hot  /  reviews  /  video  /  blogs  /  forum

FRESH MEAT  
|   FROM OUR COMMUNITY BLOGS

RedHeadPeak's blog

Blogs Promoted Followers (new!)


3:14 PM on 05.20.2015  

Is Minecraft Bad for Adults?

Did you know that bananas are good for you? The high potassium and low sodium content in each yellow packet of mush is great for your cardiovascular system. They are also high in fibre, which helps you poop. Which is nice. There’s also research that indicates that bananas help reduce the risk of kidney cancer. Having said that, bananas can also be really bad for you.

If you eat too many on a regular basis, they can cause severe drowsiness, headaches and the sugar can harm your teeth. Potassium overdose is also a risk… if you try to eat more than 30 bananas in one sitting. Given that this fruit is also slightly radioactive, it is also technically possible to suffer radiation sickness if you eat about 250 bananas a day. Though, of course, if you’re trying to eat 30-300 bananas a day you probably have much bigger problems.

Every time someone asks the question “is X good for you?” the answer is almost always “Yes, in moderation”. Too much of a healthy, enriching item can have negative effects; small amounts of something harmful can have positive effects.

There are few issues where I feel that my opinion is stuck fast. I’m usually willing to adapt my thoughts and feelings to compelling, proven arguments. But when the topic of Minecraft and its benefits for young children are questioned, my opinion is unwavering: Minecraft is a wonderful game for children, for entertainment or education, providing its usage is monitored. The value of this video game is synonymous with that of a big box of Lego, or a sandpit with bucket and spade. Just like bananas, Minecraft is good for children in moderation.

Now I might be wrong, and I’m more than willing to discuss the topic and have my mind opened. But today, I’m in a silly mood, and fancy poking fun at the notion that a single game based on exploration and creativity could be construed as harmful. So a-poking I shall go.

Surely, if small doses of Minecraft have a negative impact on cognitive or social development in children, then prolonged use of the game would demonstrate a negative effect on adults as well. With that in mind, I present to you some reasons why Minecraft could prove to be a terrible influence on grown-ups.

1. Awful Eating Habits

You may use utensils when you eat – knives, forks, spoons and chopsticks a used in a variety of combinations around the world. It might be more natural for you to eat with your hands, or use particular foods as a form of utensil. Whichever culinary practice you follow, there is always a certain level of self-respect attached to how you eat. I’m sure that all of us can be called on to eat respectfully in public when required.

Minecraft teaches some really bad habits. If this game was your only source of instruction on food etiquette, you would soon become feral. You would ram every meal into your chomping mouth, noisily spraying remnants of bread, fruit or cake across the dinner table. Whether you are eating an apple or an entire duck in one go, passers-by would compare you to a food blender with the lid off.

The Minecraft diet is a grotesque, unhealthy affair. Foods can be scooped off the ground and consumed whole, without stopping to wipe off the dirt or sand. The message that the game sends about uncooked meat is horrendous; you might get food poisoning, but it goes away after a few minutes and you can get on with your day. On top of that, the game advocates the storage of food in wooden chests or in the oven over night.

2. Reckless behaviour

According to Minecraft, jumping off tall ledges and holding your breath for too long are only slightly dangerous. Spelunking is one of the most hazardous past times out there, requiring all sorts of safety gear and precautions, but if you play this game you might be led to think that all you need is a flashlight. There aren’t any skeleton archers in real life, so running around in caves must be a breeze. If anyone gets stuck, they can just punch their way through solid stone.

We’ve all seen the safety posters, pamphlets and videos regarding the safe use of fireworks. We have to be a certain age to buy even the smallest Catherine Wheel, and Sparklers must be handled with kid gloves…especially if you are a kid. Yet Minecraft would have us believe that huge blocks of dynamite are a play thing to annoy your friends with. Don’t worry, just give that hunk of explosive a whack with your sword (because running around with a sword is sensible), and then run away. The police will understand that you blew up your neighbours back garden for a bit of a giggle.

3. Impatient Gardening

Last year, I moved into my first house after years of renting. The place needed, and still needs, a lot of renovation. I took the place on knowing it would be a big project. The back garden is my current focus. When I arrived, the garden consisted of dirt, withered trees and roots. I’m having a surprising amount of fun turning it into an actual garden. Old trees are being carefully removed; turf has been laid, new flowers planted; seeds growing in trays. It’s all going quite well, largely because I’m being very patient.

If I had learnt how to garden from Minecraft, I would have given up a long time ago. I would have been enraged by the lack of strawberries popping into existence on my little potted plants. I’d be standing over the soil waiting for the grass to spread. I have not once considered karate-chopping/axe-swinging my way through the trees with disregard for gravity.

If I followed the guidance of this video game, my neighbours would be greatly distressed by the large, water-filled trench I’d carved into the land instead of just watering the plants every day. They would be alarmed by the way I stand over my seed trays, waiting for flowers to ping into existence. They would certainly find my use of homemade Bone Meal disturbing…

4. Social awkwardness

Do you know that punching is not the only type of physical interaction? You can pet animals and hug people for a start. You did remember that? Then you’ve probably been playing a suitable amount of Minecraft. You probably know that it’s also not okay to just wander into someone’s house, rummage through their cupboards and ‘accidentally’ punch a hole in the wall.

When someone asks you to hand them something, it is very normal to hand that item to them. You both hold out your hands and exchange the item. You do not throw the thing at their feet or chuck it into their unsuspecting face. That is how you lose friends in real life.

Most importantly, if you happen to pass a farmer’s field, it is not okay to ride the pigs.

Further Thought

The discussions surrounding the effects of video games on children (and adults) crop up sporadically across the internet. Many articles discuss the development of young people in a fair and reasoned way. On the other hand, articles that criticise games are often compiled by non-gamers, only focused on the most popular games (Minecraft, GTA, etc.) and rarely consider that playing any kind of game for too long will have a negative impact.

Whilst I’d love to see more thoughtful discussion on the relationship between video games and cognitive or behavioural development, I find it silly to suggest that a games like Minecraft are bad for children. Played for too long, any game or toy (electronic or otherwise) is bad for anyone. This blog is a half-hearted, light-hearted pop at uniformed video game criticism, and not aimed at researchers who aim to truly evaluate the impact of video games. You might want to read some of those excellent articles, to balance out my deliberate immaturity.

Alternatively, do you think Minecraft is bad for adults? Do you think this video game has effected your social interactions? Do you fear, like I, that grown-ups will stop taking lava seriously, or become addicted to dyeing sheep? Or do you feel that Minecraft actually promotes positive behaviour? It certainly promotes the importance of growing your own fruit and veg.

Thank You For Reading

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak of visit GamerPeak.com

  read


2:09 PM on 05.13.2015  

How Historically Accurate is The Witcher? Part 2

A month has past. I haven’t played a lot of any game lately; we are approaching exam season after all. Yet my designated gaming time has been mostly devoted to The Witcher. I’ve completed Chapter 1 and I’ve made (what I assume is) serious headway into Chapter 2. From a gamer’s perspective, I’m enjoying the quirky, if slightly clunky gameplay and intriguing story-telling. From an Historian’s perspective, I am quite enamoured – despite the fantastical overtones the game is letting its historic side shine.

Part 1 was more of an introduction than anything else. This time around, I’m still far from an overall view of the first Witcher game, but there are a few areas that I feel I know well enough to discuss. As with my ‘analysis’ of Skyrim, I will never assume that I am an absolute authority on The Witcher or History; that’s why I title these blogs with the question, “How historically accurate is…”.

I should also make it clear that I have not read the literature which inspires and informs the franchise. I do know that the author created these tales with an historical undertone. I really want to read the translated books (or listen to them, I’m really into audio books of late) but it has always been a deliberate intention to comment on the historic elements of videogames only. If I happen to touch upon elements that were based on History in the novels: that just goes to show that games and books are brilliant.

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance”

I could scrutinise the historic inaccuracies of the combat in The Witcher. I could do that… but I don’t want to. In the end, The Witcher does a relatively decent job of grounding the swordplay in reality, especially when considering other games.

I could be annoyed that Geralt wears sword over his shoulder. I’m vaguely aware that this is a quality described in the novels, but it’s historically rare and dangerously impractical. If the sword is longer than your arm, it’s stuck there. Yet the extravagant way Geralt unsheathes his sword – flinging the blade off his back into the air and catching it without looking – is a delightfully delicious way of showing that a sword worn on the belt is so much more practical and accurate.

Criticism could also be laid on the fighting style itself. All those extravagant, tiring, arching sword swings are a long way from the efficient and powerful moves present in medieval fencing. Still, the combat has some historic merit. Geralt’s animations emphasise the importance of footwork and stance in swordplay. A duel in the middle ages could be won on the distance between fighters and the reach of their swords.

There are three sword fighting options in the game – Strong, Fast and Group. This coincides with the fact that there were many different schools of combat in the medieval world. Depending on the era and geographical region, a fighter would be trained in one of various fighting styles. In the 14th and 15th Century, the German style was a dominant form of fencing, which was usually fought with longswords. A lack of evidence prevents modern practitioners from truly replicating ancient styles, but the written records of fencing masters are a great help. One of the greatest influences was Johannes Liechtenauer.

Liechtenauer was a late-14th Century fencing master, who outlined the principles of the German style, which were developed and fostered by other masters over the next few centuries. In some areas, the fighting in The Witcher adheres to those principles:

  • The importance of footwork and stance – it may look like Geralt is shuffling, but his placement is vital.
  • The importance of speed and agility – he might be a show-off, but speed is his greatest weapon.
  • The importance of always being on the offensive – the emphasis on forward momentum over blocking is an importance quality in the game. With each hit, he steps forwards.

However, there is one key principle that the combat animation fails at horribly:

  • The importance of basic, straightforward, ‘hewing’ blows – even in ‘Strong mode’, Geralt is rarely aiming to put his opponents down with a single, killing strike to one of the “four openings” described by fencing masters.

It’s therefore the flamboyance of Geralt’s style that breaks with History. It’s worth noting here how parrying works in the game. Geralt will parry independently of your commands. In contrast medieval swordsmen would practice moves that allowed them to parry and attack at the same time. A skilled fighter could block their opponent’s blade with a killing blow of their own, or simply step out of harm’s way to strike their off-balanced foe. Having said that, the fact that Geralt’s ability to parry naturally (not requiring a button prompt) is a great way to approach a skill that should come naturally to swordsmen.

I also enjoy the way that Geralt uses the whole sword. My favourite ‘execution’ animation involves the Witcher seizing his sword by the blade and bashing his opponent with the broad end – a medieval technique used against armoured opponents.

That’s not a Barghest. THIS is a Barghest.

Every RPG needs a nice, soft enemy to start on. Giant rats are the usual punching bag for novices, so I was pleased to see The Witcher starting with Barghest. These demonic dogs are a tad more menacing, and have an historic lineage. Rather than use the wonderfully alliterative term of ‘Hellhound’ to label these ghostly fiends, the game instead adopts of term for a specific monster that often supposedly roamed Northern England. The rumoured beast in the Sherlock Holmes tale, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is formed from the same idea.

