Shut Up Gamers: EA voted worst company in America again

Dear Internet,

EA was just voted the Worst Company in America by readers of the Consumerist for the second year in a row, and that sound you hear is me rolling my eyes. I dislike EA to the point where I refuse to buy any of their games even though sometimes I think that if Bioware were a person I would hug them, but this is just painfully stupid.

Always-on DRM is bad, buying great companies and then laying off their talented people is bad, Day 1 DLCs are bad. But damn, people, get some perspective.

You know what’s worse than anything EA has done? How about a huge employer firing people who need expensive medication to fight cancer or refusing to hire full-time employees so they don’t have to give medical benefits, all while your executives have money fights? (Walmart) Or maybe illegally foreclosing on people’s homes, raising interest rates to absurd numbers without reason, and charging people $5 every time they want to access their own money in their own account? (Bank of America)

Oh wait — EA totally ruined SimCity, man.

People, if you don’t like EA, stop buying their games. (I suspect but cannot prove that a good number of the people who voted for them — 78% of the votes overall in fact — have bought an EA title this year.) And don’t ignore stuff that actually matters because stuff that matters (health, home) is scary and stuff that doesn’t actually matter (Day 1 DLC) is easy.

 

Dear EA,

You’re still super terrible about video game stuff. And please stop blaming homophobes every time you get shit from gamers. Way to stand by your decision to … treat LGBT people with basic human dignity, I guess. That doesn’t make Always-on DRM any more palatable.

 

Behind the Scenes of the Podcast
Apr08

Behind the Scenes of the Podcast

Gameplay update: More playing than writing about playing! I am in the home stretch of Bioshock Infinite and have SO MANY WORDS about it, many of which should appear later this week. I also just picked up Don’t Starve, which I really enjoy and will also write about when take a moment to stop chasing bunnies around with a pickaxe.

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Way back in May of 2012 I wrote about Creating a Podcast on the Cheap with WordPress for folks who want to try their hand at podcasting with minimal set-up and no costs. I love getting behind-the-scenes looks at other podcasts, so since Cat Context is coming up on its first birthday it seemed like a good time to revisit the subject and see what a very very slightly more professional setup looks like.

At the time of the first post I had been producing a podcast for approximately 3 weeks, and my primary goal was something fast and easy both for myself and for the regularly rotating panel of guests. Sure I didn’t want it to sound terrible, but I was much more about the message than the medium. But as creating content got easier, I found myself making more and more squinchy faces at the audio quality.

Stuff You Do With a Computer: Recording and Editing

The biggest change in Cat Context’s production has been moving from a single recorded stream to a separate track for each participant. Myself, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial still get on Mumble, but we also each make a local recording of our end of the conversation. Elly and Aro convert their recording to WAV files and send it to me, and then I have three distinct tracks to work with in post-production. Not only does this eliminate weird internet audio errors from Mumble, but it means we can all be yelling over each other (note: we do this a lot) and I can still clean it up later.

I’m sure there are folks out there with amazing raw content who just slap some opening music on it and release but unsurprisingly I am not that person. I spend roughly an hour editing for every 10 minutes of raw recording. And that’s no slight to the conversation — I’m super fussy and spend a lot of time cutting out “Ummms” and conversational silences. If I am torn on keeping or cutting something, my guideline is “does this relate to the predetermined topic?”.

Really the best advice I could give anyone about recording or editing is: learn to use Audacity’s advanced features. It’s an amazing free tool that can do amazing things if you know how.

The Perils of Podcasting: Sound Booths and Microphone Collections

A year ago I recorded everything with a crappy microphone on a crappy gaming headset. Then Christmas happened and I became the owner of a Blue Snowball, which is a popular option for inexpensive amateur mics. And, hey, once I got that why not invest a few bucks in a better pop filter? And I don’t have a lot of desktop space, so a flexible stand might be nice. While I’m at it, we do live podcasts a couple of times a year, so maybe I should pick up a couple of tabletop omnidirectional mics. And — hey, wait a second, who filled my study with all this audio stuff?

While switching to the Blue Snowball came with a great improvement in audio quality, it’s also really good at picking up ambient noise like cars, cats, and people “wooing” at the pub down the road. Clearly I needed to create a better soundproof studio on recording days, and I did so with all the professionalism and care that you would expect from a fine podcast like Cat Context.

You will need: a clothesline, a sheet, and pushpins.

Step One: String a clothesline across your computer area at about a garotting level. Drape a sheet over it.

p1 Behind the Scenes of the Podcast

Step Two: Stretch the sheet so it covers your recording area. Use pushpins to secure it.

p2 Behind the Scenes of the Podcast

Step Three: NO CATS IN THE PODCASTING TENT.

p3 Behind the Scenes of the Podcast

Totally pro. Here’s to another year of podcasting and thanks to everyone who has listened!

I
Apr03

I <3 Charts: a data nerd tries Fitbit

I’ve already talked here about my compulsion to be efficient in games, usually by creating elaborate charts about totally useless things. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I can also be a litte strange about “min-maxing” in real life, too.

