Shared posts

26 Jun 16:28

♡ On August 19, let's learn to hate together~! ♡

25 Jun 22:21

Ho ho, you are no match for the mage-knight and her enchanted...

Ho ho, you are no match for the mage-knight and her enchanted spellblade! Best accompanied by some fitting 8-bit music.

(*secretly hopes someone busts out RPG Maker and turns this into a real thing*)

13 Jun 17:36

There And Back Again: A Hobbit's Party

by Jen
Epbot reader and crafty mom extraordinaire Nikki recently gave her four-year-old daughter Niamh the birthday party to end all birthday parties, and I just about flipped when she sent me all the photos and details. Seriously, prepare to be very, very jealous of a four-year-old.

Here, let's start with the invitations:

What better way to kick off an epic Hobbit party than with Bilbo's famous round door?

(Funnily enough, little Niamh actually wanted a Gollum-themed party, but her mom was afraid of terrifying all the other kids. Ha! Good call, Nikki!)

The kids got to wear flip-flop Hobbit feet:

And they were given bubble wand "Sting" swords and bubble pipes to blow on:

The party was held in a back yard decorated with pennants, maps of Middle Earth, and hanging lanterns:

Check out the cake: Smaug sitting on a pile of gold!

And thanks to a sparkler, Smaug even breathed fire!

Also on the dessert table: branches hung with the captured Dwarves of Mirkwood Forest (remember the giant spiders?):

Of course, THIS spider silk was actually cotton candy.
(Admit it: you wish you were at this party as much as I do.)

Dinner was served in the Green Dragon, of course, where the kids drank (Ginger) Ale and (Root) Beer and feasted on a whole smorgasbord of Hobbit-themed treats - each carefully prepared and labeled by Nikki herself.

Then for activities, Nikki handed out kid-friendly replicas of Thror's map:

Each location had special "moon rune" instructions that only showed under a black light(!!):

In this case, it was "Defeat Smaug" - the pinata, that is!

The birthday girl wore a sweet rhinestone-edged Hobbit door on her birthday dress - also handcrafted by her mom Nikki:
(She's holding one of the bubble wand swords.)

Believe it or not, I've only scratched the surface on this party, though: there were also glowing "Light of Earendil" necklaces to find and giant spider webs made of tape to conquer and One Ring napkin rings and Ring Pops and lots and LOTS more food and... phew! You really should just head over to Nikki's blog, tikkido, to check it all out. (That link goes to part one, so don't miss part two!)

Oooh, PLUS, Nikki has been busy posting tutorials for just about everything she did and made for the party, from the Smaug pinata to the Hobbit door ice cream sandwiches. So basically her blog is a DIY dream right now. (And I think I need an excuse to make some of those invitations!)

Thanks so much for sharing the fun, Nikki! Oh, and be sure to let us know what you do for Niamh's FIFTH birthday, k? (May I suggest...The Fifth Element? PRETTY PLEASE?!)

11 Jun 00:00

Sunless Earth

Sunless Earth

What would happen to the Earth if the Sun suddenly switched off?

—Many, many readers

This is probably the single most popular question submitted to What If.

Part of why I haven’t answered it is that it's been answered already. A Google search for what if the Sun went out turns up a lot of excellent articles thoroughly analyzing the situation.

However, since my recent articles on sunsets, the rate of submission of this question has risen even further, so I’ve decided to do my best to answer it.

If the Sun went out ...

We won’t worry about exactly how it happens. We'll just assume we figured out a way to fast-forward the Sun through its evolution so that it becomes a cold, inert sphere. What would the consequences be for us here on Earth?

Let's look at a few:

Reduced risk of solar flares: In 1859, a massive solar flare and geomagnetic storm hit the Earth.[1] Magnetic storms induce electric currents in wires. Unfortunately for us, by 1859 we had wrapped the Earth in telegraph wires. The storm caused powerful currents in those wires, knocking out communications and in some cases causing telegraph equipment to catch fire.[2]

Since 1859, we've wrapped the Earth in a lot more wires. If the 1859 storm hit us today, the Department of Homeland Security estimates the economic damage to the US alone would be several trillion dollars[3]—more than every hurricane which has ever hit the US combined.[4] If the Sun went out, this threat would be eliminated.

Improved satellite service: When a communications satellite passes in front of the Sun, the Sun can drown out the satellite's radio signal, causing an interruption in service.[5] Deactivating the Sun would solve this problem.

Better astronomy: Without the Sun, ground-based observatories would be able to operate around the clock. The cooler air would create less atmospheric noise, which would reduce the load on adaptive optics systems and allow for sharper images.

Stable dust: Without sunlight, there would be no Poynting–Robertson drag, which means we would finally be able to place dust into a stable orbit around the Sun without the orbits decaying. I’m not sure whether anyone wants to do that, but you never know.

Reduced infrastructure costs: The Department of Transportation estimates that it would cost $20 billion per year over the next 20 years to repair and maintain all US bridges.[6] Most US bridges are over water; without the Sun, we could save money by simply driving on a strip of asphalt laid across the ice.

Cheaper trade: Time zones make trade more expensive; it's harder to do business with someone if their office hours don't overlap with yours.[7] If the Sun went out, it would eliminate the need for time zones, allowing us to switch to UTC and give a boost to the global economy.

Safer Children: According to the North Dakota Department of Health, babies younger than six months should be kept out of direct sunlight.[8] Without sunlight, our children would be safer.

Safer combat pilots: Many people sneeze when exposed to bright sunlight. The reasons for this reflex are unknown, and it may pose a danger to fighter pilots during flight.[9] If the Sun went dark, it would mitigate this danger to our pilots.

Safer parsnip: Wild parsnip is a surprisingly nasty plant. Its leaves contain chemicals called furocoumarins, which can be absorbed by human skin without causing symptoms ... at first. However, when the skin is then exposed to sunlight (even days or weeks later), the furocoumarins cause a nasty chemical burn. This is called phytophotodermatitis.[10] A darkened Sun would liberate us from the parsnip threat.

In conclusion, if the Sun went out, we would see a variety of benefits across many areas of our lives.

Are there any downsides to this scenario?

We would all freeze and die.

05 Jun 13:40

And Now... Gordon Ramsay, Yelling At Cakes

by Jen












(I seriously just made myself go, "Awwwww. SO SAD.")





Thanks to Marisa F., Roxy B., Julia J., Julie F., Jordan T., & Mary Kate V. for giving John and me an excuse to laugh ourselves sick over here. (Um, the IRS has a sense of humor, right?)

31 May 07:09

an end to imagination (53 Comments)

by kris

an end to imagination

i don’t know about you guys, but these days i’m hard-pressed to remember any dreams i had the night before. but when i do, it’s never the cool stuff i had as a kid now it’s all “you forgot the document you promised to bring to work, and now your friend will be inconvenienced” thanks, [...]
28 May 17:36

the humorist’s lot (25 Comments)

by kris

the humorist’s lot

sometimes you don’t have anything funny to say. sometimes you never had anything funny to say, so you put on makeup and a crazy wig and jump around are clowns done? clowns are done, right? in the same way that there are children alive today who will never know a screen that isn’t a touchscreen, are [...]
30 May 13:00

Hungry Like A Wolf

by Jen

Just when you thought bakeries had FINALLY run out of those angsty Twilight photos:

"Hey girl, sorry my rippling pectorals are covered up by this Snuggie, but I want you to know that this lone wolf is educated now, and that means no more hunting chickens on the full moon, or shedding on the duvet, or turning in circles five times before I can take a nap. That's right, grrrrl; I'm a changed man! Look at this neckface: would I lie to you?" 


Sharee N. tells me she found this in a bakery display window, so I guess that's one small step for recycling, and one giant leap backwards for those of us easily startled.

So... thanks a LOT, Sharee. [twitch]

29 May 13:00

These Cakes Need A DOCTOR

by Jen

Listen, I don't want to freak you out or anything, but I know everything you're about to say. 

It's complicated. And kind of wibbly-wobbly.

Hey, you leave my mother out of this!

Now, look, we haven't got much time; the average internet-using adult's attention span lasts only... DUCK!!


Then he'd win the staring contest.


Like I was saying, we don't have much... AAAAH WEEPING ANGEL!

Oh. Sorry, Sheila! Thought you were someone else. That's some really fetching pipe strapping and glitter tulle you've got there, though.


Anyway, guys, I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry. But it's up to you now.

So... what do you think of this cake?

I mean, it's clearly descending into a temporal rift. Or possibly the Swamps of Sadness. And I'm sure there's some kind of hidden meaning to "police = box." But more importantly: is it bigger on the inside, and if so, can I have a piece the size of a buffalo?


Or how about this one?

I've always thought the TARDIS could be a bit softer/squishier, so this groom's cake/ throw-rug is JUST the thing.


