Bioshock: A Second Chance

I mean, I like Art Deco and all...

In the summer of 2007 there were a lot of praise for a game that had just appeared on store shelves. Praised for it's art direction, story and unique setting I was intrigued. Looking over video and screenshots though, my impression of the game was that it somehow didn't quite appeal to me. I put it off my list of games to purchase as a result. However, one boring weekend had me itching for something new and I told myself to give Bioshock a chance.

I came home, started playing and was instantly impressed with a lot of the visuals of that game. I still didn't care for the character models the way I did the scenery, but it was a small complaints all things considered. What I didn't expect initially (but I feared looking at the coverage of the game before) was the gameplay and eventually the unfolding events just didn't keep me hooked. To be fair to the game, I don't actually recall what exactly turned me to finally stop playing and wish didn't purchase the game to begin with. It was a day I felt like I should have just trusted my original instincts. The game just wasn't for me.

Keep your filthy drill hand away..

After that experience, I wrote off Bioshock as a series. Not every franchise need to be for you, even if it's well recieved and reviewed by the media and fans (I should know, given I don't like Halo either). Bioshock 2 came out and I ignored it like an old vacation flirt that never turned to a relationship. It looked to be more of the same. More "Bioshock."

A couple of weeks ago I was drinking coffee at a friend's place talking about all sorts of game related subjects. As I take a sip of coffee he asks if I have Playstation Plus, but quickly answers his own question since he knew I didn't. He goes on to tell me I should consider getting it since Bioshock Infinite was one of their free games at the time. And although he remember me never really liking Bioshock he insisted I give it a try, if I get Playstation Plus that is because at least it would be "free" if I didn't care for it.

HEY FREE STUFF

I shrugged. I don't like Bioshock and I have plenty of games to play. Besides, not sure what I would use Playstation Plus for aside from maybe getting a free game I want. But how often is that, I don't even remember the last time I even downloaded one of the ones Xbox Live had. Not saying both have the same level of quality in the games that are picked, but free isn't an incentive for me, it's just free. If I didn't want the game to begin with, the price tag wouldn't convince me otherwise in general.

Some weeks pass and I spent an entire weekend moving apartements. Bored and tired I fire up the consoles to see how they and my TV handled the move. After playing through TMNT Arcade on the Xbox 360, I found myself by some freak chance switching over to the Playstatation 3 and browse the marketplace. I click my way to a 3 month Playstation Plus account and say; I guess I'll give this Bioshock thing a try. At least I could tell my friend he was wrong in his suggestion.

A few decades later after I had downloaded, installed and patched (Playstation, why you gotto be like that?) the game I embark on my journey through Columbia.

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

Wait.. what?

A few hours in and I am convinced I am playing some form of fever dream. Columbia is a questionable place at best. A horrible skybound fortress of slavery, early 20th centrutry values and cult-like mania at worst. But all that said, I respected what Bioshock Infinite was doing. It didn't shy away from it's vision of Columbia. It was a messed up place, and there was no way around that. It is as though the game asks you to judge the city in the clouds instead of itself doing it for you. And I appreciated that it didn't try to tell me what to think.

My second surprise was that the combat was throughly enjoyable. Even as late as the last sections of the game I was finding new ways to combine and strategize with the vigors and weapons. Setting up traps and drawing enemies into them instead of waiting for them to walk on them, as an example. When combat found a nice rythm you almost felt like an unstoppable machine. But I never was. I did die and I did have moments where I might have made my wife roll her eyes in the other room at my loud expressions of frustration. But it was never enough to stop me from trying again until I succeeded.

Elizabeth might be one of the best (or "most alive") characters I've encountered.

Most of all though, what had me coming back to the game all the way until the end was the story and it's characters. Booker, Elizabeth, Comstock, The Luteces, Songbird. It was all a well woven narrative where every new bit of information made you question how you viewed the world of Bioshock Infinite. I felt like most characters had their motivations and none were truly good or evil. They were complex. Like people tend to be. And the world was equally complex, seen through the lens of actions and reactions mirroried in multiple universes. How the choices we make can have bigger outcomes than we might realize and how we're personally responsible for what we've created. Whether we want to admit to it or not.

