Category Archives: games

My undergrad research experience in comic form

They may not make a deep observation here, but the guys at Applegeeks aren’t wrong about mixing work and play getting odd at times.


One of the best things I did in both undergrad and grad school was research the games I loved. One of the best things I’ve done since then is spend time playing and discussing games I love totally outside of grades or paychecks.

You can’t turn off the old analysis habit, and working in UX and education a lot of what I see in games is relevant to work, but I relax more when I play than I used to. If it relates to work it’s a cool connection, if not I get to play pocket game scholar.


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other worlds

During the occasional “Saturday mornings” of life it’s nice to get away. Away in a someplace else, somebody else kind of away.

Enter the mmos.

This Paragon Life
City of Heroes (Top Cow/Image issue 1)Until the designers did irreparable damage to the game in late 2005, I spent my break times in Paragon City, home to superheroines Cold Storage, C for Chaos, and La Encarnación.

I love superhero stories, so a second life as a superhero was a natural fit. Over time I had my choice of secret identities. C for those demolition times, La E for a liesurely yet dark evening about town, and Cold Storage to handle the occasional clobberin’ time.

With their City of Heroes game continuing to suffer subscriber freefall, Cryptic Studios reactivated my account, giving me a chance to grab some snapshots of my old alter egos and put together a little remembrance.

La Encarnación
LaE night flight
LaE was my first City of Heroes alter ego. By the end I didn’t play her much, but she was really more me than any other character I had. It’s an odd pattern. My first identity in any online world tends to end up feeling the most “me” of the range of them that I create. Maybe it’s a product of spending my formative time in an online world that does that, or that I get most attached to my first character… or I just invest myself in more ways when I’m starting, then get more focused as I develop later personas.

La EncarnaciónLaE is a defender: a kind of support hero… her powers focus on helping other heroes do their jobs. She uses her dark powers to blind or immobilize baddies and to hide her teammates, occasionally thrash somebody with her dark energies. Fun, but hard to get much done on your own… and more often than not, I’m playing solo. To most pick-up superteams, defenders are all about healing, and dark defenders don’t do heal especially well. It’s a neat energy siphoning kind of thing that pulls strength from the bad guys… but you have to “hit” the baddie with it, and that can gets tough with a supergroup of any size. (Part of how the game balances for groups.)

LaE came out of the fun I have playing catholic symbols and tropes. She comes partly out of the evil nun idea, partly out of the battle sister idea. In this case, a nun superheroine that uses dark powers to take out evildoers. She was especially big on taking out supernatural bad guys like the Vakhtoth and Circle of Thorns.

C for Chaos
C focuses
C came next, to pal around with friends A for Anarchy and B for Bedlam (played by friends of mine). If the three names seem especially V for Vendetta to you, congratulations. Thanks to the magic of comic books turned movies you’ve caught up to an old gag. A, B, and C were a lot of fun. All fire heroes, all supremely nasty in a fight… well… A and B anyway. With me at the reigns, C always ran a bit behind her friends. A was amazing though, she could draw clouds of 30-50 enemies at once and slowly burn them into submission with her heat aura. B could broil about as many in short order with her fire control powers.

Being a Blaster, C was all about damage at range… and please don’t let anything touch her, cuz she’s made of paper. Fortunately she had a few knockback tricks to fall back on when things got tight.
C knockback

Playing C was always good for dealing with rage. Frustrating day at work? Nasty traffic on the road? Go burn things with C.

For some therapy there is no words.

Cold Storage
Cold Storage

After I’ve played any MMO for an appreciable amount of time, I finally get around to tanking. Enter Cold Storage.

I’m not sure what part of my personality Cold Storage came out of. I know plenty of guys that have a thing for ice queens. I can see the appeal, but when I take an honest look, I’m not nearly so attracted to ice queens as I am an ice queen. Sure, I’m nice and I try to be affable, but unless you’ve managed to find some fissure in my protective glaciers or I’ve decided to make a special effort to be warm, once you get past the windowdressing niceness, I’m pretty cold.

Cold rumbleThat’s probably exaggerating, but I think on some levels I’m pretty cold, and I’ll just figure that Cold comes out of that part of my self image.

