May 142014
 

3dsxleu sony-playstation-vita-handheld-game-console-black

 

 

 

 

In what quickly became a heated debate here at The League of 42 Offices*, we discussed the merits of arguably the two best contenders in the handheld gaming market. Below you will find our thoughts: Ben and Mystie as 3DS owners and Cassi as the Vita owner.

Game Catalog

This is ultimately where I feel the 3DS is going to win out. Both the 3DS and Vita have a relatively close number of total games released for the system, with the Vita actually having a slight edge. However, the 3DS can take advantage of almost the entire original DS’s extensive library, while the Vita requires that last gen games be available digitally, which not all are. But even more important are the number of “Must-Have” titles on the 3DS. You’ve got Mario 3D Land, Ocarina of Time, Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Pokemon X/Y… and honestly that list goes on with quite a few other big hits. And some of these are not small games either, several could quite easily last you hundreds of hours if you so chose. And they have tons more on the horizon, with sure-blockbuster titles such as Smash Bros and new Pokemon remakes on the way.

The other thing is there is absolutely one thing that Nintendo has been king of for years, and that is portable gaming. Sure, this generation they are facing pressure, and they are no longer undisputed champion. But that experience has given them the ability to craft games that are perfect for on the go play. Almost all of their big hits are easy to pick up, play a level or an area, and quit (or continue for extended play). Almost every one of their top hits has a perfect balance allowing either extended play or quick bursts if you have limited time. Nintendo knows how to craft a game for portable play, and it really shows here.

–Ben

The Vita’s game catalog is far superior to the DS’s catalog. Sure it doesn’t have Zelda, but once you’re done with Zelda what do you have? Pokemon? Animal Crossing? While I don’t deny that Zelda and these other games are great titles – once I’m done with these games the DS doesn’t have that much else going for me.

Now the Vita, it may not have Zelda but it has a few other big names under it’s belt – Little Big Planet, Uncharted, Guacamelle, Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush, Hotline Miami, and more.In addition to that the Vita is set up to allow for indie developers to create great games for it. With Nintendo putting all its focus into the Wii U the 3Ds has nothing more to offer us than first-party games.

–Cass

The reason to have a 3DS is for the Nintendo DS-exclusive games. I’ll gloss over the ones that Ben has already mentioned (but seriously MARIO and LINK/ZELDA) and bring up one of my favorite series: Professor Layton! These delightful puzzle games are part of what pushed me over the edge to purchase the new 3DS. I thoroughly enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the game and the difficult to solve but fascinating puzzles. As far as I can find, there is not a comparable game for the PS Vita.

–Mystie

Online Features

The 3DS definitely does not have a strong showing in the Online Features department, but I did not expect it to. The first several generations of the DS did not even have an online component and, though it has gotten much better, it is still not a huge selling point for the game system.

You can still play with friends fairly easily, both nearby if not on Wi-Fi, and distantly if you are both connected to the internet. The 3DS has a “Street Pass” feature that allows you to receive gifts from other 3DS owners when you pass within a specified range of each other. However, this is not a feature I have used at all since owning the 3DS.

I’d have to give this category to the Vita, but it is not a star in this either.

–Mystie

While one might argue that online features in both these systems are lacking – the Vita’s still offers a greater offering in this. Although I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer – the Vita does provide online competitive play that you can hook into.

The Vita does only connect to WiFi – but when you have that it offers a lot. You can access the online Playstation Store making buying and getting downloadable games a breeze, you can access the internet and youtube if you need to pop over and look up a game tutorial or take a break from playing to watch a cat video.

Seriously. Ability to watch cat videos on your portable device should be it’s own category.

–Cass

This one is a bit tougher. Nintendo has never really had a solid track record for online play, but they don’t really want to either, and it has never been one of their stated goals, as they put focus on single-player and local multiplayer. As such, their purely multiplayer options (especially competitive) are very lacking. Compared with most other systems matchmaking/online capabilities, the 3DS absolutely falls a bit flat, and if what you are looking for is online competitive play, Vita will probably be a better answer.

That being said, 3DS has some very cool features that are more designed to compliment solo playthroughs. It’s fairly easy to be online and maybe get a helping item or small boost from other players, or to get little bonuses from passing people on the street who are also carrying their 3DS. It’s much more subtle, but a fun way to interact with others, especially those who are nearby. The online store could also use a bit of work, as Nintendo rarely/never offers any sales on their items, and many of their old classics are a bit overpriced without them… But purchasing/downloading a new game is a relatively straight-forward process, and definitely isn’t a burden to go digital.

