Final Fantasy XV Forever

I spent the last two weeks of my winter break playing as much Final Fantasy XV as I could. I’d hoped to beat it before the semester started and things got busy, but of course that didn’t happen. I’ve since completed the story, using every scrap of free time I had, but it still wasn’t enough. FFXV is the kind of game that I don’t want to stop playing. I don’t want the game to be over. Luckily, this entry in the series is in line with some of the old-school Final Fantasy games in that it has tons of post-game stuff to do, like super hard dungeons to conquer and ultimate weapons to hunt down and wrestle from the jaws of some particularly nasty creatures.

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I’m sad just thinking about not having anything left to do once I complete my last few objectives. I’m currently grinding AP to unlock some of the pricier Ascension skills that I feel like I’ll need to take on the hardest secret dungeon in the game and Adamantoise, the enormous turtle that apparently takes hours to defeat. That will take care of the ‘big’ things, so if I’m really feeling depressed about finishing I’ll just have the high level hunts left to do.

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Prior to the game’s release I avoided virtually all hype or even discussion about it. I learned the dangers of buying into hype long ago, so for games I’m already excited for, I play it safe and stay away from news and previews (I still get burned, on occasion, but it’s pretty rare). There’s something about the purity of experiencing a game with little expectation. Anyway, I say this because I’m glad I avoided previews and reviews, because apparently some people really didn’t like the game (or some parts of it, anyway), and I can’t help but wonder if seeing that stuff ahead of time would have subconsciously affected my enjoyment of it. Would I have gotten to the section that seems most harshly judged and been looking for it to be bad, making me appreciate it less? Retrospectively, I don’t feel the way others do about that part of the game. I won’t be too specific, in case anyone except Russian bots (thanks, Google Analytics) reads this, but the complaints are mostly based on the sudden change of pace and a change in your party’s line-up. That’s sort of a Final Fantasy thing, though. It doesn’t happen in every game, but some of them definitely have major shifts in pace when the world map becomes inaccessible due to apocalyptic events, or cases like FFIII (VI), where you are forced to split your party into three groups for the final dungeon. Sure, it was a little annoying because I was so used to having my friends back me up in combat, and a little quiet because they weren’t there to add color commentary, but the change in atmosphere felt purposeful. I was on my own, a little anxious about what I’d have to face, a little worried about my friends’ safety… it was an effective change to the cadence of the game to that point.

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That aside, I just genuinely loved playing this game. I was resistant when Square-Enix began messing with (modernizing?) their traditional turn-based/active-time battle system, but I ended up loving the fast-paced and fluid combat in FFXII, and the combat in FFXV reminds me a lot of it, but even better. Initially I was hoping for a return of the gambit system from FFXII as well, where you can essentially program your party’s behavior, but I didn’t miss it all that much. I was always aware of my partner’s location, weaknesses, and strengths, and once I found a balance between using that information with my own attacks, it was incredibly fulfilling, especially against large, difficult monsters.

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While I had reservations going in, the world and characters ended up becoming a natural part of the Final Fantasy landscape for me, too. I know the worlds in previous games have been drastically different from each other, but the few screenshots I’d seen of FFXV before playing made me worry it was going to be too slick, modern, and realistic to feel like a, well, fantasy. I was wrong. I mean, there are better characters, but these characters seem to have more personality and are more memorable than most of those in FFXII and FFXIII.

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I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t build and customize my group for a fair chunk of the game, but after a while I grew used to and appreciative of my bromantic partners and the chemistry we’d built. [Some spoilers ahead, dear non-bot readers] Still, I wanted to see a lot more of Aranea Highwind, and I wanted her to be a (permanent) party member even more. It almost seems like she was meant to be, at some point, given that you fight her, temporarily join her later, and she has her own set of moves and weapons/armor. I would definitely play a Final Fantasy XV-2 that starred a group led by (or including) her. From the early days of my Final Fantasy playing, I wished you could choose and woo the romantic partner of your choice, as you can with BioWare games now. Sorry, FFVIII’s Rinoa – I would have gone to the moon for Quistis, and you would have had to help me get there. Aranea would have probably been the object of my romantic efforts in FFXV. She is, as the kids say, bae.

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Aranea was far from the only bit of beauty in the game though, as I was almost constantly catching myself in awe of how gorgeous the world, characters, and almost everything is. One of the weird things I pay close attention to in games is geography/geology. I appreciate open world games that seem natural and realistic in terms of how the land is shaped and the land features work together. FFXV’s canyons, mountains, volcanoes, hills, forests, etc. all seem to have spawned from actual geologic events, even if some of those events might have been more powerful or variable due to the magic-and-god-infused universe in which they reside. The grass, trees, boulders, bushes, etc. seem to be where they should and not just dropped in by the god-hand of some invisible programmer.

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I also caught myself appreciating how similar the CG scenes looked to the in-world graphics. I remember seeing the trailer for Final Fantasy VIII and feeling so awed by how stunning it looked… but then a little sad because I knew the game itself wouldn’t look nearly that good. We’ve come a long way, though. Still, the CG in the middle of the game, when you meet Leviathan and just after, has some of the most incredible and breathtaking graphics I’ve ever seen. I found myself crying during one of those scenes, and I can’t help but wonder how much of it was what was happening in the story and how much of it was how overwhelming the visuals were.

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I could go on and on (chocobos were cool, I like the car stuff, the post-game flying car sucked, etc.), but I just wanted to get some of my thoughts down before finishing the game. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m happy I had a chance to play it. I don’t know if it’s my favorite Final Fantasy game ever, but it’s easily top three. It’s hard to say, either way, because the series is filled with games that are so different from one another, but if I gauge it by how sad I am that I’m almost done playing it, FFXV is probably number 2 or maybe even number 1. I’ll end this blog by posting some of the pictures taken by my characters in-game, along with a few screenshots that I took myself so that I can look back nostalgically at some distant point in time. Farewell, beautiful friend.

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My Gaming Radar: 2017

First, I should say that this is not necessarily just a list of unreleased games that I’m excited about playing in 2017. The stack of games I’ve bought but haven’t played yet is bigger than my bank account, so my immediate gaming future will be spent catching up on some of those, and I begin my list with those that I actually plan on playing in the next few months. I couldn’t hope to get through the entire stack, even if I had several months off (sorry, copy of Secret of Evermore that I’ve had for almost twenty years!), so I’m just going with recent-ish purchases.

