Category Archives: Fandom and Misc

Articles or shortform posts that deal with gaming but not substantially, or having to do more with the fannish end of things.

Beyond ‘Ace’ Attorney: (sort of) my talk from 2014’s Lost Levels

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What follows is a best effort reproduction of the off-the-cuff talk I gave at Lost Levels this past March. I had a draft of some sort prepared in advance, then threw it out at the last minute. This will necessarily be different from both the prepared text and the delivered version, but the gist of it remains intact.

I think Phoenix Wright is an ace attorney.

This is a double-entendre, and admittedly, not an especially clever one. “Ace” is short for asexual, you see, so it follows that in addition to being known as the primary protagonist of Ace Attorney, mainly for being a good lawyer, we can argue for Phoenix Wright as being ace in the other sense — a cutesy bit of wordplay without much substance behind it. Or is there?

Here is the thing: I’m asexual. It took me the majority of my life to arrive at this conclusion, largely because I had no idea what being asexual actually meant, or how I could be one. Please name me an openly asexual character in film or television who is not a) a non-human character, b) aimed at children, or c) evil. I’m sure there are a few that exist somewhere, but they’re a rare bird, especially next to the surfeit of examples we have for hetero, bi and gay characters.

Part of the problem is that asexuality is defined by not doing a thing. And not just not doing the thing, but having no desire to do the thing, which makes it different than having a character who is, say, celibate, or in possession of a low libido. In fact, if there’s anything that irritates me more than not having good examples of asexual characters to refer to, it’s for people to conflate “asexual” with “chaste” and point to examples of relationships where the issue of physical intimacy is shot down, but not for lack of desire. (See: Shepard and Samara in Mass Effect.) And if there’s anything that irritates me more than that, it’s the assumption that sexuality is inextricably tied with romantic attraction, so asexual people can’t possibly have emotional relationships which play out as romances.

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Enter: Phoenix Wright. Phoenix cares deeply about several people in his life, but the games never pair him off with everyone, except in a single flashback case where he’s in a relationship with a woman (and it’s strongly implied to be chaste). The series even goes so far as to give him a daughter, but it goes yet further by making her adopted, and when asked when he’s going to find his daughter “a new mommy” he repeatedly laughs off the idea.

So here we have a character that the franchise is going well out of its way to have him fulfill this particular social role of parenthood, without any of the other heteronormative trappings that tend to accompany it. He wouldn’t be alone, but let’s go further: he’s made uncomfortable by kissing (AA5 DLC case), he denies up and down any sort of adult relationship with Maya (AA2) while risking his life for her (AA3), and of the two people he gets closest to professing something like love to (his mentor Mia; his friend Edgeworth), one gets retroactively paired off (Mia with Diego Armando), and the other is… apparently going on dates with Phoenix to his daughter’s magic shows (AA5 case 5), despite the two of them clearly living very separate lives on opposite sides of the city.

So what do we make of this? For me, when I look at all of this together, I see a guy who is a lot like myself: someone with strong emotional bonds with people which might even be interpreted as romantic, but for whom physical acts of affection either don’t occur to him (see: Dahlia/Iris, and if you want to stretch things, Maya) or upset him (see: Orla, and yes I know she’s an orca).

Is it compelling, incontrovertible proof? No. And I don’t expect this to either have crossed the series writers’ minds or be something Capcom will ever weigh in on one way or another. It doesn’t really matter to me how a character like Phoenix Wright is ‘intended’ — his portrayal is at least ambiguous enough that I was able to read into him something that I could recognize, and for me that is a rare, precious thing.

I’ve written before how it was only through fandom that I finally managed to articulate how it felt to be asexual. I still think fanworks are a great resource for exploring all these things that published media don’t or won’t address, but I’m glad that for the Ace Attorney games, at least, I don’t need to resort to fanfiction to find a character whose actions make sense to me.

This all makes me wonder what we can do to better explore asexuality in games — through characters, sure, but perhaps through gameplay as well. I asked the Lost Levels crowd for a few ideas (a passing hippie suggested “become a higher being” as one solution), but I wonder what all you out there think, as well. Are there asexual characters (who aren’t anthropomorphic animals or cartoonish villains) we can point to in games? How would we handle asexual romance? Or just being asexual, when there are no quick routes to its representation? I think all the work that has been done by queer devs in the last few years points the way, but I can’t say for certain where I, at least, should be going from here.

