Monthly Update: September 2021 Game Releases

September will be kicking off with a bang with the fall release schedule of games. There is a lot of variety getting released to boot, from little indie’s to big-budget action; we have a lot to look forward to this month. Get your pocketbooks ready! It’s about to get crazy this holiday season!

 

September’s Highlights

Tale of Arise - Sept 10th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Tales of Arise is the latest installment of the long-running RPG “Tales of” series. The planet of Dahma has always been ruled by the planet in the sky, Rena. You play as residents of Dahma that are often used as slaves trying to find freedom. Experience the most stunning Tales game yet powered by Unreal Engine 4 with dynamic action RPG battles and classic Tales gameplay. Dive into this vibrant new world and rich story on September 10th.

 

DEATHLOOP - Sept 14th (PS5, PC)

The much-anticipated game from Arkane Studios is finally here. A true “next-gen” title coming to PC and PS5, you will be taking down your foes with glorious style and precision. Deathloop has you playing as two deadly assassins that have to relive a time loop to find the best possible way to reach their target and put an end to the time loop trapping everyone inside. An innovative take on first-person action, Deathloop will allow players to find a preferred playstyle, be it stealth or guns blazing. End the Loop of Death on September 14th.

 

Aragami 2 - Sept 16th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Gamepass, PC)

You are an Aragami, a group of elite warriors afflicted with a supernatural condition that corrodes the body and mind. You also control Shadow Essence, a mystical power to control the shadows. Go it alone or work with two friends to free the village from invaders who are enslaving the Aragami. The shadows are your ally in this 3rd person fast-paced stealth action game, where you build your own shadow assassin to save and protect your people. Become a master ninja in Aragami 2 on September 16th.

 

Kena Bridge of Spirits - Sept 21st (PS4, PS5, PC)

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a story-driven action-adventure set in a charming world rich with exploration and fast-paced combat. Players find and grow a team of tiny spirit companions called the Rot, enhancing their abilities and creating new ways to manipulate the environment. Kena has been developed by Ember Labs, an animation and digital content studio, and is their first-ever game. There has been a lot of anticipation for this gorgeous Pixaresque looking adventure since it was revealed. Help Kena and befriend The Rot on September 21st.

 

Diablo 2 Resurrected - Sept 23rd (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Diablo 2 Resurrected is a fully remastered version of the original action RPG, which many believe to be the best. It will have the same classic gameplay as the remaster is built on top of the original game. It will feature cross-progression across all platforms with updated features and support for modern gaming needs. The entire game, including monsters, items, and spells, has been updated, including the original expansion, so you get the full Diablo 2 story in one package. Play with up to eight people and return to this classic adventure or play for the first time on September 23rd.

 

The complete list… (Updated*)

Big Rumble Boxing Creed Champions - Sept 3rd (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

KitAria Fables - Sept 3rd (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

The Medium - Sept 3rd (PS5)

Chernobylite - Sept 4th (PS4)

Sonic Colors Ultimate - Sept 7th (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

WRC 10  - Sept 7th ( PS4, PS5, Xbox)

Hindsight 20/20 - Sept 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Life is Strange True Colors - Sept 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Olympia Soiree - Sept 9th (Switch)

NBA 2K22 - Sept 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Tale of Arise - Sept 10th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Lost in Random - Sept 10th (PS4, Ps5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Colors Live - Sept 14th (Switch)

DEATHLOOP - Sept 14th (PS5, PC)

Ever Forward - Sept 14th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Where The Heart Leads - Sept 14th (PS4)

Aragami 2 - Sept 16th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Gamepass, PC)

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom Prince's Edition - Sept 17th (Switch)

Tails of Iron Crimson Knight Edition - Sept 17th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Lost in Judgment - Sept 20th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

Apsulov: End of Gods - Sept 21st (PS4, PS5)

Kena Bridge of Spirits - Sept 21st (PS4, PS5, PC)

Diablo 2 Resurrected - Sept 23rd (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Death Stranding Director’s Cut - Sept 24th ( PS5)

The Addams Family: Mansion Mayhem - Sept 24th (PS4, Xbox, Switch, PC)

FIFA 22 - Sept 26th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Hot Wheels Unleashed - Sept 26th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Alchemic Cutie - Sept 28th (Xbox, PC)

Lemnis Gate - Sept 28th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

New World - Sept 28th (PC)

Open Country - Sept 28th (PS4, Xbox)

Streets of Rage 4 Anniversary Edition - Sept 28th (PS4, Switch)

Insurgency: Sandstorm - Sept 29th (PS4, Xbox)

RICO London - Sept 30th (PS4, Switch)

The Riftbreaker - Sept 30th (PS5, Xbox, Gamepass, PC)

Xuan Yuan Sword 7 - Sept 30th (PS4, Xbox)

 

What game are you most looking forward to playing this September?

 

Yes, I Live With A Survival Horror Junkie

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Right? Or does he have a problem? How does this work? 

Suppose you live with a gamer. Maybe it's a family member, a roommate, or even a significant other. And because you live with them, you are exposed to whatever games they like to play. This includes the horrifyingly graphic and disgusting games with copious amounts of blood. Oh my god! The blood! It's the kind of games that they play over and over and over again and on harder difficulty each time. 

If this is you, my friend, you just might live with a survival horror junkie.

 

I have never been a fan of games designed to terrify the living daylights out of me. I prefer to play games that let me escape the horrors of everyday life because, let's be honest, most jobs are a nightmare. But since I moved in with my significant other, I have been exposed to some of the scariest, most intense, and squishy (you know, the sounds that zombies make when they chomp on your face) games I have ever seen. He has actually tried to get me to play some of his favorites, including Resident Evil. The old-school pixelated original version of Resident Evil didn't freak me out (that much- okay, the spiders got me). 

*WARNING: Very salty language in the following clip*

I mean, seriously, I told him there’s never anything good behind red doors. And I was right! 

He also got me to play the re-released version of Resident Evil 2, and that was a giant NOPE for me. I tried. I really did. But when there is a massive blood smear leading under a half-opened door that I have to crawl under, no thank you, I would like to live. I stood there so long that he finally took over the controller. 

I guess you could say that I have a powerful survival instinct. I would rather run away from danger! Not into it! Growling and snarling noises? Go the other way! To me, it’s very simple. Not to a survival horror junkie. They run headlong into the most gruesome and disturbing scenes imaginable and watch as their characters die in incredibly awful ways over and over again. And these are the games they enjoy playing! I get it. It's all about the challenge. I think. 

I have had the incredible privilege (I'm holding up my sarcasm sign) of watching him play through things like The Last of Us, Days Gone, The Evil Within, and a slew of Resident Evil games. This is just a small list. There are many, many more. And sure, today's graphics are incredible, and they can do so many things to make everything look more realistic, but must they? I have seen more realistic-looking entrails and body parts that main characters have to slip and slide through to get away from whatever madness is chasing them than I ever care to (I'm looking at you, Evil Within). Never EVER try to eat ANYTHING when the person you live with decides to start playing one of these games. Just DON’T. 

And why would I want to play games that have literally made him scream? The first time he played Phasmophobia (a ghost hunting game) with his friend, they were both screaming. Like girls. For more on those hilarious shenanigans, you can check out my previous article “When Men Scream Like Girls”.

Shana's creation

As much as these games can make me squeamish and blow my blood pressure through the roof, sometimes funny things can come out of it when I am forced to watch some of these horrifying games. While streaming Evil Within, I had asked my significant other to please turn his "butt light" off (the lantern that hangs from the character’s belt) because it attracts zombies. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. It became a hilarious possible t-shirt idea thanks to fellow Replayer and stream watcher Shana Martin. 

I sometimes have an easier time dealing with these types of games if I am co-oping them with him. We played Dead Space 3 together and I was so proud of myself when I had a headshot on the space zombies (or whatever they are), but those bastards kept coming! Headless! Full spine headless space zombie grossness crawling at me was not what I had in mind for a romantic evening of co-op gaming with the man. 

