Random Musings: Role Models

Chatting to one of my high school classes a few weeks ago, somehow (I’m not entirely sure how) the conversation came to a point where I mentioned the character Piper from the TV series Charmed. The blank looks I got made me a little bit sad, though I am getting used to the fact that the students I now teach weren’t even born when I was watching awesome shows like Charmed. That being said, my husband is the same age as me and he had never watched Charmed until I got us the first season on DVD for Christmas.

What I took away from that conversation with my students, however, was the feeling that I got when mentioning Piper Halliwell to them. Watching season 1 of Charmed recently helped remind me of the strong influence the Halliwells had on me growing up. I often think of Buffy and Xena as both my favourite TV shows and my role models growing up (I was particularly obsessed with those two shows), but of course those weren’t they only TV series I watched.

I watched a lot of TV shows growing up, and still do. There’s something about the way characters can be developed over multiple episodes that movies just can’t replicate in the span of two hours. Currently I am really enjoying the Marvel Avengers films, as all the sequels are allowing for some nice character development. But if I think back on the really big influencers in my teenage years, they are almost all from TV shows. There’s Buffy, Xena (and Gabrielle of course), Scully, Samantha Carter, Captain Janeway, and of course the Halliwell sisters (Piper being my favourite)… all of them strong female role models.

I did watch stuff that wasn’t fantasy or science fiction, and that didn’t have female leads, but I don’t think they had as big an impact on me as the characters mentioned above. I believe they helped shape who I am today. Xena, the redeemed character constantly haunted by her dark past; Gabrielle, the ever faithful sidekick who would do anything for her friend; Piper, the woman who managed to have a family and a job plus cool supernatural powers; Sam Carter, smart and tough at the same time… I should probably mention Queen Amidala too: even though she’s not from a TV show, when I was 14, the idea of a 14-year-old queen standing up to all the people who wanted to use her as a pawn was pretty awesome.

I do wonder what kind of role models teenage girls have today. There do seem to be a few more options in movies these days, with Bella in Twilight, Katniss in Hunger Games, Tris in Divergent, and so on, but I must admit I don’t know what TV shows there currently are for teens. Are there characters they will remember 15 years from now and realise what a big impact those characters had on them?

Do you have favourite characters or TV shows from your childhood that really stand out in your mind?

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Minifig Monday #29: Scientist

Series11_Scientist2

One day, a young scientist decided to perform her experiments in the park. No one paid her the slightest bit of attention until the fire started. By then it was too late, and she was gone.

“Surely someone noticed what she was doing?” they asked afterwards.

But no one had.

 

This week’s minifigure is the scientist from series 11, released in September 2013. The little story is my attempt at the Fifty writing challenge, which I found through the Blogging U Writing 101 course.

Minifig Monday is a weekly post in which I feature a random LEGO minifigure from my personal collection. Unless otherwise stated, all minifigs have been photographed by me.

April Fools’ Silliness – Guild Wars 2 Edition

Yesterday saw plenty of April Fools’ jokes across the Internet, but the Guild Wars 2 joke was my favourite of the day. Basically, when you loaded up a character in Guild Wars yesterday, the screen had a sepia tint and a kind of ‘old film’ filter, and all player characters were sticking their arms out, as you can see in my screenshots below. To top it all off, they wore aviator hats and goggles, and make ‘plane’ noises. The only times a character’s arms would move was while performing some combat moves, so everything else, including mining and dancing, looked absolutely ridiculous.

I'm a plane! I'm a plane!I'm a plane!

Needless to say, I had a blast running around Tyria pretending to be a plane.

I'm a bobble head. I'm a bobble head.

These bobblehead pics weren’t actually related to the April Fools’ thing, though I’ve never seen the effect persist in the character selection screen. In any case, this too was rather fun!

Liebster Award

liebster-awardThanks to Cassey at Bits and Pieces nominated me for the Liebster Award! This award can be found all over various blogs – it’s a nice way of sharing cool blogs with others and to answer some fun questions.

The Liebster Award rules work like this:

  • Thank and link the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions given by the nominator.
  • Nominate about 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers, and link them
  • Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer
  • Notify all nominees via social media/blogs

The questions I was given to answer:

When you go somewhere new, what’s more important: seeing the sights or eating the food?

Seeing the sights!

Five cities/countries/places you must see

Canada, west coast of America, Australia, New Zealand (particularly the South Island) and Moscow.

Favourite city/country/place

Hmmm… I think I would have to say New Zealand.

Shades of grey or black and white?

Black and white.

Who is your favourite superhero?

Probably Iron Man and Captain America – the recent Marvel movies have really given those two a lot of depth, especially since I started out thinking that a hero called ‘Captain America’ was probably super lame. Also Storm and Rogue from X-men. Xena’s probably my favourite hero, but she technically doesn’t have super powers.

