5 Reasons To Watch Netflix’s The Witcher

Rusty sword hilt
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler from Pexels

“Nonsense,” said the witcher. “And what’s more, it doesn’t rhyme. All decent predictions rhyme.”

― Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish

Yes, I have watched Netflix’s The Witcher – twice. Yes, it is as amazing as the fans say. No, you should not take the critics’, well, critique of the show to heart. If you haven’t watched the series yet, here are five reasons why you need to watch The Witcher season one. Now.

1. Netflix hired seasoned, talented actors to bring Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher to life. Aside from being physically capable to move like a Witcher, Henry Cavill is a The Witcher mega fan himself. Cavill read the books and played all of The Witcher video games. Cavill doesn’t just ooze Geralt of Rivia – he is Geralt of Rivia. Anya Chalotra, who plays Yennefer of Vengerberg in The Witcher Netflix series, got her acting start in theatre. Chalotra starred in West End theatre productions and eventually moved onto television. Freya Allan, who portrayed Princess Cirilla, had her share of acting roles as well but none quite as big as her role in The Witcher series.

2. If you haven’t seen the memes, remixes and mashups of Joey Batey’s (who plays Jaskier in the show) Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – you are missing out. I wish they had this song in the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. I can only imagine.

I recommend you watch the show, so the memes finally start making sense.

3. The Witcher season one follows the stories of the main characters, Geralt, Yennefer and Cirilla or Ciri for short. We are not only watching three different stories but three different timelines, each happening simultaneously. The character’s timelines skip backwards and forwards through time, obviously confusing a lot of fans. This is why I think Netflix’s The Witcher has such high rewatch value. After you see the show once, you have an idea of how the timelines work. The second watch through is so much more enjoyable. Not only that, you start to pick up on small details you haven’t noticed the first time around.

4. The Netflix series welcomes all fans from all avenues. Like most fans to The Witcher series, I started my journey through Andrzej Sapkowski’s mystical whirlwind through the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt by video game developer, CD Projekt Red. You could have started with The Witcher book series or the video games or even the 2001 Polish movie adaptation The Hexer – it doesn’t matter. Although, I must say, first-timers to The Witcher series may be confused – at least in the beginning. The series has plenty of lore, too much if you aren’t used to high fantasy but there are wonderful resources online that can help you make sense of it all.

5. The Witcher series showrunner, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, knows what she’s doing. Hissrich wrote and produced a number of highly acclaimed shows, including Marvel’s Daredevil (2016) and Umbrella Academy (2019). Need I say more?

Bonus reason: Netflix and Hissrich even got the author of The Witcher book series, Andrzej Sapkowski, in on the action.

Ugh, this video warms the cockles of my heart.

Lastly, no, The Witcher is not the Game of Thrones – this is something completely different. I am going to leave it at that.

China Introduces Gaming Curfew For Minors – Is This The Right Move?

Child holding stuffed animal over their shoulders
Photo by Kevin Mueller on Unsplash

The worst thing a kid can say about homework is that it is too hard. The worst thing a kid can say about a game is it’s too easy.”

Henry Jenkins

On November 5th, the Chinese government introduced its gaming curfew for minors. Chinese children are only allowed 90 minutes of game time on weekdays and 3 hours on weekends.

With so many ways to play video games, is China’s video game ban going to work?

The government seems to think so. The new rule is a preventative measure, ensuring young kids do not become addicted to video games. You know what they say start ’em early.

But the new curfew is only for online gaming networks, not all types of video games. In this case, I think the Chinese government is concerned about games like Fortnite and League of Legends, two games that show the worst of online gaming culture.

The online gaming culture is, for lack of a better term, toxic. Many online gamers become highly engrossed in the game and invest hundreds of dollars in loot boxes. It’s easy to become carried away when you can pay to win.

Online gamers can become rude and irritable if they don’t get their way. I suppose that can be for anyone, but missing a “wombo combo” isn’t worth losing your mind.

It’s still too early to say if the curfew will be effective in preventing video game addiction. I think this starts a conversation about parents roles in their child’s online gaming consumption. Parents and guardians should learn about the effects of online gaming addiction, and not leave them without blame.

