I started this draft awhile ago, and originally the title was “I will buy a Wii U for Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.” I am the ultimate sucker for anything Donkey Kong Country related. Have you guys played Donkey Kong Country Returns? Dat game! So good! I don’t know what the critics ended up saying about it, but it had so much charm and the jammin-est tunes since the original Donkey Kong Country, I don’t know how people have survived without playing it. And yeah, I’m being hyperbolic, but Donkey Kong Coutnry Tropical Freeze looks so good and a beloved video game company is doing so poorly . . . I just want to help somehow.
I’ve always been a Nintendo kid. My pedigree includes the NES, SNES, N64, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, and the Wii. I’m a sucker for all Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda-themed games. I’m constantly on the fence about splurging and jumping into the portable Nintendo world again, just for a taste of some more Mario Kart, Zelda, and Super Mario Brothers. My frugality has won out so far, but with all of the headlines Nintendo has been making recently about a deeper and deeper plunge into the red . . . my heart breaks a little as I acknowledge my bank account is desperately incapable of helping even the amount of the price of a new console.
I used to think Nintendo was invincible. Even when the 360 and PS3 started eclipsing the Wii hardware, I thought “No way – Nintendo still has something novel here.” And even when the Playstation came out with the Move I thought “Too little too late, suckers.” When Microsoft came out with the Kinect, I thought, “Whoa. That’s pretty cool . . . but Nintendo will pick it back up shortly, they just need a few months.” Time passed, there were more and more reboots of the same IPs and still Nintendo stood in the shadowy plane of 720p behind it’s competition.
When they announced the Wii U, I thought there were some cool features (different functionality on the controller screen versus the main monitor, playing from the controller and being able to give up the TV on demand); unfortunately I knew deep down it would be up to developer buy-in to really launch Nintendo’s console over the moon. People were worried about release titles, but I sagely remembered that no consoles have good titles at launch, so who cared? Then, the hardware specs came out. All so disappointing. All so subpar. All so definitely not next-gen. Was Nintendo losing its touch?
Time has shown . . . that perhaps they have. I’m not saying I won’t still buy a Wii U at some point, but a Playstation 3 is definitely higher on my list, as are a lot of games. But where does that leave this title, and my favorite franchises? I don’t know, to be honest. It’s with a heavy heart and a hanging head that I doubtfully look at the Wii U price, and games available for it.
This is all very rambley and I know it. Grief is rambley. And of course this is all a little over-dramatic, a little tongue-in-cheek, but honestly at the end of it, I do feel anxious about Nintendo’s future, and how little they’re motivating me to help. I’m undecided if one classic title will be enough to make me pull out my wallet and jump to their aid.
I see that WordPress has kept innovating – I really like the simplified layout. I wonder if it costs more in management functionality. Ramble, ramble, ramble (spoiler alert: the rest of this long post is kind of like this).
You guys. You keep following me on Twitter and including me in your Follow Friday tags and it’s just a lot; naturally I am super grateful for it.
I’ve read many “State of the [insert whatever your medium/project is]” posts all over the internet since this is a new year. I feel disinclined to post something similar (although this might as well be considered that I s’pose) – I’m terrible with goals, because I don’t think being accountable to myself is good enough motivation to do anything. I’m just me, you know? Why do something for me? And sadly I know how thoroughly over-saturated video game blogging is, and how difficult it is to take it to a level to make money from it. I recognize that multiple times (probably all on this blog) I’ve tried to talk about how you can have a different end goal than making money. And sometimes that’s really manifested itself – sometimes I’ve just written to write here because I want to wax eloquent about video games. Unfortunately those moods are few and far between. I know I started this blog to create a polished portfolio to present to Kotaku or Polygon or some online gaming news outlet, to then be hired. But sticking to as schedule feels like a chore, and not sticking to a schedule reduces most any chance of getting virally known (even mini-viral).
Plus, you know, my job is going real well in my real life. I get to write stuff, now I’m managing people, leading development direction in a small number of cases, and getting free break room food every day which helps my grocery bill. The motivation to write to get out of a situation wanes when the situation is pretty good.
