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  1. My experience with esports has been a rollercoaster. I’ve always been interested in playing, but never really interested in watching. However, my first ever experience with esports, was going to MCM Comic Con in London and seeing a Hearthstone tournament live. It was thrilling, and I had to be pulled away by my boyfriend at the time to go see other things. I am also interested in Overwatch League, and occasionally try to drop in and watch League matches. Not so much for the excitement, but to try and learn something from them. Unfortunately, I suck and I’m stuck in bronze on both Overwatch and League. However, I don’t dedicate myself to it fully the way others do, and I probably should if I want to succeed. Anyway, back to the main story! My next experience came many many years later, when I finally went to University. I went to the fresher’s fair, carrying around my bag to pick up all the free goodies, very nervous and not knowing what to expect. I came across the esports society, and to my surprise, there was a girl leading the table. I was so excited. I instantly went over and got to talking, took their card and went on my way. As soon as I got home, I joined their discord excitedly, and was soon making friends with everyone. Then, signups came for University tournaments such as NSE and NUEL. I was excited and nervous, because I knew I was bad. I was put on teams with people so much better than me, and it made me ashamed of my own progress. League of Legends tournaments were a great experience for me. I got on well with my team, we played for fun, and no one got salty. It was brilliant, and I would definitely do it again. Overwatch on the other hand, was not such a great experience. Unfortunately, I was the only girl on my team, and I experienced a lot of sexism. Of course I played healer, ‘because I’m a girl’. Not only that, but I was told how to play my hero, even though I had countless amounts of hours on them. I knew what I was doing, but was treated as if I’d never touched a game in my life. It was embarrassing, and made me want to quit then and there. I persevered, trying my hardest for myself, but also out of spite. They forced me to play the same hero over and over, even if I knew the situation called for a different one. In the end, I made my own decisions and rebelled against their screaming voices in my ear, and played who needed to be played. In the end, we won the games because I made the right calls. We didn’t get very far into the tournament, but I was pleased regardless with my own efforts and my ability to stand on my own two feet. This was definitely a mild deterrent for me in esports, and I wondered if there was ever going to be a place for me in the community again. They accepted me and weren’t mad at me for being bad at the games, so I was grateful for that. However, it turned out that they weren’t the greatest of people, and I soon left that community. Now, I am onto bigger and better things. At the moment, I am desperately trying to climb out of bronze in league of legends. That is my biggest target. I have done it only once, and I will do it again! My main roles are ADC and support, so I feel I have to rely on the others to cooperate and not throw the game, which is very hard to do when you have a Yasuo on your team! They are the two hardest roles in ranked to play, as you are not necessarily going to carry the whole team the way a Darius might, or a fed Fizz. You just have to pray and hope for the best, that all the bananas you throw as Soraka will work in your favour! I plan to get back into ranked on Overwatch again soon, but I find it difficult to focus on two ranked games at the same time, so I desperately want to get into silver, so I can eventually make my way to gold. Luckily, I have a very good friend helping me out on my journey, so it isn’t always so stressful! As of late, I have joined the wonderful community of Gameress. As the numbers grow and the community continues to flourish, there are grand plans to make competitive teams in as many games as possible! There are already League, Overwatch and Rocket League teams in the works. I can't wait to feel accepted, understood and empowered in a woman's team!
  2. The need to be seen and acknowledged is a fundamental part of our psyche. It validates us, it tells us that we matter and we belong. This feeds into our sense of identity and our self-esteem, determining how secure we feel in our environment. Much of our sense of identity comes from the media we consume – books, music, films, TV, video games. They shape how we perceive the world around us. Some of them tell us how we should look, how we should talk, how we should act. If we don’t see ourselves in these forms of media, then we feel invisible, like we don’t belong. This is the basic principle of representation; being able to see people you can identify with in a variety of media. Regardless of the type of media, representation is key for us to be able to lose ourselves in a story. Particularly in video games, the deepest level of immersion occurs when we identify with the character that we’re playing as. This means that for the duration of the game, we effectively become that character. The more traits we have in common with this character, the more seamlessly we project ourselves into their shoes. These traits can be pretty much anything – sex, race, gender, physical or mental ability, sexuality, family history or personality. This is a reflection of our ability to empathise with and represent the minds of people in the ‘real- world’. The more they look, speak and act like us, the easier it is to understand them. Conversely, when we struggle to identify with a character – i.e. when we don’t feel represented, it causes a feeling of disconnect with the game that you’re playing. It makes it harder to integrate yourself into the narrative – it doesn’t feel like ‘your story’. It’s as if the story was written for someone else; that you’ve been excluded. Unfortunately, particularly in the gaming industry, the stories told tend to predominantly feature one specific type of character. Straight, physically-abled white men. This has changed in recent years, with some powerful and inspiring female characters emerging into the mix. However, 46% of US gamers identify as female and at E3 2019, only 5% of the games presented had a female protagonist. Similarly, we’ve seen limited progress in terms of representation for Black or Asian gamers, LGBTQ+ gamers, or those with disabilities. Given the increasing diversity of the gaming community, it’s important that representation catches up with the times. BUT WHAT’S CAUSING IT? Part of the reason for the tardiness in this area is lack of representation in the industry itself. In an international survey of gaming industry employees, 74% identified as male, and 68% as white/Caucasian. In a UK census, 70% of industry employees identified as male, and 10% as black, Asian or other minority ethic. There’s a pleasant surprise here for LGBTQ+ representation, which reaches 21%, but this isn’t consistent worldwide. I wasn’t able to find any data about disabled employees, but the employment rate in this group is dismally low worldwide. There’s also been significant resistance in some areas of the gaming community. This is possibly due to the rapid expansion of gaming into the mainstream over the last decade or two. In 2006, males accounted for 62% of the gaming community, but in 2019, they accounted for only 54%. A general downtrend in this ratio has happened since the 1990s, when video games were nearly exclusively marketed towards males. Ironically, the people most opposed to equal representation are those that clearly understand how important representation is. When faced with a protagonist they can’t identify with (i.e. female, non-white or LGBTQ+), they quickly become disillusioned, feel excluded, and threaten to boycott the