Fairy Princess Programming Teacher

fairy princess programming teacher

With sparkle ballet flats and sparkle French manicure, today’s look is fairy princess programming teacher.

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Project Management

Imagine a vast prairie. Full of steers, and cows, and they’re all going different directions! Running crazy in all different directions. And they’re big. Also, there are buffalo. Buffaloes? Anyway, multiple buffalo.

And there is one lone cowboy, on this vast prairie, with a lasso, making all these animals go the same direction.

I am the herder of those animals.

– my coworker, explaining her job

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The Silent Age: Episode Two

The second part of House on Fire’s The Silent Age continues janitor Joe’s time-traveling adventures as he saves the world from certain destruction. Like in the first episode, Joe travels between groovy 1972 and a terrible post-apocalyptic future with his solar-powered time-machine.

Players continue using the same time-travel mechanic. Plant an apple in 1972, pick it in the future, bring it back to the seventies to feed a hungry scientist. (Doing this chain of actions, I was about 90% convinced that this was how the mysterious disease was spread) Open a valve in 1972, and drain water from the future.  I don’t know if I better understood the time-travel mechanic or House of Fire’s particular brand of point-and-click puzzle solving, but I felt like I flew threw the second half of the game. Especially compared with Episode One, in Episode Two I spent almost no time walking from room to room, trying to figure out what to click, and what to use together. But, of course, I did try some ridiculous combinations to see what Joe would have to say.

janitor joe silent age

Janitor Joe takes a break from saving the world to drink a fancy cocktail.

The loose ends in the first half — why is Joe listed as a person of interest? Where did Frank go? What started the plague? What will happen to Archon Industries? Will the environmental saboteurs succeed? — are wrapped up well in the second part. In the beginning of Episode 1, Frank, Joe’s boss, leaves abruptly, getting Joe the “promotion” that kicks off off the entire plot. I assumed that Frank was tragically killed while emptying the wastepaper baskets in one of the shady laboratories, but in episode 2, he is revealed as Yuri, a Soviet plant, investigating Archon’s labs. I laughed out loud at that part, and

After endless jokes about disco, polyester, and dying in extremely manly ways, I was surprised when the end was terribly emotional. (Without giving it away, I’m talking about the moment in the stasis chambers.)

The Silent Age: Episode 2 is now available on iOs or Android, as an in-app purchase through the first episode.

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Virtual Book Tour: Syncing Forward

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In W. Laurence’s new novel Syncing Forward, the protagonist Martin James is investigating possible theft and espionage when he’s injected with a drug that slows his body down so much he finds himself unstuck in time. He’s able to realign with everyone else for short bursts of time. What seems like a day for James is months for everyone else, which naturally strains his personal and family relationships, as well as his search for a cure.  I enjoy well written timetravel, when it’s more about how human relationships are affected than technobabbling about how the time machine works. In this case, time travel was more of a mechanic to tell a story, or really two stories, one about what happens to James’ family as a result of this, and another about James’ search for the antidote and the various organizations involved in keeping it away from him.

The future in Syncing Forward is simultaneously scary and realistic. I don’t want to reveal too much, because I really enjoyed the way world events at each of James’ synchronizations unfolded into the next. One plotpoint involves genetically modified food that’s slowly eliminating a certain group of people, and the narration is careful to point out that this is malicious and intentional, and not just the usual macro corporations accidentally offing people to save money. At other points in the novel, we encounter more sinister and extreme versions of today’s political factions.

The beginning is a little awkward and a little jarring, but keep reading through the exposition and the story becomes a page-turner. There are occasional troublesome transitions, but the novel is both a compelling family saga and a dystopian scifi adventure, so there’s bound to be a little awkwardness between the two.

My only complaint is this is another rich, developed scifi world with very few roles for women. James’ daughters are both dutiful family-focused women in their own ways, and Wfeature well in the family-sage side of the novel. Science and technology have advanced quite far in this novel, and along realistic channels, but as James deals with a shady world of scientific terrorists, researchers, double agents, and not to mention cosmonauts interested in his longevity for their own purposes,  he tends to deal with men (and, towards the end, a sexy lady companion-bot). Would have been nice to see more female characters in the hard science story arc as well.

