Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

Welcome to the first official Ask Kotaku column, where I will provide weekly answers to the questions you send me. There were lots of questions for this first event. They ranged from love and life troubles to job woes, Kotaku, help with specific games and help with organizing them. I tried to answer as many as I could. Let's get to it.

(Some questions shortened for length.)

Don't forget to email me questions for next week!


Regarding Games and Hardware


So given that sony never did show what their console looked like back on feb 20th, do you think microsoft will try to have a finalized version of the durango they can show off if they decide to show it?

This is all guesswork, but I’m going to say that they will show it. Sony’s situation was a weird one where they only showed off the controller during their PS4 event. And if Microsoft does show off the next Xbox, I’d say it’d be the finalized version (or very close to it) since they wouldn’t risk showing something less than perfect at their big reveal event. Plus, you’d think they’d wanna one-up Sony somehow, right?

Have you seen anyone in public play a PS Vita? I've never seen it.

I haven’t! Not even at the PAX conventions! I’ve only ever seen these rare gems from my coworkers.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

Oculus rift - when can I start believing that this is anything more then an awesome experiment that journalist and developers will get to play with? Do you think this thing will make it to market?

It certainly will! I think they’re still polishing the thing—both in terms of the hardware itself as well as the aesthetics, cause, c’mon—and figuring out pricing. I can’t give you a good estimated guess for when that will be, but it is a pretty damn cool device already, so who knows how close they are from a consumer release. You can pre-order a dev kit right now, though!

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

I've recently been really into Dark Souls but I find it nearly impossible to get through the entrance part of the Tomb of the Giants when you enter through the Catacombs... I've got a Strength build with Havel's Ring and I am about to get to 50 points in strength to use the Demon's Greataxe. I always fail at the part, where you slide down the first column and then after sniping the two archers that attack me on that platform, I either get killed by the great skeleton that kicks me of the edge and I die, or I slide down the second one and then get kicked down by the two great skeletons down there. Any advice on that?

I defer to Dark Souls expert Michael Rougeau, who guest edits here on Kotaku:

Make sure your equip weight is under half so you can dodge effectively. Don't bother sniping the archers; dodge the great skeletons' initial attacks and then unload on them with your most powerful weapon. At your level you should be able to kill them in 2-3 hits. Dual-hand it to be sure. If not, upgrade your current weapon or choose a different one. Once you get past the two great skeletons you're almost to a bonfire. Just keep moving so the archers don't pin you and you should be fine. Oh, and use a light spell or the skull lantern to help you see. Good luck.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

I've recently begun considering buying a mobile gaming device. Up until now, I have always done my gaming on the PC and Xbox 360. With the recent release of some cool titles like Soul Sacrifice and soon Muramasa: Rebirth, I am leaning more towards a PS Vita. I'm still not entirely convinced on the Vita over the 3DS, however. Any suggestions?

The Vita is slowly, slowly getting a few more worthy titles, but it still feels somewhat barren to me. Especially when the 3DS is holding on strong. I think you could spare waiting a bit longer before getting the Vita, with the 3DS XL to tide you over. That’s what I’m personally doing, while also praying for a price cut.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

Are there such things as over sexualization for male characters? If over grown muscles and broad shoulders accentuated by skin tight clothing (or lack thereof) are all meant to be empowerment, what draws the line between the two?

This is a really tricky one. I don’t think there’s an inherent “right” and “wrong,” or explicit “too far” when it comes to representing a male (or female) character as empowered versus flat out oversexualized, because it’s completely relative to the viewer. What might be a step over the line for me could be completely tame or normal for someone else. Miss Jenn Frank does a good job of framing what’s so complicated about this sort of discussion.

So, ultimately, the line should be drawn if/when a character is clearly and disrespectfully being used to capitalize on a certain look for a certain marketing direction. Problem there is that it’s hard to pinpoint which characters are specifically servicing those needs.