I have also started playing Phasmaphobia with him and friends, but it is seriously scary no matter how many times I have played it. I've been known to stay in the van to “look for orbs” on the cameras. Don’t judge! I live so I get to keep my money and my equipment to help fund future ghost hunting expeditions. That’s my story and I am most assuredly sticking to it. I have also been known to just guess what the ghost is and drive off with the van when we get a particularly nasty ghost that has killed off the rest of the crew—because I am not going in that house!

I’m sure I will continue to get roped into either sitting with him while he plays or attempting to play with him because apparently, my reactions are “funny.” The small bit of satisfaction I get is that many times my reactions to jump scares actually scare him more than the actual game itself. What can I say? I’m jumpy and we get a good laugh out of it, and it makes for some entertaining streams and content. You’re welcome?

As much as I complain about the awfulness that I hear and see emanating from his screen on a daily basis, I don’t think I would have it any other way. It makes him happy, and the fact that he can share something with me that he is passionate about is incredibly important to both of us. I have learned a lot about the franchises and do get interested in the great stories behind things like the Umbrella Corp, for example. Even if I am watching while my hands are covering my eyes.  

 

What games do you get exposed to that you wish you didn’t? Do you or someone you know live with a survival horror junkie?

 

 

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 Wrap-up and Omega Theories

It's been a crazy summer of hot days and career changes for me, but Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been a consistent part of each weekend. Since my article kicking off the season, I've looked forward to this time to reflect on the series so far. Now that Season 1 has come to a close, and knowing we have a Season 2 ahead, let's take that plunge into the spoiler-rich Kaminoan depths!

First thing's first: this show is an epic visual and audio experience in every episode. The colors and lighting are stunning, reproducing masterfully crafted live-action cinematography in an animated format. The action itself is worthy of the Star Wars brand and on par with an action-packed Marvel film. Also, the sound design is a perfect match to the visual experience, including the use of the ear ringing effect after an explosion and simulating even the most subtle position changes of characters in the frame.

Completing the show is Kevin Kiner's engaging score, bringing the power and emotion we've come to expect in a Star Wars production. As he did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Kiner finds just the right melodies and impact for each moment in The Bad Batch. One musical moment that stands out for me is his blending the unique sound of Fennec Shand's theme into the action score during her confrontation with fellow bounty hunter Cad Bane.

Omega and Hunter

The basis for this amazing experience is in its writing: the stories and characters were engaging, and I was invested in each of them from the start. Our main characters, the Bad Batch itself, evolve into more than the stereotypes I introduced in my previous article. Season 1 forced them to adapt to a new world where the Republic and the humanitarian values the clones fought for have been absorbed by a cold, oppressive Empire. Former enemies are now allies in the fight to remain free from tyranny, and former allies are now showing them the business ends of their blasters. Crosshair, Hunter, and Omega each evolved a great deal by the season finale.

That writing comes to life thanks to some great performances. I trusted that Dee Bradley Baker would be up to the enormous task he had in the recording booth, and my trust was rewarded. Dee has taken his work from The Clone Wars to the next level. Every character he voices has a wholly unique sound, personality, and emotional profile: the entire Batch, Captain Rex, Gregor, and every other clone trooper, plus a few additional characters. As I watched, I was constantly amazed at Dee's performances, and I'd love to see him get some awards for his work on Season 1. Check out this Entertainment Tonight interview with Dee talking about his work in The Bad Batch:

 

As a quick note for those going into the voice acting career field, make sure you put Dee's website on your personal list of resources to read and reference: iwanttobeavoiceactor.com

Michelle Ang (photo by Sam Nixon)

Complementing Dee was Michelle Ang's performance as Omega, which highlights the character's wide range of experiences throughout the season. Every emotional state is distinct with lots of great nuance in Michelle's delivery. The writing for Season 1 doesn't leave Omega in the passenger seat as a perspective character; she's an active part of driving the story forward. And thanks to Michelle's performance, I feel like I'm fighting with the Batch right alongside Omega!

There's another dimension to my love for this show that I call the "Filoniverse factor." Dave Filoni created both The Clone Wars and Rebels, and he's been side-by-side with Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian, too. The Filoniverse refers to Filoni's original characters and storylines that gained popularity on their own and have cross-connected the shows he's been involved with. The Bad Batch, created by Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau, is solidly anchored in the Filoniverse with cameos from characters like Cut and Suu from The Clone Wars, Hera Syndulla and Chopper from Rebels, and Captain Rex and Cham Syndulla who were in both of those series. As a big fan of the Filoniverse, I was excited to see every familiar character.

Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume (left), and Hera Syndulla (right) appeared as adolescents in Season 1 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a great tie-in with a fan-favorite Star Wars couple from Star Wars: Rebels (center).

Early in the season, though, I was afraid that we would revisit so many other Filoniverse characters that it would take away from the Batch. I had a similar reaction when Ahsoka Tano became part of Rebels: for a few episodes, it felt like her presence put a dampener on the show's standalone story. But the writers eventually balanced Ahsoka's presence in the show without compromising the show's own characters and story. By the end, it felt like I was watching one larger story of the Star Wars universe, not a standalone series.

That's the same impression I have now with The Bad Batch. Rex, the Martez sisters, Hera, and more crossed over, but in a way that looks like we were just seeing some missing chapters in their lives. Everything is still tied to the story of the Batch, which is intrinsically linked to everything going on in the galaxy during this transitional time. I hope that balance remains moving forward to Season 2.

The Bad Batch helps Cid retrieve a spice shipment in an action-adventure sequence from S1:E13, "Infested."

I'll have to do another article soon reflecting on how this show and others are developing and cross-connecting the broader Star Wars universe. There's a lot ahead with the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano series, the continuation of The Mandalorian, and the new Boba Fett story. I am loving seeing all these brilliant creators working together to tell a single epic and engaging story. (And maybe us Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order fans will eventually get the Cal Kestis cameo we had hoped to see when the Bad Batch was on Bracca.)

Now, though, I want to go back to Omega and talk a bit about this ongoing mystery and popular theory about what makes her unique as a clone. 

Omega tells the Batch about a hidden access to enter the cloning facility on Kamino.

What we know: We've learned that Omega is an "unaltered" clone, so she doesn't have the rapid aging and soldier-related enhancements of her brothers. She's also female and doesn't display Jango Fett's physical features. It certainly makes sense that using Jango's X chromosome and not his Y chromosome would have affected gene expression. That said, The Clone Wars and Rebels aren't known for a lot of subtlety when it comes to hinting about character origins and abilities, so I suspect The Bad Batch is following that model. That leaves me asking:

Is Omega really a Jango Fett clone, or is her genetic donor someone else entirely?

The Force-sensitive clone theory: My question ties in with a popular theory that Omega is a Force-sensitive clone. But I have my doubts about Omega's Force sensitivity after watching through the season twice. Omega does have heightened perception, and she's got a sharper-than-average head for tactics. However, she hasn't displayed the more obvious Force traits like telekinesis. Even in the life-or-death situations, she was in during the season finale, she didn't unlock that ability. So if she is Force-sensitive, it manifests differently than the Jedi and Sith we know, or she's going to have to unlock it in a different way.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces Sheev Palpatine (left) to a young Anakin Skywalker (right) for the first time.

Looking at the clues: As I speculate the answer to my question and follow clues from Season 1, the most obvious "who else" answer would be that she's a clone of either Anakin Skywalker or Sheev Palpatine. In the broader Star Wars narrative, Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker told us that Palpatine had been experimenting with cloning technology since before the Clone Wars in an attempt to sustain himself in his rise to rule the galaxy. Also, when we look at the timeline, Omega's "adolescence" would put her around age 13, aligning her creation to two significant events:

Putting the clues together: If we combine those clues with a creative consideration of Omega's character design, we could guess that she's a clone of then-Senator Palpatine as part of his long-term plan. But Omega's curiosity, optimism, and skills in mechanics (when fixing Gonky and Todo 360) may be some less-than-subtle references to young Anakin from Phantom Menace. I would certainly see the logic in her being a clone of either Palpatine or Anakin, or some combination of both, maybe with Jango's DNA mixed in.