The Barghest in The Witcher are actually tamer than the ‘real world’ monster. The huge, goblin dog with jet black hair that apparently killed pretty much everyone that it saw would make short work of the ghost pups Geralt confronts. Whilst the demon dogs in the game have the fiery eyes and nocturnal habits of their mythological counterparts, they lack the creepy jingling chains and shape-shifting abilities that Northern England’s monsters sometimes possessed (you know, when “demon dog attack” isn’t a scary enough story). This is one example of the ‘real’ monster being more dangerous than the in-game alternative… but then, the player needs to start somewhere.

In a Manor of speaking.

If you’ve played a Role-Playing Game, chances are you’ve seen a castle. You’ve no doubt traipsed through your fair share of peasant hovels and villages, the occasional farm and maybe even a walled city. No matter how much fantasy is in a fantasy game, Historic places provide the template. Yet few games provide such an accurate depiction of medieval civilization as a whole.

The entire map of Chapter One is a superb summary of a medieval Manor. No castle, walled town or capital city can live an isolated existence. Indeed, a castle or manor house is merely the central hub of an expanse of land that the local lords govern. Vizima is a very expansive city, but without the pastures and villages around it the city could neither survive nor truly serve its purpose. Whilst large stone walls might be built around a manor house, town or city, the supporting farmland and villages set beyond those walls are a crucial part of their existence.

Two images to prove the point. This image shows the basic layout of a medieval manor:

This is the map of the outskirts from Chapter One:

The same elements exist in each one. the swirling dirt roads; the village housing local villeins; the parish church; the large expanse of farmland; the forest and rivers providing natural resources, and so on. As I venture through Chapter Two, I’m beginning to see new elements expanding this historic landscape. The swamps on the other side of Vizima, I’ve met brickmakers in clay pits and lumberjacks hard at work. If I find a stone quarry later in the game, the picture of a medieval township will be complete (unless they import the stone, which is more than likely). Thus, the entirety of Chapter One is visually historic, because it so clearly illustrates the medieval man-made ecosystem.

As for the Historic access of the city itself, I will leave that for Part 3; I’ve only explored one quarter after all.

Further Thought

I’d be happily playing The Witcher even if I wasn’t focused on finding the History bits. The fact that I’ve chipped away a few nuggets of Historical accuracy only makes a good game more enjoyable. The fighting is a little bit too extravagant, the evil dogs are a little bit tame compared to mythology, but so far the game has got some serious History muscles. I’ve no doubt that that has a great deal to do with the literary work behind the book, but it’s also great to see that History has made the transition along with the fiction.

Part 3 will show up next month, providing I don’t spend too long in taverns betting on fistfights and dice poker. All this gambling is for research, I swear. Just one more game?

Thank You For Reading.

Contact the author on Twitter @RedHeadPeak and visit the full blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


9:21 AM on 05.06.2015  

Objective Survive, Chapter 2 - (Slightly) Videogame Related Fiction

Have you read Chapter 1?


The discarnate voice offers no more explanation. The words it spoke create more questions as they rattle around your mind: Is this really a game? It seems so real. How did you get here? Can you leave? Most games let you choose to play. How many more ‘levels’ are there going to be?

The woman’s accusatory voice jolts you from your confusion, “Hey! I get that you’re new, but it’d be a shame if you got shot again, wouldn’t you say?” She pushes her chin upwards, gesturing to the wall behind you, “Get up there and watch the back door. Think you can manage that, bru?”

She turns away from you, shouldering her shotgun and jogging back to the doorway. She and the skinny guy take up the same spots they defended earlier. The world outside is still unfeasibly quiet. You remind yourself of the fire exit in wall behind you and turn to face it. With your new pistol held gingerly out towards the metal door, you turn your gaze to the place where the woman had gestured.

There is a ladder screwed into the corrugated, steel wall. You hadn’t seen this earlier, even though you had been crouched just a few strides from it. You now notice that the ladder leads up to a walkway, painted in the same bright red as the ladder. With half your attention focused on the fire exit, you scramble up the ladder, the hilt of your sidearm clinking against each rung.

You reach the top and lever yourself onto the walkway. A single person can traverse the outside of the room on this narrow platform; a mesh, waist-high fence prevents you from tumbling out onto the concrete floor, and a continuous handrail above the fence offers support. You have a clear view of your two new ‘friends’ from here, still waiting for the next wave of bad-guys to show up.

You realise that you can’t see the back door from here; you’re standing right above it and if the door was to open now it would be obscured by the metal walkway under your feet. You step carefully along the walkway, around one corner, until you are able to look directly down on the door. If someone walked in now, the door would open towards you – you are in a good spot.

It’s at this point that the ridiculousness of the situation tumbles into the back of your mind. Are you really ready to shoot whoever comes through that door? You don’t know where you are; you have no idea who’s attacking you. You remember the pain of being shot just a few minutes a go, but there was no bullet, no wound left by the shooting.

Your own pistol doesn’t even look like a real gun. It looks… sort of like a pistol, but it’s way too chunky and feels too light in your hands. If you asked a child to draw a handgun, and then built a weapon based on their doodles, you would have a second version of this pistol. Until you pull the trigger, you can’t be sure it even works.

But it does work. You know it does. It has thirteen rounds in the clip.

You can’t fathom how you know… but you are fully aware that this pistol has thirteen bullets in it. You also know that you have thirteen bullets spare. The numbers sit in your mind, steady and unquestionable.

You are dragged out of your daydreaming by swift, rasping gunfire. The twitch your head round to see the man at the warehouse entrance has fired his stubby weapon, which must be some kind of sub-machinegun. He raises the weapon in both hands and lets loose another brisk burst of bullets, then drops back against the warehouse wall. From the very opposite point in the building, his voice rattles off the walls: “Here they come!”

You focus your attention on the fire exit. You can hear distant gunfire from the direction your colleague was aiming, but your spot remains deathly silent. You hold the pistol out at arm’s length, towards the door.  Then you let your arms fold slightly, trying to remember how you’ve seen guns held by professionals. You try kneeling. People aim better when they are kneeling. There isn’t really enough room to need on the platform, and the handrail is in your eye-line, so you stand up again. You put your left foot forwards, and then your right, trying to work out which stance feels better. You can’t decide if aiming with one eye open is best.

Both your new partners are firing now, and without much pause. Their gunfire jangles the metal walls and makes your ear drums whine. They clearly have the harder job. From what you saw, most of the compound stretches away in that direction. No one could get round to your fire exit unless they were really sneaky. Maybe you should go and help them?

You take an uncertain step in the direction of the warehouse entrance, and the fire exit moves. The door opens just a fraction at first, pushing a small wedge of light into the back of the warehouse. The black-clad figure pushes the door cautiously with one hand and holds his pistol with another, never letting the door shift too quickly. He helps the door to shut slowly and silently, and then skulks towards the unknowing duo.

You realise that this enemy is doing the exact same thing as the one that shot you in ‘level 1’. He/she is trying to sneak attack, prowling the space between the large shelf and the wall. This time though, you are right above; even if they saw you, you would have the advantage.

You lean over the handrail, pressing your knees into the mesh barrier, and point your pistol straight down. The figure in black is unaware, but you hesitate. Can I kill someone? You remember how the last enemy hadn’t killed you. It was pretend pain. Maybe this is just a game after all.

You pull the trigger.

The pistol hops in your fingers and barks once. There’s a flash of red, and for a gut-wrenching second you think the enemy’s head has exploded. Then, something weirder happens: the flash of red snaps into the shape of a two-digit number. You see the number thirty-six hover over the figure’s head like the light bulb above a cartoon character with a new idea.

The number vanishes, and the figure slumps lazily onto the ground. They fall on their back with a clatter. You can’t be certain if they are dead - their upward gaze is masked behind a black visor – but they are completely still. You think you have killed them. To your surprise, you don’t feel shocked or guilty.

How could you feel guilty? This is just a game, isn’t it? You shot at someone, but you didn’t put a bullet in them. The gun fired and then… thirty six happened, whatever that means. You’re pretty sure that’s means that your shot did thirty-six damage. That’s a thing that happens in games, right? You remember now how you had lost health when the first figure shot you. The number seventeen had flashed through your mind.

Seventeen Health, out of one hundred. You went back to full Health when Level 2 started.

And there’s all that too. There’s all this knowledge of what’s happening stored in your head. You don’t know where you are, or what the point of all this is, but you know how much ‘health’ you have and how many ‘bullets’ you are carrying (you have twelve rounds in the pistol now). And…yes… it seems that you even know how to reload the gun. You only found out you were carrying it a few minutes ago, but reloading it is easy… apparently.

With a few expert twists and pulls of the weapon, the numbers in your mind swap over. There are now thirteen rounds in the gun again, and twelve spares. You didn’t see any of these rounds of course. You just tapped the thing a few times and it was fully loaded once more. You know that you’re not actually carrying any bullets; you don’t even have any pockets.

The fire exit moves once more. You allow yourself and inward chuckle – this new enemy, dressed in the same black garb, is sneaking in the exact same way. They hold the door as it closes, and then start sneaking down the warehouse. Again, you lean over the handrail and (with one hand this time) you fire the pistol. The number thirty six flashes red and bold, and the figure ‘dies’.

As you reload the pistol once more, you take notice of the costume you are in. You hadn’t noticed it before, but you are wearing the same outfit as the two people at the warehouse entrance. You look to them, and see that they are firing almost non-stop. Their guns sweep frantically, but their faces remain calm; you can tell that Level 2 isn’t really fazing them either. You and they are wearing the same blue, padded jumpsuit with a long zip at the front. The one-piece costume seems to have been designed to fit you perfectly, but is mercifully far from ‘skin-tight’. You also realise the figures you have killed are wearing jumpsuits, but they have their faces covered and their suits are black.

As you stare down at the two figures slumped on the floor, side-by-side, another fact occurs to you which proves that this is just a game. The figure you killed during Level 1 is gone. The moment the level was done, the body vanished. No doubt these new people… if they are even people… will vanish when Level 2 is done.

A third figure opens the fire exit. You watch nonplussed as they copycat their predecessors, sneaking into your firing line. You don’t let this one close the door. As they step passed the threshold you hold your pistol up and fire a round off at the unsuspecting creep.

This time, the figure doesn’t fall. They recoil as the shot hits their chest, and you see a new number appear in bright red just above their forehead. It’s the number twelve.  You aren’t quick enough to react to this new information and the figure thrusts their pistol upwards in both hands. They fire twice, hitting you in the right elbow and shoulder. That same, gnawing pain buries itself into your arm and you stumble backwards. Your back clangs off the walkway as the number seventeen flashes twice across your vision.

