Thursday, April 10, 2014

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I'll readily admit that I appreciate being moved emotionally by media (music, film, video games, etc.), and one of the easiest ways to move me is to appeal to my love for my family, specifically my brother, whom I care for deeply. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does this with extreme efficacy. From the opening scene of the game until its final moments, this game hit me right in the feels.

I'm certainly no family psychologist, but I know how strong the bond between siblings can be, especially between male siblings, who likely grow up hearing stories about teaming up to take on heroic challenges. It's very much a part of our cultural perspective on brothers. I think that Brothers does a pretty good job of offering up a glimpse of that special bond, through both gameplay and narrative.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mass Effect 3

Author's note: Though I have no intention of spoiling anything of great importance in this post, there really isn't any reason for you to read this if you haven't played the previous games. Go experience the nuances of this trilogy for yourself, and then come back and discuss it with me.

After thoroughly enjoying Mass Effect 2, I rolled right into Mass Effect 3. I was excited to direct the continuing epic of Jack Shepherd (disappointed Lost fans, represent!), but I also knew that this would be the last chapter in that epic. The game makes no effort to hide that fact from the player. From the first few minutes of the game, you know that Shepherd must find a way to save the galaxy or die trying.

(Read my reflection on Mass Effect 1 here and Mass Effect 2 here.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

How Vinyl Records Saved Me from the Wrong Kind of Game

I know what you're thinking. Why in the world would I be writing about music on a video game blog?

Well, I promise that I'm not going to try to make the argument that music and video games are inextricably linked to one another; though, perhaps I'll plow that old field some other time. Instead, I'd like to talk about something called gamification. defines gamification as:
the application of game mechanics and game design techniques to make products, services, or anything more fun and engaging
I find the concept to be extremely interesting, and I'm curious to observe more specific uses of gamification as it becomes increasingly prevalent as a strategy, but I think it's important to consider the potential drawbacks of gamification.

One of my favorite gamifications of an everyday task is While it isn't a game in the strictest sense, I found there to be something game-like about observing and tabulating my music listening habits. Perhaps I should say that it "was" one of my favorites. I've since found a way to tear myself away from the site, and it has been wonderful. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though. Let's go back to the beginning, and I'll tell you a tale of woe. I'll tell you all about how I began my relationship with

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mass Effect 2

As I finished up the last few hours of the first Mass Effect, I had EA's less-than-compelling Origin service downloading Mass Effect 2. I was excited to import my Shepherd and my decisions into the next game. The concept of carrying over my progress into another game is certainly novel enough to warrant some attention, but Mass Effect 2 is so vastly improved from the first game that I couldn't help but to be smitten by the game.

Mass Effect 2 seems to be the most beloved game in the series, and I think that these improvements are the source of that love. I doubt that anyone would have expected the epic and sprawling story from the first game to take a turn for the personal in its second act. At the beginning of the game, Shepherd dies and is resurrected (is that a familiar trope?). And while the Collectors do pose a major threat to the galaxy, the focus is on the inner story of Shepherd building a new team of individuals. Most of these characters are unique and interesting, which makes interacting with them really enjoyable. It's certainly more captivating than the first Mass Effect, which was a pretty great game. It's a deeply personal game, and this personality adds weight to the grander, more far-reaching elements of the narrative. Of course, I don't want humanity to die, but more than that, I don't want my crew to die. Shepherd and the crew have been through some dangerous scenarios, and those experiences have bound us... I mean "them"... together as a team.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Sometimes, people call me a hipster. It's such a divisive term, but it is one that I've come to grips with. I think the reason that "hipster" has become something of an insult has quite a bit to do with the fact that the term is so difficult to define. The word "hipster" seems to have its roots in a particular jazz-loving subculture from the 1940's. Early hipsters were fascinated with newness and authenticity, and much of that spirit lives on in the modern hipster. Modern hipsters are equally as beholden to the authentic, but they correlate some of this authenticity with vintage things, which seems to fly in the face of the early hipster's love of newness. Perhaps that is what makes hipsterism somewhat of a paradox, a juxtaposition of so many disparate elements.

But if you ask me what it is that I hold dear about my subculture, I'll gush about the DIY and indie movements. I'll tell you about some band that I just discovered on r/mathrock. Maybe I'll tell you about how I would like to self-publish the short stories that I've been working on for 10+ years... once I get around to finishing them. But if I'm feeling comfortable enough to admit to being a gamer, I might talk to you about how I think indie games are the bastion of interactive storytelling.

...speaking of Bastion...

If you were to ask me what indie games I would recommend for someone who's never played an indie game, the first games that come to mind are Braid and Bastion. Braid is an extremely special game to me, and you can read about why I'm so fond of that game here. Bastion is much different. It's certainly a fun game, but I'm not entirely sure that I enjoyed it. Yet, I appreciate its existence, and I think that Supergiant made exactly what they set to create: a beautifully-presented and tight-playing action role-playing game. If you're interested in dipping your toes into the indie game pool, Bastion is one of the games that you need to play.