Gamechangers: Pokémon and Final Fantasy VII

Grey Nintendo Game Boy
Photo by Dean Cook on Unsplash

I believe that there are still people who believe that game music is something equal to just an effect incorporated into the game, something like a BGM. And therefore this is something that I would like to show that is not true.

Nobuo Uematsu

Before Pong (1973) days, there was no emphasis on gaming and electronics as an entertainment medium. As the industry grew, so did its impact. Two major video game legends, Pokémon and Final Fantasy VII, remind us good gameplay will always stand the test of time. 

Pokémon started in 1996 with Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for Game Boy. Only three years after its inception, Pokémon became one of the most popular children’s toys. Pokémon sported merchandise, video game sequels, books, a children’s television series, movies, a card game – the whole gamut. Pokémon marks many adult’s childhood years; even children today will look back on Pokémon. 

We can’t forget Niantic’s augmented reality (AR) venture with Pokémon Go (2016). Although Pokémon Go is not the first AR game, it did popularize gaming for this technology. It redefined “hanging out with your friends outside.” 

Two years before Pokémon, video game company, SquareSoft created RPG’s most influential game, Final Fantasy VII. Now, this game was difficult to research without landing on any spoilers.  If you play video games at all, you may have played Final Fantasy VII.

Yes, I have not played Final Fantasy VII (absolute grounds for a future “Let’s Play” series but more on that another time). But it doesn’t take a genius to know the effect of FF7 on gaming.

Final Fantasy VII, in my opinion, introduced three important elements into the RPGs and gaming as a whole: storyline, music and graphics.

Storyline 

I am not even going to attempt to explain this game. YouTube channel ArcadeCloud does a wonderful job explaining, though.

The storyline, although complex, was terrific. The abridged version barely cuts into the deep, rich storyline. The main storyline is reportedly about 40 hours long. 

Final Fantasy VII used the unreliable narrator, a literary concept used from Fight Club (1999) to Sixth Sense (1999). 

Music

I can confidently say the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack was among some of the best in the Final Fantasy series. Heck, it may even be some of the best video game soundtracks period. 

Nobou Uematsu, the Final Fantasy series sole music composer (well, the most famous composer for the series), created the soundtrack in less than a year. Talk about impressive. Aside from the game’s popularity, the music was beautifully composed. Each soundtrack was unique to a character or a cinematic cutscene. It told gamers how to feel about certain plot points. Uematsu set a very high standard for video music soundtracks after that. 

Nobou Uematsu speaking about how he composed Final Fantasy VII’s One-Winged Angel 

Graphics 

Final Fantasy VII didn’t have incredible graphics, but for the time, it was some of the best. It was the first 3D video game and the first video game to introduce cinematic cutscenes. Almost every RPG in existence today includes these staple elements. 

What are some of your best memories with Pokémon and Final Fantasy VII?

Let me know in the comment section below. 

From Service To Monetary Gain: Are Microtransactions Changing The Way We Game?

PC gamer playing in front of desktop computer
Photo by Fredrick Tendong on Unsplash

The obvious objective of video games is to entertain people by surprising them with new experiences.     

Shigeru Miyamoto

To put simply, yes. microtransactions are changing the way we game. Even more so, microtransactions are changing the video gaming industry – for the worst. 

For some, gaming is a way to unwind after a long day. What’s a better way to relieve stress? To win and to win big. New AAA titles make winning easy – and expensive. 

Microtransactions are small purchases, typical in free-to-play games. These purchases can buy character cosmetic upgrades, in-game currency and other upgrades. In online free-to-play and monthly subscription games, these microtransactions start to get expensive. Most microtransactions are bundles under $10, giving you more for your dollar, but better upgrades usually cost more – way more. 

Let’s take, for example, Fallout 76’s Atom Shop (I know, bear with me). Before you can buy in-game items from the shop, you need to buy the in-game currency, Atoms. 

The dollars (USD) to the Atoms exchange rate is as follows: 

  • $5 = 500 Atoms 
  • $10 = 1,100 Atoms 
  • $20 = 2,400 Atoms 
  • $40 = 50,000 Atoms 

Simple cosmetic changes, like clothing, for example, can cost anywhere from 200 to 1,100 Atoms. More highly coveted items like the Vault-Tec Power Armor Paint Set go for 1,800 Atoms. Power Armor not included. 

