My free time is about half way split between time with “Godus” on the PC and time with “Destiny” on the PS3.
A good throwback Saturday morning with some quiet cuddles on the couch, basking in the glow of some Minecrafting with my daughter.
Oh, and so apparently we’re at that point in the daddy-daughter-gamer relationship when I don’t necessarily get first go on new games I buy.
I’m kinda hoping for some rain this weekend, not only for the sake of my garden but I seriously need an excuse to play some video games and not feel guilty about squandering a nice day.
I’m just sitting here watching Claire try to teach her friend how to play Disney Infinity. The friend seems to have played video games before now, but never this particular title. So instead of logically explaining what each button does, I’ve been gritting my teeth (and trying not to intervene) as Claire is explaining the detailed functionality of the gameplay by saying things like “you just go over here and jump” or “just run around and do stuff.” Her friend is walking in circles and falling off virtual cliffs to her instant demise. Is it that it takes a particular kind of empathy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and teach them the fundamentals of gameplay, or is trial by fire the best way to learn?
January 17… and it ended up something like this:
We squeezed in one more day at the Magic Kingdom. Pass confusion. Race rest days. Magic band mayhem earlier in the vacation. It all meant that for about ten bucks we were able to do one minor little tweak and we all had yet one more day in a park. So, we chose the Magic Kingdom.
Things were fairly quiet when we arrived. We did a couple rides. Claire zipped through two unusually-short lines get photos and autographs with four princesses — Rapunzel, Snow White, Aurora and Cinderella — all in about fifteen minutes, counting the photo time.
And then we just took it easy for a while.
During Karin’s research for this trip she had read (and watched on YouTube a little, too) about this new game that Disney has wedged into the Magic Kingdom. Aptly named, the “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” game is one part video game, one part card trading game, and one part scavenger hunt. You sign up, you get a starter pack of cards, and then you follow the clues to the various portals hidden around the park. When you activate a portal, the game appears on a wall or a screen nearby and you can use your cards — which you can collect and trade — to ast spells in the video game portion of the game. You do this by standing at the right spot and holding up one or more cards in the direction of the portal.
We got some starter packs and spent a good two or three hours racing from portal to portal playing a full nine-phase first round of the game. Claire’s interest waxed and waned as the day wore on, but we interspersed it with some more rides and with some of the shows we’d missed on earlier visits, and so she held out to the end.
But soon evening crept close and our dinner reservations were poking over the horizon. At some point in here my head clicked and I was done. It was over. I went from sad to go to ready to leave: the vacation was in “let’s go home” mode.
We did one last train loop of the park and waved good-bye. We caught the Disney transports — the monorail and the bus — to Downtown Disney and caught up with our other four traveling companions for dinner.
Dinner. That was something else: my brain is still spinning from a meal at the T-Rex Restaurant. The lights. The noise. The chaos. The onslaught of sensory stimuli from every direction. I don’t know what to say about it, actually.
Highlights of the day include:
1) The artist. The tooth fairy found Claire last night and brought her a “how to draw Disney Characters” book. She must have seen me eyeing it at Hollywood Studios last week. Claire sat on the bed this morning trying her darndest to draw Mickey Mouse.
2) The princesses. As cliche as I sometimes imagine it to be, there is something neat about seeing the big grin on your daughter’s face when she gets to have her photo with a Disney Princess. I’ll eat those words someday, but today I’m brimming.
3) Leaving the park: after all the worry and wonder that surrounds this kind of vacation, the fiasco with our last Disney trip of dealing with Claire and the flu, the race training and preparation, and the issues we had this time round with tickets, having concluded with nothing gone irreparably wrong or broken, I was feeling pretty content about a successful vacation as it ended when we stepped through those gates this evening.
And now, a late evening of packing. The bus comes early. The plane leaves around noon. And this time tomorrow night we’ll be at home wondering why it’s not time for bed yet. It’s been one crazy vacation.
Sitting around and browsing the Steam holiday sale didn’t result in new games, rather it just reminded me that I should probably play the ones I bought last year.
It was well over a year and a half ago now when I found myself completely obsessed by the open world fantasy role playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d downloaded a release day copy for my PC through Steam and over the span of about three or four months played far more than a mid-thirties guy with a kid and a job really should have.
