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It's just another rabu song

Did you know vanilla ice cream is the king sh** of fu** mountain? I won't even pretend this blog is anything more than a diary at this point. Games I played in the last 6 months or so!

Portal 2 - An amazing sequel: builds upon the first one, and improves in every way. Aperture feels more real and ridiculous - it got funnier and scarier at the same time (Cube meets Cabin in the Woods meets Douglas Adams). I loved all the hilarious small talk by Wheatley, GLaDOS and Cave Johnson, the founder of Aperture himself. I liked light-bridges, levitation rays, the gel gimmick = all great additions to regular portal puzzles. Extras are seriously cool too - a separate co-op campaign (with split screen!), free mods & puzzles made by the community, the level design tool itself, comic book prequel. "Well done. Here come the test results: You are a horrible person. That's what it says: a horrible person. We weren't even testing for that."

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines - A "World of Darkness" adaptation which truly does the setting justice. Source engine still makes it beautiful after all these years, while fan patches squash any and (almost) all bugs. Work and love put into it by Troika team shines in every detail. While exploring LA (Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood and Chinatown), I got to know all of the clans and factions and felt like I was really a part of it all. The whole experience is incredibly immersive and rewarding, with many choices and possible outcomes. One of my favorite RPGs for sure!

Diablo 3 - I gave it another try and finished it together with the expansion. I have to say, all the modifications that came with Reaper of Souls make sense, and the campaign itself was a step-up too. After finishing the game with a witch doctor, I gave wizard a try and had a lot of fun. I'm curious to see where they take the story next. Will we find out more about Covetous Shen...? Visit Xiansai...?

Bastion - Steampunk noir on 'shrooms! This is an ARPG with tons of style. Collecting different melee and ranged weapons (+ upgrades) and using them with special skills makes for diverse fights & interesting tactics. The lore is surprisingly thought-out - the more the story develops, the more you are surprised how much sense it makes, and how much you care what happens to the characters and Caelondia. Beautiful, beautiful music changes from energetic tunes to sad ballads. The whole soundtrack for this game is amazing and complements the whole thing perfectly. Visuals are charming and hypnotizing; hyper-reality of Bastion is magical and inviting.

The Book of Unwritten Tales - I believe the working title was Monkey Peninsula 6 Online: LeChuck's Absence (jk). First, the environments. They are freakin' gorgeous, 3D rendered and nothing short of breathtaking. Distinct areas (Wilbur's hometown, the big city, temple, wild lands) will make sure your eyes don't get bored. This game has some unbelievable visuals and every area was obviously made with a lot of love and patience. Next, level design. Really good overall, but some areas drag on a bit too long to be honest (temple, I'm looking at you) - then again it's not that big of a deal. The voice acting & music is top-notch (I did play it in German though). Puzzles are usually very well done, nothing too frustrating (although I remember some unfortunate pixel hunting). Often funny, always ridiculous! The colorful plethora of playable and unplayable characters is astonishing. All of them are unique and interesting, my favorite being the Critter. The only problem I had was with Nate and Ivo - he's a bit irritating, with too many *wink wink, nudge nudge* jokes; she's yet another female character who's sole purpose in the game is being a trope, used as a catalyst for other (male) characters. Both Nate and Ivo are written in a rather boring and superficial way, which I wouldn't even be mentioning considering the type of game we're talking about, if they weren't the main characters with whom you spend most of your time with. Then again, they're supposed to parody fantasy MMO's and the tropes of that genre, so I guess it works out. I just hope they do a bit more with them in the sequel!

Shelter - A very new experience for me. I was playing a badger, trying to get my young ones to a safe place. Visually unique, different environments like forests, hills and meadows have an interesting, powerful feeling of being lost in a familiar place. Every once in a while this awe is disrupted by real danger. Water, fire, predators and hunger took my children away, one by one... But I persisted and managed to get one single offspring to safety (I won't lie, tears were shed). Man what a weird and captivating game.

Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light - Played it in local co-op and had tons of fun. This isometric ARPG spin on the franchise is a success if you ask me! It felt like Tomb Raider, but it also felt fresh. Achievements and artifacts weren't that well incorporated - they feel rushed and unbalanced. If you're not a completionist though, fear not: you will get your money's worth! Looking forward to the sequel.

Tomb Raider - After the aforementioned spin-off, I decided to play the newest TR. I went into it mildly interested, not expecting too much. The 2013 game left me amazed! Everything - visuals, audio, level design, fighting, puzzles, collectibles - everything was done right. And the action sequences were incredible. The island, the Solarii, the Sun Queen... it all reminded me of Lost, but in a good, "first two seasons" way. Loved it!!

Alice: Madness Returns - I played the American McGee's Alice before, and while I thoroughly admired its aesthetics, its level design and fighting mechanics were a bit lacking and definitely didn't age well. Afraid they would repeat the same mistakes, I ventured into this new iteration of Wonderland carefully. Luckily, not all my fears were confirmed. Level design is similar but better, fighting is more strategic and combo-based (with occasional hiccups but still), and dialogues are as witty as ever.The new engine allowed the game to look incredibly magical, with uncanny environments and horrific creatures abound. And while I encountered some of the creatures throughout the game (few times too many), every chapter was unique. Hatter's Domain started as a trip through a lush green forest and ended as a trip back to his terrible factory. Deluded Depths started on a polar ice cap and ended underwater in a fish city whose inhabitants were secretly slaughtered for the theater. Oriental Grove was a far East inspired attempt to reach the Caterpillar by saving origami bugs from their real bug enemies. Queensland was a visit to the new Queen in the old Queen's castle. Dollhouse was a big, colorful, dangerous playground with creepy babies and nightmarish cellars. Every chapter was interrupted by a real world sequence, which depicted a dark and sinful London in which Alice was trying to find out about her past. In the first game Alice was trying to conquer her inner demons, outbest the destructive alter-ego that is the Queen, and take back her own mind in order to regain sanity. In this game, Alice is trying to beat real life "demons", people who keep the terrible truth from her and work for their selfish goals. She finds out all previous Wonderland bosses and arch enemies are now her allies - the enemy lies elsewhere. She is trying to stop the Infernal Train & save Wonderland, not destroy it. All in all, Madness Returns is a solid, beautiful game and a worthy sequel. One thing is still true - just like its predecessor, it has this slight discrepancy, as if the gameplay and storytelling are slightly out of sync. It's almost as if at certain points, gameplay practically stands in the way of McGee's storytelling. I'm not sure what would resolve this occasional loss of momentum... less repetitive fights? Less fighting overall? Be that as it may, it seems we will not get an interactive continuation of the story - the third installment will come in the form of a (kickstarted!) movie.

