Tag Archives: fandom

Where To Start If You Haven’t Played Video Games In A While

Maybe you’ve taken an extended break from gaming and now want to get back into things. It can feel very intimidating: there are new games, new consoles, new slang, a lot of teenagers, and what’s the deal with Twitch? Here’s some tips on where to start.

I played a lot of games through high school, but I didn’t have the time or resources to play much during college. In my senior year, I ended up winning a free Xbox 360 in a raffle and decided to dip my toes back in the water. Here’s a few things that have worked for me, and for a couple other people I know that have had similar experiences.

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Start With The Game That’s Hot Right Now

When I got my Xbox 360, the hottest game in the world was Skyrim. I had never played an Elder Scrolls game before and only vaguely knew what the game was about. But I knew that everyone was talking about it, so I decided to pick it up.

Playing the hot new game will give you something to talk about with other people who play games. Gaming websites will be talking about it, as will people on forums, which can help you feel like a part of the community again. Even though Skyrim wasn’t a transcendental experience for me, and it didn’t become my favorite game, I was able to step from it to games that appealed to me even more.

Start With The Last Game You Were Looking Forward To

I brought my Xbox 360 home that summer for my brother to play while he recovered from surgery. He wanted to play Assassin’s Creed and LA Noire, because those were the two biggest games he remembered wanting to play from the last time he was invested in gaming. (I also had the unique pleasure of explaining to my bewildered mother that yes, new games do cost 60 dollars each.)

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While my brother was lying on a bed in the living room all summer, he talked to me about going back to a mindset he hadn’t visited since he was a teenager. I wouldn’t say he’s a big gamer now, though he has since started playing a few games here or there on his new PC.

Picking up the games you used to be excited about can help you remember what drew you to games in the first place. If you haven’t gamed in a while, some of these games might also be pretty cheap. Sometimes when I’ve looked for games that I didn’t play at release, I also discover that they’ve since been ported to PC, so I can play on my laptop at my own leisure.

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Read About Games And Check Out Whatever Sounds The Most Intriguing

I sometimes credit my getting back into games to former Kotaku editor at large Kirk Hamilton. As a very pretentious college student with an interest in new media art, I was trying to think of games I could play for a potential college project. My research led me to an interview with Davey Wreden, the developer of The Stanley Parable, and what I read made me want to jump into the game immediately.

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Reading interviews with developers can be especially helpful. Sometimes hearing someone else’s enthusiasm about their own art can pique your interest. Reading the level of care that Wreden put into The Stanley Parable got me excited about the game, which led to getting excited about games as a whole.

Play With A Friend

If you think you might stumble over controls or are nervous about not being able to complete a game, having a friend along for the ride can help a lot. When Bioshock Infinite came out, a friend of mine whose gaming experience extended only as far as Pokémon told me that she wanted to check it out but was afraid that she wouldn’t be good at it. My roommate and I had already bought it for my console, so we invited her over to play together.

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My friend did have trouble with the controls, and ultimately passed the controller back to me for most of the gunfights, but since then, she’s branched out into more and more games. For me, getting frustrated with a game is the fastest way for me to take a break from games in general. Having a friend to guide you through it can elide that issue entirely, and help you rediscover all the exciting things happening in games today.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Creepypasta Community That Influenced Control

Screenshot: Remedy

Control’s setting, a secretive government facility that studies supernatural happenings, is engrossing. If you can’t get enough of the game’s surreal atmosphere, perhaps you should check out the SCP Foundation, a community-run fiction archive that many speculated was an inspiration for Control. It turns out that speculation was correct. Kotaku spoke with the SCP Foundation and Control’s director about the overlap between their expansive science fiction worlds.

The ways in which Control is influenced by the SCP Foundation are clear. Like the SCP Foundation, the Federal Bureau of Control is dedicated to finding supernatural phenomena. Both have a strong focus on bureaucracy. The majority of the SCP Foundation is made up of the remnants of a bureaucratic system that’s obsessed with research and procedures. Control is set in a government agency responding to pressure from above to find a practical application for each and every thing they study. The SCP Foundation has its own extensive fictional history on its website, but the reality of its creation is a bit more mundane. According to their own account, the entire endeavor began in 2007 when the very first entry, SCP-173, was posted to the 4chan board /x/, which is dedicated to the supernatural.

