Posts Tagged ‘Video Games’

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.

Games Done Quick

February 17, 2020

It has been years since I first watched my first Let’s Play, something that I still really enjoy watching. A “Let’s Play” is when you watch somebody play a video game online usually with running commentary over it. There are so many games that I cannot buy and play them all so this is often a way to stay in the loop without breaking the bank. Also, sometimes I want to check out a game before I buy it and watching a Let’s Play is a great way to make sure the gameplay looks interesting enough. However, the real reason to watch is because of the personalities of the players. Currently, I have moved on from YouTube to watching a few streamers on Twitch (BarryisStreaming, MissDeerface, Gamblord, etc.). Their personalities are less polished and feel more real especially since they communicate with chat in real time as they play.

Anyway, a while back Barry Kramer more or less introduced me to the world of speedrunning. Speedrunning is a community in itself where players work to complete video games or tasks in video games as fast as possible. It always sounded stressful to me but the community has grown by leaps and bounds since the early 2000s. It especially grew once streaming was established. However, I watched speedrun races on Barry’s channel and I was fascinated. What I watched was something called Speedrun Bingo. The two competitors pick any games they want to in order to accomplish specific, generic tasks. The competitiveness and fun of trying to think one’s way through memories of games were great to watch. Barry’s mentor in this was BubblesDelFuego, a professional speedrunner.

It was also through Barry that I learned about Games Done Quick. Several times a year, the organization gathers together tons of speedrunners for a marathon streamed over a period of several days. The two main events are Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick. Both of these are huge charity events for the Prevent Cancer Foundation (and sometimes other charities like Doctors Without Borders). Viewers and attendees donate throughout the week-long events. In return for their donations, they can vote in polls to make things harder and/or funnier for the players. Gameplay is timed and can last anywhere from five minutes to several hours.

I finally decided to watch some of it and I started with the highly recommended run of Animorphs on the Gameboy which was run this year by Keizaron. The game is hilariously difficult and poorly programmed but the presentation made it so enjoyable. First, each run is commented on by the player and their friends/colleagues sitting on a couch behind them. It allows the couch to explain things or run commentary during parts where the player needs to concentrate. It keeps things running and entertaining with no dead air.

A few weeks of watching videos from January’s AGDQ event and I finally realized how best to explain the event. It is speedrunning’s equivalent to TEDtalks. In fact, a lot of the runs feel like they are structured like a TED talk. The player and the couch often explain things about programming, graphics, and mechanics with visual aids. There are plenty of jokes and it is packaged for easy consumption. I have learned things about video games and the community that I had never known before even after decades of playing video games. I have laughed hard enough to have to pause videos. It is absolutely fascinating and I never expected it to be. It is also a very inclusive event, inviting people from all over the world (as long as they can afford to travel to the USA). I wish there were more women speedrunners but they are definitely not excluded and are very popular.

It is also a really positive event. The gaming community at large has a lot of toxic individuals in it but GDQ seems to have figured out how to invite only those with positive attitudes. Everybody is having a really good time playing and everybody really wants to be there and put on a good show. Even when they are playing some truly awful games, they make the best of it and turn it all into a party. They also really want to drive donations to a good cause. Unlike other areas of gaming, women and LGBTQ+ people are all accepted and encouraged to engage with the community. I was absolutely blown away when I was watching videos from the event and I saw people being introduced with their pronouns under their name. It made me so happy. It means that they are accepting of nonbinary and trans people which was so amazing and wholesome to me.

I would encourage you to watch some of these amazing events just to get a window into a positive world with much to teach. Also, it’s just hilarious. I have embedded a few choice videos for that purpose.

Stardew Valley and My Time at Portia

February 10, 2020

I have stopped re-watching television shows and movies because there is just too much to watch to repeat anything. There is always something I have not watched that I want to watch. However, that rule really does not apply to video games. There are plenty of video games that I have replayed over and over because they are just so enjoyable. I am well known to have replayed Dark Cloud 1 and 2. I just replayed the Kingdom Hearts series. I have repeatedly played Final Fantasies VII, IX, X, and X2. Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel were built for replays. The list goes on. However, those are not what I am here to talk about today. Instead, I would like to talk about two games.

The first game is Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley took the gaming world by storm when it was released. It is the kind of game that appeals to gamers who like a very chill experience. The game is a lot to describe. I never played Harvest Moon but people have compared it to that franchise. However, Stardew is delightfully different. The plot of the game is that your character (male or female) visits their grandfather on his death bed. He gives you an envelope to open on a day when you need it most. One day, at your soul-crushing corporate job, you cannot take it anymore and you open the envelope. You have inherited a farm. You travel by bus to the quaint town of Stardew Valley.

