Bone Diggers Cover Reveal

As you may know, Bone Diggers will have a paperback and ebook edition and I’m so excited to show you the revamped print cover. But first the blurb!

When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC.

Dirty little secrets can’t be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more important: his freedom, or the game. The right choices will be rewarded with fame, fortune, and adventure. A wrong call can cost him both lives. But playing the game is what Owen does, and he’s good at it…as long as his real-life adventures don’t prove more perilous than his digital swordfights. In the real world, there is no walkthrough.

Ready?

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If that doesn’t scream that bi video gamer aesthetic, I dunno what will. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts since I had this gem hidden for a really long time. 💖💜💙

You can now also add it to GoodReads! 

Assassin’s Creed Rewind and Review

If I said I was a fan of Assassin’s Creed series since the beginning, while technically true,  it would be misleading. I stopped playing after Assassin’s Creed 3. I’m all about those modern Assassin’s and I was utterly convinced that Ubisoft was throwing that plot line away. Add in the release of Blackflag and my dislike for the boats in AC3 and it became the first title in the series I missed. I played Watch Dogs and enjoyed it more than most, so I likely could have been convinced to come back the following year. But then…

In retrospect, this was a bigger fuss than was warranted. But, at the time there was a joke of ‘when will my love of [fandom] come back from war’ which summed up my feelings about the series.

In 2015, I missed Syndicate for no reason besides I was just still unhappy. Ubisoft had let me known plenty. But it was getting praise for its inclusion of women and had the first trans character in the series.  (And later learned also its first bisexual character.) The following year Pulse happened, and I was watching E3 trying to process what was happening to my community. I was hoping someone would say something because when bad things happen I feel like the world needs to take a moment. And it rarely does.

Ubisoft’s conference comes on and everyone was wearing rainbow ribbons, and they take a second to express their own heartbreak for the community. And since they had been working on adding LGBTQ characters before this, it was enough. It was something. 

Come November, Watch Dogs 2 has another trans character who has an even bigger role, rainbow flags everywhere, you can visit gay clubs and flirt with whatever gender of your choosing, you can buy pride shirts and wear them for the whole game.  The last four things are really minor, but WD2 is literally the only game that does that and it was nearly healing to see cut screens with PRIDE written on his damn shirt for half the game.

Because of this, I think I should go back. 2013 wasn’t the greatest time and I kept thinking how about an abusive person got an Assassin’s Creed because of me. I still think of Assassin’s Creed as something that was in the past and lost. But one thing the queer community always does is reclaim things so since Unity seemed to better themselves I gave it a shot and played Syndicate.

And ADORED it. I cannot fully express my love of Syndicate. It honestly might be my favorite in the whole series. If you quit Assassin’s Creed, play this one. If it doesn’t win you over nothing will. (At least nothing that is currently out). Everyone’s character feels real, and none of the customization mechanics feel clunky for the first time. The DLC has Darwin, and you can go ghost hunting with Dickens!

Working backward I played Unity next. And oh boy, Unity was utterly and completely mismarketed. They pushed the multiplayer too much (which I never even got to play because no one else was playing Unity in 2017). Everyone expected a French company to tell us their history, and Ubisoft does not. Almost weirdly doesn’t. But it does do an incredibly good job at making all the actions a bit in the gray.

Help Napoleon today, and you help the people.
Help Napoleon tomorrow, and you are helping a tyrant.

With patches, it’s no longer buggy and even though the controls are not as good as Syndicate it says a lot without giving you history or a ton of lore. Unity is about being a person living in a revolution. The hope that you can help, the struggle of not being about to save everyone and focused a lot on personal choices for a game that isn’t choose your own adventure. I had expected angsty romance and Templar apologist plot lines from the debut trailers, what I got was something truly honest about activism and chillingly timely for 2017. It also includes among the best speeches I’ve heard in my life.

The Creed of the Assassin’s Brotherhood teaches us that nothing is forbidden to us. Once, I thought that meant we were free to do as we would. To pursue our ideals, no matter the cost. I understand now. Not a grant of permission. The Creed is a warning. Ideals too easily give way to dogma. Dogma becomes fanaticism. No higher power sits in judgement of us. No supreme being watches to punish us for our sins. In the end, only we ourselves can guard against our obsessions. Only we can decide whether the road we walk carries too high a toll.

We believe ourselves redeemers, avengers, saviors. We make war on those who oppose us, and they in turn make war on us. We dream of leaving our stamp upon the world…even as we give our lives in a conflict that will be recorded in no history book. All that we do, all that we are, begins and ends with ourselves.

At this point, I’m pretty much on an Assassin’s Creed high so for the first time pick up an Assassin’s Creed book. I’ve always been interested in them but skipped the because they were mostly game retellings. That is until, Assassin’s Creed Heresy.

It follows Templars which is a huge red flag for me, but it’s Joan of Arc. She is like my Templar expectation always. Like Unity, the historical parts are set in France and it does a very good job of explaining very complex motivations in revolutionary times without excusing the harm that can be done.

