A Look Back - Experiences and Thoughts of Gaming Through the 2010 Decade

Hello and thank you for taking your time to read this blog entry about my experiences and thoughts of gaming in the 2010 decade.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS!

Playing and Finishing So Many Games

Despite being worked to the bone over the decade, I managed to play and finish so many games. Finishing over 100 games of varying lengths is no small feat though it’s been hard to see that as a major accomplishment in my life. Even if life continues to throw a bunch of obstacles in my way, they won’t stop me from continuing to play and finish games in the new decade.

Finishing Numerous JRPGs

Within the 100-plus games I finished over the decade were a number of JRPGs, one of the few video game genres where finishing one game is a marathon in itself. I’d be happy to finish a few but looking through the finished games, I finished quite a handful. I recall each one of the JRPGs taking so many hours to finish, from the first game I tracked finished in 2012 in Radiant Historia up to the back breaking 130+ hours slog of Etrian Odyssey Nexus last year.

BUMMERS!

Losing Time and Mood to Play Games

Unfortunately, life’s obstacles have made the undertaking to play video games tough over the decade. My job has been the biggest hurdle in getting decent game time in as the ever increasing, non-stop workload at my job has taken up so much of my time and energy. I lament every weekday where I have to work past my usual hours and over the weekends. When I do find the time to play, there are numerous times where I resign to not playing due to not being in the mood, most times sheer exhaustion from working too much is the main culprit. Unless I luckily fall into better working conditions (whether at my current job or finding a new job), I fear the trend of losing more time and mood to play along may inflict a severe blow to my enjoyment of this hobby sooner or later.

Unable to Tackle Many JRPGs

The past two years have been very tough in getting in decent video game time. After getting through four JRPGs in 2017 (Fire Emblem Echoes bled into January 2018), I only played and finished one JRPG each in 2018 (Dragon Quest XI) and 2019 (Etrian Odyssey Nexus). It’s been hard to choose to play JRPGs due to the fact it’s so hard to get back into the groove of one once you’ve gone away from it for awhile. Though it helps if the game is on a portable system that I can play them on the go during my work commutes, it still does not help their cause that it takes so much just to complete one. Plus all that time to finish one game, I could be playing and finishing a number of other games in that same amount of time. I still have intentions of playing a JRPG, but they’re becoming a tough sell for me to undertake nowadays.

Fighting Games

Another genre of games that I’m bummed that I cannot put forth more time and effort into are fighting games. Fighting games present their own unique set of challenges that make it tough for me to attain higher enjoyment out of them. Though I can dive in and play whenever I can without the fear of losing momentum with a JRPG game, there are numerous aspects to them that do require the time and effort to get the full effect of playing them. I do my best to give fighting games a fair shake whenever I evaluate them since I don’t go as in depth with these games compared to other genres where I feel I get a grasp of their inner workings throughout my time with them. Nonetheless, I still have a passion for fighting games and will do what I can to keep up with them even if I’ll never get into them as deep and hard as I would like to be.

INTRINSIC GAMING BENEFITS

Puzzles and Logic

Video games have provided a lot of subtle benefits that I appreciate as I look back over a decade long view of working and gaming. One of the benefits of gaming that I love that playing games does is keeping my mind sort of sharp when it comes to figuring out puzzles and logic. I can feel my brain “working” whenever I play a puzzle game and figure out what to do. While I may not have the patience to work out every single puzzle on my own, I do love the attempt to piece out how to solve and then watching the actual solutions to them. Working so much over the decade has dulled my brain a good deal, so it’s nice for video games to provide some mental sparks that I missed ever since I graduated from college.

Reactions

Another benefit that gaming over the years has provided is keeping my reactions active. No matter if it’s a slow paced game like Resident Evil 2 or up to dodging traffic and racing others in Forza Horizon, I thank games to keeping my head and my fingers on the edge throughout the decade to ride against the drudges of spending the entire day staring at multiple screens of numerous programs open. Shooters and fighting games are the two genres that I feel that really push my reaction limits to the test, since both require multitasking of the mind and body over the course of a match.

Emotional Fill

As work continued to take up much of my time over the year, I have trimmed down my hobbies down to mainly music and video games. Working so much has sucked some emotional stimulation out of my soul, and I don’t read many books, watch movies, or TV shows to quench my soul so to speak. Storytelling has been in many video games throughout its history, but this decade has seen a push toward telling a story similar to TV and movie production and exploring topics outside of the general story staples folks have been used to over the years. I tend not to harp on a game’s attempt of a story if it’s not a big focal point, but will enjoy it if the game does tell it well throughout its run time. Outside of storytelling, there’s plenty of “WOW” moments that I experience over the hundreds of games I played that fill that void whenever I feel dull or at a suboptimal mental state.

COOL TRENDS!

Acknowledgement and Availability of Video Game Soundtracks

One of the biggest things I am grateful for over this decade of gaming is the acknowledgement of video game soundtracks and the availability of purchasing them. Music from video games now stand side by side with the music at large and are now available to stream and purchase from numerous retailers. No longer will we have to resort to saving Youtube videos or purchase crazy video game special editions to have the soundtrack available at your leisure. For me, it’s been awesome to purchase these soundtracks outright, download the mp3s to my classic iPod, and have it available to play on the go. It’s also nice in certain instances to support the music composers with my purchases directly or indirectly.

Shorter and Plug-and-Play Games

I am also grateful for the trend of game’s full running times getting shorter to complete or they’re easy to jump in and play. As work and other things have taken up more of my time, I’m glad to see a game that I can finish between 2-15 hours or games that are quick to learn, jump in, and play. The value proposition of certain games may not get the full bang for your buck, but as long as the game functions properly and delivers what it wants, that’s all I’m asking for with my purchase. While my list of games that are short to finish that amazed me isn’t long, I still appreciate that they didn’t take up too much time for me to play and cross off my backlog. There are more games that I enjoyed over the decade that had the quick to play aspect.

Improved Relations Between Major Console Competitors

Precedent for this just happened within the past year and I think it’s great that the three console players are starting to make moves with each other. I’d like to think that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are seeing that many families only have one console, so it makes sense to have the three try to get a piece of the other audience through small offerings. Microsoft lending some of their previously exclusive games available to purchase on the Switch, MLB The Show available on all three consoles for the next two years, and cross-play between the three on a few games. Who knows if things will revert back or if the three are seeing the market evolve where these moves are necessary to earn necessary income, but the console audience is definitely winning out with these moves and relations.

Microsoft’s Game Pass

If there was one of the few things Microsoft did right over their tumultuous run with the XBox One, it’s their Game Pass. A Netflix-like subscription service where a monthly fee gets users to play a healthy library of games. It’s perfect for games that you were mildly interested in and get to play without having to put down the full price commitment to it. They amended their service to include XBox Gold with Game Pass Ultimate and a PC version available through Windows 10. The service isn’t perfect but it’s the model that Sony and Nintendo should look into considering their lackluster offerings with their subscription services.

GIVE OR TAKE

Digital Version Benefits

Video games followed the trend of other major forms of media where the public is purchasing content digitally. The biggest benefits that digital copies have over the physical counterparts are delivery and environmental factors: you don’t need to wait for delivery and travel to purchase, no manufacturing is needed, and no need to dedicate room space to file your game library. It’s great for certain folks they have the internet resources to do so and suits their lifestyle.

The biggest hurdle for some folks with digital are the internet resources needed to accomodate for digital purchases. Folks that are under a data cap may find it hard to purchase multiple copies due to the culmination of the base game file size plus patches. Sales and permanent price discounts don’t go as deep and often compared to physical releases. Lastly, the inability to purchase a game once it’s delisted is a major bummer. If the game has a physical release, you have the ability to track one down; but there’s no luck to purchase your own copy once it’s delisted digitally. Even worse, the ability to redownload a game even if you purchased a delisted game could be unavailable as well.

