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Oh (Pokémon) Snap!

Image Description: Pokémon Snap box art featuring an assortment of generation 1 Pokémon emerging from a camera lens. Text: Pokémon Snap: Catching Pokémon is a Snap!

Trainers! Today is the day! After a 22-year wait (yes, you read that right) we are finally getting a new Pokémon Snap. As I have waited not-so-patiently for this long-desired sequel, this week I thought I would fire up my Nintendo 64 and play through the original Pokémon Snap for a trip down memory lane. I was not disappointed.

Originally released in 1999, Pokémon Snap was a delight to fans of the franchise. Up until this point, the Pokémon games had only been available for the Gameboy. Pre-dating the wildly successful Pokémon Stadium, this was the first time that many Pokémon had been rendered in 3D (and it kinda shows. I mean, look at that low-poly Eevee). This could be a big reason why only 63 of the original 151 Pokémon were available in the game.

Image Description: A screenshot from Pokemon Snap featuring Eevee frolicking in some rocks.

After a little (okay, a LOT) of dusting and some fiddling with cables, I was able to hook up my N64 and boot up the game. Oh my, it was like a literal time machine! The instant wave of nostalgia that flowed over me as I heard the familiar theme music was intense. All of a sudden, I was a 12-year-old girl again, giggling with my siblings about the silly pictures we would take and begging my parents to take me to Blockbuster so I could have those images printed out as stickers so I could share them with my friends.

Professor Oak greeted me like an old friend and explained the rules of the game. But I was in for a little bit of shock on that first run though the beach level of the game. I was having a hell of a time aiming my camera and it took me a minute to figure out why—I have been so used to modern gyroscopic controls for aiming that I have totally forgotten how to aim with a joystick! Yep, I was trying to aim the camera by moving my whole transparent purple N64 controller. Needless to say, I didn’t get many good pictures on that round.

Even once I came to my 1999 era senses, this game was still challenging. In every level there is so much going on! In this rail shooter style game, once the level starts you are on a set path and pace, with a limited time to capture any given scene. Trying to get just the right pose at just the right angle as you are continuously moving through the environment is hard, but so satisfying when you get it right.

Though there is a limited number of Pokémon available in this game, one thing that still impresses me about it is the replay value. You will play through the first few levels, then Professor Oak will give you the apples. Apples can lure out Pokémon and make them exhibit different behaviors, and you play through the levels over and over again to find how they react to the treat. Then later you get the pester ball which can bother a Pokémon out of hiding or encourage it to spontaneously evolve, and the Pokéflute which will wake up sleeping ‘mon and make some others dance.

On top of that, there is so much happening in the environment around you that you would be hard pressed to get everything in a single run through a level. Pokémon are appearing on all sides of you, sometimes only offering a good shot for just a moment before disappearing off screen. I found that it was easier to do several runs of a single level and only focus on getting shots of a few Pokémon each time so that I would have a maximum chance of catching Pokémon in a rare pose and get the highest score possible.

Even now, I’m still finding new things in this very old game. For some reason, it never occurred to me to look behind me while on the track. I decided to do so while playing through the cavern level. Nearing the end of the course, you can free a Pikachu from a Zubat with a well timed pester ball, which will result in Pikachu flying past you tied to a bunch of balloons. It took a few tries, but I managed to get it, and I thought this was the extent of the interaction. I proceeded to play through the level, playing the Pokéflute to make the Articuno egg hatch. Now, Articuno is my favorite legendary bird, and I was hoping to get one last chance at a good shot of it, so I turned around behind me to see if it would come up again. I was almost too shocked to take a picture when I saw the Pikachu riding Articuno!

Image Description: A screenshot from Pokemon Snap featuring Pikachu riding on the back of Articuno in a cave.

It is interactions like this that made the original Pokémon Snap so popular. There was always something new, a hidden Pokémon, a new pose. As the Pokémon franchise has grown over the years, fans have continuously asked for a new Pokémon Snap so they could have that same fun again with all new Pokémon. Well trainers, that day is finally here!

As I fidget through the rest of my workday until I can rush home to open my mailbox and start a whole new Pokémon Snap journey, I’m curious. What will this new game be? Will all 932 Pokémon be available? What new features can we look forward to? I suppose I will just have to find out. 

Rebecca Anglesey
“Rock On!”

On the Changing Values of Animal Crossing

This piece was written by Emily Mozzone, one of GeekGirlCon’s Marketing Designers. If you’d like to pitch a guest post, contact us at blog@geekgirlcon.com!

There’s no doubt that Animal Crossing has come far as a Nintendo IP. For those of us who have played since the beginning, Animal Crossing has metamorphosed from an odd, obscure game that none of your friends played into the worldwide phenomenon it is today. The data backs this up: Animal Crossing for the GameCube sold a little over 2 million copies worldwide, while Animal Crossing: New Horizonssold some 1.88 million copies in its first 3 days on sale in Japan” only, and that’s not even including digital copies.