game. This happened recently with The Last of Us 2, where – SPOILER ALERT, the main character identifies as a lesbian. There was a massive backlash from areas of the community over this (and over the supposedly ‘unrealistic’ physical shape of another female character). Many of these were straight white males who couldn’t identify with a character that was so clearly different from them. Of course, it’s not just white men; women can be just as guilty of this type of knee-jerk reaction. And yes, it’s not all white male or female gamers – but the ones that do hold these views tend to be ones that have platforms, and who can shout louder than everyone else. It’s a pretty toxic combination that spells catastrophe in the Twittersphere when anything remotely related to representation rears its head. THERE’S EVEN A BACKLASH AGAINST OPTIONAL FEATURES Curiously, even the broadening of options in ‘build your own character’ RPGs can be met with hostility. There was outrage and accusations of pandering when Cyberpunk 2077 developers announced it wouldn’t have traditional gender options. Similarly, the internet kicked off when Temtem allowed players to choose their pronouns. These options in no way restricted the ability of people identifying with traditional male/female roles – but simply provided options to people who didn’t. In Temtem, if you identify as female, you can just opt for she/her pronouns. No-one is forcing you to use they/them pronouns if they don’t apply to you. Similarly, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t intend to remove the concept of gender. It will likely just provide a spectrum of options versus the traditional M/F boxes. But why is there so much resistance to these completely optional features? It’s one thing to resist representation when you feel you’re being excluded. It’s another thing entirely to reject options for inclusivity that in no way affect your ability to play a game. This highlights a wider and more pervasive issue that is reflected in society as a whole. An intolerance of diversity to the point of exclusion. I think a lot of this is due to fear of the unknown – a primal instinct that allowed us to survive back in our caveman days. There’s also fear of change. For a long time, straight white males were the main demographic in gaming. Now they’re slowly being outnumbered by a diverse and ever-expanding gaming community. No-one likes change, especially when it feels like they’re losing out, or like they’re no longer the target audience for their favourite games. One of the main issues people have had with inclusivity is the so-called re-distribution of wealth. Here, focus and resources are seemingly stripped away from the demographic atop the pyramid and shared equally between community members. However, this viewpoint just demonstrates that there is an imbalance of resources that needs to be corrected. SUMMARY Representation is critically important for all members of the gaming community to belong and feel included. It’s not something political, it’s not an agenda – it’s a principle based on simple and basic fairness. That everyone should be able to see themselves and their experiences in the games they play, regardless of their sex, gender, skin colour, sexuality or ability. If you can’t identify with a gaming protagonist and you’re feeling disillusioned or excluded – there’s good news – you’ve just found out why representation is important. You deserve to be seen, and so does everyone else. Originally posted at: http://countrcultur.com/representation-in-gaming-why-is-it-important
  3. You probably haven’t been counting, but this week marks the 100th edition of my weekly #TuneTuesday, so I wanted to do something a little bit different and talk about one of my own compositions, something I try to avoid doing so it doesn’t look like I’m arrogant. In any case, this weeks #TuneTuesday is one of my more personal compositions. It is ‘Cigarette Smoke (Reprise)’ from Lore By Night, a Vampire: The Masquerade Podcast. In case the above title didn’t give it away, Lore By Night is a podcast about the tabletop RPG game, Vampire: The Masquerade, where players assume the role of vampires in a modern night setting. They must fight their foes, the ongoing vampire politics, and the constant fight with their own humanity and The Beast, this ravenous nature within them that just wants to sleep, feed and kill everything around them. It is harrowing stuff, and there is no real game quite like it. Each cue found in the soundtrack was my attempt at presenting the sound of the World of Darkness (the universe in which VtM exists) in a different light, whilst making sure the music wasn’t too involved to distract from the narration of the VtM metaplot and lore in the podcast. Those who have played ‘Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines’, or watched the World of Darkness Documentary on Amazon Prime would know that the ‘established’ sound for the World of Darkness is edgy goth rock, which does a splendid job at covering the aforementioned conflicts. I believed, and still do believe, that there are many ways of exploring that inner conflict with oneself, which is why a lot the vast majority of music found within the podcast is either jazz or orchestral, which I (perhaps biasedly) believe are much more effective mood setters than goth rock of the late 90s/early 00s. There are exceptions to this of course, which leads me onto Cigarette Smoke, which I describe as a soft middle of the road rock track with acoustic guitar and jazz harmonies (you can listen to the original here). I had two main thought processes when I first imagined Cigarette Smoke. I imagine vampires to incredibly miserable, perhaps depressed, creatures. It must not be easy for vampires to totally cut off from their former lives as humans, fighting each night just to survive. I imagine that friendships/alliance are formed between vampires on this concept/understanding alone and they meet in bars, smoking and drinking their collective clusterfucks into oblivion. This piece reflects this inner-struggle with oneself, reflected by the three chords in the ‘verse’ sections; Bm9, Fm#9/B (or B69omit3rd), Bm9 and F#mM7, which is a real spicy chord that many people will hate. It sounds like I am constantly playing a mistake, but I assure you it is a very deliberate choice. The tune was always very much intended to have this orchestration, but I wanted to test the waters with its structure, as I do with everything I write. Before I notate things onto the score (which the Lore By Night ost is remarkably assent of, for I played most of the instruments on the soundtrack (minus the orchestra and choir samples obviously)), I take myself to the piano and just play. I make note of anything I like and dislike, as I can attempt to bastardise such rejects at a later date. Cigarette Smoke (Reprise) was never is a 5:32sec one-take, improvised take me playing with ideas on the piano, with no editing of the sort (which is why bits of it sound out of time to the trained ear, but I like to think of it as being free). It was never supposed to be included on the album. It uses the same harmonies as the original, but with a slight change to Em7 here in the chorus to G6 in the main version. I mentioned earlier I had two thought processes. The second is fare more personal struggle with myself. Without going into specifics, I was in an emotionally and mentally dark place when the piece was fully conceived, and I feel that comes across with the spicy jazz chords and the aggressive bridge section in the main version of the cue. I wouldn't be able to recreate this piece again, not with the same level of energy and passion I used to create it. Even though the mix is questionable and the elitist within me hates myself for publishing it to the world, I much prefer this more raw rendition, in addition to the out of time piano reprise. This is why this one the personal pieces I have composed to date.
