I was raised a gamer, by a gamer. My dad, whose roots are strong and true from playing Dungeons & Dragons in the ‘80s, put a controller in my hands when I was barely old enough to build a comprehensive sentence (I’ve written about my youthful adoration for Zelda and its impact on my creativity numerous times before). Gaming has always been a big part of my life, even spanning into my professional career through writing fiction. Watching E3 conferences was a family affair, and we were always first in line whenever a new console dropped. Every member of my family was an active participant, except my mother, who took on a more passive role until recently. For the last 23 years, she’d watch us play everything. Cheekier titles like Mario Kart and other Nintendo classics like Zelda, more involved and darker titles like Square Enix’s Final Fantasy X, Bioshock, Skyrim—she watched us play them all.
Although she was a “backseat gamer” for the vast majority of my upbringing, she was always participating. Telling us where to go when we walked past an obvious story marker, giving suggestions on a tricky boss. She wasn’t holding the controller, directing whichever character we embodied, but because she had been there observing, taking it all in from beginning to end, she knew the ropes just as much as we did (sometimes even better).
Since moving to Washington, I’ve been able to spend more time with my family, a lot of which still revolves around playing video games since I’m actively involved in the industry. A few months back my mom finally asked, “Will you help me pick out my first game?” and I dropped everything and went to work.
Starts at 10 a.m. — Living Computers Museum + Labs in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood
Free for members, $12 admission
Dress up your doll and bring her to the museum for coding, gaming, prototyping, and more. Take a stroll through the exhibits or spend all your time tinkering in the Labs – it’s up to you! This event is open to all gender identities, but all programming workshops will be taught by women.
Starts at 2 p.m. — Living Computers Museum + Labs in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood
Free for members, $12 admission
Recreate the sequential thinking behind Ms. Pac-Man! Using MIT’s popular free programming platform, Scratch, boys and girls team up to write and debug scripts,learn basic coding rules and jargon, and use simple game theory to create a fun downloadable game they can play over and over again. Students 9+ years are welcome, no experience or technology needed.
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Northwest Film Forum in Seattle’s Capitol HIll neighborhood
Ticket prices: Free for members of Three Dollar Bill Cinema, $5 for not-yet-members ($6.16 with fees)
Get ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day with this collection of short films from past screenings at TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival and Translations Film Festival! The event page lists 12 short films. Read them here.
2016 was a pretty interesting year for games: with the rise of VR and announcements about new generation consoles, there’s a lot more going on for gaming than in previous years. I didn’t get to play everything that I wanted to (of course), and although I played a lot of AAA games as well, I’m trying to spend more time looking at indie offerings. Here (in no particular order) is a quick list of some of the indie games that I played last year and would recommend:
Inside is a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game from indie studio Playdead, where you control a boy who, from the first scene, is being chased by soldiers, dogs and scientists. Although the narrative doesn’t do much to explain what’s happening, you do get to wear mind control helmets to move zombies around to solve puzzles, and there’s an underlying commentary about autonomy and ownership. The art is minimal, with the setting being mostly black and gray, except for your character and interactable objects. Likewise, there’s very little soundtrack, with only audio cues, and the sound of your character’s footsteps, which really adds to how eerie the setting is.
This one came out in 2014 but I only got around to playing it in 2016. There are lots of games about war, but This War of Mine is unique in that you play as non-combatant residents of a war-torn city–all the fighting you do is for your day-to-day survival. I think this one hit home particularly hard because I started playing as the Siege of Aleppo was intensifying at the end of the year, and there are some incredibly heartbreaking choices you have to make. It’s not a game I would say I enjoyed per se, but I think it is definitely one that is worth playing for the lessons in empathy, understanding and acceptance it can teach. (And if that’s not emotionally wrenching enough for you, there’s now an expansion called This War of Mine: The Little Ones where you experience the besieged city through the eyes of a child.)
Overcooked is a great little cooking game where couch cooperation is key to success–it’s not enough to just be good at the game as an individual; where it gets fun (and tricky and frustrating) is playing with a group of up to three other players, where you have to navigate a kitchen without bumping into each other to source, prepare, cook and serve food. With some clever mechanics that focus on teamwork and cooperation, hilarity (and a little bit of rage) ensues.
