Tag Archives: Playstation

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Cry for Relevance – Gamestop Wishes to Play with Playstation Now

In a move that surprises no one, Gamestop wants to get in on that hot Playstation Now action.

 

Gamestop has done their best to keep up in an ever changing digital world, with some ventures more successful than others. Now, they are going to Sony, saying that they want to sell access to Playstation Now. The move makes sense as Gamestop’s stock fell the day that the service was revealed at CES last week. There’s no public knowledge of the pricing structure of Playstation Now, so no one can say how specifically Gamestop could become a part of this. Sony has gone on the record saying that there will be a rental and standard subscription model; but no details are known beyond that.

 

You can read the original news story HERE

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Trust Me, I am not a Fungi or Why The Last of Us is My Game of the Year

BIG GIANT-SERIOUSLY DON’T READ THIS SPOILER WARNING FOR THE LAST OF US

I killed a man yesterday…and I am okay with it.

What’s more concerning is that I felt righteous in my act of violence.

But let’s backtrack a bit shall we?

TLoU1

The Last of Us is a Playstation 3 exclusive from Naughty Dog, makers of Uncharted, Jak and Daxter, and the original Crash Bandicoot. The game takes place in a near future setting where cordyceps have ravaged the planet by mutating and infecting humanity and society, as we know it, is struggling to survive. It’s not a happy place, and Joel, our main character, is not a happy person.

We meet him at the beginning of the outbreak, living in Austin with his daughter and his brother living nearby. Within minutes of starting the game, we see Austin crumble, his daughter shot, and time jump ahead years and years into the future…

…with him staring at an empty bottle.

Yeah, Joel is not in a good place.

TLoU2

Nonetheless, the game continues and through a series of events you end up traveling with Ellie. She’s a young girl who never knew the world before things went to hell, has a mouth like a sailor, and a secret of her own. She’s immune to the infection. Thus the real thrust of the adventure kicks in; you are to take Ellie cross country to the base of “The Fireflies;” a resistance group still working on a cure.

Suffice it to say, you both make it, but not unscathed. Joel wakes up in a room surrounded by guards, and is told in no certain terms that he cannot see Ellie. The reason being, she is being prepped for surgery to remove her brain to find out what causes her immunity. They tell me I can do nothing about it. They’re wrong.

I kill the first guard without thinking; after he tells me where Ellie is…

I snap the necks of a couple of guards who see me as I continue to get closer…

and once the alarms sound, I make sure no one is left to tell where I went…

…because NOTHING is going to stand between me and that girl.

TLoU3

I finally get to the operating room, where two nurses and the surgeon await. I shoot one of the nurses to prove I am not joking around, hoping that they will get the picture, but the Doc pulls a scalpel on me. So I drop him and the other remaining nurse, and take Ellie away from there.

I killed those men and didn’t bat an eye. I felt righteous in my vengeance, and I KNEW I was doing the “right” thing. That’s what it felt like, at least. After all this time, I couldn’t let them lay a hand on this little girl that I had come to love and care for. Hell itself could not stop me in that moment.

Yet; let’s look at this objectively…

-I murdered the only people left looking for a cure to the infection

-I killed one of the last brain surgeons on the planet

-Any hope humanity may have had, is now gone because of my actions

I am not the “good guy.” I am most definitely the “villain.”   ….and I am okay with that.

————————————————————————

TLoU6

This is not the first time that a “protagonist” turns out to be something “other,” in any art form. One only has to look to The Road (a big inspiration for the game) and stories like Watchmen to see the trope used in similar ways. Yet, what makes The Last of Us so amazing and worth the discussion is that it puts the actions in the hands of the player.

In other media, we see the drama play out, and we are merely observers to the actions.  We see the characters rationalize their behavior, and we follow along. Yet, in a game-space it is the player that acts and rationalizes the actions that he/she must take. The greatest games have narratives that ensure that the player rationalizes those actions.

Nothing could be worse for game’s narrative than ludonarrative dissonance. In other words, for there to be a disconnect between player actions and narrative direction. It is jarring and can take the player out of the moment; to the detriment of the game. An easy example of this is Grand Theft Auto IV‘s Niko Belic, who bemoans his life of violence; but continues to commit heinous acts. Because there is a perceived gap between the Niko that the player sees and the Niko the player controls, there is less investment in the proceedings.

