Giveaway: Mass Effect Revelation for Sci-Fi Month and N7 Day on Video Games as Literature!

 Welcome once again to #SciFiMonth, hosted this year by Lisa at Dear Geek Place and Imyril at! This is my introduction post AND announcement of a Video Games as Literature special giveaway!

Sci-Fi Month 2020: If you want to resist, you have to rebel

I have a lot on my plate this month, so once again I don't know how often I will be able to post for #SciFiMonth, but as usual I am here to celebrate N7 Day and one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises of all time: Mass Effect! I've tried to do something related to Mass Effect every year in November, as you can see here and here. This year, I have a giveaway! Without further ado, here are the details:

I am giving away one (1) pre-owned copy of Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn, the first book in the Mass Effect book series! I felt that giving away a book based on a video game would fit the theme of my blog, Video Games as Literature, quite nicely. This book was purchased at a local used bookstore (please help small businesses like used bookstores stay open, everyone!), so it it NOT in perfect new condition. It has some shelf wear and a few cracks in the spine. Please take a look at the picture below, and keep scrolling to find out how to enter the giveaway!

This is a giveaway for one pre-owned paperback book, Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn. The giveaway is for US residents only (I can't go into the Post Office to mail an international package due to the pandemic -- I'm sorry!). The giveaway starts TODAY, November 5, 2020, and ends on #N7Day -- November 7, 2020 at the end of the day (11:59pm EST). I will not publically announce the winner, but I will contact the winner after a winner is chosen at random. To enter, please do at least one of the following:

  • Comment on this blog post. Please include contact information such as a Twitter or Instagram handle! Also make sure you have messaging turned on if you give me a social media contact.
  • On Twitter, RETWEET my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway AND comment on the tweet.
  • On Instagram, SHARE my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway to your stories AND comment on it! (Make sure you tag me when you share to your stories so I can see it!)
To recieve multiple entries into the contest, you may do all three of the above! Good luck everyone, and keelah se'lai!

Tracking Down That Mysterious Jungle Bird Sound Clip

 In the mid-90s, when I was about 9 years old, my favorite game in the whole world was The Amazon Trail. In fact, I've mentioned it before on this blog. In playing The Amazon Trail, I began to notice a distinct pattern -- there was a specific bird call that would repeat over and over in the game. This bird call entered my head almost a quarter of a century ago and never left. I soon began to hear the bird call in other games and in other forms of media. If a jungle or rainforest was depicted, that bird would be there -- even if the supposed location of the story was set far from the Amazon in Borneo or Australia. This bothered me -- it felt like many lazy game and film producers had looked up "jungle bird sound" and just inserted whatever noise they found, without researching the actual bird. This quandary, along with the sound itself, continued to plague me over the years but I only researched the bird minimally. I did, in fact, find a free sound clip that contained that exact bird call at one point -- it was titled something like "rainforest bird," but there was no reference to what exact species of bird was making the noise. Finally, recently, I decided that enough was enough. I would do whatever hefty research was necessary until I found the exact species of bird that made the sound and determined its habitat. After maybe about 45 minutes, I found it thanks to the wonders of YouTube. Here is a video I found:

The result was a little anti-climactic -- the species is called the "Screaming Piha" (a.k.a. Lipaugus vociferans) and it does, in fact, live only in South America -- it is not found naturally on any other continent, according to Wikipedia. It's a sort of boring looking brown bird, and is extremely common in rainforest regions of South America, such that it is even regularly found in parks and other human areas. Wikipedia also says, "The sound is frequently used in movies as a sound typical of the Amazon rainforest." Hmm. See the photo below:

A brown bird sitting on a tree branch.

I wish I had compiled a list over the years of all the games I found this bird sound in, but alas I had other things on my mind at the time, I guess. If I remember or encounter any of these games in the future, I may add a list to the bottom of this article. In the meantime, here is an example of the Screaming Piha found in the game Horizon: Zero Dawn, where it apparently expanded its range up into North America (the game is set in the distant future so this is actually not an impossible notion, considering many animals are currently changing their habitats due to climate change and population overcrowding).

Other Sources:
Birds of the World:

An Open Letter to Jennifer Hale, Momocon, and the Cast of Overwatch

Dear Jennifer Hale, Momocon, and the Cast of Overwatch,

First of all, thank you for all that you do for fans and gamers. Ms. Hale has given life to many of gaming's most beloved characters, and I have watched Momocon grow from a small, college-run convention to one of the greatest conventions in the southern United States. This letter is not a call to cancel Jennifer Hale, Momocon, or any other actors. I am simply writing to point out a harmful misconception on the part of Ms. Hale that has hurt me and likely other members of the disabled gamer community.