So what's my deal?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is a game that took me a very long time to get into. When I first started the game, I found it to be wildly overrated. The game felt slow and a bit tedious. I've since come to realize that most, if not all, of the problems that I found in the game were related to the technical limitations of the old laptop that I was playing the game on.

As it turns out, when a game doesn't run well, it can be quite difficult to become immersed. Who knew? Once I transferred my old save file to my new computer, the game suddenly became a wondrous space adventure. I was quite hooked. Within about a month and a half, I had not only finished Mass Effect, but I'd played through the Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as well (I'll get to those later).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thinking About Grandpa Herman... and Finally Building My First Gaming PC!

I'll never forget the day that my brother and I came home from school to find a computer sitting on a cheap desk in our bedroom. We freaked out, yelling and jumping on the bunk beds in our already too-small room. I recall thinking that we were in a dream and that the computer would quickly be removed from our little kingdom. But, the computer stayed. My grandfather, who always seemed to have cool gadgets and tech, had pieced together a computer with Windows 95 running on an Intel 386 processor. It was slow for the time, but my brother and I managed to spend many, many nights making cargo runs together in Wing Commander: Privateer.

You see, Grandpa Herman may not have been too crazy about us playing a ton of computer games, but he did want us to be comfortable with the technology. Somehow, he knew that computers would become a ubiquitous part of the future... well, that and the fact that technology is cool. I'm sure it didn't take us too many months of tinkering to crash that old computer, and Grandpa Herman made certain that were there to watch him—and eventually help him—repair the machine. Now, working with technology is second nature for us. We have no problem learning new technologies, and neither of us would think twice about piecing together a new computer. His influence on my brother and I was incredibly formative, and not just in the area of technology. He was, and still is, the sort of Christian man that I can't help but to look up to. He is easily one of my favorite people in the entire world, and I love him dearly. I often wish that I didn't live so far away from him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My New Computer vs. BioShock Infinite

I really enjoy Steam. I think it's a wonderful service, and many would go so far as to say that it is single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of PC gaming. I might say that these people are being a bit reductive and are therefore ignoring the complex interplay between a number of contributing factors, but then I'd be missing my own point. Earlier this year, I noticed how big my library of games on Steam had grown, thanks to Steam sales and Humble Bundles. Yet, many of games had gone unplayed, often because I just didn't have a powerful enough machine.

I was filled with shame.

When my collection finally topped 300, I decided it was time to build a new computer. Thankfully, I was able to justify this by claiming—perhaps somewhat erroneously—that my laptop was reaching its age of retirement. Last week I ordered a bunch of parts from NewEgg and put together my very own, brand new, mid-tier (I think) gaming computer. And it was if the heavens themselves opened up and granted me access to the promised land within my Steam library.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Game Dev Story & Game Dev Tycoon

A few months ago, I started seeing adverts for a game called Game Dev Tycoon on Steam, which stirred my vacant soul into excitement. Every indication that I got from my quick glance at the available screenshots led me to believe that this was an evolved rendition of an iOS game called Game Dev Story. I immediately pre-purchased the game.

Game Dev Story was released in late 2010 by Kairosoft, a mobile game developer that specializes in simulation games with a nostalgic 16-bit aesthetic and a quirky sense of humor. Though Kairosoft's seems to abide by the same formula from game to game, I've found each of their games (that I've played) to be quite charming. Game Dev Story is a video game about making video games. I played the role of a small video game developer, struggling to produce its first video games and generate enough money to produce more games and grow into a successful company. Yet, as fascinated as I am by the video game industry, it was Story's humorous retelling of the nearly 30-year history of video games that drew me in long enough for the addictively iterative nature of the simulation to get its hooks into me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Persona 3 FES

When I moved to Arizona 5 months ago, I knew that I was going to have a substantial amount of free time while waiting to transition into my new job, so I decided to tackle a substantial-amount-of-time kind of game. I wanted to dive into something immersive and deep and perhaps a bit complicated. I'd been meaning to play Persona 3 FES for a quite a few years, so I opened the cardboard box labeled "Games 3" and located my still shrink-wrapped copy of the game.

When I started the game, I really didn't know what to make of its seemingly disparate facets. Persona 3 is divided into two distinct phases. During the waking hours, I found myself attending school and starting to make friends. However, during a magical 25th hour that exists between 11:59 and midnight, the school would transform into a multi-leveled dungeon tower called Tartarus, where I would fight shadow monsters with magical familiars called Personas that I could only summon by shooting myself in the head with a pistol. It's such an incredibly bizarre juxtaposition that the two phases of the game seemed wholly incongruent.

But I persisted.

Then it started to make sense to me.