Five years ago, on 9.9.09, The Beatles: Rock Band launched. There are several reasons it remains embedded in my memory, not least of which is that it combined one of my favorite bands with one of my favorite game series. The results were spectacular; it’s truly a wonderful game, and I’ve already written many, many words about it.
On a professional level, Harmonix’s The Beatles: Rock Band is forever tied to my first E3. I’d dreamed of going to E3 since I was 12 years old, and finally got there in 2009. The Beatles: Rock Band was one of the show’s standout games, and after trying it out during my scheduled appointment, I kept making my way back to the stage for more. Whenever I had some time between running to appointments and writing previews, I was playing The Beatles: Rock Band; I couldn’t get enough, even with the limited number of songs in the demo. There’s some video of me playing it again at a Sony press event later that year, and I’m practically jumping with excitement and bopping around to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I even analyzed the opening cinematic, trying to dig up every Beatles song reference I could find.
A few days ago, I wrote about how P.T. delivered an intense, memorable group vacation gaming experience. The Beatles: Rock Band did the same in 2009 (although obviously not of the frightening variety). The day I was set to leave for vacation, I was tracking my review copy of TB:RB, which was due any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When it finally showed up around noon, I practically grabbed it out of the delivery person’s hands, ready to hit the road, Rock Band instruments already packed.
One of the first nights in the Outer Banks, we set up The Beatles: Rock Band and everyone was drawn in. I’d hoped to get the group together for a few songs, but had planned on reviewing most of the game solo to meet my deadline; as it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. We played through the entire game as a group in one sitting, rocking out to The Beatles for over four hours.
The parents, usually reluctant to join in on our vacation gaming nights, were sharing the microphones and tentatively trying out the guitar peripheral. Non-Beatles fans (yes, they exist; somehow, I married one) could at least enjoy the fantastic Rock Band gameplay. We set out to play a few songs and played them all; the next day, everyone was talking about how much fun they’d had, and what a great game it was. I’d never seen anything bring the group together like that.
It’s hard to believe five years have passed when I think about how impatiently I waited for that game to arrive. So much has changed since then—I’ve changed jobs, gone on to write for some really amazing outlets for some really amazing people, and I’ve even befriended some of the weird and wonderful people at Harmonix. I’ve gotten married, moved. The next generation of consoles launched. No matter how many years pass, though, I’ll never forget The Beatles: Rock Band and what it meant to me, from that incredible E3 to the vacation we couldn’t stop playing.
There’s been a lot of talk about P.T., the mysterious downloadable PS4 horror game announced at Sony’s Gamescom press conference. It didn’t take long for the internet (via one dedicated Twitch streamer) to discover that P.T. was actually a “playable teaser” for Silent Hills, a new entry in the long-running series that’s apparently the combined efforts of Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima (starring Norman Reedus, to boot).
I’ve long loved the mythology and psychological horror of the Silent Hill series, even though recent entries into the core franchise have been average at best (I’m not counting Shattered Memories, which I thought was great). I’m also kind of a big scaredy-cat baby, so playing P.T. alone was probably never going to happen.
On the first night of my annual vacation to Virginia and North Carolina, the perfect opportunity to experience P.T. presented itself. My husband and I are the only ones in our group with a PS4, and my brother, having heard all about the demo, wanted to experience it for himself. After stuffing ourselves full of barbeque goodness, we holed up in my parents’ little house on the eastern shore of Virginia, in the middle of nowhere, and set up our PS4 on their brand-new HDTV. It was time to play.
Our group consisted of people with varying experience with video games; from those of us who followed the industry closely and bought every system to those who rarely played games (usually on this annual family trip). It didn’t matter once P.T. started, though; we crowded around the TV in the living room, pitch black outside, and started making our way through that hallway, again and again and again.
