The third episode of Life Is Strange drops today (yesterday?) and I find myself uncharacteristically looking forward to it. The first two episodes filled the continuing void created by Kentucky Route Zero - There are chapters still being written, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather Cardboard Computer were doing, but at the same time come on already. I'm in consistent terror that my anticipation may eclipse my enjoyment of their abstract little adventure.
Sometimes I wake up on a Saturday morning and my brain is still.... y'know. Fuzzy. That's what I like to call the "Hohokum window", a brief few hours where I'm mentally limited to ambient electro-lounge music and optimistic colour palettes. I don't want direction, I just want to float around and absorb, and in turn be absorbed. I want a distraction that doesn't require cognitive arithmetic, where questions like "Why am I flying my rainbow snake around a water park?" aren't really important. There is no succeed and there is no fail. It's just Hohokum, man. Enjoy it.
But sometimes I find myself home earlier than I was expecting on a Friday night, and the lights are out, and I'm in a weird place. Well, obviously my home is not the weird place. I meant more existentially. That's usually the time I turn to the games that I wouldn't normally play, where I look for something different that can keep me distracted, and that I can feel invested in playing.
Life Is Strange is about teenage girls at a school in rural America.
As someone who grew up and lives in London in the south of England, my understanding of school in America is gleamed almost entirely from the first 20 minutes of The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.
I like the goofy awkwardness of Life Is Strange.
I was a geek in school and I'm a geek now, and I can relate to a lot of it's incestuous social hierarchies you're prompted to navigate, despite the foreign setting. It's almost disappointing that there's a rewind-time function, as the game does a pretty great job of establishing atmosphere and continuity around the sleepy town of [I can't remember what it was called but you get the gist] and the sci-fi esque superpowers can't help but feel both distracting and, if anything, detract from the otherwise naturalistic environment they've managed to conjure. Walking around Max's dorm I couldn't help but cringe at the decor, her choice of books and music, her enthusiasm for selfies and social media. But then I think, fuck, ten years ago I was a complete twat. I had a lava lamp for fucks sake. Who am I to throw stones?
And in this, I think, is where I find my enjoyment for Life Is Strange. It's successful at being just the right amount of uncool. It nails the bitchy high-school drama, which most of us would rather forget, in a way that's quite insightful for a medium that's predominantly written by and for adults. If teels neither condescending, nor out of touch. It is, essentially, convincingly pretentious, full of naive arrogance and half formed social graces. And that's weirdly pleasant and nostalgic to observe, not to mention incredible difficult to accurately represent. I don't think any other game has managed to successfully do so to this extent. It's impressive.
Maybe I'm alone in feeling this way, or it's a direct result of me being a inebriated 20-something, but it ticked all the right boxes. I'm a fan. Keep it coming.
Last weekend I finished my second Grounded run on New Game +
My 5th completion of The Last Of Us campaign and, probably, my fastest - clocking in at around 8 hours in total. Grounded, for those that don't know, is the most punishing difficulty available, released separately from the "Survivor" difficulty in the original game but thrown in with the Remastered edition for the PS4. Where survivor removed the "Listen" functionality, which grants Joel the Naughty Dog equivalent of Detective Vision, Grounded takes it a step further by completely removing the HUD and UI. You are not told how many bullets are in your guns, you are not given button prompts in combat (Aside from story-specific QTE's) and you are never told how much health you have left. Your screen is blissfully uncluttered. On top of this the availability of ammo and materials are further reduced down to the bare minimum, and Joel is painfully fragile - Before upgrading your health it's possible to be killed my a single bullet, or a single hit from an enemy. As a result you're further encouraged to stick to the shadows, frequently avoiding combat altogether in favour of running or sneaking straight through entire levels without firing a shot.
It's a much different style of play that I grew to appreciate. As ammo is short - and I'm talking non existent - bricks and bottles became my weapons of choice - in the few chunks of the game where you are forced into combat, a thrown brick will stun an enemy, allowing you to grapple and instantly murder them. Similarly a melee attack whilst holding a brick or bottle will finish an enemy much faster - the most potent combo is to throw a brick at an enemy and then run at him with a melee weapon of your own - one swing will earn you an instakill. This is both the fastest way of dispatching an enemy, and also preservers the amount of hits you can make with your melee weapon.