Additional Content

Additional content doesn’t bother me as long as they’re optional and not scamming the players out in purposely cutting certain portions of the main game behind it. I don’t mind spending the money to play more content with a game I enjoyed playing through its main content. I do feel what is offered as additional content isn’t as interesting and impactful compared as they’re working around what they already laid down in the main content. I feel more games should stand up for themselves and just release the game as is without the additional fuss. Certain genres and games benefit more with additional content, rhythm games making the most sense out of the major gaming genres.

Fighting Game Seasons, Season Passes, Patches

Riding along the additional content topic, I feel mixed in regards how most major fighting games are being run over the decade. Most major fighting games are now offering season passes with additional characters and seasons where the games are patched frequently for a variety of reasons. The benefits to the season pass model are great: no need for a separate release, evolving meta with character and mechanic adjustments, the excitement of a new or returning character, and patching some egregious items (overpowered characters or moves, unintended mechanics). Some part of me feels like the constant evolution of these fighting games makes these games look like a constant work in progress with no finish line and the additional finances and efforts for the players to keep up with the latest knowledge and foundation. While some games get the benefit of a sustained audience once the fighting game is done with all of it’s content years after its initial release, other games won’t have its audience sunstained once it’s all said and done. I’ll be interested to see if folks who stuck with Street Fighter V or Tekken 7’s once all of their content is out will still play them once the next entries of each are released.

NOT COOL!

Differing Content Between Physical and Digital Special/Deluxe Releases

Based off from a few personal examples, I feel it’s not cool the different content between physical and digital deluxe releases are being handled. One example is with the upcoming Granblue Fantasy Versus US release, with XSEED offering a special physical edition and a digital deluxe edition. The physical special edition includes additional physical perks such as an art book and game soundtrack on CD while the digital deluxe includes the season pass. In this case, I would rather spend the money above the regular edition on the digital deluxe because the season pass is bundled with the additional cost over the physical edition with its exclusive bonuses. I understand if there’s some stipulation with the separation of content between the game’s two deluxe versions, but I think it stinks for those who could be caught off guard not knowing what’s not included. I felt a bit burned when I purchased the Control special physical edition not knowing the digital deluxe had the cosmetic bonuses that the physical version had plus the additional content included and had to pay more money to get that content.

The Crunch, Certain Studio Working Environments

It’s been harrowing to read a lot of the reprehensible working conditions at numerous video game studios lately. It stinks to know certain games were produced under poor conditions, whether it’s harassment, working crunch, or other unsavory aspects that is likely the fault of poor decisions lead by management. I hope worldwide there’s a combination of internal and external pushes that will make working in the studios more enticing and welcoming to work as a career against the nightmare cases that we’re reading more about.

Half-Baked Releases

An unhealthy trend that’s caused harm in the industry are “half-baked” releases. It’s hard for me to plant a definition in stone, but I’m certain folks have encountered a few releases where the game upon first release doesn’t feel like it has everything there. Street Fighter V is widely criticized for not having certain game modes and a broken online that severely hurt its reputation. Those that have stuck with SFV can see the strides Capcom has made to recover and make it a respectable, there are a few that still feel the sting and will never find the positives of the game due to its poor start. Not every game will recover its goodwill like a No Mans Sky and hopefully studios will put more effort in making sure the game has everything it needs to have before release.

Loss of Games or Game Content Due to Licensing or Other Matters

Though we have lost many games through various reasons in gaming history, the loss of games being available to find and purchase has been heightened over the decade, particularly digital only releases. Some games are unavailable to buy due to licensing agreements, others through other matters. If not full games altogether, some games may have some content patched out or unavailable to purchase any longer. In Rock Band, there’s a batch of songs that are unavailable to purchase any more or unable to carry over from previous releases due to licensing reasons.

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Just for One Year - Ode to UNIST's EVO 2019 Featured Title Inclusion

February 26, 2019, 10 PM Eastern

Many fighting game fans probably tuned into EVO’s Twitch stream to see which fighting games would be announced as one of the main showcase games for this year’s EVO tournament. Unlike previous years where they stretched out announcing titles for shenanigans and such, Mr Wizard and Markman played it straight and announced nine games straight through. Much of the games announced early were no brainers to those who have been following the FGC community closely in the past year: Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Dragon Ball Z FighterZ, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Mortal Kombat 11. Soulcalibur VI made it and the surprise game that was announced prior to the final game slot was Samurai Shodown.

After right games, I thought the last game that would take the final slot would be Dead or Alive 6, a game that was about to be released later that week and thought it’d make sense to take advantage of another new game to be featured for EVO 2019. To almost everyone’s surprise, Mr Wizard announced that Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] was the ninth featured game for EVO. Never would I thought UNIST would ever get a slot after UNIEL was shafted pretty hard with strong support back when it was up for its eligibility in 2015. UNIST making it in felt like a cinderella sports team breaking through, beating out one of the biggest EVO games that was a main game for six years prior in Super Smash Brothers Melee. (The “Thank You Melee” video afterward felt like pouring more salt to the wound on top of Melee not chosen to be an EVO main title this year.) UNIST making it in also meant Guilty Gear Xrd REV2 was out. While I thought REV2 always shown incredible pool and top 8 matches at EVO, for this year I’m glad to have UNIST have its moment. Who knows if UNIST will be featured as an EVO main title ever again after this year?

It’s amazing that UNIST has the fourth highest amount of entrants out of the nine featured games at EVO (as of Mr Wiz’s 01 May tweet) and has the fifth highest entrants at Combo Breaker, one of the biggest fighting game majors in the United States.

As we’re getting closer to EVO 2019, I am pretty much writing an ode to an incredible anime fighting game that somehow worked its way into an EVO featured title.

BREAKING NEWS! SHOULD I WAIT FOR THE NEW UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH GAME TO GET INTO THIS FIGHTING GAME?

https://gematsu.com/2019/05/under-night-in-birth-exelatecl-r-rated-for-ps4-switch-in-taiwan

In my opinion, if folks are interested in Under Night I would advise folks to buy UNIST. Who knows how far development of this new UNIB game currently as reported? Factoring in the localization efforts of bringing it over to North America after its release in Japan and Asia, it’ll be a good while if we see the new UNIB game here. I believe it took over a year for the NA console releases of UNIEL and UNIST to make it over after their JP console release. UNIST is riding high from it’s inclusion in EVO and there are many folks recently joining in because of it, so there’s no better time to ride the wave than right now.

HOW DID IT EARN IT’S SPOT?

I have not kept up with every fighting game tournament going on and hearing what games have been doing well or not with the community, but from what I gathered it has been getting a lot of entrants in anime-centric tournaments leading up to the EVO 2019 announcement. It also got a lot of entrants as an EVO side game last year and ran an incredible tournament from what I’ve was able to watch. I guess a little bit of hearing UNIST’s growth and considering the history and factors of the other games on the bubble (Melee, DOA6, etc.) may have been enough for the EVO leadership group to award UNIST the final featured title spot.

WHY AM I SO PSYCHED THAT IT’S AN EVO MAIN GAME?

I’m excited that it’s an EVO main game this year because I think it’s about time to show how awesome UNIST is to fans of other fighting game fans. I think the game is very exciting to watch and has a unique balance of patience and action packed within each round. The presentation is pleasing to view and the every character is the game has great personality that it presents themselves well to spectors in my opinion. It’s also another game to see whether a North American players can have success against their Japanese/overseas competitors.

WHO ARE THE FOLKS TO LOOK AT FOR IN UNIST?

I reiterate that I have not been following the community very closely, but one competitor that stands out in North America goes by the name Squish, who has finished first and top-8 in numerous UNIST North American tournaments and won at EVO 2018. Clearlamp is a Japanese competitor to look out for, he won in UNIST at Climax of Night, a North American FG Anime focused tournament. In terms of community, HellaBrett has been a big supporter of the game who assists running locals in Northern California. James Chen has uploaded a tutorial series of UNIST on his Youtube channel.

