Top 5 Spooky Games

Top 5 Spooky Games

Now, I need to preface this with a little confession: I don’t play scary video games.  And there’s a reason for that.  While I love scary movies, scary books, and scary podcasts I can’t seem to play a scary video game.  I have a pretty vivid imagination and that leads to some pretty horrific nightmares and night terrors, even as an adult.  It’s easier to separate myself from movies, books, and podcasts because, while I’m hearing the story, they aren’t quite as immersive as a video game.  I tried a horror video game once… Until Dawn… and it gave me nightmares for a week.  And I barely made it through the first hour or so of gameplay.  So the games I play at Halloween/all year long because who doesn’t love a good scare, are mostly tabletop.  I do list one video game – it isn’t horror but it’s definitely suspenseful!

betrayal at house on the hill

Betrayal At House on the Hill

Easily my favorite game to play at Halloween.  In this tabletop coop you and your group are explorers within a haunted house – but you don’t know it’s haunted.  Based on a series of cards drawn and dice rolled you eventually discover why the house is haunted.  When the haunt begins the combination of cards drawn dictate you toward one of 50 scenarios in which one of the players becomes a “traitor” and the game becomes all against one.  This game is incredible, especially when played with the right ambiance of dim lights, spooky music (I highly recommend Midnight Syndicate – especially the album listed in my Top Spooky Music post), and people who are willing to get into the atmosphere!

arkham horror

Arkham Horror

I love this game so much.  We have a set of friends that we play long, complex games with and they introduced us to this one.  Again, it’s a cooperative tabletop game but this one takes place in the mythical world of H.P. Lovecraft.  There are several scenarios, each involving a new Arkham “boss” monster, including (obiously) one with Cthulhu.  Each of the scenarios brings new challenges to what is already a fairly complex game.  Add in some luck of the dice rolls and an increasing sense of panic to complete the game and you have the perfect creepy horror game for any Halloween night.

the last of us

The Last of Us

Ah, here it is, the one lone, intense video game.  Now, I know this isn’t a “horror” game, but there are moments in this zombie thriller that will get your heart racing.  I’m not the biggest fan of zombie games, or the whole zombie genre, but this one is special.  With epic storytelling and a realistic zombie plague – there is actually a fungus that behaves eerily similar in real life, called the Cordyceps fungus – this game starts out with a creepy overtone.  But add in a few truly frightening moments (anyone remember the hotel basement?) and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect spooky Halloween game.

luigi's mansion

Luigi’s Mansion

Now, this one isn’t scary, but how could I possibly leave out a Mario game about a haunted house!?  This game is wonderful, in the vein of other classic Mario games, but with a few Luigi twists that really make that character stand out.  Add in a few ghosts and some tricky puzzles and you’ve got a great Halloween game you can play to get you or your kids in the spirit of the holiday!

mysterium

Mysterium

Yet another tabletop game based in a haunted house but this one feels a lot more like a version of Clue.  Instead of discovering the murderer of the recently deceased, however, you’re a set of mediums receiving visions through one of the players, acting as the ghost.  Through a series of rounds the ghost must covey their clues to the mediums through basic visions to help them discover the location, weapon, and suspect of their murder.  While this game is a little less creepy and a lot more fun, it’s still a fantastic Halloween game, particularly for those who prefer a their games a little less frightening.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy this one.  Especially if you like a good who-done-it!

Bonus Game

ten candles

Ten Candles

This little gem was introduced to me by our dear friend over at Adventure Rules, Ian.  I’ve just started to get into tabletop RPG and Ian very kindly suggested this as a good introduction.  Now, I haven’t actually played this game.  I keep trying to make it happen but I can’t find people to play with me/haven’t been able to find the time to prep for it.  I’m hopeful it’ll happen before the end of the month.  But from the descriptions, from the way Ian explained it, and the photos, it looks like a truly terrifying game!  Played using candlelight and character sheets that you literally burn, it has all the hallmarks of a good, solid scare.  Just be careful – if you have a good game master you may not sleep that night.

Blogger Blitz Round 1: Blogger Blitzception

Blogger Blitz Round 1: Blogger Blitzception

Hey everyone!  By some unexpected chance, and though I hadn’t planned on participating this year, I am yet again a competitor in the coolest competition around!  For those of you who missed it the first time check out Ian, at Adventure Rules, blog.  He not only lists the round challenges and the overall rules, but that’s also where we will find the results!  Yay!  If you want to skip that article (BOO!  Shame on you!) then here’s a little explanation of the rules:

  • Each round of the competition has a 1000 word limit for round 1. There are no limitations on writing style.  Remember to pack your 1000 words with content that helps to prove why your character is the best at the event!
  • Within your own post, you define the circumstances and how difficult it is for your character to overcome the event. So be sure to craft circumstances which portray your character as overcoming odds that only they could possibly surmount. If the challenge is too easy, it takes some of the impact away from your argument. Judges like to see clever solutions!
  • Get ahead of the game and cover your weak points so that when the judges have to consider the negatives of each approach, you’ve already anticipated it and come up with a solution!