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Aside from that, yeah, these are some games that I am very excited about and are scheduled to be released in 2017. It’s a long-ish list already, so I’m excluding games that I’m only passively interested in (sorry, Ni no Kuni II, I still have to finish your predecessor), games that I’ve already played in some form (like Final Fantasy XII or Dragon Quest VIII), games that I’ve started and am still playing (The Division, Rock Band 4, GTA V, etc.) and games that are only rumored to be coming out (like, well, half of the games for Nintendo’s Switch). I’ll conclude with games that I want to see announced this year, because if anyone reads this and gets that far they deserve to be rewarded with even more text to half-read and zero-enjoy. You’re welcome!

Final Fantasy XV

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This game was in development for so long that I hadn’t even thought about it in years. Real, literal years. But when I got an email about pre-ordering it, an old familiar excitement rushed through me. Final Fantasy games have changed a lot over the years, but I haven’t hated any of them, even if some are less memorable than others. And some, like XII, are high up on my favorite-games-of-all-time list, so I am very excited to play this one. I’d been waiting for winter break to start it because playing narratively immersive games is hard for me during the busy semester, so I should get to it before I’m out of time and up to my neck in all kinds of work again. I know very little about it, because I tend to avoid reading previews and reviews on games that I am very excited about, to avoid getting too hyped or running into spoilers, but it looks gorgeous from the few screenshots and videos I’ve seen. I just hope the combat is fun, like it was in XII.

Life is Strange

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This game seems pretty easy to consume in small chunks, so I will likely save this for the middle of the semester, when I can guiltily sneak in only 20-30 minutes of gaming every few days (if I’m lucky). I’ve heard lots of good things about it, and I have very much enjoyed other recent games that have more of a focus on narrative than mechanics. It also came up in a presentation I attended, about using video games in literature courses, so I am curious to play it with that in mind and see how I might fit it into my own future courses.

The Last Guardian

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Okay, full disclosure: I own both Team Ico’s Ico and Shadow of the Colossus but I have yet to beat either of them. Or, well, play either of them for more than five or ten minutes. But I will! Some day. Some distant, distant day. I am determined to break that habit with The Last Guardian, which I never thought I’d see released at all. I enjoy big, mainstream games as much as the next person, but sometimes I need these smaller, quirky games to remind me of the vast spectrum of what video games have come to be. Also, that bird-dog better not fucking die, man. I’m telling you right now, Team Ico, despite the game already being complete!

Paper Mario: Color Splash

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Now we’re getting into the games that I will probably have to save for summer break, but I am still very excited about games like Paper Mario: Color Splash. The Paper Mario series has followed the Nintendo tradition of refining and perfecting a solid formula rather than reworking and trying to revolutionize new entries. The upside to this is that you end up with some of the best games on any platform, but sometimes it can feel tiring after a while (lookin’ at you, Animal Crossing). It’s somewhere between the two for me, with regards to Paper Mario, so I’m both expecting a high quality, thoughtful experience with Color Splash and hoping for something different enough to make it feel like a very new and different game. But the cute style and odd humor will win me over, either way. Paper Peach is still on my list of tattoos that I might get eventually.

Dead Rising 3

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The first Dead Rising game was, I thought, flawed but fun, and the second improved a bit on my main area of complaint (the whole ticking time-bomb structure). Even if I don’t get into the story or characters in this third entry, I’ve always loved exploring the detailed environments and the many ways with which to dispatch the undead. The previous entries did an impressive job with the last gen hardware, considering how good the games looked and how many objects were on screen at once, so I am excited to see how the Xbox One’s horsepower lends itself to creating an even more chaotic and inspiring world.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

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I don’t have much to say about this one. I’ve enjoyed most of the Call of Duty games and I get around to playing them when I can get them for pretty cheap (I don’t play online so I never feel very rushed). I expect that this will be a solid, fun, short experience.

Halo 4

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Man, I loved Halo 3. I played it online, a lot, and I had tons of fun with the video editor. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to buying the fourth game, and I don’t expect I’ll get online with it this time around (having the right set of friends being into a game at the same time helps, I think), but I anticipate some epic, cinematic science-fiction battles.

Battlefield 1

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I have a lot of FPSs to catch up on, it seems. Battlefield 1 looks gorgeous and I’m curious to see how they handle the World War I setting. Like many people, I picture that war as being very slow and bleak, but the videos of Battlefield 1 make it look very fast and flashy. For as much cynicism that this  disparity had generated early in the game’s development, it sure has gotten a lot of good press post-release. So I might try and get to this before summer, if I can.

Titanfall

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I never bought into the hype for this game, but it looked good enough to buy at a hefty Black Friday discount, so I’ll play it before I forget about it and it’s doomed to the probably-won’t-play-for-years pile.

Street Fighter V

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Fighting games are super easy to play casually, so I’ll probably play this game (and the next entry)  sporadically throughout the semester. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Street Fighter IV, so I expect this one to be at least as good.

Mortal Kombat X

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I don’t remember the last time I played a Mortal Kombat game regularly, but with fairly strong buzz and a roster of DLC characters that include some of my favorite cinematic villains, I couldn’t pass this one up. Even if I don’t get into it half as much as I did with the first few MK games all those years ago, it will be nice to revisit the characters (and have a current MK game laying around for social gaming gatherings).

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

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Oh, man. Ever since Dragon Quest VIII enthralled and enchanted me over ten years ago, I have been waiting anxiously for another Dragon Quest experience like it. With no proper sequels released on home consoles, I made do with the Nintendo DS remakes, which were great, don’t get me wrong, but they didn’t have the same vastness and sense of exploration that VIII did. I don’t expect Fragments of the Forgotten Past will satisfy that sense, but I love the series so much that I will eat it up anyway. It will at least keep me satisfied until…

Dragon Quest XI

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Okay, so, very little has been released about this entry in the series, leading me to doubt it will be out in 2017, but that’s what it’s listed as so I’ll hold out hope. And my hopes are high, given that this will be the first single player game in the main series to be released in the US since, well, VIII. And the few screenshots that I’ve seen look absolutely stunning. I hope they maintain the old-school RPG gameplay, which is a staple of the series, and don’t try anything too revolutionary. Still, just seeing a new Dragon Quest world rendered with the power of the PlayStation 4 is going to make waiting hard. But I will, and I’ll probably self-impose a blackout on reading any press about it, starting — now.