WHY DO I LIKE UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH EXE:LATE[ST] SO MUCH?

I already wrote a five-star review and placed it was my number one game of 2018, but I’ll try to stretch out further why I think UNIST is an awesome video game here.

THE CHARACTERS

Fun to Play With AND Against

UNIST is one of the rare games where I feel like the entire roster is fun to play and fun to play against. Each character is so unique in their fighting style that it’s fun to proceed playing against different characters and how players play their characters. I feel it doesn’t get too stale that or get too hectic that affects my enjoyment of most fighting games I casually come across. There’s a certain flow that every character has that’s engaging to play in every battle.

Impressive Looking and Excellently Designed Fighting Movesets

Adding to the character’s fun factor is how each one has impressive looking and designed set of moves with them. While many characters fall into certain fighting game archetypes (shoto, zoners, rushdown, grapplers) their movesets make them more interesting to watch and play. I love the persona and sword interplay that Orie employs. Carmine has a unique trait where he loses life utilizing his special moves and can gain health back with throws and other methods. Merkava stands out with his extended limbs and flying ability. Eltinum has an active reload mechanic where if you successfully reload within the little window, she earns powered up bullets.

Well-Designed and Bursting with Personality

There’s a distinct lack of “I want to be the best” or “I’m the strongest” found in UNIST’s roster. Instead, you’ll find a lot of subtle and unique characteristics that UNIST’s roster brings to the table. There’s Merkava with his noodle arms, Wagner and her high mighty smugness, Mika’s childness, Gordeau’s brashness, Carmine playing the crazed man, Hilda and Byakuya laughing their asses off, etc. You don’t need to play the game’s story mode to get a glimpse of the character’s personality traits to shine through in battle.

THE FIGHTING

Aggressive Yet Grounded

UNIST’s fighting shows a lot of aggressiveness as the entire cast can lockdown their opponents with their unique skill set, yet that aggressiveness is grounded as there are windows to turn the tide. A mixture of player’s playstyle and intuition along with character skills and battle mechanics can make certain matches one sided and other matches go crazily back and forth. The fighting looks and plays action packed but there’s bits of patience sprinkled in many spots in between the action. If I were to compare how UNIST plays to its counterparts, I feels more active than Street Fighter yet not quite as outlandish as Guilty Gear. It’s somewhere in between those two games is where I feel UNIST’s fighting falls under.

Excellent Mechanics

What helps UNIST’s fighting be so engaging is its excellent mechanics that feels right at home. GRD is the most important mechanic in the game as the player who wins the cycle earns subtle but important benefits that they can use over their opponent. Players earn vorpal for winning a GRD cycle, in which it inflicts additional damage on attacks, opens up additional mechanics, and gives most characters a subtle benefit to assist them in battle. What I love about the GRD system that it can be won in a variety of ways. Offense is typically the way GRD is won most times, but impressive shield blocking and breaking your opponents GRD are other ways GRD can but won. Hence there’s always additional tension when the next GRD cycle closes. Other mechanics such as chain shift and veil off (similar to Arc System Work’s Burst mechanic) are additional tools that can give the player and the offensive to continue being on the offense and defensive players tools to interrupt their opponents offense and quickly mount a counterattack.

THE PACKAGE

Mostly Comprehensive Training Mode

UNIST’s early praise upon launch was its comprehensive training mode, which teaches high-level fighting game wide techniques employed by expert competitors into its game. Those of us who watch fighting game tournaments and are unclear in techniques such as option-select, whiff punish, okizeme, etc. are explored and taught in the game. It’s great to see the developers spend some time on exploring these techniques and see how it it’s used in their game, along with some techniques that is unique to their game.

Practical Combos in Character Combo Missions

It’s also great to see the combo missions in UNIST be practical in use of battle for the entire roster. There’s also a short Cliff Notes set of missions of what the player should do with their character in a few instances that I wish French Bread would go deeper to show the intent and ins-and-outs of the character to new players who are looking for a character to main.

The Soundtrack!!!

UNIST has a lot of bangers that adds excitement and drama to every battle and their equally amazing to listen to on their own.

Unreal Black Things and Other Verbiage

I love the wacky verbiage found in spots in the game, from the title screen with the UNREAL BLACK THINGS, the quick fight introductions with a loads of text under the character, rounds called CLAUSES and DIVIDE to start each round, and other little odd text found in and around the game.

No Patches and Season Passes!

The most impressive aspect to UNIST’s package is the lack of patches and season passes. Most bigger budgeted fighting games in this gaming generation have relied on patch updates fixing bugs and promising balance adjustments and expanding the roster through season passes to keep their audience interested in their game. UNIST succeeds against the grain by sticking with the product and haven’t had to follow up to issue additional patches to fix nor need to expand its roster to keep its audience happy. The game has been out for over a year in North America and has seen its growth not only in tournament attendance, but also in interest and enthusiasm. It’s great for newcomers to buy the game and go straight into it without having to download patches to be up to date and find most information available for the game to still be relevant.

JOIN THE GIANT BOMB FGC DISCORD!

https://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion-30/fighting-games-general-ex-plus-a-1790649/?page=1

Anyone interesting in playing UNIST with fellow duders are welcome to join the GB FGC Discord for casual and tournament play. You can find the link to the discord on the first page of the FGC thread linked above.

ENJOY UNIST!

Thanks for reading and enjoy UNIST whether you’re watching it or decide to dive in and play it!

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Versus Anxiety Post 3 - Has Anxiety Affected My Enjoyment of Video Games?

I rarely played any video games during the stretch where I was overcome with anxiety throughout the day. I briefly played a couple of games here and there during this stretch, but playing video games did not cross my mind as an option to help ease anxiety. The few occasions I did play video games in this stretch did help get my mind be able to escape the constant anxiety barrage that I was constantly bombarded for the most part. There were a few occasions where the anxiety would breakthrough and break my attention toward the game I was playing at the time. Before I read the two books that paved the way for my recovery, I was stubborn to hope that video games and other hobbies would help ease my anxiety and was reliant on my mental fight in hopes to win over.

It wasn’t until a couple of days after I finished reading (and re-reading) that I found the therapeutic elements of playing video games. Many of us may have cited video games as an escape from the rough aspects of our daily lives and is a source of plentiful positive effects in undergoing this activity. After spending most of the Saturday working from home needing to catch up on my workload, I took Sunday as a work-free day to at least have one day off from work for the week. Video games never crossed my mind for the day until I finished lunch and sat in my room ruminating what I should do next. The first game that crossed my mind when I wanted to play was Rock Band. I hadn’t played Rock Band in a while to this point and thought a non-action, music-heavy game session would be a nice small step in getting me back to enjoy video games again. It would become more than just a small step back.

I played Rock Band 4 (solo drums) for two hours. In the past year, I would play the Rock Band drums to get a little bit of physical activity squeezed into my day. On that day, not only playing Rock Band got me the bit of physical activity, but also gave me that peace of mind that I desperately sought for against anxiety. My mind was so attuned to reading and reacting to the note highway and listening to the music for enjoyment and cues that anxiety never barged in to interrupt as it typically did. It wasn’t until I stopped that it crept back in, but at a lesser intensity scale than I was normally experiencing at the time. That triggered in my mind on the power of video games in the right setting. I was so pumped after my Rock Band session that I wanted to play another game. Funny enough, the game I settled to play after chilling out from my Rock Band session was Celeste, a game that included mental health as a prominent story device. Just like Rock Band, I played Celeste in bits and pieces earlier this year but fell off due to a number of factors. The part where Celeste makes peace with her other self was a strong moment for me, as one of the tips from the self-help book stated was to NOT combat your intrusive thoughts, but to simply accept them. I took this allegory to heart even further thanks to playing Celeste and has further assistance in my bout against anxiety.