Good scifi creates a believable future world and then sets the action in that world, but because of the time travel mechanic, Syncing Forward creates many believable, engaging future worlds.

 

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Actual Concerns In Games Journalism

(Spoiler: None of these involve a secret cabal of games journalists, plotting to destroy videogames in order to take over the world. Also, none of these concerns make me want to join up with a certain internet hate mob.)

1) The system of unpaid internships writing for gaming publications gives a massive advantage to prospective writers who have family money or other resources to support themselves while they work without pay for a year, and it puts writers who need to earn money from their work at a major disadvantage. This isn’t unique to gaming publications, but it doesn’t encourage a variety of voices, perspectives, or life experiences in games journalism.

2) Publications paying writers in revenue share, a bonus based on hits, or other similar methods that basically reward writers for writing clickbaity headlines and inflammatory posts.

3) Outlets that charge developers for “premium” or “expedited” reviews, and then just happen to give the paying developers 5-star reviews, and run these sponsored reviews next to legit reviews. It’s rough for developers, for writers who want to be journos and get these assignments, and the end result is annoying for readers/consumers.

4) One of the great things about the internet is that anyone and everyone can be a games writer! Seriously, Blogspot and WordPress are free, and take almost no time to set up. The barrier to entry has never been lower. (Which is one of the reasons that it’s ridiculous to say that closing comments on a blog or YouTube is censorship. You can write your own blog!) But, when the publisher, editor, ad sales, accounting, reviewer are all the same person, it’s easier for conflicts of interest to slip in.
Editors receiving ad money from a games publisher (or soliciting an ad buy from that publisher) might be less inclined to run an unfavorable review of one of that publisher’s products. Reviewers who received their first review copies, or know they’ll need to work with that PR rep again, might be less inclined to write and publish critical reviews. And for one of a billion tiny examples of something other that pure artistry influencing which games are reviewed, Big Fish Games and Amazon offer affiliate programs that let bloggers earn commissions on products they’re reviewed positively, which can be a disincentive to review indie games, where there’s no affiliate profit to be made.
There are plenty of other examples of awkward areas for those whose love of games and game writing drives them to become the writer, editor, and publisher of their own outlet.

Finally, none of these concerns make me want to throw up my hands and condemn games journalism, these are more my thoughts on potential issues to bear in mind than OMG GAMES JOURNALISM CORRUPTION!!! ETHICS!!1!one!!! SMOKING GUN!!!! Still, the recent internet shrieking is probably what’s encouraged me to articulate and share some actual concerns in game writing.

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To Ms. Meg

noah youth digital

This weekend, I caught a bad cold  so I spent a few days napping and watching Star Trek and having soup and napping again. I wasn’t feeling great when I came back in to work on Tuesday morning, but when I got to my desk and I saw this message from one of my former students, it was all worthwhile.

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Sometimes Nostalgia’s Not Enough For a Successful Game

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New piece up on Hardcore Games.

After the first dungeon, where my biggest challenge was finding my way, the second dungeon became almost impossibly difficult. (The party wipes were not helped by a small bug that caused the game to hang or lag on the Load Game screen, or by a larger one that crashed the game when I returned to town with one unconscious party member. Ugh.) Since E does an all-out attack, the only time I really messed around with the awkward combat menus was when I wanted one of my spellcasters to use a particular spell. Pretty soon, I felt like I was just armoring up, hitting E, and hoping for the best.

Overall, the creative monsters, dungeon crawl theme, and general art styles reminded me of a Dungeons and Dragons handbook, but as I played, it turned out to be one of the D&D editions that required pages of errata and half a dozen house rules to be any fun.

via Elminage Gothic Review on Hardcore Games

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Axonic Diodes, Revisited

Wait! Before he begins, this was a science fiction game set on a tropical island!

 –Me, attempting an explanatory preface before one of my coworkers performed a dramatic reading of one of my Next Island mission dialogues for the rest of our coworkers. When I wrote these missions, I was thinking about MMO players, and never imagined listening to an impromptu dramatic reading for the Products team at YD, but it was pretty good fun.