Resident Evil 7

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Resident Evil 7 comes out just two weeks after the semester starts, which means… well, it means I’m going to have to play fast to make it through it before I get too busy. Waiting is not much of an option. Not only am I a big Resident Evil fan, but this game looks like it goes back to the series’ horror roots in the best way. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to play it in VR or not yet. The screen tearing and jaggies in the “Kitchen” demo worry me a bit, as does the fact that some VR games make me nauseous after a while. I’ll probably start out in VR and see how it feels. The graphics and lighting in the regular demo are spectacular, though, and I can’t wait to see where the biological agents come into play, as so far they’re playing the whole ‘inbred, rural serial killer’ thing up, but that is almost certainly a front. Like the mansion in the first game, I’m sure there is some underground or off-site facility where mutant/zombie stuff happens. As disappointed as I was that Silent Hills was cancelled, I like that Capcom seems to be embracing the same kind of tone and style for this new Resident Evil.

Outlast 2

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Another embarrassing admission: I still haven’t beaten the first Outlast game. I died a few times in a row when I got to the basement, and I just wasn’t equipped to deal with that level of repeated tension and anxiety, so I put it aside. I’ll have to get back to it, because as a horror fan I loved the premise and atmosphere, and the sequel looks so great. The cornfield setting is especially exciting for me, because I live and go to school in a city surrounded by corn. I’m even trying to think of a way to bring it into the classroom, too, since my students will be well acquainted with corn field and their creepiness, so we can analyze setting and its effect on different audiences.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I don’t know much about the plot for Horizon Zero Dawn, other than it’s a sort of post–post-apocalyptic reclamation scenario (right? I might be remembering incorrectly). But the video they showed at E3, and the screenshots that I’ve seen have been stunning. I’m all about large, colorful, luscious landscapes, and this game looks to have that in spades. I’m all for new female lead characters, too, so I’m hoping she is cool and memorable.

Ace Combat 7

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I’m cautiously optimistic about Ace Combat 7Ace Combat 4 is one of my favorite games of all time, but since then the series has disappointed me to various degrees, with the last game I tried playing (Assault Horizon) being the worst of them. Having said that, 7  probably wouldn’t even be on my radar if it weren’t for the fact that it’s going to be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR. Will I get sick and want to have a real barf bag handy in my virtual cockpit? Maybe. But it just might be worth it. I just want the controls to return to the days of the fourth and fifth games in the series. Please. Pretty please.

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Rockstar is so secretive about their games that I can’t even predict whether this will really be released this year or pushed back to spring 2018, but it seems slightly more likely that the former will actually happen. I loved Red Dead Redemption far more than I’d expected to, and Rockstar went so far above and beyond with Grand Theft Auto V that my hopes are apologetically high for the sequel. I’m hoping it’s set up like GTA V in that there is a fully fleshed-out single player campaign and then a vast and full-featured open-world multi-player mode as well. I’m ready to ride or die either way.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

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Okay, so the screenshots released for this game aren’t exactly inspiring. In fact, they look pretty generic and, well, crappy. BUT! Star Trek! In virtual reality! I won’t be too worried about the graphics being sub-par (I might even welcome it, in VR) if they get the gameplay and simulation parts right. My favorite Star Trek game is the SNES version of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy – Starship Bridge Simulator. I loved being in the role of a cadet making their way through the academy and, eventually, getting my own ship and rank. This game sounds like it could potentially be a spiritual successor to that game, so I am hyped for it. I’m not sure it will start in the academy, but I hope so. Either way, I’m definitely excited to give this a shot. It might be a dud, but at the very least it will be a neat novelty game for the VR.

Mass Effect Andromeda

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Is this the game I’m looking forward to most this year? Maybe. Probably. Maybe. The Mass Effect series is among my favorites, and this game looks pretty spectacular so far. The only thing keeping me from being more certain about its status is the cast of characters. The other Mass Effect sequels had the benefit of returning, beloved characters. I’m sure BioWare will conjure up yet another complex and lovable/hateable (in a good way) crew, but I don’t know anything about them at this point, so… I’m purposefully being wary. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. Anyway, I hope away missions to planets makes a return, like the Mako missions in the first game. It would be even better if it were expanded on and you could land on any terrestrial planet. With games like No Man’s Sky and Elite: Dangerous it seems like an obvious direction to take, but once again I’m not going to get too hopeful. Regardless, I love BioWare and I love Mass Effect, so my life and free time are theirs once this comes out.

Nintendo Switch

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Aside from what Nintendo showed at E3, I haven’t heard much about the gaming line-up for the Switch, so I don’t have much to go off of. There’s supposed to be a new Mario game ready for or near launch, duh. And there will eventually be a new Mario Kart, Mario Party, Metroid, etc. I’ve never been big into mobile gaming, so that part of the design is passively interesting at best for me. I am also a little disappointed (but not surprised) that the core system is not likely to be much more powerful than last-gen consoles. But, at the end of the day, it’s a new Nintendo console that will have new Nintendo games… gimme dat.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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Okay, one last shameful confession before we wind things down: I bought The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess with my Wii at launch. I was super excited for the series’ return to darker and more realistic visuals. I played it for an hour or so and then didn’t touch it again for four or five years. At that point I felt dumb and guilty for never having given it a chance, especially given how much people seemed to like it. So I picked it up, played for seven or eight hours… and stopped. Again. I can’t let that happen again, so I am determined to play the shit out of Breath of the Wild, which looks colorful and fun and pretty wonderful so far.

NES Classic Edition

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I have been trying to get one of these since it launched. It seems Nintendo is up to its old tricks, limiting stock and using the resulting madness to fuel sales for months. It works, of course, but I wanted one before it was the ‘it’ thing to grab. I have many of the games loaded on it, but for those that I don’t, and just to have a slightly up-res version of the NES with classic controllers, I want one. Badly.

Other Wishes

Very briefly, here are some non-obvious games I’d love to see announced or released this year. First up is Bully 2. It’s not that I loved the original more than any game ever, but I did very much enjoy the world and characters, and the fact that a sequel seems like a given and seems to constantly be rumored to be coming, I want it more and more every year. Maybe this year.

