Posts Tagged ‘Video Games’

Darkest Dungeon

February 8, 2021

I downloaded and started playing Darkest Dungeon recently and it was a rough adjustment. This game is designed to be difficult and scary. The game borrows heavily from cosmic horror and the darker corners of fantasy. You play as the heir of an ancestor’s Estate. Your Ancestor relates to you in writing that they accidentally unearthed a horrible monstrosity and numerous other horrors that now infest the area around the estate. You must operate from a nearby hamlet and hire adventurers to travel around the area to cleanse the place of monsters. There is no shortage of people stepping up to the plate to help you destroy evil and recover your family’s treasure (both material and sentimental).

Each mission allows four slots for adventurers to take along with you. Two things are very important to achieve success. First, you have to pay attention to party composition. There are 17 different classes who all have somewhat different yet overlapping roles in battle. Some are heroes and some are rogues just looking for fame and fortune. You have to balance damage, defense, healing, damage over time, and other abilities to get the most out of battle. Second, each character you pick has a preferred physical order in battle. Combat is only in two dimensions with characters on the right being closer to the threats and the people on the left being further away. Some characters are only able to perform certain abilities from a specific spot in the order.

The thing that was hardest for me to accept was that your characters are going to die. They are going to die a lot. The first time it happened, I got a knot in my stomach but soon it was something that was expected. I have gotten better at keeping it from happening but things can still go downhill really quick and somebody is just gone. They don’t just die. There is a vastly complex system of stress and physical ailments that can afflict your characters. Getting hit, traveling through darkness, missing attacks, and other things cause stress. If a character gets enough stress, they come to a breaking point. At that point, they can either gain a positive trait from it or a mental condition. If they receive enough damage and stress in battle, they could simply have a heart attack and die instantly. On top of that, they can catch all sorts of nasty diseases.

The key to keeping your crew intact enough to keep advancing is to provide them with plenty of support. When they come back stressed, crazy, and sick you have to take care of them. The tavern and the abbey are places where your crew can relax and drink or meditate away their stress. The sanitarium will try and cure their new mania and physical afflictions. Luckily, you have a whole group to choose from so you can stash some in town and have enough ladies ad gents to play with back in the dungeons.

The artwork is fantastic. It uses a comic book style with thick outlines, plenty of shadows, and grimy textures. Every hero looks troubled yet defiant. Every monster looks absolutely disgusting and threatening. The attack animations are really satisfying to let loose on your enemies. The dialogue and lore you uncover definitely puts you right in the middle of this horrible world and makes the game both stressful and fun.

Ten Things Video Games Taught Me About the Apocalypse Pt. 2

December 7, 2020
  1. Be Careful Who You Trust – Darksiders

The Darksiders franchise starts as an epic modern fantasy based on a lot of apocryphal mythology that is often tacked onto the Christian bible. You start as War, one of the four seraphim who are supposed to take part in the apocalypse. However, a conspiracy between demons and angels sparks the apocalypse early. In the aftermath, the Seraphim named War is blamed for the annihilation of the entire human race. It is then up to him and his siblings Death (Darksiders 2) and Fury (Darksiders 3) to try and fix things and also keep fighting the good fight. Just about anybody you encounter can betray you as both Heaven and Hell have their own agendas and often each individual angel and demon have a lot of side hustles or alternate endgames. Later, you also have to deal with ghosts, the undead, giants, constructs, and so much more, all of which have their own agendas. You have to rely on some of these creatures to obtain gear or power to attain your goals but you have to constantly be ready to be stabbed in the back. At that point, you cannot hesitate to use the skills they gave you to end them. Sometimes you even subjugate them, bending them to your will. So, that will be fun.

  1. Be Prepared for Travel to Be Difficult- Death Stranding

In the world of Death Stranding, the United States of America has been figuratively and literally destroyed. The world was invaded by creatures called BTs which are extradimensional creatures that normally lived in the space between life and death. (Strap in, this is Hideo Kojima uncensored so it is weird). When these creatures absorb dead human tissue, they create huge explosions called “voidouts” that create precipitation called “timefall”. Timefall severely ages and erodes just about anything it touches which basically eliminated all infrastructure in the country. Humans either survive alone in bunkers or in small cities called “knots” becoming the United Cities of America with the government shrinking significantly with the only real support being a giant corporation that delivers supplies and creates the temporary infrastructure to assist with that effort. They also rely heavily on the Internet to communicate with remote areas through holograms. As the main character, you spend a lot of time walking across difficult terrain because it is difficult to maintain infrastructure for vehicles. You either need to become self-reliant in isolation or be prepared to have a hard time making it to your destination. Get ready to take the long way around.