Is Omega (center) truly a first-generation clone of Jango Fett like Kix (left), or does she have genetic material from a Force-sensitive like Palpatine (top-right) or Anakin (bottom-right)?

In any case, Omega being a clone of a Force-sensitive person would be one explanation for why the Kaminoans hired bounty hunters to bring her back to Kamino. As to whether she'll manifest more noticeable Force powers, though, I'm happy to remain unspoiled and speculation-free as we anticipate Season 2. For now, it's enough for me that she's a clever and fun character to follow.

Crosshair finds his true purpose in serving in the Empire and encourages his Bad Batch brothers to do the same.

Wrapping up my overall impressions, I can relate to the perspective I've read from some viewers that Season 1 felt unfinished. As I reflect, I think it's just because I hoped that Crosshair would return to the Batch by the end of the season. But I think the writers were smart to acknowledge that even without an inhibitor chip, the clones are individuals who can choose different paths and be compelled by different values and purposes. That's a much stronger message overall. Plus, given its place in the Star Wars timeline, this isn't the kind of story they could wrap up with a nice neat bow. 

Once they announced a Season 2, I knew we would see an ending that was more like being in the eye of the storm rather than in its aftermath. Fortunately, they're set up to tackle some new adventures in Season 2. 

How are you feeling about The Bad Batch as we reflect on Season 1? And where do you stand on the theories about Omega's origins? Let's discuss in the comments!

 

Dear Uncle Alice: A Fan Letter!

Dear Uncle Alice:

I know this is an unusual way to begin a fan letter, but then again, you are known for being unusual. Over the years (especially in the last ten), you have come to mean a lot to me. For those reading along with Alice and you don’t know who I am writing to, here is a bit of background.

Alice Cooper: born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948, has created nightmarish music for over fifty years! His latest album, Detroit Stories, is a tribute to his hometown. If you would like to know more about this preacher's son turned “Teenage Frankenstein,” you can read his autobiography, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock and Roller’s Life, and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.

I have two vivid memories that are linked with you and someone I miss dearly.

I was introduced to you at the age of 6 by a talking frog. I will never forget seeing you rise out of the coffin dressed in the classic Dracula costume. Halloween was just around the corner and I told my Dad, “That’s really cool. He dressed up for Halloween!”

“No, honey, that’s Alice Cooper. He dresses up like that all the time,” he explained.

Then I replied, “Wow, he must really like candy!”

The second was a rainy afternoon, and Dad was cleaning out the garage when he came across a record case. He thumbed his way through until he found a record called Welcome To My Nightmare. My mother came from the kitchen and, in a scolding tone, said, “Don’t play that! He’s evil!!”

Dad winked and replied, “Hey Sandi, it’s better she learns about Alice from me than some weird kid at school.” Her only response was to let out a sigh, shake her head in disappointment while heading back to the kitchen. It was at that moment a father and daughter’s bond grew stronger, and your music would become the soundtrack for my life.

I have told my friends often that I can not think of my Dad without thinking of you, and vice versa.

Artist and friend S Raphael Vinci did this lovely work! In the painting is Daddy’s buddies Hilton and Harley

Clarence Duane Martin: Served two tours in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps. Several years later, he was diagnosed with PTSD and some other health issues that required him to be put on oxygen 24/7. My Dad persevered. Perhaps, (in part) seeing me go through similar challenges with my own disability helped him to deal with his own situation. I say ‘part’ because you, Uncle Alice, had a hand in helping him as well. Whenever he had a dark moment, we would sit and reminisce about your music.  That would open the door to much happier memories! His two favorite songs were “Only Women Bleed” and “Poison”.

 

Those who are reading this along with you may find the irony in the fact that you, who write and sing about nightmares, helped a man keep one of the most horrific and terrifying nightmares at bay with that very same music. And at the same time, it strengthened the bond between father and daughter. However, you never know how strong a bond is until something comes along to test the line that binds.

May- 2011

I told Dad about your album Along came a Spider, as well as your recovery from alcoholism. He, at this point, was 20 years into his sobriety. I also told him that you had taken up golf. He found this hard to believe. I had to google it to show him proof. He was quiet for a moment and then said.

“I can’t believe he plays golf. I thought he’d be more into tennis.”

Late one night, Mom called for an ambulance, and he was taken to the ER. Once stable, he was taken to the VA hospital...

June 25, 2011

Even as I write this, I can not put into words what I felt and still feel when I look at that date. What does a ‘daddy’s girl’ do when her daddy is gone? How does she find the strength to carry on...?

The answer came in a flash... Music! Music helped my Dad! A still small voice inside my head said, just a name...

“Alice Cooper!”

Of course, just because he’s not physically here doesn’t mean we aren’t connected!

“Death can not stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~Westley, Princess Bride

A souvenir a fan gave me from the last concert!

So I did a search on Youtube for your music Uncle Alice, and this is what I found:

Before we say goodbye

All I wanna say is I......

I just wanna give you something to remember me by

Something that lasts forever

Coz our love is for all time.

Song: Something To Remember Me By

Album: Welcome 2 My Nightmare

In the lobby of Ruth Eckerd Hall. I love this place! It is very accessible, and the staff are very helpful!!

From that moment, I spent every day making a playlist of your music to get me through that first year without my Dad.

I also have been to some of your concerts. The last one was the 2019 OL Black Eyes Tour. For those following along, if Alice has a concert in your state or country, please go! You will not be disappointed!!

I know that even a musician as well known as you can have doubts about your music-making an impact?

My hope is that while you have read this letter, it has laid those doubts, and may they permanently rest in peace! (insert evil laugh here).

I love you, and you will always be my Uncle Alice!

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this. Also, for those grieving for the loss of a loved one, it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to still ask why. Just don’t let it drag you under and be torn asunder. Remember those and love each other.

This is my friend Jordan. This was her first time seeing him in concert. She never heard of him until she met me.

What songs or artists have you listened to that help you through rough times?

Monthly Update: July & August 2021 Game Releases

Summer is in full swing which, unfortunately, means not too many big game releases. However there are still many new games for the months of July and August and some are worth checking out if you are itching for something to hold you over until fall.

July’s Highlights

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin - July 9th (Switch)

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a spin off of the popular Monster Hunter series. Offering RPG Monster Hunter fans a rich storyline and unique experiences set in the Monster Hunter Universe. Players will assume the role of a young rider who sets out on a sprawling adventure where you hatch, train, and live alongside Monsters. Think Monster Hunter meets Pokemon. Collect various monsters and add them to your team to battle your way through an emotional and expansive journey.

 

Death’s Door - July 20th - (Xbox, PC)

Reaping souls of the dead and punching a clock might get monotonous but it's honest work for a Crow. The job gets lively when your assigned soul is stolen and you must track down a desperate thief to a realm untouched by death - where creatures grow far past their expiry. In this Zelda like action RPG, you play as a Crow working his day job as a reaper, you know fighting monsters, collecting souls, reaper stuff. With some light Dark Souls influence, battle intense boss fights, earn souls, and power up your crow reaper in this offbeat and humorous adventure.

Microsoft Flight Simulator - July 26th (Xbox Series)

Take to the skies in the latest edition of the long running Microsoft Flight Simulator, now available for Xbox Series S and X. Choose from hundreds of planes and fly to anywhere in the world in this deep and realistic simulator. Even train on how to actually fly a plane. The acclaimed PC game is now available on Xbox with a free Top Gun expansion available this fall and available on day one to GamePass subscribers.

The Ascent - July 29th  (Xbox, PC)

The Ascent is a cyberpunk themed action RPG. With twin stick shooter gameplay and deep RPG elements that fans of Diablo and Hunter the Reckoning will enjoy. You are an Indent, owned by the corporations, working to live in this grimy city run by the corporations. Go it alone, or play Co-op with friends online and couch co-op. Customize your character to your play style by spending skill points where you want them, equip weapons and armor, and try various augmentations. Will you rise up this July, in the Ascent?

