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It was almost the dawn of the new millennium. Such an exciting time it was to be a gamer, but it was also a time of great uncertainty. With Sega and the Dreamcast kicking off the new console generation, some would come to wonder if the company can still maintain its relevance in this rapidly expanding console market. Apart from their long-time rival Nintendo and the newcomer Sony, who has proven to be quite a contender, they are set to find themselves yet another competitor, with Microsoft expressing their desire to make a console of their own.
But none of those mattered to me, my sister and two of my cousins. We didn’t even know about all those stuff going on as we sat on their living room floor and clumsily scuffled around with the first five levels of Crash Bandicoot 3.
This right here remains to be one of the most iconic and memorable imagery in all of gaming to me. This is where it all began. Five numbered buttons on the floor. Stand on one of them to open a portal. Run (or jump) into said portal and get whisked away to another world. Sometimes, I would jump over the buttons or carefully walk in between them to reach the center without opening a portal. It made me feel like I’ve outsmarted the game or something.
That entire setup was very much symbolic of what videogames essentially are: a portal to other worlds, with its own distinct sights, sounds, characters and experiences to offer to its visitors. This game alone has several of them.
To this day, one thing that still amazes me about Crash 3 is the amount of variety it has. Just looking at the first five levels, our giant orange bandicoot (and his little sister) have gone to medieval times, underwater, ancient China, prehistoric times and somewhere in the middle of the ocean I dunno but there are pirates in it. The variety extends to the gameplay as well, with none of the first five playing exactly the same. 3D platforming, side-scrolling, on-rails vehicle (baby tiger) segments, chase sequences and jet skiing. Even more worlds and genres are introduced later on, including boss battles, aerial combat (where I was first introduced to the standard health bar) and racing (which required near perfect execution just to win a race).
I probably just learned how to read at the time, so I would often mispronounce "Toad Village", the name of the first level, as "Toadillage" or "Tutelage". Looking up what that word means, I'm surprised at how fitting it was given the situation, tutelage. In a way, I really as under the teaching or guidance of that game. It's almost as if it was trying to tell me exactly what videogames are and what they could be. Here are some of the worlds you can explore, some of the types of games possible in this medium. Needless to say, it captivated me right away. I wanted to see more of this. It was unlike anything I've ever seen in this world (which, to a five year old, isn't really saying much).
To the five (or was it six?) year old mind, it really did feel like an otherworldly experience. Eyes glued on the screen, it’s almost as if I was there. Look at this place! Look at the colors! I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It felt so alive. Butterflies flying around. Boxes you can smash. Apples you can collect. A chicken you can chase around. Walk to the flock of birds and they fly away. Oh look, a goat! I wonder if I can touch it…
…I died. And died some more. On the first level alone, I was rammed by a goat, sliced in half, kissed by a frog(?) and fell on holes that weren't even blocking the way.
It was quite fun witnessing the various, comical ways that Crash would meet his untimely demise. The death animations helped a lot in establishing a funny and lighthearted tone for the game. But you know what wasn't funny? The first time I saw that game over screen.
Soon enough, I learned how to play better, perhaps motivated by the fear of seeing that game over screen again. My friends? They got better too, way better than me even. It became a real team effort among us, taking turns trying to beat each level. Some would have their own specialties, one would be really good at certain types of levels and whenver that kind pops up, we hand the controller to him/her. As much as I sucked, I was particularly good at one of the boss stages where you fight a giant robot.
"We really should have one of these”, were some the words uttered by my younger self (or a loose translation of it, at least) the deeper we got into the game, the more I played; almost demanding in tone, as if we’re dealing with some sort of necessity, an integral part of living.
Eventually, we did get one. The PS2 was brand new at the time. And we went in the store and bought a PSone. With a console of my own, I was now ready to venture off into other games at my own pace, whilst breaking the console several times because I would store it in a lunchbox when I brought it to my grandparents place to play. I would soon discover a brand new kind of genre and have yet another long set of adventures with the same group of friends, and even get another one of my cousins into gaming. But Crash 3 is still the one I remember the most.
