Week in Gaming 10/11/2015

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A Good Week

I am sitting here this morning with my writing buddy beside me.  I’ve shown pictures of Allie in the past as she sits on the blanket that I have folded beside my keyboard, and once again this morning she is there purring quietly.  She really is the mascot of the week I have had, because honestly other than a bit of an emotional roller coaster surrounding The Beginner’s Guide, I would say that the week as a whole has been one of contentment.  I managed to accomplish quite a bit in my quest to push through all of the stories I had not seen in SWTOR, as well as made small bits of progress in Destiny.  At work things seem to be largely calmed down, or at least to a manageable madness.  More than anything I think it was taking Tuesday off that helped reorient my world to a much better state of mind.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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This week was an insanely productive one when it came to Star Wars the Old Republic.  As of last Saturday night during the podcast I managed to wrap up the Smuggler storyline, and picked up work on the Sith Warrior.  With Tuesday essentially being a day where I did nothing but play SWTOR, I managed to finish up the Sith Warrior.  I’ve talked about this already but I have to say at the time the Sith Warrior was one of the most gratifying experiences when it comes to giving you the control to settle all of your vendettas in one ending.  Every person that you want to seek your revenge on is laid out in such a way as that you can, and the final events are so damned satisfying.  Having played both Sith Warrior and Jedi Guardian…  I have to say I am a bigger fan of the Warrior experience namely because it is deeply personal… and not simply the overarching events of the game as a whole.

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From there I picked up on my Bounty Hunter, largely because I needed a palate cleanser from playing a force user… and having just wrapped up Smuggler I was not quite ready for another cunning class.  I fully expected to not be terribly into the Bounty Hunter experience, largely because I didn’t really enjoy Trooper that much.  However I am coming to realize most of my problems with the trooper was the fact that it was my third class within a few months of the launch of games to push to 50… and at that point I was simply bored to tears of all the repeated planet story content.  The Bounty Hunter is quite literally the most reasonable person on the imperial side.  The game gives you the ability to play the consummate business man, and that is absolutely the path I took.  I killed no one for free, and kept my collateral damage to a minimum.  As a result people were constantly surprised that no, I was not in fact going to kill them.  Generally speaking I almost always took the option to freeze them in carbonite and return them to the client fully intact.  I am guessing that quite honestly, Bounty Hunter is probably going to go down as my favorite game play experience in SWTOR.

Destiny

My progression in Destiny has slowed down considerably, with the bulk of my forward movement coming from Armsday packages and any time I level up a faction like the Gunsmith or the Cryptarch.  While I am playing the game of equipping my best gear before I decrypt any engrams, I am still ending up with low level blues most of the time that I turn into crafting materials.  I’ve developed the nasty habit of buying shaders, emblems, and ships…. and as a result I am generally running low on Glimmer most of the time.  I really need to try using some of those glimmer items that increase the drop rates while I work on bounties.  My latest toy that I am enjoying playing with is the scout rifle above that came from a package when I leveled up Dead Orbit faction.  I had not really played with a scout rifle much since coming back and had forgotten that it was essentially a high payload sniper rifle.  Realistically I am to the point where if I want to progress I need to be running Heroic Strikes, and I simply have not messed with getting friends together yet in order to do that.  Still having a lot of fun, but trying to keep it super casual so I don’t burn myself out and get bored with it.

Battlefront

Another game this week that I have spent some time with is Star Wars Battlefront.  I pre-ordered this game through PlayStation network the moment it was announced because I am super nostalgic about the lineage of Star Wars shooters.  This weekend they allowed players to download and play for free in the beta, and I have to say my feelings about it are extremely mixed.  The game does an excellent job of giving you the fantasy fulfillment of playing a soldier in the Star Wars universe.  Past that however… I think it suffers from the fact that I have been playing so much Destiny lately.  The game handles significantly worse in the moment to moment gameplay that Destiny does.  The guns feel worse, the movement feels worse, the cover mechanics… feel worse.  I think if I spent enough time I could get used to it and even come to like it, but right now I am struggling with the feeling of “I would rather just play destiny”.

The Beginner’s Guide

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I’ve said everything I could really ever want to say in my deeply personal post on the game from last week.  Last night on AggroChat I to some extent reprised those thoughts in a much more condensed manner.  The take away for me is really this.  If you are not in an extremely stable position in your life, and if you are at all struggling with your own emotions…  don’t play this game.  Essentially there are two possible reactions… either you are going to think it is complete bullshit and it won’t effect you in any way.  Or it is going to act as a mirror to show you all of your fears and anxieties about yourself.  It quite literally took me a few days to recover from the experience of just watching a play through of this game, and not actually playing it myself.  I am not unhappy that I went through it, but it is also not the sort of experience that I would suggest lightly to anyone.  I know that sounds weird and arcane… but this game does strange things to you.  This is honestly the closest thing I have seen to a real life “The Ring”, in that this game will ultimately leave you slightly changed as a result… and not always in a good way.

 

Beginner’s Guide Experience

The Hype

I am breaking my own tradition and writing this blog post… while things are still fresh in my head instead of waiting until tomorrow morning…  or today if you are reading this.  Every now and then there is an immediate buzz about a game title, and this has lead me to be leery of this factor.  Sometimes the games are absolutely amazing, and other times they are pure hype. So when a brand new “art as game” title pops on the radar I get a little suspicious.  This is not normally the type of fare I go into, because I like things that explode and things to whack with big heavy swords.  That said when the word of The Beginner’s Guide started to circulate I got a bit curious.  When my friend finished playing it yesterday and wrote a lengthy blog post called pretentious I thought it might be worth checking out.   Especially knowing that it is a word he especially dislikes.  Granted when I sat down to watch a Let’s Play of the game, I had not read that blog post… or pretty much any other “review” of the game, other than the fact that there was simply a lot of buzz about it all of the sudden. So I went to YouTube and ultimately found a video by someone I have never seen before playing the game.

