Gender parity in video games

Last night I was playing Diablo 3 with my fiancé and a friend, when I was asked a question.

“Why is your barbarian a female?”

The reason is that since the option to pick my gender in a game happens so rarely, when I can, I do. My heart pumps purple blood for Mileena, I adventure with Celes and Terra, I pop heads as a female cyborg, it’s just how I prefer to play.

This morning we continued the discussion, why do I play as a female? Because “it’s 2016” and my gender remains staggeringly under-represented in games. Why is that?

I heard the argument that I could play Lara Croft games, Metroid, Heavenly Sword… and so what? I’m not saying that no female game protagonists exist. I’m saying there are precious few. The proof is on my shelf.

I own 132 video games. I like to play RPGs, tactical games, fighters, dungeon crawling loot bonanzas, solo games, co-op FPS, simulations, all sorts of games. This is my shelf:

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I pulled every game to the edge. Any game with a male protagonist was pushed back in, now 61 games remain.

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Of what’s left, about half are RPGs like Final Fantasy, where you play as a large cast of characters of both genders, and there is nearly always a main male character on a coming of age quest.  The remainder are adventuring games where you can pick your gender, like Oblivion, Dragon Age,or Diablo, and games where you choose a fighter like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter.

So I pushed back every game that did not have a clear female protagonist.

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4 games remain. Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. Since FF games have a large cast that knocks FF XIII and XIII-2 out of the running. Sorry Lightning!

What is left?

2 games.

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Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy X-2, arguably one of the worst, cheesiest FFs ever made.

Why is this? A mere 2 out of 132.

Hey Nintendo. While I was drooling over the E3 footage of your new Zelda game, I couldn’t help but notice that once again we’re going to play as Link. Where is “The Legend of Zelda: a Link in Chains“?  Where is the Zelda game where you get to play as Zelda?

This is not a problem limited to Nintendo. This is a problem and a responsibility shared by all game manufacturers. Not only is it a poor financial decision to continue making and marketing games mostly towards men (I’m looking at you Ubisoft), it’s a moral failing.

Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and the game manufacturers are continuing to perpetuate the myth that women don’t exist, women don’t matter. Why?

Dear video game industry, why don’t my dollars matter to you? Why don’t I matter to you? Where are our games?

I’ve shown you my game shelf. What does your look like?

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Apple pie

Last night the stars aligned, and Boyfriend and I both had the same day off. It’s a provincial holiday, so  we stayed indoors, playing video games and cooking. He made dinner and I made dessert. This is my first pie where dreaded Frankencrust did not appear. Tah-dah!

It looks much better than all my previous pies. Am so happy!

I love pie. I don’t post pie recipes, because mine are very often disappointing. It seems like I’m not the best person to give advice on how to make a pie, if my own are not up to the exacting standards I want (basically, to make a pie like my older sister makes).

This ends now. As I told Boyfriend, while we enjoyed our pie:

“Prepare to be fattened. This is the year I master pie. I’m going to do it. You’re going to eat it.”

“Okay then!”

Whoa, that is a lot of liquid. Not sure what happened there. C’est la vie. I haven’t been baking very much this month. Too busy immersed in Skyrim and the glorious side quests. Overall I’m having a very lazy extended weekend and if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read!

Devil’s cupcakes

If being damned meant I could eat devil’s food cake every day then send me straight to hell.

What makes a “classic” devil’s food cake recipe is debatable, but one thing is not open for discussion, and that is the simple fact that devil’s food cake is delicious. Alternately known as the the best cake ever, devil’s food is a rich, moist, airy cake.

I was compelled to make these after several late-night Diablo 2 sessions with Boyfriend. After a few dungeon crawls which culminated in fighting various demons and devils, I woke up the other day with three words on my mind: devil’s food cake. It’s divine inspiration.

These were made from the “classic devil’s food cake” recipe in my beloved Chocolate! book by Good Housekeeping, which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. I planned to make chocolate buttercream but when it was time to make the frosting I forgot, so these beauties are frosted with luscious vanilla buttercream.

Good to know before you start: although you can substitute buttermilk by adding white vinegar to regular milk, it is worth using real buttermilk for this. I’ve done the substitution a few times, but I find the flavour and texture of cake batter made with real buttermilk is much, much better. I spent $2.69 on a 1L carton.