Why just play on the computer when I can play on the computer and watch a movie at the same time? Why walk through the house twice to accomplish chores when I can plan the most efficient single route? I frequently will eat the same food item 5 days in a row because I want to track the optimal cooking time. Basically I’m a colossal nerd, and like most nerds I love data.

I use Raptr to track my games, and Last.fm to track my music, and so on.. but once I step away from the computer, how can I track what I’m doing? Huh? HUH?! And that is how I ended up buying a Fitbit this past weekend.

Fitbit has been producing personal metric trackers since 2008, and mine in particular is a Fitbit One. It will track how many steps I make in a day, how many flights of stairs I walk up, and my sleeping habits. I can also manually add in data like food or complicated exercise. The result is that I can collect a great deal of information about my day, which I find fascinating. (It’s easy to wear, too — I just clip it on in the morning and forget about it.)

fitbitdatas I <3 Charts: a data nerd tries Fitbit

How often do I wake up in my sleep? How many steps is it from home to work in the morning? Oh, the datas. My nerdy self is really enjoying getting an informed perspective on my daily routine.

Of course the touted benefit of the Fitbit is not just quantifying information from your life, despite my love of charts, but encouraging you to reach certain milestones. There are achievements, like with everything else that was created in the last five years, and I have to admit that since I got the dang thing I find myself stepping in place and taking the stairs more because I know it’s being “counted”. Yes, it counted before in the general scheme of being healthy, but now it’s for real. Stepping in place when I’m waiting in line somewhere suddenly became quantifiably OPTIMAL.

I’m sure the novelty of the Fitbit will wear off eventually after a few months of collecting data, but if you’re a numbers geek who likes gadgets and is interested in learning more about how your body works, I’d recommend checking it out.

Bioshock Infinite: cover is still bad, but the game’s pretty great
Apr01

Bioshock Infinite: cover is still bad, but the game’s pretty great

The Cat Context podcast is turning one year old later this month, and to celebrate we’re goin’ live! On Saturday, April 20th at 2pm PST we will be live on stream from sunny Las Vegas with myself and Ellyndrial and a number of other previous guests (and potentially a phone visit from Arolaide) to talk about the last year of gaming. Save the date, and more details to come! :)

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Way back in December I wrote a post on Bioshock Infinite’s bland cover art, which developers said was purposefully generic to attract the “frat boy” console shooter market. I had two big problems with that decision. First, it betrayed the uniqueness of the Bioshock series and made me worry about what else might have been softened to appeal to a wider audience. Second, for obvious reasons I am not a fan of the gaming industry’s rush to cater to the “generic” audience, which inevitably means straight white college dudes, and I don’t think that will change until studios make it change.

Bioshock Infinite Bioshock Infinite: cover is still bad, but the games pretty great

 

After playing about half of Bioshock Infinite (don’t worry, no story spoilers here), I’m pleased to say that while the cover is bland none of that generic attitude made it to the game itself. I spend most of my playtime with my jaw dropped, either from the story, or the clever historical references, or scenery, or the crazy action sequences.

In some ways it makes the cover issue even more irritating. Bioshock Infinite is a really interesting game with really interesting features and, as with previous games in the series, an examination of certain aspects of American history and culture. It has been getting glowing reviews, and if my Steam list is a reasonable representation of current PC market then a lot of people are playing it. It comes from a known and beloved series of games with a fairly infamous auteur at the helm in Ken Levine. It was poised in a perfect position to show that games can be great and sell well by celebrating their uniqueness, not joining the herd of interchangeable dudes-with-guns games. Dumbing down the box art is extra depressing when the cover belies such great content, and makes plain the complete absence of Elizabeth, who is both critical to the plot and delightfully written.

Don’t mistake my griping about the advertising as an indictment of the game itself, though. If you like Bioshock, if you like games with thought behind them, if you like single-player shooters with crazy settings… ignore the cover, and get this game!

(More on the specifics of Bioshock Infinite in a few days after I finish it.)

Cat Context 22: Like an 8-bit Shampoo Commercial

This week on Cat Context we talk about Remember Me’s difficulty finding financing, argue over whether the Super Mario Brothers movie is any good, and discover the limitations of SWTOR’s free-to-play plan.

Remember Me had an uphill battle because its lead character is a woman. In that spirit, we talk a bit about our favorite women in games, how much we identify with our characters, and the effect that romancing Garrus can have on straight gamer dudes. (Hint: none at all.) We also launch a new segement: Games on Film! This week it’s 1993’s Super Mario Brothers. How did this movie happen, and did anyone actually read the script beforehand? Is Mario’s last name really “Mario”? Aro and Elly think the movie is delightfully awful whereas Liore actually kind of liked it. Go fig.

Also, Aro gets angry about SWTOR’s f2p system! Elly plays more phone games! Liore + Kerrigan, TLF!

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial. This week’s call is from Doone — thanks Doone! Folks can email us at podcast@lioreblog.com, tweet @Liores, or call our voice mail at (347) 565-4673.

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Super Mario Brothers movie for free on YouTube
* Two articles on SMB the movie from GameInformer and Den of Geek
* A huge list of DOS games that we don’t know for sure are very good
* Polygon on the Remember Me difficulties
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

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