  4. Living with someone else is a bit of a swings-and-roundabouts sort of deal. It's great for cosying up with movie nights, great for sharing the housework and great for just the general company. What's not great (unless you have identical tastes and interests) is having to compromise with the decor in your house. This is where a Girl Cave comes in. When my boyfriend moved into my house, he commandeered one of the bedrooms and turned it into a Man-Cave since I already had a Girl Cave. It quickly became apparent that he had too many possessions to fit into the tiny box room that he had allocated himself, so we switched. He had the large second bedroom and I had the box room. Despite owning a lot of gaming collectables, I had less furniture (and was also minus a 70" TV which was what took up most of his room) so everything fit into the little room quite cosily. We repainted it and gave it one lilac feature wall (which sounds awful but is actually really nice) and added some pink curtains. I upcycled an old, brown computer desk by spray painting it pastel blue and covering the top with candy-striped stick backed plastic. Adding my beloved pink gaming chair and a couple of shelves for my Funkos, my Girl Cave was decorated exactly how I wanted it, complete with pink-throw-covered reading chair and Legend of Zelda Master Sword wall decoration. My boyfriend hasn't complained and we haven't had to compromise on a single thing. Because this is my room. Filled with things I love, furniture place where I want and colour schemes that I chose. I can come in here when I want my own space, to chill out, relax and clear my head. I often bring a glass of wine in, light my Unicorn Dreams Yankee Candle and read my vintage books by candlelight. People often ask us when we're going to have kids. "Never", I say. "No room. We only have a three bedroomed house and one bedroom is where we sleep, one is his Man Cave and the other is my Girl Cave. Neither of us is willing to give up our rooms for a baby. Unless we put the baby in the garage?"
  5. Its our Tuesday Quiz! Your weekly and ever so geeky test of your true nerd status! Quiz Format Quiz sheets become available from 8pm every Tuesday at the end of the bar. Then at 8:30pm our revered Question Master launches us into three rounds of gaming, sci-fi and geek culture trivia! Its completely FREE entry, and you can bring up to 4 friends for your crew (5 person max teams), or even take it on solo if you think your'e smart enough! So what can you win? Each week we give away a massive £50 bar tab for our highest score team! Plus, even if you don't score a single point, there is also a prize for best team name of the week! Special offers Happy Hour 5-8pm - 2 for 1 cocktails, mocktails and shots! Quiz night offers and deals from 8pm!
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  8. Alarms ring out. A disconnected voice is speaking. It could be my voice. Air is moving. Rushing? My head throbs. There are lights. Rings of lights through squinted eyes. I try to move. Moving hurts. Everything hurts. What is that noise? Focus. I need to focus. I close my eyes, I will adjust my eyesight later. First, let’s see what part of me works, then I’ll deal with everything else. I move my toes and feet, wiggling at first then raising them to check if they function, “phew” I breathe. Oh, I can talk too, okay this is good, let’s see what else I can do. I move my right hand upwards, heavy, sore, but functional. I try to repeat the same with my left, but a sharp pain fires up to my shoulder in response. The pain doesn’t subside. This is less good. How do I turn off this damn alarm? I open my eyes slowly to adjust to the brightness, a strong glaring sunlight. Colours too. I can see an array of colours, some near, some in the distance. I try to focus on the colours and shapes closest to me. Pulsating in a reddish hue I read the words ‘Life Support Critical - Suit Breach Detected’. I’m wearing a helmet, and a suit, yes, an exosuit, my exosuit, I think. I roll my head to my left to try and identify the source of the pain. An unnaturally smooth object blocked my view, curved and sharp like a broken metallic eggshell. It was crushing my left arm. The mere sight kicked the rest of my senses online, adrenaline flooded my body. My arm is crushed and my suit is probably punctured. I need to act. Now. Trying to lift the fragment with my right arm is useless. The object's surface is so smooth it is hard to get any purchase with a single gloved hand, not to mention it is damn heavy. I need a lever. Reluctantly I lean up as much as my body would allow to see if there is anything usable at hand. I gasp. For a moment, the pain, alarms, chaos seems to dull as I soak up the panorama before me. It is a landscape of spectrum; wild and teaming with vegetation and life of which I have never seen before (I don't think so anyway…). Enormous trees with fat, bulbous trunks clustered the rims of rolling, uninterrupted hills. Thick green leaves branch off the trunks and hang so low they meet the grass. Incredible flowing red grass, for miles it seems. The rippling grass gives off a silver tint from the reflecting sunlight. Overhead in the bright blue sky a flock of… something wheels through wispy clouds, I could hear them calling out. The vista stretches on, seemingly unbroken, to the horizon. The moment quickly passes as the searing pain grows in my arm. I look to my right, nothing immediately passable as a lever in sight, just that sea of red wavering grass. I look down at my feet, another fragment within grasp. I use my heel to slide the piece to my free hand. It was flatter than the problematic fragment, around 3 feet in length, and not very thick. It will have to work. Okay, the next challenge: A fulcrum. There is nothing immediately around the crushing fragment that I could wedge my lever against. I roll to see what is in the vicinity that could be usable, my arm screams at me to roll back. I close my eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t move this fragment, what if I bleed out? Or my suit decompresses? I guess if that was going to happen it would have happened by now. The moving air seems to have stabilised, which likely means I’ve equalised with this