I used to avoid buying it because I had no idea what to do with the leftover milk, but I will just MAKE MORE CUPCAKES NOM NOM NOM.

Before you open the buttermilk shake it well.

I was experimenting with camera settings for these shots. My apologies if the lightning is off.

Time required: 1.5 hours

Yields: 48 mini cupcakes, 24 regular cupcakes, or three 8″ round cakes

Cost per mini cupcake: $1.08

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $42-$52 depending on the quality of vanilla extract

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer!
  • 2 mini cupcake trays

Ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ½ C unsalted butter (one stick), room temp
  • 1 C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1½ TSP vanilla extract
  • 1½ C buttermilk

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F. Place cupcake liners in trays. (For round cakes, grease the pans, line with parchment paper, and dust with cocoa.)

2. In a medium bowl combine: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl at low speed, beat: butter, brown sugar, and white sugar, until blended. Increase speed to high: beat 5 min until it’s light and fluffy.

4. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time.

Sometimes when Boyfriend walks into the kitchen, he will find me already in there, staring at my blue mixer.

“What are you doing?”

“Admiring.”

“Er…okay then.” (as he slowly backs away)

5. Beat in vanilla.

6. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk alternating like so: half of the flour, all the buttermilk, and the rest of the flour. After each addition beat until just combined. Scrape the sides a few times and make sure the batter is smooth.

7. Bake times: 14-15 min for mini cupcakes, at least 20 min for full size cupcakes, 30-35 min for 8″ rounds.

If making the round cakes, place two pans on top rack and one on bottom rack, no pan should be completely on top of another to allow air circulation.

A toothpick inserted should come out nearly clean.

Let cupcakes cool in pan one minute before removing from pan and placing on rack.

Let cakes cool 10 minutes before using thin knife to loosen edges and inverting onto rack.

Cool for at least one hour before frosting.

8. Frost! Oops. Forgot about making chocolate buttercream and made my regular vanilla buttercream for this: cream together 5 TBSP of unsalted butter at room temperature with 3 C of icing sugar. One at a time, mix in 1 TBSP milk, 1 TSP pure vanilla, and 1 TBSP lemon juice. If desired add a few drops of food colouring.

Verdict: Delicious. OMG. Delicious. Love love love. Real buttermilk batter is where it’s at.

Although I like mini cupcakes (because I can argue that eating two is only the equivalent of one), making them is aggravating. Manipulating batter into such a small space is so annoying. I have half a carton of buttermilk left though. Ah hah! I’ll just make full size cupcakes!!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to practice making buttercream roses. Perhaps I failed at making a perfect rose (more of an artists’ interpretation of a white carnation) but whatever! I still make heavenly cupcakes. The humidity is part of the problem, normally my frosting is firmer, but it’s been so humid and it came out slightly runny, which made is easy to pipe but it couldn’t hold a shape well.

I’ll make up another batch in a few days and will definitely go for chocolate buttercream.

What is your favourite cupcake and frosting flavour combination?

Playlist: Depeche Mode

Patty’s peach flans

What do custard and Final Fantasy IV have in common? Flans!!

A flan – or crème caramel – is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top,with similiar characteristics to crème brûlée.

As all Square fans should know, one of the toughest enemies in old school FF games were the pudding class, and in IV (my favourite), the rarest creature of all was the “pink puff” or “princess flan”.

Looks can be deceiving! These pink monsters were immune to magical attacks, almost immune to physical attacks, and you had to whittle away at their high HP.

They could only be found in one tiny room in the entire game, where you had a 1 in 64 chance of finding them, and if you defeated them you had a 1 in 64 chance of earning the rarest item in the game. But I digress.

I had flans on my mind for some reason or another, and decided to give it a go.  Usually I wouldn’t preface a recipe with a warning, but you should read all the way to the end before trying this one.

Time required: 2.5 hr

Yields: 6 flans

Cost per flan: $6.30

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $38.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • 6 ramequins
  • baking pan 9″ x 13″
  • sieve

Ingredients:

  • 6 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 cinnamon stick, split
  • ⅓C granulated white sugar (for caramelization)
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1½C milk
  • ⅓C granulated white sugar sugar (for custard)
  • 1 TSP pure vanilla extract
  • 3 shakes of ground cinnamon, per custard

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 163°C / 325°F. Fill kettle and boil, then let water simmer.