I likened playing or watching video games to performing an exercise, your mind and body is so attuned to the video game that rarely anything else impedes on your attention to the video game. It’s the equivalent to a runner achieving a runner’s high, where you feel no pain and in the zone of setting a great pace. Depending on the game, I would fall under this zone where I’m just solely focused on the game at hand. It’s great from a player perspective because you feel like you’re very interested in what you’re involved in with the game. I can also get this sensation as a spectator, whether it’s watching an engrossing back and forth battle in competitive fighting games or witnessing numerous shenanigans happen in many Giant Bomb content. Once the session ends, I feel exhausted but happy experiencing being so invested on performing or witnessing the video game content in front of me. Just like how an exercise feels mostly exhaustive yet refreshing once the session is done. This is the solace that many gamers seek to in order to find some happiness against the grueling other parts of our days.

Thanks to this breakthrough, I have reclaimed video games back into my normal run of things to do during the day, from playing to watching various content online. Even though I will mostly get positive experiences in engaging with video games, there are particular actions and themes that will cause me to react harshly for the moment before settling back to normal. Mortal Kombat 11 will be a challenge for me to view due to the graphic nature of bodily harm done due to regular course of combat, course interactables, fatal blows, and fatalities. The moment in The Last of Us where Joel falls and gets injured falling onto a steel rod sticking out from the ground. Other similar graphic violent acts will get me anxious a good bit, so I hope the tips that I learned to cope with those quick moments will help me get through and still enjoy viewing the content. I’ll need to since MK11 will be prominently shown in major fighting game tournaments for the year.

I will say that if I had not treated myself in reading the two books that it would continue to affect my time and enjoyment with video games. Anxiety affected my well being so much that I feel I would be forcing myself to enjoy my hobbies and would not have gotten the positive byproducts of them as my anxiety would drag my mind back to worrying over a number of things again. Hence it was important to get the treatment first to recover my mental state to a state of normalcy. Getting my mental state back to “normal” felt great compared to being in a constant state of flux under anxiety. From there, I was able to integrate my enjoyment of my hobbies back into my life and now feel mostly back where games are fun to watch and play again.

If I were to suffer a setback and anxiety roars back its ugly head again, I would personally set my hobbies aside and utilize the other tools that helped me breakthrough and recover my mental state back to normal first. I would rather get myself back to square one as soon as possible first and not have to delay and deal with anxiety later with a brief reprieve of gaming in between. I think of my hobbies as nice post recovery tools to continue the positive vibes after recovering from anxiety. It feels alright to play video games to interrupt the misery, but it feels much better to play video games in a better mindset.

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Versus Anxiety Post 2 - Anxiety as an Ally

I didn’t know if I was going to find effective anxiety relief advice as I decided to read Dan Ryckert’s novel on his trials living with this condition. While I was a bit disappointed that Dan didn’t go in depth into particular aspects on his anxiety recovery efforts, I still got a lot out of reading his novel. For one, I felt at ease that I wasn’t the only one who experienced anxiety and panic attacks in a social setting. Throughout the entire time I read the novel, I had a strong sensation of reading a good friend’s inside thoughts on how much they have struggled in finding a solution to get rid of of anxiety and finding solidarity with our respective battles. At the end of the novel, Dan wrote an emphatic message to everyone to make the choice to get yourself better or face the alternative of living with anxiety for the rest of your life. It was that message that kick started my motivation to recover from this debilitating condition.

Dan’s novel isn’t going to bombard the reader with a lot of technical terminology around anxiety. He attracts the reader by having them be observers of his severe anxiety and panic attack episodes and all of the trials he undertook in hopes of being cured from this condition. I simultaneously felt a bit relieved that I wasn’t the only one that had to endure a panic attack in a social setting and at awe on Dan’s detailed accounts of his episodes and the numerous methods he reached out to get help at various points on his battle. Dan goes deep in detailing his anxiety and panic attacks, whether it’s his first at a movie theater or his latest panic attack he recorded in this novel at a Giant Bomb PAX panel. Reading his detailed attacks makes me feel like I’m a ghost observing right by him.

I was amazed on how well Dan utilized his intuition in duress to get through certain events. He frequently accessed university resources to get help with his anxiety while he was a college student and openly made his anxiety aware to a few of his professors, which they were happy to adjust the course to cater to his condition. He learned an early valuable lesson that he converted to one of his tools to combat anxiety in the future while working at a local news TV station after college. Later on, he would add in exercise and meditation as important tools that he credits as big tools that helped him relieve anxiety. The “a-ha” moments were great to read as they were critical breakthrough moments to Dan that he found some sort of formula that would help him reach a calm state at the end of the novel.

With the highs of Dan finding significant breakthroughs in his battle against anxiety also comes numerous pitfalls. Early in his battle, he asked his parents in hopes they can provide any assistance but both of their efforts were very unfruitful. His time after college seemed to be his darkest period where he had few solutions in dealing with his anxiety with the combination of experiencing panic attacks with friends on a trip, involved in fragile and unhealthy relationships, trying to make ends meet while working at unsatisfying jobs that constantly triggered his anxiety. He also mentions the few attempts in taking certain medications with one he admits he didn’t give a chance and another he used sparingly. It wasn’t until he finally got hired at Game Informer where he was able to start breaking through against his long battle with anxiety.

As much as I loved reading Dan’s comprehensive recollection of his anxiety, there were certain aspects I wished he delved a bit deeper into that would give readers with the condition be more informed of. My biggest nit-pick is the lack of detail in regards to his visits with various doctors or psychologists. He briefly mentions some of his visits to only come out of them in him getting prescribed with medication. After finishing the book, I hoped that he would go into more detail with his doctor visits and see what to do prior, what worked and what did not. As someone who is considering making appointments with a psychologist or therapist, some insight into meetings would be helpful.

Dan’s stance with medication is murky. He admits he quit on taking his first medication (Paxil) early because it made him feel dull in spite of the medication working to ease his anxiety. He delves into his brief use of Xanax during one of his panic attack episode while attending a live taping of Conan O’Brien’s late night show. Dan recalls taking a half-pill of Xanax during his panic attack then not remembering what happened as the medication was so strong it knocked him out. He used to carry a help-pill around him as a “fire extinguisher” at a time he would suffer another panic attack. Dan was more receptive to his final prescribed medication of Zoloft, but would later go off when he ran out and decided not to refill as he felt confident with himself at the time. Dan warns of the danger of Xanax during that panic attack episode and follows up on warnings on using strong medication to battle anxiety on his rundown, which seems to suggest he is against medication if possible.

At the end of the book, Dan provides a rundown on tools that helped him overcome his battle with anxiety. He does admit that the tools that he used may not work effectively with everyone and advises folks to find their own tools that are effective to themselves. A lot of the tools Dan lays out make common sense amongst the information I have gathered on combating anxiety. He credits exercise, meditation, and combating fears as his biggest tools that helped him combat anxiety and the rest of the tools as augments to further strengthen his dedication, such as striking a balance, not rely on crutches, being open about your anxiety, and setting quantifiable goals. There’s nothing groundbreaking on what Dan suggests, but it’s still helpful for those who are looking for solid, first, small steps advice to start their recovery process.

What sold me on Anxiety as an Ally was Dan’s final message to the read at the end of the novel. He sets the table on what one can do with their anxiety. One can simply continue being miserable living with anxiety for the rest of your life, or you can take charge and work your way to overcome and not deal with anxiety as much and regain living your life. His strong conviction to ask his readers to make recovery as an imperative goal was the kick in the ass that I sorely needed to get my life back from this cruel condition. I have recalled Dan’s emphatic message constantly whenever I start to lose grip against anxiety. I was a complete wreck and felt completely powerless prior to reading Anxiety as an Ally. Now I have a much brighter mindset and newly instilled confidence that I can overcome and at the very least, feel less frightened and overcome against anxiety. There is a way out and Dan helped me get started on the road there.