Without the listen mode
which is removed in both Survivor and Grounded difficulties, a solid familiarity with the level design is pretty important. Combat is always risky, so if you can make a beeline straight for your destination without engaging anyone then that's obviously going to be advantageous. Similarly there are several sections of the game where, if you dash before the game is ready, you can clear chunks of the level before enemies have established their patrol routes. One example of this is at the hydro-electric plant, where you're ambushed by hunters. Once you've cleared the first room and head upstairs to the office, it's possible to ignore the 3 hunters in that room, jump through the window and dash to the end of the walkway. A few seconds later and all 9 of the enemies that are supposed to populate that level will spawn and bottleneck through the locked door at the end, meaning you can fry them all with a single molotov. I'm not a huge fan of cheesing the game like that, but I did it "properly" the first run through and it took me fucking hours. Knowing the key beats in the campaign are vital so you can make sure you have the appropriate weapons available. I had to fight the school bloater on my first grounded run with no health or molotovs and, thanks to the awkward checkpointing, that was a fucking nightmare.
The checkpoints are frequently unforgiving, and I'm not entirely sure if it's by design or not, because I don't remember them being so savage on any of the easier difficulties. The hospital at the end of the game, for example, has zero checkpoints. You need to make it up through both floors, including the second floor where every enemy carries an assault rifle, without being seen or dying. Perhaps more frustrating are the sections where you play as Ellie - that snowy town needs to be cleared in a single run, and she's even more fragile than Joel is, not to mention that whole place is a fucking maze. The weapons Ellie picks up are devoid of any previous upgrades, so say goodbye to your rifle scope. The defence sequence at the Lumber Mill is perhaps the hardest section of the entire campaign, Ellie being killed in a single hit and only having a Bow and Rifle (with a painfully slow reload speed) to do any real damage. My strategy at this point was to reserve any rifle ammo for clickers, and for the other infected I would run around David in circles and wait for his AI to either punch the infected to death or grapple them so I could rush in and shiv them - the infinite knives that Ellie holds are her one saving grace, and the "Throw a bottle then stab them" approach is pretty much the only way you're getting through this chunk of the game. And make sure you've got a Molly, because there's that fucking bloater at the end. Remember kids, no checkpoints! Yeah. It's a fucker.
By contrast, there are big chunks of the game you can simply stealth through in a single run. I cleared the entire Hunter Town, and most of Bills town, without ever getting caught up in a firefight or even being spotted. Any area with clickers you can safely ignore them and, providing you're going as slow as humanly possible, you can brush right past clickers and they won't kick off. If you do make noise you can actually duck back into stealth and escape, though they will converge on your last known location and it will fuck up their patrol patterns, so it's usually easier to take the death at that point. On my first run through I made it all the way to Bills Town without firing a shot or using a health kit. Easy peasy.
One other thing worth noting is that, once Joel's health drops into the red (at the point he's visibly bleeding and holding his arm up to his ribs) the game seems to vacuum him into insta-death animations in situations where you would otherwise be fine. If you're in a fist-fight with an infected or a hunter and you land the first blow, you should be able to maintain that combo until they're finished; If you're already on the verge of death though, the game will snap you out of that combo after the first punch, even if the enemy is stunned, and you will die. It is bullshit of the highest calibre.
Ultimately I enjoyed both playthroughs of the game. As you gain familiarity with the core mechanics and how they can be employed and manipulated, you gain a confidence that makes the game much easier. When I started playing I would sit, nervously hiding and trying to learn patrols, repeatedly being killed - but simply throwing up my hands and saying "Fuck it, I'm going for it" and stealthing out straight into the middle of the enemies, worked with surprising frequency. Fortune favours the bold, I guess.
Never had enough Shivs though. That was always a fucker.
Anyway, if you have any questions or you're attempting this yourself and you get stuck, give me a shout. I'm getting pretty close to attempting a speedrun at this point, and I'm but a few trophies away from my platinum.
I guess once that's done I need to find a new hobby...
"I really love it when game journalists write about other game journalists" said nobody, ever.
