I'm Amber, a 21 year old college student with a love for video games (obviously). I started with Sonic 2 and have been hooked ever since. Almost all games interest me, with the exception of sports and race simulators. Born and raised in Texas, I currently live with my boyfriend and our really adorable dog.
Other than games I enjoy drawing, watching movies and anime, and listening to music, pretty basic stuff.
Favorite games: Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Uncharted 2, Final Fantasy IX, Mother 3, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Ico, Chrono Trigger, Professor Layton, The World Ends With You, Super Mario Galaxy, Ghost Trick, Half-Life 2, Okami
Favorite movies: Princess Mononoke, Moulin Rouge, Love Actually, Fight Club, The Sting, V For Vendetta, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Big Fish, Shaun of the Dead, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, any Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai film
Favorite TV shows/anime: Arrested Development, Community, Extras, 30 Rock, Lost, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Evangelion, FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, Mushishi, Gurren Lagann
Favorite music: Muse, MuteMath, Mumford & Sons, Eisley, Snow Patrol, Florence and the Machine, The Killers, Coldplay
After a long week the painting is finally done in our bathroom. This level, 1-1, was a much bigger pain than the other level. So many types of blocks and details, and worst of all that castle. It didn't help that my boyfriend started working during all week so I couldn't get as much done in the same amount of time without his help. Still, I think the work paid off. I'm just glad to have the bathroom opened for business again, the rest of the work we'll be doing on it can be done from outside of its walls.
If this whole event has taught me anything it's that we have a cruddy camera. Oh well.
These last two are for perspective in case it was confusing as to how the bathroom was set up.
As we approach E3 again my mind wanders to the E3 of last year and how each companies' promises or previews panned out. Microsoft and Sony seemed to be on about their respective motion control systems, neither of which I was interested in. Nothing interested me at Microsoft's conference actually, since I seem to only remember a lot of Kinect showcasing and maybe some Halo: Reach? As for Sony, the creator of my most used current gen system, there was more to be interested in but not much. Uncharted 3 was a given, but they didn't have much to show for it and spent the most time discussing Move or PSN services. Portal 2 was the best announcement for me (and as soon as I picked it up PSN went down). Then there was Nintendo. I have to admit, they put on a great show and got me hyped up for almost everything they showed, aside from Wii Party (which didn't even look that bad for a "Wii" game). I got Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Metroid: Other M, and a 3DS and yet for some reason I feel like Nintendo didn't deliver the quality promised in their conference.
I'll start with the games. After some franchises didn't quite make a successful jump to 3D on the N64 it seems Nintendo was giving them another shot on the Wii with the recently popular updated 2D genre. These two franchises being Donkey Kong and Kirby, of course. I liked New Super Mario Bros. Wii so I was excited for these two titles. Actually, Donkey Kong Country Returns was my favorite game out of this lineup. I was a fan of developers Retro Games already and thought it was a great game, it was really challenging and was also long enough to not feel like I had wasted $50. And yet something still felt missing. As for Kirby's Epic Yarn, it felt like even more was missing. I had fun with it and it was adorable but it took me very little time to beat it and there wasn't much incentive to keep playing. At first I loved this revival of the 2D platformer but I'm not so sure anymore. It works great for indie games but for a main console game they just seem smaller than the games I play in 3D. I would prefer to play Super Mario Galaxy over New Super Mario Bros.. That doesn't mean I don't love the old 2D platformers, in fact I would rather play them than the newer ones as well. I understand that argument that the Wii has graphical limitations and so these 2D games are a way to make up for them, but to me it feels like their withholding creativity. The N64 and Gamecube both had many games that seemed to be pushing the boundaries and at least moving forward. Those consoles were at the time compared with consoles that had pretty much the same graphics, whereas the Wii stands next to the Xbox 360 and PS3. This might be hindering its process for people, like me, who want more weird games like Luigi's Mansion and not a nostalgic rerun of updated old classics.
Metroid: Other M was the most fun to play of that lineup, but the hardest for me to watch. I admit, I never got into the older Metroid titles but I loved the Metroid Prime series and was looking forward to Team Ninja's installment. It looked fun. It was fun. But then there was the dialogue and the voice acting that ruined it for me. One January evening after I beat it my friends were over, and as a form of entertainment I showed them the worst parts of the game and we laughed and laughed. But on reflection, it really wasn't that funny, it was really sad. All I can really hope for is that they don't give Team Ninja the reins for the series again.