planet's atmosphere, and the atmosphere isn’t bad (for now, I could just be suffocating more slowly, or breathing in toxins). No, I need to move this fragment. Think. My left arm seems to be stretched out to the side, underneath the fragment which lays across it. In my hand on my right I have the second longer, but thinner, fragment to serve as my lever. Ah. I have had a fulcrum all along. My head. Well, my helmet to be precise. I can slide the lever under the fragment to my left, rest the lever on the visor of my helmet (and hope it holds...) and pull down with my right hand. I follow the steps of my plan, and ready myself to pull the lever downwards. The fragment resting on my helmet blocks most of my view of the sky and it’s creatures above. I shift my grip on the lever a couple of times to find a comfortable but effective pulling point at the furthest end. And pull. Pain rings back up my arms as the fragment shifts slightly, it’s working. But I need to pull harder. My grip tightens as I tense my whole body into the pull. *Tink* Oh no. *Tink Tink* No. Small fractures appear in the top right of my helmet. *Tink Tink Tink* More now. On the left too. Webbing out. If I can just shift my arm free. I turn my face away from the (reinforced..?) glass of my helmet visor and pull down with the weight of my whole body. *Thunk* I gasp for breath as I roll over to see my freed arm. Through my spiderwebbed broken helmet visor I inspect the damage. Broken definitely but amazingly little blood. I’ll need to reset the bone, but first I need to catch my breath. After a moment I hazily climb to my feet, clutching my fragile left arm. My head swims and it takes me a moment to steady myself. I fumble at the buttons on the exosuit to quiet the alarms and warnings (they aren’t helping). Then a question: How did I get here? The question forms in my mind and whilst I knew I had the answer… I couldn’t grasp it. My head is hazy, like a heavy fog blocks the way to the answer. Let's start with what I know: My name… My stomach sinks. My name… what is my name? I must know that? I do know it. It’s in my mind but it’s blocked, blocked by the fog, the static. I get queasy with trying to grasp the answers, my body shivers. It must be amnesia.. Right? As I finish that thought my eyes focus on back onto the landscape around. The rolling red grass and the barrell-like trees. It seems strangely familiar. My eyes stop on a path, a scorched path. Red grass tainted black by fire. Still smoldering in places. The scorched path stretches on for what must be a half a mile, littered with anomalous metallic debris. The destructive path and it’s debris seem to converge on a point. An object. A ship. My ship. My body straightens at the sight of the crashed shuttle. Plumes of smoke and ripped bulkheads. The ship is a wreck, but it’s my ship. My ship and my journey. The questions on how I got here and who I am still echo in my mind, but I know that is my ship. My ship and my sky. The pain in my arm seems to ease, I start to walk the scorched path to my ship. The ship I will fix. I will fix my arm, I will fix this ship, I will fix… This is what I must do. I breathe easier, more certain of my task. I know the answers I seek are in the sky. My eyes look towards the creatures rolling through the clouds. My sky.
  9. As we're now in December, I am going to cover tunes that either Christmasy, Snowy or Icy in nature for this months #TuneTuesday tunes. To kick things off, here is the #Persona3 FES version of Snow Queen, composed by Idehito Aoki & Kenichi Tsuchiya, arranged by Shoji Meguro. This is the version that most Persona fans would be immediately aware of. The original comes from the original Persona, which I will include here also, for comparison's sake, which definitely has a more snowy flavour. I've discussed the Persona games in great detail before, so I will just give a brief overview. Take your favourite shonen, slice-of-life anime, slap it with Pokemon with an existential crisis, and you've got yourself every Persona game. The plot of Persona 3 revolves around a group of Japanese high school kids (surprise-surprise) who hit the books by day and hit the Shadows (daemons essentially) with their powers of Persona summoning by night. These are manifestations of one's inner self, which are essentially more mature 'Pokemon' based on real-life mythic deities. Persona 3 had an extended version (like the Pokemon games) do call Persona 3 FES, which didn't add in a whole, besides previously Japan-only DLC 'The Answer', an epilogue to the original story and additional music for the dungeon areas, known as Tartarus, a seemingly neverending tower that reaches the heavens by the end of the game. The remix of The Snow Queen was one of those included tunes, which is in A minor, not in the original's C minor and is an emotional dance track and not the whispery orchestral version found in the original Persona game. It's inclusion in FES is a very good one, as it works well as you make your ascent in Tartarus, especially when you reach the final few floors at the game's climax. Another altered version is also on 'Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight', which just adds to the emotional drive of the tune. The Snow Queen is a famous boss in the Persona universe and some gaming circles for two reasons. 1) She is a gruesomely difficult boss, as is her arc in the original game. It is not part of the main story, and players can only do that route of the main story route as if The Snow Queen was DLC or a story in an alternate universe. The reality is that both The Snow Queen and the main route happen at the same time, but with different members of the party, depending on one which ones you choose to explore with or what you decide at a certain point in the story. 2) The Snow Queen questline is not found in any version of the original Persona, outside of Japan and no one seems to know why (inform me if I am wrong about this!). I am presuming it is because of it being too difficult for western audiences, but I am not certain. Both versions of the cue have become iconic within the Persona fanbase, for good reason. They are both incredibly moving, delivering on the intended emotions and setting of each perspective game.