–Ben

Hardware

Again another spot that I have no problem admitting the Vita, on paper, certainly has advantage here. But again, it has never been Nintendo’s goal to be the most powerful system, but to instead fit the game to the hardware, which is why so many of their games are designed in house. So it tends to be when you get a hit (see above), it is designed perfectly to take advantage of what the system offers. So it’s hard for me to completely fault Nintendo here, because it simply isn’t their goal at all, they are focused on games only, and a platform that can play them, but do little else. So yea, Vita wins this one, but like the online features it just depends on the importance of that to you personally, because it isn’t Nintendo’s goal.

–Ben

The Vita has better hardware and, therefore, better graphics. It also can come with 3G, bluetooth and Wi-Fi to the 3DS’s Wi-Fi. This is definitely not to say that the 3DS is a bad-looking device, it just simply does not have the horsepower of the Vita.

–Mystie

The Vita hardware gives you all the enjoyment of playing on a console with the convenience of a hand-held. With two joysticks and a d-pad there is wide range of game play styles to choose from. It also offers a front and back touch screen which is capacitive vs. resistive so you don’t need to go looking for your stylus to play.

–Cass

Portability & Durability

Although you could make the argument that the DS technically is lighter coming in at 8 oz vs the vita’s 9 oz. However, with the announcement of the PS Vita Slim – coming in at 7.7 ounces, they’ve now got the DS beat. The Vita is also the ultimate in portable – you don’t have to open and close the screen whenever you need it – just throw it in your bag and go, grab it, turn it on and start playing.

–Cass

One strong bonus to the way that the DS is configured is that the screens are protected when the DS is closed and can be thrown into a bag or a very large pocket without worrying about your keys scratching the glass.

The weights are so close (8.3 oz for the 3DS XL and 9 oz for the Vita) that you’d be hard-pressed to tell a difference. Both systems are easily carried and great to travel with. Just don’t throw your keys in the same bag as your Vita.

–Mystie

First off, battery life. Playing 3DS games will last approximately 4-6 hours while DS games will last 6-8 hours. If you go with the 3DS XL (highly recommended), it will net you an hour to an hour and a half extra. The Vita is rated fairly similarly, but is a touch below. They are close enough though that I will call this a tie.

The 3DS (the larger XL version) is lighter than the Vita, by about an ounce. Not much, but it’s enough that any extended play should be noticeable in ease of use. Definitely an important bonus for a portable system.

The 3DS’s clamshell design also is fantastic for on the go gaming. There is very little worry about closing the lid, tossing the system in a pocket or bag, and continuing on your way. I don’t care what the screen is made of, I doubt this is something that Vita owners are as comfortable doing. Again, it may seem small, but for a portable system, this small feature can become a much bigger deal.

–Ben

Battery Life

The Vita can run for over 5 hours on a good charge and doesn’t take too much time to charge. The DS probably does have an advantage in this that if you let the Vita die you can’t start playing it once you plug it in. But honestly it takes so little time for the Vita to wake up once it starts charging I don’t find it that big of a deal.

–Cass

Kinda addressed this, but the measures I have seen puts the 3DS slightly ahead of the Vita (especially the 3ds XL), however they are so close that honestly it will come down to what settings you have on. The Vita does have a quicker listed charge time, to me this isn’t really that big of a deal.

–Ben

As both Cassi and Ben mentioned, the Vita and 3DS have similar battery lives (~5 hours) and charging times. There is no strong edge given to either competitor in this category.

–Mystie

DOES IT PLAY LEGEND OF ZELDA?

If you are a fan of the Zelda games and want to play the DS-exclusive games, I am not sure why you are still reading this article and not out purchasing your very own 3DS.

–Mystie

While it’s true, one big downfall of the Vita is that you’re not going to be able to play Zelda any time soon. However, my point above still stands – once you’ve finished that, what’s left? I see your Zelda and raise you both Little Big Planet and Uncharted.

–Cass

Ah yes. We have come to the most important section for our competition. 3DS has it, but you will notice a very conspicuous absence of Zelda games on the Vita. That’s a dealbreaker.

