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12:45 AM on 05.06.2012

The "two hour" experience (short blog)

For a game to be successful it must respect the player痴 time. As I get older I知 finding it increasingly difficult to invest my time in video games. I知 not a busy man, no, in fact I sometimes have sufficient time to game. What I lack is a certain sense of motivation. I知 still very much interested in video games and gaming culture, but I知 at a point in my life where I知 no longer willing to invest my time to games that take twenty, thirty, sixty, or hundred hours to complete. More recently this generation of indie games has saved my once dying heart, pumping fresh blood into a decaying body that was once at the brink of disinterest in the medium. Games like Journey, Closure, Braid, and many other highly, and not so highly, regarded games opened my eyes to the wonderful world of the 鍍wo hour experience.

I壇 like to compare the 鍍wo hour experience to the literary world of short stories. My most admired short story is A Country Doctor by Franz Kafka. This four page story filled with long paragraph like sentences can be read in about 8 minutes. While the 田ompletion time is brief, the impact; however, is unlike anything I致e ever read. The same goes with video games -- the most emotionally filled games I致e ever experienced have been no longer than five hours. These so called 鍍wo hour experiences are the future, and I couldn稚 be happier.

The filler, fat, and love handles that infested so many games in the past is finally ending, yet most seem to be against the idea of short game. Most of it is due because of pricing. Yes, video games are expensive, but ask yourself this: How many games do you actually replay? Like books and films, the length is only a problem if the material is not up to par. Nothing is more disingenuous than a game that must meet some imagery time goal. If the game is good -- you値l want to play it again -- just like films, books, comics, etc. The notion that a game痴 length is determined by its price is something I find ludicrous. For instance, Journey is a game I致e completed five times in a span of a month, it has taken me about two hours to complete the game. While some will say that the $15 price tag is too much for a two hour experience, what I get from it is far better than what most games offer. I致e already invested ten hours in this two hour experience. Sniper Elite V2 can be complete in nine hours, very similar to Dead Space 2. The latter having perfect pacing is a testimony to its length. If Dead Space 2 was any longer (not including 100% completing the game) it would have ruined the overall flow making the game less enjoyable.

I知 not completely against long games. I sometimes love to immerse myself in a lengthy experience, but only if that experience is justified. Unfortunately most double digit games are filled with so much fat that it sometimes turns me off to the experience all together, which is why I get my money痴 worth with the 鍍wo hour experience -- I don't have to wait for the good stuff.   read

9:37 PM on 02.25.2012

What Is Gameplay?

What is gameplay? Debates about this very word have caused controversy in the last couple of years in the gaming community. More often than not the attacks have been aimed at games that proclaim themselves as being 殿rtistic. These art games made by indie developers are the pioneers of minimalistic gameplay. Most recently Dear Esther has spark up the conversation about what makes a game a game, and whether the game in question has any gameplay at all. The deep philosophical meaning (if any) of Dear Esther is not what I知 interested in. What I am interested is the definition of gameplay. A word that is universally known to gamers, but to the outside world needs dire annotations to be understood. An elementary definition of the word doesn稚 do justice to the actual act of the word. What I知 trying to achieve is an understanding of what constitutes a videogame as a videogame.

Yes, Dear Esther is a videogame. It痴 a game of the simplest kind, but that doesn稚 hide the simple fact that it is in all intents and purposes a videogame. Like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Dear Esther relies on a organic or natural non-combat gameplay. But, unlike Shatterd Memories, Dear Esther fails to invite the player into its world -- it痴 still a game, but fails at the most fundamental goal of immersion through gameplay in which Shattered Memories triumphs. Dear Esther is, for the lack of a better word, an interactive audio book. This interactivity, no matter how sparse constitutes itself as a game. Shattered Memories, on the other hand, is game without the traditional combat gameplay done right, yet the masses still was hesitant to embrace this oddball of a game.

Besides running from demons, the main gameplay of Shattered Memories is walking, controlling the flashlight, and most importantly the phone. For instance, the world of Silent Hill is filled with random numbers graffitied on walls, or on billboards advertising stress relief. Every number in the game can be called and you値l be sure to get some weird response back. This is gameplay -- the reaction you get from performing an action as simple as dialing a number.

Gameplay is all about the game痴 mechanic. It痴 the core actions the gamer is performing in order to play the game (doesn稚 matter what genre it is). Everything else is a companion to enhance the core gaming mechanics. Game controls are split into two different aspects: play control and gameplay. Gameplay is the sequences you do in a game. Play control is how the character you play controls. It痴 about the feeling you get when you move, use your sword/gun, jump, menu navigation, etc.

Let's take Devil Survivor, for example. Now, Devil Survivor doesn't have play control, it does; however, have gameplay. Devil Survivor is all about making clear, pin-point, linear strategic moves on a graphed battlefield. You use demons, magic, character placement, and leveling your characters to succeed in the game. Devil Survivor doesn't need play control, but a game like Dark Souls does. In Dark Souls if the feedback is not there, then the game fails.

In Dear Esther everything is automated for you, hence the feedback (play control) is virtually nonexistent. For instance, entering a cabin intuitively turns the flashlight on. This subtle, yet key feature is removed from the player and leaves the gamer disconnected from the world. However, In Shattered Memories the player is given full control of the flashlight. This simple play control of feeling like the player is discovering or just wondering around is a key feature in immersion. The immersion is killed when something as simple as turning a flashlight off or on is automated for you.

