By LuckyWanderDude 21 Comments
I've decided it would be interesting to highlight the different stages of my interest in video games as well as the games that defined each stage. So without further ado, I shall begin.
I've decided it would be interesting to highlight the different stages of my interest in video games as well as the games that defined each stage. So without further ado, I shall begin.
It's been an all-around great weekend and selfishly, for my own records, I'm going to summarize it with this blog. As such, it is likely that none of you will care. The trick is on you however as I do not care that you don't care and since I'm in charge of my own blogging tools, nothing can be done to stop me from waxing on about my personal life at the expense of Giant Bomb!
The greatness of my weekend began Friday. I got home from school and finally found time to play The Path (see my previous entry). As I've mentioned, the game is amazing for those who are interested in experimental games or game design in general. It was the perfect start to my weekend because to play that game is an extremely enriching experience. Of course, after playing The Path I got on Giant Bomb to blog about my impressions of the game. The rest of the night, up until around 7 pm was spent chatting in the Giant Bomb forums which, as most of you probably understand, can be a very entertaining way to pass the time.
At 7 pm, I had a date with my girlfriend. We went to a nearby college town and had dinner. Afterward we came back to my house and watched a film called Waking Life. It was essentially a film in which a loose narrative is woven from the philosophical conversations of different people in a surreal, dreamworld. The most striking aspect of the film was its visual style. It was filmed with real actors and then animators went through the film, frame by frame, drawing inconsistent artwork over everything in the shots. Think A Scanner Darkly but with more dynamic art. It was a great film, which I expected as a fan of Richard Linklater films (his best known work: Slacker). Unfortunately, my girlfriend had a midnight curfew because the previous week she stayed at my house until 3 am. This, of course, was an abrupt end to the date.
I spent the rest of the night on Giant Bomb and Facebook. I was mostly hanging out in the forums which become extremely fascinating late at night or really early in the morning. At some point, I started doing some code work on a game I've been making. The incoherence of the time somehow helped with game making because the tuning of the game that I produced Friday night/Saturday morning is the best tuning I've come across in a long time. I was also waiting on Steam to finish downloading Half Life 2 so I could play a mod called Dear Esther. It was recommended to me by Dr_Feelgood38 in the comments of my previous blog entry. Once that finished downloading, I played around with the mod a bit and then went to bed.
Saturday was a a terrible day until around 3 pm. I suffer from manic depression and I think I was just in an emotional slump which always feels awful because nothing much can be done to address those states. I eventually began to snap out of it though as I played more of The Path, played Everyday Shooter, marvelled at the game tuning I had done the night before, and as I listened to my newly downloaded copy of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. My day got even better as my friends and I planned to see The Watchmen later. I had heard it wasn't very good, but I definitely needed to get out of the house so I was excited for the rest of the day. We almost got turned away at the theater because one of my friends forgot her ID but luckily we managed to sweet talk the manager into bending the rules. As I suspected, it was not a very good movie but it was at least a "fun" movie and I'll probably see it again with my girlfriend because she has expressed a desire to see it. I got home at around midnight and watched a bit of TV before going to bed.
Now we arrive at today. I don't have any homework or anything to do so I'm anticipating a lazy Sunday. I'll probably play more of The Path and also Schizoid if I can find the time. I'm also probably going to read more of a book called 2666 that I've been obsessed with lately. Other than that I could work on games some more or chat with my girlfriend on AIM and of course I'll be in the Giant Bomb forums on and off throughout the day.
I'm excited to discuss a new indie game that was released yesterday (March 19th, 2009). The game is called The Path and it's one of the best games I've played so far this year. I have not had much time to play it considering that I only bought the game today but so far I'm extremely impressed with it, especially given that Tale of Tales' last game was The Graveyard which I hate with every particle of my being. At only $10, I cannot express enough that this is one of the better deals in gaming at the moment.
The idea behind The Path is to alter the traditional fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood by giving it a modern (albeit still surreal) setting and using gameplay or more specifically the entire definition of a game to express the original tale's themes. Essentially, the player is told to go to "Grandmother's House" and to "Stay on The Path." If the player does this, they win the game within a matter of minutes. Woo Hoo! If the player strays from The Path however, they will find themselves experiencing a much more interesting but also more dangerous world. If the player chooses to wander around the woods they will find an assortment of items, locations, characters, and of course lurking danger. The experience in the woods and with the game's mechanics is further altered by which of six possible characters the player selects. The game is essentially optional, slow-paced, and only indirectly rewarding. As such, the player is challenged to either play the game as they know games to be or to stray from the path and seek a new definition of game.