–Ben

Connectivity to PS4/Wii U

Umm… Mii’s? Smash bros brawl will probably take greater advantage of this connection, and maybe future games… but seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky connection between the Vita and PS4. Yea I said it Cassi. Boatload of Meh. But Vita definitely wins here…

—Ben

The connectivity to the Vita to the PS3 and PS4 is great. Many games, such as Guacamelle, offer crossover play in which you can start a game on your Vita and switch over to the console and pick up where you left off.

In addition to that it the PS4 offers remote play – you can connect your PS4 to your Vita and play your PS4 games on it. Which means you can play next gen games. Which means you can also use your Vita as an entertainment device – watching Netflix or Youtube. This really offers a whole package deal

Because let’s be honest. At the end of the day…if we’re going to talk about boatloads of meh – seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky Mii character that I can customize and make friends with some other character someone has spent way too much time customizing and getting weird hats for. Yea I said it Ben.

–Cass

If you have a PS4, the Vita is definitely going to get your vote in this category. As Cassi mentioned, the stop-and-go play from one console to the other is a incredibly cool feature and remote play is fantastic (even if it does seem that your vita is just a fancy Wii U controller) and the 3DS has nothing that really compares in this category.

–Mystie

Fitness Potential

Umm… I’m a gamer? In all seriousness, 3DS does encourage you quite a bit to get out and move around, since you can both interact with other 3DS game owners for special rewards, as well as use the built-in pedometer which will give you special coins you can use in most games to purchase extras. So yea, walk for dat lootz!

–Ben

Nintendo had some pretty great success with the fitness aspects for the Wii and they strove to add something to their handheld unit. The 3DS has a built in pedometer and you can score bonuses and “game coins” for walking with your 3DS. These game coins can be used in the built-in “Find Mii” game where you must battle demons and ghosts in order to escape. This also uses the StreetPass feature mentioned earlier.

–Mystie

The Vita knows you. You’re a gamer and you don’t give a shit.
While the Vita doesn’t have a pedometer in it- however it has the option to download and store apps, giving you the option to get fitness games and apps on it.

–Cass

Tactile/Clever Features

The main tactile feature the Vita offers is the touchscreen and I’d say many of the games I’ve played have utilized it in an interesting way. Games like Little Big Planet and Tearaway work it into the gameplay seamlessly (in Tearaway you can use the touchscreen to customize your character). And it’s far less awkward than blowing on your device.

I will say in terms of extra stuff the DS probably has a bit more going for it (the 3D features, the dual screens). However, in the end I don’t feel like they utilize those enough or in a way that’s useful (apart from maybe the dual screens and maps) that I despite having more features – the DS and the Vita are still pretty evenly matched in this regard.

–Cass

Again not something I’m really all that concerned with, but I don’t see how you can deny that Nintendo is the king of weird ass tactile features. You’ve got the microphone to talk to your digital shit, or even to blow your digital shit. Touch-screen capabilities that are actually fairly helpful for a lot of games, and pretty well designed. 3D. 3D camera. Dual-Screens. 3D is a bit of a gimmick yea, but some of the big name games actually make good use of this, and absolutely improve gameplay (Mario 3D land is a biggie here). Dual-screens are kinda awesome too, as you can now manage inventory, maps, all sorts of shit on that bottom screen, and it’s fantastic.

–Ben

I have to admit, blowing or talking into my DS was a great novelty the first time that I did it, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do with every game and I think Nintendo figured that out. The latest Zelda game did not have you blow into the microphone or yell at the screen.

However, one of the times I was most blown away by my DS was during a Professor Layton game I had to close my DS in order for something on the top screen to match with something on the bottom screen- I thought this was incredibly clever. Nintendo has been very creative with the interactive features on the 3DS and I have been duly impressed.

–Mystie

FINAL VERDICT

This is really going to come down to the games that you want to play. If you are constantly on your PS4 and want to expand that universe, you are gonna go with Vita. If you want those Nintendo-exclusives, you have to go with the 3DS.

–Mystie

At the end of the day, I am going to fall in line with Nintendo’s philosophy: It’s all about the games. I don’t give two shits about all those extra “features” that may exist on the Vita, all that matters to me is the games that you are putting out, and how many are a quality, must-play experience, and are easy to play on the go or for an extended period. Nintendo has been doing this for a long, long time. They know portable gaming, and they know how to design games to take advantage of their hardware and create a one-of-a-kind experience you truly cannot get on any other system. The vita may have it’s bonuses, but ultimately, I can get what it offers on other systems. If you want the 3DS experience, you have to have a 3DS, that’s all there is to it.

