Mouse Smash

JC Lau's blog about geekery, gender and other rants


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GeekGirlCon Panel Recap: In Conversation: Anita and Zoe

One of the biggest turnouts at GeekGirlCon ’15 was for a panel that was announced at the last minute. “In Conversation, Anita and Zoe” featured special guests Anita Sarkeesian (creator of Feminist Frequency) and Zoe Quinn (game designer and co-founder of Crash Override Network) as they discussed what it was like to be high-profile women in tech, online harassment, and what action we can all take to prevent online abuse.

Elizabeth Sampat, who moderated the panel, started by posing some questions to Sarkeesian and Quinn. “You are both successful women in the public eye,” she said. “What kinds of things do you have to do or put up with that men in similar positions don’t have to do?”

Quinn answered first: “I’m worried that people will see me in public and I look like crap.” With the amount of focus that goes into evaluating women’s appearances, she voices her concerns about how if she doesn’t look “acceptable,” she will find threads on Reddit the next day criticizing how she looks. “There are all the things that go into appearance. I got into game dev and writing so I didn’t have to see people but now with this public thing I have to use makeup. It’s easier now when I think of it as painting a Warhammer mini.” Continue reading

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Team Cassius: The Interview!

Ann Uland, Emily Willis and Cat Batka are the creative squad behind Cassius, a new comic series that depicts Ancient Rome as a wonderfully diverse place, and with a driving story of political intrigue and loads of strong female characters. We’ve reviewed Issue 1 here, and Issue 2 here. Issue 3 comes out in March 2016.

They took a little time out to have a chat with us at GeekGirlCon about Justin Trudeau, their favorite books, and making their own comic company!

L to R: Ann, Emily, Cat. Photo provided by Emily Willis and Ann Uland

L to R: Ann, Emily, Cat. Photo provided by Emily Willis and Ann Uland

Tell me a little about yourselves and Arbitrary Muse Comics. How did you come up with the idea for making your own publication?

Ann Uland: We first met online because I started drawing things for a story Emily was writing. When we started dating, it was pretty natural for us to start coming up with stories we wanted to tell together and comics is the perfect marriage of writing and art for us.

Emily Willis: Arbitrary Muse evolved as a small comics company to encapsulate what we do when we sell our own self-published work and help to distribute other webcomics in print as well. Cassius is our latest project because Julius Caesar is my favorite Shakespearean play and I wanted to work on something inspired by it. Continue reading


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The Top Ten Games of 2015 (that I played)

2015 was a busy year for me, in that I started a few new jobs, started working with the awesome GeekGirlCon, and started roller derby again with Rat City Rollergirls. Somehow I still managed to play a few games, but  I didn’t get to spend as much couch time as I wanted because I was too busy adulting. Wow. Life. Anyway, here’s a list of some of my favorite games from this year, in no particular order:

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Assassin’s Creed: Unity: I know this came out last year but I didn’t play it until this year (because I was like, “oh noes, AC Syndicate is coming out, and AC Chronicles and woe is me I’m so behind on the AC franchise”). I love the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and I love Paris (whose prerevolutionary times the game is set in) but at its core it’s a one-trick pony. The story is a bit odd, but the gameplay and combat systems are like seeing an old friend. Maybe because I waited I also got the patches in so I didn’t experience any of the hilariously bad bugs and publicity that plagued the game’s release.

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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: A super duper cute co-op game where you and your partner jointly operate a spaceship–you have to drive, operate the shields, fire the laser turrets (on all sides of the ship) and navigate with the map while love-hating aliens are attacking you. It’s like an absurdly cute version of the Millennium Falcon. Probably not for someone who doesn’t like bright pink and orange or bunnies or life.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth: Technically this should have made last year’s Top 10 list but I didn’t end up starting it until late December 2014 and spent most of early 2015 playing it. Basically, it’s an adventure game with turn-based combat, but if you liked the TV show’s snarky writing style, this game plays like an extended episode. I mean, you’ve got enemies like Nazi cows and fetuses, right?

Jackbox Party Pack: This is probably THE best set of party games I’ve seen for a very long time. Designed to connect to your mobile device, this game has resulted in some of the most hilariously inappropriate comments from friends and family alike. My favorite game on the pack is Drawful–it’s similar to Pictionary, if you could pick what the title of the picture was called.

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Helldivers: I have a love/hate relationship with this game. It supports up to 4 player co-op, but because you all share the same screen AND there’s no way to turn off friendly fire, shit can get bad pretty quickly. Still, it’s very silly and very fun, although I think it’s optimal with about 2-3 players.