2. Peel fruit and dice into thin pieces.

3. Melt butter in a pan. Add fruit, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean (pods and shell).

4. Bring to a boil, and simmer 15 min.

5. On Medium heat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, caramelize 1/3 C sugar. Do not stir it, shake the pan gently until it starts melting. Once melted, reduce heat to Low. Cook for 5 min.

At this point all the sugar should be melted and it’s okay to stir.

6. Immediately pour this melted sugar into the ramequins, titling to coat evenly.

Let stand 10 minutes.

charred molasses WTF?

7. Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, and the other 1/3 C sugar, and vanilla.

Beat until well combined but not foamy.

oops, is this foamy?

8. Place peaches in ramequins.

8. Divide custard mixture evenly amount ramequins.

9. Sprinkle with cinnamon (I have a glass shaker filled with ground cinnamon for this)

guessing this doesn't look normal

10. Place ramequins in baking dish and create bain marie.

11. Bake up to 45 min.

12. Immediately remove ramequins from bain marie and place on cooling rack for 10 min.

13. Before consuming, loosen edges of flan with knife, and place a plate over ramequin, and invert.

Verdict: Burnt, with a bitter liquer aftertaste, and  a consistency of hard-boiled egg. Not exactly what I was hoping for!

Where did it all go wrong?

The first problem was the peaches, they were under-ripe, and I overcooked them in my eagerness to include them. Alas, adding fruit to flans changes the consistency and cooking time considerably.

Second, a third of a cup of sugar was not enough to coat each ramequin – I ran out, made more, and burned it – and used it anyway. The sugar tasted like burnt brandy, bitter and horrible.

Third, flans should take no longer than 45 minutes to cook, and when they are done, a knife blade inserted will come out clean. I accidentally set the oven to the wrong temperature and didn’t realize until they were already in, so I adjusted the temperature and checked them at 20 minutes, then every 5 minutes. After 70 minutes they still had not set, the knife was covered in runny custard, but I took them out anyway, only to discover they had mysteriously cooked all the way through. WTF.

I think peach flans have potential. I’m going to retry this with plain flans first, to get the technique down, then I’ll try adding fruit. I will not cook the peaches again, just use ripe peaches, one or two slices per cup max. The butter that the peaches cooked in looked unsightly. I think I’d prefer smaller ramequins for this too.

What a waste of vanilla bean!

Playlist: Final Fantasy IV – Into the Darkness

“Down with the sickness”

Well, I am sick. Boyfriend came home from work with a nasty bug, and within two days I caught it, and this is officially a House of Misery ™.

Not much baking going on here. Currently the fanciest thing I’m making is soup from a can. Actually I’m not even doing that, just lying on the couch and sadly mumbling about tea and soup, until Boyfriend catches my subtle hints and makes it for me.

Easter dinner was a far cry from what I’m used to; grilled cheese sandwiches and canned soup. That would be horribly depressing, but luckily on Good Friday, Boyfriend and I were invited to dinner with friends at their home, and it was lovely – if I focus on Friday instead of Sunday it’s okay.

I haven’t done much this weekend, aside from playing the new Mortal Kombat game on PS3. If you enjoyed the first three MK games, do yourself a favor and buy it. Right now. It is so good, it’ll make you forget about all the mediocre games released between 1997 and 2010. Total old school goodness. This is the first MK I’ve loved in 15 years.

In fact, this MK is so good, it almost makes me forget about the pain in my throat and the ringing in my ears – almost.

Patty’s blackberry cream puffs

A flaky pastry bursting with freshly made whipped cream and tart blackberries is a wonderful way to start your morning.

It’s a good thing I love blackberries because I still have quite a lot of them. Last night I was musing over what to make with them, using ingredients I already had in the cupboard, as I was chatting with Best Friend.

Our conversation reminded me of the day in high school that Best Friend made éclairs on a whim (the first and only time she made them), and they were perfect. This led to inspiration, since a cream puff and an éclair are the same pastry, just shaped differently, and I thought the cavernous insides of a cream puff would be the perfect place to use some berries. Voilà!

My relationship with pastry is wary at best so I used a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is available on Amazon.ca. It’s a good hardcover with a ring binding, lots of pictures and useful tips.

