Hi, I'm Shaxam.
I write things a lot of the time and only publish them sometimes and that's OK. Destructoid is a second home to me and I'm so grateful to everyone who works to make this site what it is.
Ah, and videogames! I like them. My favorite console of all time is the Wii, and my favorite game of all time is Skyward Sword.
Other games I like include Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy 6, The Binding of Isaac, Hotline Miami, Thief 2, and Cart Life.
I'm sure not all of you know this, but I'm pretty young. I'm still in high school, and like most high-schoolers, I'm quite naive, and still have a whole lot to learn about the world and how it works. For the most part, I find learning and experiencing new things pretty fun. Rubs a bit of grime from the lens in which you view the world, possibly revealing a door to a new set of nearly infinite possibilities. There does however, exist various sets of possibilities that you may never want to consider. Doors that you dread opening. Things that once are revealed, set in place the yearning to re-apply a layer of dirt to that aforementioned lens.
My family has a long history of various diseases and medical conditions. Cancer, diabetes, the list goes on. I can't say I know what causes all of these conditions, I suppose it's a mix of an unhealthy lifestyle and genetics but that's besides the point. These... conditions usually end up shortening their time on this planet to quite a significant degree. With the marvels of modern medicine and a change in lifestyle, however, the effects of these conditions can be delayed, or in some cases, eradicated completely. But while victims of the disease may be cured of their physical ailments, the implications of what could have been begin to manifest in both the victim and those close to the victim.
Almost every time I'm reminded that life is finite, I try to tell myself that I'm not afraid of death. I mean, why should I be afraid? It's inevitable, so why would I subject myself or others to toil over something that we as a species can't do anything about?
But if I know that I will eventually leave my family and friends forever, assuming they're still around, then why bother with life? The idea that one day, almost everything that I've ever done will be of little relevance to anyone is a pretty humbling one. I suppose the idea that I'm going to go no matter what I do, also implies that I have nothing to lose in this life, which I like a lot more than the former idea.
It's hard to think or talk about things like death and mortality, because it seems that every time you might have solved a problem or answered a question, five more pop up in their place. I suppose it's a lot easier to find a more hopeful or optimistic way to perceive reality, which is why I think religion can be so powerful.
Because I'm still a naive teenager though, I try to solve puzzles with pieces that I already have, instead of going out and looking for pieces that would probably make the solution to said puzzle a lot more apparent. I have fun trying to apply things like videogame logic to the real world and vice versa.
There are multiple ways in which videogames approach the idea of the death of a protagonist, not to mention the death of others. The way that games deal with concepts of failure and loss can actually heavily influence my feelings towards said game. I love games like Hotline Miami, but I find the disposable, inconsequential, way in which they deal with death detrimental to the experience as a whole. Though I suppose in Hotline Miami it's a little more excusable, as it contributes to the narrative.
One of my favorite things that developers can include in games is permadeath. I suppose it's because I enjoy the real-world implications the most, which I realize sounds ignorant and selfish. I especially enjoy the way that permadeath changes the way you play a game, the way it makes you contemplate every move you make extremely carefully. There is one caveat, however. I mentioned earlier that I like the idea that you have nothing to lose in life. This means that games that include the type of permadeath that I enjoy are byte-sized rogue-likes; think TBOI and Spellunky. Because the time between your conception and your demise in those games are so short, feelings of loss and frustration are usually minimal. This makes me feel like I was never at risk at losing all that much.
Though I suppose that that logic kind of breaks when you add responsibilities like a family and kids into the mix. See? Whenever you think your close to figuring something out, you realize one thing that completely renders the answer to a question you've been asking yourself for years completely obsolete. One day when I'm older I hope to figure all of this out and appear on talk-shows where I tell middle-aged women it's all going to be okay.
But that's a long way away, and I've just realized I've been rambling for almost ten paragraphs, only to talk about videogames for only two. And that's not okay, because you probably came here to read something about videogames, only to have a chunk of your life sapped away by something you didn't really care about in the first place. That is of course, implying that you made it this far. And if your reading this right now I'm inferring that you did. Thanks.
One of the reasons that videogames manage to bring me back time and time again is the feeling I get when learning about a game's mechanics or familiarizing myself with a game's world. My favorite games are the ones that really differentiate themselves from real life and each other in terms of logic and atmosphere. There's a real sense of achievement that comes from successfully grasping a game's rules and understanding what initially may seem obtuse or nonsensical. Of course this is not a feeling that I get from every game. There are quite a number of titles that are highly derivative of each other in terms of their mechanics and game-logic. This is understandable; as the industry progresses it's going to become harder and harder to come up with truly "original" ideas. I can still enjoy a derivative game, as long as it puts some sort of spin on the established conventions or has a unique atmosphere.