In Skyrim all I did for the majority of my playthrough was walk around, go into abandoned houses, look at all the details and find the many notes or books scattered around. This in fact was my favorite part of Skyrim, not the fighting or quests -- the exploration and subsequent notes and books I found because of the exploration was key to my enjoyment. This all relates back to Shattered Memories, exploration and finding a letter or anything that is interactive in the world is just as good as actually having a gun in your hand and shooting the head of a zombie right off. Dear Esther is a lost opportunity in which all you do is walk. This could have been something deeper if the developers gave the player the simple interaction of reading some of the books or dozens of scattered notes you see around; instead it痴 all eye candy and results to nothing interesting.   read

12:50 AM on 12.09.2011


I slide, glide, and glitch into your life.
Why do you love me, if I知 so imperfect?
My identity is typical shield, sword, hammer, spells.
I talk to you, repeating sameness until you leave.
The world I give you is beautiful, how will you serve it?
I will be your Link, and take care of you.
Yes, I知 branded, bruised, and hurt, but I致e never offended you.
Only time and space will bring us closer.
Come here and I値l cover you, I値l pull this blanket over your body.
Darkness? Not quite. There is light; all coming from one direction.
Colors, sounds, movements. Stand still. Let the Link take its place.
Forget the world of the real I知 real. My world, while temporary, is a joy to be in.
Relax, let yourself go, forget about life, love, work, depression, money these things are not needed.
You池e only allowed here for a limited time, you can stay longer, if you want but it痴 not suggested.
Come, dress as you like. Talk as you like. Be who you want to be.
Remember, once you leave, your life will go back to normal.
Maybe you値l see things differently. Maybe you値l be happy.
Maybe a little escape is all you needed.


4:33 PM on 11.28.2011

Diary of a Breton: journey to Solitude (part 2)

I知 starting to believe I知 the only one who has changed. It痴 simple, but an unpleasant feeling. But I must finally realize that I am subject to these sudden transformations. Nothing new has happened. I sit here in Winterhold alone writing to some unnamed reader. This college, for the moment, I will call my home.

My journey to Solitude was a tough one. A young man comes to the city. He has no name, no home, no work he has come to the city to fulfill a contract of death. I wander through the woods, losing my way to the city where my goal can be found. I worried about my disintegrating clothes. They won稚 last long. I worried about my next meal. I知 suffering. I知 nearly going mad. I worried about life, death my family. My family I can稚 remember the last time I saw them. My life has no purpose; I知 just an errand boy employed by liars, thieves, and hypocrites. As I write this, I致e found some peace, but I知 still at odds with the world. My body is tired. I admit, the worse is behind me, but thinking about the journey from there to here is something that hurts my very soul.

All of this happened while I was walking around starving in Skyrim. That strange place no one escapes from until some sort of mark has been left in the body. I was walking to some city I致e never been to. I was about half way through my destination when I decided to stop by a small town near Riverwood. I needed rest, so I spent the last money I had on a room. It痴 small, but warm and safe. The people for the most part were nice.

I was lying awake in my room. I didn稚 get any sleep. Daylight was starting to sneak in. I could hear the steps of people moving up and down the stairs. I decided to get up and go to the bar. I questioned the bartender about the town. He quickly changed the subject and began telling me about some child performing a ritual in some nearby town. He mentioned something about a Dark Brotherhood. Rumors are all these people care about. I can tell by his excitement that he has told this rumor plenty of times before. I doubt if even he believes it. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by it. Rumors; be true or false are always revealing. I decided to go to the city where the boy was performing this ritual to see if it痴 true. What do I have to lose? It痴 on the way to Solitude.

Diary of a Breton: journey to Solitude (part 1)   read

5:56 PM on 11.26.2011

Diary of a Breton: journey to Solitude (part 1)


I started my journey in the forest, not far from some nameless town. It痴 nameless because I didn稚 bother to remember it! The town itself, let me admit, is ugly. It had a strange smell. You really don稚 need much time to discover what is that makes it different from so many other towns here in Skyrim.

I checked my inventory. I had nothing. I checked my wallet, but I知 completely broke. I checked knowing I had no money, but still I checked for sake of it - it's the only way of keeping my sanity. I decided to walk to the nearest town. Maybe someone will hire me or I can sell some of my stuff. That would be a good way to make some extra cash, I thought.

As I walked around the forest, I grew tired. I needed a horse. My stamina was just not up for running. The sound of heavy breathing was all too common. I opened up my map and see where I can teleport myself. I noticed I知 not next to any mountains, so I decided to walk to my destination, no need for fancy tricks.

I see forest creatures pass me by. A nice smoothing soundtrack follows me; it changes depending on my mood. I take a deep breath and stop. I知 bored I needed something to do! I decided not to go to town and open up my quest log. So many activities all bunched up together. What to do? I read description after description of people wanting my help. What did I do to deserve this? I escaped death. In fact, my life was supposed to end a few days prior. What do these people see in this poor Breton? I知 skinny; my armor is made of broken fur I stole out of a dead body up in the mountains. Nothing I have on me I earned with money, everything about me is false.

I made many acquaintances, but none I can truly call a friend. Even the family I belong to, the Dark Brotherhood, seems suspicious. I have a feeling they池e talking behind my back. I have a sense things are not going to end well with them. They seem lost and believe I知 the answer to their problems. Ugh, this all too much to handle!

I decided to venture out to Solitude, I have unfinished business with a man there. I decided to fulfill my contract, I needed the money. I needed to fix myself up with new armor, potions, and swords. What I had then would not last for long.