Who is my competition, you ask?  Flame Flash who will be sponsoring Sigma, the antagonist from the Mega Man series.  And who had loads more time than me to prepare.  And who is an incredible writer.  Guys… it may be my first and last round in the Blogger Blitz challenge this year…

And what is the challenge?  Oh you know, only something so complex I had to read it 4 times before I even understood what they were asking for…

In a competition where bloggers submit blog posts about their favorite characters for a panel of judges to determine which is the best, they’ll be challenged to write a blog post about their favorite character writing a blog post. Then the post within the post will be judged by the judges to determine which blogger wins, which by extension will determine which blogger wins. What? As if that’s not complicated enough, each villain has been sent a nefarious “helper” by their rivals – a three-headed monkey! The monkey does all the typing for them, so how can each villain use their abilities to influence the monkey to write rightly? It’s the blogger blitz within the Blogger Blitz – it’s Blogger Blitzception!

So without further ado, my blog within a blog (and my word count) starts below this line.


Oh the aklnm;slkdf ;jp[aje

ganondorf triumphant

NO! Stop it, monkey.  I am Ganon, the holder of the Goddess Din’s Triforce of Power, reincarnation of the Demon Demise himself.  You WILL obey me.  Now…. Write this:

Oh the struggle, the turmoil.  Why is ittt ttttthatttt pppsppdpdmmvvlcxle

ganondorf frustrated

NO!  This post, monkey, will be the inspiration of generations to come!  I am the master of all dark powers and, King of the Gerudo, and the rightful King of Hyrule.  All who wish to bow down before me must understand me.  This wisdom will be sought through the end of time.  And through it I will choose lesser minions to serve beneath my hand, for when I am King I will be King forever! Mwahahahaha.

Oh the struggle, the turmoil.  Why is it that people continnu to opose mme?  I, wwwwhoooo ams;lk the rigj ;lkdtful ruulelsller

Ganondorf

*sigh*.  I suppose this will take more effort than I originally thought.  Who knew a three-headed monkey, that cursed gift from that idiot sympathizer from Faron, would be this troublesome?  How could he be manipulated to obey?  It’s quite simple.  That’s all I ask.  Complete and blind obedience to my every need.  As the conqueror of Hyrule it should be given to me.  Hmmmm….

A banana.  Is that what you want, you good, kind, helpful monkey?  I’ll give you a banana every time you type a correct sentence.  Deal? Then let’s get moving…

Oh the struggle, the turmoil.  Why is it that people continue to oppose me?  I, who am the rightful ruler of all Hyrule?  I, who am the rightful ruler of all Hyrule?  I, who am the rightful ruler of all Hyrule?  I, Demise himself, who asks nothing but subservience and utter domination?  I, Demise himself, who asks nothing but subservience and utter domination?  I, Demise himself, who asks nothing but subservience and utter domination?

angry ganondorf

STOP!  That is NOT what I wanted.  That is NOT what I meant.  You are willfully disobeying me!

*Leaves to play the organ for several minutes*

*deep breaths* Now that my calm has been restored I have an idea, an improvement, if you will.  Utilizing the dark magic at which I am so adept I’ll simply bend your minds to my will.  Force you to become the mindless minion you are to simply do as I ask.  Oh, don’t worry, monkey, you won’t notice a thing.

O the struggle the turmoil y is it that people continue 2 oppose me I who am the rightful ruler of all hyrule I demise himself who asks nothing but subservience and utter domination its… that… night…  the… socalled… hero… of… hyrule… its… his… fault… my… slaves… continue… 2… rise…….. up……….

NOOOOO!  Mindless!  Stupid. Idiot. Monkey!

ganondorf sword

*In a fit of rage he raises his sword and chops off two of the monkey’s heads.  Cauterizes wounds with dark magic.  Lifts spell from third head.*

There.  No more mistakes, no more fooling around.  You, monkey, WILL do my bidding or the same fate awaits your final head.  NOW, TYPE!

Oh the struggle, the turmoil.  Why is it that people continue to oppose me?  I, who am the rightful ruler of all Hyrule?  I, Demise himself, who asks nothing but subservience and utter domination? 

