Tag Archives: Gaming

Cloaks and Daggers – Catharsis Through Digital Storytelling

Catharsis: the act or process of releasing a strong emotion; especially by expressing it in an art form

Sometimes you just need to feel something…anything really.

Sorrow.

Joy.

Happiness.

Rage.

So, sometimes I just put in a game…

——————–

I didn’t know how long we had been traveling together.  We had met in the desert, and though we said very little to each other, we both agreed that the company was nice.  Most of the world had fallen into ruin, and rumor was that there weren’t many of us left.  I guess that is why we stuck together.

Maybe we just didn’t want to be lonely…

We had kept heading towards the mountain; remembering the legends of the hope that resided on its distant peak.  He never had to say he was going there too.  Of course he was going there, where else was there left for any of us to go?  That question seemed to haunt us both.  Neither of us had a good answer, and so we had chosen to continue traveling despite our reservations.

Fear hadn’t gotten the best of us yet…

The desert was only the beginning.  From there, an abandoned tower gave us a moment of respite and reflection, but that was short lived as best.  Our pilgrimage took us through a cavern of beasts such as the eye had never seen; both terrifying and awe inspiring all the same.  Yet, still we travelled on and still we watched over each other.  Many a moment came when one of us might have died and left this world were it not for the other.  Through the silence and the stoic looks, something had developed between us.

A bond, perhaps? Brotherhood, then?

It is a dangerous thing to allow yourself to have such thoughts; it breeds recklessness.

For many different reasons…

As we reached the snow line, we had stumbled upon the ruins of a fallen city.  It had seemed that the ancients had hoped to live in the light of the mountain, but the mountain had rejected them for their arrogance.  My fellow traveller decided to step ahead, to scout the area and determine our next move.  He disappeared into the snow, as I continued to search through the rubble; hoping to find some new piece of information about who we were and where we were going.  He was always the more adventurous type, but I was fine with that.  It was what made us work.

When I looked back up, I saw him coming back towards me, smiling as best one could being covered in snow.  I guess, for that same reason, he wasn’t able to see the look of horror on my face as I saw what was coming behind him.  One of the creatures that we had thought we had left behind in the caverns was rising overhead.

I screamed.

I screamed over and over again.  I called out his name.  Tried to warn him in any way I could, but through the harsh wind of the snow storm I knew nothing I could do would get through.  All I had to do was get him to turn around, to see what was coming up behind him, and I know we would make it.  We had made it through worse things, there was no way we weren’t going to get through this…So I kept screaming, trying to reach out to him.

Until, still with a smile on his face, the beast took him…

Tears filled my eyes.  I felt myself still screaming, but I no longer heard anything coming out.  Regardless of my own safety, I ran out, hoping that something was left, that he was left.  It was a stupid thing to do.  There were more creatures in waiting, and where I thought there was just one, there were now five.  I didn’t want to move, but I knew I had to.  I saw an opening in the ruins, a safe haven, and so I ran.  I heard the monsters behind me, heard their ominous howl and heard in it their desire to destroy all who came near.  Nonetheless, I made it to the entrance and I stopped…and allowed myself to weep.

There was no hope on this mountain…

—————-

What makes certain games magical are the stories that come out of them, and the emotions that it can draw out of the player. This is one of my stories that grew out of my experience with Journey on the PS3. What makes the game so intriguing is that though there is a small narrative thread that goes through the whole game; the majority of the story is pieced together and created by the player during one’s play through.  Everything that happened, the emotions I felt, were all because of my actions and how I responded to the world I was given.

Journey and games like it don’t have an atypical narrative; they have one that you help create along the way via the player’s interaction within the world.  It is in that creation that the story becomes all the more personal to the player and more memorable in the telling. This type of process is more commonly called “emergent gameplay,” or “player driven storytelling.”

Unlike other forms of entertainment, games don’t have to abide by a strict narrative construction.  Whereas films and novels have a set series of events that always play out the same way for the characters, many games give the player the ability to shape their own story and have it play out differently in each subsequent playthrough.  It is the experience and the player’s feelings that become the story in many of these cases. More simply put, the story/gameplay emerges out of the player’s actions.

Note: The game is actually about survival + NSW Language

Games like Rust and Day Z have no discernible story of their own outside of what the player base creates for them. The “story” of those games are the personal tales of the players and how they interacted with others while in that world. Of course, for every game of this nature there is a Last of Us or Bioshock: Infinite that has a very specific story to tell, and proceeds to follow a standard narrative path.  This is not a bad thing. It shows the depth and breadth of gaming as a medium for different styles of storytelling.

