Grown up?

Grown up stuff-

 

  • I turn 34 in November.
  • I have a mortgage
  • I know how to wallpaper
  • I have two children
  • I have a husband (11 years married in November.)
  • I know LED light bulbs have a 25 year lifespan and are even more efficient than so called energy saving light bulbs.
  • I have two cats both of which have health insurance.
  • I drive and own a sensible family car
  • I like cooking
  • I have a career, which I am apparently good at.

 

This all means I am a grown up, yes?

Funny thing is I don’t FEEL grown up. Body shape and face have changed, true and I am much more wise and cynical than I used to be. I keep waiting to wake up one day and feel like an adult or for someone to say I’m all grown up now, well done. Here is the official badge, this is the secret handshake and your branch of the club meets once a month at the pub down the road.

 

Point is, once you pass 21 there are no more real milestones till you hit 40, technically middle age. That’s two decades of just living with society not really recognising it. A lot happens in those two decades! A lot of people start a family if they don’t already have one, or buy a house or get a good job… soon they build a list like the one above.

 

I remember when I came home with son one. After a difficult pregnancy and a hellish 3 day labour culminating in an emergency caesarean I finally brought my beautiful baby home. Once the well-wishers had left and Hubbie had cleaned up the mess the cat had left on the sofa for us, the panic set in.

There was no immediate transition to motherhood for me. I looked at the baby and wondered when it’s parents were coming back to get it. It couldn’t be mine! I was not responsible enough to have a baby!

Bloody hell, I was the woman who drank herself sober at 19. At that party I ended up getting snogged by the barman and I kneed him in the groin for his trouble. At my 21st birthday pub crawl I drank every drink I was offered, discussed contraception with the taxi driver on the way home then puked all night. Had to go to the doctor in the morning because I had taken the lining off my stomach.

I’m the one who would rush outside when there was a storm and get soaking just to look at it.

I’m the one who did not sleep for three days just to win a bet.

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO BE A PARENT!

But there he was and we got to know each other. It helped that my Husband went through exactly the same identity crisis. We could panic together.

So, son 2 is currently rolling round the floor attempting to reach the cat so he can chew on it and son 1 is playing games on his Daddy’s tablet in the house I own.

I STILL DON’T FEEL GROWN UP!

 

 

Interested in this I’ve tried to analyse why I feel this way and came up with another list. A ‘reasons why I’m not grown up list.’

  • I sing and dance in the kitchen, cos I can.
  • I’m a geek; I’d rather have a nice piece of hardware than new clothes. In fact I got down to two bra’s last month before admitting I’d have to buy a new one rather than a new PC game.
  • I daydream, chronically.
  • I get scared of my nightmares and sometimes wake up crying.
  • My stuff is MY stuff. No one touches it, it’s MINE!
  • I watch anime
  • I write fanfiction
  • I laugh at pigeons
  • I forget to brush my teeth.
  • I don’t like adults, they scare me. I nod, smile and hope to have a normal conversation without suddenly blurting out something stupid such as knowing the difference between A wings and X wings.
  • When it’s dark and snowing and I’m driving the car I like to pretend I’m travelling at light speed.
  • I don’t care when son 1 gets wet/dirty/ loses clothes.

 

There is more but that is just a sample of my inadequacy for adulthood.

I recently realised my perception of what being grown up means is based on my parents, specifically my Mother.

Let’s take my last point about clothing and children. I had ‘play clothes’ and woe betide me if I played in anything else or got other clothes dirty. I would hide wet clothes rather than let my Mother find them. (Girls did not go swimming in the river at 12!) Of course she would find them months later, mouldy and ruined and I would be in worse trouble.

It was damn hard keeping clean on a sodding farm!

Don’t get me wrong, I get on well with my Mum but I am very much not her. Parenting has taught me this, though I knew it before.

I remember her dragging me by the hand into clothes shops in my early teens. I needed a short black dress, it was the fashion. I felt so bloody uncomfortable in that thing, like the whole town could see my nickers. I wanted my jeans back!