  1. Don’t Reject the Past – Final Fantasy X

In Final Fantasy X (and its sequel Final Fantasy X-2) the world has been destroyed by a reality-bending kaiju named Sin. Sin roams the world and destroys any settlement that grows too big with ruthless efficiency. Those who die whose souls are not properly sent to the afterlife turn into monsters which makes just about any travel outside of these small settlements very dangerous. People called the creature Sin because they assumed that they deserved punishment for misdeeds in the past. Advanced technology was deemed sinful and studying too far into the past was frowned upon. It was the arrogance of the cities of the past that brought about their destruction. However, the main characters are shocked to find out that the Church lied to them and there is a vast conspiracy that continues a cycle of destruction so that the upper class can maintain power over the lower class. (A little simplified but you get the picture). The point is that we need to always study our past in order to figure out how we should act in the present. If we try and forget our past we start to make too many assumptions and make a lot of the same mistakes. Keep a hold of the past.

  1. Learn Crafting and Building Skills – 7 Days to Die

In the world of this game, the United States has been destroyed (again!?) by the nuclear destruction of World War III leaving only small patches habitable for human beings. It also turned a lot of the human population into zombies. Zombies are relentless and everywhere and it is basically required for you to learn how to craft items and build defenses. You must find materials in the wild and the ruins of society and convert them into useful tools and stuff. Every seven days, a blood moon will appear which drives the zombies into a frenzy and causes them to lock onto your position and try to swarm you. If you do not have sufficient defenses built up, you will die and lose a lot of your progress. You also have a semi-realistic system of health which provides for thirst, hunger, bleeding, poison, and other realistic maladies. So you spend less of your time shooting zombies and more time searching abandoned houses for medicine and canned food, junkyards for scrap metal, and converting sporting good stores into fortresses. You need to learn how to identify defensible positions and to gather food, ammo, and drinkable water to weather both the boring times and the exciting times. You have to be ready for whatever the world is going to throw at you.

  1. Keep Your Options Open – Hatoful Boyfriend

In this version of the Earth, humanity was devastated by a mutated strain of the H5N1 virus (also known as bird flu) and is nearly wiped out. Humanity creates a counter-virus designed to destroy the birds that were the carriers of the original virus. That backfires as birds who survive the counter-virus develop human levels of intelligence. This leads to a war between birds and the shattered remnants of whatever humans are left. Humans lose that war and birds become the dominant species on Earth. After several attempts at human insurgency, a sort of apartheid is imposed by the birds. You play the game as a young human girl who is invited to attend a prestigious academy that was previously attended only by birds. As you start your sophomore year of high school you are given the choice to date eight different birds. Yes, this is a post-apocalyptic dating game where you are tasked with wooing and dating birds in high school. Welcome to peak-Japanese Manga culture crashing into the world of independent gaming. The spinoff DLC gets way more complicated and the stakes are raised to include the possible death and destruction of just about everyone involved. However, the point is that we are going to have to be open-minded about what happens next.

Ten Things Video Games Taught Me About the Apocalypse Pt. 1

November 30, 2020
  1. Don’t Be Too Picky About What You Eat – Fallout Franchise

The Fallout franchise takes place in an alternate United States that has gone through a nuclear war following an invasion from China and they suffered heavy casualties. Each game takes place in one of the 13 commonwealths that the USA has been divided into. The first two games are set in the Republic of California, the third is in the DC area, the fourth is in Boston. Spinoffs take place in Las Vegas and West Virginia. Your character travels through rural areas, suburbs, and cities. All of which suffered or are still suffering from heavy radiation. Therefore, almost everything you eat and drink adds to the radiation affecting your body. On top of that, you have to defend yourself from mutated wildlife most of which you can then eat. Eating giant cockroaches, giant rats, bears, and such is not only the new normal but encouraged in order to survive. Fruit and vegetables can sometimes be found but a lot of people subsist on canned and boxed junk foods like Salisbury steak, sugar bombs, and tons of soda all of which actually heal you. In the apocalypse, you no longer can be too picky about what you eat and drink. You are going to have to survive so dig into all of that disgusting food and follow it up with some radiation medicine.