Bionic Commando Rearmed - I played it years ago and never finished the last level. This time I persisted, and when I finally brought down the final boss, I felt like the supreme king, ruler and chancellor of the universe. Nothing like beating a tough platformer. In this one you don't even jump! You just use a grappling hook. A true hommage to the NES original, with an amazing soundtrack and a unique visual style. As soon as I find the time, I will try out the darker 3D sequel - can't wait!

Rock of Ages - One of those games you can't really put a label on. What genre is it? Strategic racing squash'em up. It's funny, eccentric and utterly ridiculous. The boss fights are on the easy side, and strategy boils down to using as much "blowers" as possible, but the campaign never stops being fun. Haven't tried the multiplayer, but it's bound to be interesting for at least a while!

Little Inferno - Another unclassifiable game. You burn stuff in your fireplace. That's it. You burn stuff. You try to get all of the combos, unlock new items to burn (there's also a short genre change at the end)... Boring, right? Wrong! It's like one of those bubble wrappers - you just can't help popping another one. And another one. And another one... And just like their previous game World of Goo, Little Inferno packs a well-places not-in-your-face critique of some aspect of modern living into a bewildering, creepy story. This time it's all about social networking!

Hearthstone - As far as collectible card games go, I played a lot of Pokemon, Kongai (on Kongregate) and Magic the Gathering (on Steam). After trying out Hearthstone, I can easily say it's my favorite one. I'm seriously hooked - Blizzard, as much as I hate to admit it, did it again. They took a well known formula, used it in one of their franchises and made the whole concept better. It's slick, balanced, fast, challenging and rewarding. Considering I didn't spend any money and I still feel I constantly get a lot out of it, I'd say it's my favorite Blizzard game to date.

Magicka - It was made with multiplayer in mind. It's an action RPG with basically no loot - you choose a robe, you get a weapon (if it sucks you exchange it for the one your friend dropped when you "accidentaly" killed him with landmines) and then you do what you came here for - you experiment with spells! I love the magic weaving mechanic (the whole thing reminds me a bit of Loom) where you have to combine elements to produce effects. I love the humor and pop/geek culture references. I hate Cthulhu. I hate the bastard so much. :)

Final Fantasy XII - Finally! I stopped playing it two years ago, literally one dungeon away from reaching the last boss - the Pharos part was so tedious I gave up. I enjoyed it this time around, slowly making my way up the tower and leveling up Basch, Vaan & Ashe. After that I did a few hunts and then faced the evil Vayne Solidor, squashing him like the long-haired douchebug he is (dyswidt). This one is definitely in my top 3 Final Fantasy games!

VVVVVV - Finished it again, this time collecting all of the trinkets. Damn it's fun! And punishing. Mostly fun though.

I tried out a few MMO's again. It's like I'm trying to get into the genre again, get that feeling of immersion I got from Guild Wars 1, but it's not really happening. Final Fantasy XIV was fun for about 30 hours (magical number when it comes to MMOs it seems). I really enjoyed exploring the green and lush Gridania with my little healer. I visited the other two big cities and wandered a bit off the beaten path, but there simply wasn't anything pushing me to delve further. I played the trial version of WoW: Mists of Pandaria, and while I mildly enjoyed exploring the Pandaren island, I can't imagine the rest of the game pulling me back in. Next I tried out Secret World, and while it really mesmerized me at first, I was eventually put off by the UI, unintuitive quest log and various technical issues. I will definitely give it another try when I buy a stronger PC.

Some Old Hippy Caught Another Hippy Trippin' On Acid

Long time no write.

Starting last autumn, I've been playing games whenever I had a chance. I had to build a new computer so suddenly all these new games I couldn't run before became available. And my Steam and GoG libraries are so shiny... If Gandalf asked me what I found in the caverns, I would keep my mouth shut as well. MINE! I never know what to play next, and I always install 10 games at a time.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - This one was longer and way better than I expected! The fighting tends to get a bit repetitive, but only towards the end of the game. Many things felt right - the powerful feeling of making my way through hoards of frenzied Orcs, demons and Chaos Marines; different weapons + the jet-pack; a believable world completely destroyed by Waaagh! and a strong sense of immersion. Not to mention how visually stunning the whole thing is! The dark setting of Warhammer was successfully translated into this story of brotherhood, duty, trust and betrayal. Elements all to familiar, but combined in all the right ways.

