characters do show signs of improvement. Here, we have five male characters (Metal Mario, Lakitu, Wiggler, Wario, and Shy Guy) and three female characters (Daisy, Rosalina, and Honey Queen).
The 17th character is the Mii, which I’m not including here since it’s something of an oddball, seeing as it is an out-of-universe character, and one which is player created. I don’t like to play as a Mii, because it feels jarring against the backdrop of all the Mario characters, but the option is there (after you unlock it).
[Note: For characters where the gender isn't immediately obvious, such as Koopa and Wiggler, I'm going off the gender given on Nintendo's official site.]
So, of a total of 16, we have 12 male characters, and 4 female ones. In the 19 years since 1992, we’ve managed to go from 1/8 inclusion, to 1/4 inclusion. It’s something, I suppose, but it’s not anything I’m going to get excited over.
It gets even worse when you look at it a little more closely, though. Of the four female characters, three of them are extremely similar. Peach, Daisy, and Rosalina are all princess archetypes with crowns and dresses, and offer little variety beyond a pallet swap, a different hairstyle, and a different voice actress.
This is hardly a staggering array of diversity we’re being offered here. In fact, I’m tempted to combine all three of these characters together as variations on a theme. For the sake of fairness, I will also combine Mario, Luigi and Metal Mario, as well as Koopa and Lakitu. In total, this gives us 2 different “ways” to play a female character, and 9 different “ways” to play a male character. If you include the Mii, those numbers go up to 3 and 10 respectively.
Things get even worse when you consider that the character selection isn’t just a cosmetic choice. Instead, the characters fall into 5 different weight classes, with each different class having different strengths and weaknesses in speed, acceleration, handling, and so on. Of the 5 classes, only 3 (or 4 if you include the Mii) have female representatives. The two that are missing are the overall most balanced class (available if you include the Mii) and the class that’s best for beginners.
And if you’re only including the default characters and not the unlockable ones, we ladies only have one choice to match our one character. Needless to say, the men have all five choices available right from the beginning.
To me, the saddest part of all this is that Nintendo are meant to be a company that pride themselves on targeting a broader demographic than just 18-35 year old men. Nintendo games are meant to be the sort of games that anyone can play, regardless of age or gender. Come on, Nintendo, you can do better than this.
I played and finished Style Savvy earlier this year, and I kind of loved it. If you’re unfamiliar, it is Nintendo’s aggressively-marketed fashion game for the DS where you play as a stylist and boutique manager. You buy clothes to stock your shop, and help customers find pieces that fit their style and preferences. For example, a customer will say something like, “I’m looking for a skirt that matches my quirky style!” Based on key words (like “quirky”), what the customer is wearing, and sometimes the person’s personality blurb, you can figure out what brand they like, and then it’s just a matter of picking the item they asked for from that brand. Although there are occasionally variations (for example, if a person is wearing all blue, they might buy something that isn’t their favorite brand, if it’s blue), that’s how it works.
Despite how the game (perhaps necessarily) simplifies fashion and style, I quite enjoyed it. There’s a focus on using clothes as a creative outlet and a mode of self-expression, an attitude similar to that of many folks in the style blogosphere. But the game has a glaring problem that cannot be overlooked: your character, and every single one of your customers, all look like this:
While there are a few NPCs that have unique character models (though they are all thin, also), every other character has the exact same size-zero body. Since this game is on the DS, it’s possible that there are technical reasons for this, but that’s not an excuse I accept. And it certainly explains why I don’t need to worry about buying clothes in different sizes. But thinking about it, it becomes kind of disturbing. It’s not just that everyone is thin, it’s that everyone is exactly the same.
But also, fashion is notoriously sizeist and fatphobic. It’s no coincidence that Pepsi’s “slim, attractive” new can debuted at Fashion Week. (Really, the entire “bodies” tag at SocImages is ample evidence.) And yet, while the target audience of the game may be fans and followers of high fashion, the game seems to evoke the sensibilities of the democratized online world of street-fashion blogging, with its emphasis on self-expression and experimentation. But the vast variety of bodies that make up this world are nowhere to be seen in Style Savvy. Where are the women like Stéphanie (whose blog subheading is “Style is not a size but an attitude”), or the Fa(t)shion February crew?
(This is not to say that the fashion blogosphere is a happy shiny fully-inclusive space–far from it. The young and thin bloggers are the most likely to get well-paying advertisers and free designer clothing. But due to the nature of the internet, it is still far less exclusionary than the fashion industry and traditional press. It’s possible to carve out fat-positive and inclusive spaces, like the Fa(t)shion February project.)