Darksiders 2 is a game that I played quite a bit of. Currently I've logged in about 18 hours. During that time I fought some enemies, pushed some levers, and climbed on some stuff. I think.
Vigil's sequel is a curious case in that it's the only game that I spent a significant amount of time with but didn't enjoy. I know it seems illogical. If you're not engaged with a game you should probably save your valuable time and stop playing it. But I wanted to be engaged with Darksiders 2. I wanted it so bad. But at no point in my experience was I having fun with the game. Even though Death had been forced to inhabit and save this fantastical and whimsical world, an overwhelming feeling of familiarity permeated Darkisiders 2. I felt like I had been here before.
After I had some time to meditate on the experience I realized that I had in fact been there before. Almost all of the mechanics were retreads of experiences that I had in the past. POP-esque platforming, combat similar but not nearly as deep as Devil May Cry, and an overall structure that was extremely reminiscent of Zelda. As I said earlier, I don't mind derivative games, so long as the game contains a significant feature that hasn't been seen in that genre or an atmosphere that is unlike anything else in the medium. I got nothing from Darksiders 2. The story did nothing to grab me, and I felt that the visual style, while initially beautiful, made everything look rather samey after a while. "Soulless" would be how I would put it.
I don't hate Darksiders 2. I realize that it was critically acclaimed, and I realize that it's a well made game that had an incredible amount of work and love put into it. The developers really did polish the mechanics to a shine, but I couldn't help but feel incredibly dull after spending time with it. I'm still glad that I played it, as it made me realize why a lot of games are just flat-out boring to me. I'm sorry if I upset any Darksiders fans out there, but I just thought I'd share my thoughts.
I've been playing quite a lot of games recently, actually quite a lot of ONE game if you must know the truth. If you haven't noticed the title of this blog yet, yes, that game is none other that Doom 2.
Now, I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to the doom franchise. The closest I've ever come to partaking in ID's Satanic series has been with the original Doom on my iPod. I quite enjoyed that game, as it was very refreshing to play a shooter of that labyrinthine design in an age when many shooters had much less open-ended approaches to level design. The only thing that was holding me back from fully singing the game's praises were the controls. I give credit to whoever ported it over on iOS, they really did the best they could, but the game simply was not designed to be played on a touch screen. I'm still glad I played it though, as it made me think about just how well the game would play with a keyboard and mouse.
Fast forward to the 2012 Steam Winter sale. I've got three bucks left in my steam wallet and I'm combing through the multitude of games that might just satiate my everlasting hunger for electronic entertainment. I feel like something old school; not too heavy. Something that's punishing, and lends itself well to short play sessions. Scrolling down the long list of games at absurdly low prices when suddenly...
Faster that you can say Cyberdemon, I purchase and download the game, and boot up this shining example of old school game design. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey to the fiery pits of hell themselves, and emerge victorious over the forces of evil with a shotgun in one hand, and a new favorite game in the other.
I started writing this blog with the intent to articulate just what makes this game a masterpiece and I'm going to do it god dammit! I apologize if my attempt to explain what makes Doom 2 one of my favorite videogames of all time devolves into unabashed gushing, but what can I say? The game's that good!
If anything, the second chapter in ID's defining series has only gotten better with age. Doom 2 contains an old-school design that has become rarer and rarer to find as the console generations have progressed. Even with the recent resurgence of "retro" games, there's a certain soul that can only be found in games from the 80's and 90's.
While some might say the graphics as the most old-school thing about this game I find that the most old-school thing about doom, and it's defining feature, is how it approaches gameplay. There are no lengthy tutorial sequences, exposition and background plot are thrown out the window. This game drops you right into the action without so much as a button-mapping screen. While I do admire games that offer a rich story, there are times when I would much rather have the game just shut up and get me playing right away. Doom 2 is perhaps one of the best examples of this pick-up and play mentality.