I absolutely love Unravel. It’s probably the most visually stunning game on this list, and it’s a little game with a lot of heart. You play as Yarny, an anthromorphic ball of yarn who—as the name suggests—unravels as he traverses across levels, using his yarn to solve puzzles and move objects around. The mechanics in the game are pretty straightforward, but what ties Unravel together (if you forgive the pun) is how lovely it is. The story is poignant and bittersweet, but it is incredibly clear that the developers really put their love into making it the game that they wanted. Also, you’d never imagine that a ball of red yarn could have so much emotion and personality.
I’m a huge fan of adventure games, but the majority of them that I’ve played are of the point-and-click variety. Firewatch is almost like a grownup version of that, with a mystery that drives the story and a first-person perspective that works surprisingly well for the narrative and the puzzles. You play as Henry, a volunteer lookout for Shoshone National Park, and your only means of connection to the outside world is via a walkie-talkie. As you patrol your part of the park, you discover a whole host of different storylines that interweave. I really enjoyed the way Firewatch set up dialog trees so that your responses in your conversations would drive how your experience in the game evolved.
Salt and Sanctuary
If you like the grindiness of games like Dark Souls, but set in a 2D platformer, where you can play cooperatively with your friends (and not just people who invade your game), Salt and Sanctuary might be worth checking out. It’s a hard game, but there are lots of player customizations, and playing with your friends helps soften the blow of the many, many, times that you’ll die in the game.
The Flame in the Flood is a roguelike survival game, where you play as Scout, a survivor in a flooded, post-apocalyptic America where the land has been transformed into a series of islands that she has to traverse on a makeshift raft. As she and her dog Aesop travel down the river, Scout has to contend with wild animal attacks, snakebites, hunger, and staying warm and dry, all the while as she uncovers the mystery of where everyone went during the rapture. What keeps the game together is the river, which varies between calm streams to rushing rapids that you have to maneuver through to get to the next destination. Will it take you where you want to go? Or will you be dashed upon rocks? I also highly recommend the soundtrack for The Flame in the Flood; I didn’t stop listening to it for weeks after I finished the campaign.
What did you play in 2016 that you enjoyed? Are there any other indie games that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming for 2017!
All Geeks, All Games is an event developed by Mox Boarding House to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusiveness in the local gaming community. Everyone is welcome to come by and play board games, play Magic the Gathering, miniature gaming, and more! The event is completely Free!
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 5 is opening night at Pioneer Square’s Gallery4Culture, but the exhibition runs through Jan. 26.
David Jaewon Oh’s Combatants captures the strength and honesty of women in combat sports. The sights and sounds of the often male-dominated gyms where they train come to life in this series of intimate photographic portraits that explore personal identity and gender roles.
“I think Kitty’s summer is kicking everyone else’s summers butt!” this statement on my Facebook page accompanied a picture of my nine year old daughter proudly standing by the door to a conference room at PopCap Games’ corporate offices. Kitty was getting ready to start her second week of Girls Make Games, a game design camp. Our friends and family followed along enthusiastically on social media as I posted daily updates of her camp adventures.
Girls Make Games is a three week camp that was held in July at 24 locations around the world. During the camp the participants learned about different career options in the gaming industry, met people working in the field, and toured game studios. In the three weeks they attended camp they also wrote, designed and developed a playable game.
We love games at GeekGirlCon! We also love awesome events that help kids. So, here’s an opportunity to do both by supporting Extra Life, a 24-hour game marathon to raise funds for sick children and their families. Extra Life has been around since 2008, and since that time it’s raised over $14 million for children in hospital! This year, GeekGirlCon is proud to have two of its staffers taking part on September 16 for this great cause.
Once again, our very own Gaming Event Coordinator, Andy Munich (also known as The 8 Hour Gamer) and our Merchandise Manager extraordinaire, Shubz, will be battling the monsters of the Underdark as part of the Wizards of the Coast team to help raise money for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Andy will also be running a game of Dungeons and Dragons as a Dungeon Master, so you can see him switch hats and roles throughout the marathon!