Insert Abrupt Pause Here…
And then spring arrived. And some running goals fell into the mess. And that darned thing called life got in the way of a perfectly good video game.
I’d poked my head back into the vast and expansive world of Skyrim once or twice since, but my career as a dragon-slaying Nord-ess ended fairly abruptly as my priorities shifted. And, picking back up where one left off after such an extreme shift in engagement… not as easy as it sounds.
But then not completely forgotten, either.
About a week ago the Internet was ablaze with the release of the latest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA:V, as I understand it, is another vast, open world game, but that’s where it’s similarities to games like Skyrim end. And it’s also where my discussion of that game ends: with me saying the GTA series, as much as I’ve played past versions, are just not my cup-of-tea.
But back downtown, near where I work, is a video game shop in the mall. And on one particular morning last week, when I happened to wander by, a few dozen guys about my age, most in neatly pressed business attire, were patiently lined up waiting to grab their copy of the much anticipated “five” pre-ordered and waiting to be loaded into Playstations and Xboxes across the city and around the world.
“Impulse Shopping” Meets “Been Thinking About It Anyhow”
I decided to be different. Not deliberately, mind you, but when I wandered back to the store at lunch there was a pre-played copy of my long lost friend Skyrim — but for PS3, not PC — for little less than twenty bucks.
- for those who will first off say I’ve downgraded going from a PC version to a console version on the PS3, you are right. But what I’ve lost in graphics and control finesse, is more than made up by the fact I can play on the couch on a giant HDTV instead of in the basement, in a squeaky office chair, on a monitor less than a quarter the size.
- unlike last time when a four-year-old Claire was a little bit too young to even watch me play, the six year old Claire that lives at our house now LOVES the game and, in fact, told me she made up her own game to play during recess at school where she runs around fighting dragons and doing pretend magic in school yard. I’m still the one who actually plays the video game though.
- having decided to deliberately make different character and plot choices — some as early as minutes into the game — I’m surprised at how similar the early stages of the game are to the last time I played.
- it is just as addictive the second time through. Whatever perfect combination of game-play and simulated feedback the game designers stumbled upon in creating this piece — or whether it simply found a gaping hole in my brain to crawl into and set up home forever, I can’t tell — it’s like the obsession bloomed right back into full life only a couple hours after starting up the new adventure.
- I still don’t think it’s cheating to use the game guide and I pulled out my –only slightly dusty– copy almost before the game had finished downloading its initial installation updates.
- my updates are going to be far less interesting here because I cannot do screen grabs on the PS3… so you’re stuck with whatever old or stock imagery I can dig up elsewhere.
To quote another fantasy franchise: Winter is coming. And apparently that means juggling some dragon slaying in with my ongoing marathon training… provided I get to use the TV once in a while.
I game, therefore I am: But — you know this — the last thing the web needs is another gamer review blog. And, seeing as how I’m about three years behind on my gaming anyhow, who’s going to read it? 8-Bits-Short is a (new) series of snippet-posts, glimpses into the gaming life of this part-time video gamer a’la-dad-indoctrinating his daughter on his love of button mashing and pixel pushing. Share & enjoy…
I was sick for a couple days last week. Sick to the point where all I wanted to do was sleep and sit on the couch playing video games.
I slept mostly, but between naps I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the world of Terraria. Fair enough: MY world of Terraria. Yet another proceedurally-generated dig-for-resources game, I’ve been lately intrigued by this little game for two reasons: (a) it works on my PS3 and I can thus play it on the couch and (b) there is a bit more of a plot — and event-driven plot, yes, but still a plot. Claire has been enjoying watching me dig mines and slay zombies, and if that sounds a lot like Minecraft you wouldn’t be far off.
Terraria is Minecraft in two (layered) dimensions, with a bit of convoluted complexity that scared me off at first but has endeared me to it ever since I figured it out.
Rolling Old School: Katamari Damacy
Playstation Network surprised me the other day when I realized that the original Katamari game, Katamari Damacy launched for PS2 a number of years ago, was suddenly available as a “classic” download from the PSN store. I’d played but never owned the original, and I can’t even begin tell you how many hours I burned up on the couch rolling up virtual objects over the years.