Fallout: New Vegas - Hooo boy, where to start. The Fallout saga first gave us the Vault Dweller. Then appeared the Chosen One. Lone Wanderer followed. And finally... came the Courier. Mojave, mo' problems amiright. 100+ hours, 90% of the world explored, all DLCs finished, all quests I found - completed. For me, New Vegas is to Fallout 3 what Fallout is to Fallout 2. (While Fallout 2 & 3 are widely praised and loved, New Vegas and the original game tend to sit in the corner when their big brothers are around.) Original Fallout was incredibly immersive for me, a fact which made it a fonder memory when compared to the more versatile and eventful Fallout 2. And while Fallout 3 was super fun and had an intense main storyline that took me through haunting post-apocalyptic city ruins, I had a much more personal experience with New Vegas. (Later I found out the writer was Chris Avellone, THE guy behind Planescape: Torment. So yeah, that explained a few things.) Roaming the Mojave, exploring Freeside and the Strip, investigating casinos and the gangs behind them, 'playing poker' with the big guys (NCR, Legion and Mr. House), finding all the companions & straightening out their life stories... The biggest joy were the DLCs though. Dead Money was an uncanny trip through a resort made prison called Sierra Madre. Honest Hearts was a welcome vacation to the precipitous heights of the Zion canyon. Old World Blues was a quirky trip to Big Mountain, a scientific haven full of crazy things (Like my brain. Talking to me out of a glass tank). Lonesome Road was a captivating walk through the Divide, a tragic place intertwined with the history and future of the Courier(s). After my final return to New Vegas, all that was left to do was pop in uninvited at the main Legion camp, headshot everyone with a Gobi sniper, then blow up the almighty Caesar & his 20 guards with a rocket launcher. Oh, and back-stab NCR, detonate the Hoover dam power plant, take over the whole damn thing with my robot army and throw the general into the river. No gods, no masters \m/

Trine 2 - An improvement upon the first game, in every possible aspect. I especially liked the expansion, with its varied scenery and funny character remarks. Every single area is beautiful, and the backgrounds and animations are amazing. Every once in a while I had to stop and appreciate the sheer awesomeness on my screen. Needless to say, it's a blast in co-op.

Stacking - Finally finished it. Double Fine did not disappoint - this game is one of a kind. A unique mechanic of possessing other characters by jumping into them is made possible through one fact - everyone is a Matryoshka doll! It maintains a very stylish approach to storytelling, constantly being very meta and aware of itself which is what allows it to be genuinely funny. I especially liked the original campaign ending (the DLC is almost redundant), the way they handled the 'boss fight' (including the slo-mo sequence - I lol'd) and the message it conveyed. In short: Witty, colorful and fun!

Lone Survivor - A chilling, sometimes funny, always uncanny, thought provoking survival adventure. Not just another zombie game! It's a rich experience filled with meaning - one of those interactive pieces of fiction which is more than simply sum of its parts. Scarce yet captivating music + simplistic yet powerful visuals + disjointed yet coherent plot + surreal yet unforgettable characters = Lone Survivor. Or is he?

Dear Esther - A walk through a creepy but beautiful island changes into a mysterious inner exploration. Every play-through can trigger different audio logs, thus gradually uncovering the story. Although I felt it was a bit too vague (at moments bordering with pretentious), I can't deny how atmospheric it is. I still think it's unfair Esther was highly praised by many while Trauma was flamed by most.

Papo & Yo - There aren't enough superlatives to describe the feel and look of this game! Absolutely loved it. The puzzles or the platforming aren't particularly challenging - they aren't meant to be. Exploring the surreal world of Papo & Yo is more like experimenting with laws of a different reality than testing your skills in a familiar one. It's like being a kid again, getting lost in a playground full of possibilities. Traversing the dreamlike slums as a little boy while trying to tame a wild Monster goes from enchanting to touching when you realize the Monster is a representation of the boys alcoholic father. The ending was especially powerful. Soundtrack fits the game perfectly, making the whole experience even more immersive. I'm really curious about Minority Media's next game called 'Silent Enemy' (dealing with bullying).

Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons - This is a rather dark and tragic tale with dreamy fantasy coating, quite short but very effective in its determination to tell a meaningful story. You control both brothers simultaneously - this feature proves to be the key link between you and them. It establishes the emotional connection and strengthens the catharsis that follows. The fairy tale setting contrasts beautifully with the underlying theme, evoking a genuine sense of loss. A very rewarding experience!

Other than that, I played some Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2, and got super bored super fast. I also fooled around with Guild Wars 2 and The Old Republic: none of the two managed to keep my attention longer than 30 hours. I played a lot of Toki Tori (an interesting puzzler) and a bit of Anomaly:Warzone Earth (a stylish tower attack) on my new android - both are slick, fun and challenging.

P.S. I watched a talk by Jonathan Blow about how medium is the message, and a talk by guys explaining the importance of 'juicing up' your game with details. I got excited by Stephen Wolfram's upcoming programming language. I liked the article about why indie developers go insane and another one on why and how is Rust awesome. And that's about it! Further gaming awaits, gtg glhf kthxbye

Japan: Women are sexy if they are innocent and helpless

Although this blog doesn't have anything to do with her, I just want to mention that Anita Sarkeesian has a new video out, Damsel in Distress: Part 2. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the games discussed are Japanese. Well, since coming to Japan, I've been visually bombarded by suggestive drawings of barely legal girls on every corner. They sell that stuff in every convenience store, right next to normal magazines and groceries, so that any family or kid coming in can see it. Living here is probably the main reason why lately, I've been thinking/writing about feminism and women in games (and visual culture in general) so much.

So I will try to explain my conclusion for why is this so ever-present (my source for most of this article is the magazine Cinephile, Vol. 7 No. 1, Reassessing Anime).

Short explanation of terms:

Otaku - a person who is heavily interested and invested in a particular topic, bordering on being obsessed. It could be planes, trains, insects, manga, anime, or whatever. The word is often used to describe one's 'obsession' with something, and doesn't neccessarily have a negative connotation (I'm Otaku for this series, or that show, or studying animals).

