Later Levels QOTM: October 2018

I’ve been following Later Levels for quite some time now, but I’ve never participated in their Question of the Month challenge usually because I couldn’t think of a good answer.  That changed with this month’s spooky query to go along with the Halloween season!

The question set for us by Megan is: In honour of Halloween, tell me what video game scared you the most. What is it about the elements, environments, music, or characters in the video game that scared you?

Without a doubt SOMA.

SOMA coverThis game messed me up for months after, and I didn’t even play it myself; I watched an LP.  While it has the customary jump scares of most first person survivals, that’s not were the horror lies.  It’s far more existential in nature, and it’s not until you reach the end that the full impact of it hits you like a truck.

It’s set 100 years in the future at the bottom of the ocean in a derelict, undersea research facility.  The world has suffered a catastrophic event where everyone on the surface is presumed to be dead, but in some cases death is far better than the alternative.  The atmosphere of the game does wonders for projected an unnerving and unsettling air as you guide the protagonist Simon through a facility as strange to him as it is to you.

That right there is where I believe the linchpin lies.  Simon is just a regular person just like anyone playing the game, and what happened to him could happen to any of us.  He’s not a space marine, super soldier, scientist, or warrior.  He’s just a regular guy from Toronto with horrible luck.  He didn’t ask to be in that situation, and though it’s utterly outlandish, it’s still not out of the realm of possibility given where technology might go.

Where the story ends is literally gutting and you sit there for minutes after the credits roll and the after credit scene has played as the horrifying realization washes over you.  You remember you were explicitly warned about it around the midpoint of the game just like Simon was, and a terrible decision you need to make as him suddenly takes on a deeper meaning.  Yet it’s not until the end that you understand the implications.  It’s an experience I’m never going to forget and that I’m still working on reviewing.

So that’s my scariest game!  Check out Later Level’s post linked above if you want to get in on the spooky action 🙂

Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (Low #1) (DNF)

Title: Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope
Series Title: Low
Authors: Rick Remender
Artists: Greg Toccini & Dave McCaig
Date Added: September 4, 2017
Date Started: October 25, 2017
Date DNF: November 8, 2017
Reading Duration: 14 days
Genre: Science Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Graphic Novel

Low coverPages: 144
Publication Date: March 25, 2015
Publisher: Image Comics
Media: Paperback (Library)

Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope. Dive into an aquatic fantasy like none you’ve ever seen before, as writer Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Uncanny Avengers) and artist Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime) bring you a tale mankind’s final hour in the cold, deathly dark of the sea.

Low is about the sun going super nova far sooner than expected, and humanity taking refuge beneath the waves, while sending probes out into space to search for a new home.  It has more of a Rapture (BioShock) vibe to it insofar as there’s a city under the sea as opposed to SOMA’s derelict facility horror.

Per Remender’s foreword, the author was inspired by our sun’s eventual violent death, which will scorch the Earth beyond recognition (if humanity hasn’t already), and how if we don’t discover a new home among the stars (or a way to stop it), our species will be rendered extinct.   While this time is billions of years away, it’s still a reminder that everything is temporary and nothing ever lasts: a recipe for nihilism if ever there was.  Of course the ephemeral qualities of the universe could imbue it with meaning for some, though when you recall the nature of memory and how there needs to be someone to remember, this argument falls apart.

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Games Alive: 1980-2017

The Well-Red Mage asks: “What’s your favorite game every year you’ve been alive?”  I’m one of the last to answer, because I’m always late to these types of parties.  I’ve seen plenty of “Favorite Game” posts, but never one quite like this, and it was both challenging and enjoying to put together over the last two months.  I’m one of the oldest people to respond, meaning I have quite a lot of years to go through, so without further ado…

1980 – Pac-Man

This one was more difficult than I’d like to admit, but there weren’t too many games I could draw from at this point in time, which led me to this classic among classics.  I wasn’t very good at this game, but if you stick your finger in your ear and wiggle it around, I think you’ll hear something familiar 😀

1981 – Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong game coverBack when Mario was merely Jump Man and Pauline was a kidnapping victim, long before she was the mayor of New Donk City, there was this arcade classic.  I was better at this than Pac-Man; I’ve always been better at platforming than avoiding random enemies.