It’s that knight.  The so-called “Hero of Hyrule”.  It’s his fault my slaves continue to rise up.  It’s HIS fault my plans fail.  I am thwarted at every turn because of this… man-child.  This Link.  I am the great, powerful Ganon!  How can a simple, small boy continue to overthrow my best-laid plans?  First it was my attempt to rise as myself with the help of my faithful demon Ghirahim.  And my reincarnation, this powerful, debonair Ganondorf, with so much promise, continually thrown down.  Is it him, this Link?  Or is it simply my incompetent belief in those I manipulate?  Agahnim, Yuga, Zant, all failures.  Perhaps that is my true downfall.  Perhaps my manipulations of these minions was never strong enough, my… faith… was misplaced.  This newest attempt may need a different strategy.  Something to counter the nuisance of the “Goddess’s chosen hero”.  Something to finally squash him like the insect he is so that I, Ganondorf, the most powerful being ever, can reign victorious at last!

You, the mindless rabble who WILL obey me, cannot know the strain of such a brat, always snapping at my heels.  You think this is easy, laying plans, always subverting Hyrule to my whim.  But the thought of that boy eats away at my peace.  He fills me with pure Malice, and slowly gnaws away my incredible intellect to the point that I struggle to foresee mistakes.  Oh the agony of my minion’s mistakes that have allowed that… boy… to defeat me!  It should never have happened.  It will not happen again.  I, Ganondorf, am more than capable of crushing him without any effort.  Perhaps it will take all my cunning, without the use of a mindless puppet, to overcome the Triforce of Courage.  And perhaps this blog will be my greatest form of brainstorming.  The place where all my best-laid plans will finally be perfected and find fruition in the defeat of that whelp.  Perhaps this next time I’ll use a new set of minions… One made entirely of metal…

To Thine Own Self Be True

To Thine Own Self Be True

It may be hackneyed, I know, and quite honestly, this particular phrase can be digested into a thousand meanings, both for your good and to promote selfishness…  But in spite of those facts, and possibly because Hamlet is my second-favorite Shakespeare play (any guesses which is first?), I still think this quote embodies what I want to talk about today.

To thine own self be true.  Be true to who you are, who you want to be, and what you intend for your life.  This has been the theme of my therapy sessions for the last, oh I don’t know, forever.  And guys, this is the big one, the massive post I hinted about around Thanksgiving.  The post where I finally talk about gaming, shame culture, letting go of judgement, and accepting myself.  So who wants to dive into the deepest recesses of my depression?  ooh, ooh, me!  Cool.  Let’s get going.

Once upon a time, as a child, I didn’t have a lot of friends.  It was pretty hard to be a girl who loved gaming, sports, fantasy, science, and reading and either no one could relate to me or everyone pretended they couldn’t.  Even if I finally found a new friend I’d usually wind up losing them after only a few months when they realized I was way nerdier than they were willing to put up with.  It was lonely.  It was hard.  It lasted until my senior year of high school.  And it helped me develop a desperate need to feel wanted and accepted by those around me and an absolute fear of abandonment.

Cut to years later and I still had that overwhelming need to be liked, wanted, and praised.  Because if people were praising me, liking me, wanting to be like me, and telling me that the things I did were great, then maybe that person would stick around.  And while this is not healthy behavior I was always able to keep it under control because deep down, I knew I was an achiever.  And the constant series of accomplishing tasks and goals in my job, hobbies, and personal life helped fill the gaps left by my loneliness.

But then the baby came.  All of a sudden I was 20 pounds heavier than I’d ever been in my life (and, frankly, as a very tall girl with a medium build I’d never been good on the whole “body image” front), a mother with massive new emotional and financial responsibilities, unable to find time to do the dishes or grocery shop, and without the energy to really excel at any and all projects, professionally or personally.

And at the very moment that I started to lose myself it seemed like everyone else found themselves.  It was the time when my in-laws all decided who they were going to be, where their lives were going, and somehow still had the energy to accomplish everything they wanted.  It was when my sister solidified that her calling in life is to teach others and help them learn as she raised and babysat both her little girl and my son, still finding the time to seemingly have it all together.  It was the time all my friends seemed to “grow up”.  Everyone’s Instagram feeds were full of the “socially acceptable” adventures and hobbies they’d discovered.  It was at this point that my anxiety and depression were uncontrollable by myself alone.  So I found help by seeking out a trained professional and, after digging up so much of the past and pushing so much toward the future, I think I can finally say that I know who I want to be.

While it isn’t the biggest issue I’ve faced, accepting my hobbies and my love for them have been one of the major obstacles I’ve needed to overcome.  You’ve seen the media, you’ve all been watching the news, and the idea that “gaming is bad” is a constant issue we, as gamers, have to face.  Several of the bloggers who I really admire and look up to have done posts on this recently.  One, in particular, stood out so well.

NekoJonez, some of the best emotional support you’ll ever find in a community, ranted about non-gamer’s perceptions of gamers.  When people around me started deciding who their “grown up selves” were going to be I started hearing this a lot more.  Or maybe I’d just never listened before, because I didn’t care that person X didn’t like my choice of hobbies.  When my anxiety started coming to a head I started questioning every single hobby I’d ever had.  Was it too childish?  Did I need to grow up?  Was I supposed to fit in the current culture and live life like literally everyone else on Instagram/Facebook/insert social media platform of your choice?  How could I like games and still be accepted and appreciated?  And even among gamers, how could I exclusively enjoy Nintendo and not be mocked as “childish”?