–Ben

After all this, the Vita offers a great gaming experience. I have a Wii and a Super Nintendo so if I need to get my Mario and Zelda fix I’m not too far off.

Don’t listen to those lies about not having a great library, because it’s certainly there with the potential to only get better. And being your Indie Corner gamer being able to see a device that will offer a great gaming experience that I can cross-play, get great games from indie developers and enjoy a cat video or two in between gaming, this system really does have it all.

–Cass

*Our “offices” are our computers. Those were some intense emails.

May 112014
 

I have had the cosplay itch for several weeks now and someone *cough*Joe*cough* is having a hard time narrowing down our next Cosplay, so I decided to do something a little different….

COMIC BOOK COVERED SHOES!

shoe toes

What about that is not enticing? You create one-of-a-kind shoes that fit you and showcase something you love.

This is how I did it:

Step 1: Purchase secondary copies of comics you enjoy. I mean, who is gonna cut up their regular copy?

comics

Step 2: Pick some old shoes (or buy some new ones) that have a smooth surface to adhere the comics to. Luckily, I had some heels that I couldn’t wear anymore after my cat, Leonidas, thought the toes would be a good chew toy….

shoes

Step 3: Cut out pages that are the color scheme you want and cut out special images you want to showcase on the shoes.

comics pieces

cut outs

Step 4: Use ModPodge to stick the colored background pieces to the shoe. Wet the surface of the shoe and wet both sides of the comic piece using a paint brush. Press the piece down and stick with more ModPodge, pressing the comic piece flat onto the surface of the shoe.

eyes

partly done

Step 5: Cover both shoes completely with the background images and allow to dry for 2-3 hours.

shoessss

Step 6: Use the “featured” images and spread them around on the shoes to your liking.

pieces

Step 7: Allow the shoes to dry for 24 hours. Apply a final coat of ModPodge, let dry and WEAR THEM, YOU FABULOUS HUMAN.

May 082014
 

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Nintendo made an exciting new announcement yesterday that they will be remaking Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS. These were the third generation of Pokemon games, originally the first of the series released for the Game Boy Advance system in 2003. This is a somewhat expected announcement, as they have remade the prior generations already, and following their rather poor showing for the last quarter, Nintendo was expected to make some sort of move on one of their blockbuster titles, and Pokemon certainly qualifies.

So this means that they will be updated up to approximately Pokemon X/Y graphics, as well as probably add some of the gameplay mechanics that X and Y pulled off so well, such as the online components and accessories like the skates to speed up getting around the world(please). Hopefully they will tweak the online trades, because the wonder trade feature was a bit… broken. But even without fixing those, just having them in place with one of the older games would be an awesome update.

Ruby and Sapphire are very well reviewed games, and probably two of the more popular entries in the series, with the major caveat being that they were very similar to the past two generations. So all Nintendo has to do to address those shortcomings is bring in some of the big changes they made for X/Y, update the graphics, and they should have a big-time seller, one that I am quite excited to try since I have not actually played the originals. It’s an easy formula, but only time will tell if it translates into a success for Nintendo when they so desperately need it. Pokemon is more than capable of generating the hype, all Nintendo needs to do is deliver the goods.

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will be released November of this year, final date to be determined.

 

 

 Posted by at 9:16 pm
May 052014
 

The-Ocean-at-the-End-of-the-Lane-1

Ocean at the End of the Lane is a deeply engrossing tale from Neil Gaiman, very much in line with his previous works while also doing some new things. This really isn’t much of a novel, more of a novella/novel mix, but for that I was quite impressed at the depth he managed to achieve in such a short book. I definitely wish it could have been longer, so as to get a bit more on some of the secondary characters, but as it is a stylistic choice it’s pretty hard to fault that.

This story is told from the perspective of a child, and one of my favorite things about it is how well I think Gaiman managed to capture that and present events as a child might see them. After seeing and hearing some of the things he does through the course of the story, an adult very well would be inclined to try to find the trick, or dismiss it as false. He pretty blindly trusts in those he sees as authority figures (which , during the story, moves away from his parents and toward the Hempstocks). There is also the scene where his father sexes up the creepy Ursula. The narrator is attempting to escape her at the time, and witnesses the act, but very little thought is actually given to this act, which leaves of course a much greater significance with the reader.