Outside of the often maligned simulated violence, what do you think is the most cathartic aspect of AAA games, and why?

This is an interesting one, because there are so many. But for me, I think I’d have to go with what basically translates to freedom. I’ve been replaying Borderlands 2 recently where, as you may know, you can fall without any physical damage. But even in what I know is just a virtual world, dropping from huge heights still makes my stomach lurch a little bit. It’s exhilarating and still slightly scary. Same goes for double jumping, or performing crazy bounces and slides in platformers like Super Meat Boy or the more recent Battleblock Theater. I have yet to play Mirror’s Edge but it seems like a game that would fit here, too. I'd love to be able to partake in real-life freerunning, but it's terrifying and I don't think I'm physically fit enough. Video games give me a body that's capable of doing so much. It's empowering and thrilling, and I don't have to break any real bones in the process.

Here’s another one because I like this question so much: friendship. Not every game is great at doing this, but I can usually at least find one or two characters per game that I can bond with. Sure, being able to experience what it's like as a criminal with no real consequences is fun, but I find there are a lot of positive aspects you can enjoy, too. BioWare games are a particular favorite of mine when it comes to bonding with characters. I've heard Fire Emblem is great, too, but I've yet to play that one.


Regarding Gaming and Gaming Lifestyles


For some time now I’ve been on a mission to own as many games for any console, handheld, or PC as I possibly can. I’m only trying to collect games that have either made a difference in gaming, noteworthy, or just great, respected games, and of course games from my past. Steam has made this fairly easy with their weekly discounts and black Friday goodness. Gamestop helps with the console and handheld for used cheap copies of the games only available on them. However, I’ve spiraled out of control with spending and lack of focus. I don’t have a list, so it’s mostly just whatever is on sale, and I don’t have a plan of attack.

My question: Do you have any suggestions/tips on how to organize this and maybe how to accomplish my goal?

You answered your own question! Create a plan of attack. List out games you want, prioritize them as either need-to-haves or only-if-it’s-a-certain-prices. After that, research the hell out of the need-to-haves options online before forking over your money for it. You’d be surprised what kind of deals you can find (or make!) with people on the Internet. (And yes, I realize how that sounds. Stop that.)

I cannot seem to get my wife into gaming. Before we were married she would at least casually game, such as guitar hero or the odd game of Tetris. Lately she doesn't want to play anything. I tried co-op, mmo and even other puzzle type games. Nothing seems to interest her.

Part of getting your wife into gaming, I imagine, is to play games with her? In that case choose games you’re into and see if she likes any of them. Gauge what in particular she dislikes about a game and what she likes about it. You might be able to figure out a suitable game for her after that.

And if that fails, try board games and card games. Try Cards Against Humanity! They’re all fun and it might help her get into the spirit. But at the end of the day if she isn’t feeling it anymore, you might have to find a different hobby to share.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

We've been playing Borderlands 2 for quite some time on Playstation 3. Somewhere along the way, amidst all the updates and hot fixes, we lost the ability to access new DLC...However, Tech Support and Moderator responses have been...lacking, lets say. Understandable, cause these things get complicated and don't fix themselves, and there's two parties involved (PS/Gearbox).

As, players what can we do about this to get some kind of answer and/or status report? I mean, I'm sure things like this happen all the time in the video game biz. In general, what are some things players can do to provoke a response?

Man, that sucks. It can be a huge process to get a proper response from support and tech teams, but if there’s one code you have to live by as a customer, it’s that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Keep asking, keep pushing, keep emailing. To the point where they themselves want to solve your problem just to get you off their backs.

Clearly you've played a ton of Borderlands 2 and enjoy it dearly, but just how many cumulative hours (between all your characters) are we talking here? Because I'm at about 15 days across all my characters and I need to know if I have a problem or not. Since you seem to have your sanity intact, if you're anywhere close to that then I can rest easy.

Oh man, I don’t even know by now! I’ve played the game a few times over, with a few characters. I think I might’ve played more Borderlands 1 than 2, though.