The other conundrum is that I might still use this as a dumping ground for thoughts on video games except I find myself playing video games less and less, which is shameful. I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft in my spare time. My girlfriend is loving Splice, which is super heartwarming. We tried to play through Cogs the other day but god damn that game, am I right? So hard. I suppose I could do a write up on Cogs . . . haven’t done that yet. Aside from that, I finally tried Battle Block Theater (same team that put out Castle Crashers) and I Maed a Gam with Zombiez!!!!111!! Or whatever/however it’s spelled. Okay, okay, I could write up some thoughts about the very minimal amount of gaming I’ve done, you’re right. You’re right.
You know what has really been catching my interest lately? Game casting. Right before I really dove off this blog/the internet, I recorded about an hour of me playing Remember Me (which I “rented” from Gamefly, and still have, and have been paying for without using for . . . many embarrassing months now). I was going to edit it down to at most 30 minutes and then see how people liked it – either keep going with Remember Me or pick another game with a female protagonist (without giving it away, it was kind of the point of the series to play games with female protagonists). The other day I was thinking about that (because I have a to-do task in my Gmail to cancel my Gamefly subscription) and I was thinking what if i just did like 5 minute highlights of playing games with female protagonists? More work on my end . . . but potentially a funnier option.
And I started thinking of that because I made a goal that in 2014 I would get more involved with charity work. I do nothing to give back, and everyone who can, should. I definitely can. But I realized that my primary interests were helping further Child’s Play or like, Extra Life. Their official websites say either go volunteer at a hospital, or be the one streaming games and getting sponsors. Who would want to watch me play video games for 24 hours? I don’t think my mother would even want to watch me play video games for 24 hours, and she’s the most supportive, longest-present person in my life.
Unless I had an audience base. And then, the 5 minute video thought – I’d have to keep them always thirsty for more, so 24 hours was a real treat – something to entice donations, you know?
But we’re back to the original problem/premise – it always feels like work. I get home from work, and watch a ton of YouTube. People doing what I’d like to be doing (e.g. RoosterTeeth and Achievement Hunter). Maybe some of us are just consumers, and some of us are just producers. If only I could get paid to write ramble-y blog posts . . . That’s where my voice shines, but I suppose everyone’s does when they ramble. But I like to think mine stays coherent, which might give me a leg up over other ramble-y bloggers.
I’ve honestly been thinking about posting the following question for awhile, and in sincerity (i.e. please leave a comment with real advice for me because I feel like I’m losing a part of my life and I’m not sure why): how do you get motivated to start/maintain/complete projects? All of these blogs of ours are labors of love, but why can’t I follow through with it? Is that just a personality defect? Which sounds really negative but I can totally accept that – I’m more curious if anyone found themselves in a situation like this and crawled out of it. I suppose the outcomes have to outweigh the costs . . . but I’m unsure if I can achieve the outcomes I want (i.e. at least a little money and a little internet fame)
If anyone has read this far in this post, YOU ARE A TRUE FRIEND. I’m also disproving my false idea that my rambling stays coherent magically.
Honestly, the deterioration of this blog (and my gaming habits in general) always begin when I start dating someone. I don’t think that it’s because I start morphing into the other person, I just have a very strong and specific need to spend every second of every day with that person. So if they don’t want to play video games (and sometimes if they do) I default to doing something else because hey, it’s them. Video games are just video games. Plus, meeting all of their friends, and keeping up with your friends – it all just eats up time, time that I’m happy to sacrifice, but time nonetheless. Is all of that bad, or is it normal? Am I making relationships unhealthy, or is this just a natural evolution?
Here’s the real bottom line: I’ve been really unmotivated and bored at work all day, and thinking about all of this a lot. So I’ve just vomited this all out but I would really love to hear some responses, if you too are bored or unmotivated sometime this weekend.
If you haven’t ever heard of Kentucky Route Zero, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Although the indie title from Cardboard Computer didn’t make a huge splash across all gaming news outlets, I had happened to read a rave review of it on Kotaku. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I believe it’s in a humble bundle of some sorts, but I can’t confirm (is humblestore.webs.com really affiliated with the official Humble Bundle website? Can’t tell).