Brace yourself, for I sense there are dark times ahead for this next one.

Or maybe just for your bowels. 


 (You'd almost think the color of the photo was off, until you notice the top "light." Da heck?)


Anyway, like I said, it's up to YOU to rescue these cakes from a bunch of garden statuary playing Red Light Green Light. It's super easy, though. You just need some fish sticks, an extra bow tie, a Cthulhu mask with a Pokémon ball, a really, really long scarf, and ...



By The Bunny Baker


Thanks to Krista C., Rauha, Marielen, Valorie M., and Mairi R. for the time out. (And yes, that angel cake IS pretty dang awesome. And terrifying. But awesome. But terrifying.)

28 May 17:47

Games: Love Letter

by Matthew

This review is a cross-post from Playtest. Love Letter is available through Amazon and Funagain Games.

Love Letter falls into two unusual categories, the first of which is Games That You Are Convinced Won’t Work Until You Play Them. Often these are games that are so complicated that you can’t visualize how all the disparate systems could possibly come together into an organic whole, but sometimes you come across a game so simple that you can’t imagine how playing it would be any more intriguing than flipping a coin.

The second unusual class into which Love Letter falls is what I call Two-Minute Games — not because they can be played in two minutes, but because they feature such an economy of rules that they can be taught to others in that limited time frame. Love Letter is so simple, in fact, that I bet I can explain the core rules in 25 words or less. “Draw a card on your turn, then discard one from your hand. The discarded card takes effect. Have the highest ranked card at round’s end.” Done.

Were I actually teaching you the game, of course, I would open with the premise. Each of the 16 cards in the deck depicts a member of the royal household, which is composed of the Princess, the Countess, the King, two princes, two handmaidens, two barons, two priests, and five guards. In an attempt to woo the Princess, you have entrusted a love letter to one of these people, who has agreed to pass the missive along. Ideally your letter will be in the hands of the Princess herself by the end of the round; barring that, you just want your letter to be as “close” to the object of your affection as possible. Each member of the household has a rank from 8 (the Princess) to 1 (the guards), and you win by holding the highest ranked card at the end of the round.

Everyone receives a single, random card before play begins. On a turn, a player draws a second card and then discards one of the two from his hand. The discarded card has an effect, depending on the person shown. A Guard, for instance, allows you to name a player and a card; if the target holds the card you specified, he is out of the round. The Priest allows you to look at the held card of an opponent. And the Princess, the optimal card to own when a round ends, comes with a liability: you are eliminated if you discard her for any reason.

There are only eight abilities, one per role, and yet the interaction between them make for a tense game of bluff and deduction. Take the three roles described in the paragraph above, for instance. Discarding the Priest, a player could look at the hand of an opponent, and perhaps discover the Princess; if he holds (or draws) a Guard on his next turn, he could then single out the same player, “guess” the Princess, and force him to discard it (thus knocking him out of the round). But the other player will first have a turn to react, and may discard the Handmaid, thereby becoming immune to all attacks until his next turn, or the King, which would allow him to trade his hand with any other player, handing them the Princess (and possibly the victory) whilst weaseling out of the crosshairs.


Love Letter does not contain an abundance of game; play a round or two and you’ve pretty much seen the gamut. But that won’t prevent you playing compulsively, and enjoying every game. The design strikes a deft balance between subtlety and brainlessness, allowing you to play even while mentally fatigued from earlier, weightier games, or a bit hazy after that second margarita. Indeed, with its simple rules, compact size, and quick playing time, Love Letter is a near perfect bar game, so long as you don’t mind the stares of the other patrons as you howl with laughter at the reversals of fortune, and rage against the perfidy of your erstwhile “friends”.

Like a hapless suitor, pouring his heart into a billet doux, you will likely become quite enchanted with Love Letter. The infatuation may not endure, but you’ll be hopelessly smitten while it lasts.

25 May 18:11

Keeping Up Appearances: Bingeing, Obesity and Me

by The Vagenda Team

Yesterday, I was innocently filling my bottle up at the water fountain at work when one of the catering ladies - let’s call her Debbie - approached me with a photo of her ‘when she was fat’ (her words, not mine). 

Apart from the occasional ‘good morning’ and polite British small-talk about the weather, I have never really spoken to her. I certainly haven’t discussed her weight or mine. Undeterred by this knowledge, she shoved the aforementioned photo in my face and proclaimed: “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” (yes - that phrase which we all know preludes something horrifically insulting) “...this is proof that you can lose the weight!”

My first reaction was genuine shock; my first thought was to rebut with something extremely rude and caustic. However, I didn’t. I did the Polite Chitchat Dance about my weight - yes, that thing which has become public discussion material despite being my business alone. Debbie went on to say that she had only got that fat because she had children - because of course, that is the only acceptable time to gain weight and therefore look so unsightly. While I am sure she thought she was doing me some sort motivational favour, I can categorically state that this sort of behaviour brings me much more grief than the standard, “All right, fatty!” from a passerby on the street.

I read with great interest the earlier Vagenda post Anorexia Was My Problem, But It's Also Yours, because there were starkly similar patterns and themes to my story. Except that two years ago, I weighed 18 stone 12.5lb, and was medically classed as obese.

My mother has often reflected on my predicament, once memorably stating: “As a baby, you were always a guzzler. I knew you would struggle with your weight.” This innocent comment speaks volumes about her attitude to food and weight, as it does mine. Now, don’t get me wrong: my parents have always been incredible to me, very supportive of everything that I do, and well-intentioned without exception. But after 30 years of eating, I am able to pinpoint what started off my unhealthy relationship with food. And, in many ways, the buck stops here.

My parents wanted us (myself and my two brothers) to live with healthy, balanced diets - and that we did. But certain foods were always classed as ‘naughty’, ‘forbidden’, and ‘treats’. It is this simple categorising of nutrition that sparked off my unhealthy attitude towards certain food groups. I was the kid at the party who ate so much she was sick and then went back for more - because it was an opportunity to eat those forbidden foods; they were never allowed at any other time, and I was perfectly happy to gorge on them when they became suddenly available. I felt that if I didn’t eat it all then, I might never get the chance again.

It was this attitude which got me to my heaviest in June 2011. When I left for university, that time away from home became a three-year binge of everything that had been previously ‘forbidden’: a cycle which continued throughout my life. This attitude towards high-sugar and high-fat content food became toxic when combined with the normal concoction of school bullies, gnawing insecurity, and a failure to fit in to a desirable teenage ‘look’. Over time, I grew bigger and bigger.

Like you’ve heard in so many weight loss stories before mine, my determination to sort myself out was after I looked through holiday photos. Unlike the anorexic that sees a fat person in their mirror, I realised that I’d been seeing a smaller version of myself than I actually was. When I thought about it, that much had been obvious in my day-to-day life: I often fell short when trying to squeeze between cars in a car park, or bounced off door frames: my mind had been stubbornly holding up a barrier between my real and imagined size. Additionally, I had been exercising and eating healthily - but it was the gorging between meals which had led to my incremental gains in weight. All of a sudden, the undeniable physical proof of the photographs stopped me in my tracks.

For a long time, I had been OK with the way that I was - but by June 2011, I was uncomfortable. My legs rubbed together and my thighs burnt with pain in the summer. Sex was suffocating for me, and certain positions were painful. I had  always been an active person – played netball, swam, and did all of this at the weight that I was. Neither was I particularly unfit; I could certainly still jog for a bus. 

But I was hot – all the time. Things started to get tricky for me when they weren’t for others. I did fit into an aeroplane seat, but it wasn’t comfy. Things you would never think of, like a helicopter trip in New York while I was on holiday, became a problem because of my weight. My six-monthly contraceptive pill check-up became unbearable because the nurse would scold me for my weight, detail my increased risk of DVT on the combined pill; and then eventually moved me onto a progesterone-only pill for my own safety.

Shopping was a challenge because the places I could shop were limited and there were lots of ‘Debbies’ who were happy to approach me with tips on how I should lose weight and how it could be done. I found it astonishing how, just because I didn’t fit into a physical ideal, people found it acceptable to make loud and open assumptions about my health, behaviour and diet. While smokers, for instance, were quite rightly allowed free rein to do as they would with their bodies, the fact that I looked different meant that people could speculate on my own risks, struggles and desires. Everywhere I looked, it seemed that another Debbie was there.

I had been on and off various diets since I was a young teenager. Despite what the ubiquitous Debbie presumed, I knew why I was the weight I was; in fact, I knew how to lose weight. I knew what my triggers were, and I knew if I was reaching for food out of boredom, anger, sadness, frustration and not hunger then my brain should kick in and tell me to put the doughnut down. But the internal monologue went more like this: “I’m not hungry. I know that I’m eating out of boredom. But I want to, so I will.” My willpower versus my willpower.