This leads me to why I'm impressed with the game. It's one of the first games (not the only however) to explore the medium of video games and the relationship between players, games, challenges, and rewards. In addition to being a commentary on whether or not a sheltered existence is desirable, it is a valuable study of art asking: Can a player be aimless? Postmodernism is one of the more interesting trends in indie gaming at the moment, most notably explored by the Masocore genre with games like Psychosomnium and Seven Minutes, and it's refreshing to see it being approached through other design styles. For this reason alone, anyone interested in game design or games as an art form must play this game.
There are a few criticisms I have of the game. First, the controls can be occasionally frustrating which will undoubtedly immediately force some gamers away. Considering that it is an indie game, I am completely willing to overlook this one area of moderate glitches. The other criticism is merely subjective and is not even my personal opinion. The Path is simply not a game that most gamers will want to play. It has an extremely slow pace, it's controls require patience, and the average gamer will not get anything real from the experience (of course those people typically get nothing real from film, music, or literature either...). Overall, these criticisms hardly outweigh the entertainment value and artistic satisfaction that The Path consistently provides for the kind of gamer that dares to open their mind.
I'm really excited to learn that The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is coming to Xbox Live Arcade on April 8th (Source). It's being released as a part of Xbox Live Arcade's Days of Arcade. I haven't yet seen anything about a price but I would assume it will be 1200 points because the game has a lot of pre-release press just like Braid. I've been waiting a long time for this game and it fills my heart with joy to learn that the wait is almost over.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I haven't had much time to play games in the past couple of months. The games I did play were unique indie titles that managed to capture my attention through their originality. Recently, I've grown tired of those games and have been starved for something to play. It's looking like The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai will save me from my gaming slump. It's the first game I've seen in months that looks like fun to me. In addition to that, the game has co-op game modes which might come in handy while hanging out with my girlfriend. I think it'll be nice to be able to play a quality game without having to take turns.
In addition to actually looking forward to playing the game, I'm excited by the implications of such a release. It's as if Xbox Live Arcade is receiving a one-two indie punch with Braid assaulting the initial barrier and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai hitting home. It represents another high-quality indie game that will see huge crossover into the mainstream game audience. As this kind of game becomes more common to mainstream gamers, we'll begin to see a shift in gaming tastes and indie games will become an economically viable subset of the game industry.
Those of you that know me know that I'm a huge fan of indie games and that I intend to be an indie game developer in the near-future (I'm working on four projects right now, something I also mentioned in my last post). As such, you can probably understand why I'm dead-set on not only supporting this game but why I'm also rooting for its success. If publishers believe there is money to be earned from indie games, they might be more open to experimental or artistic games. An indie movement in games might also be the only way to keep the game industry from collapsing in on itself. Many have been lulled into a false sense of security by GameStop's promising holiday sales but the game production industry is struggling to make money because the corporate model of game making requires huge budgets and products void of any cultural value. If the game industry wants to progress and grow as opposed to stagnate and die, games like The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai must be supported!
...since I've last been on Giant Bomb. Luckily, I have a lot of great excuses! Actually most of the reasons I have been absent from this site can be attributed to being a senior in high school and are not substantial in any sense of the word. I'm just going to try and go through everything significant that's occurred in my life since I was last on.
I've been busy with my school's Speech and Debate team. My category is Public Forum Debate and after an intense season, my partner and I managed to make it to our State Speech Tournament. This ended up taking a lot more work than I thought it would but ultimately it turned out to be a fun experience. I'd say making it to States is not bad for two people who were trying the category for the first time. It also isn't a bad way to end a high school Speech and Debate career.
I've also been working on my plans for college next year. I was accepted into every school I applied to and ultimately it has come down to either Georgia Tech or Miami University (of Ohio). Both colleges have programs that pertain to my game design interests so I'm not too worried about how things turn out in this area.