Sometimes games present worlds that conflict with our own experiences, breaking our suspension of disbelief, and in that conflict we can tell something about the biases and assumptions that went into creating that world. The world of fashion in Style Savvy is comprised entirely of very thin people, which is simultaneously a discouragingly accurate depiction of high fashion and a completely unrealistic depiction of the broader realm of street fashion. In Style Savvy, clothes and makeup and hairstyles are all that separates one person from another, but in the real world, a person’s body can be, and often is, an intrinsic part of their style. It’s certainly always a consideration–fashion is part sculpture, where different fabrics and cuts can change a person’s proportions: clothing and body work together to create art. The game mouths the ideals of fashion as self-expression, but it falls flat when the actual physical self is taken entirely out of the equation. People are different, and those differences should be celebrated, not erased.
Quite recently Team Ninja revealed that its next Dead or Alive title, subtitled Dimensions and for the upcoming 3DS, will feature a stage from the same developer’s recent Metroid title. This stage would feature a hazard in Ridley, long-time Samus nemesis who rakes a fighter along the walls of the stage, and the end of the video showed Samus in her morph ball mode, lighting up (what I took to her setting off a bomb).
This led to fan speculation that she would appear as a featured fighter in the game. However, according to Eurogamer, this is not to be the case. Samus will remain as a cameo; speculation was fueled because DOA, notorious for its sexually charged depictions of women (as someone who plays few fighters, what I’ve read most about it is its use of jiggle physics–sigh) has featured cross-over fighters in the past, most recently from the Halo series. To say I’m relieved would be a small step.
As I made clear in my view of Team Ninja’s Metroid: Other M, and as our own editor Brinstar has mentioned in conversation a few times, the sexualization of Samus Aran began long before Team Ninja started making their Metroid; they were not responsible for the Zero Suit Samus we have already seen featured in Nintendo’s own fighting series Smash Bros and premiering in Metroid: Zero Mission. The series also has a history of encouraging players to game the system to achieve shorter completion times, which will reveal Samus in various forms of undress, the ‘highest’ reward being that of seeing her in a space bikini. It should be noted, that her Zero Suit form in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is about as scintillating as one would expect from Team Ninja’s DOA series, even if covering more skin.
Therefore, the news, while welcome, only makes me wonder more what plans Nintendo has for this franchise.
N.B. The above plushie was made by DeviantArt user BabyLondonStar.
Nintendo held a press release today, finally releasing lots of juicy tidbits about their new portable. The 3DS is the next installment in the DS line of handhelds, and looks to be an expensive way to get your gaming in on the go. We have been pulling together the details from around the web and have a full guide here for you.
The release date for the 3DS is February 26, 2011 (Japan), March 25, 2011 (Europe) and March 27th, 2011 (U.S).
The 3DS will be priced at $249, making it an expensive option for handheld gamers.
Like its predecessors, the 3DS features two screens. The top screen is a full 3D screen with a resolution of 800 x 240. It does not require 3D glasses in order to see the 3D effect. The bottom screen is a touch screen without 3D, and has a resolution of 320 x 240.
The 3DS has three total cameras, all of which are 0.3 megapixel. Two are located on the outside of the device with the ability to take 3D photos, and one is facing the player on the top of the device with the ability to take 2D photos and video.
In addition to the standard directional pad, there will also be a new analog circle button similar to other home consoles.
It also contains a gyroscope, pedometer, and accelerometer, capable of making games more interactive but potentially more difficult to play for those with disabilities. At this time, it’s not clear whether these features will be required for some games or if they will be able to be toggled off.
The battery will last 3-5 hours while playing 3DS games, and 5-8 hours for regular DS games.
Color options will be either Aqua Blue or Cosmo Black.
Here is a video preview of the 3DS hardware:
The 3DS will be backwards compatible with all DS and DSi games. You will also be able to transfer your digital purchases made on other 3DS’s or DSi devices to the 3DS. There will be extensive anti-piracy technology that will supposedly prevent gamers from using flash cart modifications to pirate 3DS games.
A Virtual Console service will allow players to download old Gameboy and Gameboy Color games via built-in wi-fi. There will also be 3D games available on this service.
The multiplayer features of the 3DS are upgraded from the previous DS models. The device features multiplayer over local network connections or over the internet. Unlike the DS which required a friend code to be exchanged for each game, the 3DS will have only one friend code which will work for all games. The 3DS features sophisticated wi-fi hotspot seeking connectivity, and the ability to passively download and share gaming information with other 3DS players (such as your Mii avatar). These features do have the option to opt-out for those who are uncomfortable with realtime sharing of gaming information.
The 3DS will be capable of playing 3D movies, and Nintendo has worked out deals with Warner Brothers, Disney, and DreamWorks to bring 3D movies to the device.
The 3Ds comes with a wealth of preinstalled and downloadable software.
