New Mac SSD Upgrade Options Now Available

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.23.10 PM

Is your 2013 or newer model MacBook Pro or MacBook Air running out of disk space? Up until now, there weren’t any available storage upgrade options for the newer model Mac laptops due to their proprietary style solid state drive (SSD) flash blades. But that all changed as of yesterday with the announcement from Other World Computing on the availability of their new Aura SSD flash blades that are fully compatible with mid-2013 and newer Mac laptops in sizes up to 1TB!

OWC already had standard 2.5″ style SSD’s available for the older Mac laptops as well as SSD flash blades for the 2010-2012 model Mac laptops. Now, their Aura SSD product line includes full support for the 2013 and newer models, which is welcome news for those who bought a newer Mac laptop with one of those tiny SSD flash blades that’s now running out of space.

SSD upgrades are also the best “bang for the buck” upgrades you can do for an older Mac or PC. Want to see just how much faster an old Mac runs with an SSD compared to the older style hard drives that came stock? Check out these videos where I put a 2009 iMac and a 2010 MacBook Pro to the test!

Here is OWC’s current SSD pricing per Mac laptop model (not including installation service):

  • 2013-current MacBook Air
    • 480GB $347.99
    • 1TB $597.99
  • 2012 MacBookAir
    • 120GB $79.00
    • 240GB $127.99
    • 480GB $207.99
    • 1TB $397.99
  • 2010-2011 MacBook Air
    • 120GB $79.00
    • 240GB $127.99
    • 480GB $207.99
    • 1TB $397.99
  • 2008-2009 MacBook Air
    • 60GB $94.99
    • 120GB $117.99
    • 240GB $179.99
    • 480GB $297.99
  • 2008 MacBook Air
    • 64GB $139.00
    • 128GB $229.00

 

  • 2013-current MacBook Pro Retina
    • 480GB $347.99
    • 1TB $597.99
  • 2012-2013 MacBook Pro Retina
    • 240GB $134.99
    • 480GB $217.99
    • 1TB $419.99

 

  • 2009-current MacBook Pro
    • 60GB $42.99
    • 120GB $64.99
    • 240GB $104.99
    • 480GB $194.75
    • 1TB $344.75
    • 2TB $647.99
  • 2006-2009 MacBook Pro
    • 60GB $42.99
    • 120GB $63.88
    • 240GB $103.99
    • 480GB $171.99
    • 1TB $329.99

SSD upgrades are also available for the iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Pro, as well as most PC laptops and desktops! Call or email Echo Park Mac & PC Repair to book your SSD upgrade service now!

Myth vs Fact: There Aren’t Enough Video Games With Female Playable Lead Protagonists

Are there enough video games with female playable lead protagonists? Some male gamers seem to think so. But why do so many female gamers disagree?

Let’s assume that “enough” means parity or at least somewhat close to parity with the number of games featuring male playable lead protagonists.

It would be arduous — though not impossible — to catalog every video game publicly released since 1958’s Tennis For Two (considered to be the first video game created for entertainment) and determine whether the playable lead protagonist is female, male, or unspecified/player-selectable/gender-neutral. Some studies have attempted to do this but only with a subset of games.

Perhaps a simpler and more useful approach would be to qualify the scope. What if we looked at, say, just the Top 100 Games of All Time? Is there such a list that we could all agree on? Ever since video game journalists started compiling “Best of All Time” lists, gamers have endlessly argued over the rankings.

It turns out that Wikipedia editors have attempted to come up with One List to rule them all by surveying more than seventy “Best of All Time” lists across English-speaking publications from 1985 to the present and then ranked the games according the number of times they appeared in the surveyed lists. The concept is similar to a meta-analysis that statistically combines the results of many independent studies.

So how many of these Top 100 Games of All Time feature a female playable lead protagonist?

The answer: 8.

That’s right, only 8 out of the Top 100 Games of All Time feature a female playable lead protagonist.

Since there are so few to remember, it’s no surprise that most male gamers are quick to point out these time-honored examples of great games with female playable lead protagonists: Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid Prime, Tomb Raider, Ms. Pac-Man, Portal, Portal 2 and Okami.

