Category Archives: games commentary

Back in Action

Good news for me. For years now I have not been able to work in 3D, and for a while I couldn’t even play most 3D games because, while I have always been susceptible, I developed increased sensitivity to simulator sickness. This has been quite frustrating for me as I generally enjoy 3D games more than 2D, and because I felt like I was doing something worthwhile in working on my wheelchair sim project. I have been keeping up to date with Unreal installations, and continuing to move the project through each version to make sure it builds under the new versions, but I haven’t done much new work.

Fortunately, my sensitivity has abated somewhat and I’ve been able to play some 3D again, like Subnautica: Below Zero, Elite: Dangerous (except, the spinning when the ship goes out of control, that I cannot take and wonder if there is a way to suppress, it’s like the final minutes of “The Martian”, a movie I otherwise thoroughly enjoyed watching in 3D…I was never cut out to be an astronaut!), Yakuza 0, and some others. I still have to be selective, but it’s reduced. I looked for a resource for people with heightened sim sickness for games that they were still able to play. I found plenty of articles discussing the effect in general, but I haven’t found a list yet. GameCritics does a neat thing where they include the accessibility features, or lack thereof, in their game reviews, like colorblind modes, concerns for deaf & hard of hearing gamers (subtitles, whether there are audio-only game cues), and remappable controls:

Accessibility notes on a game review at gamecritics.com
Accessibility notes on the most recent game review at gamecritics.com at time of writing (https://gamecritics.com/brian-theisen/tetragon-review/ )

But game reviewers must be self-selected to generally be people that don’t get sim sickness, and if any site consistently mentions it, I haven’t seen it. Since I am quite susceptible, I’m going to try to point out on this blog which games I’m comfortable playing for extended sessions, in case it helps anyone else. I am, however, going to have to permanently forgo VR. This is a tough thing for me to accept, since I think it is so very, very cool, but it’s not worth the nausea. I will still leave VR enabled in Ayuma Project 1, but I’m not going to test it any more.

I’m also now able to work at least a little in Unreal and Blender again, though it’s been a long time and I have a lot to re-learn. The latest version of Unreal seems to have made substantial improvements that make the frame & movement rate consistent in my project build – a sort of stuttering, and weird speed-up/slow-down vehicle movement, were fast sim sickness triggers for me as well as just annoying and I could not figure out how to solve them, but my latest build in Unreal 4.27 is smooth enough on my system for me to work again.

Looking at a mobility vehicle I’m working on adding in, with glass that still has refraction enabled. (Ayuma Project 1 WIP)

Another issue was the reflection/refraction in glass surfaces was not working right at all, causing a sort of fun-house distortion of the world that I could not take. I’ve read quite a bit about why it happens, tried several methods of making alternative glass materials. Maybe it’s different with ray tracing, but for now my solution has been to switch entirely to glass materials that have no refraction at all. It still looks reasonable, and no more mind-bending warping.

Creating new versions of glass materials with no refractions served as a workaround to the kaleidoscopic problem. (Ayuma Project 1 WIP)

This Game I’m Playing: Mass Effect: Andromeda

I’m dividing my current gaming time between the single and multiplayer aspects of Mass Effect: Andromeda, and all in all having quite a good time. Multiplayer is suffering from many crashes-to-desktop, especially annoying when it happens most of the way through a mission as no credit is given for partial missions and any boosters used are lost. Hopefully the team will get that figured out..the most recent patch lists only balance changes. One nice thing, I upgraded our home router to a newer triband model, and now through Steam I can stream the game to my laptop, and then, with an HDMI connection, to the big TV without a hiccup. The only weirdness is that taking a screenshot results in Steam’s shutter noise playing twice in quick succession 😀

I’m having a good time with single-player, and I’m happy with how I was able to get Faro Ryder to look. She’s an engineer and to me she looks professional, intellectually curious, and ready for adventure 🙂

thesegamesiplay_-_mass_effect_andromeda_20170404205823

Faro Ryder logging on to an alien console.

 

International Women’s Day, Google image searching, and older female characters in games

I’ve had a notion of a post pinging around in my head for a while, and as today is International Women’s Day, it felt like a timely moment to get to it. What I’ve been thinking is that I would really like to see some high-visibility game titles featuring an older, highly competent female professional woman, as the protagonist/avatar. I don’t mean as something you can make from character creation tools, like in Skyrim or Saints Row, which to their credit do let you do this; I mean a set protagonist with a pre-determined look, like Lara Croft or Nathan Drake, and for the game to be truly centered on her story. (I’m seeing something like this myself: broad strokes, I’m thinking she’s Bolivian+Peruvian, CEO of an private, multinational company with headquarters in the San Isidro district in Lima…a bit Largo Winch adventure, a bit Noble House intrigue…the senior staff is skilled and loyal…her control of the company is being seriously threatened by the maneuverings of a rival firm that has secured a family connection to the political leadership…)

Okay, so, I wanted some photos to go with the post; I’d saved just a couple to my drive already to help develop my line of thinking, but they’re stock photos and I wanted open licensed ones.  So, just as a first foray, I try a Google image search for professional business woman older “creative commons,” which turns up:

Google image search result for 'professional business woman older "creative commons"'

Google image search result for ‘professional business woman older “creative commons”‘. Top two rows. More results here.