The last few months for videogame enthusiasts with any sense of online presence have been pretty rubbish. There's been a lot of vitriol, frustration and arrogance floating about online. As someone who's job involves cleaning up vitriol, frustration and arrogance, myself and the rest of mod team had to endure the entire iceberg upon which the good ship Giant Bomb crashed. It's OK, for now. We've patched up all 7 of the hulls. Patch notes coming soon...
It's outed some fairly nasty skeletons which we've been sitting on for a while. A light has been shined on our weird little subculture and for the first time in a long time I've been embarrassed to be associated with it. People leaking each others private information, forming weird little misogyny clubs, accusing each other of shady business practices, cursing and shouting at each other instead of engaging in rational discourse. And over the top of it all you have a bunch of smug videogame journalists giving you their two cents on the whole messy ordeal, planting their flag in whatever fresh moral high ground they believe they've found. Which would be fine, except these self-appointed bastions of decency aren't necessarily the people that I want representing our industry, or more importantly, me. When we're trying to combat misogyny and journalistic integrity I'm not sure that a socially awkward dude with questionable facial hair and beach shorts is the man I want waving the flag. It's a lifestyle that I myself subscribe to, and I love this website because it doesn't take itself too seriously, but I can also appreciate that public perception of said lifestyle is probably somewhat dismissive. It's hard to argue that "The games industry isn't full of childish, misogynistic assholes" when to the casual onlooker most of us still look like we're hanging out in a fucking fraternity.
I'm not saying there's no room for harmless fun, I don't want every website to turn into The Guardian, and sites like Mega64 should always be able to live in the company of Gamasutra. It's when you blur the lines that things get messy; Journalists want to be taken seriously but they also want to dick around and have fun. Which is fair enough. Some, people like Danny O'Dwyer, Alex Navarro and Patrick Klepek, manage this fairly well. Others such as [insert Polygon writer here] simply appear pretentious, or out of their depth, or both.
The real problem is when people who aren't familiar with the games industry, or games journalists, look in from the outside it's very difficult to look past the dick jokes, or the 5 guys lazing around on a friday afternoon playing windjammers. I'm not saying the Giant Bomb staff should be wearing suits because, fuck that, but we collectively have an image problem and ultimately it's detrimental to any meaningful discussion. Which is why when our dirty laundry leaks out in to the public eye, most people don't seem particularly surprised that we're collectively acting like a bunch of fucking dickholes, and suddenly I don't really want to bring up the fact that I play videogames to people at work because it's not something I want to be associated with any more.
I appreciate a lot of the thoughts here are half-formed. I've been wanting to throw something down for a while and I'll probably need to come back to this at some point and tidy it up. I hope it makes sense, though.
I was bored and I made an animated Last Of Us screensaver. It's for windows only atm, and though I do have a sound version I have only released the silent one for now. You can download it over on my new tumblr blog: http://startscreens.tumblr.com/
The intention is to make a series of video game start screen screensavers. I'm planning on doing Mario 64 next. I like the idea of his horrific floating head on my computer.
that these (gestures vaguely at videogames) are games being made by predominantly men, being played by predominantly men. It's easier for both designers and players to relate to what they know, and in an industry that strives for empathy (Or should do, at the very least) picking white male protagonists is a numbers game. It's supposedly easier for men to empathise with men. As Dara O'Brien once said in his standup about why he doesn't do Islamic jokes:
[People used to come up to me after gigs and go] You'll make jokes about the Catholics, and the Protestants, but you wont make jokes about the Muslims, will you? To which I would say, there are two reasons I don't do jokes about Muslims:
I don't know a fuckin' thing about Muslims.
Neither do you.
That's not to say that people shouldn't be making attempts to bridge that gap, and it's disappointing that the easiest route is the route most travelled. Just because I have a penis doesn't mean I can't relate to someone without a penis, and there should be more effort made to make both male and female characters that actively attempt to relate to a wider range of players. However, when you consider that most games contain fairly minimal character development, the role of protagonist becomes somewhat redundant, and the argument is one of principle - that a certain type of person is being under-represented by the medium as a whole. I get that; the standard white male lead doesn't fairly reflect a culturally diverse society, nor his position of dominance over the other characters and the world he inhabits. This flag is being waved by some people who won't even play the game, and it's a larger issue that videogames can't take sole credit for.