Even if we lump in the 19 games that feature a lead playable protagonist whose gender is unspecified/player-selectable/gender-neutral, that still leaves a whopping 73 of the Top 100 Games of All Time with a male lead playable protagonist. Clearly, this is far from parity and a long ways away from an “even playing field” that allows for female gamers to feel included and fairly represented in video games.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.39.29 PM

Go ahead, pick any Top 100 Games of All Time list, run the same analysis and post your findings in the comments section. I’m betting that the splits won’t look that much different, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Here’s the raw data from my analysis. For games featuring more than one playable lead protagonist, the gender determination was categorized as either female, male, or neutral depending on the composition. For example, games like Street Fighter II got counted as male due to having only one female out of eight selectable fighters, and Resident Evil counted as neutral because players can choose between Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. Let me know in the comments if you find any errors.

Top100GamesAllTime1

Top100GamesAllTime2

Top100GamesAllTime3

Top100GamesAllTime4

Top100GamesAllTime5

Why I’m Gender-Hacking Zelda

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about why I decided to hack the Zelda games to make the playable protagonist, Link, gender-neutral for my daughter and why I decided to release the patches online. So I tried to address it as best I could in my interview with The Mary Sue:

I have no idea which video games will “speak” to my daughter or if she’ll even become enamored with video games at all. I just wanted to tilt the odds slightly by removing what I saw as an impediment that could possibly prevent her from experiencing my favorite video game of all time in the same deep and immersive way that I was able to experience it. I always felt like I was Link and that I was the hero going on the great adventure to battle evil and save Hyrule and its inhabitants. There wasn’t a single odd pronoun in any of the Zelda games that broke the spell for me, but that’s because I just happened to be a dude and the game’s text assumed I was a dude.

The words we use and the stories we tell in our games and books and movies are important because they not only reveal how we see our world, but they also show how our world could be. Too many of our monomyths — ancient, new and recycled — tell us that only men can be world-saving heroes. In her impressionable years, I hope that my daughter discovers and consumes so many female monomyths that she will never see a ceiling above her. And in her powerful years, I hope that she creates new monomyths of her own.

This project is an ongoing work in progress, but here are the gender-neutral patches I’ve completed so far and have made freely available:

Coincidentally, it turns out that I might be helping to return Link back to Link’s original roots. I reached out to Clyde Mandelin, professional translator and author of Legends of Localization, for his take on the debate over Link’s intended gender in the early Zelda games. Specifically, I asked him if the original Japanese language version of A Link to the Past (“Triforce of the Gods”) referred to the player as male in the game and instruction manual. He dug into it and found something quite extraordinary: Link’s gender is very rarely mentioned anywhere in the original Japanese game, box or manual! While the English manual for The Legend of Zelda refers to Link as male more than 70 times, the Japanese manual specifies Link as a boy only twice! It appears there was a notable shift to define Link’s gender more concretely when Nintendo exported Link from Japan to the English-speaking world in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Link’s Gender-Neutral Awakening DX

LADX_GenderNeutral

Link made the transition from the TV screen to the handheld screen in 1993 with the first and only Zelda game released for the Game Boy, Link’s Awakening. Five years later, Nintendo released Link’s Awakening DX, an updated “deluxe” color version for the Game Boy Color. As in previous Zelda games, player’s were able to assign their own name for the young protagonist but the in-game characters still incorrectly assumed that the player was male. I’ve already hacked and released gender-neutral patches for The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past and The Minish Cap; Link’s Awakening DX was my next favorite Zelda game that I wanted to patch for my daughter. You can check out my interview with The Mary Sue for a fuller explanation as to why I’ve decided to hack these games with gender-neutral patches.

Since Link’s Awakening DX had about the same amount of in-game text as A Link to the Past, it took roughly the same amount of time to comb through the dialogue and swap out all of the gendered pronouns referring to Link. I was able to move a bit quicker using some of the same replacement strategies that I had figured out earlier, such as swapping out “brother” with “comrade” and “boy” with “kid.”