“The initial appearance of SCP-173 was something really different to the /x/ community,” reads the SCP Foundation’s “History of the Universe.” Instead of being a basic story with a jump-scare punchline, or a thing that made you feel squicked and scared, it was designed to make you wonder, and draw fear from that. You can imagine the reaction of many internet dwellers as they first scrolled down to see that thread.”

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SCP-173 is a creature that must be observed 24/7, lest it escape its cell. Like all SCP entries to follow, it wasn’t structured as a story, but instead as a document that details the creature and the procedures to contain it. The scariness of SCP-173 comes more from the implication that it might get out than anything else. How long can you watch something before you inevitably look away?

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From there, the SCP Foundation has evolved into a fiction-writing community with over 5,000 user-submitted entries. My personal favorite is SCP-1733, a video tape of a basketball game where the players and audience become aware that they’re trapped in a tape as it is played over and over. It doesn’t end well. The SCP Foundation’s community outreach organizer, C. Pierce, also known as by his username ProcyonLotor, thinks the staying power of the community has to do with the lack of spaces online to workshop original fiction.

“I think it’s something largely unique,” Pierce said. “Of course there are other writing websites on the internet, and there are other bigger, more prominent ones, but fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own are obviously aiming at a different audience. You don’t really see the bare-knuckle critique focus.”

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Screenshot: Remedy

To Pierce, Control’s most obvious homage is the documentation lying around in-game. “I think the most direct influence are the case files,” he said. In Control, you can pick up documents during gameplay that flesh out the fiction of the world. Some of these are case files for supernatural objects that outline their history and how to contain them. Structurally they’re formatted like an entry in the SCP Foundation Wiki.

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“You’ve seen an SCP document, with the containment procedures up top and then the description, and a photo in the top right?” Pierce continued. “You look at the case files in the game, you have a photo in the top right, and then the containment procedure, in those words.”

Mikael Kasurinen, the director of Control, confirmed that the similarities weren’t just coincidence. He said that the SCP Foundation was one influence among many and that the game strives to be a pastiche of many different sources rather than a homage to one specific source. Within Control, there’s DNA from the X-Files, Twin Peaks, and even a little Buffy The Vampire Slayer in its snappy dialogue. To call it a rip-off of the SCP Foundation would be myopic. The way that Remedy has blended together so many different sources has turned those materials into their own stew. The fiction of Control doesn’t slot neatly into the worlds of any of its influences. While the SCP Foundation and Control may share a common ancestor, they’re distant cousins rather than twins.

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“The Federal Bureau of Control is obviously subservient to the U.S. Government. Throughout the fiction, the Foundation’s degree of control and global influence varies from author to author,” Pierce said. “The Federal Bureau of Control, obviously there’s a research aspect, but it seems a lot less research-focused than the Foundation. For the Foundation, research and containment are the two equal goals. But for the Federal Bureau of Control, obviously control is the first thing.”

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The drive to classify the unclassifiable is what connects SCP and Control, ultimately. To Kasurinen, that drive is just a basic part of being a human.

“It’s an interesting question of how to accumulate knowledge of what is true,” Kasurinen continued. “The name of the game is not an accident in the sense that it’s not just about control in the physical sense. I can control the environment, and I can control the minds of my enemies, but it’s also about the philosophical idea of being in control.” As Kasurinen points out, the beginning of the game has main character Jesse Faden at an utter disadvantage in terms of her knowledge and also her power. Through learning more about the Bureau, she not only takes control of it as Director but is also able to take control of her unresolved past.

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Screenshot: Remedy

Pierce said that he doesn’t feel ripped off by Control whatsoever and in fact feels like Remedy did their homework on how closely they could reference these outside sources without getting into legal trouble. Pierce handles licensing for the SCP Foundation as well as community outreach, so he should know. But even if Control is ultimately its own thing, to Pierce, it’s also the best SCP Foundation game ever made. The SCP Foundation has had other games based on their material, like SCP Containment Breach, made famous by the likes of YouTubers like Markiplier. But while SCP Containment Breach may make explicit references to the fiction of the SCP Foundation, Control captures the tone that kept people like Pierce coming back to the community.