My Mother was very much working class but seemed to want me to be more. A natural reaction, what parent would not want better for their children? She had no qualifications and had ‘cleaned every bog in the town,’ as she put it. She encouraged me at school even though she knew I found it hard. She pushed for my Dyslexia diagnosis even though it was not a recognised condition at the time. She also tried to mould me into what she saw a young woman should be. It was everything I was not. I moaned about it at first but did not actually kick against her until I hit my late teens. After I left home for university I could fully embrace my geeky unfashionable me and forgot all about the ‘Lady’ my Mum wanted me to be, much to her despair. This pretty much led to all the nonsense I wrote about a few paragraphs ago. Thanks to a good dose of her common sense however I did not do anything too stupid…

I guess I have to find my own way of grown upness that suits me and not base my perception on my Mother.

That said; I still find myself using her turn of phrase with my children.

“You hit Mummy your hand will drop off!”

“Because I said so!”

“Get in the bathroom and brush your teeth you little tyke!”

“There is nothing wrong with you, stop crying and get on with it!”

“My kitchen my rules!”

“FAMILY HUG!!!!!”

“TICKLE TORTURE!”

 

Not so different then… They say all women eventually turn into their mothers. I say they got it wrong. I’d like to think I’m keeping some of the best bits and will enforce my own individual parental irritations on my children.

They will probably wind up being brand obsessed vegetarian conservatives. *shudder*

As Philip Larkin said-

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

  They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you

 

Nailed it Mr Larkin.

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Lady Gamer

No, this blog is not dead; I just had far too much work to do on the weekends recently.

Anyway, I thought I would post about the fact I am a gamer geek, have been for years. Was never very good at them, but enjoyed them.

My brother supported me through marathon sessions of Streets of Rage on our Sega Mega Drive, but it was not until I went to uni in the late 90’s that I really got into gaming.

I had my own white brick of a PC and the indi gaming industry was just starting to really roar into life. A game called “the longest journey” was the first game that really showed me games could do more than be an outlet for violent tendencies and stress. They could tell complex and engaging stories.

I was addicted to the story of April Ryan and her life at the end of the 21st century was not that different from my own. Sure more tech and shuttle crashes in hers, also I could not shift to an alternate dimension (not for the want of trying!) but the similarities were striking. Same age, both at the end of a century with all the crap that goes with such a traumatic thing as the date changing… both left home carrying more than physical baggage. Funcom really played a blinder with the character depth the huge amount of dialogue and the art, oh the art!

Even on my ‘strictly for uni’ computer which had a very basic graphics card the art was stunning.

1

I had to pull all nighters for essays because I had spent days trying to solve a particularly fiendish chapter. I had no net connection and walkthroughs were something I was completely ignorant of. This was a game I literally had to baby step through and some of the puzzles had me screaming at my computer. I wanted to know what happened and this damn puzzle was stopping me progressing with the story!

2

These days I would look up the solutions but the game made me work for the story and for that it is lodged in my brain. Also, the story was not finished! It continued in the next game Dreamfall, which was not really of the same quality. (Bringing in combat was a mistake in my humble opinion.) The games creator has now left funcom and set up his own company and will be using kickstarter to fund the final instalments of the story. I’ll be there with my hard earned cash!

I went through various gaming phases but it was not until Bioware released the dragon age cycle that I realised something else about games. Gaming characters could be hot!

It never occurred to me until that point that romance could find any place in a games plot. Oh how wrong I was.

I don’t know how many times I have played through Dragon age Origins. Since I discovered you could mod the game I had to get the PC version and clog my drive with zip files just so I could screw with hair colours and facelift characters I had never liked the design of. Also to insert power weapons into the game that would make even the most butt ugly brood mother quiver. No this is not cheating, much…

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Something so satisfying about the blood splatter in these games… but even Bioware could not make armour sexy.