At the end of the day though, I can't quite put my finger on what exactly Bioshock did wrong and Bioshock Infinite did right. But I can say this much; sometimes you need to give things a second chance. What you find might just be worth the effort.

7 Comments

The Grey Layers Of Morality And Choice

Fighting evil with evil, not a paragon in sight.

The concept of good vs evil is old and I would argue a dated way to view the world. Yet even so it's the most common source of subjective morality. Whatever we agree with is generally considered morally good. While things we disagree with are morally bad (evil). Most people don't accept the concept of a "subjective world", yet ironically that is all we can be. Which is why so many people will argue from a false sense of objectivity when all they're really doing is trying to convince other people of their subjectivity.

But this endless struggle of outlooks is what shapes the world around us and the ideas that gain traction in the zeitgeist and become forces of change. And this is also why there are no true forces of good and evil, because they're all just different views on reality. One man's hero is another man's tyrant. But this is all old news and everyone knows this on some level, but so many things in life hold more meaning to us than arbitrary philosophical hypothesis that makes life more complicated because we would all be too busy navel gazing than to look out for the lamp post ahead of us. And someone have to do the laundry.

But, let's spend a moment looking deep into our navels and apply that to video games.

With the release of inFamous: Second Son, I've read a lot about the so called "Morality System" of that game. Are you going to be good or are you going to be bad? A lot of games as of late put a lot of effort into making you a subject of this exercise. Some games will force you to apply some form of value judgement between yourself, your close ones and the rest of the world. Other games simply asks a binary question. But when all is said and done, how diverse are really these experiences?

Saren, a fine example of a complicated villain. A fallen hero, in a way.

When I first started playing Mass Effect several years ago, the concept of being a Paragon of hope in the universe seemed like a nice choice. When you're about to embark on a mission to save humanity and other forms of life in the galaxy, why would you do that while at the same time be a dick about it? I didn't play my Shepard a clean Paragon though, because he had been through some shit. So while he was a pretty easy going guy, he was still a no bullshit kind of guy.

Though the more that I played though that franchise, the more I realized that sticking pure Paragon was rewarded. Likewise, if I had been going pure Renegade I would have been rewarded. But life isn't that binary. So the whole illusion of shaping the game fell apart. I still will forever love that franchise for the overall handcraft of those games, it's story and the well realized characters. But as a means to explore morality, it's too binary and too pointless. Because the overall ramifications of the morality choices were too small. I mean, you never turned into Saren.

But if we create larger ramifications, will morality choices be more interesting?

Zombies, making humans seem like horrible people since before they could kill us.

One day I hear about a new franchise in the works based on a comic book called The Walking Dead, an adventure game in episodic format where choices matters and where the notion of choices with impact was a huge deal. I was excited, maybe someone has finally figured it out. I consumed every episode of the first season completely enthralled with the impacts of choice, the brutality at which the creators would drag the heroes through this journey. And no where in sight could you find a truly good choice, because everyone was doomed one way or the other.

As the season came to a close, I was super pleased with the time I had invested in the game. The ramifications of choices you made had killed people, and things were messed up. But the story felt ever so guided. Which is where a seed was planted for me. A seed that has been bothering me since.

Morality in games often amounts to nothing more than a hero being good or kind of a dick.

The other 3 sides says; You Tell Me, Fuck You and I Don't Know.

Let's face it, calling it morality choices is a fair bit of false advertising. Games like to claim that's what you're doing, but what you're really just doing is giving some little form of personality flair to your character. At the end of the day no matter if you're nice or being an asshole, you're still saving the galaxy. And if you're not saving the galaxy, your situation is usually so narrow in scope, that the bleak gray choices you have doesn't amount to much either because the narrator held all the cards and already decided your fate.