That is just the very top part of the results; I’ve preserved a lot more of the results here. Wow, this is clearly not what I was going for. That bleak first image heads an article on Business Insider entitled “I Started Saving For Retirement At Age 48 — And Still Retired Early.” (The photo itself is titled “The Old Lady was resting.”).  Why a predominantly gray-toned, down-angle, lonely shot for a relatively upbeat article? I wouldn’t predict seeing a shot of a similar aesthetic accompanying an article of a man retiring.  And how on earth is this the first image I get from those search terms?

Three of the results are not “older.” and there is a clear slice between stereotypical images of “older” and “professional” going on, as well as quite a bit of sadness. Going further down through the results is dispiriting, including a lot of babies, a woman lighting a glass pipe, a woman applying mascara, Steve Jobs, high heels, really a lot of babies, a some dogs, bridges, cows, women out shopping, and more babies.

So, I try female business leaders “creative commons” and this is the top result:

"Business Meeting"

“Business Meeting”, Credit: thetaxhaven on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

A man reaching past an out-of-focus woman to shake hands with another, older man. This is from an article entitled “World is Ready for Male-Female Leadership Mix” on WomensNews.org. I have not words; I will reiterate, this is the TOP result (that I get) for female business leaders “creative commons”. Here is the first couple rows; I have again preserved quite a bit more of the results in a larger image.

Google Image search result of "female business leaders 'creative commons'" - top rows, (click through for more)

Google Image search result of “female business leaders ‘creative commons'” – top rows, click here for more

Why are these not shots of women looking like leaders? The second shot is nicely business-oriented, but the woman is in a fairly static pose, thinking over some paperwork.  Top right, it’s David Cameron in focus. Bottom left is like a papparazi stalking shot. Bottom middle and right, it’s a man doing the talking. In every case, the women are in relatively passive positions – sitting, listening – and these are the top results! For leaders!  Scrolling down through the more complete results, we get more generic stock photography (again, for line-ups, often the man in focus), a lecture-hall seating shot of a man with his arms around two women and a tagline “Want to Help Women Achieve Leadership Roles? Bring on the Men” (the image seems to no longer be in the article) , a picture of Catherine Casserly, which does makes sense (ex-Creative Commons CEO) but the pose does not say “leadership”….some from Australian politics which at least finally have a “leader” aesthetic…this one, though, has this profoundly doublespeaky caption:

“[…] it should be asked: was she truly a female prime minister or a prime minister who was female?”

What? Seriously, what?

One of the stock shots finally has a woman in the front, in focus, standing in a confident pose that looks like she actually leads the other people in the shot, but it takes until the 23rd photo that I get the kind of dynamic image that approaches what I think should be first…and it’s a photo (which does not seem to be CC licensed, so I’m just linking to the Google storage of it) of Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In,” in an article on the Huffington Post entitled “Why Aren’t There More Women in Leadership Positions?” (yes, she is also in #3, but static and off-angle). This version of the photo seems to say it is okay for non-commercial use though, so here it is:

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Now I can’t help but try business leaders “creative commons” – will I get a mix?:

these_games_i_play_-_2015-03-08_14_47_42_top

Google image search result for “business leaders ‘creative commons'”. More results here.

Most emphatically, no. Certainly no pair of women reaching past an out-of-focus man to shake hands here. Actually a lot of politicians, a power tie and a very prominently held, ahem, cigar. Again, longer results here. 17 down before I get to the first woman – Sheryl Sandberg again.

So, now I know that Google has in the search tools an option to narrow the results by usage rights, so that is definitely going to come in handy from here on out. Right away, given the character concept above, and what I’ve seen so far, I try latin woman business suit podium:

Google image search for license "reuse with modification" and terms "latin woman business suit podium"

Google image search for terms “latin woman business suit podium” and licensed for reuse with modification

Oh, come on!

Let me just say, in closing, that I think it is high time to see more games with a protagonist (and I’m just going to put stock images with the watermarks here….) like this:6228939-closeup-of-a-smiling-senior-business-woman-using-a-cellphone-over-white-background
and this:

4472fbe6a46745451aa65a3a507a8af8

and this:

7058957-senior-businesswoman-using-mobile-phone-holding-personal-organizer-smiling

makeithappen