“Hey, that doesn’t sound so bad! So, what’s the problem?” 

The problem is that microtransactions are a pure money grab. Atom Shop – the in-game currency name is IN the shop’s name, albeit not all in-game stores are this obvious. 

Not only that, some bundles permanently upgrade character stats, making characters impossible to win against in player-versus-player (PVP). Some games even erect paywalls, capping a gamer’s progress at a critical point, a practice typical in mobile games. These paywalls either make a gamer wait a few hours until its removed or pay a sum to continue.

Video games today already costs $70 at release. The prices can change depending on public opinion (does it suck or not), but the change is usually slow.

Once upon a time, video games were a service, meaning publishers created great games, and that was that. There was no sizeable monetary gain in gaming back then. If there was, only specific genres reaped those rewards such as sports and the Super Mario Kart series.  

Today, the video gaming industry is worth $43.4 billion. The industry’s value rises with technological innovations and more AAA titles. 

Gaming is a business after all, but I do believe in not biting the hand that feeds you. 

Why VR Is Not The New Way To Game – Not Even In The Next Year

Black-and-white photo of gamer with Oculus Rift VR headset
Photo by Lux Interaction on Unsplash

The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.

Mark Zuckerberg

Virtual Reality (VR) is cool, but it’s not a big deal. For so many years, the gaming devices’ battles were exclusively between consoles and PCs. In 2016, Playstation and Xbox finally had a new contender, and it was determined to change gaming forever – Oculus Rift.

Now, if you followed this story back then, you know how much a single device cost – almost a thousand dollars, before taxes. Today, Oculus Rift is not as obscenely expensive but still more than a fully-geared gaming desktop. Large tech companies like Samsung, Google and HTC believed in the future of VR and invested billions into the project. Little do they know that people still like reality reality over virtual reality.

VR is a cool technology for other things like virtual reality tours and teaching people how to survive crises. For gaming, not so much. When video games upgraded from Pong to 2D to 3D to hyper-realistic graphics, it took time for people to get used to each stage. We are still on the hyper-realistic-graphics stage. Not only that, VR is synonymous to AI. Now that’s an entirely different beast to slay, so I won’t even go there. AI’s bad rep may also have trickled down to VR.

Perception is everything. VR and AI are similar in the same way they are opposite to each other. They’re both still very new technologies that can change the world. No one truly understands their capabilities or if there is a limit to their capabilities. Our current devices all have a “ceiling of innovation,” as I’d like to call it. Once devices reach this ceiling, we have to start looking for new, better ways to deliver information.

VR and AI devices both claim they can help people in some way. Sooner or later, developers will also claim VR and AI are capable of immersive gaming like our current devices. I suppose they can replace consoles and PCs one day. Until VR and AI replace everything, I’m going to enjoy sitting in front of my TV, screaming at people through a headset.

Going On Pink And The Aesthetic-Gaming-Device Craze

Guy wearing pink sweater tossing blue Playstation 3 controller in the air
Photo by Florian Gagnepain on Unsplash

Everyone has played video games at some point these days, and video games are fun.

PewDiePie

The Quartz Pink Edition Razor gaming devices directly calls to my girly side. As a girl gamer, I’ve always wanted aesthetic gaming devices. The black and red or black and green gamer colour scheme isn’t my colour.

Even though this iteration of Razor gaming devices isn’t new, the rise of aesthetic gaming devices is.

Remember, when being called a gamer meant instant social Siberia? Today, being called a gamer is a badge of honour. The types of games people play say something about themselves. Your video game sub-genre preferences say something about the kind of person you are. If you play predominantly single-player games, then you must be an introvert. If you play League of Legends, you must be an extrovert (and somewhat of a spaz).

Similarly, your gaming device brand preference shows if you’re a serious gamer or not. Highly-stylized devices with bright neon colours not only grab our attention but casual gamers’ attention. More and more people buy gaming devices for the look, not necessarily to utilize its capabilities.

Do you buy gaming devices according to brand, or do you pay more attention to the look?

Share your opinion below!

We Need More Interesting Female Protagonists In Gaming

Toy queen archer
Photo by vinsky2002 on Pixabay

I love playing video games, but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented.