There is some semblance of a happy ending. A part of this cycle broke with those photographs and, a year after seeing them, I had successfully lost four stone. But then I hit a wall. A year on and I remain standing at that wall, peering over: I still have another four stone to lose to reach the top of the NHS healthy BMI for my age and height. Losing the four stone has been great for me mentally and physically. I am proud of what I have achieved. But the battle with food is still present, and my internal struggles continue to play out daily.

Want to know my secret? The simple fact of the matter is that if you don’t lose weight for yourself, then you don’t lose weight. Diets for any external reason - to look good for others, because someone told you to, because of rampant media pressure - are doomed to fail from the outset. The key, for me, was merely eating less and moving more. I went back to basic balanced diet rules, didn’t cut out chocolate, alcohol, or carbs, deliberately didn’t categorise anything as a ‘naughty treat’. I worked out portion sizes appropriate to my size. In the privacy of my own headspace, I pursued my own private goals.

And I accept that I may never get to that healthy BMI. I love food too much. I love cooking it, baking it, entertaining with it, going to the newest restaurants and trying the next ‘best burger’ to hit London. I recognise the facets of my relationship with food, and I try to balance them out with exercise. I keep in shape doing things I love, like swimming and ballet. For myself, I would like to lose another two stone so I can feel even better than I do now. I will never be society’s ideal – but nor would I want to be.

Meanwhile, the Debbies in shops and skulking round water coolers will always want to comment on what they perceive as others’ shortcomings. They’ve certainly been trigger-happy with mine. 

But then again, the Debbies of this world will always be unhappy, because they’re doing what I was guilty of for so long: peering at the outside, and never looking in.

24 May 07:00

"Sinfest Nights 10" - Fri, 24 May 2013

Sinfest Nights 10
24 May 04:00

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.
16 May 17:37


Apparently some clods at Nintendo don’t really understand the meaning of fair use when it comes to Let’s Play videos, so this has kind of come up.

If you want to do an LP (or stream or any other sort of video recording) of one of my games—well, personally, I don’t really get the appeal, but—that is awesome and I would very strongly encourage you to go ahead! LPs are great for developers; they’re free publicity. In fact, if you’re a streamer with a large audience, you should absolutely contact me for review codes when Hate Plus comes out! I wanna make things easy for you.

I very, very strongly don’t agree with the idea that I or anyone else even has the legal right to grant anyone permission to make or monetize LPs of my games. So if you want to, please go right ahead. Anyone can. If Youtube is (wrongly) asking you for a permission slip from me saying that it’s okay, you can send them this way.

I’d super-hugely appreciate it if you included a link to buy the game with your video—it makes a huge difference in terms of sales for me—but I don’t have the legal right to stop you if you don’t, and anyone who claims otherwise is full of shit.

Just, you know, for the record.

14 May 17:30

The Best Non-Violent Video Games For Adults

by Jen
After my review a few weeks back of BioShock: Infinite, a reader by the name of ZippyWafflebuns (best name ever? YUP) wrote:

"This was a fun review to read (and would love to see you write more), but are there any games this quality that aren't violent? Like, no killing involved at all? I have a pretty low threshold for this kind of thing in games that I play, and I just can't put myself through it just for the world-building/storyline. But I wish I could, because I feel like I'm stuck playing Lego games and this looks so much cooler."

There aren't many non-violent games out there not aimed at children, but there are some, and some of those are pretty darn amazing. I gave Zippy a few titles to try, and then started amassing a list of my own. I focused on relatively recent, story-driven console games not specifically aimed at kids - and I also left out anything sports-related, because blech. (In fact, you might recognize several of these from my last recommended games post; I'm not generally a fan of violent games, either.)

I realize there are many degrees of violence, but for my purposes here I'm defining any game that doesn't include/require killing other humanoid characters as "non-violent."

So, with those caveats, here's what I've got so far:

Games I've played:

Kingdom Hearts - (2002)(PS2) or Kingdom Hearts Remix (HD remastered collection for the PS3,  releases this September, yay!)

A must-play for Dizgeeks with a fun, button-mashing fighting style. Great storyline, gorgeous graphics, and only mild cartoon violence. I love this game. (I also can't believe it's this old - yikes! Can't wait to get the HD remix version and play it again this Fall.)

Mini Ninjas (2009, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, and Mac) -

Quite possibly the perfect game; beautiful, a rich story, and you defeat enemies by turning them back into the adorable woodland creatures they used to be. 

- Psychonauts (2005) (Xbox, PS2, PC, Mac)


This game is almost too old to include, but it's still brilliant. Crazy characters, funny dialogue, great art, and a totally unique concept/story line. As I recall there's some cartoon violence, but no killing. (Please correct me on that if I'm wrong, guys.)

I do have a love/hate relationship with Psychonauts, though, because I've never seen the ending; the last boss fight is just too dang hard. I threw my controller across the room more times than I can remember with this game, but if you're a more skilled player than I (which is likely), do give it a try.

Portal 2 (2011)(PS3, Xbox360, PC, Mac) - 
By all means play both Portals, but if you have to choose just one, go with Portal 2. It's a hilarious puzzle-based action game with a fantastic storyline. The only violent aspect are automated turrets that shoot at you, so there's no real killing. Plus there's a 2-player co-op mode that's great fun to play with your SO.

Quantum Conundrum - (2012)(PS3, Xbox360, PC)

If you've already played both Portals and are yearning for a game with puzzles almost exactly like them, play this one. (It was directed by one of the Portal designers, which explains the puzzle similarities.) The story isn't as entertaining, but the colorful, cartoony style is fun - and may fool you into thinking this game is easy. IT'S NOT. (I made it about halfway before giving up in frustration.) No violence whatsoever, and as a bonus for my fellow Trekkers, John DeLancie (aka Q) is the main voice actor.

Journey (2013)(downloadable PS3 exclusive) - I'd never even heard of this one before I started researching games last week, but after watching this trailer I immediately downloaded it and played it that night:

That review says it all, although I'll add that this was the most relaxing game experience I've ever had, and I'll definitely be playing it again. I felt like there were plenty of things I missed the first time, so don't be too put off by the $14.99 price tag for a 2-hour game; odds are you'll get several play-throughs out of it.

Machinarium (2009)(downloadable only, PC or Mac)[Correction: someone just told me you can download this on the PS3, too! Yay!]

It's been years since I played this, but Machinarium is still popular and enjoyable enough that I'm including it despite the fact it's not a console game. Adorable robots and puzzle-solving gameplay. Need I say more? (Hit the link up there to play the demo for free.)

(And if you've already played that one, Unmechanical is another puzzle-based adventure game featuring adorable robots. You can only play that one on a PC, iPhone, or iPad, though.)

Honorable Mentions: 
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) & Batman: Arkham City - (2011, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - 

While these games are definitely violent, Batman himself (who you play) never kills anyone. So if that distinction is enough for you, then give Asylum a try. Both titles won Game of the Year and have an "easy" level for not-so-great players like me. Again, these games are violent and gritty, though, so even though *you* won't be shooting people (you politely knock them unconscious instead), other people will be. Even so, the violence isn't nearly as graphic as BioShock:Infinite.

Games I haven't played:

Dishonored (2012)(PS3, Xbox 360, PC) - 

This is a tricky one, but it IS possible to play the game without killing anyone. It's just a lot harder. John played through the violent way, and from what little I've seen this is the game that most approaches BioShock: Infinite level scenery and detailing. That said, even if you choose not to kill in the game yourself, it's still a gritty, violence-filled world - like Batman - so there are no guarantees you'll find it any less disturbing.

Braid (2008)(Xbox 360, PC) -

This is a side-scrolling platform game that's won rave reviews and all kinds of awards for its unique puzzle-solving game-play. No violence that I know of.

Fez (2012)(Xbox, PC) -

(The PC version just came out this month!) Like Braid, this is an indie game that's garnered lots of praise, awards, and attention. It looks like a standard side-scroller, but you can rotate the world to turn corners and access all the different sides of each structure. Nifty!

[Btw, if you have Netflix Streaming check out Indie Game: The Movie. It's a documentary that features both Braid and Fez, among others.]

Katamari Forever (2009) (PS3) -

Since Katamari Damacy - the first game in this series - is now ten years old, I don't think its graphics will really hold up for new players. Katamari Forever is the most recent installment for a console, though, and from what I've read has the same style of gameplay as the original. It looks... weird. But hey, it's from Japan, and millions of fans can't be wrong, right? The object is to roll objects into one giant ball to form stars, so unless you consider that violent, it's completely violence-free.

Mirror's Edge (2007) (PS3, Xbox, PC) - 

This is a parkour-based game, so your object is to scale buildings, run, jump, tumble, etc. to deliver secret messages in a dystopian society. Your character *can* use weapons, but doesn't have to, and like Dishonoured you unlock a special achievement if you navigate the entire game without killing anyone.

