Games

Fall Out 4

Fall Out 4

Fall Out 4 is the first videogame I’ve been really excited to play in a couple of years.  How many days until November 11th?

 

Half Life 3 on the other hand?

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Clash of Civilizations

I have a love hate relationship with the game Civilization. The current version is Civ 5 and coincidentally I’ve been playing a bit of it this summer too.  It does lend itself to some historical mismatches from time to time though as illustrated by the very recent installment of Awkward Zombie:

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My Favorite: Videogames: FPS + RPG

There are only a handful of videogames that I have really and truly loved like a book, comic, movie or song.  The ones that readily come to mind are all post-school for me when computer technology finally got to the point where graphics and gameplay enabled the kind of world building and immersive story-telling that was a generation beyond the Atari 2600 games of my childhood.  It’s also when I finally had enough money to afford a decent PC and the games themselves.

I like the challenge of games but I don’t love it; no more than I love the challenge of reading difficult words.  The gaming format is mostly an ends to a means for me – a submersion in a world with a story.  Every now and then, particularly with Portal, the game part of the game is really worthwhile for me, but I don’t take my primary enjoyment from the mechanics of games.

I think the games I list below are of a particular zone that overlaps two genres known as First Person Shooters and Role Playing Games.  The Point of View of FPS games is immersive and compelling; the world building, story-telling and attention to characters of RPGs is what keeps me in a state of imagination, suspending disbelief during the course of the game.

Here’s a list of my favorite games of this type, which with perhaps the exception of Civilization, are essentially my favorite games:

  1. Half-Life and Half-Life 2:  Half-Life was revelatory. A killer story, tension-building game play with serious twists and turns. (I revisited recently this game by playing Black Mesa, which is a mod of Half Life 2 to recreate the original Half Life game) Half-Life 2, several years later, raised the stakes with an expanded world, mind-blowing graphics and improved supporting characters, especially the character of Alyx and her pet robot, “Dog”.
  2. Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas: I never played the pre-Fallout 3 games so I didn’t have any preconceived notions (like many diehard fans apparently did) about what it should be. What it did was give a Jetsons-style view of the apocalypse, right in the remains of Washington DC. The open-ended world was new to me too at the time and in comparison to the rigid, tracked world in Half-Life, was also a revelatory experience.
  3. Portal and Portal 2: I’ll admit, I did not really get into Portal the first time I played it and I let it sit on the virtual shelf for a couple of years.  I played it and Portal 2 together all the way through when Portal 2 came out and this time, appreciated the combination of world, characters and truly challenging puzzles presented by the game’s portal gun and other physics-bending innovations.  
  4. Bioshock and Bioshock 2: Very creepy, very fun and it took the world-building a step further by layering in a critique and manifestation of objectivist philosophy in the underwater world of Rapture. Bioshock 2 was not a step forward like other sequels I’ve mentioned in this post but it was more of the same done very well.  I am loading up the real sequel to Bioshock right now which is the long awaited Bioshock Infinite.
  5. The Walking Dead: One of the few Telltale games I’ve played and the only one I’ve unabashedly enjoyed. One of the few games to really absolutely, genuinely work on an honest, emotional level.
  6. Left for Dead and Left for Dead 2: In contrast to The Walking Dead, the two installments of L4D are action thrillers putting you in the middle of a zombie movie set.  The thing I really appreciate about these games is that they did a lot of world building, character creation and story-telling that still managed to mostly maintain it’s illusion of immersion even in a coop, multiplayer environment. (You might be detecting a pattern here that multi-player games are not my first choice in videogames)
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Tropes in Distress

This first entry in The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project from Anita Sarkeesian (successfully funded on Kickstarter) covers “damsels in distress” and is quite good:

We all grew up with videogames and while I don’t think any of it controls anyone’s behavior (as in the constant political grandstanding over violence in videogames) it does reflect and reinforce attitudes and patterns in society. Examining games with a critical feminist eye is fascinating both because we’re looking at vital pop culture and because Anita is a really good communicator making what could be pretty dry stuff into an interesting walk through some of the most influential videogames of our era.

UPDATE: This is a neat hack; a dad swapped the roles of the Princess and Mario in Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as the Princess and rescue Mario:

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Three Panel Soul

Matt and Ian are webcomic pioneers and their second webcomic, Three Panel Soul is an impressionistic chronicle of twenty-something post collegiate life.  A little bit of relationships, a little bit of work, mix in some video-games and other cultural bits, all layered over realistic yet deeply stylized artwork and you’ve got a consistently interesting, often highly entertaining observational comic.  Frankly I wouldn’t be wrong in calling it a journal comic but it bears only the faintest resemblance to the stereotype of that genre.

A fairly recent one from the archives captures a particular flavor of angst of early adult life in the 21st Century.  I know this is not everyone’s issue — a tiny few are doing extremely well, a whole lot more folks would be happy to have the opportunity of going to college.  But for a lot of middle class folks, huge mainstays of the economy are just gone or changed in such fundamental ways that this comic gets at:

Another one is a bit more topical but I thought it was pretty funny even at a distance of four years:

Still there are plenty of comics about video games, especially Mass Effect and World of Warcraft, cakes, cats, and other silly things.  There are also recurring bouts of optimism mixed in with the uncertainty, including this comic about the iPhone, which may or may not have been one of the first examples of recognizing that we are all NOT THAT GOOD at appreciating how AMAZING technology really is (the Louie CK bit on the old Conan show may be the most famous riff on the same notion and let’s link to the very very recent Warren Ellis post as another highlight of the genre):

Anyhow as another comic I read, lost track of and now have caught back up with, I’m really looking forward to keeping up with it again.

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