A lot has changed in the Animal Crossing universe since its launch 19 years ago, and overall I think these changes are for the better. The game is generally more accessible and friendly to players: I’m thankful that I live in a world where I can just fly to my friends’ islands over the internet rather than try to find another kid who owns Animal Crossing on the GameCube and then trust them enough to physically swap our memory cards. I’m glad that kids don’t have to get constantly berated and teased by their villagers (let’s be real, GameCube NPCs were savages).

xamples of Absolute Savagery in Animal Crossing - myPotatoGames
[Image Description: Screenshot of Animal Crossing gameplay. The dialogue reads, “Why, you’re so short, I can’t help but laugh! Whoa ho ho!”] Source: My Potato Games

But as the series has progressed and strived to be even more fun and enjoyable, I think a little bit of the magic and freedom has been lost. f

Historically, Animal Crossing has been about taking your time. We live in a world that constantly asks you to rush, be productive, make money. In video games, we fight, we level up, and we try to win. Animal Crossing throws all this out the window. There is no way to win: Animal Crossing simply asks you to value “family, friendship, and community.”

So what’s changed in the Animal Crossing world? Why do I feel like the game has strayed from these original values?

Teal Christensen
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The Game Floor Powers Up at GeekGirlCon 2019

Yes, yes we do!
Description: A young man wearing a microphone headset and a sweatshirt featuring a cat asks “We’re gonnavdo some cool stuff. Want to be in?
Image courtesy of Giphy

For those of you who love to play all kinds of games when attending a Con, I have some great news for you! This year the game floor at GeekGirlCon will be expanding! We will be featuring both video games and tabletop games on the third floor of the convention center.

Rebecca Anglesey
“Rock On!”

Hey, Staffer! Whatcha Geekin’ Out About? An Interview with Jo Lau

Image description: Jo sitting, looking up to where a tan ferret is perched on her head, licking its lips. Source: Jo Lau

Image description: Jo sitting, looking up to where a tan ferret is perched on her head, licking its lips. Source: Jo Lau

In this edition of Hey, Staffer, I’m taking the reigns from Jo (JC) and interviewing her for a change. I have been honored to work for the past year under Jo as a GeekGirlCon Copywriter to her Manager of Editorial Services. Jo has recently transitioned into a new role here at GGC–read on to learn about her new position, her “drunk toddler-puppy hybrid” pets, and plenty more!

Who are you and what do you do at GeekGirlCon?
Hi! I’m Jo, or JC Lau. I’m GeekGirlCon’s Campaign Project Manager! My job is to make sure that our various campaigns are coordinated and that all the different teams that touch them are aligned on how we want to show the world our best side. It involves taking marketing requests from other departments, parsing out the requisite tasks for each marketing team, and then making sure it all gets done. It’s a lot of herding cats, but the cats are lovely and want to make things work out.

Caitlin Foskey
“Rock On!”

E3 Press Conferences Show (Some) Diversity in Gaming (Sort Of)

It’s E3 week! The Electronic Entertainment Expo–or E3 for short–is one of the biggest events on the gaming calendar, with developers and publishers showing their latest and greatest upcoming releases. As a huge gaming nerd, I’ve been following it pretty closely, so I’m going to share my thoughts with you.

Obviously there’s a lot of gaming content, and I’m not going have time to go into all of the games that were announced. That said, there have been a couple of common threads:

  • As games move more to a “games as a service” (rather than single release games), a lot of game titles are trying to reflect that they’ll be around for all posterity, leading to such title names as Halo Unlimited, Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Super Meat Boy Forever. Because if anything survives the impending apocalypse, it’ll be video games.
  • So many games are coming to Nintendo Switch! Super Smash Bros., Fortnite Battle Royale, Super Mario Party, Overcooked 2, and Fallout Shelter were announced on that platform, for example, and some of those are playable right now. If there’s one thing to take away from E3 so far, it’s to go buy a Switch. I’m surprised at how many non-Nintendo games got announced as being ported over, but the future of gaming is there for when you want to play on the go.
  • While a lot of the big titles involved shooting things (aliens, zombies, other combatants) in the face, I thought that the offerings from smaller, indie studios offered a bigger range of types of gameplay, such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, We Happy Few, and Unravel Two. I have to say that I am super excited about Unravel Two; it’s so wholesome that it basically brought me to tears when I watched it at the EA conference.

More generally, there has been recent moves to improve diversity and representation in games and the games industry, and I was also looking out for ways that that was demonstrated at E3. While I felt like there was increased representation in the games that were shown, the overwhelming majority of presenters at the conferences were still white men.

So, I rewatched all the press conferences and tracked some data. Here’s a breakdown of the major press conferences, by demographic:

Note: for the purposes of gathering this data, I included Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elijah Wood in the Ubisoft presentation, and did not include the two translators for the Nintendo treehouse presentation (both were men).

Of the 77 presenters, there were a total of zero women of color. Everyone also presented as able-bodied.