The first is the ability to view the online status of your friends and know what they’re playing at any time. If a friend is playing the same game as you at the same time, the light at the top of the device will glow orange.
The 3DS features multitasking, in which you can have multiple applications open at the same time.
A full video walkthrough of many of the built in software including photo merging, friend status, augmented reality, and Mii creation is available:
There will be three titles available at launch: Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver, and Pilotwings Resort. There will then be a launch window in which games will be released each Tuesday starting on March 27th and ending on June 7 (coinciding with E3).
The following games will be released in North America during the “launch window”:
Asphal 3D (Ubisoft)
Bust-a-Move Universe (Square Enix)
Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D (Ubisoft)
Crush 3D (Sega)
Dead or Alive Dimensions (Tecmo Koei)
Dual Pen Sport (Namco Bandai)
Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars (LucasArts)
Madden NFL Football (EA Sports)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D (Konami)
Rabbids Travel in Time (Ubisoft)
Rayman 3D (Ubisoft)
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (Capcom)
Ridge Racer 3D (Namco Bandai)
Samurai Warriors Chronicles (Tecmo Koei)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (Atlus)
The Sims 3 (EA)
Super Monkey Ball 3D (Sega
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (Capcom)
Thor: God of Thunder (Sega)
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Shadow Wars (Ubisoft)
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 3D (Ubisoft)
Nintendo is also working on the following first party titles: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Star Fox 64 3D. These games do not have a release date yet. More than 30 3DS games should release by June. Here is a video preview of Zelda:
Will you be buying the 3DS when it launches?
This post has spoilers for the the Metroid series in general and Metroid: Other M in particular.
On the surface, there seemed a lot of promise for Metroid: Other M (and yes, I’ve already given my hand), particularly in the beginning. When giving her rather loquacious introductory thoughts and history, Samus mentions that she felt pressure on her for being the only female soldier, which led to some of her refusal to fall in line (even if sometimes through childish rebellion). As part of a plot, that could become a rather salient point, and one that could certainly be expounded upon more. However, as the game progresses, this fact gets lost in Samus’s attempt to prove herself to Commander Adam Malkovich, her former commanding officer. Of course, this leads to another problem in that the game tries to give the player so much information to process through cutscenes and internal monologue, that it divorces itself from the gameplay.
In a series where plot has been relatively thin and usually guided bit by bit through the beginning and ending of the game, there was a lot that could not be conveyed to the audience except through playing the game. Therefore, when Samus chokes at fighting Ridley, I sensed that they wanted this to happen way back when, during Metroid. After all, this arch-nemesis of Samus’s killed her parents, and her initial encounter with him might well have been devastating. Her canonical third encounter (counting Metroid and Super Metroid, as somehow the Primes don’t count), should not leave her paralyzed to be saved by a black male who then seems to sacrifice himself for her. Placing such a debilitation on Samus from seeing Ridley (already brought back once after she defeated him) at this point in the series speaks to a problem of wanting to flesh out the narrative they may have wanted in a previous incarnation, but is now a bit late.
I say a bit late because players have had time with Samus, who has fallen into a trap I have witnessed occurring a few times (or have witnessed fans worrying about occurring): giving voice to a previously quiet character. In my mind, having played all the games that led up to Other M chronologically, Samus’s quiet manner was due to a stoicism present in a hero on whom much depends. It has been said that the entire Metroid series was heavily influenced by Alien, and in such a case, it is hard not to see a resemblance between Samus Aran and Lieutenant Ripley. However, as Ripley shed more and more of her absolute terror of her alien menace through her own series, Samus never was allowed that emotional depth on-screen. Given her status as a mercenary, and willingness to hunt down this menace, it is hard to read it as a terror she wished to avoid completely, but was resolute on facing–on top of her military background with which to begin, rather than being a pilot caught in a violent situation.
As I said, stoicism.
In my review on GayGamer, I mentioned one of my complaints was the voice acting in Other M. Samus sounds full of ennui, and has a way of draining the emotion and expression from her voice. She sounds like a stereotypical teenager writing in a journal, to be quite frank. The betrayal here is the lack of meshing with a concept of my play. In my playing of Samus, even in Other M, I never get the sense that she is so full of self-doubt or the need of approval from a father figure. There is a dissonance that occurs when suddenly confronted with this in a cutscene, where I am asked to be passive and fed narrative, particularly in a series that had based itself so much on a sense of autonomy expressed through Samus’s exploration of her environment and eventual mastery of it.