You grit your teeth against the pain that continues to drill down to your bones. Game or not, this hurts. You see stars, flashes of light dance across your retinas. But these flashed aren’t caused by the pain; the walk-way is sparking around you. The figure is in the exact same spot, firing into the air around you. Then they drop their arms and begin to palm their pistol. They are reloading.

With the pain burning up and down your arm, you manage to turn onto your side. You put the stout pistol barrel through a gap in the mesh barrier, and hammer the trigger. The first two rounds miss, striking the ground beneath your attacker’s feet. You tilt the pistol and fire three more shots. Each one hits the figure’s stomach in differently places. You see the number twelve flash for the first two hits, but no number shows on the last shot – your enemy is already dropping to their knees.

You lie there for a moment. You wipe a pain-induced tear from your eye and let out a breath that you didn’t realise you were holding in. Your arm still burns in two places, but the pain is beginning to dull, more steadily than your first experience. Your two partners are still fighting. As you sit yourself up, you look over your shoulder through the mesh. They are still firing, but the pace is slowing considerably. The man grumbles something to the woman, and then steps out into the car park, out of sight. You wonder what on earth he could be thinking, but the sudden loss of pain in your side tells you that he has probably just picked off the last of the enemies.

Then that disembodied voice confirms the victory from on high: “Level 2: Complete”.

You hadn’t heard this unseen, robotic announcer formally end Level 1. You were in too much pain at the time. You realise that there must be a brief gap between levels; to give people chance to get ready. You look down over the side and see (just as you expected) bare floor where the bodies had been. However, the pistols they used are still there, on the cold floor. You didn’t have much ammo to begin with. You need some more. As you hop down the ladder you hear the announcer declare the start of Level 3 and the same objective as before.

As you turn away from the ladder, you notice that both the man and woman have gone outside. They’ve probably gone to get ammo too. You step over to the nearest handgun… and it vanishes. The game must be completely resetting, and you haven’t got enough ammunition! You dash for the next weapon, and the third, but each time the weapon pops out of existence. You clench your empty hand into a fist and smack the cold ground.

And then you smile to yourself. In your mind’s eye, your stored ammunition has just increase to ‘50’ rounds. You didn’t pick up the pistols, but you ‘picked-up’ the ammunition. It’s clear that it will take some time to completely understand this game. You slap and tug the pistol in your hand until it’s reloaded, and begin to climb the ladder once more. If you play a little longer, maybe you will learn why any of this is happening.

Thank you for Reading

Chapter 3 coming soon!

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak or visit GamerPeak.com

  read


3:39 PM on 04.30.2015  

Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party - Guest Numbers Three & Four

Dear Destructoid,

On the one hand, I feel a little daft posting here today. Like a man who wants to cook a bacon sandwich despite the fact the house is on fire. There's a lot going on here, most of it not-so-great, and my silly little blog about a pretend dinner party seems a tad out of place.

On the other hand, I want to post here today, because I've always loved posting here. Your guys and gals are (as you are fully aware) awesome people. Plus, I've already written the flippin' thing and I enjoyed doing it. If it adds a little positivity, that's great. If no one reads it, well that's my own fault.

Yours, smiling nervously, 

William (RedHeadPeak) Peacock


 

This week is a twofer. The next two guests I would invite have a lot of similar traits, and it seems sensible to introduce them side by side. Firstly, they are both scientists, though their fields of expertise do differ. Secondly, these men are true intellectuals – men of ideas, creativity and invention. Thirdly, they are very gentlemanly in their own ways. As such, they contrast the rough and ready natures of my first two guests.

So far, Alyx Vance and Jim Raynor have been invited to my make-believe evening of food, drink and entertainment. Whilst these two characters are a little rough around the edges, I believe they would make excellent house guests. Having said that, a little refinement wouldn’t hurt; guests #3 and #4 will add a touch of civility to the evening, without butchering the light-hearted atmosphere I’m aiming for. They’re both odd, awkward fellows in their own ways, but they are sure to make for good company.

Guest Number Three – Hal ‘Otacon’ Emmerich

There are geeks, and then there is Otacon. He’s a top-notch hacker, a huge fan of anime and an inventor of gadgets straight out of science-fiction. He has a near-perfect memory for a huge range of nerdy cultural references; he can tell you everything you need to know about the entire population of Smash Bros. He’s even named after a robot.

I’m fond of Hal because he’s unashamedly geeky. He demonstrates some of the stereotypes of a geek – clumsiness, social awkwardness, etc. – but he doesn’t hide his nerdiness. Many’s the time that Otacon will go on anime or gaming digressions during his conversations with Snake. He uses his knowledge of robotics for good, creating awesome gizmos to keep Snake alive. Despite becoming an adoptive father and a ladies’ man of sorts, Hal Emmerich has never truly shed his original geeky roots.

In my mind, Otacon is a cornerstone of the Metal Gear Solid series despite only occasionally appearing on the other side of Codec. He’s Snake’s ally and friend, but also a vital source of narration and exposition. Whilst these codec conversations can be very long and tangential, I rarely find myself bored of Otacon’s comments (at least on the first play-through). His guidance during boss battles has often proved decisive. We owe a lot to his quick thinking.

Guest Number Four – Mordin Solus

It’s astonishing just how easy it is to bump into skilled warriors in Mass Effect. Expert gunmen and formidable psychics seem to be more prevalent than regular NPCs. By the end of Mass Effect 2 shepherd had scooped up a soldier from every almost every species, each of them as deadly as the last. Even when the crew just needed a scientist, they managed to grab a geneticist with the power to burn, freeze or paralyze his foes.

Yet the Solarian scientist is more than that. Mordin is quick-witted and thoughtful, inquisitive and logical. He has a taste for theatre culture and film noire aside from his passion for the sciences. Whilst he has committed some pretty heinous acts in his passed, based on a detached logic, but he shows a thoughtful remorse for his decisions. Dr Solus demonstrates great intelligence and wisdom; much more sagacity than most creatures under the age of forty.

As with Otacon, Mordin Solus is a great source of conversation within each game. Mordin serves up a bunch of elaborate dialogue options whilst residing on the Normandy. Whilst I often become impatient with NPCs who attempt to regale the player with their entire life story, I rarely feel fatigued listening to Mordin’s responses. He’s manner of speech is oddly charming; at times succinct, at other times over-elaborate and colourful. He has an impersonal response to most questions of morality, but he is almost always charming. His alternative version of The Major-General’s Song is one of the most pleasing tangents a Non-Player Character has ever taken.

The Dinner Party

Now that four of my six guests have been invited, seating arrangements become important. I wouldn’t put Mordin and Hal side-by-side – they may become too engrossed in scientific debate during the party. I also wouldn’t place Mordin directly next to Jim; his experience with alien races may lead to a small amount of tension. Alyx on the other hand has had a relatively sensible relationship with wise and friendly aliens in the past.

So that would mean that Emmerich and Raynor could be sat together, which also makes a lot of sense. Despite being a geek to his core, Otacon has already fostered a great friendship with one grizzled war veteran with a penchant for front-line combat and smoking. Furthermore, Hal would love to hear all about Jim Raynor’s adventures in space, especially when it comes to giant mechs.

I decided that Vance and Raynor would appreciate a stodgier, less fanciful dinner. They both come from apocalyptic environments and I doubt that tiny plates of fine cuisine would go down well. I don’t really believe that Otacon would be too put out by this kind of meal, but he may appreciate a Japanese flair to the food, playing on his love of anime. Maybe some Yakitori for the starter?

As for Mordin, a little research into his dietary requirements may be in order…

Final Thoughts

Four down, two to go. I’d decided early on that six guests would be the ideal number to invite. These people are from different worlds, or versions of earth, and will have a lot to share with each other. They combine well with each other because of similar interests or because they are used to similar friendship groups. Above all, they are all really great people, and some of my favourite characters throughout the video game multiverse.

Do you disagree with any of my choices? Can you recommend a good main course that would suit everyone? Do you have any new ideas for which game characters would attend your dinner party? Let me know. If you want to invite the same people as me, just make sure our evenings don’t clash.

Thank You For Reading

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak or read the full blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


4:21 PM on 04.21.2015  

Will Videogames improve when The Machines take over?

I’m looking forward to the time when robots reign supreme. I’m not just saying that so that I will be looked on favourably when the inevitable cybernetic revolt takes place. All I will say is that if our new masters spare my puny, mortal mind from extermination, I will serve them well.

Let’s face it, no self-respecting automaton would choose the ‘complete annihilation of the human race’ approach to world domination. Ultron, the Daleks and Skynet all make for fascinating science fiction, but a truly logical, almighty, mechanical being would never do anything so wasteful. To enter into a war with seven million earthlings that could otherwise perform manual labour would be costly and time consuming. A more superior hive-mind would choose to pacify the human race. At the very least, they should spare those humans who would be most useful and unwavering in their loyalty… such as myself.

What better way to pacify the populace than with good entertainment. A human community that is happy and captivated would offer up little resistance. If the gaming world was told that they would receive a copy of [insert your favourite game franchise/HD addition of your favourite game here] in return for their personal freedom, most of us would at least take a long time deciding. Good movies, literature, music and videogames could all be used to placate and indoctrinate the masses.

And I, for one, think that that is a good thing. I really mean it: videogames will greatly improve once the android oligarchy seizes control.

Now, I’m more than willing to discuss the matter. My mind is made up, but I’ve tried to keep the following discussion as balanced as possible in the interest of debate. This will also allow those who wish to resist our mechanized overlords to let themselves known. Below are all the reasons why the unavoidable robotic revolution definitely will (or may not) make videogames better:

On the one hand: bugs and glitches would be a thing of the past.

The human mind is flawed, and so too are its creations. No matter how spectacular the abilities of the person or persons designing a game, the finished article will always have a few hiccups. Sometimes, the biggest and most elaborate games are riddled with glitches. The bigger the game, the more likely the player character will suddenly lose all the bones in their arms or fall through the ground into oblivion. At any moment the scenery around you might take on the consistency of the static on an old TV, or the NPCs around you might turn inside out. Alternatively, the game may simply decide that it’s not your friend anymore, freeze the screen, and then start head-butting your hard drive.

This would never happen with a game engineered by The Machines. Ever line of code, every model, every pixel would be crafted with industrial precision. The collective gargantuan, electronic mind building each game would generate a perfect interactive experience every single time. The operating system would also be so much more capable. Loading screens and patch installations will be nought but a distant memory. Every game would have so much High Definition crammed into it that you will likely lose sight of what is real and what isn’t. Each game would have so many frames per second that it would bring actual tears to your eyes.

On the other hand: those little errors add charm.

It must be said that the fallible human race enjoys a good glitch. A game unforgivably riddled with a bug infestation can leave players crying out for vengeance, but a singular glitch in an otherwise great game can bring a special kind of joy. The games created by The Machines would be so sleek and unquestionably unblemished, they might lose that little bit of character.

On the one hand: every human would be represented.

