I was a child of the 90's, which basically defines all of the games I grew up on. Stuff like Gauntlet, Duckhunt, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and OoT, Crash Bandicoot, Streets of Rage 2, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter 2, Goldeneye: 007, Banjo Kazooie, Secret of Mana, Starcraft, Diablo II, Pokemon Red & Blue, you get the idea.
As of the last few years though, with the downfall of how great G4 used to be, I've become extremely out of touch with video games, and that's where Destructoid comes into my life. It's not that I'm not interested in brand spanking new games, it's just that I haven't the money to invest in them. I mean, sure I've gotten a Wii, but now it's just a novelty at best, only useful for SMBB and Mario Kart (I even tried Wii Fit at one point).
However, Destructoid's thrown me back into the loop, and I plan on getting back into gaming like a young child with hours to burn and no cares in the world.
I love D-toid's community and their magnificent writers, mostly the cast of the Pod-toid podcast. That is what I enjoy most about the site though, the honesty that their reviewers and players possess while discussing the most interesting of topics (some of which I didn't even think existed) in games, and I truly value that.
Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
Shadow of the Colossus
Harvest Moon: Back To Nature
Banjo Kazooie + Tooie
Monster Rancher 2
Metal Gear Series (1-3)
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Final Fantasty VIII
Resident Evil 4
Legend of Mana
I wrote this today as a (late) listening assignment for my Audio Production 1 class. I know I'm not one to blog on here too often but I thought it suitable to provide some words of insight into what I think is a superb video game sound track. Enjoy.
The chunk of album I chose to listen to might appear to be unconventional at a first glance, but I hold it to be one of the most important within its type. Daniel Rosenfeldís (AKA C418) Minecraft- Volume Alpha consists of a vast majority of the music found within the indie video game smash hit, (you guessed it) Minecraft. Itís a recent purchase of mine that I knew I wouldnít regret even if I didnít listen to the tracks all that much. Having the 24 pieces from such an inspirational game for only $4 was something I simply couldnít pass up.
For a bit of background info, Minecraftís a title that is so intensely based around player experience in that it lets you basically make up your own story. Thereís no overarching objective, thereíre no hints of written dialogue or story within the game itself, only a few set rules that you are to abide by. The mechanics are set up in such a way that make it simple, yet very open to player driven narrative which in turn makes it a very personal game. To appropriately mirror this, the soundtrack is similarly open-ended in a sense. Itís a well-done mixture of classical, electronic, and ambient noise that form together to create an experience thatís just as listener driven as Minecraft is player driven.
One thing thatís very noticeable about this album is the shear amount of very purposeful space that itís filled to the brim with. The tone is never one of aggression with any of the tracks, every instrument is thoughtfully relaxed and never obtrusive. While the timbre of each new sound is obvious to change throughout the first listen, they all stay tightly knit within a family of calm yet concentrated tones. Rosenfeldís style of composition also allows for the use of a wide variety of reverb and echo effects that makes it seems as though heís playing the empty space just as he would any other instrument. One will notice how little playing there actually is on several of the tracks to the point where you might be able to mentally count how many notes a track consists of. Though let this not come off as a fault, if anything itís impressive how much heís able to do with so little.
While itís clear that each song most certainly has its own themed feel to it, (ranging from hopeless despair to cold loneliness to newly found innocence and back again) there always seems to be more than enough leeway to add your own thoughts and emotions into the mix of the tune. This is something that makes the soundtrack just as individualized as the game it was created for. Just as Minecraft does with the gamer, Volume Alpha meets the listener halfway in the sense that it provides a vague path upon which they must decide where it will take them. When listening to each song of this album, Iíve noticed that the same track almost never means the same thing to me every time I hear it and the fact that any series of songs can do that is simply astounding.
The one thing that truly took me off-guard though is how emotionally powerful this album was by itself. To be honest, it was almost too overwhelming for me to listen to in a way I donít feel I can aptly describe with words. As Iíve said before though, this shouldnít appear to be a fault. It could almost be thought of as a deep massage or a bath thatís too hot. Sure, itís going to hurt a bit, but thereís a good reason why we keep listening. Thereís something extremely interesting about music thatís able to create a very vivid emotional feeling with such a minimalist style such that Daniel Rosenfeld has. Quality over quantity has never been a more applicable phrase in all my years of listening to music and I for one am extremely glad that itís come from the soundtrack of a video game.