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Book Tour: City of Whores

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City of Whores Mark B PerryCity of Whores by Mark B. Perry tells the story of an aspiring movie star and a powerful celebrity couple in 1950’s Hollywood. A thin veneer of old-Hollywood glamour covers dark secrets and disturbing choices.

The story of an aspiring actor willing to do anything and everything to become a star isn’t new, but the characters are fleshed out, complex, and believable, and the particular brand of “anything” will keep readers turning pages. Overall, the novel was a great deal grittier and darker than any of the other books I’ve received from Whirlwind. (Like Black Bear Lake, Children of the Gods, and Careful.)

The glamorous / seedy Hollywood setting is what first interested me in this book, and I was not disappointed in this. The novel constantly reminded me of my trips to Los Angeles, staying in the worn-down glamour of the Cecil. Some places around LA were familiar to me, but others, like film sets and backlots, were completely new to me, and exciting to imagine.

Because the Hollywood setting and a love of film are such important aspects of the novel, it’s one of the (rare) times when a book trailer makes sense.

I received a copy of this book to review as part of Whirlwind Book Tours.

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Robots Need Love Too

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Robots Need Love Too is an iOs puzzle game about two lovestruck robots from Elephant Mouse.

In the beginning of Robots Need Love Too, you can choose names, gender, and preferred pronoun for your romantic robots. In addition to the obvious he and she choices, your robots could use the genderqueer pronouns they, zie, ey, or xie, and naturally any two robots can fall in love. Robot gender and pronouns are entirely cosmetic features for this puzzle game, but character customization is always about allowing players to recognize ourselves in the game and connect more with our protagonist. The ability to select preferred pronoun and the gender creates an inclusive space for all gamers and a refreshing spin on the ol’ rescue-the-princess narrative as well.

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It’s amazing how inclusive just a few text options can be. Oh, and the UI doesn’t start on any particular gender, either, which helps question heteronormative defaults.

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I chose Pyramus and Thisbe, because I’ve received a classical education. (And when connecting with characters, I like doomed relationships and literary references. What?)  I was not disappointed in any of the resulting text narrative.

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One every level, the lovestruck robots need to reach each other. Players arrange arrows to bring the ‘bots to their goal, collecting up to 3 hearts along the way.  As the game progresses, there are obstacles, gaping holes in the floor, immobile arrows, magnets to drag robots across the room, and other challenges to the robots’ union. The course of true love never did run smooth.

Robots can only go where they’re programmed, so I wondered if my robots would walk an endless loop or if they’d step off into a hole. They would! And my ridiculous experimentation was rewarded with achievements! It’s like the Elephant Mouse team was rewarding my bad choices!

Each puzzle level is made up of two parts, Pyramus’ path and Thisbe’s path, and sometimes one side was much more difficult than the other.  It also took me a couple levels to really figure out how to work the magnets. A couple rough patches didn’t turn me off the game, because the game is just so cute, and because each level had a sweet little flavortext about the robots’ relationship.

Elephant Mouse’s previous games include Star Trek: Rivals and Lil’ Birds (as Villain Games).  Also, I’ve socialized with more than one employee of Elephant Mouse, and I worked with some of the RNLT team on Star Trek: Rivals. None of them have offered me sexual favors, illicit drugs, piles of cash, or whatever massive bribes games bloggers are supposedly receiving, which I think was a gross oversight on their part, don’t you?

Robots Need Love Too is available free on the App Store.

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Greek Devil

Tick Tock Diner on UrbanspoonThe Tick-Tick Diner on Route 46 used to have a dish called Greek fries, which involved diner fries, feta, thin strips of gyro, and tzatziki sauce, but they’ve changed up staff and menu, and it’s gone. By the way, a lot of things changed at the Tick-Tick, because one of the owners hired a hitman to kill the other owner!  This is a real thing that happened for real, and not a forced lead in to New Jersey mafia joke. When the story got out — and it got out because when you are hiring a murderer, it’s probably best not to hire an undercover cop —  my Facebook feed was on fire with Montclair friends posting the link and their amazement that this could be connected to our favorite place for all-day pancakes, bottomless coffee and exam cramming, disco fries at the round tables and so many other memories.