Second is Mother 3. After Nintendo’s surprise release of EarthBound Beginnings for the Virtual Console, my hopes for a US release of Mother 3 went from ‘never gonna happen’ to ‘any day now’ instantly. I was so sure they would have announced it last year, on the tenth anniversary of the Japanese version’s release. I lost some hope when it wasn’t, but it still seems like it has to happen at some point… I really hope it’s this year.

What else would be cool? A new Knights of the Old Republic game, thought it seems highly unlikely. A Star Wars VR game. A remake of Final Fantasy VIII, which seems highly likely (but not for another few years, probably). A new, real, huge Animal Crossing. A new Civilization Revolution would be nice, but is doubtful. And, of course, a Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross sequel or remake, as unlikely as it is.

Even without these dream games, 2017 is already shaping up to be a pretty decent year for video games. I look forward to E3 in the spring and how that might change things. Until then, I have an endless stack of games to get to.

My Year in Gaming: 2016

I am on winter break for the next few weeks, so I’m determined to squeeze a few blogs out before the madness that is spring semester consumes me once again. I’m starting with the obvious: a look back at my experiences with video games in 2016. This outgoing year has been pretty terrible for me, in several ways, but there have been some pretty great games that have provided little shining pockets of joy in the otherwise dismal abyss.

Fallout 4

Yeah, I started playing it in 2015, but I played it into 2016, when I finished it. I can understand why some people were underwhelmed by Fallout 4. Given that Fallout 3 was my first experience with the series, and its vast, dingy, irradiated world snared and enthralled me in a way no other had, its follow-up couldn’t possibly provide the same sense of excitement and wonder that comes with a newly discovered universe.

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Having said that, it was a really great game and I had a lot of fun with it. The narrative itself was interesting enough, and I did enjoy building relationships and outposts, but wandering the Wasteland provided the most enjoyable memories for me (as it did in Fallout 3). I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens while I was playing, so I couldn’t help but feel a bit Rey-like as I roamed around with Curie, my spherical robot companion, scavenging from old machines and kicking ass. Curie’s love of science, thirst for knowledge, and cute accent made her an obvious choice for a romantic partner, so I was happy that they included the side quest where you can transfer her mind into a human body. I don’t think Rey would do that with BB-8, but I won’t speak for her.

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I also spent a lot of time building my mansion on that isolated, enemy-free island. The building system isn’t perfect, but it was fun to mess around with, and near the end of the game I was more than happy to spend another handful of hours collecting materials for my ultimate base of operations. I had a game room, a dining room, a home theater, and a deck with a bar, a jukebox, and lawn chairs surrounded by palms and facing the sea. It was a nice way to finish off my quest.

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 Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a short, quaint experience, and most of my enjoyment came from imagining these people’s lives prior to their disappearances. The movement speed was infuriating, yeah, but the graphics were impressive and I loved the little details in many of the houses or yards. I do wish more of the doors were unlocked, but whatareyagonnado? The rural English countryside called to mind the sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids, which added an odd sense of eeriness. I liked it.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider

The Tomb Raider reboot was not my first experience with the franchise, but it was done so well that I felt the same kind of magic that I do when I’m discovering a game or series for the first time. So, as with Fallout 4, I didn’t have the same kind of awe-inducing experience with its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I did feel like it was a better game, even if only marginally. The controls are fluid and intuitive, the graphics are gorgeous, and exploration is fun and rewarding. I was occasionally distracted by Lara’s hair, because the way they rendered the surface layer of hairs individually meant that it sometimes looked like she was wearing a wig, but that was only one of a few minor complaints. I did not have much of a crush on old-school Lara, but I definitely find myself attracted to the new version. Her strength and determination, with a healthy dose of vulnerability, make her a wonderful character, worthy of obsession.

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Day of the Tentacle (Remastered)

I have fond memories of Maniac Mansion for the NES, but as a ‘console kid’ I never got around to playing the PC-exclusive sequel, Day of the Tentacle. The newly remastered version gave me to the perfect excuse to finally check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. While it does feel a bit dated, being an old-school point-and-click adventure, much of the humor and charm seems to have held up surprisingly well. It might be too quirky and tongue-in-cheek for modern audiences, but it was a fun flashback to a simpler time for me. My hope with games like this is that it will be successful enough to merit similar releases, so I have my fingers crossed for a remastered Maniac Mansion, as unlikely as that seems. I really loved that game.

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Miitomo/Pokemon Go

I lump these two together because, like many mobile games, they feel less like full games and more like mini-games to me. That may be unfair, but that discussion is for another blog. I liked Miitomo quite a bit, but its charm is almost wholly dependent on having others to play it with, and everyone I knew abandoned it within two or three weeks of release, leaving me to answer questions for an audience that didn’t exist. Before I eventually joined my friends in jumping ship, I tweeted “I like Miitomo enough, but I can’t help but wish it were a mobile Animal Crossing game.” The app seemed almost like a teaser or demo for a proper Animal Crossing game, so it just made me want the full experience. Nintendo announced that very thing not long after that tweet, but I maintain caution in my optimism. Can Nintendo (or their development partners) squeeze the entire AC experience into a single mobile app? If not, what will be sacrificed? How easy will it be to find new villages to visit? How many people can live in the same village? Will the villages be larger than what we’ve come to expect? I have a lot of questions, and I am still hoping for a new and radically improved iteration for the upcoming Switch, but I will almost certainly pick up the mobile version when it finally hits.

Miitomo

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As for Pokemon Go, I still jump on daily, if even just to get the daily catch bonus. I can’t possibly say anything that hasn’t already been said about it, but I was as blown away by its success as anyone else. I knew it would be big, as many people did, because it’s Pokemon, but the amount of money it’s brought in is unreal, and I wonder how its success will shape Nintendo’s use of the brand in the future, or their focus on mobile gaming in general.

Firewatch

Firewatch is one of those short and rewarding games that make you grateful for the indie movement and the power that digital distribution has afforded it. While I do wish the early narrative sections could have been more interactive, and that the choices you made throughout the game would have really made a difference, I was beyond pleased with the game’s story and how it handled tone and pacing. There were some scenes that were quite powerful, in part due to solid voice acting and writing. It’s games like this that help build a stronger and stronger case for games as art.