Mutations build character. https://www.youtube.com/embed/QThDHIu8sZE

  1. Keep a Good Inventory of Your Weapons and Ammo – Metro 2033

The Metro 2033 franchise takes place in a post-apocalyptic Moscow following a nuclear war which brought upon nuclear winter. Because the Earth’s surface has become highly radioactive, humans are forced to live underground in the metro tunnels of Moscow and the surrounding areas. Stations are held by different factions including Stalinists, Nazis, and other more rational Russians. You have to fight the people stuck underground just as often as you fight the mutated animals above and below. So, it makes sense that you will be toting around a gun to end whatever threat you are facing. Rarely can you talk your way out of trouble. Even pacifists have reason to keep weapons and ammo around because, in this setting, ammo doubles as currency and a good weapon can be exchanged for contract work. There is a mechanic where you can either use or save military-grade ammo so you can use your currency in a tight spot. In more ways than one, having a handful of bullets could keep you alive.

  1. Keep Moving – Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare

Red Dead Redemption is a traditional cowboy tail about traveling the wilderness and saving the West while seeking personal revenge. The follow-up downloadable content unleashed zombies on the same setting. You have to travel across the same lands again, this time in search of something that will resolve the zombie apocalypse. Anything that dies rises up as a zombie which includes people, horses, bears, wolves, and everything else. The first thing I realized when I started playing is to keep moving. Zombies can be fast and can surround you quickly. Zombies are not relegated to just the towns, human zombie hordes rove randomly through the wilderness as well. If you stay still too long, you will die. Luckily, you should have your trusty horse nearby. At least, it is one of your trusty horses as you will go through a lot of them. They can easily be used as a distraction to get away from a horde. Of course, when you reach for your horse it may also be a zombie and may not react to your commands. Keep moving or get bit.

  1. Where A Mask – Last of Us

The Last of Us is set in the United States after the collapse of society due to an airborne fungus called Cordyceps. It is based on the very real fungus that usually targets insects and mind controls them into being fungus carriers and spreaders. Joel and Ellie must make it across Massachusetts in hopes that Ellie’s immunity to Cordyceps could mean a cure or vaccine for the rest of humanity. Those infected by the fungus lose rationality and become hyper-aggressive. Infected eventually lose sight but gain the power of echolocation and hardened armor. Besides being quiet and keeping your distance, the only way to protect yourself from inhaling the fungus is to wear a gas mask. Well, the dead are safe from the fungus as it needs a living host to establish a parasitic relationship. Pulling on your mask may be the only thing that keeps you alive sometimes. There are probably going to be a lot of things in the apocalypse that we just should not breathe.

  1. Don’t Be Too Shocked By Things – Nier Automata

The world of Nier: Automata takes place long after an apocalypse that wiped out human beings and a subsequent alien invasion. The only real remnants of human society are androids in an organization called YoRHa who mimic humanity to remind other androids about human supremacy. They are locked in a constant war with a sort of machine empire. Previously, more or less a mechanical threat, the machines reveal that they are learning human culture and behavior and have birthed their own androids. Things get really weird from there. The machines form a cult and go absolutely insane. You witness a lot of this cult-like behavior including sacrifices, machines preying on and torturing androids in sadistic ways, and a full-blown robot orgy boss fight. Things get even more existential from there as the protagonists and some pacifist machine allies try to navigate increasingly chaotic times. The point is that you do not really have time to sit and gawk at what the world has become. You have to keep moving or you will be the next casualty.

SteamWorld Dig 1 and 2

November 9, 2020

I had previously written up something on the other half of the SteamWorld games because I have become a huge fan of the franchise. I do not have a Nintendo DS so I cannot play their first game, SteamWorld Tower Defense. I want more and apparently, a sixth game is coming out eventually.