I bought a this game full price on Steam because after reading it’s description, wouldn’t you?
“Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Gameplay is inspired by point-and-click adventure games (like the classic Monkey Island or King’s Quest series, or more recently Telltale’s Walking Dead series), but focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.”
Fun fact about me – magical realism is MY JAM. I love the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I love the idea of magical realism (inexplicable [“magical”] things happening in a seemingly realistic world), I just . . . love everything about the genre. I haven’t ever been a big sucker for point-and-click games, particularly if they involve guess clicking, but that last clause, “focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill” put a grin on my face as soon as I read it. I knew I had to buy this game.
Since the Steam Summer Sale is well under way, I had to start looking through my unplayed Steam games from last year’s sale and picking up the slack. I decided to force myself to start playing some of the games I had been looking forward to but never got going on, I would install them, so they would be staring me in the face. I finally installed Kentucky Route Zero and started it Sunday evening. Because it’s episodic (five parts), I’ll publish a series of posts as I play through each episode.
The intro menu is minimalistic, asking which chapter to start on – simple Courier New text on a black background. The title displays across my entire monitor, again, just white text on a black screen. Immediately I am charmed by the polygonal, geometric art work. All the colors are muted, and much of every scene is dark, but it helps that much more to see where you click to move forward the protagonist, Conway. The graphics indicating gameplay are clever: an eye to look at a person, animal, or object; a notecard to speak with someone; two stick figures holding hands when you and another party member can interact with an object or location point.
After a simple introductory fetch quest with an old man at a gas station, you jump in your moving van (Conway is a driver for an antiques shop) and hit the world map, which is essentially just a road map. Major highways are numbered, but only by driving down a road do you then learn it’s name. A handy logbook keeps track of your conversations that had driving directions. Your position on the map is indicated by a wheel that rolls along as you click on various roads. Points of interest only come up as you pass them. Some allow you to get out of the van and interact with a new scene, while others are strictly text-based wanderings through buildings (e.g. churches, museums, stores, etc.).
The aesthetic of the whole experience is very minimalist. There is no soundtrack – only sound effects that vary as you move through areas. One outstanding example of creating an atmosphere is when Conway enters a bait shop, and the game informs us that he sees a cashier and a row of tanks filled with water. As this text is populating, a faint water-bubbling sound fades in as though we’re standing near the tanks. If you choose to approach the tanks, the bubbling grows louder. If you choose to talk to the cashier, the decibel level of the tanks remains faint. These kinds of details aren’t new to video games, and we all know that good details like that are the best way to achieve immersion in a video game. All the same, that attention to detail from an indie developer, who is very aware that there are few sensory inputs in their game so every detail counts, is delightful.
By the same token, that minimalism creates a very . . . uneasy feeling as I played through the game. I don’t believe this is in the horror genre, and yet something fishy is going on. There are ghosts, and no one seems to be able to give you a straight answer about this mysterious Route Zero. I don’t ever feel like something is about to pop out at me, but . . . I also never feel completely secure in my chair. As someone who thoroughly dislikes being scared, this is a perfect medium. I am completely head-over-heels into this environment without being forced to jump out because it wants a cheap thrill. The sound effects and lack of soundtrack are what really bring these feelings home while playing through episode one.
My only concern as I gear up to jump into episode II is that there are sometimes a dozen different story options in one conversation. I’m playing by gut, just kind of approaching situations as though I were Conway, but because I’m a completionist (I’ve played Mass Effect 3 four times to make sure I’ve seen every different conversation choice), I’m wondering what I’m leaving behind by not repeating conversations. I hope all hanging plot points (there are a lot) get resolved by the end, but I suppose I’ll wait and find out!
Currently, Cardboard Castles has episodes I and II out, with promises of III-V coming before the end of the year. The two-man dynamo team also has an experience available for free called Limits & Demonstrations: A Lula Chamberlain Retrospective. From the page itself, it says “Marking the first major public showcase of her work in over twenty years, this retrospective exhibition of work by pioneering installation artist Lula Chamberlain comprises a diagonal slice through time, place, and form.” You know me. Any labor of love I’m definitely going to be checking out. Post forthcoming about that title, most definitely. Also, what a great way for me to be introduced to artist, Lula Chamberlain!