Here's the link for the download if anyone's interested in purchasing it >>> http://c418.bandcamp.com/album/minecraft-volume-alpha
Even if you don't (legally) buy it though, I hope that everyone's able to listen and ultimately enjoy this album. I feel that a majority of video game music is severely underrated and it's stuff like this that I hope will soon make people realize its true worth.
A little more than a year ago in the bleak month of November, I was going through the dull shift of the seasons, growing positively bored with when a spectacular idea struck me like a ton of cinder bricks. I'd been simultaneously missing two things: a couple of my good friends, and becoming completely submerged in a few video game worlds... So what is a person to do when they haven't enough time for both?
Throw a gaming party! But wait... this couldn't be any ordinary video game party. It had to be unique in some way, something that made it more desirable to the people I invite, and definitely make it more memorable.
So more or less, I came up with the plan of making this shindig last all night long. A dusk 'til dawn, hardly sleep a wink, caffeine and junk food fueled, gaming appreciating extravaganza.
After holding it for the first time in December of 2008, everyone had enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to make it bi-annual and hold one in the middle of the following summer as well. Needless to say, it was also a rather pleasing success come June (or maybe August?).
Regardless, I'm happy to say that my most recent gamer friendly get together from back in January yielded more guests, more TVs running simultaneously to spike the electric bill, and more deliciously sugary treats ingested than one could imagine.
I apologize for the huge-normous pictures, the size annoys me too.
Our delicious system link Left 4 Dead 2 set up + Christmas. We had played until about 6 in the morning attempting to get through the whole campaign in one sitting. We stopped after we messed up on the plantation house final one too many times. F$^k Swamp Fever.
It wasn't long until a couple of my friends started up a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament that included almost everyone at the party. Stylish arm sleeves make you play better -- no joke, I'm pretty sure he won the entire thing.
I had a group of four or five peoples who honestly played Mario Kart Double Dash's Baby Park level for about 7 or 8 hours. The number of races here would be about doubled, but according to them, they switched characters midway so it screwed up the total amount. Still though, very impressive in my book.
At around 11pm, some other friends who happen to work at Dunkin' Donuts just got off the last shift and brought three massive bags of leftover donuts for everyone to nom on -- and they all did so much. When I took them out to the trash the next morning, they had to be a combined total of about 40lbs. I cannot make this up.
Apparently it wasn't long until this turned into a bed... Cardiac arrest osmosis
...I don't even...
I'm always surprised by the amount of people I see at these things, showing up only to play video games and become overtired/completely ridiculous as the night presses on. Hopefully as the years go on I'll get even more awesome people like these to join me in my nonsensical, nocturnal appreciation parties.
Have any of you been to similarly terrific parties in the past, or even gone as for as to throwing one of your own?
Well, that's not to say that I've exactly left though... Destructoid as a whole that is! Well, ok, I have some explaining to do.
Hello thar and happy 4th birthday! How are you? It's definitely been awhile. How're the wife and kids, your grandmother, that terrible rash you'd mentioned...? Ok, I'll cut to the chase, I know that you've seen me here and there pretty frequently, checking you out at least once a day from across the room. As silly as it sounds, I've been too bashful and ashamed to come up and talk to you as of recent. I have to say through, I've been more than satisfied with how you've been looking for the past few months; your insightful articles, hilariously entertaining pod-toids, hell, you've even persuaded me into buying a game or two. But I'll get to the point, I need you on a completely different level, more than you or I could ever imagine. I can't stand around and merely dream about how happy we could make each other.
Yes, I remember way back in December when I made the promise that I'd be sticking around on the C blogs for awhile -- I'm so sorry that I broke it. You see, so many things came up! Schooling, stressful college business, a brand new Steam account... alright, alright, I know. Yes, it was that one awful first blog I attempted, the one that tried to relate Banjo Kazooie to Metal Gear 2 on some weird personal level. It was too wordy, it didn't clearly elaborate on important points, it just wasn't me! But I swear that I've changed Destructoid, really I have. I've realized that you have a much more relaxed community than I initially thought, and that the people here (hopefully) don't judge you on your first bad post either!
So I was wondering if maybe we could go out to dinner sometime? See a movie perhaps? I've heard The Crazies is supposed to be pretty good. And, well, we'll see what happens from there. Who knows, maybe we could make a thing out of this, you know, us, together. Just think, I could write some thoughtful posts on you, you could publish them to other bloggers that hang around you, we can all mingle, how lovely it could be...
But I'm getting ahead of myself of course. I'm just telling you to think about it. I believe that you could find that I have some rather nifty things to offer you, Destructoid. Remember to stay in touch, and call me if you're interested, you have my number.