As I walked to Solitude, I saw a cave. Dead bodies were scattered around. Suddenly I知 attacked by some bandits. I barely made it out alive. A few seconds after the ruffle, I start to feel something inside of me. I can稚 explain it, there痴 something new about my hands, a certain way of picking up my sword or shield. Or it痴 the sword which now has a certain way of having itself picked up, I don稚 know. Something has happened to me, I can稚 doubt it anymore. Little by little, I felt a little strange, a little put out. I知 finding it hard to put into words, so I won稚.

I looked at the cave with great intensity. It didn't say a word, but it痴 inviting me in. I should continue on my journey to Solitude, but I think it could wait. I entered the cave. A change has taken place during these last few weeks. But where? It is an abstract change without objects. Am I the one who has changed? If not, then it is this world, these mountains, and this nature that are changing with me.

I致e decided to sit in the college in Winterhold and write down my story. It痴 quite here, and I知 only an outsider to these people. Nevertheless, I will make this college my home and I will tell me story. Maybe some poor soul will read it, and can relate to the words I write down. I will continue to write down my journey. The cave what marvelous and demonic things I致e seen there The event in the cave only lasted a few minutes before I left. I'm thankful for my life. I have no idea how long this journey will last, but let me record it - it entertains me, it's the only thing that keeps me sane. As I write this, things are still uncertain and unclear.

Solitude. Remember. That's my destination, right?


11:47 PM on 10.12.2011

Helpless (short blog)

I was 16-years-old at the time. It was about 11 PM. Both my parents were working and didn稚 come home until midnight. My older brother was out attending a party, and I had the place all to myself. I made myself some microwave pizza, watched some TV, played video games, and took a quick shower before I went to bed. I lived in a small apartment complex in Queens, New York. There are two windows in my room. In one of the windows I can clearly see the street outside the building without the obstruction of any trees, an advantage my mother used to see where my brother would go anytime he left the building.


That night while sleeping I was awaken by a scream. It was coming from outside. My windows were shut, but I could clearly hear the screams of a woman. I didn稚 move, but my eyes were wide open. For a moment, it seemed like I was frozen in time. I just stayed in my bed, eyes opened, and carefully listening to the cries of a helpless woman. Eventually I got up and went to the window. I saw a man pulling the hair of a woman; she was on the ground crying her heart out for help. The streets were empty. I opened the window to get a clearer sound of what she was saying. 鉄top hitting me, she screamed at the man I presumed was her boyfriend. The next few minutes I witness the man slap, kick and yell at her - and yet, no one came for help. As I was witnessing this, my heart was pounding. I wanted to go down there and stab the guy in the eye. But I didn稚. I did nothing but stand still and witness the violence that was being displayed. At one point the man dragged the woman from one side of the building to another. I followed them by going to the living room, but my view was covered by some trees. I couldn稚 see anything but her screams were as clear as a sunny afternoon. I could hear my neighbor calling the police and was relieved I didn稚 have to be the one to do it. Eventually she got up and they left. The police arrived three minutes later, but the couple was long gone.

This event has stayed with me ever since. The image and sound of a woman being hit will never leave my mind and I still get this strange feeling every time I think about it. At times I wish I wasn稚 so small and skinny. I wish I went down there and saved her. When I saw her getting hit, I seriously thought of going to the kitchen and getting the sharpest knife I could find, go down there and stab the guy repeatedly in the face. Unfortunately the facts differ from my fantasy of revenge. I did nothing. My apartment was simply good seats for the concert.

Silent Hill 4: The Room scared me, not because of its story (which is good) or gameplay (which is bad and boring), but with its concept. The game starts with your character getting up from bed. Quickly you start to notice that the apartment is covered in dust, it痴 as if no one has lived there in years. As you explore the apartment, you noticed the door is locked from the inside by chains, and the windows are sealed shut. Eventually you'll find a hole in the bathroom, having no choice, you enter the hole. This hole acts like a portal; it takes you to different worlds. Once you beat a world or find a certain item, the apartment subtly changes. The apartment is your safe haven only for a few hours; slowly it starts to come alive and becomes as dangerous to be in as the worlds you explore.

I have a very mix reaction towards this game. I found the story to be fascinating; however, the gameplay left a lot to be desired. In the end of the day, the concept of being trapped in an apartment is what I find to be most captivating and disturbing. For instance, very early on the game you meet a woman badly beaten up, you finish the level, and suddenly the apartment opens itself up to you you turn the radio on and hear the report of a missing women. You look outside the window and see the ambulance carrying out a dead body from the subway entrance the apartment is your seat for the show. You池e an observer, not a participant. You can look through the peephole on the door, look outside windows, look into your neighbor痴 room by a small hole, etc. The essence of a safe haven slowly decaying as you progress got to me, and the reminder of my own helplessness was constant in the game. Chaos as an observer is what I find more disturbing than anything else. Witnessing something you really shouldn稚 see. Wanting to help, but can稚. These are the situations that disturbed and unsettled me, not only in the game, but in real life.   read

5:27 PM on 10.08.2011

Are you afraid of the dark?

