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turtlethetaffer Blog

I've self published a crime novella

Hello, everyone. I've just self published a crime novella on Amazon! You can find it here! It's available through Kindle unlimited, or you can download it for just 99 cents. Here's the description from the page:

Margaret works at a restaurant, living life day by day, trapped in a routine that never seems to end. Lee works at an old electronics store where he is frequently bored out of his mind. After Margaret breaks routine one night and goes out to a club, she shows up at neighbor Lee's apartment, drunk enough to remember almost nothing. When she discovers that a friend she left behind a long time ago is dead, Lee is by her side as events that will dig up the past are set in motion. Margaret tries to deal with her new reality, the one she thought was long gone and Lee tries to help in any way he can to give his life new meaning. As events spiral further and further out of control, the duo will learn that the past never stays buried and that it can have deadly effects on the present.

I hope you'll share and spread the word if you enjoy it!

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number review

I just wrote up a review for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number which can be found here.

Short version: Hotline Miami 2 is a great game even if it's not as good as the first. The more wide open level design can lead to frustrations that weren't in the original.

New review- Majora's Mask 3D

I recently finished my review of Majora's Mask 3D, which you can find here. Here's a short version of my review:

Majora's Mask is better than ever on the 3DS. The main game is a true masterpiece, and the small changes they made for this remake help the game feel modern and relevant. I loved it, and would recommend it to both newcomers and veterans alike. There are still some very small flaws, but nothing is perfect and it's a can't miss game.

Now Playing: Majora's Mask 3d

Those of you who have known me on the site a while know that I love the hell out of Majora's Mask (I held it to be my favorite game of all time). So when the 3DS edition was announced, I preordered it immediately. I got my hands on my copy this past weekend and played it furiously (for those familiar with the game, I've just reached Great Bay for the first time). I was worried that I might be blinded by nostalgia, that its title in my head of "Best Game of All Time" might just be because I played it as a kid.

Thankfully, that's not the case. Playing through it again as an adult has given me a new perspective on it, but it's still a positively sublime experience that is unlike anything else out there. The improvements- upgraded graphics, more comprehensive Bomber's Notebook, hard save statues that permanently save progress- have gone a long way towards modernizing what could sometimes be a frustrating game. But none of those new features take away from any of its brilliant design and instead amplify everything that was great about the game to begin with. In short, this is still the game I loved way back in the day and my opinion of it hasn't changed.

I plan on finishing the game this week, so keep an eye out for my review.

As a small side note, I plan on getting back into review writing at some point. I've beaten a lot of games since my last written review but haven't really sat down to review any of them. That will soon change (hopefully).

Thoughts on that game that Gamespot can't seem to shut up about: Hatred

Hey, everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog (year and few days, actually). I’ve had a weird year since my last post filled with both positive and negative experiences. But I’m not really here to talk about them. Instead, I’m here to talk about mass murder. Or, rather, simulated mass murder.

So I’m sure that many of you have seen the release of the trailer for a game known only as Hatred. It features graphic violence, the murder of innocents and all around chaos, all rendered in the (pretty) Unreal Engine 4. Reaction to it has been pretty mixed, but the headlines are calling the game “brutally violent” and many feel that the gam isn’t fit to be made (there are, of course, people on the other side, which is something I’m going to be talking about). I’m not going to bother linking the trailer for a few reasons, chief among them being that I’m lazy as hell.

Anyways, my initial reaction was similar to the headlines. “This game’s awful, totally unnecessary, needlessly brutal, (fill in with any other negative adjective).” After all, in the wake of such tragedies as Sandy Hook, does the world need a game that puts players in the shoes of a man who wants nothing more than to wipe out every human he comes in contact with (thankfully, there were no children in the trailer, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the finished product will include such a heinous act)? And, to be sure, the game is shockingly realistic in its depiction of the killings.

