Convention season appears to be upon us! PAX South and MAGfest happened this past weekend, and my Twitter feed is full of talk about the upcoming Gen Con and PAX East.
One of the fun things for laypeople to do at conventions is collect a little swag, including the omnipresent t-shirt. It’s popular with good reason — con-goers get a piece of clothing to show off, and the company in turn gets some good advertising. Wearing a nerd shirt is pretty much the unofficial dress code of any game convention I’ve experienced.
And often, I want to wear your shirts! If I liked your game, or I like your company, or it has a particularly sweet design, then I will happily wear your branding around and help support the cause. For the most part though while my dude friends leave PAX Prime with an extra stack of t-shirts in their suitcase, I might have one. If you don’t have women’s sizes then I’m pretty out of luck, and you’ve missed an advertising opportunity.
The next time you order shirts for your booth, please consider the following two points:
Don’t print on American Apparel t-shirts
I’m going to assume that blank American Apparel t-shirts are cheap, because they seem to by far be the most used brand for promotional screen prints. And while there are certainly ethical reasons to reconsider your shirt supplier, let’s focus on the practical here: they’re small. AA shirts are sized tiny, and made from a terribly unforgiving weave. A booth that offers AA shirts in Small through 2XL is actually offering a range of “really wee through maybe-Large”. I literally have a section in my clothing drawer dedicated to adorable shirts that I bought “in my size” at cons but ended up being in stupid tiny American Apparel sizes and thus can never be worn.
Have lady sizes
There’s a reason why “women’s cut” exists in shirts: women, particularly curvy ones, often just don’t fit well in a men’s cut shirt. They sit all wrong — the shoulders are baggy, the collar goes up weirdly high, the chest is too tight and then it’s all extra bunching cloth at the waist and hips. I’ve tried, oh, how I’ve tried, to just ignore it and wear a lovely shirt anyway but I can’t escape the feeling that it looks all wrong and then suddenly your game is being “advertised” by a disgruntled lady wearing an ill-fitting sack.
Anyone who has been to a PAX event lately knows that the crowd is roughly 50% women. If I do a demo of your game or meet some other requirement for a shirt and you tell me you only have men’s sizes, you know what I’ll do? I’ll take your shirt, I’ll try it on later, I’ll make a sad face, and then it goes into the sad face drawer where it will never be seen by another human being again. Don’t let your promo dollars end up in the sad face drawer, people.
(Amusingly enough the only promotional t-shirt I have obtained in five years of PAX Prime that came in a non-AA women’s cut was for.. Dungeons & Dragons. And I still wear that sucker today!)
I know, or at least suspect, that printing two different cuts of t-shirts will increase your overhead costs, but men’s shirts are not the “standard” or “one shape fits all”. They’re shirts that were cut for dudes. And that’s cool, but if you have ladies at your con and you’d like them to wear your shirts too, then please consider bringing some non-AA women’s sizes to your booth this year.
Allow me to share a conversation that I had repeatedly over the past week.
Me: Oh my god I hate this Hexcells game so much it’s making me angry.
Him: Um, you should stop playing it then.
Me: I can’t do that! I’m almost finished.
Hexcells is essentially a fiendish update to the classic game Minesweeper, with more advanced ways of letting you know where the bombs are located and greater allowance for error. There are three games in the series: Hexcells, Hexcells Plus, and Hexcells Infinite. I found all three of them to be incredibly frustrating.
To be fair, the frustration frequently stemmed from my own abilities. Hexcells requires a spatial awareness that isn’t my strong suit, plus a good memory, plus a smidge of.. well not math exactly but more observational logic. Multiple times I found myself without an obvious next move either because of the board design or my own poor decision making, meaning that I would have to guess on a bomb location to continue. Sometimes I would confidently identify a bomb spot only to be wrong and not know where exactly I had screwed up. Occasionally I would blithely click and realize a micro-second later that I forgot to check that column over there and ugh, look before clicking Liore! On one board near the end I gave up and just started clicking around randomly, racking up a shame-inducing 15 errors before I was done. It was, at times, infuriating.
And I played through not one, not two, but three full games! What’s wrong with me?! Oddly enough, I think the sense of antagonism was a large part of what kept me going. Every time I finished a level smoothly or recleared it with zero mistakes, I felt damn good. Take that, stupid game! You thought you were so fancy with your tricky logic problems but I am a tiny god of hexagons now! Playing Hexcells often felt like a chore, but finishing it well felt proportionally fantastic.
I don’t encounter a lot of frustration in gameplay anymore in my post-raiding casual MMO schedule, but I remember the dark ages when we’d spend days and sometimes even weeks banging our heads against the same boss fight, dying over and over, trying to find the magical formula for success. (Kael’Thas, I’m looking at you.) And while there are many things about those days that I wouldn’t want to return to now, I think Hexcells was a nice reminder that the games I play don’t always have to be “fun”.
Sometimes games are difficult, and irritating, and exasperating, and while I appreciate that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea for some people pushing through that and coming out victorious on the other side makes for an entirely worthwhile gaming experience.