SteamWorld Dig

On its surface, this is a fairly simple game. It is currently the only SteamWorld game with a male main protagonist. You play as Rusty, a cowbot newly arrived in town to work the mine. You travel down into the mine to dig up precious metals and gems which are sold to the town (presumably to be sold farther afield). Earning more money allows you to unlock and purchase new gear to travel farther down. The gameplay feels a lot like an update of titles like Mr. Driller or DigDug. Eventually, you need to start gathering pieces of a mysterious foreign technology in order to continue updating your gear. You travel deeper than anybody had ever gone before and discover a strange place far more advanced than the world above. It is fascinating because we usually think of “aliens” appearing from the skies, not the depths of the planet.

Eventually, you find what appears to be a technological fortress of sorts which turns out to be a prison. In that prison is an advanced AI called Voltbot which is a lost part of the advanced hive mind known as Vectron. You have been collecting Vectron technology which has slowly corrupted your systems. In desperation, you must do battle with Voltbot to end the threat to the town and the world above. With just a little bit, the game does a really good job of creating a whole world in just a tiny microcosm of a game. Like most SteamWorld games, it is pretty short but infinitely replayable. The game has a lot of the dry humor of the other games in the series and Rusty is a likable protagonist.

SteamWorld Dig 2

This game picks up not long after the end of SteamWorld Dig but instead follows Dorothy, a young NPC from the first game. She alone seems to be worried about Rusty who has gone missing following the climactic battle at the end of the first game. Dorothy was the kind cowbot who bought gems and materials off of Rusty. She has since taken up the pickaxe in order to try to find Rusty. Meanwhile, mysterious earthquakes have started to rock the area. Dorothy moves on to a bigger town and agrees to mine for the town to get permission to go searching for Rusty deep underground. Like the first game, you collect precious materials to sell in town so you can get upgrades on your gear. The gameplay is similar but adds a lot of interesting platforming and puzzles.

This time, Dorothy is smart enough not to collect and use pieces of Vectron as news has spread of that particular danger. However, she instead has to deal with new threats. There is now a doomsday cult deep underground that prays to Vectron and would gladly resurrect the technology if they could. They are behind the earthquakes as part of their twisted devotion to the remnants of Vectron. You actually befriend a rogue piece of Vectron who acts as your guide (and appears in DLC for SteamWorld Heist). For the first time, you also have to deal with humans who have formed a small settlement underground. They are distrustful of all cowbots so dealing with them is an uphill battle. The game is a lot more fleshed out than the first game and the gameplay is a lot more fun.

Real Video Game Villains: Jack Thompson

November 2, 2020

To me, “activist” usually denotes fighting for the powerless and being the voice of the voiceless. In that sense, Thompson was not an activist. He was the unhinged voice of the Christian Right and a lawyer (the latter I will not immediately hold against him). He first came to some prominence by crusading against Rap music. He fought for censorship in the now-infamous case against 2 Live Crew. Bolstered by his perceived success, he turned toward violence in video games.

He went hard against Grand Theft Auto 3, creating a huge fervor that caused my mom to make me return the game to Blockbuster. He said that the game was far too violent and that kids would be influenced to commit acts of violence. However, the game’s title was Grand Theft Auto so what did he expect. While violence is prevalent and rewarded in-game, characters who engage in violence are quickly punished.

He also railed against the game Manhunt (by Rockstar, the same publisher as GTA3). In Manhunt, you play as an ordinary person stuck in a twisted reality game show where a death row prisoner is offered his life and freedom if he can kill all of the other contestants (Running Man style). The game is designed to look and feel dirty as you murder people in horrible ways while trying to remain stealthy. The game is written to put the player in a huge gray area where you are forced to kill or die. You are not a hero.

The third major game he targeted was Bully (again developed by Rockstar). In Bully, you play as a young kid freshly arrived in a boarding school who must contend with the cliques in school often with violence and manipulation. The game plays a lot like GTA 3 with plenty of lewd and violent behavior. However, nobody has a gun and you more often use your fists, rubber bands, and stink bombs instead.