Thus far, a huge round of applause to the Cardboard Computer developers, Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is a treat audibly, visually, and intellectually. I can’t imagine the future chapters going anywhere but up. Pick it up now for 25% off at the Steam Store!
Inspired by this post about the music throughout the Mass Effect series, I started thinking about all of the excellent soundtracks that I’ve enjoyed while playing games. This is by no means an exhaustive list; please comment and share some of your favorite video game soundtracks too! I’d love to listen to more.
Mass Effect 3 – It was highlighted in the article I linked to above, but it does make my personal list of favorite soundtracks. The compilation overall takes you through a range of emotions, but there are some individual tracks that can take you from elation to heartbreak to resolve within a four minute space of time. Definitely worth a listen through, if you’re looking for a well-rounded, very orchestral driven experience. Not to mention, it makes you feel like whatever you’re doing within your cubicle is contributing to saving the galaxy!
Red Dead Redemption – The soundtrack of RDR made a huge chunk of the atmosphere of this game. When the genre “western” enters most people’s heads, they think of hackneyed banjo music with a clanky washboard accompaniment. How refreshing then that the music used to great the bring depth to the western theme in RDR wasn’t twangy or cliche at all. Some of these tracks are unnerving, most are energizing, and a few (particularly the song through the credits “Deadman’s Gun” by Ashtar Command) can bring you to tears. Although the songs with lyrics are closer to the end of the game, the three of them are my favorites on the album. Do yourself a favor, get lost in the old west by listening to this soundtrack.
Splice – You can read in the game title link that I’ve already highlighted this incredible soundtrack. Ethereal and stirring, it brings you along a ride you didn’t think possible with a protagonist-less puzzler. The movement that takes the audience on a journey is the incredible strength in every song on this soundtrack. You’ll be doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t check out this soundtrack (free to preview in its entirety on bandcamp).
Bastion – This . . . this soundtrack is perfection. I saved the best for last. I’ve heard this soundtrack be compared to the Firefly soundtrack, which I thought was fitting. It gives off a non-western (hemisphere) vibe, mixed with a few, very subtle western (cowboy) themes. A diverse range of instruments orchestrate every track, and the songs with vocalists are . . . haunting, but in the best most moving way possible. I realize all of these descriptions sound very hyperbolic, but seriously, this one . . . the money soundtrack, undoubtedly.
Like I said, there are lots of other game soundtracks I love (Catch-22, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong, etc.) but these are really some of the cream of the crop. I’ll also take this chance to give a shoutout to a YouTube artist who does incredible acapella covers of video game songs. He hits some of the most popular jams (e.g. Guile’s Theme from Super Street Fighter 2) as well as a few more obscure hits that are just great songs (e.g. DuckTales’ Moon Theme). His username is Smooth McGroove and if you love raw talent recreating your favorite video game tracks, you have to go and subscribe!
PAX break – to accept a very nice nomination from the guys over at At the Buzzer for a Lovely Blog Award!
I really admire the guys (and gal) that run At the Buzzer. They have put together a quality blog with tons of content and great humor and insights into games and sports and whatever else they like talking about. They also graciously highlighted my blog a few months ago, and yeah . . . man, a nicer blog around you cannot find. I think they were also one of the first blogs to start following me. Basically, I owe my first born child to At the Buzzer. And recently they just hit their 40,000 hit mark which is incredible! And deserves a huge round of e-applause from us all.
There are some other rules to accepting this nomination, apparently (I’m new to the “professional” blog-o-sphere so I haven’t ever seen this before). I gave a shout out to At the Buzzer, now I have to share seven things about myself, and then I have to nominate fifteen other blogs and tell these fifteen other blogs that, via a comment.
- I love Ke$ha. This came to mind first because I was recently rebuked for such a travesty, but my second fact will explain the first.
- I’m a dance-a-holic! And no, I don’t mean that I actually know how to dance, but I just love hearing a good beat and flailing limbs around a dance floor. So, Ke$ha facilitates that in an incredible way, and I can’t hate people who bring me good dance jams. Thanks, K-dawg.