This cutting of fat carries over to the level design. The game moves at a breakneck pace, and avoids all of the puzzle solving and plodding progression present in some shooters. Levels are large and visually diverse, and avoid the pitfall of having virtually identical hallways, a problem that a lot of shooters back then struggled with. Everything feels meticulously designed and placed, and the game is just so much better for it. The enemies are designed with this fast-paced design in mind, as a lot of them do absurd amounts of damage. This is balanced out, difficulty wise, by them having a relatively low tolerance to bullets. This vulnerability ofboth both the monsters and yourself makes every enemy encounter potentially fatal, which helps build great tension between you and the game.
But what would those monsters be without means of dispatching them. This game continues the Doom tradition of having ridiculously satisfying weapons. Every blast you expel from your plasma or shotgun is accompanied by a fulfilling thump or buzz. Some might cite the weapons as disappointing though, considering that only one new gun was added to Doom Guy's arsenal, but I think the old weapons still had a lot of life in them at the time that this was released.
The games soundtrack does a lot to contribute to the hellish atmosphere of the game. It's a rather stark contrast to the original's head banging array of tracks, as it's a lot more ambient and spooky. I feel that in general, ID really did a lot to differentiate this sequel from the first Doom by making it more atmospheric in general. Levels are a lot larger than the first doom, and display some pretty impressive shadow and light effects for the time that this was released. It's by no means terrifying, but I have to admit, some of the surprise enemy placements in conjunction with the lighting and brilliant sound design had me jump out of my seat.
All of these features come together to make one of my new favorites, and Doom 2 has earned a place in my top five of all time for sure. If you've never really gotten into the Doom series, or are itching for an old-school shooter with fantastic design you should all definitely check it out on Steam or the 360. There is one caveat to the steam version however, it's rather poorly emulated and really takes a hit in regards to sound and graphics. If you do choose to purchase the game on Steam I recommend you use a source port, GZDOOM being one of my favorites. Either way, prepare yourself for a fantastic experience. Delightfully old school, deliciously atmospheric, and most importantly; fun.
A few days ago, Tom Mc Shea published an article onto Gamespot entitled: "Is Nintendo Trapped by It's Legacy?" It's a well written piece, and I recommend that you go over there and give it a look. If you're just too cool for that I'll give you the rundown. Tom believes that with recent console generations, Nintendo's been making the same mistakes and pulling the same shtick. Droughts of game releases, third parties not being interested, things that have become synonymous with Nintendo consoles. Tom explains that the only reason that gamers are willing to overlook this is because of first-party releases, and he believes that even those are growing stale and obsolete. Like I said, it's an enjoyable read, but I couldn't help but find some holes in his argument. I'm not trying to be disrespectful or prove him wrong, I just wanted to put my two cents in.
The first issue that Tom brought up was the drought of game releases that have become so frequent during the lifespan of a Nintendo console. I don't disagree completely with this point. In terms of game releases, the Wii became a bit of a sparse desert in it's later years, with months upon months populated with nothing but shovelware. Don't get me wrong, the Wii is my favorite console of all time, but that doesn't mean that I'm blind to it's shortcomings. I suppose I was more oblivious to game droughts because I was a relatively late adopter of the Wii. At that point it had a significant backlog of truly awesome games. I was never one to tear through games in a week, so a game could keep me occupied for months on end. However, I suppose I'm a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the amount of time it takes me to complete a game. Tom also claimed that the Wii U is no exception when it comes to game droughts and I do agree with him. There doesn't seem to be anything big coming out in the next month or so, but I do think that the Wii U had a good enough launch so that there would be enough games to satiate console owners for at least two months after launch.
Tom states that Nintendo's roster of first-party heavy-hitters have become stale and samey. Old franchises like Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, and Zelda have and will continue to rely on the same old tropes that they've been using ever since their first iteration. This is where I begin to disagree with Tom's sentiment. One of the things that makes Nintendo games so magical, to me at least, is their ability to present a beginning and ending to a story we've all seen before, and make that journey in between different each time. Every Zelda game starts you off in the shoes of an unsuspecting young boy, and ends with that boy becoming a legendary hero. It's how each game presents itself to you with different characters, puzzles, and aesthetic. It's what makes these games unique and enduring. Tom even brings Nintendo's ability to "reinvent it's most enduring properties" up during the editorial, but believes that the games that reinvent themselves are few and far between. I would argue the opposite however, with the only Nintendo titles that stay more or less the same in terms of aesthetic and general gameplay being the New Super Mario Brothers series, and even they have differences in terms of level design, powerups, and scope.