Mystie brought this up as well, but one of the themes I found very interesting was the concept of the maiden, mother, and crone represented by the Hempstocks. Gaiman flipped this on itss head a bit, as generally this is a sad reference to the reproductive state of women. Gaiman takes this concept and makes it something more substantive and really centers his book around it. Gaiman is a master at this sort of mythology, as he loves to take what is a standard myth and twist it just enough to make it modern while still carrying the same meaning as it’s original. Mystie will probably expand a bit on this as well, but what happened to the “male” Hempstocks? Who are they?

This also ties in well with Lettie sacrificing herself for the narrator at the end, and how long she recovers, as he never “meets” her again in any corporeal form. The idea of “stealing” a death is pretty strong in many mythologies, and it’s a very interesting and strong concept here. What costs were truly incurred? Did she trade his life for her ability to manifest as a “human?” Will Letty only be able to return once the narrator has passed away? What kind of things might have been prevented if she was still alive?

This is a pretty important part to the ending, which while I loved most all of this book, the ending was my favorite (happens a lot with Gaiman’s books). Not only the intriguing ideas with Lettie saving his life, but with the fact that the narrator constantly returns to the farm through his life. His reason for coming back at the beginning was due to a funeral for a family member, but it’s never revealed who it is. Could be for a couple reasons, but I really think at this point that events just tend to align in his life to bring him back to the farm. The funeral at this point is secondary, even though it is obviously a major point in his life. Furthermore, it has happened several times, where some unknown event brings him back to the farm. Is Lettie’s control so great (and subtle)?

He forgets quite shortly about these events leading up to the end of his visit, as he has at each of his last meetings. Is this something the Hempstocks are doing to protect him? Is it due to his heart healing? How much does it point to events that we ourselves forget about our childhood experiences? It’s an interesting idea, and points out just how fleeting, and yet important, memories are.

For my review, I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

– Ben

 

Our latest choice in “The League of Books” was Neil Gaiman’s latest adult novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”. I had heard a lot of positive commentary about the novel on the interwebs, but I knew very little of the actual story going in.

When the novel starts, our protagonist is a middle-aged man traveling between a funeral of someone close to him and the reception afterwards. He finds himself being drawn to this little farmhouse at the end of the lane that he grew up on. As he travels down the lane, he notes a few areas of events that were significant to him during his childhood, but he cannot seem to recall the importance of this farmhouse. It seems to be flitting around the edges of his brain, despite the fact that he is obviously drawn there. Once there, the memories flit closer and closer until he walks around back and is confronted by Lettie Hempstock’s “ocean”- then his brain opens up and dumps him into the year that he was 8.

The majority of the book is told from the perspective of our protagonist as a young child. I agree with Ben that Gaiman’s writing of a child protagonist is both believable and refreshing. There are certain truths that the child brain accepts that an adult brain would have trouble accepting and therefore be a very different type of protagonist. When confronted with a “magic” family that seems to be immortal, our narrator befriends them instantly. And when he asks Lettie, the youngest member of this family, how old she is and how long she has been that age, he accepts her answers readily, though they are not actual answers.

There is a lot of Ocean at the End of the Lane that is left unexplained, and though it is difficult when you wouldn’t mind a longer novel, Gaiman threads the line that enough is explained that the story is completely understandable and enough it left to your imagination that each person’s reading of the novel is slightly different. One of the main things left unexplained was the origin of the Hempstocks. When we meet them, there are three: a grandmother, a mother and a young girl. They mention that there were male Hempstocks, but they left to travel the world and there are members of their bloodline living all over. The imagery of the Hempstocks brought to mind The Fates to me: the old crone, the mother and the maiden. Therefore, for most the novel, I felt that the Hempstock’s were Gaiman’s version of the keepers of destiny and they worked to make sure that nothing from their “old world” bothered the humans in their new one. This theory fit with the climax that Lettie was able to change our narrator’s destiny, but had to replace it with her own and, I believe, that she will not be able to return until the death of our narrator.

The end of the novel raised almost more questions than it answered, which lends itself well to discussions among friends; Ben and I had a good time debating certain points. However, I agreed with a lot of what Gaiman did. The narrator had to forget to live a “normal” life but he can’t forget how important they were to him.

But, make sure to read this and discuss it with your friends. Why does the narrator forget every time he visits? How do you feel about Gaiman never mentioning whose funeral is it? Who do you think the Hempstocks really are? What exactly are the “fleas”?

Overall, I would give this book 4/5 stars.