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TSN’s 2017 Top Games List

Hello Dear Friends!  I hope you all had Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.  This is (was) my favorite time: Christmas Night.  It’s the long exhale after the climax where everyone can relax and play with their presents, while basking in the relief that it’s over.  I saw some awesome videos of kids opening up presents on Christmas Morning (the Nintendo Switch unwrapping was amazing), and I, myself, received Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild , my very own PS4, tons of git cards, a special vase, and a bunch of other awesome gifts!I’m (was) also off Tuesday and Wednesday and figured now is as good of time as any to (start working on)  post my 2017 Best of List for gaming before the elderly year grows older (sadly it died before I could finish.  Alas); however, mine is going to be a little bit different from the others I’ve seen floating around.  As of today, I’ve only finished five games on the dates indicated:

  1. World of Final Fantasy – 2/19/17
  2. Journey – 3/22/17
  3. The Room – 5/16/17
  4. The Room Two – 5/27/17
  5. The Room Three – 8/15/17

There’s no doubt which the best game out of all of those is.

Obviously, I loved WOFF and The Room series was one of the best for puzzle games ever, but you can see how I’m not really in a position to adequately talk about games based solely on the ones I played this year.  However, since I did watch a ton of Let’s Plays, I feel as though that would be the better population from which to draw my Top 10.  So without further ado…

10. Detention

Though this initially comes off as a spooky/horror game, it’s much more.  Have no doubt, there are harrowing parts (those really tall ghosts.  Hell.  No), but that’s not the inner spirit of the experience.

9. The Witch’s House

There’s a lot to be said about a game where you’re killed by a teddy bear, and I said a bit of it here with my review.  Created with RPG Maker, don’t let the cute, sprite graphics lull you into a false sense of security.  You will die.  A lot.  Gruesomely. And shockingly.  The puzzles are quite clever, and the RPG mechanic works surprisingly well for a horror game.  I also cannot stress how much the ending messes you up and literally turns everything on its ear.  It’s worth it just to play through for that.

8. Inside

In the vein of games with shocking endings, Inside notches it up to the “what the absolute fuck?!” level.  At no point did I expect to see what I saw, and where The Witch’s House is heartbreaking in its horror, Inside is flat out disturbing, but absolutely fitting for the setting.  The game is exactly what you’d expect from the creators of Limbo.  It has similar gameplay, but the story goes much deeper and, as such, is ripe for the theorists.

7. Rakuen

I had to scramble to place this in my Top 10, because I just finished it the other day.  I knew it was going to be a tearjerker when I saw the hospital setting, and I figured out what was going to happen at the end, but that did nothing to lessen the sorrow.  This is a beautiful game that expertly weaves a far too recent and real life tragedy with a parallel fantasy world.  What your character (called only The Boy) does in Morizora’s Forest is echoed in his hospital home, and this goes for the people he helps.

Rakuen is a puzzle game that plays like an RPG without the random battles, so if you’re not a fan of those, you don’t have to worry about them.  This isn’t to say there aren’t any enemies, but there’s only one type (nor do I think it’s really an enemy, but that’s edging spoiler territory), and there are no confrontations with it, only avoidance.  While this was a game I could’ve played myself, there were some creepy parts that I’m glad I only had to watch.  Combined with some overly cutesy things, it gives Rakuen a bit of Mood Whiplash, but this is not a critique, merely an observation.  The soundtrack is wonderful with vocal performances that are not only gorgeous, but serve an integral part of the story.  Make sure you have some tissues ready for the end.

