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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Essay

Essay

Witches, Wise Women, and Widows: A Cultural Look at Viking RPG The Banner Saga

There was a storm warning in Reykjavík the night I started playing The Banner Saga. As my computer booted and my tea steeped, I made the rounds in my apartment, securing the latches of my windows — double-paned, of course, to keep the cold out. Bare birch branches writhed eerily outside, and the sky, which had danced pink and green four nights prior, was coal gray. It was a good night for a Viking story.

I glanced at my watch as I launched the game. I had to start playing, but I was eager for my partner to come home. Most Icelanders I’ve met have a strong affinity for their heritage, but my partner is a cultural paladin. Our shelves are crammed with epic poetry, archaeological resources, and dictionaries of dead languages. When my mom came to visit last summer, my partner had a story (or a song) for every mountain and waterfall we drove past. There’s a single-handed battle axe resting against her bedside table. Y’know, just in case.

I didn’t want her to play the game with me. I wanted her to snark.

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Essay

The Batfamily Reunited This Week, Except for One: Let’s Not Forget Batgirl Cassandra Cain

One of the more easily pointed to examples of sexism in the New 52 concerned which of the five characters to be called Robin and three characters to be called Batgirl made it to the new continuity. Editorial explained to fans that two Batgirls would be erased from the setting so the “most iconic” one, Barbara Gordon, could be returned to the costume, to make things simple for new readers. However, in the other Batcave locker room, all four of the male characters who had been Robin were brought over to the New 52, despite the new universe having a hard age limit of five years from the first appearance of Batman.

This week saw one of those women (spoiler for Batman #28) Stephanie Brown, the third Batgirl and fourth Robin, return to comics as the Spoiler in a sneak preview of the next story arc to engulf Gotham City and the Batman-related titles. And while I’m very excited to have her back, I worry about Cassandra Cain, the first person of color to join the Batfamily, who is now that last Batgirl sitting on the bench with the rest of the New 52′s abandoned heroes.

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Essay

Without Buffy Summers There Is No Tessa Battle

[Editor's Note: Novelist Kelly Thompson has a few things to say about how, like a lot of us, Buffy the Vampire Slayer affected her life in a significant way. Read on to see exactly how and find out just who Tessa Battle is.]

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Essay

Wish She Could Be Part of Your World: On Tauriel-hate and Original Material

It’s a poorly-kept secret that we here at TMS are firmly on the side of Tauriel, the original female elf character in The Hobbit franchise whose mere existence created waves of discussion across the Internet. But some do not share in our enthusiasm. In fact, if you took a look around the fan ‘net in the months preceding The Desolation of Smaug’s release, there has been a distinctly anti-Tauriel sentiment in the air. Hiding behind a desire to preserve the sanctity of the source material, many commentators objected to her addition on purist grounds. Other became concerned about her rumored involvement in a love subplot with Legolas and/or Kíli, further indicated by a secondary trailer for the feature in which King Thranduil appears to caution her against pursuing relations with his son. But now we have surer footing from which to look at Tauriel, warrior, love interest, healer, and forum discussion whipping-girl. The actual film containing her appearance has emerged, and with it, a host of questions, concerns, and a fair bit of mud that this reviewer is willing to sling back.

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Essay

How You Can Get On Jeopardy!

Tina Nguyen of our sister site The Braisier achieved nerdvana last night when she appeared on Jeopardy! and was able to show off her smarts and bask in the presence of Alex Trebek. Here she explains how you can achieve the same.

“Oh my god!” people gush whenever they learn that I’m appearing on Jeopardy!. “Are you super smart? Are you like some sort of braniac? Did you tell Alex Trebek to suck it?”

Ideally, the answer would be “Yes, yes, and absolutely.” In reality, the answers are “Sort of, Jeopardy! requires more computer-esque skills, and if I had actually pretended to be Darrell Hammond pretending to be Sean Connery, Trebek would probably punch me.” What I don’t tell them—and what I will reveal to you now—is that it took me four attempts to get on the show. Yes. Four.

This is how I got onto the greatest game show on television, and this is how you can, too.