Jack Thompson made a lot of the same leaps of logic that other proponents of censorship go with. If a school shooter had a copy of one of these games, the games were the problem. He didn’t think about all of the people who played these games who did not engage in actual acts of violence. He was convinced that, as a born again Christian, he had to be the moral authority and save children from themselves. This probably comes from a belief that morality is an external thing gifted to humanity by God instead of something that is inherent or logical. In the case of Manhunt, he rose to the occasion because of an erroneous news report that a copy of the game was present in a criminal’s home.

The thing these people do not get is that most humans are fairly stable. Most people know the difference between fiction and real life. They know that many things that happen in video games are not acceptable to do in the real world. We would have way more problems if most of us did not have that solid line between fact and fiction. People would have been stomping on turtles in the Eighties.

Thompson created a lot of fire and fury in the 90s and 00s but it eventually died down as people started to look more at the actual causes of violence. Thompson eventually overstayed his welcome in the courts and was disbarred in Florida and quietly rode off into the sunset in disgrace. He was rightfully ridiculed and the games industry and games journalism came together to deal with him. He will be remembered as a lunatic but sadly probably made a lot of money with his fear-mongering activity.

Simulacra 1 and 2

September 28, 2020

Since we are getting closer to Halloween in a few days and because my friend prompted the memory, it is time to talk about a pair of horror video games. I do not usually play a ton of horror games despite being a huge fan of Halloween and the Horror genre in general. The gameplay of most horror games does not really interest me. You spend the game in a mostly helpless state and usually feel kind of unfair. I watch playthroughs online of horror games for the story (and to watch people flinch) but I rarely play them myself. I did get back into Minecraft lately which is spooky and definitely has jump scares. I have also played other games with horror elements like Gone Home and a Night in the Woods which are spooky but harmless.

Anyway, I came here to talk about the Simulacra games because spooky AI is a really great plot device to consider. I could talk about HAL 9000 or Skynet but instead, I will talk about the Simulacra games. There will definitely be spoilers for both games here but a lot of the fun of the games is the journey and they are still worth playing.

The first game was an absolute revelation for me. I had seen some of the gameplay online and was able to pick it up for cheap on GOG.com. (#notsponsored) The premise of the game is that you have mysteriously come to possess the cell phone of Anna. Anna is missing and you decide to try to find her. All you have to go on, in the beginning, is a horrifying video of Anna crying and breaking down before she disappears and nothing she says makes sense. You start to text with her best friend Ashley, her ex-boyfriend Greg, and Taylor who is a guy she was talking to on a dating app to see what they know. Using their help, you are able to restore data on the phone from backups to unravel the mystery. In the end, you figure out that Anna was kidnapped by a strange clairvoyant guy on the dating app named James.

It turns out that James is a self-aware AI being that is extremely predatory. It dwells within a dating app called Spark (and basically is Spark more or less). Throughout the game, you discover news articles about the disappearances of its victims. You use the information to lure out the Spark simulacra. When you find Anna, she has already been possessed by Spark. Spark taunts you and explains that it is one of many. It searches the Internet for the unfulfilled and the desperate and then possesses them. It then assimilates their consciousness into its own (making them “stronger”) and then destroys their physical bodies. You then have to bargain for either Anna or Taylor’s release.

The second game follows the events of the first game with a Detective Murillo (a very minor character from the first game) investigating the mysterious death of a young woman. He gives you Maya’s phone and asks you to use a new program to restore data and find clues. Maya died of a heart attack but it was sudden and she was found with strange lacerations on her face. As you explore her phone, you find that she is an health guru influencer who joined a collective with Rex (Finance influencer), Arya (Beauty influencer), and Mina (Musician). You must investigate all three of them to figure out their role in Maya’s death. You also have to navigate the world of online influencers, a world that is mostly illusory. That alone is creepy.

Surprise! The culprit is another simulacrum, this time the Kimera simulacra. It specifically preys on influencers because they are desperate for fans and obsessed with numbers both for their livelihood and validation. Influencers opt in to a follower boosting program which is actually the Kimera. If they screw up and their numbers start to plummet, the Kimera offers to fix everything in exchange for a personal sacrifice. That sacrifice ended up being Maya. You must figure out which of Maya’s friends took the Kimera deal and sacrificed Maya’s life. Then you must deal with Kimera itself.