Still, it's mostly used to refer to a certain type of Otaku, a subculture of guys who spend a lot of money on collecting manga/anime merchandise, are socially unadapted, don't go out too much and roam Akihabara in unfashionable clothes (with a big backpack for all the stuff they buy), looking like insecure stalkers but mostly just being harmless nerds that keep to themselves.

Kawaii - the Japanese word for cute, except it encompasses a lot. In Japan it's very normal to like cute, childish things (toys, accessories, anime, whatever), even if you are a guy. It is also what you scream at babies and fluffy animals.

Moe - more on that in the following text :D

1. Definition of Moe

Moe is central to the Japanese Otaku culture. But what is it? Defining moe is not an easy task. Usually more than one answer will be offered, and none of them will include all the aspects of this phenomenon. The origin of the name is defined in various ways too, but most convincing one is that it comes from the verb moeru (1. to burn; 2. to sprout).

The easiest definition for anything of interest to Otaku might be 'concentrated appeal'. If this is true, then Moe would most definitely be the concentrated appeal through fetishized imagery which evokes a sense of vulnerability. One can come up with any number of scholarly definitions, but imagery and symbols of Moe will usually consist of scantily dressed teenage (or younger) girls in various contexts. While most defenders of moe merchandise (particularly people producing it) state that moe is fundamentally asexual and innocent (thus distancing it from the more explicit branches of Japanese pop culture), we should not hastily take this for granted. The concentrated appeal in Moe most definitely has some (implicit) sexual elements, albeit suppressed. So how does this work, and in what ways are the sexual and asexual elements intertwined? More importantly, why is there a high demand for such products?

2. Structure of Moe

First, a quote from the science-fiction writer William Gibson: 'Humans are pattern recognizing creatures.' Having this in mind when observing pop culture in general, we can without hesitation say that any and all pop culture is consumed for it's never ending appeal of endless recombination and redefinition of tropes. Because, if we go beyond narratives in culture products (movies, books, comic books, videogames), within that world of pictures and words we will discover a rich web of symbols which evoke a wide range of emotional reactions in the consumer. Let's shift our focus back to moe.

Moe evokes a sense of vulnerability. This vulnerability can be physical (the character is physically weak or disabled), mental (the character is young, etc.) or situational (the character is in the role of a servant, maid, etc.). These vulnerabilities are conveyed to the Otaku consumer in two ways, which are two different aspects of moe. The first one is narrative moe; this moe is derived from character's actions and personality, basically from everything that's identifiable only within the context of the story narrative (therefore not easily reproduced in a single still image). The second one is non-narrative moe; this is the still image, a set of specific visual characteristic not dependent on the story.

'Moe is not a simple act of empathy, but a post-modern consumer behavior.' How are we to understand this quote? Otaku consume manga and animation as a kind of 'database', cataloging and recombining various tropes and character traits. This affective response to images leads on to consumption of more images, becoming organized as repetition compulsion. Therefore, the most important element of moe is not narrative, but forced repetition of character traits.

If we really focus our attention only on the narrative moe and the mental vulnerabilities of characters, moe indeed seems rooted in empathy through a fatherly/motherly instinct. But if we take in account the non-narrative moe and the fetishized imagery too, we cannot but ask ourselves: how deep does the rabbit hole go?

3. Why are Kawaii and Moe ever-present in Japan?

When talking about origins of the phenomenon, Moe is probably best described as an outgrowth of kawaii, which is the apparent obsession of the Japanese people with the 'cute' and childlike. Both are in no way a product of recent Otaku culture - they can be found as early as 1948 in Osamu Tezuka's work 'The Lost World'. Sharon Kinsella explains that this aesthetic 'celebrating sweet, adorable, innocent, pure, simple, genuine, gentle, vulnerable, weak, and inexperienced social behavior and physical appearances (...) saturated the multimedia and consumer goods and services whilst they were expanding rapidly between 1970 and 1990 and reached a peak in the early 1980s'.

Miki Kato claims that kawaii and the child-like behavior associated with it are 'inherent in the Japanese character' and a consequence of the social and psychological pressures of modern Japanese society. She writes, 'kawaii gives people a way to hang onto childhood and thereby postpone the pressures of adulthood'.

What about moe itself? Similarly, we might view the post-millennial moe saturation of anime as a result of social issues, especially regarding male identity, caused by these societal pressures in post-war Japan becoming more forceful and overpowering. Japanese males are now increasingly looking toward the fantasy world to supplement and correct their perceived inadequacy, using the cute to escape. Realizing that a place in the 'proper' society is unachievable, they grasp a different reality through the Otaku identity.

A significant portion of consumers in the moe-targeted market consists of unmarried males in their 30s. Since these men are beginning to see a lack of purpose in their lives and the 'window of fatherhood slowly closing', they are creating an emotional state of nurturing affection while maintaining a subliminal sexual affection towards a certain object, symbol, idol. Moe products are surrogates to fill a gap in their emotional being.

To summarize: If kawaii is a way of hanging onto childhood, then moe is a way of hanging onto (and in some way realizing) the repressed sexuality (frozen in an immature, pre-adult state) while dealing with a growing nurturing affection ('longing for fatherhood').

And that's why we have 50-year old businessmen going to AKB48 concerts, cheering to a bunch of 12-18 year olds dancing in skirts. And nobody sees anything wrong with that.