Who is your favourite villain?

Hmmmm… possibly Mr Smith from The Matrix?

Top three books

Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. Third one is tricky… probably a tie between one of the Discworld books about Death and/or Vimes or a Stephen King horror – Under the Dome was particularly awesome but The Shining was also fantastic…! And totally forgot about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Princess Bride

Top three series

Another tricky one. My favourite series of all time are Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Star Trek – The Original Series. More recent shows I really enjoy include Chuck, Fringe, The Mentalist, Supernatural, Castle, How I Met Your Mother, Doctor Who… Heck, I even enjoy Grey’s Anatomy and Glee sometimes (okay, more often than just sometimes ;)!

Needless to say I really love my TV series. Choosing just three is simply impossible.

Tea or coffee?

Neither! Yuck!

Favourite game

Another difficult one… Favourite game of all time is definitely Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. All the LEGO video games are definitely high on the list too, as well as The Sims franchise, of course! Mass Effect trilogy, Uncharted series, Eternal Sonata, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Deadlock, Star Wars Jedi Knight and Star Wars Republic Commando are also among my favourites.

Favourite character you’ve played – rpg, console, pc…I’d say Sims count too 😉

No contest here: Commander Shepard from Mass Effect – she’s all kinds of awesome 🙂

Bonus question I’ve added myself: Favourite movies

I feel I can’t leave out my favourite movies, so I’m adding the question in here. A lot of top movies are franchises Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The Hunger Games, and so on. Other favourites include Donnie Darko, The Princess Bride, Brassed Off, The Castle (the Aussie one), The LEGO Movie, The Road to Eldorado, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Lion King, Toy Story, Monster’s Inc., The Sword in the Stone, Alien, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Deep Impact, Moulin Rouge.  No doubt I will remember other favourites after posting this!

My nominees:

Tip for finding nominees if you wish to pass the award on – look at the blogs you follow, and those that follow you. I’ve found quite a few cool blogs that way!

And my questions (I’m stealing quite a few of Cassey’s here!):

  1. Favourite movie/s
  2. Favourite TV show of all time
  3. Favourite current(ish) TV show
  4. White, milk or dark chocolate?
  5. If you were a fruit (or vegetable!), what would you be, and why?
  6. Favourite game (board/video/tabletop – anything!)
  7. Favourite book/s
  8. Favourite character – book, movie, TV etc.
  9. If you could choose one fantasy universe to exist (e.g. Middle-earth, Hogwarts, a galaxy far far away etc.), which one would you choose?
  10. Favourite place in the whole world
  11. Best super hero/magic/etc. power you would want for yourself

10 Things The Sims 4 has Done Right

TS4_435_EP01_BOP_01_003b_web

Last week on 4 February, The Sims franchise celebrated its 15th anniversary – quite a milestone. They also released a trailer for the first Sims 4 expansion pack Get to Work (coming in April), which looks like an awesome combination of the Sims 2 Open for Business expansion and the Sims 3 Ambitions expansion. I’ve put the trailer at the bottom of this article. Even if you’re not a Sims fan, it’s a pretty zany trailer that starts out as something that looks like The Sims meets Theme Hospital. They also added family trees to the game last week.

Seeing all these awesome Sims things was great, but when I scrolled down and made the mistake of glancing at the comments, I was reminded of all the negativity that has surrounded The Sims 4 since before its launch. Personally, I have found the more I play Sims 4, the more I enjoy it. But rather than delving into why people feel compelled to complain about everything (or so it seems on the Internet sometimes) or demand things from game developers, I decided to have a look at the things that I feel The Sims 4 has done right.

10. Unlockable content

I really enjoy unlocking new furniture and clothing through career advancement – it gives players something to work towards and some really special items to decorate with.

9. Ability to age up or change aspirations at any time

These two features are great – age up that baby early or change your Sim’s aspiration when it’s clear that you’re not going to be completing it. The ability to see the requirements in advance is also really handy.

8. Free content updates

Although there were normal bug-fixing patches for previous games, adding new clothing, careers, ghosts and pools to Sims 4 as free updates is a first. (Personally, I am indifferent about pools and ghosts and am perfectly happy without toddlers in my game. The new careers and overhaul of the career advancement system, on the other hand, were very welcome additions.) It also shows the developers do listen to what fans want. I just hope they don’t get pressured into changing the game for the worse.

7. Emotions

The emotion system really makes Sims feel more like real people – they are no longer just slaves to their energy/hunger/bladder bars. Although these things still do affect Sims, there are now tons of other factors that come into play, like the objects in a room or events that have happened recently. I think this is a great improvement on the moodlet system.

6. Room system

Building is easier than ever before with the way rooms work as entities that can be moved around a lot or deleted entirely. Being able to upload them to the Gallery is also rather handy. The room system makes redecorating a breeze. The included ready-made rooms that you can just plop down are also a great time-saver.