You'll note I've neglected to add any of the Mario series games, Lego, Rayman and the like, although those are all fantastic, fun games. I omitted them because they're primarily made for kids, and because I prefer games that are more story-driven. I also left out some titles like Myst, Ico, and Siberia because they're just too old; I tried to go back and play Siberia a few years back and the point-and-click playing style just didn't hold up well. (It's a gorgeous steampunky game, though!)

So, what did I miss, guys? Share your favorite non-violent games in the comments! Bonus points if they're not too old, not too kiddy, and somewhat story-driven (as opposed to arcade-style games.)


5/15 UPDATE: Wow, lots of great suggestions coming in! Keep 'em coming, guys! Here are some of the titles you've mentioned the most so far:

- The Professor Layton games (Nintendo DS only, which is why I didn't include it in my original list - but so many of you are raving about it that now I think I need a DS!)

- Ni No Kuni (Also for the DS, or the PS3, released in 2010)

- Okami (Re-released for the PS3 in 2011 [Supports the Move controller, but not required], also available on the Wii)

- World of Goo (PC, Mac, & Wii) - Physics-based puzzle game

- Stacking (Xbox 360 & PS3) I enjoyed the demo of this, but was afraid it'd be too kiddie to recommend. After talking to some of you in the comments, tho, I believe the puzzles get more challenging as the game progresses - so check it out! It's by DoubleFine, the company behind Psychonauts, and the art is fantastic.

- Ico and Shadow of the Colossus - I mentioned that Ico was too old, but someone pointed out it was re-released in 2011, so you can play it and its companion game on PS3! Sweet!

Be sure to check the comments for lots more; plenty of non-console games being mentioned, and also older titles. (You've all convinced me to finally try Zelda, too. Most of those are pretty old, though, so I just have to figure out where to start!)
14 May 18:14

Special Guest Edition: The Hawkeye Initiative IRL!

by skjaldmeyja

05/15/2013 Update:
BROSIE Goes Viral

Original Post:
I recently received an email from an anonymous fan sharing how she pulled a Hawkeye Initiative themed prank on her CEO to illustrate a problem with some artwork.
My personal compliments to her and her accomplice on a mission well done; they perfectly took the concept of The Hawkeye Initiative one step farther, and effected actual change. I hope this gives you as much of a laugh as it did me (the artwork is currently my desktop), and inspires you to be unafraid to stand up and take action in your own awesome way.

Now, excuse me while I go play my new favorite mech game. :)


I work with an all-female team of data scientists, in the gaming industry. This makes me the professional equivalent of Amelia Earhart riding the Loch Ness Monster.

I love my job. Our company in particular is great. Firstly, our game (HAWKEN) is beautiful and people love it. Secondly, half of our executive branch is female. Half of them are punk rock, and all of them are badassed. Our gender awareness standards, compared to the industry at large, are top shelf. We are talking Amelia Earhart in Atlantis, at a five star resort, getting a mani-pedi from Jensen Ackles. I have it good.

For the last six months of my tenure at Meteor Entertainment, there has been only one thing I did not love about my job. This


Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.

I loathe this picture.

Why do I loathe it? How, you ask, can I stay mad at a sweet young belle who has so obviously taken a break from her important welding to offer me a piping hot cup of coffee and/or a vigorous hand job? (And probably, given her apparent safety consciousness, simultaneously?) If you don’t already know the answer, you might want to check out things like #1ReasonWhy, and the Bechdel Test, and also this, and this, and this and this, and all these other things. (And while we’re talking you should check out this other bullshit right here.)

So at our office holiday party, while our CEO was having everyone in the company sign it, I stand there grinding my teeth into tiny shards. Until, suddenly, it came to me: a vision.

And so it came to be that I approached Sam Kirk, a wickedly funny co-worker who shared my sentiment. Sam, turns out, is a very talented artist who can be bribed-slash-inspired using a medley of feminist indignation, hysterical giggling, and two $90 bottles of añejo tequila.

A month-and-a-half later, our vision was a reality. I give you:
Bro-sie The Riveter.


I want to make it completely clear that everything in this prank that required actual talent was done by Sam. Find this, and more of Sam’s art, at

We blew (ahem) Brosie up poster sized. We framed him. And then, at 7:30 on Monday, April 1st, we snuck into our CEO’s office and switched them.

I stood in the entryway, dizzy with joy. It was glorious. There Brosie stood, proud, nipples testing the air like young gophers in springtime, the post-apocalyptic breeze gently swaying his banana hammock. Brosie said, loud and proud: “Get ready, world! I am here to lubricate your joints and tighten your socket.”

I basically spend the next few hours having a joy-induced neurological episode.

As the morning progressed, Brosie (ahem) revealed himself to our co-workers. The air resounded with startled, suppressed gargles of mingled joy and horror.  Some take pictures. Some instantly turn and flee. Several men blush and grin in vindicated solidarity. Several women ask us for prints. At this point I am in total rapture. This is the moment I have been dreaming about for six months.

Yet somehow everyone in the office manages to keep quiet about it. Until, finally, our CEO arrives.

We hear a loud: “What the hell is this?!” And then all goes quiet. Ten minutes pass. We panic.

We are both suddenly and painfully aware that we have, in fact, just punked the CEO of our company. He is by all accounts an awesome dude. He is also a late-50s ex-army guy who happens to determine our employment futures in an at-will state. Meep.

Twenty more minutes pass. And then our CEO comes up to my desk, taps me on the shoulder, and says this:

“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”


Ruby Underboob and Brosie the Riveter, together at last

Yeah. That happened.

This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:

  1. Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.

  2. And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.

We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.

There is only one solution to that, ladies. Bust out your baby-Gap tee and your protective welding goggles, and let’s turn this damn industry into the environment we want it to be. It’s hard work, and yes, there are a couple genuine assholes along the way. But if Ruby Underboob can brave the occasional droplet of molten metal, so can we.

Speaking from experience, it’s worth it.


About our CEO, Mark Long:

Mark has a long and storied history with, among other things, research, games and comic art. He’s a partner in the RoqlaRue gallery in Seattle, representing “chick art.” Mark considers himself a feminist activist. He is proud to have created a graphic novel trilogy with Nick Sagan (Carl’s son) that features a female hero so strong, Hillary Swank is attached to star as her.

Mark and I are now in an open dialogue about gender in comics and gaming.

07 May 15:44

Women are the root of all evil

by nat kelly

In a recent exchange I saw on facebook, one man was trying to explain why it’s appropriate for the church to have way more stringent modesty standards for women and girls than for men and boys. Many of the old, tired arguments came out, and when they were thoughtfully shot down one by one, he fell back on a statement that, by itself, will be hopefully quite shocking to most people these days.

“Well obviously some women have been unable to govern themselves appropriately. Thus the standards are given and more clearly defined for people who can’t dress modestly.”

Those women, flaunting all that bare skin.

Yeah. Bad, right? But underneath all the nice cloaking of our rhetoric about modesty, or women, or sexuality, this is one of the inevitable conclusions. Women are just bad, and they need to be controlled, and so we have to have all these rules to control them. Otherwise, they’ll wreak their terrible powers of seduction on the innocent, upright men and boys around them. Seductive Jezebels.

After all, aren’t they all descendants of that rebellious Eve?

Image from Genzoman

Image from Genzoman

These days, we don’t often hear this perspective of women taught outright anymore, though it was certainly common at another time, and still is common in some parts of the world.

The train of thought most modern Mormons hear now pins the evil and blame on men instead of women. Men are dangerous. Men are sex-crazed. They can’t control themselves. Their sexual urges are constant and everywhere and aroused all the time, and they can’t be held responsible for what they do when it happens. So to be safe, the (righteous, good, noble, wonderful, spiritual, asexual) women need to cover themselves, accommodate this weakness in men, and just accept that they need to be limited for their own safety. Because those terrible men just can’t be stopped or controlled.

Problem is (or rather, one of the million problems with that theory), this train of thought reduces down to the same old pin-the-blame on women narrative. It’s just as deeply misogynist as what that guy said on facebook.

In a Cracked article I recently read entitled “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women,” the author does a reasonably good job at bumbling his way through explaining some important feminist concepts like objectification and rape culture. And then he completely nosedives when he tries to explain why all these problems exist.

It’s not the institutional silencing of women’s voices, or gendered power structures, or anything like that. It’s that damn male sex drive. Men are just the worst. They want sex so bad, all the time, anywhere they can get it, that it drives them to do all sorts of crazy and bad things. He pretty much claims that men’s lust for women’s bodies can explain all of world history:

Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.

Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.

All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?

It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.

