Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Promqueen's Guide to... Computer Games!

When I'm not wearing my finest in long satin gowns, I do take on a few other hobbies. I have always liked video games going back to the days of Pong in the 70's. My very first gaming system was an Atari 2600. Like most geeks during the 80's, I also had a Commodore 64 which was a fantastic gaming system. I played Dr. J. and Larry Bird Go One on One until the wee hours. However it wasn't until the 90's that PC gaming started to come of age somewhat. While I still like the consoles, I have most of my fun on the computer. My current specs are hardly breathtaking, but most of my favorite PC games do not require a system that can launch a rocket into space. The funny thing is that many do allow me to be a female character. So here is my list of favorite PC games that require a bit of feminine touch to be successful.

Civilization II (1996, MicroProse) - The Civilization series is now up to number four (with Leonard Nimoy as a voice talent), but the second in the series is truly a groundbreaking turn based strategy epic. You start with a band of settlers in 4000 BC on either a randomly generated or real life earth and lead them through several millenium of exploration, scientific discovery, diplomacy, conquest, and eventually into space. You choose which classic civilization you wish to emulate and your ruler (which includes the great female leaders of history). The computer is quite the challenging opponent and will have the other countries gang up on you if your empire grows too large. The choices balance military, economic, and scientific decisions on truly a grand scale. My only qualm is that the end game can get easily bogged down if you're fighting a major war. However the Civilization series is so good that the only worthy successors involve space travel.

Similar games: Masters of Orion II, Alpha Centauri, Galactic Civilizations II

The Sims 2The Sims 2 (2004, Maxis, Electronic Arts) - Following up on the huge success of the original, The Sims 2 is a game about what else? Life! It is a combination of real time strategy and house building. Your character starts with a basic house designed you. He/she manages the daily struggles of job, relationships, and time management eventually getting promoted, adding on to the house, getting married, having kids, growing old, and yes, dying. Much like real life, there is no score. Your goals are completely open endeded. Your character does display several basic needs that must be fulfilled to keep him/her happy. One of the favorite parts of the game is picking your wardrobe including your wedding dress on that special day. You also can add on to your house upgrading and redesigning everything along the way. The Sims 2 has thirteen additions already (six expansion packs and seven stuff packs), but only the original game is needed to enjoy the true experience. The Sims 3 is already in production.

Elder Scrolls MorrowindElder Scrolls Morrowind (2002, Bethesda Softworks, Ubisoft) - Roleplaying games have long been a staple of PC gaming highlighted by the outstanding Ultima series in the DOS days. The major difference between console and PC RPGs is the open ended game play on the computer. The main character is given a freeform game world and is allowed to make his/her choices. You can choose to follow the main quest or go out and attempt to slay monsters far off the beaten path. Console games like the Final Fantasy series tend to be more linear. Generally, the character is forced down one path with only a few chances at branching off. Ironically, Morrowind while being the third game in the Elder Scrolls series was the first to also appear on its console cousin, the Xbox (also playable on the Xbox 360). Like every game in the Elder Scrolls series, you start off as an unknown prisoner. You can customize most facets of your character including gender. You are let off on the island province of Daggerfall where you start your quest. Where you go from there is up to you. It is recommended that you get the the Game of the Year Edition which includes the Tribunal and Bloodmoon expansions.

Similar games: Elder Scrolls Arena, Daggerfall, and Oblivion; Gothic series, Ultima series, Two Worlds

Heroes of Might and Magic IIIHeroes of Might and Magic III (1999, 3DO) - The HOMM series is now up to version five in its addictive combination of strategy and role playing, but the second and third editions are generally considered the best in the series. The player has the choice of several scenarios or a campaign each with various size of gaming worlds and goals. You usually start with one hero, a paltry army, and one city. Over the course of the game, you explore the gaming world, build up your city, recruit new creatures for your army, and eventually encounter and battle your opponent(s). As your hero wins battles, he/she grows in strength much like a RPG game. However the elements of a turn based strategy game are most prevalent both in the battles and the larger map where the heroes are moved. The music score is also quite stirring, and each scenario/campaign has a solid story which connects them all together. HOMM III also had two expansion packs which add a large number of new scenarios and campaigns. The best value is HOMM III Complete which includes the original and the expansions in one package. Another option is a subscription to Gametap which allows you to play the base editions of HOMM I-IV.