As for Nintendo relying too much on first party titles, I have a feeling that's about to change. The Big N's recent Nintendo Direct showcased quite a bit of 3rd party games such as Bayonetta 2 and the Wonderful 101, as well as Nintendo's collaboration with Atlus on Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei. Iwata himself stated that this collaboration is very telling of Nintendo's new approach to making games, which would have you believe that more collaborations and work with 3rd parties can be expected in the near future. Nintendo's even bringing newer IPs such as the Xenoblade series to the forefront, which is evidenced by the new "X" game unveiled at the Nintendo Direct.
Again, this was not written to embarrass Tom McShea by any means. He believes what he believes and that's completely fine. I just wanted to respectfully document my response in a way that hopefully starts discussion.
This is a photoshop I did after listening to the latest Podtoid.
For those of you who don't know (shame on you!), Podtoid is a podcast hosted by Destructoid's very own Jim Sterling, accompanied by Jonathan Holmes and Conrad Zimmerman. I believe it started in 2007, and was originally hosted by website founder Niero Gonzales, but that's besides the point. I'm not here to teach a Podtoid history lesson (you have the Podtoid Wiki for that), I'm here to tell you a story!
My freshman year in high school was probably the worst year in my life so far. Keep in mind that I'm still in high school, so that's not saying very much. Still though, it was a pretty dreary year. I was an awkward, self-conscious, wreck of a kid who didn't hang out much with people my age. This was due in part to the fact that I didn't want to interact with the kids around me. The bulk of them seemed absolutely unpleasant, and I could never muster up the courage to talk to the ones that I had a desire to become friends with. It became more and more apparent that this was a problem as the year went on. With no one to hang out with, places like the lunchroom became a nightmare. I managed to find some solutions to these problems, such as spending lunches in the library, safe from any potential human interaction.
I forgot what it was called, but there was this one class that was required of freshmen, I think it was supposed to prepare us for a career or something. Whatever the purpose, I doubt anyone learned anything from it. For most kids, class consisted of goofing off with friends and poking fun at the teacher. I did neither. There were computers available, so I spent most classes playing the Binding of Isaac demo on newgrounds over and over again. Occasionally I would check Metacritic for Wii games, since that was the only console I owned at the time. Early reviews for Kirby's Return to Dreamland were coming ub and I was super excited. Yup. I was super excited for a new Kirby game while other boys in the room were talking about how hammered they got at that party on Saturday. Reality was definitely setting in.
Regardless, I was ecstatic when the reviews that came in were largely positive. Now, I loved Epic Yarn, but I was itching for a more traditional Kirby game. Perhaps the most positive review the game received was by a site named "Destructoid." Now I'd heard of DTOID before, but never really took the time to visit the site.
The rest is history. As Metacritic directed me to the site, and I stumbled upon link after link I finally came across a podtoid episode. I gave it a listen, and lost myself in the voices of Jim, Holmes, Max and Tara. I wasn't exactly sure what I was listening too, all I knew was that I didn't want to stop. I quickly became an avid listener, and a constant visitor of DTOID. I had almost all the Max-Tara era episodes on my ipod, which made menial tasks like doing the dishes a hoot, and really made long runs a lot more enjoyable. My two hour bus ride to school from five to seven in the morning became infinitely more bearable, there were even a few times where I laughed out loud on the bus, waking other drowsy passengers. Unbeknownst to me I was actually learning important people-skills from the cast of podtoid.
Yes, sprinkled inbetween the talks of pedophilia and Willem Dafoe were some genuinely important lessons. The Podtoid cast always flaunted their weirdness and strange ideas, without fear of what others thought of them. At the time, I was extremely self-conscious and very much kept my strangeness to myself. Since then, I'd like to think that I've become a lot less afraid of what others think of me. They also taught me that there's really no such thing as a right or wrong opinion, and that it was OK to be different. I know, these sound like extremely cliche lessons that they taught you in elementary school, but up until I heard these real-life human beings exchange and converse I never really got it.
Constantly listening to Podtoid and visiting Destructoid also introduced me to the community here. And what a community it is. The cblogs and Destructoid in general have really given me a creative outlet where I can express my self without the fear of judgement or persecution. I know I've said it before, but I love you guys!
So yeah, that's my story. If you've gotten this far I apologize for it's long-windedness, and the fact that it's not particularly well written. With every blog I write I try to improve myself, and hopefully some improvements are starting to show. Once again I just want to say thank you to everybody. Jim, Holmes, Max, Tara, Conrad, Hamza, even a random community member, I want to say thanks... for everything.