Don’t come expecting Dan’s book to be a comprehensive guide to battle and outright eliminate anxiety. There are plenty of books, online articles and videos, and in-person professionals available for users who are looking for immediate relief for their anxiety. Dan’s books succeeded with me by providing a grounded and perspective view into one’s personal decade long battle with anxiety. It helped me read that another person who I admire through his work in video game media experienced the same dreadful experiences and sensations that I had, and that he underwent various trials to find what worked and what did not to overcome this condition. It’s like talking with a friend who overcame a dreadful event and told their story and insights on how they overcame their particular challenge. I don’t know Dan personally, but like how everyone felt when hearing about Ryan’s passing that he was like a friend to us, I felt like Dan was a good friend telling me his story and how he overcame his stiffest life challenge. Thanks Dan for publishing this book and still having a strong, direct impact with me four years after it was released!

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Versus Anxiety Post 1 - Introduction and Table of Contents

Hello and welcome to a new mini-series blog of sorts in regards to my recent spell with anxiety. It may be weird for me to write about my experiences with this condition but there’s multiple reasons why I wanted to write up on it and to share some particular content here on my Giant Bomb profile. My number one reason I wanted to write and share my experiences is that I can always refer back to these blogs whenever I feel like I’m starting to close grip on my battle and road to recovery against anxiety. It sounds silly to write about blogs that were more for myself than others, in a weird way I hope the selected following posts may helps a few others who are doing their best in dealing with their conditions.

The other aspect is tying in Giant Bomb and video games and how much of an effect they had against anxiety. I write about my thoughts and impact of reading Dan Ryckert’s Anxiety as an Ally novel on the second post, which details his decade long bout with anxiety. The third and final selective post is reflecting how much has anxiety affected my enjoyment of video games. I enjoyed writing up these pieces and hope that folks find them interesting to read at the very least. Anxiety is a condition that is hell to live with and no current cure to make it go away. Those who are living with it know how debilitating anxiety does to the body mentally and physically. I hope those that haven’t experienced full blown anxiety continue to live out their lives to the fullest and provide the utmost support and empathy to close ones who are suffering with this damn condition.

Below are links to my other posts around anxiety which details my brief personal recent account of experiencing extreme anxiety and panic attacks, my thoughts on a self-help book I read after finishing Anxiety as an Ally, and my personal lessons learned about anxiety and what tools worked and didn’t work on my bout against the condition. Don’t take what I say as the gospel and would advise folks to do their research and seek professional assistance if your condition gets very serious. At least I hope that I can provide a bit of ease in sharing my experiences as much as Dan’s novel did to me.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with more interesting video game content on Giant Bomb.

02 - Anxiety as An Ally

03 - Has Anxiety Affected My Enjoyment of Video Games?

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Wordpress Entries on My Extended Experiences with Anxiety

Anxiety Attacks!

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

Lessons Learned

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7 Years at Giant Bomb - Highlighting My Favorite Contributions

On this date seven years ago, I signed up as a member on this great website about video games. I was looking for a new video game website to lurk around after leaving Gamespot due to a number of reasons. I was made known about Giant Bomb peeking at my brother watching a video at the site. As soon as I found out that Ryan Davis and Jeff Gerstmann were running the site (I wasn’t keeping up with gaming sites at large back then) is when I signed up. Though I enjoyed the video content the staff back then, I was more engrossed with its wiki. I did what I could to help improve the wiki in any kind of matter, whether it was inserting a release date to a game, to filling out a full game wiki page from scratch. I would later branch out produced a bunch of game lists, post a few reviews, and joined up in a few community run events.

Sadly in the past couple of years, my output has considerably decreased due to a number of factors. I always lament that I could not produce as much as I used to, and hence whatever recent output has come about from strong conviction to power through and get a blog, list, or review done. It’s been hell for me to get this blog done, but as we are closing out on the 2010 decade and the mindblowing revelation of being at this website for seven years, I decided it would be nice to look back and highlight my favorite contributions to Giant Bomb.

Favorite Wiki Page Work

Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm

Looking back, I’m not proud with any of the wiki game pages where I was a top or significant contributor for. Out of the few wiki pages where I put in significant work into, I would choose my work on the Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm page as my finest effort. It was one of the few pages that I created from scratch and covered the basic game information into some detail with the development history and game mechanic sections. There are other wiki pages where I put in much more effort and information into, but I prefer the tight, straight to the point information I wrote into the Yatagarasu: AoC page. It’s all the information you want without the fluff, which I feel hurt my bigger wiki page efforts since I felt the pressure to pad out the page to feel “full”.

Favorite Review

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]

I do not consider myself an excellent writer by any means, but I hope that my recent reviews were decent reads. Whenever I have the sudden inspiration to write a game review, I always challenge myself to write the best review that I can. It’s been hard to maintain the thoughts and the limited time I can work on getting those thoughts written down into an electronic document whenever I had the chance. Out of the ones there I published on Giant Bomb, I’ll give the slight edge to my Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] review as my best review, though The Last Blade 2 review comes at a close second. (And I’m still disappointed how that release turned out, even though the technical issues that I noted were eventually fixed with patches.)

What I liked about how my UNIST review turned out was portraying a level-headed appreciation of how well that game turned out. I did my best to highlight the numerous things the game did well and why those things personally impressed me. I gave big focus to the game’s tutorial mode, as it’s one of the few fighting games to really dig deep into top-level fighting game techniques and implements within the context of its fighting system. I also did my best to describe how engaging the fighting is, even with all of the mechanics in play. Although I forgot to spotlight a few outer edges of UNIST’s overall package, I was happy on how the length of my review turned out. I felt I wrote enough on my UNIST was great but not too much where it looks like I’m digging through every little detail to justify my enthusiasm for it.

I written a number of other video game reviews during my early years with Giant Bomb but shied away from publishing them here for the odd reason that I didn’t want to overload my profile page with reviews. You can read those other reviews here: https://rurikida.wordpress.com/category/reviews/

Favorite Lists (Not Counting GOTY and Games Finished)

Favorite Games of Generation 7

I recall there was a lot of members publishing their favorite games of Gen 7 lists around the time of the XB1 and PS4 release back in late 2013. I drafted up this list pretty quickly and got it out there as soon as I can to join up with the other lists going out. I’m shocked looking back to it on the low number of games I picked and half of my list consisted of Nintendo DS games. I probably would add a few more games and include Wii U games if I had to redo this year, but the seven games I listed all the way back on 2 January 2014 still stands in my heart. Those seven games helped me provide awesome, stand-out gaming experiences as I was starting to feel the deep crunch of years as a full-time office worker.

Favorite Fighting Femme Fatales Female Fighters

I have to make one big clarification about this list… there are no actual “femme fatales” characters featured on this list. This list is simply a list of my favorite female fighting game characters. I thought the “Favorite Fighting Femme Fatales” title sounded cool with the F alliteration wordplay. Nonetheless, I still like this list because I think all of these characters are really cool, especially in a genre where back in the day most fighting game casts were majority males. I had planned on doing a new list updating where these characters stand since I published this list back in 2014. It’s interesting to see where some of the characters from this now stand.

Sound Check [01]

This list was pretty recent (February 2018), but it was a heavily inspired list of me personally noticing the growing recognition of video game music/soundtracks in terms of buying game soundtracks like albums digitally and physically. I don’t recall how I got the inspiration, but I quickly ran with it and compiled a list of some interesting video game songs that I liked that may not be the outright favorites for each game represented. The list seemed to land a nice amount of reads as I received a number of thumbs up, two comments, and even comments from my tweet on the list.