The problem I see with choice and morality in games comes down to the simple fact that no game I can recall actually give you the power to alter the outcome of your choices so dramatically that you actually end up being a horrible piece of shit at the end. In most situations, you'll end up a questionable hero at least. And maybe that's what troubles me, are we as collective humans so afraid of the other side that we need the overall goal of the game to be a good cause. A safe barrier to keep us from joining the emperor. Or maybe we just like to hide behind it. To justify the means of the mechanics.

Maybe this whole issue is just semantics, and we're all just making the issue bigger by our use of words like "morality". Because morality implies something more than just the choice of reducing collateral damage. But I sincerely hope that with the binary choice games and the diamond shaped choices in games as of late, we're getting to a point where somewhere in the future there will be more games that embraces a possible villain within our character. A game that let you truly become what you create by the choices you make and there is no predetermined end state, just an end point.

8 Comments

Keep Your Game, I Am Making My Own

I have been wanting to make games for years, in various stages in life and with different levels of commitment. My main issue though has always been that I know nothing about it. I have never really known coding, programs or engines and graphically speaking I am good at art that only indirectly works with games in some capacity. Also, I have a terrible flaw of giving up when things get too hard. So for a long time making games was at best some form of day dream where I was thinking up ideas for games that I would never make. But as I have gotten older, I've realized that life isn't an eternity and my job isn't anything other than a source of income. So why waste my spare time just shutting off my brain?

Some day I'll get here.

Started downloading a bunch of different game making tools, everything from Unity to Twine. And I began just messing with them, not really learning them as much as just poking at them to see what would happen. And I realized a few things during that period. First off, programs like Unity is well above my level of competence at this stage and I will need to fight against my easily distracted self to be able to learn to weild that brush in any meaningful capacity. So I've put a lot of my game ideas that are mechanics based in a folder for future use. As I hope to one day open that box up and do something.

A strentgh I do have though is a very vivid imagination. Granted, the last few years I have let life put a layer of dust on it for various reasons. But as life has stabiIized I came to realize that I feel the most alive when I am truly creative. And the things I can easily do already is writing and photography. Which at first got me thinking I could make a Twine game. The more I think about it though, the more I want my game to not just be walls of text. Because I can barely handle that myself. As I said, I am easily distracted. And most Twine games that I've tried to play have a tendency to lose me half way through because I get tired of reading. Even if the story is decent, it's just not holding my attention (it's also a reason I barely read books, except a few authors with writing styles that really compells me to continue).

Don't eat SNES-controllers.

Which lead me to Ren'Py, which is a program used mostly for visual novels. At first I had put that off because the last thing I feel like creating is a dating sim (even if Katawa Shoujo is amazing). But the tools in that program and what you're able to create with it falls on my strengths creatively, which is text and still images. On top of that, it's also super easy to incorporate music and sound effects as well as video. And even though I am not at all trained to produce music, I have been able to create a few ambient tracks using GarageBand's different instruments and plugins.

Writing this blog is a bit like a declaration of intent. A means to get myself to sign off on something publicly so I have something I can hold myself to. Maybe it all falls apart, maybe a year from now this was all a crazy crisis of a 30 year old dude working a dead end job.

Currently I am working on the script and overall concepts of the game. My aim is for it to be a completely non-anime futuristic visual novel and I hope to be able to incorporate some philosophical ideas I have into a narrative arc that hopefully has branches with different endings. Yeah, I know, it's a bit ambitious for one dude's first. But that's sort of how I've always been. All or nothing. I would rather crash and burn than not trying.

All said and done though, I am sort of treating this as a serious project while at the same time accepting it being a bit of a big learning experience. Life isn't waiting to hand me my chances, so I better do something before it's completely too late. And who knows, maybe this is all impossible and I'll drive my wife crazy in the process, but let's hope not! Let us hope I get through this with a richer set of experiences and hopefully more equipped at taking it to the next level next time around.

If anyone here have tried to make a game or are experienced at making games and feel like giving me some general advice, feel free to do so and thank you in advance if you do.

Start the Conversation

The Greenlight Issue

Maybe they just don't like your game.