 

August’s Highlights

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut - August 20th (PS4, PS5)

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut sees the Game of the Year contender released with additional content, including a whole new island to explore and PS5 updates. For those that wanted this amazing action adventure game, now is the time to grab your katana and avenge your people with the addition of Dual Sense controller functionality and 4k 60 resolution targeting. Those that already own the game can upgrade for an additional cost.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite - August 24th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a new 3rd person survival shooter where you and 2 friends fight to survive against waves of horrifying aliens. Create and customize your own Colonial Marine, choosing from an extensive variety of classes, weapons, gear and perks, battling overwhelming odds in this heart-pounding survival shooter experience. Choose from five character classes, each with their own unique perks and special abilities.

Psychonauts 2 - August 25th (Xbox, PC)

The sequel to the beloved Psychonauts is finally here after 16 years. Picking up where the first game left off, you play as Raz, a gifted psychic and acrobat, who wants to join the international psychic espionage organization known as the Psychonauts. Fans of the original have a lot to look forward to in this classic style action platformer which is set to release for Xbox and PC August 25th as well as PS4, Mac, and Linux at a later date.

No More Heroes 3 - August 27th (Switch)

Travis Touchdown is back in No More Heroes 3 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. This zany series from famed director Suda51 has you battling a slew of evil aliens, but first you might have to mow the lawn. Travis Touchdown is the #1 assassin and now he has to stop some of the most powerful aliens in the universe. Are you up for the challenge?

The complete list…

July

 

Oddworld: Soulstorm Day One Oddition (Physical Release) - July 6th (PS4, PS5) 

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin - July 9th (Switch)

Worms Rumble: Fully Loaded Edition - July 13th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - July 16th (Switch)

F1 2021 - July 16th (PS4, PS5, Xbox) 

Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number - July 16th (PS4)

Observer: System Redux - July 16th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

AKIBA'S TRIP: Hellbound and Debriefed 10th Anniversary Edition - July 20th (PS4, Switch)

Cris Tales - July 20th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Death’s Door - July 20th - (Xbox, PC)

Pokemon Unite - July 21st (Switch)

Last Stop - July 22nd (Xbox, Switch)

Blue Fire - July 23rd (PS4, PS5)

Orcs Must Die! 3 - July 23rd (Xbox)

Microsoft Flight Simulator - July 26th (Xbox Series)

Hell Let Loose - July 27th (PC)

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles - July 27th (Switch)

NEO: The World Ends with You - July 27th (PS4, Switch)

Samurai Warrior 5 - July 27th (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

Spiritfarer - July 27th (PS4, Switch)

Tribes of Midgard - July 27th (PS4, PS5)

Blaster Master Zero 3 - July 28th (Xbox, Switch)

Chernobylite - July 28th (PC)

OMNO - July 28th (PS4,Xbox, Switch, PC)

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny Unrelenting Edition - July 29th (Switch)

Fuga: Melodies of Steel - July 29th (Xbox, Switch)

The Ascent - July 29th  (Xbox, PC)

 

August

 

Spiritfarer - August 3rd (PS4, Switch)

Zengeon - August 6th - (PS4, Switch)

Foreclosed - August 13th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Hades - August 13th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

PAW Patrol: The Movie Adventure City Calls - August 13th (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

Greak: Memories of Azur - August 17th (PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut - August 20th (PS4, PS5)

Madden NFL 22 - August 20th (PS4, PS5, Xbox) 

Monster Harvest - August 20th (PS4. Switch)

Aliens: Fireteam Elite - August 24th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Hoa - August 24th (PS4, PS5, Switch)

King's Bounty II - August 24th (PS4, Xbox, Switch)

RiMS Racing Sim - August 24th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Psychonauts 2 - August 25th (Xbox, PC)

American Fugitive - August 27th (PS4, Switch)

No More Heroes 3 - August 27th (Switch)

Tormented Souls - August 27th (PS5)

The Forgotten City - August 31st (PS5, Xbox Series)

Rustler - August 31st (PS4, PS5, Xbox. Switch)

Song of Iron - August 31st (Xbox)

KeyWe - August 31st (PS4, PS5, Xbox. Switch)

 

The Rumors and Possible Revival of Silent Hill

There are whispers happening in the dark dungeon of games past that Silent Hill, the game that helped define bone-chilling psychological horror in gaming, could rise again. With recent rumors and the latest announcements, fans of the series are getting pretty excited, myself included!

In my restless dreams, I see that town.

 

The rise of the survival horror game genre in the 1990s made it a fun time for horror fans. Games such as Parasite Eve, Alone in the Dark, and Resident Evil were bringing in new ways to be scared and experience horror in the gaming world! But Silent Hill, a relative latecomer to the party, brought something different to the mix: psychological horror

Resident Evil was undoubtedly a favorite of mine growing up, but as a horror game, it didn’t feel particularly scary. Resident Evil, to me, felt more action-based with zombie blasting and giant mutant creatures. It has its jump scares, but it can also be a little campy at times, and that’s okay! It’s part of its charm, and it's a great franchise. Personally, though, I wanted something a little more sinister, and I found that in Silent Hill. 

Up close and personal with terror.

I always felt Silent Hill stood apart from other franchises that were around at the time by focusing on the darker parts of the human psyche, very real human emotions, and relatable themes that are often more terrifying than any mutant monster. I also feel that the action moments in Silent Hill are much more daunting. 

As an example, during battle segments, you sometimes only have a melee weapon at your disposal which forces you to be up close and personal with the terror. Some enemies featured in the game are purely there just to taunt you, and your best option is to run! Silent Hill’s most famous resident, Pyramid Head, shows up periodically throughout the game as a tormentor who can’t be killed but will surely kill you! Pyramid Head is a demon created in James Sunderland’s mind in Silent Hill 2. The demon is a personification of guilt and represents James’s wish to be punished for his wife's death.

This is also just one example of Silent Hill’s iconic psychological storytelling that has stayed with me long after the game has ended. 

Another reason why Silent Hill became a favorite for me is that it takes inspiration from classic horror movies such as Eraserhead and Jacob’s Ladder. Those films were strong influences in the game’s themes of a person's downfall into madness. Writers such as Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz and directors such as David Cronenburg and David Lynch have been cited among others for inspiring such rich horror environments. The creators of the games are big fans of horror and literature, and it shows! For me, it was a joy being able to immerse myself in playable worlds featuring inspirations from these great masters of darkness. I’m a girl with an unhealthy obsession with serial killers; what can I say?!

Pyramid Head

Pyramid Head, the Tormentor.

 

The door that wakes in darkness, opening into nightmares.

 

Unfortunately for the fans, we haven’t seen a new installment in the series since Silent Hill: Downpour in 2012. This was the same year Time magazine named Silent Hill one of the top 100 games of All Time. To me, it feels even more unfortunate that there hasn't been any new Silent Hill content since this accolade. Briefly, in 2014 there was hope...

In 2014 Konami released the P.T. (Playable Teaser) Trailer reigniting the franchise in a big way! The P.T. Trailer was a short demo set in a repeating hallway that became even more sinister as the player progressed through its levels. Those who completed the demo were gifted with a pan-up shot revealing Norman Reedus as our protagonist, standing in a deserted, foggy town right before the Silent Hills titles were unveiled. Finally, after a long wait, we had a new game, and it was even more terrifying than before! But, alas, it was - canceled.

The P.T. Trailer is unfortunately no longer available to play in its original form; it can only be watched in hilarious reaction videos online. This feels like a big loss for those who weren’t able to experience it on its release, but it is definitely worth checking out some of the playthroughs online. 

 After creative differences, Kojima and Konami separated, and the much anticipated Silent Hills project suffered from the breakup. A new project was released in its place, Death Stranding, that a lot of people loved. To be fair, it is a good game! I wasn't so overjoyed with it, though with so much promise from P.T. and so long waiting for another installment to the Silent Hill series, the release of Death Stranding felt anticlimactic for Silent Hill fans. Our franchise was, again, dead in the fog and abandoned like the town itself. 