Wherever she came from, we had plenty of fun together. Taking on groups of 8-10 bad guys at a time, holding their attention so the other heroes could knock them out. I miss that. Back before the tweaks they did in Issue 6 you could do that, even as an Ice Tank (ice was the most brittle of the tank power sets). From what I’ve heard, after the devs got done with their changes, most tankers are lucky to hold 3 or 4. Apparently they thought that their game should play more like World of Warcraft.

They sorta failed to realize that if I wanted to play something that played like World of Warcraft, I’d get World of Warcraft… Which I did… just like everybody else that plays online games. But I’ll cover WoW escapades in a coming post. This one’s already plenty long.

So why all female heroes?
Knew you’d ask.

There’s a couple things at work there. In online games, maybe half of the female characters are actually women, so typically people figure that it’s even odds that a woman in-game is a woman in real life. The odds people tend to give on male characters skews pretty strong to fiction mirroring life. During my CoH days I was going through a phase where I was curious to see if people pegged me as male or female based on conversation and behavior. The closest I ever came was when a friend of mine asked me if I was a real life latina (while playing LaE). He was looking for some language and cultural help, so I had to come clean that I’d lived in Ecuador for a couple years, but grew up a pasty shade of ethnically disconnected white. (I managed to dodge answering the gender question though.)
Il Pesante
The other factor is a bit more odd. None of the male heroes I made ever felt right. They were either too muscley, too homoerotic, or too something else. They didn’t feel like me. So apparently some part of my psyche’s convinced that if I were a superhero in an online imaginary world, I’d be female. (Odd, since when I’m in more of a comic book imagination mode, I’m always male.)

Given results in other games, I think this is a kind of psychological distancing I do with characters I create in online games. I tend to make a character that’s distinctly not me so I can star pouring bits of my personality in that I want to play with. I’ll have to try and draw that out a bit better when I go over my WoW personalities.

But that will wait… I sleep now.

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Cooking Mama heads west

Remember that sweet DS cooking game I mentioned a month or two ago?

Supposedly it’s coming stateside. (Found via Error Macro)

Thank you Majesco!

I may finally have to just suck it up and buy me that DS.

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Pea… tear… griffin, Peter Griffin

Somehow the Family Guy and American Dad crew managed to involve Capcom in a new 2d fighter: American Dad vs. Family Guy Kung Fu!

It’s an ad game to get people thinking about the two series so they buy the new seasons coming out on DVD, but the fact that they got Capcom on board impressed me. (And I’m all for any game that lets me be Stewie… or Lois in her full Kill Bill might.)

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6 months

About this time of year I tend to think back to what I was up to 6 months ago and how I’ve used the time. (And ain’t it awesome to finally get some real spring this week! Lucille’s been so excited… convertibles are great.)

This set of 6 ain’t lookin’ too shabby.