I had worried it would be a straight dude pining over Joan but again like Unity does not cheapen its female characters by doing so. I think this was largely because of the author choice. However, my one real complaint is the ending is weak and heteronormative. With those two points aside it does a brilliant job picking up from Unity. It mentions both Arno, the sword of Eden as well as showing an important Templar shake up we might see in future games.

Having unfairly judged all of the above, I decided to go all the way back pick up Blackflag. I figure the boats are better, I love the series as much as I always have. I’m excited to play it before AC: Origins and just have an Assassin’s Creed filled year.

And…. I absolutely do not understand the appeal. At all. I know that’s a nearly unheard of opinion. Even more so from me who at least decently liked nearly every Assassin’s Creed anything but… I can’t empathize with someone who is driven by profit for so much of the game. I could have gotten on the “He’s doing it because he can” boat if they had literally given me anyone besides a straight white dude who skips town on his wife. I’m only sorry that it apparently takes so long for Edward to be a decent person.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you want to see Shaun and Rebecca, play Syndicate.
If you want to know about sages, read the Assassin’s Creed comics.

They star Charlotte de la Cruz a Latina modern assassin and have a whole range of other modern assassin’s, an arc with a gay man who wants to avenge his boyfriend, and you see Erudito. I’m not in love with the art style but otherwise, I don’t know what more I could want out of them, to be honest. There are 3 trades that are out and a spin off series called Uprising (left) that introduces more people of color.

I’ve also read the short run of Assassin’s Creed Locus which only has four issues. I don’t feel like it’s important to know lore wise, but it includes a disabled animus user and the arc covers why he wants to use the animus which I found both unique to the series and important when talking about ableism as a whole.

In conclusion, if you dropped Assassin’s Creed because of too little focus on modern characters, clunky boat or other mechanics, and lack of diversity. Now’s a pretty good time to pick up what you missed without that brand new sticker price.

 

Dragon Age, Glowing Hands, and Disabilities

There is a new genre called empathy games. These games have the goal of making you empathize with the main character to show a point. Generally that you aren’t the one in power, but to some small degree I believe all games are empathy games.

I think a lot about representation in fiction, and lately about the representation of disabilities, everything from ‘my knee gives me a lot of trouble’ to those who rock a wheelchair. (I’ve been thinking a lot of legs specifically because mine have been hurting a lot. But, stay tuned maybe I’ll talk about a abdominal pain like I’m a Super Bowl ad.)

I’ve been fairly impressed when it comes to TV characters who have leg troubles. On TV now, there’s Raven from The 100 and Felicity from Arrow. As fantastic as they both are I started to wonder if there was a medium that could showcase the constant struggles better. And after a really tough and unusual boss battle I realized video games are perfect for this narrative.

No other medium makes you face the struggle. Books, TV, and movies are setup so we are empathizing with someone else. But with video games you are living it. Also little needs to be done to make these Triple A titles show disabled characters of all ranges.

Yesterday’s game of choice was Dragon Age: Inquisition so I’ll loosely use it to explain what I mean then you can apply it to your own beloved game.

This whole train of thought started because Dragon Age doesn’t have cure anymore. I’m usually the type of player who likes having a full health bar in order to kick ass, but now that’s practically impossible. After playing for a while I noticed how I played was different. I didn’t get nervous if it wasn’t full, I’d even take fall damage to save me some time. I started to live with that fact that health isn’t going to be perfect. And as someone who now has a chronic illness riding shotgun that’s a pretty good metaphor. You have to live with your “health bar” not being at 100% most of the time. In video games saving the world with very little health left is almost common place.

The game now has barrier instead of heal. Barrier gives you an extra bar that lasts a certain time and protects your real HP. Now it isn’t an exact comparison but imagine this was your self care. Even if you’re a squishy mage or have low health it doesn’t matter as long as you protect yourself in other ways.

Health is less important than it’s ever been before in other Dragon Age games. Your character is undeniably disabled, but no doubts arise because of this from the other characters. You are still their leader.

In Dragon Age you are given a party of four. In the real world asking for help can be tricky, but the game encourages you to have the help of others. You could play solo, but parties are actively rewarded.

And in video games in general, starting all the way back with Doom, you learn to keep fighting even with a busted up and bleeding face. If you or the NPCs get knocked out they get up for the next battle. All really important life lessons.

Yesterday, I had three mages and a rogue face a boss that had 39 times more health than my whole party combined. It was horrid planning on my part, but the party made me happy and now we were stuck. I had to shake things up and literally bring the fire. By taking my time and breaking the problem into smaller bits I was able to win.

So even if your real life “health bar” isn’t what others have, you just need to plan and take your time in order to knock down really any beast in the world. In Dragon Age Inquisition that sometimes means the boss and sometimes means the day because your glowing hand is acting up. I’d love to see games actually incorporate their graphic interfaces to show disabilities in a real way because no other platform can show it like they can.