I did a second list in November, but I published this list during Extra Life weekend so I think this list got lost in a lot of the Extra Life noise. I also was a bit more lazy with my song selection descriptions as I was busy with work and had the urge to push this list through faster than usual. I liked the theme I had with the list and maybe a re-do would do that list more justice, for now I’ll leave it up for folks to read if they wish.

Favorite Giant Bomb Community Run Event Participation

Persona 4 Arena

I was so mad that I couldn’t participate in the first GB P4A tournament, as I recall it getting over 50 entrants and I think the top 8 was actually streamed on the GB’s main chat page. I participated in the subsequent tournaments, fought in the nutty GB vs. GameFAQs GB P4A battle, and year-end season bout all ran by FluxWaveZ at the time. Though I am terrible in the game (Chie main), I had fun with all the sparring, competing, and befriended a bunch of duders as a result of all the time spent with this game. There’s still a small group that stuck around after the P4A frenzy died down that I’m still a part of where we huddle in an actual ICR and the talk about games and such. It’s crazy how a fighting game spin-off of a popular JRPG and a website about video games would cultivate such a lasting friendship.

Fight Nights

MikeFightNight and Mace picked up the FG mantle after the Persona 4 Arena enthusiasm faded and held numerous fight nights open to the community. Most of the time the fight nights were casual bouts in Ultra Street Fighter IV and Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, but they also threw in lesser fighting games from time to time to mix it up, like Arcana Heart 3, Virtua Fighter 5 FS, etc. I made a few more friends over the fight nights and they did their best to keep the fight nights going for a couple of years with casuals and small tournaments from time to time.

Giant Bomb FGC Discord

You probably notice the trend here that my primary participation with other duders in community have come in community run fighting games. Nowadays, you’ll find duders passionate in fighting games congregate in the GB FGC Discord. Folks are welcome to join in and ask other folks if they are open to casual fights and run tournaments. Discord just came in at the right time to house a community effort since the relevance of GB’s forums has diminished in recent years. I occasionally pop in whenever I can to get my fights in within my ever busy work schedule. You can join the Discord featured on the first post of this forum thread.

E-Mail Read on Bombcast

I sent a few e-mails to both podcasts and was able to have one of them read! My e-mail was read on Bombcast 473 and I thank Brad for pulling my e-mail during the segment. You can see in the video archive that when Jeff is speaking about the recent Hamster Neo Geo releases of SNK’s back catalog, Brad goes to his laptop to go through and find my e-mail about SNK’s business practices in having their back releases being handled by different emulating companies. Of course I freaked out a bit on the inside finally getting an e-mail read on the Bombcast and was a bit bummed to hear Jeff confirm my suspicions of SNK’s practices at the time.

Briefly Meeting Dan Ryckert, Seeing Dan and Jeff in Person at Anime Expo 2018

I was lucky to have the first day of Anime Expo 2018 fall within my week long visit to Los Angeles. I was not only eager to attend Anime Expo (the biggest United States anime convention by far for a number of years), but to also see Dan Ryckert and Jeff Gerstmann in person at their Crunchyroll panel. I actually got to shake Dan’s hand and briefly spoke to him when he was walking by prior to the panel starting. I thought the panel ran well with Dan and Jeff riffing on numerous 30-second anime clips submitted. I was a bit bummed to learn after the fact that Dan and Jeff hung around after the panel ended, but I had a commitment with the group I was travelling with so I bolted once it ended. Nonetheless it was awesome to see Dan and Jeff in person, something I never thought I’d ever do.

To Conclude

I would also take this opportunity to give my appreciation to the Giant Bomb members who continue to contribute great material, whether it’s the numerous awesome art pieces, the few video editors who clip great GB moments, and the ones who continue to work on the wiki, write blogs, reviews, and lists. I know community efforts haven’t received the brightest of spotlights as of late, so here’s to all of you.

As for me… I’ll just wait until the next sudden inspiration pushes me to produce a new contribution. For now, thanks for reading!

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Anime Expo 2018 Day 1 / Retro Gaming Around LA

A quick blog highlighting the few video game-related items during my week-long vacation at Los Angeles (29 June to 6 July).

Anime Expo 2018 Day 1

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Anime Expo was one of the two major ticket items during my week-long trip to Los Angeles and it was more overwhelming than I thought it would be. I knew it was big as in the past few years AX has exceed over 100k attendees, but I never expected to be on my toes constantly navigating through hordes of enthusiastic fans inside the Los Angeles Convention Center. In spite of the crowd issue, I'm glad I went even if it's only for one day. I'm not sure if I could handle attending the full four-days of the event, just imaging the crowds again gives me chills.

Anime Expo:

  • Unlike my time at Otakon 2013, I did not bother to stop cosplayers and asked them to take a picture of them due to the constant crowd movement. Two cosplay highlights were two Persona 5 cosplayers, one as the cafe owner Sojiro and the rebel doctor Tae.
  • I also did not have a chance to thoroughly check out the thousands of retailers in AX's Exhibitor Hall due to the crowds as well.
  • Check-out lines to the bigger exhibitors (who had bigger stalls/spaces) were extremely long and time-draining. My brother waited in line for over an hour just to reach the checkout counter at Atlus's booth and his two friends waited over 90 minutes to buy a few Gunpla models at the Bluefin booth.
  • Atlus's booth was simply a long line to their checkout to buy Atlus merchandise, which primarily consisted of Persona 5, Persona 3 Dancing, and Persona 5 Dancing items.
  • Bandai Namco had playable demos of Jump Force, Code Vein, and two other games I cannot recall.
  • NIS America had a shop and playable demos of one of their games along with the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection and SNK Heroines.
  • Other gaming companies at AX Exhibitors Hall were Degica Games, Idea Factory, Arc System Works, XSEED/Marvelous, and Aksys Games.
  • AX's Entertainment Hall is a dedicated hall for folks who want to play video games and trading card games with others.
  • Blizzard and Square Enix had sizable booths inside the Entertainment Hall. Blizzard was primarily selling merchandise while Square Enix had playable demos for Kingdom Hearts III and Dragon Quest XI.
  • There was an arcade section where you actually had to pay, in quarters, to play the arcade machines.
  • There was also a huge booth for a Fate VR game of some sort.
  • Kentia Hall hosted AX's large Artist Alley.

Anime Expo 2018 Merchandise Purchases

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Atlus: Persona 3 Dancing Pin; Persona 5 Makoto Keychain; Persona 5 Dancing Pin; Persona 5 Art Book (bonus item, same as art book included in Persona 5 limited edition release); Persona 3/5 Dancing bag (bonus item)

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Eighty Sixed: Noel (BlazBlue) T-Shirt

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Shunao (artist)

Charms: Chie (Persona 4) & Orie (Under Night In-Birth)

Representing my BBTAG team for the moment.

Crunchyroll Panel - Anime 101 with Giant Bomb

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(Sorry for the blurry image.) Here's a quick video I took of Dan and Jeff walking up to the stage.

In the middle of Anime Expo's Day 1 madness, I made my way over to The Conga Hall where Crunchyroll stationed themselves over the weekend and held an interesting panel on Thursday at 3 PM PDT with Giant Bomb. While the panel simply consisted of Dan and Jeff watching 30-second clips of various anime and their reactions to it, both of them along with the host really made the panel entertainment throughout. There was no surprise that Dan really took a liking of the clip from Black Lagoon, but Jeff surprised me in being interested in Laid Back Camp and still not enjoying the art of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. I'm glad I made the panel and see Dan and Jeff in-person. I actually caught Dan before the panel started and got to shake his hand and had a quick chat. I could've asked for a photo but I did not want to be too bothersome to Dan.

Retro Game Stores

Game Realms at Burbank, CA

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Game Realms was a neat store to visit. Nothing too crazy about the selection but the big open space and the dedicated game stations at the back and just how clean and organized the store was won me over. They also host local fighting game tournaments as well. They sell both retro and modern games so if anyone in the local area needs an alternative, give Game Realms a shot.