 

Now the dream of this life must end, and so, too, must the dreamers within it.

 

There have been ongoing rumors of a Silent Hill franchise revival for years, and, to fans, this has been as psychologically torturous as the games themselves. Rumors often tease at everything from series reboots to new installments coming to the series. Unfortunately, they often amount to nothing but hype. Recently, though, two big rumors have been causing more than a little stir, and these rumors surround Blue Box Studios and Bloober Team.

The first set of rumors piqued the interest of  P.T. fans who have been looking for clues into whether the project will be picked up again: a recent trailer for Abandoned has got fans raising eyebrows. The trailer opens in a foggy forest with a girl's voice talking about being alone with no one to guide her. She speaks about a small community led by a cult and suggests an escape from a place. It does sound a little like Silent Hill. 

Could the name Abandoned be a clue to a Silent Hills revival with the Silent Hills project literally being Abandoned?

It’s a stretch, but this is actually just one of the connections fans are looking into. 

There’s also speculation that Blue Box Studios may not be who they say they are and that they are, in fact, Kojima being devious. Speculation continues with everything from the studio’s Games Director Hasan Karahman secretly being Hideo Kojima, to the studio’s logo looking suspiciously like the PlayStation logo, to cryptic tweets from Blue Box themselves loosely teasing that the game Abandoned’s real name starts with S and ends in L (which they later redacted with an apology for teasing Silent Hill fans). The fans are still convinced that the tweets were intentional to fuel hype. You can follow all the rumors surrounding Abandoned at playstationlifestyle.net

I agree that details surrounding Abandoned do feel a little too convenient to be just a coincidence, but I am cautious with my excitement. I am also aware that Kojima has a reputation for being a little devious with his game promotion, so I can't be entirely skeptical. Perhaps I would have more faith in the hype surrounding Blue Box if it weren't for another set of rumors. 

This second set of rumors involves Bloober Team, the developers behind The Medium, a game heavily inspired by Silent Hill. It has the feel and the story like Silent Hill, and it even has music composed by Silent Hill’s original composer, Akira Yamaoka.

The Medium, a game heavily inspired by Silent Hill.

The similarities in story and gameplay are so strong between the two games that many fans feel The Medium could be a showpiece for a bigger Silent Hill branded game in the future. To reinforce this idea, Bloober later announced that they and Akira are indeed pairing up again on an "existing horror IP from a very famous gaming publisher," which later turned out to be Konami, the studio behind Silent Hill!

Me meeting Silent Hill music master Akira Yamaoka.

Akira Yamaoka was then interviewed by Middle East outlet Al-hub where he confirmed working on a second project with Bloober in addition to The Medium, saying it wasthe one you’ve been hoping to hear about.” That interview was later taken down. Did Akira reveal a little more than he was supposed to?

 

There was a hole here. It’s gone now.

 

Konami, Bloober, and Blue Box Studios have all denied currently working on a Silent Hill project, but that’s not to say that they might not be working on one down the road. Out of the rumors posed, the Bloober Team theories seem the most viable given their survival horror experience, previous work with Akira, and official connections to Konam. If The Medium is the showpiece of their Silent Hill potential, I am excited to see what they could bring to the franchise.

One day, that small foggy town will have a lost wanderer in its streets again, and you can be sure that when Silent Hill does awaken from its purgatory, I’ll be here to share its darkest secrets. 

What are some of the rumors and theories you have heard about a new Silent Hill game? And what do you think about the rumors circling the franchise right now? Let's speculate together in the comments below.

 

Black Widow Movie Review

I just came home from the cinema, and my head is buzzing with many thoughts about Marvel’s return to the big screen. But, before I get into it, I will have to put a big red: SPOILER WARNING. You’ve been warned. 

The MCU had been going strong since WandaVision graced our TV screens, but we had to wait a tiny bit longer for the return of the movies. When they first postponed Black Widow, I don’t think any of us thought that it would end up getting pushed back till the summer of 2021. Yet, here we are. 

There was a lot of speculation about what Black Widow would be about and where it would be on the timeline of events, but I don’t believe anyone guessed correctly I certainly didn’t. My theory was that Natasha is closed inside the Soul Stone and she would somehow relive her memories, but slowly she would realize what’s been going on. I was completely off track, which led to the very sad realization that this indeed was the last appearance of Scarlett Johansson in the MCU. This realization is due to the fact that Black Widow takes place between the events of Civil War and Infinity War when Natasha is on the run. 

At the beginning of the movie, we get a look into Natasha’s childhood with her father, mother, and little sister in Ohio. It sure seems idyllic until the eagle-eyed Marvel fans (aka me for example) start to chuckle. Natasha didn’t know who her parents were, and that is made clear throughout the MCU timeline. She is in fact very surprised when Red Skull reveals her father’s name to her in Endgame because she didn’t even know that. Therefore, we can already tell that something isn’t quite right in the scenario, even though it is nice to see a happy moment from our beloved Black Widow’s childhood, even if we soon find out that it was all an illusion. The people she treated as family betrayed her very early on and she and her little sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) are tossed back into the Red Room where the Widow training is happening. 

The movie fast forwards 21 years as Natasha is on the run from Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) after the events of Civil War. This is where we also meet Yelena again as she is on a mission and as she overpowers the target, a red substance is thrown at her. But instead of turning into a mindless monster, (which is something one could expect in a situation like this), her head actually clears up and it turns out that ever since Natasha escaped they have used very successful mind-controlling chemicals on the next generation of Widows. Yelena gets rid of the tracking device that is inside her and soon the samples of the ‘cure’ (let’s call it that) end up in Natasha’s hands.

Yelena (Florence Pugh) Alexei (David Harbour) and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson)

That’s the catalyst for the movie. It is so much more than just a superhero/action film from that point. Natasha has to deal with a lot. She goes from one broken family (The Avengers) back to another one only to find out that the famous Budapest events (referenced by her and Clint a lot) were all for nothing. It turns out that she had tried to kill the leader of the Red Room and the Widow program Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and her arch-nemesis had actually survived. 

Now before I get on with the review, I want to share a bit of a fun story that happened at this big reveal. I am from Hungary, and we've been waiting to find out what role our capital: Budapest, would play in the MCU since it was first mentioned in Avengers (2012). There was a line in the movie referring to events that probably aren’t funny to an international crowd, but the whole cinema here laughed out loud when it was said. Natasha says that after the bombing, which was supposed to take out Dreykov, she and Clint had to fight through the Hungarian Commando. We all laughed at this because TEK (the previously referred to Commandos) has quite a bad reputation here in Hungary because in a lot of cases they are deemed to be incompetent. So Natasha saying that they had to fight through them like it was a big deal made over 90 people laugh in the cinema even though I am sure they didn’t think of it as a source for laughter. 

Ok back to the review. 

Once Natasha realizes that what she did to close down her past and save other girls from the same fate was unsuccessful, a much darker thing comes back to haunt her. As it turns out, the day they tried to kill Dreykov they also killed his daughter because as she put it, “There was no other way.” It’s clear very early on that this decision never left Natasha’s mind, and that she has struggled to come to terms with what she did. To find forgiveness. It sits heavily on the film the same way their “parents” betrayals do. 

Natasha Romanoff

They soon figure out that in order to find the Red Room they have to get the help of their fake parents. First, they have to save Alexei (David Harbour) from prison - he was betrayed and put behind bars by Dreykov - and get to Melina (Rachel Weisz) who still works for the Red Room and is responsible for the chemical compound that controls the widows. Once they arrive at Melina’s home we get to witness one of the most important scenes in the movie as the two girls’ trauma catches up with them. I have to admit that I was unsure about Florence Pugh’s casting as Yelena up until this moment in the movie. Here she proved it once and for all that she is pretty great. It broke my heart a little as it also showed us that Natasha’s past has been darker than we could have imagined. Yelena represented the child who was unaware that nothing she saw or experienced during their three years as a “family” was true, while Natasha was old enough to know that it was nothing more than an act. Both of their hurt was real and deep-cutting. 