I remember all the levels by name. I know of all of the game's secrets and how to get them. I would recognize the similarities between most of the game's music and how it takes several cues from the main theme. I remember how you can "start a new game" by going to the load game screen and exiting without loading a save, bypassing the opening cutscenes (which you could skip anyway). I remember how the game's framerate would drop in the load game screen when you press triangle to look at your stats. I remember that the level buttons pop out once you get halfway through the bridge leading to each warp zone/"time travel area". And I remember that the wizard enemy leaves behind his underwear when you kill him and you could crouch down to make it look like you're picking it up.
For the sake of this blog, I tried going back to it again, mostly to take some screenshots. Then I suddenly realized that I've never actually finished this on my own! Breezed through it in a couple of hours. It's hard to imagine now that it used to take me several hours across several days just to finish one set of levels, and some I could never even finish myself. It was quite an experience, playing through it again after all these years. It was like catching up with an old friend. It's nice to see how well it has aged, and as I sit down and the hours go by, all of those fond memories start flowing back, not only the ones between me and the game, but with the people I've played it with.
A lot has changed since I first picked up that controller 15 years ago. My cousins & sister who I played games with for most of my childhood have long moved past the hobby in pursuit of other things. My cousin's house where it all started? It's ours now. Without going too much into the details, we swapped houses several years ago. The spot where the TV and PS1 used to be? It's now a couch that I often fall asleep on. Too often...
I keep a list of all the games I’ve finished through the years and looking at it now, it’s slowly closing in on 200 games. While not exactly the most impressive number to some of you, within those games, I got to experience some of the very best the medium has to offer. So many memorable moments, accomplishments, characters and stories; gaming not only served as my link to other worlds and experiences. It also became my link to other people. Some of my closest friends I initially got to know by playing games with them. I wouldn’t even be here, in communities like this, making dumb comments and sharing a part of myself through blogs like these, if it weren’t for games…
…if it weren't for this game…
To enhance your reading experience, may I suggest listening to this lovely rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", paired with the vocals of "Escape from the City" from Sonic Adventure 2. (courtesy of that deviantart-appreciation-station blog I just mentioned)
[Potentially disturbing mental image inducing text and images ahead!]
As with other fictional worlds like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Marvel Universe, pornography can also run on its own set of rules. The people in this world can turn into powerful sorcerers at times, able to completely destroy the mind of their victim partner with their mystical staff. They can take reduce even the strongest of adversaries into a shadow of their former selves, just a shallow husk of a man, no longer capable of functioning like a proper human being and only fixated on serving their new master.
Like with Sauron and the ring, it seems like many are very much attracted to this power, considering how often this occurs in certain types of works. Everyone wants to stick their finger up that ring. So they can stick their finger up that ring...
Let it be known that somewhere out there, in this world, there exists at least one person who sat down on his desk one day and said to himself: "I'm going to draw a picture of Tarzan shitting himself while wearing a diaper. Also, his right arm has been chopped off."
As the previous paragraph suggests, oftentimes, this crosses over with people's fetish for diapers, either seeing someone in it or wearing it themselves. I think that in this context, it makes this fantasy a little bit easier to understand.
Basically, being a baby, which also implies being cared for, pampered and generally seen as cute by another person, is part and parcel of the whole "wearing a diaper" shtick. The self-defecation part adds a whole new layer to it. Someone's gotta change that diaper. Someone has to look at that "baby's"... uhm... parts. They have to touch it, rub it, and more importantly, clean it. So it involves intimate contact in some way. Nevermind the fact that lots of feces in also involved during most of it.
Living room setting. Optimus Prime. Sat on a sofa. Next to a fire place. Knitting a sweater. There's a very large, visible and uncharacteristically round bulge around his stomach area, sticking out from his otherwise squareish and polygonal body. Looks like Megatron forgot to turn the safety on.
