Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coming Out Simulator: A Snapshot of How Growing Up Sucks

Before reading, I recommend you play Coming Out Simulator yourself here. While there isn't much to spoil, it's really worth it to play the game before listening to me talk about it. It doesn't take very long to complete. I'll be here when you get back. I promise.

Growing up is hard: No matter how privileged their upbringing, every kid has struggled with relationships - with their parents, with their peers, and with themselves. I started my morning the other day by playing Nicky Case's Coming Out Simulator 2014, and felt a flood of feelings I thought were gone the day I graduated high school. While the name of the game implies it's about coming out of the closet - which it is - it also isn't just that. It's an illustration of a small fragment of time in a teenager's life. The significance of that moment may be different from person to person, and for me that significance is in relationships.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nidhogg Review: Refined Rawness

Nidhogg is a game I would not usually purchase at first sight: it looks unfinished, undone.  Its sprites sway loosely,  and brightly colored 'blood' splatters seem jagged and incongruous.  The music stacks on top of itself in frenetic, chaotic ways; there is no story to explain, and somehow, there is only one mode of play in the end, really.

And yet... yet, it is perfect.  I have nearly killed my friends by introducing them to this game, and then watched them fall off the couch in fits of laughter and glee.  Friends picking up controllers, eager to take on the victor of the last match, and often too busy making snarky comments to play at their best.  Their spritely avatars fall and die in horrific ways, only to return, hungry for revenge.

It helps that the castle stage reminds me of Hamlet for some reason.

Nidhogg is perfection in one of the weird ways that only small production games can produce, and something that must be experienced to truly understand.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Blast to the Past: A Return of the Gamecube Controller

A few weeks ago, Nintendo announced that Gamecube controllers could be used to play Smash Bros for Wii U. This was a bit of a surprise, since Nintendo dropped support for the little purple lunchbox when the Wii U launched The USB add on alone would be nice, but that Nintendo is also re-releasing the GameCube controller to assist players... an extra bonus! But, why should they bother?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Growing Up Too Early: Why Kids Should Play More Kids' Games (and So Should We)

Remember those dreadful moments when our parents told us to put an M-rated video game back on the shelf and pick out something 'nicer'? The way your eyes rolled into the back of your head before you read the back of the violent shoot-em-up for the dozenth time and sadly placed it back on the shelf. Suddenly, your selection has been narrowed down to a series of potentially dreadful games that none of your friends will want to play when they come over. Damn, it was awful.

Ten years later, and suddenly you want to strangle every parent whose child is insulting your mother in the newest rendition of “Modern Shooter.” Outside of the fact that the multiplayer shooters which pre-pubescent kids have began hoarding to introduce them to horrible language, bad behavior, excessive violence, and a whole list of concepts they really don’t need to experience, could there be another reason for that 17+ on M-rated video games? How about the fact that these games offer little to stimulate a developing mind’s imagination?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why Failing at Tabletop is More Satisfying Than Winning at Video Games

The last month or so of my life has been pretty interesting: I'm spending my summer working at my school, which by itself doesn't present too many challenges. The thing is, this is my first summer truly away from home. I've been a college student for three years, sure. I've been on my own, but that was with plenty of other students on campus, my food already paid for, and with a job that until now has just paid for Steam games and action figures. Now I'm actually on my own; I'm learning to cook things other than mac n' cheese all the time, and, well...I'm still working out the other parts.

Currently, my belongings are still in boxes from when I moved off of campus over a month ago, including all of my consoles. My belongings were separated and stored between three different places until just a few days ago. My PC has only recently found its semi-permanent home in an apartment that I'm not even going to be in come September. Just two weeks ago, I was still living out of boxes in my friend's apartment. I didn't have any will to unbox and wire up my consoles just for the sake of playing one or two games, nor did I have the time.

My point being - I haven't touched a video game in quite some time (okay, there's the exception of my never-ending obsession with Threes... but that's a time filler more than anything). Sure, there was a weekend round of Mario Kart 8 somewhere in there, but almost all of my interactions with gaming this summer have been through tabletop gaming.  I even brought both my Vita and 3DS on vacation last week, yet I never once plugged either in. Instead, I played the pocket version of Ascension with my girlfriend (and lots of Threes on the side).

And you know what? It's been just as fun.  Maybe even more so.

I will gladly blame Wyatt and Brandon for this.

Monday, June 23, 2014

DLC Podcast: Does The Word "Gamer" Mean Anything Anymore?

It might seem like a question without an answer; the word means something different to everyone after all.  The idea of being a gamer, or what a gamer is, by definition, keeps being brought up in various forms in the last year or two.  The industry has grown, multiplied, expanded in ways that the original developers of games like Q'Bert and Pong couldn't possibly have imagined.  When the original Dungeons and Dragons began in the 70's, would they have any idea how large, how multinational the RPG industry would become?

How do we define ourselves under the banner of games?  How should we?  Is there a way to answer these sort of questions correctly?  Fortunately, the Downloadable Content podcast that has recently tried to answer just that.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lets Talk About Transistor's Humming

There are enough reviews about Transistor to bury someone with out right now - that's a good thing.  Seeing Supergiant Games go from being unheard of to being one of the longest lines at a convention to jump on is heartening to my American, loves-the-underdog sensibilities.  Its been a month since this wonderful new game has come out, and the quote worthy snippets from gaming reviews are plentiful enough that I could bury someone with them.

One of the things I love most about games like this is not actually what they bring immediately to the table, but the small, subtle things that are added; the details, the minutia that you might not even notice it originally because it blends and makes a game feel so whole, like it should just be there.  That if you took away that small detail, the game would feel almost empty, like there was just something missing that you couldn't put your finger on.

I want to talk about the humming in Transistor, and how that detail, that small, unneeded, unnecessary detail, made this game have a soul.