In news that was somehow simultaneously both expected and unexpected, today The Elder Scrolls Online announced that they’ll be moving from a subscription payment model to buy-to-play. Subscribers will be given bonuses, but otherwise once you have the box you’re free to explore Tamriel.
The right honourable Belghast had some words to say on this topic:
Don't like pay to win air drops, or overpriced early access schemes? We got games we deserve for not being willing to pay subscriptoins.
— Unseasonably Bel (@belghast) January 21, 2015
And indeed, it will probably surprise no one that I totally agree. When publishers can’t guarantee a regular income, history shows that they often resort to increasingly desperate measures to extract cash from players. Or, to put it another way, if you’re not paying a subscription or making regular cash shop purchases, rest assured that the game will be shaped to make sure someone else is paying enough for the both of you. (Just ask LotRO players about the little coin symbols all over Middle Earth now.)
Take yesterday’s news about the Heroes of the Storm Founder’s Pack. For the first time ever, Blizzard is offering players a way to buy into a game’s beta. Now, Blizzard is known for having pretty technically complete betas, so I think the value of this offer is better than most. But let’s be honest — if players show that they’ll buy into a Blizzard beta for $40, the number of invites that are sent to people who opted in for free will drop dramatically. If this Founder’s Pack goes well, we’ll almost certainly see a buy-to-beta (or alpha) plan for Overwatch or whatever it ends up being called. And man, Blizzard would be fools to walk away from the money they’d make for a buy-to-beta plan for the next WoW expansion.
Happy Gamer Lessons: Don't buy early access games. Don't preorder more than 14 days out. Don't participate in pay-for-beta or pay-for-alpha.
— Jessica Cook (@Liores) January 20, 2015
And there’s the rub: our behavior as consumers sends messages to publishers about how much we’re willing to put up with to play a game. The comedy of errors that is SoE’s buy-to-alpha packages might seem innocuous enough on their own, but who can say how much that affected Blizzard’s decision to dip their toes into the same waters?
I’m not saying that preferring B2P or F2P MMOs is always inherently bad, but it’s not like the publishers are running a charity. The loss of income from subscriptions will be forcibly made up for in other ways, and sometimes those ways will be bad news.
You’ve probably given some thought to how many games in your Steam library are unplayed. Maybe you’ve even joked about having more games than you could ever realistically play, or made a New Years resolution to chip away at your backlog. It’s okay, friend. We’ve all been there.
But wait! Thanks to the website SteamLeft now you can turn the nagging feeling that you spent too much money in the last sale into concrete understanding of just how many damn games you own and still keep in their virtual shrink wrap. Behold my shame:
It’s … actually, that’s not too bad. I mean yes, two months of nothing but playing games is still a fair chunk of time, but I could reasonably play through everything in a year with a little gumption. And heck, that list includes games that I didn’t like but still own, like Surgeon Simulator, or ones that just plain didn’t work, like The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.
(The site compares the average time it takes to beat a game — found at HowLongToBeat — and compares it to how many hours you’ve played according to your Steam profile. Any deficit between the two is added to your SteamLeft sentence.)
Based on a brief survey of Twitter, my 61 days is shorter than most results. I’m not sure if I’ve played more of my library or buy fewer games, but either way I actually felt pretty good about my only mildly terrible backlog. I bet if I was unemployed and ate a lot of take-out I could clear it out in three months, tops! Take that, time management!
Fortunately SteamLeft provides helpful ideas for what else you could do with your time.
Ugh, fine random website, you're right, I should exercise more. Rude.
Good point, I could be putting that time into less playful pursuits.
Oh my god! Screw this, I’m gonna go buy more games.
Speaking of backlogs, here is my question for you: What game are you most embarrassed to admit sits owned yet unplayed in your library? It can be either because of the game itself or the story of how you got it. Your answers might be read out on Cat Context (with attribution).
As for me: Gone Home. I own it and will tirelessly argue in favor of its existence as a game, but thus far I just can’t be arsed to play the darn thing when there are hats that look like a horse is eating your head to collect in FFXIV.
Like Cat Context? Check out the The Gaming and Entertainment Network for more great shows!
This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide talk about retro games through the Awesome Games Done Quick event, Aro’s new Raspberry Pi emulator, and the Internet Archive stash of DOS games. Also, MMOs are back on our playlist with Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV making a return.
Liore watched a lot of AGDQ last week, and she’s all excited about retro games. We talk about our favorite moments from the event, and how difficult it would really be to play something blindfolded. Meanwhile Aro has been playing a ton of old SNES games — including some you’ve probably never heard of — on her new Raspberry Pi emulator and boy are her thumbs tired. Elly is excited to get his hands on the new DOS game collection at the Internet Archive because Lemmings is still great.
Meanwhile in more modern news, Aro updates us on her mission to romance everyone in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Elly has returned to Destiny for a bit, but seems somewhat subdued about the game’s future. Liore finally got back to playing MMOs, in this case Final Fantasy XIV, and she wants everyone to know about the hats.
Also, Aro dreams of seeing Adult Simba one day! Elly is still totally dazed by sudden parenthood! Liore played something called.. Corpse Party? Huh.
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* The Tetris Showcase at AGDQ
* Blindfolded Ocarina of Time at AGDQ
* The Internet Archive collection of DOS games
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years