Deer Dairy

Stardate 12062013. I've been through quite a number of games since mid-winter, 'cause the evenings were long, cold & uneventful, and the winter lasted for most of the spring. It finally went away, so I actually started hiking & biking again. Exploring the city and it's surroundings is exciting. I'm in Japan for another 2 months, and then I'll make a short trip around Taiwan (managed to save enough money!), before going back home. So this is what I've been playing since my last diary entry (if you are finding these diary pages scattered around in a dungeon somewhere, don't bother piecing them together, no bonus XP here! Only +5 urge to buy more stuff on Steam and GoG):

Fallout 2 - Once again I discovered many strange things in the wasteland: a ghost, a talking plant, scientologists launching a space shuttle, shamanistic visions, a robodog, a mummy, a ghoul with a tree growing on his forehead, my own car for cruising the desert... so much fun :D

I wish they gave me a chance to show off my 18 levels of smooth talking & maxed charisma/intelligence. It turned out the boss fight was too much (no talking my way out of that one), so I ended up blowing up with the ship. Talk about dramatic!

To the Moon - A beautiful story with just enough humor. Anyone who has ever had a deep relationship fall apart will be able to relate, and find some wisdom in the game's narrative. Considering the structure and gameplay, it had a perfect length of 4 hours.

Another World - After quitting earlier this year, I gave it another shot and liked it much more than the first time. It's not that the save system was off, I just wasn't trying hard enough :D Got my sh1t together and finished it in one go.

Dangerous Highschool Girls in Trouble! - Wow, a vintage board game with an RPG soul! It's as awesome as it sounds - the dialogue is hillarious and the mechanics unique. While exploring it for 15 hours or so, I encountered some weird things - i.e. a talking pony, a split personality, a desk serving as a policeman, a ghost hired to scare unwanted visitors. The story got more ridiculous, more interesting and more serious as I progressed. A tad repetitive mini games don't detract from this one of a kind experience!

Sword & Sworcery EP - This article 'summed' it up much better than I could: 'Adventure game for stoners' --- 'It could come across as being embarrassed of what it is, except its more like shyness. As in, what its talking about is too important to be approached directly and crassly. You have to joke about it, because if you took it seriously, it'll shatter.' --- 'And, to state the obvious, its certainly playing a whole bunch of games with Miyamotos icons.' 4 hours of tripping out! (p.s. loved the Twin Peaks reference)

Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge - A peculiar, short adventure game by Jonas Kyratzes. It's set in the ridiculous world called Lands of Dream, together with The Book of Living Magic, The Fabulous Screech (both of which I played on Kongregate) and The Sea Will Claim Everything, his latest and best effort so far. Love it!!

The Last Express - Another one I wanted to finish for ages. It's a really nice, very unique game. It felt like playing a Poirot novel, solving a captivating mystery while encountering various interesting characters. The UI is the only downside, sometimes traversing the train gets frustrating. Recommended for serious adventure fans!

Driftmoon - It's a relaxing RPG adventure & it took me around 24h for 100% completion. It doesn't end there though, because the game comes with a modding system which prolongs its lifespan. The characters and the narrative itself could use some work, but overall, Driftmoon is witty and rewarding.

We're all watching what happens at E3. This generation, there's only one console I'm *really* interested in: Playstation 4. They did so many things right. But... necessary subscription for online play? Dick move Sony, dick move. Still, all the good things make up for this one; I'm really looking forward to next-gen gaming experiences! Lets boldly go where no gamer has gone before (^____^)

Game marketing as a game itself: Was Molyneux's Curiosity really an experiment?

A life changing reward for a lucky player, that's what's been promised. Out of thousands, the person that chips away the last cubelet of the layered Cube on their Android or iPhone, wins something "life-changingly amazing by any definition". Tapping the screen endlessly wasn't the only option either - in addition to winning digital coins (spent on tools for chipping more efficiently), it was possible to pay real money (1, 7 or 10 dollars) to remove huge blocks of cubelets at once. But get this: it was also possible to pay real money to *add cubelets back*.


This has been going on for almost 7 months. Curiosity is a part of the 22 Experiments project by game designer Peter Molyneux (Dungeon Keeper, Populous, Black & White, Fable series) and his recently founded 22Cans studio. Many critics and fans repeatedly accuse Molyneux for overhypeing his own work in a grandiose manner. True or not, with every new project the promises are getting bigger while the style continually serves to mystify, trying almost too hard to sweep us off our feet. This time it was a cat in a bag: we were promised something spectacular, and the only way to uncover this uncannily undefined mystery was to be a part of the experiment. The experiment (which is the word Molyneux himself uses to describe Curiosity) ended on May 26th, with one lucky Scottish player chipping away the last cubelet.


The announcement of the winner was a Matrix-like scene. Molyneux being Morpheus, he finally gave a red pill to One persistent player. Surrounded with white, dressed in black, his voice echoing like an undismissable but calming conscience after a sought-out catharsis. All of us who wondered "What is the Cube?" got our answer. The red pill though, is only one. In addition to getting a cut of every sale of Molyneux's upcoming game Godus, the winner gets to be a digital god. The rest of us, well... We get to look forward to the next experiment, while enjoying the 'privilege' of partaking in a 'historical', first of its kind, 'world-altering' event. What really happened here?