  • 6 months ago this weekend, I was in Waveland, MS with a work crew
  • Next day was my birthday
  • Started dating a gal I got to know during the Waveland trip
  • Finished up rehearsals and performed the radio show.
  • In the end we only had two traveling performances with veterans, but it was cool to talk with the WWII, Korea and Vietnam vets (the younger, more recent vets all came to the Roswell shows)
  • Did a great karaoke rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody with Jey and Cliff in front of all our friends
  • Followed by a really sucky version of Don’t Stop Me Now, which was supposed to be the easy one
  • Finally went contra dancing… or was that more than 6 months ago
  • Got back into superhero comic books something proper… thanks to DC’s Infinite Crisis event
  • Saw my comic book shop of choice close its doors forever
  • Dumped City of Heroes to start playing World of Warcraft with my friends from Tech and GSU
  • Got so busy with church stuff that I haven’t played WoW in a couple months, leaving my little gnomish trade empire in shambles
  • Had a great Thanksgiving with most of my family (so great it was even okay that we were in Utah)
  • Finally got to meet my li’l sisters boyfriend and realized that he really should be a full member of the family… when they’re ready
  • Started listening to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books on my iPod. Fun, fun stuff, especially the ones read by Nigel Planer
  • Left Comcast cable service for Dish Network, been very happy with it
  • Broke up with the aforementioned gal I’d been dating, learned some interesting things along the way
  • Had a great Christmas with Mom, Dad, Adam and Heather (even though Eric and Jo didn’t come… even though it was our year this year)
  • But we had a rousing round of We Three Kings, which made us feel okay about being abandoned
  • Purchased The Chosen Collection just as it went off the market, have celebrated by watching Angel instead when there’s TV time, because for whatever reason, I like that Buffyverse series more
  • Saw off my quorum instructor, as he moved into a new neighborhood where he, his wife, and their daughter will own their own house
  • Watched him bless his daughter with his tios, primos, and other family members
  • All of which makes more sense if you know that at the beginning of these six months, he wasn’t really keen on doing churchy stuff at all
  • Got my “professional/official” blog going (the one that’s not this one–where I talk about all that eggheaded information architecture and game stuff)
  • Hit South by Southwest Interactive for the first of as many times as circumstances will permit
  • Which is to say that I went to Texas, messed with it, and returned home safely
  • I got to baptize in the temple a time or two, which I love doing because I love saying the prayer (and all the Spanish names), and trying to make it a special experience for the proxy and the one getting baptized. That and working at the veil are the coolest things a man can do in life… well, almost the coolest
  • Said the occasional thing actually worth saying on the xuhoch blog. Mostly political and politics and religion stuff that felt important… though commenting on friends’ posts has been cool and helped reconnect with folks I’d been a bit alejado from
  • Got a few of the hermanos together before Priesthood session to have ice cream… anybody want popsicles or ice cream sandwiches?
  • I’ve been dressing more how I’d like (comes with that replacing old clothes thing)
  • Which has led to at least a few of those much needed Johnny Bravo moments in front of the mirror
  • Helped Mom and Dad get their media player working again so they could listen to General Conference together
  • Which is to say that Dad’s been making it a priority to listen to conference (even cut short a phone call with me so he could listen)
  • Which isn’t something that I did, but it’s mighty mighty cool
  • Visited some families with our branch president… today we even got to actually talk with a family instead of standing outside doors that wouldn’t open
  • That one makes a lot more sense if you know how awesome he is and how much he’s grown in the past 8 months
  • Was officially re-dubbed Superman at work (due to my failure to stop Katrina and subsequent 05 hurricanes, I was stripped of the title, just got it back on Friday)… it’s a sandwich shop thing, so it’s important but makes no sense without explaining a bit

Yeah, a bit of a haphazard list (for effect of course), but there’s the occasional northern California nugget in there.

I’d like to think I’ve grown, but honestly, I’m around myself too much to see many of the changes. I got more proactive at work and started organizing things with friends from church so I can see them more than just FHE or institute night. I’m socializing a bit more in those amorphous large group situations (post-institute) that I don’t really like. (I really just typed that “out loud,” didn’t I?) I’m getting a better fix on how to encourage the hermanos to get out and visit their home teaching families more faithfully.

Still doesn’t feel like enough though. So much more to do. We’ve got families having tough times, we still haven’t quite worked out how to get everyone on the same web standards “page” at work, spiritual matters could use more attention, as could a number of the friendships that I hardly seem to have time to maintain.

And as Cassiel reminds, there’s that whole “find a girl, have a family” thing, but not all of us have Damiel’s luck on that one. (Of course, Marion doesn’t shine her brightest until the follow up.)

Anyway, looks like I’ve got some things to shoot for these next 6… hope I can hit ’em.

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Averaging Gradius

Screen capture of multiple runs of Gradius overlaid on one another

Here’s a little more eggheaded gaming item… averaging maps of Gradius, a little proof of concept R. LeFeuvre at The New Gamer put together back in January.

Le Feuvre took a bunch of play throughs of the first level of Gradius and overlaid them to compare common paths and approaches players took to the level. It gets a little messy to try and follow a specific player, but some of the variations are pretty cool.Now I want to see someone do this kind of visualization for frequently hit maps in World of Warcraft. I’m curious to see if there’s much variation in paths and approaches to encounters. From what I’ve seen, optimal practices tend to circulate pretty quickly among players, then become expected of everyone. (Unless of course, you’re Leeroy Jenkins.)

Again, a shout out to José for pointing this out.

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Cooking… now in DS form

Cooking Mama screen grab

One of my EGL friends sent on a vid of Taito’s クッキングママ (Cooking Mama).

Yes, it’s a cooking video game. Yet another reason that the Nintendo DS is so awesome.

(And a nice bright spot to lighten my sick day.)



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