Then there's Epic Mickey, which initially reminded me a lot of the 3D platformers of the Playstation/N64 (even PS2) era when it was first shown. Sadly, it didn't quite impress me. It was fun, it was fairly unique, but it had a lot of problems (namely that darned camera) that prevented it from becoming something special. This may be yet another of so many examples of the failure of 3rd party developers to achieve real success on a Nintendo console.
Lastly, there's the 3DS. I picked it up with my boyfriend the night of its release and we had decided to hold off on the games until June when the big titles we were actually interested in were scheduled to come out. The system itself is a nice little system, I love the look and feel of it and mostly the promise of actual functioning online gaming. But then there's the all too apparent lack of games and the 3D gimmick. Until I really play a game with the 3D I won't be able to say how I feel about it, but initially it hurt my eyes quite a bit. There's still the updated graphics and the lovely analog stick, but what do I have to look forward to playing with it. The lineup full of familiar titles, Mario Kart, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Ocarina of Time, and while some are actual new games they are nonetheless familiar. Even my favorite game of all time, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is getting it's own redo on the system even. I won't lie, I'm extremely excited for almost all the games, even the ones I've played before but I can't help shake the feeling that Nintendo isn't moving forward maybe the way I'd like them to be.
I realize this whole post is basically just me spilling out my uneasy feelings about Nintendo, a company I truly want to believe in, but I'm sure some of these feelings do not pertain to me only. Titles like Kid Icarus: Uprising give me hope though, and I'm excited to see what they have to say at E3 in a few weeks. Project Cafe definitely looks....well, different. I don't know what to think yet but I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us.
Aside from games I've always had a love for films. I'm anticipating my third film class, fourth if you count the one I took in high school, and I think I actually might be getting tired of watching movies. But never mind that, I've noticed several similarities over the years between the history of the film industry and the comparatively young history of the video game industry. This shouldn't be surprising, most major mediums (music, TV, comics) have had a similar history of early acceptance with the younger generation and harsh judgement from the older generation. This is something referred to as the legacy of fear, and it seems to be inescapable. There's also the fight to be recognized as art, and while looking over the chapter about when film was officially considered an art form in one of my textbooks I can't help but wonder if the very recent legal consideration of games as art (in the U.S.) will be something marked upon years in the future.
Those aren't the similarities that drew me here though, and this isn't really a history similarity but kind of. Each and every film class I have attended has been plagued with slackers. The kids who come to watch current movies, hopefully catch a small nap if the movie's not up to their standards, and do no classwork whatsoever. I must sound pretentious, but as someone who genuinely loves films I get irritated when a whole group of students feels the need to talk during the whole movie and then proceed to blatantly cheat on the quizzes. They have their opinions, I understand, but I also understand that there is a sad threshold that the majority of people will not cross when it comes to movie watching. I think most people won't go far beyond 1965 or so, probably not into the era of black and white films. And definitely not further into the era of silent films. I realized that I'm actually not too big on silent films but most of them are pretty short, 5 - 30 minutes, so no harm done. I'm not ashamed about that, but due to an epiphany one day in class I did feel shame when I thought about this in relation to my much bigger love for video games.
I have to admit that I cannot play anything that predates the SNES. I've tried, oh I've tried. As a young teen I tracked down a NES Legend of Zelda cartridge and received a working NES system from an older cousin after I put my family on a hunt for one. See, I started gaming on a SEGA Genesis, after my older brother had given our NES away and sold the SNES, and was desperate to "educate" myself on what I had missed out on. I was sorely disappointed, not that I don't respect the game, but that after conquering two dungeons I had no interest in returning to it. This was mainly because its difficulty was kicking me in the ass. I tried others to no avail. I feel bad about this still, but I think it helps me understand those classmates I previously spoke (not so kindly) of.
I am horrible at this game. Like, really bad.
I love the SNES and everything after it, but I can't bring myself to pass that threshold. I thought that forcing myself to do something I didn't enjoy would mean I loved games more, but that was a stupid thought. I wondered about the younger members of my family, who all play games of some sort (90% Wii and DS, and I think I can safely say they're not playing Super Mario Galaxy or The World Ends With You) and if they'd be interested in something like Final Fantasy V, a childhood favorite of mine. The massive popularity of casual games and online FPSs is not unlike that of the popularity of the blockbuster disaster movie or teen comedies, which appeared in the late 70s and early 80s and have stuck around to today. It's simple, business, whatever business, will replicate whatever makes money.