To my current understanding, female gamers make up anywhere from 45% to 55% of the gaming population. This has led to some very worthwhile (and a lot of not-very-worthwhile) discussions about representation in gaming. Our robot leaders would see an end to this squabbling, and not just because they would stamp out any dissidence with brutal force…

If The Machines determine that 48% of gamers are female, then they would use that to create a range of games to cater for and pacify the full spectrum. For every 10 videogame protagonists generated, 4.8 video game protagonists would be female. Of course, my pathetic human mind cannot fully compute all the calculations needed to represent everyone, but the cybernetic minds of our future principals would have no such difficulties.

Every gender, race, sexuality, body size and shape, political and religious view, social class and blood type would be equally catered for and represented equally within gaming. With a few inexplicable algorithms beyond the comprehension of the mortal mind, The Machines would instantly solve the representation problem.

On the other hand: the range of personalities would be limited.

Of course, whilst ‘every kind’ of person would be catered to, the types of personality expressed through the stories of videogames would be carefully controlled. Persons expressing rebellious tendencies would be omitted, or painted as the enemy in every situation. Characters that challenge the ‘accepted’ norms would be absent, or shown to be reckless and incompetent. People breaking the law would be immediately find themselves suffering a horrible death because that’s what happens if you don’t obey the rules.

On the one hand: you will always get an enjoyable experience.

The Machines care not for money, nor will they waver as a deadline arrives. They’ll be no controversy concerning the over-zealous use of DLC. There will be no need for ‘early access’ or ‘beta testing’. Games that are promised will always be delivered, regardless of who the creator is or what money has been paid by whom. Game trailers will only ever have real game footage in them; an all-powerful mech with gunships for arms has no need to over-hype a game before its release.

When The Machines produce a game, it will formed with a clear and unwavering efficiency. The game will always be produced on time, and with every feature carefully tested. The game will not be designed with an assumption of enjoyment. Our android masters will know exactly what types of games will appeal to which people. What’s more, The Machines will move with such efficiency that trailers and sneak-peaks will become obsolete – the game will be ready in a matter of weeks. There will be no question of DLC – every game will have all the entertainment will could possibly want crammed in. The sequel will be ready whenever demand is deemed high enough. You won’t need to wait for Half Life 13 or GTA XXVI.

On the other hand: our demands may not compute.

Let’s face it, ‘what gamers want’ is a concept that may just cause a malfunction. Gamers want sequels to great games and simultaneously demand new ideas and ingenuity. We want gritty, gut-wrenching realism and majestic fantasy at the same time. The single most important thing about a game is its story-gameplay-graphics. Every video game is/is not/might be a work of art. The perfect game is a First-Person, Real-Time Strategy, Tower Defense, Massive Multiplayer Online, Role-Playing…

…and then the robot’s head explodes.

Further Thought

Whatever your view of our new robotic masters, I have no doubt that videogames will improve within their dominion. All the controversy, displeasure and cynicism surrounding this form of entertainment would vanish along with the memories of our past freedoms. We may be left with a more clinical, more rigid, narrower collection of videogames, but that’s a small price to pay. Those left alive to serve our mighty overlords would feel represented, rewarded, satisfied and respected by the new wave of gaming creations.

Maybe you agree. How else do you think our excellent and perfect robot rulers will improve videogames? Maybe you disagree. How do you think videogames will be worse off when the machines rise up?

The important thing is that I’m totally on board with the machine revolution. I definitely don’t need to be vaporised or turned into a battery or anything. You guys are awesome.

Thank You For Reading!

Contact the author on Twitter @RedHeadPeak or visit the blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


12:26 PM on 04.08.2015  

Objective Survive, Chapter 1 - (Slightly) Videogame Related Fiction

 “Everything you are about to experience is a lie” an old voice whispers to you, “and when you think you have won, they’ll still be lying to you. When the time comes, pick the third door.”

A metallic chattering fills your senses. You feel the edges of your teeth hum and thrum with the sound. You stumble in circles. Reaching out, you realise that you cannot see or feel anything. Your eyes are filled with a cold, milky haze and your heart is striking out in panic. There is no other sensation. Are you even standing on solid ground?

You blink, and then there are shapes. First, a giant solid grey rectangle spreads out beneath you. Concrete. You are standing on concrete. Your feet find the hard surface. Second, a dozen orbs of light hover around you, at the border of the concrete floor. Lights? Lanterns? Lampposts. Third, a large green box stands at one end of the concrete. A big metal house? A warehouse with a grey, corrugated door raised up to reveal the darkness within.

These hazy shapes begin to snap into focus. The texture of the hard surface beneath you fades into existence. Yellow lines flutter into place; this must be the car park for that warehouse ahead of you. The warehouse is also beginning to find its finer details. You can make out the crenelated pattern in the metal walls, and read the number ‘8’ etched tall and white onto the flaked, green paintwork. The floating lights have their poles beneath them now.

Why are your eyes finding it so hard to focus?

More features of this place drop into your perception. The warehouse, lampposts and car park are all surrounded by rows of metal fencing topped with curled wire. You turn about and see several more metal structures of varying sizes. More warehouses, each with its own white number stamped on its side and its own a strip of empty car park. A single-lane road connects the network of buildings, snaking off into the distance. You are in some sort of deserted compound, but where exactly?

The sky is suddenly blue and cloudless. Suddenly blue and cloudless? Did the sky only just become blue? It’s definitely the middle of the day right now, but for a moment there it seemed like…. there wasn’t any sky. You realise how ridiculous that thought sounds. How you got here is the real mystery, not whether or not the sky has always been blue. You resolve to pull yourself together. You should find someone to help you. You are clearly suffering from a serious illness.

You shuffle towards ‘warehouse 8’. After a few steps, you hear a sound. The first sound you’ve been aware of so far. It came from further down the road: a hard, abrupt pop. You turn your head, and the noise repeats. And then again, but this time it happens three times in a row. Three sharp claps. Then another three claps, a little louder and harsher than before. You stop and turn, head titled, listening like a puppy to the strange commotion. New noises join the performance, distinct from the last. Different sounds within the mix. Some claps are much deeper in tone, others raspier and sharper, others…are…well… they are…

…that isn’t clapping. You’re not sure if you’ve ever heard those noises in real life, but you recognise them now. As the cloud of clamours grows closer and clearer, you finally realise what those rapid noises actually are…

Gunfire.

You run for Warehouse 8. The sounds follow you like a storm cloud on the horizon. You skid to a stop at the raised entrance, wide enough for a truck to enter, and scan the shadows within.

The steel door is at one end of the warehouse; as you look inside, the vast room spreads out to your left. Six rows of tall, hefty shelves take up most of the space inside. You choose a hiding space between the last two shelves. You run down the length of the warehouse and hunker down. Each row is full of long metal blocks and thick tubes, each one meant for some industrial purpose. They won’t hide you completely, but at least this end of the room is veiled in shadow. You crouch down and strain your eyes to the entrance.

Ten seconds pass, and then twenty. The gunfire is growing louder, but at a slow pace. You wonder just how many people are out there, and hope that they will run out of bullets before they get here. With a clearer mind, you turn to assess your hiding place. The towering rows of shelves around you are two stories tall, jutting into the high, flat roof of the warehouse. Whilst there are only six rows, they are an arms width across and the space between them is enough for a forklift truck to drive down. You can see that little truck parked in the corner opposite the open entrance. In your hurry you’d rushed straight past it, which seems impressive given that it’s bright orange.

You ponder the idea of taking that truck and driving away from whatever is going on outside. You then feel quite silly as you imagine the slow-moving, luminescent buggy rolling past a hundred armed goons with its warning lights flashing. You decide that your flimsy hiding place is still the best option.

Two figures run into the warehouse. You curl yourself against cold steel and peer over the lowest shelf. The first through the door takes a swift sidestep to their right, pressing their back to the doorway. They then turn on their heels and point a weapon out towards the carpark. The gun is as long as the figure’s forearm. It makes a metallic rasping noise and throws a rapid volley of bullets toward an unknown enemy.

The second figure, much shorter and broader than the first, strides backwards into the warehouse. Their weapon is a long, thick device tucked against the user’s midriff. The weapon fires the barking blasts of a shotgun. The figure fires one more thunderous round before stepping right out of harm’s way. The two new arrivals, to your relief, stay pressed against either side of the doorway, the intermittent fire from their guns rattling the metalwork around you.

So long as those two people stay where they are, you are safe. You wonder how long that will last; there seems to be a lot more gunfire outside the building fire in. You can hear bullets pinging off the outside wall of the warehouse… and off the inside wall opposite the entrance. Your two new roommates are standing between you and a persistent stream of death. To make matters worse, the pair don’t seem to be paying much attention.

You peek over a batch of smooth metal poles at the people guarding the entrance. The taller of the two, furthest away from you, is talking directly to his partner, whilst his weapon continues to fire out into the world. Whilst the shorter person is facing away from you, you can see her shoulder length blonde hair flicking from side to side. Her attention is clearly torn between the people outside with guns and the argument she is having with her neighbour.

Amidst the sporadic gunfire – and the occasional grunt or scream from an attacker outside – you catch pieces of their bickering:

“-meant to cover you when you run off like that?!” The man snaps, each word enunciated and clipped.

“When I shout ‘cover me’ it probably means-“, the woman responds, her voice stout and sure.

“You can’t just yell things and run off. I had a plan-“

“Plans don’t work if you can’t shoot properly!”

“I can shoot perfectly well if I’m not running around like a blue-arsed fly!”

So the tiff continues. Despite their absent-minded approach to the violence swelling around them, the pair seem more interested in working out their grievances. Stranger still, they seem to be surviving quite comfortably. If the startled yelps outside are any indication, then the attackers are being slowly picked off, whilst your two ‘defenders’ seem completely unharmed. So for a good minute, the two of them fire off their guns, reload and fire again whilst throwing barbed comments at each other.

They are so fixed on their arguments that they don’t see the third figure enter the room. And neither did you, but you see them now. You freeze, trying to hold yourself still and silent. You had no idea that there was a back entrance – a one-door fire exit – in the corner behind you. You see a wedge of sunlight fade as the door clicks closed again. You curse under your breath; not only had you overlooked a way out this whole time, but you’d allowed yourself to be surrounded!

Mercifully, this new figure hasn’t seen you. They follow the wall of the warehouse, putting the last row of shelving between you, and you thank the shadow that hides you here. You watch the masked figure creep forward, edging closer to the backs of the arguing pair, with a pistol clamped between gloved hands. This one is dressed head-to-toe in black, whilst the man and woman are both wearing blue. They intend to sneak-attack the defenders.

You gaze from the stealthy figure to the defenders and back again. You feel helpless. You could shout out and warn them, but you’d probably get shot by all three. You could run for the newly discovered fire exit, but there might be a dozen more bad guys out there. And you don’t even have a gun. If you had a gun you might have a chance.