(Except to write cute fanfic of Phoenix and Edgeworth holding hands, but that was always going to be forthcoming…)

I can’t get any work done but I can do this.

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…Well.

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How the other side lives (and the other side is me)

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(Content warning: harassment, misogynistic slurs.)

This is not another personal account of pervasive sexual harassment on the internet.

All the same, I need to put a few things in context. A couple days ago I noticed a Twitter troll was harassing several women including GameSpot writer Carolyn Petit and those he found standing up for her. I tweeted a link to Twitter’s report form for abusive users and attached a screencap of one of the things he’d said. After 50 or so retweets (thanks), he found me, and began an off-and-on assault of tweets calling me a slut, saying I would feature in an anal sex minigame in the next Grand Theft Auto, and announcing he would kill me and get his money back from my apparent prostitution services.

This is the first time I have experienced this.

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Animal Crossing QR Code Geekery, Part 2

While I cast about for the time to work on some more of my own designs, I thought I’d share a few of the outfits I’ve been enjoying from other ACNL creators.

You can click on each image to be sent to the source page for the full set of QR codes and more of the artist’s work. Which you should do, by the way.

Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya’s outfits from Revolutionary Girl Utena
(found via Anne Lee)

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Rapunzel from Tangled

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Shingeki no Kyojin uniforms HECK YEAH

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*Mute’s hanbok and *Hyun-ae’s school uniform from Analogue: A Hate Story
(found via Christine Love)

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School uniforms from Persona 3 and Persona 4

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Various traditional East Asian attire (mostly kimono and hanbok) and riffs thereon

by Hiyoko (found via Anne Lee):

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by merongcrossing:

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by yaenomuteki (warning: some designs on the blog might be considered a bit risque):

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found via newleaf-fashion:

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(attribution needed)

from cocoa82551:

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Other outfits and costumes

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For all your grimdark roleplaying needs

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Animal Crossing QR Code Geekery, Part 1

Quick post, and the first of several, I hope. If you’ve been reading me on Twitter you know that I am a teensy bit obsessed with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve been happily designing little outfits for my mayor since I discovered the option to do so, and now that I’ve unlocked the QR Printer at Able Sisters, well!

So, in honor of Tron Day, have a bit of Tron Couture, plus a Sailor Moon fuku and a (completely unisex!) TNG Starfleet miniskirt.

“Tron Couture”
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Sailor Moon serafuku
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Unisex Starfleet Miniskirt (Command, TNG)
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Also, if you’re looking for more ACNL QR designs, I highly recommend the stuff Anne Lee has been curating! I’m currently wearing one of the summer yukata featured here.

Because if you can’t save yourself, how in the hell are you gonna save somebody else?

I’ve never been a big fan of male Commander Shepard for various reasons. He’s just not pretty enough! But if RuPaul’s Drag Race and Drag U have taught me anything, it’s there is no such thing as a face so homely a bit of contouring couldn’t help. You know what RuPaul would say to Mass Effect‘s character editor?

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And thus RuPaul Charles Shepard was born.

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Covergirl! Put that bass in your walk.

Covergirl! Put that bass in your walk.

If you want a RuPaul Shepard of your very own, here’s the Mass Effect 3 character ID: 111.17F.GGE.151.IHN.WBE.5H1.841.WH8.G98.223.6

Let’s name some Super Hexagon patterns

Apparently Terry Cavanagh has his own names for these. Maybe you do too? Post ‘em if you got ‘em.

The Warble

The Record Scratch

The Crochet

The Crochet

The School Hallway

The School Hallway

The Butterfly

The Butterfly

The Snowstorm

The Snowstorm

The Spiral (aka The Junji Ito)

The Spiral (aka The Junji Ito)

The Spider Web

The Spider Web

Critic Fantasy VII

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“Critic Fantasy VII” is one of those self-indulgent things you end up doing when you have a lot of professional buddies on Twitter and too much vodka in your screwdriver. Everyone has gone through their favorite RPG naming party members after their friends, or at least a game of Oregon Trail or something, but as I didn’t have any friends as a child this seems to be literally the first time I’ve gotten to do this. So let’s charge right on in.