I think the concept of Steam's Greenlight service is an interesting proposition. You get independent developer a chance to showcase their work to a big audience who uses their force in numbers to either help their game reach the serivce it may otherwise not have, or not reach that service. With such a big audience as Steam has, one would figure that there is probably some parts of that audience that can find something worth cheering for in that section.

And people have been doing that and we've seen several games come out of Greenlight that may or may not have seen the light of day otherwise. So looking at the concept like that, it's easy to feel good about community driven effort to get some smaller games on there.

But some smaller games have it harder in their reception on Greenlight than others. Or maybe that's just what we've been told by a few of the game developers and industry press that like to champion a different type of experience over the tried and true. Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about this issue, especially after the Bombin' the A.M. episodes with David S Gallant creator of I Get This Call Every Day and recently Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest. In both cases there was discussion on the resistance on Greenlight from it's user base to the concept of such games. Saying they had nothing to do there, for various reasons.

One hypothesis that was brought up was the idea that people feared that their games might have to be less visible or less likely to appear if other, and in their non-games, were to appear on the platform. And the notion was brushed off as saying tripple A titles will be around and people don't have to worry about their Call of Duty (as a side note; bringing up COD as some form of generalization for a group of people's taste in games is getting a bit tired).

Some people commenting on those games and voting for those games not to be included probably do fear a future where there are games they don't understand or find fun. But I highly doubt they're the majority. My hypothesis is that the majority of people simply don't like (or don't think they would like) some of these games. For someone that likes niche games, that seems strange, why not experience all the potential things the medium can offer? Why not be inclusive?

But most people don't go to games for those things, they don't see game's media as that form of entertainment. And maybe you could ask something like; "even if they don't like it, why can't others have it?" But that's also not really what Greenlight is asking, is it?

Any time you enter a Greenlight page you're asked; "Would you buy this game if it was available on Steam?" That is a business question that inquire on possible sale. If you're not thinking that you might buy it, why would you help get that game through? And if you don't vote no, chances are percentage wise the games you vote yes on might be scored comparably lower. So your best bet is to vote no on the games that does not interest you, while voting yes for the games that do interest you in the hopes that the games you want to play actually appear on the platform you're on.

Maybe it's not tripple A Call of Duty players that goes around harassing independent developers passion projects for the fear of not getting a new Call of Duty, maybe the independent passion project is a bit too niche for the person voting. And that's totally ok. I believe there's room for games like I Get This Call Every Day and Depression Quest on Steam (and I will continue to happily vote for them), and I want to live in the world where they're given a chance to grow. But there's no way to brute force them if the market isn't ready for it and you can't blame the market for not taking a liking to your creation.

That's sort of the down side of being on the fringes, not everyone will want to follow you down the rabbit hole.

9 Comments

Top 5 Non-Game Stuff From 2013

5. Medieval Week in Visby

Visby is a really old town on one of Sweden's two big islands, Gotland. One week in august per year (since 1984) they have had a Medieval Week where there is everything from a big market, jesters, jousting, shows and activities all fitting into the theme. Walking around the streets of Visby during that week was magical as most people are dressed accordingly and I found myself feeling like I was missing something by not wearing similar clothing. My mother's side of the family is originally from Gotland so going there for the first time this summer was a bit like finding an old piece of yourself. But the events and market awoke something else in me that even my wife commented on not recognizing.

Somewhere between buying a horn to drink beer from to throwing an axe, I felt completely content and at home. It all came to a real climax sitting outside the big walls of Visby on a recliner in the grass watching a live show with Corvus Corax while drinking beer and eating vegetable soup and bread. The night sky was filled with stars and I could have stayed there forever. For all the shows and parties I've been to over the years, having to deal with music that were good to poor and everything in between. This was an experience that was so tailored to my interests and likes that it just solidified itself as one of the best summers of all time.

4. Kavinsky - OutRun

2013 was a year filled with retro 80's nostalgia. And by the looks of things, it's not entirely out of style yet. From Blood Dragon to Kung Fury and even our resident Game Of The Year videos were infected by it. One of those things that I really latched on to this year was Kavinsky's debut studio album OutRun. It has the perfect mix of 80s action themes with modern electronic music. I haven't found anything quite like it, and it's an album that I'll probably keep coming back to for years to come.