It wasn’t until my brother-in-law, an absolute saint, metaphorically sat down with me (we were on the phone), and had a long chat about the fact that he has struggled through, and come out the victor, in these exact issues that I started to feel like maybe I was going to be okay.  Maybe other’s impressions of my choices and my life didn’t matter.  Maybe loving something, even if other people don’t approve, was more important than being who I was “supposed” to be.  By sharing his advances in determining how he wanted to play games and the benefits he derived from them, and the emotional and physical support he and his wife have showered on me, I gain confidence in my own struggles with this perception of gamers and, ultimately, of myself.

It’s a tough road, guys.  There’s so much out there telling you that you’re unhealthy, lazy, wasting time, childish, promoting whatever gaming is supposed to be ruining nowadays, addicted, a part of the problem with society, missing  the fullness of life, not enough of a gamer, not the right kind of gamer, not playing the right things, etc… Whatever mean thing someone can think of, trust me, they will.  If they can shame you into feeling like you’re not good enough, hey, maybe you’ll change and validate their lifestyle.  It’s so hard not to buy into what they’re saying.  They have the support of the current societal norms on their side, after all.  How can we overcome this bombardment on our personal choices?

So, while I don’t need to go into all the gory details, let’s talk about how I’ve learned to cope with these fears and stressors.  Because ultimately, this post isn’t so I can tell you all my personal life stories.  It’s to help others who may be feeling the same fears and thoughts.  Who may be going through their own young, mid-life crisis.

There is NOTHING wrong with your hobbies.  Gaming or otherwise.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing to continue gaming, or choosing new hobbies, or heck, doing both!  Nostalgia Trigger, a fantastic blog you should definitely follow, wrote an incredible post about a year ago talking about these very things.  Gaming is a hobby, it isn’t a lifestyle.  And so is every other passion and pursuit you turn to.  Yeah, it can consume you, it can be your number one thing, but it doesn’t define who you are, what you stand for, and your value as a human being.  It’s a hobby.  And it’s just fine to fall in love with your hobby.  Everyone has them.  And no one hobby is better than another.  So accept yourself, accept your hobbies, and be happy that you’ve found things you love to do.  Not everyone has.

Just because you found something (or somethings) you’re passionate about at a young age doesn’t make them childish.  It makes you lucky.  4 out of my 5 favorite hobbies are things I adored as a child.  Gaming is one of them.  My entire family are gamers, it’s something we did as a family, something we pursued on our own, and something nearly all of us have continued as we’ve grown.  Just because it’s something I did as a child does not make it childish.  I’ve had decades of loving who I am and enjoying one of my favorite hobbies.  That’s years longer than so many people.  How lucky am I?  Decades of refining my tastes, discovering my niche, and really knowing what’s worth my time and what isn’t.  That isn’t childish, that’s maturity.

Stop the comparison, take away the judgement.  One of my biggest problems is that I judge myself incredibly harshly.  I compare and, instead of being jealous, I simply find some way of turning that comparison into a criticism of who I am/am not.  I find ways to devalue myself based on these perfect boundaries I’ve decided I have to fit inside.  Well guess what?  No one is perfect.  Which means I constantly break those boundaries and rules and, when I do, I leave myself open to me saying some of the meanest things anyone has ever said of me.  Do you have this problem?  Are you, quite literally, your harshest critic?  While it’s 1000% easier said than done, stop the criticism and take away the judgement.  Everyone makes mistakes, you face problems you can’t overcome or set-backs that completely take you away.  But instead of turning it into a rant about the horrible, terrible human being you aren’t, take away the judgement and make it about accepting you for your faults and the growth that you achieve when you fail.  No one achieved anything through perfect success.  It’s only through failure that we learn.

So what if so-and-so thinks you’re silly for gaming?  Instead of taking what they’ve said to heart simply accept any critiques that may be true and throw the rest in the garbage.  Don’t use it as fuel on your fire to be harsh and unkind to yourself.  Instead of judging ourselves on whether we spent 6 hours doing playing a game or 6 hours doing any other hobby, simply accept that you did something that brought you pure joy and move one.  Instead of allowing someone’s belief about how you should spend your time ruin your night simply brush it aside and do the things you love.  Accept that you are who you are and leave the judgement where it belongs-nowhere near you.

It’s taken me a full and solid year to finally start comprehending some of these facts.  I love video games.  I love tabletop games.  I’d rather spend every night of my week watching Overwatch League than anything else.  I’m obsessed with the Legend of Zelda and have an entire shelf of LoZ games and books to prove it.  I’m proud of the fact that one of my son’s favorite things is Mario.