Picking up a copy and downloading the (gulp) three-gigabyte install was a no-brainer, and Karin and I found ourselves with an evening of pass-and-play late last week, rolling our way through some retro-memories.
Role Playing: Ni no Kuni
I’ve been looking for some way to engage Claire deeper into a game than I have been with all these one-off platformer and construction games.
I mean, I love Minecraft as much as the next guy, but I spent many of my formative years digging through RPGs and story-based games, and I think my deep affection for video games are hidden in the likes of Final Fantasy and Ultima, both VII oddly enough. I came across a modern take on the RPG in a game called Ni no Kuni, and it caught my interest because — another little daughter-indoctrination process I’ve embarked upon — I’ve been systematically working Claire through the Studio Ghibli animation catalog… and Ni no Kuni was a partnership of Studio Ghibli and Level-5, and it looks — just looks right now — like it might be a good intro-RPG for a nearly six-year-old who’s got a bit of a taste for Japanese animation.
Now I just need to wait for Amazon to deliver it!
Despite the mountains of rational evidence to the contrary there are still a lot of folks out there holding to the claim that come December 21, 2012 the ire of the universe will refocus upon the planet Earth and cast us all into an end-of-the-world scenario of some kind. If those folks are right then I’ve got just a few precious hours left to get some hard-earned advice out to my readers before this blog goes offline… It’s time for another Week of Lists!
…a broken future where society has fallen.
I play games. I play games set in a broken future where society has fallen, broken, or otherwise mysteriously vanished. And we can choose to think of these games as entertainment… or we can choose to think of them as predictions.
Generally I lean heavily on the entertainment category, but with the End of the World so imminently nigh — maybe — I’ve taken a look back at all the entertainment to see what they’ve predicted for days, weeks and months following the annihilation of much of humanity.
Here’s what I’ve noticed…
You’ve heard about the social contract, right? Wikipedia has a better summary of it than I could write: “Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit…to the decision of a majority…in exchange for protection of their remaining rights.” In other words, it is a broad way of suggesting ‘the rules of behavior for people living in a society’ those same rules that form the basis of many moral, religious, or legal code. The same rules, that according to most every video game, collapse into so-much meaningless drivel the literal second after society fails to have hope of continuing. But as every zombie-shooter we’ve ever played has taughts us, those rights do not extend to the walking undead cursed to roam the countryside in search of fresh braaaaains. Some would argue that this is the whole point of zombies — apolitical, generic and human-ish, they make for an acceptable target of ruthless slaughter — but only rarely, and usually in literature or film, do we explore the morality of slaying zombies without forethought. Think about it.
2 :: Society Can’t Actually Collapse until Batteries, Bullets, and Computer Systems Are Completely Standardized and Interoperable
If video games are correct, society is actually quite safe until we do a better job of technological standardization. Some might blame the nuanced simplicity of game mechanics, the reality of playing within a confined and limited reality created by mere mortal game developers. But I choose to consider it more of a premonition of the eventual convergence and singularity of our inventions. After all, when you are scouring the ruined landscape for supplies in a video game, usually you come across something like “you found a battery” and it’s the right size, voltage, et cetera. I’ve yet to play a game — and maybe one exists — where you’re rummaging through a pile of debris and all you can find are double-As and your med-kit only takes D-cells. It just doesn’t happen. Same thing with bullets (though usually there are four or five kinds and games like Left 4 Dead solve this by showing you a haphazard heap of random ammunition from which I assume you just take what you need.) So, until we standardize everything that may be of use to a survivor of armageddon… well, it just can’t happen.
If you survived the apocalypse, don’t kid yourself. It wasn’t by accident. You are now the last great hope for humanity’s future and it is your new job to carefully unravel the cause and mystery of what brought on the end of society. I recently played a game called Dear Esther which was a mysterious, narrative-driven exploration of a post-people society. The game started with a vague, dreamlike impression of simply being alone in a desolate place, long since broken by some unspoken disaster. Maybe it didn’t even take place after the end of the world. I couldn’t really tell you. It seemed so. But whenever it took place I was fairly certain that the plot was very ego-centric and that I could uncover the so-called-solution to the riddle of the game if only I walked around enough and followed the clues… which I did… and I did. And in the days following the (perhaps) approaching apocalypse, video games have taught me to follow the metaphorical breadcrumb trail if I ever want to understand and make sense of the disaster.