Regardless, after World of Warcraft binging for about a year or two, I realized that I really don't like spending too much time occupied with one video game. There are way too many new games coming out all the time, and my backlog grows with each new release.

There’s something great about feeling really familiar with one game, but I’ve learned to value having a more diverse palette, even if my range of knowledge that comes with that diversity is at the expense of how thorough it is.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

Do you know of any games whose plot, tone, game play, or other feature can beneficially augment the standard healing process for people with mild to moderate (or, if you have anything for it, debilitating) depression? Due to isolation or otherwise, games can be one of the few remaining messages to which someone with depression is receptive. Sorry to hit you with a serious one on Ask Kotaku's maiden posting...

I think all games can be good for depression, it just depends on the kind of game that resonates most with you.

Personally, I find losing myself in rounds and rounds of a first-person shooter works best for me. It’s an easy outlet for my frustrations, and I get a kick out of the competition.

But other times I’ll be more in the mood for games with cute art and a slower pace, like ilo milo. It’s a game I won’t forget because everything about it is so darn pleasant. It soothes my insides. Though, if you want something that speaks to the issue of depression more directly, there are choices there as well.

I'm getting old, getting married, trying to start a new career while working full time. Much as I love a good long game with story (say Dead Rising or Skyward Sword), I just haven't the time! When and how do I get my game on?

I've tried using phone games, but my lady friend really isn't having it. She's spoken highly against my use of games in public/social situations. what do I do??

It’s all about game selection and time management. I wrote a long thing about this awhile back actually. I think it might help!


Regarding Kotaku


The "Off the Topic" and other random articles on Kotaku and the other Gawker sites (like whenever an entry is about a pretty picture or short film), are these things the columnists just find while doing other things and decide to post, or is there a way to submit things? Are you guys scouring the internet all day for virtual knick-knacks or do you have lackeys feeding you things you pick and choose through? Just curious...

We share with our readers what we, as authors and as people with various tastes, find interesting. Sometimes we stumble on it during our usual Internet searches and RSS feed perusals, sometimes readers send it to us as a tip, and other times our friends and colleagues are tweeting about it. Our stories come from everywhere. Basically we live and breathe the Internet.

How do you deal with rude comments? Do the Kotaku writers talk about their articles with each other if they get slandered in the comment section?

We absolutely talk to each other about this stuff. We’re humans, after all, who work closely together every single day. We talk about these things partially to vent and find a shoulder to lean on, but also to work through the vitriol to see if there’s any validity to criticism that we can use in a constructive way for the future.

Working on the Internet means you have to have a certain thickness to your skin. No matter how awesome you are, someone out there won’t like you. (This is the case in the real world, too, only people tend to be more polite or at least discreet about it.)

On the Internet, it’s easy to forget that we’re all just people interacting with one another. People with families and bills and problems of our own. People with different interests and backgrounds. But, most importantly: people with feelings. No matter how thick your skin is, the Internet’s cruelty can occasionally tip over your usual threshold.

The way I deal with it is send an IM to Evan to let him know it’s bakery time, and we swing over to one to pick up tarts and eclairs and brownies and cupcakes and cookies and junk. Sugar is my very, very good friend. But mostly it helps to vent to a friend and remember that, hey, this is the Internet and it sucks out there sometimes.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

I was always interested in what life is like in the offices for you guys. As a major in web design, and someone who’d really like to write in video game journalism, how’s the environment? I’ve seen some videos with Totilo and you folks in what appears to be a conference room with a big dark table and stuff. Maybe you can give us a tour of the office? Are there often disputes over video games at the Kotaku offices?

In general, what’s normal for you guys, and is everything always business in the office?

