It is interesting to have an experience so transformative as to give one the impression of seeing the future within the present. Usually, this involves seeing a part of the world in some profoundly different way than one is accustomed to seeing it. In the age of rapid incremental technological progress, oftentimes we forget what this kind of experience feels like. Today, every bit of progress feels like a half-step over what has come before, like a ‘Xeno’s Paradox’ of new phones, televisions, and video game systems constantly telling us that this half-step will be the one that gets us to the door.
Well, folks, in this analogy, virtual reality is the door, and I have spent the past week or so looking through it. I am pleased to say that the experience is sufficiently above and beyond any normal step forward in technology to be worth writing about, though it also comes with some caveats.
Continue reading “Transformative Experiences- Virtual Reality”
Much like anxiety, depression as a mental health consideration has entered the public consciousness to a greater degree in the past couple of decades than it has in the more distant past. Also, similarly to anxiety, it is obvious that depression has existed in humans for much longer than we have had the words to describe it or the tools to diagnose and treat it. A somewhat common perception seems to be that anxiety and depression go hand in hand enough that they are often mentioned together in conversations regarding mental health. While there can be some degree of observable correlation there, the two conditions should be considered separately in terms of how they affect an individual’s perceptions of and reactions to reality.
The topic of how mental health affects how a person perceives and interacts with the world around them is one of the central concepts expressed in the game Night in the Woods. The plot of the game, written by Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry, revolves around Mae Borowski, a 20-year-old woman returning to her hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college for initially undisclosed reasons. During the course of the game’s narrative, Mae experiences a number of interconnected mental health issues that result in her version of reality being affected. While there are a number of games out there that also use altered mental states as a narrative tool, Night in the Woods uses a combination of the narrative representation of Mae’s mental state alongside adventure game exploration and platforming in order to allow the player to participate in the overarching depression that constantly layers atop Mae’s reality.
Continue reading “The Games that Guide Us – Night in the Woods and Depression”
[This article was originally posted here at VGMOnline.net, and is archived here with their permission. Please go check their site out because it is wonderful.]
The spacefaring arm of the 4X genre has a long and extremely celebrated history on the PC. From the classics like Galactic Civilizations and Masters of Orion to the relatively more recent entries like Sins of a Solar Empire and Endless Space, each take on the premise brings with it a different balance of micromanagement and automation. Unlike the terrestrial entries in the genre, though, there aren’t many soundtracks that I can claim have been particularly memorable. With Stellaris, Paradox Interactive seeks to bring their own spin on both the mechanics and the music behind the genre. Paradox composer Andreas Waldetoft has combined sci-fi electronica with performances by the Brandenburg State Orchestral to give us a synthesis of genre that has definitely aimed to give us something memorable. For the most part, I think he’s definitely succeeded.
Continue reading “Stellaris – Original Soundtrack Review”
Optimism 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.
Continue reading “The Intentional Optimism of ‘Trails in the Sky’”
Now, everyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love me some Portal. And why not? It definitely has secured itself squarely in the ranks of the Greatest Games of All Time. In fact, I could just sit here and say “Portal is one of the greatest games of all time” and leave it at that, and would hear absolutely no arguments from anyone.
Except I’m not going to do that.
Continue reading “Portal: A Retrospective”
So, I do this thing where I geek out over games that a whole lot of other people end up overlooking. This is one of those times. That’s all I really have to say about this.
Continue reading “Better Late than Never: Just Cause 2”
Well, I’m finally diving back into another MMO, after taking a break from them for a little bit (unless you count Diablo III, which might as well be an MMO). However, the one I’m tackling has been promoted as fairly unconventional. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also state that I’ve been in the beta for this one, so I’ve been able to see how things have evolved and what issues have been addressed or not addressed. What I’m reviewing here, though, is the ‘finished’ product, in the sense that no MMO can ever truly be called a finished product, since they all are regularly patched and altered. Anyway, so, here we go with my initial experience with the release version of The Secret World!
Continue reading “Opening Turn: The Secret World”
Yes, that is probably the most blatant overuse of colons in the title of an article that I’ve seen in quite awhile. Anyway, I promised two blog posts this weekend, and here I am, delivering on that promise. Mostly because I’ve actually played two games this week, and /can/ deliver on that promise. But first, this one needs a bit of foreword regarding the author’s previous experience with Magic: the Gathering. I started playing it pretty much at the beginning (though not the /actual/ beginning. Roughly 4th edition or so), when I could talk my parents into buying me booster packs. I played it off and on through grade school and middle school, then a little in high school, and then off and on in college because it was something that pretty much everyone had played at least one game of at one point or another. I never did competitive play, but my skill level has progressed a little past ‘casual player’. So, I picked up the ‘Duels of the Plainswalkers’ games to fulfill the urge to play some casual Magic without having to purchase cards, and to be able to play against a computer controlled AI. That being said, how has it measured up so far?
Continue reading “Opening Turn: Magic: the Gathering: Duels of the Plainswalkers 2013”
So, it’s something I don’t really do that often, but this time I’m going to be reviewing an expansion pack. Granted, in the process I’ll also be giving my thoughts related to the main game a bit, but I’ll try to keep it focused on the things that are new and different from the original release of Civilization V. Which is, in itself, a pretty good (though not the best) iteration of one of the greatest game series ever made. So how does it improve upon Civ 5? Does it improve at all? Well…
Continue reading “Opening Turn: Civilization V: Gods and Kings”