4 :: Somewhere Out There Humanity’s Last Hope is Probably Biding Her Time in an Underground Bunker
Don’t fret it: someone out there is more prepared that you will ever be for the end of the world. They are even right now, in the last hours before the world is due to expire, climbing down into a deep bunker somewhere, running one last inventory check of air filters and food supplies. They might, even as you read these words, be getting ready to seal up the blast doors or crank up the AC to cool off for the potential nuclear wind coming their way. According to video games these folks have an important role to play for the future of humanity. In fact, if best-selling interactives like Fallout 3 have it anything close to right, these are very likely the future parents of the hero of humanity. In about thirty years, some young innocent — the child of the people right now hunkering down in their shelter — will emerge from whatever crude and corrupt imitation of society has formed miles below the surface of the Earth. She will make herself know, gather supplies, cement her strength, and her optimism will fuel the first embers of Society Two-point-oh. I’ll be nearly seventy when this all happens, so here’s to hoping…
All you capitalists out there have probably been paying special attention to one of the more consistent aspects of post-apocalyptic video games: the economics of fragmented societies. If those games have taught us one thing it’s that in the broken future only a small handful of things will have any value whatsoever, and those things will definitely not be the wads of cash we all carry around in our wallets during the last days of society, y’know… just in case. In fact if I was a betting man, I would suggest you take a few moments now to stock up on food and water, because as society collapses the currency required to buy these things is probably going to be measured in all the gritty and illicit things we now associate pretty much exclusively with the black market and gang-land commerce. You are fully welcome to stock up on those currencies now, of course, but just in case the apocalypse fails to appear I wouldn’t exactly recommend having those in your possession, no matter how many video games you play. And good luck getting your hands on things like radioactive spider venom or bile of mutant rat: you need to be, like, level 10 or better to take those things on.
This post is part of my (satirical) Seven Days of Apocalypse Week of Lists countdown to (almost certainly not) the end of the world. Share and enjoy.
Oh, Skyrim. I haven’t forgotten you.
I haven’t forgotten you, Skyrim!
I’ve just had other things going on. Running. Living. Being outside in the real world. I know you’ll understand.
Tomorrow being the one year anniversary of the release date of one of my (recent) favorite game titles, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it has been on my mind that despite last winter’s minor obsession with the game I haven’t actually cracked it open in a very long time. In fact, according to Steam, I hadn’t even loaded so much as the title screen since last April, and even then I think it was just to run the updater and see if anything interesting happened.
I decided, what with the bitter cold, snow, and otherwise quiet and free-time-filled morning I was having on this long-weekend Saturday, that I would sneak some time for the game, open it up for another quick peek in the vast and crazy world of Skyrim, and see how all my old NPC pals were faring with their epic dragon war, and such.
It took fifteen minutes to download all the updates, convert the save files, and churn through whateverness before I once again found myself standing on a stone bridge in the middle of some mountain pass being pummeled with arrows.
Here I was, trying to orient my near-invincible, uber-powered-up character and re-familiarize myself with the long-forgotten control scheme, and some dude in the bushes was taking me out one ping at a time.
And then another familiar screen popped up: I got killed. Oops… and reload.
No use re-starting my adventures on a completely sour note.
Let’s start this again: I load back into the middle of a arrow-fight and immediately turn tail and run off down the path. No use re-starting my adventures on a completely sour note.
Last time I played I — apparently — was on my way to some distant corner of the map to visit a city that (in my 60+ hours of game play) had not quite got around to checking out yet: Markarth, a corrupt little hamlet nestled into the side of a mountain, a town who’s economy wrapped neatly around the local silver mine, and a town which, upon my entering, was suddenly shaken by a brutal late night murder in the middle of the street. Insert climactic musical score here. Oh, how convenient that I had arrived just at that moment to be lured into investigating and unraveling the deep seated corruption of the local leader and hidden indentured servitude of the townsfolk.
I went and explored a haunted house instead. Yeah. So, I didn’t want to jump into a grand and epic major story-line plot quite yet… sue me.
Minor side quest? Sure, not problem. Explore this mysterious house, venture off into the wilderness to take on some low-level villains, rescue a weird-priest-kinda-guy from a mystery fortress, and earn some wacky artifact-slash-weapon.