Let’s see if I can set the scene for you. Stephen Totilo, bossman and editor-in-chief of Kotaku, sits to my left. Chris Person, video editor, sits to my right. Across from me are reporters Jason Schreier and Evan Narcisse. The rest of us are online and across the US and the ocean. Those of us who work in the NY offices with the rest of Gawker are in downtown Manhattan, in a pretty dimly-lit four-floor walk-up. (The picture above is of a Kotaku reunion in NY, so it's not typically that full of our writers.)

We work. A lot. We’re normally always at our desks and always on call. Occasionally, on a rough day, Jason and I will go get coffee (I don’t drink coffee—I get tea) or Evan and I will get sweets from a bakery. Stephen gets pizza. It’s usually the only thing that gets him up out of his chair. Evan sometimes teases him about it, and we try to make him eat other foods (or eat at all!).

We do chat and have fun with one another. We’ll joke around, or discuss what direction we should take an article. Evan and I talk about comics almost every morning, cause I'll usually have been reading something new on the train ride over. Stephen and I have weekly meetings about many Kotaku-related things. Most of our interactions take place online, though, since we have to coordinate with so many out of office writers. Sometimes we record audio or videos, so we go to one of the conference rooms either on our floor or the floor below us. That always involves Chris and sometimes at least one other writer. That’s pretty much it! We’re all work horses.


Regarding Jobs


After years of writing, I've never been able to transition to a paying position, it seems nearly every site just wants writers to contribute for free indefinitely. Do you have any tips for writers on how to achieve the dream of being paid for their words?

Given the current climate, and previous experience, the whole endeavour just seems like trying to win the lottery.

This is a question I get a lot, and it is sort of like winning the lottery. Well, it’s half winning the lottery and half who you know and how well you can establish those connections. My tips for this kind of thing are always: continue to write and produce content, continue to reach out to outlets with interesting, unique and well-written content for consideration, and continue to socialize and get to know people in this industry. The difference between a resume in my inbox and an email from someone I know and am familiar with makes a huge difference.

Also, on that note, don’t pitch resumes, pitch stories!

Short version: I lost my job. I loved my job. Now I'm scared I can't face having a job, even if I can find one. So even if I want a job.. What do I want to do?

It sounds like you’re more concerned about figuring out what kind of a job you want to have. And that can be daunting. You’ll basically be spending a big portion of your days (and therefore life) at this job, so of course you want to be somewhere that will make you happy.

Do some research and some soul searching to find a place where you’ll fit in. If you’re somewhere that makes you happy, you won’t feel like you can’t face it. Since you loved the job you lost, consider searching within that field first. Don’t let the loss get you down or get in your way. Push through it, and if your old line of work isn’t fitting right, you can always try something new.

In December of 2012 my boss resigned his position at the hospital I work at. It was decided that I would take over his responsibilities as the Interim Director of Technology for 90 days. It has been over 150 days and the CEO continues to tell me I'm being evaluated. Taking over all his responsibilities plus my own has made my job difficult to manage and I'm not being compensated any differently. I asked the CEO about a different compensation and I was told that when the evaluation was over it would be decided what my compensation would be. Am I essentially being overworked for not extra pay? Any suggestions on this situation?

Oh boy, this can be a very frustrating position to be in. On the one hand it’s exciting to feel like you’re moving up, but on the other hand you don’t want to be strung along for too long and feel like you’re being unappreciated or, worse, taken advantage of.

My suggestion to you is twofold. One: as much as it sucks to hear this, if it’s a job you want and think you can continue to grow in, keep up the patience. You have to figure out if it’s worth having the patience for, because this is how businesses are run. Employers are in positions to dictate how and when things go down, and the best you can do is nudge things in that direction. You should, of course, always be direct. Firm but polite.

Which leads me to my second suggestion: find some alternate form of compensation. Ask if you can bring someone in under you to help with some of your extra responsibilities, for instance. It’d both show initiative and lighten your work load. Of course, this may not be a feasible option. But if they can either move someone to work under you, or hire someone new, it’d probably be very helpful for you. And it might expedite the decision-making process if they see that you are taking on extra management responsibilities, with the benefit to you that you won't actually be taking on too much new work.