After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own Link’s Awakening DX GameBoy Color game cartridge (specifically, the 1998 North American v1.2 release) into a ROM file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of Link’s Awakening DX as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified ROM file. You can play the modified ROM using a GBC emulator or you can play it on an actual GBC using any method that allows custom ROM files to be played on the GBC.

Let me know in the comments section below which Zelda game is your favorite and which one you would like to see gender-neutral!

The Gender-Neutral Minish Cap

TMC_GenderNeutral

Released in North America in 2005 for the Game Boy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was the twelfth entry in the Zelda series but easily ranks as one of my personal top favorites and I can’t wait to share the joy of it with my baby daughter once she’s old enough to play it. Although the game allows the player to input their own name for Link and become the hero in an immersive experience, all of the characters in the game still refer to the player as male, which I see as a “bug” that needs fixin’.

Last week, I released my gender-neutral patches for The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past, igniting somewhat of a firestorm on social media and gaming blogs like Kotaku and Zelda Informer. An assistant editor with The Mary Sue interviewed me to find out why I thought this was important.

Gender-neutral hacking The Minish Cap took a bit longer than A Link to the Past mainly because The Minish Cap contains about five times more text to crawl through. The gendered pronouns weren’t always so easy to replace — especially since I forced myself to stay within the same number of characters to prevent “breaking” the game while hacking it — and I found several instances where I had to slightly rephrase a sentence while still retaining the tone of the dialogue.

My rule of thumb as I went through all of the lines of text in the game was “Do No Harm” to the game or to the intended style of speech for each of the in-game characters. I kept all of my changes as minimally intrusive as possible. For example, when Zelda first enters Master Smith’s home to ask permission to bring Link to the Picori Festival, she says:

Where’s Link? The whole town is bustling for the annual Picori Festival! I thought he and I might go together. Would you mind terribly?

In my gender-neutral patch for A Link to the Past, I was able to replace instances of “he” with “ye” because those were in the context of an expression where “ye” made just as much sense as “he,” usually when a character (or signpost) was talking to Link about Link. But in this case, the phrase, “I thought ye and I might go together,” doesn’t work because Zelda is talking to Master Smith about Link. I think the best way to reword that particular line of dialogue without specifying Link’s gender — and keeping the same number of characters — is, “I was thinking that we’d go together,” where the “we” is implied to mean her and Link (not her and Master Smith) since she was just asking about Link.

After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own The Minish Cap GameBoy Advance game cartridge (specifically, the 2005 North American release) into a ROM file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of The Minish Cap as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified ROM file. You can play the modified ROM using a GBA emulator or you can play it on an actual GBA using any method that allows custom ROM files to be played on the GBA.

For my next gender-neutral Link patch, I have my next favorite Zelda game in mind, but let me know in the comments section below which Zelda game is your favorite and which one you would like to see gender-neutral!

The Cross-Gender Evolution of Nintendo’s Marketing of Zelda

Oh, what a difference 30 years makes.

Teenage boys lusting over a centerfold spread (“Woah, nice graphics! I’d love to get my hands on that!”), a turtleneck performance artist apparently trapped in his parent’s basement, and a macho rapper pontificating on the hero’s journey (“a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”).

Fast forward to the 21st century and note the remarkable shift in tone and (gasp!) the new player demographic.

Hmm… Could this be next?

The Gender-Neutral Legend of Zelda

TLOZ_GenderNeutral

Yesterday, I released my gender-neutral patch for A Link to the Past that I made for my baby daughter and wanted to share with fellow gamers and Zelda fans. The story was picked up by Kotaku, Zelda Informer and Reddit (more), and apparently triggered quite a firestorm in the comments sections. There were a litany of vitriolic insults, diatribes, hilarious jokes, bad puns, circular debates, perfectly chosen animated GIFs, cat memes and Godwin’s Law in full effect.

But what really moved me and genuinely touched me were the heartfelt sentiments and stories that were posted in the fray by courageous, sincere voices that refused to be intimidated by all of the loud bullying. The outpouring of support from female and LGBT gamers as well as fellow male gamers around my age with daughters of their own has been a beautiful thing to witness.