My dad lost his job and has since moved back from Tacoma, Washington. This is one of the more terrible events of the past few months. It not only means that my family is now financially strained (meaning no money for games among other things) but it also means that I've lost the sense of space I gained when my dad moved out. Luckily, my dad has lost his job around four or so times that I can remember which means that I'm used to the emotional landscape such a blow produces in both myself and everyone around me.
I've also been reading a great deal and listening to a lot of new music. I subscribe to The New Yorker so I get a new story plus loads of interesting articles each week. On top of that I've been reading a book called 2666 that is simply amazing. I'm hoping to finish it soon as I've already decided that my next book will be Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. As for music, I've found a lot of bands that I had previously ignored. These include but are not limited to the following: Slint, Rites of Spring, Scratch Acid, The Vaselines, Beat Happening, Fleet Foxes, Flying Lotus, Sunny Day Real Estate, Joy Division, Pavement, and Gang of Four. I'm still expanding my musical tastes so I imagine I'll remain busy for a while with new music.
As far as games, I haven't been playing too much. I bought Aquaria, Everyday Shooter, Darwinia, and Audiosurf. So far, I enjoy each one of these games although none of them have reached the point of being favorites or anything. I'm actually really looking forward to an indie game that will soon be released on Xbox Live Arcade called The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Other than that, I'm still looking to the indie game scene for the most interesting plays.
I've also been slightly lazy with game making. I'm working on four games at the moment. One of them is almost complete and I hope to enter it into a festival called IndieCade (the deadline is April 30th) because in addition to selecting winners, each entry receives feedback. Two of my games are fairly straightforward and thus remain dormant. The final game is one of the most inspired projects I've worked on. I came up with the concept in a day under intense emotional stress and I feel like the game is truly an expression of my current state of existence. It's a fairly complicated project, partially inspired by ToeJam & Earl. It involves random levels, minimalist mechanics and idiosyncratic gameplay tangents. That's about all I'm prepared to say on that for the moment.
The final bit of news is perhaps the best (for me anyway). I now have a girlfriend! I actually sort of worked on pursuing her most of last year up until around February 1st, 2009 when it became official. It doesn't have much of an impact on my participation on this site but it has done wonders for my mood and my motivation to work on games. It's also an interesting opportunity to observe how a female non-gamer who is still familiar with games reacts to different styles of design. So far, we've played Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Rez, both of which turned out to be great choices. Within the next couple of dates (we hang out most weekends) I plan on trying out Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and ToeJam & Earl with her.
That pretty much sums up my life in the past few months. I expect now that I've begun to blog again, I'll probably be on more often. We'll see though...
Honestly that's the most generic blog title ever conceived....
I figured that I should just talk about what I've been up to because I haven't blogged in the past two days. It's actually been a wonderful past couple of days and in a lot of ways writing this blog is depressing because it means that it's over enough to sum it up. It's been an oddly bipolar weekend, one of immense nostalgia but also of looking to the future.
This weekend began for me on Thursday afternoon. My mom decided to surprise my dad with tickets to go see David Byrne in Cleveland, OH (which she bought so we could celebrate her birthday in a way that we would all enjoy). My mom had bought the tickets almost a month in advance so my brother and I had been keeping the concert a secret for a while. My dad being an unstable person refused to go because my mom had complained earlier about his blaring music because of a headache. My mom then almost decided that we wouldn't go. Luckily, my brother and I convinced her otherwise and we hit the road for Cleveland. On the way to the concert I listened to Public Enemy's album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and officially began to understand rap, which was an odd thing to occur before a punk/electronic concert. Anyway the concert was a lot of fun with a nice mix of David Byrne's solo stuff and Talking Heads material. I thought it was funny that a lot of people pulled out bongs during "Burning Down The House."
The entire day Friday was excellent. I woke up late and went in to school to catch Lunch, The Cellar (multimedia art class) and AP Physics. After that I stayed after school for Speech/Debate which is actually just hanging out at this point. Then I went home shortly and went to my last high school football game ever. It was also the last real Marching Band performance I will ever give for the entirety of my life. After the game was the annual band lock-in, another one of Senior year's lasts. It was a lot of fun. I brought my own TV so me and couple people played a lot of Rez and God Hand as well as Manhunt, Jet Set Radio: Future, and God of War. Other than that, we also played dodgeball and wandered around our school at night.