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“I just had this warm fuzzy feeling throughout the game, seeing the cultural influence of something I’ve spent eight years of my life kind of doing as a hobby,” Pierce said. “I think in fairness, they clearly had the inspiration [from us], but they took it in their own direction. They did something with it that we could not do in a thousand years.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Banned From The Chinese Internet, LGBT Fanfiction Writers Find New Home On U.S. Website

AO3 staff said that Marvel movies and Captain America were in the top ten fandoms for Chinese users, as well as the Chinese web show Guardian, and the anime My Hero Academia.
Screenshot: Marvel

In China, writing fanfiction can be dangerous. In the United States, although some authors used to be pretty litigious towards derivative works, fanfiction writers here don’t usually have to worry about anything more serious than a cease and desist. In China, creating fanworks can sometimes come with significant legal consequences, especially if what you’re writing is homoerotic. That’s why Chinese users are flocking to Archive Of Our Own, a fanfic site that allows broad free expression to fans who want to write fanworks, including LGBT fans.

Last year, the Chinese novelist Tianyi was sentenced to ten years in prison for publishing homoerotic fiction. Although making and selling pornography in China is illegal, The New York Times reported that even Chinese users on the site Weibo, which is basically Chinese Twitter, thought that the sentence was too harsh.

Fanfiction site Archive Of Our Own, frequently abbreviated to AO3, wasn’t founded under nearly as dire circumstances, but its founders did intend the site to be a kind of safe haven for fan works.

“AO3 was founded in response to various issues: commercial exploitation of fanworks; the loss of fannish history in the face of sites disappearing because the host couldn’t or didn’t want to maintain them any longer; and a desire for a broad cross-fandom platform that fans would control. But protecting free expression and avoiding censorship have always been prominent concerns of the site,” an AO3 support co-chair who goes by Nary told Kotaku over email.

American fanfiction writers have faced their own, smaller scale instances of purges from a variety of websites. In 2002, Fanfiction.net instituted a policy banning pornographic works and began deleting them, and then after a decade of more hands-off moderation, began deleting pornographic works again in 2012. In 2007, LiveJournal permanently banned over 500 accounts that the platform had deemed to have violated the terms of service with regard to pornography. Just last year, Tumblr banned pornography on the site, leading some artists to leave for greener pastures.

Screenshot: My Hero Academia

Although the United States government doesn’t outright ban speech, content creators in the States do also experience limits to free expression online. In particular, LGBT YouTubers have tussled with their ability to express themselves on the site, and in April of this year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with President Trump to discuss a perceived liberal bias on the platform.

AO3 was not specifically started as a reaction to any of those events, but one of the site’s goals was to make sure that there was a safe place on the internet for fanfiction writers. “AO3’s limits on expression were deliberately set very broadly, within the confines of US law, because its founders and early members wanted a site where all sorts of works could exist without having to fear they would be taken down due to a single complaint or a mod’s arbitrary decision,” Nary said.

Over the past few months, Chinese support tickets have been streaming into AO3. The site’s staffers who spoke with Kotaku say not sure why these users have been coming in at this particular moment, but that AO3 is doing its best to welcome and onboard these new members to the site. Claudia Rebaza, a communications staffer for AO3, said that they’d been observing Chinese users coming to the site in waves for the past couple of years.

“Generally this occurs every time there are crackdowns on content, such as on sites such as Weibo where the [AO3 parent organization Organization For Transformative Works] maintains an official account,” Rebaza told Kotaku over email, then added that usually these crackdowns are regarding LGBT fiction. “The increasing number of new users is likely a networking issue, in that as more people become familiar with AO3, the more word gets around to new users who also decide to open accounts.”

Nary said that in response to the recent uptick of Chinese support tickets, most of which are introductory in nature or asking about how to create an account, AO3 has worked out a process to get these users set up with accounts and has been increasing the amount of account creation invites it sends out per day.

“We put together a fairly general reply with a set of helpful links geared towards new users of the site (hi, welcome, here’s how to get an account, how to search for works, how to post works, let us know if you have any questions, etc.) that we can use for those types of tickets without requiring a reply to be translated from scratch each time, although it can be customized to address specific issues,” Nary said. At the moment, AO3 is relying on volunteer translators to help them out. “They handle everything from translating the FAQ and news posts, to translating tags that come in so the tag wranglers can correctly process them, to helping with the Abuse team’s tickets too, so they are wearing a lot of hats.”

Guardian, a web show about two very handsome men who investigate supernatural incidences, is especially popular among Chinese users on AO3.
Screenshot: Guardian

AO3’s team are confident that their site and current userbase will be able to welcome in these new users with open arms.

“There have been some bumps as people encounter Chinese works that they haven’t been used to seeing, particularly ones that are mistakenly tagged as being in English, which makes it harder to filter them out,” Rebaza said. “Even then, I think that once most English-speaking fans realize why they’re suddenly seeing more Chinese works, they are more understanding and sympathetic to the issues Chinese fandom is facing.”

