Valve Loves Mods

Half Life

Have you ever played a game and thought to yourself “I really wish that dragon looked like Thomas the Train?” Well if you have, then you are in luck, because mods allow you to do just that. And if you have never even come close to thinking that, then fear not: there is still a mod out there for you. Mods are a great way to make a game more personal and entertaining since mods can essentially change almost any aspect of a video game into something the player wants. However, mods would be nothing without the developers that make the games they are for.

One developer that has been particularly prominent in the modding world is Valve. In fact, Valve was actually born from mods. In 1996, two Microsoft employees—Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington—left Bill Gates’ company to go and try designing video games.  To do this, they acquired the software development kit (or SDK) for the Quake engine and began modding. In 1998, they released their debut product Half Life.

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Why Bee Movie is Government Propaganda

Bee Movie

I saw Bee Movie when it came out in theaters (whenever that was) and liked it fine (I was 10 or something–again, I don’t know when the film came out–but the point is that my critical senses weren’t as finely honed back then). I didn’t really get who Jerry Seinfeld was since I hadn’t seen Seinfeld, but he had a funny voice and that was cool (again, I was 10. Maybe 11).

However, this evening my brother mentioned that Bee Movie popped up in Netflix and that despite the provided two-and-a-half-out-of-five-star rating, he watched it and thought it was a fine piece of cinema. In an effort to join him in waxing poetic over Jerry Seinfeld‘s animation debut (?), I thought back on the plot of the incredibly forgettable film.

I found that all I could remember was the kitschy opening scene wherein the main character (a bee played by none other than Jerry Seinfeld, the only actor I’ve mentioned thus far in the article) goes over to his closet, which is full of a bunch of iterations of the same outfit, then ponders which of the outfits he will pick (comedy gold!…

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Sleeping with Thedas

Dorian Romance

As a company, Canadian-based game developer BioWare has been famous for its attempts at inclusivity of minority characters in its video games. Through the years, most notably in its two most famous properties, the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, BioWare’s concern with inclusivity has been centered largely around that of minorities on the sexuality and gender spectrums. These attempts at inclusivity have been earned the studio commendations for their progressivity and forward-thinking, as well as appreciation from fans for targeting a somewhat atypical triple-A gaming audience—that is, people who are not heterosexual, cisgender men. Perhaps the most prominent example of BioWare’s efforts at representation is its most recent major publication, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Of the three major Dragon Age titles published so far, Inquisition, released in November of 2014, is undoubtedly the most inclusive when it comes to gender and sexuality. While Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Dragon Age II (2011) featured multiple straight and bisexual characters, Inquisition is the first of the three to feature not only gay and lesbian characters, but also a character who falls outside of the traditional male-female binary on the gender spectrum.…

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The Original Dragon Lady

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Do you remember growing up, how your mother would always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Of course, she was referring to that weird lab partner you were always complaining about, but the principle has much broader applicability, because when I picked up Get Off The Dragon, I literally judged the book by its cover. And I’m going to be honest and say I was less than thrilled to have to read it for my Sword and Sorcery class. I have never been one to read fantasy fiction for pleasure or even consider reading science fiction work. I find the make-believe, magic, dragons and whatever else you want to classify as “fantasy” completely boring and unrealistic. But, after reading Get Off The Dragon, I have to give Anne McCaffrey serious props. The book was well written and not too long, and although many would classify her writing in the fantasy realm, I would say it’s more futuristic than anything, which helped make it more interesting to read.…

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Cosplay vs. Nerd Elitism

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If you’ve been to any comic, manga, or video game convention within the past twenty years, chances are you’ve encountered some convention-goers masquerading as fictional characters in colorful, creative costumes. What you’re seeing are not amateur actors, untimely trick-or-treaters, or delusional folks going through cartoon-based identity crises. These are passionate fans, dedicated to representing their favorite TV, movie, game and comic book characters. These are cosplayers.

Cosplay, coming from the Japanese term, kosupure (コスプレ), is a portmanteau of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play.’ It’s a growing hobby in which fans create and wear costumes in order to show them off at conventions, enter contests, meet fellow fans, and further embrace their interests in the characters they’re portraying. Though originally the majority of cosplay was devoted to anime characters, the hobby has expanded to include characters from a variety of genres including science fiction thrillers, blockbuster action movies, and even occasionally characters that are entirely made up by the cosplayers themselves. Some are incredibly complex, such as the woman with sword and pink hair pictured on the left below, while some, like that handsome devil on the right, are a tad simpler.…

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Mobile Gaming: Are You Really Having Fun?