So where you see a world in which males dominate the boards of the Fortune 500, and own Congress, and sit at the head of all but a handful of the world’s nations, men see themselves as utterly helpless. Because all of those powerful people only became powerful because they heard that women like power.

This is really the heart of it, right here. This is why no amount of male domination will ever be enough, why no level of control or privilege or female submission will ever satisfy us. We can put you under a burqa, we can force you out of the workplace — it won’t matter. You’re still all we think about, and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.

Ah. So women are the ones being repressed, objectified, raped, murdered, trafficked, controlled, disenfranchised, etc., because they have so much….. power.

The problem with this theory–of uncontrollable male sexuality confronting inherent, inborn female purity–is that it comes right back down to the same story line as the more openly sexist statement I quoted earlier.

It’s women’s fault.

That war that happened? That was because of how sexy you are. The economic oppression that results from our system of global system of capitalist exploitation? You were just so irresistible that we were completely unable to help ourselves before your powerful feminine charms. We needed you so bad, baby. That’s why we had to send off those bombs. That’s why we had to buy that car. That’s why we had to conquer that city.

So we could finally get the chance to rape you.

We simply couldn’t help ourselves, because YOU are just so powerfully seductive.

Seductive enough, in fact, that you got the first man ever to give up paradise and follow your tail into mortality.

So it doesn’t really matter, you see, if you think women are naturally evil and rebellious and over-sexual (like guy #1), or if you think that they are pure and righteous and victims of men’s insatiable lust (like guy #2). It doesn’t matter if you blame women’s innate carnal natures, or men’s eternal lust for women.

In the final analysis, it’s still, all of it, our fault.

09 May 14:55

Depression Part Two

by Allie
I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my toys. Some days they died repeated, violent deaths, other days they traveled to space or discussed my swim lessons and how I absolutely should be allowed in the deep end of the pool, especially since I was such a talented doggy-paddler.

I didn't understand why it was fun for me, it just was.

But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren't the same.

I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse's Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled.  I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.

Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything.

At first, though, the invulnerability that accompanied the detachment was exhilarating. At least as exhilarating as something can be without involving real emotions.

The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief.  I had always wanted to not give a fuck about anything. I viewed feelings as a weakness — annoying obstacles on my quest for total power over myself. And I finally didn't have to feel them anymore.

But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there's a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck. Cognitively, you might know that different things are happening to you, but they don't feel very different.

Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom.

I tried to get out more, but most fun activities just left me existentially confused or frustrated with my inability to enjoy them.

Months oozed by, and I gradually came to accept that maybe enjoyment was not a thing I got to feel anymore. I didn't want anyone to know, though. I was still sort of uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay!

However, I could no longer rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.

Everyone noticed.

It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you've simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are...

At first, I'd try to explain that it's not really negativity or sadness anymore, it's more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can't feel anything about anything — even the things you love, even fun things — and you're horribly bored and lonely, but since you've lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you're stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is.

But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they'll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you're having this weird argument where you're trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they'll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.

And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something — it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren't necessarily looking for solutions. You're maybe just looking for someone to say "sorry about how dead your fish are" or "wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though."

I started spending more time alone.

Perhaps it was because I lacked the emotional depth necessary to panic, or maybe my predicament didn't feel dramatic enough to make me suspicious, but I somehow managed to convince myself that everything was still under my control right up until I noticed myself wishing that nothing loved me so I wouldn't feel obligated to keep existing.

It's a strange moment when you realize that you don't want to be alive anymore. If I had feelings, I'm sure I would have felt surprised. I have spent the vast majority of my life actively attempting to survive. Ever since my most distant single-celled ancestor squiggled into existence, there has been an unbroken chain of things that wanted to stick around.

Yet there I was, casually wishing that I could stop existing in the same way you'd want to leave an empty room or mute an unbearably repetitive noise.

That wasn't the worst part, though. The worst part was deciding to keep going.

When I say that deciding to not kill myself was the worst part, I should clarify that I don't mean it in a retrospective sense. From where I am now, it seems like a solid enough decision. But at the time, it felt like I had been dragging myself through the most miserable, endless wasteland, and — far in the distance — I had seen the promising glimmer of a slightly less miserable wasteland. And for just a moment, I thought maybe I'd be able to stop and rest. But as soon as I arrived at the border of the less miserable wasteland, I found out that I'd have to turn around and walk back the other way.

Soon afterward, I discovered that there's no tactful or comfortable way to inform other people that you might be suicidal. And there's definitely no way to ask for help casually.

I didn't want it to be a big deal. However, it's an alarming subject. Trying to be nonchalant about it just makes it weird for everyone.

I was also extremely ill-prepared for the position of comforting people. The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others.

I had so very few feelings, and everyone else had so many, and it felt like they were having all of them in front of me at once. I didn't really know what to do, so I agreed to see a doctor so that everyone would stop having all of their feelings at me.

The next few weeks were a haze of talking to relentlessly hopeful people about my feelings that didn't exist so I could be prescribed medication that might help me have them again.

And every direction was bullshit for a really long time, especially up. The absurdity of working so hard to continue doing something you don't like can be overwhelming. And the longer it takes to feel different, the more it starts to seem like everything might actually be hopeless bullshit.

My feelings did start to return eventually. But not all of them came back, and they didn't arrive symmetrically.

I had not been able to care for a very long time, and when I finally started being able to care about things again, I HATED them. But hatred is technically a feeling, and my brain latched onto it like a child learning a new word.

Hating everything made all the positivity and hope feel even more unpalatable. The syrupy, over-simplified optimism started to feel almost offensive.

Thankfully, I rediscovered crying just before I got sick of hating things.  I call this emotion "crying" and not "sadness" because that's all it really was. Just crying for the sake of crying. My brain had partially learned how to be sad again, but it took the feeling out for a joy ride before it had learned how to use the brakes or steer.

At some point during this phase, I was crying on the kitchen floor for no reason. As was common practice during bouts of floor-crying, I was staring straight ahead at nothing in particular and feeling sort of weird about myself. Then, through the film of tears and nothingness, I spotted a tiny, shriveled piece of corn under the refrigerator.

I don't claim to know why this happened, but when I saw the piece of corn, something snapped. And then that thing twisted through a few permutations of logic that I don't understand, and produced the most confusing bout of uncontrollable, debilitating laughter that I have ever experienced.

I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

My brain had apparently been storing every unfelt scrap of happiness from the last nineteen months, and it had impulsively decided to unleash all of it at once in what would appear to be an act of vengeance.

That piece of corn is the funniest thing I have ever seen, and I cannot explain to anyone why it's funny. I don't even know why. If someone ever asks me "what was the exact moment where things started to feel slightly less shitty?" instead of telling a nice, heartwarming story about the support of the people who loved and believed in me, I'm going to have to tell them about the piece of corn. And then I'm going to have to try to explain that no, really, it was funny. Because, see, the way the corn was sitting on the floor... it was so alone... and it was just sitting there! And no matter how I explain it, I'll get the same, confused look. So maybe I'll try to show them the piece of corn - to see if they get it. They won't. Things will get even weirder.

Anyway, I wanted to end this on a hopeful, positive note, but, seeing as how my sense of hope and positivity is still shrouded in a thick layer of feeling like hope and positivity are bullshit, I'll just say this: Nobody can guarantee that it's going to be okay, but — and I don't know if this will be comforting to anyone else — the possibility exists that there's a piece of corn on a floor somewhere that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been about why you are depressed. And even if everything still seems like hopeless bullshit, maybe it's just pointless bullshit or weird bullshit or possibly not even bullshit.

I don't know. 

But when you're concerned that the miserable, boring wasteland in front of you might stretch all the way into forever, not knowing feels strangely hope-like. 

07 May 19:53

A Softer World

07 May 05:14

Hooray Time Wasters! Design Your Own Custom 3D Robot

by Jen

Hah, technology is so rad.

If you liked that Pony generator I linked to a while back, and then the fun Steampunk Dress-Up Game, then you're going to LOVE what Keren Y. found: My Robot Nation lets you design, decorate, and color your own custom robot in a 3D generator, and then - THEN! -  you can have your robot 3D printed!

Here are some examples I grabbed off their site. The virtual designs are on the right, and the final printed 'bots are on the left:

Cool, right? To be honest, before this I didn't know it was even possible to do 3D printing in multiple colors, much less intricate patterns!

Get ready to lose at least an hour or two on this, because the options for robot-building are almost endless. It's actually kind of dizzying. The virtual designer is free to play with, so there's no obligation to buy anything; you could just grab a screen shot as a souvenir. If you DO want to order your finished robot, though, prices start at around $18 for the two-inch size, which isn't too bad for such a highly customized figure. (It gets pretty expensive after the 3-inch size, though.) In fact, I could see this being a fantastic gift for kids.