The plan was to take turns with the controller, passing it around as we figured out P.T.'s consistently creepy, usually confusing, and sometimes frustrating loops. At first, whenever it was time to pass on the DualShock 4, several hands would reach out; an hour or so in, no one wanted to touch that thing. We were yelping, covering our eyes, saying things like “I don't want this” and “oh my god” and “what's going to happen, I can't, I can't!” Like I said, I'm a baby, so the fact that I was sitting on the couch curled up with my hoodie half covering my eyes wasn't a huge shock. However, I'd never seen my husband so freaked out by anything, not to mention the rest of the people in our group.
In between shrieks of triumph and terror, we worked together to figure out that infernal puzzle. Even those in the group with very little gaming experience could follow along and try to work it out, coming up with new ideas, ways to get through that hallway for the last time. Don’t go through the door yet! Is that writing in a different spot than it was before? The bathroom, there’s got to be something in the bathroom. What’s this hole? What do the numbers mean? It got scarier and scarier, creating an atmosphere so tense that words popping up on the screen was enough to make us all scream. (It probably helped that there was someone in our group named Lisa, same as the demo’s horrifying ghost; every time she saw or heard her name, she’d yelp.)
We sat there, enthralled and terrified, for over three hours, working as a team. By the end, almost no one would take the controller, but we didn’t want to stop playing. Sure, we were sick of that crying fetus by the end, but we’d made it so far, and there was no going back. And finally, after midnight, we were rewarded. Even though I’d already watched the footage of the Twitch streamer making it to the end, doing it as a group was exceptionally rewarding.
P.T. brought us all together for that first night, but it also dominated our discussions for the rest of the trip. The next morning, at breakfast in a diner on the route to the Outer Banks, we discussed what we’d seen, trying to make sense of it. We speculated about what Silent Hills would actually be like—most of us didn’t expect a first-person game, but we were hoping it would be just as good as its teaser. For the entire 9 days we were on vacation, we brought up P.T. again and again, with some of us going back and replaying the beginning to see early clues in a new light. I’ve been going on this family trip for nearly two decades, with our group getting bigger and bigger as the kids grew up and added significant others, and P.T. was one of the most memorable vacation experiences I’ve ever had.
Silent Hills may be a rebirth for the series, a return to psychological horror greatness worthy of its name. Or it may be another mediocre entry in a franchise long past its prime. The game is clearly so far away, with basically no details outside of what was revealed at the end of the teaser, but it’s hard not to feel the hype after an experience like that. And even if Silent Hills doesn’t live up to its expectations, we’ll still have that night in Virginia that we screamed, shouted, and solved our way through what’s possibly the best demo I’ve ever played.
Today I called a fairly prolific YouTuber “a piece of shit” on Twitter in response to some sexist, dickbag comments he made in regards to a recent gaming industry scandal. For my friends who don’t know, suffice it to say a prominent female game designer was blasted by an ex, and now a vocal group of men on the internet think her private life is up for public discussion. That’s a whole other thing, let’s not even get into it, other than to make my personal feelings clear: Zoe Quinn didn’t deserve this shit, no woman in this industry does.
Anyway, in response to that, I started getting abuse on Tumblr and Twitter. I’ve been professionally Internetting While Female for seven years, so I can’t say it’s the first time an anonymous rando told me to kill myself, or the first time Twitter trolls tried to take me down a peg in their own pathetic ways. I’m also not prolific enough that it happens constantly enough to derail my life on a regular basis.
Today was so draining. The original situation is complicated for reasons I can’t get into, but what came after it—it was distracting and gross and exhausting.
Then I thought about the more well-known women in the industry, and how wading through this tiresome bullshit is just part of their day-to-day. On top of difficult, challenging, stressful jobs, these women I admire—high-ranking editors, talented game designers, amazing community managers, I could go on—have to deal with people on the internet constantly trying to tear them down for the simple crime of having a vagina and liking video games and, sometimes, daring to voice an opinion (often only the first two qualifiers are necessary). And it’s just not fucking fair.
I don’t expect to change the minds of the horrible vocal minority, the ones who literally think equality is about murdering every single man on the planet. The ones who shame women for having any hint of sexuality. The ones who scream about SJWs and WHITE KNIGHTS because they quite literally cannot fathom a reason guys might be decent to women aside from “trying to get laid.” Fuck those guys. They’re lost causes and I want nothing to do with them anyway.