Anita Sarkeesian

I am the only female in my friend group that plays video games. And, I’m not talking about cute cell phone games like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood or Alpha Bear (although both those games are great in their way). I’m talking about The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt – with their emotionless, monster-slayer Geralt. I’m talking about Persona 5 – with their dark but honest depiction of Japanese society. Both of these games have male protagonists – only male protagonists, only male viewpoints.

If you’ve played games for as long as I have (over 20 years), then you know the male perspective dominates the gaming sphere. It never used to bother me. I played many video games with a male perspective, but this got me thinking. I like games like Devil May Cry, Kingdom Hearts, The Witcher video game series, and Persona video game series because they have better, more exciting storylines. Each video game that I just listed all have male protagonists. There are, of course, many great games with female protagonists, but not all of them are great plot-wise.

Not to say we don’t have interesting female video game characters in general because we do. What we don’t have enough of are strong leading ladies represented in a non-sexist viewpoint.

I always wanted to play a female protagonist sans the suggestive outfit — a cool female main character. With more than 52 per cent of gamers being female, you’d think there would be more interesting female protagonists. Most games in the Final Fantasy franchise have male playable characters except for Final Fantasy X-2 (Yuna) and Final Fantasy XIII (Lighting). Many MMORPGs and fighting games have female characters to choose from their roster. Newer, AAA titles have very detailed character creation such as Guild Wars and World of WarCraft. You can now make a character in your likeness, a character creation so robust you can mimic your lip shape to your eyebrow raise.

So, what’s the fuss, right? Wrong. There is a fuss.

Female’s representation in video games doesn’t always jive with me. Some female characters are too feminine or nice or “easy” – none of these represent me or singular female experience. I wish there was less over-sexualization of women in video games. I wish female characters weren’t known or addressed as “weaker” than their male counterparts. At the very least, publishers shouldn’t deliberately give female characters weaker stats as “part of the storyline”.

For example, in Final Fantasy X, the female characters had the lowest stats out of the other characters. It meant that I couldn’t go into battle without a stronger, albeit male, character.

If video games today are still profitable with a mainly male perspective, then why bother changing the formula, right? At least that’s what I think some game developers are thinking.

I believe video games are stories. As much as they are an entertainment medium, video games are stories first, like novels. We don’t question nor bat an eyelash for male or female protagonists in actual novels, why do we care more for video game characters? When did the rules change?

Because video games are an experience, you pick up the controller to move the character you become the character. But just like a character in a novel, they have their own story to tell. Your job as a gamer is to get the protagonist from level to level, section to section until they meet their untimely end or not. We can personify the main characters all we want, but they’re only a vehicle to tell us, the gamer, a story. World history and other real-life events inspire video games. Unfortunately, sexism is part of our history.

Video games are just another storytelling medium – like movies, novels, and television shows. But sometimes, I wonder, what would the gaming industry look like if there were more stories told in the female perspective.

Why do you play video games? Do you think there should be more female protagonists in video games?

Share your opinions with me below!

Are Video Games Making Children More Aggressive?

PC gamer playing Fortnite on desktop
Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

A game is a series of interesting choices.

Sid Meier

I had no idea what I was doing in university. My undergrad was a long five-year stint. I felt like every university student meme out there, especially when it came to taking the required courses. All first-year students had no choice but to take an academic writing course. It’s a course that teaches university students, well, how to be university students. From MLA, APA to Chicago Style, we learned how to write it all in under four months. I lived and breathed academic writing. 

Our semester-end assignment was a combination of everything we learned and how to argue for or against a topic. Our professor gave us free rein to choose any topic we wanted, just as long as we presented an argument. I was an avid gamer, even in 2011, so naturally, I chose something gaming related. The topic I chose was “The Effects of Violent Video Games on Adolescent’s Aggressive Behaviour: A Short Review.” I realized it was a huge undertaking, but I was interested in the subject matter. 

What I learned didn’t surprise me. 

Through my research on the topic, I learned violent video games can contribute to aggressive behaviour in adolescents – emphasis on can. A child’s temperament, upbringing, socioeconomic status and signs of pre-existing behavioural problems are also important factors that can effect aggressive behaviour. Violent video games alone are not a sole contributor to the makings of an aggressive child. 

What about sex? 

I’m glad you asked. Females and males react to violent video games differently. Females and males react to violence differently, in general. Males are biologically more aggressive than females and tend to be influenced by games more. Even a child’s age can change the way they react to violent games. 