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition: I’m not a huge fan of the Tomb Raider franchise generally, but I really enjoyed the writing and the story behind this one. Good, smooth gameplay for most part, and non-ridiculous puzzles.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition: A long, rambling open world which is dangerous for completionists like me. Still, if you like hack-and-slash with lots of bossing around your minions, this might work. Bonus points for the witty dialogue writing between characters when they banter, and they insanely detailed character creator.

The Long Dark: Oh my god I love this game. It’s so challenging and beautiful. The feeling of despair when all your stats are low and you know you’re not going to make it but you still are trying to push on is truly tragic. I do find some of the repetition a bit odd (in that there’s no end goal as the story mode isn’t available yet) but whatever, it’s still a good, breathtaking, playable experience.

Ark

Ark: Survival Evolved: This is a new game and it shows, with random weird bugs that pop up every now and then. But the idea of it is pretty awesome; think Minecraft but with dinosaurs and guns crossed with Lost and Jurassic Park and you get the idea. And when you can ride your raptor (alas, no bike squads) into battle, that’s pretty neat. I’d be excited to see how this one develops further when it goes into beta.

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Halo 5: I’ve waited a long time for this one and it was pretty awesome. One of my favorite things about this game is the fact that each of the two spartan teams featured in the game are made up of half women and at least one person of color! And that’s not even like a point that’s mentioned in the game; it’s just like that’s how the Halo universe just is. Great writing, cool new weapons and worlds, and on-point gameplay. Too bad about the lack of splitscreen but apparently that might be back in a future game.

That’s about it for now! Happy gaming for 2016!


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Review: Cassius Issue 2: More diversity, more plot thickening!

Junia

I’ve previously written about Cassius Issue 1 for GeekGirlCon, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to continue following Junia in her epic adventures to understand the mark of Cassius!

As a bit of a recap, Cassius is a story from Arbitrary Muse Comics, the collective mind of Ann Uland and Emily Willis, and, while inspired by the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar, it’s clear almost right away that this is probably not the sort of story that Shakespeare imagined. Junia, the protagonist, inherits the mysterious mark of Cassius from her mentor—while on the run from would-be assassins—has to discover the meaning of the mark and what her destiny is. Continue reading


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Women in games in the media–it’s still sexist. Ugh.

So, as we all know, Halo 5: Guardians is coming out early next week, and there’s been plenty of press about that. The head of the studio, Bonnie Ross, is a woman. She’s a woman in a very unique position in the game industry–statistically, when women work in games, they’re usually more junior than their male counterparts. And, she’s also Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Studios, so that’s a LOT of high-leveled work going on there.

So when Bloomberg published this piece about Ross, I was super excited to read it. It’s not like you get a lot of news about women in the game industry. All in all, it’s not a bad piece. It talks about the Halo franchise, and about what her job is like. It talks about the scope of her work, when she’s in meetings and playtesting and meeting people at conventions, and how she has turned the studio around to make Halo continue to be a smash hit after so many years. These are massive achievements, and not anything to dismiss lightly. Continue reading


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Purple and Nine Teaches Tween Girls about Technology

In the past few years, there have happily been more instances of games and toys for girls that relate to science and technology. Goldieblox is a well-known one, but Girls who Code and Techbridge, for example, are programs to teach girls about coding and software development. In that vein is Purple and Nine, an animated webseries and comic book series aimed at girls aged 8-12.

Purple and Nine was developed by Gangly Sister, a group of parents who were concerned with the representation of girls in the media, specifically the “stereotypes of girls who are interested only in boys, fashion, and celebrity. We wanted to show girls that they could be anything, and create the heroines we believe today’s media is missing.” Continue reading


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Hayden Black on Gen Zed, the First Animated Show with a Transgender Lead Character

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Hayden Black is a writer, voiceover artist and the creator of Hulu’s Goodnight Burbank. He’s also the creator, writer and director of Gen Zed, an animated comedy about the adventures of four Millennial housemates. What’s notable about Gen Zed is that it is the first animated series with a transgender actress in the lead role—it’s about time! Here, he gives us a bit of background on his upcoming show and the importance of diversity in the media.

Tell us a little about Gen Zed.

It’s an anarchic comedy about growing up whilst immersed in tech. About finding out who we are whilst drowning in choices. It’s also about understanding and accepting each other no matter who we are. So buried in all that punk is a totally hippy vibe.

What are the main characters in the show like?

Real. The one thing I hope separates us from other animated series is that while we might have similar flights of fancy, the people here are real. They’re beautiful, they’re ugly, they’re spiteful, they’re loving, they’re pieces of shit, they’re wonderful. Just like you and me. Continue reading