GTAIV

What The Last of Us does so incredibly well is not only remove that dissonance, but have such a strong narrative and emotional component that by the time end game occurs there is no question of what needs to be done. For hours and hours of gameplay, TLoU actively builds the player’s relationship with Ellie. There are optional conversations with her, comics you can pick up for her, and small personal moments that draw you into this relationship.

It is a credit to the creators and writers that by the end of the game, you not only want to protect Ellie, but are willing to kill for her. A few games go that far and are that successful with their stories; but none have ever staked the future of humanity on them.

TLoU5

In a world full of terribly tragic things, gore, and violence; Ellie gives Joel and the player hope. You see people die all around you, you kill just to survive, and one little girl and her book of bad jokes is the only thing that makes this place a little brighter.

The true horror of The Last of Us isn’t the violence, but rather the fact that it is a world that makes good men do bad things…

…it makes the player do BAD things.

TLoU4

This is something that only this type of art form can do. The player is complicit in the actions of the character, rationalizes those actions, and completes them. That’s not something that can be done in books or movies, and is one of the reasons this story is so powerful for so many.

As gaming continues to “grow up,” we’ll continue to see more mature and different types of stories come out of that growth. The Last of Us isn’t a flash in the pan, but the vanguard of a new type of storytelling. It is definitely something to experience on your own, and something to look forward to in the future…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grand Theft Diary – Entry Two

I Need a New Shrink

 

I’ve been seeing  a psychiatrist for my anger management problems. I figure, for a guy who has the occasional psychotic tendency, it’s probably good to go ahead and talk to someone about all that you are going through. I’d like to think that we’ve had a couple of breakthroughs, but it’s hard to say.

 

Most recently, I had relapsed into some…well…let’s just say I was being a ne’er-do-well. After laying everything out for my doc, he said that I was a prime candidate for buying my sessions in bulk….

 

…because I obviously have a lot of issues

 

…and he’s a money grubbing piece of ______ .

 

This obviously didn’t put me in a good place and he and I had, what is becoming quite a regular occurrence, a yelling match. This ended with me storming out.  As left his place, in a fit of rage, did what only came natural…

 

I stole his red sports car.

 

Yeah, it was petty, but it definitely put me in a better place. Hell, I saw someone get mugged and I got their purse back for them. It was a kind gesture, for sure.

 

Albeit, I ran the thief over…and then backed over him…a couple of times..

 

but nonetheless…

 

maybe this therapy thing is working after all.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes and What Could They Mean

The XBOX ONE is not the system that was announced months ago.  So many things have changed since that initial showcase.  It is no longer “always-on,” it can now play used games, and even most recently, it no longer needs the Kinect 2.0 to function.  For all intents and purposes, the system that was promised initially is no more.  What we have now is a system that is nearly identical to Sony’s PS4.  What does this mean? For gamers, for casual players, and for the future?

 

For Gamers

 

Regardless of your feelings towards Sony or Microsoft, this is a win for all of us.  With all of the focus now off hardware considerations, it is now a conversation about the games.  Though most games are not exclusive to any one console, those that are become of even greater importance to the fanboy audience.  Do you want to play Titanfall? Does Infamous Second Son speak to your sensibilities?  Once again, we can talk about the games, and not the drama surrounding the systems and their issues.  It will make this holiday all the more interesting; especially as parents find out what their kids’ friends are playing.  Speaking of…

For Casuals

 

Well, it means that the holiday marketing for each is going to be very important.  Now that both systems are seemingly on an equal playing field (sans price), it will be up to the PR departments to make sure that Mom and Pop know which system is the “right” choice.  Sony’s price point might not make that much of a difference when Joe Average knows that he and his buddies have always played Madden on the Xbox.  Sony will have to show why PSN is the better choice now, and Microsoft will need to remind gamers why they are on top when it comes to online play.  The X1 will also have a possible edge in the family market with the Kinect 2.0, but that speculative at best, especially now that the Kinect is no longer mandatory…

For the Future

 

Eventually, everything will be digital.  For better or for worse, Microsoft’s vision of that future will not come this fall.  The changes that have been made have completely wiped out any chance of some of the more interesting and genuinely cool features the X1 had initially promised.  Who knows what gaming would have looked like in a couple of years had the system launched as intended?  Nonetheless, this is world we live in, and we will get to see this fall how this all plays out.  My money is still on Sony, but never count Microsoft out.  They were backed into a corner and been coming back swinging since E3.  This fall will be a slugfest; and I couldn’t be more excited.