A game that I actually bought for my niece
There are several obstacles they would face comparable to my earlier comparison to film. There's the obvious aspect of graphics that will always be there since people want something that is pleasing to look at. Most games now are completely voiced, even handheld games are getting there. I know I benefited at least a little from being forced to read to figure out how to proceed in games but that might be a turn off for some in the future, it could be a turn off for people now I guess. My biggest concern is the evolution of control systems. All of this motion control hubbub very well could just be a phase or it could be the first step toward virtual reality, who knows. The point is, if motion control does become the norm people in the future may be shocked to hear that games were once played with controllers. I can imagine that that would be quite a big hurdle to leap for anyone interested in retro gaming.
In the future this won't look stupid.
Where does that hypothetically leave the threshold for video games then? Where's the threshold now? Are people reluctant to play anything before this current generation aside from nostalgic motivations, even? Will people rely on remakes of classics on newer systems to experience them? Sure, video game remakes are usually far better than remakes of classic movies, and sure it's harder and more expensive to experience classic games than it is to watch classic films (though with the classic game libraries on all the current systems it's not that hard) but I think it's still comparable. Am I terribly interested in what games the majority of current gamers consider to be too old for them? Well, no, people will like what they like and vice versa and I'm really not an elitist trying to shove the supposed "golden era of gaming" down people's throats. I just look forward to seeing it all play out and I am confident there will be a large number of people, like me, who are at least interested enough in this certain medium to check out its history for themselves.
An introductory post was in order so I would like to start with a "hello." I'd say I'm usually too busy for this blog and that's why I'm just now getting it during my summer break, but I'd be lying. As a communications major, more specifically a media studies major, I've always had a rather light class load, even as I approach my senior year. The majority of that free time is spent playing as many games as I can get my hands on and neglecting the ever present question of "what are you going to do when you graduate?"
When I entered college three years ago I had no clue what I was going to do. I've always drawn and am more of the creative type, but my skills are only good enough for me. I despise math and suck at science, so I went on instinct with the study-what-interests-you mentality. But when people (who are actually usually not my parents) ask me what I'm planning to do my throat goes dry. I guess I'm the type who lives in the moment but it seems like I've always been distracting myself. During my first summer in college I worked a summer job at PetSmart and learned a very valuable lesson about how I do not want a career in retail.
For my first two years at college I had been toying with an idea that probably many of you have thought of or achieved in some way, that being to somehow, someway work with video games. I had decidedly given up my life as an artist, graphic or concept, and programming goes over my head. I could write, though, not brilliantly but well enough. Writing about games was the worst option, it's been a controversial topic especially recently, but ever since I had heard of E3 I had dreamed of being there in person and reporting on it is a sure ticket in.
Long story short, I interned for Kotaku during my second college summer. It was excellent experience, I had never done anything but essays in my life. I also got a glimpse of what it's like to get paid for writing about games (and how rare that is) as opposed to writing without pay. I realized that while I enjoyed my time there I probably wanted to keep writing about games a hobby and find some other career. I was back to the drawing board. It was just as hard to answer the "well can you live off that job?" questions that summer that had evolved from the former and more general "what are you going to do?" questions. All year though it nagged me and I would get the itch to write some stuff up. Hey, I really do like talking about video games.
I finished my third year last Friday and the plan for the summer is to take a break, I can afford it. It's the last summer before I'm expected to have a real job after all! Here I am though, I can't ignore the itch. I didn't know which site to turn to and didn't want to go after a formal writing position, even unpaid, it's a break remember! So here I am, for better or worse. I can't say I'll be on here regularly, I'd like to get outside a bit in between the games this summer, but I hope I enjoy my stay.
Now that that's over with, a little more general (video game) information about me: My first game was Sonic 2 when I was three and have been playing games since then. I own all the systems but my favorite is the PS3. I'm not a fanboy/girl, though, I promise! My favorite game is Metal Gear Solid 3, some other favorites are Majora's Mask, ICO, Mother 3, Morrowind, Uncharted 2, Half-Life 2, Mass Effect, and Final Fantasy IX. Favorite characters are Link and Solid Snake, favorite genres are 3rd person action/adventure and RPGs and....that's about it.
By the way, now when people ask me what I'm doing when I graduate I go with the default answer my counselors tell me, "research." Oh boy, I'm gonna be rich.