It’s okay to love yourself.  It’s okay to be yourself.  You don’t have to look like person X, because you never will.  You’re not them, from your DNA to your beliefs.   So stop trying.  Just accept who you are, pants size and everything.  It’s okay to enjoy gaming.  No one person’s hobbies will ever be better than another’s.  They are a portion of all the wonderful things that make you who you are.  They shape your ability to change your world.  The world needs gamers, and hikers, and readers, and sports enthusiasts, and every other possible hobby.  Because those things help build a civilization that works.  Embrace the differences and accept yourself.  Because you are, and will always be the very best at being you.

Comprehensive Gaming

Guys, I know this isn’t the recipe you were looking for. The holidays definitely got the better of me both physically and emotionally. And while a recipe is coming (I just have to write the post) in the meantime I wanted to share a link to an incredible in-depth look at gaming costs vs playtime vs enjoyment. This post is found on Complicate the Narrative, a blog dedicated to analyzing gaming and applying literary theory to it.

You can find the post here

It’s a long article, but guys, it’s totally worth reading.

I highly recommend chatting with the author in their comments about their experience but if you want to chat here I’ll direct him to it.

My favorite excerpt and my take-away message is this:

After forcing myself to look this closely at the time and money I spend on games, I’ve decided that in the end, the best games do only 2 things: entertain and inspire. The second a game is not doing at least one of those two things, stop. Seriously, just stop. Examine why you aren’t entertained or inspired, then watch out for those patterns in other games, and don’t play those games. Don’t buy them, don’t start them, don’t give them any more attention than they deserve.

This year I’ve really questioned gaming and whether I should, as some put it, grow out of it. I’m planning a pretty long post about overcoming my fear in regards to those sentiments soon, but this conclusion by Paul is the conclusion I’ve made. Gaming brings you joy and can inspire and teach. Find the games that make you feel that and then it’s never a waste of time!

Blogger Blitz Finale: Saving the Castle

Blogger Blitz Finale: Saving the Castle

This is it: the last challenge.  And boy, is it a rough one.  I’m not sure how it’ll turn out but I had to use every bit of Zelda lore I knew to try and accomplish the task set by Ian at Adventure Rules.  The challenge is as follows:

“You have been invited by the steward of the Mushroom Kingdom to assist them with a royal problem. The infant princess, Baby Peach, has begun to develop strange abilities based on her emotions. She literally cries rivers, when she’s angry she bursts into flame, her happiness causes her to float in the air and produce bursts of wind – the only emotional state in which the castle and its staff are safe from her is when she is calm. A doctor is preparing a cure but a courier has to make an overnight trip to pick it up. So the steward needs someone to protect Peach’s Castle from her emotion powers until the cure is delivered.
‘Why not just take her out of the castle?’ you might ask. As fate would have it, there’s an issue with the castle’s power source, the Power Stars. They’ve malfunctioned and now the only thing keeping them running is Peach’s presence in the castle. If she leaves, the Stars will fail and be scattered across the kingdom.
‘We tried having the castle wizard place a spell on her to make her sleep through the night,’ the steward explains, ‘but she is immune to any magic that influences her emotional state.’ There’s another problem too – taking advantage of the castle’s current vulnerability, the evil wizard Kamek has summoned six warriors from other worlds to attack the Mushroom Kingdom. You might recognize them as the defeated competitors from the Blogger Blitz challenge. These warriors, under Kamek’s control, will stop at nothing to kidnap Peach and leave the castle in ruins.”

This event has three distinct parts: the competitors must protect Peach from the previous six Blogger Blitz competitors, protect the castle from those same attackers, and finally protect the castle from Peach and her dangerous emotion powers (based, by the way, on the video game Super Princess Peach). The competitors have been told that they are not able to circumvent any parts of the challenge – no taking Peach out of the castle and no controlling Peach’s emotions through magic. These have been justified fictionally in the above description of the event. Finally, because this event has three distinct parts the competitors will have up to 1200 words in order to make their argument. Also, this makes it so that the total word counts of each phase of the competition go 4000, 3200, 2400. Why does that matter? Because…symmetry, or something.

Wow.  What an imagination to come up with something as complex and awesome as that!  A big, hearty “good luck” to my challenger, Lightning Ellen!  You can read her submission on her blog.  As always, check back Friday at Adventure Rules to find the results of the finale!  And now, on with the show!

… P.S. I promise to have a new recipe tomorrow!


The last month has been increasingly difficult.  These external calls for a hero’s help have left me drained.  But still I answer, Courage never failing, because I am a Hero.  And I’m finally going to tell my own story.  Written down, of course, since no amount of gesticulating seems to be heard.  Everyone understands me, of course.  They just can’t hear me.  Writing is the easier route.