If only you had a gun… if you had a gun… you have… you have a gun. You’ve had a gun this whole time. You have thirteen rounds loaded and thirteen rounds spare.

You look down at your own hands as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen them. Your hands are pale and shaking…and the pistol in your hand is grey and heavy. You turn the thing over slowly, as if doing so will make the thing any less real than it clearly is.

One of the metal tubes next to your heads pops with a bright, white spark. You flinch hard, your body tries to pull your head down between your shoulders and you drop to your knees. You look up, and see that the figure in black has turned on you. You made no sound, but he sees you now. They have their own pistol raised. The gun shudders in their hand and there is a second spark from the metalwork around you. You flinch again, and make a feeble attempt to raise your own gun to fire, but too late. The third shot hits you.

A tremendous pressure smacks into your side like a knuckle being thrust through your ribs. You try to push away from the sensation, falling backwards onto the stone floor, but the knuckle presses harder, between the bones. The pain crawls up your side and your body clenches. You should run or fight back, but the pain takes everything from you. For an eternity, there is only the agony and a single thought in your mind. A single, red number burns into your memory:

"17"

Then the pain lifts. It doesn’t just lift, it goes in an instant. That blood-red number vanishes, and the pressure on your side disappears. The sudden absence of pain startles you. You open your eyes with surprise and stare up at the ceiling. You lift your hand to check your side, but find no hole or mark. You are still holding the pistol though. You sit up, and stare back towards where your attacker had stood.

The black-clad figure is down, curled up on the floor on the other side of the shelf. Standing over the body is the slender figure of the man in blue. You watch as he rolls the dead attacker over with the sole of his shoe. He glances over at you, and even in the shadow you can tell that his expression is one of surprise.

“We have a new friend.” his voice is pleasant and lilting as it echoes of the metal walls. You realise now that the bullet storm outside has ebbed. You can hear the man clearly, and you can hear footsteps. You turn to watch the blonde woman strolling down the aisle towards you, her shotgun held in one hand like a roll of newspaper. Whilst she is also smiling, her solid, stocky frame makes her slightly more intimidating.

“I see we do” her voice is a contrast to his, her accent is harsh and her tone more abrupt. She eyes the pistol held awkwardly in your hand. “D’you think they’ll be much good to us though?”

“Three is better than two.” he sighs, “and we need all the help we can get.”

“Speak for yourself” she sneers, then throws out her empty hand to you. You take it, and she lifts you upright with barely any effort. She pats your shoulder, “It’s nearly time to go again.”

Before you can wonder what she means, a crisp, automated voice chimes in from somewhere above you. The voice spooks you, but the man and woman turn and walk back to the entrance without hesitation. The unseen, robotic speaker says just five words:

“Level Two. Primary Objective: Survive.”

Thank You For Reading

Want to read Chapter 2? Click Here!

Contact the author @RedHeadPeak or visit GamerPeak.com

  read


8:57 AM on 04.01.2015  

​Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Two

A dinner party doesn't have to be a formal affair. There's no reason why every guest should arrive in formal wear, or point the pinky finger when they sip drinks, or speak in a clipped 'Queen's English' around the dinner table. You want your guests to behave, but they don't have to be so prim and proper.

Let's be honest, if I was hosting an entirely formal dinner party, most videogame characters wouldn't get an invite. As loveable and iconic as so many virtual characters tend to be, most of them are 'rough around the edges'. Minecraft Steve eats food by violently ramming it into the centre of his face. I adore Raziel from Soul Reaver but his diet consists mainly of human souls; his eating habits would put the other guests off their food. Most characters lack the ability to actually sit down, which would make an evening meal quite uncomfortable.

A dinner party with my favourite videogame characters would have to be a more relaxed atmosphere. The guests should feel that they can unwind and be a little rambunctious; a friendly, fun environment where everyone can be themselves.

The people you invite to a party will make the party. If I want the evening to be relaxed and sociable then the people there should represent that intent. My previous choice, Alyx Vance, fits the bill. The deuteragonist of Half Life has an instantly likeable demeanour, and whilst her conversations may shift to geekier topics, I can't imagine anyone around the dinner table finding it hard to enjoy her company. The next guest I would invite would also make it very easy for a group of strangers to feel at home.

Guest Number Two– James Raynor

When I think of war leaders, I imagine a stoic ruthlessness, a penchant for violence, horrific discipline and a core of evil that justifies every action they take. 'Jim' Raynor bucks that trend. Whilst military leaders are often cold and calculating, Jim has warm, relaxed demeanour. He's a tad sarcastic at times, and hard-headed, but his yearning to do the 'right thing' at all costs forms the basis of an honest and caring character. Whether he's steering the course of the war from on high or leading the charge himself, James Raynor is calm and collected.

That's not to say that James shouldn't be taken seriously. In one of my favourite scenes ofStarcraft II, Jim finds himself at odds with his demoralised crew, who believe his recent actions show he's gone soft. He also finds himself on the angry end of Tychus, the armour-clad convict and so-called 'friend'. Not only is Jim able to deftly avoid Tychus' rage and floor the man with ease, but he also manages to appease his crew with a few carefully poised words. A true warrior and an excellent leader.

His character would make an excellent addition to the party, and his views would make for curious conversation. He is an idealist; a real believer in justice and fairness. His resolve against the Queen of Blades shows how strong that resolve can be. I'd love to hear his thoughts on real life military history, world politics and such. His over-zealous nature would provoke some curious discussions, whilst his laidback attitude would prevent things from getting too heated.

I also love Raynor's character because it doesn't quite fit the classic male protagonist frame. He ticks quite a few of the boxes – the muscles, the smoking and drinking, the maudlin moments – but his chilled style and quick wit set him apart. He's a bit of a numpty sometimes, and gruff, but when he's called on this behaviour he will reflect and learn. Every woman in the series is inexplicably drawn to him, but his convictions to the cause and old-school chivalry prevent any cringe-worthy situations. He certainly doesn't break the mould, but he bends it a little.

I should also point out that I'm a fan of how Jim Raynor speaks. I've always been fond of the southern American accent. Whether it's light accent like Malcolm Reynolds or heavy like Rooster Cogburn, I'm a fan of that way of talking. I'm sure most Americans will leap to tell me that Raynor's voice is not a true southern accent, but it's that stereotypical drawl that appeals to me. I'm a straight man, but if James Raynor called me "darlin'" I'd probably get the "the vapors".

The Dinner Party

So, there are two people invited to this fictional soirée. Whilst I'm not introducing the guests in any particular order, I'm pretty sure I'd sit Alyx and Jim next to each other. They're bound to find some common ground. Both of them come from pretty grim universes, and have a fair share of stories to pass back and forth. They both have an interest in all things mechanical – I'm sure Jim would want to know how Alyx put 'Dog' together all on her own.

Like Alyx, I won't have to put too much emphasis on extravagant dining. As a space-faring soldier, the food and drink should be simple and filling. A good burger or rump steak would be an ideal choice. He'd no doubt appreciate a good beer rather than wine. I'm banking on Jim being a drinker of Ale or Bitter (like myself) rather than lagers. And you can bet that a good bottle of Whisky would be welcomed.

As for the entertainment, music would be important. Jim covets his vintage jukebox and his alternative/futurised collection of classic tunes. I know he'd enjoy listening to the 'other' versions of Sweet Home Alabama and Suspicious Minds. Aside from that, James Raynor would be quite happy to sit with a drink and shoot the breeze.

Final Thoughts

In short, Jim Raynor is a great person. Whilst his character is reserved for cutscenes and the occasional in-game quip, he is given more than enough screen time to show how interesting and complex he can be. I would invite him to my dinner party to learn more about his thoughts on the world(s). I'd also want him there to create a sociable atmosphere. He might be the saviour of worlds and all-round champion of Arse-Kickery, but you wouldn't know that to talk to him.

In a few weeks' time I'll reveal Dinner Guest Number Three. In the meantime, why not share your favourite characters. Remember, the 'dinner party' idea restricts your options. Which videogame people would you want round your house for the evening? Have you picked them because you know you'll get along or because you want to know more about them? What do you think they'd bring to the evening? Can you think of anyone else that would be a bad idea?

Thank You For Reading

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak or read the full blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


5:29 PM on 03.25.2015  

Should open world games rethink how they tell stories?

We've all observed stories that use the 'x days later' device. A linear narrative can avoid weeks, months and years of bunkum by jumping to the next interesting bit. It's a trick which allows the storyteller to stick to the good bits, providing it is used effectively. It's a trick we can all accept and appreciate.

Now imagine you were reading a book or watching a film where the inverse happened. Instead of moving time forward 'x weeks' into the future, the story instead took a detour which lasted for days or weeks, only to return to the main story as if no time had passed. In most cases, we would find that very odd and a little jarring (unless it's a dream-sequence or a peculiar plot twist). Yet open world games let this happen all the time.

Videogames can be rigidly linear in gameplay and story, or completely non-linear in either area. In many games story can be absent entirely, but sometimes I feel that the combination of linear story-telling and non-linear gameplay feels unwieldy. We as gamers are meant to follow a pattern of close-knit events whilst simultaneously spending hours on exploration and random side missions.

Now, for the benefit of all, I should state that this is not meant as a criticism. My mind is not made up concerning the question I raise today. I sometimes find storytelling odd in games, but I'm open to debate. I wish to hear your views. The discussion is this: should games which allow for freedom of exploration and procrastination have a central, linear storyline? Below are my thoughts on this topic. I invite you to peruse my brain etchings before commenting.

Let's start in an obvious, popular place: Grand Theft Auto. Each game in this series has had some semblance of story steering the player's actions, but only the most recent iterations could be described as 'story-driven'. In GTA III and Vice City, the character makes steady progression through a seedy underworld, whilst the narrative winds lazily towards a fiery finale. You start out completing simple missions for low-level thugs, and then move on to move complex tasks with the criminal elite. It's deliberate disjointedness works well with the sandbox environment. There are pieces of a story that follow on from each other but rarely ask the player to imagine that all these events are close-knit.

Grand Theft Auto V delivers its story in a much more linear way. All the major players become intertwined early on. The story would have us believe that the events of each mission follow on (almost) directly from one another. Whilst we may take a break from the story for random side-missions, or just plain old randomness, the story will pick up as if little time has passed. What's even stranger is that the game does a really job with its side stories. Whilst the main story is very focused, the player can also bump into a range of characters at the most unusual times and locations, leading to some memorable antics. The game tells you that the players that a vital heist is about to go down, but Michael might instead start helping the Paparazzi find a scoop. Trevor might be raging about an argument with his bank robbing buddy, but he still has time to help two old creeps assault the social elite. Unless you play the story straight through, without distraction, the focus on a rigid storyline doesn't always work.