I waited with fangirlish fervour for DA 2 and was mildly disappointed. I don’t want to play a boring human, I am one already! Also the plotline and locations left me a bit dissatisfied. The romance won me over though. I have a girlish heart! Besides whoever is in Bioware’s character design team knows what players like me like. Many an hour was spent on Steam chat geeking with fellow DA convert Choptail. I love the fandom attached to these games. Good people and some good fanfiction… not to mention the fanart!

4

OK, I know he has a big sword but this is a mod too far! The joke is old people!

My point is… (yes sword, point, I’m the queen of comedy!)

It’s nice to see something so traditionally male start to cater for the other 50% of the potential market. I like hacking stuff up as much as the next gamer but to keep my interest I need a motivation; be that saving my family or protecting the planet, it’s all good as long as I am involved in the story. Romance is merely another story hook that females are more inclined to take the bait from. Cynical opinion perhaps but it works on me!

Of course, outside of western gaming females have long been catered for.

I ‘acquired’ a copy of harvest moon for the DS. (Thanks for that test case France, me and my TT card rejoiced.) The game ate months of my life. It appealed to the megalomaniac in me, I got to managed EVERYTHING in my characters life including who she wound up making babies with and thus what her child looked like.

Of course these games are banal and inoffensive. They are a warm cup of tea for the soul. I have HM twin villages in my DS these days and I still love to throw my chickens daily. (You need to play to get that ref.)

But… I am not 16 anymore. I may not have read fifty shades of grey (nor will I) but that does not stop me wanting a little more ‘realism’ in the characters interactions and a bit more depth if there is a romance plot. Hell, I write the stuff online so I’m always looking for inspiration and how others approach characterisation.

With that I went hunting for games purely targeted at women in my particular niche market. At first I was disappointed, and then I stumbled on a blog of a walkthrough for a Japanese game.

Alice in wonderland by Quinrose.

The company are virtually unknown outside Japan and there is no translation. I may have picked up some Japanese through my anime addiction but I’m not that good! 2 weeks in Japan did not teach me to read Kanji. I was still remembering characters by shape when I left.

“Half a house and a tulip, that means bank!”

However, I was not alone in wishing to play this game. The art was stunning from the stills and the plotline was rumoured to be very original and far removed from the novel.

I haunted the net and cobbled together what I would need. Could not purchase the game for the PC… found a download. Patched with a fan patch so it would run on my comp. Then install a program called Agth which is basically a screen scraper for the kanji. Set it up with some incomprehensible code so I can switch between my kirikiris when the text size changes…

Then install translation aggregator which cobbles together Japanese -English translation websites and display the results in real time. Set that up to sync with Agth then finally set comp location to Japan so the characters display. (Thank you Brocciligoesmoo for all the instructions.) After much swearing and sweating I finally got the game running. Totally worth it.

The games are HUGE and packed with dialogue. It’s more of a visual novel than anything but I was hooked! High angst and a refreshing take on the storyline. Sure the translation was clunky but I found myself re writing the translation in my head and as the games are voiced so it’s easy to pick up on the tone of the dialogue and I know a little spoken Japanese.

I went through his process 3 times for all 3 games. Now that is commitment to my geekdom!

They are unashamedly aimed at the fangirl and packed with pretty men/women, but the plotlines are uncompromising and do not shy away from difficult issues or even philosophical and moral issues. Here is a quick run down of the themes.

  • What is sanity?
  • Does life have a value, if so how is it valued?
  • Slavery
  • Inequality
  • Sexual harassment
  • Feminism
  • Environmentalism
  • Family ties
  • Loyalty
  • Madness
  • Assassination
  • Murder in cold blood
  • Random violence
  • Organised crime
  • Duty

And that is me having not played through all the plot lines as of yet.

5

Shiny pictures are shiny! Yes the guy has cat ears but he is the Cheshire cat!

I feel I am missing some of the nuances in these games however; some concepts just do not translate.

So, the search was on! Were there games like this in English?