–Mystie

May 032014
 

Last weekend, Mystie and I had the pleasure of going to the World Championships of the Vex Robotics Competition in Anaheim, California, where two of my cousins were competing. Simply described, the Vex Robotics Competition is a fantastic way for students ranging from elementary school all the way through college to engage in hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Students build and program robots to perform certain tasks, which they then use in competition with other robots at varying levels of Vex competition.

1

Allow me to stress again – VRC is fantastic. I had known that my cousins were involved with VRC for some time, and had even seen their robots at one point during a family visit. But it wasn’t until Mystie and I walked up to the Anaheim Convention Center that I started to get really excited. Instantly, the atmosphere was intoxicating. Thousands of students and coaches rushed to make their next match. Teams furiously retooled their robots in the pit areas and crowded around practice arenas to further hone their strategies. Vendor and sponsor tents dotted the convention center floor, and Vex officials had even unveiled a sneak preview of next year’s game. There was just so much to experience – it was easily the highest concentration of robots in one area that I have ever seen, and the energy was utterly contagious.

It was amazing to see how excited all these kids were about STEM, but there are a few specific positive facets of the event that I want to be sure to point out. First, Vex provides an engaging, encouraging, and insanely fun (as far as I can tell) community for students who might otherwise consider their STEM-related interests to be “not cool,” and therefore for students who might otherwise hesitate when weighing the opportunities presented to them in the early stages of their lives. I truly believe and have been convinced in the last few years of my life that interests once considered “nerdy” are beginning to be seen as “cool,” or perhaps that being “nerdy” is “cool” in and of itself. Probably more correctly, though, is the idea that being a “nerd” or whatever else you are labeled as doesn’t matter, as long as what you’re doing makes you happy. As Wil Wheaton so eloquently put it when he was asked by a young girl how to deal with being called a “nerd”:

When I was a boy I was called a nerd all the time — because I didn’t like sports, I loved to read, I liked math and science, I thought school was really cool — and it hurt a lot. Because it’s never ok when a person makes fun of you for something you didn’t choose. You know, we don’t choose to be nerds. We can’t help it that we like these things — and we shouldn’t apologize for liking these things.

That being said, bullying still happens on a daily basis, and, largely, STEM-related hobbies aren’t part of mainstream media or advertising. Vex might not change that trend in the near future, but it goes a long way in showing students – especially young ones – that that doesn’t matter. It also gives students the opportunity to meet and build friendships with others who share their passion for STEM, and indeed, we saw several teams exchange contact information with each other throughout the day.

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Second, and to take the first point even further, Vex demonstrates that it’s more than okay to enjoy STEM-related hobbies, regardless of your gender. Mystie and I saw several young girls and women on the teams assembled at the Anaheim Convention Center. As a shining example, one of the high school division champion alliances had a young woman on each of its teams, and they did not appear to be singled out or treated differently in any visible way. I can only go so far as to say that there was no visible evidence of this because I am only an outside observer, and therefore I am not privy to the actual dynamics of being involved with Vex. But what Mystie and I saw last weekend shows that Vex may someday take its place next to Goldieblox among the pantheon of activities available to young girls that don’t involve dressing up a doll in pink clothes. A “someday” is necessary here too, however, simply because the demographics of the event seemed to show that there is still some work to be done in this area. I would have liked to have seen a greater number of young women involved. We did see quite a few girls at the elementary-level throughout the pit areas, but women were underrepresented at the high school and college levels. Still, we were very happy to see those that were involved with such an inspiring STEM event.

Finally, it was impressive to see how international the competition really is. There were numerous teams from non-U.S. countries present at what was appropriately called the “World Championships.” A Canadian team was set up just across from my cousins’ pit area, and the Finals featured several teams from countries like Mexico, China, and New Zealand. I am a firm believer that seeing the world from a point of view other than your own is important, but the opportunity to meet citizens of other nations can sometimes be rare, especially for younger students. Undoubtedly, the Vex World Championships give students the chance to interact with people of all ages from other parts of the globe, with robotics acting as the catalyst. I was very impressed by how seamlessly groups of students from different countries worked together during their matches, and I think that is a testament to both the elegant simplicity of Vex’s games, as well as the fun you can have while competing.

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But don’t take my word for it – check out the Vex websites at www.vexrobotics.com and www.robotevents.com. On those websites, you can find information on how the competition works, watch videos of previous competitions, and see what next year’s game will look like. If you catch the bug, you can even register a team from your own school or sign up to volunteer at a future competition!