 

For Now…

We wait and see..

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here are Some Reasons to NOT get a New Console This Fall

I know. I know.

 

We’re all excited for what is coming out this fall.  Regardless of your feelings on which one you may think is better or which one you may be purchasing, this holiday is a big deal because of the launches of the Playstation 4 and the XBOXONE.  They each have a pretty solid launch lineup, and adopting early is a guaranteed “in” to the conversations that will be circulating the industry.  Yet, despite all that; there are some pretty solid reasons for not grabbing one on day one.

 

Games, Games, and Games…

 

Like last generation, both platforms are still going to be releasing new products on each of their previous gen systems, and many of those games have the potential to be amazing experiences.  There are titles coming out, big and small, that will be only coming out on the 360 and PS3.  Games with names like, Grand Theft Auto V, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Beyond: Two Souls, Puppeteer, and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.  These are titles that will still have an impact, but won’t be on their newer big brothers (or sisters if you prefer.)  I am just as excited for these titles as I am for some of the big launch titles.  Both companies are making an excellent case for you to upgrade this fall, but they are giving you an equally compelling case to make sure that you hold onto your old system as well.

 

 

The Possibilities of New Hardware

 

I know that this sounds like a positive…and it is; but do we all need to be reminded of the “red ring of death?”  For all the excitement that builds around a new console launch, we all seem to forget the problems that happen.  I know people who went through four 360s, and people whose launch model PS3s ran as hot as a jet engine.  These types of problems happen at the beginning of a life cycle.  Hardware will always have kinks to be worked out, and there will always be a small number of people who draw the proverbial “short straw,” and end up with a dud.  It completely sucks, but statistically speaking; it is bound to happen.  Buying a new console has the possibility of being like russian roulette, and it can be just as nerve wracking.

 

 

 

Cross-Gen, Split-Gen, but is it Really Next-Gen?

 

The interesting thing about a launch are the games that seem to be on both sets of systems.  This year games like Assassin’s Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Fifa, Call of Duty, and many more will be on both the old and next generation systems.  I won’t deny that the PS4 and XBOXONE versions will be prettier, and probably have some more features than their older counterparts; but for some that isn’t enough to justify a new console purchase.  This can be especially true when you think of the horror stories from last launch, games like GUN, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and Just Cause that were just higher resolution ports of the other versions.  We’re not going to truly see some actual “next-gen” gaming until next year, when we start to see games that were made exclusively for the new systems from the ground up.  Until then, these split-gen games only muddy the waters and make the decision to upgrade a difficult one.

 

Price

 

Lastly, do you simply have the money?  With all the above reasons, do you really want to drop anywhere from $400-$600 on a new system this fall?  In the end, I guess you weigh all the previous factors together and factor them in to this one final decision.  So, in the end, it all comes down to spending your hard earned cash.  Is it worth it?

 

So there you go; my attempt to talk you out of buying the “new hotness” this fall.  Albeit, I am getting a PS4, and my own arguments mean nothing to me.  So, what are you doing this holiday?  Are you sticking with your old system or taking the next gen dive? Comment below or just use the nifty poll I put up. (Also, this was our 101st post, so thanks everyone for supporting us thus far and continuing to share us with your friends.  Hopefully we’ll still be doing this for another 100!)

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“If players are excited that means we are doing something right,”

-Shuhei Yoshida President of Sony Worldwide Development Studios

Aptly Put…

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Pachter’s Pricing Party

Well, according to the great Michael Patcher the Playstation 4 will be priced around $350 and the XBOXONE will float around $400….oh yeah, and the WiiU is in desperate need of some help.

 

The article is brought to you by gamesindustry.biz

 

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-06-03-pachter-playstation-4-to-sell-for-USD349-xbox-one-USD399

Tagged , , , , , , ,