So today, I am releasing my gender-neutral patch for The Legend of Zelda, the monumental game that spawned the epic franchise and pervaded the childhood of many gamers born in the 80s, mostly boys, this author included.

Granted, this patch was much easier to create since there are significantly fewer lines of in-game text in The Legend of Zelda compared to A Link to the Past, and of those few lines of text, only two required modification by replacing the word “boy” with “kid.”

And although it could be argued that the use of the word “boy” in the context of these two specific lines of dialogue — “BOY, THIS IS REALLY EXPENSIVE!” and “BOY, YOU’RE RICH!” — is meant as an exclamatory “wow,” it could also be argued that the intent was to convey the shopkeeper as an adult speaking to a child, in which case the proper, gender-neutral, 3-letter pronoun should be “kid” rather than “boy.”

I want to reiterate that other tremendously talented ROM hackers have created and perfected gender-swapped versions of this game and other classic games, and I think that’s great and I hope to see more. I have enormous respect for them and I also have enormous respect for the original creators of the classic games. I first started programming video games when I was about 4 years old on whatever computers I could find at my neighborhood library. By the time The Legend of Zelda was released in the US, I already had an appreciation of how much work and how many lines of code went into the most rudimentary of games, but Zelda completely blew me away with it’s artistry, music, puzzles, lore and addictive gameplay. Not only was it just downright fun to play, but it was one of the first home console games to “break the fourth wall” by allowing the player to name their playable character in the game. This was before the age of avatars and screen names and email addresses and Twitter handles. While players could choose any name they desired, the most immersive gameplay experience was possible by using your own name (or at least an 8-character abbreviation).

In The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto said:

I’ve been involved in countless titles these past thirty years, but The Legend of Zelda is the only game series [I’ve worked on] where a player can input his or her own name. I said the name Link came from his role as a connector, but Link is you, the player. The series has been so successful because the player must solve puzzles and defeat tough enemies in order to ultimately save the world.

More recently, in an interview at E3 following the reveal of a new trailer for the upcoming and much-anticipated Zelda U title, Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma said:

… ultimately Link represents the player in the game. I don’t want to define him so much that it becomes limiting to the players. I want players to focus on other parts… and not specifically on the character because the character Link represents, again, is the player.

I also find it interesting that Miyamoto has said that Peter Pan — a famously gender-complicated character who doesn’t want to grow up to be a man and who is historically played by women on Broadway — was a direct influence and inspiration for Link, all the way from the hat and pointy ears down to the sword and green tunic.

So if a Zelda game player is not male and chooses to play one of these games using their name, and in the spirit of Link being an avatar as described by Miyamoto and Aonuma, then the game contains a grammatical error (or “bug”) when the in-game text refers to the player using male pronouns. From a purely engineering point-of-view, my gender-neutral patches of these Zelda games are nothing more than simple bug fixes. If Nintendo would like to implement these bug fixes in the copies of the game code that they still sell through the Wii/3DS online store and in future re-release formats, not only would there be precedent for implementing bug fixes in classic games, but I would be happy to provide Nintendo full ownership of my English-language patch files for absolutely free with absolutely no strings attached.

After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own The Legend of Zelda Nintendo game cartridge (specifically, the 1987 North American PRG1 release) into a ROM file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of The Legend of Zelda as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified ROM file. You can play the modified ROM using an NES emulator or you can play it on an actual NES using any method that allows custom ROM files to be played on the NES.

My next favorite Zelda game that I can’t wait to share with my daughter is the highly underrated The Minish Cap. It will take a bit longer to develop a gender-neutral patch for The Minish Cap because it has significantly more lines of in-game text than The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple “find and replace” operation; I have no intention of changing the gender identities of the non-playable characters in the game and there is no shortcut way to determine which pronouns are referring to the player and which pronouns are referring to the other in-game characters without carefully reviewing all of the text and understanding the narrative context. But I do believe it is certainly a worthwhile endeavor!