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Essay

Papers, Please: A Game About Borders, Stamps, and My Family

I don’t know how I decided to play Papers, Please without considering the parallels. Why that game, of all the games in my backlog? Was it a subconscious thing? It’s laughable, really, that I didn’t think about it. It’s as if I’d actually forgotten how much of my life has been defined by stamps in passports, how many sleepless nights I’ve spent worrying about said same.

I’m writing this from my childhood home in Southern California. I came here for a convergence of events, primary among which was my grandmother’s memorial service. She was a German immigrant first, a US citizen second. At the memorial, my uncle spoke of a photograph that showed my grandmother and her sister as little girls, playing in their backyard. He remarked on how if you had looked at them then, it’d be hard to imagine how differently their lives would turn out.

He was speaking, in part, about East and West Germany.

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Essay

Tabletop Roleplaying for the Shy and Cerebral

When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, my partner is a walking rulebook. Need to calculate a stat? She’s got you covered. Trying to fudge the length of a spell duration? She’ll call you on it. Don’t know which dice to roll? She knows. From combat to lore, she’s a font of knowledge, and she’s meticulous in her record-keeping. If you’ve forgotten anything — loot properties, earned XP, how much gold’s in the kitty — she’ll have it down. It’s amazing.

Roleplaying, on the other hand…roleplaying doesn’t come instinctively to her. My partner is shy by nature, and content to be the quiet member of the table, declaring actions when necessary, but otherwise supporting the rest of us by doing math and taking notes. Our current campaign, however, is an RP-heavy city setting, and though we’ve been having a blast, my partner has felt that she’s not contributing much. The other night, a few hours before our scheduled session, she asked me, with no small amount of trepidation, if I’d help her get better at roleplaying.

As if I’d say no.

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Essay

The Constructive Side of Escapism

I’m not sure why I thought of Minecraft that night. I hadn’t played it in months. But as soon as the idea entered my head, it was all I wanted to do. I wanted to build a house.

It didn’t start well. Within forty-five minutes, I had deleted three singleplayer worlds, and in keeping with my month-long mood, I was telling myself that a house was a stupid idea to begin with. I didn’t know how to design a house. When playing with my friends, I was commonly the explorer, rather than the architect. I left buildings to people who could do something other than shoeboxes with roofs on top. Visual design has never been my strong suit.

I was on the verge of quitting. “Hang on,” I said to myself. “Don’t give up. Forget picket fences and vegetable gardens. If you could live anywhere, where would — “

The answer appeared immediately, as it has for twelve years: Tomahna. Atrus and Catherine’s home, from Myst III and IV.

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Essay

Pacific Rim Is Not Your Average Action Juggernaut

The dismal state of this summer’s blockbusters is multidimensional: not only did big-budget films generally perform poorly, but they also were conceptually and emotionally hollow. The Lone Ranger didn’t seem to understand why Johnny Depp in redface could possibly be a bad thing, and the failure of the Smith-Smith-fronted After Earth to draw in crowds boggled the minds of film studios everywhere. When the promising prospect of Elysium turned out to be a moralistic bull in a china shop, the summer sci-fi set seemed doomed.

Is there anything to salvage from this black hole of summer cinema? I think there is: Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which stands out from the crowd of half-baked action/sci-fi juggernauts for one reason: it knows what it is. It knows that it’s a visually-amazing action flick– but what’s even more interesting is that it knows how to subvert pieces of the genre other films blindly pay homage to. In particular, Pacific Rim has a way of smashing gender-based action movie tropes like they’re Kaiju skulls.

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Essay

Clones Are People Too: The Science and Science Fiction of BBC America’s Orphan Black

As BBC America’s Orphan Black heads into its second season, many critics have focused on Tatiana Maslany’s supremely impressive feats of acting and the many compelling female characters as the draw of the series. If you haven’t watched the show, you’ve still likely heard that the lead actress plays no fewer than seven distinct characters, just in the first season. However, Orphan Black also stands out as a piece of science fiction, and it does so in a very relevant manner. The series is a distinctly modern science fiction story and focuses on two crucial themes: individuality and gene patenting. By posing serious questions about humanity, Orphan Black serves as an effective analogue for real life events, which elevates its science fiction status. Read on to find out how the show is reflecting our society, perceived stereotypes, and why they’re way ahead of the sci-fi game.

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