5. No more launcher

Origin might not be perfect, but it is superior to the Sims 3 launcher in terms of getting updates for the game and having all expansions, game packs, etc. listed in one place.

4. Online Features (Gallery)

The built-in Gallery of player-created content is just fantastic. It’s simple to upload any Sim, room or entire lot to the Gallery, and just as easy for someone to download it. The actual download part literally takes seconds, even with my relatively slow Internet. Also, the game doesn’t take forever to log in like Sims 3 did.

3. Create-a-Sim

The Sims 4 features the most intuitive, easy-to-use Create-a-Sim system of all the Sims games. You just click on the part of the body you’d like to change, and away you go. The way hair (and hats) work is also noteworthy as it opens up a host of new outfit options that were simply impossible before. The ‘styled look’ feature is also great for when you just want your Sim to be dressed with one click.

2. Build Mode

I’ve never been the most creative builder, as I rarely have the patience to create a magnificent mansion when I could be playing in Live mode. Now, in the new combined Build and Buy mode, it’s possible to create great looking houses with ease. Roofs in particular are easier to construct than ever before.

1. Load Times & Performance

Definitely the best thing to happen to the Sims franchise in its 15 years of existence. While the open world of Sims 3 was nice, it still often took longer to travel across town than a short load screen would have. Load screens of 5-10 minutes each were pretty normal in all previous games in the franchise, and actual game performance, especially in Sims 3, was terrible. These two factors meant that I rarely left my home lot in the previous games. The Sims 4 has changed all that by using very short load screens and only loading one lot at a time, keeping the game running at a good speed as well. I’m hoping this system means that the game won’t get slower and slower as more content is added – as was the case with its predecessors.

TS4_Build2

The Sims 4 may not be perfect, and it may be lacking content that some people consider essential, but it also doesn’t have 5 years worth of expansion packs – yet. I imagine just about every feature from previous games will be added over time, and probably some totally new ones. I really look forward to seeing what the team has in store for us.

And here’s the Get to Work trailer I promised:

Guild Wars 2: The Return?

Guild Wars 2 recently announced their first expansion pack, nearly two and a half years after the game’s release. The trailer, which I’ve included below, looks pretty awesome, and it got me and my husband interested in getting back into the game. (Hubby had never actually played the game much, even after I bought the game for him a while back.)

At one stage I was playing the game every day (and writing about it a bit), but after a while, with over 600 hours on the clock, I decided that I was done. Since then, I’ve played other MMOs, including Rift and Tera Rising, as well as some other, less awesome ones. I particularly enjoyed Tera‘s fun combat and the beautiful environments, character models and armour sets that you could get. Eventually, though, life got in the way, and it’s been quite a while since I played any MMO.

Recently, though, we set up hubby’s Guild Wars 2 account, made him a character, and dived back into the world of Tyria. I decided to create a new character as well, and try a new profession; given the huge number of hours I’ve put into my max level characters, I wanted to do something a bit different. I’m not sure I needed to worry about that, however, as there have been a lot of changes since I played back in 2012/2013.

Besides the new ‘Living World’ content (I’m a little bit sad I missed most of that, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on that before the expansion arrives), there have been tons of improvements to how the game works. Yes, the core mechanics are the same, but things that would have been so awesome when I was playing every day have been added. Though it’s a little annoying that those features didn’t exist back at launch, it’s also good to see the game has grown and improved over time.

There’s now a daily login bonus with decent rewards, currencies are account-wide and the special dungeon currencies aren’t taking up space in your bank any more, dye colours are account-wide too (probably my favourite improvement!), and there is an account wardrobe where you unlock skins of weapons and armour that you pick up. This does mean I now have to collect many armour sets again, but it also means I can free up space in my account bank where I was previously storing ‘pretty’ weapons and armour. There are a lot of other things too, like an improved trading post and achievement system, not to mention the wealth of gem items available for sale (and yes, I’ve already purchased yet another makeover kit to reinvent my sylvari elementalist. Again.).

Perhaps the biggest improvement that I’ve come across while leveling a brand new character is the way the leveling system is now handled. It’s much more beginner-friendly, which a compass pointing you towards your next objective at all times, and staggered unlocks of new abilities when you level up. This means you’re not overwhelmed with dozens of options and can take on this huge game one level at a time. I think this will ultimately make the game much more accessible to the host of new players the expansion will probably attract.

So, will I be spending another 600 hours in Tyria? Possibly not, as I don’t really have that much free time in my life anymore, but I can see myself sinking a fair number of hours into the game, especially now that I’ve finally convinced hubby to join the game. Plus my little Asura warrior ‘Joxxa the Mighty’ is really fun to play!