Regarding Love


WHAT MAGIC LIQUID IS INSIDE THE FLASK THAT YOU ARE SO YEARNING TO TAKE? IS IT THE HOLIEST WATER, THE MOST SACRED WATER, OR JUST BLUE GATORADE... TELL ME NOW!!!

Also, do girls like it when they are tickled?

I will never tell >:)

As for your second question: it depends on the girl! Some people are too sensitive to tickles, or just prefer their boundaries. I know some don’t like involuntarily laughing and squirming, either. Personally, I think it’s all in good fun, though there are certainly limits to how long any human can tolerate tickles.

Lonely Hearts, Empty Wallets and Next-Gen Console Questions Answered

Image from Dakota Rose's website.

I'm a 17 year old junior in highschool and I'm an Otaku. I am having an issue with girls at my school, I have a lot of girls flirting with me but my standards for women are pretty outrageous. My ideal girl is one from an anime, pretty, gorgeous eyes, and an amazing personality. Its bad I know... But I just want to meet a girl like that. I look at the girls at my school and I set the standard so high that I fail to really see what I should... Any advice for me?

It’s important to remember that no girl, or guy for that matter, is perfect. Our imperfections—and the processes of learning to deal with them—are even sometimes what make us who we are.

You’re still young and have plenty of time to meet a lady that is compatible with you, because it sounds like you haven’t met her yet. Which is fine, because I’m sure once you find her you’ll forget about the bullet points and see her for who she is. Give it time, keep an open mind, and maybe try to diversify your media intake. It’d be good to expose yourself to other kinds of women than just the big-eyed, small-waisted anime type.

Riddle me this: How does a guy, too shy for online dating get a girl?

Be active! Go out to different places. Not necessarily bars, not dance clubs, but other public places where people might gather. A coffee shop, a museum or a gallery, a yoga studio, a bookstore, anything really! And if you spot a girl you like, don’t be afraid to engage her in conversation.

Worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work out and you’re back where you started. But at the very least you’ll undoubtedly come away having learned something, even if it’s just how to be more comfortable going about these things.

I just broke up with my girlfriend and moved all of my stuff out of our apartment. I know she still has my favorite Morrissey t-shirt, even though she claims it's not there. Will I ever get it back? Do I chalk it up as a loss?

If you really want it back, and are in a position where you’re comfortable enough to continue speaking with her to ask for it back, try rephrasing the question. Ask her to search around, suggest that it might be crammed in a corner somewhere rather than outright accusing her of hiding something. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not being totally honest. I don’t know your ex-girlfriend at all to suggest that she is, but I’ve definitely known other people who have lied to their ex significant others about items that were supposed to be returned in the divorce but were not. It could be a spite thing, or a memento, or whatever.

At the end of the day you very well may have to chalk it up to a loss. If you rather not maintain contact, I’d say do that immediately. Not worth it in that situation.

Im about as comfortable around women as Louie CK. How do I avoid looking silly in the future?

Practice practice practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Approach women, talk to women, be friendly to women. Remember that women are just people who eat breakfast in the morning and stress out about deadlines and missing the bus or whatever else it is we humans do.

There’s always something that you can use to relate to other people. Find it and use that as your stepping stone to comfortable conversation and—gasp—maybe even a phone number. And also remember that with the billions of people out there, you’ll likely not get along with many of them. And that’s ok. Just keep trying.

So after a year of dating my ex, and a few months of "I love yous" but still both single. I learned she was off with some other dude and kept lying about it. Cut her out of my life painfully, but I know when I get back up to college it'll be hard since so many games I played I loved playing with her and I don't know if I'll find the same pleasure in it. Advice? (Borderlands 2, TF2, SC2, various CoD games, etc.).

Also: What is your opinion of zombie culture? Is being over done at this point or is it just getting good?

