Diversity & Advancement in Gaming Culture

Like quite a lot of people my age, I grew up gaming. My start was perhaps not as early as others, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my dear, old, OG PlayStation and Spyro the Dragon. Even before that though, I played games. My mom bought me plenty of educational video games that, quite frankly, are probably what helped me excel in school. After all, I’ve always hated studying for the sake of studying, but dress it up as something engaging and fun? I’ll learn whatever you want me to learn! So for me? I’ve always seen gaming as something more than a mindless waste of brain cells. Video games helped me learn math and reading, and they fostered creativity, so even as a kid, I was defending the merits of this particular medium until I was blue in the face.

All of that is to say that I, like many others, am so thrilled to finally be seeing gaming taken as something more than a joke or a gross, concerning hobby only pimply (male) nerds who had no friends could participate in. Screw that! I’m a girl, and I like cooking and pink and flowers and frilly dresses; I have amazing friends, some of whom I’d have never even known if not for shared, nerdy interests; and you know what else I am on top of all of that? I’m a gamer!

We’re finally seeing the day that society is accepting that people can be both a functional, productive member of society as well as enjoy video games. Gaming is finally starting to be taken as a true art and form of expression, up there with movies and books. Gaming is pushing boundaries between entertainment and education and scientific breakthroughs that other things can barely touch. These are things that are finally possible in today’s landscape, but as an adult, I recognize why these were perhaps things that weren’t thought to be possible when I was a child.

Ten to fifteen years ago, when I was still a young teen, there was a pretty good reason why the gamer identity was something of a joke. I mean come on, look at what dominated the spectrum – Grand Theft Auto, Halo, God of War, Dead or Alive. Not to say I didn’t play some of these, not to say they’re all awful games, or that they aren’t fun or good games. I’m just saying that these are the stereotypical male fantasy. As a girl, there was very little I could ever see of myself in video games. The whole reason I love the Dead or Alive franchise hinges on the very aspect that I could play as a pretty, feminine girl who could simultaneously kick some serious ass! Sure, that game is a whole other spectrum of problematic, but back then, I didn’t recognize the sexism behind it. I was a teen girl who was just happy to have another game to add to the handful of others that I could play as a girl versus the veritable sea of games in which I could play as a man.

I have no issue with stories that feature a male protagonist. I love many games that do. However, despite my intellectual interest in gaming, when I come home at the end of the day and want to pop in a game and relax, some days I’d like to see myself in them. Most gaming is about living a fantasy, and as previously stated, I’m a bit of a girly girl. My fantasy isn’t being some muscle-bound guy who gets all the girls. I’d much prefer being a kick ass lady (getting all the girls and/or boys is totally optional). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to derive the most enjoyment out of your media.

Things are finally changing. Now, if I log into Steam or PSN or Amazon (the three places majority of my games come from these days), there are more games than I could probably ever find the time to play that offer me the option to play as a female protagonist. Diversity and representation are finally happening, and sure, it may seem slow moving in many cases, but if you think about it in comparison to the age of the industry as a whole, this progress is fairly monumental.

This sort of progress is also a huge part of what is so instrumental in gaming becoming and remaining relevant. I truly believe that had video games stayed the course in pandering exclusively to male fantasy, there would have been very little of the growth we have seen as an industry. It is through exploring all different life experiences, no matter race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ect., that gaming has grown to be considered a legitimate art form. These are the things that the gaming community needs to embrace because without that forward momentum? Without that relevance? We gamers would have remained a joke that society at large considered worthy of pity and in need of fixing. Instead, gaming has become a hugely varied medium, blurring lines between art and entertainment and education. Gaming has become mainstream, and while I know there are those that would argue that’s a bad thing, I would love for them to give me a definitive answer of why. When things are not accepted by the mainstream, they ultimately go away. And just because someone who plays Crandy Crush on their phone may consider themselves a gamer, I fail to see how that invalidates anyone else’s identity as one. I’ve been playing video games for somewhere close to twenty years now, and I’m actually thrilled I get to share my excitement about something I’ve always loved with friends who would have found Final Fantasy VII or Tekken completely inaccessible.

None of this is to say that there isn’t a lot to be concerned about in gaming these days. There pretty much always has been. Are video games promoting violence; are they promoting sexism; are they promoting laziness or addiction or the “gay agenda”? No matter what side you take in any issue these days, there’s an argument that can be made for why gaming is evil. And while sure, with things like Gamer Gate happening, along with the myriad of other socio-political issues that have always been present in gaming, there is probably, or even definitely, a case to be made for some of those. However, I look around at the environment of gaming today compared to even just ten years ago, and I think it’s so amazing how things have changed! I’m excited to see how far gaming culture has come, and how it is turning into such a relevant medium. Sure, I come across disheartening articles on Flipboard every day, but most days I feel like I find so many more that just blow my mind with how awesome they are. I’m constantly bragging to friends about one thing or another, whether it’s the controllers Sony created for a man with cerebral palsy or the studies showing that gaming can actually help get kids ahead and be more well-adjusted. We’ve come so far from the stigma of the pimple-faced nerd boy who lives in his parents’ basement, doesn’t bathe, and can’t talk to girls, and that is something for which we should be immensely proud!


A Healthier Take on Fried Noodles

One of my favorite comfort foods growing up was fried noodles. As a kid, whenever we’d have spaghetti for dinner, I would always hope there would be plenty of left over noodles so that the next day I could ask my mom to make them for me for breakfast (real healthy, I know). It didn’t even occur to me that this wasn’t a common thing to do until a recent discussion with a friend who seemed very suprised by the idea.