Laojia, 老家, is the Chinese word for hometown, the characters are Old and Family, and as every single person I knew from my hometown shared their shock, and all of our friends and significant others made the expected Tony Soprano comments, I finally understood it.

Attempted murder aside, those were pretty great fries.

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Gussy’s Greek Devil food truck came near our studio today. (I’ve just noticed a new blog trend: I eat food and then end up writing about other places that food reminds me of.) Food was ready really fast, standard chicken pita was very nice, but what stood out were the Greek fries.

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Skinny, hot, not-greasy fries, tossed in salt and oregano, with feta on top. This is a huge portion of delicious food, and you should probably not try to eat a pita or a gyro with it. I’m just saying.

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Classically Educated Tech Blogging

Female employees working at Apple will soon be offered a fertility benefit of up to $20,000 to put toward freezing their eggs, which advocates say gives women the freedom to seek career advancement without worrying about future family plans.

via Apple to pay female employees up to $20,000 for new egg freezing fertility benefit.

I almost wish I were tech blogging right now, just so I could title my coverage of this story ab ovo usque ad mala.

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雀巢咖啡 and Hello Kitty

nescafe and hello kittyNescafe and Hello Kitty next to my computer.

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Rejected Lines From My Ada Lovelace Script

I wrote a new script a few weeks ago, to teach our students about Ada Lovelace Day. Here’s what I decided not to include.

Ada_Lovelace_portraitToday is Ada Lovelace day, which is not her birthday or any date significant to her life. An unassuming date in the middle of October was chosen because it was a considerate date without major conflicts, because when we are honoring women who’ve been ignored in tech for decades, let’s be considerate and thoughtful and choose a date that’s convenient for others, ok? Ugh. Maybe I should include that, it’s a pretty good metaphor for women’s experiences in STEM fields!

Ada Lovelace is the daughter of Lord Byron, the writer who was known for — never mind, kids, you’re too young. Let’s just call him a famous writer!

The Analytical Engine, designed by Charles Babbage, was the forerunner to the Difference Engine, and WHAT? What is this?  Turns out Charles Babbage never actually built the Difference Engine, although he managed to receive over 17,000 pounds from the British government to do so. Huh. Kinda the patron saint of those project-delay emails from funded Kickstarters, now that I think about it. Also, pretty cool metaphor for certain parts of startup culture.

This is getting really long. Our students are aspiring developers, so I’ll focus on the invention of the computer and the creation of computer programming. That means deleting the last three paragraphs on how Ada Lovelace was one of the earliest tech bloggers, by looking at emerging technology, envisioning all the potential uses, and then writing her thoughts and publishing to share with her mathematician friends.

My scripts are always read and performed by a man, which is usually more than with me (I hate listening to my recorded voice and I have extremely conflicted feelings on becoming more visible) but it feels weird to be invisible on this particular topic.

Ada Lovelace died at 36. She invented programming in that time, and I’m basically the same age, and I’ve… um… I wrote some things that weren’t completely dreadful. Sometimes.

My actual post for our students is here, and the related Ada Lovelace Day video has been very well-received by our audience of 8-year-olds. 

 

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Every Day

Basically every day, I wear jeans with a plaid flannel shirt buttoned over a t-shirt from a game or app promo. I mean, I usually wears earrings and eye makeup and nail polish, too, but it’s the same outfit.

That’s what I wear to work every day, which is fine because this is also what all the men in my studio wear to work every day.  Well, maybe not the cosmetics.

When I lost weight a few years ago, I looked forward to choosing and wearing cute things every day, instead of selecting from my least-unflattering outfits. (Whenever I write about this, someone always comments to tell me that people can be healthy and happy at any size, and I definitely don’t mean to imply that one must be a certain size in order to wear nice things. But for me, being terribly depressed for about a year directly correlated to being overweight for about a year. Not my favorite year, all things considered.) Now, I have an embarrassing amount of clothes that I never seem to wear, and I’ve decided to branch out from jeans-and-flannel every day. There are so many other things to wear! So many clothes to choose from!

So… should I wear my grey miniskirt and black sweater, or my black miniskirt and grey sweater tomorrow?

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