Two years ago I decided to read 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis De Sade. I only made it halfway through the book before I decided not to finish it - the book was simply too disturbing to read. I thought I can handle the dark tale of four French libertines kidnapping a set of underage boys and girls. But to my surprise, I couldn't. You see, I have an ego; an ego of being undisturbed by anything. I would like to think my generation is the reason for this, and not because I知 insane. The film adaptation of 120 Days of Sodom by Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini had absolutely no effect on me. This supposedly 田ontroversial and 電isturbing film simply hasn稚 aged well, not because it痴 bad, but because its shock value has been conquered by other films over the years. For instance, A Clockwork Orange was set to shock you, but now, it痴 simply an average film with average violence the violence doesn稚 have the same effect and in return the film suffers greatly for it.

Video games, like literature, seem to be the only shining hope of true violence and genuine scares, but as the years go by, I知 noticing games are following the same path as films - the desensitization of gamers is what I worry about. It痴 something we should try to keep intact before it痴 ultimately gone.

In Dark Souls there痴 an elevator that takes you down to an underground cavern (you can reach this area at the start of the game). This cavern is dark and filled with enemies not interested in attacking you. Instead, the enemies are scattered around crying, pacing back and forth, or sitting with their head down. There痴 barely any light and the only sound you hear is of heavy breathing. I spent about five minutes there until I decided to leave. This level had an eerie feeling of hopelessness and it痴 the main reason why I love the game. But I知 scared that soon enough this will be absent, only replace wholesale by staleness and the absurd religious inhabitants of typical cliches that currently infest films.

I would like to point out three games that rival this typicalness of violence and horror: Condemned 2, Amnesia, and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.

At the start of Condemned 2, the player controls a drunk officer in an alleyway. He痴 unarmed and completely confused as to what is happening around him only seeing bizarre images on broken TV痴 and fighting off black liquid monsters. This level, which is essentially a prologue, is brief, slow; dark to the point you think you池e going blind and effective in its violence and scares. Like Dark Souls, Condemned 2 brings in the violence and scares slowly, it builds it up, sets an atmosphere, and indulge itself in romantics before the main event. Unfortunately, the rest of the game fails to live up to its prologue.

Games, like films, love to show extreme violence. I have no problem with this, but I do have a problem when it痴 desensitizing its audience it kills the immersion and ultimate goal of the game. Dark Souls has a way of scaring you not only with its levels, but with its controls. Like Amnesia, Dark Souls has limited gameplay options. For me, this adds to the horror. I致e been desensitize to violence and horror, but the possibility of death still gets to me it痴 the reason why I left the underground cavern in the first place. The atmosphere was amazing, but it was the thought of losing all my souls, equipment, experience points, etc that truly ended up disturbing me.

Horror by gameplay is what I preach and it痴 used perfectly in Dark Souls, Amnesia, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Limiting the gamer is the next best thing in horror: take the gun away and replace it with a flashlight, have your currency be used in the same vain as your experience points, let there be limited check points, have every decision you make be the final one because the game saves itself every five seconds. And also, let the game be hard.

Amnesia has you starting and ending the game with nothing you have no weapons. When an enemy arrives, your goal is to hide until they have left. This, while boring on paper, is simply a delight to experience. Games have gone so far with its gore that I知 no longer scared or shocked by it. I give a bad look to games that apply blood and gore as a way to unsettle you (I知 looking at you, Dead Space 2). I champion the bizarre, not because it痴 different, but because it痴 effective (well, when it is effective), and so should you.

The first two hours of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has you going around a town questioning people about a murder. This all builds up to the actual 堵ameplay of the game: Running yes, all you do is run. Let me explain, after the two hours of investigating, you go back to your hotel room only to be awaken by the sound of someone trying to get into you room. Every room is connected by doors and your goal is to escape. You池e chased by two sharply dressed gentlemen; one with an axe, another with shotgun. You run to the door, turn around, lock it, or move a book shelf to cover the door you only have a few seconds to do this or they will break the door down and you will die. This goes on for about 20 minutes until you escape. Like Dark Souls many gamers have never gotten past the first 3 hours and some even fail to see the fun in it. But for the few that do see the fun; they get a special sense of fright, scare, and blood pumping action!

This all goes to my point of gameplay replacing visuals in horror. Because gore has been used so many times, developers must find a different way of scaring you. In a way, I thank games like Dead Space and Gears of War, not because I enjoyed them, but because they encouraged developers to find a more creative way to scare the shit out of you.   read

10:37 PM on 09.15.2011

Criticizing the critics

Reviewing the reviewer and reviewing the score is a rather controversial topic. People seem to never be satisfied with a score a game they admire received; it痴 either too high or too low. The comments posted on any review from any site invariably seem to be infested with an abundance of insults and misunderstandings. Complaints about the words or numbers are commonplace, but are they justified? Do any of the critics criticizing the critics have a point? Do any of these points deserve to be explored?

A popular comment I read posted on reviews is the 渡on-subjective comment. Certain individuals hold the belief that a reviewer should never place his or her opinions on a review. In other words, a review should only be done from a technical stand point: gameplay, music, graphics, etc. Any comparison to any other games is immediately shut down as trying to live up to certain expectations; a game should be reviewed as it stands: a single entity. I completely disagree with this thought process and find it hard to believe that some individuals actually mean it. T.S Elliot wrote: 哲o poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artist. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. Poetry should never be judge as is. A review should always have comparisons 鍍o the dead (past games) of whichever genre it occupies. It is impossible, and wrong, to not compare games to each other. This is how the medium will grow, not by limiting our review process, but by looking at past games (in its genre) for inspiration and improvements.