6. The Mass Effect Trilogy

Even though I watched the first game in 2016, I didn’t finish the other two until last year, so I’m going to count that I finished the trilogy then.  This is the only game on the list that I plan to play in the future, and I decided that based on watching the LP by Olizandri.  There’s too much to say about Mass Effect to really get into it here (and most of you probably know about it already lol), but rewatching the ending with the knowledge of what came before under my belt completely changed my perspective on it (either that or the ending was updated to show more than what happened to Joker and EDI; I’m really not sure).  I have a great deal to say about it  when I finally get to my review in addition to comparative essays (e.g. how Reaper indoctrination is similar to the also hive-minded Jenova’s mental manipulation), and I’m looking forward to exploring all of its angles and discussing it with all of you fine people when I do.

5. Little Nightmares

I’ve watched both the original game and the two currently released DLCs, and, were it a game I could conceivably play (if I wasn’t a wuss puss), I’d have no problems doling out the ducats for all.  The DLCs are apparently inexpensive yet quite expansive in both exploration and storytelling.  There are traces and hints of what went on in the main game all throughout, though just the former is enough to give me full fledged nightmares for days (nothing little about that).  There are no cut scenes, and players are obliged to piece together the story from what can be observed in the levels.  Like Inside there are quite a few theory videos out there to either explain or spark new perspectives.  Whether you play this game in the light of day to ward off the eeriness or in the midst of darkness where the nightmares prowl is entirely up to you.  I, for one, will continue watching my Let’s Plays in the sun and covering my face at necessary moments.

4. Ori and the Blind Forest

This game is literally a work of art.  From the visuals to the music to the poignant story, Ori bookended me with tears.  While not wholly tragic, the game uses sorrow for emphasis and forces you to examine where your full allegiances lie.  I did an almost about face about a particular character once their true motivation was known.  Moon Studios should be both commended and supported for future endeavors.

I considered stopping the LP when I first started so I could play myself, but I’m glad I just continued watching.  There is no way in hell I could pull off those sweet, platforming moves that Cry so brilliantly preformed (though there was some Power of Editing involved lol.  No hate though).  It’s a Metroidvania game, so there’s a lot of backtracking to open up areas previously unattainable.  Also, did I mention the soundtrack?  I did?  Well let me mention it again, because I need to download it.

P.S. The name of the setting is the Forest of Nibel and there’s both fire and mist.

3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Ya’ll if you want to ugly cry, please play or watch this game.  Where Ori had me misty (hey that’s what “Nibel” means!), Valiant Hearts made me bawl.  My husband stopped playing Destiny 2 to make sure I was okay, and the friend he was playing with asked if everything was alright.  THAT’S how serious I am about what this game did to me, and it’s not even what you’d expect.  It hits hardest because it’s unexpected and just so wrong.  There’s a wonderful video by The Closer Look called “How to Make the Audience Cry,” and it explains what concept universally causes it and why.  I’d recommend watching it only if or after you’ve watched/played Valiant Hearts.  It’s not a major spoiler, but a game/story like this should be experienced untainted.

2. The Last of Us

I had a long talk with myself about whether this or the number one game would have that place, but in the end, I decided it based on after effects.  Which story haunted me more?  Which caused more of an existential crisis?  While TLOU certainly vied with the first question (especially in any intelligent discussions about it), the number one pick literally blew the second out of the water, but that doesn’t mean the tale of Joel and Ellie is worth any less.  It is a very close second, and, along with the first, is one of my more essay-like reviews.  I have a lot to say about this game, and I see the ending from multiple different points of view.  Understanding loss, I understand why what happened did, but I can also see why there is a great deal of negativity about the decision and the game mechanic that makes you (the player) part of something you might find reprehensible.  Because I not only suck at stealth (seriously…you should see me in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.  It would be embarrassing if I had any shame…), I’m also a wuss puss when it comes to any kind of horror, and I utterly abhor being chased.  When something like this comes after you…

…TSN says nope and covers her face.

I was also completely wrong about Ellie’s peculiar attribute in terms of what caused it, and that was proven with one of the saddest deaths in the game.  Then when I thought I’d figured it out again, that wasn’t the case either.  However, while I might rail against my inelegance, I’m often happy to be wrong in these cases, because it means I could use my “wrong” suppositions in a story of my own and I get to be surprised!