I really liked the more quiet parts of Black Widow. It once and for all proved that one of the original six deserved to have her own film and we still had a lot to learn about her. She is smart, strong, brave, and everything that’s worth looking up to. It definitely gave me more strength to keep going on my journey and do everything I can to one day be part of the MCU. 

I know a lot of people complained about Taskmaster being a letdown and while I do understand them, I do not agree with them. The tragedy of this character, and showing the true evil of the story is simply fantastic. Taskmaster is none other than Antonia Dreykov (Olga Kurylenko) aka the daughter of Dreykov, who was used by her own father the same way other girls were. He was controlling the mind of his daughter without any remorse. He even has the audacity to thank Natasha for giving him one of his greatest weapons. 

Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko)

The movie's conclusion is amazing. Natasha not only finds forgiveness for what she did, but she also realizes that there’s still hope for her and her other family. They set Yelena up as our next Black Widow flawlessly and Natasha shows up at the end of the movie the way she looked in Infinity War, which gives a bittersweet touch to the whole story. 

I was ugly crying once the realization fully set in that this was our last time with Scarlett. She has been such a highlight of this Universe and she was an example for girls to look up to. She has been and always will be an inspiration. 

And the reason I will forgive Black Widow for coming out this “late” in the game lies in the end credit scene. 

Yelena goes to Natasha’s grave (with the dog she mentioned she always wanted) and that’s when FREAKING VALENTINA (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to whom we were introduced in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier shows up to give Yelena her next target. It is none other than the murderer of her sister: Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. Now, my theory with this big-ass surprise, in the end, is that we will meet Yelena again sooner than we thought in the upcoming Hawkeye series. I mean, it would make sense, but I also know that there’s no point in creating theories when it comes to Marvel because they like to mess with us a little. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

All in all, Black Widow was a perfect entry in the MCU. Sure, we could have gotten it sooner, but to be honest I kind of don’t mind getting it like this. They did a wonderful job with tying the knots together,  and Scarlett’s last appearance couldn’t have been any better, even if it was bittersweet in the end. I sure will miss her. 

Thank you Black Widow. 

Thank you Marvel. 

I am sending my therapy bill. 

What did you think of the movie? Leave a comment below.

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part II - Featuring Charlotte Merritt & Stephanie Watson

What would it be like to have an extensive gaming experience that spanned forty years? What kind of evolution would be experienced over the course of an entire generation? 

I had the honor of talking with two of our Replayers who have been gaming in one fashion or another for around forty years. I started gaming from a very early age, but I was very curious about what these ladies’ experiences were, considering they had more background knowledge of the earlier systems and have played significantly more video games than I have. 

They have seen and experienced the evolution of the online collective community of video game players. What kind of environment did those first communities foster, and how have they since changed? 

Let’s start with a little history from them to see how things have changed from the early days:

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

The Commodore 64 was introduced in August 1982.

Charlotte: My father bought a floppy drive for our Commodore 64. Dad liked some games, but he really didn’t lead me to them. It’s more that he introduced them.

Stephanie: I was about 7 or 8 when Pac-Man, Galaga, and other early arcade games started appearing in local restaurants. My parents bought us portable Pac-Man and Donkey Kong games to play at home. It started as something to do at restaurants while my family was waiting for a table or socializing after eating. Later, I started asking if I could ride my bike to the arcade and play. Friends and cousins had PCs with games and Atari 2600 consoles, and I'd try to visit them so I could play there too. Back home, though, my parents didn't buy anything until I was around 15, and it was a Nintendo NES for my brother. I played it a lot, but it always meant having to hang out in my brother's room. 

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to it? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Charlotte: Some of the games I grew up playing were Police Quest, Doom (1993) specifically, and Twisted Metal. At-home gaming was just coming in when I was a kid. I would say I am an eclectic gamer. I love the social aspect of video games. RPG’s are grand (Ultima Online & SWTOR). Puzzles are my favorite. Uncharted, the entire series is my absolute favorite. I think my preference has evolved as games have advanced.

Stephanie: Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were always favorites, and I got a lot of Super Mario Brothers playtime. I fell in love with The Legend of Zelda on my brother's NES. He got the Nintendo Power magazine for a while, so I would dive into the guides for specific games so I could get past the sticking points that made me rage quit.

I like a combination of puzzles and story-driven missions, and I usually play on story or normal modes. A story will keep me playing if I was really compelled by it or if there are different options for playing the story on repeated runs. Thus, RPGs are often a big draw. I also love achievement hunting and team challenges when I can play with other people. I love going back to play games like Destiny and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Charlotte:  For sure. Growing up, my generation's games were marketed to boys. Girls who played them were weird. Thanks go to the younger generation of gamers and streamers who have really helped try to normalize us. I remember so many times in UO (Ultima Online) other players not believing that I was a woman. “Women don’t play games” or “Women don’t know how to do RPG’s.” I was judged a lot by other girls as a teen because I would go home and throw on Doom, instead of reading Cosmo and learning the new makeup tips. Now it’s so nice that thanks to Retro Replay, I have this fantastic group of female gamers around me.

Stephanie: When video games first came out in the late 70s and early 80s, toy stores had no idea where they should put them. At the time, stores segregated toys by target gender (boy and girl). They chose to put them in the boy section and market them to boys. Many girls like me have felt the results of that marketing decision for three decades. Even today, people assume I'm a "he" in online games, even if I'm playing a female character. Fortunately, girls are really starting to come into their own now in ALL KINDS of games, and gaming communities are starting to outright reject people who discriminate against female gamers. I'm all for that, and it's great to see more females proudly calling themselves a gamer without feeling like they have to qualify or distinguish their gender.

 

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

 

Chloe & Nadie don’t look like they need rescuing.

Charlotte:  Lara Croft was a big one. Tough, strong female character. This has now grown to include Elena, Chloe, and Nadine. They don’t need to be “rescued”. They hold their own.

Stephanie: I admit I've mostly played games in which the lead was male just because I found the story intriguing. That said, I love how Star Wars: The Old Republic wrote the female versions of each character class to be equal to their male counterparts in the main plots of the story.

 

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Charlotte: For Sure. They’ve been insanely underrepresented AND over-sexualized when they are in a game. Yes.

Stephanie: We've absolutely been underrepresented as leads. There has been an effort in recent years to have a female alternative lead in games, but most of the marketing and labels use the male lead. I suppose that's because of their demographic, with males still being the majority of gamers in certain game categories. I appreciate the move that RPG games have made to ensure that the female characters had just as compelling of a story as their male counterparts. And the game stories are also bringing in a lot of diversity.

 

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

 

Charlotte: It’s been fun. I recently became a Twitch affiliate. I have my first subscriber (Thanks Adam!) People have been very welcoming and supportive.

Stef's new setup

Stephanie: It's a fun hobby, and it's given me an excuse to improve my gaming setup at home. It also helps me accept that I'm not perfect (I can't just edit out the rough spots) and that's okay. My streaming schedule has been incredibly limited since 2021 started, though, as I now spend most of my hobby hours editing articles for a website or producing a podcast.

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

 

Charlotte: I love seeing my friends interacting in my chat. I hate seeing a new name and hitting that second of panic of….are you here to troll or are you here cause I’m playing a game you like? Luckily, I’ve only had to deal with a couple of bots. So I’ll claim a win, so far.

Stephanie: My favorite part of streaming is seeing people who come in regularly, people who have been supporting me and the channel from the start. I love that I can talk to them while I'm playing or cooking or whatever I'm streaming that day. That social part is even better when I can stream with friends, too. 

 

Back to gaming:

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached or a charity stream goal achieved? 

 

Charlotte’s family resulted from her playing an online game and meeting her Prince Charming. Now she is living her “Happily Ever After.”

Charlotte: My 15-year-old son, Troy. I met my husband on a video game (Ultima Online) back in 2002. We married in 2003.