To quickly put it out there, I'll let everyone know that this is my very first time I've ever had the opportunity to blog. I've looked around the community and grown rather fond of the unique tone of humor and intellect, so I figured that blogging couldn't be the worst thing in the world and that I'd give it a shot.
Feel more than free to critique, I'm sure I'll need it.
I've become familiar with the D-toid site over the last few months and I'm very glad I have. I find it to be an absolutely wonderful video game community with some of the most funny and insightful personalities I've ever known. I was first sucked in by Anthony Burch's Rev Rants followed by his and Ashley's HAWP series. I started to wander around the site a bit, found a few interesting articles, listened to a couple of Pod-toids, and have been hooked ever since.
The site's actually inspired me to get back into the hardcore gaming I once loved. Over the last few years, video games and I slowly started growing apart to the point of real life obligations actually getting in the way of playing, which is something that should never have to happen.
So I'm getting back in touch with my roots, gaming seems to always be the way to go, and I'm not quite sure why that had ever been a question in my past before, but it's rather clear now. I'm getting an Xbox 360 after Christmas and I plan on playing the hell out of every good title released over the last few years.
To video games though.
I don't honestly play enough of a specific type game to say I have a favourite genre, but generally, I guess RPGs could sum it up. What I look for mostly in a game is if it has a very apparent sense of granting a player choice. I'm an absolute whore for games of those kind. I love having to sit down and actually think about what direction would be best to go in next. The idea that a game revolves around my decisions simply makes me more excited than words can express. This is probably the reason I adore games like Monster Rancher and Indigo Prophecy.
I also tend to enjoy anything that might attract the attention of a 5 year old. I'm talking about titles like Wario Ware, Katamari Damacy, Pikmin, Animal Crossing or anything with cell shaded graphics.
I'll admit it, for a good while, I was a big fan of Nintendo. I can't say that anyone could blame me though, I grew up with them. I loved my SNES, and since those days, I've still been a kid at heart. The N64 was brilliant, hell, I'll even give the Gamecube a thumbs up because it had solid, unforgettable titles (though it ran dry after awhile and I had to buy a PS2). However, the Wii's been upsetting to say the least. I appreciate the innovation of it, it's extremely original and I'm not saying that I don't like Nintendo anymore, but I can't play much of anything on the Wii these days. Wii sports and Super Smash Brothers Brawl sort of lose their glimmer after awhile. I need a true gamer's console, and that's hopefully where that 360 will factor in.
To keep me at ease I'm fiddling around Chrono Trigger and Space Invaders Extreme 2 on my DS lite and revisiting old Playstation and PS2 games (perhaps play through the MGS series again?) until Christmas rolls around.
(And who could ever forget a line like this?)
Outside of gaming though, I'm into creating small artsy things every once in awhile, though never anything that I could ever consider true art. I'm basically into everything that isn't drawing, canvas painting (both of which I'm awful at) or sculpting. Stuff like coloring or modifying clothing, building and painting sets for theater shows, making a thing or two out of duct tape, making those neat time exposure pictures with flashlights, taking photos of peculiar things, you get the idea. I can't honestly think of myself as an artist, but I like to have as much fun with every possible medium of art as I can. If desired, I could post some pictures in separate blog post later on, but we'll see.
Aside from that, I'm greatly involved in the technical aspects my school's theater program. Creating scenery from the ground up with a bunch of oddballs is something I've grown to love. I've got a band thrown together with a couple of friends who I enjoy playing with and generally existing around. Just covers mostly, but it's still good fun. And I'm also a huge fan of cartoons generally, specifically Avatar: The Last Airbender, Invader Zim, and Venture Brothers...
Yes, yes, alright, I understand that watching cartoons isn't something that's as involving as the previous two tidbits, but it's still just as important!
I loves me my cartoons.
Well, I suppose that sums it all up.
I hope that this provides a bit of insight into who I am as a Destructoid fan and gamer alike.
Hopefully I get to know a lot of you in the D-toid community, feel free to message me if you want to talk because I know I'll be sticking around for awhile.
While brainstorming over the possibilities for my first (real) post, I've decided to do something I don't encounter frequently in video games that I usually play, and that's experiencing a semi-genuine sense of fear. While it would be easier to talk about this through horror titles, I have to confess that I've literally only played about a handful of them throughout my lifetime. Though while I was thinking of my personal scariest moments in games, I came to a curious realization that I think you'll find interesting.