[My Robot Nation stresses that these are NOT toys, though, so if you do order one treat it like a collectible - and try not to drop it. Heh.]

Of course, there's no way I could recommend such a service without testing it myself, right? Right. So, as a supreme act of sacrifice, [smirk] I decided to design and order a 'bot of my own.

I should probably mention here that I am in no way affiliated with My Robot Nation, and they most certainly aren't paying me. More's the pity.

So, a couple of hours later (PRODUCTIVITY!!),  I'd constructed Firey here:

His horned helmet reminds me of the goblin armor from Labyrinth, and I went with orange because, well, c'mon. As you can see, I went a little nuts with the rust and bullet holes, painstakingly covering his entire body with them. (I couldn't find many examples of that texture on the website, so I was curious to see how it would translate in real life.)

[Also notice how I put his horns on crooked. OOPS. How did I miss that?]

I ordered the 2-inch size just over three weeks ago, which was long enough for me to be completely surprised when I opened up the box that arrived today:

The amount of padding was a little ridiculous; I unrolled a soccer-ball's worth of paper to get to him. Ha!

I immediately took him outside to take some detail shots for you guys:

As you can see, Firey is pretty much bang-on to my design. Considering how tiny he is, I'm amazed at the level of detail. You can even see the flames on his shoulders!

He's a tiny bit heavier than I expected, so he has a decent heft for plastic. His surface texture feels a bit gritty, like sandstone. He's a fixed statue, of course, and not pose-able, but in the design phase you can choose any pose you like, with every point of articulation you can think of.

Those fingerprint-like whorls are a result of the 3D printing, and are just barely visible to the naked eye.

Having fun with some higher contrast shots:

Again, this is just the two inch version, so I imagine that the larger sizes are even more impressive. (The largest size is a six-inch figure.)

Considering how much fun I had just designing Firey, coupled with the quality of the figure itself, I think the little guy was worth the $23.98 (with shipping). Especially when you consider that one's desk can never have too many robots:

I have more than this on my desk, of course, but these three make for a fun color combo. :)

Have fun building your own, guys, and be sure to share screen-grabs of 'em over on the Epbot Facebook page, so I can see!
06 May 17:14

a slow-burning fuse (42 Comments)

by kris

a slow-burning fuse

ha ha! i didn’t mean for this one to be as poignant as it ended up. choose your own metaphor, i guess. let’s see which activist/belief/cause edits my URL off first and posts it to facebook as a symbol for choosing to live life fully
05 May 13:00

Sunday Sweets: 80s Movie Night

by Lindsey

What's that you say? You want a Sunday Sweets post based on the greatest movies of all time? Or at least, the greatest movies of the '80s?

By Miso Bakes

As you wish.


That's right, buttercup, get ready for some eighties movie madness, starting with these sweets based on The Princess Bride - although I hope you've already figured that out by now.

By GeekSweets

It's just that I was looking for the DVD at a store recently, and the clerk literally said, "Ummmmm, is that the one with Anne Hathaway?"



But speaking of kids, I was sure that Jen had put this Little Mermaid cake in here by mistake, because I totally remember when this movie came out! It can't be that old.

By Emma Jayne Cake Design

Holy crab legs, this movie is 24 years old.


How crazy to think that we're now living in Marty Mcfly's future. And look, here he is!

By Black Cherry Cake Company

The baker really captured him perfectly. I'd recognize that puffy vest and wispy hair from a decade away.


Plus, how awesome are the little fondant flames behind the DeLorean?

Almost awesome enough for me to forget that I still don't have a hoverboard.


Hey, are you a Tom Cruise fan? A Val Kilmer fan? An edible sunglasses fan? If so, then I've got the cake for you:

By The Designer Cake Company

Such military precision! I'd expect nothing less from a Top Gun cake.


But I have bad news: the Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever.

Until we eat it!

By Mike, aka Flickr user psychobean

Made with a Wilton skull pan and a metric ton of talent. So clever.


And speaking of cyborg assassins ...

By Clares Cakes

Ok, fine, so Inspector Gadget isn't exactly the same thing.
(And not technically a movie, unless you count the live-action film from 1999 - which you really, really shouldn't. - Jen)


But I can't believe we've come this far without mentioning the most quintessential '80s movie of all, Gremlins!

By Cake Rhapsody

At least, that's what I've heard. This movie may have traumatized me as a child; I still haven't even seen the entire thing. Great cake, though! His ragged little ears are my favorite - they're so cute and non-murderous.


Other things I ain't afraid of: no ghosts!

Submitted by Carey-Anne, made by Very Unique Cakes

Not with the Ghostbusters around, at least! I love that this cake is for a five-year-old. Who needs Spongebob when you can have Slimer?


But here's something I need: a teensy tiny topiary floating over everyone's favorite Goblin King:

Also by Black Cherry Cake Company - which has an even larger & more detailed Labyrinth cake here!

How amazing is this? It would be an impressive cake if it stopped with the globe, but there are so many other great details, from Jareth's sneer down to the tiny arrows on the stone path. So cool.


You know what?
That last cake reminded me of the babe.
What babe?
This one:

By Cake Central member Kayla1505

Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A beauty in black and white! Whit-whoo! (That was me typing out the sound of a wolf-whistle. Not as easy as you'd think).


Now, I'm not sure if this stunner inspired by The Neverending Story is a wedding cake or not ...

By Art Cake

...but I can't think of a better way to start a new life together than with a luck-dragon on your cake! Can you? In fact, we should probably just start putting Falcors on all our cakes. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, Falker Satherhoods. All Falcor-worthy.


And finally, the '80s movie cake to end all '80s movie cakes (and especially appropriate since yesterday was Star Wars day!)

Photo by Rebel Belle Weddings, Cake by The Butter End Cakery

The Millenium Falcon!

I don't know what's more amazing, the insane amount of detail on this cake, the fact that it was made with modeling chocolate instead of fondant, or, I don't know, that it freaking GLOWS?

I hope it rocked your universe as much as it did mine!


Have a Sweet to nominate? Then send it to Sunday Sweets [at] Cake Wrecks [dot] com! And be sure to check our Sweet Directory to see all the pro bakers we've ever featured in your area!

29 Apr 17:23

Elna Baker: To Russia With Love

by jenna

I cannot love this enough.

A woman raised as a Mormon is terrified that her parents will disown her when she confesses that she has left the faith.

10 Jan 21:02

I’ve tweeted about these a bunch already, but I am still...

01 Apr 20:54

Hate Plus: ~Mute’s Golden Days~ I’ve talked a lot...

Hate Plus: ~Mute’s Golden Days~

I’ve talked a lot about Hate Plus, but I haven’t really formally announced it in detail yet… so here I am! (No, this is not a joke.)

Hate Plus is a sequel to Analogue: A Hate Story that continues directly from the end of that game, and explores, over the course of three days, the events leading up to year 0. If Analogue was the backstory of *Hyun-ae, then Hate Plus is the backstory of *Mute. It’ll continue from your Analogue save file, so each ending will have its own route with equal focus. It plays similarly to Analogue, but instead of your AI companion simply showing you files they’ve picked, you’ll have to investigate yourself, and discover what happened together!

It features new art and costumes, an all new soundtrack (plus theme song “It’s Not Ero!!”) from Isaac Schankler, a whole new and improved UI, and more writing than Analogue did. It’ll be out summer 2013.

Please look forward to your sharing your hateful days with *Hyun-ae and *Mute!

24 Apr 17:10

Bikini Bodies and Me

by The Vagenda Team

You may have noticed that the admonishments to 'get that bikini body' have come especially early this year. Maybe you noticed it when you walked past the Women's Lifestyle rack at WH Smith and felt that familiar sense of Apocalypse-like foreboding. Maybe you noticed it from that anxious feeling deep in the pit of your (inadequate, flabby) stomach. However, there's a lot of conflicting advice in these rags. One minute you're supposed to be solely ingesting cabbage soup for the better half of a fortnight, the next you're supposed to be crying out toxins and achieving perfect thighs by shoving something plastic up your bum. To set the record straight, I've come up with my own definitive guide. I've collated all of the best life knowledge I have, and I've worked out the secret formula for your life in a two-piece.

How to get a bikini body:

1) Put on a bikini. And er … that’s it. 

PUT ON A BIKINI - if you want to. I know, I know - it can be quite difficult, especially if it involves one of those tricky halternecks - that’s why they have articles (and sometimes whole publications) on it. But the articles start at the wrong end: they start by telling you to change, and to buy various extortionate made-up products to facilitate this change. I’m going to tell you the opposite. That you don’t need to change. There, I’ve saved you the cover price of something that would have made you feel randomly inadequate. If you feel you owe me, I still accept cheques.