Stephanie: My favorite "old school" achievement is finishing The Legend of Zelda on NES. I've even replayed the game multiple times in the years since when I could find it. My favorite current achievement is hosting an Extra Life team and charity stream. We raised almost $1500 for children's hospitals and the whole team brought so much energy, enthusiasm, and support for each other. It was a joy to be able to host, and I hope we can do it again in 2021!

https://www.extra-life.org/ 

Charity Streams are a great way to pursue your hobby and give back to a great cause! 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

Charlotte: Would love to see even more diversity, gender, and race. I would also like to see schools promote the E arts to female students. It’s sad how much more the boys are pushed to them. I feel like if girls had new opportunities in jobs available they would go for more of those classes.

Stephanie: We've already come a long way with female leads and gay representation. I'd like to see more story writers and game producers take that to the next level by having characters who are bisexual, polyamorous, transgender, transvestite, and non-binary. I'd especially like stories to not assume every romance is going to be hetero or monogamous.

 

 I had a lot of fun discussing these questions in further detail in a Zoom chat with six of us female Replayers.

I learned a lot from Charlotte and Stephanie. From the early days of gaming to our current era it seems we have come a long way already in a short period of time. There have already been great strides in diversifying stories and gameplay. In recent years we have seen a significant influx of strong female leads giving us women gamers someone to finally relate to. You can look at a past interview of female replayers here.

 

Thank you again Charlotte and Stephanie for chatting with me and sharing your experience with the rest of us.

Check out their socials!

Charlotte - Twitter: @snapefantasy Twitch: twitch.tv/snapefantasy Instagram: snapefantasy

Stephanie - Twitter: @StephanieDoesVO Twitch: twitch.tv/Jicori Instagram: stephaniedoesvo

 

What other kinds of diversified roles would you like to see in video games? 

 

Why That One Moment in Loki Meant So Much

It was 28 years ago, while I was in college, that I made the first mental connections to something I had felt prominently since my early teens. It would be another year before I had a name for it: bisexual. After another decade, I also better understood and accepted myself as pansexual and queer.

Since that time, it's taken courage to be out and stay out when it came to calling myself bisexual or pansexual. Like others who identify this way, I often felt that my sexuality was invisible. Some straight men I would date wouldn't seek to understand what that meant to me, they'd just get excited thinking this was their opportunity for a threesome with another woman. At the same time, both straight and gay acquaintances treated me like someone who was confused and just hadn't made up my mind yet. 

But what is there to decide? 

I'm sexually attracted to people of all genders. Plus, just because I chose to have a monogamous relationship with a man or woman doesn't change the fact that I am, still, a bisexual/pansexual person. That's still an important part of my identity, and I feel compelled to work toward a better overall cultural understanding of what it means.

So, when director Kate Herron and the amazing cast of Loki brought Loki's and Sylvie's sexualities into the conversation in June 2021, I was thrilled. Here's what happened...

Loki (Tom Hiddleston): "A bit of both..."

 

It's Season 1, Episode 3 of the series, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), settle in on a train as part of escaping a planet on the verge of destruction. Loki and Sylvie are "variants" of the same person across alternate universes, which we call the "multiverse" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This Loki is, in fact, a variant of Hiddleston's Loki that redeemed himself in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Instead of completing that arc, though, this variant deviated from the timeline just after leading the attack on New York City in The Avengers (2012). He's now fleeing the "time cops" from the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Sylvie is a Loki variant who was born female in her timeline and has lived a very different life, on the run hiding from the TVA since childhood.

This scene was the first moment where the two characters had time to compare their lives and start to make a personal connection. As often happens in such conversations, the question of love and relationships comes up:

Sylvie: "You're a prince. There must have been would-be princesses, or perhaps another prince?"

Loki: "A bit of both, I suspect the same as you. But nothing ever..."

Sylvie (nodding): "...real."

Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) relates to Loki's relationship history.

 

I admit I felt some proud tears at this moment, and I couldn't stop smiling for hours. Kate Herron was already becoming one of my favorite directors with this series, but this moment was next-level. Kate herself even shared how much this moment meant to her as a director:

 

This is what we mean when we say bi-visibility and pan-visibility. Just this simple conversation between two characters is so big! I'm grateful for the courage that Marvel and Disney had to prompt real-world conversations that lead to increased understanding in our cultures worldwide. It's certainly not the first time we've seen something like this in entertainment, but it's one of the first times we've seen it so openly on this scale.

Why is this so important to the bi and pan community?

An identity label is a word we select because it holds a meaning about who we are. That one label condenses a bigger picture into something that people can quickly put meaning to. Consider someone who introduces themself to you as a "hipster," "flower child," or "geek." Do those evoke any specific mental images for you about that person? Do you feel like you know them better when they use those labels? 

That's what we want when we tell people we're bisexual or pansexual: for them to know what that label means to us and acknowledge that as part of our identity. While I can't speak for every bisexual or pansexual, I can speak for myself and acknowledge a lot of what we have in common. I want to take a moment and share that here to be part of starting that conversation for us all.

Pansexuality pride flag.

 

Bisexual and pansexual are labels identifying sexuality, i.e. who we're sexually attracted to. Pansexual means that we may be sexually attracted to someone regardless of their gender expression (male, female, non-binary, gender-fluid, etc.). Bisexual has traditionally meant that we may be sexually attracted to someone who is either male or female. However, many of us who are bisexual acknowledge that gender identity is not a binary concept and, thus, we relate bisexual to pansexual. 

That's it, really. That's the core of the identity. Everything else you might have heard is a mix of misconceptions. I want to start dispelling those misconceptions by pointing those out here. Maybe you can help us correct these misconceptions as you speak with others, too:

We're not "confused" or "haven't decided yet." We know we're queer, and we know our sexuality is on a spectrum that's independent from gender identity or gender expression. We're neither confused nor undecided; we're quite certain. We also know that we're still bi and pan regardless of our relationship status. And speaking of relationships...

We aren't inherently polyamorous or prefer open relationships. Our sexuality is not associated with our relationship preferences. Sure, you're going to find some bi and pan polyamorous people out there, and some who experiment with the open relationship model. Most bi/pan people I know, though, including myself, prefer one person in romantic relationships and forming a family. And, naturally...

We aren't all looking for threesomes and sex orgies. I already mentioned dating the guys who heard I'm bi and assumed that meant I'm down for a threesome. Regardless of whether I'm down, it's incredibly uncomfortable for someone to make that assumption about me. What we each want in a sexual encounter is very different and unique to each person. It's something we should each discuss in trust with each would-be partner. It's not included in our identity as bi or pan. These assumptions have led me and others I know into some situations that are awkward at best and scary or unsafe at worst. 

But don't just take all this from me. Check out this short video from Xtra Magazine with bi and pan individuals talking about their experiences and why bi-visibility matters to them:

 

Did the Loki/Sylvie relationship ultimately negate the value of that moment?

I have no doubt that some people will see it that way, but I don't. Through the remainder of Season 1, Loki and Sylvie formed a close bond that was definitely romantic in nature. But does that change anything about their sexuality? No. Choosing to express romantic love to each other doesn't suddenly make Loki and Sylvie heterosexual. Bi-visibility and pan-visibility is about acknowledging that we are bi and pan regardless of such choices. If you're disappointed or feel that their romantic interactions devalue the bisexual/pansexual reveal, I'd like to know: What is it that you wanted to see, instead? Share your thoughts in the comments, and let's talk about what the future holds now that Loki's sexuality is canon.

Before I close, I did want to acknowledge another Loki moment that could have been equally as meaningful to LGBTQ+ fans. The series credits have, on multiple occasions, shown Loki's TVA file with the label "gender-fluid." Some long-time comic nerds have acknowledged that Loki has taken a lot of forms throughout comic history, including different genders. Many simply attribute the gender-fluid label to that comic history. That said, I think leaving the label to that explanation alone misses an opportunity to extend visibility to gender-fluid, genderqueer, and non-binary people here outside of the fictional world. I think Tom himself is supportive, though: he mentions in an interview Raffy Ermac did for Out that he found it important and meaningful to be part of that reveal in the show. Maybe that's something they'll explore more in Season 2.

What films, TV shows, comics, or books have impacted your life in a positive way by representing who you are? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments and chat about how powerful media can be for visibility and representation.