But that got me thinking about some of my favorite media. One of my favorite and most played game series of the last generation was Borderlands, a game that was all about killing your enemies in a non-serious atmosphere. One of my favorite movies of 2013 was You’re Next, a slasher that depicted the massacre of a family (and a seriously badass chick fighting back). My favorite book of last year was This Book is Full of Spiders, a comedy horror novel that features exploding bodies, physically deformed zombies and a high number of gory deaths described in detail. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these to people, though. Borderlands is a fun, funny shooter that is insanely addicting. You’re Next is an almost perfectly executed (no pun intended) slasher movie that flips genre conventions on their head and makes you want to cheer while you watch. This Book is Full of Spiders is the incredibly well written sequel to John Dies at the End (another really terrific read) that is both hilarious and horrific, and sports a cast of truly well written and interesting characters.

Then, this past summer, I played one game almost obsessively for a good while. That game is Hotline Miami. For those that don’t know, Hotline Miami is something of a top down Contra. You play as a masked man and are charged with going to different places to kill a group of mobsters in some pretty brutal ways. The game’s graphics are 8 bit, but you still see things like decapitations, eye gouging, immolations and eviscerations in pretty explicit detail (and those are just the scripted death scenes- the non-scripted ones in play are arguably worse). And I think that most people who have played it will agree when I say that it’s just awesome (and goddamn, when’s that sequel coming?).

Now, the enemies in Hotline Miami aren’t necessarily innocent. They are Russian Mobsters, and while the player doesn’t see them do too much, it can be safely assumed that each one you kill has more than a little blood on their hands. Still, you don’t know who these people are, and yet you kill them in ludicrously violent ways (there’s even a mask that increases the amount of gore). I love the game because of its twitchy, reflex based gameplay, its awesome electronic soundtrack, the stylish graphics and, yes, the gore. However, the game’s story is actually quite contemplative. Without getting into too much, the events of the story can make a person sit back and think “huh” when it comes to the matter of violence. The nature of violence, the brutality of violence and, as evidenced when one character tells the protagonist that “Nothing you will do from here on out will have any meaning,” the total futility of violence. It’s thought provoking while also being fun to play. And I’ve played it a lot.

Now, I think it’s safe to say I like violent media. Granted, most of the media I like has more than just violence going for it, as in there’s substance of some kind behind it. Still, there’s a rush I get from playing something like The Darkness 2 and completely annihilating my enemies in gruesome fashion. But I don’t think I’m a violent person. I’m mortified by things like the journalist decapitations in the Middle East. I die a little inside whenever I hear about a mass shooting. The last time I got in a “fight,” I still had daily recess.

But the fact remains that a lot of the games I like feature violent murder of some kind. And this game, Hatred, features it in spades. Now, the question I’ve been pondering is this: how shocking should this game really be? I’ve killed armies upon armies of enemies during my gaming career, and some of this killing happened in more kid friendly games (one of my favorite games as a kid, Wind Waker, features the villain getting a sword through the head- albeit in a totally bloodless fashion, but still). But I think about a game like Grand Theft Auto V, where the world is yours, essentially. The series is sometimes jokingly referred to as a hooker murder sim. While the games do, in fact, have clear cut objectives and storylines, you can still commit acts of wanton genocide if the feeling should arise. Now, I know, there’s a major difference between Hatred and GTAV in that in GTAV, you aren’t encouraged to murder civilians. But what’s the penalty for doing so? You sometimes get the cops on your tail and more often than not you can outrun them in a matter of minutes before everything is reset. But in the game, you still kill a huge amount of people. Hell, there’s even the infamous torture sequence where you actively participate in acts like waterboarding to get information. And there’s never any kind of repercussion for this beyond Trevor, the torturer, saying “Torture’s bad, kids.”

So, no, GTAV doesn’t actively encourage you to kill innocent civilians, but it doesn’t exactly discourage it either. And, yes, the game is presented in a much more humorous, satirical way than Hatred is, but the fact remains that both games allow you to murder innocents for no other reason than the fact that you feel like it. The difference is that Hatred is brutally honest about the fact that it’s asking the player to commit horrible acts.