  10. This weeks second wintery TuneTuesday comes from the second Final Fantasy XV DLC, Episode Prompto. The cue is 'Lost in the Snow' by Yoshitaka Suzuki. The latest instalment of the beloved Final Fantasy franchise takes place on the fictional world of Eos. Aside from the capital of Lucis, all the world is dominated by the empire of Niflheim, who seek control of the magical Crystal protected by Lucis' royal family. On the eve of peace negotiations, Niflheim attacks the capital and steals the Crystal. Noctis Lucis Caelum, heir to the Lucian throne, goes on a quest to rescue the Crystal and defeat Niflheim in addition of trying to mary Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, as per the previous peace treaty. He later learns his full role as the "True King", destined to use the Crystal's powers to save Eos from eternal darkness. In short, it is all a typical Final Fantasy/hero's journey setup, be it with a unique game engine that took some 12 years to fully realise. Accompanying Noctis are his four childhood friends/servants. Ignis, the brains and cook with his many Quick Recipehs (that is a legitimate canon spelling by the way), Gladiolus, the throbbing beefcake, aka The King's Shield, and Prompto, who is forever optimistically snapping up photos and selfies of your adventures together. Throughout the game, something happens to the 3 party members that is only fully explained in their respective DLC. How did Ignis <<INSERT SPOILER>>? How did Prompto <<INSERT SPOILER>>? Why does Gladio have two <<INSERT SPOILER>> now? As previously mentioned, today's cue comes from Prompto's DLC. During <<INSERT SPOILER>> Prompto ends up in Gralea, the capital of the Empire of Niflheim in FFXV. It was once a hot desert landscape but due to half-explained lore reasons, is now covered in snow and ice. Fans of FF can probably guess why. In any case, the soundtrack for this DLC is incredibly varied, much like the rest of the game and other DLC's in FFXV. Episode Prompto has the 'standard' orchestral sound (mostly lush strings & solo cello in Episode Prompto) but also have an array of EDM cues that just punch you in the face as you popping caps in many a bad guy ass. 'Lost in The Snow' is one of two world exploration cues, one that plays when you navigate the modestly-sized tundra in a stolen snowmobile, heading for the next objective, or fighting monsters. One of the things I love about this cue is how it builds, starting with that gorgeous Cm11 chord spread across the piano and strings, which immediately creates a very cold texture before the strings take a staccato accompaniment for the simple piano melody. The instruments build and become more exciting and interesting to listen to. When the piece reaches its climax, the string orchestra perform EDM-inspired syncopated rhythms as well, despite containing only orchestral instruments (minus the occasional sneaky synth bass line), and syncopation always creates some level of excitement, with the occasional French Horn response to the piano and string melody. All this creates this wonderful sense of adventure and exploration, pushing you to explore as much as the map as possible, find it's secrets and just enjoy getting Lost in the Snow.
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  13. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from the recent(ish) remake of one of my favourite games. It is the Acid Jazz remix of YO from Catherine Fullbody, composed by Shoji Meguro, with rap and sung melody by L-VOKAL & Meitsuki respectively. For a quick summary, you play as the hopeless Vincent Brookes, who is pressured into marriage by his long-time girlfriend, Katherine, who is portrayed as strong, stern and remarkably cold at times. Vincent, after one drink too many at The Stray Sheep, he finds himself momentarily intoxicated by alcohol and Catherine, who is best described as the opposite of Katherine; young(er), childish, busty and remarkably blonde, resulting Vincent taking her back home with him. Thus begins a tragically hilarious love triangle, as the game presents to you the idea of you being able to choose your waifu, Catherine, or Katherine as you respond to text messages from both of them at night as you wander around the bar, talking to the other punters (or patrons, to you Yanks out there) and choosing how to respond to them as well, which affects a morality meter unlike any other. I am usually opposed to such methods in games, as you either have to be a cunt or saint to reap the maximum benefits. But without saying too much and ruining the ending, this plays slightly differently in Catherine. And to further complicate Vincent's love life (and the number of waifus to choose from), Fullbody adds another girl, Qatherine, (or, Rin) who Vincent runs into (literally), saving her from some stalker, giving her a place to sleep, and a job at The Stray Sheep, playing the piano. What I have just described is one portion of the narrative, which is the beloved social aspect of many of ATLUS' games. The game proper is a weirdly difficult puzzle game, where Vincent and the souls of other indecisive men (who all appear as sheep to each other) must climb various towers, by pushing blocks about, forming their own climbable paths. On a related note, Catherine (and Fullbody) doesn't shy away from its mature content. That's not to say there is anything pornographic, but do prepare something to say if a member of your family walks to find a naked Catherine straddling Vincent. As for the tune itself, it is a remix of the original theme, titled YO. Unlike that one, it is not a slightly expanded Acid Jazz remix a semitone lower (Bm-Bbm), with a new sung verse, sexy sax, seductive flute and a proper phat bass line. I won't lie, but this is an incredibly sexy arrangement, one that has matured nicely, like an old wine. It immediately lets you know that you are going on a ride like no other. What I think is most odd is the fact it is a rap song in a romantic horror Japanese game. It's very interesting, to say the least, but I think a lot of ATLUS' choices for Catherine could be described as such.
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  15. Post any new PC components or tech here! I'll start: Intel revealed it's new i9-9900KS and releases on 30/10/2019 The i9-9900KS processor is unlocked and boasts eight cores and 16 threads, up to 4.0 GHz base frequency, 127W TDP, 16 MB Intel Smart Cache, and up to 40 platform PCIe lanes for gaming and overclocking.... Click here to take a look at this special edition processor!
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  18. Come and join the Community fun with host @LolaSunnybutter as we jump straight into the latest installment of the Jackbox Party Pack series! It’s the wildest Party Pack yet, with the absurd deathmatch Trivia Murder Party 2, the weird word circus Dictionarium, the hidden identity game Push The Button, the comedy contest Joke Boat and the offbeat personality test Role Models. Going live at 9PM BST! Did you decipher the code? DM Franchize and tell him with a screenshot of this event!