I know the feeling. I remember I used to associate a show with an ex because we’d always watch it together on Netflix party watch (back when that was a thing). Months later my friend wanted to watch some episodes of it with me and I hesitated. But she told me that if we watched it together, I’d start to associate the show with her and no longer my ex. And she was right! We made a thing of it and now it’s the show she and I watched together, not the show I watched with my ex. Play those games with other friends and make new memories. Re-appropriate the experiences.

As for zombie culture, it’s definitely dried out for many, many games and movies and etc. But I still find some zombie content to be enjoyable when done right. I still haven’t seen Warm Bodies, but it seems like something I’d be interested in. A new angle, with some comedy value and a little bit of cheesy romance. At the very least it's different from most other zombie stuff we get these days. The Walking Dead comics are still fantastic, even if the show is really beginning to drag on and Activision’s game is crap. There’s life in it if people have creative ways of implementing it. It’s just that the market has become so inundated by zombies zombies zombies that most of it will be awful drivel. You gotta really mine for the good stuff these days.


Regarding Life


Do you think that society, as a whole, has become more rude as a result of the internet becoming so prevalent?

I think of real world society as separate from Internet society. Many people seem to adapt their personalities when they step into the virtual world to connect to people anonymously. People say and do things they probably wouldn’t dare to do in person, face-to-face.

It’s also really easy to forget who you are interacting with. Because online, a statement is all that you are sometimes. You aren’t Bob Smith, with a wife and kids who likes to go hiking and nap in hammocks. You’re that douchebag who thinks console gaming is blablabla. On the Internet, things go to extremes really quickly. I love you because you agree with me, I hate you because you disagree with me. But once people step back into reality, I think they tend to shed a little bit of that extremism and think through what they want to say with a bit more perspective.

To summarize it, let’s just say that I hear the words “fuck you” a lot more on the Internet than I ever have in real life.

I'm from South America (and I reside here as well).

I found myself feeling like a 'foreign person' ever since school and all the different expressions of my own nationality are meaningless to me, not that I stand by any others, it's just my personality is a constant denial of my own country customes (intellectually, culture, music, parties, dancing, food, etc) and I do not relate in any particular way to a latin-american context. Off course I'm currently trying to move abroad (yet unsuccessful) for it is substantially difficult for a natural from a "third world developing country" to get an opportunity out of the illegality of immigration. We all felt alone in some time of our lives but when that is actually true, every second of everyday you start to wonder and reasoning about the whole reality construct that brought us here.

Having said that:

Do you think I am under the illusion of finding an appropiate context where I can develop and grow, or is it just my own delusion that prevents me from accepting the world surrounding me?

The fact that you’re thinking through these things tells me that the problem isn’t any sort of delusion. It seems to be exposure. As a first generation American, I can certainly understand finding a balance within your cultural upbringing and the environments you expose yourself to. I think moving abroad is an excellent idea for you. Have you thought about studying abroad? It’d be a good way to spend a smaller amount of time living in a new country without immediately committing yourself to that one area.

I recently reached a point where I might need anti-depressants... Do you think that I should use them? I am worried, if they might change me into another person...

Honestly, antidepressants—and, really, any kind of drug you have to take for long lengths of time—scare me. But from what I hear from friends who are under professional care and on various medicines, it does change you. For the better. It helps you deal with anxieties that might otherwise hold you back from who you are underneath all the stress and paranoia and everything else.

Of course, this is something you should thoroughly research and then discuss with your doctor and specifically your psychiatrist once you’re armed with tons of information. Make sure you know what you’re taking, what else you could be taking, and if you really need to be taking it. Keep in mind that the side effects can vary from drug to drug and from person to person, and they can sometimes be intense. You and your doctors might need to find the right medicine that balances with you.


That's all for this week, guys. Send over more questions to me for next week's column, and I'll keep the advice coming. Hope you enjoyed this first Ask Kotaku!

To contact the author of this post, write to tina@kotaku.com or find her on Twitter at @tinaamini.