- When given a choice to eat a chicken sandwich or a hamburger, I will always choose a hamburger. Even when someone says “Oh, the chicken sandwich here is really good,” I think, “Yeah, but they also offer hamburgers so . . . why would I order anything else?” Since this is such a weird and useless “fact” about myself, I’ll include that I feel the same about chocolate versus fruit-flavored desserts. Oh, the cherry ice cream is really good? Cool, but I can get chocolate so . . . I’m definitely getting that no matter what.
- I only turn on the A/C in my car if I’m on the freeway or driving with someone who I can tell really wants me to turn on the A/C. In Seattle, that was never a big deal, but in Utah, it means I usually drive for five minutes and then my face is beat red and I’m sweating. I just think it’s wasteful, which I empirically know isn’t true, but still do it anyway.
- These are some ridiculous facts, because I can honestly not think of anything that I haven’t already shared in a blog post . . . I enjoy watching sporting events? Football, basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, others. Live or on TV. Usually not my first choice but if I’m bored and it’s on, I’ll go for it.
- I did the macarena at PAX for a crappy deck of Magic cards because I want to start playing but am too cheap to buy the cards myself. I think I’ll break down and do it eventually, but hey, I got a free deck of cards.
- Speaking of cards, the first card game I really got into was Pokemon and I still wish I had kept those cards because that game was freaking awesome. I imagine I’ll have the same passion for Magic eventually.
Whew, that was much more difficult than I imagined it would be. Most “facts about myself” have to do with video games, I guess, and I’ve already shared most of them with you. Finally, nominations. I honestly don’t think I know fifteen bloggers . . . and actually if I do, they’ve already been nominated. So, this will be less than fifteen, but they are all quality, quality bloggers I enjoy reading.
- Link Dead Gaming (great podcasts and posts about all things gaming related, very thorough and enjoyable content)
- IPGR (professional, yet personable and thorough gaming reviews. I was really impressed the first time I read their stuff, it’s very high quality)
- StuckButton (a smorgasbord of pop culture posts from movies to games and more. Fun site to follow!)
- MicrowavedCoffee (great perspectives and musings about games and life, always interesting to read)
- CaptainAggro (a blog that’s just getting started, that shows a lot of promise in covering gaming news as well as gaming opinion)
- Tech Filled Fantasy (a great tech blog that I always enjoy posting on [and my comments are usually too long] that has great brain teasers about where tech is going in the future)
- What’s Your Tag? (more great, personal writing about gaming news! I’m kind of a one blog genre horse – lots of gaming, but all great writers!)
- Space Giraffe (gaming musings, covers a lot of game music which is awesome, musings in general, always entertaining)
Other bloggers I would’ve nominated had they not already been nominated include, Recollections of Play, NUReviews, and Vinny. Bottom line, I need to follow some more blogs! I’ll be perusing everyone else’s nominations list this week to find more great bloggers to follow. Thanks again to everyone that follows the blog, and another big thanks to everyone at At the Buzzer!
Two posts in one day? She’s gone mad!
Quite the contrary. I’ve gone focused. And this comes and goes, so who’s to say how long this bout will last but I just applied for a game writer position with a company and I think the mix of it being near my hometown (which I’m quite desperate to get back to) and it being a job listing that didn’t explicitly state that I need five years of game writing experience on AAA titles only has me wanting this one really bad. So bad that I don’t think I’ve ever drafted a more passionate cover letter. It may be over the top, I’m having my personal editor check it out for me (thanks, brother) before I do anything drastic, like submit a first draft, but I figured this raw passion should be remembered somewhere.
I figured the first paragraph had to address some of the specific skills they mention that I believe fall under my particular skill set and previous work experience (like copy writing and editing). Everything after that I thought “what could I write that would make me want to hire me? I would want to see someone who wants this so bad, they’d do anything.” So that’s what I wrote.