3. Gravity

The movie I would use as an argument for going to the theaters will always beat your television. It's the first movie I have seen that has made space actually seem BIG. I can't really describe it much better, I was just in awe for most of that movie. It reminded me of how small we really are, a thought that I keep having whenever I look up at the stars. We're all really really weak and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But the movie was obviously more than that, and I thought Sandra Bullock made one of her performances in her career.

2. Evil Dead

Some people doesn't like remakes. I am one of those people. But this movie seem to have kept it's essence but still built it's own thing. But this movie is so fun. It's the first movie I actually bothered to go to the theaters by myself just because I had no one to go with. And man, that last big scene. I am sure everyone in that theatre thought I was crazy, was laughing myself to tears.

1. Fejd - Nagelfar

I am a big fan of nordic folk music influenced metal (or metal in general that flirts with norse mythology), so it came to no surprise to me that Fejd's latest release would fall right into my wheelhouse being more folk music than metal, really. It was the album that along with Corvus Corax's album Sverker really put the whole summer into a "fuckit, I am growing a real beard until next summer" sort of summer. So far, so good. Been saving this sucker since late August, by the time vacation comes around this year I'll need a ship and free men to raid the shores of Europe with.

Start the Conversation

The Incapable Leader

I spent most of this weekend's video game hours on playing through the single player campaign for Battlefield 4. I didn't expect much from it but it delivered a roller coaster trip that was worth my time either way, story be damned. But one thing that kept annoying me throughout the handful of hours of playing the campaign was something I've noticed in a lot of different genres, but FPS in general.

The idea that the game world have to make you important somehow, typically a leader of some kind, whether they have to or not. The issue with making you the leader in tightly scripted joyrides are the complete lack of your own agency within the story contradicting your role as leader.

In Battlefield 4 you take the role of Recker, who after some unfortunate events find himself to be the squad leader. But throughout most of the campaign, you'll feel like most of the decisions are made without your consent as leader. In fact, sometimes it feels like high ranking officials barely take note of your presence other than initially and the last word. All that chatter in between are all carried out by your squad while you're standing there being pushed aside by scripted placements of your squad. In some ways, I felt like I was in the way more than I was being their leader.

And don't get me started on how many times they told me to get some sleep, pulled me up from rubble and asked if I was ok, and otherwise made me feel like I was a rookie who could barely hold his own. "Great shot, Recker!" -- Thanks, Hannah. I'm pretty well versed with shooting, you know.

This game isn't the only one that treats you like a child that needs being held by the hand, but it's the one that I've so far been the most annoyed with worth writing about it. In fact, had they made someone else leader of the squad, and you're basically just one of the guys, everything would have felt a lot more palatable.

It reminds me a lot of old JRPGs where you take the role of someone really young who becomes a figure head of some revolution only to have other people decide what to do and all you get to do is say "Yes". But maybe that's a metaphor for life or something. More games should try and either make you less important, or make your importance matter somehow. Give you the illusion of choice if need be. But don't just drag the player along trying to trick them into thinking they're calling the shots when that's obviously not the case.

Start the Conversation

Please Give Me Shorter Or More Focused Games

There is this discussion regarding the value of games over how many hours you can play it. The verdict says that the longer the game is, assuming it is a game of quality, the more value it has. On some level I can empathize with such a notion. Because the money you invest in a piece of entertainment, be it interactive or not, should feel well spent when the end comes. So for some, getting as certain amount of time with the game is a value add, likewise the ability for the game to be replay friendly.

But I have to ask, should such a philosophy be applied across the board? And following that, at what point does the time become artificially long?

Oh those were the days..

