Mouse Smash

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


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A Midyear Resolution: Diversify Your Gaming Experience with One Simple Trick

I have played video games since I was three years old, when my mother brought home an Apple IIe computer, and loaded up Pac-Man for me. From there, I went from playing a range of games like Tonk in the Land of Buddy-Bots and the Monkey Island series, to console titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed and Halo.

But here’s one thing I’ve noticed: my favorite games will, more often than not, have a protagonist that looks nothing like me. Where games have a single playable character, that playable character is likely to be a man. A white man. Maybe he has a beard, maybe not. He’s probably also straight–perhaps he also has a wife or child or someone close to him who’s died or been kidnapped at the start of the game as a plot device, and he’s probably armed with some sort of gun or melee weapon or both. Continue reading


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A Season’s End: Looking Forward, Looking Back at 2016

A version of this piece was originally published at GeekGirlCon’s blog. In the time (11 days!) between it was published and now, there have been at least two terror attacks internationally (plus one averted), even more influential figures have passed away, and the Electoral College confirmed Trump as President. There are still four days left in the year, which I’m cautiously optimistic will just pass away quickly and uneventfully.

My original plan for this blog post was to write a review of the events of the past 12 months. But, for a lot of us, 2016 was not the greatest year, for a variety of reasons. A lot of scary political things happened, or are still happening, both at home and abroad. Many figures who were influential when we were growing up passed away. Zika, Brexit, having giraffes added to the endangered species list

It’s no wonder that some people have described this year as a giant dumpster fire. Continue reading


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I’m going to GDC!

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I’m still new to games per se. I’ve grown up as a consumer, a writer, and a critic, but not a creator. This year, I got my first job in the industry, and it’s been a fantastic journey so far.

In games, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is one of the biggest industry events on the game dev calendar. It’s HUGE, with a lot of industry-facing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities. Unlike things like PAX or E3, the focus is on game makers and the industry as a whole, rather than end users. For someone starting out in games, it’s seriously a wonderfully immersive way to get connected, and get a more in-depth idea of what the industry as a whole is like. Continue reading


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Cassius #3 Kickstarter is now live!

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Prima (L) and Junia

Guess who’s back, back again? Some of my favorite queer lady comic characters are back! Tell your friends!

(With apologies to Eminem, but really, tell your friends.)

I’ve written about Cassius and its creative team before, and it has been a long while since Issue 2 was out, so here’s an update: the Kickstarter for Issue 3 was launched last week (very aptly on the Ides of March)! Check it out here! Continue reading


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Adventures in QA: Chapter 4: Funderemployment

It’s been a while since I updated my Adventures in QA series. Like, a year or so. Well, luckily for me I now have plenty of time to do it!

One thing about QA work is that it’s not always constant. Even though technically it’s a full-time gig, it doesn’t mean that the work or hours are full time. There are peaks and troughs with the workflow depending on things like seasons (so it was busier toward the end of the year when the holiday period opened), or things like how many projects there are.

So, we’re in a trough at the moment. For our “full-time” schedule, I have three weeks off. 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!