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 Dying Light

Not a 2016 game, for others, but it was for me. The Dead Island games had some definite faults, but I enjoyed the experiences they offered, so I was excited for Dying Light, which feels like a sequel. Dead Inland, maybe (I’m sure someone’s made that joke already, right?). The new climbing mechanics were a bit clunky, but added some welcome depth to exploration. One of the things I liked a lot about the Dead Island games was the attention to detail that the developers put into almost every room, hallway, and outdoor area. They did a nice job of creating believably abandoned environments, with objects scattered with care and consideration. I was, however, disappointed to discover that one of the small details had been taken out. There was, when the game released, a set of magnets on a refrigerator in an apartment in your starting base that were taken from an animation group called the Clock Crew, of which I have been a member since 2001. Virtually no one has heard of the group, though, so it was a shock when someone posted a screenshot of the magnets, and I was excited to see them in person. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the developers removed the magnets in a patch, and now they are just colored shapes. Bummer.

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 NBA 2k16

NBA 2k16 does something very interesting and uncommon with race, especially in video games: it forces your created character to have black features (because he is a member of a black family). It’s a bold and important choice, especially given the industry’s general focus on white characters. I can’t think of another game that does it. Unfortunately for me, I was unaware of this design choice, so I tried my best to make my character look like me (as I usually do with character creation), wondering why the physical traits were so limited in the creation mode. Because the physical options didn’t quite match up with my real features, the resulting ‘me’ was ugly, or as I tweeted at the time, “Jesus, my NBA 2K16 character looks like he crawled out of some swampy hole to ride hogs and smoke meth.” I quickly realized, in the first cutscene, that my character was supposed to be black, but I didn’t feel like redesigning him, so I just left it. My in-story nickname, “Freak,” was apt, anyway.

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As for the game itself, it was sort of a rude awakening. I hadn’t played a basketball game in like ten years, maybe more, and I was always a fan of the more arcade-y types (as I remember older versions of the 2k series being). It took me a while to get the hang of shooting, and I still think three pointers are more difficult than they need to be. I felt like an inept old-timer because I thought the game was too hard to master, but I’ve since had three students who play the game frequently agree that it is a difficult game to learn and almost impossible to master. So that made me feel better. A little.

Rock Band 4

Another game that I was late to the party to; I’ve spent a lot of time playing Rock Band 4 this year. My experience with transferring old Rock Band legacy DLC over makes writing about it almost painful, but I did end up getting into the game pretty heavily once everything was settled. I do wish the character creation was more robust (like, a lot more robust), but I was so happy to finally be able to create band members to join me on the road. I created, to the best of my ability, Rey from The Force Awakens (on bass), Jyn from Rogue One (on drums), and Schala from Chrono Trigger (lead vocals). I’ve played the hell out of it on guitar, and I plan on doing the same with the microphone and drums, when I get more time, but with so many songs (I’ve bought an obscene amount of DLC) I can’t imagine I’ll get tired of it anytime soon.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Yep, another 2015 game that I was late in getting around to playing. And I’ve already blogged about this game, but I will briefly rehash my love for it. I know that Ubisoft pumps Assassin’s Creed games out at an annoying rate that waters the brand down like a glass of soda with too much ice, and I agree with the sentiment that longer development time usually equals better games… but I can’t deny that games like Syndicate or Black Flag are some of the best games I’ve ever played. Each game in the series seems to refine rather than revolutionize, and that can be frustration for fans expecting something new and exciting, but man are these some pretty games. Even writing this, I am fondly flashing back to the architecture of Victorian London in Syndicate and the beauty of the Caribbean seas in Black Flag. Also, I developed a bit of a crush on Evie, so I’m sad that we probably won’t see her again. But I liked this game a ton and am very much looking forward to what the next game looks like, given the extended development time.

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EarthBound Beginnings

This game was originally released on the NES in Japan as Mother, a prequel to the US’s EarthBound (Mother 2), one of my all-time favorite games. I was beyond shocked and excited when Nintendo decided to release it here as EarthBound Beginnings, and it gives me hope that they haven’t given up on the prospect of releasing Mother 3 here. Anyway, Beginnings is a lot like its sequel. So much so, in fact, that EarthBound feels like a retry rather than a true sequel. I recently read an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto from 1998, where he suggests that some of Nintendo’s early SNES games were just that: realizations of games that they’d wanted to make on the NES but didn’t have the processing power. So it makes sense that Super Metroid is essentially a beefier, prettier version of Metroid, and EarthBound is a beefier, prettier version of EarthBound Beginnings. Which means, of course, that I highly enjoyed it, though there was one innovation from EarthBound that I very much missed: the exclusion of random battles. It’s far more annoying to explore a new area freely when you’re plagued by random battles with sometimes difficult foes. Still, this was a fun playthrough that made me appreciate EarthBound even more.

Abzu

I hadn’t heard of Abzu until just before its release, when I saw a trailer for it and was immediately drawn in by how pretty and soothing it looked. I bought it and was not disappointed, as it is a low-stress game that rewards exploration but doesn’t force it. It is pleasing enough just to swim around and observe the ecology, and I’m excited at the prospect of having future students play it and create their own narrative, as the game only gives you only fleeting hints about it.

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No Man’s Sky

To say I’ve written ‘at length’ about No Man’s Sky is an understatement, so if you want more of my thoughts than you can handle, look no further than the Captain’s Log section of this site. I will say briefly that I understand, to some extent, why some people were disappointed at the launch version of NMS, but ultimately I still ended up loving it in spite of its flaws. I love exploring new worlds and systems, naming things based on themes, wondering if/when someone will run across my discoveries or if/when I will stumble on theirs. I have yet to play the latest update, with base building and mobile freighters, but I am looking forward to getting around to it… eventually.

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PlayStation VR

I’m just going to lump all of the PS VR games in this one section, because this blog is already too long and many of them are short, small experiences (and I blogged at length about my excitement for the system itself). My experiences have been mixed, I’d say. While some games, like Job Simulator and Arkham VR don’t seem to suffer from an obviously lower resolution, other games, like the Resident Evil 7 “Kitchen” demo and Perfect, do suffer, to the point that there is some tearing and jagged edges that become distracting. Arkham VR really shows what the system can do, though, and it’s the game I insist people try at social gatherings. No one has been disappointed in it, either. I never thought I was afraid of heights, but standing at the edge of the Iceberg Lounge makes me sweat, quite literally. And Rocksteady’s loving attention to detail and respect for lore shines through, as usual.