When I was a younger man with less money and more time I used to love JRPGs. The sweeping dramas of revolution, saving the lands and protecting your friends along the way was gripping and awe inspiring. I can still recall late summer evening sitting way too close to my tv being horrified at the death of Odessa in Suikoden just a short time after you had spent an evening on top of Mt. Tigerwolf talking about the innocence that was your character and the future of the Liberation Army. But Suikoden also took me around 30 hours to finish. It was time well spent, as it's one of the most memorable games of my life. But having tried to play through other JRPGs in recent years, even Suikoden V and Persona 4, I just can't bring myself to slave through the mechanics and time investment for the story. And that's unfortunate.

The trend that games have to be artificially longer, be it by "kill everything until you can progress" mechanics or hollow storylines for the sake of length, is making it difficult to find the time (and the motivation) to actually finish a lot of modern games. I suppose at some point, it's not necessarily an argument over length as the argument of quality over time. The longer the game is, the better the quality of what keeps you in the world need to be. And most games simply don't cut it.

Almost there, just a little bit..

I love the Assassin's Creed franchise. Yet the same pattern happens in every one of those games. The game starts and I am totally psyched to play it. For the first few hours, I am completely in love with it. At some point though, the overabundance of unnecessary side objectives and travel distance just get to me. And I put the game down. Not knowing I am about 2 hours from the end. But I feel open world games tend to suffer from being a bit too long and, while I realize it's completely optional, disrupts the overall narrative with side missions, collectibles and such. It was something I really appreciated about Mafia 2. It all felt very focused on it's own story, and even though there was a big city you could explore, you never really felt a reason to because there was really no incentive to deviate from the path. But that also made the city feel more useful as a part of the story because you had not already seen all of it. Granted, there are also games like LA Noire where the city felt completely arbitrary to me eventually because the interesting parts of that game had nothing to do with driving. But I digress.

Good Luck, Sam.

Sitting down this weekend to play through Gone Home was revelatory. Like Dear Esther, it was a short and compact story completely focused on it's goal. It didn't spread itself too thin, it didn't feel artificially long. It was an experience that clocked in at just the right amount of time for it's narrative. And it got me thinking; why do we need to have games be 6, 8, 15 or 30 hours to feel good about them? Isn't the overall experience worth more than how many hours you can waste on it? I think it's refreshing to see developers actually embracing the idea that it's ok to make games that don't take weeks to finish.

Envision a world where every movie you saw had to be seen as a mini tv-show because it's too long to watch in one sitting. That would completely suck, right?

I would be completely ok with a world where more games were about half as expensive and half as long. Not only would I probably buy more games, I would probably finish most of them as well (assuming they were of quality, obviously). I am not saying the longer games don't have their place and can't be good. I mean, I've played through the Mass Effect triology about three times. Because I feel it holds up (and because I had a save issue [or specifically an Xbox 360 HDD crash] that made me have to redo it all) for that amount of time. I just think there's also a place for shorter and more focused games. And I am happy to see more of them spring to life. And I would have to guess that if games were smaller in scope, they would probably be slightly less expensive to produce. Which is something that would benefit a lot of people.

At the end of the day, I just enjoy finishing a game feeling good about it. And not sitting there by the credits going "Finally!" Which happenes more than it should.

41 Comments

All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet aka Ryan Davis.

This is all fucked. About two weeks ago I was sitting in a chapel saying my farewells to my grandmother that passed away early June. It was surreal as it had been a long time since anyone in my family had died. On top of that, I don't deal well with death and the emotion it brings out of people. Seeing my dad barely able to walk up to the casket due to being so upset was a horrifying sight. My sadness was apparently barely noticeable, because I can't let go of my self-control. My dad noticed it, but I told him that I simply can't "let go" of emotions in public. I wish I could. That's part of what makes it so difficult. I want to be able to deal with death and offer my support to those around me, but all they get is a face that tries too hard to look understanding but don't show a sign of being equally affected by the event.

Came home last night after the gym and was reading twitter while eating. I noticed a bunch of tweets about Ryan but it was never clear what it was about at first. Some searching later and visiting the site and all was revealed. I was shocked. Part of me could barely process it. Seemed at glance on twitter first like a collective joke, but once reading the actual news, those tweets just drastically altered in meaning. And the world as I knew it drastically changed once more.

