Score One for the Little Guy: Super Hexagon Rocks

Super Hexagon was released for iPhone and iPad on Thursday, and it has drastically outperformed even its developer’s expectations. Having picked it up on Saturday and spent most of Sunday and this morning playing, I have to say it’s no surprise. Super Hexagon is a pure delight to play.

Though I love and play a great deal of games, it still is not often that I find myself smiling broadly from the sheer enjoyment of the experience. Super Hexagon achieves this with its flowing gameplay, simple visuals, and an astounding soundtrack. When you first start, losses come easily in the first several seconds, but you’re right back into it for another try with a simple tap of the screen. This means that the game can feature a steep learning curve and offer extremely challenging experiences without ever breaking the flow of the game. For those who don’t know, the term ‘flow’ in relation to gaming refers to when a players state of mind is fully engaged and focused on the game while fully enjoying. Basically, it means “in the zone.” Thus, a game which “flows” successfully facilitates this state in the player. The gameplay is so simple that it’s nearly impossible to explain, as even these screenshots tend not to help you understand. It’s a basic game of survival by dodging. You see an obstacle moving toward you, and you must move out of the way before it strikes you. Games of this type are nothing new, but Super Hexagon’s use of polygonal themes, catchy chiptunes (by Chipzel), and beautiful color palette set it apart. Such powerful music and colors could easily be overwhelming, but fortunately the music is tasteful and the color schemes pleasant.

Super Hexagon was developed by Terry Cavanagh, the indie developer genius behind VVVVVV. I can say genius because Marcus “Notch” Persson , member of Mensa and creator of Minecraft, lists Cavanagh as one of his idols. Cavanagh’s games tend to be reminiscent of those older gaming machines whose power was measured in bits, but they still always work in new and interesting ways.

Having already sold over 10,000 units, Super Hexagon is sure to keep me and many others smiling for quite some time to come. If you’ve got an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, this is a game you should definitely pick up.

So You Want to Read Comic Books: Video Games and The Fandom

Welcome back, fanboys and geek girls: this is the series where I instruct new readers on how to get into comic books. Hopefully, you have been reading my past couple of posts and are now diving into the world of comic books with gusto and hopefully a little more confidence than you had before.

Today we are going to talk about video games and the fandom as they relate to comic books.

The reason I paired these two together is that for me they are both sort of wild cards when understanding comics, especially for new comic book fans.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Geek and Sundry

It’s Wednesday again, and you know what that means. Yep, another web crush! This week’s web crush goes to Geek and Sundry, my new favorite site.

Felicia Day is my idol. She’s smart, funny, geeky, likes cool things, and is super pretty… okay, this is getting creepy, isn’t it. I’ll put aside any real life crushes for now and talk about how awesome Geek and Sundry actually is.

Geek and Sundry is an internet community that produces web videos about comics, games, books, hobbies and so much more. So, basically, all of the good things. They also have an IRC Chat Room, but I have been too nervous to join.

So let’s talk about some of the shows on Geek and Sundry!

First, there is Felicia Day’s Flog, a video blog where Felicia goes and does… whatever she wants. I promise it’s cool. Just check out the preview.

The show is so awesome! Day starts off every show by giving you her top five favorite things of the week (Fav Five!), which are always something interesting, whether it’s a new internet meme or a cool new game. We then get to see Felicia do whatever she wants, whether it’s blacksmithing or singing an ode to Carrie Fisher. And before you ask: Is there anything Felicia Day can’t do? Geek and Sundry answered that too.

There are in fact several things that Felicia cannot do (all entirely having to do with the laws of physics). We have decided not to print them here in the event that she might one day acquire super powers from fallen space debris or a small insect, at which point the question will be rendered moot. Plus, it’s always good to keep up the mystique, right?

Can you see why I love this site? She also takes questions from fans and types out her answers on her genuine hipster typewriter and mails them to you.

Season 5 of The Guild is also appearing on Geek and Sundry, but I’m not going to talk about that since I already did a post on The Guild, which you can find here. It’s like the second web crush I ever did, because I love The Guild. A lot. And Felicia Day. She’s my hero. Oh God, I’m fangirling again. Okay, moving swiftly on. But before we do that, since I’m not talking about The Guild here, have a video.

Next we have Sword and Laser, started by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. Sword and Laser is a book club turned podcast, and now, it’s been turned into a web series. Huzzah!

This show, as you learned from the video, airs every other Friday and discusses science fiction and fantasy books with the authors and of course all their viewers. My favorite thing about this show is that they don’t just talk to well-known authors, but new and interesting up coming ones as well. I highly recommend it, though I admit, if you are like me and have a lot of reading to catch up on this show will be problematic to your life. I’ve already added two more books to my ever growing list.

Then we have Dark Horse Motion Comics where, as you may have guessed, Dark Horse Comics are brought to life. It’s basically every nerd’s dream.

What else can I say about this show? It’s animated comics. Who doesn’t like that? Go watch it.

Finally, we have Table Top, where celebrities play awesome nerdy table top games like Settlers of Catan and Last Night on Earth. Oh, and did I mention Wil Wheaton is hosting it? Yeah, he is.

What else am I supposed to say about this series? Awesome celebrities and show hosted by Wil Wheaton. I’ll say it again, Wil Wheaton. Why aren’t you watching this show yet? And if you are–golf claps.

The final two shows, Written by a Kid and Learning Town, haven’t premiered yet, but look fantastic. Check it out.

Well that’s all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed my latest web crush and that my very real crush on Felicia Day wasn’t too distracting. I should also tell you that Felicia Day is going to be in this week’s episode of Supernatural. I’m so excited! Except then I remembered Supernatural has a history of killing all their female characters… Please, Supernatural, don’t make me cry any more! Okay, this is getting embarrassing, Lady Geek Girl here, signing out, and telling you to check out Geek and Sundry.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Penny Arcade

It began with a comic strip, and has evolved into a blog, a journal, a video channel, a charity, and a convention.  It’s Penny Arcade, today on Web Crush Wednesday!