Looking beyond these principles is the core issue:
Personally, unless you're going to actually explore the unique perspective that a different faith/gender/race could have on the game, it doesn't fucking matter what your virtual murderer looks like.
It's a shame that more people, both developers and players, don't agree with (or are even aware of) this, and that steps are not being taken to do something about it.
Diretide, the Halloween event of yester-year, has finally been announced in the recent Dota 2 blog by Valve. The collective internet tempter-tantrum has finally resulted in the upcoming re-release of the event, accompanied by a disgustingly apologetic letter from the Valve team. You can read the whole letter over here, but I'm just going to grab some quotes so you get the gist of it:
First, what happened – we didn’t ship a Diretide event this year, and you were rightly upset about it. That was clearly a mistake, and then we compounded the problem by not telling you what was going on.
As a result, by the time we’d realized we’d made a bad decision, the pitchforks were out.
There were a bunch of people on the Dota 2 team who poked at the decision to not do it as Halloween approached, but due to how busy everyone was with our next major update, no-one really took the time to step back and objectively realise we were being collectively crazy.
My issue here is with the tone. The blog explains, in completely reasonable terms, the reason that the event did not take place:
We have a huge update in the works that looked like it would be finished in time for Halloween. Stopping that update to work on Diretide seemed like something you would actually be unhappy with us for, because the update is pretty significant.
A lack of communication was also perhaps unwise, but the wheedling, apologetic nature of the blog is by far the most worrying element of this entire scenario. In apologising, in caving in to the pressure applied by the spoilt, screaming man-children of the internet, Valve is vindicating their behaviour; Vindicating the personal harassment of community figures, and the moronic spam-attacks on entirely unrelated and relatively innocent car manufacturers. Valve is enabling the morons of the internet. For Diretide? I mean fuck.
I guess the next move is Gabe goes round to everyone's house and personally installs Half Life 3 on their computers? I know it's great that Valve is listening to community feedback, but this sets a pretty dangerous precedent: Where internet communities effectively bully developers into the features that they think they want. Excuse fucking me, but I'm not quite sure I want the NeoGAF hivemind dictating how my games are produced.
It's fairly transparent at this point that, as one of the biggest entertainment products in history, Grand Theft Auto 5 is going to attract it's share of negative media attention. "Violent videogames are corrupting our youth!" and all that jazz - I'm not going to reignite this discussion because, yawn, we did this dance already. If you're using a site like Giant Bomb then, hey, you're part of the choir and I'm not going to waste my time preaching to you. The mainstream press will jump on any opportunity to slap GTAV or Call Of Duty in a headline because they are pretty much guaranteeing themselves a sizable pissed off audience.
Unfortunately the most damaging aspect is that the people getting frustrated with aforementioned bandwagoning are often unable to articulately or constructively counter it. I always feel uncomfortable when someone says "If videogames are influencing my behavior, why am I not jumping on mushrooms and trying to save princesses from castles!" because it's such an obtuse and ridiculous argument that it's actually counter-productive. One experience does not excuse the other, and to suggest the entire medium can be sub-headed under the blanket term "videogames" when such controversy rears it's ugly head serves only to take one giant social step backwards, vindicating the dismissals of society, that videogames as just that; games. For children.
The second worst form of the argument is an attempt to find precedence in other media:
There's violent films, and violence on TV, and violent books, and art, and music - why should videogames be any different, and why should they be persecuted individually? In this we find ourself clumsily attempting to wield a double-edged sword; the interactivity which defines our medium, giving it life and creating the vital empathy which allows us to immerse ourselves in these virtual worlds, is just as much an argument against violent videogames as it is for them. Let's be honest - when you're controlling a virtual avatar and you smash a virtual prostitute with a virtual baseball bat, the rush that comes from that is one of liberation, of transgression without social consequence, or shame, or punishment - that empathy exists, and it is manipulating us and how we play - that's what defines these experiences at their core, and that's why we enjoy them. One might argue, however, that empathy with a sociopath is less than desirable.