  19. Developer: Steel Mantis Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Steam, Xbox, PS4 Price: $24.99 Genre: 2D, Action, Platformer Metal. Gore. Destruction. Insanity. After playing several hours of Valfaris, you'll understand more about these words than you ever have in your lifetime. From the team that brought you Slain: Back from Hell, Valfaris sets to deliver a new type of experience, with similar mechanics and gameplay. It has all the attributes of a heavy metal concert and 90's sci-fi movies all mixed into one. Grab your pick of destiny and get ready to ROCK! Whether you've played Slain: Back from Hell or not, Valfaris is a great game to get your feet soaked in blood. You play as Therion, son of Vroll, and he is on a mission to reclaim Valfaris for his own. Vroll has taken control of Valfaris and tainted it with evil spread across every inch of the grandiose citadel. A bit full of himself and riddled with puns, Therion seeks to strip his father of his powers and will rip through anything to find him. After a short introduction scene opening the game, you finally get thrown into a 2D post-apocalyptic world with a hint of cyberpunk like colors. I was pleasantly surprised by the tight mechanics of the game but wasn't completely satisfied with the button layout. Lucky for me, I was able to swap out certain functions with others—happy with the new button layout, I was on my way. Right out of the gate, you are overwhelmed by hordes of bloodthirsty foes. Equipped with trusty weaponry, Therion is ready for anything the darkness has to throw at him. There are three types of weapon classes: Sidearm, Melee, and Heavy weapons. Sidearms are quick and easy to use without having to consume combat energy. Melee is close range, risky, but useful in gaining additional combat energy from enemies. Finally, Heavy weapons are meant to output massive damage but consume the most combat energy. As far as defensive actions are concerned, you also wield a shield that acts as a form of parrying if timed just right. Another neat feature with this shield is that you can hold projectiles and redirect them at your foes! Over time you'll collect new weapons that add a new way to play, and I found it's a good thing to swap these out from time to time based on sections where enemies would prove to be more difficult than others. Weapons add some sort of strategic value to the game, and you'll want to balance what weapons work best for your play style, but also weapons that are the most effective. Valfaris has a system of making upgrades to your weapons. Be on the lookout for piles of skulls that may contain an upgrade material known as 'Blood Metal.' Certain enemies may drop this material as well, and eventually, enough upgrades will warrant a new material you'll need to collect to make this final upgrade. Resurrection Idols are placed throughout the game and play a vital role in how checkpoints function. If you've got a big set of balls on you, hold onto those resurrection idols and increase your health bar and combat energy. However, if you're like me, I prefer to use them at each checkpoint, so I can avoid having to backtrack as often. You do eventually collect enough to build up your health bar and combat energy slightly. There comes a point when you reach, what I like to call, a 'vending machine.' This vending machine gives you blood metal, in return for resurrection idols—choose wisely if you're low on idols but desire to upgrade a weapon. One of the biggest challenges of the game is the fact that you encounter so many varying enemies and bosses with unique traits. Keep your eyes peeled for traps and other inanimate objects that seem to crush, suffocate, and impale you, too. You'll get familiar with dying, so prepare for the worst—I say this because everything WILL kill you. Fortunately, you won't encounter a "You died" or "Slain" phrase each time you kick the bucket. The best way to stay alive is to be vigilant and hope enemies drop additional health or a blue skull to replenish your combat energy. If not used, the hearts and blue skulls will disappear after a short time, so make use of these promptly. Anyone a fan of mechs? That's right, you reach a point when manpower is only so much and you'll need aid from a big, beefy bit of machinery. Causing complete chaos, you feel like nothing can stand in your way. Similar to how you play with Therion, there are three types of attacks and a booster jump that will crush enemies below. It's a little clunky, but ultimately I think it's a solid addition to keep things fresh within the game. Everything from gameplay to enemy and level design meshed very well, though, my only real gripe of the game is how you aim. There were times when I would attempt to shoot down, and Therion would only crouch. Movement is key to staying alive, and despite being able to freeze your character to aim, I thought crouching was a bit redundant. I fully understand why it's there it just didn't work all that well for me. One more thing to plug here is Steel Mantis has been hard at work to bring you a New Game + mode called "Full Metal Mode" that will challenge the player even more than Valfaris already does! The update will feature: All weapons, upgrades, and upgrade items will be carried over Enemies and bosses will be more aggressive The player will take more damage Players will have access to one additional Destroyer class weapon At the time of writing this, there is no set date on when the update will be released and it will be free across all platforms. Finally putting this review to rest, Valfaris has an enticing story and wicked cool visuals that will keep your lust for blood quenched. I found the soundtrack and SFX to be quite gritty, grungy, METAL and I loved every second of it! The game is brutal but it's doable—challenging in just the right way. Valfaris is an indie title you should be eager to drop some cash on. Grow that hair out and get ready to ROCK! Game code was generously provided by Big Sugar for review purposes only on the Nintendo Switch. We appreciate your willingness to spare us a code!
  20. Want to test your mettle against the very best (and worst) Rocket League players The Forge has to offer? Then sign up to our next Community Event! Past events have seen great success with the likes of Dead by Daylight and Overwatch games, and we expect this one to be just as popular! It'll likely be played as duos, though we may also have some 1v1 and 3v3 exhibitions if time allows! The winning duo will also be pitted against each other in a 1v1 fight to the death! And the best part? It doesn't matter what platform you're on - any can take part. Rocket League is one of the first fully cross-platform games! So whether you're PC, Switch, PS or XB - you can still take part! Sign up today here: https://forms.gle/m42qsfNk6ANhyiSc7
  21. Hello there darlings! Here you may suggest any games you think I would be interested in playing or that you would like to see me play / stream! Keep in mind that I do primarily play on PC, but will play Xbox if need be! Thank you for the suggestions in advance!