Even in a game with a more directed narrative, a genuine emotional catharsis can be achieved, if done well. The Last of Us is a fantastic example of this in the AAA space; and Thomas Was Alone shines in the indie arena. In one game it is the story of loss, redemption, and questionable morality; and the other is about small geometric cubes, friendship, and the nature of truth and sacrifice. Despite their differing styles and mechanics, by the end of both I had felt emotionally drained and had shed tears on multiple occasions.

To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, just because something isn’t “real” doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful.  Games can have the ability to reach into us and draw out emotions and responses that other mediums cannot; because we help craft the story.  By making the choices our own, by creating our stories within the world that has been handed to us or acting out or part in the greater narrative; we invest in the moment and engage in a way that no other form of entertainment can match.

To put it simpler; the more we put in, the more we get out.

So like I said…

…sometimes you just need to feel something.

To have a good cry.

To work out some anger.

To remember why we should care about others.

No matter what it is, try a game next time. You’d be surprised what you might get out of it.

As the kids say, “enjoy the feels,” everyone.

Suggested Play: Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Thomas was Alone, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Dear Esther, and Gone Home

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So, Why was it shaped like a lunchbox? – The History of the Gamecube

Emily Rogers over at Dromble has written up probably the most extensive history of Nintendo’s cube. She goes into depth in ways that I would only dream of. Seriously, if you are a fan of Nintendo, care about gaming history, or just want to kill some time before you pass out tonight, give this a read.

 

The link is HERE

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The 2DS: A Point/Counterpoint brought to you by Gamasutra

Nintendo’s announcement of the 2DS came as a shock to many of us, and just as many are wondering what their thought process must be. I’m decidedly sure that this is a Pokemon machine (because it is coincidentally launching on the the same day) aimed at little kids.

 

Gamasutra has had two write-ups since the announcement, one speaking of Nintendo’s already confusing messaging, and another saying what Nintendo is probably trying to actually get across. Give them both a read, and comment here, there, wherever. Being a part of the conversation is cool…or so I am told.

 

What’s so confusing about the Nintendo 2DS?

 

Nintendo’s 2DS is brand confusion in a box

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Breaching the Event Horizon

This is a glorious time to be a fan of gaming.  Though not officially stated, we are on the brink of a new console generation and with it comes new concepts, ideas, and innovations.  Both Microsoft and Sony have had supposed “leaks” of their new specs and the rumor mill is churning with “news” by the day.  Everyone is excited; you can feel it in the air.  Sony and Microsoft are creating their “hype-trains,” developers are excited to be able to show their new games soon, and gamers are excited for what is to be the “next big thing.”  Even more interesting is the fact that it is no longer just the games that we are all waiting to see; but everything else these next generation consoles can do.  With the advent of Hulu, Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and all the other various apps that have come to the 360 and PS3; we are waiting to see what else these new consoles can bring to us.  This new chapter in the eternal “console war,” will not be won by exclusives and games alone; but by the “everything else,” and that too, is exciting.

 

This is the natural evolution of our hobby.  Gaming is growing up.  As we have seen newer games tackle mature themes and storytelling situations, so to our consoles have grown up as well.  For this generation and those coming after, gaming is part of our lives and our  consoles have begun to reflect that.  They are becoming more and more intrinsically part of what we do, keeping us logged in and part of the communities and ecosystems they create.  They strive to be our entertainment hub, and for many of us, that is what they have become.  With services like HBO Go, Amazon Prime, and others like it; there are those who no longer have a cable provider, but simply use their console as a delivery device.  People can have their consoles access their Twitter accounts, search the internet, and store all their photos for viewing later.  To say that the 360 and PS3 are solely about games nowadays would be to ignore the growth that has occurred over the last six years.

 

We are about to watch the birth of something amazing; maybe something that will change the game forever. (No pun intended)  Though more likely, we are about to witness the thing we all get excited for; simply, a new console.  Whether you are a Microsoft or Sony fan, everyone is waving their flags in excitement, and the inner child in all of us is waiting for the moment all is revealed.  Yes, we’ve been here before, and yes, there are things that make this launch a bit different and possibly have a greater impact.  But nonetheless, here we are waiting for the first shots to be fired across the bow, sitting in anticipation of what’s to come, and nothing could be more exciting.

 

Here are the links to the Original Kotaku articles that contain the supposed specs of the new systems…

The Next XBOX: http://kotaku.com/5982986/we-know-all-about-the-next-xbox-from-someone-who-says-theyve-got-one

The “Orbis” : http://kotaku.com/5977849/the-playstation-4-has-a-new-controller-fancy-user-accounts-and-impressive-specs-so-far

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