Saturday I began the day by sleeping until about 1 pm and then waking up to see my dad off at the airport. After that my friends and I had plans to hang out. First two of us went over to another person's house and then briefly visited the annual Speech/Debate party (which was really lame this year considering we made up 50% for the 10 minutes we were there). After that we just sat around and talked for a while. Eventually we came back to my house and played Siren and The Orange Box. Then we went to bed.
Now it's Sunday. Pretty much this blog is the only thing I've done today at this point. I have plans however to go to a Mock Trial meeting at 3 pm and I'm also going to work on my college essay for Georgia Tech. If I find time, I'm going to play God Hand and work on game development.
That's all for now...
I became a gamer in 1996 (at the age of 6) immediately before moving away from my first conscious home in . Although my family had moved before, this was the first one I was aware of and the concept was entirely alien to me at the time. I realized I was leaving and going somewhere new but at such a young age I had no understanding that I would never again see any of the people I knew in Virginia or that I would be moving to a place that would have such a profound impact on my personality. It seemed like an adventure of no consequence and it was that lack of real-world perspective that set my childhood up to be destroyed at the outset of the move.
I remember the day that we were supposed to leave for . It was bright, cloudless day such that my memory of it seems as if it were run through a filter to amplify the yellows of my surroundings. I remember spending a lot of time wandering around the front yard as mom and dad worked at packing the car. Occasionally I would go get in the car, excited to get going, and play with toys. If I had been more aware I would have felt a sense of dread due to both the mortal reminder of permanently leaving a place as well as the growing tension of my parents. I can recall at least one instance in which a friend of my mother's and her son (a friend of mine) stopped by to say goodbye. I remember the mom saying to her son that we would stay in touch and be friends forever. Perhaps phrases such as that, yet to be tested at the timer, were why I had no perception of the reality of moving. A situation was building all around me but I was disconnected from reality, floating through a childish dream-world resting on my naive understanding of everything.
It was not until right before we were going to leave did I realize anything was going on. I was in the car waiting to go and playing with toys when dad and mom came out of the house, both walking quickly and arguing over something. Mom yelled at me to get in the car as dad chased her. She got in the car and dad ran to the other side and tried to get her purse. She yanked it free from his grasp and shut the door. We drove off with the trunk open and the suitcase fell out on the way up the hill and away from our neighborhood. Mom stopped to pick it up. Dad was not following us. I saw that mom was crying which was very unsettling. If an adult is going to do something so commonly associated with childhood, what could I depend on? Needless to say, we did not end up leaving that day or even the area. Instead we stayed with my godparents for what I remember to be a week and a half. While we stayed with them, I remember seeking escapism at all costs. I bought a candy chemistry set to play with when we got to and my godsister and I spent a couple of days searching through couch cushions and other furniture for change to go to a local fair. I made every effort to remain a child but I remember how aware I was that my dad had done something wrong and somehow that knowledge cut through any hazy cloud of childhood that remained.
It was towards the end of this period of staying with my godparents that I was introduced to the world of video games. While still in , my mom decided it was an opportunity to visit my uncle one last time before leaving . I do not remember anything specific about the trip itself but I remember that my mom had a lot to talk about with my aunt and uncle which would have left my brother and I without anything to do if my uncle had not had a wonderful trick up his sleeve. He took us into the basement and showed us how to work a Sega Genesis that he had recently bought used (most likely from a yard sale). I was extremely excited to finally try out a real video game system and so my brother and I began to try out games. My uncle had Spider Man, Mortal Kombat, ToeJam & Earl and a few others that don't come to memory. My brother and I spent the day trying to figure out how to play the games and it certainly occupied the time that my mom needed and provided me with the escapism I was seeking. At the end of the visit I was surprised and ecstatic when my uncle told me we could take the Genesis, the games and the Game Genie he had for it. As of late I had not felt as much love for a relative as I did for my uncle. I was angry at my parents and worried about the future but it was my uncle who provided, through the Sega Genesis, a beacon of hope and something to help me through the coming months.