I was quickly dragged into the gaming underbelly of the smaller independent companies.

Hanako games do cute plotlines with moments of gut churning plot twist just to fool you into thinking you know where the story is going. (ie Date Warp) but also addictive stat management and fiendish puzzles. (Magical Diary)

Winterwolves is a company with a personality disorder. Games like Winter in Fairbrook are from the Harvest Moon school of gaming with more emphasis on the characters and the development of the main character’s personality. A little kissing behind the green house is thrown in for good measure. Warm fluff!

6

But they also has games like Lauren Amazon Princess that leave little to the imagination character design wise (not that I am complaining as the men are just as half naked as the women are) and the complex plot and storyline do not take any prisoners. Romance is not just an add on or sub plot, it’s half the plot! Addictive and immersive and not for children!

7

My final sashay into these sorts of games has been on my phone.

Voltage inc and Solmare are both Japanese companies that have taken a gamble that the western market is sadly lacking in representation for female gamers. From their download history on the android market I’m guessing the expense of translation was worth it.

These are simple visual novels. There are ‘bad’ and ‘good’ choices. The more good choices you wrack up the more likely it is that you get a happily ever after.

The translations are clunky in places especially in Solmare games (people in the Henan period should not be saying awesome, get a writer to rescript these things folks!) but the art is again excellent (if repetitive) and there are apps for different ages of gamer.

9

Nice ninjas anyone? Hearts of gold to go with the slaughter!

For example the teenaged fan girl may appreciate non-threatening pirates with added slapstick humour. They are all just misunderstood!

8

For the older lady gamer there are much harder edged options. How about a game where you have to decide to save your marriage or get a divorce?

Plotline…

Arranged marriage, parents thrilled, Hubbie well respected and will eventually fight his way up the cooperate ladder… but his parents want the player character to stop working and become a house wife. Oh and Hubbie and PC have been married 3 months and Hubbie won’t even give his wife a peck on the cheek, but he is having a fling with some other woman.

So, do you work it out? Or part ways? No right or wrong answers, no heroes or villains.

OK the player character is a bit of a drip and culturally it’s not such a big decision for western players. There is much less stigma around divorce.

“DUMP THE ARSEHOLE ALREADY!”

*cough*

But it’s nice to see the app stores following where the PC lead. I like to play a few chapters of these games before bed. Helps me sleep.

I think in gaming terms we live in interesting times. I look forward to seeing more games that redress the balance, as long as they are not pink and filled with frills I will be happy.

Now, where is my copy of Streets of Rage? I need some retro carnage!

PC Game Review- Loren Amazon Princess

My indi game addiction continues, this one is from WinterWolves http://www.winterwolves.com/

Well to kick off this review I have to say this is a game I have played many times. There are hours of replay value in it.

Loren at first glance appears to be one massive cliché. Busty Amazon Princess saves her world and in the process makes it a better place. Indeed I nearly dismissed the game as such myself, opting to buy another Winter Wolves title instead of Loren when I first hit the website. I can only say this was temporary insanity on my part as Loren is one of the most engaging and unique RPG experiences I have ever had the pleasure of playing.

Firstly, you do not get to play as the great Princess herself. You are her sidekick or right hand man/woman. You start out as slave and slowly grow to be trusted friend and advisor. Our poor Princess is not a woman of the world and rather a handful for your character until she wises up a bit. You can choose between being an elven woman or human man. One of the criticisms of this game has been that your character is not customizable. True, you don’t get to make their chainmail purple with pink dots, but you do get to customize their behaviour. The character set up is straight forward and the game even gives you the opportunity to restart the character building storyline if you are unhappy. There are three main personality types. You can be the friendly and sympathetic type, the sarcastic joker or the no nonsense stab-first-ask-questions-later type. All have a large impact on how your character views the world and interacts with your fellow adventurers.