Time required: 1.5 hours

Yields: 12 pastries

Cost per pastry: $2.17

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $26.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • beaters and mixing bowl
  • cookie pan
  • parchment paper

getting started

Pastry ingredients:

  • 1 C water
  • ½ C butter (one stick)
  • ½ TSP salt
  • 1 C flour
  • 4 eggs

Filling ingredients:

  • 1 C heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 TBSP icing sugar
  • ½ TSP vanilla
  • 2 TBSP granulated white sugar (set aside)
  • 2-3 containers of blackberries (set aside)

Good to know before you start:
Place the mixing  bowl and beaters in the fridge now to chill them for the whipped cream – some people will say you don’t need to do this but I find it helps to make a fluffy cream

Don’t stuff the pastry with the filling until ready to serve, to prevent sogginess

Instructions:

Step 1 – preheat oven to 205°C / 400°F.  Line cookie pan with parchment paper (oops, forgot to do that).

Step 2 – measure out flour and set aside.

Step 3 – in a sauce pan, combine water, butter, and salt. Heat to boiling.

Step 4 – as soon as it boils, add all the flour (don’t let it sit boiling away or it will start evaporating). Stir vigorously until dough forms a ball, and remove from heat.

Step 5 – let mixture stand on counter for 10 minutes. Then beat in eggs, one at a time.

Step 6 – drop 12 heaping spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet…. hmmmm, something is amiss!  Oh well no matter.

Step 7 – bake 30 minutes and tops should be golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer pastry to wire rack. Cool at least 40 min. (Wishing I had remembered to use parchment paper because they did stick to the pan a little.)

Step 8 – meanwhile in chilled bowl with beaters on Medium; beat heavy cream, icing sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Some people recommend you wait until the cream is beaten to add the sugar and vanilla but I wanted to get back to my Assassin’s Creed game.

Whipped cream is so easy to make, I’ll never understand why people buy it in stores when the homemade stuff is so much better.

Step 9 – wash and drain the berries.  If the berries are tart sprinkle sugar onto them and toss.

Step 10 – once pastry is cooled, use sharp knife to cut a seam near bottom of pastry, and if you look inside you’ll see it’s fairly hollow.

Step 11 – stuff those bad boys with as much whipped cream and berries as desired!! In this one, the cap of the pastry is filled to capacity. XD

Verdict: Delicious! A perfect addition to afternoon tea or to round off a meal. I suspect this will be equally tasty with blueberries or raspberries, or whatever else you fancy, or drizzled with chocolate ganache. If you have never made this type of pastry before you might be surprised by how few ingredients are required, and how quick and easy it is to make.

Playlist: Meat Loaf

Untitled post is untitled

Tonight I’ll be making a cheesecake bar dessert, but in the meantime, I read a fantastic book recently; Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

It’s a personal account of the disastrous Mt. Everest climb of 1996. The first IMAX movie I saw was  Everest, which (unbeknownst to me) was filmed during the same time that the events of the novel occurred. I will definitely watch the film again soon.

Today I’m on the hunt for a specific item, a 10.5″ x 15.5″ baking pan deep enough to hold a 9″ x 13″ pan, for a water bath, for tonight’s dessert.

However, I sort of overslept and Boyfriend was kind enough to nag me out of bed before he left for the day, and I’m cold. Brrrr. Before venturing outside I am waiting for A) my hair to dry and B) the store to open.

I had a good weekend, finally completed the first Super Mario Galaxy with 120 stars (mad skills!), and a good friend dropped by to visit. Also made a lasagna. The only low point was accidentally updating my BlackBerry to OS 6 – I intended to update the desktop manager and back up my phone, but instead upgraded my OS, and now my RAM is almost gone. Oops.

Just the other day something wonderful happened. I became an aunt, again! Older Sister # 2 had a baby girl, named Sherbert!

Older Sisters # 1 and # 3 have gotten to visit the bebe and to my surprise, I’m very jealous. Overall I do not like children, and that includes infants, but all the same I’m really excited about my niece. I guess because she’s MY niece.

I also intend to find a super-awesome present, so as this bebe grows up I’ll retain my title of favourite aunt who gives cool presents.  Although my older sisters have the home field advantage of being geographically closer to Sherbert, I have the Big City Shopping advantage. If they think that online shopping will even the field, they couldn’t be more wrong.

I’m not competitive, not at all. Boyfriend thinks I’ve lost my mind and laughs at my recent behavior because normally, the only thing baby-related that piques my interest is Baby Smasher. So yes, I’m quite thrilled to be an aunt again!!

Current playlist: 80’s