It was not until maybe two months after arriving in that I was able to really take advantage of the Genesis. For a brief period of time we lived in a rental house without enough space to have a playroom set up. Even if there had been room, we did not want to unpack in the rental house as it was only a temporary arrangement. Eventually, we moved into a permanent house and set up the Genesis in the basement. My brother and I began to play the system and quickly developed gaming literacy. We rented games and worked on ones that were given to us. We even began to buy used games from video stores and I recall getting for some holiday. Despite all of the game choices, one game consistently rose to the top. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the game was cooperative meaning my younger brother could play, or maybe it was the simplicity of the design and the cartoon aesthetic of the game but for whatever reason my brother and I obsessed over ToeJam & Earl. I remember that at first we played without any aim but once we became aware of the goal we slowly began to work towards achieving it. We spent hours playing the game trying our best to use strategy to make it through the levels. I remember the day that we learned giving the magician 1 buck resulted in a "Hallelujah" chorus and thought it was the most hilarious thing in existence and I remember our amazement at the enemies and the presents of the game. From the Chicken Brigade to the Shopping Cart Lady, the Cupid to the Slime Tornadoes we had a blast facing them all. What was it that was amazing about that game and why has it never been the same?
Looking back, I realize why that game was so special. It spoke to my situation and through the power of projection I worked my problems out and salvaged my sense of wonder. In the game, ToeJam & Earl crash their ship and suddenly their world has been shattered. They have to seek out ship parts in a foreign environment while facing its hostile inhabitants. When I started playing ToeJam & Earl, that's how I felt. My world had been turned upside down and suddenly I was wandering, lost in unfamiliar territory seeking a purpose. Just as in the game ToeJam & Earl, I slowly became aware of my purpose and for some time leisurely pursued my goals all while enjoying the journey as much as the end. That's the key to childhood, enjoying the present without worrying about the future, enjoying the search more than the prize. Just as in life, that element of ToeJam & Earl began to fade. As I've grown older I cannot play the game spontaneously. Like Ahab after Moby Dick I obsess over finding the ship pieces because purposelessness is a gift of childhood and childhood alone. Many would argue that they play games with spontaneity but even they know that is not true. As an adult or teenager, one seeks their purpose and can never quite go back to the carefree days of childhood. I miss the days when ToeJam & Earl provided me with an extension of childhood and I like to think that maybe the child in me still roams the levels of that game having fun without seeking meaning.
Today is my brother's birthday and with my own birthday being October 29th, we both got some birthday cash today. Specifically I got $195 and so my brother and I took a trip to our local GameStop (the one I may get to work for) to perhaps spend some of that cash.
I ended up buying Red Dead Revolver and God of War, both used obviously and I also managed to reserve and fully pay for Fallout 3. My brother picked up Star Wars: The Force Unleashed which I've heard is good. Anyway there are a lot of other things I'm considering spending the rest of my cash on but as far as games go, I might buy Shadowrun or Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis and I was also considering The World Ends With You once it gets cheaper. Sorry this was a fairly basic and quick blog but I've got serious writer's block at the moment.
I had my first ever job interview today right after school and I'm relieved that it went well. The job is a temporary position as seasonal help at my local GameStop although the woman who interviewed me told me that the seasonal help are often able to move up to part-time jobs after the holiday season. The job pays minimum wage and I'd only get about 12 hours per week but the benefits are the employee discount and the ability to check games out from the store. Aside from that, I'd have access to used games before other people and I'm much more familiar with the environment and the product of the store than any other kind of store.
Anyway, I was pretty nervous throughout the school day because I had no idea what kind of questions were going to be asked. I brought clothes to change into for the interview as well (it was actually tough because my car doesn't have much space to change in). So I got to the store at my scheduled time (3 pm EST) and was told to look around while the interviewer finished up her current task. I was really nervous at this point but I managed to look through a lot of games which was calming in a way. Finally, she called me back to the game system storage room to do the interview. The room was the size of medium closet and was filled with games systesm, a TV and one chair. I was told to sit in the chair and she sat on the floor. The interview began with questions about my experience with games. Luckily the fact that I discussed the two kinds of Sega Genesis' that I owned in detail seemed to impress her and as I discussed the saturation of bad games in the JRPG genre and gave examples of Brawlers I've been playing lately it only seemed to get better. At this point she asked me about my previous job experience and I told her about my job as a game design counselor at National Computer Camp and was able to relate my work experience to the tasks I would be fulfilling at GameStop. We ended the interview by talking about what kind of things I would have to do at the store. Then I went home...
...to find that God Hand still hasn't arrived!!!!! And now I have a bunch of homework to do so nothing more for now....
Use your keyboard!
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