Speaking of which…I have a soft spot in my heart for TLOU, because it has damn near the same plot as the first novel I wrote.  In a different setting and a different relationship between the “Joel” and “Ellie” characters, but “experienced, morally grey bad ass with a devastating loss in his past (that he witnessed first hand) hired to take an inexperienced, young woman to pre-determined location and on the way they learn to love each other” plus the spoilery stuff at the end of TLOU is exactly the same, and I’m a bit shook.

This is one of those games that every gamer should experience.  I’m not one of those “hates cut scenes” people so they don’t bother me in the least, enhancing the narrative rather than taking away especially in this case.  I can’t wait for the second part to come out.

And my number one game of 2017 is…

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Creative Christmas – Who’s Got the GOTY?

Tis the Christmas season (or Advent to be theologically accurate), and in the spirit of the season, the lovely blogger over at Later Levels has decided to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas a few days earlier with 12 gaming related questions for all of us good, little gaming elves out there.  These are my responses.

🎉   01 January 2018:   You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?

Ah you’re making me post this before I even have a chance to do my Top 10 list!  This is a bit of a complicated question for me since I both play and watch games, so have to consider both for the Game of the Year.  I wish I’d played the Game of the Year (Breath of the Wild) before it was announced, but since I trust my friends, I believe it was a laud well earned.  I wish I’d played more of Assassin’s Creed: Origins before this question too, so I could factor it into my assessment.

Played: Super Mario Odyssey

As if there could be any doubt.  This is the best game I’ve played all year by a wide margin.  It’s just so much fun and so forgiving for a 3D platforming noob like me (though I am having some trouble defeating the Lord of Lightning o.O), making it a game anyone can play and enjoy.  From the long time gamers to the newest generation of players, SMO’s ubiquity, ease of access, and just all around fun easily earns it the coveted title of TSN’s favorite played game.

“I’m going on an adventure!” -The Hobbit

Watched: SOMA

This is the reason I need that Top 10 or at least Top 5 list.  I watched so many wonderful games this year, and in all honesty there are games that either are tied or are so close to SOMA, but what really puts this title over the edge is how much and for how long it fucked me up.  I studied psychology in college, so the subject is near and dear to my heart (brain?), and the main question SOMA asks, “What is consciousness?” is not so much answered as explored to its darkest depths.  This is not a game I could ever play since I spent much of the Let’s Play covering my face, because I hate chase scenes, but those aren’t really what make SOMA scary; it’s the horror behind the monsters that’s the most disturbing of all.

“Where only the most listless of creatures swim…” -Dear Esther

What’s your game of the year?  Did you have to categorize them?  Have you made a Top # list?  Are you planning to?  Let’s talk about our 2017 gaming favorites in the comments!

The State of the Writer: 10/22/17`

<–The State of the Writer: 10/15/17          The State of the Writer: 10/29/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and any completed the prior week.

Finished This Week: 0

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 259,494
Prior Word Count: 259,807
Word Difference: -313
Status: Revising
Progress: Chapter 2

I decided to change the order of the beginning scenes in Chapter 2.  Then I changed them back after I remembered I’d chosen that order based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which I just now decided would be the picture, because why not?).  I was going to do this long flashback bath scene after Aeris first wakes up and realizes she’s clean, but the more I though about it, the more I realized that I was right from the start.  I wrote some additional paragraphs, which I do like, so I’m going to try to incorporate them into the body of the story, but I need to put back in what I cut out.  Thankfully, I rarely delete anything plus I email myself frequently, so I have back versions of the story.  Sometimes my paranoia comes in handy (though that might not be the right term, since I have lost stories before).

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The State of the Writer: 10/15/17`

<–The State of the Writer: 10/8/17          The State of the Writer: 10/22/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and any completed the prior week.

TL;DR?  A whole bunch of nothing was accomplished this week/weekend.