Stay with me while I go off on a tangent. The announcement video instantly reminded me of two science fiction movies I recently saw: a) an animated short called Lucky Day Forever, and b) an episode of the excellent mini series Black Mirror, called 15 Million Merits.


            a) In Lucky Day Forever, the main character is living in a highly polarized futuristic city. He lives in the ghetto, a dangerous, dirty and decaying part of the city. He workes as a janitor among the glass babylonian towers of wealth in the rich, impeccably white district. What keeps all the poor and destitute citizens in check is the promise of winning a place among the perfect elite. By playing the ubiqutous lottery, everyone has a chance to win a body replacement and a place among the tall, strong, white-teethed superstars they are bombarded with on TV. If you care to watch it yourself (which you should, it's short and well worth it), *SPOILERS* ahead: protagonist manages to get a winning ticket and rushes to join the cream of the society, expecting love, fame, fortune and happiness. Needless to say, his new life turns out to be a big lie - superficial, meaningless and completely void of love. *END of SPOILERS*. What does this carrot-chasing, this lure of grand prizes, remind me of?


            b) In 15 Million Merits (you can watch the full version on Youtube), we see a guy sleeping in a high-tech cubicle, eating in a high-tech cafeteria, riding a bike in a high-tech gym, surrounded with people who are doing the same thing. Details aside, they are there to get into a competition à la American Idol/Britain's Got Talent. To get in, they have to pay 15 million Merits. They earn Merits by biking, playing first person shooters, watching vulgar shows and enduring ad after ad, commercial after commercial, blasting from the huge screens. Each refusal to do so detracts a certain sum from their Merits total. This is without a doubt a very dystopian iteration of Britain's Got Talent - the goal of reaching fame and glory through ruthless competition is worth sacrificing anything. Furthermore, *SPOILERS* people who actually get to perform have to drink a certain beverage beforehand, which makes them very susceptible to persuasion. A female singer (who would otherwise never do so) is talked into accepting a role in their pornographic ads. Near the end of the movie, the protagonist flips out and holds a powerful speech in front of the judges (uses strong language). He shows the charade for what it is. The judges play along, and transform this subversive element into another cog in the machine: he gets his own show filled with ads, where his once passionate, now watered-down threats of suicide are just another way to make the rats stay in the labyrinth. *END of SPOILERS* Again, what does all this carrot-chasing, this lure of grand prizes, remind me of?


            Let' get back on track. How does all of this relate to Molyneux and his Cube experiment? All three examples (two fictional, one real) are about making people involved. They are all about getting people on the hype train, getting them excited, and making a selected few the symbols of what the consumer should yearn for. The real one, the Cube example, even gives a way to prolong the road to success, to undone what other players have managed to undertake to uncover the secret of the Cube. Having this on mind, how can we not ask ourselves: was Molyneux's Curiosity ever an experiment? Are experiments not about finding the answer, acquiring new knowledge, testing a hypothesis with a scientific mindset? Maybe Curiosity is all of those, maybe not. Perhaps the result of this 'experiment' was known all along. A friend asked me yesterday: "how is this whole thing different from a pyramid scam?" That aside, the most useful byproduct was probably the hype. It was a perfect way to get the word out, to transform the Cube, 22Cans, Peter Molyneux himself and ultimately Godus into something that is talked about. Self-sustaining publicity. Did it work? Don't ask me, I'm the one talking about it.

Here is a quote from Molyneux which sheds some light on what he sees as a game design issue, and what he offers as a conceptual solution: "I am fed up to the back teeth of consuming other people's visions - of directors' and screenwriters' ideas of what a hero should be; of novelists writing stories that they think are good, but I think are rubbish. Why can't we have stories about me? I want to have my own unique experiences."


But what is the definiton of a unique experience? To express ourselves, to influence the world we dived into, in a unique manner? Is this really how we want to express ourselves then - buying lottery tickets? All for the promise of that one Willy Wonka golden ticket, that appeal of entering the Sphere, that mystery of uncovering what is inside the Cube. Which element here is the ground-breaking, world-altering fulfillment of the promise? The part where one of 'us' gets to be become one of 'them'? Do we really want, and need to be manipulated like this in order to be entertained and excited?

Personally, I'd rather call things for what they really are.

EDIT (2013/05/30): I rest my case.

Dear Diary

I haven't been gaming as much as I wanted to for the last few months. Which isn't to say I haven't been gaming a lot,  just not AS much as I wanted. And as usual I had a very good reason. This time it's because I'm in Japan as a short-term exchange student, studying the language for one year (until September). Nevertheless, in between intensive studying schedule and discovering everything about this country (not to mention a one month trip around Japan I just came back from), I managed to squeeze in a few games.


Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest was a pleasant surprise more than anything else. Simple and short (not very deep but addictive) JRPG with a two-player party. It served mainly as a medium for practicing easy Japanese, but having it all written in hiragana / katakana (without kanji) actually made it more difficult.

The very unique Trauma had me hypnotized for 2 hours, and I disagree with Kevin VanOrds review. When you know what to expect gameplay-wise, it can be rewarding. If you like quirky adventure games that is, and happen to be in the mood for one.

After that, I finished the flashy Rayman 3 and then went back to finish the non-redundant Rayman 2. They are similar, but R3 is more focused on fighting and is twice as long. Ultimately, I liked R2 more (for a number of subjective reasons). Both of them I liked much more than Rayman Forever, which I had a lot of fun with - up until the point where I was supposed to backtrack to all the levels and collect every single cage in order to be worthy of a short and unsatisfying end battle (as witnessed on Youtube). That's bad game design in my book (luckily they got rid of the idea in later games!), but I could appreciate the core experience for what it is.

Great Work by Nifflas (whose NightSky I finished about a year ago) is probably his best effort so far. You're in a magical and calming cave system; you explore, you jump, you do alchemist work. 'This game was developed for the documentary Alkemistens År, which is the story about Christer Böke who has taken one year off from his well-paid job as an IT-salesman to become a full-time Alchemist.' How awesome is that :D

I never played King of Dragon Pass as a kid, but I vividly remember reading about it in a gaming magazine. When I saw it on GoG, it was an instant buy. It has so much charm and personality!! And the strategy/management part is actually very well done; kept me entertained and busy for hours & hours. A very steep learning curve though - for once I actually read the whole manual.

Beneath a Steel Sky finally emerged from the backlog. What a nice little adventure game! Sure, it's full of dreaded pixel hunting, but underneath that rough exterior lies a great story, a lot of very funny moments and memorable characters. I wonder if Tom Hall (creator of Anachronox) got some inspiration from this one!