The misunderstanding in question occurred in a YouTube panel run by Momocon, which was presented online rather than in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and by the way, THANK YOU for making the effort to put these panels online! I have had to miss a few past Momocon events due to my disability and chronic illness, and it was wonderful to be able to hear actors from one of my favorite games speak on my computer screen). Below is a screenshot of the YouTube video so readers can search for the video and see it for themselves:

Screenshot showing Jennifer Hale speaking in an online Momocon panel

The video's title on YouTube is: "MomoConline: The World Needs Heroes: Overwatch Voice Actors Panel" and Ms. Hale brought up her misconception about disability at the 1:28:28 timestamp. At this point in the video, the cast have had a running joke about a well-known actor, and Ms. Hale brings up that she is disappointed in said actor because she saw him walk "perfectly well" to a car that was parked in a disabled parking spot. This statement reflects a misconception that many, if not most, abled people have about disabled people: that if we don't LOOK disabled (to the abled eye) we must not actually BE disabled. The disabled community has had to fight this misconception tooth and nail for a very long time, and we're tired. It's bad enough when some stranger in the parking lot at Kroger makes a disparaging comment about us as we walk to our cars (usually in so much pain that we have no energy, or "spoons," to retort), but when a celebrity uses her public platform to make similar statements to a viewership in the hundreds or thousands, disabled people can be seriously harmed. What's more: none of the other actors in the panel spoke up in defense of disabled people. Some of them even gasped as if they had heard some juicy gossip.

To set the record straight, here is a brief summary of the steps disabled people must go through to obtain a placard that allows us to park in disability parking spots (I am focusing on the specific rules in Georgia, as that is where I live and where Momocon takes place): first, we must obtain a MV-9D Disabled Person's Parking Affidavit. This must be filled out and signed by our primary care physician or other licensed doctor who is treating us, which can be surprisingly hard to accomplish considering many doctors are overworked and have little time to fill out forms for patients. The form specifies the types of disabilities that qualify, as seen in the screenshot below:

Screenshot of parking placard requirements, from form MV-9D

As you can see on the form, several of the eligibility requirements could include people who APPEAR to walk "perfectly well" for fewer than 200 feet. For instance, many celebrities of an older generation smoked regularly and may now have lung disease, which is one of the potential qualifiers for a placard.

Finally, I wish to tell a story about something that happened to me less than a year ago. I have multiple chronic pain conditions which make it difficult for me to walk, (as well as medications which make me dizzy and cause a fall hazard) especially without an assistive device. I usually use a rollator, or sometimes a wheelchair, when I leave the house, but on this day I was only out of my car for a few minutes so I left my device in the car. I had stopped at Walgreens to pick up my medicated shampoo, which I can only obtain there (usually I get groceries and essentials brought to my car at Kroger), and when my service dog and I went back to the car a lady raced out of the store to follow us. She knocked on my window and gave me what she thought was a stern but necessary talking to about how I was selfishly taking that disability spot away from people who needed it (the parking lot was almost entirely empty at this point and there were about five other disability parking spots to choose from). Her assumption was that because she had seen me walking and because I wasn't driving a van (my wheelchair fits in the trunk of my compact car), I must not need that disability parking spot. This is an unfortunately common occurrence for disabled people, even for people who are considered "visibly disabled." Abled people, for reasons I cannot comprehend, love to police peoples' disability. 

In conclusion, Ms. Hale: please educate yourself about disability issues. Please practice not making assumptions about people based on your personal experiences alone. If possible, the disabled gamer community would LOVE it if you would take the time to educate yourself and THEN speak out about misconceptions against disabled people -- become a champion for disabled rights! I know you have it in you to make the right decisions and to help your fans in the disabled gamer community. And thank you again to Ms. Hale, Momocon, and the rest of the Overwatch voice cast who put forth this welcoming and inclusive online panel! This is certainly a step in the right direction towards including disabled fans.

Kirsten Rodning

In Celebration of Arbor Day: 5 of Our Favorite Trees in Games

In appreciation of the trees we all rely on, I have decided to make a special post for Arbor Day, which is celebrated in most of America on the last Friday in April (other countries also celebrate Arbor Day, or Arbour Day, at various other times -- you can read more about this on Wikipedia). Here I will discuss five of my favorite video game trees and what they have meant to me.