 

Great Directors and Why I Hate Them: Quentin Tarantino

Allow me to introduce you to this new series of articles! Full disclosure, as well as a disclaimer, I don't actually hate any of the directors in these articles. (HA! I just baited your click!) I speak in hyperbole merely because it's funny. However, in my experience, it’s become apparent that simply declaring, "I’m not a big fan of (insert popular director),” causes people to infer that you actually "HATE THIS WRETCHED ABOMINATION OF CINEMATIC ARTISTRY!" 

But, let me be perfectly clear here... not being a fan doesn't equate to hate or disrespect for the artist. Just because I don’t like strawberry ice cream doesn’t mean I hate “happiness milk.” ‘Cause I love it, I’m just lactose intolerant (okay, maybe this example got away from me).

That's why in this series I will attempt to explain myself, a filmmaker, and the hills I will DIE on when it comes to certain directors and the types of film choices they make. I will also do my best to include contextual examples and even offer feedback on what I think would improve their style in a hopefully objective manner. This is not crapping on these directors, this is merely an attempt to voice my opinion and see what you all think about these incredible artists and create a dialogue. 

Without further ado, let’s do this (oh shit)...

First up: Quentin Tarantino. I know. How taboo, right?

Quentin Tarantino at the premiere of Inglourious Basterds.

I’m going to start with someone who is possibly the most jarring example of a great director that I have issues with. Saying you don't like Tarantino to a film lover or filmmaker is akin to saying, "The Beatles suck!" to anyone with ears and a soul.

Again, I do not hate Tarantino’s films. On the contrary, I find him as one of the most important directors in modern cinema. His method of storytelling and nearly flawless ability to capture genuine human interactions is something to be admired by anyone looking into script writing. Hell, his writing style is the central focus of many writing courses in college. The only people I can think of capable of rivaling his style are the Cohen brothers

It is his directing style, however, where I take umbrage.

 

The problem: 

For however consummate Tarantino truly is in writing organic human interaction, he has a tendency of leaning into this form of realism far too much for what was initially promised as the focused genre. That's especially true when he promises the most bombastically violent and action-packed film since the last most bombastically violent and action-packed film he made. And, oh brother, does he deliver on that promise… eventually. 

For me, looking at this picture is basically identical to watching the protracted "dialog" scenes in a Tarantino film.

BUT, dear God it takes so long to get there.

Tarantino focuses on the realistic aspect of the characters and their conversations, and more recently has leaned into the action like he originally promised: bombastic and action-packed. The problem being that this form of hyper realistic narrative is extremely difficult to inject in such a cinematically action-driven story. And if you go in thinking it’s just an action movie and get a strong character study, which is easy to do, this can take you out of the brilliance of his films. Additionally, part of his realism is to include over-saturated storytelling. He tends to give far more information than is needed. I don't care what Kurt Russell thinks about coffee! Just please get to the point.

 

The example:

Imagine if Tarantino were given a Batman film. Here’s how I believe it would go:

Tarantino knows that you are already painfully aware of Bruce Wayne’s past and, correctly, assumes you don’t need a recap. So, he won’t go through the dead parents or training montage and instead we’ll get a Batman movie where he's already Batmanning as Batman. The opening scene is two criminals having a long-winded conversation about sandwiches or something only to reveal after 5 minutes that they’re torturing a family for money. 

Then Batman shows up. 

But it’s more like a stalking serial killer from a horror movie. We don’t see him, but he takes out one of the guys surgically. The other finds his partner, we see Batman’s silhouette ominously emerging from the shadows behind him, then the title screen: Batman: Rogues Gallery. Strong 30-minute opening! A different take on a famous franchise. VERY Tarantino.

Then we get about an hour's worth of Edward Nigma and Victor Zsasz collecting various villains and cryptically speaking about a "plan" they have. This is the over-saturated part I was talking about: lots of conversations that don’t go anywhere, characters that we begin to relate to that die offscreen immediately after being developed so the time we spent with them didn’t matter, and all the while Bruce Wayne isn’t even in the picture anymore.

Now the good stuff. The villains—Riddler, Zsasz, Black Mask, Penguin, Two-Face—all storm Wayne manor, take Alfred hostage, and keep him in the master bedroom, torturing him. Again, Batman is nowhere to be seen. Now we get a character study of all the villains as Alfred questions them, picking their brains and learning about them and their motives. Brilliant acting and some of the best lines put to paper.

Finally, Batman shows himself. He uses their vulnerability to dismantle all 5 villains in a BRILLIANT 5-minute action scene. Some of the best fight choreography and stunt work in any film. The film ends with the villains subdued, Alfred dying from his injuries, and Batman contemplating whether he will take their lives or not as he holds a since-passed Alfred in his arms.

Who am I kidding, I'd KILL to see this Tarantino-style movie that I just made up!

All this, however, is in a 2 1/2 hour BATMAN movie, where he’s maybe a side character at best. There's 10 minutes total of great action, but it ultimately flatlines for a casual viewer who isn’t a Tarantino fan. 

There isn't anything wrong with creating a character-driven action drama, but you can't forget the action part.

And you know the media attached to this will be showing nothing but Batman and how dark and twisted the movie would be, forcing you to go in expecting a comic-book Batman film with a Tarantino twist instead of the other way around. And we know the other way around works! Just look at Joker, for crying out loud. Not to mention, that big hour-long part where nothing happens could be cut entirely, like some pretty big spots in most Tarantino films. That extra hour could make this unwatchable to some audiences.

You're reading this on paper (internet screen?), which is much easier to digest. Imagine going to see a Batman movie where there's only 5 minutes of actual Batman, or even Bruce Wayne, and, instead of ANY action, there's far more character study with an emphasis on the study part. There isn't anything wrong with creating a character-driven action drama. However, you can’t forget the action part. 

I created this example rather than using one of his existing films because many of us already have an opinion on Tarantino’s existing films. His legacy is sound. Regardless of whether or not you like his work, that opinion is already formulated. With this hypothetical example, we can view Tarantino's formula more objectively. Even if this movie that doesn’t exist (yet) sounds super badass (man!), you know there will be people that hate the concept.

 

The solution: 

So let’s fix that right now, and easily: The title. 

Name the movie The Rogues Gallery. That’s it. In any and all press, exclude Batman. Promise that this will be a movie about the villains and what makes them tick. Offer nothing else. People will only expect to go in getting to know the villains, not see Batman Batmanning with batarangs and a bat-bat (that’s a baseball bat in the shape of a bat symbol). Give me what you promised, damn it!

This is the face I imagine Tarantino would make reading my article.

Tarantino does this a LOT! Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was awesome and tons of violent action, then its sequel, Vol. 2, took a weird turn that I couldn’t appreciate as a viewer until I wasn’t a stupid high schooler. Inglourious Basterds (still the movie I HATE most in his catalog) barely featured any of the "Basterds" we actually went to see and, instead, had 10-hour-long conversations about nothing and everyone died anyway (but Christoph Waltz is the F’n GOAT). The Hateful Eight had a bunch of characters (9, I think?) with background information we didn't need to appreciate the whole story, and it only got really good after everyone started dying (which is why there’s a 4-hour version). And Death Proof… I won’t even get into that mess... though the last 20 minutes were awesome.

What I would suggest to Tarantino, or any filmmaker, is to know your own themes. If you’re making a character drama with action, tell me that’s what it is. Don't tell me to expect TONS of action when I'm only getting one (albeit very impressive) fist or gun fight while the actual point of the film is to understand what the characters truly embrace out of life. Tarantino is very capable of great action and action-driven plots, but I love his character study and would appreciate knowing which film I'm getting when going to see it. Creating an audience expectation for a film that is heavily objective can really create dissonance in the community and generate animosity with your audience. Know what you're writing, know your themes and genres, and most importantly, know what you are promising.

What are your thoughts on Tarantino as a director? What directors do you feel have a similar problem with setting the wrong expectations? Drop your thoughts in the comments. #ComeAtMeBro #ThisWasABadIdea