Things are happening in the industry. PS4 got announced, Xbox720 rumors are spreading, Disney bought LucasArts... After reading so much about Star Wars lately, I had to watch some of it again so I went back to Clone Wars. Season 5 is the usual mix of (long) crappy filler story arcs & short spurts of awesome, but the ending was very interesting. Disney, I hope we get a conclusion, and I hope we get 1313.

At least the future of Star Trek gaming looks... promising? :)

Guild Wars 2 did an awesome thing with Super Adventure Box.

But all these things fade when compared to news that made me jump and dance. They. Are. Making. A Planescape: Torment sequel. :O


I went to the movie theatre a few times here. I disliked James Bond and Die Hard 5. I liked Hobbit and Life of Pi. I loved Cabin in the Woods and Source Code. I was amazed by Elite Squad 1 & 2, Brazilian movies about... society, ultimately. Check it out.

But oh my god, Alice in Burtonland all over again. Only it's not Burton. Theaters are getting over saturated with these pseudo/neo-gothic revivals of well-known fairy tales. Oz doesn't want to be a good man, he wants to be a great man? Another steaming pile of falsely empowering, cheesy, nationalistic crap.

P.S. I'm thinking of writing a post or two about gaming in Japan (about the arcades for example) - is there anything specific you want to know? I could do a little research too. Let me know in the comments! :)

Gaming is... a word too

'I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.' In 99% of the cases, female protagonists in videogames are men in exaggerated female bodies. By men, for men.

This is all I have to say for now.

Others are more eloquent though, so:

1. read an article called 'Critics Ruin Video Games Good!' by the developer Anjin Anhut. It does a much better job of explaining sexism in games (and the backlash against criticism) than my previous blog post, explaining why is it not only OK but also necessary to criticize it.

2. think about this interesting quote from a Gamespot article:

Speaking to Games Industry International, Warren Spector said he believes such violence in games could have negative implications. He went on to note that he left Eidos Montreal (where he was instrumental in the production of the original Deus Ex) in 2004 because of the violence he witnessed from the publisher's lineup, specifically games like Hitman, 25 to Life, and Crash & Burn.

"We have to stop loving it," he said. "I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are feti5hising violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately, I think it will cause us trouble."

"We've gone too far. The slow-motion blood spurts, the impalement by deadly assassins, the knives, shoulders, elbows to the throat. You know, Deus Ex had its moments of violence, but they were designed--whether they succeeded or not I can't say --but they were designed to make you uncomfortable, and I don't see that happening now. I think we're just appealing to an adolescent mindset and calling it mature. It's time to stop. I'm just glad I work for a company like Disney, where not only is that not something that's encouraged, you can't even do it, and I'm fine with it."

3. Check out a great Gamespot article by Laura Parker, in case you missed it: It's hard to believe in the new Lara Croft.

4. Here's a webcomic.

5. And...don't forget THIS.


In other news:

A) Superb article about fantasy literature.

B) What it's like to work in Valve?
'...hierarchical management had been invented for military purposes, where it was perfectly suited to getting 1,000 men to march over a hill to get shot at.'

Gamer is a genderless word



Gender issues are as relevant as ever. It's a hot topic in gaming (evident in a lot of Gamespot articles and posts), but resonates even more when discussing the global culture in general. Anything commercial in our society is extremely genderised (every other product comes in blue for boys and pink for girls, it's ridiculous). Furthermore, women are being extremely hypersexualised (80s music videos seem so innocent now). Mistreatment and harassment of women (or men, for that matter) is something we should not tolerate, ever. Yet it happens, a LOT. If you're saying: 'but... nowadays women are mostly treated equally', chances are you're a caucasian male. As in real life, ingame harassment of women is more often (and far less benign) than you might think. We need to define the source of this. It matters why are things the way they are - if we know why, we can see the whole issue as a part of the bigger picture, and then make correct judgements.

The bigger picture is: it's a Man's world. Notice the big M. Unfortunately, general attitude is that being a Man means YES to domination, competition, ruthlessness. It also means NO to empathy, love, peaceful resolution. This is true for most of the entertainment industry, business, art, scientific circles and, well... any area which revolves around money. This is the rule you follow 'if you want to be on the top of the hill', as Lennon once said.


Barbie dolls for men - majority of games add shoulderpads though


If a woman wants to be more than an object (and that's a natural need and right of every human being) she is culturally encouraged to be strong and independent - by becoming a Man. This is why games like 'Lollipop Chainsaw' or movies like 'Sucker Punch' are bad examples of feminist characters. It's made by men, for men. It has nothing to do with feminism. It's false empowerment. (Become a Man, you woman, because your womanly characteristics are inferior. Show some skin in the process, too.)

Both men and women are encouraged through media (and all kinds of social interactions) to be more of a Man (dominating, competitive, ruthless), because Man = succesfull, Man = power. Actual men who aren't Men enough are seen as feminine and therefore not worthy of respect. Sadly, a lot of these men end up as bitter insecure douchebags who hurl ingame chat insults and vulgar talk at women. Do they feel threatened by these women? Do they subconsciously fear the fact these women might turn out too real, shaking up the fantasies fostered by the omnipresent pop culture? I'm not sure.