  22. A few weeks ago, Blizzard released the long-awaited World of Warcraft: Classic - a throwback to the early days of WoW, warts and all. Until that point, I had never played World of Warcraft. Roughly 2 weeks in, my Orc Hunter, Orcthisway, is sitting at level 31 and I am thoroughly addicted. So, what took me so long? I'd never been a fan of subscription-based MMOs. I hated the idea of paying to keep playing a game. However, after a lot of persuasion from friends, I gave it a shot. I paid for a month's subscription to try Classic out. I've not touched the modern version, referred to as "retail" WoW, but will likely do so in the not-too-distant future. The following will be a series of rambling thoughts on Classic and it's design. I had a little bit of help from a friend in grasping the basics, navigating the UI, and so on. "Intuitive" is not a word I'd use to describe Classic. It's of an era where RPGs required the player to read quest information and figure things out for themselves, rather than the modern standard of "follow the quest marker". Now, there's nothing wrong with quest markers, but I personally find the over-reliance most modern RPGs have on them to be a little too much. Hand-holding throughout the opening of a game is fine, but when you're max level and a master of the combat system, having the game point you in the right direction feels very patronizing. I often turn quest markers off when I play RPGs I'm familiar with, so I found Classic to be oddly refreshing in the sense that the only directional markers you get are to the nearest settlements (and your allies, if you're in a group). Markers for finishing quests only appear on the mini-map when you're nearby, and the only other markers are from abilities you have to track certain enemies or harvestable materials. You want to know where monster X that you need item Y from is? Read the quest log and figure it out. Can't figure it out? I guess Google is your friend, right? I love this kind of design. Yes, it can get frustrating, but it makes it all the more rewarding when you finally get it done. And the reading leads to actually learning more about the world than you would if you were simply told a few things and led around. The writing is pretty good, and I'm enjoying learning about the war between the Alliance and Horde. There's some nice humour in there, to boot. Leveling is SLOW. It's been around two weeks and I'm level 31. The level cap is 60, so I might hit that by the end of the month - if I'm lucky. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, you have to mob-grind: kill as many enemies as you can on the way to your next quest, and you'll have an easier time leveling up. The majority of enemies that are around your level are capable of killing you fairly easily if you're not careful. I enjoy this challenge. It makes the enemies feel tough, and you not feel all-powerful. Grouping up to take down tougher "elite" enemies and bosses is essential, but if you're trying to get a particular item to drop, you're going to have a hard time. Loot is shared rather than individual, and unless the rest of your group has already got the items you need, you've got to rely on often low drop rates to get them. The only exceptions are bosses and certain items, where the whole group will get them from the same enemy. XP is only given from enemies that you or your group hit first - if a random passerby hits (or "tags") the enemy you're after before you do, you're gonna have to wait for it to respawn, or find another. Speaking of respawning, the timers for some bosses are painful. Some enemies take 10-15 minutes to respawn, which slows your progress right down. If you're after a boss and someone's just killed it, go make a coffee or something. You'll still be waiting by the time you're back. I get why Blizzard did this - to slow players down so they don't burn through all the content too quickly - but holy shit, it can be tedious sometimes. Getting around is also very slow. Be prepared to walk a LOT. Flying from one area to another (once you've unlocked the flight paths) can take quite some time, as well. It's another of those "go make a coffee or something" moments. I suppose it's a good thing, as it gives you an opportunity to take a break, but if you're just trying to meet up with your friends, it can be pretty boring - especially if you're trying to fly somewhere to get to the ships or zeppelins that take you to different regions, then flying even farther once you get there. Thankfully, mages can teleport and every character gets a Hearthstone, which teleports you to whichever inn you've set as your home. Mounts are available at level 40 for a hefty fee, which cut down on some travel time, and some classes get abilities that speed you up - the hunter, for example, gets a 30% speed increasing ability. This reduces some of the travel time, but it's still very slow to get around. It's amazing what you take for granted in modern games. Classic just says, "Fast travel? What's that?". You might think I'm complaining, but honestly I absolutely love this game. Yes, the game is slow and can be very dull at times, but roaming around an unforgiving world, slowly killing one enemy at a time in the hopes that you get the items you've been searching hours for, is a challenging and rewarding experience, and an absolute breath of fresh air in an age where everything is practically given to you on a silver platter. You have to earn those levels, your mounts, etc. and it feels so damn rewarding when you level up... only to have to go back to your class trainer to spend the majority of your money on new abilities. WoW Classic is a rough place, but somehow I still absolutely love it. I've not been gripped by an MMO this much in a very long time. I look forward to when I'm done and move on to retail WoW, where I'll no doubt have my hand held and level much faster, but the world and it's lore has sucked me in. It only took fifteen years for it to finally do so.
  23. I've been at this whole streaming thing for a couple of years now. I feel like it's time to reflect on the journey so far... Humble Beginnings I originally started streaming as a distraction from my anxiety and other issues in my life. Things were pretty bad for me, personally, and instead of moping around all the time, I thought I'd give streaming a shot in my spare time. A friend gave me a push in the right direction and I started streaming in August 2017. I had streamed before, but it was more for messing around with friends whilst doing some Dark Souls co-op than actually making an effort to put on a decent show. But I digress... I started off with single-player games. I did a pretty big Fallout 4 run where I tested a few mods and did my first run through the game's various DLCs. Aside from a couple of friends who were only around every now and then, my streams were pretty slow, as you might expect. I was just having some fun playing a game, and never really thought much of it all. That was until someone popped into my chat and said they were really enjoying the stream. I'll never forget that feeling of accomplishment. It felt like I was doing something right, y'know? A few months of my incredibly inconsistent schedule later, and I'd found a few regular viewers, moved on to a full run through The Witcher series, and had felt like I was making some genuine connections on Twitch. Then I got my first big raid whilst testing out a Dark Souls mod, which pushed me over the 50 follower requirement for Twitch affiliate. I got an e-mail on Christmas Eve about joining the affiliate program and was over the moon. This was where I thought I should try and make a regular schedule and see just how far I can take this. Just over a year and a half later, here we are. I'm pulling in a fairly consistent viewership, I have a core group of pretty dedicated regulars, my channel's growing at a good pace, I've made some great friends, and I even joined the Forge Discord community (back before it was even called that) and have made it to admin! Ups and Downs As with life in general, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. The highs are great, but the lows can be pretty terrible. I've had some bad experiences in my time on Twitch. I've learned that some people thrive on conflict and drama, whether it's someone having a personal problem with me or a group of people jumping on the hate bandwagon for other streamers. It's childish, it's unnecessary, and to the types of people who can't get enough drama, I must ask - why? Do you genuinely have nothing better to do with your lives? When something bad goes off, I pick