Peach's Castle

When the request came I knew I would need help.  I grabbed my tools, called on some loyal companions, and found my way to the Mushroom Kingdom.  I had already been briefed on the situation: baby peach’s magical powers were wreaking havoc on the castle and herself.  There was possible danger from the outside, as well.  I was nervous, but took comfort from the Ocarina I carried and the Song of Time, which would turn back the clock 3 days in case of failure.  I hoped I wouldn’t need it.

When I got to the castle it seemed like the mission had already started.  The princess was in a terrible rage and the castle was catching fire.  I whipped out my Ocarina and played the Song of Storms.  The gentle rain extinguished the fire and had the added bonus of calming the princess.  She seemed fascinated by the music.  After that she warmed up to me.  I began my preparations while Peach’s attendants prepared her for the evening.  I established a perimeter of warp points on each of the four sides of the castle, knowing that I could be needed at anywhere in a moment.  I asked my guides to stay at those points since they could quickly find me and alert me if something was wrong.  I set up my friend, Ooccoo, on the East along with Tatl, the fairy.  By keeping Ooccoo Jr. with me I could quickly return to his mother.  Using the Travel Medallion and my Sheikah Slate I created a point on the West and asked Navi to stand guard there.  Farore’s Wind created a point on the North side of the castle with Ciela. And in the South I set up Midna and her warp capability.  With each of the areas guarded I needed to find a way to protect Peach, not only from external threats, but from herself.

baby peach

When I found her, the princess was laughing at a book and floating 6 feet off the ground.  A sudden gust of wind threatened to blow her out the window.  In a panic I used my Hookshot to latch to the ceiling above her, dropped down, and snatched her out of the air.  She calmed down once we hit the floor and seemed comfortable with me.  I requested that she wear my Minish Cap, which would shrink her to a very small size.  She’d still express her powers, but they would be minimized and more manageable.  She agreed and I decided to take it further, making the entire situation a game, and asking her to play in one of the Bottles I carried.  After more laughter and another trip on my Hookshot, she agreed.  I placed her inside a Bottle with a Fairy, to keep her company.  This would protect her, but I would still be be able to see her and interfere if necessary.

indiana jones

As soon as I capped the lid Navi came racing toward me.  I knew there was trouble and warped to her side of the castle.  A man with a bull whip stood, ready to attack.  I used my Ice Rod and froze him, allowing me time to think.  Fi quickly told me to be careful of his whip.  That seemed simple enough and, as he unfroze, I dealt him a blow with my Boomerang and stunned him.  I tied him up, took him to the dungeon, knowing his lack of magic would prevent him from escaping, and locked the door just as Tatl flew in.

ash ketchum

I warped to her location to find an electric monster guarding the hallway – it was yellow, with black stripes and tall, pointed ears.  With my Thunder Helm I didn’t fear any electrical discharge.  I exhausted the beast with the Master Sword and used the Hookshot to stun the Trainer standing behind the monster.  Fi let me know that this boy lacked magical powers, as well, so down to the dungeon he went.

guybrush threepwood

As I came up the stairs I felt a sickening blow to my head.  A Fairy came to my aid and the stars quickly blinked out of my eyes.  I realized the man who had attacked was a pirate, laughing and making a sharp joke about the situation.  I froze this intruder with an Ice Arrow and, after receiving Fi’s confirmation that he, too, would lack the skills required to escape from a magical dungeon, placed him in there with his 3 fellow-attackers.

the joker

Midna appeared before me, quickly warping us to her side of the castle.  We re-appeared just as an explosion went off.  Luckily I had Daruk’s Blessing, which created a temporary shield and protected both myself and Peach from the damage.  As the ringing in my ears died I heard frightening laughter.  The Joker, a man I had encountered before, was standing down the hallway, finger on another trigger.  I quickly froze him and, knowing he was under no spell forcing him to attack, drew my Master Sword and brought it crashing down into him.

claire redfield

The castle became quiet after that… Too quiet.  I checked on Peach but she seemed to be happily floating in air, playing with the Fairy and laughing as a gentle breeze pushed her around the Bottle.  I sighed in relief and decided to prowl the hallways.  I donned the Stone Mask, which turned me invisible, and began patrolling.  A soft noise startled me and I glanced around.  There, in the shadows, was a character I knew well – Claire Redfield.  I knew she possessed a terrible power that would transform her if left alive.  I needed to get her out of the castle.  I crept up, using a Sneaky Elixer, and froze her using my Cryonis Sheikah Rune.  I created a Dark World warp using my Magic Mirror and sent her into another realm.  As I did so, I unfroze her, knowing she would be able to protect herself while there.  When this was all over I would fetch her and return her to her home.

mega man

Ciela came shooting toward me and we warped to her section of the castle.  I saw the invader and attempted to freeze him with the Ice Rod, but there didn’t seem to be much effect.  Every attack I shot at him just made him stronger, and he soon started shooting my attacks back!  I knew if I couldn’t defeat him I would have to incapacitate him.  Ciela Stopped Time, just long enough for me to bring Peach out of the bottle and remove the Minish Cap.  I quickly placed the cap on Mega Man’s head, shrinking him down, and dropped him in an empty Bottle.  When time restarted, he was trapped and without the power to escape.  As I held the princess’s hand the sun rose, the long night was over, and Peach’s antidote had arrived.