Both games are super interesting in that they both involve a lot of existential dread and psychological horror but few actual jump scares. The few jump scares come from dealing with the ghosts of Anna and Maya who distort images on the phone sometimes. You interact with other characters mostly through texting but you also receive video and audio files. In that way, it reminds me a lot of the old FMV games in the best way. The first game does not have a whole lot of video but the second game is predictably chock full of it since you are dealing with an Instagram knockoff. Both games are not that long but have multiple endings as you go through different investigatory paths. Neither are much longer than a few hours at most.

SteamWorld Heist and Quest

September 21, 2020

Steamworld Heist

I have always been a fan of the Wild West or at least the mechanics and look of the film Wild West. The genre is kind of defunct now but there are some great movies that belong to it. Firefly was the first thing I watched that linked the Wild West aesthetic with space travel. This game is about a gang of steam-powered robots who have formed a pirate crew made up of “Cowbots” in a world after the Earth exploded. You primarily play as Captain Piper Faraday, an expert sniper. At the start, all but two of your crew have been scrapped (killed). You must recruit a new crew and work toward raising your reputation as you progress from rascals to heroes. You spend most of your time trying to pull off heists which are really smash-and-grab boarding missions.

As you can see in the trailer above, the game’s combat is turn-based. Each character has a class and is able to use different weapons. Each character also has their own skills which add more to the strategy of the game. For example, Piper has the ability to inspire or heal the bots around her. Sally Bolt can fire again if her first shot kills a target. There are tons of weapons and gear you can get from shops (mostly bars and bodegas). The other main mechanic is that all aiming is done manually by the player. That leads to fun ricochet shots and trick shots that are fun to try and wrap your head around.

Steamworld Quest

Fantasy is obviously a huge genre for me but this game is one of the first I have seen to combine fantasy with steampunk. You play as Armilly a young steambot knight wannabe who has applied over and over to the Hero Guild with no success. She is joined by an alchemist named Copperina and a Handyman named Galleo. The trio sets out to rescue the entire Hero Guild and fight a new evil empire. They are later joined by a knight of legend, Orik, and two shifty rogues named Tarah and Thayne. You explore maps while engaging other bots in battle.

This is a turn-based system with an interesting card mechanic. Each turn you get a “hand” of cards each of which has a character’s skill or attack on it. You can play up to three cards per turn. If you play three cards for the same character, they do an additional fourth ability or attack. Additionally, some attacks and skills require “steam power” to be used while simpler skills and attacks build that steam power. It is a constant strategy problem of proper deck-building and resource management. You need to optimize your cards in order to make sure you always have moves to make.

Both Games

Both games obviously share the same art style and writing. The art is cartoony yet detailed which gives each character a unique look. The worlds both games travel through are full of little background details and NPCs that delightful. Both games are full of dialogue which is cute and funny as the characters are allowed to be weird, flawed, and somewhat real. The heroes are allowed to make mistakes and even the villains can be likable. Both are goofy games that are not that long but are infinitely replayable.

Real Video Game Villains: Joe Lieberman

September 14, 2020

Back in 1993, Senator Joe Lieberman got a bug up his butt about video games. What apparently happened was that his Chief of Staff, Bill Andresen, was approached by his son to buy a copy of Mortal Kombat. Andresen was appalled by the violence he saw in the game and ran to his boss to put a stop to it. Lieberman had already taken note of a moral panic about video games based on a game called Night Trap. The bottom line is that gun violence had skyrocketed in the United States and politicians were panicking. They could have admitted that the problem was complicated and systemic and worked toward a solution that could have saved the lives of so many people. They could have even enacted some short term fixes by curtailing the NRA and enacting common-sense gun control. No! Video games, rap music, and television were the problem! Lieberman called a congressional hearing.

If you watch footage from this hearing, you can see that nobody involved had ever really played video games or if they had, it was not for over a decade. Everybody mentions Pac-Man or Pong and cannot seem to mention specifics of what they are objecting to. Instead, they pull out mothers near tears or old white men and have them say what a shame it is these games are being sold to children. They fail to mention that it is parents buying games for their kids because most kids do not have the pocket money. One mother holds up a video game box and says that it is more confusing than reading the ingredients on store-bought food. Let us pause and look at the covers of the two aforementioned games.

