Video game one-liners

I don’t often get to spend any time with fiction books nowadays. I used to love the horror and science-fiction genre but those I tend to pick up now are mostly in connection with work. I’m currently reading about the lean framework – a pretty dry subject for anyone outside of IT.

That what makes responding to Pop Culture Literary’s nomination for the One-Liner Challenge so difficult. Nobody here wants to read short summaries of books about IT best-practice and processes; we much prefer stories about epic battles, dramatic rescues and the balance between good and evil. I’m therefore going to put a twist on it and focus instead on video games.

I hope that change still meets Pop Culture Literary’s requirements. As they did for their own challenge, I picked the ten titles below from my Steam Library on a random basis (using a random number generator rather than dice). Here we go – and no spoilers!

Child of Light, video game, box art, princess, castleChild of Light: a young princess named Aurora dies of a mysterious illness but then reawakens, before saving the sun, moon and stars from the Queen of the Night in order to return home

Braid, video game, box art, city, evening, man, bridge, silhouetteBraid: a pretentious platformer featuring a time-reverse mechanic, and a plot about a man rescuing a princess constructed to make the player question who the real monster is

Cat Quest, video game, box art, cat, knight, swordCat Quest: an RPG set in the pawsome world of cats, featuring a frisky feline in pursuit of the evil Drakoth and his catnapped sister through the world of Felingard

Four Last Things, video game, box art, men, instruments, townFour Last Things: an adventure for those who like Monty Python and smutty humour, here’s a man who must re-commit the seven deadly sins after arriving to confess at the wrong church

Sam & Max, Save the World, video game, box art, Freelance Police, dog, rabbitSam & Max Save the World: a hypnosis conspiracy being investigated by the Freelance Police which makes you feel as though you’re watching Saturday morning kids’ television

Knee Deep, video game, box art, title, logo, tree, tipee, crocodile, alligatorKnee Deep: investigate the suicide of a washed-up actor in the backwater town of Cypress Knee with blogger Romana Teague, local reporter Jack Bellet and private investigator K.C. Gaddis

Broken Age, video game, box art, Shay, Vella, boy, girl, asleepBroken Age: funded via Kickstarter and not without controversy, a coming-of-age story about Vella and Shay as they try to escape similar situations in totally different worlds

The Night of the Rabbit, video game, box art, boy, rabbit, treeThe Night of the Rabbit: a white rabbit leads Jerry to Mousewood, where he learns spells while travelling to worlds through portal trees and uses these to defeat the evil magician Zaroff

The Talos Principle, video game, box art, robot, kitten, catThe Talos Principle: a puzzle game which will drive you bonkers, you’re tasked by your creator to solve a series of complex challenges while wondering who you are and what your purpose is

Black Mirror, video game, box art, church, building, mirror, shatteredBlack Mirror: the original (not the remake) about the aftermath of the death of William Gordon, dark secrets and the terrible curse which has decimated the family since the Middle Ages

Thank you to Pop Culture Literary for nominating Later Levels, and for giving me something a little different to write about. I’d love to hear your own one-liners: how would you describe your favourite game in a single sentence?

Creative Christmas: borrowed outfit

The Creative Christmas collaboration is still going strong, and our group of bloggers is almost at the end of 12 video-game-related questions based around a festive storyline. After answering yesterday’s challenge about the perfect games for winter, here’s what we’re up against next:

You’ve been invited to a swanky New Year’s Eve party but have nothing suitable to wear! Which video game character do you call to ask if you can borrow an outfit?

My answer

Most video game characters are more concerned with saving the world than whether their shoes match their outfit perfectly. But certain protagonists have a sense of style to die for and really know how to work their attire on the digital catwalk. Perhaps they’ll be able to give me some sound fashion advice when it comes to creating an ensemble fit for a glamorous New Year’s Eve party.

However, it can be somewhat difficult as a female in the gaming world when it comes to costume choices. Barely-there bikinis, buttless-chaps and six-inch heels aren’t garments particularly suitable for winter; and some of the flimsy armour on display is just downright ludicrous. That being said though, there are a few characters I wouldn’t mind raiding the wardrobes of.

Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, female, woman, character, warrior, mountain, view

Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn is right at the top of the list if we’re going for practicality: warm furs will protect against the cold December weather and flat footwear means no staggering in stilettos at midnight. She can take all that Mother’s Heart throws as her and her gorgeous, thick hair still looks as though she just stepped out of a L’Oreal advert. And damn, this is one girl who knows how to strike a pose.

The Curse of Monkey Island, video game, female, pirate, Elaine Marley, gun

If it’s a costume party we’re going to, there’s only one lady whose wardrobe is worthy enough: Elaine Marley from the Monkey Island series. A buccaneers’ outfit is a classic yet elegant choice for a fancy-dress event and the perfect excuse to drink grog all evening. This is a governess who isn’t afraid to kick some zombie ghost butt and keep wannabe pirates in check – and look absolutely fierce while doing so.