Everything revolves around me (but you are not my mother, you female player of games you, therefore I don't have a clue how to act or interact)


I have a better question. How do we change this? Of course, the first step is to try and promote tolerance in our online communities; with time a shift in attitudes could (will?) happen. But if we really want this (online & offline) autodestructive practice of bitter hating to stop (and not just shift focus to some other group of individuals), we as a society need to stop worshiping power. We need to stop allowing 'Expendables', 'Transformers' or 'Sex and the City' to plant images of ideal men/women into our childrens minds. We need quality, meaningful stuff which will outweigh all the junk (which won't, and shouldn't necessarily go away) by giving us believable, truly empowering characters. Game designers need to have Bechdel test on their mind when creating characters and plots. Unless these become the rule instead of exceptions, we will find ourselves in 2042 - still having this conversation.


Inequality is a tough thing to eradicate, if all we change is terminology. If all we change is which gender, subculture, minority (or majority!) is looked down on - it's nearly impossible. As with any other social or individual activity, Gamer should not be a label burdened with gender. It should represent affiliation with a thoughtful, playful community which exists to connect people. Playing games outside of narrow and arbitrary borders defined by gender should not be an issue.

So dear readers, guys and girls, let's keep our minds and hearts open. Hating is never ok, even when it seems justified. If you disagree on any particular points I made, I would be very interested to hear you out. I've been wrong before :)

Flashy, loud, hypnotizing

Maroon5 moves like Jagger at the Victoria's Secret fashion show. Flashy, loud, hypnotizing. This is the modern form of ye good ol' spectacle, constructing and sustaining an absolute monologue of selfindulgent and rather clueless entertainers fueling the status quo. Showing off their trinkets & skin while most of the world is in tears. Serving the global ouroboros of jealous and greedy narcissism. WATCH PEONS, and let your feelings of inadequacy grow.

Well whatever. I guess our best option is to not give a f___:P


Maroon 5 + World of high fashion = Egoistical celebration of superficiality


"Its hard to think of a real precedent for this. A certain tension emerges when the products of a massive cultural apparatus like Hollywood offer implicit critiques of their own operation. Think of the Wachowskis Speed Racer: a $120 million studio-financed movie advocating for mom-and-pop values. Or Fight Club: a film built around a domestic terrorist attack against credit-card companies that peddled a new form of hyperactive adolescent machismo. Vladimir Lenin famously wrote an opinion on capitalism thats been popularly rendered as, `The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.' That pared-down version of his statement is an apt observation about the sheer voraciousness of the profit motive. Films like these, which disseminate ideas and attitudes that seem to contradict the bottom-line-driven systems that create them, speak to what Lenin was talking about. Its like a commercial for a restaurant that tells you not to eat there." - John Semley

"Whether youre a corner boy in West Baltimore, or a cop who knows his beat, or an Eastern European brought here for sex, your life is worth less. Its the triumph of capitalism over human value. This country has embraced the idea that this is a viable domestic policy. It is. Its viable for the few. But I dont live in Westwood, L.A., or on the Upper West Side of New York. I live in Baltimore." - David Simon

"Computer power eliminates doubt. All doubt rises from past experience. But the past is disappearing. We used to know the past but not the future. This is changing...Time is a corporate asset now. It belongs to the free market system." - Vija Kinski

"Art is not a recreation, a consolation, a pastime, a business (though it is all these things); it is the stone on which your knife is sharpened." - David Thomson


So yeah. Better not to think too much about these things. Bought myself a SNES usb gamepad the other day ^^

Intriguing talk about go, poker and game design. Must watch!

Two very interesting articles by Jonas Kyratzes, first about Steam Greenlight (and why it's so messed up) & second about fantastic mainstream games (and why it's so popular to insult them).

Lastly, a truly awesome read: In Search Of Mystery In Videogames. This article is pure gold. Seriously, read it.

Topic titles cannot contain invalid html entities (opinions, jokes)

About Me as well.

About well as Me.

Well about as Me.

Dear Gamespot, please fix the site already? :) On the bright side, I'm really happy Soapbox is back - that's a big step forward! My hopes for a better tomorrow are renewed.


This summer was great. I played a lot of Bit.Trip Runner and loved it. The badges based on playing through all the bonus levels are inhuman, and I'm very much human and happen to like my dark coloured hair, so I won't be getting those. But damn, the game was funtastic.

Diablo 3 found its way to my computer too. It didn't find a way to my heart (it found a narrow, slippery path to my mind, but on the second slope of the difficulty mountain finally slipped into the Fair hole). Butterflies kill Cain.

Nostalgia demanded a SNES game, so I finished Donkey Kong Country with a little help from save states (I like those, it felt like a slower easier Meatboy).

I forged a shamanistic trade space empire in Spore. My green duck-like nation fell into a kind of slow stagnation, but I refused to accept the alternative (borefest of fighting the two arrogant empires demanding my blood, spice & pocket change)

Magic: The Gathering 2012 was cool. Campaign on hardest difficulty really had me experiment with different decks. I hope they redesign the UI in the future installments.

Greed Corp was a blast as well. It's a bit more complex than it looks, and I can't wait to try out the multiplayer.

GoG supplied me with two adventure classics which eluded me before. One is Sanitarum. I thought the writing was superb; the story may seem incoherent at first, but it's just the presentation. That was a great design decision IMHO. Lots of subtle details which, if understood correctly, build up to a rich experience of the peculiar way reality and fiction, past and present mix in the mind of the protagonist. Only 2 things: 1. main voice-actor sucks & 2. y no running.

The other one was Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit). Really liked it, even though the plot was rushed and absurd near the end. Had to use keyboard, gamepad was a bit unresponsive.

Before I go take a nap, I'll just mention these two small games (short out-of-this-world experiences really) which made me cry/laugh:

A Song In The Void: 'There aren't all too many things to do in a Song In the Void but there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, all you need in life is a number of random button movements, your mouse and a system that responds to your input with a chorus of sounds.'

Nous: 'Fight your demons or embrace your friends. Face your fears or flee in terror. Beat the computer at its own game.'

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