What this tells me is that–where the presenters are ostensibly representative of a particular game’s leadership–the leaders of the largest game publishers, gaming consoles, and game titles are still overwhelming white and male. Of course, for each title there are only a very limited number of presenters that have to represent the studio, but those are commonly the studio or project leaders. I also don’t believe that any presenter or company was doing this intentionally or maliciously. But (to quote a recent speaker at a disability and gaming bootcamp), if you do not intentionally, deliberately, proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude. I think that’s what happened here. Despite its recent moves for diversity and inclusion, the people who determine the future and direction in which the industry moves are still homogenous. 

Having said that, the games themselves seemed to show a openness to including players from underrepresented groups, with much clearer steps towards diversity and inclusion. I’m still trying to stick to my resolution to play games that do not have a grizzled white male protagonist (which makes me relieved that I can pick the gender of my character for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed game), and the offerings announced gave me some pretty decent options for the rest of 2018 and beyond.

For female representation, I felt that there were several games that stepped up to the (very low) bar of having a female protagonist. For example, Gears of War 5’s main character is female, and the Tomb Raider franchise continues having a female playable character. Battlefield V recently stirred up a small controversy for merely putting a woman on the cover of a game about World War II. (Spoiler alert: there were numerous women who participated in the war.) Wolfenstein Youngblood offered us not one, but two, female protagonists.

I was excited enough when it was announced that in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that you could finally pick the gender of your assassin and romance anyone in the game, but then The Last of Us 2 one-upped that for even greater LGBT representation:

That said, all of the female characters mentioned here (except for Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey) are white women. Apart from games with character creation (such as Fallout 76, Beyond Good and Evil 2, and Anthem), representation for women of color was maddeningly scarce. I mean, there were more attempts at putting a female skin on previously male characters, such as Super Smash Bros offering a female version of pikachu and Cuphead having a playable female drinking vessel(?), than there were actual playable characters that were actually women of color.

So, I can appreciate that the games industry is trying to be more inclusive and there are going to be baby steps–a LOT of them. But even though this handful of games I’ve mentioned here are trying to broaden representation, the real test of what counts as progress for me will be how these games evolve their communities to make them more accommodating and inclusive. Making people of color and women feel represented will likely get new players into fanbases, but the gaming communities and how they are included will be what makes them stay. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but I want to hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction. I want us to live in a world where people can play what they love without judgement. We deserve as much.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Ready Player One: Gaming Highlights for GeekGirlCon ’17

I love games, and I think that one of my favorite places at GeekGirlCon is on the Gaming Floor. It’s a big, open space and lends itself to all sorts of game-related content, be it board games to check out, a walk-up RPG area, console games, and more! Here are some of the cool things that will be happening in games over GeekGirlCon weekend:

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

In Defense of Video Games

Written by Guest Contributor Robert Lanterman

I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve heard video gamers referred to as “lazy.” And I guess I get it–I’ve skipped class to play video games. I’ve found myself staring at a screen instead of taking care of responsibilities. It’s natural to be lazy when something is entertaining you.

But that’s the point: anything that entertains you can be a distraction. I reject the notion that all or even most gamers are couch potatoes that don’t get enough sun or can’t socially function. I reject the notion that gamers are less than athletes, artists, or whatever else one might do with their spare time. And I reject the notion that gamers can’t be athletes, artists, etc., as if one hobby has complete say over their total identity.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

A Midyear Resolution: Diversify Your Gaming Experience with One Simple Trick

I have played video games since I was three years old, when my mother brought home an Apple IIe computer, and loaded up Pac-Man for me. From there, I went from playing a range of games like Tonk in the Land of Buddy-Bots and the Monkey Island series, to console titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed and Halo.

But here’s one thing I’ve noticed: my favorite games will, more often than not, have a protagonist that looks nothing like me. Where games have a single playable character, that playable character is likely to be a man. A white man. Maybe he has a beard, maybe not. He’s probably also straight–perhaps he also has a wife or child or someone close to him who’s died or been kidnapped at the start of the game as a plot device, and he’s probably armed with some sort of gun or melee weapon or both.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Gender Roles Expire

Written by Guest Contributor Theresa Tyree

Editor’s note: With the announcement of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s DLC at the recent E3 conference last week, we’re hopeful that Aloy will continue to overthrow gender norms in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. In this post, ware excited to feature Theresa Tyree’s examination of the strong female character in the original revolutionary release. 

Horizon: Zero Dawn has everyone talking. Breaking ground as the first open-world game to exclusively feature a female main character, the game has thrown out the hugely expired trope of gender roles. If you’ve played through the game, you might be asking, “What the heck are you talking about? The Osram tribe is hugely patriarchal. The Carja had a civil war over different opinions about the treatment of women and outlanders. And Aloy’s tribe, the Nora, are matriarchal. Seems to me like there are definitely some gender roles happening!”

Guest Contributor
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My 51-Year-Old Mother, The Gamer

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.

Indigo Boock
“Rock On!”

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