Broken Age, video game, Vella Tartine, female, bird, knife, flyring

But if it’s a classy event we’re attending, we’re better off turning to creative Vella Tartine from Broken Age. No, not for that hideous ballgown with ‘Up for Grabs’ emblazoned across the arse which she wore during the Maiden’s Feast; I’m talking that slinky little number she sliced it into when escaping from Mog Chothra! Pink may not be my colour but even I’d be happy to rock this look at a swanky cocktail party.

Dreamfall Chapters, video game, Storytime, female, Zoe Castillo

If the New Year’s Eve party is taking place in a trendy bar, maybe Zoë from The Longest Journey series could give us a hand when it comes to fashion. She sports several outfits through the games and always manages to look stylish but without trying too hard. I absolutely love her hair when she goes for a shorter style and would seriously consider getting something like this in real life myself…

Kathy Rain, video game, female, girl, Kathy, cemetery

Speaking of ‘real life’, maybe that’s the best option in this case: go for something similar to your own tastes so you feel comfortable. Kathy from Kathy Rain would be the person to help me out here because you can’t go wrong with jeans, a leather jacket and a pair of boots. Team with a t-shirt featuring your favourite video game and you’re ready to party the night away.

Other answers

🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
🎮   LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release
🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
🎉   Dan and Jon from
🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
🎅   Retro Redress
🎶   Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
❤   Brandon from That Green Dude
🎄   The Gaming Diaries
🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
👗   The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your choice for 2018?

Fascinating females: interesting women in video games

A while ago I came across a two-part piece on The Guardian website entitled ‘Beyond Lara Croft’. It’s well-written and authors Kate Gray, Holly Neilsen and Jordan Erica Webber make an interesting point: “Over the years, there has been no shortage of articles about ‘the best female characters in video games’. The problem is, what they’ve usually meant is ‘the sexiest female characters in video games’, which has made for some very repetitive and occasionally rather creepy reading.”

We’ve all seen our fair share of such posts. For example, there are several bloggers who regularly appear under the ‘gaming’ tag in my WordPress reader with series such as ‘Sexy Games’ and ‘Hot Cosplayer of the Week’ that I decline to read. If that’s what you choose to write, then that’s entirely up to you – but surely there’s more to female characters than oversized legs (as well as other body parts) covered in shiny, streamlined (read: skimpy completely useless) armour?

That got me thinking: which entries in The Guardian’s list resonate with me? Which characters have been missed which are worthy of inclusion? Here’s my compilation of interesting women in video games, along with some notable mentions from the article.

Warning: some spoilers are included below so if you haven’t played a title, you may wish to skip forward to the next entry.

Included: Vella Tartine from Broken Age

One of the newer characters included within The Guardian’s list, Velouria Beastender Tartine – or ‘Vella’ for short – is described as having ‘incredible patience and resilience in the quest to escape her determined role’. The ritual of feeding young maidens to the monstrous floating bear Mog Chothra every fourteen years keeps him at bay, or so the Sugar Bunting village elders say; but our heroine can’t accept this and questions why they can’t just kill the damn thing (much to her grandfather’s delight).

Broken Age’s plot and characters are extremely well-written and it’s refreshing to see Vella and her counterpart Shay Volta not falling into the usual tropes or ‘save the universe’ storyline. It’s the girl taking on the monster while the boy is trapped in the gilded palace. The game explores themes of individualism and highlights the potential dangers in mindlessly conforming to a group without question – and Miss Tartine, portrayed by Masasa Moyo, is one woman who certainly takes fate into her own hands.

Missing: Erica Reed from Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

A game that employs the talents of the amazing Jane Jensen, creator of the Gabriel Knight series, as a story consultant is sure to have a great plot and well-written characters – and that’s certainly the case for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. It tells the plot of Boston FBI Agent Erica as she searches for the evil Cain Killer, the murderer of her brother Scott. It gradually becomes clear that a group of seemingly-unrelated killings all have clues that only our heroine can read: using her ‘psion’ powers to see the past, she can find connections between objects and access other people’s memories.

With potent abilities like these it would have been all too easy for the developer to resort to them into order to push the plot along. But instead, Erica’s powers aren’t the automatic solution for every problem: they don’t always work as intended and instead cause her a great deal of mental trauma. Raleigh Holmes does an amazing job of portraying Erica as a real person who’s struggling with a stressful job, tragic past and powerful secret. It’s due to her acting and some wonderful writing that Agent Reed is one of my favourite video game characters.

Included: Samantha Greenbriar from Gone Home

Players step into the role of Kaitlin Greenbriar in this critically-acclaimed title, but it’s younger sister Samantha (Sam) who takes the centre stage. After returning home from Europe, you find a note from the teenager stuck to the front door asking you to not go ‘digging around’ trying to find out where she is. An emotional message from a tearful female on the answering machine immediately makes you concerned for Sam’s wellbeing: what happened in the past twelve months while you were away?

You might not encounter any other characters in the flesh while playing Gone Home but the writing and voice-acting are absolutely top-notch – full marks to Sarah Grayson for her portrayal of Sam. The teenager comes across as smart and snarky yet insecure and relatable, and you can’t help feel for her. Unravelling her coming-of-age story and relationship with Lonnie, she reveals herself with a lot of honesty through her journal entries; and by the time you’ve spent the three hours needed to complete the title both she and her story will have left a lasting mark on you.