Better Gaming Through Criticism

Better Gaming Through Criticism

It seems like game journalism and critics are a hot button topic right now in social media and on other gaming blogs.  I think it’s finally time that I put in my two cents about it.

Last night on the commute home I was listening to a RadioWest Podcast episode in which A. O. Scott was discussing his new book, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth.  Scott is the chief film critic for the New York Times and has quite a lot of experience critiquing films and other art.  Just a few days earlier The Well-Red Mage posted an article discussing whether video games are considered art.  Now, I know it seems like these are two unrelated events but it was like lightning had just struck my brain and today’s post, which had at first seemed impossible, was now impossibly easy.  So let’s talk about the importance of criticism (proper criticism, mind you) on the gaming industry.  And yes, in case you were wondering, I absolutely think video games are art…

First, let’s discuss some science.  I, if you’ve read my profile, am a microbiologist and love infectious disease.  I specialize in human pathogens and in my studies had to learn a lot about how viruses and bacteria evolve.  There are two major ways they do this: antigenic shift and antigenic drift.  Drift occurs slowly, over time, making small changes in the genetic code that eventually lead to a new organism.  Shift happens when a large factor is changed in the genetic code, creating a new organism right away.  Criticism in the game industry lead to these two types of changes: slow, small changes that occur over time and big leaps that happen almost immediately.

So now let’s discuss criticism.  There are two different types of criticism and I want to talk about both, because each one leads to the advance of the industry.  Let’s start with the easy one: “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes”.  This is the criticism I think most of us encounter – the twitter rants, the angry Reddit posts, the comments section on Amazon.  This form of expression seems to be everywhere.

It’s interesting to think of these critics as important for the gaming industry because I think, in general, they are looked down on.  But have you ever liked a tweet expressing displeasure with, say, Nintendo for not producing enough SNES mini’s to meet demand?  Or left a review of how a game’s mechanics are difficult, not intuitive, or broken?  Whenever you do you are telling the game industry what to produce and what not to produce next time.  If a game is unpopular, has terrible reviews, and no one purchases it you’ve just told the developer to never make that kind of game again.  If there’s a twitter rant about not enough consoles for the masses, the developer will change tatics and immediately begin reproduction on that console (thank you Nintendo for more SNES mini’s!).  If everyone is complaining about the mechanics of how a particular gun is made in Destiny, it’ll be fixed in the next patch.

These kinds of criticism produce the massive shifts in the industry that responds to what the gamers want right now.  It’s a way to ensure that developers are meeting popular opinion and demand.  If you want something done, express your frustration and, if enough people agree with you, you can bet it’ll get fixed, either for the next game or in the next update.

The second form of criticism is “the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”.  This is where game journalism comes in because these are the critics of the industry.  In Better Living Through Criticism, Scott discusses the idea that art cannot exist without criticism.  I loved this idea because it rings so true to me.  Without criticism, without thinking clearly and examining our emotional response to something, we cannot give that something meaning.  Without meaning, that something cannot be art.  So in order to continue to ensure that games are taken seriously, these kinds of critics are a valuable part of our industry.

A critics job is to look at something and figure out why it has meaning.  Why did it evoke certain feelings?  What is the underlying tone and vibe of the game?  How did it affect the general population and what will the impact be on current societal trends?  These questions provide new insights, even insights the artist wasn’t intending, into the games and consoles that are being released.  In turn, these criticisms evoke antigenic drift, the slow process of small changes that adjust the way the industry behaves, the games that are made, and the stories that are told.  When critics ask hard questions and come up with new answers, it provokes though and ingenuity in the developers.  Sometimes it’s something no one had considered before.  Because of these new ideas we are able to change the way that we think about games and the way that games are created, produced, and told.

And you know what?  These voices are important, whether they are good at something or bad at it.  Just because you aren’t capable of playing every game on the market doesn’t mean that your in-depth analysis is invalid.  We don’t expect sports commentators to have necessarily been pro players, but we still accept their opinions and their commentary as valid.  We don’t expect film critics to have been producers or actors at some point in their career.  The point of a critic is to be able to think about something a little outside the box in order to invest new, and sometimes groundbreaking ideas into the mix.  We should extend the same courtesy to game journalists.   Most of them have an area of expertise and they are pretty good at sticking to that area.  But they’re allowed to be humans and step outside that range for non-professional moments.  Let’s let them be human.