I'm thinking that the only people who can honestly relate to this example will have either grown up in the 90's or just really hate water levels. I however transcend the gap between those groups, and am part of both... actually, they're most likely one in the same now that I think about it.
When I was a wee tot, back when I was still having fun-filed adventures with my N64, I remember playing Banjo Kazooie and enjoying every single moment of it. I'd still say it's one of the greatest series of platforming games I've ever played to date. Yes, that game with the walking talking bear and his spunky bird sidekick who resided in a backpack. The premise was that your sister is taken away by a witch who wants to obtain her beauty, and you had make your way through the witch's castle in order to rescue her. The main objective of the game was to travel to these different worlds in order to obtain puzzle pieces that you'd use to unlock other worlds and travel deeper into the castle, a fairly basic platforming setup. The originality of the gameplay, distinct caricatures of characters, awesome captivating levels, I fell deeply in love.
Though, the one thing I will never ever in my life forget is the most terrifying water antagonist I've continuously swam away from time and time again.
In the second level of the game, which was basically a tropical beachy-ocean cove setup, he made his presence known. Just to note, about a quarter of this level consists of water which you're forced to enter and cross in order to get to some crucial areas. Whenever you swam a even few feet away from the shore, the regular over world music became drowned out by a very Jaws inspired orchestra tune, and before you knew it, there was a f**king shark three times your size chasing after you.
No matter where you were, he'd always spawn what seemed to be too close. You couldn't even kill him at that point in the game either, making him all the more to be feared. It wasn't even so much that you were scared of the realistic aftermath of getting caught by him. You weren't instantly killed and had to restart the level if he bit you, he didn't even do a substantial amount of damage. He only took away one health container, yet the fear of getting caught was so much greater than necessary. As I look back on it now, it's astounding how powerful that psychological fear was, especially at such a young age.
Obviously now, a few more years mature, I realize how silly it was for me to be so scared of an situational enemy that you could out swim more often than take damage from. Though I'm far from forgetting...
While trying to search for a decent video featuring Snacker, this clip made me happy.
A good amount of years pass after the N64 era and I become interested in games that are a little bit more sophisticated, specifically the Metal Gear series. It was the first stealth game to be introduced to me and I suppose that's why it appealed to me so much. The idea of being this one man army, secret operative figure really caught my attention in a delightful chokehold that honestly still hasn't let go to this day. However I didn't own these games until far after they were introduced. I'd gone from friend to friend, relative to relative, and picked up bits and pieces of the game play and plot as I went along (for both MGS 1 and 2).
By the time I was 14 or 15, I had beaten both games and generally understood the underlying tones that each of them conveyed. MGS1 included many important ideas, but the one that hit home for me was the power of believing in something as an individual. MGS2 was a lot more vague and convoluted in terms of plot, though overall, it had a theme of deceit coupled with a lack of control and choice, which I thought was extremely well done.
Forget about spoilers, if you haven't played MGS 2 yet, you either never will, or are just begging for some plot to get spilled into your brain. Trust me, without the story events, my main point won't make much sense.
Another personal unforgettable video game moment happened in the very end of MGS2. As you're traveling through the last area that leads up to a showdown between you and Metal Gear, the strangest conversations occur between you and your commanding officer via codec.
To add some context to what just seems like a random burst of oddball, 4th wall breaking comments:
You find out that the coronal and your girlfriend aren't exactly who they seem to be. They're actually part of this huge situational "simulation" that's designed all around your character with intent to mold you into a copy of Solid Snake. These people who have led your throughout your mission, a majority of the entire game, turn out to be extremely sophisticated AI originating from a super-computer developed program. Because of a virus released by a programmer you meet earlier in the game, they're malfunctioning, talking nonsense, and referencing previous Metal Gear games.
When I had first played through the game by myself, the most I could say for this scene was that I found it positively hilarious. I didn't think of it as anything more than an interesting plot twist that also served as a sort of comic relief. I find great comedic value in a game that pokes fun at itself a bit while also breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the player. It wasn't something that I was initially fearful of at all... oh how naive I was.
A few years pass and I decide to replay it, though for no particular reason I choose to do this in one big sitting which ultimately led me to finishing a large portion of the game between the hours of 9:30PM and 6:00AM, you know, for kicks.
I came upon the exact same spot in the game, but it was far from the same experience. The nonsensical ramblings weren't the same anymore, they weren't as funny as they used to be. Everything had a much darker tone than I remember from originally playing it, it was almost sickening. Even the part where the game directly addresses it's player only intensified my feelings. I can recall goosebumps all over my body and continuously having an awful case of the chills. I was absolutely terrified.
