Category Archives: Editorials

The Intentional Optimism of ‘Trails in the Sky’

headerOptimism is not easy. This is something that most people don’t really think about. Most would consider optimism to be the default state of a person who has not seen enough of the world to know any different. There is a reason, after all, that the word ‘childlike’ is usually placed before the word and used to describe a state of naivetè that comes from inexperience. It is assumed by a great many people nowadays that once a person sees the world for ‘what it really is’, that person will, at the very least, shift from a perspective of ‘glass half full’ to ‘glass half empty’.

This manner of thinking is shown in video games a lot. As games strive to be a more ‘mature’ medium for storytelling, the settings and stories can, in a lot of cases, become very grim. Not that games are the only representation of these attitudes; dystopian fiction has enjoyed quite a run of success, and film has in recent years taken to deconstructing childhood heroes and showing their dark sides.

It’s refreshing, then, to experience a plot that shows that optimism is not solely a naive reaction, but can be a mature and informed choice that affects the way one views the world. And it is even more refreshing that this depiction of ‘intentional’ or ‘pragmatic’ optimism comes from a game that is in a great many ways a throwback to the same era of gaming that brought so many other evolutions to the kinds of stories that are acceptable in the medium.

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Zero Escape: One Choice Can Destroy You

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[This article contains minor spoilers for the games in the Zero Escape series. I have, however, kept them vauge enough that they will only make sense if you’ve played the games.]

Let me tell you a story.

One day, a woman went running down a path that she had traveled many, many times in the past. This path has a fork in it, and normally this woman takes the right hand fork. This day, the woman sees a snail in the road, and in order to avoid it, she makes the split-second decision to take the left hand path instead.

This story is told by the character Zero in the third game of the Zero Escape series, Zero Time Dilemma. The story does not have a good ending, because in fact, ten minutes after this choice, the woman is dead. One choice destroyed her. That, in fact, is the point that Zero is trying to make here. One choice, no matter how inconsequential it seems at the time, can destroy us.

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Final Fantasy IX: A Retrospective

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I know what you’re going to say: “Greg, you write about Final Fantasy a whole lot.” You would be right. I do write about it a whole lot. I think about it a whole lot, probably moreso than most other series. The fact is that I credit Final Fantasy as the reason I’ve always been into games. Sure, Legend of Zelda may have been my very first game, but it was Final Fantasy that hooked me, and Final Fantasy II (which, I would later find out, was the fourth game in the series) that solidified the hold that games have had on my life. It was just pretty amazing to me that a game could have a story to it, and I mean a real story with characters and interpersonal conflict.

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Undertale and Player Choice

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So, I have this friend. We’ll call her ‘Lauren’, because, well, that’s what her name is. She plays a lot of video games, and plays a lot of music from a lot of video games, and is generally very enthusiastic about them to a degree that borders upon indescribable. She tends to criticize video game plots and characterization and themes because let’s face it, no matter how far video games have come in the past couple years, there have been just as many steps backwards. And besides, if one loves a thing, one should criticize it in the interests of making it better. I guess what I’m saying is, when Lauren recommends a game, I tend to listen to her because she puts a great deal of thought behind her recommendations. So, when she recommended that I play a little indie game by the name of Undertale, I paid attention.

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to write about games that were popular and that everyone already knew about. And here I am, writing about a game that everyone has at least heard something about in the past couple of months. But here we are.

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Things That Make Me Happy: September 2014 Edition

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I’m sure that anyone who reads this site, other sites, or has been on the internet at all in the past few days knows that there have been some pretty negative things that have been happening in the video game industry. I feel like there have been a great many other people who have been a great deal more personally affected by these things than I have been, and those people do a much better job of addressing the situation than I ever could.

So, I’m going to do the only thing I feel that I can do. I would like to list, briefly and in no particular order, the things related to video games that have made me and others happy, and which I think are positive things happening in the industry right now. Some of these things involve games I intend on reviewing at some point, and some of them are just observations I’ve made in the past month-ish.

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On Anxiety, Control, and Video Games

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There is a piece of advice that anyone who writes anything for the internet is given, at least once and usually multiple times: ‘Don’t post anything personal, they’ll eat you alive if you do’. And, thus far, with very few exceptions, I’ve stuck to that. I keep my personal stuff more or less offline, mostly because I don’t want to risk over-sharing. However, this time, I’m going to break that rule just a little bit so that I can talk, briefly, about my experiences with video games and anxiety disorder.

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Spec Ops: The Line and Player Choice

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So, I have this friend. We’ll call him ‘Jeff”, because, well, that’s what his name is. He plays a lot of video games, and he usually finds some manner of fault with roughly 95% of them. Most of that fault is with the plot, because let’s face it, while video game plotwriting has come a very long way, it is oftentimes still lacking when compared with books and such. So when Jeff recommends a game to me based on the strength of its plot, I take notice. I take a lot of notice. Even if that game is something I may not ordinarily have picked up.

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Video Games are Art. Now What?

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So, if you will recall, a few years back there was a big discussion, off and on, about whether video games could be considered a form of art. To my knowledge, the issue was never really resolved, and while it’s mostly died down, I’ve seen there be some resurgence of the discussion here and there.  When that happens, I tend to ignore it, because to me, the discussion isn’t really relevant anymore. I don’t think anyone’s really taken the time to talk about why that’s the case, though.

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Final Fantasy XIII: A Retrospective

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I will freely admit that I have been playing a whole lot of Final Fantasy (and Final Fantasy-like) lately. It’s a testament to my devotion to the series that no matter how many times certain games in it are remade, or how far new entries deviate from tradition, I will still play them. And, really, I will also admit that I still enjoy the series, no matter what direction Square-Enix has decided to take it. Final Fantasy was my first RPG, so I’m not exaggerating when I say that the series has been with me through pretty much the entire course of my life. That doesn’t mean that I can’t see the obvious flaws that it shows sometimes, but I wouldn’t call the series ‘dead’ like a lot of publications are doing at this point in time. Overall, I’d say that my experiences with it remain primarily enjoyable.

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Bravely Returning with Lightning: Square-Enix’s Divergent Design Philosophies

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Last week saw the release of two much-anticipated Square-Enix games in the North America region. One, Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies, is the 3DS spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light and is a standalone game that should have been released here sooner than it was. The other, Lightning Reutrns, is the actual successor to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, and promises an ending to a trilogy that was never supposed to be a trilogy. It’s really interesting to me that these games were released in the same week. Why? Because they appear to represent two completely different design philosophies within Square-Enix and also represent some truly interesting things about the Final Fantasy brand itself.

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