Another common critique is the number system. A scale from 1-10 is commonly used in many game sites, but is it fair? Does it have any place in a review? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because the number gives the reader a quick and unambiguous answer as to the quality of the game and, no, because a review should stand on its own -- the words in a review should be enough; it doesn稚 need to hide behind a number. People seem to take the number scale literally. For instance, if a game is scored a 10, then it gives the impression that it痴 perfect, but we all know no game is perfect. The number scale is pretty simple to understand; a 10 doesn稚 mean a game is perfect, but that the reviewer highly recommends the game. In a perfect world, everyone would look at the number and read the review, but unfortunately we don稚 live in a perfect world and many people only look to the number. This begs the question: Should the number scale be abolished? Should such a accommodation be done for the handicap? This is something that痴 been debated for awhile, but it seems that the complaints are from overzealous fans. This brings me to another point I want to make: Genre.

Another typical comment used is the 塗ow can you give game X the same score as game Y comment. Genre should always be considered when a reader is reading a review. If game X is a shooter and game Y is an RPG and game X is scored slightly higher than game Y, it痴 not because the game is better, but because it痴 better in its particular genre. Comparing apples and oranges will get you nowhere. This absurd sensitivity has been widespread because of the internet. This quick reaction to games the consumer has yet experience is demented and show nothing but loyalty to the absurd. But it is useful to examine this absurd behavior that always lies in the realm of pretentiousness, which takes me to my next point: Preference.

Reviews always have the opinion of its writer, but what if the reviewer reviews a game in a genre he or she knows nothing about or even hates. Let痴 take Catherine, for example. Jim Sterling stated many times that the game is not for him and if he was reviewing it, it would have gotten a low score. I tend to agree with comments that say, 展hy did you review this game if you hate the genre? But there痴 always a little voice in my head who thinks it痴 positive to have a fresh voice to speak about a game -- A different t perspective might highlight some blemishes a reviewer comfortable in the genre would overlook. This question is more complicated than the others and I have no solid answer, but I do have a suggestion: a mini review. Let me explain, you have the main review and also have a mini (a small paragraph) review of someone not accustom to the genre giving his or her thoughts. Comparisons between two different gamers are always welcome and can help the way we look at games.

Reviews are always criticized for its content and suppose 澱ias, but we must all take a step back, take a deep breath, and think before we judge. There are always some legitimate complaints. Take a look at any controversial review and tell me the comments aren稚 always out of line. Is there a perfect way to review a game? I really don稚 know, but I think the first step is respecting each other in the comments and being accepted of others opinions, and take what they say seriously. They may have a point.   read

10:34 AM on 09.15.2011

I think I may have a problem

Everyone loves a familiar face, no? Someone you can relate and know inside and out. Most people have fear of the new and undiscovered, but always champion familiarity. As a literary major, my classes demand me to read and analyze several books my virgin eyes have not seen. The Waste Land and Ulysses are some of the works I have to read this semester. I have read most of the books in my collection more than once. I知 sure this is normal -- wanting to experience a great story you just read for a second or third time. Everyone does this, but why am I having difficult time doing this with video games? Not only that, but why don稚 I have any games to replay?

I have a confession, I bought Demon痴 Souls three times. Yes, I bought the game and sold it three different times. I first got the game for $40 used and only made it to the second world. I played the first world for about 4 hours and had the entire level memorized, but the game ended up pissing me off, so I sold it. A month later, I bought the game again to finish what I started. This time I made it to the third world and had a pretty powerful character. The game ended up pissing me off again, so I sold it. For the third and final time, I bought the game and actually beat it. The moment I started the game, this feeling of familiarity came over me. I went into the game knowing what to do and how to do it. Demon痴 Soul痴 is one of the very few game I致e spent over 30 hours playing. I never did this with a game before, most of the time if I sell a game; it痴 gone forever. This explains the lack of any game collection -- I simply don稚 find replaying games I beat enjoyable. I知 not a multiplayer type of guy, so that痴 out of the question. Unlike my favorite books or films, replaying games seem to be a struggle. It痴 an interesting dilemma. You would think if you can re-read your favorite books to be experienced again or re-watch your favorite films, that video games would natural fit into the mold. But I think I may have found part of the problem: Gamestop.

Growing up I didn稚 have many games to play. I would replay the same games over and over again; even games I knew were bad were always on constant play on my console. The moment I turn 18 was when I finally had the ability to go into a Gamestop and trade in games. This was also the moment my collection dwindled into nothingness. I must stress that the problem really wasn稚 with Gamestop, but with me -- I couldn稚 control myself. I would sell a bunch of games for store credit. I used this store credit for getting new games, but most of the games I had I've never beaten -- they were all incomplete. I would buy a new game, play it for 4 hours, or sometimes only an hour, and sell them back the following week. This resulted in me buying some games multiple times. For instance, I bought Oblivion and Fallout 3 four different times. I enjoyed the games a great deal, but I wanted a new experience so I ended up selling it. A couple of weeks would pass, and I would buy the games again. At times I would struggle to get to where I left off because I didn稚 have the save file anymore, and replaying it was a chore, even if I didn稚 touch the game for a couple of weeks or months. I did like these games, but the whole trading games for new ones was too good of a deal to pass up. Games I knew were good, and wanted to finish were never finished because new and interesting games would always come out and I would sell my games to get enough store credit to buy the new games. I would always end up missing the games I sold, hence why I bought them again. This also explains my love for short games. Take Alan Wake, for example. It was short, straight to the point, didn稚 bother with any romantics, and I beat the game in a few short days. I enjoyed every second of Alan Wake, but replaying it was something I couldn稚 do. I wanted to play the game and experience it again, but video games demand so much time and effort that I rather not go through it again, no matter how fun the gameplay is. This is where the problem lies and what I知 trying to fix.