Few Observations:

  • Nier:Automata Black Box limited edition for $500!
  • Project Justice NA Dreamcast, full packaging, $170!
  • Garou NA Dreamcast, full packaging, $70.

Little Tokyo Mall at Little Tokyo Los Angeles, CA

I didn't catch the name of the store, but there was a retro video game store inside of Little Tokyo Mall that focuses on selling retro imported Japanese video games. They have Japanese video games from most consoles with a sizable chunk of their inventory filled with Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64.

Frank & Sons Collection Show at City of Industry, CA

This place all the way out at City of Industry is essentially a large, indoor warehouse flea market. There were a number of retailers inside the warehouse that primarily were selling used video games. It may not be the best place to find a legitimate copy of a video game if you are the person concerned with that stuff. I would give this place a YMMV if you were ever looking for older video games here.

Closing

You can click here if you want to read additional few observations and the places I hit up with my brother and his two friends during our week in LA.

Thanks for reading!

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Looking Back (2017) / Forward (2018)

A quick blog I wanted to write up after completing my GOTY 2017 list reflecting my gaming habits in 2017 and what I hope to accomplish in gaming in 2018.

Here’s a link to my GOTY 2017 list if anyone’s curious.

Looking Back to 2017

GOTY 2017, Listing and Writing on 15 Games

Twenty seventeen was an incredible year of video games that I could not ignore my ranked #11 to #15 games when I finalized my full rankings because those games still made a strong enough impact with me that I wanted to write about them. Games on the lower end of this year’s list would have easily landed on another year’s GOTY list as in some years I listed games where I was more lukewarm on or grasping for something to put on the list (2015).

Happy with GOTY Write-Ups?

Considering that I was writing my GOTY list free-flowing without stopping to check frequently for grammar and spelling errors, I am happy on how my GOTY game summaries came out. The only game that I was not too thrilled with was NieR:Automata, which I expected it to be sloppy since I knew I was going to have a hard time trying to limit myself on the various reasons I liked and disliked about the game.

Excluding Puyo Puyo Tetris

Though I have played the game thoroughly enough to be included on my 2017 GOTY list, I decided to not include PPT because I felt playing the localized version through did not provide enough of a differentiating experience compared to the time I played my imported digital copy years back. Plus as I made my shortlist and decided that I wanted to write on the 15 other games that I played that was inclusive of this year instead.

Excluding Tekken 7

The only thing I have accomplished in Tekken 7 was completing the story mode. I did not venture too much into Tekken 7’s other single player modes or played any online to get a feel on how Tekken 7 stacks up against the other games that I have played to fruition. It was easy to leave Tekken 7 out but I’m upset that I could not play more out of this game to see where it would have landed on my 2017 GOTY list.

Awesome Games, Awesome Soundtracks

Not only the games that landed on my GOTY list were great games to play, but almost every one of them also had equally amazing soundtracks. There was just something to each game’s soundtracks that does their things so well. They were so good, I went ahead and purchased them, some myself and a few with help from my brother. Just this past week, I purchased the following soundtracks digitally from Amazon: Cuphead; Gravity Rush 2; NieR:Automata Arranged; Pyre. I purchased NieR:Automata’s OST upon finished the game back in April. My brother purchased the vinyl releases of Sonic Mania (Data Discs) and Persona 5 (iam8bit) though with caveats. Data Discs was able to include a redeemable digital copy with the vinyl, the soundtrack was limited to new compositions. The Persona 5 vinyl did not include a coupon to redeem the soundtrack digitally.

How the Hell Did I Manage to Play and Finish These Games?

Somehow against all of the hours dedicated to work, other hobbies, and life, I managed to play and finish a surprising amount of games in 2017. They’re not all the short runtimes like What Remains of Edith Finch, Pyre, etc., but long-running behemoths like Persona 5 (100 hours), Etrian Odyssey V (75 hours), NieR:Automata (42 hours), Fire Emblem Echoes (45 hours), and so on. There were a number of games that I felt my playtime was a lot longer than it seemed, such as Mario + Rabbids (30 hours), Gravity Rush 2 (25 hours), and even Super Mario Odyssey including post game (20 hours). A lot of time also went into competitive games such as Splatoon 2 and REV2.

The games being great certainly helped, but other contributing factors that helped was the enthusiasm around how great 2017 games have been helped keep my motivation high on getting through my current game and looking forward to the next game that I had my sights on. Focusing on only one or two games at a time was another factor in keeping me focused with those games and see them through, even when those games were not getting my attention from not being as great as I’d hoped they would be. My game time eventually took over my time and interests of reading books/manga and watching any TV programs or movies. I essentially just hunkered down and played video games for most my available time, taking necessary breaks in between.

The 2017 Back-Burner Pile

Here’s to backlogs! Not sure if I’ll be able to get around to these games in the near future, but who knows.

  • Dragon Quest VIII (updated 3DS version)
  • Tales of Berseria
  • Yakuza 0
  • DiRT 4
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Slime Rancher
  • Yakuza Kiwami
  • Ys VIII
  • The Evil Within 2
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  • Wolfenstein II

Looking Forward to 2018

Wish: Less Frequent Big/Surprise Releases

2017 offered no breaks for anyone who wanted to play the best of the best for the year. From the start with Gravity Rush 2, Tales of Berseria, and Yakuza 0 in mid-January to probably Super Mario Odyssey and Wolfenstein II at the end of October, there was at least a number of games per month that was getting widespread praise throughout the year until the holidays. Though my wish is foolish, but I do hope the constant frequency of great releases slows up a bit in 2018. I did pressure myself into buying games outside of my comfort zone in 2017 due to their surprising reception (Pyre, Evil Within 2, Wolfenstein 2 to name a few). At least the gaming calendar for 2018 at a glance looks to be a bit less heavy, though who knows what surprising games comes out of nowhere to possibly continue 2017’s trend of constant great games coming out as a year-round thing now instead of being relegated to particular segments like it was before this decade.

Goals: Backlog and Online Gaming with Duders

Since I’m not too keen with 2018’s slate of games at the moment, my big gaming goal I am setting for myself is to knock out whatever games I have from my enormous backlog. In particular, I want to get through one or two more of 2017’s great slate of games and play at least one classic/well-regarded game and hope to play more from there. My other gaming goal is to sustain my online friendships that I attained through Giant Bomb and play games with them somehow, particularly FGs with the GB FGC Discord group.

2018 Releases of Interest

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] - 9 February

I did not play much of the imported digital PS3 game version I purchased in 2017, so I hope the localized North American release will get me back into playing Under Night more frequently this year.

Yakuza 6 - 20 March

I’ll definitely buy the game, though I doubt I’ll get around to this game in 2018. I have yet to play a Yakuza game and Zero sounds like a good starting point for me into the franchise before I get to the others.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 - 21 March

Same deal as above. I do have Valkyria Chronicles Remastered for the PS4 and would like to get through that game first before touching this. I probably will buy this game nonetheless.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection - May

No explanation needed. Super Turbo, Alphas 1-3, SF III: 3rd Strike. Online too.

Bloodstained (Backed Campaign)

Hoping the original Castlevania creator can work his magic to bring that classic Castlevania gameplay back into the forefront with this inspired effort.

Indivisible (Backed Campaign)

Giving the Lab Zero folks support for their Valkryie Profile-esque effort after relatively enjoying Skullgirls with my brief time playing that game.

Dragon Quest XI

Never played a DQ game before and despite buying the updated VII and VIII 3DS versions, I think I’ll try to look at DQ XI as my icebreaker into the franchise.

Red Dead Redemption 2?

I haven’t played much of Rockstar’s games, but to my surprise I played, finished, and enjoyed RDR1. I’ll give RDR2 a chance.