Missing: Zoë Castillo from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

The plot of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey concentrates on the story of Zoë Castillo, a girl who starts the title in the same way that April Ryan did in the first instalment of the series ten years before: in her underwear (but it’s not what you think!). After becoming disillusioned with the path her life is taking, she decides to drop out of university and give her journalist ex-boyfriend a hand with a story he’s working on by completing a favour. Little does she know that this will set in motion an epic series of events that will see her caught in an adventure of dream technology and travelling across the globe…

At first I was a little disappointed not to be playing as April as I loved her when playing The Longest Journey, but after a short while Zoë really started to grow on me. She’s a likeable, realistic character with a big heart, who questions what happens to her and doesn’t just accept the unbelievable events she’s involved in. Her story continues in Dreamfall Chapters by Red Thread Games.

Included: Hannah Smith from Her Story

This is a fascinating one: Hannah Smith may not be the most likeable character within this list but she’s definitely one of the most interesting. During the summer of 1994, she reports her husband Simon as missing to Portsmouth Police Station and it’s now a number of years after the event. It’s up to you to use video clips held within an archive database on an obsolete computer to assemble this woman’s story and answer the burning question: did she murder Simon?

Hannah manages to hide the existence of her estranged identical twin Eve through both their child- and adulthood until her sister’s pregnancy ruins things. Excellently portrayed by Viva Seifert, the omissions in her character’s answers are highlighted through small slips of the tongue, repeated phrases and awkward body movements, and each revelation will leave you switching between sympathising for the woman and hating her. When Hannah finally reveals the truth about her husband, the speech is delivered with such an unnerving calm that it will cause the story to stay with you long after you’ve finished the game.

Missing: Theresa from Fable

Theresa is probably the most mysterious female on my list. Being over six-hundred years of age, she’s one of the oldest known living beings in the Fable series’ world of Albion – as well as one of the deepest and most important characters with powerful but unclear motives. Frequently referred to as ‘The Blind Seeress’, she has had prophetic powers since a young child and possesses extrasensory perception due to her exceptional Will (magic) abilities, despite being unable to physically see.

It’s difficult to reveal much about Theresa’s history here as her backstory is so detailed. But the most intriguing thing about this character is the fact that you’re never quite sure whether she’s on the side of good or evil: is she telling you all she knows, or has she seen the future and is now trying to guide you down a certain path? Zoe Wanamaker does such a great job at portraying the Seeress, with a perfect balance of mysticism and threat in her voice; now whenever I see a television advert voiced by this actress it feels as if Theresa is trying to sell me something.

Included: River Wyles from To The Moon

Despite its lack of gameplay, To The Moon is one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking video games I’ve ever played. Sigmund Corp employees Doctors Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts have been hired by a widower named Johnny Wyles because he wants to go to the moon; however, he isn’t sure why and from this one riddle many others arise. Their patient has already slipped into a deep coma so they must quickly sift through his memories, figure out what’s motivating this wish and, using their ‘artificial memory creation’ technology, make it happen.

As stated in a The Guardian’s article: “…a love story gone slightly wrong… If it breaks your heart (which it might) that’s mostly down to River, the wife of the lead character, who is caring, loving, creative and dedicated.” What makes her so special is that she’s one of the few video game characters explicitly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. But this fact is never exploited in this extremely poignant tale of love, loss and regret, you’ll be shedding a tear by the end of it.

Missing: Elaine Marley from The Secret of Monkey Island

The games in The Secret of Monkey Island series focus on Guybrush Threepwood but it’s Elaine Marley who steals the show. In the original title, the wannabe-buccaneer arrives on Mêlée Island to begin his quest to become a pirate; and despite learning that other swashbucklers in the area are afraid to sail because of the evil ghost pirate LeChuck, he completes the Three Trials and learns the arts of thievery, sword-mastery and treasure-huntery (argh me hearties!). When the evil villain kidnaps beautiful governor Elain Marley it’s up to Guybrush, in true adventure hero style, to find a way to the legendary Monkey Island to rescue his amour.

That’s not to say she’s your typical damsel in distress however – far from it in fact. She’s more than capable of taking care of herself and on the occasions when she’s kidnapped, she’s usually able to escape from LeChuck at her own volition whilst throwing out comebacks such as “You are an evil, foul-smelling, vile, co-dependent villain and that’s just not what I’m looking for in a romantic relationship right now.” It’s no wonder she’s the dominant half in her partnership with Guybrush, but she still has faith in his abilities despite his hapless nature.

The one thing all of the women above have in common is excellent writing and, except in those cases where there is none, superb voice-acting. It goes to show that developers don’t have to resort to big boobs and scant armour in order to make a memorable and interesting female character.

Have you read the The Guardian’s ‘Beyond Lara Croft’ article? What did you think of their list, and who are your most interesting women in video games? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.