After character development you and your princess are let loose on the world and your first quest is to find Loren’s missing mother, Queen of the Amazons. Naturally this is not something that goes smoothly for the gruesome twosome and they pick up a supporting cast of followers quickly. Some of these became very dear to me, namely Draco, Karen and Rei. As your character develops and changes through the game so do your followers who all have a background and their own reasons for joining the group as well as their unique skills. You can “camp” during your adventures and chatter to your group at the same time as recharging your HP. This is not simply a quirky feature, major plot events occur in the camp and this sets the game apart from other titles that use this system.

The plot is nothing if not convoluted and the political tensions in the world and individual pressures within the group quickly suck the player in. I rapidly forgot I was playing something akin to a visual novel and the characters took on a life of their own. There was more than one moment that I left the game running while I went to make myself a cup of tea so I could ponder over a dialogue choice that was morally ambiguous enough to truly challenge not only my character but my own personal beliefs and prejudices. Some choices were genuinely heart wrenching. This is not a game where everyone will get a happy resolution and I liked the game for treating me as an adult and not attempting to placate me. It tugged on my emotions ruthlessly and made no apologies.

Another criticism of the game has been the fanservice. Yes the women are scantily clad and yes those skirts would never deflect a blade. This is a fantasy game and people are shooting fire at each other so I forgave the nakedness, why? It’s not gender bias. There are just as many scantily clad men as women. Yes, yes objectification blah blah blah… that argument holds no water for a woman who has seen Rei’s assets (namely the most perfect rear in RPG history.) The art itself is beautiful and much thought and detail has gone into not only the characters but the backgrounds. There is a “cover” option so you see less flesh and you can opt out of the more steamy scenes if you wish.

Romance is one of the lynchpins of this game. It’s not an add-on that hangs around the fringes like in other RPG’s such as Skyrim. Your romantic choices not only impact the game but they impact the development of your character. The game is also very fair in its options. Not everyone is romancable by the player and some characters are bisexual while others are strictly homosexual or heterosexual. You can finish the game with no romance but as far as I am concerned it’s an integral part of the plot and you become less involved in the storyline without it.

This is a real RPG and it has a battle system. Any RPG fan should quickly grasp the skill tree, point allocation and how buffs and debuffs work in battle. There is an easy mode which practically removes all challenge for those just wanting to rip through the story and I used this myself on my first play through… yes I was that impatient to know what happened. The battle system is simple, you click on a portrait and carry out an action. There are no real battle graphics etc just small animations to represent the move you made. I found that I really did not care about this. Who needs fancy graphics when there is real and challenging gameplay? Get your strategy wrong going into battle and you could lose in the first two rounds. It’s like a violent version of chess, with added fireballs. The battles are voiced and this is a nice touch. I have been known to threaten to throw my laptop across the room over some of the boss battles, even on normal difficulty. Level up your healing skills and get the best equipment or you WILL suffer for it.

The music is suitable for the game but never over intrusive. There is also a cheesy jpopish theme song. This divided the gamers as some hated it and it was removed from the opening of the game after player feedback. Having similar sounding things on my playlists I quite liked it but could understand the objections of players who were not fans of the genre. That is one of the strengths of WinterWolves as a company. They genuinely care about their players and if there is an issue things are changed. The AAA developers could learn a thing or two about customer care from them.

So to sum up Loren is a cliché storyline in some respects and a tad obvious in places, but the depth and detail is staggering. I have never played anything quite like it and have spent many hours replaying to get all the endings and complete all the romances. I highly recommend it even with the half nude character design (and in some cases BECAUSE of the half nude character design.) It’s nice to see a game that does not attempt to please everyone and stay true to its genre and demographic as well as not preach to you about being good or evil. In fact one of the core plot themes is perceptions of good and evil and the grey areas which most people exist in. I have loved playing it and can’t wait for the expansion which will add extra quests and characters.

One final note. Rei is mine, you can’t have him and I will shove a hawk blade where it hurts if you disagree. Though I may trade you for Mesphit in the expansion 😉

4.5/5