It's a strange thing when people you don't personally know, really, pass away. You feel the loss just any other due to their impact and presence in your life. In some way, Ryan passing felt worse than my grandmother. Because he was present in some capacity in my daily routine much more than my grandmother was in my adult life. Or at least, I believe that's why. He entertained and inspired me time and time again.

The one time I wrote to him on twitter, I actually got a response, and a pretty quick one at that. I remember it making my day that day. It was such a small thing when you think about it. Perhaps it's in some ways a silly thing for a grown man to be thrilled that another grown man acknowledge a dumb tweet, but I always saw that as Ryan being just a really nice, down to earth and approachable person. Whether he fit those criteria in real life or not, I could never say. I never got a chance to meet him in person. For one, not living in the US and/or attending Pax or other events. And secondly, not entirely sure I would have the balls to go up to any of the staff anyway if I did. I'm not socially brave like that. Especially regarding people I admire.

During the funeral of my grandmother, the priest said that my grandmother's journey was done. And the funeral was in a way for us to deal with our loss. Writing out my thoughts like this, however relevant to anyone else they may or may not be, is my way of celebrating Ryan and my connection to his work. A way to get my thoughts out there that in my day-to-day life really has no place to go. Ryan, I'll miss you and your presence in my life, you were a one of a kind individual. May you rest in peace.

I posted this on Giant Bomb's facebook post, but I'll end this blog with a quote from one of my favorite books;

"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."

My condolences goes out to his wife, family, friends and all of the Giant Bomb staff.

2 Comments

A Way To Shut Down

During my years playing video games, the reason for my enthusiasm in games have all varied. And as much as I callt it simply a hobby, there's something more to it all. An underlying reason why games of all things seem to compell me to spend my time there as opposed to doing other things. That isn't necessarily to say I don't do other things, obviously I do, but they too seem to factor into this overarching narrative of how I function.

In the early days of my interest in gaming it was probably partially envy of other kids owning consoles that made me want one. It was that toy that the spoiled kids had and you only really experienced it in limited quanitites. Once my dream came true, I was spending a lot of time trying to figure out the games but probably stuck to the games that were the most obvious mechanically. I still remember some 8-bit games that I could never figure out the point of. But I had a lot of fun, but it was just one of the many toys in my arsenal.

As time passed, a lot of the other toys were put aside. I grew out of them. But games remained a constant interest. Spending nights at a friend's house playing Shadowrun. I can still feel the atmosphere of that game. It was hard, but we figured out the mechanics and made our progress through that cyberpunk universe. At this point, I never rationalized games as a hobby, just something I enjoyed. I didn't identify myself as being particularly knowledgable on the subject.

Eventually though, games became more and more a central focal point of my life. I began putting my own money toward games and I was spending more times researching what games to get and what was coming soon. I had finally made it my own hobby. But dark waters were lurking around the corner and life threw me a couple of curveballs.

At that time, games gave me an outlet. Something to have fun with and talk to friends about. Along with music, it gave me a shield to put around me. And characters to identify with. When Snake in a raspy voice tells Meryl "Other people just complicate my life. I don't like to get involved." and Meryl replied with "You're a sad, lonely man." -- I understood Snake. I felt rejected by the world and I had turned against it. But, being a introvert teenager, I did that with a sense of melancholy and introvert tendencies. And he wasn't the first character to speak to me and tell me I wasn't alone in my world view.

But, as with all people, you grow out of your teenage angst (hopefully) and you go about your life. So you keep up with games as a hobby but with a different perspective in some sense. Though as time has passed, I have begun to question my reasons for gaming as of late. I realized pretty recently that part of the reason I enjoy games is they give me a chance to shut off my brain. As I own one of those brains that constantly analyze things. Think about things and my inner dialogue is ever present. Even writing this I am contemplating a ton of life defining things. And I am always aware of what's going on. I am self-aware to the point of contemplating how I walk when I walk.

