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Teacups & 1UPs PAX Aus Multipack: Virtual Reality

Welcome once more to Teacups & 1UPs, a fortnightly-ish column in which I talk about games and pair them with tea. Last intallment was the first of my three-part special, where I talked about single player games at PAX Australia, and now it’s time for part two, which is all about games in a medium I’m particularly excited about: virtual reality.

I first tried VR last year at PAX Aus with the breathtaking Earthlight (which I returned to this year) and it was love at first sight. There’s something so special about stepping into another world and experiencing a narrative that encompasses your environment. So, of course, I jumped at every opportunity I was given to try out the VR games being shown at PAX this year.

a-township-taleA Township Tale
Alta

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Teacups & 1UPs PAX Aus multipack: Single Player Indies

Welcome back to Teacups & 1UPs, a somewhat-regular column in which I talk about games and pair them with tea. Today is going to be a little bit different from usual, as it’s going to be the first of a three-part PAX Aus special, all about the indie games I picked up and tried out while in Melbourne. Each part will briefly look at a bunch of games I tried and liked, rather than examining one in-depth.

First up: single player games, followed by virtual reality and finally, local multiplayer—because there’s not much I love more than kicking my friends’ asses in ridiculous indie games. Of course, there will also be tea.

So, single player. Leave your friends at home, because it’s time for an adventure.

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Teacups & 1UPs: Oxenfree

Welcome back to Teacups & 1UPs, a column in which I lovingly pick apart games and pair them with tea. I hope you’re ready for some more Opinions About Games, because I’ve sure got some, and this time I’m talking Oxenfree.

“But Saf,” you groan, “are you ever not talking about Oxenfree?

Probably not, but now I have a whole however-many-word-I-want to talk about it even more. Buckle up, kids, we’re going ghost hunting. Warnings for very light potential spoilers.

oxenfree-beach

It’s time to make some bad teenage decisions.

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Teacups & 1UPs: The Banner Saga

Welcome to the first installment of Teacups & 1UPs, a (hopefully) fortnightly column in which I will talk about games both indie, AAA, and in-between! These may not entirely be reviews, and they won’t always be the same format, but one thing’s for sure: I’m going to pair a tea with each and every game.

Why tea? Because I love tea. Next question.

The first game I’m going to be tackling is The Banner Saga, which a Steam review accurately renamed “Tactical Starvation: The Game“. It’s not a new game, so warning for potential minor spoilers as I pick apart the good, the bad, and the fantasy misogyny. Buckle up, I definitely have Some Thoughts about this game.

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You wouldn’t think such a pretty game could be so cruel.

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Finding (Virtual) Love: Queerly Represent Me

The world is filled with amazing and diverse people and relationships. Why should video games, a medium that often reflects the real world, be any different?

Short answer: they shouldn’t be, and as time goes on they’re increasingly not. With the Sims 4’s recent update removing gender restrictions from sim creation, and companies like Bioware making it a standard across their games to include same-sex romance options, it’s clear that considerations of gender and sexuality have moved very much into the mainstream.

Still, a gamer searching for queer representation in the games they play might often find themselves disappointed by what can seem to be a barren wasteland. How amazing would it be to have a database of games including diverse sexualities and genders? A place to find games that represent who you are?

That’s where Queerly Represent Me comes in.

Founded by Alayna M Cole primarily as a place where the work of academics researching queer representation could be collected and shared, Queerly is described as a “database for games that represent sexuality, gender, and relationships.” Queerly Represent Me contains not only an exhaustive and ever-expanding list of games that explore these areas, but also resources for those interested in these topics, including the results of the Queer Representation (2016) survey.

This ain’t no top-ten list, this is some serious business. Looking for games with romanceable non-binary characters? Queerly’s got you covered. What about games that explore the formulae of typical dating sims with regards to relationships? Yup. What about a dating sim based off of that one time-travel game that you wish was gayer? Absolutely.

Basically, there are a lot of games there, from big AAAs to tiny little indies. This site is a valuable resource not just for research, but also for gamers looking for representation and game developers who have worked to put that representation into their games in some way.

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A Normal Lost Phone, a point-and-click game jam game exploring gender.

There are pages of examples within Queerly’s categories (sexuality, gender, and relationships) showing that diversity exists within games, which is perhaps encouraging to those looking to find themselves in what they play, or include queer characters and relationships in their own games.

Whether a researcher, a gamer, or a developer, Queerly Represent Me is a valuable resource for anyone even slightly interested in representation within video games. Why not check it out today?