For the last 6 months, I致e tried to keep my games and made a promise to myself to beat them. Dark Souls, Ico/SotC, and Skyrim are the only games I will buy and play for the time being. I also made a promise to never step inside a Gamestop. I know this sounds pretty silly, but seeing how many hours I致e spent with Demon痴 Souls and the satisfaction it bought me, I want to experience these games in full, but to do this I must stop going to Gamestop. I really don稚 think I can control myself and not sell my games. At the moment I have a PS3 and no games. Yes, no games! It痴 been like this for the past 2 months. Well, I did get Little Big Planet 2 and only played it for a day before getting rid of it. I think narrowing down the games I play will help me enjoy them more. I sure as hell don稚 want to experience Dark Souls FOUR different times before I beat it!   read

12:36 AM on 09.04.2011

Game + Book = <3

Spoilers for Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Castle in the Mist.

Their cries would not reach that ancient castle perched upon the cliff at the end of the world, far to the west where the sun sank after its daily journey. The only thing that could lessen the rage of the master in the castle, that could strave off the castle痴 curse for even a short time, was the chosen Sacrifice.

Ico begins with a boy with horns being carried to a castle and shut forever in concealment. We know nothing as to why this is being done to the boy, but it痴 safe to assume that the isolation the boy is sent to is a direct cause of him being born with horns. Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe tries to answer these questions in her novel. The game, unlike the novel, is more of an experience and less of an actual story. In contrast, Miyabe novelization of Ico is less of a retold of events in the game, and more of a glorified fan-fiction. In the preface she writes, If you picked up this book hoping for a walkthrough of the game, look elsewhere. The order of events, solutions to puzzles and even the layout of the castle have changed. While it is certainly not 都poiler-free, someone who reads this books and goes on to play the game will find much there that is not here. I find it interesting comparing the book and game; two total different mediums that assist each other. The developers of the game had no say in the book, but they did give Miyabe permission to write her own version of the story. For me, first playing the game and then following it up with the novel helped bring the world of Ico, and some cases Shadow of the Colossus , more alive. The games were no longer minimalistic and 殿mbiguous with its message and story -- the book bought life to an otherwise lifeless (story wise) game.

Miyabe created a detailed account of Ico痴 horns and the reasons why he is cast forever in isolation in the Castle in the Mist. Ever since the boy was born, Ico knew he would be cast out. The boy痴 soul resides in the castle. In a way, Ico being cast out is good because he can now reclaim it and finally be whole. He was raised as a normal child until the age of thirteen. The elder of the village took Ico to the 擢orbidden Mountain. He brought Ico there to show him the horrors the Castle in the Mist brings when it痴 angry. They had ridden on horseback for three days north, going where not even the hunters dared tread. They saw no one on the road, no birds flying overhead, no rabbits in the underbrush, no tracks of foxes in the soft mud left by the rains the day before. Why were the mountains forbidden? Why did no one come this way? Why were there no birds or animals to be seen? This location reminds me a lot of the isolated world of Shadow of the Colossus. In the end of that game, our hero is born again as a child with horns in a world with no life.

The book brings what I like in a story: details. I知 all for ambiguity, but it seems that if any criticism is put forth to games like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Limbo, The Path, Journey, etc then you池e considered a philistine because you don稚 堵et it or can稚 use your imagination to fill in the blanks. In my opinion filling in the blanks only works when enough information is given. Think of it as a puzzle piece. You have a puzzle that creates a picture of Mario (you are not aware what the picture is about), but are only given 2 pieces; those 2 pieces are not enough to interpret what the picture is about, you need more, not all, but enough to be open to interpretation. Having only 2 pieces of a puzzle just comes to show you how the creator didn稚 know what he/she was doing and decided to be 殿mbiguous to hide the fact that he/she was clueless about the story. I find this to be a common thread in most artsy games. The scenery is always beautiful and awe inspiring; sometimes you stop just to absorb the beauty like a good painting; however, unlike a painting, most of the beautiful imagery means nothing (there are some exceptions). It works as a short mini game, but the gamer starts to notice the blemishes and the magic, for me, seems to always disappear. It痴 the reason why I take so long to finish games. Atmosphere is good and can take a game to new heights, Demon痴 Souls is perfect example, but sometimes I want more. Sometimes I want a good story told to me. Many of these artsy games have great ideas (they池e the most original in all of video games), but do nothing with it. Anyway, I知 glad Castle in the Mist was written because I now see these games in a new light. For me, the games are now more than just pretty colors. They池e games with characters and events I truly care about.

The book spends a good 60 pages before Ico is sent to the castle; during those 60 pages we are introduced to Ico痴 friend, Toto. Before Ico is taken to the castle he is put into a cave (a sort prison). Toto visits Ico there and tries to convince him to run away with him. Ico refuses and warns Toto to not do anything stupid. The next day Toto runs away from home with a horse. Toto runs to the castle so he can meet up with Ico when he is brought there, but before he can make it there, he must pass through the Forbidden Mountain and there Toto sees the horror the castle brings. The world around him was petrified and gray. The people in the streets around him had been frozen in time. Some pointed towards the sky, others ran, holding their heads in their hands, while still others held their mouths open in soundless screams. Toto wondered how many years they had stood there like this. When he reached out hesitantly to touch one, it crumbled into dust beneath his fingertips.