In fact, the sense of loneliness that was present in most of my time spent with the series (excepting Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) helped this fact, and the gameplay for Other M has not changed in this regard, with other characters being relegated to cutscenes or disembodied voices. It is the latter that makes the restrictions Samus is willing to take from Commander Malkovich so aggravating on top of it hampering her capabilities. As has oft been cited, while it might make sense to restrict her use of all her suit’s weapon functions (a convention the game uses instead of losing them), as they might not wish to damage portions of the ship they are exploring, having her run through overwhelmingly hot environments without the use of her Varia suit, which protects her from such environmental hazards, is something done purely out of a game convention–one that clashes with both the narrative (why would her suit’s ability to resist heat endanger anyone?) and the sense of who Samus is.
It speaks to a willingness to subjugate and prove herself to Commander Malkovich. While it might make sense in the plot that Team Ninja and Sakamoto (one of the co-creators of the series) created, it does not speak well for the Samus who is primarily a loner. Given how it is presented, it serves as a parable for the double-bind in which women often do find themselves to receive approbation: Samus must work harder for the recognition of her former commanding officer, but her reward is simply being allowed to stay. Her only autonomy comes at the expense of his death.
Given the earlier statements of her feeling out of place due to her female sex in a male-dominated workplace, it could have even worked so that had she communicated to us, the players, her annoyance at jumping through hoops; she could have remained a consistent character. Instead, she is broken into two parts: the one I control and the one who speaks at me, but not to me.
Of course, as our own Brinstar will state, this is a trend that is not wholly out of the blue, nor presented to us just in this title. From the beginning Samus has been a character who has been painted as a myth, with speed run trials being able to de-armor her to a space bikini. This situation only became more annoying as she donned her zero suit in Zero Mission, a retelling of Metroid that added a bit of story after the completion of the original. While she always had an element of being sexualized, she has now continued on to be mired in the bind of a female character who can stop an entire alien parasite race, but is generally portrayed as weak and submissive otherwise.
After day one of E3 2010 there had already been lots of interesting announcements. The major keynotes and press conferences are now over, and it’s been interesting, but also often frustrating, to see directly from the publishers and developers what games–and therefore what audiences–are important.
(Note: Since I am writing about five two-hour-long press conferences, I will not be able to provide transcripts for them, however I will also link to liveblog summaries of them and transcribe relevant portions if possible. I apologize for the inconvenience.)
It seems to have started off with the Daily Star (a site whose writing is one that should be taken with a grain of salt) reporting that Wii Fit had turned a woman ‘from Nintendo to nympho.’ What has resulted are numerous sites reporting this story, continuing in the sensationalism, and blowing up a story which pairs a company known for its family friendly focus and cultural cachet with a hodge-podge of sex, gender, ableism, and all the baggage that normally comes with such in tabloid-esque reporting.
Amanda Flowers fell off her Wii Balance Board, damaging a nerve, and resulting in a prognosis from her doctor that she had acquired persistent sexual arousal syndrome. The difficulty here is that apparently PSAS and hypersexuality (more often called nymphomania and sometimes satyriasis) are not related–which makes the choice of headline (‘Nintendo Wii Made Me Nympho!’) already strange. This all then seems even more odd in the face of the final paragraph on the Daily Star article:
Single Amanda, 24, from Harpurhey, Manchester, said: “With no cure I just have to try to control my passion by breathing deeply. Hopefully one day I’ll find a superstud who can satisfy me.”
The credibility of the story, already on thin ice, seems suspicious. Were Flowers to have PSAS, her concern would likely have less to do with finding a superstud, and focusing more on every day travel that might trigger her syndrome, or any of a number of hassles and obstacles she would face in every day life. She’s single, however, so the foremost concern is that she be paired with an appropriate mate.
At the same time, it is easy to see how this story has quickly spread and been reported by many in the exact same theme and sexual up-play. Our media seems to have a fascination with women who ‘break from the mold’ (most often to judge them). A woman who is constantly sexually aroused? She has to find a man to match her?
Gender essentialism dictates that women just are not as horny as men. In order for her to be so, apparently an accident must occur. Given our media’s focus on still seeing women as baby factories, this is hardly surprising. What is on display is a sideshow, a freak circus that posits that something is abnormal, and us default, normal folk would be shocked and entertained by the story.
However, the story continues. Most people have been reporting the story verbatim, continuing this trend. The one site I have read who is suspicious (Kotaku), seems to indicate it is better than were she to have fallen off and received a physical injury. Because orgasms only equal good, wanted or not. I warn you off the comments (hopefully a given), which posit that now she knows what it’s like to be a man (because all men are always sex-crazed, drooling idiots who can only think about their next orgasm–duh!). This story plays up the thought of undercutting the status quo by playing into all sorts of sexist assumptions.
If Amanda Flowers truly has this syndrome, I wish for her to find the best way to navigate her life, not for a ‘superstud.’