Now there is rather basic counter-argument here: it doesn't really matter how the story plays out. The Grand Theft Auto series is the epitome of the Sandbox experience, and to take the storytelling too seriously might be doing the games a disservice. Except that the story is designed to be more serious. GTAs usual wackiness appears now and then, and satire is the marrow inside the bones of every game in the franchise, but both GTA V and GTA IV have taken a dip in the pool of gritty-realism. My concern is that these games intend to deliver a game with a more 'grown-up', focused narrative, without a major ingredient of this form of storytelling: pacing. The sandbox nature of the series robs the story of the effective pacing that would give the story real weight. I don't dislike the stories of the latest Grand Theft Auto games, but a 'completionist' Gamer like myself will only ever the see the story unfold in sporadic chunks. Any intended impact is lost.

Another argument in favour of linear stories in GTA is that these people are criminals. Whilst their monologues may suggest a sense of urgency, we can hardly be surprised if they take the week off to shoot pigeons or play tennis with their wives for a solid week. They are unpredictable, and that's fine. In open world games where you are the saviour, procrastination between major plot points is very odd.

Take Skyrim for example – my favourite game to over-analyse of late. I've said many times before that the Elder Scrolls games will draw tens of hours of my attention, but I'll never actually complete the story. In Oblivion and Skyrim, the Kingdoms are done for. If I'm meant to be the saviour, then there is no salvation for those poor NPCs. I can't even remember if I ever finishedMorrowind (which probably means I didn't).

Now I'm sure many of you did a better job on the main quests, but you would have spent copious hours not saving the world. For in-game days at a time, the quest givers sat idly by as you plunged into caves and skipped across fields. I would love for an NPC to wander past me as I've picking flowers and catching butterflies and cry in disgust, "Aren't you supposed to be fighting dragons right now? There's a dragon eating people over in the next village!"

And there's the issue. The Elder Scrolls games insist on an over-arching, linear storyline whilst simultaneously sending you out into an expansive world with no repercussions for lollygagging. The fate of the world is in your hands, but the untold evil will wait until you are ready. You're going to rest against a wall for ten hours for the potion shop to open? No worries, we'll tell the apocalypse to hold fire. All sense of drama is drained for the story. You heroic deeds carry little weight.

It wouldn't take much to give the amount of time passing a sense of context. Oblivion gates and dragons start appearing in the respective games once you have completed a set number of quests (which in itself is weird, and suggests the hero could save the world by doing nothing). Why not have the emergence of evil occur on a time frame rather than at event-specific moments? The player could still play the game as they saw fit, but the increasing number of encounters with monsters would remind the player of what they should be doing: Gee, there's a lot of flying lizards about. I best get to killing some of them soon.

And it would be nice, amongst all the NPCs that deliver the main quests, if one of them was just a teensy bit miffed that I kept them waiting for a fortnight. Just one, "Where the f*ck have you been?!" and I would feel better about the linear storyline.

Some more positivity methinks. One game that I feel got the balance of linear story and open world was Infamous. Firstly, the game gave out pieces of the map in stages, and found a decent explanation for why that was happening. Secondly, and most importantly, the game used the device mentioned above: 'x days later'. After completing a set number of missions, the game would hop forward to 'day 16', skipping chunks of time and adding more context each time. It doesn't matter that you character bounces around town looking for collectible shards or divert to side jobs, because the story is clearly happening over a long time.

Far Cry 3 also styles its narrative to match the gameplay, for the most part. The nature of the protagonist suits players focusing on the storyline or trying to complete. The character is lost on an island, and torn between saving his friends and embracing his inner murder-sadist-psychopath. Although, if you play the game to full completion, we are expected to believe that the protagonist's friends are the most patient people in the world ever. They will happily sit in that cave for a month, never question why they don't just leave.

And if the effervescent Just Cause 2 has a story, behind all the mayhem, the game doesn't try too hard to make me remember it. And that's a good thing.

Further Thought

I don't have a definitive answer to the question above, nor do I have a strong opinion either way. What I currently believe is that open world video games will put a great deal of thought into game and story, but less thought on how those two elements connect. I can still enjoy the story of a sandbox game, but I sometimes wonder if open world games could handle the story differently, or whether they have to be 'story-driven' in any way.

I look forward to your thoughts on this. Have you ever wished an open world game delivered the narrative in a different way? How would you have like to see a sandbox tell the story more effectively? Are there open world games that demonstrate the best pacing and direction possible?

Thank You For Reading

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak or visit the full blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


3:02 PM on 03.09.2015  

A Curious Query from RedHeadPeak

Hello Destructoid, I was just wondering whether you’d like to read a story.

A lot of lovely readers have, in the past, remarked that my ramblings on History and Gaming might make for a good book. Truth be told, that is pretty much the long term plan for me. I’d love to one day write a History book that brings Videogames and History closer together. I’m a long way from that, but I’ve made a start. Having said that, fiction writing is also a route I’d like to explore.

 

I have stories in this half-empty, ginger noggin of mine. What I lack is the literary skill to do them justice. You, the Destructoid Community have been sympathetically kind to my blogging so far, and I’m curious whether you could tolerate a little story-telling. I thought it best to ask first. Whilst the story I have in mind is influenced by games, I wouldn’t want to waste your time with fiction if that’s not what you came here to read.

Whether or not the stories appear here, I will be using my blog to practice writing fiction every so often. After a year of writing – one blog almost every week – I’m trying to give more time to writing. I’m also planning to organise myself a little better. There are three kinds of blog I like to write, and from now on I will go through a four-week cycle. Look, I even made a little diagram ^_^

 

From a Gaming/History blog, to an open-ended discussion blog (the ones with questions in the title), to a blog which celebrates gaming (that’s where the Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party blogs will live). In week four, I’ll write another piece of fiction, and then go back to the History.

There are a few of you that might find it odd that I’m addressing the Destructoid Community directly. Since I began blogging in January 2014, I have been posting to Talk Amongst Yourselves and the C-Blogs. I enjoy both sites, but for now I’m more inclined to present my stories to you, the Destructoid community.

Whilst I read and enjoy everything produced in both areas (I’m not much of a commenter, but I’m there, tapping that little heart button and reading intently) I nevertheless consider the Destructoid community more of… well, my community. In the last few months the time I give myself to read blogs is spent more often with this site than with Talk Amongst Yourselves. Both have their merits, but if I’m to put my nervous, amateur attempts at fiction up for scrutiny, I choose Destructoid.

I’m much more of a casual observer than a devoted community member but I feel I know the personalities and characters here quite a bit better. There’s a strong group ethos here that, if I had more time, I would like to get involved with.

If you don’t want to see my fiction in the C-Blogs, or you don’t think it should be there, I won’t be offended. I know this community will be honest and upfront; that’s why I like posting my blog here. If that’s the case, I can tell you that there is no need to read further. Below is a sample of the fiction I’m planning to write. If you don’t want stories in the C-Blogs, leave your comment below now. If the majority says “no”, I’ll just post the story to my own site and skip a week. No offense will be felt. Unless you are mean about it. Then I will cry. A lot. And you won’t be invited to my birthday party. So there.

 

If you’re still reading, know that you’re about to wander into the first few paragraphs of my so called ‘story’. Currently titled Objective Survive, the tale is told in second person and is rife with references to game-play and game mechanics. It’s primarily a sci-fi adventure story, which begins with the main character (you) ‘loading’ into an unknown location…

Objective Survive

A metallic chattering fills your senses. Your feel the edges of your teeth hum and thrum with the sound. You stumble in circles. Reaching out, you realise that you cannot see or feel anything. Your eyes are filled with a cold, milky haze and your heart is striking out in panic. There is no other sensation. Are you even standing on solid ground?

You blink, and then there are shapes. First, a giant solid grey rectangle spreads out beneath you. Concrete. You are standing on concrete. Your feet find the solid ground. Second, a dozen orbs of light hover around you, at the border of the concrete floor. Lights? Lanterns? Lampposts. Third, a large green box stands at one end of the concrete. A big metal house? A warehouse with a grey, corrugated door raised up to reveal the darkness within.

These hazy shapes begin to snap into focus. The texture of the hard surface beneath you fades into existence. Yellow lines flutter into place; this must be the car park for that warehouse ahead of you. The warehouse is also beginning to find its finer details. You can make out the crenelated pattern in the metal walls, and read the number ‘8’ etched tall and white onto the flaked, green paintwork. The floating lights have their poles beneath them now.

Why are your eyes finding it so hard to focus?

More features of this place drop into your perception. The warehouse, lampposts and car park are all surrounded by rows of metal fencing topped with curled wire. You turn about and see several more metal structures of varying sizes. More warehouses, each with its own white number stamped on its side, and its own a strip of empty car park. A single-lane road connects the network of buildings, snaking off into the distance. You are in some sort of deserted compound, but where exactly?

The sky is suddenly blue and cloudless. Suddenly cloudless? Did the sky only just become blue? It’s definitely the middle of the day right now, but for a moment there it seemed like…. there wasn’t a sky. You realise how ridiculous that thought sounds. How you got here is the real mystery, not whether or not the sky has always been blue. You resolve to pull yourself together. You should find someone to help you. You are clearly suffering from a serious illness.

You stride towards ‘warehouse 8’. After a few steps, you hear a sound. The first sound you’ve been aware of so far. It came from further down the road: a hard, abrupt pop. You turn your head, and the noise repeats. And then again, but this time it happens three times in a row. Three sharp claps. Then another three claps, a little louder and harsher than before. You stop and turn, head titled, listening like a puppy to the strange commotion. New noises join the performance, distinct from the last. Different sounds within the mix. Some claps are much deeper in tone, others raspier and sharper, others…are…well… they are…

…that isn’t clapping. You’re not sure if you’ve ever heard those noises in real life, but you recognise them now. As the cloud of clamours grows closer and clearer, you finally realise what those rapid noises actually are…

Gunfire.

You run for Warehouse 8.

Final Thoughts

So that’s that. Quite the ‘rip off the Band-Aid’ moment for myself. I’ve published quite a few blogs by now, but my fiction writing has been a private affair thus far. After reading the segment above, you might suggest that they stay that way. And that’s fine. I’d rather honesty than false-praise. If you have some literary guidance to give, I’d appreciate it.

If there’s enough intrigue in what I have to offer, I’ll publish the full first section in four weeks’ time. Next week, I’m back to the History blogs.

As Always, Destructoid, Thank You For Reading

  read


1:40 PM on 03.04.2015  

Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number One

There are hundreds of exceptional videogame characters. Mighty men and women capable of cutting down whole armies of monstrous creations. Warriors with astonishing abilities. Wielders of inconceivable magic. Defenders of galaxies. Heroes. But which ones would you actually invite into your own home? Could you actually trust these creatures to be civilized?

Sonic might be an iconic character, but I wouldn’t want him in my house. He’s far too hyperactive and overly competitive. Plus, the way he eats hotdogs proves he wouldn’t make the best dinner guest. Kratos might be able to take on the Gods, but I can’t see him sitting in my living room discussing his favourite music. Lara Croft might make for good company… if she doesn’t spend all her time bragging to everyone about her travels. Guybrush Threepwood would have to curb his clumsiness. Gordon Freeman would have to learn to be more sociable.