Upon arrival, there is so much for you to do. You have your farm on which you grow crops and raise animals. Each season, you have a list of viable crops that you can grow. That is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole cast of colorful characters in town that you can get to know over time. Little by little you can befriend them all and learn more about their lives as you become friends. In addition, there are ten young people who are available to date. Five guys and five girls. They all have distinct personalities and all of them are available for opposite sex or same-sex relationships. There are also dungeons and mines that you can explore, fighting monsters and collecting treasure. The game also has the best fishing minigame in it. Finally, there is a very intricate crafting system.

Stardew has a simple art style that is very cartoony and endearing. The 16-bit graphics allow for a very cute, expressive animation style. During dialogue, you see close up portraits of the characters so that you can see them emote. Through play, you get to know all of these characters and the world around them. It is a world shared with monsters, ghosts, dwarves, goblins, and all sorts of other magic. It has a rich story that includes a morality system of sorts. The game is full of choices. Evil choices lead to greater wealth but good choices lead to a better world. It is up to you. The next time I play, I am finally going to choose the evil side and I am frightened. The game is still being updated and I am fascinated by all of the new stuff that comes up.

The other game that I want to talk about is one that I started playing this past weekend. The game is called My Time in Portia and it is similar but also different from Stardew Valley. I will say that most Stardew players would enjoy it as well as it scratches a lot of the same itches. The game starts in a similar manner. You have inherited your father’s old workshop just outside the gates of the town of Portia. You work to become the number one builder in town through filling out commissions given out by the bureaucracy. The crafting system is so much more robust and I am astonished by how much I have seen and I have only scratched the surface.

Everything in My Time in Portia feels more complicated but still manageable. There is a relationship mechanic where you can meet and get to know all of the various people in town. However, there is a bit more at stake. For example, you have a rival who does not really like you that you have to deal with. There are also criminals. While Stardew deals with marriage and kids, Portia deals with that and also deals with breakups and divorce. I have no idea who is off-limits for romance yet (although presumably the children and married couples). There are also so many more people. There are also both dungeons and mining although they are entirely different systems. The game is so much bigger than Stardew and I am absolutely hooked. Even with the game crashing a couple of times, I still really want to play it.

Peace in Video Games

January 20, 2020

I originally had something else planned for today but Joe Biden once again put his foot in his mouth and showed how out of touch he is with modern times. For those who are able to avoid the news, he said that game developers are “little creeps” and were making games that “teach you how to kill”. I wish I was surprised that he would say something like this as politicians have been ignorant about game development for ages. It just goes to show how out of touch politicians are when they do no research and spout things that would only get equally out of touch Boomers and soccer moms on their side.

Gaming has been my hobby since I was old enough to pick up a controller. I first played the Atari but quickly moved on to the NES and just kept going from there. I have either owned or touched most console systems and lately I have been getting back into PC gaming. I also watch let’s plays on the BarryIsStreaming Twitch channel and I have recently gotten into the Games Done Quick charity. I like to think I know a thing or two about video games because I have the experience and the passion to back me. I currently play Stardew Valley almost daily and I am slowly working through The Witcher game series and WatchDogs. Playing helps me relax and it also inspires me creatively.

The thing is, there are violent video games but it is an outmoded Tipper Gore-like mindset that believes that is all there is to a massive medium. There are so many diverse companies that make inspiring titles. Sure, there are some pretty grim games out there that involve killing but one does not have to be taught to kill. We know how to do that almost instinctually from birth. Instead, even the most violent games these days have a story to tell and they bind communities together. Besides, a lot of it is fictional violence that feels cathartic. Watching Steve Rogers punch the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger is violent but we understand the difference between real life and the screen. Those who don’t were going to commit acts of violence no matter what was in front of them.

Anyway, I wanted to make this into a more positive post by detailing some recent games that were not violent and had a lot of meaning to me.


Wandersong

This game is about a bard who travels the world in order to find pieces of a song that will save the Universe from destruction. As a bard, he never lifts a single violent finger and instead talks to people and uses his singing voice to affect the people and world around him. He is constantly positive and upbeat and just wants to make everybody safer and happier. The only real villain of the game is an ultraviolent traditional adventurer who is obviously framed as being in the wrong. The game also delves into issues such as imposter syndrome and depression. There are a lot of complex, grownup themes that take the player on an emotional roller coaster. I laughed, I cried, I cheered.


Songbird Symphony

This game is one of the cutest I have seen. You play as a tiny, young bird who does not know his past. Adopted by peacocks, he feels like an outsider no matter where he goes because there are no birds like him. Under the guidance of an owl, you explore the world in order to reconstruct an ancient song based on the songs of all the bird tribes. You dance and sing your way through all sorts of unique worlds, meeting all sorts of bird breeds with their own cultures and personalities. You use perseverance and positivity to mend old pain and unite these now disparate groups all while exploring your own origins. This is such a cute game but it definitely explores deeper situations like not knowing where you belong and trying to figure out who you are.