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik started the Penny Arcade comic on the now defunct before starting their own site.  Holkins and Krahulik are now members of a small group of comic authors and illustrators to be able to make a living from their webcomics.  They typically post a new strip three times a week, accompanied by blog posts often elaborating on the comic’s subject matter.

The Comic

Having debuted in 1998 and since grown to over three and a half million readers, the Penny Arcade webcomic has few peers in terms of longevity and popularity.  It follows the exploits of the often ridiculous Gabe and reasonable Tycho.  Always with the flavor of the gaming world, Penny Arcade’s humor and setting ranges from ridiculously abstract to observational commentary.  While at times the comics deal with rather esoteric subjects, the day’s blog posting often explains the topic in a concise, straightforward fashion.   Furthermore, even when the subject is esoteric the humor is often universal.  Penny Arcade’s comedic skill and diversity has given it massive exposure, to the point now that even many of those without even a casual interest in gaming have probably been forwarded a comic or two.

With such great success over such a relatively long period of time there have been, of course, a few controversies here and there.  One such controversy began on August 11, 2010, with a comic making a joke involving rape.  As someone uncomfortably close with this subject, the comic does make me feel uneasy.  However, this particular comic might be the only concrete example of a rape joke where I actually side with the authors.  In fact, I actually laughed despite my firmest attempts to let the hate flow through me.  Forgetting the dark and absurdist nature of the joke, two schools of comedy for which I admittedly have a weakness, they are indeed making a statement about something.  That statement may not be about rape, but it involves our ability to empathize and sympathize in such situations.  Particularly in MMO’s (Massively Multiplayer Online [Games]), quests often involve a noble purpose: feed the hungry, employ the poor, cure the sick, slay the beast, free the enslaved, liberate the raped, et cetera.  The problem is that in an MMO, there must always be victims to be saved by the next player.  So, after you free a prisoner, kill the warlord, or end an epidemic, within minutes of your victory the environment returns to the victimized state so that the next hero can save the day.  The problem is that after saving any day you haven’t really saved anything since it goes back to the way it was.  This makes the player feel less concerned about the bigger problem and care only about doing his small part.  It breeds that feeling because it’s the only feeling it validates.  At times it is worse than that, giving the player a quota of people to save, rewarding you after freeing perhaps seven of the countless enslaved.  So the player learns to feel nothing for the hundreds left un-freed – they are someone else’s problem.  And that kind of thinking is dangerous.  It turns the needy into a problem; they are a liability taken on to leverage yourself to greater goals, namely experience, gold, and equipment.  It turns the seven you save into dehumanized credit.  Somehow, by making me laugh, I feel as though humanity and relatability has been brought back into the equation.  I reflect on all of those left-behind, pixelated polygons and sprites differently after viewing the comic.  So, for lampooning this phenomenon with the situation in the strip, a situation which unfortunately is only isolated from the reality of acceptability in games only by the name “dickwolves,” I side with the authors.

The Rest

Penny Arcade, largely thanks to its business manager Robert Khoo, has come a long way from just the webcomic and blog it began as.  The PA Report is a journalistic source for all things video games, featuring not only authored editorials but links to quality articles on other sites.

PA TV is the Penny Arcade video channel, currently featuring ten shows, my favorite being Extra CreditsExtra Credits is a very skillfully executed critique and reflection on the state of games and its culture, both present and future.  The highly capable team is composed of three industry professionals: chiefly written by the incredibly qualified James Portnow, narrated by the colorful Daniel Floyd, and illustrated by the fast and talented Allison Theus.  It is clear that the three of them work very well together, and I have yet to come across an episode which was in any way a miss.  Do yourself a favor and check them out.  It’s both educational and entertaining.

The Penny Arcade forum is itself pretty impressive.  It is relatively friendly, considering how bad many forums are on the net, and a strong sense of community bound by a common interest permeates throughout.  This community has come together to do some pretty interesting things in multiplayer gaming, not the least of which was their community mined and built underwater recreation of Bioshock’s Rapture in Minecraft.

Child’s Play is the charity started by Holkins and Krahulik.  What it does is send toys and games to children’s hospitals throughout the world.  They have shamelessly used the Penny Arcade brand to promote it, and rightfully so.  My first exposure to it was as the charitable option on the Humble Indie Bundle.  To date they have raised over twelve-million dollars for their cause.  I think it’s a great charity, but then its pretty easy for me to imagine a child stuck in a hospital bed, confused and scared, lucky to find any joy or entertainment during their stay.  I once spent a long and lonely week in the nearest children’s hospital as an ill child.  The Nintendo 64 I was able to play was so important to me, and it led to some very positive memories of what should have been a wholly terrifying and traumatizing experience.  Those children’s hospitals which are so far connected with the charity each have their own Amazon wish list for you to donate directly to them, or you can make monetary donations on the Child’s Play website.

PAX, or the Penny Arcade Expo, is a full-fledged video game convention.  It is particularly wonderful and dear to the gaming community because E3, the industry’s premier convention, is open to industry professionals and journalists exclusively.  So, PAX is perhaps the best way to come together as a community, meet professionals, see the new and the exciting, and play games.

The comics, writing, web series, community, charity, and convention all have a special place in my heart both as a gamer and a human being.  Altogether, Penny Arcade is an abundant well of entertainment and passion whose waters I am thrilled to have wash over me.

Note: I didn’t have time today to discuss all things PA, so apologies to The Trenches and the games, and all of the other great things I missed!