Videogames have the potential to be damaging and it would be childish or naive to deny that. But, like almost anything else, only when taken to excess. Seems to me, the best argument for videogames as a viable and healthy entertainment medium is; I'm not insane. We are not insane. We grew up in arcades, in basements, in our bedrooms - surrounded, immersed, hypnotised - and we turned out OK.
I tried repeatedly to write about my travels in Asia, and repeatedly these plans were discarded. Whenever my pen touched the paper the words felt tired and stale, and I was unable to read my own work without feeling a deep disgust at my own literary mediocrity. It was an effort to begin and it was a trial to endure; why sit and write about my adventures when I could be out finding new ones?
Travel blogs are an underrated, yet invaluable companion to anyone setting out to a far-flung corner of the planet. Lonely Planet can only take you so far - often outdated, or attempting to appeal to such a wide audience that for many travelers the advice is misplaced. While abroad the best source of information is word of mouth - it needs to be! On the Perhentian Islands electricity only runs from 7pm until 7am, unless you're paying a bit more for a hostel with a generator, and wifi is limited beyond that to a few specific locations. Sharing advice with your fellow travelers is backpacking 101.
Before I left for Malaysia (And India, but we'll get to that later) I spent a long time cruising around travel blogs. You can't rely on a single blog because, hey, every experience will be different, but reading about the collective adventures of other backpackers was by far the most constructive and informative source of information. Consequently it should seem only fair that I contribute. And so;
Here are The Adventures Of Sweep, Summer 2013 edition.
I flew from Mumbai (Unhelpfully still called Bombay by most of the locals, with the acronym BOM) on a 5 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur. I had a connecting flight from Sabang airport to fly to Kota Bharu on the opposite coast. It is possible to connect directly from KL but Skyscanner decided it would be cheaper for us to change, so that's what we did. From KL airport you can grab a taxi from one of the street level exits that will ferry you over to Sabang airport. The woman driving our taxi was perhaps the friendliest person I have ever met, despite the fact her taxi was completely saturated with mosquitoes, and during the hour long journey I was completely ravaged by the little fuckers. Unhelpfully I have completely forgotten how much the journey cost but it was about 150 ringgits (30 quid). Once we got to Sabang airport we sat in Starbucks for an hour and tried not to fall asleep while waiting for our gate to open, the local airline refusing to let us check in any less than an hour before our flight was due to leave. After some laughably vague security checks ("Yeah you can take that vodka in your hand luggage, just don't drink it on the plane") we boarded a tiny aircraft and scooted over to Kota Bharu within the hour. It wasn't until I got off the plane at the other end that I actually felt like I was somewhere tropical; Walking out onto the tarmac was like being immersed in a wall of heat. After being pissed on by Mumbai monsoons for two weeks, it was a welcome change of climate.
Having read some of the aforementioned travel blogs, I was expecting the next chunk of the trip to be the most complicated, dicking around with taxi drivers and speedboat prices - but the entire exchange was pleasantly streamlined. Almost as soon as our bags had been collected we were approached by a small Malay lady who, I assume having eyed up our backpacks, asked if we needed a taxi to the pier at Kuala Besut, and then a boat over to the Perhentians. My spidey-sense kicked in and told me that I could probably get a better price if I negotiated directly with a driver, but the quote she gave us (30 ringits for the taxi, 70 each for a return boat ticket) was what I had been told to expect, so I figured fuck it. I hadn't slept for almost 28 hours at this point so I was inclined to accept whatever option was easiest. The taxi took an hour, the driver lazily cruising along at his own pace, completely unconcerned with the departure time of the boat we were expecting to catch. I've heard from others since that the time between the airport and the pier can vary dramatically based on your driver, and the journey can technically be completed within about 35 minutes. Technically.