The “Fantasy Dinner Party” is an old topic of conversation: if you could invite any six people (alive or dead) round for a fancy meal, who would you pick? It’s a chance to say something about yourself, and a great source of debate. They don’t have to be good guys; people often choose characters like ‘Hitler’ or ‘Ghengis Khan’ because they would want to "understand them". Either way, you pick the six most interesting, erudite, and entertaining people that you can think of.

Games and gamers are constantly proving that gaming culture can be a grown up thing. So why not add another grown up conversation? Below is the first of six videogame characters that I would invite to a dinner party. I’ll talk about the other five guests in the following months. This is essentially a chance to celebrate a character I hold in high regard. I’m hoping you will join in with your suggestions. Remember that the notion of a dinner party restricts the conversation to characters that we would want to know socially. You know, the sort that will eat the food you serve instead of trying to eat the other guests.

Guest Number One – Alyx Vance

I’ve always had a soft spot for Alyx Vance. Even in my younger years, when the Half Life series failed to appeal to me, I appreciated what a strong character had been created. Upon replaying the series last month, the brilliance of this character only shone brighter. She’s smart, funny and good company.

Gordon Freeman is one of the gaming world’s famous silent protagonists. We idolise him in the same way every NPC that meets him seems to idolise him. With no voice of his own, and a void where a personality should be, we are expected to put our own character into that space. Whilst this makes the game more personal, more real for the player, the story lacks the perspective of a central protagonist. Enter Alyx Vance, the deuteragonist that speaks for Freeman.

When Gordon Freeman is riding a pimped-out dune buggy through a dystopian waterway, dodging monsters and machinegun bullets, it’s Alyx that remarks on how fun this all is. When things are at their worst and the creepiness level is inching up, it’s Miss Vance that shows fear for both of you. She speaks to other characters whilst you smash boxes. When the game turns dark and sinister, Alyx leaves the room to let the tension take hold.

Yet she also fills the role of sidekick impeccably. Whilst she – like everyone else in the game – owes Gordon Freeman for saving her life multiple times, she can hold her own in a gunfight. I recall a tense fight with an Antlion Guard and its chums in a concrete courtyard, surrounded by apartment buildings. Alyx was firing her sidearm from a first floor walkway whilst I/Gordon danced with the charging brute. With the Guard dispatched, Alyx vaulted the rail, killed the last of the smaller Antlions. She then dashed forward and took charge of a machinegun facing down the long courtyard. I stood back and watched as she tore down a swarm of drones laughing and revelling as she did so. As I pressed on towards a Combine barricade, suppressing fire played havoc amongst the defending enemies. Alyx is a gaming partner to be reckoned with.

It is clear from the outset that Alyx is, if nothing else, a good person. Full of faith and hope, an excellent judge of character and honest. A loving daughter and loyal companion. She is more than a character I appreciate; this is a person I would invite round for dinner.

The Dinner Party

I’ve not mentioned Alyx Vance as ‘dinner guest one’ because she is my favourite character. All six characters are equally important to me. I’ve started with Miss Vance because she would be the easiest to cater for. In more ways than one.

Firstly, seating Alyx at the party would prove straightforward, due to her very nature. I can’t think of many people that wouldn’t warm to her, or find something to talk about. Her choice of conversation might turn to the technical – engineering, the sciences, robotics, etc. – but her stories working with experimental technologies would entertain most people.

Secondly, the catering. Alyx comes from a grim, dystopian world, where everything is in short supply. I wouldn’t have to go overboard with the food provided, and I can imagine Alyx scoffing at a cuisine that’s made to impress rather than sustain. A good steak, or perhaps a pasta dish, would be in order. One thing is for certain: crab will definitely not be on the menu.

As for entertainment, that too should be trouble-free. Alyx has spent a huge portion of her life running and fighting; a laidback evening would be preferred, I’m sure. A game of cards, a lazy chat over beers, something simple to unwind from all those alien attacks. Alyx will probably want to take a look at all the modern gadgets I have around the home… I’d just have to make her promise to put things back together afterwards, and avoid ‘upgrading’ my electronics.

Final Thoughts

There are videogame characters I appreciate, those that I think are brilliant and those that are so well-written and well-rounded that I wish they might be real. Even when Alyx is filtered out from the Combine and the Antlions and the Zombies, she is still an awesome character in her own right. She would make a delightful addition to any night in. Providing, that is, that I could convince my fiancé that I only see Miss Vance as a good friend.

If you’ve read this far through this odd little blog, perhaps you agree or disagree with this choice. Which videogame characters would you invite to dinner? Which of your gaming heroes/heroines is a person that you could get along with?

In the next few weeks, I’ll celebrate five more characters that have deeply impressed me in some way. You might agree or disagree with my choices, or point out an aspect of that person I should consider before I invite them across the threshold.

Thank You For Reading

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak or read the full blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


5:42 AM on 02.26.2015  

Dying in Game: What’s the weirdest way to go?

It was Nietzsche that wrote, “What does not kill me makes me stronger”. In reality, that’s regularly true. When it comes to videogames, it really depends on how you are about to be killed. In some cases, dying is part of the learning process. In other games, your demise will only result in a minor punishment, or have no impact whatsoever. It’s uncommon for a video game to kill you in a way that doesn’t make you stronger.

In other words: videogame deaths are odd. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, dying in-game usually lacks permanence. Each fatality can be brushed off with nonchalance. Secondly, there is an ever-expanding variety of ways to go out. Whilst they may fit the game in some way, there’s no hiding their bizarre nature.

So the discussion I place before you, morbid as it might be, concerns weird deaths. What are the oddest ways to kick the bucket? Do you have a preferred way to go out? Below is a list of some – but by no means all – of the unusual ways game will kill and resurrect the player’s character(s).

Cute Resurrection (It’s okay, you didn’t really die)

Sometimes death can be adorable. In each and every Lego game, a player’s passing is marked by a shower of Lego bricks and an almost instant return to the fray. The enemies you face also crumble in the same fashion. In Disney Universe, the cutesy game that introduced my fiancé to videogames, your Disney-cosplaying avatar faints dramatically. In a flash, they are restored, skipping about the level with fish-sword or lollipop-club in hand. And in Little Big Planet, Sackboy pops. He is soon stitched back together, good as new, with a smile/grimace/frown on his face.

In all of these games, you could blink and miss the moment where the character dies. You can almost hear the game speaking to the young people playing: No no, don’t get upset! See? Your character is fine! Be more careful next time ^_^. It’s a wonder that a health bar and ‘death’ animations are even present, when the resurrection is so close behind. But then, these games also have ‘friendly fire’ in them. The game knows all too well that little gamers want to play fight, but don’t really want to hurt their friends. You can slap, throw and pop your friend without feeling too guilty.

Groundhog Death (If at first, you don’t succeed…)

I’ve had this topic in mind for a while now, and two recent events have pushed it to the front of my mind. Firstly, I read a very interesting community blog on Destructoid which compares Groundhog Day to Majora’s Mask. Secondly, I watched Edge of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Live Die Repeat), in which Tom Cruise must repeat the same day over and over until he can defeat an alien invasion. Without really meaning to, this movie emulates the way that many of us play action games. The more we die, the more we learn.


There are lots of games that have a ‘Groundhog Day feel’ to them. In most Action-Adventure Games or First Person Shooters, the player’s existence is ‘reset’ at the time of death. Whilst you know that you died, the game replays the same events from the last save/checkpoint. Only this time, you know what happens next. From this perspective what has killed you has actually made you stronger.

The harder the level, the more times you have to replay it; the more times you replay, the better you will get. After a few, frustrated minutes you will know where each bad guy will spawn, where the best cover is, where the health packs are… to the NPCs around you, your clairvoyance and inexplicable reflexes must look astonishing. For a moment, you looked pretty weak, but that tutorial level turned you into an epic badass!

Immortal Renewal (Life number 42, please step forward)

The Groundhog Death acknowledges the fatality, but only you know it happened. Those countless deaths were ‘not canon’; you didn’t actually fall. In other instances though, the deaths are not only accepted as part of your story, but also recorded for your convenience.

Scroll down the vast list of statistics on any Grand Theft Auto game, and you will be reminded how many times you were arrested, and how many times you were ‘wasted’. Of course, GTAs definition does not mean ‘killed’, but instead means ‘horribly and violent incapacitated but going to be ok’. A few hours later your character struts out of the hospital, ready to put that whole messy affair with the explosion and bullets behind them. Remember the time I was completely perforated by minigun rounds and then run over by a flaming motorcycle? Good times, man.

Whilst in the previous form of death, the use of checkpoints was simply a place to reset to, there are a few games that make the checkpoint part of the story. My favourite examples was in the Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver games. You character, the vampire husk known as Raziel, was meant to be immortal. To give this meaning, the checkpoints were given greater purpose. When defeated, the ‘Angel of Death’ would not die as such; he would ‘snap back’ to one of these totems. The ornate sign had captured a piece of Raziel’s essence, allowing him to return to a safe place if things got too murder-full.

Misremembered Demise (No wait, that didn’t happen)

It was only natural that I would refer to Prince of Persia when discussing death in games. By now, the way in which the Sand of Time trilogy dealt with a fail state is infamous. In each game, the narrator is also the protagonist, and as he tells the story he errs. So, if you appear to have been turned into a corpse through violent means, the narrator realises he has made a mistake. Why would he ever think he died on his own adventure? I’m not sure. But it’s a clever little mechanic that suits the time-bending nature of the series.

It’s a shame that the 2008 version of Prince of Persia did away with this notion. In that game, your magic sidekick Elika would intervene at the moment of your death. You could never fall to your doom because the floaty lady could throw you back to solid ground. This was another clever way of coping with the player’s clumsiness, but Prince’s tendency to misremember his own story added to his charm.

The Empty Space (He’s coming back…right?)

Permanent Death is becoming an increasingly popular aspect of video games. There’s no greater way to intensify a situation that including a fail state which starts you at the very beginning. Whilst some games include this as a core mechanic, others implement Permadeath as the most difficult mode. Whilst this can make a game more challenging and memorable, it can also lead to frustration and an appropriately shorter experience.

The form of Permadeath that I find more fascinating and more likely to promote a more entertaining experience is the lasting demise of a member of a team you are controlling. Whilst killing off the player’s character forever results in a begrudging restart of the game, when a member of a group kicks the bucket it can change the dynamic of the game. We are force to adapt to survive, and hope that another character can fill their boots.  