myself up and get on with life. There's absolutely no point dwelling on things. I've had friends fall out with me before and not let it go. It's in the past. It certainly doesn't bother me, and I don't let it get on top of me. And you know what? I'm happier for it! It amazes me as to how long someone can hold a grudge, and with how much overlap there is in a lot of Twitch communities, it's all the more present in our lives. And it is completely unnecessary. Moving on from such silliness, I will say that the majority of my experiences with Twitch have been positive: I remember getting raided by a partnered streamer, and being able to send that love on to someone else which gave them that push they needed to make affiliate. It felt like I'd come full circle. I was the one helping someone else reach their goals. That feeling is unlike any other. I've had a clip of mine featured in a montage on TwitchCon. Not only that, but it was singled out at the end by the panel. Of all the clips, they sat and talked about mine. It absolutely blew my mind. I've had to stop playing what I was playing on-stream because chat was so active that I didn't even need to be playing a game. We'd just sit there with me on the pause menu, simply chatting away. The time flies by so fast when this happens, and I love every second of it. I've had people come in and drop hundreds of dollars' worth of bits, or a bunch of gifted subscriptions, or even donations. People have gifted me games. They've even bought mugs and t-shirts with my artwork on them! That is all insanely humbling. There are people out there who are willing to spend money on me just for sitting here in front of a camera & playing videogames. And I swear I'll never get used to it! I am eternally grateful for everyone who has supported me like this. Lessons learned Standing out on Twitch is incredibly difficult these days. The platform is oversaturated, to say the least. Views can be extremely inconsistent on not only a game-by-game basis, but a day-by-day basis as well. There's no real formula for success. I've tried variety, I've tried sticking to a single game, I've tried sticking to similar games, I've tried MMOs, single-player games, multi-player games, just chatting, you name it. I will say that the bigger MMOs and multi-player games are definitely less viable for smaller streamers - you'll just get lost in the long list of streamers, which are always sorted by number of viewers. Twitch has taken steps to help smaller creators stand out, but also some missteps. The loss of Twitch communities was a big one. The tags they introduced to replace communities are mostly awful. A large percentage of viewers don't even read titles or tags. The "no spoilers" tag encourages viewers to spoil games. The LGBTQIA+ tag attracts far too many trolls, but I will say I've had a lot of positive interactions from using it as an ally (give us an ally tag, dammit!). Communities were a great way to find like-minded people. On a more positive note, the Discover page (basically the front page) now highlights smaller creators in a "recommended" section. I've met a few great streamers through that. It always feels like Twitch could be doing more to help, though. Better sorting options, perhaps? More diverse tags? More prominent titles & tags displayed on channels? I'm just throwing ideas out here. Either way, I think discoverability is an absolute nightmare as a smaller streamer, and it's 90% due to the oversaturation of Twitch. Putting your name out there outside of Twitch seems like the best way to go. It shouldn't be, but here we are. The Future Well, this is my first entry into writer's blocks here on Ember. It's been rambly as can be, but that's just how I write things - they're just my thoughts typed out as I... think them, I guess! Regarding my future as a content creator, I've made the decision to try out streaming on Mixer, which I'll be starting in September. I also aim to create Youtube content, and potentially more. I'm pushing to diversify the content I create, spread it out over multiple platforms, and really get my name out there. Twitch has been fantastic for me, my mental health, and even my social life. I'll not be leaving any time soon, but now more than ever is the time for me to really knuckle down and create as much content as I can, of as high quality as I can. Every time someone tries to kick me down, it lights a fire under me that motivates me to keep doing better. And I will do better. Watch this space.
  24. Oh man - do we have a monstrously good competition for you! Today we launch 'The Great Ember Profile Giveaway' - your opportunity to win a copy of Cyberpunk 2077! The competition is simple - three steps! 1. Sign up to an EmberGN account at https://emberapp.gg 2. Complete your EmberGN profile! 3. Follow the EmberGN Twitter account - https://twitter.com/ember_gn - and RT the competition tweet! We're looking for big, beautiful, colourful banners; profile pictures; long bios; short bios; favourite games; Twitch/Youtube/Twitter integrations if you have them - just be as creative as possible! The profiles feature an incredible amount of customization, so make the most of it! You can then go on to set your country; your social media links and share your online presence with the rest of the Ember Users! You can even use gifs for banners and profile pictures! Looking for somewhere to start? Check out this instructional on setting up your profile: Profile Basics Entry will be open to all Ember profiles, with the competition closing on the 31th August 2019. The Admin team will then select 10 finalists to be shared on social media - with the most popular profile taking the top prize! Preorder keys will be issued at time of selecting winner. Winner to advise on preferred platform.
  25. WoodyREC

    It Goes Beyond Gaming

    Now what do I mean by this? This article is going to be memories or instances where as much as the gaming is a vital point to the story, it transcends the computer screen; it could be my first game played and the memory of it, bonding with a family member over a game or just something that had impact on me outside of the game. So here are some special gaming related moments for me, and I would love to see yours in the comments... Resident Evil 3: Nemesis I had been playing video games a long time at this point, not to give away my age, but this is the first game I have memory of playing from start to finish. I definitely wouldn't have been old enough to play the game at the time, but I have the most vivid memory of sitting down a few times a week for a couple of hours with my uncle to play through it. Taking turns, mainly him, as it was so hard to navigate the game for little old me. I could list so many titles we played through, Shadow of Memories was another favourite, such a unique storyline and gameplay. World of Warcraft I had just started my first job, and I remember Wrath of the Lich King was just coming out. I was so nervous heading into work, wondering how I'd get on with work colleagues, and then one of them asked me what games I play and when I said WoW there jaw dropped. Turns out a lot of them were massively into it, and we became instant friends. They invited me onto their server, their guild etc and not only did I feel right at home on WoW I did at work too. WoW in general is one of those games you make lifelong friends on, and you can end up speaking to them as much as family or friends - it truly is a unique experience. Heroclix This one is a tabletop game, but I think it still fits the article loosely. I have travelled the UK playing this game, winning sealed events at Nationals, playing friendlies in comic book shops and meeting and creating friendships all over. I've made countless good friends and acquaintances from this game that I would have never met if not for this, and I think that's the beauty of competitive miniature, card or tabletop games. Pokemon Go This was my final choice, partially for the fact I had so many friends and family join in something I've always been a massive fan of, partially how it made me get out and continue to be more active. For me, this game epitomised the title of this article. For a few months, a year, a couple of years some people were able to forget their restraints and the stigma and just have fun. It took over the world, everyone was playing it, and it was an incredible time. This was a game that did this, a game. Thank you if you've made it this far, and like I said at the start, I'd love to give your special gaming stories a read so drop them below!
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