Once at the pier we were abandoned in a small cluster of shops and hostels, each boasting scuba trips and the usual travel nonsense. We were hailed by a Malay guy who took us into his shop, inspected our boat tickets and, after we had signed our names and passport numbers into his book (still not sure why we did this?), escorted us to the pier around the corner. At this point we had to pay 5 ringgits as a toll for entry to the nature reserve - technically it was 5 ringitts for 3 days, but this was never enforced by any authority and nobody seemed to care whenever it was brought up. Having paid, we were shepherded into one of the skinny little speedboats that serve as water taxis across the south china sea. I'd read that these boats were only supposed to seat about 12 people, but the driver refused to leave until every spare bit of room had been occupied, so we eventually departed with 23 passengers and their assorted luggage. And a baby. Nobody seemed too concerned about this, least of all the driver, (turns out "Health and Safety" isn't really a thing in Malaysia) and the hour long journey over to the island was completed without any cause for concern.
The Perhentian Islands are actually split into Kecil and Besar (more commonly known as Little and Big islands, respectively). Besar is where the larger, more family friendly (read: expensive) resorts were located, and Kecil is where the bars are. Guess which one I picked? There was a bit of faffing about while the driver tried to figure out which stops people needed to get off at, but eventually we found ourselves on the shore of Long Beach. Home Sweet Home.
There's a well known scam on Long Beach where, instead of using the pier at the end of the beach, the speedboat will perch just deep enough that you are required to pay a local child 2 ringgits to ferry you to the shore in a smaller boat - despite the fact that every other boat on the beach has no trouble driving right up to the sand. It's only 2 ringgits (20 pence) but it still stings a bit, admittedly mostly on principle.
We arrived on the 3rd of August, with Ramadan in full swing - Malaysia being an Islamic country - which meant several things: firstly, many of the Malaysians had left the island to go home and be with their families. Secondly, the beach was absolutely rammed with travelers. We had been warned by a nervous looking German couple at Kota Bharu airport, also heading to Kecil, that their friend had told them there was no rooms available. I knew from my research that most of the hotels didn't accept reservations, so we decided to risk it. If push came to shove we would sleep on the beach, then grab a room early the next morning when the current residents checked out.
We actually had no trouble finding a place to stay - Moonlight Chalets, right at the end of the beach - though we had asked around a bit first and had also found several alternatives. For 150 ringgits (30 pounds) per night we had an air conditioned room with a double bed, en-suite bathroom, and an extra mattress on the floor. Ten pounds each for our group of 3 (this was in the high season so prices were considerably... well, higher) was pretty good, and we didn't appreciate it at the time but air-con was a luxury on the island that few would experience. There was also a mosquito net but we abandoned that after a few days; there was no malaria and we were getting bitten regardless, so it seemed more trouble than it was worth. We settled in with the intention of shopping around for alternatives over the next few days but, after a week we decided we were comfortable and so simply stayed there for our whole trip.
I need to give a shout to the guys working at Moonlight because they are all, without exception, wonderful human beings. Welcoming, friendly, always offering to take you exploring or out on their boat, show you around the island or playing music in the bar. They are the most chilled out group ever; once I was nursing a hangover in the cafe at the front of reception and a french couple walked in and asked what time breakfast would be served. The waiter just shrugged lazily and replied "Uh... when the chef wakes up?"
My kinda place.
We hadn't slept in almost two straight days but successfully getting to the island gave us the boost we needed to venture off down the beach. Though it's called Long beach, you can walk from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes, and before long we had stumbled into Beach Bar, one of the two bars on the beach blaring out music, with firespinners on a makeshift stage at the front of the bar. We sat in the sand and drank inadvisable amounts of Monkey Juice (the local rum, exclusive to the Perhentian Islands, that you can mix with literally anything), smoked a shisha, and before long were thoroughly shitfaced. When it started raining at 2am we didn't even notice. My last memories of that night are raving around a towering shisha, blowing smoke at each other and precariously throwing the pipe back and forth - all the while the other travelers around us looked on placidly, clearly mystified as to how we were enjoying ourselves so much when it was only 9pm in the evening.
And so ended our first night in Malaysia.
I'm planning on writing a bunch more of these, maybe another about my time actually on the island and perhaps a blog about working in a film studio in Mumbai. I was on Kecil for a month, which is much longer than most people who only seem to stick around for a few days, so I got to know it pretty well. I know this blog isn't about videogames but it does go some way to explaining my absence on the site, and I hope you enjoy reading it regardless.