It's probably why I enjoy focused tasks. Such as art or games. It gives a focused outlet that keep me somewhat mentally relaxed because I am using so much of my brain focusing on the task instead of thoughts.

Problem is as of late that sometimes I feel like I am playing a game out of habit instead of out of joy. Sort of like how some days I go into the grocery store and buy candy because I think that's what I want. Even though I don't. Habit. Games have become yet another one of my habits that fulfill some form of role in my overall habits but even though some of them offer great adventures and true awe inspiring experiences, I could probably do away with at least half the game time and games and spend my time elsewhere. Going to the gym has truly given me a completely new way to look at it all. The gym takes up around 2 or 3 hours with commute to gym, showers and eating. And that's 5 days per week.

Another funny thing is time management. I can play games for 3 hours straight and then vallow in dread over folding laundry because it feels like it will take all the time in the world even though it will probably take no more than 30 minutes. That's 1/6th the time I played games and yet the game time felt like 5 minutes. That's probably the downside to being able to use games as a means to turn off your brain. You give yourself a vacation and no one wants to return to work Monday morning.

3 Comments

You Say Win I say What?

Oh yeah, well I read all the books in this game. No I didn't, I lied because it made me look cool. Right? Right? Hello?

Remember that really good book, that one you sat with for hours and just couldn't put down? Remember how you savored every moment and truly emerged yourself in the narration of this adventure? Do you recall, once finished, how you bragged to all your friends how fast you blew through the book and that you probably read 50 pages in less than 30 minutes. Of course you don't (and if you do, you're a horrible human being), because what would that gain you other than the satisfaction that either your friends are slow readers or you skimmed past something important in your hurry to be the number one finisher of that book.

Game is in the branding of the hobby, and by all accounts it's roots are in a setting where the High Score were the apex of achievement. Because at one point, games didn't necessarily contain all the complex narratives we have today. It was mechanics first. As the years have passed, and the medium evolved, we've reached a point where the mechanics isn't the only thing anymore. And since we have reached this point, why keep harping the same philosphy regarding design?

How can you take a bath at a time like this? We're so close to.. oh.

When we "win" a game, we get a sense of accomplishment and the high score lists are our bragging rights. But do we really need bragging rights in a story driven experience? I remember playing through Heavy Rain and trying my damndest to get "the best" ending only to have it blow up in my face, and once the sense of disappontment over my own short-comings subsided, I was happy that it happened. I don't need to win at enjoying a well written tale (Yes, Heavy Rain had huge plot holes, but for the sake of this example and topic, let's just ignore that), I just need to enjoy it. But gamers in general are a fickle bunch of entitled brats, if we don't get what we expect out of our calculated version of the game, we freak out. Because in a complete state of irony, we yearn for new ideas, but we fear change.

Walt Williams, someone get this man a budget because his ideas are gold.

Walt Williams (head writer for Spec-Ops: The Line) said in a spoilercast on Gamespot (Here, well worth your time) that one of the things they wanted to do was play with player expectations versus the reality of the situation. As players doesn't always have the full information when they enter a specifc situation in order to make a well educated decision. And the end results might not come out the way they anticipated. I think that is something games need more, ignoring player entitlement and look at the bigger picture instead. We're so used to being the masters that we're sometimes forgetting what it is like not to have all the answers and even then, that things will play out the way we expect them to. Because in most of life, it's harder to calculate those things. And why should games be so simple as to cater to our every whim?

But the question remains then, do I as a player need to feel I won? How do we define winning in games where the end goal is less clear? Is reaching the end of the road within an experience enough to be a "win" or does the end have to be a cathartic orgasm of closure and success? I say no. I don't need to feel I won, as long as I feel the road to the end was worth my time. And that the end justifies that journey, whether I am sitting there in complete and utter defeat or joy. However, if winning would imply that the end was satisfactory no matter it's implications on the game world, I could agree with such a proposition. But I don't need to "be the winner."

As seen on the Dialogue Options blog. I wanted to put it here on my own blog as well. As a way to make sure all my writing appear in one place.

Start the Conversation
  • 32 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4