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PlayStation Worlds suffers from the ‘left drift’ for me, so I haven’t played more than a bit of it. Stationary games don’t give me much of a problem with queasiness, but some of the games that involve movement do. Here They Lie is a good example. You start out in a moving train, and you can both walk around and look freely around the world. I don’t know if it was a combination of all of the different movements, but it definitely made me feel sick. I’ve read that these feelings go away after a while, with more experience in VR, so I hope to come back to those games later.

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Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is not a PS VR exclusive, but it’s one of my favorite games on the system. It’s tense — duh — and can cause some uncomfortable snipping at people you otherwise like and respect, but it’s all in good fun, and the feeling of disarming a tricky set of switches with just a couple of seconds left is incredible. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is fun and the sense of movement is something you have to experience to fully understand how crazy VR is. I watched two people play it before I started it, and I still wasn’t prepared for how weird it felt to be moving in the game and not in real life. When the roller coaster car stops in the game, your brain tells your body you’re stopping in real life. It’s bizarre but great.

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There are other games and demos to talk about, but I’ve probably gone on long enough. I do want to mention the non-gaming experiences, though, since it’s one of the aspects of VR that I am very interested in going forward (and not just for porn, but we’re all curious about that, right?). The videos I watched in a few different apps were mostly disappointing. I understand that the resolution is halved due to splitting the image, but the videos still seemed to be a lower quality than I expected. I don’t know if it’s the headset or the hardware the video was recorded with, or compression, or what, but I hope it’s not the ultimate fate of VR video on the PS VR. The videos (be it of a shark swimming near me or a supermodel lounging on a speedboat) just didn’t fully trick my brain into thinking they were real, as some of the games did.

DOOM

I won’t claim that DOOM is complex and deep. It fully embraces its old school, run-and-gun roots, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s fast, smooth, and beautiful, and it provided some much-needed stress relief after the election results came in. Is it repetitive? Sure. But it’s fun and rewarding, and I look forward to the new Quake as well.

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The Division

I only just started playing The Division last week, but I’ll throw out a few thoughts about it since it’s still 2016. I was surprised by how shallow the character creation was, given that it bills itself as an RPG. The gameplay is overwhelming at first, because there is a lot going on on-screen, but I’ve gotten the hang of it pretty quickly. I like the idea of building an HQ and the assortment of side quests look fun, so I can’t wait to start doing those and building my base up. I’m not sure I’ll end up playing online with anyone except my friend Tabitha, but I can see myself getting hooked on leveling up and customizing my character’s load-out and clothing.

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I’ve been traveling and visiting family this month, so I haven’t been able to do as much ‘catching up’ as I’d have liked, but I’m getting there. I was going to throw in some thoughts on games I am looking forward to playing soon, but I’ve already written far more than I’d planned, so I’ll just do a different blog on that. Stay tuned, non-existent readers!

Gaming Memories: Death Peak

One of the reasons I started this site was to archive some of my personal memories with video games. Memory is a fleeting thing, so it brings me pleasure to not only relive choice gaming experiences, but also to record them in some way. This, my first entry, will be about my favorite game of all time, Chrono Trigger. My memory of receiving it as a gift is under my Top 20 page, but there are plenty more to go around.

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The weather here in Illinois has been unseasonably warm lately, but when I left class earlier tonight it finally felt like November. Every year, around this time, I have flashbacks to my first time with Chrono Trigger. I got it as a gift 21 years ago today, actually. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long.

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As the weather got colder that year, I was grateful to have something so engrossing to entertain me while I kept toasty inside. The snow fell early and hard, and I remember it coinciding with my arrival at Death Peak in the game. Death Peak is a large, snow-capped mountain with ravaging winds that you must traverse with the game’s supporting characters in your quest to revive Crono, the main character (or yourself, if he is an avatar for the player). The constantly falling snow whips in every direction, and the frequent gusts will blow you off the mountain if you don’t take cover behind a tree or outcropping. I’ve always had an active imagination, so I fully embraced this mini-game, mentally huffing and puffing as I made my way from frigid shelter to frigid shelter.

I first truly realized I was in love with the game as I trundled home from school the day after starting up Death Peak. In a coincidence cooked up by serendipity, there were two or three feet of fresh snow on the ground and gusty winds pelted my face with newly falling flakes. I took the city bus home at the time, so I had about a mile to walk to get to the stop. The sidewalks were unshoveled, so I decided to cut across the long, broad fields of a local high school. The wind bit my cheeks and my eyes welled with tears as I dragged my snow-crusted legs through the drifts. I remember feeling like I was on Death Peak. There were no trees to hide behind, but my imagination conjured up the swooshy wind sounds and the epic soundtrack as I squinted against the blinding storm. I wasn’t on my way to rescue anyone, only to return to the warm, dry shelter of my living room, where I could huddle under a blanket and return to my quest to save myself (as Crono) from death. It was all I could think about, and all that I wanted to do.

It’s a simple memory. There’s not much to it, really. But it lives on vividly in my mind, and I treasure it deeply. I’m playing Chrono Trigger again right now, actually, and the warm places in my heart are being rekindled all over again. I’m sure the snow will be falling again soon, in real life. Bring it on.

Finally, (Real) Virtual Reality

As we’re entering the time of year where lots of games are released, big and small, there is much to be excited about. I just received my copy of Paper Mario: Color Splash, which is definitely cause for celebration for this Paper Mario fan. The Dragon Quest VII remake was recently released, too, so I’m excited about picking that up. The Last Guardian is (finally) coming out in December, Friday the 13th: The Game should (hopefully) be out in the next month or so, Final Fantasy XV will soon be a reality, and Battlefield 1 seems worth checking out. There is one thing that I am easily the most excited about, though: PlayStation VR.