Lastly, here's a video we made of our time on the island. We swam out to this fishing jetty off Coral Beach and there were these two Australian girls sunbathing on there... so obviously we asked them if they wanted to film a Harlem Shake. What? Don't look at me like that. They played that song every fucking night for a month. We couldn't not do it.
Anyway my mate Keir edited a bunch of the other footage he took on his GoPro into the video. Spoiler: there are sea turtles. Enjoy!
I had to leave work so I wouldn't get angry when someone didn't understand why I was upset. I only met Ryan a few times, but I feel like I've known him half my life. From reading the comments, tributes and general support for Ryan's friends and family, I know a lot of you feel the same. "Fucking devastated" doesn't quite cover it.
Reading through these responses, all these great memories being shared, I'm bouncing between laughter and openly sobbing. As a moderator you are often exposed to the extreme worst of what a site such as this has to offer, but today I don't have to worry about that, because this grief is unanimous. That's more reassuring than I can really articulate. It reminded me why I'm here, on this site, as part of this community.
I know there are a billion threads about this already but fuck it, today we're more than happy to turn a blind eye. I've loved reading about everyone's experiences of meeting, watching and listening to Ryan over the years and it helps, it definitely helps to hear about how loved Ryan was, and how much he will be missed. So I wanted to add my two cents:
I met Ryan at PAX last year. We were in our hotel the night before Rock Band night and Matt got a text from Snide saying he was drinking with Nicole and Ryan over in some bar at the other side of Boston and did we want to join. So Marino, Matt, Andrew, Wafflestomp, Sparklykiss, DVDhaus and PsEG (Were you there, Trace? I can't remember.) hopped on the subway and made our way over. Dave and I drank shots of tequila and Ryan laughed at me for asking if we were going to need a lime. That fucker.
I remember standing outside and smoking a cigarette with him. I didn't know he smoked, but we chatted the whole time, just stupid shit, and I couldn't stop laughing. It sounds dumb, but I had been listening to this guy for hours every week for almost 10 years. It was great to finally meet someone who I felt like I had known for a big chunk of my life.
I can't imagine how the staff are dealing with this. I'm a complete wreck and I only met the guy once. A forum post doesn't do it justice. I feel like I should fly out to the US just to fucking hug everyone.
But yeah. If you have any thoughts or memories of Ryan, please do post them, either here or in your own threads. They are great to read, and genuinely helpful to those trying to come to terms with his passing.
I'm going to finish this with a video I took on my phone of Ryan dancing while the panel band was warming up before PAX East last year. It never fails to make me laugh.
There are very few moments in my life where I have felt as raw, as emotionally scrambled, as when playing The Last Of Us. It's not perfect, or flawless, but it will forever hold intrinsic value as a book-end to this generation. When the eyes of the world are on the future, of technical demonstrations and hardware dick-swinging, Naughty Dog vindicates the argument, once again, that substance will always triumph over style, that what one feels is more important than what one sees.
"Exposition sucks, right?" says Bruce Straley in a post-mortem with EDGE magazine, and The Last Of Us proves him right. There's teasing, implication and suggestion generating a vibrancy that leaves an ironically empty universe colourful and thoroughly inhabited - past tense, however. A lot of bad shit happened in those 20 years. You aren't told what those things were, but you can see it in the blood on the walls, the echoes of gunshots, and the lines on Joel's face. It is in this that The Last Of Us bears it's humanity, and the value of the writer as a profession is again made prominent. For an industry so full of artistic, creative, brilliant minds, the lack of imagination, of variation, remains startling - The Last Of Us a welcome exception.
The ending of the game will always be the subject of much contention, and I'm happy that it should be so; the problems are a direct consequence of the lack of choice. Throughout the game the ethical responsibility of the player was rarely called into question; you had to survive, and it was often fairly straightforward figuring out who the bad guys were.
(They were the one's trying to kill you.)
But the ending was the only real point in the game where any empathy the players might have felt, was stretched. Suddenly you realise "I'm not Joel, and I'm not Ellie, and this isn't my decision to make." and that was actually liberating, that these characters could retain that independence. But some people aren't happy with that - and I sympathise that the sudden detachment may be considered jarring. Not for me.
When I think about the ending of the game, I think about what I would have done if it was my decision. And I think about Sam, and Henry. And I get it.