“Fanworks are a form of reader response to the original work, and may expand or latch on to particular things that were expressed or which they found to be missing. Sometimes these are ‘fixit’ works that seek to repair aspects that were either poorly devised (such as plot holes) or which didn’t develop characters or provide a satisfactory ending to certain plotlines. But fanworks aren’t just concerned with the original work, they’re also concerned with the audience,” Rebaza continued. “It is important for fans to be able to express themselves within a group of users who understand their reference points, and this is often done through creative works. The fact that fanworks can be used to critique or rework other creative content can be particularly important in certain cultural contexts.”

As an example, Rebaza pointed to Chinese news stories about certain words and phrases being banned on social media. The examples are all aspects of popular culture, like Winnie the Pooh, which was banned because some people critical of Chinese President Xi Jingping mock him by comparing him to the honey-loving bear. China has also banned hip hop on television and has blocked Korean pop music from streaming.

“There have been news reports about how certain terms and allusions have been banned in public speech in China because they are used to express opposition to or critique of political events, while other types of pop culture have been banned altogether,” Rebaza said. “If these works were of no importance, they wouldn’t get this sort of attention.” 

Source: Kotaku.com

Some Players Are Really Excited About Rocket League’s New Icon On Switch

Two years out from its release, the Nintendo Switch’s user interface design remains incredibly minimalist and barebones in comparison to other modern consumer electronics. Maybe that’s why its biggest fans get so excited about especially striking art for game icons, or in this case, icon redesigns like the one Rocket League just got.

The icon used to consist of a blue shield with the white silhouette of a car knocking into a grey ball with the words “Rocket League” sitting on top. That’s how the icon always looked back to the game’s original release on the PS4 and PC in July 2015. It’s also how the game was represented on Switch, up until yesterday’s new patch. Now the icon features a spiral of shiny, metallic cars flying out of a fiery vortex with one of the game’s futuristic stadiums just out of focus in the background. This new icon was added to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game in a previous update but only just got changed on Switch and the console’s subreddit is wild about the new look, with a post on the subject getting thousands of upvotes.

“Ugh that’s ugly, new one is way better,” wrote one Reddit user after looking at a comparison shot with the original icon. “The old one isn’t great but the new one reminds me of some cheap Hot Wheels game,” wrote someone else. “Rocket League is kind of like a cheap hotwheels game, just a really badass cheap hotwheels came,” wrote a third.

Others in the thread were confused about why so many people apparently cared about the new icon look. Switch icon enthusiasts did their best to explain. “It’s kind of a big part of the game’s presentation, it’s not like they make or break the game like some think we assume they do,” offered one player. “It’s just nice to have an icon that matches the guidelines and looks like not-shit.” Another said they only buy games if the icon art looked like someone put effort into it.

Gamer nostalgia also plays a part for some. “Because the Switch displays icons so prominently I’m kinda nostalgically reminded of looking through my game boxes with all the incredible box art when deciding what to play,” wrote someone else.

It’s perhaps even easier to understand the icon fascination when you take into account just how austere the Switch experience is as a whole, relative to how amazing its individual games are. It has just a handful of apps, including Hulu, a music production tool called KORG, the indie comic reader InkyPen, and as of last November, YouTube. There’s not a good way to browse the web on the Switch; you have to go through a complicated, multistep process to access a hidden Google search page. There’s not even a way to customize the Switch’s background wallpaper. All you can do is make it white or charcoal grey.

This puts all of the device’s focus on the single, horizontal line of game icons that runs across the home screen. These icons take up about a third of it and are otherwise mostly surrounded by negative space. No wonder, then, that people who boot it up multiple times a day take these little boxes of game art so seriously. This overarching fact of the Switch’s current user interface design has given rise to a thriving subculture around Switch icon art criticism. When Swedish game studio Image & Form teased an extremely minimalist icon for SteamWorld Dig 2, this subset of hardcore Switch owners pushed back hard.

In Rocket League’s case, the new icon arrived alongside a small patch that fixes some of the game’s Switch-specific bugs—the type of small but pleasant surprise Switch owners have grown to expect. “You people really love your Switch icons lol,” wrote MetalPug79. “With that said, yeah it does look better.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Sims Players Are Building Adorable Dollhouses

Screenshot: The Sims 4

Like any other fandom, the Sims community often gets swept by trends. This time, the new hotness is dollhouses, all inspired by a Simmer on Tumblr called Smart Milk. The results are absolutely adorable.