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I’ve been following the new virtual reality movement since the Oculus Rift was a KickStarter, and I’ve read several of the previews of the different VR systems present at this year’s E3. While I’d love access to some of the more independent and experimental PC titles that will likely show up for the Oculus, I just don’t have the money for the headset and a new computer that could handle it. The PS VR is in my price range, though, and it seems capable enough. I’ve been skimming reviews and editorials about some of the VR units in recent months, and I almost get the sense that the technology is already being taken for granted. I get it. Due to the consumer interest in the Oculus when it was introduced as a concept, the market has quickly become crowded with competitors and could soon be flooded and confusing (if it isn’t already). For me, though, I find it hard to fathom this technology becoming old hat so soon. Why? Well, it all started in the early 1990s…

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90s VR Experience

Thanks to the increase in households with PCs and the rise of the Internet and web culture, technology was booming in the early-mid 90s. It’s no surprise, then, that the first wave of commercial virtual reality experience popped up then. I was just past ten years old at the time, and my love for video games meant I was ready to throw my time and money away on any VR experience that I could. Luckily for me, living in Chicago meant that I had easy access to what used to be the North Pier mall, which my family would visit pretty frequently. The mall had a BattleTech Station, which housed two sets of ‘virtual reality’ pods — one set for the game BattleTech, and the other set for a game called Red Planet. Both games used similar pods, which were made out of wood with a door that slid shut, leaving the player seated in darkness with a monitor, joystick, throttle, and a bunch of lights and buttons that were merely for effect.

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BattleTech Pod

While not the headset-oriented VR that we’re accustomed to, these pods provided an immersive gaming experience like no other that I can think of for their time. One round of either game was, if my memory serves me correctly, $8 for kids and $10 for adults, meaning that our family of five could usually only afford a round or two. BattleTech was, of course, the more popular of the two, but we only played it a few times. It was fun, but my family members struggled to control their giant mechs (a couple of which I owned in toy form because they were pretty damn cool looking).

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The game we heavily favored and had tons of fun playing together and with strangers (there were eight pods, so any stragglers would be placed with us) was Red Planet, a game where you raced spacecraft in mines on Mars and took your opponents out with your ship’s mining beams when the opportunity presented itself. I was pretty good at the game and excitedly collected the print-outs of our win/loss and kill/death results after each match. I chose the handle Predator because, well, I was really into the movies at the time. I probably still have a score sheet tucked away somewhere because I loved that game so much that I felt it necessary to squirrel them away for some reason.

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Red Planet

 

Not long after the BattleTech Station opened, another station opened nearby. I don’t recall the name, but they offered people the chance to play an early version of what might look more like today’s virtual reality experience. You wore a headset that displayed the digital world directly in front of your eyes (they must have projected them into your eye like the new sets, right?), and you held controllers in your hands as you stood on a raised platform circled by a guard rail.

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More 90s VR

Okay, so maybe it was only slightly like today’s VR experience. I don’t remember what the game I played was called, but I remember that the world was made of rudimentary geometric shapes and had a checkered floor (a popular choice in many a PC game at the time, too). I started out on a platform and had to descend stairs to find my opponent (a stranger, as this was a two player game). We exchanged gunfire and were supposed to use the columns and walls for cover, but with the level being surrounded by moving clouds that stretched out into infinity, and slow character movement, it was all a bit disorienting. I remember feeling underwhelmed by it, especially given its $15 per-session price tag.

VR Standing

As disappointing as my first ‘real’ VR experience was, I still had high hopes that the technology and games would get better and cheaper. My dreams were (marginally, at best) answered when Nintendo came out with its Virtual Boy in 1995. I couldn’t convince my parents to buy me one, but I rented one from our local Blockbuster (phew, this blog is making me feel older with every reference) as soon as they were available, with plans on getting one for myself eventually (it would take five or so years). If you haven’t seen one, the Virtual Boy was a headset that sat on a stand instead of your, well, head, and it used a standard game-pad as a controller.

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Some reviewers complained about neck strain, having to lean down to play it, but I never experienced that (perhaps due to my young age and sturdy, youthful neck… or not). Another complaint was eye strain and headaches due to the fact that games were rendered only in red light. I never experienced those effects either, but again, I was young. I didn’t so much mind the red, and I was encouraged by Nintendo’s promise to introduce green and blue lights soon, increasing their graphical spectrum greatly (due to color mixing). The system sold poorly in both the U.S. and Japan, though, so Nintendo stopped supporting it far earlier than expected.

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As excited as I was about the Virtual Boy, and as fun as I found games like Mario’s Tennis, the system still didn’t quite deliver the kind of virtual reality seen in movies like 1992’s The Lawnmower Man. Not even close. And with Nintendo’s failure to spark interest in the market, Sega’s cancellation of their own VR headset, and a rapid loss of consumer interest in the kinds of experiences I’d had with the standing VR set and the BattleTech Station, virtual reality died out almost as quickly as it had popped into the consumer consciousness.

But that was 20+ years ago. Gaming PCs and consoles can produce graphics not even conceivable by many of us back in the early 90s, and, from what I hear, the new VR headsets really do make you feel like you are in another world. So, despite some of the cynicism and trepidation surrounding PlayStation VR — at least from some corners of the gaming world — I am incredibly, irrevocably excited. I have been waiting for something like this for most of my life, quite literally. Maybe it won’t be perfect, and maybe the Holodeck is still a decade or two (or three) away, but that won’t stop me from strapping that headset on and fully appreciating just how far we’ve come.

Gaming and Grad School

The fall semester started for me a few weeks ago, and while I have plenty of feelings about it (for better or worse), I wanted to write a little about gaming and grad school, from my own personal experience and perspective.

Grad School

Well, it’s not grad school as much as it is just college, really. I was mostly lazy and disengaged as a high school student, but in college I became incredibly focused and determined to do everything I could to succeed. And at first, it was easy. I wasn’t working while I was getting my associate’s degree, so I was able to play games occasionally and still get my work done. I actually had a system where I would reward myself with game time, only allowing myself to play when I was done with a particular assignment. During the last two years of my undergrad coursework, though, that became impossible.

Well, impossible isn’t the right word, and that’s the reason I’m writing this. I’m sure there are people who have taken five courses in a semester and been able to continue their gaming habit, at least in part. I was not one of them. I wanted to do well in my classes, and the courses I was taking demanded a lot of reading, research, and writing. My life revolved around my work. I didn’t think of “free time” as free, so much as time I had to read or prepare for my next class.

And it paid off, I suppose. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and I got into the only grad school I applied to. At that point, I hardly felt like a ‘gamer’ anymore. I hadn’t played games regularly in a couple of years, and when I spent time on my winter or summer breaks playing games it was mostly catching up with titles I’d missed out on or squeezing quick sessions in between doing ‘normal’ things, like road trips and running outdoors. It was at this point, one year into graduate school, that I realized that I was losing my favorite hobby. Or, I should say, I had lost it.