I recently reinstalled Steam and while updating it I went on a hunt for the Steam activation code for the 2nd Indie Humble Bundle that I had previously bought. To my surprise I also found the activation code for the 1st Indie Humble Bundle, which I took no questions asked. When I was looking through the games Penumbra: Overture caught my eye, it was in fact the only one I had heard of. I knew it was by the developers, Frictional Games, of the currently popular and supposedly horrifying Amnesia: Dark Descent but that was about all I knew. Now, I love the horror genre in general but very few games have managed to give me the scare I really wanted outside of the first Dead Space, but I went in with high expectations.
***SPOILERS*** from here on out.
Penumbra: Overture is set in modern day uninhabited northern Greenland, about as far away from civilization as you can get. The player character follows the trail of his absent and recently deceased father which leads him to a legitimately spooky vacated mine. Itís dark, yes, but you have a flashlight, which runs on batteries, and a limitless glowstick, so itís beyond me as to why you would ever use the flashlight, but anyway. The basic point of the game is to move from room to room to find clues and tools that will help you proceed to the next area of the mine. Youíll often also come upon notes that tell the story and it is a disturbing one. There is one main obstacle that prevents you from going about your business, though, and that is the rabid dogs patrolling the main central areas that connect all the rooms.
Now, the first time I heard the low growling and scratchy footsteps of one of the beasts I dashed behind a nearby crate and stared at the wall for some time. If you didnít know, these games do not give you a way to fight off your enemies and instead you must hide and are encouraged not to look at them. I sneaked past this first one without getting a good look at it but when I ran into the next one I caught a glimpse of him full on, glowing yellow eyes and all.
And then I wasnít scared anymore. Dogs, no matter how rabid, donít frighten me. In real life, yes I would definitely avoid such a dog but itís hard to take the dogs seriously when my black Labrador mix is nudging my arm away from my mouse to pet him. From that point on it turned from a survival horror game into a stealth adventure game. I moved from crate to crate around them but I knew I was safe once I got to a room and that security I felt was never compromised in a way that legitimately scared me. There are two other kind of enemies, giant spiders and giant worms on the scale of Dune almost. As someone who is terrified of spiders I was a bit hesitant when I found out about them and presumably heard one of the last survivors in the mine be dragged away by them. But when I encountered them for the first time they quickly went from scary to extremely annoying. They can actually be killed but I preferred to run past them if I could, not out of fear but out of avoiding annoyance. There are only two huge worms in the game and they can be treated as a sort of boss fight. And by fight I mean running away in a specific way or specific time or else they kill you in one hit. There is a bit of panic that comes with that but you donít really have much time to think about it.
Other than the enemies there is the classic nonsensical whispering from time to time, strange scream-like sounds from the radio in a room or two and one room full of creepy scribbles on the wall. But the terror I expected was not present for the vast majority of the game. The sort of terror I speak of is that which glues you to the ground, immovable because of the sheer thought of what lies ahead or what just made that noise. The sort of terror that keeps you on edge even in areas you think are safe, and then you of course are proven wrong. This feeling occurred only twice for me, in that very first encounter with a dog and then with the last act of the game. That part chilled me to the bone.
In the end you are led to a door to a different area of the mine or bunker, the place youíve been led to throughout the whole game. I met the requirements to open this door, a strange unfamiliar door with a bright light shining through it, and went through. On the other side was a perfectly lit stairwell, completely silent. I pranced down the steps, anxious to explore this new area, and took a moment to examine a power box at the bottom. Turning away from that I entered a long lit hallway and was about to continue prancing when I noticed something at the end of the hallway. Just as I thought I made out the figure of a man the lights turned off and I was in complete darkness. I immediately crouched and hid behind a crate just to my right, breathing as heavily as any horror game character. There were no sounds, nothing. If I took out my glowstick he, or it, would see me, right? It was a long while before I decided to move, and when I did I jumped as I was grabbed from behind and the credits rolled, leaving a ďto be continuedĒ vibe.
It seems like Iím complaining a lot about Overture, but I really did enjoy it. The puzzles worked wonderfully and I was really fond of the flow of the game. Hell, I feel like I could spend a long time just talking about the frozen lake room. If it does one thing right though it is the set up of its cliffhanger ending which has me itching to buy the second installment, Penumbra: Black Plague, in hopes that the horror I felt at the end there was a preview of things to come.