Finished This Week: 1

Project: Book Review
The Beauty Thief
Series Title: Twelve Realms
Author: Rachael Ritchey
Date Added: February 5, 2016
Date Started: July 13, 2017
Date DNF: July 19, 2017
Reading Duration: 6 days

The book had potential, but I was ultimately disappointed.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 259,807
Prior Word Count: 260,204
Word Difference: -397
Status: Revising
Progress: Chapter 2

This week…this weekend.  I don’t know which one was more of a fail.  I’m going to go with this weekend.  I spent the majority of Saturday on the phone with Apple (which actually has a great customer service department.  No, they aren’t paying me), because my phone completely reset itself when I turned it off and turned it back on.  I wrote out this long explanation, but just deleted it. It…was just a mess. I spoke to four different people at four separate times, because Apple will both call you back and let you call.  The last guy was super chill, and I was on the phone with him for an hour.  I had to update the software on my phone (I was about two iOSes behind), and then restore it using my latest backup…which was from May…of 2016.

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The State of the Writer: 10/8/17

<–The State of the Writer: 10/1/17          The State of the Writer: 10/15/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include (but not be limited to) any and all work(s) in progress (WIPs) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, and reviews.  Additionally, this post will showcase what writing projects I’ve completed in the past week as a sort of weekly roundup, as I’ve seen other cooler bloggers do.

Finished This Week: 0

Project: Story
The Broken Rose

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 260,204
Prior Word Count: 260,270
Word Difference: -66
Status: Revising
Progress: Chapter 2

Did I make progress in my revisions this week?  Kind of…I did more prep than actual revising, but I guess that’s what happens when you decide to go back to the beginning.  I finished Chapter 1 fairly quickly, because there wasn’t much to change in Chapter 1, just some clean up of stuff I somehow missed in my multitude of edits.

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The State of the Writer: 10/1/17

<–The State of the Writer: 9/24/17          The State of the Writer: 10/8/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include (but not be limited to) any and all work(s) in progress (WIPs) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, and reviews.  Additionally, this post will showcase what writing projects I’ve completed in the past week as a sort of weekly roundup, as I’ve seen other cooler bloggers do.

Finished This Week: 1

Project: Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Author: Joe Hill
Gabriel Rodriguez

Date Posted: September 30, 2017

An easy review for an awesome graphic novel, and from what I’m hearing the later ones only get better.  I already have the second volume on my to-buy list.  I better bump it up!

Project: Story
The Broken Rose

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 260,270
Prior Word Count: 260,329
Word Difference: -59
Status: Revising
Progress: Chapter 2

The most pressing question of the moment is what the hell pictures am I going to use for updates during my revision?  I don’t want to repeat old ones, and I sure am hell am not going to go through much effort to find new ones for chapters I’ve already posted about, so there might be some weird stuff *shrug*

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The State of the Writer: 9/24/17

<–The State of the Writer: 9/17/17          The State of the Writer: 10/1/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include (but not be limited to) any and all work(s) in progress (WIPs) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, and reviews.  Additionally, this post will showcase what writing projects I’ve completed in the past week as a sort of weekly roundup, as I’ve seen other cooler bloggers do.

Finished This Week: 1

Project: Book Review
Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Sarah J. Maas
Date Posted: September 21, 2017

I’ll hopefully be adding audio to this an my other book reviews soon.  I have one recorded for Gaslight Hades, but I need to edit it.  I’ll obviously have to figure out a schedule for doing this as well, but I will say the recording process is enjoyable.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 260,329
Prior Word Count: 260,062
Word Difference: +267
Status: Editing/Planning Revision
Progress: First edit of Chapter 11

The above picture has pretty much been me for the past week, sipping coffee, taking notes…thinking, which is always a dangerous thing.  Even though I write fantasy, I’m actually quite a bit of a realist, which isn’t really that anathema.  Fantasy worlds are only fantasy to us; they’re quite real to their inhabitants, and one of the things that’s always made Final Fantasy VII stand out is how closely it aligns to our own world.  With taking place in an analogue for New York City, focusing on our abuse of the Earth/Planet, delving into bioethics and warfare, and the subtext of man’s hubris to name a paltry few.

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