Baba is You

Honestly, this game blew my mind. It is a seemingly simple puzzle game that you are constantly reinventing through changing its foundational ideas through language. You are constantly redefining yourself, the environment, and even the goal to win. Again, there is no violence because there are no enemies. The only enemies are your preconceived notions of what a video game should be. The game basically puts you in the seat of a game developer and lets you mess with the reality within the game to figure out what winning even means. The game is like a hardcore exercise for one’s logic muscles and it made me giddy sometimes when I broke through a barrier and figured something out in it.


Untitled Goose Game

A viral sensation, this game has a relatively simple premise. You play as a goose who lives in a pond near a small town. Your goal is to make your way through the town by harassing its denizens mostly by stealing or moving items from them. It is a delightfully clever game that is such a joy to play. The human beings around you react with consternation, anger, and confusion as you cause mayhem through simple pranks. However, there is no actual violence in the game. In fact, you are far more successful in the game when you learn how to be more stealthy and time people’s reactions to distract rather than confront. Even the people you piss off don’t actually want to confront your goose with violence but simply want you gone. It ends up being a really cute game about being a complete asshole in a loveable way.

Media Update 3/15/18

March 15, 2018


Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

I love fairy tales, folktales, and mythology and I really should buckle down and read more of the 1001 Nights. I am not extremely familiar with Arabian/Muslim lore beyond Ali Baba, Aladdin, and djinn. Lucky for me, those three are what this anime is about. Basically, Ali Baba is a fruit peddler/shipping working who dreams of making his way into and through a legendary magic dungeon to get at the riches and magic items inside. Aladdin is a naive little boy who has made friends with a djinn who resides in a magic flute. Together, they set out to accomplish their dreams. I love media where different stories are reimagined and mashed together (see Once Upon a Time). This series is pretty zany and a little bit adult kind of like Kill la Kill. Similarly, all of the adult humor is in good fun and there is nothing malicious or too racy or the average viewer. I am excited to see where this leads as I like stories that have strong archetypes who are fleshed out into real characters (like American McGee’s Alice or various Oz adaptations). The animation is beautiful but also unexpected at times, kind of like FLCL. I have watched very little so far and I imagine that soon it will really pick up. I definitely recommend it. Besides, watching the trailer just now, I have to at least get to the part with Matt Mercer in it.


Sword Art Online

I had heard that many people did not like this anime but I did not want to research why because of possible spoilers. I decided to check it out for myself and I at least found a reason for myself. Without major spoilers, I did not like how there were huge time jumps going to episodes 2 and 3. I felt like I missed a lot of interesting adventures. However, from what I have seen so far, it is a fairly good anime. The premise is that a whole bunch of people sign up for a virtual reality MMORPG and the programmer traps them in it. If they die in the game, they die in real life and they cannot log out or be removed from the VR apparatus. The whole game operates in a fantasy setting that focuses on (wait for it) swords and the art of using them. The animation is very pretty and the character design is interesting. As expected, the anime is not light-hearted in the least as it deals with mostly young people dreading the next battle which might cause their death. I hope the series slows down a bit so I can really get into it. I guess I recommend it although it is a bit dark and there are plenty of other good anime series out there.


The Irregular at Magic High School

When I hear ‘magic school’, my interest is immediately piqued. I wish I could have gone to magic school and, somewhat related, I wish that magic was real. I guess I was expecting somewhat of a more grown-up version of Little Witch Academia (which was whimsical and dramatic) but instead I got something else. Something else that was not exactly bad once I started to settle in. In the world of the anime, magic is known to be real the world over and it is readily combined with technology to improve its use. This and other details make magic a very specialized thing where people almost have magical majors that they focus on. Families are known for certain techniques and magic is intimately connected with intellectual aptitude and studying. I definitely immediately got a Naruto vibe because of this but it is way slower and more drama-based. Still, I am very interested to find more about the seemingly complicated system of magic. I do have to drop a spoiler here because something really bothered me. The show centers on a brother and sister and the sister totally has the hots for her brother. I thought it was my imagination at first but yeah, it is made clear in the second episode. Based on Internet comments, it is one-sided and neither makes a move but it is fairly disturbing to me. Just a friendly warning. Because of that, I would not recommend it but also because it just did not grab me. There are plenty of high school dramas in English that I could watch.

Music of the Week:
Red Velvet – Stupid Cupid

The Regrettes – Come Through

Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

Foo Fighters w/Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

Attila – Bulletproof

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Anime Magic and Fantasy”
– I started watching Jessica Jones Season 2
– I continued watching iZombie Season 4
– I continued watching the Joel McHale Show
– I continued watching Fate/Apocrypha
– I continued watching Freaks and Geeks
– I watched a ton of Barry Kramer on YouTube
– As usual, I watched Game Grumps, GT Live, and Critical Role on YouTube
– I am so proud of those who participated in the National Student Walkout Day


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