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Smartphones are pretty amazing. Seriously, I only just got one a few months ago after having the same dumb phone for 5 years, and it has changed my life. And by “changed my life” I mean “it’s made me waste a whole bunch of time.” Some of this time is wasted on YikYak, some is wasted watching Whose Line clips on the toilet, and some is wasted swiping right on every single human being on Tinder. But all of those pale in comparison to the time I’ve wasted playing games on my phone. As we all know, the gaming and smartphone landscape has been transformed by the emergence of mobile games, but why are these games so popular? No doubt their price, easy access, and simple play mechanics–but I would argue that there is one more element not usually considered. These games trick us into thinking we enjoy them.

Quite an accusation, right? Trust me, I can back it up. I spent this semester helping Prof.…

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The Dick Van Dyke Show

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The Dick Van Dyke Show can be seen as one of the first sitcoms that resembles our modern conception of the genre. The show strayed from its predecessors, with Mary Tyler Moore’s spunky take on the housewife role and a new mobility evoked between home and work. At the same time, The Dick Van Dyke Show has roots in the older Vaudeville-variety style of the 1950s. This in-between existence is perfectly exemplified in the season one episode “Oh How We Met the Night We Danced.” The popularity of this episode most likely stems from Van Dyke and Moore’s incredible comedic and dancing talent, both of which were hallmarks of the show. However, this seemingly simple episode reveals much about the historical, political, and industrial contexts of the series.

One of the most popular episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Oh How We Met the Night We Danced” reveals how Rob and Laura Petrie, the protagonist couple, first fell in love.…

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Frank Miller’s Martha Washington

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Writer and artist Frank Miller is a sort of paradoxical figure among comic book readers. On the one hand, he wrote The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One. I mean, he basically invented the modern Batman. Those titles, along with his Daredevil run, helped usher in comic books “adult” enough for us to read in classes. But it’s also pretty widely understood that Miller is kind of, vaguely, a fascist. And sort of a racist. And I guess if we’re going to get into it, he’s not particularly fond of gay or disabled people either. It also seems really hard for him to write a female character who isn’t a sex worker and he certainly doesn’t like Muslims. These exaggerated, though not entirely unfounded, accusations make for awkward conversations about the roots of modern comics. Though Miller’s written some of the greats, he’s also written a few of the worst. Miller is thus one of the last people we would expect to write a strong, believable woman of color as a main character or deal with real social issues without being preachy or disrespectful.…

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League of Legends for the Uninitiated

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The sudden popularity of a certain new video game has a lot of people asking a lot of questions: (1) What is this new video game contraption that all the young folks are doing? (2) How does one play this game? (3) Why does my chest hurt after drinking a bunch of lemonade? (4) Will I ever truly be happy?

Let me try and answer some of those fascinating queries:

  1. League of Legends.
  2. Read the rest of the article
  3. You might have acid reflux
  4. Probably not but hey might as well try

Not that all of those questions aren’t worth discussing, but I’ll be focusing on #2 for the remainder of this article.

There are a lot of reasons you might be reading this. Maybe you want to be the next Faker (Korean pro player, some call him the Lionel Messi of League, others just call him… Faker-sempai) and be a professional League of Legends player. Or perhaps you’re just wondering what it is your roommate is doing that has him clicking so loudly that it sounds like a woodpecker lives in your ear!…

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A Problematic Vision of Gamers

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I like video games. Some say I like them too much, but only those who’ve seen me write “Mrs. Jeremy Games” on the inside of my school notebooks. Recently, my interest in them has started to become academic in addition to recreational; I’ve started to think and write about video games from a scholarly perspective, as you might do with a classic film or piece of literature. To many, writing academically about video games might sound completely ludicrous, like if someone wanted to exhibit paintings of Nicolas Cage at the Louvre or if someone said that spray cheese actually tasted like real cheese. Why is it that most people fully accept paintings, novels, or films as works of art with the potential for analysis, but video games are merely toys for children, not worthy of any scholarly merit?

While it is true that video games are becoming more popular among scholars, they certainly don’t have the widespread acceptance that other forms have; it would be rare to find a professor of video games or someone majoring in Sonic the Hedgehog for his or her college degree.…

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