There was a notion that maybe it was ‘about time.’ That maybe this was part of growing up. I’d read about professionals that had eventually had to give up gaming because of work or demanding family lives. Maybe it was my turn to become the guy who “used to play games.” I knew, though, that much of this way of thinking comes from cultural norms and expectations, and I’ve always tried to be aware of and fight against societal pressure. It’s my life and I shouldn’t have to lead it to please other people. So I began to get angry. I’ve played video games since I was a small child, I have owned and obsessed over numerous consoles, I have kept regular gaming blogs, I have tattoos of video game characters on my body… so why should I have to give it all up because a portion of my peers think it’s juvenile or wasteful?

But it wasn’t just about peer pressure. Rarely have I heard anyone openly criticize my hobby to my face, or question its value. Like many cultural norms, that stuff bleeds through our cultural output, though. How do you make a middle-aged man look like a ‘man child’ in a movie? Have him play video games with his friends. I was in grad school, so shouldn’t I be doing more important things? Shouldn’t I be networking or working ahead or trying to get published?

And I think that is a large part of the anxiety that comes with wanting to keep up with a hobby like video games in grad school. It feels to me like I should always be making good use of my time, because there is always something to be done. Reading a novel for next week’s literature class. Translating poetry from Middle English. Reading two chapters and an academic journal article for this week’s linguistics class. Lesson planning. Answering student emails. Teaching. Grading. Proposing, outlining, researching, and writing three 20-30 page term papers almost every semester. Coming up with proposals for conferences. And how about social commitments? Family events? Time to exercise?

Doing anything for pleasure becomes a torturous self-interrogation. If I mention reading to friends, I have to clarify whether I’m “reading for school” or “reading for fun.” During the semester, how can I read a book for pleasure when I have more reading than I can keep up with for my classes? And when that extends to video games, it’s even worse. Somehow, reading a book for pleasure feels more productive and less like you’re cheating on your diet of homework and more homework.

So for my first year in grad school, I resigned to waiting for the breaks between semesters to play games. I would “catch up,” though that was a lie because I would only get through a small fraction of the games I’d been wanting to play. I stopped following gaming news, too, because why tempt myself with games I can’t play?

Somewhere between my first and second year of grad school, I found what I thought was a perfect solution: I would study video games. I was taking film courses for my English degree, and I realized that studying video games as a form of literature was virtually the same (or it could be). Of course the crux of many film-lit courses is the adaptation, and video games don’t have the same history of adapting literature into a new form, but many scholars seemed to have been actively moving film study away from its adaptation focus for decades, trying to fully embrace studying film as a storytelling medium on its own, not exclusively tied to written works. So, if we can do it with film, why can’t we do it with video games? I was determined to try.

So in my second year, I began studying ways to bring video games into the classroom, and was able to use that to work gaming into my work. Kind of. I incorporated Minecraft into the composition classes that I taught, so I was able to play at least a few hours of that each week. It was fun, I admit, but not the same as choosing a game I want to immerse myself in, like an RPG, and spending some time getting lost in a virtual world. It was fun but not necessarily relaxing.

And then I started my third year of grad school, my first year as a PhD candidate. I told myself I would do more to carve time out to play games during the school year. Not only were they an important part of my identity, they were also a source of joy and relaxation in what can feel an oppressive blanket of stress. I felt like I was procrastinating too long at doing things like homework or lesson planning, and if I could just focus more and work harder, I’d have more free time to play games.

If only it were that simple. That year, last year, was tough for me. I ran into a serious conflict with my school’s housing office (and then, in the same dispute, the bursar’s office), which made me not only angry and bitter toward the school itself, but also unappreciated and taken advantage of. Couple that with my first encounter with a spiteful and unprofessional professor, among the aforementioned grad school stressors, and video games again became something that was just not in the cards for me.

I played a lot of games over the summer, which was nice. I was finally able to play some of the games I’d had my eye on during the school year. And I am again determined to fit games somewhere into my life while teaching and furthering my studies, but who knows how long it will last. I’ve been playing on weekends and some weeknights, but even now, before the semester really picks up speed, I feel guilty and somehow judged by a faceless audience. I can imagine their thoughts. “How can he afford to waste his time like that? Doesn’t he have better things to do? Doesn’t he want to be successful, like his peers? They probably get all of their work done before doing stuff like that.” Or I feel like they might think I’m being juvenile and selfish for even wanting to enjoy a hobby while going to grad school. It’s supposed to be tough, right? Why can’t I just wait until I’m done and graduated before getting back into gaming?

Maybe I should just wait, and maybe I am making a bigger deal out of this than it deserves, I don’t know. I just know that life is better with video games, and especially with video gaming free of anxiety phantoms hovering over me, making me feel guilt and shame for doing something that I get enjoyment out of. I don’t have a concrete solution, and I know all of the advice I might get (make a time budget, give myself one whole day a week to play games, reward study time with game time, etc.). I just wanted to write about it, since it’s always on my mind and will probably affect the frequency with which I update this blog. Maybe I’ll write up something more cohesive and less rambling later, when I’ve figured something out. Until then, I have some guilt-ridden No Man’s Sky to get back to.

 

Adventure Awaits

My copy of No Man’s Sky will be delivered to my doorstep in less than a week, and I am finally allowing myself to get excited. I’ve been looking forward to it for many months now, but when I feel the tendrils of hype planting themselves too deeply over something, I tend to pull back and avoid all or most news/discussion of whatever it is that has me excited. I want to avoid spoilers, of course, but it’s also about keeping my expectations in check. In the past, the more I allowed myself to dive completely into coverage of some anticipated thing, the more likely I was to get burned by disappointment. Even if something was only slightly less good than I’d expected, I felt massively let down. So, to save myself from that possibility, I’ve learned to avoid, avoid, avoid.

No Man's Sky

I think the release of this game is close enough to allow myself to start getting worked up again, though. And I’m starting by copying an idea that my good friend Tabitha came up with over at agamerssoul.com. She’s set up an “Explorer’s Log” where she is going to document her adventures in No Man’s Sky, as we’ve talked about doing since our earliest days of discussing the game. I’ve done the same on my own site. but I decided to call it “Captain’s Blog,” after the classic Star Trek phrase. I’m still trying to decide how to handle it, since apparently Wix only allows for one blog on each site, but when I figure out I’ll post a little introduction entry explaining my approach to the game and stuff.