Back in high school, one of my friends told me that he would often feel very uncomfortable when seeing a pregnant teacher whose spouse also works in the same school. Because he can imagine them having sex. He was one of my best friends.
Perhaps this can be one explanation to the appeal of this fantasy? Maybe it's not so much about the pregnancy but rather, the implied sex that occured between the two men which lead to it? I can understand if that's the case. Sometimes, your mind can come up with much better imagery than others who are capable of expressing theirs through actual photos or videos. I guess when certain people look at these, it makes them imagine other more erotic events?
Not me though. When I see these, all I can think of is HOW WILL THE BABY COME OUT?
I really have to start hanging out with less perverted friends...
I know that there are some people who are attracted to objects. I've read a good number of those "Man has sex with bench" stories on the internet. But something strikes me as very odd about seeing pictures or drawings depicting this fantasy. Because if one does have a fixation towards a certain object... well... I have a table right here. I'm already sitting on a chair. Oh look, a piano. You can easily have access to the object of your desire in real life and put it to good use.
Is there a much deeper meaning and purpose for the creation of such images? Are the people responsible for them trying to make some sort of damning statement about pornography? That in many ways, it is also a form of having sex with objects? These images, these videos, these games, may depict a person and produce human sounds but when it comes right down to it, you're still just sitting in front of a computer. Are these pictures of furniture people (and the people who made them) trying to tell us that deep down, this is what we really want: just an object for our pleasure and use? Something that would never refuse, resist and whose only purpose is to satisfy your needs?
Or maybe they just want to make bad sex puns.
(Oh yeah. By the way, This can, and has at least once, crossed over with the diaper fetish as well. Think about that for a second and imagine how that works...)
Cooking People Alive!
I vividly remember this one gallery I saw in DeviantART that has long been deleted. The gallery was filled with pictures of women, often nude, photoshopped into photos of kitchen equipment. And it's not just transparent stock pictures of pots and frying pans. The whole scene was in a proper kitchen setting. The woman was layed out on the frying pan, or standing inside a pot, on an open stove or fire. And she had grill marks! Which didn't make sense because the surface of the frying pan was flat.
A little too hard to imagine? Here, take a look at this sample I made. I left out some details to keep things tasteful (heh), but I think it captures the essence of this fantasy pretty well.
And that gallery was one of the tamer ones. If you haven't guessed already, works under this fantasy would often depict scenes of explicit violence and gore. I mean, it's cooking! Lots of chopping, slicing, boiling, frying...
Now that you know about this, try to Google Image Search the following phrases:
- Steamed Fish
- Roasted Pig
- Baby Soup
And there's your new weight loss program.
P.S. Proofreading this was fucking gross. This is the last time I'll be doing one of these. I'll post something for this month's community assignment next time.
Five hours. I wasted almost five hours of my life on this. I should know that it didn't take any longer than that because the tablet where I played it on has only five hours of battery life and I played through the whole thing without having to recharge.
Licensed games, especially movie tie-in games, are notorious for their tendency to be either incredibly mediocre or outright horrible. But I guess that's to be expected when you are tasked to develop a game under a very strict budget and deadline because it has to be out when the movie's out, and things only get worse when the movie you're adapting doesn't really translate that well into a game.
As a fan of Harry Potter, it pains me to see all the terrible games associated to the franchise. The damn thing had eight movies. The fact that EA had eight tries but ultimately failed to get it right or at least find and stick with a gameplay style that works for the licence is nothing short of magical.
I could go on and talk about how I wish licensed games would just stop trying to follow the story of their source material, but that's not the subject matter of this series of blogs. Today, we're here to play shit Harry Potter games. And I might have just found the worst one.
Looks like we're off to a good start. What's weird is the EA and WB logo appear after you start a new game or load your save instead of when you turn on the game.