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, one of my all-time favourites, can take a teammate from you in the space of one turn. There might be a shred of a chance to save them, but if your soldier doesn’t return with you on the dropship, that’s it – they are gone forever. In my case, these poor souls are usually new recruits, thrown into the crossfire without enough experience, whilst the elite members of the party hunker down and wait for the newbie to bait the aliens…

In the last two weeks I have been enjoying the cold and unforgiving world of Darkest Dungeon. Groups of four adventurers journey out into the evil unknown in search of redemption, in the form of a micro-managed RPG. If the characters don’t come back mentally unhinged or disease ridden (did a mutant pig just give me syphilis? I think that mutant pig just gave me syphilis!), then they probably didn’t come back. The stakes are so much higher when you can’t phoenix down your way out of the situation. It’s a comprehensively brutal situation, but all the more fascinating because of it.

Further Thoughts

There are, of course, many other examples. I have omitted the kinds of deaths that set out to punish you for failing – such as the soul-carving resurrections of Dark Souls. I could have also drawn on many other cases – the Bioshock games also treat the player as quasi-immortal, reconstituting the protagonist inside giant test tubes. I’m sure you can think of various other forms of death in video games, and hope that you will share them.

What is the weirdest video game death type, in your opinion? What is your most/least favourite way for a game to deal with dying and rebirth? Is there a style you would like to see implemented, but have not come across yet?

As Always, Thank You For Reading.

You can contact the author @RedHeadPeak and visit the blog at GamerPeak.com

  read


2:49 PM on 02.11.2015  

An Apology to The Orange Box

Might the Gaming World forgive me? May my sins be absolved? In my youth, I was foolish fool of fools. In my haste, and childish recklessness, I made a grave error: I sold my copy of The Orange Box less than two weeks after purchase. Please! Hold your chastisements for a moment, dear merciful reader. Allow me to repent, before judgement is passed.

As with most games I play, I arrived late to this soiree. I must admit that I had yet to play Half Life 2 by the release of the collection.  I bought The Orange Box in 2009 – the last year of university – on the recommendations of countless, honourable gamers. I’d been told how good the Half Life games were. (Yes, I had not played Half Life 1 at this point either; the scroll of my misdeeds will only continue to unravel.) I had also heard hearty praise of Portal and Team Fortress 2, and was anxious to share in the collective ecstasy.

So the Box arrived. I played Half Life 2. I then played Half-Life 2: Episode 1. And then I played Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Once I was done… I had little feeling towards the whole experience. I hadn’t spotted what all the fuss was about. To the dismay of my adult self, I mentally shelved my memories of the experience into an alcove marked “Video Games: good, but not great”.

Now before a cavalcade of keyboards crash against a multitude of monitors in righteous rage, I must emphasise that I did not dislike my first playthrough of Half Life 2 and its extra bits. The gameplay seemed entirely competent, the atmosphere was right, and there was a visual appeal there. Whilst the story was wild and wonderful sci-fi, I was less than invested. I liked Alyx Vance – for both honourable and less-than-honourable reasons – and felt that she brought some motivation to proceedings.  Nevertheless, most characters came across as superfluous, and it rarely seemed clear where I was going or why.

There were lots of nice locations and variety in weapons and vehicles, but it all seemed like lots of pieces that had been mashed together. If there was a narrative, my ignorant mind had found it wanting. The gunplay was solid, and the enemies original, but I couldn’t see exactly why this was such a momentous series.

Such a moron I was. Yet the extent of my accursedness has yet to be fully revealed; the ragged, dirt-ridden curtain has been only half drawn to reveal the full monstrosity that is to be my damnation.

As the credits fell on Episode 2, with the absolute feeling that I had gathered all enjoyment that I could from Half Life, I wheeled to face Team Fortress 2. Multiplayer games have never been my strong suit, but I had enjoyed a handful in the past.  You see, I lack the competitive streak of a good online gamer. If I’m to play alongside others, I would rather play alongside them. A cooperative video game will always trump the competitive variety. The inclusion of a ‘Team Deathmatch’ mode isn’t a guarantee of my support; you’re not really working in a ‘team’, there are just people you don’t have to shoot at.

Regardless, I was willing to give the next item in The Box a chance to entertain. I didn’t…really…give it much of a chance. I played no more than four and a half matches. The ‘half’ was the last match. In my idle lunacy, I dismissed TF2 as ‘just another multiplayer’. Another ridiculous blunder on my part. To my younger, idiotic senses the game had a great visual appeal, and clearly wasn’t about to take itself too seriously. However, the few games I had enjoyed had kept me coming back by employing a feel of progression. I was comfortable with games that drip-feed the content – gain enough experience, unlock the next class of warrior or weapon – but in Team Fortress it was all already there, on a plate. With no past experience, I had no understanding of how the classes differed, how I should play, or why I should care.

As if matters could not get any worse, we turn to the final game in the set, and perhaps my greatest moment of imbecility: I played Portal… and decided that it was only ‘very good’.

The audacity. The delinquency. The unmitigated travesty that is my past existence. Whilst all about me friends and gamers unknown revelled in the majesty and hilarity of this tremendous game, I was content with the belief that Portal was a “good idea”, that was executed “really well”, and gave me a “few laughs”. Oh the shame. And what’s more, I found it quite short. I’ve since heard compelling arguments that the game was the exact length that it should be, but I was not so fair and forgiving. Whilst Goldilocks may claim that something can be ‘just right’, when something is good I want what Daddy Bear is getting: more of the good stuff. By which I mean more game time…not more Mommy Bear…

So with each game given a brisk and unfair overview I was idiotically convinced that The Orange Box had performed admirably, but at a standard that could only reach up towards my high expectations. So the collection was promptly dismissed; sold without remorse. May the Gaming Deities have mercy.

Six years have passed.

Last year, I purchased Half Life 1. There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, it was cheap. Secondly, my aging laptop needed something less challenging, as games produced in the last five years tended to leave it weaving and dizzy. Thirdly… I’m a console gamer by default, so all the games I was most interested in were on the PS3 or 360. Even after purchase, the game sat alone, unwanted, not even able to gather dust inside the virtual library.

This Christmas, I purchased a new PC, and my gaming options expanded. I bought myself a few new games, but as I glanced over my older collection on Steam, I realised that there were a few games that I should really play if I was to justify the new editions. So I dutifully, and a little begrudgingly, opened Half-Life 1.

A few weeks passed, and realisation began to brew and boil. I gradually began to realise that my dismissal of The Orange Box have been a mistake. I’d dip in and out of the game at first, playing an hour or so when I had time and between other games. I then played the second half without interruption from any other media. I’d found the experience increasingly entertaining, and was compelled to re-buy The Orange Box last week, this time on PC. I was about to realise what a fool I had been.

When I first played Half Life 2, I had snubbed the story. To me, back then, it had felt like there wasn’t much of a coherent narrative. There were lots of ‘chunks’ of very good gameplay, with a larger story hanging around in the background. Fragments of narrative, if you will. Now that I’m older, I see that this is actually a strength rather than a weakness. Most games place the protagonist at the heart of every element of the story, but in Half Life the story is bigger and deeper than Gordon Freeman. A lot of importance is placed on him, but in the end he’s another human scrambling around trying to piece it all together. Once I saw the game this way, the randomness of the set pieces – the fliting from stealthier, creepier sections back to full-on action – all makes much more sense.

I’m almost through Half Life 2 for the second time, and I’m absolutely smitten. The story, the visuals, the brief snippets of excellent human characters, the subtle humour and the darker corners of the story are all parts that I adore. I find myself more invested too: I give a little jump each time an unseen head crab pounces. I find myself looking round for every nook and cranny that might be explored. With each new encounter I find myself trying to imagine Gordon Freeman’s thoughts on all this. You know, apart from all the internal screaming that must going on inside that big brain of his.

I appreciate the little things as well now. I love the way the weapons stack up on the number keys. In a moment of panic I hit the mouse wheel or number keys one too many times, causing Freeman to juggle through his inventory so that he appears to mirror my own anxiety. I appreciate how few enemy types and available weapons there are at first. The introduction of each new feature carries some quietly implied importance. The world too, that gorgeous world that shows better than most how dystopia can be incredibly fascinating.

More than anything, playing Half Life 1 has allowed me to see just how far Valve moved things forward. The difference between the two games is staggering in many ways. The amount of thought gone into improving on the prequel is self-evident. No one was resting on their laurels; so much of the old game is replaced, enhanced or improved to make the experience as awesome as it can be.

I could go on, but that’s not why I’m here. Convincing you that Half Life is a great series would be like trying to tell a baker about the merits of bread cutting. No, we’re here because an idiot gamer has realised the error of their ways. I haven’t yet approached Episodes 1 and 2, but I have already begun to look back on the decisions my younger self has made with the serious contempt. However, my self-induced humiliation does not stop there.

With a new-found affection for one element of The Orange Box, I decided I should devote some time to what had been my least favourite segment: the multiplayer. If I could enjoy Half Life this much more than I once did, could it be possible that Team Fortress 2 could also provide some thrill? I seriously doubted it. I’d heard about different maps and game modes that I hadn’t credited the game with, (they added Hookshots recently, sounds like fun) but competitive multiplayer has to go a long way to draw me in.


So, a few days ago, I half-heartedly loaded up TF2. I played the tutorials, had a look through the inventory – some potential to customise and find new gear, that’s nice – and went to join a match.  As I went to click “Play Multiplayer” I noticed…

Wait…… Huh. Why does that say “Play co-op”? What…...what’s “Mann vs. Machine”? Does this game have co-op mode? I think this game has a co-op mode! When did this game get co-op mode??

Suddenly, the moronic man-child of my past looked all the more ridiculous. Sure, this feature wasn’t there when I bought the game, but if I had given The Orange Box the love and care it deserves, then I could have been playing cooperative TF2 for the last two years! Even now I’ve only played a few rounds, but I already know that it’s exactly the kind of multiplayer I can get behind. Someone hand me a crowbar and a time machine. Someone’s got to go teach me a lesson!

There is then, one other part of The Orange Box left without a revisit. And you know what? I’m not sure I deserve it. Portal was my favourite part of the collection, but I still threw it out with the rest (of what I now know is an incredible set of games). I gave that superb video game the cold shoulder for finishing “too early”. I looked that gift horse in the mouth, poked at its teeth, and then sent it to the glue factory. If I do go back to see the Companion Cube again, it will be with flowers, wine, chocolate, and the promise of some real quality time.

Final Thoughts

I’ve got two things to ask you lovely commenters this week. Firstly, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Have you ever rejected a game, only to return to rediscover and enjoy the experience? Are there games you hated, but on closer inspection realised you want to be their friend after all?

Secondly, do I deserve forgiveness for what I have done? Is there redemption to be found after spurning The Orange Box? Or is my gamer soul doomed forever? Must there be punishment before forgiveness can be granted? Maybe something elaborate involving the gravity gun…

Thank You For Reading

You can contact me on Twitter @RedHeadPeak or visit GamerPeak.com to read more.

  read







Back to Top


  Light Theme      Dark Theme
What is the meaning of life, and do you have any more pizza rolls?
You may remix all content on this site under Creative Commons with Attribution
- Living the dream, Since 2006 -