Smart Milk was so inspired by JMW327’s isometric pixel art of bedrooms that she made some cute bedrooms with cutaway walls.

With some fussing in Photoshop, her builds take on a dreamy, cozy quality.

If you want to see what other Simmers are making, you can check out the TS4Dollhouse hashtag on Tumblr. These are a few of my favorite builds in the tag.

Simmers have also been rounding up all the dollhouses on the Smart Milk Boxes Tumblr. I was so inspired by these posts that I decided to give the trend a try myself.

Screenshot: The Sims 4

My creation was a version of my dream bedroom, overstuffed with books and plants. Making a dollhouse takes a fraction of the time that it would take to make a whole build, and it felt good to flex some design muscles without committing to sitting down and really thinking about a floor plan. That said, now I’m struck with the urge to get some more houseplants.

Source: Kotaku.com

Fans Are Finally Coming To Terms With The Vita’s Death

The PlayStation Vita spent much of its brief life dying. Now that Sony has officially ended production in Japan, who’s left to mourn its passing and pour one out for all the good times?

In May of 2015, then-CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House referred to to the Vita as a “legacy platform,” eliciting the first wave of reports proclaiming the handheld was dead. As the device’s audience continued to shrink, however, its biggest fans seemed to take some solace in seeing their own passion for the Vita reflected in those who remained. They could share thoughts water-cooler-style around the Vita Island hashtag on Twitter, or frequent a number of Vita-centric forums around the internet, including Reddit’s own r/Vita. Years later, even those once-vibrant microcommunities have stagnated and decayed.

Once upon a time, the top posts on the Vita subreddit tended to focus on announcements of new games like Digimon World: Next Order or ports like Stardew Valley. Later, they shifted to perennial favorites like people sharing pictures of their Vita game collections, discussing the best new PS4 games to play on the Vita using remote play, and laughing at the latest Vita burn by the Kaz Hirai parody Twitter account.

Screenshot: Sony (Gravity Rush)

More recently, the entire subreddit has the feeling of a retirement home. Occasionally, a new user will pop in with a post about how they just got a Vita, love it, and want to know what games are worth checking out, but more often, the posts on the front page revolve around someone trying to diagnose a problem with their Vita as age begins to catch up with it. The touch screens are becoming unresponsive. Static is coming out of one of the speakers. Games keep freezing.

The only real news that does come through almost always has to do with something Vita-related dying. Vita Lounge, once a premier fan site, stopped updating with news and reviews some time ago. Now the site no longer loads at all. The PlayStation blog used to feature a Vita shortcut button at the top of the page. Today fans woke up to discover it no longer does. Occasionally someone will ask which online Vita games still have players. The answers are always slim pickings.

A bizarre strain of gallows humor has also taken hold in certain parts of the Vita subreddit. A couple months ago some users starting shitposting about Michael Jackson: The Experience, a 2010 music game Ubisoft probably regrets ever making that was ported to just about every platform, including the Vita, despite being generally loathed by everyone who ever came into contact with it. In posts that have since been deleted, they would talk it up as a hidden gem in the style of a hundred other posts doing the same for other forgotten Vita games.

Photo: Kotaku

“There’s definitely undertones of defeat,” one of the posters told Kotaku in an email when reflecting on the Vita subreddit. “After the Switch came out, I think most people there had to accept they were talking about an antiquated piece of history. Personally I think the sub’s at the point where Michael Jackson shitposting is a ‘shot in the arm’ rather than unnecessary spam. That’s a bit sad.”

Other forums dedicated to the Vita aren’t in much better shape. The GameFAQs Vita Message Board is similarly awash in posts like “How long will Sony keep the store up?” and “How does a memory card die?” In the ResetEra thread devoted to the Vita, it’s not unusual for days or weeks to go by between posts. With Vita games no longer a part of each month’s PlayStation Plus offering, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for Vita fans to connect on the official PlayStation Blog either. All the ones that do have to talk about is which of their favorite games had once been free to download in months past.

The Vita Island hashtag on Twitter still has a little life in it, like messages in a bottle being cast into the ocean. You can still search the words on Twitter to find Vita owner’s joyously blasting off pictures of their modified console or whatever Vita game they’ve currently fallen in love with. But it seems like the momentum Vita enthusiasts clung on to is finally fading. Acolytes seem to be running on fumes now that it’s clearer their passion alone won’t propel the handheld toward some future. Still, no one can accuse them of not making the most of it while it lasted.

Source: Kotaku.com