A word of caution: just because we can be critics doesn’t mean we should be.  This post isn’t a call to arms, trying to make sure everyone remains harsh and unforgiving in their opinions about new games, new consoles, new media.  In fact, I think we can be just as influential in our positive opinions and reviews as we are in our criticism of how things are done.  By showing Nintendo that the masses love Zelda (obvious by the sales numbers) we are ensuring that something we admire continues to be made.  By expressing our delight with the mechanics of Overwatch, we continue to provide support for the loving tweaks they give the characters to help make the game even better.  People’s disappointment that the Uncharted series was over may have ensured that spin-off’s like Lost Legacy continue to be made.  So let’s use criticism to help make the things we love so much become better, but let’s also use our positivity and optimism to make them better, too.

My conclusion?  The criticism from both gamers and critics introduce novel changes to the industry that help it stay active and alive.  I think it’s an important aspect of gaming and something that we should be proud to be a part of.  What do you guys think?  Do you believe that criticism and critics are important for the game industry and how could it be different and better?

 

It’s Okay to be a Hero

It’s Okay to be a Hero

Lets chat for a bit about heroes.  The new, modern, trendy, super cool, trench coat-wearing thing nowadays is anti-heroes.  Batman, Joel from The Last of Us, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn.  All these characters are dark, mysterious, brooding, kind of morally ambiguous, and dreamy.  It seems that the media and critics are obsessed with the anti-hero and anything even remotely resembling a hero is a boring trope that’s obviously been done before.

But you know who I love?  The hero.  I love Link, Mario, and Captain America.  I love the brightness, the hope, the radiating goodness that pours out of a hero and into our lives.  Heroes are absolutely still relevant and, especially in these dark times, still necessary in our games, movies, and media.

So what’s the exact difference, you may ask?  Well let’s check Wikipedia – because that’s what we do nowadays.

A hero is defined as a “person or main character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats and ingenuity, bravery, or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for the greater good”.  Let’s break it down.  A hero is someone who utilizes their natural abilities to overcome evil.  They are always found giving up what they want to help others and are good, true, honest, and kind.  These characters always do the right thing and have a fantastic moral compass.

An anti-hero is a “protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality.  Although anti-heroes may sometimes do the right thing, it is often for the wrong reasons and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions”.  So these are the people who fight against the system, break the rules, live by their own code, and do their own thing.  And somehow they usually end up doing the right thing for the people around them.  But it’s not always the best way to do it or the best reasons.

Because anti-heroes are much more flawed and much more like us they tend to be more loved.  They appeal to us because we relate to their circumstances, they struggles, and dilemmas.

But…

Just because a character is a hero doesn’t mean they’re flat.  Or outdated.  Or boring.  It just means they are a good person with good morals who does good things for people.  It’s because they are heroes that makes them people we should emulate.  I mean, add a couple of cut scenes of Batman sneaking through a window with an ax and this just became a horror film.  Instead of focusing on the parts of a hero no one feels they can relate to, lets focus on the fact that these are characters we can strive to be!

My sister-in-law and I have this debate semi-regularly.  She is a hard-core anti-hero fan and I am a die-hard hero worshiper.  It’s why she loves Brontë and I love Austen.  Why she loves Rogue One instead of Force Awakens and I… well I love both.  And I wish I could help her understand that a character doesn’t need to be an anti-hero to be worthy of praise or positive critique.

Lord David Cecil once said (when talking about Austen’s novels, but let’s be honest, it can be applied to any hero character, “There are those who do not like [heroes]; as there are those who do not like sunshine or unselfishness”.  These character’s can bring light and happiness into our lives and into our perspectives.  Instead of focusing on the flaws and negativity and selfishness we are given the option to look at the selflessness, the integrity, the courage of characters doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.  Link saving Hyrule in every iteration simply because he’s in the right circumstances.  Mario rescuing the kidnapped girl and freeing countless worlds from the clutches of tyrants.  These are the people with hope and the ones who can teach us to hope.

The website Literary Devices explains that “in modern society when we are presented with a character that is overly righteous and upright, we find it too good to be true. The social turmoil that the entire world as a community has been facing recently has disposed us to be skeptical of almost everything. . . So, we relate better to a character that has suffered through life and has both good and bad sides than a character that is only seen doing good.”  And maybe that’s true, but I like to believe there’s some good left in this world and that heroes exemplify who we can become in order to make things right!

Who are your favorite heroes?  Or, if you prefer anti-heroes, which is your favorite and why?

P.S: Special shout out to the artist Kurama805 on DeviantArt for the artwork I used as my featured image!  This is a downloadable wallpaper and is gorgeous!