Here’s one thing: I wear a bikini, sometimes. And here's a thing that happens when you say, ‘I wear a bikini’ to a public audience: women say, ‘It’s all right for you, you [insert dubious compliment here].' You are thinner, taller, have skin, whatever. Sometimes, it’s as simple (and somewhat insulting) as, ‘It’s all right for you, you’re BRAVER than me’. It’s a signifier, that ‘It’s all right for you’. It signifies: ‘I’m not as good as you’ – and by God, if there’s one thing we do well, it’s putting ourselves down. My answer to that: you so ARE as good as me. You might even be ‘better’. But who cares? We’re not in some major rank-all-the-women-in-order competition. 

Here’s another thing, which is the thing that happens next: the non-bikini-wearer says, ‘Are you mad? Have you seen X or Y?', where X or Y are invariably the parts of their body they feel less confident about. They do that, I posit, in case it looks like they are super-in-love with themselves (because, y'know, self-confidence is a totally unattractive quality). But wearing a bikini isn't showing off, even if you do have the audacity to walk around inside an 'amazing' body. I’m giving 'amazing' the Inverted Comma Treatment because frankly, all bodies are ‘amazing’. I presume you know that your liver is like your own resident detoxifer? Yes! Amazing. 

But I digress. I’m not going to start listing all the reasons I shouldn’t wear a bikini, even though I’m 51 and my name is not Linda Barker. I’m going to ignore my inner Catholic hermit who is currently screeching WHY ARE YOU EVEN DRAWING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF BY USING WORDS? But I am going to admit to entirely normal reactions; that if I’m ever photographed wearing one, I cross my arms across my stomach, and that on a sliding scale of unhappiness, I’m marginally less unhappy being snapped as I reach for something from an imaginary top shelf. But it doesn't stop me doing it. 

What happens if you put on a bikini, without having the requisite ‘bikini body’? I’m here to report: nothing happens, you just have a bikini on. I’m here to report: these articles are bunkum. Nonsense. They are purely designed to sell stuff. It’s stuff that we don’t need, stuff with fake science in it that promises to destroy cellulite and make you 'wobble' less and even improve your digestive system through the power of yoghurt. It’s boswallocks. And of course, for companies to fully profit from women’s insecurities, they first have to make sure women are insecure. But we’re busy helping that market as fast as we can, turning in first on ourselves, and then on other bodies (yes, those are separate things.) 

Considering that I've taken a bullet for the Bikini Body cause and ventured out, 51 and all, in a tiny top and pants, how about you all join me in saying, ‘Nah. I don’t need a £50 smoothing cream for my thigh gap. I’mma live with it. In the OCEAN.’ How about we say, 'Actually, I’m NOT going to wait til I lose 2 stone/have my tits raised/get a cosmetically-altered belly button, because every time I WAIT, I waste time. Every time I WAIT, I’m not doing what I want to do. And let’s face it, we’re talking an item of beachwear here. Filling my head with this negative shit takes up brain space I could more usefully employ reading a book.' 

I’ll illustrate with a personal anecdote. I have a daughter. Once, when I was brushing her hair and telling her she was beautiful, my mother told me, ‘You have to stop telling her she’s beautiful, because she might get vain’ (and if you wondered why I have an inner Catholic hermit? There’s your answer.) My response - and I hope it would be yours but if not, feel free to borrow it - was that I wanted her to KNOW she was beautiful; that, in the words of the eminent philosopher Jim Bowen from Bullseye, ‘You’ve got that. That’s safe.' And thus, by banking that knowledge, she’d not spend time worrying about peripheral crap, but spend it instead employed in more useful endeavours: solving the debt crisis, for instance, or working out science problems, or character development in her next novel. She was only 7 at the time, so clearly this was a long-term plan. 

And yeah, I’ve checked my bikini-wearing privilege. It IS all right for me, because I DO have a body, and it's good enough. So do you. You ARE. Try it. Chin up, eyes forward, hands (if possible, after some practice), NOT crossed in front of your body. Awesome. Whether you're rocking a burkini or a two-way made of dental floss, you look bloody fabulous. 

But am I going to illustrate this article with a photo of me in my bikini? Am I hell. As I said, I’m not bloody Linda Barker. 

25 Apr 12:43

The Fashionable Feminist

by The Vagenda Team

[Ed. - We're really excited to be running this guest post from renowned fashion journalist Hadley Freeman]

There are some great anecdotes in Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s lovely new biography of Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion, that pretty sum up the difficulties in reconciling fashion and feminism. In 1969, when Vreeland was editor of US Vogue, a new wave of feminism was emerging and one that was very different from the early 20th century suffragists Vreeland had known in her youth who, Stuart writes, “embraced fashion and beauty as weapons in the female arsenal.” Now, feminists were rejecting the idea that a woman’s appearance was the most important part about her and that their primary concern should be the male gaze. All this rather stunned Vreeland, and threatened her. On the one hand, she had some very feminist beliefs: she was thrilled by the invention of the Pill and believed wholeheartedly that women should embrace their sensuality and sexuality. On the other, she believed that women had always been liberated and that this new troupe of women who dared to write protest letters when she ran photos of model Marisa Berenson wearing nothing but jewellery, claiming that this represented “the male colonization of the female body”, were misguided fools who merely lacked “pizzazz.”  To reject femininity and the value of aesthetics for a woman was, for Vreeland, a step backwards to the kind of sartorial conformity of the wartime years. In a typical feature from that era, Vogue sneered, “[The modern woman] never wants to be first… Safe from what! Nobody knows. But safe.”

It isn't easy being a feminist who loves fashion. While the two pursuits might not be quite as awkward bedfellows as that religion that will always baffle me, Jews for Jesus, they don't really sleep so soundly together. But a lot of this, I reckon, stems from misconceptions in both camps, misconceptions amply demonstrated by Vreeland's ridiculous bullheadedness when defending her magazine against some of the more radical groups in the 1960s.

Unlike Beyonce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift, Kristen Wiig and pretty much any female celebrity you care to name, I am very happy to say that I am a feminist, I have always been a feminist and I will always be a feminist. I also, as it happens, like fashion. I like fashion so much that I worked on the fashion desk of the the Guardian newspaper and still, five years later, write a fashion column in the paper. Every morning, after I've read the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph, checked Twitter, glanced at Mail Online (sorry) and looked at Vagenda and Jezebel, is check and to see if they have any new things I fancy staring at over my porridge for a few minutes. Then, depending on my mood, I might switch over to to look at my favourite fashion show again (Balenciaga a/w 2007, since you asked.) After all that, I'll get to work. Isn't it exciting to see how the sausage is made?

I can understand why some people might think there's a contradiction in being a feminist who likes fashion – of course I can. In fact, let's line up all of the counts against fashion from a feminist perspective: it's obsessed with women's looks; it makes women feel fat, old and miserable; it reduces women to clotheshorses; it encourages women to wear ridiculous clothes and shoes that bankrupt and hobble them.

Now, let's talk about fashion as opposed to the fashion media. Because the two are, in fact, different entities although they might not always seem to be. But just as the racist and sexist humour on Top Gear doesn't prove that all car enthusiasts are racist sexists, so the depiction of women and fashion in the style magazines doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of all women who like fashion.

There is no question that many parts of the fashion business and fashion media are disgusting. During my time on the fashion desk, I found going to the fashion shows an increasingly painful experience, watching these ridiculously skinny teenagers (and don't let any fashion editor tell you otherwise – they are ridiculously skinny) forced to march up and down in front of me while I tried to look at their clothes. What on earth am I doing here, I’d think miserably as I tried to make out the belt slung around an 18 year old's sharp hipbones.

But fashion isn't about skeletal waifs from eastern Europe, what row you're sitting in at a fashion show or being told to spend £1500 on a handbag just because someone called Kate Bosworh was photographed carrying it at Coachella. That's the mere flotsam around it and you can get excited about it if you like, but that isn't all fashion is.

Fashion is simply an enjoyable form of self-expression and in all honesty I cannot see anything unfeminist about a woman spending money that she has earned on something that she loves and makes her feel happy. Yes, you can, I suppose, argue that these women are only feeling happy because they're dressing to please the patriarchy. But I think that to say that a woman can't tell the difference between liking an item of clothing because it appeals to men and because she genuinely likes it in herself is to underestimate a woman's intelligence even more than your average fashion magazine does.

To be honest, I'm pretty amazed whenever I do come across fellow feminists who sneer at fashion (and I have to say, they are very much in the minority, feminism being a far more open church than SJP, Gwyneth et al seem to believe) because they are falling into what seems to me to be an obviously sexist trap.