I imagine your ideal candidate for this position would be someone with extensive experience in the gaming industry. Luckily, I am just that candidate. I landed on Zebes along with Samus when I played the original Metroid on my brother’s Nintendo Entertainment System. I hunted ducks and stomped goombas and got a sword from an old man because it was too dangerous to go alone. As the years progressed, I lost some rings to Dr. Robotnik, picked up some upgrades from Dr. Light, and I even traveled through time with Crono, Marle, and Lucca. I’ve raced karts, memorized the Konami code, assassinated Templars, and I even defeated some zerg.
I have learned from the best video game writers because I have played some of the best video game narratives. Red Dead Redemption, Ocarina of Time, Portal, and the list could go on and on. I took creative writing courses in college and I have read voraciously for as long as I can remember. Given my deep interest and immersion in video games, fiction, and constant writing of my own, I am positive that I can make a powerful contribution to your writing staff.
The closing paragraph went on to say that I’m trying to relocate, not just willing to, and that they should call me because I’m the best, etc. etc. I’ve written a few other cover letters like this, where I try to punch it up with humor and video game references to show that I’m a passionate gamer, not just another schlup looking for a job. But this one felt different somehow. I don’t think I was really trying to be funny, I think it was one of the few times I was trying to yell through paper, without caps or bold or italics or underline or exclamation marks. I am a gamer, I am a real gamer, I have played real games, and I unabashedly say that I love them so much. Let me love what I do everyday. Please.
If one of you doesn’t get me a job soon, you’re just gonna keep getting more posts like this. Ha, see how I put this on you now? Suckers.
I return in the midst of what I’m sure is e-rotten fruit being thrown at me and e-boos at being gone so long. When I’m sick, I view playing video games as expending energy, and when I’m sick, I expend zero energy. Also, the apocryphal gaming PC I’ve mentioned before is finally all en route to my apartment (in pieces) and because I’m so excited to do some real PC gaming for the first time ever, consoles and 14” laptop screens are just not holding any appeal for me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what this is going to mean for my Xbox. My Wii is just collecting dust at this point, which makes me sad, but someday . . . someday I’ll get back to it. Anyway, with Steam sales and Amazon sales, digital distribution is simply the cheapest route for gaming and most games today are on Xbox and the PC. So will my Xbox fall to the wayside as I dedicate my soul to PC gaming only?
My first reaction is no. During the steam sale I almost bought L.A. Noire for $5 (and I should have, really) but something tugging at the back of my mind said “No. Rockstar games are meant to be appreciated with a controller in your hand.” Which, of course I can plug a controller into my PC so . . . really, I should’ve bought it. Damn.
Anyway, there are still some mind blocks telling me that I want to do some things on console and some things on PC. I have heard from multiple sources that the Witcher series, although being recently ported to the Xbox, is far superior still on the PC. But, I’ve always loved lazily turning on my console on a weekend morning and playing some casual action game. I believe the developers of Super Meat Boy or maybe it was Fez, had something to say about that (something that agreed with me, that the feeling of playing on a console is just unbeatable) but as I’m writing this, I’m realizing how silly it sounds for me, personally.
I have my consoles and TV in my room. I’m using my TV as a monitor for my PC, and I can plug in my Xbox controller to play with it on my PC. My experiences are going to be . . . next to the same, on either system. The separation between PC gaming and console gaming will be almost gone, with any differences weighing down the benefits of console gaming. As someone who has only console gamed her entire life, this is a sad realization, not because I think console gaming is superior to PC gaming, but because it is familiar.
I never got into the debates about “which was better” because I think its apples to oranges. There is a clear winner in the graphics and speed department, but I think the nostalgia and cheaper alternative is a valuable side of the argument as well. We’ll see how much I keep using my Xbox, and given the exclusive nature of Wii titles, I’m sure I’ll come back to it to get a Mario or Zelda fix, but I wouldn’t be surprised if PC gaming took over my gaming life. The only things raising any doubt are awesome Xbox Live Arcade game exclusives. Other than that, I may be turning into a PC girl . . . Although I’ll probably never sell it because who knows when the next Red Dead Redemption is coming around, that will be another console-exclusive?
Do you guys PC and console game? Do you have strong feelings one way or the other? Leave a comment, let’s discuss.