What I am left after watching the hour and a half long video… is some stuff I am not even sure if I can adequately put into words.  Hell to be truthful I am not really sure some of the emotions I am feeling actually even have proper names.  There are going to be spoilers involved with this post, so if you intend to play the game I highly suggest you stop reading.  I came into this play through like a blank slate, not really knowing what to expect other than the fact that this game came from the creator of The Stanley Parable which we had talked about a few times on AggroChat but I have never actually played myself.  After watching what is essentially an act of interactive fiction, I think you get out of it what you take into it.  Much like “The Box” from Dune, and the cave on Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back… it ultimately becomes a reflection of your own mental state.  Seeing the events unfold in front of me, I guess makes me realize how potentially broken I am inside.  I am sure someone could see the experience and immediately think “wtf is this crap”, but I guess I was in the right mindset for it to seep into my core.

The Terror

The narrator of the game is none other than the author, one Davey Wreden.  He tells a tale of a fellow game creator that he met at a Game Jam, and the unusual series of games that unfolded between the years of 2008 and 2011.  I have no idea who this Coda is or even at this point if it is a person that exists.  There are moments during the game play that you follow Davey down this course, descending into the deep interpreted meanings of these games.  Each game has a supposed point, and tells us a little bit about the Author.  As we reach the halfway point, there is a slow growing dread because I am scared that I know where this tale ends.  Each game seems progressively more alienating and more isolating…  like someone retreating into the dark cocoon of depression.  My terror at times was that we would find out at the end of this tale, that Coda had killed himself… and all that we were left with were this series of games that Davey was trying desperately to unravel.  That however is not at all what happens…  but instead in 2011 after Davey attempted to show the games to other people…  he simply broke off contact completely.  The final game is a series of frustrating puzzles that are either unwinnable or at the very least antagonistically set against the player.  After cheating your way through them with the help of the narrator you see a series of messages essentially telling Davey to never contact Coda again.

This game we are playing is supposedly a last ditch effort to get back on Codas good graces, to apologize publicly.  The thing is…  I don’t think there is a Coda.  I think this game is the tale of how one Davey Wreden reacted and internalized his struggle with his own fame brought on through the quirky success of Stanley Parable.  I think the game as a whole is essentially him working through is own issues, like he supposedly thought Coda was.  The problem there is… am I essentially doing the same thing he supposedly was by projecting myself and my own thought processes into the whole experience?  The truth is… we cannot help but do this.  There is no clinical distance that can keep us from doing this.  We imprint on the things we experience and we have to decode them through the only language we know… which is that of our own experiences.  So if you have never felt any of this alienation or crippling self doubt… then I feel like you could probably just let a game like this wash over you and not effect you in any way.  Unfortunately that is not the case for me.

The Stupor

Part of the reason why I am writing this while the experience is fresh, is that I hope to maybe be more honest about the experience.  I am by nature a creative person, and everything I do at least contains a part of me in it.  While I don’t blog in my own name, and have chosen to adopt a pen name of Belghast…  every post I write contains certain nuggets of myself that are more honest than I really mean them to be.  I am constantly beset with this desire to be liked and loved, and to find validation in the favor of others.  I find myself craving attention, but the problem is when I actually get it…  I don’t have a clue what to do with it.  This blog and the constant forward momentum, comes from a place that I don’t really understand.  Before blogging I was one of those people that would post all too long posts on forums.  Before that I was a devout IRC junkie and even managed to meet my wife that way.  I have this need to connect to people, even though I don’t really know how to.

I think in part this is why I find myself constantly trying to start new things, like segments on my blog, or lets plays…  only to abandon them when I get bored with them a few weeks to months later.  I am always dissatisfied with nearly everything I do, and nothing ever quite works the way I envision it working.  I’d love to say I don’t care about statistics and readership… but there are days I think to myself…  why am I doing any of this if no one is actually reading?  Then the very next day I sit down and the keyboard and keep writing.  I guess I do this because I have to, and I am not sure exactly how NOT to do it.  My world is arranged in a series of circles within circles, and the closer you get in the more I let people see of me.  However deep down at the center there is this place that no one gets to go, where I keep the parts of me that I think no one would like if they knew existed.  So there were levels in this game that maybe struck a deeper cord with me than others.  There was a level that as the player backed away from a stage, these walls kept slamming down in front of them… until at some point you simply couldn’t see the light of the stage any more.  This felt almost scarily familiar, and like all of those times that I needed to get away because I simply could not stand any more human stimuli in my life.  There have been so many times I have eaten my lunch in the silence of my car, just because I needed not to exist around others for the thirty minutes to an hour that it afforded me.

Final Thoughts

This post is ending to be far more personal than I intended it to be, but in truth the experience brought on by the game is more personal than I had expected it to be.  On AggroChat we have talked a lot about how games are generally bad at emotions, but this game…  has so many.  For some this experience might be liberating, but for me…  it was something else.  It has left me wallowing in my own faults and short comings.  Ultimately I saw myself in both Davey and Coda during this tale, because I think we are all a little bit of both of them.  Since finishing the Lets Play I have gone out to steam and purchased the game, and it will likely sit in my library unplayed.  I am not sure if I can really handle going through this experience a second time.   More than anything I wanted to purchase the game as a thank you for the experience, because even though I am a little off balance right now…  it is a rare experience that a game can cause that effect on anyone so when it does… it is well worth supporting.  Now I am going to spend the rest of my evening trying to get the thoughts out of my head that the game so firmly implanted there.