But if this is the case, why are violent video games still considered the problem? 

Once again, there are many factors. Video games, I think, are still a very new form of entertainment. How video games affect our everyday actions is still under a large question mark.

Have you ever played a video game and completely forgot about everyone else? Have you ever spoken to an NPC (non-playable character) as if they were in front of you? Yeah, me too. Video games today are so advance and life-like that people can forget the difference between what is real and imagined. If an adult gamer has moments like this, imagine how difficult it would be for a child. 

There is no perfect answer to this. The video gaming industry is a business. The industry knows what sells and life-like virtual experiences sell, especially violent video games.

Playing video games, nowadays it is considered cool. Gone are the days when sitting in front of a computer or a TV screen for hours was lame. 

Today, we are dealing with a new wave of technologically-savvy young people. We have a bunch of research on how it negatively affects them. Somehow, we have to teach them healthy technological consumption; the earlier we start, the better. 

If you’re curious, I linked a copy of my university paper, “The Effects of Violent Video Games on Adolescent’s Aggressive Behaviour: A Short Review,” for you.

What do you think about the violent video games debate? Should there be more regulation in the types of video games children can play? Should we get rid of video games altogether? Let me know in the comments below.

How I Got Started In Video Gaming

Pink Playstation 3 controller and gold Playstation 4 controller
Photo by Alyssa Gallano

It should be the experience, that is touching. What I strive for is to make the person playing the game the director.

Shigeru Miyamoto

When I was six, I became absolutely fascinated with video games. I didn’t grow up with gaming consoles at home. Even then, I still knew my friends were playing Super Mario Kart – without me.

Most people wanted to be like the “cool kids” when they were a kid. The cool kid (in this case, my uncle) had all the best gadgets. My brother and I tinkered around with Bomberman World on the Playstation on occasion. During the rest of the week, I survived my video game craving by playing Solitaire. Yes, solitaire, the game I played on my family’s rinky-dink Windows ’97 computer, but it was bliss. I fantasized about the day I could play in a world with a D-pad.

Fast forward to 2002, my dad, a “PC Master Race” enthusiast, bought my siblings and me, our first video game console, the Playstation 2. The console was a black box with the Playstation logo marked in gradient blue block font. I’ve only ever heard the capabilities of the Playstation 2. Luckily, our new Playstation 2 came bundled with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.

The game had a simple character creation with an option to change the character’s gender. Honestly, I was happy using Tony Hawk as my main character. He was cool then, and with the multiple iterations of the video game series after THPS3, other people thought he was cool too.

In Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, you were Tony Hawk and Tony Hawk were you – you were the same.

I manically played this game. At first, I only played the game to clear the missions. Over time, I fell in love with the soundtrack, a mix of the hip hop and rock genres dripping in skater-culture influence. I’m listening to this soundtrack right now with a dumb grin on my face. Songs like Amoeba by Adolescents hold a distinct memory of mine, a twelve-year-old me trying to perfect a skateboard combo – to no avail.

I wasn’t even good at THPS3. Man, I just loved to play it. If I asked you to pick a game off my gaming shelf right now, I would be able to tell you a fantastic memory I had playing it.

A great video game should export you another world. A good game should rip you away from your daily thinking, entirely immersing you in its made-up world. 

All this talk about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 makes me miss old video games. I miss the past video games: no microtransactions or forced player-vs-player (PVP) interactions. If only Bethesda kept their #savesingleplayer campaign. 

It’s this nostalgia that inspired me to create this blog. It’ll mostly be blog posts of recollections of my past gaming memories. There will be video game reviews – new AAA titles and old video games. 

Fun fact: I haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before. There may very well be a review for FF7 shortly.

Here’s what you should be expecting from my humble little abode from now: 

  • Video game story time series (because if YouTubers can do story time for content, so should bloggers) 
  • Video game reviews 
  • Rants (another YouTube content troupe but I’ll throw it in here. Who doesn’t love a little Angry Video Game Nerd action?)
  • Commentary about the social and cultural effects of video games

Welcome to this short-Asian gamer girl’s journey through her best and worst gaming experiences. Join me for the ride. I can sure use a player 2. 

Digging up your deep-seeded gaming memories.