Now, I’m (theoretically) an adult, and as such, it’s time to give this dish my own healthy spin. This is a great, quick meal or side for any time of day, and all it requires is some leftovers and general things you should have sitting in your pantry/on your counter.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Leftover Noodles (any variety)

0-Calorie Cooking Spray (my go-to of late is the coconut oil variety, but there are so many options now-a-days, so you pick your favorite)

Whatever Seasonings Peak Your Fancy (most recently, I went with onion powder, garlic, and a little bit of red pepper flakes)

1) Place a pan over medium to medium-high heat on the stove and spray it down with your Cooking Spray.

2) Throw your Noodles in the pan, and then spray them with the Cooking Spray until they are adequetly coated.

3) Mix in your Seasonings so that the Noodles are coated to your liking.

4) Stirring the noodles occasionally, let them get as crispy as you want. It’s really up to you when you take them off the heat, as the longer you leave them on, the crispier they will get.

So you can jazz this up even more if you want by adding sauces or veggies or what-have-you. This is just the bare bones recipe, though it’s also my favorite way to eat them. However, if you plan to make a full meal out of it, I totally say amp it up! Sky’s the limit! This can also be as big or small a recipe as you want. I’m aware that this may be pushing the boundaries of “healthy” eating, but hey, we can’t be perfect all the time and this is a great way to feel like you’re cheating without really cheating, you know what I mean?

The Power of Friendship! – Final Fantasy Type-0 HD impression

Final Fantasy Type-0 is over a year old now, but considering that I invested some serious time into it and how much I enjoyed it, I want to take a little time to talk about it in an impression post. Similar to how I’ve done demo impressions, I also plan to do the same with games that I’ve played that are over a year old. So spoilers ahoy, my friends! Time to talk Agito! Continue reading

Blueberry-Orange Smoothie

I’ll be honest: I love smoothies; I always say I’m going to make more smoothies; I rarely ever do. This past week though, I had some extra frozen berries laying around and decided what the heck! I’ll finally get around to making one!

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup Blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1/2 cup Orange Juice OR 1 small Tangerine, peeled (something like a Halo or Cutie)

1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk (or any other milk you may have)

1 tbsp. Plain Greek Yogurt ( or boost your flavor by using flavored yogurt)

1 tsp Coconut Extract OR 1/4 cup Shredded Coconut

1/2 cup Ice

1) There really is only the one step, so I shouldn’t even number them, but you and I both know recipes don’t look right without numbered steps. So here’s what you do. You throw it all in the blender. Whatever order you want, all willy-nilly like! Variety is the spice of life! Depending on what you have on hand or the texture you prefer, make the swaps listed above. Using a whole tangerine or shredded coconut is going to make the smoothie grittier, but I think it makes the taste a little smoother. If you’re someone who has issues with texture though, I suggest the juice and extract. Play around, see what you like best.

Secret Step #2? Enjoy! Hot weather is (supposedly) a-comin’! So cool off with a tropical tasting, blueberry smoothie!

Spinach in Dijon Sauce

What to do with all that spinach? You bought it for a specific recipe, or maybe in an attempt to be healthier, but now you’re left looking at it wondering just how on earth can you fit it in to your diet? There’s only so many times you can use it on pizzas, sandwiches, or in salads. Or, even worse, you bought frozen spinach! What’s it even good for at this point!? Well, here I am offering you an answer – a yummy, healthy side dish to use up all that excess spinach.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup Steamed Spinach OR thawed Frozen Spinach

1 1/2 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes

1 tbsp Dijon Mustard

Spray Butter (or Fake Butter Spray – think “I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter” brand)

Stage 0 – If you are using raw spinach, you will need to steam it. My favorite go-to for steaming is Zip Lock’s steamer bags, but you can also put it in a bowl with a tiny bit of water, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and microwave. Just be sure to keep an eye on it, lest you dry out your spinach. You will, of course, need to drain it before moving on to step 1.

1) Combine your spinach, red pepper flakes, mustard, and a few spritzes of your butter spray into a microwave safe bowl and stir it all up.

2) Microwave it all for between 30 seconds to 1 minute.

3) Stir again, and then enjoy!

There you have it! It’s super quick, easy, and pretty dang yummy!

Cakeless Strawberry Shortcake

I’m a strawberry girl, through and through. Give me a choice of flavors, and most days I’ll pick strawberry over any other contender. With the weather turning warmer and good strawberries being surprisingly easy to find this early on, my attention turns to all the awesome ways to eat them!

Today I present to you Cakeless Strawberry Shortcake! Or “How To Make Your Healthy Dessert of Fruit Taste Like Something More!”

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup Fresh Strawberries

Your No Calorie Sweetener of Choice (I use stevia)

Light Whipped Cream

(optional) Sugar-free Chocolate Syrup

1) Chop the stems off your strawberries, half them, and throw them in the bowl you plan to eat out of.

2) Sprinkle your sweetener over the strawberries as evenly as possible. Use as much or as little as you like, but I do suggest at least 1 tbsp so you reach that sweet, cake-like flavor.

3) Add your whipped cream on top!

3b) If you feel a chocolate craving coming on, drizzle a little sugar-free chocolate syrup over the whipped cream.

4) Enjoy your sweet treat!