Now, I’m in no way defending an act like a mass shooting. I think they’re heinous, insane, and if I had my druthers, no such act would ever happen again to anyone in the world. But it’s so easy to forget in video games that you are actively murdering other members of the human race. Most of the time it’s because it happens so much, and the enemies are so often faceless, that you stop viewing it as a reprehensible act. Plus, the story often gives context to what you’re doing. Take, for instance, Far Cry 3, a game I thoroughly enjoyed. You murder humans in a multitude of ways in that game, but it’s done to liberate the island that they’ve taken over. But the fact remains- your main objective is to fight brutal violence with brutal violence.

In Hatred, your main objective seems to be to fight the general populace with brutal violence. And this is seemingly done in a totally straight way, without any elements of satire or farce. You are actively executing people who really haven’t done anything wrong besides exist. And this leads me to my question of why this shocks people. How many games are there where the enemies you’re fighting have done something to personally hurt the protagonist? There are a lot, but more often than not the one committing the act against the protagonist isn’t a group, but a single person leading a group. This is getting muddled, so let me get straight to my point- how many virtual people are just following the orders they’ve been given?

Take Call of Duty. A lot of the games pit you against a terrorist threat, but sometimes you have to infiltrate a heavily guarded compound of some sort. How many of the guards are just working joes who are trying to earn a buck by being a guard? And yet, the player murders them while barely blinking an eye. There’s a tangible sense of “other” ness that occurs here. The same can be said about those characters to yours, but the question I want to ask is exactly how many people in those games deserved the fate they got?

Basically, games always try to justify murder and, while we’re playing, they more often than not succeed. When I’m playing something like Max Payne 3, I don’t bother to think about the gangster that I just shot. Instead, I prefer to think about getting to the goal and cutting down anyone who gets in my way. Games are so good at making us dehumanize our enemies, that when Hatred was released, people were mortified. The guy the protagonist just shot in the trailer wasn’t Faceless Goon number 4416, it was a man who presumably has a wife, house, and probably a kid. The woman the protagonist just stabbed could have been in the early term of her first pregnancy. You get my point. The game is being brutally honest about the fact that it is a game about murder. It’s not saying it’s a nice thing, it’s not saying that people should behave this way. It’s saying that this is a game about killing fellow humans, and it wants you to know that fact and nothing else.

By taking away this sense of other- ness that so many games have, Hatred has certainly pushed a lot of buttons. I can only imagine what will happen once a main stream news source gets wind that a game about shooting anyone and everyone is being released. It’ll be like the controversy surrounding GTAIII on steroids.

Here’s something else to consider, too: How many games are there where you can be a straight up bad guy? I love the two Knights of the Old Republic games and have played on both the Light Side and the Dark Side. And I won’t lie, I love messing around with Dark Side powers. But I’ve only just now remembered some of the things you can do in the game. There’s a moment in KOTOR2, when you first arrive on Nar Shadda. A beggar runs up to you and asks for just a few credits to feed his family. You have the option of killing this man, and I have in fact done this before. I want to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but a very secret part of me relished being the bad guy for once. As sick as that might sound, exploring what it’s like to be evil is something that a lot of people enjoy, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many games like KOTOR2, where you can be a total sociopath.

The above example isn’t really different from some of the things you can do in Hatred. It’s just presented in a less bloody, T rated way. Hatred is unapologetic about allowing the player be the bad guy. It’s almost a paradox, much like in the game Hotline Miami. Someone who would pick up and play Hatred will likely enjoy it, even though they know they shouldn’t simply because the acts that are happening onscreen are truly horrendous.