Fashion is not important in the way, say, food and water are important, but it is no less important than sport, film and TV are. Yet it is accorded far less respect than any of those pursuits and this, I believe, is because it is aimed largely at women. Moreover, it does not depict women who appeal to men: they're too thin, they're wearing weird clothes, they clearly don't give a stuff about looking sexy (seriously, have you ever seen a Comme des Garcons show?) This is why, I strongly suspect, fashion tends to get dismissed by the male-dominated media. Opponents might argue that they dislike fashion because of all the skinniness and silly prices, but it's not like sport isn't plagued by precisely the same problems. One can criticise elements of the fashion industry, and I certainly do in my fashion column, but to dismiss fashion completely is to say that an industry that is aimed at women and largely staffed by women is inherently silly. And as a feminist, I violently object to that.

There are many different takes on feminism, and there are many different takes on fashion, and people can argue about them all day if they like, and may do. Ultimately, though, feminism is about enabling women to live happy lives and fashion is about women enjoying themselves. There is nothing contradictory about being fans of both. If anything, being a fashion-loving feminist helps to improve the female dominated, female geared fashion industry. And that is a good thing for all women. 

BE AWESOME: MODERN LIFE FOR MODERN LADIES by Hadley Freeman is published by 4th Estate price £12.99
22 Apr 15:00

Steam-Powered AT-AT Enjoys Hunting Rebel Forces, Long Walks On The Beach

by Jen
I usually reserve my steampunk finds for Saturdays, but it's rare that I get to debut something this awesome before all the other big sites out there, so you'll have to indulge me:

Behold, Captain Bayley's Infernal Mechano-Perambulator!

[Who else heard that in Dr. Doofenschmirtz's voice? Just me?]

This is Caroline L.'s engagement present from her fiance, Mark, who made it from a vintage AT-AT toy and is CLEARLY a keeper. Just saying, Caroline. But I guess you already knew that. :)

Caroline writes,
"Each one of those rivets was cut out with a punch and applied with tweezers, and we both lost track of the number of coats of spray paint he used to get that gorgeous patina before washing it down and creating the stains and drips. He made the narwhal horn on the front as well. It's hard to see but the legs and feet are covered in seaweed and barnacles - I can just imagine it tramping up and down the coastline, or standing in a harbour next to a crumbling pier."

Wow. I can't get over how great that finish looks! And I especially love the Widow's Walk on top:

Hey Caroline, any chance Mark will post a paint tutorial? Because I have a baby AT-AT here on my desk that's just BEGGING for a steampunk make-over now. :D

Watch Mark's Flickr page this week for more photos of the IMP. They're not up as of this writing, but Caroline assures me they'll be there soon. [Warning: there are mildly gory special-affects makeup pics on that stream, so don't click if you're squeamish.]

[UPDATE: Direct link to those photos here!]

Thanks for sharing the awesomeness, Caroline!
19 Apr 15:23

I'm 23 years old and I've been on a permanent non-diet for the past 27.

by The Vagenda Team

This is a test note.

Introducing our new columnist Hannamtha Dick 

When my flatmate and I invited friends to dinner, I knew they’d want to bring something along to contribute to the evening, so made a particular point of being annoyed when they turned up empty handed making excuses about how skint they were, blaming it on the current state of the economy.

I rewarded them with ice-cold contempt. So naturally, when one friend arrived late clutching a bottle of five-pound plonk I was ecstatic, and thanked her with an enthusiastic kiss on both cheeks.

I enjoyed this because it reminded me of the foam party we had all those years’ ago during freshers’ week, where we stripped to our bras, romped in the street and left a trail of puke like Hansel and Gretel all the way back to our student digs.

We were so drunk that when we were about to have sex, I asked her if she had a condom. I didn’t even care that an average bottle of wine has 600 calories, or the next day’s cooked breakfast close to a thousand. We still have our Daily Mail centrefold pinned up in the kitchen.


I am 23 years old and have been on a permanent non-diet for the past 27. The logic is simple and irrefutable: I really don’t give a shit. When I said I invited my friends round for ‘dinner’, I meant 3 coupons’ worth of Dominos, because I’m a bad cook and I always burn the homemade effort.

I eat way too much crap and if I chastise myself at all for it, it’s because I’m not eating healthily enough and I think it’s bad for me; or because Nestle and Coca-Cola have a pretty shitty human rights track record. Or because my friend Gemma is running the London Marathon this weekend and I think I’d like to do that too.

Insert here an irrelevant paragraph about Joan Collins. A woman who has had more plastic surgery than all seasons of Nip/Tuck, which might have something to do with her enduring career in an industry obsessed with beauty and youth. Just a thought.

To be thin you don’t need to spend your life on a diet, because I know that a large part of being thin (excuse the pun) is down to your genes. Despite it apparently being my worst subject at GCSE, I clearly focused enough in Biology to learn about endomorphs and ectomorphs.

I have always been pretty slim, but I recognise that my Diet Coke habit and daily inhaling of Crunchie bars has given me some pretty badass, or bad ass, cellulite.

Yeah, it bothers me. One time I even bought a cream. But to be honest, I can’t really see it because it’s behind me, and while I’d much rather I didn’t have it, I do, and I enjoy the Diet Coke.

I know that some of my friends are a lot larger than me, and eat way better than me, and do tons more exercise than me, and most of them aren’t really bothered either. I believe that basically if you eat right, and aren’t totally couch-bound and never listen to ‘Doctor’ Gillian McKeith, you’ll be OK.

In fact, I am quite certain that a shitload of studies have proven that yo-yo dieting actually makes you ‘fatter’ in the long run anyway. I believe that being conceited and arrogant is unattractive, way more than what any scales say.

I wasn’t glad to see the back of Easter this month. I was totally devastated. Easter is a joyous time like Christmas, in which everyone overeats. Plus, just like advent calendar chocolate, Easter egg chocolate somehow just tastes better. There is also the fact that after Easter Sunday, a lot of it is discounted and cheaper than normal chocolate. It is literally wins all round. Thanks Jesus.

For over two decades, my best friend has been my best friend. She’s called Caroline. We went to school in Liverpool. She’s smart and is off to read a PhD at Columbia this summer.

Self-denial comes into my life occasionally (“I will be the youngest ever winner of the Nobel prize!”, “No, I’m not drunk!”, “That was like that when I found it!”). Mostly I have tried not to act like a conceited tool. And one of my biggest incentives is I know people don’t prefer conceited tools.

Likewise, I have only ever dated people who haven’t kept an eye on my figure. Because I’m not a moron. My first love didn’t ever remind me that I could never be too rich or too thin. Which is probably why I now have the cellulite thing going on and a penniless freelance writing career. I wish now, I’d chosen my partners more wisely.

Until I was 14, I had no boobs to speak of. I still have no boobs to speak of. Magazines tell me that men prefer bigger boobs. Well, I can’t really do anything about it except get surgery, which I cannot afford and wouldn’t really want.

Little wonder that in my late teens I decided to transform myself as I lived, and ate only Marmite on toast for a year (no butter) in the vain hope it would stimulate mammary growth

I’ve never been out with a guy who looks like a brunette Asterix. I think it’s cos I’m not pretty enough.

I’ve never written for the Daily Mail. I think it’s because I’m not talented enough or it might be because I am not skinny and/or fat enough.

At college, I invented the student diet of scrambled eggs, toast, pasta and pesto. But I didn’t patent it, which I regret to this day. I ate this way because I wasn’t a great cook and like every other student I had no money. I even rented a flat without a kitchen. Because I couldn’t afford anything else.

During second year, I decided to transform my life as I lived again, and I ate Polos for a year in the hope it would again stimulate mammary growth. The thing I especially like about Polos is that 50% of them is hole, so you are actually eating less than you think.

I stopped the Polo diet because, alas, my boobs remained the same size, but I did, and still do, enjoy hunger pangs. Because now I know it means I am gonna be chowing down on a big fat burrito some time soon.

A friend and I have a coded way of referring to my latest shopping trip: “What the fuck are you wearing?”, she says, dragging on a cigarette as I strut across the floor of Nandos in my new harem pants which Grazia told me were fashionable.

Indeed, like a lot of other women I know, I follow a month-long non-diet 12 times a year, in which I try to balance all of the yummy foods which I know are quite bad for me with ones that are more boring but good for me.

I try not to worry too much about my physical appearance because it shouldn’t matter that much and to anyone who’s not a total dick, it won’t.

This is sometimes hard, because of the culture we live in at the moment, which says that women have to be perfect, and that perfect is a pre-conceived ideal of Western attractiveness; slim, bronzed, toned, clear-skinned, pinched-of-waist, blue-eyed, big-titted glory.

The world admonished Samantha Brick for claiming that “nothing says failure like fat”, but I’d go further. As I see it, nothing says failure like writing a piece-of-shit article encouraging women to endanger their mental and physical health, happiness, self-esteem and essentially encouraging eating disorders, all to be paid a couple of grand by the Mail.

Pretty hard to stomach, when you think about it.

- HJP (aka Hannamtha Dick)