The whole thing started as a bit of misbegotten promise over Twitter in response to Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander’s FF7 Letters Series. This was a pretty popular feature in 2011 which, though not the first of its kind, has sparked plenty of imitators since as a kind of combination retro review and series of public love letters. So it was that Kirk and Leigh became a games journalist power couple and all of Twitter was shipping Team Hamilxander for a while, and I joked that in my next playthrough of FF7 I’d rename Cloud and Tifa after the letter-exchanging duo.

This led to some pretty tragic aborted experiments trying to screencap the game (or, indeed, anything) from my PS1, PS3, PSP or a pirated version of the old buggy PC version. Then many months later after everyone had forgotten I’d mentioned anything about it, Square Enix rereleased the game for PC, and lo, but I could now load it into Steam and F12 to my heart’s delight. Thus #CriticFantasyVII was born.

Dramatis Personae:

Cloud Strife – Kirk Hamilton
Tifa Lockhart – Leigh Alexander
Barret Wallace – Ian Bogost
Aerith Gainsborough – Maggie Greene
Red XIII – Gus Mastrapa
Cait Sith – Denis Farr
Cid Highwind – Michael Abbott
Vincent Valentine – Ben Abraham
Yuffie Kisaragi – Patricia Hernandez

Some of these matches worked better than others. Unsurprisingly, Barret Wallace’s whole black caricature would be hi-larious(ly racist) no matter whom you named him after, but there was something in particular about naming him for the opinionated, funny yet always cerebral Ian Bogost which took that shit just right over the top. Observe:

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Actually, pretty much everyone had a few gems in the ensuing dialogue.

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Most Twitter buddies who didn’t get character parts wound up as chocobo. Lots and lots of chocobo. And mostly golds, you’ll notice. I kind of went a bit overkill on the whole chocobo husbandry thing.

Heck, even game critics I didn’t go out of my way to include somehow wound up in this game!

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In all it turned out to be a pretty lopsided experiment, as at the end of the day a character like Barret (I have to remind myself his name isn’t actually Bogost now–that’s what 50 hours of gameplay does to you) will always be quotable and neglected characters like Cait Sith will have mostly serviceable lines that are only funny when they’re full of typos (not that this game is wanting for those).

Plus, as I might have anticipated, people have Certain Opinions about which characters receive their names when the character in question is part of some densely storied, cryptically translated thing and not just a plucky nondescript crewmember in FTL or your wife in Oregon Trail. For instance, Maggie Greene really seemed to not enjoy being killed off by the end of Disc 1, just before a snowboarding minigame, of all things. I tried to point out that being turned into this game’s version of Jesus was a pretty decent consolation prize, but I don’t think I quite convinced her.

Still…

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…I’m pretty sure that’s working its way into my vocabulary from here on.

As for my original objective, which was to create as much shipping fuel for Team Hamilxander as possible, that fell by the wayside a bit. (Damn game journalists and their real lives not conforming to my fantasies.) It’s a shame because Leigh and Kirk are almost as romantic in this game as they were in their letter series.

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TEAM HAMILXANDER 4EVA

I’m not saying this is my GOTY but…

…Yep.

In other news, if you haven’t purchased Brendan Keogh’s book-length critique of Spec Ops: The Line, Killing is Harmless, I’d recommend getting on that rather soon, boss.

Burning Invaders: A Return to IndieCade

“I hope one day this thing is huge,” a young games journo tells me breathlessly. He wears a fedora and a pixel tie and I would peg him as not old enough to drink.

I frown. The kid has just finished bragging about “sneaking in” to his first E3 this summer, a so-called industry conference about which I have some pretty strong feelings. E3 is still not back up to its tottering pre-2007 top-heaviness but it’s still horrifically large, unsustainable in its girth and the inertia of its own technological obsolescence. I do not want IndieCade to ever resemble that.

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