After I had finished, I recall dozing off during a few of the cut scenes for maybe no more than a minute or so at a time (also my brain wasn't 100% due to the lack of sleep), so I wanted to look up a plot summary of the ending in order to comprehend it all again. What I can take from some of the interpretations of Metal Gear summaries shocked me more than the ending itself, and they actually make perfect sense.
There's a reflection between the codec group to Raiden and the game to it's player. There's a point in those very same conversations when Rosemary and the coronal attempt to convince the player that they should shut off the video game, literally turn off the console. They also lightly touch on the fact that MGS2 is a sort of role playing game and subtly hint to the player, "The point is that you play out your part." What I'm trying to get at here is that the computer AI who essentially control Raiden in the video game mirror how the video game itself is controlling the very person who's playing it. He doesn't have a choice, Raiden's decided to take this mission and fully carry it out as he's been instructed/controlled by the coronal to do so. But think about it. The writers/programmers of this game know that the people who buy it and want to play through it inevitably will because that's just what we do as gamers. So, to make this controlling effect that Raiden experiences known to the player, they throw in the few lines "turn the game console off right now" "The mission is a failure! Cut the power right now!" "Don't worry, it's a game! It's a game just like usual." If you were presented the same situation, you've spent hours upon hours on this story, and all of a sudden it tells you to shut the game off, I highly doubt that there would be anyone that would follow it's instructions right then and there, which really only demonstrates the power it has over the gamer. You would continue to play and play and play until it's finished. You're doing exactly what the programmers want in the same sense that Raiden does what these AI have been telling him to do the entire time, thoughtlessly following orders, completing a mission, playing a game.
Needless to say, after this realization, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stick straight up. It's one thing for the events of a video game to make me feel scared, but when it breaks through that and brings it out into the real world, that's a completely different ball game. I couldn't believe that a game was capable of such a thing. My mind was simultaneously blown and experiencing something that vaguely felt like paranoia.
At that point, I personally recognized this as one of the most ground breaking moments in video games, the likes of which have permanently changed my perception of storytelling entirely.
My Main Point:
In comparing these two separate experiences, I found something to be rather curious.
In the instance of Banjo Kazooie, it was a typical, irrational childhood fear of a character in a video game, not uncommon for most gamers I'm sure. We all collectively understand what those fears truly feel like, as well as know that they will dissipate over time. I've grown up, and I can now play Treasure Trove Cove without screaming in terror like a small girl.
Though, in the case of MGS2, when I first started out playing my own copy, my first reaction to the ending bit was that more of entertainment than anything. I thought that the game was only trying to be clever and witty by interacting with the very boundaries that it works within. A few years and a replay later, I see the true underlying idea that's presented within this set of events and dialogue that unfolds, and for me, it's gloriously scary.
One fear was out grown, while the other was grown into. I believe that this serves as a prime gaming example as fear consistently being in the eyes of the beholder, as well as things we perceive to be frightening working in a cycle. Most people understand that as we age, we naturally grow out of the fears that are acquired while we're young and develop newer ones as we mature and start truly comprehending the characteristics of the world around us. It happens to everyone, you figure out that the boogie man isn't real, and to compensate for that, you might lose a bit of social innocence because a kid in your grade school class might make fun of what you wear, making you worried about your appearance.
When you really take a second to analyze it though, it's a brilliant, natural balance that we all have. It goes to show you that just because we age, we don't necessarily become scared of less things, contrary to how we would like to imagine. Not only that, but I thought it was interesting how my feelings before and after occurred in the opposite fashion in relation to each game. I felt scared, then afterwards laughed to myself with Banjo Kazooie, while with Metal Gear, I found humor in a situation that later turned into fear. It truly is all a cycle.
The fact that this principle in humans can be directly linked to video game experiences is at the very least, fascinating, and I'm curious as to what other correlations they can have with real life. I actually do find comfort in the idea that studying video games and how we react to them can potentially help us to learn a little bit about ourselves as individuals, just as you could in any other art or media. I'm not 100% certain if this is a completely apt form of validating video games as a respectable creative form of expression, but something tells me it's a step in the right direction.
P.S. I'm interested to know if there are any other games out there that have presented and executed this idea of a 'cycle of fear' entirely within the confines of a single series. If such a game exists please let me know what it is and if it's worth buying.
(P.S.S. I apologize if my MGS mirroring explanation didn't fully make sense. It's difficult to explain something like that to people who may not understand the complete contexts of the video game itself, or at all for that matter.)