1) The Great Deku Tree (Legend of Zelda Series)

Artwork from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where Link first encounters the Deku tree
Source: link
Of course any list of video game trees would not only be incomplete without the Great Deku tree, it would also be flat out wrong. When most of us think about trees in video games, our minds first go to this greatest of Deku trees. The Great Deku Tree can be found throughout the Zelda franchise, though its appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is probably the most memorable. Like many video game trees after it, The Great Deku tree is the force that pulls Link from his bed and sends him on his epic adventure (with a little help from Navi, of course). The (mild spoilers) death of this great tree in Ocarina of Time legitimately made me cry when I first played the game.

2) Yggdrasil (Dragon Quest Series)

The main heroes from Dragon Quest XI standing in front of a huge tree
Source: link

Many games invoke the World Tree, Yggdrasil, of Norse legend, but none center the great tree as clearly as the Dragon Quest series does throughout many of its volumes. Not only is the tree the center of the worlds in which the games take place, it is also central to the story -- literally in some cases -- in Dragon Quest XI, specifically, a major plot point that occurs in the middle of the game focuses on the tree and even takes place within its branches. Yggdrasil also plays a pivotal role in the story of Dragon Quest IX, and has a slightly smaller role in many other games in the series (the spin-off game, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below, even references the tree in its title).

3) Sudowoodo (Pokemon Series)

Artwork of the pokemon, Sudowoodo, which looks like a small brown tree with green balls (like leaves) on its arm-like appendages.
Source: link

You may be surprised to see Sudowoodo on this list -- you probably remember it as that incredibly annoying Pokemon that was supposedly blocking the road, though you totally should've been able to walk around it. Sudowoodo was also annoying because once you caught it you learned that it's not a grass type... it's a rock type?! If it's a tree, why is it a rock type? Maybe that didn't annoy you as much as it annoyed me, but I had trouble wrapping my head around it at the tender age of 12-ish when I first played Pokémon. Regardless, I placed Sudowoodo in one of the highly coveted spots on my main team and it eventually grew on me... even if it is a rock.

4) The Money Tree (Animal Crossing Series)

A protagonist player character standing in front of a money tree in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Source: link
We all know what our actual favorite tree is. It may not grant epic quests or block roads or even be the source of all life, but it sure makes us rich! It's the Money Tree from Animal Crossing! The Money Tree is so prolific in today's society that it even recently received a write-up on Forbes, a traditionally serious news site about the economy (Read the article here). That's pretty fancy!

5) Sakuya and her Trees (Okami)

Character design sketches of Sakuya from the PS2 game Okami.
Source: link

Even though Capcom has released countless remasters of Okami by this point, I haven't played this excellent game since its very first PlayStation 2 release back in 2006. That means that I remember very little about the actual story. One thing I do remember quite well, however, is the excellent characters that you meet throughout the game. One of the characters you meet early on is Sakuya, a tree spirit who needs help healing her trees that appear throughout the game. Like Issun, I may have had a bit of a crush on Sakuya. Just a little.

Those are my five favorite video game trees -- what trees do you think I missed? Which trees are your favorites? If you are able, don't forget to plant a tree for Arbor Day, or cultivate a plant of some kind! You can also learn more about Arbor Day by visiting and following the Arbor Day Foundation on Twitter.

Games to Play at the End of the World

Ah yes, the apocalypse, a favorite setting for game developers of all generations. While we waste away in our homes awaiting the end of days, we really should be playing some appropriate games for the situation, don't you think? But appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for another, so I have compiled below two lists for two completely different purposes. The first is a list of games to play if you are preparing to face the apocalypse head-on. The second is a list of games to play if you wish to shut out all bad in the world and ignore the rising flames around you (Yes, this dramatic nature of mine got me into big trouble when I took journalism in high school). You decide which type of game is appropriate for your needs.

Games to Prepare You for the Apocalypse:

Cover image for the game The Last of Us

The obvious first choice for this list is The Last of Us, a game that takes us through the first moments of a deadly pandemic, then shows us what the world looks like approximately 20 years later. We see the perspectives of two protagonists: one is a man who survived those first moments and has continued to survive over the years, and the other is a young girl/growing woman who never knew the world before the pandemic devastated humanity. The Last of Us is a thoughtful look at the events of precisely the type of tragedy the world is currently facing (though it may be a small relief that the dead remain dead in our case). There are moments when the protagonists must navigate still-contaminated areas and need to wear gas masks to protect themselves -- this scene may seem very familiar to modern-day players. By strange coincidence, the sequel is scheduled to release during the current pandemic, though like many other games it may end up being delayed. The Last of Us is available on PS3 and PS4.