The first 60 pages are like a prologue to the game, and I made an effort to not talk about anything more than that in fear of spoiling more than I wanted, but if you have played Ico, I highly encourage you to pick up this book. I promise it will make for a better experience. Your outlook on the game will greatly change.   read

11:20 PM on 08.18.2011

I think we're going to be friends

My school isn稚 bad. Nor is it great. It fits right in the middle of mediocrity. The school isn稚 a prime example of excellence or a defective environment of undesirables. It痴 just there. It痴 not ugly or pretty. It痴 not clean or dirty. The school simply exists. In many ways the school is exactly like me. You see, I wasn稚 a bad student, but a boring one. I had a few acquaintances in school. I care about my appearance enough to make an effort to look presentable, but did nothing with it. I go to class, sit in the back and space out. I cut class constantly and arrived late for almost every class I had. I really didn稚 have any excuse for this. I just walked slow and spend too much time in the bathroom. I got along with most of my teachers. The teachers, like the school, are a mix bag of everything. I had teachers who absolutely love their jobs and others who took the job simply because some of them are a bunch of failed artists hungry for a paycheck.

I sat in class and did nothing. I would stare at the peeling dirty white walls and space out this is my typical routine in most of my classes. I didn稚 spend much time thinking about my future. I know I should have done my work, go to class early, listen, and participate, but I didn稚. I wish I had a better reason, but none exist. This, without question, was my existence; however, this existence all changed my senior year.

I never really met anyone who shared the same interests as me until my last year in high school. Surprisingly it was video game music that brought a couple of gamers together. I had an endless amount of mix CDs of recorded game music. You see, I didn稚 have any money to buy a soundtrack or import the ones that I wanted, so what I did was record the game music from the television. I made CDs of Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X, and countless others. Besides Radiohead, video game music was my high school soundtrack.

I met my friend Jonny in history class. He was a short chubby white kid with a heavy Brooklyn accent. My bag was open on top of my desk with two Radiohead albums clearly visible. The iPod recently came out, and I didn稚 have any money to buy one, so it wasn稚 uncommon to still carry CDs with you. Jonny whispered asking me what my favorite Radiohead song was. I said it was The National Anthem and his eyes grew bright with excitement. Suddenly our teacher told us to shut up and we didn稚 talk until class was over.

After class, we both walked to the cafeteria talking about Radiohead until he asked if I listen to any video game music. I told him I did and showed him the CD I made of Metal Gear Solid 2. I told him I recorded all the songs off my television and he laughed knowing what I did was ridiculous. He said he had the actual soundtrack and his brother knew a way of ripping game music from the disc. He said he would make me a copy and a mix tape of other game music the next day. That afternoon in the cafeteria was the first time I had a deep conversation about video games. The cafeteria was small and dim; it was overcrowded with students, but we somehow found a little spot to talk. We talked about the music, gameplay, and story of all our favorite games until class started. I was stunned and impressed by his knowledge. A challenge I thought, someone who can rival my useless video game trivia. Jonny also introduced me to the world of anime and would later lend me Akira on DVD.

It was dark and raining that night. I sat on the chair in the middle of my room trying to pop a pimple on my forehead. I lived in a small, damp apartment complex in New York. The walls of my room are dirty white and most of the paint was peeling off. I saw my bag in the corner of the door and remembered Jonny burned me a CD of videogame music. I sat on my bed and played the first track. I recognized the tune from Final Fantasy X. I quickly went to the next track and was greeted with a loud bang. I closed my eyes and imagined a hero in some distant land fighting off monsters. Jonny has kindly written down each songs name and from what game they池e from. Shadow of the Colossus I read.

The song is titled Monstrous People and I fell in love. It was epic. It was amazing. It got my heart pumping. I would turn the volume of my CD player as loud as I can and imagine some great fantasy fight between some unknown soldier and a demonic beast. I reached for the CD case to see if any more music from the game was present. Only 3 of the 17 songs are from Shadow of the Colossus. He also included songs from Ico and other music from games I never heard of. He did include some J-POP which I didn稚 care for, but I did love the rest.

The next day I greeted him with a big smile and started to talk about all the good music he burned for me. Jonny and I were best friends that year. We spent most days together talking about whatever interested us. Unfortunately I haven稚 seen Jonny since high school, I don稚 know why. We just drifted apart; its funny how things always end up, but what can you do. I lost all contact with him, but the memories are enough to keep me satisfied. It痴 important to one痴 self when you can talk to someone who understands you and share the same interests. You don稚 feel alone or weird. Being able to express yourself without embarrassment or ridicule is an amazing feeling and one that I cherish with my friends. The internet has made it easier in finding like minded individuals. Most, if not all, my friends don稚 really share my interest in video game and that痴 fine. I have my Dtoid friends to talk to about that. Keeping and maintaining a healthy friendship is essential to a happy life and I think I知 doing pretty well.

I致e only been an active member for about 5 or 6 months, but it痴 good to be part of a community who understands you. I never knew something like this can actually happen. I used to look down at people, who had internet friends or met people through the internet, but we live in different times now and this is becoming the norm. By reading blogs I get to not only know your likes and dislikes, but know you as a person. Dtoid has allowed me to make more friends than I could have ever imagined. We have fan fiction about our community members, and even music for each one, too! I don稚 know of any other website that does this, but this is pretty fuckin awesome.

