In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Keisha Howard is the founder of a female gaming organization in Chicago called Sugar Gamers. She recently appeared on SyFy’s Robot Combat League, a real-life version of Rock’Em, Sock’Em Robots (also see Hugh Jackman’s flick Real Steel) in which eight-foot-tall, half-ton humanoid bots battle each other in a series of arena-style fights. Howard was the “jockey” of a two-person team—the one fitted with an exo-suit and asked to execute shadow boxing moves that translated into metal-on-metal jabs. Unfortunately, her robot, Game Over, lived up to its name and lost to a hatchet-faced robot named Axe. Howard’s now ready to move on and get back to video gaming.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Keisha Howard: Hopefully, I’ll be playing the new BioShock Infinite. I know I’m a couple weeks late, but I still can’t wait to play it. I played the first two, and I’ve only heard great things about this one. I’m expecting it to be as good as the first one, because BioShock 2 felt more like DLC and not its own game. So I’m hoping with the creation of this brand new world, environment, and storyline that it’ll be just as fresh as the first one.
Gameological: So you’re staying away from robots for a while?
Howard: No, there might come an opportunity where I can avenge myself. So, I have to practice more. But yeah, I’ve never actually played many robot games. There’s a level in Little Big Planet I like with these little robots that follow you because they love you and they have these little hearts in their eyes. There’s Super Scope 6 but nothing on a current system. I like my robots cute, so there’s not many current games to choose from.
Gameological: Speaking of which, talk about what happened in your Robot Combat League match.
Howard: I went in and gave it all I had. I decapitated a robot. But robot rules are different than other rules, because decapitation doesn’t mean an automatic win. They put the head back on and beat my ass in turn. [Laughs.]
Gameological: That’s crazy because in most walks of life, a decapitation in a fight would lead to a win.
Howard: Yep, but that’s how it goes. They lost their head, I lost my arms and that equaled getting our ass beat. Done.
Gameological: Can you compare the experience of controlling a giant robot to any kind of video game?
Howard: It was sort of like playing a fighting game on Xbox Kinect. I personally have the most experience with the fighting game SoulCalibur, but it reminded me more of a game like Tekken. SoulCalibur has these really fluid movements, whereas Tekken, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing, can be sort of jerky. It was pretty cool experience though.
Gameological: Your robot was game-themed too, right?
Howard: Yeah, his name was Game Over and it had a caged-in static video screen for a head. It was an ominous, foreboding presence that kind of felt like, oh my God, SkyNet is truly coming. Get ready, we’re about to die. [Laughs.] I mean, I loved Game Over. It was a perfect blend of things we wanted to express as far as robots, gaming, and science fiction.
Gameological: Do you think your video gaming experience gave you any advantage?
Howard: Well, in retrospect, maybe being an MMA fighter would have been better, but I think gaming gave me the confidence to go out there and helped me believe that there was a chance I could win this crazy thing. And I think there was. We definitely gave a good fight. Who knows, maybe we could have sliced our competitors in half if we had another chance.
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.