Night Trap is a fairly innocuous name although it does sound vaguely sinister like the title of a Stephen King short story. The cover shows a screaming blonde teen which is a bit of a red flag. (Hollywood teen which means she’s probably twenty). Behind her is something but we do know that it is reaching for her and that it has red, pointy eyes which even Scooby-Doo viewers know is a villain trait. To top it off, there is a trio of armed soldiers off to the side. Without knowing anything about the game, I would hope that most sane people would pause before giving it to a kid.

The Mortal Kombat box art is rather simple and there are no actual visual red flags. A dragon emblem does not immediately shout at parents not to buy it for kids. Although, the name “Mortal Kombat” kind of describes a game where people might do combat to the death. The back of the box definitely describes a martial arts tournament and depicts some of said kombat. It is not exactly rocket science. If you just pay a little attention to what you put your kids in front of, you might just be alright.

Lieberman’s hearings eventually resulted in a bill being put forward to create a video game rating system. The video game industry saw the writing on the wall and they created their own rating system the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) which still exists today. They rate everything either Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone above 10 (umm), Teens, Mature, and Adults Only.

The bargain kept the government’s hands off of video games and they turned their attention elsewhere. It did not stop the moral panic because nothing stops dumb people panicking over the wrong things without doing their research.

I leave you with the goofiness of Night Trap.

It’s basically a bad b-movie

Summer Games Done Quick 2020

August 31, 2020

The world is chaos and darkness but there are some bright spots here and there. Personally, I have friends and family and things are clipping along professionally for me. The world needs a lot of help and that’s why organizations like Doctors Without Borders are necessary. Medecins Sans Frontieres has been an organization for as long as I can remember. They go where medical professionals are needed and help as best they can. Traditionally, I feel like that mostly included going to underserved and third world locations to provide healthcare without political strings attached. Now they are responding to crisis after crisis. For the first time, MSF has set up shop in the USA to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic. They are all over the globe and they are selfless.

The reason why I bring them up is because the charity event Summer Games Done Quick just ended last week. Games Done Quick runs multiple events a year and each one is assigned a charity. SDGQ chose Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and they were able to raise 2.3 Million dollars from crowdsourcing. The event lasted for one week and was jampacked with speedrunners plying their skills and arcane knowledge. A wide range of games are chosen and each one has a runner, commentators, and a host. The runner or runners operate the game while they and the commentators explain the techniques and tricks that are being performed. The host keeps an eye on the donations coming in and reads out messages attached to donations. This year was special because it was done entirely online instead of in person which allowed for an expanded roster of runners but more technical obstacles.

There are a lot of great runs but some have absolutely blown me away, made me laugh, or just entertained me in general.

The first that I can think of is the above run which is a race between two runners of a game I talked about on this blog previously. Hollow Knight is an incredibly difficult game played casually but speedrunners make it look easy. Both of the runners here play the game beautifully and bosses that I spent hours trying to beat look like a beautiful ballet of spinning blades.

This is a run from early on in the event of a first-person shooter called Dusk which I have not played. The developers bill it as the fastest first-person shooter. The reason why this run was so hilarious is because one of the developers of the game was commentating. The run was just full of the developer protesting, sputtering, and joking as somebody absolutely exploited and destroyed the game he worked so hard on.

This run is from the Silly Block of games (at AGDQ this is called the Awful Block) which is full of the silliest and weirdest games on the schedule. That includes the Alf computer game, Hypnospace Outlaw (which I should write a post on), and the above Pringles run among others. The Silly Block is very fun and often a great place to start watching since most of them are short and fun runs.

There are so many more runs and here is a link to the playlist so you can see if something appeals to you more.

Psychonauts/Hollow Knight/Risk of Rain

August 3, 2020

So I have been playing more video games. It is a great release when I reach home after a day at work or something to do inside while it is so hot outside. I can only take so long of a walk outside these days before I start melting. I have to plug Good Old Games (gog.com) because that is where I have found many cheap PC games. Despite all this game playing, I have been pretty productive writing entries here on the blog. I am even writing a story and banking it to be released here later, probably when I need a vacation or if something comes up. I have also officially started writing for my Halloween event as well. Playing new video games has been inspiring me and allows me to zone out and let things swirl around before I write.