To the many people I PM and Tweet to; you guys are my friends. To anyone who reads and comments on my blogs, thank you! I may have never met you in person, but knowing you from your writing is enough to generate an opinion. I feel like I'm rambling here, so I'll just leave and give a THANK YOU to everyone.   read

5:51 AM on 08.10.2011

Gamers are going crazy

You know whats lame? This review is lame. I found the ign review to be much more helpful and most reviews by ign are horrible. All u do is bash about how bad the game is. It clearly didn't suit your tastes for a srpg but that doesn't mean that you should go on just bashing about how bad the game is. Have you even played any srpg games b4 this one? if you have how do they compare to this one? If not then you shouldnt have got the game in the first place.dont put up reviews if u dunno how 2 do one

- Youtube comment on a negative review for Record of Agarest War.

I致e been quiet on this subject for some time, but reading reviews for Catherine, Record of Agarest War, and many other 渡iche games has got me thinking: gamers like to feel different and superior. Now, I don稚 want to give the impression that all gamers are like this. For instance, I find the Destructoid community pretty open minded about games of various genres and consoles, but reading comments on virtually every gaming site (including Amazon) are really hitting a nerve with me. Now, what the hell am I talking about specifically? Well, my friends, I will present you with an excerpt of a response to a negative review for Record of Agarest War on Amazon that inspired this blog post:

Games today are not as experimental and creative as they used to be; now the game market is flooded with those cheap first-person shooter games with the same agonizing Star Wars/Lord of the Rings style soundtrack with the same trumpets, and choir style that has absolutely been overused in many games over, and over again, and back in the 1990's, and it is wonderful to see that this recent game has at least stepped out of today's trend, ridding all of those unnecessary Star Wars/Lord of the Rings style soundtracks This game was made in Japan, NOT the United States with all of those bland, rather unfitting English American voice acting that are supposed to be on games made in the United States such as the Call of Duty, Mass Effect, and Halo game series; so your review is rather plain, bland, and rather pointless.

I知 pretty sure we致e all read comments like this before. Gamers longing for the good ol壇ays of yore: a time when developers took risks and games were better made I知 sorry, but I fail to understand this point of view. What is there to hate about this generation of gaming? We live in an age where a small studio can get their games out to the public through digital distribution. We live in age where creativity is bursting out in an extraordinary rate. We live in an age where developers are taking games as a serious art form. We live an age where gaming in general is getting the respect it deserves. As an Xbox 360 owner I have a wealth of different genres to choose from. Want a fantasy western RPG? We got it! Want a JRPG? We got it! Want a FPS? We got it! Want something strange and different? We got it! The same can also be said about the PS3 and to a certain extent the Wii. I fail to see what is so discomforting about this generation of gaming. Are people complaining just to complain? Or do they truly believe what they're saying. If, so, I pity them.

Catherine, this so called 渡iche game, recently came out to critical acclaim and great sales, but the masses still champion this game as something the minority will only like. Now, let痴 not get out of hand here -- Catherine will not see Call of Duty like numbers, but it痴 safe to say the game is a financial and critical success. Numbers and reviews aside, gamers are divided about the game. Most people either love it or hate. I personally think the game is good, but nothing special. I express this opinion in a form of a comment on a youtube video and received this PM minutes later:

This game is a masterpiece! It痴 a work of art! How can you think the puzzles get boring and the story is not good? Ha! I知 pretty sure you don稚 like the story because you don稚 have personal exprence with the subject in hand, and you池e probably too stupid to understand the puzzles. Go play Call of Duty or Halo. You probably wanted porn. Leave the real games to the real gamers. You池e what is wrong with the game industry. We must love and embrace games like this because it痴 different. Too bad most people won稚 play this game

Besides insulting me; this user assumed the game is some type of underground cult classic -- which it痴 not. I learned on Twitter that my friend from school, a casual female gamer (I use the word 堵amer loosely) purchased the game a week ago. This casual gamer, who hasn稚 bought a game in a year, bought this underground 渡iche game as her first title since Halo 3. Actually, I learned many of my friends, who are not 塗ardcore gamers, bought the game as well, not because of its suggestive advertisement, but for the premise. This user also assumed I like to play Fist Person Shooters -- I知 sorry to break it to him or her, but I don稚. Even if I did, is that a problem? Is that suppose to be an insult? I Like a genre you don't, so it's only fitting to insult me? Such a boring and typical response.

Another example of this is the hate comments Jeff Gerstmann received for his 2 star review of Catherine. Users called him an idiot and mainstream lover for not liking the game and calling his review unprofessional because he shouldn稚 voice his opinion in a review; it's suppose to be "subjective." What I find interesting is that most people were defending a game they haven稚 played yet. You see this constantly with gamers. Let痴 assume Jim Sterling gives the new Deus Ex game a bad review; most will call for his head, even though they themselves have not yet played the game. This species of gamers are so devoted to a product they know nothing about that they are willing to insult and call for the firing of certain reviewers. I'm sorry, but is this not the talk of crazy people?!

All I read in comments are gamers insulting each other because of what the other enjoys. I read one comment calling the BioShock: Infinite demo a "typical" and "uninspired" shooter - how the hell can anyone look at that demo and use the word 鍍ypical? What is typical is his response to the video. The comments on most of these gaming sites are getting ludicrous and it's the reason why I only read comments on the c-blogs. I don稚 know if they池e simply doing this to piss people off, but whatever the reason, I知 done reading them.

I understand not liking a game, but there is no need in attacking someones opinion or exaggerating certain problems to fit your agenda. You do find these type of comments on film blogs as well, but not in the same level presented on gaming sites.   read

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