Game review: Dream Daddy

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If you’ve been anywhere on the internet this week, you may have heard about a little game called Dream Daddy. It’s a daddy dating sim, where you—no wait, come back! It’s not creepy, I promise. You’re a single dad and your goal is to date other hot single dads who all coincidentally live in the quiet little cul-de-sac you just moved to with your daughter.

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I’m not a connoisseur of the dating sim genre. I’ve played a couple that seemed to be entirely about showing off artwork of sexy anime boys or girls, with poorly written dialogue and no character development to speak of. I’m not going to claim that there aren’t any good ones out there, since, as I said, I don’t play many of them, but that was my prior experience. But good news: Dream Daddy is not one of those games. It’s really well written, with funny dialogue, developed characters, and an ongoing story-line about your relationship with your daughter that is really sweet. The dads are likeable and your character has a good chemistry with all of them.

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This screenshot might not demonstrate the good chemistry I just mentioned but I loved it too much not to include it.

The premise, as I briefly mentioned before, is this: You are a single dad of an eighteen-year-old high school senior named Amanda. Your spouse (you can choose the gender, and whether or not you adopted Amanda or whether she was born to you and your partner) died a while ago and you’ve decided to leave the house you lived in for the last twenty years and move across town for a fresh start. Amanda is hoping to get into art school, and will be moving out of the house by the end of the summer, leaving you alone. Before she does, she really wants you to make some friends in the neighborhood so you don’t retreat into yourself and stay home alone all the time, as is your wont. You’re shy and a bit socially awkward, but you’re game to make the effort to meet new people.

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The main character is literally me.

The first thing you do in game is create your dad persona. Dadsona? You have a number of options to choose from—not just the usual facial features and hair color and body type, but also whether or not you’re cis or transgender, which I found really cool and inclusive. Once you’ve settled on your appearance and a name, you and your daughter go explore the neighborhood and start to meet the other dads.

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Got a pretty intense stare there, Glasses.

Once you’ve had a chance to meet them all, you peruse DadBook and ask other neighborhood dads out on dates. Actually, they’re not necessarily dates, per se; for the most part, you’re trying to make friends. You might play a father-daughter mini-golf game or help chaperone a school field trip. Each date has its own little minigame. Depending on how well you do on that, and how well the other dad responds to your conversation choices, you get a grade.

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You can date all the dads twice, but you can only go out with your dream dad on the third date, so I recommend saving just before you make that choice. The correct choice, of course, is Mat the hot barista and indie band aficionado, but I’d understand if you want to make an inferior choice just to see how it turns out. Actually I liked Craig the dudebro gym rat and chick magnet too, and of course I had to try seducing Robert, the one who looks like he’s going to shank you in an alley and steal your wallet. He’s actually well worth the effort, as long as you don’t screw up your first meeting with him, like I did.

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You and me both, knife dad.

I love the various tv shows they reference throughout the game. I would 100% watch Long Haul Ice Road Paranormal Ghost Truckers or Tiny House Hunting Amish Triplets: Extreme Edition or even Shark Tank But With Actual Sharks. The sense of humor is great. There are SO. MANY. PUNS. And all the dads are good dads. Even the ones who have difficult or rebellious kids are still decent guys who try hard to be the best dad they can.

The only drawback for me was that I wasn’t a big fan of the voice acting. There’s no real dialogue in the game, except for maybe a line if you finish a date with a high score. Mostly it’s just “Oh!” or “What?” or “Hmmm…” with every single line of dialogue, which repeats so often that it was hard not to visualize the voice actors in the recording studio, making noises into a mic.

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This game was produced (and voiced by) the Game Grumps, a group of Let’s Play Youtubers. It’s well worth the $15 price tag, especially if you try to get all the potential endings. I’ve played it for 7 hours and haven’t finished the game with every romantic option yet. In short, I highly recommend it! Get it here on Steam.

 

 

Anyone remember Fallout Shelter?

Hey, remember Fallout Shelter? That free iPhone game that everyone played the week it came out and then slowly stopped mentioning after that? Yeah, that one.

I still play it now and then, mainly as a way to make myself wake up in the mornings. It’s more effective to open Fallout Shelter than hit the snooze button. I’ve gone through several vaults by now, one of which I played through to absolute capacity.

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All the way down to Earth’s core

Continue reading

Game Review: Rust

Last week, many players of the survival sandbox game Rust woke up to a sudden, surprising change in their characters—half of them were now female. This was a permanent change, and was linked to players’ accounts so it would stay the same across different servers. Previously, the game had randomly assigned skin color and, oddly, penis size as well. The latter actually is an issue because unlike in most games, you start off completely naked and most players stay that way. Since there are extremely few games that require players to play as anything other than mysteriously endowed white men, some players found this extremely disconcerting. Game dev Garry Newman responded in an op ed in the Guardian.