Of course, back in the real world I dug out my trusty game guide. I don’t know that I stirred any controversy with my post, but over four hundred people have read my little article on the value of using a play guide while gaming. And for those folks, here’s yet another argument from experience: when you turn the game off for the summer and then try and go back to it eight to ten months later, the game guide comes in pretty handy in figuring out what the heck was going on again. I don’t exactly file the plots of this huge, epic story in my head for long term storage, dig? And that telephone-book-sized sheath of paper just came in really useful to solve some sudden and possibly important questions: Like, why exactly am I wandering through this mountain pass again? And, is leading some random guy off to be sacrificed to some random alter I found in a random and mysterious abandoned house a good thing for my character? Or, is it even random?
In the end I wandered back out into the streets of Markarth and saved my game. I’m not planning on falling into another deep obsession with the world of Skyrim this winter. I’ll dabble, sure. And the game is designed to suck you in and latch onto your mind so that you start thinking about it more than you really should, planning your next strategic play, figuring out the proper path for upgrading your character with skill points or even writing about your imaginary adv…
I’ve got no affiliation, association, or connection with any of these games. Screens have been captured during my own personal game-play using Steam (press F12) and this is all just my random, amateur opinion. Share and Enjoy.
I showed up… Where were you?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my attendance at the weekly gathering of we — the mid-thirties gamer guys with kids — is spotty at best. I failed to materialize last week for a moderately lame excuse, the exact nature of which was so lame that its epic lameness escapes me even now. But, Thanksgiving weekend, in the dwindling hours of a long weekend Monday, a few brief snatches of a precious day-off prior to starting the inevitable commute back to the office in the morning, I showed up.
Now, admittedly there was nothing formal planned. Red is normally always queued up with an event listing in our Steam calendar, and tonight there was nothing planned. But… here was to hoping.
I evaporated into the load screens of a couple potential game night game candidates, browsing their update logs and their status notices for the weekly feed of new content or altered play modes. Left 4 Dead 2 was featuring an enhanced scavenger mode mutation titled ‘follow the scavenger’ that — according to the post — was deeply favoured towards the zombies. So, probably not that, I thought.
Everyone was too busy cleaning up from turkey dinners, roped into washing up duty, or perhaps just passed out in their swivel chairs from either too much turkey-delivered tryptophan… or too much red wine. That’s my story, anyhow, and I’m sticking to it.
I bumped Left 4 Dead 2 another time, finally after ten minutes or so loading up a friends-only server on the off-chance that a wandering fellow-gamer would see my in-game status and curiosity would get the better of him. I waited a little longer. Still nothing.
I fumbled with the keyboard, the mouse, the volume settings on my headset.
Finally, thirty minutes later, I jumped in. Plan: play, and if anyone else bothered to pull themselves away from holiday or family commitments on this quiet and chilly October evening then great. Otherwise… solo.
The “Hard Rain” Campaign loaded onto my screen. According to the wiki, Hard Rain sums up this way: “At the start of the campaign, Virgil drops off the Survivors with a mission to find and bring back diesel fuel for his boat. The mission is to travel to the Ducatel Diesel gas station through the abandoned town of Ducatel, the Witch infested ruins of the Ducatel Sugar Company mill and a cane field populated with Infected.”
To date, over the couple of years we’ve been holding these drop-in-awesome game nights, I’ve logged a little shy of thirty hours in Left 4 Dead 2. To novice ears, that sounds like a load of time. To veterans, that’s not quite a n00b, but still far from weak. Some solo time wasn’t going to hurt my skills.
I grabbed a katana from the ground and over the next twenty minutes or so — the details to be spared herein — I hacked and slashed my way through — according to my round stats — roughly two hundred infected, rampaging in hoards of virtual, relentless waves of killer zombies… yet still no show o friendly fire from the ever-silent, still-quiet, sadly-unchanging friends list.
An hour after the original expected start time for the Thanksgiving edition of Super Awesome Game Night — and yes, albeit, no formally scheduled event in the group calendar — I gave up, logged out, took my razor-edged sword and went home… and wandered over here to write up a report; A sad report, a report of of playing multi-player games in a lonely sort of way. *sniff*