Soulcalibur VI

For now, I’d rather try to play more and see if I can enjoy Tekken 7 between the two Namco 3D fighters. I am keeping an eye out on how this game shakes out.

The World Ends with You Final Remix

Heading into this year, TWEWY was one of the games that I really wanted to cross-off my backlog list. Thanks to today's Nintendo direct, I'll wait until the Switch version comes out. I'll be interested to see how the handle the dual-character combat/one screen gameplay on the Switch.

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Thanks for reading. Here’s to 2018, in gaming and elsewhere.

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In Regards to My GOTY 2017 Preparation

I thought last year was a tough year to go through on a macro and micro level. The combination of a lot of shenanigans and the end result of the presidential election, to a ton of highly regarded artists (particularly in the music field for me) combined with the on-going personal challenges on the constant barrage of constantly working long works just to keep up with the workload at my job and the little things here and there that makes life challenging. This year has thrown more than its share of headaches on both fronts. I’ll spare the details but as time is winding down on 2017, this has given me some pause into how I’ll tackle GOTY material in the waning days. Thankfully there are some breaks coming up (US Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays) that I hope to catch up and finalize my approach, but for now my mind is set as follows.

Not Pushing to Have a GOTY 2017 List within the Year

I have lucked out into timing and having solidified list by the end of December for GOTY. Things have not broken out as well as I had hoped this year and thus I am forgoing setting a hard deadline to get out a GOTY list within this year. Ideally I’d like to get my GOTY list in as soon as I can but there are still a number of games (particularly a number of smaller titles) that I’d like to get a feel for before locking in my list.

Extending Past the Usual Ten Games

Ten is customary number that a lot of folks will chop down to finalize their GOTY lists and I have followed the custom in the years that I have published my GOTY lists thus far at Giant Bomb. This year, I am considering extending my GOTY list to a few more games, depending on how I feel about the games that make my preliminary GOTY shortlist this year. Considering the number of awesome games that have been released this year, I feel this is a great year to give more games more clout that they deserve.

My GOTY List Summaries

Thus far, I have formulated my GOTY lists by squeezing in three to four paragraphs summarizing why the ten games made it on my list. Upon developing my list last year, I wanted to change how I approached and presented my GOTY list to be quicker and easier for me to issue in forthcoming years. Lately, I am running into issues on what that would consist of and there are times where I told myself to stay the course for this year. This is still a work in progress but I’ll come up with something for my GOTY, whether it’s staying the course or showcasing something new to how each game is being presented.

So that’s what I have to say in regards to my preparation to GOTY this year. If I somehow make it in this year, great, but as of this time, it looks more likely I’ll have my list done in 2018.

The Final Countdown

As of this time, I have three games that I am actively progressing through and likely reach to a completion point and be in consideration: Cuphead / Etrian Odyssey V / Super Mario Odyssey. I have also gotten into Fire Emblem Echoes, but having a hard time finding time to get this game in lately.

Here is a list of the following smaller titles that I am in consideration to play for my GOTY 2017 list: Battle Chef Brigade, Night in the Woods, Pyre, Steamworld Dig 2.

The final list here are games that are unfortunately not in consideration for my GOTY list. Almost every game on the list is because I just could not parse out the time for them. DiRT 4 / Horizon: Zero Dawn / Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild / Tales of Berseria / Tekken 7 / Wolfenstein II / Yakuza / Ys VIII

I apologize for not being active in Giant Bomb as I once was. It’s been real rough the past few years and I have not been prolific with my activity here as I would like. Life’s still gotten a bad grip on my time and energy as of late and I have not found the opportunity to do as much writing that I used to do. Hope everyone else is doing well with themselves. I will be looking forward to reading everyone else’s GOTY lists as they come by and will get mines out as soon as I am able.

Thanks for reading.

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2017 Early Thanks: Giant Bomb, Games, et al

Giant Bomb

First and foremost, I have to thank the entire staff for providing a lot of entertaining content to occupy my mind in many spurts. I have maintained keeping up with the two podcasts (Bombcast and Beastcast) as each of them provide their own exciting content on a weekly basis. The additions of Ben Pack and Abby Russell definitely added a lot more flavor and mesh in very well with the other Bomb members. I am unable to get through every single content that all the members produce but it’s crazy how productive all of them are in having something for us to look forward to each week. I also love how much passion and love they have for games, for their jobs, and their constant appreciation with the community. Though I have only been around for over five years out of the nine Giant Bomb has existed, the least I can do is show my appreciation through my words here and by being a premium member.

A small personal thanks goes to Brad for taking a minute to go back through the Bombcast e-mail bin to read my e-mail on Bombcast 473 (March 21, 2017). As Jeff was speaking about SNK releases during the e-mail segment, Brad paused for a moment and recalled seeing an e-mail about it and went back to retrieve it. So many thanks Brad to going back to read my e-mail and Jeff for answering and providing his insight on my question!

Games

Man, what a year it has been for video games. There are a number of games that were released earlier this year that I doubt I can get around and yet there are still a number of games forthcoming that I wish I could get around to. I am really interested to see what folks place which games on their year-end GOTY lists. I’m going to have a hard time which games that I can afford to sink time into and have an internal debate to which ones resonated with me more than others. I am sad for a number of games fallen by the wayside because this year is simply ridiculous with the amount of excellent gaming goods at our hands.

No Caption Provided

In spite of the number of over 50-hour work weeks with barely any breaks (no vacations/lengthy weekends), I have been able to play through a number of games that definitely took up a lot of time one way or another. Any game that I either finish or play enough of its content to make a comprehensive is a major accomplishment in my book, whether it’s the long single player journeys of Gravity Rush 2, NieR:Automata, and Persona 5, to the multiplayer focused games of Guilty Gear Xrd REV2 and Splatoon 2, it’s been awesome that I can get through these games amid of the tremendous amount of stress that work has produced this year. I can’t believe that not only I can squeeze in the time to play, but also still have a newfound appreciation of how much games can provide that escapism that we all need from time to time.

I foolishly wish that the start of 2018 will be slow so that I can try to tackle some of the great games released this year.

MorkkiTH

MorrkiTH is a fellow duder that I originally met way back at the Gamespot forums back in 2005(?) and we along with a few others kept in touch back then by writing timely blog post on how our lives have been and what games we’ve been playing. We lost each other a bit during the period where the GB crew was transitioning over to setting up Giant Bomb. Once I made my way to Giant Bomb, we somehow found each other and kept up communication through PMs with each other ever since. I always like writing over to him and find out how he is going about things over where he resides in Finland. I know he’s doing his best to squeeze in gaming time while raising a family and gone through some tough personal hardships, but lately he seems to be in good spirits. Though I may not meet him directly in person, it’s nice to have a long distance friend to talk with once in awhile.

#GB_P4A

I am giving one personal shout-out to an IRC, where a small group of friends who stuck together after the hurrah of Giant Bomb Persona 4 Arena Community events fizzled out. It was my icebreaker to befriending a number of folks who competed in a number of those events and though my communication with them have subsided due to my hell-ish work schedule the past year or so but it is cool to see the those guys stick around and talk and do a bunch of stuff amongst themselves. Five years and the #GB_P4A IRC room group still run strong.

GB FGC Discord

I am giving another shout-out to the folks at the Giant Bomb FGC Discord. There’s an awesome amount of folks who are grinding out their FG skills as well as talk about other games and matters as well. The FGC is not limited to a few FGs, but any and all FGs are welcome and folks are more than willing to play with others at it. I sincerely apologize to folks at the Arksys channel for not being much of a match to others in the Guilty Gear weekly tournaments that I entered in. (My FG skills have been down in the dumps this year.) But if there’s anyone at GB who is reading this and want to throwdown with other duders, look no further than the GB FGC Discord. There’s a thread on the forums with a link to access the Discord.

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