Lieve Oma: an Ode to Grandmothers

Almost everyone has someone they can point to that has helped positively shape them into the person they are today. A sibling, a parent, a close friend; for Florian Veltman, game developer, that person is his grandmother, someone who means so much to him that he made a game as an ode to her.

Short and endlessly sweet, Lieve Oma is a character-driven game that is, at its core, a loveletter to Florian’s grandmother. This is a game you play less for the gameplay, and more for the characters and the feeling. From the Lieve Oma description:

Lieve Oma is a top-down 3D game where you go for a stroll with your grandmother through a forest. You can pick mushrooms when you find them, but the real reason you’re here is to have a discussion with your grandmother about the issues you encounter, coping with going to a new school, among other things.

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The character designs are very cute and simple, and the child is especially cute when running.

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Global Game Jam: A Newbie’s POV

GGJ round logo

Making a game in 48 hours seems a massive task, yet it’s something tens of thousands of people do every year at Global Game Jam, an international game jam for developers of any type and skill level to come together and create something new.

Though game jams—gatherings of game devs to create games in short spans of time—can vary in size and the given amount of time, Global Game Jam is the world’s largest physical jam event, this year taking place in 78 countries.

This was my first year doing GGJ, and my first year doing a game jam in general (I have since done one more, where I co-created a card game!), and I was honestly hesitant about the whole thing, because what am I, but a writer? I thought there was nothing I could possibly contribute to such a short game. Turns out narrative can be pretty important to even a game made in 48 hours, who knew?

Okay, yeah. Everyone knew.
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Our 2015 Superlatives – Games Edition

It’s the end of 2015, which means it’s time for Best of Lists! Here at Tosche Station, we thought we’d break up our lists into categories, and post a different topic per day.

In this installment, we discuss our favorite games of 2015!

Nanci: It’s no secret I don’t play a lot of games, but the one Xbox game I consistently enjoy is Just Dance. I received Just Dance 2016 for Christmas and can’t wait to get back into it after too long being a lazy bum.

I also discovered a card game called Slash this year, which is basically a game in which you ship different fictional (and some real!) characters with each other. It’s fantastic for fanficcers!

Saf: I didn’t really get the chance to play many AAA games this year because of not having a new console (haha), but I did get the chance to play a lot of little indie games, and one I absolutely can’t get over is Blake Wood’s Dolly. It’s a short game, but the art and the music both combine to deliver an emotional punch. Bonus: it’s made by a Kiwi!

Brian: Star Wars category, it’s Battlefront. Super immersive. Flying an X-wing never gets old. Non Star Wars video game front, it’s Fallout 4 because no one does open world like Bethesda. On the tabletop gaming side, another vote for Slash. Play that game with the right company and it’s a blast.

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Drinking Quest: Interview with Jason Anarchy

There’s not much I enjoy more than a round of Dungeons & Dragons (or, no doubt, Of Dice and Droids) with a bottle of cider at my side, but there’s probably not much my DM and co-players hate more than a tipsy Saf making critical decisions. When I first heard about Jason Anarchy’s Drinking Quest, I near leapt from my seat with excitement. A role-playing game that is also a drinking game is right up my friends’ and my collective alley.

With an emphasis on responsible drinking and an easy system that can be picked up in the first couple minutes, Anarchy has built both a humorous and smart card-based tabletop RPG perfect for a Friday evening with the gang.

Though Anarchy is Canadian, PAX Aus gave me the opportunity to interview him and talk to him about both Drinking Quest and other tabletop games.


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On Bugs and Bouncing: Hollow Knight’s William Pellen Interview

There was one game that completely caught my attention in the lead-up to Melbourne’s massive gaming convention, PAX Australia: Hollow Knight, a gorgeously atmospheric action-adventure platformer with a healthy dose of challenge.

Hollow Knight is being developed by Team Cherry, an indie company based in Adelaide made up of Ari Gibson, William Pellen, and David Kazi, with a release planned for the first half of 2016.

Set in a bug-infested cavern system below an eerily silent village, Hollow Knight is filled with all kinds of strange creatures and wonderful sights. I’ve always been a sucker for platformers with fascinating worldbuilding that you can explore for hours, and from what I’ve played of the Hollow Knight beta, it seems to be shaping up to be exactly that. Though the gameplay can be difficult, it never feels punishing. 

I had the opportunity at PAX Aus to interview Willaim Pellen and ask him a few questions about Hollow Knight, influences, Kickstarter, and taking the leap to full time game dev.

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