Similar games: Disciples series, Lords of Magic, Age of Wonders series

Grand Prix LegendsGrand Prix Legends (1998, Papyrus, Sierra) - It might seem strange to include a racing game, but those familiar with GPL know it is regarded as one of the finest simulations period. Inspired by the movie Grand Prix from 1967, GPL recreates a watershed season in F1 racing. Driving these powerful machines before the days of downforce wings and grippier tires requires, dare I say, a light and feminine touch. A good PC racing wheel is an absolute must. Eleven tracks and all the cars from 1967 are part of the game, but a particularly devout community has expanded upon the original game in the forms of graphical upgrades, hundreds of add-on tracks, and even mods which simulate the 1965, 1966, and 1969 seasons. A good set-up is also helpful, and some of the best come from Alison Hine (aka Eagle Woman). It's no coincidence that this fine lady was able to run quite competitively in many sim leagues. It is also a testament to the game that it remains so popular ten years after its release. The Alternative GPL Track Database is the best starting point for all the fantastic add-ons. The game itself is still available for a reasonable price. With some time and patience, you too can experience the thrill of racing with the wind.

Similar games: rFactor, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, F1 Challenge 99-02

Note: My computer specs are a dual core AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ CPU, ATI Radeon X850 Pro video card, 2 GB PC3200 RAM, Creative SoundBlaster 2 ZS sound card, Logitech MOMO wheel, Windows XP Home Edition. All of the above games listed including the similar games list run smooth as butter on my system. Most games have active communities which are easily found on Google.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Can Crossdressing Be Stopped?

A good article by Ms Courtney:

The Crossdresser: Is He Powerless to Stop?

My reply:

Ms. Courtney, thank you for the excellent and thought provoking article. Many crossdressers purge because of the intense guilt society inflicts on those who are different. I experienced this many years ago in a church group. I finally came to peace when I understood that the feminine side of me was actually beneficial, not hurtful. Any pressure to not dress came from outside, not within. Society is slowly changing thankfully. Part of that is because crossdressers and transsexuals are much more out in the open, and the world can see they are happy and fulfilled by being their true selves. Once we understand this, people will stop trying to “cure” us because we have already found the remedy by embracing the woman within.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reading for the New Year

Here are a couple of article making the rounds in the message boards:

Susan Stanton's Lonely Transformation

Susan Stanton had her life turned upsidedown almost a year ago when she was outed as a transsexual by a local newspaper reporter. The same paper, The St. Petersburg Times, has followed her story since. She is clearly struggling to find her place in her new world. Job issues are something most in transition struggle with. However, Susan Stanton has become somewhat of a pariah in the community by distancing herself from the same community. I am disappointed by her attitude regarding ENDA, but I can understand her need to blaze her own trail. However I would ask that she not speak for the community. She is only speaking for herself.

Crossing Over

Zoe Brain blog response

If this piece were written in anything but the Wall Street Journal, I'd give it little creedence. It is an example of a writer trying to be too cute or clever in an end of the year piece. She can barely get past the bathroom issue as a scare tactic or the religious world's view of the TG community. It feeds on the mainstream's base fears and does nothing to advance real education. If it weren't for so many eyeballs reading it, I'd laugh it off. The numbers we have to fight that do read this though are the scary part. This is the perception we fight against everyday. I also included a link to a lovely TG blogger from Australia who has crafted a better response.

What does this all means? Our struggles continue. That should be no surprise. Three steps foward, two and a half steps back. We must continue to move forward though. I do that by simply being out. I wouldn't have it any other way.