~ Little Whinging ~
The game starts with this still image of Harry reading a newspaper on a swing. There's a pulsating green button with an "A" on it on the lower right corner of the screen so I guess I have to press A to continue. I'm so smart.
So this is the first screen of the game. Ah, pre-rendered backgrounds. Brings me back to my PS1 days. It appears like that black blob in the distance is supposed to be Harry. You wanna come a little closer so we can take a good look at you? C'mon now, Harry. Don't be shy.
If I were to make a quick guess, what we're looking at right here is a horribly down scaled character model from the console version. And yeah. Sometimes, you would default to this awkward mid-running pose you see in the picture whenever you enter a different area.
Going back to the park, I talk to Harry's cousin, Dudley. Again, the character portraits are stills from the "better" versions. Dudley's making fun of the things Harry says in his sleep which he seems to recall quite vividly. Harry calls him "Big D" for some reason. Come up with your own interpretations of this scene.
I leave Dudley alone and go inside a tunnel. Inside, we once again see Dudley who somehow arrived there before I did even though I left him at the park.
I talk to him again, he gets attacked by dementors, Harry uses magic to save him, all while the game shows us bad screenshots. How exciting.
~ Grimmauld Place ~
I talk to Sirius Black for a bit and he tells me about the Order of the Phoenix. I also have to go back to Hogwarts now because that's a thing you do on every book/movie. But before that, I have to upstairs and see my friends who just so happen to be on the same building.
These character models are really throwing me off.
On the second floor, I meet Hermione who tells me I have to repair these vases. I press the B button and a wand cursor appears on the screen. Click on the object of interest and I finally get some gameplay!
After pressing A to start the minigame, the wand cursor (in the second image) started moving to the left and the green L button was pulsating ever so slowly. The A button that shows up when the game shows those still images did the same thing, so by instinct, I pressed the button once, just like before. Nothing happened, the wand reached the end of the screen and I lost the game. Apparently, you had to MASH the L or R button to move the cursor in the opposite direction and keep it inside the swirly thing until the meter fills up.
I now regret playing this on a tablet.
Moving on to the next floor, I meet Ron who asks me to collect animated gifs. All two of them. Yes, this game has collectibles. No, I will not collect them in this playthrough.
Ginny's on the top floor. And like with every other Hogwarts student you've encountered so far, your interaction with her involves her asking you do do something for her, in this case, light a lamp.
This will be a recurring theme in the game.
Press the up or down button to move the cursor. Catch the sparkles.
After helping your friends and talking to Sirius once more, we are immediately teleported to Hogwarts, meaning they skipped the entire part where Harry and friends meet Luna Lovegood on the carriage on the way to the school.
I want to turn this game off already.
I go talk to Hermione.
Ten minutes into the game and it has already given up on trying to give the player any sense of immersion. Here we see Hermione telling us the name of the next segment of the game and asks if you want to continue on with your suffering.
Because I love you all, I clicked "Yes".
~ Hogwarts pre-DA ~
It's time for the start-of-term feast! Go down this long ass staircase and head to the Great Hall.
I now have Ron and Hermione following me around. While going down the staircase, the two would sometimes give up on trying to follow you. Even they don't want any part of this shitty game.
On my way down, I encounter this entrance to some hallway. Let's see what's inside.
You can't tell me a thing is locked when it doesn't even have a door. Especially when I'm already inside.
This will be a recurring theme in the game.
I finally made it downstairs and the feast begins. Yes, the feast didn't start until I got there because fuck, I'm Harry Potter.
Wanna see what the feast looks like in game?
Of course you don't.
I'm teleported back to the Gryffindor common room and Hermione tells me and Ron to finish unpacking our things. Also, did you see that arrow? The game gives you directions on where to go next whenever it feels like it.
As I enter the boy's dormitory to unpack my things, I am forced into a conversation with Neville Longbottom.
I hate you, Neville.
CONTINUED IN PART 2