Inevitably, there are people who like it and people who don’t. Some players have praised what we’re doing. Like us, they think that who you are in the game, your race and gender, makes no difference to the actual gameplay – and are happy to have the diversity. Others aren’t so positive. They feel that playing a gender or race that doesn’t match their own is detrimental to their enjoyment.

These articles were enough to make me want to play it, and since I already got a copy of the game in a Humble Bundle, I decided to give it a go. Mostly, I just wanted to know what size my penis would be. Continue reading

Game Review: Sunless Sea

Thirty years ago, the city of London was stolen by bats. Now it’s in the Unterzee, that dark ocean below the Earth’s surface, and you’re a zee captain, sailing from port to port.

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Sunless Sea is a Steam game that started as a browser game called Fallen London. You can still play Fallen London for free here. The universe is the same, but the characters you play and the storylines you follow are separate. I recommend you check out Fallen London (why not? It’s free!) and make an account, but this review is dealing entirely with Sunless Sea. Continue reading

This is, in fact, a review of ARK: Survival Evolved

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Last August I bought ARK: Survival Evolved, the fun new early access dinosaur survival game, and just barely made it to the character creation screen before having to ask Steam for a refund, since it demanded way too much of my old, laggy laptop. This week, with my new iMac and 24 GB of RAM, I bought the game for a second time and tried again.

ARK: Survival Evolved is set on a 48 square kilometer prehistoric island (apparently called “ARK”) full of dinosaurs. Well, I say prehistoric; there are hints that things are not exactly as ancient as you might think. First, when you wake up on the beach, naked and shivering, you find a glowing crystal implanted in your wrist. This is where you access your inventory and crafting menu. Second, there are massive glowing towers in the distance, and every so often beams of light will descend from the heavens, carrying supplies.

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Conspicuously absent

Earlier this month, Disney expressed their shock at the #WheresRey campaign on Twitter. Wait, people want girls in their toys? What do you mean, people liked the main protagonist of The Force Awakens? Don’t you want to snuggle with a Kylo Ren cuddle buddy pillow instead? Slip between some Kylo Ren sheets? Maybe wear his mask? Dress up like him? Wear a t-shirt with his face on it? Wave his lightsaber around? Isn’t Kylo Ren such a badass? Finn too, I guess. Maybe Poe Dameron as well, although he didn’t play a major part in the movie. But Rey? Don’t you know she has girl parts?

I’ve spoken with Disney people, and they were completely blindsided by the reaction to the new Star Wars characters,” [Heroic Girls founder John] Marcotte went on to say. “They put a huge investment into marketing and merchandizing the Kylo Ren character. They presumed he would be the big breakout role from the film. They were completely surprised when it was Rey everyone identified with and wanted to see more of. Now they’re stuck with vast amounts of Kylo Ren product that is not moving, and a tidal wave of complaints about a lack of Rey items.”

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From the moment I saw Kylo Ren in the movie, I thought “That’s a man who likes to cuddle”

The [toy industry] insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

“We know what sells,” the industry insider was told. “No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”

Meanwhile Hasbro is releasing toys like the Star Wars Monopoly game, which has every character except Rey, and a set of action figures which doesn’t include Rey or Captain Phasma but does include a faceless Stormtrooper and a faceless TIE fighter pilot. Maybe you can pretend there’s a girl under that helmet?

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 7.36.38 PMA spokesperson said that Rey wasn’t included in the Monopoly game to avoid movie spoilers, in a game that’s ostensibly about buying up real estate. Meanwhile, “The board also features Luke Skywalker and his iconic father, Darth Vader. The former, has no lines in the new Star Wars, and the latter is not even in the movie.”

Then there was the toy Millennium Falcon, which was released with Finn, Chewbacca, and BB-8, none of whom actually piloted the ship in the movie. Who did pilot it, you ask? Come on. You know the answer already.

Hint: her name starts with an R.

Hint: her name starts with an R.

It’s not like any of that is new, though. After Guardians of the Galaxy, it was impossible to find a Gamora toy. Ditto with Black Widow after the Avengers movie. You know that iconic scene in Avengers 2 where Black Widow drops out of the cargo hold of a jet in a motorcycle? You can actually buy that toy if you like—as long as you don’t mind Captain America or Iron Man or Ultron riding the motorcycle instead.
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Disney said that they left Black Widow out of merchandise because she wears a tight-fitting black body suit, and that’s too sexual for little kids. Captain America wears a tight-fitting body suit too, but that doesn’t count, most likely because he doesn’t have breasts.