But maybe there’s one or two people in the middle, on the fence, who don’t like slut-shaming but instead of making a difference whine “not all men,” maybe people like that who might be open to reason. Maybe instead of sending that horribly sexist, derogatory tweet, he’ll delete it instead.
More likely, no one will listen. But I won’t stop calling people out on their bullshit, no matter what kind of half-witted MRA Twitter army they have at their command. If that’s okay with you, come at me with your stupid, unoriginal insults and threats.
I have more respect and admiration than ever for the amazing women fighting for this industry every day, and the allied men who won’t stand for this shit either. You guys make covering the gaming industry an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, trolls and all.
Female Fantasy III
May they be forever alone for their elitist douche-baggery.
I was recently interviewing the woman who founded Her Universe and we were talking specifically about women and geekdom. I asked about the rise of girls in geek culture and she very accurately corrected me: There is no “rise” of geek girls. We’ve always been here. Girls are just as nerdy as dudes are. Ladies have always been interested in sci fi and fantasy and video games - we just don’t talk about it a lot because men are assholes.
"There is no rise of the geek girl. We’ve always been here."
There’s a new Spider-Woman variant cover that is, er…. less than good. But(t) we had fun with it, anyway.
Hit the link for the rest (as well as for actual, serious commentary on the cover).
So. Wrote this up today. Later on, professional comic artist Vasilis Lolos decided to comment on the post, then called himself a troll and was obviously just there to start some trouble (a no-no on The Mary Sue comment policy), so I banned him.
Then he signed up for another Disqus account to say some more.
All of his comments are still on the post except for one where he linked off to some adult comic art and this second-account one.
Then he decided to chat me up on Twitter.
Way to handle this like a pro, Jill.
But seriously… What the fuck?
Fuck this month.
Roseanne, Nightmare on Oak Street.
This episode aired in 1989 and it still hasn’t gotten through a lot of people’s skulls.
People who don’t think Roseanne was a great show can GTFO.
(Source: natzcz, via xxvi-jemz)
One month ago, the show floor at the Los Angeles Convention Center opened up, officially kicking off E3 2014 after a day of press events. That morning, Nintendo blew everyone away with a hilarious and on-point direct presentation to their fans. My calendar from that day, that week, is littered with events, reminders of the one-week whirlwind I spend living the dream every year. Yes, there are other conventions, other events, and I love them dearly, as well as the people I get to see, but nothing is like E3.
This was my fourth year covering the show for The Escapist, sixth overall, and I’m still bursting with pride to be part of such an amazing team. The last three years were spent rooming with and working for the incredible Susan Arendt, who is now Managing Editor over at Joystiq, and I was worried that it would feel… off without her. And though I missed having my dear friend at my side, I still had a great, incredibly productive week. The hard-working Escapist team just made me want to push myself more, do better, and the end result is that I’m pretty pleased with my work. This was one of my favorite years, and I think it shows.
Working E3 means you’re not always writing under the best conditions. You’re hungry and tired and (in my case) constantly caffeine-deprived. You’re trying to give each piece the time it deserves while the list of previews on your to-do list gets longer and longer. You’re writing very early in the morning, very late at night, and during any snatches of time you can grab in the media room. And you’re walking miles each day going from the South Hall to the West Hall and back again (not to mention any off-site appointments).
When I describe E3 to my friends who’ve never been, it doesn’t sound… pleasant, does it? Little sleep, not enough coffee, never knowing when you’ll get to eat, more work to do than the hours in the day allow for? Even when I’m at home, fully rested and getting my six-or-more cups of coffee a day, it seems odd when I look back on it. It’s very much a “you have to be there” situation, and it’s not for everyone, but I fucking love this industry, and I hope it will always be for me.
Now that I’ve rambled and reminisced for way too long, here’s a wrap-up of all my E3 coverage.
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