When any gamer thinks of the apocalypse, it's very likely they picture a scene from the Fallout series. This series takes place many years after a nuclear apocalypse, meaning that society is ended through war (war never changes) and not through disease, but disease abounds after the destruction of modern society as we know it. By the way, am I the only one who really wants to see a Fallout game set in another country -- not just in America? While the series has often made commentary on American culture and politics specifically, I really want to know what is happening around the world during the events of Fallout. If you want to play Fallout with friends, I hear Fallout 76 has gotten better with recent patches, but if you want to play the best of the series, I recommend Fallout: New Vegas. The Fallout series is available on most major platforms.

A game I have mentioned before and will likely write about again is Bastion, a popular indie title from developer Supergiant Games. Bastion is another game that takes place post-war, but this time there are very few living people left in the vicinity. The hero of the story must find these last survivors and lead them to the Bastion, a place of hope in an otherwise dying world. This game is beautiful and will probably make you cry. Bastion is available on most major platforms.

Promotional image for Fallen London

A trusty game that is a little different from the AAA fare already mentioned is Fallen London, a browser-based game that has spawned two spin-offs: Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies. Fallen London is set in a steampunk world and is a little difficult to describe. The following is a description directly from the developer's website:
Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped… (Failbetter Games)
This story is apocalyptic in a very -fantasy- sense and makes a decent bridge between escapism and realism for the purposes of this list.

I want to include some "honorable mentions" that have a post-apocalyptic feel but did not otherwise make my list:
Borderlands, a science fiction series that takes place on another planet, yet has a similar setting to other games in the post-apocalyptic genre.
Aladdin, a seemingly straight-forward Disney game with a very popular fan theory that suggests the setting may be post-apocalyptic (read more about the theory here).
The Wasteland Series, a spin-off of sorts from the Fallout series, which I personally haven't played yet and therefore can't review or recommend.

Games to Play When You Want to Block Out the World:

This list is going to be a little more obvious, as there seems to be a genre of games specifically intended to help you ignore the real world. Get ready to do a lot of farming.

Image of the player character from Animal Crossing and Beau, a deer, standing in front of flowers and smiling.

First and foremost, of course, is Nintendo's Animal Crossing franchise. When you wake up in the morning, you immediately start playing Animal Crossing. After catching some fish, planting some flowers, and identifying some fossils, you realize you never went to the bathroom, so you put the game down. On the way to the bathroom you realize it's oddly dark and your clock says it's already after supper time. Your psychiatrist might call this an unhealthy addiction, but gamers call it a day well spent. Animal Crossing is available on every major Nintendo console/handheld since the GameCube.

The next franchise on the list is a little confusing: Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons. The confusing part involves a change in North American publishers which led to a copyright battle over the name "Harvest Moon." I won't be able to tell you which exact games are good and which are the "fake" Natsume games, but fortunately other people have already compiled a list for you (see that list here). The Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons franchise tends to focus more on farming than on any other activity, but you will still find plenty to do! And of course, there are always a variety of bachelors and bachelorettes available and hoping to marry you! The Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons franchise is available on many, many consoles and handheld systems (though most are on Nintendo systems).

The Rune Factory series is essentially a spin-off from the Harvest Moon franchise, but a lot of activities are added to the roster in these games. While you can still farm, Rune Factory adds dungeon crawling, world exploration, and Pokemon-style beast raising. My favorite game in this series is also one of my favorite games of all time: Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny (also known as Rune Factory: Oceans). The Rune Factory series can be found on Nintendo DS, 3DS, Wii, Switch, and PS3!

I'm going to give a brief mention to Stardew Valley, a delightful indie game that is very similar to Rune Factory, but its developer, ConcernedApe, listens to fans and regularly makes improvements to the game! Stardew Valley improves on the Rune Factory formula in several ways, including allowing same sex dating and marriage along with character customization. Stardew Valley is available on most modern platforms.

Last but not least is the old classic, The Sims. While you can have your Sims do some farming, this franchise is more about doing everyday things... like going to the bathroom and remembering to wash your hands. One might think that a game about telling virtual people to use the toilet would get boring very quickly, but somehow that is not the case. I, personally, have spent hours at a time in front of a computer simply micromanaging the minuscule details of my virtual citizens' lives. And in an age of uncertainty, a game about ordinary, every day actions might be just what we need. The Sims franchise can be played on PC, or you can play The Sims 4 on PS4 and X-Box One.