Now, I’m not saying Hatred looks great. Hell, I think it honestly looks like a generic as hell top down shooter, just with some shock value thrown into the mix and because of that and my large backlog I have no interest in playing it. And I’m also not saying that the developers are intending to stimulate discussions about video game violence (judging by how one of the devs responded, it sounds like they’re going for nothing more than shock value). But I do think that any work of art (and I hold video games to be an art form, no matter how reprehensible some of the content might be) is smarter than the artist, and that meaning can be pulled from somewhere that the artist didn’t expect. Hatred may portray some of the worst acts a human can be capable of, but, really, how many other games do the exact same thing? The context is totally different, but the fact remains that, while Hatred probably won’t ever see the light of day and honestly doesn’t look that good to begin with, it can stimulate thought about the medium that we all love and partake in daily. So before you jump on the Hatred Hate Train, consider the idea that all this is stuff you’ve probably seen dozens of times before. And I’m not condemning violent games, either. I’ll probably play Hotline Miami at least two more times until the sequel arrives (and in that case you can bet I’ll be playing the hell out of that game). But I am saying that, despite the subject matter, Hatred has some worth and that worth lies in its ability to get people thinking about the entertainment medium they might not always think critically about.

Ten and a half hours of Pokemon Y.

Hello, hello. I got Pokemon Y on day one, and boy is it great. Tons of new features, my favorites of which are the all party EXP share and the ability to totally customize your avatar.

But Mega Evolutions have me intrigued. I've already seen Charizard and Lucario, and there's sure to be more on the way. This new feature is going make me use a lot of Pokemon I wouldn't normally use. I'm really, really excited to see who they've given mega evos. The way they reveal it is ingenious, too. Discover a stone that goes with a certain species, and you learn that that Pokemon is capable of mega evolving. It really brings a lot of surprises into the familiar formula that we all know and love.

This is definitely worth getting if you're a fan. Lots of little tweaks and stuff that really deliver.

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team review

You can find my full review of it here.

For the lazy among you, here's an extremely shortened version:  The game provides the same amount of fun as other games in the series, but it doesn't really stand out in a particular way due to a weak villain and somewhat disappointing overall story.

Thanks for reading!  Get hyped for x and y this weekend!

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team- Twenty hours in

Dream team, the fourth installment in the Mario and Luigi games, is pretty good so far.  The combat is as fun as ever, the story is good, the characters are goofy and the graphics are, well, steallr for the system, ESPECIALLY with 3D on.

There are some issues, though.  For one, it seems like the game hits you with tutorials at every moment it can.  Since it is always introducing new mechanics, it means a break in the gameplay, which is almost patronizing... I'd much rather have the option to skip all the tutorials, especially since I've been able to guess how to perform the majority of the actions in the game.  

It's still a lot of fun... I just wish it wasn't so dedicated to holding your hand all the time.

Bday Blog!

So, peoples of Gamespot, my Bday was yesterday, and it was a good one!  I went with my GF to see the Thursday showing of You're Next (which is a movie that anyone who thinks horror movies are stagnating should see... Seriously.  See it. Go. Now. Stop reading this if you haven't watched this film yet and go.)  The day after I went to a local state fair and had tons of good food and saw the animals, etc.

As a gift, I got Shin Megami Tensei IV and Virtue's Last Reward for my 3DS! Additionally, I bought myself Mario and Luigi Dream Team and Scribblenauts Unlimited.  All these games excite me. The issue is that I don't know which to dedicate my time to first (I think that VLR will be the first... Loved 999).

And that's about it!  See You're Next so that maybe Hollywood will continue to support fresh and fun horror movies! (although it's not for the squeamish).

The Gruesome Aspects of Everyday Living

I am going to begin a new story with the same title as this blog.  It's going to be about a mentally unstable cashier who goes about his life and his perspective on the world around him.  I'm hoping it will be a surrealist horror comedy (as in it'll be gruesome and weird, but in a funny sort of way).  It'll begin with him at the end of a shift, and follow his life over the course of a few days as he gets to know a new girl who jsut moved into his apartment complex next door (who, coincidentally, is one of the few normal looking people).  It will be told in the first person perspective, so I'm really hoping I can get a good "voice" for my character.

What do you think of this idea?