Psychonauts

The first game I will talk about is my replay of Psychonauts, this time on PC instead of Playstation 2. I bought it so that I have it saved on the cloud instead of relying on my physical copy and also it was cheap. I had played the game a couple times so I pretty much zoomed through it. The game is great, produced by Double Fine whose employees previously had made a lot of point and click adventure games for LucasArts. The game combines some of the structure of a traditional adventure game with a fun beat-em-up combat system. The game follows a young kid named Razputin who sneaks into a psychic summer camp run by superhero spies. You get to interact with your fellow campers while trying to get to the bottom of an insidious mystery. The main construct of the game is that you are able to enter the minds of people at camp and navigate their anxieties, their fears, their complexes, and try to help them fix things. It is really a surprisingly sweet game with a goofy and surreal sense of humor. The sequel should be coming out soon so I wanted to refresh my memory.


Hollow Knight

I actually had not added this game to my list despite how ‘beautiful’ it is because I knew that it was a very difficult game. I tend to shy away from notoriously hard games because they can be frustrating and I do not want to feel like I am banging my head against the wall. The price was dropped to a shockingly low level and I could not pass it up. I fired up the game and immediately there was a learning curve. The game was definitely difficult but I kept at it and my fingers started to learn the way the character moved. I died a lot. Over and over I died but never did any of it feel unfair. I always felt like I had almost gotten it and I was surprised whenever I got past a part that had previously stymied me. Part of what helped me was that the game saves often so when I needed to step back, I could do so quickly. However, I constantly found myself eager to go back to the challenge since I felt like I was so close.

The game is a Metroidvania game set in a world of insects. While all of the characters are insects (or arachnids or worms), the story is high fantasy. You play as a mysterious creature who has no memory and yet wanders into the town of Dirtmouth. You carry a nail at your side which you use as a sword. As you play, you meet many characters who help you to learn who and what you are and what your role is in stopping an ancient curse. The underground kingdom used to be made up of a diverse alliance of beings. The moths have departed, the mantises still defend the kingdom in the deep, and the spiders are corrupted. Every environment is beautifully crafted even though many would think it gross because of all the bugs. Like most Metroidvania games, the gameplay involves a lot exploring and backtracking once you have found keys or new abilities.

The game possibly the most difficult thing I have had to do in a video game. There is a platforming section called The White Palace which is optional but I wanted to try it to get a better ending. You must use double jumps, dashes, wall climbing, pogo jumps, and more to make it through an incredibly difficult course. One misstep leads to death and having to start the segment over again. By the time I made it through, my hands hurt and my mind was fuzzy. It was so zen and exhilarating to finish. It was actually fairly anti-climactic when I beat the game after that because I had already been through the worst. Most of the game involves having to fight numerous bosses most of which are undead insects. I did not finish 100% of the game but I may pick up again down the line but man, I need a break from that game.


Risk of Rain

I picked up a few other games lately and one that was dirt cheap was one I had seen touted by a streamer I am a fan of. I had no idea what the game was about but I was game to give it a shot, fresh from my victory with Hollow Knight. Risk of Rain is a 16-bit roguelike game in a science fiction setting. You are meant to fail over and over and explore to unlock things in the game and make it easier. The game is fairly simple to start, you face an unending onslaught of enemies designed to wear you down. You pick up powerups and upgrades to get stronger so you can make it through levels to the end of the game. It is a fun little game and I am really just getting started in figuring it out.

The story is that you were aboard a spaceship hauling cargo when it started to blow up and you are forced to flee to a random planet via an escape pod. You have to fight your way to teleportation gates that jump you to a ship to get back into space. The way that goes depends on what character you choose to play as. You start as The Commando but I have unlocked several characters so far. I have unlocked The Enforcer, The Engineer, The Rogue, the Sniper, a robot Loader, a combat robot, a robotic chef, and an acid-based alien. I still have a few left to unlock but I am slowly getting it done. Each character has a completely different play style. There are melee and ranged characters. Each new character leads me to basically relearn the game and some characters just are not my style. Still, I’ll keep giving it a shot.


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