The industry insider confirmed that the Black Widow character is widely considered “unusable” within the toy industry. “She has a tight black outfit. Our main customer is concerned with ‘family values,’” said the insider.

 

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I know I’m scandalized

Leaving the women out of merchandise is a calculated strategy by toy companies. In the 1970s, toys were largely gender neutral. It wasn’t until Reagan deregulated advertising to children in the early 1980s that companies began to aggressively segregate the toy market by gender. They realized that if they make boy toys and girl toys, then parents would have to buy twice as many toys for their little darlings. This strategy doesn’t just work for children, either; there are feminine and masculine versions of deodorant, razors, shampoo, soap, hand lotion, pens, pepper spray, guns, etc. Not to mention the new fad of “broga” and “brosé” and “bromance” and “guyliner” and whatever else you can put a masculine prefix onto. This way, a husband and wife won’t share the same gendered products, and better yet, companies can charge more for the female version. No, really. It’s called a pink tax.

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Guns are phallic enough without being called a “pink pumpmaster”

 Of course, people can and do buy outside of the narrow range of things targeted toward their gender, but the staggering majority of consumers don’t. If it wasn’t a lucrative strategy, companies wouldn’t do it. There have been some attempts recently to fight back against this trend, such as Target getting rid of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toy sections. Oddly, some people were really upset about this.
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(c) Kristen Myers

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 Bethesda just released promotional photos of an extremely lifelike model of the power armor from Fallout 4. The armor is being worn by the default white male vault dweller that the game starts with. Of course, Fallout 4 allows you to heavily edit your character’s appearance and choose between two genders and multiple ethnicities, so this model looks nothing like the vault dweller I know and love. Maybe there were some players who just stuck with the default character, but if I had to guess, I’d bet that those players looked a lot like the default to begin with.
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Another case of pretending there’s a girl under the helmet

I’m aware that Bethesda wasn’t likely to make a version for every character option available. Even if they did release a female version, odds are astronomical that she would be white. The point is, that model is meant for the target demographic, just as the Star Wars Monopoly board was, and the Millennium Falcon, and the Avengers 2 motorcycle, and all those action figure sets.

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For my Fallout 4 character, life in pre-apocalyptic suburbia was hard.

Something similar happened with the Mass Effect trilogy. Like Fallout 4, you can choose between male and female characters, but all of the promotional materials for ME 1 and 2 exclusively featured the male version of Commander Shepherd. BioWare recently said that the female version was actually their original concept, though they’d intended to have both male and female options in the final game. Still, they only coded Commander Shepherd with male motion capture data, made obvious in this scene of her inability to sit in a dress. BioWare explained that only 18% of players played as a female Commander Shepherd. Even the nickname given by fans to the female version of Commander Shepherd—FemShep—implies that she’s the aberration, the female version of default Shepherd. No one ever calls the male version BroShep, because it’s assumed that he’s male. It wasn’t until Mass Effect 3 that FemShep was included in promotional materials, and only because fans requested it.
[Bioware marketing director David] Silverman says he’s been surprised by the amount of interest that Shepard’s female version has generated, but that it’s something that the team has embraced. “There aren’t enough female heroes in games in general, so it’s something that people can rally around and celebrate,” he says, adding “Jennifer Hale does an absolutely incredible job doing the voice of FemShep, so people really connect with that.”

That statement sounds strangely familiar, doesn’t it?

At the end of their apology, Hasbro said that they’ll re-release the Monopoly game with Rey included, and they’ll make sure to get some more Rey merchandise going. It’s a good start, but it remains to be seen whether the next big action movie to come out will have learned that lesson. How many movies and video games will it take before companies stop being surprised at fans’ interest in the female characters? How long before merchandise involving non-male characters is the default, not the last minute add-on?

This is not a review of ARK: Survival Evolved

I was going to review ARK: Survival Evolved, which is the new survival game involving dinosaurs, still in early access. It looks awesome and I’ve seen some funny playthroughs, but unfortunately on my computer, it plays at 1 frame per second. And this is after it takes half an hour to start up.

I made it to the character creation screen, which is really detailed and gives you quite a lot of freedom with body type and skin color. Unfortunately, if you try to click and drag the character to a different position, it takes a second to respond, and then goes too far, so you go from full frontal view, to a nice view of your character’s scalp, to an up close and personal view of your character’s lovingly crafted crotch folds.

I’m fully aware that my three-year-old laptop is just not powerful enough for this game, but considering that I can run most games, and that this was all the way down to its absolute lowest graphic settings, I feel like maybe their requirements are excessive. Or maybe I just need a new computer.

Still, I’m sad that Maddy Longlegs is never going to see the light of day.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.